Course 2 Final Project: Empowering Use Agreement for Elementary


This project couldn’t have come at a better time.  Our eLearning coordinator is in the process of revamping the approach to technology in our whole school.  Last meeting we looked at our current AUP and we decided we wanted different AUPs for the different school divisions (upper and lower). I was pleased to read option 1 for the final project. Now, the question was finding someone to work with.  

Option 1: In a small group that contains at least one cohort member outside your school, create a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA) or Responsible Use Policy (RUP) for your division level (Elementary, Middle or High School). You may start from scratch or use a framework from some of the resource that are covering in the course or from what your school already has in place. Include a reflective blog post describing choices you made in developing the RUA/RUP i.e. choice of language level, topics covered, issues of focus, describe how it would be shared with students etc.”


I started on Twitter and then went to our Google+ COETAIL community. Blair posted a sign up sheet so I added my name to that. The next day I had an email from Meghan Highfill asking if I wanted to work with her.  I was glad to find a partner that wanted to work on the same option, so I replied to her and we set our plans in motion.  We began exchanging emails and both had some of the same ideas for where we wanted to go–a visual policy with a positive feel. The first thing we needed was some baseline data.  What did our school communities know about our existing AUP?  Was it helpful?  What stuck out in their mind?  Megan created a Google Form to send out to classes, parents, and teachers. After about a week or so we looked at the data.  

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What stuck out to me was that 42% of our communities didn’t remember even signing the AUP. I highlighted some of the eye catching responses based on the members of the community in the infograpic below.You can see for yourself, but I felt the comments overall were very negative or uniformed, the exact opposite of what we desired. As we’ve learned in previous weeks the Internet doesn’t have to be scary.

Untitled Infographic (4)Our next step in the process was to plan and work out the details. Up until now we used email and Google Docs, but I guess I am a little bit old fashioned because I wanted to Skype to lay the groundwork.  We had to figure out a time to meet, with Megan is in Indonesia and me in Brazil a little flexibility was required. Thankfully Megan is an early riser so we met her with a cup of coffee before work and me with a screaming baby in my arms before bedtime. (Shout out to Megan for being so understanding!)


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One of the many emails throughout the process

It was great to Skype, we were both on the same page and had done research prior to talking.  We decided what we liked on AUPs we researched and what we didn’t and then decided upon some must haves–linked to a mission, focus on the positive, include graphics that are correctly attributed, an reflective activity paired with the AUP, and a legal statement. I felt very strongly, and Megan agreed, about tying it to a mission. Again, Megan was super gracious and we used my school’s mission because she was leaving her school next year. The reason I feel so strongly about linking it to the mission is because my school has a new mission this year and any chance I find to make it come alive I try to do that. By linking the AUP to the mission the students are aware of the attributes of our mission they are demonstrating while using technology. I liked Megan’s idea of including graphics for younger students and our EAL population (both students and parents). Megan also had a great idea for a short activity for students to do with parents to reflect upon how they can follow the AUP. This builds a stronger connection between school and home and hopefully will foster further discussion. Lastly, we felt we had to include a legal statement in case an incidence occurs.  

After Skyping we both set out on our assigned tasks.  I created a draft of the AUP and then we both worked on it over the course of the next week.  We wrote comments back and forth to each other and made revisions based on the comments. We remixed some sources to fit our needs: Campbell Hall Technology Values, linked to IB learner profile, this one with visual clipart, former COETAILer Shannon’s. The overall creation of the document was pretty seamless. I think it helped that we had a clear vision of what we wanted.

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Commenting was an easy way to collaborate

Final Product

I am pleased with our final product. We ended up with all of our non-negotiables included and even came up with a positive title, Empowering Use Agreement (thanks to week 4 in this course).

We created the EUP and now is where the real work begins.  Most schools have AUP/RUP and the likes, but I think where we fail as schools is making them living and breathing documents. Now I have to work with my principal, teachers, eLearning committee, parents, and students to make sure this doesn’t get buried in incoming emails or under papers on a desk.  I have a feeling this will be a continuous process, but if it is done correctly I think it will EMPOWER our students, teachers, and parents. Hopefully in the next couple months I will have updates.


