An Unforgettable Boy

For my blog post this week I am going to go a bit off-topic and share some of my reflections about an exceptional learner I have in my second-grade classroom this year. I wanted to put these thoughts down somewhere because this is one of the most unique experiences I have had as a teacher. Just like I had my students write to capture and memorialize their Home Learning experiences during CoVID-19, I wanted and needed to do the same.

Mr. Watson

Mr. Watson is not the character from the Mercy Watson books, though the books’ character would become the inspiration for my student’s “new name.” 

Mr. Watson on Book Character Day dressed as his favorite character.

Before I had formally met Mr. Watson in August 2019, I had heard the numerous stories. He was infamous. I worried about having him in my class. Would I know how to meet his needs?  How would I get him to do any of his school work? How would I manage all of the incidences? I heard the stories of the shouting and yelling in class, of the running away from teachers, and of the isolation from peers. 

When I saw him walk towards my classroom on that first day of school, Mr. Watson was wearing his green-uniform polo-shirt on top of grey sweatpants. He had his best friend in tow-a Spiderman teddy bear named Teddy. I had no idea of the impact he was about to make on my life. When I saw him, all I could muster was a deep breath to brace myself for what was about to come. 

He walked closer with a surprised look on his face. He stopped and hesitated looking overwhelmed by the students unpacking at their cubbies. He did not greet them. They did not greet him. We all waited to see what he would do next.

He loves to wait by the front windows (with Teddy of course) to see his classmates arrive to school.

One Step at a Time

Regardless of whether or not I was ready, the year was underway. I would either sink or swim. 

The first few days felt like a mess. I  quickly saw that Mr. Watson loved reading books. However, when he did so, he read aloud to himself VERY loudly. This made it difficult for anyone to focus on their own reading. During Independent Writing time, Mr. Watson would write airline boarding passes, while the rest worked on personal narratives. There were times he’d say he was tired and lay down to take a nap. He would run from the classroom when it was lunchtime (his favorite time of the day). He’d yell when he didn’t get his way. He would interrupt while I was teaching. How could I ever get anything done with these interruptions? How could the students concentrate? How could I make things run more smoothly each day?

I did research online, found visual schedules and reminders, and got some tips from a visiting expert in the field of special education. I was learning along the way, trying my best. I gave him a pair of headphones that seemed to help when he was reading independently. I let him write a made-up narrative story with his best friend Teddy as the main character. It wasn’t a personal narrative, but he was writing and trying out things like dialogue and adding details. I started using visual timers so he could break up his work into smaller bits of time.  

Visual timers help keep Mr. Watson keep track of time.

Little by little,  I was able to build a relationship with him. Instead of keeping him from playing with Teddy, I would engage him in conversations about Teddy. I indulged in some of his eccentricities. His love for airplanes, dogs, and food. I shared pictures of my dogs. He instantly loved them and asks about them every single day. I’d answer his repetitive questions like, “What sound does thunder make?” As I gained his trust, he started to respond to some of the strategies I had put into place. 

Others were Watching

While I was gaining his trust, he was stealing my heart. I couldn’t help but love his clever ways of maneuvering his way out of his classwork. I loved how he held one of Teddy’s paws while I held the other paw and we walked down the hallway with the rest of the class following. 

He may have had me wrapped around his little finger, but I wasn’t seeing the same response from my students, yet. I wanted more than tolerance towards Mr. Watson from the students. I wanted them to show Mr. Watson they cared about him. I wanted the students to interact with him. I wanted him to become an important member of the classroom community. This would happen with time. I was hopeful.

I knew the students were watching me. They could see how I treated him and how I responded to his strange behavior. I was aware that my actions could have a big impact on them, so I did my best to show him love, care, acceptance, and patience through my actions each and every day. The students picked up on this. They took note and they started to change too.

Eventually, I saw small improvements. They were interested. They had questions. They thought he was interesting and therefore they wanted to know how they could interact with him. They too would feed into his eccentricities.

Mercy, Baby Mercy, Teddy, my teaching assistant, and a classmate listen in as Mr. Watson reads his story.

