Finding Zen

Finding Zen


I created a presentation to share with my students several years ago based on ideas from Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen.   I mentioned in a earlier post how I was never happy with how it turned out so I decided to give it a facelift for my final project.

I recently had a lesson with a Grade 5 class on creating presentation.  The week before we had looked at different presentations platforms one of which was Haiku Deck.   It is a great tool for creating presentation based on some of Garr Reynold’s principles.  He mentions using visuals to capture your audiences attention.  Haiku Deck is excellent at providing beautiful images which are easy to find based on a topic.  He also speaks of reducing noice and having fewer elements.  In Haiku Deck, you are provided with basic simple templates that provides coherent text without distracting viewers from the image.

In addition to creating effective slides I reminded the students that they are creating presentations so they need to remember to present.  It is not a report therefore there shouldn’t be fifteen bullet points to read.  I encouraged them to use handout if needed but speak to the slides instead of reading from them.  Most importantly, be creative as Garr Reynold’s mentioned, remember that images speak louder than words.

Haiku deck was an excellent tool for meeting many of the Zen Presentation points.

Great Presentations – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

However, I also decided to create a third presentation using Keynote.  I had encourage the student to try their hand at creating a presentation following these principles and I wanted to see how easy it would be for myself.  I have also been encouraging the student to use/or take their own pictures for their presentation. Using your own photos eliminate the need to site the images.  One of the tools I had recommend was Keynote just to add a bit of variety to their presentation toolbox.

The presentation below was the result of my efforts. I enjoyed looking through my travel pictures to find images but I also found it very time consuming. I also used the my schools recommend create commons sites Pixaby and Photos for Class when needed. I was please that I only needed to use a few pictures from the site as I was able to use my own photos 80 % of the time.

Deciding on an effective font was also time consuming but I think in the end I found one that was clear and effective.  I played around with positioning to try leverage off the image as well as make the message standout by using large print and key words.

In the end I found that although I enjoyed looking through my photos, I found Haiku Deck a very effective and efficient tool for creating a great presentation.  I look forward to seeing how the students presentations turned out and seeing which tool they decided to go use.

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Making the Most of an Infographic

When I started thinking about finding an infographic to use with students, I found my mind was flying in 10 directions of “Oh, I could use this…” or “I could use that…”.  I first started looking at the great resources on Tricia Friedman blog posted Getting Started with Visual Note Taking.  I then started to think about what I wanted to teach with an infographic. I found myself getting confused between the concept of posters, infographics and visual note taking so I search what exactly is an infographic and of course I found an infographic to explain infographics.

What is an Infographic?
Created by Customer Magnetism.

After reading several definitions I wonder what was the difference between a “Poster” and an “Infographic”.  They both present information visually to inform or educator others about an idea or concept.  I realised that the All Digital Citizens posters  from Common Sense Media which I was going to use with students next week is a infographic.  The complexity of the information needs to take into consideration the age and needs of the audience which is what makes this one a practical infographic for 8 year old students.

Common Sense Media

All Digital Citizens

I will  the posters in a variety of ways.  First, I will teach a series of lessons to the Grade 3 students on Digital Citizenship which is connected to their current Unit of Inquiry.  The lessons will be based on the resources on the Common Sense Media.  As we work through lessons, such as Rings of Responsibility, Digital Citizenship Pledge and Super Digital Citizens we will discuss the connections to All Digital Citizens.

Once we have completed the lessons, the students will be invited to create their own infographic. The students will either create their own infographic by labelling a photograph of themselves using the app Pic Collage  with examples of protecting private information, respecting themselves and others, staying safe online, balancing their time and staying up to cyberbullying.  If they do not want to use their own photo they can label the image below or create their own image.  The student created infographics will be places around the campus as a reminder to other students.

All Digital Citizens


The last use of this infographic will be as the wallpaper on the student iPads as a reminder through the year.  I have altered the colours and added numbers to help students distinguish between two different iPads carts and the iPad they have been assigned. If the students want, I will replace the Common Sense infographic wallpaper with their own infographic.

