About Me

After 23 years as a high school social studies teacher, I have taken a leap into library media.
This blog chronicles my experiences making this transition and my learning in that process.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Media Literacy, Emotional Intelligence, and a Slumber Party

At the Google Innovator Academy we were presented with a rocket ship metaphor: as the academy was ending we each had a rocket ship on a launch pad. How would we fuel it? When might it take off? Into what uncharted areas would we navigate and explore? For a little while now, I have been feeling as though my rocket ship is fueled up and ready for ignition but ground control is waiting on favorable weather conditions to authorize a launch. And the weather has been inclement for way too long. Houston, we have a problem.

To address the problem I have had irons in many fires lately. Or, perhaps a better (still fire-related) metaphor is that I have been striking lots of matches to see which burst into flame.
  • I offered an "Appy Hour" at my school for teachers to learn about my Innovator project and join if they were interested. One colleague met with me and invited me to pitch my "social media think tanks" to his Humanities class: 55 ninth graders. 
  • My town library is preparing a series of adult seminars on media literacy and a colleague referred them to me as a presenter. I have been working with one of the other participants to prepare a workshop for this event.
  • As a result of that public library's interest in the topic of media literacy with adults as the audience, I have contacted other are libraries and will be meeting more adult programming coordinators in discuss workshops for the adults raising digitally engaged teens. The focus will be on media literacy and digital citizenship.
  • And the book is heading to print! With my friend and former colleague, Michelle Luhtala (@mluhtala) I wrote a book on media literacy full of lessons and strategies for library media specialists and classroom teachers to use with their students.
Despite these cool opportunities, I am still feeling less effective than I want to be. Media literacy is such an important skill but so little direct attention is paid to it. Content is still King and the content is still being delivered in traditional text forms and digital media (not too mention social media) in the classroom is rare. As schools undertake 1:1 and BYOD initiatives, there are movements in my area to ban cell phones in schools. So I am left looking for small pockets of opportunity and my rocketship feels like it is turning into a package of mentos and a diet coke bottle.

Once again, I am returning to the powerful "How might we..." question stem that Les McBeth (@lesmcbeth) of the Future Design School, used in our design thinking work at the Google Academy. How might we:
  • amp up the good? (One teacher is letting me pitch my idea to his class!)
  • remove the bad? (Create an optional non-tech school within the school)
  • explore the opposite? (Teaching media literacy to adults as well as teens.)
  • question an assumption? (Let's teach class virtually through social media!)
  • go after adjectives? (Online spaces can be safe and educational.)
  • find unexpected resources? (Public libraries!)
  • play against the challenge? (Encourage more teachers to engage in social media for learning)
  • create an analogy from need or context? (Make school spaces and interaction like social media)
  • change the status quo? (Make digital media reliable information for learning and being informed)
  • break point of view into pieces? (Address teachers by discipline or by grade level)
And all of this got me thinking about emotional intelligence. If that seems like a stretch, stick with me. Back in December, I attended at Digital Citizenship conference hosted by Connor Regan (@ConnorRegan), a program manager for Google for Education and Be Internet Awesome, where one of the presenters, Kerry Gallagher (@KerryHawk02) from ConnectSafely spoke about the connection between Emotional Intelligence and media literacy when it comes to recognizing and unpacking sensational material and good habits of digital citizenship. Her message resonated with me because increasing mindfulness was an underlying principle of the digital citizenship lessons we created for our ninth graders this year.

How can increased emotional intelligence help us (adults) understand how we respond to student cell phone use? And understand why students are using their phones with the frequency or in the manner that they are? How can learning about emotional intelligence help students understand their digital interactions better? AND, how can increased emotional intelligence help all of us navigate digital media?

To begin finding answers to these questions I am attending the RULER parent training offered by Marc Brackett (@marcbrackett) and his team at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This morning I took advantage of having a gaggle of high school seniors hanging at my house after a slumber party to have an informal conversation with them about social media, school, and friends. What they said about Facebook didn't surprise me, and they were nuanced and insightful in their explanations. What they said about SnapChat did surprise me as did the fact that some of them are on Twitter.