We’d also do little things in the classroom like have conversations about Mr. Watson while he was out of the room so that the students could better understand him. They’d ask questions about his behavior.  I’d explain that his classroom expectations would look different than theirs. I’d help them understand why. We discussed how fair doesn’t mean giving every child the same thing. I helped them understand times like when Mr. Watson would get to play his favorite math game, Prodigy, as a reward for completing a task. I read aloud books about acceptance, love, and being different. It took time and effort to help my students understand that he was worthy of their love and friendship too. 

Mercy Watson 

One big turning point came when I introduced the Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo to my class. He fell in love with the characters. I even had a wooden Mercy Watson pig in my classroom and he began carrying her everywhere with him. He loved Mercy and he loved pretending to be Mr. Watson, eventually, I became Mrs. Watson to him. 

Mr. Watson’s love for all things Mercy Watson gave me some leverage in getting him to do classwork. I’d say something like, “First you will complete pages 145-146 in your math workbook, then you can read Mercy Watson.” It worked some of the time. 

My wonderful assistant would speak to him in her Mercy Watson voice. She’d answer his questions geared towards Mercy and she’d respond in her cute Mercy voice. He loved it and so did we because we were able to get him to do some of his work this way.

The students loved it too. Eventually, many of them became Mercy Watson characters to him. He renamed one girl, Mercy Watson. He still refers to her as, “Darling” like Mrs. Watson does in the books. 

His love for the Mercy Watson Series helped spotlight his loving, playful, and fun side. Students were starting to see another side of him. They were interested and wanted to be around him. For some, it was easy to love Mr. Watson, but it took some others a bit longer to find this love.

For Book Week, I dressed as Mrs. Watson, my assistant dressed as Mercy Watson, and then you have Mr. Watson.

Rise Up

One moment I will never forget was at lunch one day when I saw a group of second-grade boys teasing Mr. Watson at the lunch table. As I sat and ate my lunch, I could see that the conversation between the boys and Mr. Watson was not one out of kindness. These students were trying to humiliate him. They wanted to prove that he was not smart. However, he proved them wrong by answering every single math problem they threw at him correctly. 

Before I even had a chance to get up and stop it, one brave boy stood up and came over to report the incident. He saw what was happening and he said something. I was so proud of him!

I was also sad and disappointed with the other kids. I was, however, able to turn this into a teachable moment. I showed my students how hurt I was that day by the actions of these students. I cried in front of all of them. I couldn’t hold it back, but that pain resonated with my second graders. It changed them. It changed me.

Mr. Watson with one of his favorite classmates at recess. He refers to her as “darling.”

After that day, I saw more and more students who were going out of their way to be helpful to him. They would invite him to sit with them at lunch. Ask him to play at recess. They would play along with his make-believe games. Rub his back when he was angry. Accept that his classroom behavior looked much different than everyone else. They accepted Teddy as a class member. They wanted to hear what he had to say. They laughed at his silliness. They were calm when he was angry. They would tell him, “It’s okay, Mr. Watson” and bring him a tissue to wipe his tears.

I’ve seen a boy in my class go from being on behavior probation for a series of poor choices since 1st grade to being one of the most kind, caring students towards Mr. Watson. I’ve witnessed this boy invite Mr. Watson to play at recess, teach him how to play Kerplunk, and attempt to engage in a conversation with Mr. Watson and his pal, Teddy. 

The students who had ignored him on day 1 had grown to love him. 

Then COVID 

Then COVID-19 pushed our school online. I wasn’t sure how Mr. Watson would continue to learn. I had strategies in the classroom I used to motivate and direct him, but even then it was a constant struggle to keep him on-task. Not being able to see him in person would make this an even bigger challenge. I felt pretty helpless.

Fast forward three weeks into Home Learning and he hadn’t done anything.  Grade 2 wasn’t using Zoom yet and the only thing we could do was reach out to the family to make sure he was okay. I knew it would be difficult for his parents to support him at home, but it was also difficult for me because I missed him and I didn’t want to leave him behind. I couldn’t just give up on him. I wanted to support him in some way. Eventually, I connected with him through his mother’s WhatsApp a few times, and soon after grade 2 started using Zoom.

During Home Learning, I was able to connect with Mr. Watson each day to listen to his stories.

