Social Media, Students, and Digital Citizenship: #ONedSs is born

As I sort through the many amazing hashtags that appear on Twitter and various other social media sites, I always smile at the potential learning opportunities that they yield for students and myself.

Then I begin to reflect upon the continual learning that revolves around digital citizenship and how often we refer to it in class.  But yet, how many of us truly allow our students to use social media in class for its positive potential where they can apply their digital citizenship learning first hand? Sure, I know this is not possible for all grades or classrooms let alone students but I cannot help but wonder about the possibilities that exsist through letting students use social media both in and out of the classroom.

There was a quote shared with me quite some time ago now and it appeared again today on my Twitter feed thanks to an amazing educator,  Amanda Anderson. The quote speeks for itself in many ways. Would we place a child in water without a safety device knowing they have not swam before? Of course not.  Why then, knowing that students have access to so many social media platforms, are we letting them do such on their own when so many lessons can be shared in class?



Photo Thanks to Amanda Anderson

There are, of course, pages upon pages of ideas and counter-ideas that can be shared on the thoughts of using social media in the classroom but for the sake of this post I am going for the positive and throwing out an idea for Ontario educators and beyond.

On Feb. 1st, the wonderful Mr. Janna , his students of #r8a, and the students of my class @CitoyensdeGlobe embarked on a student led Twitter chat using the #ONedSs. They were discussing leadership. Questions were co-created and students were guided on how to use TweetDeck and to interact online live and in the moment. Was every tweet perfect? Of course not. Was there learning in each moment? Absolutely.

#ONedSs Feb 1st was truly a wonderful learning opportunity for both Mr. Janna and myself, more importantly, it was an amazing authentic learning opportunity for our students. The proof is the archive of the chat. Then the thought struck me and a few others to turn #ONedSs into a true # where it is used whenever possible by students, for students.

The idea of #ONedSs is one that my class would like to see grow and perhaps, in some way monitor for proper social media use. Here is how it can work:

  • your students share their thoughts using #ONedSs
  • your students share their questions
  • your students share their work
  • your students reach out to perhaps run a chat
  • your students… what else can you think of?

#ONedSs can be a place where students of Ontario create meaningful diaologue with each other and open up the doors of further possibility for learning.

Will there be some difficulties? Of course. This in mind, George Couros today noted at OCDSB’s DLL conference that we should ‘Always err on the side of positive’. I think this is one of those times. (thanks Karsten for the quote!)

So, let your students shine and let their voices be heard via #ONedSs. Let them swim in a good way through social media so that they do not sink down the road.

Yours in learning,



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Why I Communicate with Parents/Guardians of Intermediate Kiddos – and like it!

I have taught at the intermediate level for a few years now, well, 6 to be exact. Throughout this time, I have communicated with parents on a near weekly basis.  Now I know, communicating with parents is nothing new to many of you but alas, I still seem to receive some interesting looks and push-back from colleagues when I say I send emails on a weekly basis to the folks/guardians of my homeroom INTERMEDIATE class. Such conversations are by no means filled with negativity but they do include thoughts of ‘our students should be sharing the info, not you’ or ‘does not not open a pandora’s box of communication with parents/guardians’ and so on and so forth.

Though the aforementioned ideas from colleagues may be true, I cannot help but think that the positive outcomes of weekly communication with parents/guardians at the intermediate level far outweigh any such thoughts.

The long standing adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is perhaps at the centre of why I wish to communicate with parents/guardians. By sharing the big ideas of what we are doing on a weekly basis means parents/guardians might be able to share their own experiences or open a great door of possibility to their kiddo or even the whole class. The expertise and connections that parents can bring to a classroom is truly priceless. In fact, communication with parents has recently landed a fantastic opportunity for students in my school to be part of First Lego League.

My weekly emails look like the image below. They are simple, intentional, and relevant towards supporting student success. There are even times that videos, short articles, or images are shared within these emails that will help parents/guardians better understand what it is their kiddo is doing in class (and possibly at home).