Here are some of the highlights regarding Facebook:
  • "I didn't join Facebook until I had to set it up for school."
  • "You can't do anything at school without Facebook. Sports are there, clubs, and everything. We set up groups for our classes and that is really helpful. We can ask each other questions about assignments and deadlines or just vent about the class."
  • "Facebook isn't obsolete because it has a purpose like business. There's no room to be creative. If you post pictures they just get lost in the stream."
  • "Who has 60 friends? I don't."
  • "Parent presence is there."
  • "My nana likes everything that is posted that I’m tagged in."

And about SnapChat:
  • "I hate streaks."
  • "I never have streaks."
  • "Streaks feel like a chore."
  • "Sending a Snap is more personal than a text."
  • "I use it to actually talk to someone one."
Then I explained that I don't think most teens are addicted to their phones. Rather, I think most teens have an emotional need to be connected to their friends and from the outside that looks like an obsession with their device when in reality the device is the means of friend connection. In response to that they said:
  • "People who are always on their phones, it's the whole FOMO thing."
  • "That’s what I don’t like about it. I don’t want to know if I wasn’t invited somewhere."
  • "People will post just so that people know they are doing something."
  • "They just want certain people to know what they are up to."
Admittedly there was nothing scientific about my collection of these perceptions and insights. And I'm not sure yet how I will proceed with this information, but I think there is a lot of room for a Google Innovator in the social media and emotional intelligence spaces.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Tempest, Character Boxes, and Students in the Garage

The Shakespeare class has returned to the Garage to begin assembling their character boxes as the final assessment for their study of The Tempest. The students were given three options which I wrote about in a previous post. All of them chose the independent box project. Here are the guiding questions and criteria:

What kind of box or container best fits this character? (could be a steamer trunk, magical cabinet, barrel, burlap sack, coffin, etc.) Why? And how will you show this?

Does this box ground this character to a place or allow (force?) this character to move? Why? And how will you show this?
What does this character:
    • Hope?
    • Fear?
    • Believe?
    • Desire?
    • Wonder?
    • Deny?
    • Aspire?
    • Want?
    • Plan?
As a result of the attributes above, what would s/he put in the box? Find or make those things to add to your box, at least one item per attribute. Justify each selection with an excerpt from the play.

As a result of the attributes above, what else would be in the box whether or not s/he wants it there? Add it to the box and justify it with an excerpt from the play.

Design the outside of the box to resemble how the world sees the character; design the inside of the box to represent how the character understands him/herself.

Some students found the container or box they want to use and are letting the form of the box dictate how their other choices evolve. Other students are building their box out of a particular material because of what the material will say about their chosen character. Still others are beginning with the form or shape they want their box to be and then coating, layering, and transforming the shapes of the inside and outside of the form to become the appropriate container for their character.

Similarly some students are starting with the outside of the box and working their way to the inside and then to the contents. Other students are starting with the contents and developing a box that will be able to contain them.

Here is how one student described her thought process:

This kinesthetic, multimedia project has gotten their creative juices flowing and the students are requesting lots of materials. Some (but not all) of the materials or items I can bring to them from my garage at home. I sent an email to the faculty and staff which said:

WHS Learning Community,

The Garage (formerly the LLC makerspace) is in need of some materials for student projects that are currently underway. If you happen to have, and are about to discard:
    • crates from clementines or other produce,
    • drawstring (or other style) sacks of any material,
    • perler beads, or
    • fake flora: flowers, leaves, etc.
students are requesting these materials for a project they are doing.

We will gratefully accept donations of any materials you are looking to dispose that can be up-cycled, recycled, and re-purposed in student projects. Scraps of fabric, old baskets and crates, random hardware, etc. If you aren't sure if we can use it, shoot me a quick email -- the answer will probably be YES!

Thank you!

Many people have responded offering all sorts of materials from the items on the list to all sorts of other materials. We will soon be flush with new resources! And many people are offering to deliver their donations which will increase traffic through the space and hopefully result in more teachers bringing their classes to work in the Garage!

Later this week, the class will return to the LLC and present their boxes to each other. When the teacher asked if they would rather conduct presentations in the classroom or in the library, they unanimously chose the library!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Shakespeare in the Garage

Students enrolled in the English department elective, Shakespeare, will be the first class to work in The Garage (our re-branded makerspace). Before the winter break the class visited for an orientation to the space and their project. Next week they will begin creation now that they have had time for project ideas to gestate and to collect materials they may want to use or contribute to their classmates.

