Help learners build a positive digital footprint #IMMOOC

When it comes to discussing digital citizenship, this is a topic that I am quite passionate about teaching students. So I take my role very serious when it comes to creating an effective digital citizenship curriculum for my school. Through a variety of personal experiences, I understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint. During Monday’s Live YouTube Session with George Couros, Katie MartinJennifer Casa-Todd, there was a big discussion around using social media and helping students build a positive online presence. I found this to be very timely, as I have recently been having conversations with teachers about having more positive conversations with our students, instead of always telling them what they shouldn’t be doing online.

Here is an image I created to encourage our students to use social media as a powerful tool for their learning while creating a positive digital footprint.


Furthermore, the discussion about digital citizenship and social media usage on the #IMMOOC Twitter chat also caught the attention of Paul Davis, a very highly reputable speaker who travels across Canada and the US to educate students, teachers, parents, and law enforcement about being safe and smart online. He has a very powerful message to share with everyone, with presentations that are targeted to different age levels, leaving each audience member empowered after his presentation to make positive changes in how they continue to use technology and social media. If you haven’t had the privilege to have Paul Davis address your school community, I highly recommend contacting him. To learn more about his presentation at my school this past fall, please read my article, Keeping Kids Safe Online.

Thursday morning, I was honored to get a call from Paul Davis to further discuss some comments and questions that were posted on the #IMMOCC feed. We had a passionate discussion around the power of social media and its role in the classroom.

We both agreed that it is great and important that teachers want to introduce students to using social media to help them build their positive digital footprint; however, educators need to understand to successfully and effectively do this, that it involves effort and time. Educators need to invest time to understand how to keep their students safe by guiding them in an established and secure environment and need to invest the effort to properly set up the necessary parameters.

Paul Davis recommends that the best tool to do this with is Twitter. With his professional expertise, he believes it is the safest, easiest and least challenging tool to learn to use. In addition, unlike many other social media sites which state:

“You must be at least 13 years old to use the Service.” Instagram TOS 
“No individual under the age of thirteen (13) may use the Services” Tumblr TOS
“No one under 13 is allowed to create an account or use the Services” Snapchat TOS 

“You will not use Facebook if you are under 13” Facebook TOS

for residents outside of the US, there are no minimum age requirements for the usage of Twitter. And, for residents of the US, “you must be at least 13 years old to use the Services. [Unless] are accepting these Terms and using the Services on behalf of a company, organization, government, or other legal entity…” Twitter TOS. Therefore, making Twitter the ideal social media platform for an educator to use in their classroom, with a classroom account, with students under the age of 13.

Furthermore, Twitter’s platform allows educators to use protected Tweets to connect with other classrooms privately. Currently, with parent permission, our Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms are using protected Tweets, to connect globally with other children their age. Our grade 12s are using protected Tweets within the classroom to have discussions around their current topics of study in Social Studies. And one of my next steps in using social media in a positive way with my students in my Design & Innovation course is to create an opportunity that allows my students to connect with subject matter experts on Twitter to help them with their projects. (This is an idea inspired by the book Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level written by Don Wettrick.) 

Slowly introducing students to social media in the classroom, in a controlled environment, allows an educator to help lead by example and educate students on how to post and have conversations online. Beginning this at a young age will better prepare our students for when they are of the legal age. This way, when that time comes, they will be ready to begin building their positive digital footprint, sharing their voice and passions in a powerfully positive way, to create an accurate reflection of who they are, in a digital world.

Paul Davis also recommends encouraging students to create a blog, a similar idea to George Couros, who encourages students to create digital portfolios. A blog/portfolio really helps students share who they are, and allows any future employee, that conducts an online search on the individual, to get a more in-depth overview of them. I think of it as an online resume that accompanies the one- to two-page paper resume.

One last thing to consider, for those teaching in high school, is to help students build their LinkedIn profile before they graduate. According to LinkedIn’s TOSyou must be the “Minimum Age” (which means) (a) 18 years old for the People’s Republic of China, (b) 16 years old for the Netherlands, (c) 14 years old for the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea, and (d) 13 years old for all other countries.”  So once students reach the minimum age, it is a great idea to introduce them to this tool.

