Raising Digital Leaders in a Digital World


We live in a digital age with more opportunity than ever. We have online identities and communities that follow us through our lives, creating life-long digital footprints. For a lot of people, there is less done offline than online, especially with social media. So if we are now living in a society that spends most of their time, communication, and resources online, then as educators, isn’t it our role to be teaching students how to navigate this complex, digital world? According to Mary Beth Hertz, author of “Digital Media and Literacy in the Age of the Internet”, it’s crucial that we “challenge their critical thinking and research skills, and to spark discussions about their own experiences consuming media.”

I had the privilege of listening to Mary Beth speak last week during an online class. She shared the importance of teaching students how to think critically when using social media or taking in news online. However, like she says in her book, teachers are “often unprepared for the complexities of these challenges or might not be sure how to engage their students safely or responsibly.” As educators, it’s important that we teach students how to use the tools and online platforms instead of taking them away. If we take away the digital tools, rather than strategically and authentically use them in our classrooms and lessons, then we are not preparing them for the world they are a part of. We need to raise “digital leaders” in a digital age who feel equipped to use “the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others”, like George Couros says.

Fortunately, Mary Beth gave some practical examples for educators when teaching students strategies for sifting through information online. If you want to learn more about the following topics, as well as lessons surrounding privacy concerns, copyright laws, social media, and strategies for sourcing information, she goes into more detail in her latest book, which she talks about on the Safer Social Media podcast. After hearing her speak last week, here are some strategies that stood out to me that would be beneficial for educators to be aware of in the classroom:

Taking Note of the Digital Exposure and Experience in the Lives of our Students

Each student will come into your classroom with different stages of digital experience, knowledge, or exposure. It’s important to understand Digital Equity. According to ISTE, it’s “about making sure students have equal access to technology like devices, software and the internet, and that they have trained educators to help them navigate those tools.” Mary Beth talked about how our younger generation is learning about technology in different forms, and how this affects their experience in the classroom. She referred to an article, that defines 3 groups of young people and their relationship with technology. According to the article, students fall into these 3 categories:

  • Digital Orphans: they “have grown up with a great deal of tech access — but very little guidance”, which causes them to shy away from face-to-face interaction and they usually lack valuable social skills.
  • Digital Exiles: “they’ve been raised with minimal technology” because “their parents’ goal has been to limit their children’s access in order to delay their entry into the digital world until their teens.” This usually causes conflict because “they may struggle with finding a balanced approach to technology.”
  • Digital Heirs: these students “have impressive tech skills, thanks largely to their parents and teachers.” However, even though they have experience and knowledge, this could cause them to “face challenges in dealing with their less knowledgeable peers so they’ll need a little charm and flexibility to get along.”

I would argue that another sub category falls into Digital Exiles- low income students who don’t have access to technology in their homes. This is important to recognize among these groups because as teachers, we need to be aware of how much technology our students have access to. If you want to learn more about the Digital Divide, Common Sense Media put out a fact sheet about “Exploring the Digital Divide.”

All of these categories are important to understand because each student will have a different level of knowledge when using online tools and social media platforms. If we as teachers are aware that they all come from different backgrounds, then we can meet them where they are at and teach them how to move forward as digital leaders.

Teaching Bias

Another important skill that we need to teach our students is understanding and recognizing biases. In Mary Beth’s presentation, she said “if it makes you feel some type of way, it has a bias. If you feel emotion or if you feel like the author is trying to influence the way you feel- it has a bias.”

Using websites like All Sides, a site that claims to give news articles from each perspective, helps students stay away from media bias. It’s not about teaching students right or wrong, it’s about giving them the skills they need in order to make an informed decision for themselves.

Fact Checking

It’s also important that students know how to “fact check” information. However, in order for students to know how to do that, they need to be critical thinkers. In Laurie’s blog post, she reminds us of the “importance we have as educators and parents to teach our students how to be critical thinkers.” Mary Beth talked about the skill of critical thinking by “Reading Laterally”– “looking at what other sites and resources say about the source at which they are looking.” Sarah Ross says that “in this day and age in order to be media literate we need to be aware of the content we are consuming and whether or not it is reliable.” Sarah brings up some valuable questions we can ask ourselves, and ask our students, when we look up information or resources:

  • “Do I check multiple sources when searching for answers online? Or do I click the top results and blindly trust them based on popularity?”
  • “When I see news articles on my social media do I habitually click and trust their stance or sources?”
  • “Am I quick to trust the sites of articles sent to me by trusted people rather then checking the source for myself?”

Along with these great discussion starters, there are a lot of resources that you can bring into your classroom to teach students about checking the source. Common Sense Education has practical lessons, such as “Hoaxes and Fakes”, which help students “avoid being fooled by fake videos and other information online.” There are other fact-checking sites that you can teach students to use, which can be found on PressBooks.

