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21 Things for Teachers


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AkLA 2015: Early Literacy & New Media for Young Children

So many great resources here! Claudia Haines presented a very full session at AkLA 2015!

never shushed

For the past several daysI’ve been at the annual Alaska Library Association conference in Juneau, Alaska. It’s my chance to catch up face to face with the other librarians around our vast state and learn a few things from this resourceful bunch. (Juneau librarians turned books intothese beautiful table centerpieces! Cool, huh?)

I was asked to present a pre-conference on new media and young children and here are the resources I shared. The 3 hour session was jam packed with great questions, ideas and enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone who attended!

First the slides from the pre-conference:

This second link is a resource list including references specifically for librarians/educators and others useful for parents/caregivers. The resource link also includes review sites and other online resources.Early Literacy & New Media for Young Children Resource List

Here are the apps we discussed and several others I wanted to share:

  • Alphabet of Insects:…

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Week 11: What is media literacy? Why is it important that students develop media literacy skills? How do we define media literacy, particularly as it applies to the needs of our students living in a media saturated world? What is the difference between media literacy versions 1 and 2? How can we use students’ desire to make media as an opportunity to also teach them media literacy skills?

Media Literacy is having the skills to recognize, evaluate, and apply the persuasive techniques of media,  (Ohler, Digital Storytelling in the Classroom (11)) and is one of the most important things we can teach children. I found the subject compelling way back in the ‘70’s when I was reading Animal Farm and 1984 by Orwell, though I didn’t call it Media Literacy then. Rather, I called it advertising and mind control. I had both a strange attraction and aversion to it because of its amazing power. I was amazed then by how easily people could be manipulated without realizing it. I knew how important it was to take a step back and deconstruct the messages we were receiving. However, I think it has been one of those overlooked topics through the years and rarely comes up in formal education, except in a few English classes. At least, in my experience. I know that at some point in grade school we were all required to create an advertising poster for a new brand of cereal, and I took a very sarcastic, jaded approach even at that age. I advertised for Barley Crusties, and used persuasive language that employed the common advertising style of the day to sell a really grotesque form of breakfast cereal. I’m not sure if this is what the teacher intended, but it was a very effective poster, and it hangs at my mother’s house to this day in one of the old bedrooms, mainly for it’s comic effect. The fact that very little media literacy is taught to our students is a frightening reality, considering how pervasive and powerful the various media are today. Without learning about the specific techniques being used by the media, people become mindless consumers.

I think the advent of Media Literacy 2.0, which is essentially the inclusion of production of media, presents us with a very powerful and attractive means to educate students about the important realities of our media-saturated culture. The production component moves our teaching from the didactic, “here is the information I want you to know” model of teaching, to a more participatory, and therefore more personal and powerful one. I firmly believe that our students will respond enthusiastically and really “own” the messages we are sharing with them if they are required to produce their own media. Having students learn about the various techniques and methods used by movie and television directors, advertisers, web designers, photographers, photo editing professionals, even musicians, and then turn around and actually use the methods themselves is a very powerful teaching strategy.

According to Cable in the Classroom’s “Media Literacy 101” site (, “the five things everyone should know about media are: all media messages are constructions; each person interprets messages differently; media have commercial interests; media have values; each medium has its own language and style.” The site goes on to say we want for our children to “become active and critical thinkers about media, develop criteria for making decisions about media use, find and identify quality media resources, talk about what media they are consuming and why, become better able to use media for learning and communicating.”  I think this sums up very nicely exactly what we want for our upcoming generation to learn in this area. I would argue that most adults lack awareness in these areas for the most part, and would also benefit from increasing their as well.

I liked Cable in the Classroom’s comprehensive look at the various tools used by media today: scripts, lighting, camera angles, to name just a couple. Then their InCtrl ( website, with all the tools to use in the classroom, shows students the techniques within the scripts themselves such as the bandwagon appeal, the celebrity endorsement appeal, the emotional appeal, and so on. Once students have been exposed to exactly how they are being manipulated, I think a shift occurs within them. Once they consciously construct their own “manipulative” media production, they will really own the concept. The ideal, of course, is for them to never look at media in the same way again, and to maintain an awareness for life of the media’s power to influence them and exactly how it is done.

As for including more media literacy within the classroom, I’m a little skeptical this will improve much. Honestly, there is so much being thrown at my staff these days, including both PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Strategy) and RTI (Response to Intervention). And now the new teacher evaluation system mandated by the state is going to be the new push for next year, which will require all of use to start uploading lesson plans, videos of our performance, lists of our professional achievements. Then there is the need to teach nutrition, anti-bullying lessons, to teach to the tests, to name just a few. I can just see the look on their faces if I were to suggest they also now start adding media literacy into the mix. I cannot get them to include time for keyboarding as it is! But, I do believe Media Literacy is one of the most important things to teach for the lifelong benefit of our students. I think getting the administration to recognize the need and have them encourage and/or require their staff to at least receive some professional development training would be a good start. Ideally, I think the library media specialist in each school should help teachers take a unit they are already teaching and make the end product a persuasive media production utilizing the techniques and tools of the trade, with the focus being creation and production by students. I know that I will do my best to do just that in collaboration with my staff.