In closing, to learn more about integrating social media, digital citizenship, and supporting your students in building their positive digital foot, check out what Jason Shaffer has done in his school, by reading Helping Students Develop Their Online Identity written by George Couros. Please also remember to invest time in creating a safe online environment for your students to learn in, lead by example, monitor your student’s participation, and last but not least, consider using Twitter as the social media platform you use in your classroom.

What questions did you ask at school today?

With years of experience working in an IB school, I became used to starting new units of inquiry by discovering what questions students had about their new topic of study. When I returned to working in a non-IB school, I forgot at what point students need to be used to an environment where they are invited to ask questions, versus being in a learning environment where it is the teacher asking most of the questions. From my early days working at an IB school, I saw how quickly students were so excited to learn because they felt like what they were learning came from their interests and their questions. This so quickly helps change the culture of “why are we learning this, because the curriculum says we have to learn this” to students being excited to learn because they were the ones that asked questions about the topic and want to further their knowledge in that area.

Having experienced this, I am quite passionate about promoting student questioning, to see curious and engaged learners who are eager to learn the “required content”. By simply changing up the way you start a new unit, by exploring what students would like to learn, can completely change the outcome and direction of your unit, while covering all the required material.

I could probably go on writing all day about encouraging student questioning, however being limited to the suggested 200 words, I would like to finish off with the following recommendations:


  • Encourage your students to ask questions, no matter what the question is, keep challenging your students.
  • Model different types of questioning so students can slowly reach higher level questions. 
  • Start a new unit of by asking students what they would like to learn, what questions to do they have about this unit.
  • Learn more about helping students vary the types of questions they ask and visit Sonya Terborg’s blog post on Concept-Question Cards – This is a great resource to guide you in creating opportunities for students to ask questions. To download a PDF set of the cards that Sonya talks about in her blog click here.


  • I challenge you to change the dinner table conversation from “how was school today?” and “what did you learn today?” to “what questions did you ask at school today?”

Let us all be curious together!

-what questions did you ask at school today--


Modeling self-directed learning

For the next few months, I will be reading Cognitive Coaching – Developing Self-Directed Leaders and Learners by Arthur Costa and Robert Garmston, while I participate in the #CogCoachStudy book study and Twitter chat.

In our first week of reading, I discovered the (multiple) meanings of Cognitive Coaching and was asked to reflect and share how I model self-directed learning.

From the very first day that I set foot in my own classroom, I always told others that I saw myself more of a coach to my students than a traditional teacher. I expressed this because I always encouraged my students to be self-directed learners, and I saw my role in the classroom to be the one to provide my learners with the tools they would need to accomplish this. Over time, as I have worked my way up into a leadership position, my “students” are now teachers. However, my teaching philosophy has not changed and I continue to provide teachers with the tools they need to be empowered with a willingness to be life-long learners, like myself. To accomplish this, I model some of the following skills that encompass what it is to be a self-directed learner:

  1. I am resourceful – I am an active participant in social media. I participate in Twitter chats and online book studies, to develop my PLN of like-minded educators and leaders in educational technology. I am not afraid to ask questions and to seek out help and advice. I visit other schools and contact other Directors and individuals in a similar role to learn about their school, their strategic plan, their challenges and successes, and I learn from their experiences.
  2. I am goal orientated – I set professional and departmental goals each academic year and put them up in my office. In addition, I set personal goals at the beginning of a new calendar year. I revise, edit, and update those goals, and I ask my team of teachers to also set their own goals related to educationally technology and innovation.
  3. I am committed to life-long learning – My yearly goals always include learning something new, attending a seminar or workshop, reading books, traveling, etc.
  4. I ask questions – Though not currently a strength of mine, I have begun to ask more questions to myself, to reflect and challenge my own reasoning when making certain decisions. In addition, following the viewing of Start With Why – Simon Sinek TED talk, this past summer I have begun many conversations with my team, with the question why?

As I continue to be a role model in my leadership position, I look forward to developing the foundational skills related to cognitive coaching to encourage my team of educators to not only become self-directed learners but also to grow into cognitive coaches for their teams.