Digital Citizens 1Digital Citizens 2



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Everyone Has a Voice Through Storytelling

As an Ed Tech Coach, I work with teachers to help them integrate tech into their classrooms in an authentic and meaningful way.  One of the difficult parts of the job is working with teachers who don’t appreciate tech in the classroom for many reasons such as the belief that it is time consuming, it is hard to mange, and the belief that it is a baby sitting tool not an educational tool.  However, I often tell them that one of the things I love about my job is helping students find their voice. Relying on written tests, stories and reports misses so many children due to the fact that English is their second language, learning challenges or just plain lack of interest.  This is where digital story telling comes in and provides them with a voice.

There are many tools today that students can use to express their ideas. One of my favourite tools is an app called Toontasic. It allows students to easily create animations to retell stories, explain historical events or explain scientific principles.

I was working with a group of Grade 2 students last year on their first experience with Toontastic. We went over the basics of the app which included picking a background and selecting characters.  Afterwards, the students had 10 to 15 minutes to explore and see what they could come up with. I was amazed when a 7 year old girls showed her movies on the history of the Jewish people.  She used the Egyptian background and characters to tell the story of the exodus out of Egypt.  Next, she explained Hannukkah with characters with a dreidel and menorah. When given the opportunity, students often take the activity far beyond the expectation.



Stop motion is another great digital storytelling method and is easy when using an app like  Stop Motion Studio. Students are able to use their creativity to made a movie using any found objects such as plasticine, logo people, paper cutout or anything other found items. They can take the project one step farther by adding in a green screen effecting using the DoInk Green Screen app. A project I am working on with a Grade 5 class is how to express the stages of development in a humans life using stop motion.  I am sure the students will come up with their own amazing ideas that go beyond teacher expectations.   A great resources that I found was Stop-Motion Animation Digital storytelling in the classroom.

One of the apps that we use the most at my school is iMove.   Most students are becoming experts.  iMovie on the iPad is quite simple when it comes to movie editing which makes it easy to use for younger children. Older students like to use iMovie on the Macs due to its advanced editing functionality. However, even if the students are experts on movie editing, their movies can be missing the real polished look if their pictures and videos are lacking  focus or interest. A great resource for teaching students about the main principles of photography is the blog post  Stories through a Lens by David Caleb.

By Dave Caleb

By Dave Caleb

David’s iBook and blog post provide great basic strategies  such as the storyboard below that are easy to understand and implement for both teachers and students.





Stories Through the Lens


An important fact to remember is that digital storytelling is a only as good as it’s plan. I encourage teachers and students to make sure they put ample thought into what they are creating before they start. This can be a challenge because usually teachers are under a strict time constraint. In addition, students are eager to create and don’t want to plan. However, in the end, the preplanning makes the activity more time efficient and of a higher quality. David also provides a great Storyboard on his blog post, but any storyboard will do. I often simply have students take a piece of A3 paper and fold it into 6 boxes.

Digital story telling provides all students with a voice to tell their story. and as a teacher, it is always exciting to see what the students will create.

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Lost in Zen

I read Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds several years ago.  I remember being excited about this new idea of turning a boring PowerPoint into a work of art.  I couldn’t wait to get home and put the principles of big visuals, 6 words or less and thoughtful colour to work.  Here is the presentation I came up with.

I have used this presentation on and off with students over the years but have never really been very impressed by it.  It was Ok for a first attempt but  nothing compared to the many amazing presentations that I have seen that followed the  “Zen” principles.  I have often thought of wanting to update and improve my presentation but could never find the time.  Well, now there is nothing like the present, so I decided I will take the time to fix mine up for a couple reasons. First, fixing the old tired slides seems like a great project for this assignment. Second, I will be presenting to our Gr 5 students over the next few month on making presentations for their  final Gr 5 IB Exhibition. For anyone not familiar with the IB, it is a time for the students to present on a topic that is based on a grade “Central Idea” but the topic is their choice.   They spend 8 weeks researching and preparing to present on their topic.  The final day is a “fair” type presentation to the school population, parents and many other visiting schools.

The first element that I will tackle on my presentation will be to find better visuals what represent my understanding of the topics. When I first created the presentation I was trying to closely replicate what was in the books.  I didn’t fully have my head around the main ideas so I had a difficult time coming up with my own ideas for images. I think now, after more exposure to the principles I will be able to find images that better express my interpretation.  For example, if I am trying to stick with the idea of Zen, I think I will look for a striking Zen garden or Buddha image.

