Tech for the Littles?

I’m jumping back into the world of #edtech only now I’m preoccupied with the consideration of how best to teach our littlest learners how to navigate the online world. By school age, they know that they exist in a physical sense but would it be helpful if we begin to teach them that they also have a digital self too? An online footprint? I think so…only, how do we do it? I don’t know yet. I’m making it my mission to begin to figure this out over the next few months.

…and ya know what the best part is? I have two boys who love Youtube…I think I see a parental social experiment in their future.


Summin’ it up, Y’all.

Fresh Faced and fancy-free I was ready for the adventure ahead but wasn’t actually sure what the course was going to have in store that I’d be able to connect to my practice and implement.

I love hashtags so we were off to the races when we introduced ourselves with hashtags that summed us up. With more detail and background we took to Google + to more formally introduce ourselves to our classmates. We were a mixed bunch with some overlap in our background but it was lovely to me that we didn’t all fit the mold.

Getting familiar with Google + was my first learning experience. I knew about it but until this course, I hadn’t had a reason to engage with it or get familiar. I referred to Google + weekly to check was was new and read the Weekly Plan but other than that I found more meaningful engagement from Twitter and the blogs.

Twitter is a place I feel comfortable now. I had an account from like, 10 years ago but I’d only posted a grand total of 5 times. It was an easy throwaway and starting an account that was about engaging and sharing with the professional community we a great reason to start a new one.

I mentioned in my post about my contribution to the learning of others but I’ll reiterate it again – I really did believe that Twitter was a soapbox on which to stand as you yelled out into the abyss of the internet. I’ve learned otherwise over the course of this class. I have found my Twitter voice and developing a professional learning network that I feel comfortable to tap into and engage with.

Blogging was something I thought other people did. I didn’t feel like I had a reason to blog. Oh, boy was I wrong. I. Love. To. Blog. Having a space to share and think through the consideration associated with learning, tech and professional life is proving to be really valuable to me.

The content of my posts has been the real culmination of my learning through this course. I have big “take away” ideas and questions about how to help guide even our youngest students toward a healthy and positive “digital identity”. The questions this course has opened up for me are ones that don’t really have conclusive answers…but that’s kind of how I like my questions – never-ending wormholes to more learning!

I wrote and reflected about changing our educational paradigms, and about how – in a broad sense- we can rethink our classroom tools. The ideas we’ve covered has been both practical and esoteric. I appreciated that I have come away with a big picture understanding of my role in tech in education and also with knowledge about what practical classroom tools are available to me.

The consideration of ones digital identity is a new one for me. In adulthood I’ve felt like the best thing I can do is to just stay off social media platforms because it always felt to me like there was a risk in putting yourself out there. This class forced me to engage. And it wasn’t a bad thing. Jumping in with two feet and starting a blog and a Twitter account opened my eyes to the positive contribution I could make to the professional learning of others in my PLN’s but also it’s helped me understand how I can control my digital identity.

Responsible digital citizenship is an interesting thing that will continue to float around in my brain as a continue to work in elementary education. When we talk about “kids being online” we often infer that we’re talking about teens or preteens who are beginning to step into the complicated world of social media and the difficulties they face navigating their online social lives. In my own practice, I work with a younger segment of the population that is still forming social bonds in person; they are not yet diving into social media. I am grateful that I’m now cognizant of what lays ahead for this crew of Littles.


We’ve each been asked to summarize our learning in a video. We could use interpretative dance, rap, or something more conventional but we needed to be in it – either our selves or our voices. I have never before made a video of myself chatting about one thing or another so I was completely overwhelmed about where to start. I didn’t know of any software that would or could give me what I wanted. I zoomed the interweb for about 4 days researching different styles, editing software, yadda yadda, yadda…and what I found was a program called VideoScribe. It aimed to help you produce a “whiteboard” type video. So, I produced…as best I could a summary of my learning in a whiteboard style video. It is not polished! I don’t think i have the skills to produce a polished video – yet! (I’m sticking with it and I’ve vowed to up my VideoScribe sofetware knwoledge!) What you’ll see below took me hours and hours…you probably won’t even belive it once you watch it but really it did – I tought myself the saoftware using Youtube videos (as best I cuold in the timeframe) and then blocked out with sketches how I wanted the video to flow. I made notes along teh way and refered to those as I voice over the fly through. There is a finess in the rate which with you speak and the rate with whish you have the sofeware render the drawings…taht is also something taht took hours and yet is still a work in proress.