If we wish for our students to succeed, communicating what is happening in our classrooms/schools with parents/guardians should be part of our regular practice even at slightly more spread out than my weekly efforts. The benefits of communication with folks for the sake of student success far outweigh that of any apprehensions that one might have.

On that note, I am happy to be back blogging. It was actually a parent I met during ‘Meet the Teacher’ night who so kindly noted their enjoyment on reading through some of my posts.

Keep communicating everyone however best you can; you never know what opportunities may arise from a simple email or note home.

Yours in learning,

The Enthusiastic Learner





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Keeping up with the Twitter Posts

Sure, I am playing with the title of a show that I am pleased to state that few of my students know but alas, it is true.

I decided to take a true Twitter break during my March Break. I took a solid 6 days away from the 4 accounts that I support by deleting the app from my phone in an effort to avoid any temptation.  I admit, the first two days were rough. The whole FOMO (fear of missing out) was not something that I felt but more so this odd addictive sensation of needing to check my phone for a notification or DM was apparent. A bizarre sense of simply being in touch with Twitterverse was something I did not think would happen but alas, I truly felt that I needed to check my account.

Four days in and a shift in my mindset arose. I quickly realized my true dependence upon checking Twitter for reasons that I could not fully explain but for the fact that I wanted to be in touch with the world.  For this reason, this simple ability to connect with the world, I will stay connected to Twitter but alas, I hope to never feel this feeling of dependence on an application that I found to leave me feeling anxious and stressed; feelings mirrored by a colleague of mine during his break from the social media platform.

While away from Twitter, I certainly noted a stronger connection made back to the person I used to be; the one who read daily in paper format, who ran for the fun of it, or who said to friends and family ‘let’s get that game of Quiddler going okay’?  All of the above happened but at the quality of attention that it deserved; I often found myself checking my Twitter account versus being fully present in the moment.  Being present in the moment is one of the benefits that rendered itself apparent during my break.  I also came to a few realizations about the impact Twitter possibly has, based on colleague conversations, towards teacher development.

The possible negative impact that Twitter extend towards a teacher due to the many tweets a day showcasing the amazing work happening in classrooms around the world.  Such posts certainly can act as an inspirational opportunity but for some, it can transfer into a sense of being overwhelmed by what they are not doing to promote student growth and opportunity in the classroom.  In essence, keeping up with Twitter can seem all too much to some and as they bring new ideas into the classroom based on what they see, they may be doing as such without effective thought as to why they are implementing this new idea.


Classroom Twitter – Before we had our account.

By no means do I wish to state this is true of all teachers or perhaps I am completely off my rocker, something that happens more often than not.  I also realize that the way in which Twitter is used is completely dependent upon the person using the application. Sadly, for those that I talked to over the past few days in a face-to-face format, their realizations about Twitter and the need to be more delicate towards its use mirrors the thoughts presented in the post.

So perhaps this is a bit of a Rick Mercer Rant.  I would be hypocritical to say that I do not adore Twitter, I do. I just now, after having an account for a mere two years, recognize that my use is not about keeping up with twitter verse but more, ensuring that I am connecting with those that will inspire my practice and in turn, foster a strong sense of community among my students due to our online presence.

Yours in Learning,

The Enthusiastic Learner

(and yes, I do find some irony in the fact that I have not posted in months and yet I chose this to be my first topic of return. C’est la vie non?)

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Learning to talk/share – ending the stigma

The anxiety that I have built up for myself in sharing my voice with the world via social media hit an all time high throughout the month of December. It did not matter that those that I have met online supported my efforts to be part of the changing shape of education, it more so mattered to me that those whom I see face-to-face where, in my mind, I would be judged for the change I was co-creating with my students. I had sleepless nights, moments of erratic breathing, a feeling of not being me. The built up emotions blocked my mind from attending several staff functions. In one particular instance, I sat within my classroom providing feedback for students work submitted online versus heading to the staff room for a breakfast celebration.