Zen Bridge

The next element I will work on is finding a font that is bold, clear and interesting. No Arial, no Comic Sans.  There are tons of fonts so it will just taking a little digging. Positioning of the text is also an area that needs to be updated.  Alignment that is easy on the brain and yet interesting.  It is mentioned in CARP that our brains like Left alignment which works when reading text but I generally like Centre alignment on presentations. I will need to play around to see what looks best.

The final element I will tackle will be creating interesting captions that still express the principles. Not sure how to make “6 Words Max” interesting but I will have a play with work smithing it to see what I can come up with.

I have been playing around in Keynote with my students quite a bit lately so I will maybe look at it for a platform for the presentation.

As I put all of the concepts together, I will also focus on the fact that Pittrapim mentioned in her last blog post, we only have peoples attention for approximately 10 second so we need to make them count. I am looking forward to sharing the final product in my final project for Course 3.



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Nature’s Palette

Mother nature is the world’s best colour designer.  All you have to do it look closely at a flower or a sunset to see beautiful colour combinations.  I remember, years ago, noticing the contrast between a the green leaves of a tree and the blue sky in it’s background.  The sight was breathtaking but often in our everyday lives goes unnoticed.

Garr Reynolds comment in his article The power of the visual: Learning from Down Under promotion videos that ,”Design is everywhere”, reminded me of that day.  When I stared watching the promotional videos he mentioned I was also reminded of a promotional video from my home in Alberta, Canada called “Remember to Breath”.

Once again I was reminded of the beautiful colours in nature.  The images are spectacular and made me a bit homesick as I haven’t lived in Canada for almost 10 years.

I started thinking about how I could use the concept of natures colour palettes to teach the Grade 5 students design concepts for their upcoming IB PYP Exhibition project.   I have been working with their teachers on  effective presentation tools and encouraging them to review basic design principles with their classes.  I suggested resources such as  Keri-Lee Beasley’s iBook “Design Secrets Revealed”.  One of the concepts she mentions is Contrast. Based on the video “Remember to Breath”, I looked for a picture that would demonstrate the beautiful colour combinations that are all around use. I had a look on a website the school encourages the student use when looking for images called Pixabay which is creative commons.

CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use No attribution required

I found a beautiful picture of a wild rose but decided I would rather use my own photograph with the students because I always encourage them to use or create their own images for presentations.  This helps to teach the importance of respecting others digital media as well as adding their own creative touch to their work.  I found a photo that I took in Bali with beautiful colour contrasts of a butterfly on a flower.  This image show a variety of colours that compliment and contrast each other.  There are varying shades of greens against the dark pink in the flowers or the black and light blue in the butterflies wings.


My favourite tools that help identify the value of images are the ColorPick EyeDropper ,  the app Pantone and the website Color Palettes .

ColorPick EyeDropper is a eye-dropper & colour-picking tool that allows you to select colour values from webpage or image on your computer.  Once the values have been identified, they can be added to a font or background colour editor.

ColorPick Eyedropper

Pantone, identifies the colour value of your photos.  Simply snap a photo and let the app analysis the images and identifies the colour values of different elements in the picture.


The website, Color Palettes provides the colour value of a variety of images and  many are based on our natural surroundings. You can pick a palette based on warm or cool values or on contrasting or pastel colours.

Color PaletteI decided to put together a teach tool which a selection of my photographs and the tools mentioned above.  Now the only thing left if to share the ideas with my Grade 5 teachers and students.

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Teaching by Example

I created a website for students and teachers to help them navigate and understand the schools new digital portfolio platform.  I use Google Sites because it fit easily into the school Google Apps for Ed.  I was able to set up a basics site and make a few changes to the template.  However,  I never found the site easy to navigate or visually interesting.

Original Website

After reading through after reading the Dustin Wax article, Better Design with CRAP, I decided to have another look at my old site to see what I could do to change it. While I was clicking away ended up on the new Google Sites 2017.

I had a play around with the new Google Sites formatting to see if it would help me to follow the CARP principles.  The new navigation was quick and easy to follow.  I found within minutes my old tired Bootcamp site was starting to breath new life again.