Another great tool that Mary Beth talked about in her presentation, as well as in her blog post “Teaching Kids How to Validate Information on Social Media”, is a reverse image search. Fact-checking words or information is easy with the use of Google, but what do you do when you have an image? You can follow these simple steps!

It’s important that students know how to use critical thinking strategies to check their sources and information when they use social media, see pictures, or watch videos online. Mary Beth reminds us that We need to include analysis of social media posts, and tips and tricks for validating information on social media just as we do for traditional websites.

Student Leaders in a Digital Age

There’s no doubt about it- we need to teach our students how to be digitally literate, just as much as other forms of literacy. Mary Beth’s presentation not only taught me important strategies and skills to do so, but also inspired me to bring these strategies into my classroom.

Are you ready to lead your students into the journey of digital literacy and digital media? Do you have positive strategies or success stories from your classroom experience?

Let’s do the important work of teaching students to be critical thinkers, technology experts, and digital leaders- together.

Research, Reflect, Repeat: A Podcast in the Making


The start of a new project… it’s exciting, nerve-wracking, and motivating all at the same time. It’s exhilarating to think of the goals that can be accomplished, the knowledge that can be gained, and the tasks that can be completed. It can also feel overwhelming to think of the work that lies ahead. Those are all of thoughts I’ve been having when I think of my new learning project.

The task: develop a curriculum-supported Digital Citizenship/Literacy resource.

It seems achievable, yet daunting. How do I create a resource for other educators that is actually beneficial and relatable? A resource that doesn’t just end up in another “read later” pile. A resource that doesn’t cause more work, but instead, enriches someone’s classroom or conversation.

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I started thinking of how I like to learn, gain professional development, and access resources. Yes, I love to attend conferences and seminars, but it costs money. Yes, I own interesting books that can help me in my career and classroom, but it takes time. Yes, I want to spend more time meeting and planning with others, but it takes energy. How can I learn without adding extra stress to my schedule and already busy professional and personal life? I can listen.

I can listen and learn when I’m driving home from work. I can listen when I’m on my lunch break. I can listen when I’m exercising. I can listen when I’m cooking or cleaning. There are so many opportunities to listen. So, how do I create resource that benefits other educators and meets them where they are at? I will create a professional development podcast for other people to listen to, because we all have time and energy to do that.

My experience with podcasting is limited, however, I tested out a few platforms last semester and even started up a podcast myself. I have two podcast episodes under my belt and I’m excited to add more to my repertoire! If you are interested in seeing my work so far, you can search EdTech Endeavours: The Podcast on Anchor or any podcast streaming service. You can also listen to it on Apple Podcasts here.

Since podcasting is something I started, but didn’t quite master, I want to expand my experience and fine-tune the skill. It takes a lot of effort and time to record, edit, and produce, which is why I want to become more familiar with the podcasting platforms and the editing programs.

Along with recording podcasts, I will also compile my research and findings into blog posts. I want to reflect on what I learn and find other resources about the topic to share with others. Up until this point, I have only listened to a few podcasts here and there, mostly for personal enjoyment. However, I recently put out a survey with Google Forms to gather more information about podcasts, and more specifically, educational podcasts. The data was not only interesting, but very helpful! Here are some things I found out:

The majority of people (62.5%) listen to podcasts through Apple Podcasts. Less people use Spotify, Pocket Casts, and Anchor.

The majority of people prefer 20-30 minute podcasts. Only 10% would rather 45 minutes- 1 hour long episodes.

When people were asked what they look for in a podcast, these were some of the recurring themes:

  • Quality research
  • Good sound quality, audio levels, music, and editing
  • Recurring segments
  • Conversations vs interviews (with no more than 2 people)
  • Suggested resources and “take-aways”
  • Humor
  • Meaningful content rather than irrelevant banter
  • Minimal ads
  • Interesting and knowledgeable guests
  • Structure with some flexibility
  • Audience engagement

With all of that research in mind, along with my own personal planning and organizing, I came up with a proposal for my project- an outline of where I am at now, where I am headed, and where I want to end up.

Here’s the breakdown of my Podcast Project:

The Goal:

  • Build my knowledge of Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, and Educational Technology by researching, connecting with experts, podcasting, and reflecting through blog posts. I want to become more digitally fluent throughout the process and expand my skills in blogging and podcasting. In turn, I hope to help other educators understand Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy in an authentic, relevant way so that they can use the information in their professional and personal lives.