In addition to our regular morning Zoom meetings, I held Office Hours from 2:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. every day. Students could join through Zoom to get extra support in Reading or Writing. Most days there were only one or two students who popped in for a question or one student who was working on something, but Mr. Watson was there every day at 2:00 on the dot. He’d say, “Good Afternoon, Mrs. Watson. Where are Benny and Bowser (my dogs)? Do they bark at me?” Then he would turn off his video and pretend to bake different sweets as he read the recipes online. 

I’d listen and say things like, “delicious, yum, are you going to deliver?” We’d go on like that for an hour and in the end, he’d say, “Talk to you tomorrow, Mrs. Watson!” We didn’t get much accomplished in that hour, but I sure looked forward to seeing him every day and my love for him continued to grow.

After like 8 weeks of Home Learning, I started to realize the potential for never going back to school this year-never working with Mr. Watson as his teacher again in the classroom, never seeing my students interact with him again- I was incredibly sad (I’m crying now writing that). I felt like this child had been placed in my classroom for a reason. 

To make matters worse, I found out that the school had decided that we could no longer meet his needs. He would need to find a new school for grade 3. I haven’t stopped thinking about that since. I worry about him. I feel sad that my students and I have grown to love him and now he will have to leave and start all over. What can I do to change this?

Full circle

Despite feeling super sad about having to say goodbye to Mr. Watson in a few weeks, we were finally able to go back to school after 14 weeks of Home Learning. I was so happy to be able to finish the school year off with my students in the classroom, but it wasn’t the ending I wanted.

It breaks my heart because I look at the impact he has made on all of our lives, and I think it is so unfair. It’s unfair to him. He has found a place that accepts him. He’s made friends this year. He knows he is loved at our school.

It’s unfair for the students who have grown attached to him. It is unfair because I believe our school is the best place for him at this time and place. I’m not sure he has other options; especially with a global pandemic making it difficult for anyone to relocate. It breaks my heart to think about how helpless his parents must feel. 

This year, I’ve seen Mr. Watson make friends-REAL friends. Students who care deeply about him. Classmates who play with him at recess, walk him to specials after lunch, and patiently listen as he tells us made up stories that seem to be a reality to him.

One of Mr. Watson’s friends. He likes to call her Amber Brown after the book series.

I know that because of Mr. Watson, none of us will ever be the same. My students are more compassionate and more accepting of people with differences. I am a better teacher and person because of him. 

Next year will be a little less bright at school without Mr. Watson.

Course 2: Final Project

May 28, 2020
Digital Citizenship Group Project

Digital Citizenship UbD Plan

Our Process

For this group project, I teamed up with Erika and Holly (co-workers) who originally reached out to me. It came about quite naturally because we all teach second-grade. Our communication began through email and eventually, we were able to connect through WhatsApp as well.

When it was time to decide what type of project we would do, we were all on the same track as far as doing something with Digital Citizenship. We had all agreed that Digital Citizenship Education was something that could be improved upon at both of our schools. We quickly decided we would complete Option 1 and we began looking for resources that were already available.

I knew that Common Sense Media had its own Digital Citizenship resources, but I had never used them so I started looking there. After skimming a few lessons, I was happily surprised to see how easy the slides made teaching Digital Citizenship.

Then I reached out to a colleague with is a COETAIL alum and asked her if she had any resources. She pointed me to Be Internet Awesome. Another awesome resource that makes teaching Digital Citizenship easy!

Eventually, Erika created a list of the resources we had been gathering and this got us organized and ready to map out a plan. Once we decided we would create a two-week unit plan, we started to fill out our plan with more details. We decided to focus on four main topics:

  1. Internet Safety
  2. Private Information
  3. Digital Footprint
  4. Cyberbullying

By completing daily lessons and activities, students will end this unit with a greater understanding of what it takes to be good digital citizens and how to help others be good digital citizens.

Contributions

Many people might think it would be difficult to collaborate with people in three different countries, but it was actually quite easy. My group communicated effectively by responding to emails, text messages, and comments left on Docs in a timely manner. Each member of the group contributed and utilized their strengths. Holly has a great eye for detail, Erika is well-organized, and I enjoy finding good resources. We made a great team!

By collaborating, we were able to plan the unit out much quicker than if we would have done it alone. We were able to bounce ideas off of one another and share our resources.