New Website

The first CRAP principle of  Contrast was implemented easily by the template.  The title and text stood out more clearly within minutes.   Alignment and Proximity were also easy to put into action.  The grid system made it easy to align the objects and play around with proximity.  The still have a bit of work to go but I now have a good head start on improving the site.

Now to take CRAP principles out into the world.  I always found it difficult working with the students on presentation or visual displays.  They love to have neon colour and things flying around.  The question is always how to tame the distractions without crushing their interest in being creative.    After reading the article by Dustin Wax, I remember Kari-Lee Beasley’s eBooks Designs Secrets Revealed  using CARP (instead of CRAP) design principles.

Design Secrets Revealed

She provides quick and easy to understand visuals on how to work with Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity.





I have used her book in the past with students during projects where they needed to create visual aides.  It was always great to see the improvements they were able to easily make.  Using CARP will be an area I look forward to working with students this year.

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Responsible Use by All

I am now at my second school in the role of an Educational Technology Coach so I have worked with helping many students understand the schools  Responsible/Acceptable Use Policy (RUP) for technology. However, the policies were created by our Technology Directosr and I had little input into what it contained or the language that was used.  The final project for course 2 provided an interesting opportunity to look in-depth at what a policy should contain, why the chosen elements were important and who the audience is that will be using the policy.

I was very fortunate to work with Ken in Nepal and Pitt in China when breaking down what is needed in a use policy.  The group collaboration provided an interesting opportunity to look what other schools are doing and why.  To begin with, we all shared the policies that our schools are currently using in a Google folder.

In addition to looking at each others policies, we created a Google Doc where we could all share our ideas.

It was clear from the beginning that we were all on the same page with what a policy should include and it was also interesting to see the ideas of others on what external resources to pull.  I thought we should include the ISTE Standards for Students as a framework for areas that need to be covered including: Empowering Learners, Digital Citizenship, Global Collaborator, Creative Communicator, Innovative Designer and Computation Thinker.  I also wanted to pay close attention to the level and tone of language.  I have found in the past that younger children do not understand what the RUP is asking them to agree to so there needs to be a great deal of discuss developing their knowledge.  Discussing the information is important but I think the language also needs to be more lower primary friendly. Pitt suggested using the Digital Citizenship material from Common Sense Media.  Excellent material can be found on their site and there is no use in reinventing the wheel.  One of the suggestions that Ken had was to use the Learner Profiles used with the IB programs.  Compiling all the information into one area is not always easy but when you look at the information in ISTE Standards, Common Sense Media and the Learner profiles, you can see how well they compliment each other.

For creating the policy, Ken suggested creating a form where our school information could be added which the student would sign. I think that is good idea because it helps to keep the students accountable.  In the past, when I have had student who strayed away from appropriate use, bringing their signed copy of the policy to the meeting with them was very powerful.   I was able to remind them that they had agreed to follow the policy and that it was in writing.  Pitt, created an infographic which is another great idea ,especially with young children. The more visual the information the more easily they care able to relate to it. ISTE has recently developed a poster covering the essential points in a Responsible Use Policy which I would also use with my students. Not only is it a great visual tool but also using positive language and instead of telling students what not to do suggest what they could do.

I had created a google slide which I could use to work with the students on each element in the policy.

I think as a group we were able to cover all the essential elements required in an Responsible Use Policy.  We were able to gather a variety of resources readily available in the Educational Technology digital world.  Also, a combination of media such as visual aide  signed documents to help with understand and holds students accountable.  The final project provided an excellent opportunity to took into a tool (the policy) and think about what was import to me when working with students instead of using one that someone else created.  It was also great working with other educators around the globe. Thanks Ken and Pitt.

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Digital Citizenship Takes Teamwork

 CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use No attribution required

 I recently co hosted, with my Ed Tech Team, a parent information session on “Making the Most of Your Child’s Screentime”.  Many of the parents eagerly attended hoping we would provide the answer to the million dollar question, “How do I keep my kids safe online?”.  They attentively listened for the steps on how to set up an impenetrable wall around their children that would forever protect them from all the evils of the online world.

