Mindfulness and Digital Literacies

Digital Literacies, technology and media change over time…

In his Ted Talk David Belshaw believes we need to develop digital literacies in a more progressive way instead of a linear way. Moving away from the idea that we need to begin with basics and continue through to advanced skills. Belshaw also suggests that it is important that we use people’s interest to develop digital literacies. We can’t just throw them into something and expect them to figure it out. We need to focus on what he calls the “eight essential elements of digital literacies”.

Cultural –Cognitive – Constructive – Communicative – Confident – Creative – Critical –Civic


Professionalism in the Digital Environment’s Blog provides a good synopsis of Belshaw’s Digital literacies. I particularly like this blog entry because the author focuses on what the literacies mean to a student. The three literacies of that I feel I need to focus on are cognitive, communicative, and confident.I recognize that I need to work on the cognitive literacy as I need more experience in order to master the how to’s of different technologies platforms and devices. the communicative literacy has been the area that I’ve grown in the most in during this class. I used to only use Facebook and Twitter on a somewhat regular basis but I never focused on making connections and building a community. I didn’t think twice about the particular norms, values or protocols within each of those platforms until now. In the confident literacy I found that I shifted from being paranoid and worried about my digital footprint to taking charge and being responsible for my digital dossier. I want to create a positive footprint that shows who I am as a mother, a wife, a teacher and a human being.  I still have a long way to go and still struggle with feeling confident when using Twitter but continue to move outside my comfort zone.

Doug Bledshaw also feels we need to encourage people to remix ideas and move beyond mere “consumption” to creativity. I have operated in the “consumption” stage for most of my life within the digital realm. test scoreWhile in th
is consumption stage I have always claimed to be a master multitasker and been very proud of it.  The question that I now face is, with constant connectivity is it really multitasking or “fractured” attention?

I took a quick online test for fun that measures your ability to focus and filter distractions. Although my score indicates I am a high level multitasker, I must confess that it took everything that I had to force myself to concentrate and I even guessed at a few.

In his blog Why We Need to Teach Mindfulness in a Digital Age Aran Levasseur, a writer and teacher, states that “Students must also be mindful of how digital tools and perpetual web connectivity are shaping their brains, perceptions and habits.” The constant connectivity feeds the endorphins in the brain and when we “unplug” the brain craves the next “high”. The New York Times talks about this as the “dopamine” squirt. The constant dings of your device with text messages, email and updates alerts trigger it in your brain.(Sometimes panic if it is related to deadlines!)

So how 3363073562do we teach our students about digital literacies and mindfulness? After all Levasseur has a point when he says that “ If schools hope to prepare students for our hyper-connected world, it reasons that training students to be proficient with digital tools is only part of the equation.”










Important note: I picked up my cell phone at least 30 times to look at updates, texts and social media while writing this blog.
See if you can keep track of how many times you reach for a device to trigger that “high” when doing something else?


Posted by on November 12, 2015 in EC&I832


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From Fear to Empowerment

I continue to be intrigued with how the digital identity is formed. I began this class really understanding very little about my digital footprint and in all honesty not caring much. As the journey continued I felt fear. As with most fear it was fueled by the unknown. I was growing more and more concerned with what was available online that may reflect negatively on me. I have had a shift happen over the last week or so moving from fear to empowerment. I now recognize that I need to manage my digital footprint and increase the positive aspects so that as I pursue a career as an administrator I have a strong positive online presence.


TFMCNetCasting via Compfight cc

The article Teachers, Take Care Of Your Digital Footprint suggests that it is easy to manage my digital footprint… So how does one do that?

  • Google yourself so that you know what is out there and use variations on your name.
  • Brand yourself by using the same name over multiple platforms and try to make it unique if your name is fairly common.
  • Get a space of your own to create the positive digital footprint you want. This may be a Twitter or a blog account.
  • Stay on top of things by signing up for google alerts (I am not sure how to do this or how effective it would be).

This week I was thinking about all of the discussions at school about Facebook and the items some students were posting. I recognize the urgency to teach students how to manage their footprint responsibly. Just look at the impact it had on the young man in this video.

I wholeheartedly agree with my classmate Amy Scuka in her blog post Viewing Critically, Posting Thoughtfully that we need to model “positive digital footprints for students” and show “them the good that can come from social media”. She included picture of a poster to remind us to think before we post and it made me think of this video “5 Ways to Make a Positive Digital Footprint” that could be used for middle years. It was a quick reminder about creating a positive digital footprint. It is similar to the philosophy that Addictions counsellor Rand Teed asks students when they are in a position to make a choice on how they respond to something.  Is what you are thinking true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind? It also applies to how we respond online in a more critical way because once we post it, it is seem by hundreds of people instantaneously.