This project and the process was awesome.  As I said before, it came at the perfect time for our school. I’m hoping that we can adopt it and start with rolling it out next semester. The process couldn’t have gone smoother, thanks to my rockstar partner, Megan. We started early and split up the work equally.

One thing I would do differently would be to find better more kid friendly graphics. As Megan said in her post, we felt limited because we wanted to use creative common licensed artwork/pictures, but kid friendly ones were hard to find. I think one way teachers can personalize this to their class and simultaneously teach students about creative commons would be to have their students find an image that represents the mission attribute in relation to technology.

Another thing I want to do is to make it into an infographic. I think we have a little too much wording, but I think if we could have been more concise in our wording we could have made a powerful infographic. I am still messing with the infographic, but it is looking a little crowded and more like a wordgraphic, so I won’t share it.

Our EUP is positive and almost idyllic, which made we wonder is it too empowering?  Does an AUP need to have a definition of what not to do and the consequences if a student breaks it? The Pollyanna in me wants to say no, but after reading this article I wonder if we should have been more explicit?   

I learned that when doing a collaborative project it helps to start early and leave lots of time for feedback and edits. It also helped me to be able to meet face to face, rather than just through email and comments on Google docs. Lastly, I learned that an AUP is a very personal thing to a school, so making a general one isn’t ideal. I’m hoping that this is a start and that over the coming years my school can tweak, add to, and make this Empowering Use Agreement their own.

Walking the Walk

After my post on copyright and sharing Rebekah gave me some great feedback, to be more explicit in how I am applying COETAIL stuff.  My role this year is different than my previous years in teaching because I don’t have a class to call my own.  This has caused a bit of an identity crisis for me, because teaching was what I did. I know that I am still a teacher and now I just have different students–my teachers. Now I am looking for little ways to share and use what I am learning in these courses.

Today I ran our elementary staff meeting, it was a chance for our elementary classroom teachers to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the end of the semester and simply be still and reflect.  We are implementing Reading and Writing workshops for the first time and we wanted to give teachers some protected time to reflect on how far they’ve come and celebrate our success, while at the same time allowing them to look forward to the rest of the year and how we (administrators) can support them more.

When teachers came into the meeting I had ambient house music playing and a presentation on loop (below). I want to practice what I preach, so I made sure to use compfight to find creative commons photographs for all the slides. I also took the time to credit each source with links to their sites and the compfight search page and referenced them on the last slide.

I didn’t give a lesson on attributing sources or using creative commons photographs because that wasn’t the objective of today. Today our focus was on reflection and being thoughtful Giants. Even though I didn’t focus on the presentation some people commented on the pictures as they came in and asked where I found them.  It was a great conversation starter and hopefully they will think about it the next time they create a resource for their class or parents.

Ellict Empowerment

Photo Credit: Search Engine People Blog via Compfight cc

How do you empower students?  That has to be in the top 5 questions teachers ask themselves daily. However, we now need to ask how can we empower students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world? Our world is growing smaller and smaller, and our students can see this in their daily lives, so our schools must make the connection as well. My fear is that our students see technology divided–school use and home use.  With the rise of 1:1 programs and bring your own device this separation is less, but as educators we need to close the gap. After watching the TED video about Martha (and others) and reading about Richard’s Rwanda I was blown away by the ability, drive, and creativity of these kids. I immediately tweeted about it to share it with my PLN. Since then I have been trying to think of ways to empower our students.


