The First Annual #Digcit Summit

IMG_4419The threat of a hurricane on top of end of the week rush hour traffic through New York made for a stressful (and long… so long) trip from South Jersey up to Hartford, Connecticut this past Friday.  After decompressing from the entire trip, I must say that every minute of the long ride was worth it and then some.  The first Digital Citizenship Summit, hosted by Marialice Curran (@Mbfxc) and David Polgar (@techethicist) was a one of a kind get together and a necessary call to action to the 200+ attendees.  Having attended a lot of conferences over the past year, I can say confidently that this one was really unique and that it affected me deeply.

It’s always intimidating going to a conference alone.  I walked into the building greeted with a bear hug from Marialice.  This woman rocks.  As seems to happen often lately, I ran into an awesome Twitter contact, Rob Pennington (@Robpennington9) and we hung out throughout the day, commiserating with each other over how addicted we are to our own devices and how the sessions challenged our beliefs and habits.  Before even sitting down for the opening, Rob introduced me to Edu-Rock Stars Sue Bearden (@s_bearden), Matt Soeth (@MatthewSoeth) and Kerry Gallagher (@kerryhawk02).  I feel like I say this all the time; it never ceases to amaze me how friendly and open the people in Ed Tech are.

The opening by David and Marialice was a true call to action.  “It’s not enough to just like an article online, we have to DO something about Digital Citizenship” said David in what was a humorous opening to the day.  Marialice, sporting the awesome T-shirt “Be the Digital Change” echoed these thoughts in her energetic and emotional opening as she stated that DigCit can no longer be an “add-on” to the curriculum.  By infusing digital citizenship into schools and homes, we are teaching the next generation how to make the right choices and how to empathize with others.

The panel discussion was such a great way to kick off the day’s discussion.  Moderated by Sue Bearden, Dr. Mike Ribble, the godfather himself (@digcitizen), Denise Lisi Derosa (@DeniseLDeRosa), Dr. Shelley Prevost (@ShelleyPrevost) and Reuben Loewy (@LivingOnlineLab) engaged in a very rich conversation about what digital citizenship means to them, where we have been and where we need to go in order to live more intentionally and utilize our technology in the most responsible and ethical ways.  I Periscoped the majority of the panel and you can view it from my Katch.

When I looked at the first session offerings, I had to choose between a session I thought would benefit the students of my school and a session I thought I needed for myself (desperately in all honesty).  I choose to invest in “me” and went to see Janell B. Hoffman’s session “The Slow Tech Lifestyle: Integrating Digital Mindfulness Into Your Personal & Professional Lives”.  Wow. I was blown away.  I had read Janell’s contract with her son a while back and was intrigued, but I wasn’t ready for the message yet.  Now that my son is almost 10 years old and I am constantly glued to my own phone… I need a little wake up call.  While the issue is really that of health and common sense, it needs the right spokesperson who understands that this is not a black and white issue.  Some people decry cell phones as evil and insist that they will live “off the grid” while others insist that eye contact is old fashioned and that this is the “new normal”.  There is a happy medium, but it can only be done with intention and mindfulness, which is exactly what Janell is preaching.  Our phones and technology enhance our lives, our conversations and our connections a great deal.  But we need to make it work for us, not the other way around.  I ordered Janell’s book, iRules, immediately and can’t wait to read it.

After a trip up to the college dining hall that gave me flashbacks of my freshman 15, I was lucky to get the chance to eat with Rob, Kerry and Sarah Thomas.  I can’t state enough how awesome these people are.  The poster sessions followed and I was able to speak to USJ Freshman, Victoria Maringola (@vmaringola) about her anti-bullying project, H.O.P.E.  She had a really great idea for students to report bullying in an online secure location.  She also visits schools and talks about her personal experience with bullying which is exactly what kids need to hear.  Bravo Victoria!

Post lunch sessions started with Kerry Gallagher, speaking about infusing digital citizenship into the curriculum.  I was really excited to finally see Kerry present after following her on Twitter and reading several of her articles.  She did a fantastic job modeling techniques that we can all use when giving a PD session, including questions on Socrative and getting us up and moving to scan QR codes.  All of this while facing some tech difficulties and managing a room of overflowing people.  I really connected with her honest dialogue about her role as a non-administrator (We don’t want to collect things from you!) that is trying to help teachers.  She provided some great examples of digital citizenship completed by various subject area teachers.  Her slides are provided at the link at the bottom of this post.  Kerry was recently appointed the director of k-12 education for Connect Safely, a nonprofit in CA that is “dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security.”  They are a great resource for educators, parents and students alike and they are very lucky to have Kerry on their team.

The next session continued the trend of unique information as Sarah Thomas (@Sarahdateechur) presented, “Protect Yourself, Fool!”.  I think I’ve run into Sarah at every conference I have ever been to – I don’t know how she does it, but she is everywhere! Despite this I had never had the fortune of seeing her present.  She talked about various nefarious schemes that people are using to try to steal our information, money or identity.  Wifi sniffing, skimmers, spoofcards and drones, oh my! There is some scary stuff going on out there and it was great to go over this information.  Sarah finished with a demo of her cool little drone and enforced the message that it’s important to protect yourself, but that not all technology is being used for harmful purposes.

