Media Literacy, ISTE Standards, & #FakeNews

In the wake of #FakeNews, and, more recently, President Trump’s “Fake News Awards,” it makes me reflect on our role as educators when it comes to media literacy, which has me again pondering the purpose of education. In 1934, John Dewey wrote,

“The purpose of education has always been to every one, in
essence, the same—to give the young the things they need in
order to develop in an orderly, sequential way into members of
society. This was the purpose of the education given to a little
aboriginal in the Australian bush before the coming of the white
man. It was the purpose of the education of youth in the golden
age of Athens. It is the purpose of education today, whether
this education goes on in a one-room school in the mountains
of Tennessee or in the most advanced, progressive school in a
radical community. But to develop into a member of society in
the Australian bush had nothing in common with developing into
a member of society in ancient Greece, and still less with what
is needed today. Any education is, in its forms and methods, an
outgrowth of the needs of the society in which it exists.”

In this unprecedented, exponential, and experimental age of communication, information, and sometimes misinformation, all previous norms and rules start to blur. As online rhetoric becomes more polarized, it starts to seem that our needs as a society are also becoming divided.

But the ability to ascertain truth remains a common, fundamental need of a democratic society, which makes our free press all the more essential. As educators this pursuit of truth comes through cultivating healthy media literacy. The ISTE standards are a powerful resource, as they can all be used to strengthen our students’ capacity to assess whatever information comes their way. Here are my thoughts on what this might look like.

1. Empowered Learner: “Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.”) Helping students learn to identify bias, and giving them the technological know-how to discern among different types of online media (ie, social media posts, blog posts, journalism, etc.)

2. Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.”) Helping students learn specific strategies for fact-checking, and a general “think before you share” mindset.

via Marshall University Libraries

3. Knowledge Constructor: “Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.”)  Giving our students immersive opportunities to read a large cross-section of sources when embarking on a new unit.

4. Innovative Designer: Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.” → Encouraging students to be part of the solution when it comes to misinformation by creating their own carefully-sourced media literacy resources (infographics, videos, etc).

5. Computational Thinker: Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.”) Teaching students the science and driving force behind “click bait,” as well what methods mainstream news outlets use to fact-check.

6. Creative Communicator (“Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.”) Giving students the opportunity to have authentic audiences via student blogs to increase their literacy as online contributors. 

7. Global Collaborator (“Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.”)Join a global collaborative platform such as The Wonderment where students can gain a sense of themselves as citizens of a global society, in which their voice matters.
There are many unknowns as we continue to collectively feel our way through this unparalleled time. But we can be certain that media literacy will empower and equip our students and ourselves to better access and anchor our society in truth.
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5 Principles For Giving Inspiring Feedback

I would like to highlight, once more, feedback that I recently received from a friend in my PLN:

Her words inspired me to the extent that I shared a follow-up post last week about how her words led me to a shift in personal action and mindset, and in which I publicly thanked her for being such an asset to my personal/professional learning.

Why? What was it about her feedback that led not only to change, but to even greater mutual respect?

After all, it’s not easy for any of us to hear when we might have fallen short. Yet it is crucial for us to recognize ways we can grow. So the art of giving feedback that inspires is an invaluable skill for us all in this age of information and communication. For those of us educators using social media platforms for some #diyPD, it’s especially helpful to consider the ways that will facilitate the best kinds of connection when we share our insights with one another.

Here are 5 questions we might ask ourselves:

#1: Is there a relationship? This is the #1 question in all contexts when working with people. If we turn up out of the blue without previously having made any efforts to know where the person across the table is coming from, we can bet that our insights won’t be as well received as they might otherwise have been. This is a particularly important question to ask ourselves as we work with our students.

#2: Is there kindness? At first, this seems obvious, but it’s actually easy to take for granted amid the anonymity of social media–easy to forget that there’s a living, breathing, feeling person on the other end of our sometimes-harsh words. I’ve been surprised to read comments on larger educational websites like Edutopia where feedback quickly devolves to personal attacks or scorn. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t give that feedback in person to a colleague in your building, don’t give it on social media.

#3: Have you read the content in full? Whether the feedback is negative or positive, it’s important to have the full picture before imparting. This helps ensure our feedback is as relevant as possible.