Person in Blue Denim Jeans Sitting on Floor Using Macbook Air
Google Docs allowed for easy global collaboration.
Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

Collaboration gives you a greater perspective. This is one of the greatest benefits. Having multiple eyes on one thing helps avoid having gaps or wholes in the plan. For example, I created a culminating activity for our unit plan. After looking over the documents in our plan, Holly noticed my culminating activity did not have directions on it. If I did not have the extra pair of eyes looking over these documents, this would have gone unnoticed.

The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.

Robert John Meehan

Let it grow!

Since I have two weeks of school left and I’ve finished teaching my Math curriculum for the school year, I am going to try this unit out with my class. I actually launched it on Friday and the students are super interested! They had lots of questions and comments after we watched a BrainPOP jr. video on Internet Safety. This is yet another example of how the work I do in COETAIL directly impacts my students. I love being able to use what I create in this program!

My hope is that next year I can encourage more teachers to start teaching Digital Citizenship. I’d love to get my school involved in a Digital Citizenship Week. I think that could be a great start to getting more teachers and students thinking about the topic. I saw that Common Sense Media celebrates this week from October 19-23 and they have a ton of resources for teachers that make it easy to do! Hopefully, this will be the start of something bigger.

May 17, 2020

Creating a Culture of THINKers

Preparing students for the world they live in now can be a challenge; especially when many educators did not grow up with access to computers, cellphones, or social media. At my school, I am considered one of the younger staff members (I am 36). I never had any lessons in school on responsible technology use or how to discern factual information from fake news. I also wasn’t handed a laptop in 2nd grade.

Facebook became a thing when I was halfway through college, I got my first cellphone when I was nineteen, and I did not have my own computer until I graduated from college. Oh, how times have changed!

My second graders now have Chromebooks at school and some even have their own cellphones. A wealth of information is literally at their fingertips. As an educator in the 21st Century, regardless of my own background with technology, it is one of my jobs to help my students navigate the world they are living in-to create a culture of THINKers.

Responsible Use

Many schools have some form of a technology agreement or responsible use form that students complete at the beginning of the school year. Each year we go over the Dos and Don’ts of computer and internet use and safety. Students and parent sign the agreement, I post it in the classroom, and refer back to it when issues arise.

CISH’s Reception-Grade 2 Tech Agreement

I also use the THINK acronym throughout the year to help students make good choices before speaking, acting, or posting. One girl in my class even made a mini-poster for each student to have on their desk as a reminder.

Think Before You Speak Printable Posters | School signs, Teaching ...
Image by Teach Junkie.

Is it enough?

I ask this question, but I already know the answer. I am not doing enough to prepare my students for the digital world they currently live in. Sharing a tech agreement and teaching students to THINK is NOT enough. Students need to be taught not told what to do. The questions we should all be asking is:

How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?

How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding of how media shapes perceptions of the world?


How do we ensure that every child has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and as participants in online communities?
Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture

After asking these questions, a plan needs to be put in place. How will I ensure that my students are prepared to make ethical decisions?

My Experiences

As an adult it is hard to discern factual information from fake news anymore. I often find myself reading headlines from news stories that appear on my Facebook page and taking that information as truth. Sometimes it is because the headlines align with my beliefs. Therefore, I read the headline and do not look further into the story or where the information came from. This is a bad habit.

The need for quick answers and the 24-hour news cycle has created a culture of people who aren’t THINKing before they share, retweet, or take in the information as the truth. It is so easy for fake news stories to be spread. This is dangerous because people believe this misinformation without fact-checking it. This reporting referred to as circular reporting happens like this. News site A prints a fake story, News site B reprints it, and News site A then sites B as the source. Before you know it, multiplications report on the same fake news story.

How to Slow Down The Spread of a Lie

  1. Avoiding sensational media
  2. Searching for criticisms or suspicious information
  3. Tracing the original source of a report

Taking Action

To support my students in responsibly consuming and sharing information, I am learning about some of the best practices through the resources COETAIL has provided throughout this course as well as using my PLN through COETAIL to learn about what other educators are doing in their schools.

Building a Digital Literacy program that can be used in the elementary school at my current school is a goal of mine. There is not much being done now. The teaching of digital literacy skills is dependent on what individual teachers decide to do. Taking the Responsible Use Tech Agreements from my school and building off of that will be a start. Finding resources that educate parents on digital literacy such as Authenticating Information (Media Smarts) or using Google’s Be Internet Awesome: Digital Safety Resources is a starting point.