This is another video that was created by High School educators that explored how to create and manage a positive digital footprint. It is a great resource to share with senior elementary and high school students. I forwarded it on to the staff in my school to share with their students. It made me rethink (again) what I have posted online and what others have posted. In this same video Dann Hurlbert encourages us to take control of our footprint so that when people do a search for you online it shows the positive rather than negative and it “increases your marketability and reveals a responsible and respectful personal life”.


“If you aren’t controlling who you are online, some else is or will.” Steven W. Anderson


How do you manage your digital footprint?

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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in EC&I832


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What will you leave behind?

When thinking about a digital footprint the evolution of technology has increased the capability to create it on a massive scale. We post, tweet and Instagram constantly and each action forms a part of our online identity.

foot print

Samuel Rich via Compfight cc

My footprint …

The Fragmented Educator makes a lot of sense and helps explain what I have been feeling … Acceptable identity fragment. Although my participation in social media has been authentic it is certainly within a constraint of what I feel is “acceptable” to my audience. I am very mindful of not venting about my role as an educator on social media. Because social media (primarily Facebook for me) keeps record of everything I have shared and uses its algorithms to bend my identity and determine what my audience sees, can I ever be completely authentic?


“Furthermore, when you have no idea how you are being made to appear to your ffriends, you are hardly the author of your identity. If Facebook continues to apply filtering algorithms based on invisible criteria, you will never be more than the co-author of your identity”

Our children…

More and more parents are creating their child’s digital footprint before they even enter the world. The sonograms are on Facebook or flooding the Twitter feed. I have friends on both sides of the extreme for their own reasons. One set of parents have thousands of photos with a continuous narrative of their child on Instagram. They want to share with family that live a significant distance away. On the opposite side of the scale one of my relatives asked that there was no mention on social media of her pregnancy. She did not post and in fact waited until a few days after to post an announcement. Both valid and very personal reasons.


The article Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World cautions us about how much we are sharing about our children. “First, you are creating a digital history for a human being that will follow him or her for the rest of their life. What kind of footprint do you actually want to start for your child, and what will they think about the information you’ve uploaded in future?” Once it is online, even though you think you remove or delete it, it still remains.

As educators …

When we post online it is important to remember that we are held to a high moral standard. Furthermore, as educators in a Faith-Based school this level is raised significantly. There are so many people trolling looking for the next piece of gossip or phrase to misconstrue.

Do educators have freedom to post whatever they want on their Facebook or Twitter account without it reflecting poorly on the institution?

Social media is over run with drama and bad decisions. The special education teacher that posted her student was a “hot mess” clearly felt that she could post freely. We need to remember that “The simplest thing, though, for teachers (and anyone else, for that matter) to learn is that Facebook and other parts of the Web are really the local town crier”. So what are the ethical considerations of online behavior as an educator?

Our students…

As indicated in Media Smarts Young Canadians in a Wired World kids today have online access in multiple platforms on devices that are usually portable. This means wherever they go they are connected.

The study indicated that girls are more likely to have online rules than boys. This got me thinking about my own children. They have both been very connected from a young age. Unlike the study says though they had the same online rules for the computer but I must admit that I was way more flexible with my son playing online with a gaming console however I don’t believe this was a gender thing. But what about other households?

When we consider that this study found that seven of the most popular websites are those that you can “post and share information and content” it is imperative that we teach students digital literacy skills. They need to “understand privacy, digital permanence, ethical decision making and protecting personal information”.


Posted by on October 26, 2015 in EC&I832


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Fear of Being Authentic on Social Media

“I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” Monica Lewinsky

I was very moved by the TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky. She spoke about the challenges of people “stealing private words, video and pictures and making them public without consent and without context”. She made a very valid point that society is becoming “desensitized” and this is leading to increased trolling and cyberbullying. The internet, and now social media, allows us to comment, share jokes, call names and other kinds of harassing behaviour instantaneously. What we fail to realize is that this, as Lewinsky emotionally states, not only causes individuals harm to their reputation, it also strips them of their dignity.