I consulted with the classroom teacher to understand his learning objectives, assessment needs, and concerns about embarking on this type of project before designing options for the students. Primarily the teacher was concerned that the level of rigor to which he was accustomed when he assigned papers to students be maintained in this approach. In addition, if there was to be a collaborative component to the project, he wanted to be sure that each student contributed fairly and purposefully to the group product.

In the past, the teacher had consulted the resources and suggestions from the Folger Library when planning for this Shakespeare class so when I developed three options for the students, I began by adapting an idea he had seen there knowing that he recognizes their resource credibility. Here are the ideas I proposed:

Idea 1: Character in a Box (individual project)

What kind of box or container best fits this character? (could be a steamer trunk, magical cabinet, barrel, burlap sack, coffin, etc.) Why? And how will you show this?

Does this box ground this character to a place or allow (force?) this character to move? Why? And how will you show this?
What does this character:
  • Hope?
  • Fear?
  • Believe?
  • Desire?
  • Wonder?
  • Deny?
  • Aspire?
  • Want?
  • Plan?
As a result of the attributes above, what would s/he put in the box? Find or make those things to add to your box, at least one item per attribute. Justify each selection with an excerpt from the play.

As a result of the attributes above, what else would be in the box whether or not s/he wants it there? Add it to the box and justify it with an excerpt from the play.

Design the outside of the box to resemble how the world sees the character; design the inside of the box to represent how the character understands him/herself.

Idea 2: Wandering Journal (group project with individual components)

You will work in a group of four; each student assumes the role of one of the main characters in the play: Prospero, Caliban, Ariel, or Antonio.

Create an entry in your journal, in character, in response to the following words by Miranda:

“Oh wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!  O, brave, new world
That has such people in ‘t! (5.1.215-218)

Then, trade journals with another group member, and, still in character, create a journal entry in response to the original one.

You will continue to trade journals until your original journal is returned to you.

Identify journaling techniques that will work for each play element to be explored; each group member must use at least the techniques in bold and at least two additional techniques:
  • Using the actual text page(s) as canvas
  • Using the same passage (Act V, Scene 1) from the text for a found poem
  • Image creation and annotation with lines from the play
  • Found image collage and annotation with lines from the play
  • Color vs. monochromatic - purposefully use color as a symbol or motif
  • Storyboard: segments vs. whole page
  • Multiple drawings of same concept or object (POV) incorporating color and media as it pertains to each POV
  • Media/material variation
This cycle will be repeated with a new prompt of the group’s choice or a new set of characters.  Your complete journal will have a total of eight character entries (two from each student in the group), artwork, and additional creative writing elements.

After you review the different entries, you will then make an entry in your own voice (not in character) in which you respond to and comment on what you learned from the collection of entries. 

You might consider:
  • Origins of conflict and obstacles to resolution
  • Gaps in understanding rooted in differing cultures
  • What it means to be, or to consider someone else to be, the “other”
  • At least one way in which these themes of the play resonate in contemporary society
Also, you will design an appropriate cover for your journal. 

Students must write a Shakespearean sonnet as a closing exercise and document the sonnet in their journal.  Use this checklist. (provided by the classroom teacher)

Idea 3: Personal Journal (individual project)

Students work independently to create a journal that explores all of these elements of the play:
  • Setting
  • Characterization
  • Culture and conflict
  • Family
  • Intersection of tragedy and comedy
As well as these themes:
  • Origins of conflict and obstacles to resolution
  • Gaps in understanding rooted in differing cultures
  • What it means to be, or to consider someone else to be, the “other”
  • At least one way in which these themes of the play resonate in contemporary society
Identify journaling techniques that will work for each play element to be explored; you must use the techniques indicated in bold and at least two additional techniques:
  • Using the actual text page(s) as canvas
  • Using a text passage for a found poem
  • Image creation and annotation with lines from the play
  • Found image collage and annotation with lines from the play
  • Color vs. monochromatic - purposefully use color as a symbol or motif
  • Storyboard: segments vs. whole page
  • Multiple drawings of same concept or object (POV) incorporating color and media as it pertains to each POV
  • Media/material variation
Design a cover for your journal and create at least eight, full-page entries in your journal, at least one entry for each element of the play and at least one for each theme. Each page should incorporate relevant lines from the play.