#4: Are you genuinely curious? As long as we remain curious about one another’s work and opinions, we are much more likely to avoid assumptions, and to remain centered on growth over correction.

#5: Are you in the arena, too? This is derived from a quote from Brene Brown. Simply put:

Speaking of Brene Brown, I can’t ever write a blog post even remotely related to feedback without sharing her fabulous “Engaged Feedback Checklist.”

I am so grateful for those who have taken the time to give inspiring feedback that has helped me grow. How have you been inspired by others’ feedback as you seek learning in your PLN?

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My #OneWord2018

I don’t remember where I came across this book trailer last year, but the opening line lingered with me long after watching:

“The word power itself is sort of this dirty word. We don’t like to talk about it, we don’t like to name it–it seems unseemly. And yet, if you don’t understand how power works–what it is, how it flows, who has access to it, who does not–you are essentially being acted upon.”

I love citizenship. Digital citizenship, physical citizenship, local citizenship, global citizenship. I like pondering our ever-shifting roles as individuals and as collective groups. And I enjoy considering how our rights and responsibilities can help us facilitate meaningful change.

Occasionally, however, I allow my focus to get side-tracked to the more pessimistic aspects of change: how long it takes, how many naysayers arise, how insignificant individual deeds seem. All of which invariably leads to feelings of frustration and even helplessness.

In those moments, it seems like all the rights and responsibilities in the world still fall flat for a rather acted-upon existence.

I’ve selected power for my one word goal for this year to face those helpless feelings head-on. To remember that all change starts with the individual. To really live the adage, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” To focus on the fact that we truly are more powerful than we think because there are always ways we can take action.

I want to find out more about my personal power. I want to get to the other side of fear and find out what choices are available to me to be the change. For me, this might look like…

…researching how I can better prepare to serve future local students when I return to teaching, many of whom are learning English as a second language (so excited about my book recommendation from Donalyn Miller that is currently en route)–to contribute to a strong literacy approach in our school district.

…volunteering with the local bicycle committee–to make my 7 year-olds’s bike trips to school safer and to work toward cleaner air.

…reaching beyond my comfort-zone to learn more about my neighbors and how we might connect–to build a stronger sense of community and safety, even in a part of town often written off as shady.

…working to better walk the talk of agency and empowerment with my own small children–to build my personal congruity and commitment to growing values as an educator and parent.

I look forward to a year of choosing power over fear. I believe that  as I explore and better understand my own power, I will be better equipped to teach and empower my future students. May this year be only the beginning of a lifetime of choosing to focus on what is most conducive to change and personal peace.

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Top 20 Posts From 2017 That YOU Wrote

Bill Nye said,

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

This has been a gratifying truth when it comes to my professional learning network, or PLN. The fact that I get to learn from and with master teachers all over the world on a daily basis fills me with gratitude. So to share my appreciation and to share the highlights of my 2017 PLN learning, I want to share the top 20 blog posts (in no particular order) written by educators this year. As with my 2016 post, these are posts that I bookmarked, shared, revisited, and pondered. Thank you, as always, for pushing my thinking, and I look forward to discovering the learning that 2018 holds for us all!

#1: Want Better Faculty Meetings? Start Here. by Bill Ferriter

#2: Talking at Students Instead of With Students by Chad Walsh

#3: The Classroom by Heidi Allum

#4: Let’s Talk About Methods for Conferring by Elizabeth Moore

#5: Supporting Student Agency Take Two by Taryn BondClegg

#6: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1) by Jonathan So

#7: Desertification by Donalyn Miller

#8: Agency by Design by Sonya terBorg


#9: Reflection’s Reality: Learning is a Story by Monte Syrie

#10: The Best Lesson I Never Taught by Abe Moore

#11: Assessment Done With Students, Not to Students by Taryn Bond-Clegg

#12: The ‘So What’ of Learning by Edna Sackson

#13: Is Your School a Rules First or A Relationships First Community? by Bill Ferriter

#14: How Are We Traveling? Reflecting on the Story So Far by Kath Murdoch

#15: If We Build It, They Will Come: Tales From Inside the Sharing Circle by Lori Van Hoesen 