Jon Ronson, a journalist and film maker, spoke about social media and the “constant high-dramas” that are created. We either have to do something heroic or something that shames someone else to get validation. I see a lot of people in my Facebook feed posting about their personal lives or criticizing the lifestyle of others which generates a frenzy of drama. Think about the dentist and Cecil the Lion. I don’t even have to say anything more than that because you know what a social media frenzy that was, Ronson provides a few more examples in his interview with Lewinsky.

I also found myself reflecting and identifying with Ronson in One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life. We “tweet” and “post” on Facebook and are saddened when we don’t get a “retweet” or “like”. I have been overjoyed when my tweet was retweeted or my latest Facebook post liked. We, and admittedly I, have become dependent on the congratulatory responses of others on social media. Why do we need the approval of others?

Ronson explains that “Twitter is a mutual approval machine. We surround ourselves with others that approve us.” It is so true! Granted my new “professional” Twitter account is mostly academics and colleagues, I can’t say the same for my Facebook account. I have been guilty of “unfriending” someone who was making posts that I found offensive. My actions sort of validate what Jennifer was talking about in her blog Digital Citizenship, Engagement and Breaking Out of Our Social Bubbles’ and perhaps I was unable to see their perspective because  of the discomfort from what they were saying. It is so much easier to unfollow and unfriend then to sit back and have an open mind. A very humbling moment in my journey.

In her blog Helen Regan writes briefly about the “Psychology of Online Shaming”. It becomes so easy to publicly shame others on social media. It allows us to get things “off our chest” and feel better but we often forget that there is someone, a real human being, at the other end of our comments. We don’t have to look into their eyes or hear the hurt in their voice. We can just spew forth whatever hurtful things we want and not have to worry, heck we can even turn the device off after we are finished. In her TED Talk Monica Lewinsky also identified that we lose context of the person. We forget that they are someone’s daughter, someone’s wife or someone’s sister. Our students need to reconnect to the human element of interacting with people.

So what does this mean in my classroom? The Saskatchewan Government gave us a great place to start (Yes it is a start with a long road ahead). The document Saskatchewan’s Action Plan to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying states that:

We need to support students to develop responsible and appropriate online behaviour:

  • Although students are comfortable using technology, they may not be using it appropriately.
  • Because technology is a part of children’s everyday lives, they need to learn the necessary skills to use technology in healthy and ethical ways.
  • Cyberbullying is a major concern, particularly for parents and caregivers; some feel they lack the knowledge and expertise to help their children in the digital age.
  • We need tools to support parents and caregivers to recognize when their child is in need and know how to help them.

A final reflection… I find myself drawn into a vortex when reading and exploring the topics in the class. One link leads to another and then another. Pretty soon I can’t remember where I started. This week was one of my favourite! I came across Psychology of Social Networking when delving deeper into the topic of online shaming. I spent hours reading through the various blog posts by Dr. Balick. He believes that we “present ourselves in the ways that we wish others to see us” and social media is merely the “outward expressions of ego”. We can control what people see and although it is primarily the ego (think of all the selfies) it is still an online extension of our self. Looking back my online identity has certainly evolved (perhaps matured) and has moved from the ego to a more authentic outward extension of myself, however I am still very cautious of moving forward without restraint because of my position as an educator. I don’t want to find myself in the online shaming arena.

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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in EC&I832


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Social Media in Education

When thinking about what I wanted to explore this week and much like Ashley I was drawn into the realm of social media in the classroom. I came across a podcast entitled Social Media and Education: The Conflict Between Technology and Institutional Education, and the Future by Sarah Robbins-Bell. Social media has changed the way that we interact with media. It has altered the way we learn and share information on a daily basis giving us access to things that are happening, sometimes within minutes of the event.
social-media-488886_1280Social Media exemplifies exactly what learning should be. Everyone should be a lifelong learner. Everyone should have access to high quality information they can engage with and share with other people. As parents we give “free access to technology but when students go to school it is stifled”. This creates a disconnect for our kids and is often the reason kids feel the need to “sneak” their phones in or quickly jump onto Facebook during a work period.

Learning is changing. The way technology allows us to get information and share information certainly conflicts with the old school vision of what education is. We as teachers are not the “all knowing” in fact there are several students in my classroom who have taught me a thing or two about media. Kids are proficient with technology like video games, cell phone, YouTube and even Google … they see the world differently. Robbins-Bell feels that there are many benefits of learning available via social media and “if we don’t embrace the shift we will get left behind”. Until beginning this class I thought I was doing well but I now realize that I have just been treading water when it comes to media literacy and my students. We have to understand it to teach it.

