Tweets, consequences and Digital Citizenship

There have been two recent court events in the United Kingdom that reinforce the key underlying principles of digital citizenship:

Middle School Digital Citizenship Senior School Digital Citizenship
Looking after yourself Respect yourself & Protect yourself
Looking after others Respect others & Protect others
Looking after Property Respect Intellectual Property & Protect Intellectual Property


In the court case involving Cricketer Chris Cairns and the prosecution of the student who tweeted about stricken footballer Fabrice Muamba we see examples of people who did not consider that comments made in public mediums like Twitter can be libelous or illegal. In Cairn’s case, comments have seen him awarded a substantial amount of damages and costs and in the Tweets about the footballer, the young man has been jailed for 56 days.



We used to say “email in haste, repent at your leisure” this must now extend to these other mediums as well. We and our students must be considered and deliberate in what we say, whether this is via email, blog posts or instant communication mediums like twitter.

At school, we ask the students to consider how they would feel if the comment they were making was said about them. To put themselves in the other persons shoes. And if the message isn’t suitable, appropriate or “nice” then don’t say it. The recent court activity is adding yet more imperative to this. This is Respect other and Looking after others.

It also raises the issue of the digital footprint. That once something is said, it is un-erasable. Our digital footprints are permanent, and the comments we have made can be retrieved, taken out of context, interpreted in many different ways and served back to us. I don’t think that in either of the cases above there was any doubt about the meaning of their tweets, but they are un-erasable.


Middle School Digital Citizenship.pdf

acceptable use agreement 1.1.pdf


I love the concept of BYOD (Bring your own device) on a number of levels. We have a successful BYOD program at the senior school and it works.

From a administrative and financial aspect BYOD makes sense. You don’t have to provide the students with either laptops, leases or access to machines the cost savings are brilliant. You do still have to provide the students with network & internet access but that’s something that most schools do anyway.


You also have transferred the onus of responsibility and care of the device to the students as opposed to the school. The students are responsible for caring for their own device and insuring it. Interesting the student DO take much better care of their own machines compared to one leased from or provided by the school. The students also make more use of their BYOD too. Its their device and they have customised it (this is a trait of 21st century learners) to suit themselves.

One of the issues people do raise is the distribution and access to materials, this too can be easily solved. We have not stated the software students can use but have stipulated the files formats. For example:

  • Documents – Microsoft .doc format – this is accessible from MS office products from 2003 upwards, iWorks pages, Open Office Writer etc
  • Presentation – Microsoft .ppt format -this is accessible from MS office products from 2003 upwards, iWorks keynote, Open Office impress etc
  • Spreadsheets – Microsoft .xls format –  this is accessible from MS office products from 2003 upwards, iWorks numbers, Open Office calc etc
  • Uneditable documents – adobe .pdf format
  • Audio – .mp3 format
  • video – .avi and mpeg4 formats
  • images – .jpg format

By specifying the file format rather than the product we have enabled the students to use any operating system or hardware. This suits different preferences and different budgets.

Connection has been streamlined and uses some great technology that allows the students to register the devices using the mac address and then access the network via a login.

These are the easily solved bits of a BYOD program and the easy advantages.

The more challenging aspects are the control and safety questions. The challenges faced are what do the students bring to school in their laptops? unacceptable, inappropriate or illegal materials. In our system they can not access blatantly inappropriate material. We track and monitor all other sites. But this is only effective for active online access not what is brought in from either cached or deliberately saved personal activity. Nor does this cover the inappropriate use of the laptop – the student playing games etc.


We can not stop  the students using their own personal network connections – We had earlier in the year a contractor who cut our internet pipe. It was fascinating to watch, as the students lost connectivity, the number of personal hotspots and alike that popped up as the students sought other methods of resolving the internet outage. Using these methods, personal hotspots etc,  students can easily connect to social media sites which many schools do try to block.


The shift to BYOD is fundamentally based on a trust model. The school has accepted that they no longer have control. They have realised they no longer have the same rights of search and seizure that leased and school owned machines had. They no longer have the same level of monitoring of software, internet etc that they previously had.  A question worth pondering is how much of the students appropriate use at school is made by choice and how much is derived from the restrictions that school system have in place to prevent unacceptable activity?

The importance of Digital citizenship is PARAMOUNT in a BYOD school. If inappropriate activity has been curtailed by restriction, what will happen when you remove these restrictions? What will happen when the students can install their own software (legal or illegal), connect to their own internet connection, avoid school based filters.