I’d love to hear how some of your schools are implementing Digital Literacy and Citizenship into the curriculum. Is there a vertically aligned document or curriculum already out there? I’d like to see what skills are needed and when it is most appropriate to teach those skills.

A Lesson Learned

Perfect Timing

Days before this COETAIL Program started, I was sitting on a beach in the Philippines wondering if my school in Vietnam would be affected by the COVID-19 spread. As I returned to Vietnam, the virus spread was getting worse and we soon got word that school would not be starting back up on time. A week later, we had moved to a home learning program. At the same time, I started COETAIL. In many ways, completing this certification has been a challenge while doing home learning because of the increased amount of time I spend online now. On the other hand, it feels like the perfect time to be doing this program. 

Photo by Buenosia Carol from Pexels

Contributing with a Mistake

For one, during Course 1: Ourselves as Learners, I identified with the term lurker-being more of an observer, rather than a contributor to my PLN. However, before long, I started seeing myself shift towards being more of a contributor. Home Learning and COETAIL were pushing me to be more creative, use tech tools I had never had the time to explore, and develop new material that was accessible to students from home. I was finally excited to share what I had created!

As I was scrolling (a.k.a. lurking) through the Teachers College Writing Workshop Facebook Group, I came across a post from a teacher looking for a second-grade Poetry Unit. Perfect! I had just finished teaching mine and I was proud of the unit I had put together (It was the one I used for my Course 1 Final Project). I quickly linked my unit in the comments and was excited to see how many teachers wanted to use it.

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

Helen Keller
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

My Bad

A few days later, I got an email from one of my student’s parents. She said her daughter had noticed an unknown name resolve a comment that her daughter had made on one of the poems I had assigned in a Google Slideshow. The mother expressed that she is very careful about internet safety regarding her children and she wanted to check to make sure this wasn’t some weird person.

Immediately, I opened the document to check it out and assumed that it was one of the educators from the FB Group who was using my materials. Although, I changed the settings to the documents in the unit to “view” only, that particular slideshow was set to “can comment” so this person was able to resolve the comments. Not a big deal, but the students’ full names were displayed in the comments they had written, which means anyone that had opened this document could see my students’ names. Not cool! Needless to say, I fixed that problem and made sure there was no student information that could be seen from sharing this unit with others (I should have done that before). A lesson learned for sure and thankfully the mom was really understanding.

Learning from Mistakes

This brings me to the second reason I feel COETAIL has come at the perfect time for me. I’d say that right now, my students’ digital presence is at an all-time high. What better time than now to learn more about connecting students online while maintaining privacy for both them and myself.  I know there is value in contributing to online platforms and creating materials that others can use. But I also need to be aware of what I am sharing and what people can see (students’ names, faces, etc.). 

Not only do educators need to be aware of what they are sharing digitally, but they also need to be given schoolwide guidelines regarding students’ internet safety and responsibilities. After working at four school international schools, I’d say this topic is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the year and not really brought up again unless an issue arises. Students at my current school sign a Responsible Technology Use Agreement and that is about it. We are a young, small school, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a better plan in place; especially when we are handing second graders Chromebooks. 

Photo from Pixabay

Again, the timing of this assignment is perfect. I see an area of weakness at my school and in my own practices. Now, I’ll get the chance to make a difference through my final project in this course-more creating and contributing to my PLN! I am hopeful that with the collaborative effort of my group, we will be able to create something that is helpful for both teachers and students. 

When thinking about what I’d like to create and what my own beliefs are about internet safety and use for students, I found myself really connecting to the beliefs of the writer of The New Childhood: Raising Kids To Thrive In A Connected World, Jordan Shapiro. In his interview with NPR, he mentions that part of his job as a parent is to help his children make sense of their online experiences and teach them how to uphold enduring values in the new world they are living in. That’s my job as a teacher too. I need to prepare students for the world they are currently living in. It doesn’t make any sense for schools to not teach digital citizenship and safety. 

“How are we going to maintain those positive things-the compassion, ethics, good social skills, and intimate relationships, if we’re teaching students to live in a world that doesn’t look like the world they’re living in?”

