It Takes a Village

Personal photo taken in the village of Cusco, Peru


To be honest I started #coetail because of my PLN.  There were people I respected and followed that were former COETAILers who raved about it. I also saw the #coetail popping up on lots of posts, so I took a journey down the rabbit hole and was hooked.  After the first reading of the first course, I knew this was the right decision to join the COETAIL community. Since my first course I feel I have moved from between Stages 4-5 to between Stages 6-7 of Silvia Rosenthal’s Seven Degrees of Connectedness infographic. I feel that throughout my COETAIL journey I have become a more connected educator through continuing to build my PLN and strengthen connections in a more authentic way. COEATIL has been my village to help me expand my thinking, gather ideas, solicit feedback, and grow as an educator.  Thanks to my final project I feel like I am more friends than colleagues with the wonderful educators and people I learned alongside.


Stronger Relationships Through #GBCreatingInnovators 

I learned how to think deeply about students’ developmental readiness and how to encourage little moments of innovation from Joy.  

Thomas taught me how to be flexible and to transfer the big concepts of our book across grade levels, as well as how to listen intently with an open mind.

Suzy inspired me with her final project and her keen ability to reflect upon her practices in order to engage students and parents in the learning process and collaboration.

Katherine, who joined our group at the recommendation of Joy, gave insight into providing time for prototyping and reflection. She shared many classroom experiences and I appreciated her transparency.

Liz only got to join us for the last meeting, but her constant support and sharing throughout the #GBCreatingInnovators project spurred ideas and gave me new perspectives.  

Collaboration and Passing the Spark 

I titled my blog SPARK, because of this quote 

The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have the idea spark another.  ~Marva Collins

Throughout this journey I have been so inspired by fellow COETAILers (past and present), and although I am not in the classroom right now I have tried to spread their projects/ideas to my teachers at my school.  

Joel’s final project immediately sparked my interest, to which I shared it with our early education teachers and through Twitter.  To me it is such a powerful combination of all aspects of COETAIL and so empowering for the students and classes involved, I just had to share. 


Another little collaboration I tried to organize and pass on was to connect our 1st grade teachers with other teachers around the world.  I knew Joy, Suzy, and Joel all taught lower grades so I created a Google doc for people to sign up and share about their students’ and class responsibilities in their respective locations.

Prior to deciding upon my final project idea I created a Final Project Feedback document for COETAILers to share their ideas and give/receive feedback about final projects.  I tweeted it out to get a wider audience.  I loved reading others ideas and also valued the feedback I got.


I feel one of my responsibilities as a learning leader in my school is to share and connect teachers. Twitter and my PLN have enabled me to do this far more easily than before.  Before I was active and built my PLN I spent hours researching and finding articles that applied to teachers (and my needs).  Thanks to my PLN and the beauty of #hashtags I find more relevant articles, examples, and connections almost momentarily.

One educator, whom I deeply respect and who challenges me to rethink my approaches to learning is a fellow COETAILer, Tricia.  I was on the COETAIL site one day and read one of her posts, and from there I was hooked.  She has such a divergent view of the school culture and environment, I enjoy listening to her podcasts and reading her posts.  


I have followed #sisrocks for years, stealing ideas like an artist from their teachers and administrators. Through the hashtag I have deepened my PLN connections and passed on ideas to our teachers. Their hashtag encouraged me to start a hashtag for our school, #wearegiants.

I value my PLN so much, it is the genesis of my learning and ideas. I find it much more useful and relevant than traditional courses and books.  It is real time, authentic, needs based, and encouraging to me as an educator.  I can only hope to grow my PLN as I progress in this wonderful field of education. And thanks to being in the #coetail sorority I will forever be a lifetime member of a network of professionals who value learning.

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?  

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?