So how do we do it? Working in an elementary school my approach differs from upper schools, but not entirely.  The first thing I think we need to do is give students choice and voice. Adora Svitak shares it is important to give students decision making power in her article 5 Ways to Empower Students. One way I’ve done this in my role this year is in the Dynamic Learning class.  Students have the choice to research a passion of theirs and a voice to share it with their peers.  Eventually they will strengthen their voice by sharing with other students at Lincoln in Argentina. I had the students complete a reflection on Google Forms and one student shared that he like having choice because “ I got to do something that I wanted and not to do something I didn’t want.”  He went on to say that he learned about hedgehogs but also how to use browser and PowToons. To me the most powerful thing he learned was, “ I learned about being not afraid in front of audience, and I have good enough english.” Then there was a student’s comment that she loved having choice because “I have the power.” Amen to that.

Another way is the Hour of Code coming up next week (this year they have awesome themes–Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen!).  For the past three years my class has participated in it.  This year since I don’t have my own class, I shared the information with our technology teachers. A couple of them are going to participate with their classes and I am going to go in and take pictures and ask students about their experience, then post them on Twitter as well as share them on our Schoology page.

We need to embrace use of technology and devices.  While this can be hard to do at some schools because of lack of resources, we can be creative about how to get devices in their hands.  Adora Svitak said, “When students use their devices during class time to access learning resources that they can also get at home or on the go, we see that learning doesn’t just happen within the four walls of a classroom.” Bring Your Own Devices is one way around the financial issues. Last year my team proposed this and thankfully our principal was on board, the learning completely changed and evolved because students were constantly and easily finding answers to their questions and moving forward at their own pace.  

Another way to empower students is to involve them in real issues.  All semester long our elementary students have been working in multi-grade groups to learn about empathy in our social emotional curriculum. Students are now working on a real issue problem at our school.  They brainstormed ways we can show/teach others to have more empathy at our school. Their topics range from taking care of our (beautiful) campus to welcoming new students to showing respect to the cleaning staff. Groups are currently shooting footage and editing videos for a school PSA that we will post on Schoology. It has been amazing to see students super engaged, but also to watch the different students stand out because of their strengths. From first grade to fifth grade the students feel their role, whatever it may be, is important to the project. I will be sure to share the videos once they are complete.

Lastly, and at more of school wide level, next semester I would like to have a social media campaign for our school community to connect to the mission and also for students to share a little about their personal lives. After reading the Forbes article What Makes Your School so Special? I was struck by how often we belittle students by not asking for their opinions or input. Students are the heartbeat of any school and we can harness that energy while empowering them. In the article a student from Wittenburg University said, “All my friends were posting. I wanted to post my story. It keeps you connected to your community.” Just like this student, I’m hoping students (and parents for younger students without accounts) will feel drawn to participate because it is the thing to do.

For our social media campaign there is a dual purpose, we have a new mission this year so one outcome will be for our community to become more familiar with our mission and promote our hashtag (#wearegiants). The other reason is to encourage students to share their personal hobbies and ways that they are a GIANT (our mascot) all the time, not just in school, which will hopefully empower them. I had been thinking about this for awhile, but after watching the Martha video and seeing that most of these kids created amazing things outside of school I began to think how our students have loads of talents and things they do at home that we never bring into school. Maybe this campaign will be the connector from school to home. I hope it will allow teachers to see a Tweet or an Instagram post and begin to see that student differently, or their friends will look to them as experts.

It Takes a Village

A Cambodian school I visited in 2011
A Cambodian school I visited in 2011

Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?


Is that enough of a response?  

In all seriousness we are all responsible. The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” hasn’t changed. “We live in a face-paced, instant information, and pressure-packed world. Today’s children are faced with a myriad of both challenges and opportunities.”  Students need guidance, instruction, and a safe space to learn from all of us. PE teachers, language teachers, classroom teachers, administrators, librarians, peers, and the list goes on and on. As we’ve learned so far in this course, the internet and our use of it is powerful and can be positive, if we believe what we read we need to holistically educate students on how to harness this vast tool. Besides, there is so much to learn about the internet– digital footprints, creative commons, remixing, privacy, the list is too extensive for one teacher to cover. Just as we have social emotional curriculums that explicitly teach students, we need to explicitly teach students proper online usage.  

