Student voice, vision, vigor: #moocon24


Several months ago, one of my Social Media students, Freya Kellet (who I fondly describe as the equal to 5 high-functioning adults) suggested a 24 hour international online conference as a possible class project. At the time, I dismissed the idea as over the top and beyond our class’s capabilities. I was kind, but dismissive of Freya’s suggestion…we had real work to do!

Since Freya first made her suggestion lots has happened with our class; we received a provincial grant and have been busy planning a 3 day student led, Digital Citizenship conference for students, parents and teachers in School District 23. We have made presentations to district administrators, the district BYOD committee and our director of instruction on the topic of Digital Citizenship. Students worked incredibly hard to make polished, professional presentations to suit an adult audience. At each presentation I was bursting with pride to see them making their learning visible! Their commitment, their vision, the vigor of their learning was evident! The response has been overwhelmingly positive and we have received support and encouragement from our district for this student initiated project. We are excited to be partnering with our district in hosting the conference, SoMe Summit:Co-constructing Our Digital Futures,  which will be held November 20, 21, 22. We are also excited that Dr Alec Couros will be working with us for these 3 days.

Luckily for me, Freya is a focused and determined 15-year-old. She did not give up on her dream of having a global conversation with other students on how they can change education, one small action at a time. During a Google hangout our class did with Dr. Alec Couros, to find our direction in the large topic of Digital Citizenship, he suggested we might consider doing a project that tapped our networks. We could then use the project as an example of the power of Social Media. WELL…that was opening…it seems that Freya’s dream was destined to be.

Here we are little more than 2 weeks since that conversation and we are excited to launch our plan to host a 24 hour online youth-sourced conference, that we are calling #moocon24 (Massive Open Online 24 Hour Conference). Below is a brief intro video for this student visioned project. It is interesting to note that this project unintentionally aligns with many of the internationally recognized ISTE NETS for Students.
If you know any teachers in your network who have a class or student group (aged 13 to 18) locally or internationally and might be interested in such a project please pass onto them. If you have any ideas or insights for our project we would love to hear them!

If you’d like to learn more about this project visit the #moocon24 website


Who owns ‘digital citizenship’?

In a hunting society, children play with bows and arrows. In an information society, children play with information.

                                                                            Henry Jenkins

Sign this form here, yupp here. Right at the bottom.

Read this page here, yupp this one. Read it all over. Carefully. It is very important.

These are the rules. Here. We made them for you to follow.

Now you know how it works. Be warned. Be ready.

We do it because we are concerned. About you. Your safety.

Yupp we know what is best. We always do.

Yes. We have consulted ALL the experts. Far and wide. We now have the right answers.

You will be allowed here and here. But not there. There is forbidden.

You can use this and this. But not this. Never this. That is forbidden here. We have our reasons here.

Our reasons.

It’s all for your own good anyway. We have no choice. You do not have the ability to decide for yourself.

It. Is just too dangerous. Way too dangerous. Look at what can happen!

You have seen what can happen!

You should be afraid. You should.

And mistakes. They cannot be tolerated. Cannot and will not. We will keep you safe. You can trust us.

When you leave here. We don’t care what you do. Out there, you can figure it out. For yourselves.

Don’t ask for our help. Then. Follow the rules here. We already made the rules here.

The problems out there. Ignore them. Just. Ignore them. In here we are safe behind these walls.

See them so high. And safe.

Don’t you feel safe in here? With us. Here to make rules for you. Our rules. To protect you.

Now hurry up and sign here. Yupp right here.

Who defines digital citizenship? Who owns it? Who does it serve? 

On Collaboration and School Culture.


Did they “teach” us that one at teacher school?
Do you hear it talked about in staff rooms?

Do you know what it looks like or feels like?

It is like that urban legend you heard about in grade 4, someone’s cousin had spiders hatch out of their cheek while sleeping one night.

Yeah that one…the one that scared the pants off of you, even though you never actually met the person. I am not implying burnout is an urban legend, I am saying it is treated as such in teacher culture.

Teaching can be a tough job and there is a “survival of the fittest” culture in schools I have worked in. You can admit you are struggling…but only to a point, to certain people and in specific situations; if you show too much weakness others fear you might drag them under.

So how does this work if we are going to get teachers to grow, take on big bold risks, and try new things? How to support teachers when parents, critics or even other teachers have a go at what you are doing or trying? Attacks, no matter how well-meaning, can feel personal, consuming the small reserve in the energy tank.

Further, if the very adaptations that we as teachers have evolved over the courses of our careers have allowed for our survival how then to change AND not go extinct at the same time?

Last year I travelled through a wormhole of change. That I came out the other side is attributable it to one thing: a committed collaborative partner, Graham Johnson.

Graham and I, Pikes Peak, June 2011.
Graham and I, Pikes Peak, June 2011.

I have a strong support network outside of school, people who I trust, a husband who is in the biz, but they were not what kept me afloat. What kept me going and stopped me from giving up (cause there were days when I did consider giving up on change) were the continuous conversations that Graham and I had daily, sometimes hourly, about what we were specifically doing. When either of us hit a wall we dealt with it then and there, we brainstormed and co-created a viable solution. We established common goals (we wrote these out on paper) and committed to (even though he teaches Math and I Biology) common ground with certain practices (flexible assessment, Hot Seat, Whiteboarding, Learning Journals are all examples) We communicated via Twitter DMs dawn to late, phone chats and face to face debrief after school.

You might be thinking by now…yeah we know that collaboration is important, yesterday’s days news….next.