Without furthur adue…

We’re in this together, right?

Ok. It’s been a trip, friends. This course has been a game changer for me in how I look at tech as a tool in education and at how digital literacy has the capacity to positively change the trajectory of a life. And I certainly didn’t come to these realizations in a vacuum behind the screen of my computer. The peeps in this course have been a fantastic resource to learn from and lean on.

Twitter is my new bestie! I love making and finding connections on Twitter now. I used to think of it as a kind of soapbox – you yell out into the abyss hoping to maybe get something in return. Not the case, obviously! The ed Twitter community is robust and active.


Tweeting and hearing back to perspectives of my classmates always brought a smile to my face.


Finding new ways to invite engagement was interesting.


Sharing kindness is my fav way to connect and twitter makes it easy! 🙂


Participating in the #edchat was fantastic, a real eye-opener. It made me realize I had a thing or two to learn about my knowledge of and technical engagement with Twitter. But it also made me realize for the first time how instant and rewarding the feedback from the Twitter-verse can be. Pandora’s box of magic!


Having my first shoutout by someone I followed but didn’t know personally was very sweet. Again it highlighted for me the humanity of Twitter. Real people connecting with real people.


Google + was a new experience for me. I referred to it a few times a week to access the Weekly Plans and check out what was happening but throughout the course, it wasn’t my go to connect with my classmates.

I stared the course by sharing my blog info and Webster and Nicole were fast friends!


….Bloggggggs! Alright, so I’m a convert. I used to think blogging was for other people, not me. Well, not the case anymore. I blog weekly now – course-related or not – and peeps have been lovely. What I have learned in reflecting on my blogging journey as it related to connectedness of learning is that I should have been screen capturing each comment I made. Lesson learned.

A shout-out on a classmates blog brought home the connectedness of all of learning. Seeing how others are viewing the same material can shed new light.


Nicole always had kind words to share and seemed genuinely interested in my journey. I was grateful to her from the start for showing support. It was really encouraging.


Posting a final comment on a classmate’s concluding blog was bittersweet. I was happy for the journey Nicole has had but was sad at the thought that weekly posts would likely pitter out in frequency.


I have really enjoyed getting to know my classmates through their blogs and Tweets. I was concerned that I would feel disconnected from my EDTC crew from way up here but that wasn’t the case at all.

Let’s Wrap it up, folks.

Alright, friends, the end of an era is upon us as my journey to learn to knit comes to a formal end today. (Please note that the knitting journey will continue…I’ve got Christmas gifts to make, people! No rest for these busy fingers!)

The challenge to learn something new via the interweb was possed in September by the fantastical Katia Hildebrandt. I wanted to learn something that felt like it would add value to my life but that wouldn’t take time away from the things I’d already committed my time to. I perused the interwebz for ideas and then bingo-bango-chicken-and-mango there is was…an infinity scarf! The inspiration that got the ball rolling.

For my Week 1 blog post I aimed to blog weekly about knitting history, my progress, and my resources for that week.

I was lost as to how to actually knit. I had picked up the materials but hadn’t yet got to knitting!

Week 2 had me actually casting on and sharing what terminology I was learning. I was deep into “how to knit” YouTube videos. Id watch, pause, rewind and watch again. And again. And again! The ability to slow things down and really watch the finger movements was something unique to learning to knit via online resources.

By the end of the first week I’d knitted a…ummmm…well, it was supposed to be a lovely scarf but the lesson I learned that week was how much yarn you actually need for a project like that. What I ended up with was a delightful little wall hanging. And it really is a piece I cherish. I have it hanging in my office. It kind of acts as a reminder of new efforts not being in vain even when the end result isn’t what you intended. Lesson learned.