Since the amount of information is so vast and always changing it can be intimidating to touch (not to mention teach). With all the myths out there and confusion about laws it can be overwhelming, but here’s the thing…if it is overwhelming to us as educators, imagine how overwhelming it is to students.  They are online, there is no getting around it. We can’t leave them high and dry, they need to be immersed in online safety (and the everything else we’ve learned so far) in all classes.  With a resounding and unified message coming at them different fronts they are more likely to practice safe use.

Technology is everywhere (photo is mine)
Technology is everywhere (photo is mine)

There are tons of sites, resources, and programs out there to help us. Tools like Generation Safe can help schools self assess their digital citizenship. Also, Mike Ribble lays out Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship along with questions we can ask ourselves to guide our teaching..  After reading this week I kept thinking that sometimes the most meaningful teaching about online safety and internet use come in the unexpected teachable moments. These moments are easy to sweep under the rug or they may take time away from your planned lesson, but these are the ones students remember and need the most.

Now the real question is how do we get everyone to take responsibility for teaching our students how to interact and use the internet?  I work at a school where a lot of teachers have technophobia. How do I respect each teacher as their administrator, but also move them along to meet the needs of our learners? Ray Nasher thinks you should  invest our energy in the teachers not yet ready , I would agree, but actually doing that and making an impact is hard. I also think having organic grassroot leadership from teachers is very effective. What do you think? What has worked at your school?

Beg, Borrow, Steal.

Image credit Austin Kleon
Image credit Austin Kleon


A professor I had in my educational courses at Furman University said this is what teachers do. Beg. Borrow. Steal.  It is how we survive. I laughed at it and then in my first year teaching when I worked on an amazing team I found the truth in it. Could you please send me the review you created?  Thankfully I didn’t have to experience the stealing part. After this week’s readings I would have to add another to the list…remix.

The first time I thought twice about copyright and photographs was in my Masters class when Clint Hamada gave a presentation.  I observed that underneath each picture on his presentation was credit and a link to the source.  Of course I learned all about plagiarism in school and knew that I couldn’t take someone’s words, but images? I figured if I was just using them for school or professionally and wasn’t earning money on them than it was all good.

Living in China didn’t help my cause either.  The Chinese are known for not obeying  copyright laws. I once ate at an “Outback” in Beijing, seriously the same menu and everything, but it was called Aussie (or something ridiculously close). I got used to  never trusting a beer by its bottle.  Brands didn’t mean anything because it was just a knock off.  I guess I just got used to it, and sadly  didn’t really even think twice about copying texts for my class. After this week’s researching I kept asking myself, even if we aren’t in the country do we follow the laws?  My answer is now a resounding YES.  

If one of the reasons I create a positive digital footprint is to model for my students, shouldn’t I do the same in all aspects of my life? I want my students to give credit where credit is do, and realize when they are working from someone else’s work.  I’m pretty sure they all know not to plagiarise, but pictures, music, and videos is something I need to work on with them.  I need to dig deeper as to where to start, but I did stumble upon (and learn about) the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF thinks students “… need to understand their digital rights and responsibilities in order to create, critique, and comment on their culture. This curriculum fills an educational void, introducing critical questions of digital citizenship into the classroom without misinformation that scares kids from expressing themselves in the modern world.” (emphasis mine) I love this approach because it is so similar to how I feel about digital footprints.

Photo Credit: gato-gato-gato via Compfight cc


I loved Rebekah’s site on Remixing and based of an image (above) followed a trail to Austin Kleon’s site.  He thinks, “You are a mash up of what you let into your life. Anyone can be creative if they surround themselves with the right influence, play nice, and work hard.”  That couldn’t be more true. Then after watching Kirby Fergusson’s video my mind was blown. He focuses on hollywood and the music industry, but it completely applies to all aspects of creation. He spreads the message that everything is a remix.  There is nothing wrong with this, but it becomes wrong when we don’t attribute the creator. In his TED Talk Embrace the Remix Kirby says, “Creativity comes from without, not from within. We are dependent on one another.” It all comes back to connectivism, we learn through, with, and from others.  