The podcast worked through a comparison of Institutional Education vs Social Media. So what does institutional education offer? First it offers membership to groups like social clubs and extracurricular activities. It also offers intellectual discussions and access to resources and experts. Finally it offers its official endorsement. When you graduate you  gain the stamp of approval from that institution. How does this compare to social media?  Social Media offers an opportunity of self-expression things like Flickr provide a forum for individuals to express themselves. It also offers a place to be with other people who share common interests. This also means that in many places on social media people are reviewing, commenting, critiquing articles / stories that have been created (the peer review process in real time). Also, like an educational institution Social Media offers access to experts and personalities. The big difference is the vast amount of people available increases exponentially. Social media also offers an opportunity to enhance personal and professional reputations by providing  a place where you can build your portfolio online. This could lead to future opportunities without the stamp of approval from an institution.

Social media changes how we can reach people and how many people we can reach. If all communication is education wouldn’t we we want students to learn through exchanging ideas via Social Media? It’s true that in a classroom sometimes we need to have a lecture style lesson happened but two way communication is much more valuable as a learning opportunity by giving a voice to each student.

Robbins – Bell highlights that when using Social Media is important that educators remember that we are not the gatekeepers of knowledge. Our role as educators is critical:

  • We need to teach students to learn in an “information economy”. This means we need to teach him that access to information is there right and their responsibility. We also have to give them the skills and tools that they need in order to look it up and analyze the information.
  • We need to teach students the importance of contributing to community. They are global citizens connected through  media.
  • We need to be able to relate to our students as co-creators. We need to shift from the mindset of doing this because I said so and become the guys to shave their own paths.
  • We need to ensure that they have the skills to interpret the information that there discovering and offer them a place to bring back their learning and share with the group.
  • Social media in the classroom offers us an opportunity to report activities throughout the day.

On the flip side of all of this do we want our students to be constantly “connected” or should school provide a place to spend time ‘offline’? or is this just the thinking of an educator who they themselves do not use a lot of social media and are uncomfortable?

Don Goble strongly advocates using social media in the classroom. ives us something to think about as he advocates social media in the classroom.

 Students communicate, research, collaborate, create and publish with or without parents or educators”. So doesn’t it make sense that we would want to use social media in the classroom to capitalize on this learning? When we feel a conflict with the new technology we are feeling a conflict with how we view education and knowledge and how we gain education.

I have shied away from using social media in the classroom but have started the journey with my students. The more I read and see examples of how others are embracing blogging, twitter and other forums with students and parents, the more encouraged I am to try it in my classroom. Today we posted our first classroom story in the news feed on our ClassDojo and they were so proud. Small steps right?


Posted by on October 6, 2015 in EC&I832


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Personal Engagement with Media

I had a myriad of thoughts this week about being connected and my engagement with media. When I took inventory of the technology in my life I realize that I have access to media wherever I am. The tablet, desk top computer (yes I still have one!), iPad and my cell phone. I often joke about going to “crush candy”, which has become code for using the washroom in our house, with my cell phone in hand away I go. It is something I find has become natural for many people. Several conversations this week opened my eyes to the fact that many people sleep with their phones close to the bed and if they are having difficulty sleeping they will grab their phones and peruse social media.This is not necessarily a good thing. As Dana Smith indicated in her blog “Suppression of melatonin then has the opposite effects, increasing alertness and arousal, and even altering REM sleep patterns when you finally do nod off.” So being constantly connected is convenient but can be detrimental to your health. It makes me wonder how many of our students are experiencing difficulties because of poor sleep connected to device use.
Where is your phone when you sleep?phonesleep
In a recent story in the USA on Sleep & Technology people who use technology before bed are likely to struggle with getting to sleep and this is becoming more and more connected to “Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can increase the risk for heart attacks, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes.” There is also an increased frequency in people texting and emailing while still “asleep”. I haven’t experienced this yet… or at least not that I remember.
It begs the question can we be too connected?
When we look at Nathan Jurgenson’s article The IRL Fetish he points out that we have the capability to be ‘connected’ everywhere but is it too much and causing a disconnect from the real world? Michael Poh would say yes. He points out that now a days we do not call people on the phone but text instead.
How many of us don’t even have a land line any more?
He believes that we have created an “overdependence to using the online amenities to carry out our social biddings”. We use emoticons to communicate emotion and give our text some type of “tone”. We connect through social media and in chat rooms replacing the need for face to face contact.