Students must write a Shakespearean sonnet as a closing exercise and document the sonnet in their journal. Use this checklist. (provided by the classroom teacher)

These materials are available in the Garage for students to use:

3D printer
Basic circuitry, LED lights, sound cards
Colored pencils
Chalk pastel
Oil pastel
Poster & watercolor paints
Duct tape, various patterns & colors
Glue: sticks, hot, tacky
Embroidery floss
Ribbon, Fabric & Yarn: various widths, lengths, patterns & colors
Sewing supplies
Construction paper
Wrapping paper
Cardboard tubes, varying sizes
Recycled: plastic containers, magazines, plastic netting, 3D printer shapes
LED finger lights
Mason and other shaped jars
Pom Poms
Popsicle sticks
Pipe cleaners
Bottle caps
Clothes Pins

I developed this rubric for the students to use in planning their projects and for assessing their final products. To learn how the rubric works, students practiced by applying the rubric to the work of Lynda Barry which is available to them in print form in the Library Learning Commons collection as well as personal copies I let them borrow.


The Way You Do the Things You Do *
The Temptations
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Take your Pick
Unchained Melody
The Righteous Brothers
What's Goin On?
Marvin Gaye
Strong aesthetic appeal, not cluttered, graphics enhance content;

image selection is appropriate; makes you want to continue interacting;

enhancements enrich the viewing and learning experience and significantly contribute to conveying the content and meaning, content-relevant visuals establish a clear visual pattern that aids audience understanding
Multimedia elements adequately contribute to conveying the content and meaning;

most graphics used appropriately to enrich the experience; although purpose may not be readily evident;

main points are evident and expanded through presentation; good, relevant visuals
Lacking attention to aesthetic design.

Graphics are random or insufficient and do not enhance content;

too much text, needs to be condensed
Graphics interfere with or distract from content and communication of ideas;

inappropriate or no use images; an essay on a poster
The presentation of ideas is thoughtful, insightful, clear and focused. You approach the topic from an unusual perspective, use your unique experiences or view of the world as a basis for communicating; you make interesting connections between ideas. It is implicit that this exploration matters.

Explores the complexity of the issues; in-depth analysis; confrontation and discussion of conflicting information, motivations and ideas; critical thought & research evident; interprets principles in accurate and insightful ways.

Thoroughly researched; all points substantiated by evidence; no assumptions; sophisticated understanding of details, nuances and subtleties of the content; sufficient information to make the presentation worth reading or viewing; information is conveyed; content effectively achieves its intended purpose; historical information is accurate and relevant.

Makes frequent, meaningful and rich cross-discipline and/or real-life connections
You attempt to develop all ideas; although some ideas may be developed more thoroughly and specifically than others; the overall development reflects some depth of thought, enabling the viewer to generally understand and appreciate your ideas.

Analysis accurate but lacking depth of understanding; may not demonstrate clear understanding of audience motivation; may lack thoroughness in addressing purpose.

Considerable evidence contributes to message development but lacks depth; assumptions cloud facts, some ideas are ambiguous.

Makes relevant cross-discipline and real-life connections
Limited by superficial generalizations; unclear or simplistic; may be simply an account of a single incident instead of articulating a purpose; therefore the viewer cannot sustain interest in the ideas

More descriptive than analytic; relies on summary of information and events rather than application of information to audience opinion; makes errors in interpreting research; ineffectively synthesizes the information.

Exhibits only sketchy or insufficient evidence; may have errors; some understanding of details, nuances and subtleties of the content; most subject knowledge is literal and does not enhance message development.

Attempts some cross-discipline and real-life connections that demonstrate partial understanding
Confusing and hard to follow; disorganized; develops no connections among ideas; statements are convoluted and viewer is left questioning the work itself and not the ideas presented in the work

Inadequate or inaccurate understanding of the information, events or audience; attempts at analysis or insight are confused or inappropriate; major errors in understanding.

Almost no use of evidence; attempts are confused or inappropriate; major errors; complete misunderstanding or no effort to understand the details, nuances and subtleties of the content.