Honestly I wasn’t sure how to use remixing in my teaching.  Then by happenchance my principal asked me to help plan a culminating assembly for our social emotional curriculum. Students will share videos they created to show how we can have empathy at our school, but we wanted to get the students excited and what better way than for teachers to make fools of themselves.  Enter the Village People.  We wrote new lyrics about all we have learned this semester to none other than YMCA.  Now, I am working on creating a video with our lyrics to the song. What a perfect opportunity to model attributing credit and remixing.

I also looked through a lot of examples of remixing in the classroom from Rebekah’s site. I loved Ben Sheridan’s global stop motion video project for kindergartners. I was amazed by all of the contributions. How fun is this Choose Your Own Adventure Hamlet style? And if authors instagrammed is a fun read.

I loved getting lost in the links this week.  I have a long way to go with remixing and I can’t wait to play and figure out ways to get our students and teachers remixing (and giving credit of course). Would anyone be interested in doing a remix project?  

Public is the New Default


Photo Credit: Thomas Leuthard via Compfight cc


The whole issue of privacy doesn’t really worry me.  Maybe it’s because I am a Xennial, having grown up on the cusp of technology domination. The author of this article describes my peers best with,  “We had one foot in the traditional ways of yore and one foot in the digital information age, we appreciate both in a way that other generations don’t.” Growing up things around me were always changing. I vividly remember my elementary school getting the big clunky Macs and using floppy disks. I used AOL Instant Messenger, was at one of the universities with The Facebook, and also had personal email accounts before my parents did.  I fumbled through the privacy issue as a college student and thankfully learned what to post and what not to post before the days of things going viral (sidenote: check out this video of Why Things Go Viral).  

I personally appreciate the convenience, help, and protection that comes with all the features of  Google, Amazon suggestions, and personalized news on Zite. I understand that I am allowing access to my personal interests, but in return I get a unique experience tailored to me whenever I use this sites. That doesn’t mean I am careless about my information, I only allow certain apps to have access.  Of course I understand sites can track my history and cookies, but I am not worried about that. As Jeff Utecht says in his blogpost Privacy, we can’t have it both ways. Our love/hate relationship with technology is a personal battle, one that I stand on the side of love. I would go on to add that we live in an instantaneous society where convenience trumps all and with that comes some compromise. What are you willing to compromise?


In Jeff’s above mentioned blogpost he also goes on to say that “public is the new default”.  I like how he says that we should start with the idea that everything we do is public and work backwards from there. If I know everything about me is out there, what do I want to keep safe and how will I protect it? It is different for everyone. I know some people that aren’t on Facebook because they don’t want their lives documented and shared with everyone, then there are people who use Instagram or blogs as a way to make money. There are apps and Moments on Facebook that will allow you to send private photos to a group of people. This may be the right choice for some people. Again, it comes back to what do you want to get out of it and how open are you.  

The article When Data Gets Creepy, lived up to its title and made me a little paranoid when I read it. It had the feeling of scare tactics stating, “An interesting side-effect of public data being indexed and searchable is that you only have to be sloppy once, for your privacy to be compromised.” and warning readers that “ your tweets are public property”. I knew all this and I try to use discretion, but couldn’t help to double guess myself as I read.

Although this week’s topic is personal privacy, I had to think about my students’ privacy.  When I share my professional life on Twitter sometimes there is a picture along with the caption, and before I post I have to check make sure that their parents have signed the agreement to share their child’s image. Does your school have an agreement for parents to sign?  How does your school manage their students privacy? I would love to hear feedback and suggestions.

We need space mentally to play and experiment without the threat of judgement in order to grow into people who are internally free. –From Online Privacy: How Did We Get Here?

Last week reading through other COETAILers blogposts I kept thinking and even made a comment about teaching students empathy and forgiveness.  Even with educating our students about digital footprints, privacy, etc they will make mistakes. We need to teach them how to bounce back from mistakes or oversharing and teach them how to be less judgemental, have a little grace for others, and to help their peers move on after an incident.

Are Digital Footprints the New Sexual Education?