“While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream.” –Nathan Jurgenson

With the constant connection to media readily at your fingertips how do we help students (as well as ourselves) to learn to responsibly balance online and offline worlds?

I appreciated Ashley’s blog about Life Beyond Our Devices as it related to what I was trying to say this week. I was especially struck by the question “Has technology become an obligation as opposed to a luxury?” I used to enjoy scrolling mindlessly through a news feed but now I evaluating every interaction I have with media to figure out if this is something that is productive and helping me or just consuming my time.

As a final thought I was captivated by the video about Prensky’s “Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants” theory but spent most of my time looking at David White’s alternative view of this. The continuum of “visitor and resident” really helped me understand the way that I engage with media. I delved deeper into mapping out my personal engagement with media. I spend most of my time as a resident on Facebook with limited people in my professional realm there. I rarely use other forms of media for personal reasons as a resident which explains the learning curve I am on with this class. I didn’t include my blog on the map as I am hoping to shift it from the far left over to the far right.

My Engagement Map

I would encourage you to do the mapping activity your self and with your students. It has certainly helped me gain perspective of where I am in my digital identity.


Posted by on October 4, 2015 in EC&I832


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Digital Loss of My “Third Child”


It was the start of a long day as I arrived at work and went about my daily routine. I set my bag on the table, took my laptop out and booted it up to retrieve my day plan as well as all of the documents I needed to print for the day. Without fail my battery bleeps “10% remaining” and of course I know this actually means that if I don’t plug it in within the next 42 seconds it is going to go into cardiac arrest. Bleep one more time as a reminder appeared on the screen letting me know that tonight is Open House / Meet the Teacher. Ever so gently I tote it over to the table and plugged it in. It bleeped a final time in gratitude.


José Manuel_ via Compfight cc

Looking down at it I remember the day I picked up this shiny new device. It was fresh out of the box and waiting to make my acquaintance. It was awkward learning a new operating system and reverting back to a PC since I converted to Mac. Nonetheless I embraced this technology and began the journey of making it work for me. That was a year ago but it was like adopting a child… the paperwork, cleaning it, updating it, and always by my side. Funny how something inanimate can become an integral part of your life.

As the day progressed I unhooked it from its life line to accompany me around the room as I taught. It graciously provided videos, behaviour management tools, interactive lessons as well as allowing me to demonstrate to the students what they needed to complete in their notebooks. It was a very smooth day with technology and relatively stress free… for now.

The school was buzzing with everyone getting ready for the barbecue and I needed to speak to a colleague. When I returned to my classroom 20 minutes later I was certain someone was playing a cruel joke on me. My face began to get flushed and I scanned the room frantically. My laptop was gone. Panic ensued and I ran from classroom to classroom looking for it. I was convinced someone just borrowed it. Everyone I spoke to knew nothing about it. With all of the activity in the school someone had walked in the front door, helped themselves to my device and
walked out the back door.

It was a feeling I had only felt once before when my daughter wandered off in the mall. A deep gut wrenching sick feeling. As I moved through the steps to report it stolen the same questions were asked – Did you back it up? Did you sync it to the cloud? Well most of it yes, but there were still a number of documents on the hard drive. Argh, I should have been more diligent with using the cloud!

As silly as it sounds I went through the stages of grief , albeit rather quickly.

  1. Denial – I was certain someone was just playing a cruel joke.
  2. Anger – How dare they violate my space and take what doesn’t belong to them?!? I lost a lot of work that was saved to that device! It is useless to whoever took it!
  3. Bargaining – If only I had put it out of sight… If only I had closed my door… if only I backed everything up on the cloud
  4. Depression – searching the perimeter of the building in hopes that they realized the battery was dying and they didn’t take the charging cord. Only an hour before it was completely depleted and then there was no hope of tracking it.
  5. Acceptance – It was hardware. Most of what I need and my digital foot print is in the cloud and the stuff that wasn’t can be recreated. It could have been worse.

In the end I did get another device but it just isn’t the same.  I had spent a year personalizing the last one and now I am back to the beginning. I found myself wanting to share this in my blog as I am sure I am not the only one to feel this or have their device stolen. I did a quick google search to see if there were any other blogs that related to theft and loss of digital property but could only find a few. I would be interested in hearing from others as I know I am not alone.


Posted by on September 28, 2015 in EC&I832


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