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Week 9: Topics in Digital Citizenship- Cyberbullying and Positive Online Behavior

Cyberbullying is a systematic, repetitive harassment of a targeted individual via electronic media such as email, social networking sites, and text messaging. It can include direct messages, defamation of character spread worldwide through social media tools, and/or deliberate exclusion and shunning. I think our schools should play a role from the very early years in building the ethics and character traits students need to not be the bully, to not be a by-stander and instead be an “up-stander,” and helping potential victims to have the resilience to cope with any attempts at bullying that may occur.

I also think it is important for any school to create a culture of safety so that those facing bullying feel secure in going to a trusted adult without fear of recrimination by the bully involved. Cyber bullying is simply a new tool for an old problem, and one that serves as a very effective and powerful extension of the real-life bully’s ability to inflict harm.

Ms. Nancy Willard’s research shows that bullying is and always has been a part of human nature, but that the current intensive focus on it in the media has us believing it is occurring in epidemic proportions. She has found through the surveys she has administered to students that it is in fact much less prevalent than media would have us believe. She also says that the best way to combat it is not so much to instill fear of punishment and increase lectures and admonishments by staff and other adults, but instead to publicize how most youth are NOT actually involved in it, and how negatively the behavior is viewed by their peers. She asserts that the most effective method of reducing bullying is to use positive peer pressure to encourage students to behave respectfully and appropriately or risk censure by their peers.

I agree with Ms. Willard’s assessment, and think the vital key here is student involvement and leadership in addressing the problem. I think the schools need to set up a student-centered, ethics based program that begins early and progresses systematically through high school. Students all need to know that there is an effective and safe means for reporting and getting relief from the bullying that does occur, and have the tools and personnel readily available to do so. I think the administration and local law enforcement need to work together to deal effectively with any truly criminal behavior, assuming that laws have been tweaked to make cyberbullying an actual crime.


In the elementary school, what’s challenging is that there are some kids who just so habitually tattle on others. We tend to tune them out or tell them to go handle it on their own. It’s hard to know if the situation is a tattler seeking attention or a true case of bullying. A remedy for that might be better communication among teachers and other staff to put together observations and develop remedies for budding situations early on. I think a first step is training staff to be aware of how the real-life and the virtual-life bullying can be hidden and what to look for. Then it is important to have a district-wide, cohesive program in place for dealing with both forms of bullying. And, as I mentioned above, it must be student-centered and focused not on the negative but on the positive. It must utilize the power of peer pressure to showcase the positive, healthy, supportive behaviors in which we WANT students to engage, and discourage and marginalize the negative behaviors we want students to leave behind.

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Week 7: 1. What does Commonsense Media offer that can help your digital citizenship efforts? What general guidelines, activities, curriculum does CSM offer for classrooms, schools and districts? What specific resources does it offer for you as an educator in terms of addressing the needs of your classroom, school or district? How can you use Commonsense Media’s materials to help you in your professional practice as a teacher, administrator, or educational strategist?

Common Sense has emerged over the years as the go-to resource for most of my needs as library media specialist at Stedman Elementary. I am charged with teaching library and technology skills to our K-5 students, and this includes Digital Literacy. My staff is generally quite technology literate as well, and we are fortunate to have the bandwidth, the hardware and the support of our administration for implementing a full blown Digital Literacy instruction program.

While I have used Common Sense in the past, I drifted away from it in recent years as the assignments had generally failed to interest my students and I don’t think I was implementing them as well as I could have. I had also tried using the iSafe materials, but found they were heavily into scare tactics and that was not helpful. Plus I had pushy sales people call me to try to buy the whole program and make it a bigger project than I could at the time. Having reviewed the Common Sense materials for this course, I find they have evolved very much with the addition of the iPad app, the iBook textbook, the example videos of stellar teachers using the materials, and finally the reorganization of the curriculum presentation on the webpage, which provides clarity for my overstuffed and harried brain.

Because my staff and students have so much access to technology in our building (we have several iPad carts and a laptop for every student, though most are very old and slow, being the castoffs from the high school 1to1 program), and because of the general ubiquity of technology in our culture these days, I think it is vital we teach our students early all the nine elements of digital citizenship. Though my staff use technology within their daily teaching routines a great deal, in the past I have not coached them to include much in the way of formal digital literacy, which I think is one thing I need to improve upon. I plan to take on the bulk of the lessons, but I want to share the basic themes and ethics with the teachers so they can reinforce and enhance the teachings where ever possible. I also think bringing the community into the conversation is vital. We had tried a parent night on these topics about five years ago, and only three parents showed up…all associated with the school district. I think the time is right to try again, and I know our district technology coordinator, Jon Painter, and the high school librarian, Carissa Cotta, are planning to do one. I invited myself into the conversation on Friday, and Jon and I will be doing one soon, also, specifically aimed toward elementary parents.