BUT. Hold up…

Collaboration is NOT just something you should really try someday and when you do it will be fun; it is like having a snow plow with no blade, a motor boat with no motor, or an axe with no blade. You cannot do the intense work of change without real-time continuous, connected collaboration that relates DIRECTLY to what you actually doing in your class. To collaborate I had to be willing to co-evolve, to commit to a common end (and by this I do not mean improve Grad rates) and at times (more than I might like) I needed to compromise; I had to first converge in the here and now to survive, before I could diverge and thrive later.

I used to think that if I controlled everything I could assure the final outcome would be high quality, this was a guaranteed ticket to burnout and was never sustainable. Now I know that through cooperating, compromising and collaborating I can evolve AND survive.

If we continue yelling out and waving our arms at teachers: Change this way! Come on let’s go! Pick it up! WITHOUT the collaborative, connected mindset and ecosystem firmly in place, we will perpetuate the medium for burnout.

We need to out the culture of “survival of the fittest” and replace with a flourishing visible ecosystem that is fluid, open and dynamic. We need to buoy teachers with collaborative partnerships, collective groupings, tools to connect in real-time and conditions that normalize collaboration as an integral part of the day-to-day.

Then…we can wave away.

“We can see the very beginnings of a new story beginning to emerge. it’s a narrative spread across a number of different disciplines in which cooperation, collective action and complex inter dependencies play a more important role and the central, and the all important role of competition and survival of the fittest shrinks just a little bit to make room.”
Harold Rheingold

Growing Dreams in the Social Media Landscape.

What do you dream of? What do the inner whisperings of your soul say to you? Can you hear them? Are they muffled by what you think you should do or should become?

I love big challenging projects that don’t seem to have obvious and immediate purpose. I love to daydream and imagine…the impossible, the really impossible.

Do you?

Since September I have been working with a group of kids (what I call my students) outside of the timetable in a very free-form manner. On the surface and to an outside observer, I am sure it looks like quite a disaster; we meet one morning a week and when we do, it is not like “class”; there are no handouts, no lesson plan, no assignments for marks, no due dates, no projects for the sake of projects, no lectures…no… not a lot of what I was trained and told a good teacher must and should do.

When we meet, we all talk at the same time, and in a very non linear fashion; the conversation pings all over the place. Crazy ideas peek out. Instead of playing whack-a-mole, we grab them and embrace them as long-lost friends. We then scatter, like seeds to the wind, and do what we need to do. Each growing our project and seeing what it grows into or if it will even be viable. We ask each other for help and reach out to others beyond our classroom and school. We collaborate frequently via text, phone, email, Facebook and share a Wikispace to create a trail of our musings and dreams.

Maybe you think… well… what a waste of time….how random and non-productive.


The most wonderous and fabulous thing happened. We imagined a crazy, wild, out-there dream and went for it full-bore. We worked non stop over a 6 week period to put together a project that we hoped would create buzz and interest in Social Media at OKM to create a culture of sharing and connectedness. We envisioned that students might want to connect to something fun and exciting rather be told to be interested in something outdated and stale.

Children should dream, a lot, and often. They should know that they can change their world, their community and their school. Not just hope that maybe one day down the road they can hopefully, maybe, if they play their cards right, make some meaningful change.

So Thish, Aaron, Stanley, Freya, Spencer, Cam, Harrison, Arpan, and Mackenzie…you are, each of you, the bees knees. Love you guys to bits, up to the moon and back! My heart is full to bursting watching the joy on your faces.

Leanne, Mark, Ryan , Ed, Meghan, Keith, Melinda, Cryil, Travis, Kaare, Amy, Jaiden, Rick, Graham, Fausty, Murray, Jenn, Olivia, Karla, Solenn, Katie, Maria, Mr. Skeleton and OKM H. Usky…thanks for supporting and believing in our dream.

You ALL made it happen!

Making a PED policy for OUR class – together.

Check the radiation to pop popcorn! Too funny.

Last semester I invited PEDs or personal electronic devices into to my classroom and while it was not perfect, overall there were more advantages than disadvantages.

This semester I wanted to improve this experience and enrich our class culture and community. To this end I decided I would ask students to co-create the policy for technology use for our class.

We started with a “whiteboard mingle”. Students went from white board to white board and students wrote under 3 topics:

I wanted to include trust in our policy, but it was challenging for students to come up with ideas for.

1) When OK to use

2) When inappropriate to use

3) Trust

Students then worked alone, and completed the same prompts on a sheet of paper. Next class they shared their points with a partner and worked together to reduce their points down to 3 per question. The partners then paired up with another 2 students, and they again worked together to reduce their points to three per prompt. We then took a class vote on a collective “top three”.
What we got to is as below:

Our Class Policy for PED Use

Times when OK to Use:
1. While working, when useful for learning, for planning (calendar/list), to look something up, research.
2. When we are prompted or asked to (ex. when tweeting or blogging etc.)
3. When someone is not talking to me.

Inappropriate Use:
1. Earphones super loud.                                                 
2. FULL blown phone conversations.
3. During tests.

1. Reliable, Responsible, Nice to Each other
2.Follow your heart
3. Honest

While at first I felt slightly disappointed with the outcome (they didn’t sound very officious, and they weren’t that clear), I realized that this policy really rocked! For one it was plain as day that all students  has a pretty clear idea of inappropriate use; students really know the way to behave, we don’t really have to tell them in 1000 different ways. I also noticed that students were not really clear on when and how to use their technology, here they were confused and need some help. Student responses from the “Trust” prompt impressed me the most, this only became clear though when we discussed it in class.

This process lead me to reflect that students know a lot of good stuff already and are full of wisdom, humour and good intentions.

To seal the deal, we all signed the policy and hung it on the wall.

Voila! One PED policy done!