Inspiring Digital Leaders During Personal Learning Device (PLD) Rollout

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Our 3rd-5th graders all have their own personal learning device assigned to them at the beginning of the year.  This device gets checked out to them just like a textbook and remains with them throughout the school year.  Students also take this device home.  Currently, our 3rd graders each receive an ASUS netbook and our 4th & 5th graders receive an HP laptop.

There are so many rules that you want to talk to students about when it comes to their computers in order to keep the computer and the students safe.  However, I want students to get their device with more than just a set of rules.  I want students to realize the power of the device they hold in their hands.  I want them to realize that their device connects them to the information that answers just about any question they could dream up.  It connects them to people and cultures they may never experience on their own.  It connects them with authors, developers, and experts on any topic of interest.  It allows them to collaborate with students and classrooms around the world.

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I really wrestled with exactly what I wanted to do as students come to get their device from the library.  Should I just check it out and do digital citizenship lessons later?  Should I go over the list of rules from the student handbook?  Should I focus on the kinds of projects we would do with the devices during the year?

As I was pondering, I turned to a few resources to spark my thoughts.  One resource was Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson.  This text features students who have all done something to create change in their schools or communities.  Each chapter takes a different aspect of being a changemaker and profiles a student who did something amazing.  They don’t all necessarily feature something digital, but the idea of using our technology to foster change was intriguing to me.

From the foreword:

“Don’t wait.  Don’t wait to be powerful, to change the lives and communities around you significantly.  There is nothing like it.  Once you discover that you can visualize the next step society should take, and then you discover that you can lead others to turn your vision into reality, you can do anything.”

I also turned to the blog of George Couros.  I often find inspiration from this transformational principal’s blog.  He has written several times about digital leadership.  He defines digital leadership as “using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.  His post about digital leadership vs. cyberbullying really made me think about what I wanted to emphasize with the students.  Rather than focus on every bad thing that could happen with devices, I wanted the main focus to be on the good that we could do.

So…what did I do?  First, I’ll say that I finally just had to try something and see where it went.  I don’t think that what I did was special, but it was a start to a conversation and something I will keep revisiting.

As students entered, they each came to an iPad on the carpet and I had this video playing.

We used this video to talk about how doing good deeds can spread.  We also used the video to talk about how technology isn’t always visible.  The awesome projects that we create using technology hide on our computers unless we share them.  On the same note, the bad things that happen like cyberbullying may go unnoticed unless students take leadership and speak up to people who can support them.  This is a conversation that evolved as the classes continued to come and something I didn’t really plan initially for this video.

Next, I introduced the idea of digital leadership and being a changemaker using Laurie Ann Thompson’s book foreward and student profile on page. 137.  I also used this video.

I also shared myself by showing how I use this blog to highlight the incredible work of our students.  I showed our map of visitors since April.  Students saw every place in the world where people were reading about the work going on in our library.

With all of these pieces, I asked students to think about what it means to be a digital leader.  A digital leader is a person who _____________.  Then, using Poll Everywher, students submitted their thoughts using the iPads.  I setup the poll to populate as a word cloud.  As students submitted answers the words grew in size as they were repeated.  I deactivated the poll and we used the word cloud to talk about how the words connected with “digital leader”.

Most of the time, something about being responsible came up in the digital leadership word clouds, so the next thing we did was create a second word cloud about the things we needed to do this year to be responsible with our devices.  Again, students submitted via the iPads.  This cloud mostly focused on being careful with devices, keeping them charged, not losing them, etc.

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Really with both of these questions, students hit most of the topics that I would have covered on my own.  I had a set of slides that was shared between the other librarians in the district that included lots of rules for the devices, so I used those slides to fill in the holes from the word clouds.  We covered a few missing pieces such as keeping your password secure and having a plan for where to keep your computer outside of school.

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I hope that in going over a few “rules” that I didn’t lose the concept of being a digital leader.  I’m not sure.  However, I felt like kids were leaving excited about getting their device and being in general agreement about the potential of the device they held in their hands.

I look forward to this year and seeing what we create with these devices, what change we foster in our school and community, and how our students use technology for good.


Cybersafety 2012

FireShot Screen Capture #029 - 'Digital Literacy and Citizenship Classroom Curriculum I Common Sense Media' - www_commonsensemedia_org_educators_curriculum
Last year, our media specialists were charged with the task of teaching cybersafety to all of our students.  We don’t have an official curriculum, so each of us has curated our own version of what to teach.  I’ve found Common Sense Media’s K-12 curriculum to be very useful.  It offers lessons on multiple topics at all grade levels and also has all the resources you need in one place.  It also integrates into Edmodo if you use that tool with your classes.  Common Sense Media is also the adopted curriculum of the Mooresville Grade School District in North Carolina, which I recently visited to see their 1-to-1 technology initiative.

Since cybersafety is not the only thing that I teach, I wanted a way to deliver the content efficiently to all classes while also being consistent in what I said.  I wanted the lesson to be interactive and not take up too much space on the library calendar so that I could continue to support the many collaborative projects going on in our school.

I decided to schedule 2 sessions in Adobe Connect to teach all of the classes simultaneously.  K-2 had a 45-minute session and 3-5 had an 60-minute session.  Ahead of time, I put copies of any handouts students would need in teacher boxes.  Teachers logged in to our Adobe Connect Meeting room at the schedule time.  About 5 minutes before we began, we did a sound and video check.  Classes that had issues or classes with a sub combined with other classes.  I planned a mix of presenting, class discussions facilitated by the teachers, polls, and videos.  I also left time at the end of each session for students to ask questions.

For K-2, I used the lesson “Going Places Safely”.  We talked about how the Internet is really like going on a field trip.  Many of the rules that you use to stay safe on a field trip apply when you are online.

For 3-5, I used the lesson “Rings of Responsibility”.  We talked about how you have responsibilities for yourself, your friends and family, and the larger community when you go online.

As an add-on to these lessons, I displayed the Digital Citizenship posters from Common Sense Media and talked about students’ roles as good digital citizens.  At the close of the lesson, teachers had their students sign a class digital citizenship poster.

We will continue to offer follow-up lessons throughout the year.  I hope that this introduction will spark some open dialogue between students and adults about digital citizenship, cyberbullying, and ethical use of information.

You can view the archives of the sessions below.  Please note that some parts of the session will not be seen in the archive because classes watched a video in their classroom or had a discussion in their classroom that wasn’t a part of the recording.

K-2 Cybersafety

3-5 Cybersafety