The Materials and Tools

  • The Equipment
    • I already purchased a mic last semester (the Yeti Nano) and so far, I am pleased with the sound! All I need to purchase is a Pop Filter for the mic so that the sound is clear and the background noise is limited. I am currently looking at getting this one from Amazon.
    • I have a MacBook Pro computer that the mic can connect to for recording.
  • Editing and Recording
    • I will use Garage Band for editing all of my podcasts and for recording any interviews that are face-to-face. I am familiar with the software, but I still want to become more proficient with it. I have heard that if I use Garage Band for editing the podcast rather than using the tools on the host site, there is more freedom because I own all of my own material. I am also going to look into using Zoom for long distance recordings and then detach the audio into a file that can be edited. I have heard that Zencastr, a podcast host site, is great for recording long-distance interviews, so I will look into it as well.
  • The Platforms
    • For my past podcasts, I used Anchor as my hosting site. I plan on continuing with this platform because it is user friendly and it automatically transfers the episodes to Apple Podcasts and Spotify, along with many more platforms. I use Apple Podcasts myself, and according to my podcast survey, the majority of people do as well. When I tweet out my podcast episodes, I will use the link to direct people to Apple Podcasts.

The Weekly Plan

Image result for digital literacy
  • Research/ Connect/ Plan
    • I plan on recording at least 4 podcast episodes from now until the end of March. It takes a lot of planning, organizing, and researching to produce a podcast, so I would rather have “quality” over “quantity”. During the “off” weeks, I will search for and line up experts to interview, research information based on my topic for the podcast, and come up with questions for the episode. I want to connect with experts that know a lot about Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy and have conversations with them.
  • Record/ Edit/ Summarize
    • During the week that I record the podcast, my plan is to record, edit, and produce. I will also synthesize my learning through a blog post. I plan on using my blog post entries as a way to gather my thoughts, relay any new insights, and summarize what was talked about on the episode.

The End Product

  • Podcast
    • I want to have at least 4 podcast episodes that can be used as professional development resources for other teachers to listen to. I want to be more comfortable with my podcasting abilities and hopefully continue on with the skill after the project is done.
  • Blog
    • During the last couple weeks of my major project, I plan on compiling all of my podcasts and posts into an organized section on my blog through categories and menus. I plan on creating a curriculum-supported document that people can download from my blog. I will also create a list of resources and links that are easily accessible for educators and that relate to the topics covered during my Major Learning Project. Essentially, I want to have a “Primary Educator Starter Kit for Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy”.

My Homework

  • Listening
  • Connecting
    • I will use Twitter to connect with educators who are familiar with and are passionate about Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy. I’ll organize meetings and dates to record once I have an idea of who would be interested in speaking.
  • Planning
    • It’s important that I have quality topics and themes for my podcasts. I will use the Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship for reference when I am planning my podcast episodes. Once I have the topics for the podcasts, I’ll brainstorm questions that I can ask the experts on the episodes.

My questions for you are:

  1. Should my podcasts specifically be for K-5 teachers who are interested in Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, and EdTech, or should I keep it more general and tailor it toward all elementary-based teachers?
  2. What are some topics or content that you want to see covered?
  3. Do you know of any experts that would be great to interview? Is there an educator you are dying to hear from?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

It appears as if I have a long road of research, planning, organizing, and learning ahead of me. A road of making mistakes, celebrating successes, and inspiring others. I’m looking forward to diving into this new journey of podcasting and I hope you’re along for the ride too!


The EdTech Endeavour Continues


A new year is upon us and with the new year comes another opportunity to learn and grow in my EdTech skills. Online learning has quickly become my favourite way to gain knowledge. It’s accessible, cost effective, and not to mention convenient… considering I can stay at home when it’s minus forty-five outside. The benefits of taking online classes are endless, especially because they “give students the opportunity to plan study time around the rest of their day, instead of the other way around” according to OED’s list of advantages to taking online courses. Since I am taking a Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology and Media with the University of Regina, I have many online classes ahead of me, and for that, I am grateful.

The class I am taking this semester, #ECI832, focuses on Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy. I have some knowledge about Digital Citizenship, but Media Literacy is brand new to me. I am not only looking forward to learning more about these topics through presentations and articles, but also through conversations and blog posts from my fellow #ECI832 classmates- my new learning community. That brings us to another advantage of online learning… the connections we are able to make with others. I love having the chance to read, comment, and discuss important EdTech topics through out the week with the people in my class through blogging and Twitter. They encourage me, challenge me, and motivate me.

I feel relieved that I am not on this journey alone. I am glad that there are people (virtually) beside me who are dedicated to learning online and are willing to share their learning experiences with me in an authentic and honest way. So thank you in advance, #ECI832, for your willingness to share, connect, and inspire in our upcoming endeavour. Let’s do this!

P.S. For those of you who are new here, you can check out how this blog came to be with my very first blog post last semester.