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I googled myself to see my digital footprint.

 “Scare tactics…are not only ineffective at changing student behaviors (Online Safety and Technology Working Group, 2010), but they also prevent students from seeing digital footprints as potential tools for learning, finding like-minded peers, and building reputations as thoughtful contributors to meaningful digital conversations.” This guy is exactly right, instead of teaching students to be afraid of their footprints, we should teach them to form authentic footprints. We should have learned from teaching sexual education, avoidance and scaring students doesn’t work. 

Our education system has scared students into digital footprint phobia. I’ll be the first to admit I was in the wrong, but now I have seen the light. In the past when I discussed digital footprints with my students I focused more on the negatives than the positives.  Be careful what you post. You never know who is looking.  Watch out for stalkers. Etc. Etc. Etc. Could this be because as a society we focus more on the negative news than the positive news? We are inundated with stories of online predators or people losing their jobs because of a stupid twitter or Facebook post.  What we don’t hear about is the 68% of candidates that were hired because of their digital footprint. In addition, the article Footprints in the Digital Age points out that “Publishing content online not only begins the process of becoming “Googleable,” it also makes us findable by others who share our passions or interests.” It all goes back to connectivism. We should teach students how to do what we are doing as well, figuring out as Jeff said in the intro to Course 2 video  “a system to make sense of the chaos.”

Social Network Screening

This week I also learned about my digital shadow. Of course I always noticed that the outfit I looked at online seemed to follow me around or when Netflix suggests things I would like based on my last binge watching session, but I didn’t know there was an actual term for it.  I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this.  The parts of my shadow I see (Amazon suggestions, etc) make my life more convenient, but have the parts I don’t see (bank records, purchase history, etc) exposed is a little frightening. In terms of schools, it is imperative that they mirror business IT departments.  “As people’s digital footprints continue growing, so too will the responsibility of organizations for the privacy, protection, availability and reliability of that information. The burden is on IT departments within organizations to address the risks and compliance rules around information misuse, data leakage and safeguarding against security breaches.”( ) Student medical records, parents’ tuition payments, and so on need to be protected to make schools safe havens. The digital shadows fly over my head, and I may seem naive in saying this, but I am sticking with the theory ignorance is bliss.

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Can you tell I’ve been looking for finger paint and my son’s next year’s Halloween costumes lately?

Another thing I found interesting and kept asking myself was, as an educator should we have digital footprints? After reading a fellow COETAILER’s Top 5 reasons educators must have a digital footprint I went to Twitter to ask some of my PLN the reasons they have a digital footprint and the resounding reason why was to model for their students. For me this is one of the top reasons I have a presence online, like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are speaks too loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying”.  I have to walk the talk and by doing so it also led to another reason for creating a digital footprint. We need to model what to do, not scare students with what not to do.

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While modeling responsible digital citizenship is great I didn’t start because of that, my primary reason I started was to learn from other educators. A few years ago I felt like I was in a teaching slump and didn’t feel like I was growing in my profession. I read books and implemented new strategies, but I felt like I was on an island. So  I began lurking on Twitter and learning from the safety of behind my screen.  Then I became a little braver and began to post.  I was nervous and didn’t want to put myself out there, but then I realized that in order to get something I have to give something.

I think having an online presence helps in the job search.  Innovative schools want educators that are running to push the boundaries in education, not educators that are tiptoeing around in fear of making a footprint. If a school doesn’t want to hire me because I tweet about my students’ learning or pose questions for other educators I’m okay with that.  I want to be at a school that values intrinsic learning and connectivism.  

Another question I kept pondering all week was what is the distribution of my digital footprint.  Last month I wrote about my voice in social media, and this is along the same lines. I primarily only tweet about education, and use Instagram and Facebook for personal tweets.  Does that enhance or degrade my digital footprint for recruiters?  I mainly do this because of function–almost all of the people I follow on Twitter are educators and this is where I go to learn. However, would I learn more and expand my educational footprint if I posted on all social media fronts?