Learns primarily without cross-discipline or real-life connections

Shows sophisticated sense of audience; uses language artfully and articulately; meaningfully organizes; uses media/materials effectively
Shows clear sense of audience; uses language effectively; clearly organizes; uses media/materials appropriately
Shows some sense of audience; uses language somewhat effectively; somewhat organized; somewhat appropriate use of media/ materials
Shows little sense of audience; uses language ineffectively; weak organization interferes with meaning; ineffective use of media/materials
* a note on the use of song titles in rubrics
It has long been my practice not to designate point values in rubrics. I use song titles, movie titles or other pop culture references as category headings. I want students to focus on the descriptions of their process, habits of mind, and choices rather than point values. Students frequently debate whether certain category headings are appropriately assigned which is an indicator that they are considering the characteristics and qualities of each section of the rubric.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Garage: Rebranding a makerspace and a help desk


Innovation Lab

Genius Bar

Student Help Desk

Perhaps as educators we are jazzed by these terms. Their connotations are infused with creative possibility and agency. But I have spent a few months watching both an area dedicated to making and a student help desk in our library learning commons just languish. Coincidentally, an area not far from the entrance to the LLC is set aside as a space dedicated to seniors, called "The Jungle." And it is vibrant and thriving with both social and academic activity. In fact, so much so, that we have very recently dedicated resources to adding power and connectivity to that space!

Maybe it was because I was collaborating with the teacher of our Shakespeare course that I started thinking about what is in a name. What a space is called can impact how it is perceived and used. And so I started to think about spaces where I create:

My dining room table (much to the chagrin of my family at meal time!)

My desk

and then it hit me... MY GARAGE!

In my garage I paint. I deconstruct pallets.

I build shelves and birdhouses.

I disassemble and reassemble the components of my Jeep.

I accumulate and store the raw materials of future projects.

And, of course, Google was born in a garage.

So our maker space is now called The Garage. Unfortunately we are no longer in flea market or tag sale season, but in the spring I will be in the market for a peg board and tools and the various accouterments of a high-tech and low-tech garage to complement our other creation materials. I plan to commission a student artist to render a garage door on one of the walls. I am excited to have the students watch as a mural created by one of their peers emerges on The Garage wall!

This re-branding effort has also enabled a rejuvenation of our student help desk program. I don't know if they will choose to call themselves grease monkeys, garage attendants or technicians or some other term I haven't imagined (I am leaving that up to the students enrolled in the program), but what ever they are called, they will be our models of innovation in the The Garage. The working slogan for The Garage is: "where ideas meet the tools of innovation" so our student techies will work publicly in The Garage on independent, problem-based projects. They will study design thinking and problem solving in order to acquire the insight and skills necessary to make their solution a reality. They will plan, iterate, and fail forward in a collaborative work space and become models of self-directed (personalized) learning. Rolled into their work is participation in a closed Facebook group dedicated to the program so they can share ideas, get and offer feedback, and recommend resources to each other. This will be important since they are each assigned to the space during a different period of the day.

The slides below outline the first couple of weeks of the program and draw heavily on my experiences at the Google Innovator #SWE17 Academy:

Periodic updates will appear once their program starts at the end of January!

The first class to visit The Garage will be a Shakespeare class and they will be making character boxes or wandering journals (student choice). They are scheduled to visit early in the new year so more on how they respond to our re-branding in a future post.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Slow start and slight pivot

When I packed my bags in Stockholm back in early October to begin the trek home from the Google Innovator Academy (#SWE17) I was experiencing information and idea overload. I was inspired to revolutionize teacher-student relationships and conquer students' digital media illiteracy, and I set a goal for the end of the first quarter of my year-long project that I thought was modest. When I shared the goal with the cohort during one of our final sessions, Becky Evans said, "Wow. That's ambitious." Really? I thought, but didn't say.

My goal: by the end of the quarter I will have recruited at least two teachers to form think tanks in at least one of their classes. Students will be posting regularly and the teachers will have begun to introduce ideas from the think tanks into class which has encouraged student voluntary membership in the think tanks to grow organically.

That's it: two teachers, two classes. I built this Google Site to explain the concept of class-based social media think tanks and shared it with some colleagues. I met with a building administrator to explain the concept and received administrative sanction to roll-out my plan.

In a nutshell, here is what I proposed:

To create a class think tank.
  • Invite members of your class to join - everything is voluntary and nothing is graded!
  • Choose a social media platform that will work for the group's members: a closed Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • As a team, create a name for yourselves.
  • Decide upon a team hashtag (#)
  • Invite think tank members to share reflections about what you are doing in class via the social media platform, using your think tank's chosen hashtag. 