There are a number of things I like about the Common Sense curriculum, starting with how comprehensive it is. It seems to cover all nine of the elements laid out in Digital Citizenship in Schools, by Ribble, except perhaps the digital access element. But that is an element not so much about teaching as it is about institutional structuring which needs to be address by every community and school. I also like how it includes the gaming aspect for the lessons, a new feature I think is brilliant! The gaming, along with the inclusion of an iPad app, will provide an increased level of fun and engagement for our students. A third feature, also new, now allows for reporting back to the teacher so I can track progress. In the past it was just worksheets that really held very little interest for my students, and seemed to me like a huge waste of paper. I’m just not a worksheet kind of teacher. It still has the worksheets, but I will likely treat those as a group wrap-up activity instead of individual ones. We’ll see once I start it. Finally, Common Sense also has a strong parent and community component which reaches into reviews of movies, music, books, games…all media in fact, and I think this is a huge help to parents. I went there often when my girls were in middle school to determine which movies they could go to, especially. I really liked that the reviews are very fact-based and don’t come with an agenda or a filter. They just lay out exactly what the movie contains. I plan to use the parent handouts and the presentation materials for the upcoming parent night, as well as the handouts that go home with each lesson.

So, I have pretty high hopes for the lessons and materials this time around. In the past I’ve taught the units in the spring, but I think I will start off the year with them next year, as the messages and information are important and urgent. I also plan to bring in our counselor if she would like to help out with these lessons, as she has good training and insight into the bullying, etiquette and ethics aspects of the material.

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Question 6 (2/24 – 3/2): This week we look at specific tools which can be used to both assess digital citizenship readiness and develop readiness: the Digital Driver’s License and the Digital Passport. Also included this week are two perspective tools, that I thought might interest: Mike Ribble’s Digital Compass and my You’re In Charge activities, which you have already looked at. The question this week is simply this: As you look at the digital driver’s license or passport tools, what are their strengths and weaknesses? Could you use these with your students to help assess their “digital citizenship readiness” skills or to help them develop those skills? What do you feel you would need to add, if anything, to these?

I’ve looked over the resources provided and feel they both have potential. The Digital Passport from Common Sense looks especially promising for my elementary kids. (The timing couldn’t be more perfect for this, as we just had some inappropriate searching by three 4th grade boys, and our library will be closing in April for a renovation project, so I plan to use the rest of the year to hit digital citizenship hard with our students, as our sessions will be all about computers instead of books.) I just had Jon Painter, our tech person for our district, install them on all our iPads for students to use. I think both a weakness and a strength for the Digital Passport for some students is that it is very kid-friendly, and for my younger students that is a plus, but for my older students, it seems a bit juvenile. A very good strength is the inclusion of games into the teaching. I am a strong believer in using gaming in education whenever it is authentic and useful, and the one unit I completed used the game to drive home the point of how distracting a cell phone can be. Very effective! I have used Common Sense materials in years past, but found them rather dry and dull for the kids.  This new development with the systematic working through toward a passport goal, the ability to track student progress, and the gaming aspect for student appeal are all very strong positives for this one. I have yet to implement any of the lessons with my students, and I think that is where the proof will be.

I can tell you right off that just getting myself set up on the Digital Driver’s License (DDL) site took several days of figuring it all out, and I find it to be NOT very intuitive. When I logged in as a student, I was struck immediately how much reading of tiny print is involved in each lesson. I cannot imagine my students, even my 5th grade students, being able to wade through all that. I did like the depth of the questions, however, so maybe it would be something I could do with them if we walked through the entire lesson together, discussing them as we go and working in groups to come up with answers to each question. I liked the idea of this tool at first because they draw from various other resources, including Common Sense for their videos and such, but I think it is much better suited for older students with higher reading levels and longer attention spans! So, I guess this weakness in my eyes, could be a strength for teachers of older students.

I think a weakness of both programs is that they are not asking students what they think, and having our students build their own parameters of behavior, as discussed in previous sessions of this class. I believe learning is most powerful when it is constructed and students take an active part in creating the rules and guidelines they will be asked to follow, as outlined in Ohler’s video “You’re in Charge,” wherein students are asked to help frame the building of the rules.  I think I would use the Digital Passport program, but then take it one step further and have my students do sessions around each topic on creating their own rules and guidelines in order to truly “own” the information. I really liked the article “Developing Digital Direction” article by Ribble and Bailey, and would like to incorporate the use of the digital compass they provided when having students discuss various scenarios and come up with the rules and guidelines they can follow.