21st Century

Positive Digital Footprints

What happens when you Google your name?  Try it.  What you see is just part of your digital footprint.

Creating a digital footprint.  This is something I have been thinking about for a while now.  More recently it is pressing on me to learn more, do more and educate more on this topic.  Here is why – read the following conversation between myself (STB) and one of my gorgeously curious and motivated students (GCMS):

STB: Hey!  What’s up?  How’s your blog?

GCMS: Fine.  I don’t want to blog any more though.

STB:  Egads! Why ever not!?

GCMS: Because no one reads it, so what’s the point?

Honestly, I have to agree with her.  I don’t blog so that I can check my stats and see who is reading my posts (ok….I DO get a kick out of seeing where my readers are from AND I like that WordPress is so cute and encouraging when I have a ‘good reader’ day!).  I blog for a lot of reasons:

  • to learn
  • to connect with likeminded people
  • to learn
  • to share with and give back to the education community
  • to learn
  • to learn
  • to learn
  • to learn

Don’t our kids want the same?  I learn when people comment.  I learn when I see posts retweeted or ‘liked’.  I learn by doing and by getting feedback.

Here is why my gorgeous student has no readers.  Her blog is like Fort Knox.  It literally is in a black hole of nothingness, accessible to no one but those with the link to her site.  No one will stumble across her work by accident.  The same is true of all my kids blogs.  They are missing that huge factor that makes blogging better than a notebook – they have missed out on having an immediate global audience.   Here is (in part) why:

In his article “Positive Digital Footprints”, author William M. Ferritter asks a group of 7th grade students at an international school in Maryland, USA what a digital footprint is.  Here is what they said:

The students gave me a definition right out of my worst nightmare: Digital footprints are the trails people leave behind when they live online—and Internet predators use these trails to track down careless tweens and teens. “At our elementary school, they really tried to scare us,” explained a group member. “It’s like they wanted us to be afraid of what would happen if we used the Internet.”

He goes on to quote technology expert, Will Richardson:

One of my worst fears as [my children] grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. … that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all. (p. 16)

For this reason – among many more – I want to make sure that my kids are ‘well googled’.

One way to ensure this would be to follow the very comprehensive digital citizenship program in effect at Yokohama International School.   It was not in place when I worked there so I can’t speak of it first hand but it is definitely something I want to investigate (and post more on) in the very near future.  Thanks to Kim Cofino, Technology and Learning Coach at YIS for being so generous in the sharing of your work!  I look forward to thoroughly investigating further!

Here is some more reading:

Positive Digital Footprints


Dear World, Write Our Future

This is amazing.  Seriously.  I know I use that word a lot but I love this.  Started soon after the hurricanes in New Orleans, Dear World has just exploded onto the planet – and as the people in the know say, if you haven’t heard about yet, you soon will.  I think this would be a beautiful graduation gift from my class as they depart for the unknown that is Middle School.  Awaiting permission from the artist to steal his concept and then to challenge my kids to leave their legacy, share their wisdom, make their mark and state their piece. Beautiful. What would you say?

Creativity, Design, Inspiration

In Memory – Ten Things Pablo Picasso Can Teach Us

If he were alive today, Pablo Picasso would be 130 years old.  39 years ago, Picasso passed away but has left an amazing legacy. As I sifted through a google search of “Picasso Quotations” I was reminded of why he is, and always will be, one of my favorites. If you have not done so, a read through of “When Piggaso Met Mootise” would be a great way to share the two fauves with kids.  It is a well read book from my homeroom and art teacher collection of books.


The more I read about 21st century education and the more I read from great educators, such as Picasso, the more I wonder if we have been really  listening all these years or simply ‘talking past each other’?  I love sharing all the things I find but the more I look and read and search and find, the more I am urged to do, to act, to…..something!  And it would seem Pablo would agree! On the anniversary of his death, he is still, as always, an inspiration.

Pablo in bold.  Sonya in italics.

  • Action is the foundational key to all success.   See!  Action.  Doing.  Creating.  Making.  I just have to figure out what!  Where does your motivation come from?  What is simmering away on your ‘action’ burner?  What are you doing?  Or, why aren’t you doing it?

  • Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  Nothing like art to open your eyes to new things.  I love this graphic (below) as a reminder of looking for the beauty in the everyday with a sense of wonder. I sure want to live in the overlap! 
  • Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.  My hope is to teach kids in my class to steal well.  To steal things worth stealing and to make things worth stealing.  To be inspired. 

  • Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  See point one.  Act.  Do. Make. Create. Repeat. 

  • Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.  I love this one.  Break stuff, see how it works, make it better.  Who doesn’t love to pull something apart?  If you have a kid like this, How Stuff Works will be their new nirvana. 

  • I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  Love this too.  Need to do it more and to help my kids do it more too.

  • Love is the greatest refreshment in life.  All we need, right?  Get up and go hug yours.  (Then come back and keep reading please)

  • Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.  Again, see point one.  The laundry can wait but what about……?

  • Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.  Exactly. 

  • Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.  There’s the call to action again.  Is he trying to tell us something, perhaps?

21st Century, Innovation, PYP

8 Words or Less….GO!

Yesterday, I shared Simon Sinek’s company rules.  I got really great feedback from my friend Audrey – a fabulous teacher in Yokohama.  Of her own teaching and classroom environment, Audrey described her ‘rules’:

As for me and my own teaching, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy, and look for connections” always works! ~ Audrey Brown

On Twitter I follow @sethsaid – a tweeter who tweets Seth Godin quotes (ahhh…music to my ears!).  This morning’s tweet, I turned into the picture above (thanks also to Creative Commons and Shankar Shiv for the photo).  I liked it for it’s simplicity (the quote and the photo) and it also made me think of my response to Audrey’s comment:

I love your ideas Audrey! I think all teachers could come up with a pretty cool list for themselves – and then to see what the kids come up with….wouldn’t it be interesting to make your own list as a teacher but not show the kids and then a couple of months into the year, show them Simon’s example and ask them what they think the list would look like for their class. It would be interesting to compare. As teachers, we would know that if they said “Have the right answer, always look good, listen to the teacher” that we might have some work to do. That sounds like the best sort of ‘appraisal system’ I have heard of: comparing if what we say we do and believe in actually matches what we really do.

A little random and wordy but I think you get the idea – do we practice what we preach?

Then comes in Seth.

Can we present who we are and our position on education in eight words or less?  Audrey can (with a little tweaking of ‘look for connections’ to ‘make connections’) and as someone who has seen her in action, I can attest that hanging her sign in the window would be an authentic reflection of her practice as a teacher.  Now I just have to figure out my position!  What’s yours?

Creativity, Innovation, Organization

You Are Allowed…..So Get Started!

At the beginning of my Spring Break, I found this from Simon Sinek (the Golden Circle guy).  These are the rules of conduct he has for his company.  Pretty awesome!  I wonder if these should not be the words to encourage us through our PYP Exhibition journey?  What do you think?  I am going to post these outside our classroom – beside our ‘we can do hard things’ poster.  I might also put one in my permanent view – I want to make sure that I am continually practicing what I preach and not being a source of contradiction within my own classroom.

Innovation, Organization, Uncategorized

Reasons You Haven’t “Made It”, How To Keep Going, and Why You Are Enough

I am quickly falling in love with thisisindexed.com

Simple.  To the point. Witty.

What’s not to love?

I plan on sharing these with my kids tomorrow.  I am intrigued to see what they will think of the use of graphic images to tell such a story.  I think some will LOVE it.  I have fresh index cards and new fine point black sharpies ready too 🙂

We have them thinking about how they are going to eventually share their learning at the end of the process and before they head towards my worst nightmare (reading me a powerpoint) I thought it wise to throw this one up for good measure:

In addition, I would like to share with them 12 Truths to Tell Yourself After A Failure or A Mistake as we conclude the first week of our PYP Exhibition.  I have listed the 12 but for more detail read the full post and remember:

Failure is a prerequisite for great success. If you want to succeed faster, double your rate of failure.

Here are the 12:

  • It’s okay.  You will be okay.
  • There is no success without failure.
  • Positive thinking creates positive results.
  • Success is always closer than it seems.
  • You are not your mistakes.
  • Life’s best lessons are learned at unexpected times.
  • Mistakes are rarely as bad as they seem.
  • Not getting what you want can be a blessing.
  • You have the capacity to create your own happiness.
  • Mistakes are simply a form of practice.
  • You are making progress.
  • Life goes on.