In addition I provided a page with ideas for maximizing the positive classroom impact of the good work happening in the think tank and expand how the think tank could be used (scale it up!).

Well, I am now at the 6 week mark. I haven't revolutionized anything. Of the three teachers who initially expressed interest in creating social media think tanks for their classes, only one remains involved in the planning. She has backed pedaled from the idea of a class-based think tank and instead, since she is one of the co-advisers, invited me to pitch the idea to the student council. These colleagues who co-advise the student council are new to those roles this year. One of their goals, developed with the council, is to increase the leadership training and experience of council members. To support that initiative we are going to launch (actually I made the group this morning) a closed Facebook group that will serve as a leadership think tank for the council members and, when the council decides it is time to grow the group, other leaders among the student body will be invited to join.

After I introduced the idea to the students this morning, we brainstormed ways the Facebook group could be used:

  • students could read and discuss books about student leadership, books like Social LEADia and By Any Media Necessary.
  • when students learn about a conference they can post it in the group
  • when students attend a conference they can post notes and ideas gained at the conference in the group
  • students who are struggling to gain or motivate followers for an initiative can use the group to share who they gained empathy with, the cause they are addressing, what feedback they got from stakeholders, what methods they have tried, and then get help from their peers.
  • TED Talks! Who doesn't love a good TED Talk discussion? Like Derek Sivers on how to start a movement.
  • Models of leadership: when students see leadership in action, they can capture it and post it to the think tank so leaders-in-training can dissect what makes an effective leader.

It is a start. I am excited to get started. If all goes well, the leadership think tank will take off. The teachers involved will be excited about the potential of a similar group in their classes and the initiative will grow. We'll see. I am cautiously optimistic.

Collaboration through Making

I am preparing to facilitate another meeting with our school's new teachers the focus of which will be ways the library learning commons can support their teaching and students learning. My focus for this meeting will be about Making. The guiding question to my presentation is: "How can making help my students learn?" I hope this opportunity to talk with the new teachers -- not all of whom are new to teaching -- paves the way for increased collaboration with colleagues and use of our innovation lab.

I have put together a "what if you asked your students to..." thought experiment and outlined it in these Google Slides:

 The teachers will be visiting the Innovation Lab for the first time since their orientation at the beginning of the year. Since then, I have collaborated with a few of them when their students were involved in research projects -- always in the teacher's classroom. The focus of our work on those occasions was accessing databases, savvy Google searching, and citation protocols. I am hoping that today's conversation inspires new ideas about what personalized learning means and how the library learning commons space can support all learners and teachers.

I appreciate any thoughts you have about library advocacy, working with new teachers, and helping high school teachers infuse making into teaching and learning.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

If you could teach a course on media literacy... what would it include?

I am in the process of planning a media literacy course. In this post, I am sharing what I have developed so far. What follows is a broad brushstrokes outline a one-marking period in duration (approximately 8 weeks) course. I envision this course becoming a required experience for all incoming 9th graders. Or, at least, a prerequisite for enrolling to work at a student help desk. Please leave comments about how this course can be improved or expanded. Thanks!


Our innate need to receive and share information seems to go hand-in-hand historically with censorship. From Martin Luther’s revolution made possible by the printing press to digital media distributed via the small computers we euphemistically call phones, the power of creating, curating, and distributing information is immense. Napoleon once said, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” As librarians, each year we promote banned books and websites in order to increase our students' understanding that their access to information is a privilege -- while it should be a right -- that they need to safeguard. Furthermore, when choosing to exercise that right, we tacitly accept responsibility for participating in a manner that advances civil discourse. The challenge of teaching cyber citizen students to be good digital citizens is helping them create space, a moment of reflection, between stimulus and response. Teaching them to be mindful. You might remember the days of walking down the hallway at school and shoving a note through the vents in a friend's locker. Some people shoved unkind notes through locker vents. But, more often than not, the time it took to walk the halls of the school and find the target locker created that space between the stimulus that prompted the writing of an unkind message and the response of slipping it through the vents of the recipient's locker. That hallway walk created the space necessary for better angels to prevail in many cases. What makes today different is the immediacy with which a response to a stimulus can be created and disseminated. A challenge of digital citizenship education is to prompt students to be mindful, to breathe before posting, to reflect on their response before sending their response, to consider whether that response is something they want to be permanently etched into their digital profile.We need to help our students to approach every digital interaction with the same caution that they might employ when they hear the buzz of a tattoo needle. Building empathy is the key to helping students hit the pause button rather than acting (or posting) on impulse.To that end, Unit 1 addresses these questions:
  • What is my online persona and how can I be sure it represents me accurately?
  • What is news and how do I know when something is true?
  • What is my role curating information? (consumer, producer, disseminator)