During the session, my role was to discuss different controls parents can set up, such as firewalls, parental controls and IOS restrictions.  A few parents might have been a bit disappointed when I mentioned  that if their child was in Grade 5 or higher, it wouldn’t be long before they could break many settings.  I didn’t want to give them a false sense of security by thinking the settings would a solve all problems.  Through the entire session, I reminded parents the best security feature they had was the relationship with their children and the importance of educating them.   I used the example, “You don’t typically hold their child’s hand while he/she crosses the street until they are 21 but instead teach them how to cross safely on their own”.  The same thinking needs to be applied to being online.  It’s almost a guarantee that children will encounter inappropriate material and/or conversations online at sometime so they need to be educated.

As the Ed Tech Coach, I try to go into each class a the beginning of the year to  discuss how technology is used in school. We talk about what technology is, why it is used at school and what is appropriate use.  This is a great time to talk about Digital Citizenship, but, it is not the only time.  I also go into classes to team teach a variety of digital citizenhip units with the teachers.  Great videos and activities can be found on sites such as Flocabulary and Common Sense Media can provide lesson activities.  However, I think the most effective way to teach digital citizehip is when it is relavate which can often mean when someone has used it inappropriately.

Teachers are also encouraged to teach digital citizenship with their classes as needed.  The teachers at my currently school do an excellent job utilizing the teachable moments the arise from day to day about screen time, appropriate use and online behavior.  The Grade 3 students have a year long Digital Citizenship unit which is continually revisited while working through the other yearly units.

Students can also play a part in teaching digital citizehip by acting appropriately.  I often hear students remind each other about logging out of  accounts, using appropriate search engines and finding balance. One of the key agreements for all students who join the Lunch Time Tech Club, is that they are the role models for their peers.  They need to demonstrate the appropriate use of devices, how to search, communitcation and stay balanced.  In the new year, students will be encouraged to create media on digital citizenship which will be played in the cafeteria during lunchtime.

Is digital citizenship being taken seriously?  Students see digital citizenship as just another element/environment where they live.  They don’t know of a life without it so they are learning to be safe just as they are in the natural environments.  Some students take their behavior a little more seriously than others, just as they would on the playground, in the classroom or at home.  It is just another environment to them.  Adults are the ones who are trying to adjust and assimilate safely into the visual world.

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Just Because You Can – Doesn’t Mean You Should


Is there a difference between being a  good citizen and being a good digital citizen.  I often start digital citizenship discussion with this question.  It doesn’t take long for the students to agree they are in fact the same thing but in two different environments.  So then why do we often behave differently online that we do in person.  The general consensus is usually the difference of being behind an invisible online wall the give a sense of security and empowerment.  However, one wrong post and we realize that the invisible wall doesn’t not really protect us.

Copyright plays directly into this idea of being behind an invisible online wall.  Typically, students would not walk up to someone desk, take their assignment or artwork put their name on it and hand it in as their own. Why not?  Is it because this action is happening in person and therefore we feel more accountable for our actions.  How is this any different that using someone else’s images or research on the internet?

As mentioned by Kirby Ferguson in Everything is a Remix, are there any original ideas left?  For years people have been taking, changing, adding and reducing elements of the original idea.  This can be seen in artwork, literature, music just to name a few.


So when is it OK to use someone else’s work?  I think this questions goes back to what I first said. It comes down to just being a good person.  I try to explain to the students that someone has taken time and effort researching and writing their ideas or perhaps taking photographs. The first question they have to ask themselves is did you take that picture with your camera or phone?  Did you travel to the articles location and collect the data yourself?  Of course the answer generally is no.  So is it OK to still use it?

I love to travel and take photographs which I often put on Instagram and Facebook.  Do I mind if someone uses  the photo of the gorillas I took after hiking throughgorilla Bwindi National Park in Uganda? No, not at all but I would like to be asked or I would like others to know that I was the one who took the photos.  I have not given anyone permission to  use my photos. I think at times, the idea of copy right needs to be made more personal to the students but using such examples or taking about work the they have around the room and see how they would feel if someone else used it and took credit for it.

However, students and teachers are often not aware of copyright rules and laws. I know as an Ed Tech Coach I should have a pretty strong understand but I don’t always know exactly how to site the information that I use but I do always try to give credit where credit is due.  I think for younger students the first step is helping them understand the difference between their work and someone else. Next, is to give credit to the person who did create the original work.  As students move to the higher grades they should start to learn the correct way to cite work.  With tools like Easybib and NoodleTools it is easier than ever.