If you have ever been part of the PYP Exhibition, you will know what a huge and sometimes daunting task it can be – especially when you are 10 or 11 years old!  In light of this – and in addition to everything we have done thus far to prepare and support our kids – I was just thinking that tomorrow I will also read them a book from one of my favorite author/illustrators, Peter H. Reynolds.  The book is called “So Few Of Me” and if you are a Reynolds fan (and even if you are not!) you will not be disappointed.  Here is what Peter had to say about his book:

If The Dot is about getting started, and Ish is about keeping going once you get rolling, So Few of Me is about making sure you save enough time in the rush- rush world we live in to actually BE creative. Dedicated to my twin brother, Paul Reynolds, So Few of Me is a tale of an over-scheduled, multi- list-making, over-worked boy on a journey to get it all done. Of course, that’s not just a tall order, it’s a tall tale. Life’s list never really ends, but we have the power to be ruled by the list… Or to put it down — and dream. You might know a few people in your life that might need a gentle reminder to slow it down a notch. I know I will have to re-read my book once a week to keep myself journeying at a safe speed!

Organization, PYP

Learn How to ShipIt


Today I was given a thin book – or, as described on the front cover “a little pamphlet for people who can”. The book/pamphlet is by Seth Godin as a follow-on for those inspired by his book, “Linchpin”. The parent who gave it to me, knows we are in the process of beginning our PYP Exhibition – the culminating project in fifth grade in which the students showcase their understandings from their elementary school career.

What does it mean to ‘ship it’ and what is this all about? Here is what Seth says:

When you ship…things change. Your project interacts with the world and the market changes. You change. Your relationship with your team changes. There is a mark in the calendar–there were days before you shipped and then there are the days afteryou shipped. Drawing a line like this is frightening, because it’s not always obvious what happens after you draw the line and after you cross the line. This line is empowering. It demonstrates your ability to make things happen. This booklet gives you the power to draw that line, step by step, day by day – and then cross it. Write in the book. Draw the line. Commit. The project will ship.

I like the pithy, seqential layout of the book and the astute way it guides you over those hurdles that may typically prevent you from ‘shipping it’. I liked it so much, that as soon as I finished, I tried to buy 30 copies for my kids. Sadly, it is out of print. Not one to give up, I have since been given permission to copy it for my kids so they can experience recording their project in preparation for ‘shipping it’. I am excited to share this with them tomorrow.

Here are a few of my favorite pages:




We often talk about telling kids that it is ok to fail but that must sound like suddenly turning around and saying “It’s ok to run with scissors” or “It’s ok to skip your homework”. We keep repeating it though and we are starting to see that truth sink in. What I like about ShipIt is that it acknowledges failure, it acknowledges fear, shame, road blockers and people who will try and stop you. And then it says, ‘but you can do it anyway’ in a really beautiful way.

The last word on the back cover sums it all up:

You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you preate is precious. Only you can do it, and you must. I’m hoping you’ll stand up and choose to make a difference.

Thanks to Seth, our fifth graders are going to be people who can.