What is true evolves as a news story unfolds. Journalistic truth provides information consumers with the best available account of an event based on the available, verifiable facts at any given time. Even when publishing objective news stories, journalists exercise editorial judgment balancing what their audience wants to know with what they need to know. The target audience for any publication of information is a critical element in determining the manner in which the content is portrayed and disseminated. Professional journalists are trained to remain neutral when reporting; their bylines assure information consumers of their accountability for impartiality or bias. News consumers must remember that opinions included in reporting don’t always indicate bias and that commentary is a part of reporting. One important gauge of the quality of an information source or news outlet is whether or not that publication or agency separates objective reporting from editorial content. News consumers need to know that the content of the editorial pages does not influence the objective reporting of the news.
  • The many faces of me: when can I have an opinion and when must I refrain from bias? Which platform is for which purpose (or which face of me)?
  • When I encounter new information, how do I know when the author’s bias interferes with the meaning and substance?
  • How can I hold my own biases loosely so they do not interfere with what I can learn and understand?


American Press Institute: Understanding bias and tools to manage bias
Interesting dialogue about the future of news reporting and the relationship between reporters and their stories
Switched front pages - how we are framed to see and understand media

We all have our preferred modes of communication. Frequently those preferences may vary generationally. Creators of content understand those variations. Ads play on television on certain networks at certain times of day to reach the demographic audience most likely to be watching at that time. The same principles are true of other modes of information transmission. The products and ideas sold to a 19-year-old within the video game he is playing (yes, advertisers can and do infiltrate your games) aren’t the same or aren’t portrayed in the same way as the products sold to his 50-year-old mother in her Facebook feed. The same principles apply to fake news or intentional misinformation and hoaxes. The creators of this type of information rely on digital manipulation of images and video and digital transmission to reach wide audiences through viral re-sharing. Message, audience, and medium are inextricably linked.
  • How do advertisers use different media to sell the same product or message?
  • How has the evolution of media changed the way in which information is created, distributed, accessed and used?
  • When deciding how to share what I have learned, how will I consider my audience? Message? Purpose? And create a product that meets all of these needs?

Fake News. It's Complicated. (First Draft News)
Urban Legends (About.com)
Grasswire examines social media images in real time to expose hoaxes

Digital media has transformed our relationship with information and therefore with the global community. We are instantly aware of events happening around the world, we can hear the sounds of war and terror as well as those of harmony and jubilation. We are moved to act by the video footage we see of natural and human-caused disasters. And we join movements for change because we see them playing out on our devices in our hands. Professional conferences even have hashtags for the people not in attendance to follow! (#notataasl7) As we equip our students with the tools and skills requisite to recognize and not be duped by hoaxes and misinformation we must go further and empower them to be digital leaders. The most effective way to combat purposeful, ill intentioned misinformation is by elevating and magnifying the voices engaged in informed civil discourse. Students must learn to use social media not just for interacting with friends far and wide. They must also learn to engage and organize through digital media, researchers, advocates, fund-raisers, politicians, non-profit organizations, and other problem solvers in order address the needs of their communities.
  • What issue, problem, or cause do I care about? Why?
  • How can I take informed action?
  • How can I contribute to a solution or remedy?
    • Design cycle
    • Presentation of plan
  • Whom am I trying to reach (who is my audience)?
  • How do those people most frequently access information? Why?
  • What is the best media for conveying my evidence and conclusions? Consider:
    • Do I need photographs or other artist renderings?
    • Do I need data visualization?
    • Are voices, music, or other auditory files important to understanding my message?
    • Is there a need for video footage?
    • How much text do I have? Does it require hyperlinks or interactivity?
  • How will my product reach my audience?
    • Will it live on a website?
    • Post to a video sharing forum like YouTube?
    • Be delivered via email?
    • Exist in printed form?
    • Be performed or delivered to a live audience?
    • Something else?
  • How will the talents of my team combine to create a successful product or presentation?

By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism by Henry Jenkins and Sangita Shresthova