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