Week 3, Week 4, and Week 5 had me knitting like a mad woman every chance I got. I was knitting at the arena, during my Masters class, at home during family movie night. Everywhere. I was finally feeling confident….which I later realized was misguided because the yellow infinity scarf I was working on had a few holes. Whoops. Character, they add character, right!?!

I also realized that I – and everyone else who knits – has a knitting face. Yikes. Since childhood,  my “I’m concentrating” face includes wide-eyed staring and biting my tongue.

Videos like these by Devina from Sheep and Stich were invaluable at navigating along the way as I encountered hiccups.


What fell by the wayside in favor of a more practical and valuable use of my knitting time was the knitting history factoids I intended to uncover and share along the way. At the outset of this adventure, I listen to a Freakonomics podcast about the history of knitting and it was seriously captivating. It made me think there was this untold story about knitting that I could shed some light on – this may very well be true, but in place of fact-finding I watched videos and kept on making progress.

By Week 6 I was feeling like I had waaaaaaaaay overstepped in committing to an infinity scarf. I had cast on something like 40 casts, which in my defense look like not very many when there are no other rows attached, but is actually a lot of casts for a scarf. It had made for a very cozy drap-ey scarf, indeed! I kept at it taking my scarf and bag of knitting goodies everywhere and by Week 7 I had myself a scarf. When I sewed the ends together I was so flippin proud of myself. I’m artistic but I have never really made practical things. This was a first!


Week 8 through Week 11 were a knitting delight. My whole knitting adventured opened right back up again after I completed the never-ending-scarf! I needed a new project. I had outlined at the beginning of this adventure that I wanted to make a hat….well, I realized I’m not quite ready for a hat yet. Yet! ’cause I did go and buy all the required hat stuff…so it will happen soon…perhaps over Christmas. Hmm. Yeah, over Christmas. So I wanted to start a new project that was “usable”. I didn’t just want to learn a new stitch I wanted to produce something tangible and useful. Then I saw…dun dun dun…a knitted head scarf. Whaaaaaa! Yes, please. So I followed the rabbit hole of online resources and got to a great tutorial that walked me through it. And bingo-bango just like that I was making head scarfs. Not just one but manyyyyy!

And ta boot, my 7-year-old asked for wrist cuffs…for soccer! The idea didn’t make any sense to me – still doesn’t – but I still made them and he was delighted!


This journey of learning to knit has been so enjoyable. I am always reluctant to learn or do online what I can do in person with others. I thought it would be more challenging to learn to knit watching a video or reading blogs than to just sit down with a knitting buddy. Turns out you were on to something, Katia. It’s like this was your master plan all along or something – go figure! Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone a little. I’d such fun to have this new skill. And to know taht I can pass it on to my boys! Cheers.

Coding for dummies. Or Mummies, rather.

I hear around me constantly – at work, in research papers, on Twitter and social media – that coding for children is the way of the future. But is it really? It certainly could be but I just didn’t know enough about the value coding has for our young people to know if the movement to raise young coders is about preparing a workforce, or offering a new opportunity for them to view and understanding the contemporary world they live in…maybe both, I suppose.

So the other week I purchased an Ozo bot for my 7-year-old son, Jack, as a Christmas gift. It was too good a deal not to pass on and it has a Groot skin on it, ta boot! He had a phenomenal Kindergarten teacher, Mr. Hyde, who has his MEd in Educational Technology and is a whiz at incorporating fun and meaningful tech learning opportunities for the little ones at his home school. It was through Mr. Hyde that Jack first learned about and played around with Ozobots. Jack fell in love. He was engaged and curious…Y’all know how much a love when kids are curious. He tried to explain everything he understood about how they worked to me, but having no coding experience I didn’t really know how to make sense of the details he was giving me. That was last year. We’ve seen them around town in a few places and he always notices them and starts into telling me how cool they are each time. We’ve even sat down to check out kids using them on YouTube. So, I ceased the opportunity when I saw one and didn’t have the boys underfoot keeping a watchful eye on me in the toy store.