#16: When Adults Don’t Read, Kids Lose by Jennifer LaGarde

#17: #ClassroomBookADay And the Power of Sharing (Picture Book) Stories by Jillian Heise


#18: What Millennials Demand from Education by Erik P.M. Vermeulen

#19: Visible Thinking in Math Part 2 by Silvia Tolisano

#20: The Compliments Project by Jennifer Gonzalez

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My Most-Read Posts of 2017

Last year, I shared 20 of my favorite blog posts that I read from educators around the world during 2016. With the help of a great bookmark Chrome extension to help me chronologically sort my bookmarks, I am excited to be working on a similar post for 2017 to help me search out patterns and reflect on my biggest aha moments this year — and of course, to thank the teachers who have taken some of their precious time to share!

But meanwhile, I’m inspired by George Couros’ recent post in which he shares the 5 most-read posts on his own blog. I appreciate the chance to create, as he puts it, “an archive for my learning as well as an opportunity to share with others.”

#5: TPT: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity: I continue to ponder this debate as I watch the headlines on providing tax breaks for teacher spending. I can’t help but speculate over certain “what if” scenarios, but I remain firm in my view that there are so many deeply personal layers to this issue that we need to make compassion a priority.

TPT Debate: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity

#4: Change: A Where We Are In Place & Time Provocation: I’m so glad that what started out as a way for me to archive and organize the most thought-provoking resources I find has proven helpful for so many teachers!

Change: A “Where We Are in Place & Time” Provocation

#3: A How We Express Ourselves [In the 21st Century] Provocation: I wrote this provocation as a way to help us remember that self-expression is a truly boundless endeavor in our 21st century world. I enjoyed the chance to revisit the video, “The Adaptable Mind” that I included here; I found it fascinating view at how the world is shifting, and what skills will empower us and and our students.

A How We Express Ourselves [In the 21st Century] Provocation

#2: 4 Reasons We Just Can’t Break Up With Basals (& How to Finally Move On!): I think many of our fancy new computer programs are the new “basal reading program,” but with the stamp of “personalized” tech, they are not held to the same scrutiny. My biggest concern rests with the notion that our struggling readers especially need such programs for remediation, but I think Pernille Ripp put it best in her currently-pinned tweet:

4 Reasons We Just Can’t Break Up with Basals (& How to Finally Move On)

#1: Inquiry: What Trajectory are YOU On? I’m actually quite pleased that this one gained the most views of posts I wrote this year because it’s a wonderful showcase of thinking and growth from a group a teachers I hold dear. It was also a great opportunity for me to synthesize all my resources and understanding on what it means to be an inquiry teacher so far. I know I still have a long way to go, but I am proud of mileposts like these along the way.

Inquiry: What Trajectory Are YOU On?

Thank you all so much for reading and for sharing your own work! It is such a gift for me to be able to continue my professional learning through this platform and through interacting with my PLN.

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What’s The Difference Between Skills & Mindsets?

A friend in my PLN recently responded to one of my tweets with some thought-provoking questions.

My initial response was to say the difference between a skill and a mindset is that mindsets are more of an innate part of us, whereas skills are not necessarily fundamental to our human experience. But let’s take a look, for instance, at the approaches to learning skills encouraged at in the PYP Programme:

  • Thinking skills:
    • Acquisition of knowledge
    • Comprehension
    • Application
    • Analysis
    • Synthesis
    • Evaluation
    • Dialectical thought
    • Metacognition
  • Communication skills: 
    • Listening
    • Speaking
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Viewing
    • Presenting
    • Non-verbal communication
  • Self-management skills:
    • Gross motor skills
    • Fine motor skills
    • Spatial awareness
    • Organization
    • Time management
    • Safety
    • Healthy lifestyle
    • Codes of behavior
    • Informed choices
  • Research skills
    • Formulating questions
    • Observing
    • Planning
    • Collecting data
    • Recording data
    • Organizing data
    • Interpreting data
    • Presenting research findings
  • Social skills:
    • Accepting responsibility
    • Respecting others
    • Cooperating
    • Resolving conflict
    • Group decision-making
    • Adopting a variety of group roles

Clearly, many of these skills are crucial parts of the human experience, that could well be thought of as a mindset, such as metacognition, listening, and respecting others. Meanwhile, the PYP Programme also includes attitudes we work to encourage, including:

  • Appreciation
  • Commitment
  • Confidence
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Tolerance

These are certainly what I would consider fundamental mindsets, or ways of thinking, along with Agency. I think it’s clear that we are always working to cultivate all these skills and mindsets. It’s just that skills are the means by which we cultivate mindsets. 