Working in an international schools, makes following copyright laws a bit trickier as they can be very different from country to country.   In Switzerland, copy right is very different to North America however, I always stick with the idea of being a good person and thinking back to the discussion on giving credit where credit is due.  Another favorite saying of mine is “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.  As international students often move from school to school, country to country, I always encourage them to get in the habit of citing work.  This can only help them because once they get into high grades and university, they will be expected to cite their work.

I still encourage teaching copyright laws in classes and often discuss research project with our library team to make sure I am on the same page as they are when they are teaching research skills.  I often use resource from Common Sense Media such as their How to Cite lessons.  They have excellent lesson plans, family tip sheets and student activity sheets. They also have iBooks and Nearpod lessons.

Student Activity Sheets

Lesson Plan

Parent Tip Sheet

So, I think regards of where in the world we are teaching we need to remember to just be a good person and then just because we can doesn’t mean we should.  Collect ideas and use other peoples work as inspiration  as  Austin Kleon  in his books Steal Like an Artist.  Just remember to give credit where it is due which is what we would want if someone was using our work.

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Balancing Act Between Public and Private


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Picture by Ben Kerckx

How do you balance between creating a positive public digital footprint and keeping your information private.  If that is a hard topic for adults to get their heads round then how do we teach students to effectively walk, what seems like ,a tightrope of living online.

My last post was about creating a positive and professional digital footprint.  With all the different forms of social media, we can create an extensive portfolio containing our accomplishments to attract possible new employers.  A friend of mine was recently sought out and recruited by a large international education company due to his online presence and LinkedIn profile.  He had never heard of the company before they contacted him with a job offer.   This is just one of many examples on how having an online presence can have a positive impact on our lives.

So is it possible to post to much information or does the danger come from  posting the wrong information?  Juan Enriquez stresses the importance of what we are posting in “How to Think About Digital Tattoos”.

But what about the information that we are not consciously posting?  I’m not talking about what others post about us without our knowledge but our information that is being mined without our knowledge.  Just think about how often you have used a free public network.   Were you aware of who was online next to you or who could access our information? What security precautions were you taking?

Personally, I have not been taking many.

Gary Kovacs talks about the information that is being mined while we are online that we are not aware of.

After watching his Ted Talk, I installed Firefox add-on, Lightbeam (originally Collusion), to see what activity happens while I am online.  The screenshot below is a view of what happened  after only 1 hour of being online.  I had purposely visited 16 sites and unknowingly had another 250 sites tag along for the ride.  This was a bit of an eye opener for me.   So what can be done about it and what type of learning opportunities does this provide our students?


A great lesson would be to have the students add third party tracking extensions such as Lightbeam for Firefox, Ghostlery for Chrome and Safari so they can see the activity happening while they are online.  An interesting conversion would be to see if they think third party sites accessing their information is a bad thing.  Many sites take the information that is found to help create personal selection for us and make recommendations for shopping, holidays and restaurants.  A clip from the movie “Minority Report” shows how such information could be valuable for us in terms of personalized advertising.

So when is it not OK?  What information should we keep private and why?  My greatest concern is around personal location information and banking.  Another topic of discussion for students could be around identity theft and what we can do to protect ourselves.

Common Sense Media article  Best Privacy Settings for Your Computer and Smartphone suggests the following:

  • Turn off location services. That prevents apps from tracking your location.
  • Don’t let apps share data. Some apps want to use information stored on your phone (your contact list, for example). Say no.
  • Enable privacy settings on apps you download. Make sure your teens are using strict privacy settings on services such as Instagram and Facebook.
  • Be careful with social logins. When you log onto a site with your Facebook or Google username and password, you may be allowing that app to access certain information from your profile. Read the fine print to know what you’re sharing.

It would be interesting to see if students and teacher use any of the precautions mentioned.

There isn’t a 100% guarantee that our information will be safe but we can do something to try to protect ourselves. As in many things, the best way to protect ourselves is to first be aware of what is happening while we are online and next take a few simple steps like the ones mentioned by Common Sense.