Shapiro

These are the ideas I want to keep in mind when creating my final course project. I want to help my school work towards establishing better guidelines regarding the use of technology and information. It is the schools’ job to have guidelines to help keep everyone safe. Teachers need to be taught what they can and cannot share. Parents need to be “leaning in” to see what their children are doing online. Ultimately, our goal as educators or parents is to prepare our children for the world they live in. Technology is not going away.

What are some of the great things your schools are doing to educate teachers and students about internet safety and privacy? What are some of the programs you use to teach students digital citizenship? I’d love to hear!

April 22, 2020

Staying Connected

With or Without a Global Pandemic

Technology has become more important than ever for my second-grade students and me at this time due to COVID-19 school closures. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to connect with my students in the same way that I have been in the past 11 weeks. Because my students have Chrome Books and the internet in their homes, I am able to see their faces and hear their voices every morning through Zoom.

I try to incorporate a movement activity into my Zoom sessions. Students really like treasure hunts. For this one, they had to find something they’d find at the beach.

If this global pandemic happened when I was in school (kindergarten-high school), I would not have had a computer at the time. I didn’t get a computer until I graduated from college! I can’t imagine what home learning would have looked like-probably a bunch of worksheets.

Maintaining Relationships

For second graders, a lot of their communication happens at school. They are not using social media apps yet (besides Seesaw and now Zoom). A few students have phones, but they mostly use them to play games, listen to music, or take pictures. Some students are connected to apps such as Kakao Talk or WhatsApp. When I asked the students about these apps, a few students did say that they can text their friends. Most of the students who use Kakao Talk are Korean and they text amongst their Korean friends. This is similar to the app Line, which is used by many of our Japanese families.

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

“The only way for me to talk to my friends during home learning is through Zoom with our class or using the school email account.”

Bi N.

During this time, it is difficult to maintain the same classroom community vibe that was there when we were physically together at school, but it is not impossible. Giving students opportunities to share during Morning Meeting sessions on Zoom, planning special Spirit Week activities, letting them chat using the chat feature in Zoom, and putting them in small breakout rooms has allowed my students to maintain friendships and feel apart of a community.

Special Events like Spirit Week give my young learners a way to participate in school activities from a distance.

Second graders love being able to use the “comment’ feature in Google Docs. They almost use it like a chat in the writing documents they are working on. They’ve figured a way to work around not having a phone or some sort of messenger to use. Clever!

Seesaw is another tool students use to communicate. Seesaw allows them to see what their classmates are doing and it allows them to comment on their classmates’ posts. My kids have added jokes they have written or short videos of their day. They post artwork they have created and dance videos they have created. Seesaw is a kind of introduction to other social media forms like Facebook and Instagram. Students are learning how to be responsible digital citizens in a safe environment controlled by the teacher. I love how these tools have allowed my students to maintain friendships and feel loved!

Seesaw has allowed my students to share their work and connect with their friends!

Now vs. Then

When I reflect on how my students are able to connect with each other; especially, during this time, it is quite amazing! As a child, I did not have a computer, so most likely I would have been able to call my friends on the telephone or write them a handwritten letter. If I was allowed to go outside, I would have been playing with my neighbors, but most children in the states cannot do that because of social distancing.

Even before social distancing laws came into effect, I still find that children connect differently than when I was growing up. I spent my summers outside playing in the neighborhood. Immediately after finishing my homework, I was out the door playing outside with friends, riding bikes to the park, and swimming in our backyard. Neighborhoods are not the same anymore. I think kids spend more time inside-connecting with friends through video games, chats, and social media.

Social Media was definitely something missing from my childhood and I am not sad about that. I can’t imagine how different my middle and high school years would have been if teens were using social media when I was going through school. However, I did make mistakes as a developing human. We all did-every generation. It is important to remember that and instead of looking at social media as a negative tool for children, prepare kids to be responsible digital citizens and how to make good choices. Inevitably, they will make mistakes and hopefully, they will earn from those mistakes.

In Keegan Korf’s TedX Talk she speaks about how we’ve given kids the impression that they can’t ever make a mistake online. Adults have done such a good job planting this seed of fear, that instead of helping our children by empowering them to use social media for good, kids truly believe they have the power to destroy their own reputation. But kids aren’t always able to distinguish what could be harmful.