Now I have this feeling like I have a responsibility to learn what I can so that we can play and learn together when he unboxes it Christmas morning.

Before I dig into how they work I wanted to first understand why coding for kids is a positive thing…or rather, if it is. Why would I want my 7-year-old to have access to another device?…and that said, we are mindful of exposure to tech vs. self-directed play and exploration. Do we want to introduce more gadgets?

I dug around the interweb and read everything I could. I watch a few videos and poked here and there. Brian Aspinall sees to have put together what I think is a comprehensive – but not unnecessarily a cumbersome list of WHY kids should code.

In Aspinall YouTube video titled 10 Reasons Kids should Lear to Code, he makes the case for just that.

He says coding teach kids to…

  1. Visualize abstract concepts. They learn to apply problem-solving strategies to abstract concepts, & math to real life situations.
  2. Understand the vaule of planning, which helps develop writing skills.
  3. Expand creativity through experimentation.
  4. Build confidence through the problem-solving process.
  5. Naturally, develop better focus and organization skills as they develop more complicated code.
  6.  Develop perseverence and resilience by working through the inevitable problem of debugging.
  7. Learn a new language which strengthens verbal and written skills.
  8. Become empowered to make a difference. They have an opportunity to spread postive messages through their coding.
  9. Develope a base knowledge of literacy in the digital age.
  10. Accel at any opportunity. With a high demand skill, the world is their oyster!


And check out this 11-year-old cool kid, Krish Merah, who gave a talk at TEDxKentState about his experience developing an app…using…you guessed it, code! He says as explains code as the language computers understand (there are different kinds codes), similarly to the languages we each speak and understand (…as are there many). He says coding is the 4th literacy. He talks about how to integrate coding into classroom curriculum. He’s sure it’ll spark interest and breath life into the ideas that are sitting in the back of students heads. A well spent 7 minutes.

Ok, so I think I understand the value of coding. Not as a marketplace skills necessity but as a way to foster confidence and self-growth through problem-solving, planning, and abstract thinking.

Now on to the HOW.

How do these zoomy little Ozobots scoot around with the basic coding inputs of kids? Well, it’s through very basic programming, as you simply train the robots to follow patterns on the surfaces that they roll over. Ozobot can identify lines, colors, and codes on both digital surfaces, such as an iPad, and physical surfaces, such as paper.

You can calibrate the robots to follow lines by holding down a power button. Then you can draw lines for the robot to follow in an app. You can create race tracks for multiple Ozobots to roll over. The boys are gonna go bananas over the racing function. Wait, does that mean I need to get Henry one too? Uh oh.

I think Idrank the Kool-Aid, y’all. I can see the beift of coding for kids.  I’m a convert.

I think this is the kind of video the boys and I will check out Xmas morning…

This cheerful little nut from KidToyTesters has a super engaging (especially if you’re under 15yrs old – you’ll see what I mean in the first few seconds if you click it ) intro video that gives a pretty comprehensive shakedown about what you can do with your newly unboxed Ozobot.

Stop Blaming Social Media. Stop blaming Students.

When we know better, we do better. Or that’s the goal anyway.

The same sentiment needs to apply to children (through to 25, when their amygdala is fully developed) who are forced to navigate who they are in contemporary culture. Except to them, it’s just culture. There is no comparison for them about what it used to be like. this is what they know. Access to people and information is immediate. EEE. MEEE. DEEE. OOOT. The world is in their skinny jeans pocket and the compulsion to check-in is real. As educators and parents, we can’t minimize or rationalize away their desire to engage with the platforms the world is using. All we can do it help guide them toward responsible use and informed choice.

They are going to send to picture, they are going to pin their location, they are going to talk to strangers (or not…they won’t know perhaps, will they!?) How can we help them make choices that help them persevere and maintain their dignity and that of the people they interact with.

Juan Enrique at TED2013 spoke about the permanency of our digital footprint in his 6-minute talk. He likens it to the obvious story we tell with our tattoos, for example. Our digital identity is our digital tattoo.

Maybe this is how we should be framing the concept of digital identity for our children and students, no? Are you proud to wear your digital tattoo?