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Which Pathway is Your Digital Footprint Taking?

Which direction will you take?

Which direction will you take?

In the digital world, it seems there are two paths we can take.  One that has a positive digital footprint that promotions us professionally.   Or one we create with a negative and self destructive digital footprint.  This one can have the consistency of quicksand and it can become a long and exhausting struggle trying to change directions,  if we don’t  recognize early where your actions are leading.  

This applies to not only teachers within the international teaching community but all professions.  A positive digital footprint is essential  in today’s job market.   How often have you heard someone say they Googled a new principal or director coming to their school to learn a little more  than what was included in the introductory email or first meeting.  Our digital footprint has become our first chance to make a good first impression in all walks of relationships.  In the book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how people use a small amount of information from what might seem like an insignificant timeframe to create a lasting conclusion.  This also what happens in the digital world.

I became aware of the importance of having a positive digital footprint after talking with a friend and her husband several year ago about changing careers.  Her husband was a VP for a  large pharmaceutical company in the US.  He mentioned how his company (and many others) look into the digital footprint of possible new employees and that people have not been hired based on what they found on their social media platforms.  They applicants were considered strong candidates until their digital personality was brought to light.  

After our discussion, I went to my Facebook account, checked security settings and cleaned up my pictures.  However, we all know that once something hits the web there is no real way of deleting it.  I often use Justine Sacco tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” as an example when discussing digital footprints with my students.  You can eality find it in dozens websites such as in the article How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life from the New York Times.  I would image that Justine has tried to clean up her digital footprint, however, she was to late.  This is an extreme example but has a very strong voice.

My social media goal is now to not only have an untarnished digital footprint but also one that promotes me professionally.  I have been using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkin for several years but only half heartedly.  Facebook is for keeping in touch will family and friends back in Canada, Instagram is for sharing my passion for traveling, the outdoors and photography, Twitter is for looking up innovative ways to use tech in the classroom, and Linkedin to create a professional community.  

Typically, I use Twitter to retweet interesting ideas, however, I rarely post what I am doing with my students.  I have now started to tweet my professional accomplishments.    Also, I  started a profession blog several years ago.  Blogging has never been my strenghth so I will need to work a little harder at keeping it up to date with ideas, workshops I present and conferences I attend.  With time, hopefully, my blog will become an extensive digital resume.  Even my Youtube playlists of tech tutorials can build a profession database. 

I now focus on teaching the student to create a positive digital footprint instead of just trying to not create a negative one.  I tell the students to use their “digital voice” to show the world how amazing they are.   George Couro talks about the importance of student voice in his Ted Talk “Our Voice”

I encourage them to let the Uuniversities, Collages and the rest of the digital world see their hard work, accomplishments, kindness, imagination and creativity.  Websites such as Safe, Smart and Social’s How to Improve Your Digital Footprint for College have great ideas for creating a positive footprint.  It is essential that student learn to put their best digital footprint forward early on as it can have a lasting impact their lives. 



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A Journey Down the Digital Portfolio Road

Last year my school decided to  implement digital portfolios using Blogger from Grade 3 to 8.  This is the second school that I have worked at during such an huge undertaking.  I had learned a few valuable lessons from my last school which made this implementation a bit smoother, however, there’s still have been many bumps in the road.

In the past, our portfolios were a collection of papers kept in a binder and sent home at the end of the school year.   The digital move was to empower students with more independence in capturing their learning process.  They are now able to choose what they feel is the most effective communication tool for sharing work they are proud of, that shows their learning and/or that demonstrates their knowledge.

I was part of  team who researched  a variety of digital portfolio formats, platforms and philosophies.  Our findings were compiled and presented to our leadership team.  My role moved to supporting teachers and students with the implement of the portfolios once the decision was made to move ahead.

Since I was a member of the  team from the beginning, there are a few points that I realize are essential for a successful and smooth transition from paper to digital portfolios.

Point #1  There must be a close and transparent alinement between the schools philosophy on learning and the its vision for the integration of technology in education.  This connection should be the foundation for moving to digital portfolios which is clearly communicated to the entire school community from day one.  School administration and curriculum leaders need to be the strongest voice supporting the project when explaining it parents, teachers and students.  If not, the implementation can come across as being an idea from the Ed Tech Department which doesn’t hold as much weight when times get challenging. Bringing curriculum leads into meetings right from the start is invaluable for making connections between between technology being used to enhance learning and empowering students. In past situations, I have been asked “Well what do you want me to put in this(portfolio) thing?” because the staff didn’t see the value or the connection between tech and curriculum.