So we must teach digital citizenship. Teaching digital citizenship can be tough, but educators and parents can help support kids. We can do this by listening, educating ourselves, making students aware of laws, or seek our digital opportunities to do with children. Adults need to understand the platforms kids are using so we can make sure they are using them responsibly. Set limits and boundaries. It takes a village, but it can be done. Educators and parents can all do their part to help keep kids safe.

Remember Raising digital citizens is no different than raising in real life citizens.

Keegan Korf Tedx Omaha
This Tedx Talk by two teen girls is a great reflection of young teens use of social media.

Understanding Copyright

This week’s topic was something I had to go back to the basics in. Copyright is something I think about when creating, but not necessarily something I completely understand. This is one of the reasons I am loving COETAIL! COETAIL forces me to learn. The topics each week allow me to dive deep into a new topic and explore new tools and resources I have never used before.

So this is what I did this week, when learning more about copyright. I started with the basics. First, I took a look at the Copyright Flowchart (Rosenthal Tolisano) and You Can Use a Picture If: Guidelines for Image Copyrights. Then I read some of the resources from this week’s readings, but after I found myself still not completely understanding how it all works. I went to YouTube and found a few informative videos that left me feeling more knowledgeable.

This video helped me understand some basic guidelines that are useful as a teacher.

One of my big takeaways was from The VCG Blog-that image usage can be boiled down to four main ideas: copyright, fair use, creative commons, and public domain. Understanding those four main ideas really helped give me a clear understanding of how it all works.

Copyright Changes?

Copyright change was something I have never considered before, but after watching Copyright is Brain Damage (Paley, TEDxMaastricht), I started to wonder if there should be some changes made. Paley’s message is compelling and I could understand why she would claim that copyright doesn’t benefit us or artists, or the works in question. It benefits the people who bought the rights or so it seems.

It’s too bad that while copyright laws were put in place for a reason, it can also threaten an artist’s creativity flow. When artists start asking, “Can I use this? Will I get in trouble?” a roadblock is put up in the artist’s mind.

“If you have to ask, can I use this? We close a little more. Information flows a little less. Innovation stalls. Permission culture. It stopping the brain from working.”

Paley, TEDxMaastricht

My Role

As an educator, I want my students to be creative. I don’t want to be the one stopping that flow. However, I do think it is my job to inform my students of copyright laws and how to use others’ media responsibly. For my second grade students, I do this by teaching them how to search for images online that can be reused or modified. Or when making presentations, I taught them how to add music to the background using YouTube’s Free Audio Library.

As my students grow older, they will need to know more about copyright; especially, as they create more. It is important that there is a culture of responsible digital citizenship use in schools. This must be taught explicitly or students do not necessarily know how to determine what is okay to use or not.

This short video gives students a good overview of copyright.

Remix Culture

Teaching students the rules of remix is another idea I never considered much. Remixing songs and video is so commonplace today. Students love creating TikTok videos, memes, and GIFS. These videos and images are fun and entertaining, but it is also important to consider the copyright licenses for the material being remixed.

I had some fun remixing the song, “Senorita” by Camila Cabello for my students. One of my colleagues and I were looking for a way to bring some cheer to our students who had been doing home learning for several weeks at the time (now we are on week 11!). We sat down and rethought the original lyrics and made them fit our current situation. Then we filmed clips of the teachers and other school staff members dancing. Finally, we recorded the track with teachers singing along to the karaoke version of the song that we found on YouTube. Students and parents really appreciated the video! Check it out!

Now that I consider what I’ve learned this week, I am wondering if I followed all of the copyright guidelines though. The article from the Moving at the Speed of Creativity about the school who remixed the song, “In the Jungle,” was helpful in deciding. The only thing I may have needed to add to the video is credit to where I got the karaoke version from. I’m not sure though. What do you think? Is there anything else I should have done? I considered these helpful tips below as well.

Is it fair use?

  1. Is the video transformative (brings new meaning)?
  2. Does it feature original lyrics that are written by the teachers?
  3. Does it include an original performance of the song by our own students?
  4. Was it created and shared for an educational purpose?
  5. Is it shared non-commercially, where the school is not making any money from the performance or sharing of this creative work?
  6. It is not denying the owners of the copyright to the original song arrangement from any musical royalties or other performance rights income.