21st Century

Guidelines for Using Technology in Education

In their recent statement on technology in early childhood, The NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center provide general guidance to educators on developmentally appropriate practices with technology and interactive media.  The statement offers the following in the form of major points that are supported by further research in more detail in the full statement.  These were the key points that stood out to me from reading the document – and although targeted at Early Childhood Educators, I believe these will ring true for all educators as we navigate the wealth of technology open to us.  Words in bold are from the report, the other words are my thoughts:
  • Developmentally appropriate practices must guide decisions about whether and when to integrate technology and interactive media: Making sure we are not swapping out paper for an ipad and giving ‘electronic worksheets’ is the first thing that came to mind when I read this.
  • Professional judgment is required to determine if and when a specific use of technology or media is age appropriate, individually appropriate, and culturally and linguistically appropriate:  I think it is a good idea to take other reviewer’s advice when considering sites or apps for your kids but ultimately, it is up to each teacher to make the decision – just make sure you are making an informed decision!
  • Effective uses of technology and media are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give the child control; provide adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning: I have kids who are faster, ‘smarter’ and more confident when they are allowed to type rather than write with a pencil.  For them, technology is empowering and ‘levels the playing field’.  Again, use your judgement with the interests of the child (not your own preference for a pencil and notebook over a laptop) dictating your decisions.
  • Interactions with technology and media should be playful and support creativity, exploration, pretend play, active play, and outdoor activities: Even in a 1 to 1 environment, kids still need to be (to quote FRIENDS), “in the real world with the three dimensional people!”
  • Technology tools can help educators make and strengthen home–school connections: We have switched from cumbersome PDF weekly newsletters to an online blog to share class happenings with our parents – and they love it.  I have had more than one parent who has subscribed to get email updates when new posts are up, comment that “Now I actually feel like I know what is happening and I rarely miss reading a post!”.  It feels great to know I am connecting with the big people who have loaned me their little people for the year!
  • Digital literacy is essential to guiding early childhood educators and parents in the selection, use, integration, and evaluation of technology and interactive media: Newsflash!  Digital Literacy is not just for our kids!  We need to be just as literate!  Is it harder for us, yes.  Possibly.  But that is no excuse!  Remember, we can do hard things!
  • Educators need training, professional development opportunities, and examples of successful practice to develop the technology and media knowledge, skills, and experience: This is a biggie!  It is all well and good to buy the MacBooks and the iPads but unless you support teachers in their integration and scaffold their understandings or what and how and why we should use this technology, it won’t get off the ground at nearly the speed it needs to.
Creativity, Reading

The Beauty of Vowels, Advice to Sink in Slowly, and the Birth of a Book.

How often do you think about vowels?  Probably not often!  In a post titled “Vowels: A cinematic homage to the beauty of language and life”, Brainpickings shares this video from film maker and visual storyteller, Temujin Doran.  The film is a beautiful collection of images, narrated by Temujin with singular words: “floor, door, small, tall, sky, fly…” and yet the picture, whilst always embodying the meaning behind the word, does not necessarily translate literally – which keeps you watching.  Actually, I think it is a clever combination of a very droll, rhythmic voice and the most beautiful of images that makes this such an interesting film. I challenge you to not walk around spouting random words when you look at things in a proper British accent after watching this film!


Temujin was just one of the artists commissioned to create one of the series of posters crafted by designers for design students in their first year of studies at UK universities.  Titled ‘Advice to Sink in Slowly’ the prints are both motivational, inspirational and beautiful works of art. It made me think that my fifth graders could create something equally as beautiful as a departure gift to the elementary school on their graduation to middle school in a few short months!  What advice would they leave in their wake, I wonder?

Below are a few of my favorites, click here for the full collection.

Last week my husband found a video on how books were made and he suggested that amongst all the high tech, I remember the ‘lowly’ printed word and its contribution to education.  I couldn’t have agreed more and loved the short film, but before I could post it, one of my pillars of inspiration and a fantastic source for anyone who wants to get kids (or adults) excited about reading, literature, books and all things related, One Page To the Next, posted the video!  Despite knowing that ‘everything is a remix’, I was hesitant to post it myself but it is just too good not to share! It makes me want my own first edition and it would definitely be a fantastic video to show kids who wanted to author and publish their own books!   Don’t forget to check One Page To the Next – you can thank me later.

21st Century, Innovation, Math

Reason #4565 Why I Love the Khan Academy

I couldn’t have said it better myself!  This is what I want to keep on an index card to pass out to those people who either have never heard of the Khan Academy (seriously?) or who scoff at it’s relevance or purpose in our education system.  In fact, I just may whip a few up when I finish this post!  Leave a comment below if you want me to send you your own!

“This has absolutely nothing to do with replacing teachers. When we talk about getting lectures out of the room, that’s because we think we can move teachers up the value chain. That they are better off forming the bonds and connections. That’s what you need a human being to do and for a really great teacher to do. Khan Academy takes some of the more traditional stuff off the plate and now, all of a sudden, the classroom becomes a richer and more stimulating experience.” ~ Sal Khan

For more of Sal’s comments, click here.