I have been through this before, it is nothing new to me.  It ebbs and flows in my life and rarely takes its true form at school. My profession almost always drives me to be through the roof excited, truly.

Fear not, I sit here today feeling strong, happy, and back to me; it just took a few weeks to get here after putting myself in a place of discomfort.

However, I did manage to reflect on a few instances that made me think how hard it is to share what goes on in my brain with those around me. I still see clearing a colleague, who had great intentions, tip toeing around me after I shared my story with many staff members and students. It was the exact response that I did not want, that nobody wishes to have.

It is with that sense of wanting to feel ‘normal’ that I continue to delve into a world of discomfort by doing exactly what put me back into a place of anxiety, sharing thoughts/ideas/experiences on social media. It was not my idea, it was my students.

Mental-Health-AdolescentsI am proud to share my story with them, to tell them that I still have these ‘swirly’ issues that sometimes hold me back, but that when all is said and done, I still come out okay. I want my students to know that talking about it truly is a stepping stone in healing what it is that is perceived as wrong, that it helps break the stigma associated with mental illness no matter that severity, and that it helps foster the sense of community that is required to help each of us heal.

I am beyond grateful for the students I have taught over the years who have willingly embraced the learning process associated with ending the pattern of misunderstanding where mental illness is concerned.  Imagine what could happen if every student was educated on mental illness/mental health?  The stigma certainly could be wiped away.

I implore you to talk to your students, to share stories, to remind them that it is okay to talk about what goes on in their creative minds, and to most importantly, truly listen to their needs.  Perhaps if I was more readily exposed to such a way of thought, it would not have taken me so long to talk.

Yours in learning,

The Enthusiastic Learner


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Hour of Code – Meaningful Learning & 6Cs

Alas, the day came when I had to bite into a chunk of learning that certainly made me shiver at the word; coding.  Yes, coding.

The amazing @mraspinall has been an advocate of students coding for quite sometime.  Through viewing his Tweets and Blog, I finally decided it was time to take the plunge.  What better way to jump into coding than through the #HourOfCode experience during Computer Science Week.  It was just the kick that I needed to launch myself, and my students, into this world of computer literacy. Hour of Code

As I presented the idea to my students, most met the coding challenge with a positive vibe and a willingness to take a risk in trying something new.  I had full intentions of connecting this current, and all future coding experiences with Deep Learning Pedagogy.  However, before I could even ask students how it connected to the 6Cs of Deep Learning, a student quickly asked why we were going off track into this world of coding?  I paused for a moment and answered in this way (more or less):

Coding is more than just knowing how to create a game, website, or an application. Coding promotes critical thinking, effective communication skills when explaining ‘what’ one is doing, and can be viewed as a creative outlet for some.  In essence, it is another language or form of literacy that needs to be ‘decoded’ (har har, I know).  By coding, you are developing critical thinking skills that can be applied into many other aspects of your life. The question should not be ‘why are we coding, but more so, why are we not coding?

As a class, we discussed how coding can help each and everyone of us in the learning process and the skill sets it provides.  Throughout this conversation, and the many others we have had as a class where authentic learning is concerned, students are truly beginning to understand how the 6Cs of learning are represented in all that they do. Coding 1

This quick intro into coding and its connection with the 6Cs leaves me excited to know where it may lead us on this educational journey.  My students were so engaged in what they were doing and were communicating in such meaningful ways that one could not help but get caught up in their conversations.  For some, upon learning that a ‘Coding Club’ would be introduced to our school this week, a world opened up to opportunity and a different sense of community.

Whether you code for aCoding 2n hour, once a week, or throughout your teaching year, I strongly suggest that you do.  It opens up opportunities to our students to understand learning in ways that we may never thought possible.  Most importantly, it engages them in the learning process through ways that they, the students, never thought they could.