All that said, because these mindsets are innate, fundamental parts of us all, I believe that if we make room for and honor student voice in our classrooms, they will show us additional, unanticipated means by which we can create a culture of agency, empathy, enthusiasm, etc.

What are ways you seek to cultivate mindsets in your classroom?

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5 Favorite Children’s Books (2017 Read Alouds)

I always love the opportunity to make another #booklist because it helps me catch up on my Goodreads indexing — not to mention the fact that it helps me think about which books really draw me in and why. So I appreciate this pass-it-forward invitation via Norah Colvin. Thanks Norah!

For those I nominate that want to join in, here are the “rules:”

  1. Thank whoever’s nominated you and share their blog link.
  2. Let us know your top 5 children’s books
  3. Nominate 5 people to do the same
  4. Let your nominees know you nominated them

I can’t make a top 5 list of children’s books without it being from a pretty specific category to narrow it down! So I’m going to choose from junior fiction. That I’ve read this year. That I would consider as classroom read aloud material. These were the ones that I couldn’t put down — that I carried upstairs and downstairs and in my diaper bag and on my nightstand, all in the hopes of catching another few pages. I hope you enjoy them as well (P.S. You’ve probably noticed a genre trend here–I promise I did check out many realistic fictions, but for whatever, reason, they weren’t doing it for me this year. Mystery all the way in 2017!)

Incorrigible Children by Maryrose Wood: I am dying for the next book in the Incorrible Children series! As much as I love following the story of the 3 children raised by wolves that are now brought up by their plucky young governess Penelope Lumley, I think I might enjoy Wood’s Lemony-Snickett-like narrative asides just as much.

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson: If you loved Roald Dahl’s books growing up, or even just possessed a vague inclination, this one is worth checking out. In a Matilda-meets-Charlie & the Chocolate Factory story, Tabitha Crum, along with 4 other children, is invited to the home of a fabulously wealthy Countess for an important announcement. She is quickly swept up in a mystery as children start disappearing and the Countess doesn’t seem what she appears.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill: Breath-taking. I loved the poetry and flow, and I never wanted it to end. From Goodreads: “One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic…An epic coming-of-age fairy tale.”

The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan: Ok, this one definitely merges some historical fiction in with the mystery! I enjoyed the character development and interactions as Nell works to prove herself to be of use to her Aunt Kate when she is brought to her doorstep. This assistance eventually builds from chores to real-life detective work to assist Aunt Kate’s work with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel: I was introduced to Oppel’s work this year and loved it all (The Nest and Every Hidden Thing also topped my lists this year, but neither one would probably be suitable as elementary read alouds–intensity in The Nest and some mature content in Every Hidden Thing). The Boundless will make for a gripping read-aloud as Will Everett must keep ahead of a deadly plot while working his way up the Boundless train!

5 bloggers nominated to add their 5!

Pernille Ripp: Many of my library book holds are because of Pernille’s advice! An English teacher in Wisconsin, she’s always pushing the status quo on reading and writing instruction.

Faige Meller: Though retired from her own kindergarten classroom, Faige’s work in influencing children is far from finished! She often writes about her work as a substitute children and about how we can better connect with our students–and one of my daughter’s new favorite reads (Roxaboxen) came from her recommendation.

Man-Cub Mamas: On the #TeacherMom spectrum, this blog is definitely more on the Mom side, with all sorts of tips at home. My favorite, of course, as been the book recommendations, supplied by a good friend of mine, which is why I’m adding the nomination here!

LitLife Blog: The literary connection of this blog is clear in the title, and I am a huge fan of Pam Allyn’s work. I haven’t heard from them on that platform for a while now, but perhaps this nomination might invite a new book list? 🙂

Library Girl: I am so impressed by her work with the #30SecondBookTalks and World Book Talk Competition. Jennifer LeGarde is passionate about creating cultures of reading.

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