The final session of the day was led by Jennifer Scheffer (@JLscheffer) and Timmy Sullivan (@TimmyS54).  While I knew of Jennifer and her awesome student run help desk at her school in Burlington, MA, I kept hearing through the day, “You have to come see Timmy!”.  Timmy is a high school senior (Yes… He was presenting at  a national conference! But only after finishing his SAT subject tests that morning!).  They did an awesome job at closing the conference with a message of real world technology use and the importance of digital maturity.  Timmy doesn’t have an immaculate digital record (You can ask him yourself about his original Twitter handle) but he has grown up and learned how to use the tools that will help him succeed.  He wouldn’t have learned in a school that blocks social media.  He wouldn’t have improved if he was told to be afraid of ever posting the wrong thing online.  He had great role models and he was allowed to fail on his own before discovering the best way to present himself online.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, you can probably tell what an impact the conference had on me.  As often happens at conferences, some of the best parts are the conversations and new contacts.  I was lucky to be able to hang with all of the organizers and many presenters throughout the afternoon and evening and continue all our great conversations.  Thanks so much to Marialice and David for organizing such a great event and for being such incredible hosts.  Thanks to all the incredible people I got to spend time with and chat about all things digcit.  I will look forward to connecting again in the future.  In the meantime, I’ll be working on my iRules contract for myself and my son.  Change starts with yourself!

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Link to Summit page and Resources: http://digcitsummit.com/

Happiness is a choice. So is social media.

For those of you who know me, you are acutely aware how much I have recently started sharing my thoughts on teaching, ed-tech, positivity and life in general through social media.  I started a blog called Tech Tuesdays to share tips with my colleagues.  I cleaned up my twitter account and started suggesting official school hashtags.  I’m now active on Google Plus (Yes that’s still a thing) and I have decided I need to massively upgrade my blog.  On top of that I still have a personal Facebook page that I use to connect with friends and family.  Here is where many of you loyal readers (all 3 of you!) will start to ask…

WHY???

And not just why do all of this to begin with, But why would I spend so much TIME doing this (I know some of you are thinking it – WASTING my time doing this).  It’s a valid question.  We all need balance in life (a blog post for the future).  Let me discuss two recent social media news items:

1.  Recently Twitter trended the hashtag #Describetwitterin3words.  The responses varied from the super positive to the super negative and everything in between.  You can check it out yourself

2.  The interim CEO of Reddit just resigned and, story aside, one of her quotes really struck me: “In my eight months as Reddit’s CEO, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on Reddit, The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity.”

Why point out these stories? Because there is tons and tons (and tons) of mundane crap on the internet.  Worse yet, there is a lot that’s downright horrible.  This, my friends, is called humanity.

You can’t pick your family or your coworkers.  You are stuck with them for better or for worse.  You CAN pick who you interact with online.  There’s also no obligation – pick it up when you want.

making-choices-picture

I’ve heard so many people tell me that they just don’t get it.  They just don’t understand the appeal of going online and reading about people, “Doing their laundry” or “Brushing their teeth”… Why is it they always cite household chores??

Here’s the deal – there’s a massive stereotype about social media.  It’s for teens.  It’s self-indulgent and narcissistic.  It’s encouraging kids to be bullies.  It’s a government conspiracy to track all of us and sell us more crap…. on and on.

Now, there’s an ounce of truth to some of those.  Here’s the paradox I can’t get over.  If those ideas bother you then you should do something about it! Choose to use social media to connect with other educators.  Choose to use social media to teach your students.  Choose to use social media to spread positive vibes and model decent digital citizenship for the next generation.  It is NOT all stupid human tricks and funny dog videos (but hey, that’s fun too).  Do you like to write? Start blogging.  Twitter CAN be a form of writing.  There are tons of naysayers, but you are telling a story when you post online.  We desperately need quality passionate people to add to the digital world.  Moreover, your kids will be on there whether you like it or not.  Wouldn’t you rather have a firsthand understanding of the best way to utilize this tool so that you can teach the next generation? Don’t sit back and complain about the negative impact social media is having on society.  As educators we not only have the opportunity to impact change in this area but I believe we have a moral obligation to do so.

I’m a big believer that you have a choice in all things.  You have a choice to be happy.  It’s not a state that you arrive at.  You have a choice to complain or to be positive.  You have a choice to use social media for good.

My favorite T-shirt

                  My favorite T-shirt

Here’s the rub – most of you reading this already know this.  So I’m issuing a challenge to you:

Make it a goal this coming year to get 1 unconnected educator online.  Don’t worry when people sarcastically ask if you are going to tweet from the meeting you are in (because you probably are).  Flood the online world with so much positivity that the next generation won’t tolerate the bullies, the flamers and the trolls.  You have a choice.