Yours in learning,

They Enthusiastic Learner




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#PoppyTalk – Making Sure We ALL Remember

Now that students across our country are potentially filled with seasonal sugar highs thanks to Halloween, it is time for us to shift our ‘seasonal’ tune to something we, at times, forget to support.

November 11 is a day that we, as educators, can ensure that the events of our history, including those of WWI, are respected, honoured, and remembered in our classrooms and consequently, in the homes of Canadian families.

A conversation with the insightful and remarkable educator, Shauna Pollock, led us to collaboratively think of a way to ensure that the stories of our past and present are shared in a student-friendly manner.  We have an opportunity to share the stories of our veterans, our current soldiers, and survivors of war in a way that ten years ago was not possible.  Social Media is a venue that we can use so that students and educators can learn together.

Shauna and I are suggesting that educators use the hashtag #PoppyTalk to share poppytalkclassroom stories and student work pertaining to Remembrance Day to bring our country together in remembering this important piece of our history.  What better way to learn and share together than through social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram?

The morning of Nov. 11th, the tweets using the hashtag will be ‘Storify’ed so that our country can respect our veterans and unsung heroes who stand up to fight for our freedoms and rights.

Please use #PoppyTalk starting today and straight through until Nov. 11.  Let us remember together so that our students know how just how important this day is.  Share your stories of student learning, of community events, and most importantly, the ‘why’ behind the importance of this day.

Yours in learning,

The Enthusiastic Learner

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Starting big, then going small

I never would have thought that a Federal Election would take over the first month or so of school, but it did.  My grade 7 homeroom worked tirelessly on creating campaigns to engage their peers to vote for their party/local candidate.  Throughout the process, they were able to interact with members from CIVIX, the organization behind the Canada’s Student Vote, with Acadia University’s Political Science Department (thanks Dr. Biro), and of course, their debut into the media thanks to CBC’s Julie Ireton and her piece on engaging youth in the voting process.

Fast forward through the nitty gritty of the project and move to the reflective writing piece that I am currently in the process of providing feedback for each individual student.  I requested that my students do the following:

  • write about their views on the project
  • what the loved
  • what they would change
  • what they got out of it (if anything)
  • they could draft their ideas in a way that worked for them (sketch, google docs, spider web etc)

I am already done 15 of the 27 writing pieces and am impressed by the growth my students comment on in this learning process.  So far, each student has mentioned how nervous they were with such a ‘vague’ and large project.  They wanted to know ASAP about the expectations, success criteria, and how to get an A.  However, as they moved through the project and had 1:1 conversations about their individual and collaborative growth, they began to realize that the project would evolve organically and that success criteria, at least some of the specifics, would change according to the creativity of the group and their passion to achieve their best.

What my students have mentioned is understanding that it is not just about the mark, but it is about the learning process.  It is about the 6Cs and prepping themselves for what they call the ‘real world’ through collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (the 4 they used they noted the most). They moved from being ‘spoon fed’ to critically thinking about their authentic project through ongoing student/lead learner (teacher) conversations.  By doing as such, students were truly put in the driving seat of their learning and recognized that they can take charge of the learning process with some guidance.

For those curious on how I evaluated my students on this mass project?  Not so simple but I ran a running log of conversations and small writing pieces that were connected to the French Curriculum expectations.  The overall collaborative project, as viewed in the document mentioned at the beginning of this post, saw students evaluating each other through learning skills.

I certainly would change parts of this project to better the needs of the learners in my classroom but alas, I would never take away the growth that open ended projects can have when on-going conversations can be had to truly differentiate and support each student in ways that work for them.  Besides, when a student writes this at the end of their reflection piece, you know something has gone right. studnet praise

(Can’t read French? Kiddo let’s me know that this is ‘probably the best project he has done in his life’ – pretty awesome to read.)

Yours in learning,

The Enthusiastic Learner

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