Point #2  Create and communicate a clear roadmap which includes the beginning stages mentioned above all the way do to full integration of the new portfolios.  This roadmap needs to be transparent to the entire school community and referenced to often as the school moves forward.


Point#3  Create a strong and diverse research and test group.  The group should include teachers from varying grade levels and areas of subjects areas, parents, administrators and students.

Point#4  Test the platforms on all the different types of devices the students, teachers and parents will be using.   Also, test how all media will be upload and viewed on all the different types of devices.  To work the bugs out, there should be pilot groups who dedicates 6 months to  a year using the digital portfolios.

Point #5  PD and resources need to be made available for teachers and students before implementation and during.  The demand to support classes is very high and being well prepared pays off.  The resources I tried to prepare in advance were short directed PD session, “Help” documents and a Portfolio Bootcamp.

The “Help” documents show how to add different types of media on the different devices (iPad, Macbook, Chromebook).   Feedback from teachers is always appreciated to ensure the documents value and relevancy. All the docs are all stored in Google Drive and shared though a Portfolio Bootcamp on the school virtual learning environment so they are live and easily updated.

The inspiration for the Portfolio Bootcamp came from a friend and fellow  Ed Tech Coach Singapore American School, Heather Dowd.  After chatting with her, I say the value in creating a location to house all of the support resources which I was compiling including the help documents, the portfolio philosophy, digital citizenship material, student samples and a variety of ideas of how to share learning using  different apps on the iPads.  Currently, the bootcamp is housed on the school VLE so I am not able to share it but I have provided a link above the website where I started the idea.

Now that the implementation is underway,  I have started  to direct my support in a different direction by starting a student and teacher support tech team

I decided to start the Student Tech Team to provide students with leadership opportunities by supporting the class with technical help.  I meet with small groups of grade 3-5 students once a week. I teach  small tasks such as adding video to Blogger using the embed code from google drive and they in turn let me know what is going well (or not well) in class and what is the most common form of media being added to the portfolios.  The students begin to understand some of the fundamental concepts of the technology and develop their  problem solving skills by applying their knowledge.

Even though we are still very much in the beginning stages, working with the team appears to be paying off.  I recently receive the following email from a grade 4 teacher

The Teach Club is fabulous!!!! Kids are being really helpful and Kate’s kids got her out of a pickle today. 


The Teacher Tech Team hasn’t started yet, but I have sent out a teacher survey to see who was interested in joining.  I was happy to see that there is at least one teacher from each grade/specialty who would like to join the team.  Th team will function similar to the student’s.  We will also discuss what is going well and what isn’t going well. In addition, I  will work with them to create a workflow that streamlines creating and maintain the portfolios which they can share back to their teams.

Not that the portfolios are beginning to get up and running, I will be able to focus more on helping students create quality posts.  It has taken a bit of support to remind some that the digital portfolios are not meant to be the paper binders scanned and uploads.  The idea is creating authentic reflection on learning.  Providing all students with a voice to share their knowledge regards of ability level, language or learning challenges.

Students are beginning to use a variety of technology generally though a variety of apps on the iPads
Goal Setting Using Popplet

They are also adding media created in the GAFE environment



I am still finding a many of the posts are similar to the paper portfolios.  Many are still at the Substitution or Augmentation level according to  SAMR. However, today a student in grade 5 starting taking a step in the right direction.  She created a video in app Explain Everything showing how she had created a loom for a materials unit.  The video provided a detailed description of how the loom was created and how worked.  By teaching others, she was demonstrating her in-depth understanding of subject.

Below is a copy of my unit for implementing the portfolios.  Many of the objectives are still in the very early stages but it will provide great guidance through out the year.

This will be a year of learning for teachers, students and myself.  As everyone becomes more familiar with the technology, hopefully the students will begin to feel empowered as they start to create their positive digital footprint and show the world all they know. I am looking forward to seeing the growth by the end of the year.




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