We must instil in our students a strong ethical and moral approach to the use of technology, an approach that is respectful to themselves, to other people and to property. This ethical and moral approach is backed not by a regime of “these are the rules, now follow them” rather by understanding and transparency. “Here is our approach, this is why we do this, here are the impacts of this, these are the people who are effected

Its only by being transparent and open, honest and clear, that the students will accept and follow the behaviours and norms that the organisation requires. And this is the only way a BYOD program will flourish



Whats next……

A collegue asked me the other day “what is next?” We were discussing email and how this very simple and now relatively old system has changed the face of communications.

The first APRANET email was sent in 1971, and use of email has grown exponentially. In many instances, email has replaced the letter as our means of communication. It isn’t to far from the truth to suggest that infact email is just a letter in digital form. The speed, ease, simplicity and flexibility of emails has led to the current situation. Consider this:

294 billion messages per day means more than 2.8 million emails are sent every second and some 90 trillion emails are sent per year. Around 90% of these millions and trillions of message are but spam and viruses.


So what is next? or are emails here to stay? Is the co-operative document/wiki/post going to be the next “letter” and the comment button the reply tool?

Is instant messaging going to develop beyond the current word/charactor limits into a suitable communication tool? We are already seeing the merging of text and IM in apples iOS 5 – imessage system.

Will video become accepted as a form of legal medium, can we sign agreements via VC as we do with letters and email?

With any change like this we will also have to consider the etiquette that  accompany these changes. What of txt-speak? will this be acceptable or does it leave too much for room for interpretation. Or in video communications, the subtle application of irony or sarcasm, of humour, anger or aggression, the nuyances of body language can and will completely change the meaning of a message.

So “what is next?

Updated JS Computer Use Guidelines

Thanks for the feedback and the comments – I have updated the JS guidelines and invite comments and suggestions.

JS internet-computer use guide

Computers at school

When we aren’t at school we use computers for lots of reasons. When we are at school, we use computers, ipads, ipods, the internet, printers or cell phones for our learning in class.

Using our Computers

We use our computers for learning. We do not play games without our teachers permission.

We will not download movies or videos, music or games without permission. This could be stealing. We will check with our teacher.

We will look after ourselves online.

Sometimes we see stuff that is rude, nasty, mean, dangerous or inappropriate, we must close down the application and tell the nearest teacher.

We will not put any personal information about ourselves on the internet. We won’t post photos or videos about ourselves. We will not share information like our address, phone numbers, hobbies or daily activities.

We will look after other people.

We will not share any personal information about other people over the internet. We won’t post other peoples photos, videos or share information.

When we write anything about a person we will asks “how would I feel if somebody said that about me?”. If it is mean or nasty, don’t say it.

We will look after ourselves and other people by telling our teachers or parents about people who are being mean or bullying.

Using other people’s stuff

We will acknowledge all stuff we use in doing our research from websites and include web addresses in our work.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Technology is the death of lower order thinking

I am preparing for a keynote in 6 weeks time, on teaching and learning in a digital world and it occurs to me that technology can be the death of lower order thinking.

As a teacher, I strive to have my students working in the upper reaches of  thinking skills; to be analytical, evaluative and creative. As a learning technologist what is becoming obvious is that lower order thinking skills like remembering and understanding are easily replaced by technological intervention.

Someone said at a conference I attended (and I would love to give them credit for this) that a poor question is one you can google. Its so true. Google’s search engine accepts phrases like “what is…<insert term>? ” and will retrieve suitable hits for it. Search engines allow unprecedented access to information and far more quickly that you could normally access reference material. Accessing resources like wikipedia is simple and straight forward from your smart phone.



What about remembering? Digital bookmarking using social bookmarking tools like delicious or diigo allow students to capture, annotate, tag and describe useful information and then distribute it as required to their peers etc. Given the phenomenal rate of growth of information, as Ian Juke and Lee Crockett say, we are living in exponential times this is a suitable tool for remembering too.

But are the students actually learning? This is the 6 million dollar question. The answer is yes, but it is dependent on the process.

Faced with an almost infinite depth of information, with material being added at a rate beyond our comprehension, students must develop skills to manage information digitally and to utilise the tools available to us.

Using tools like google to provide definitions and explanations and book marking tools like diigo and delicious to record key information requires more than just clicking a button to save or search. The student must develop and actively apply analytical and evaluative skills. They can never be satisfied with the first answer of the block. They must be curious and questioning, and by doing this they are considering, judging and analysing.

Not all information available to them (in any media) is correct. Whether it is in printed media that is out of date, sites that are inaccurate or opinions that have bias, all information sources can be invalid. Students must develop the skills of evaluation.

By developing suitable processes in our students, where they question, check, critique and validate we can challenge the requirement for them to rote learn facts and  figures that are out of date and inaccurate almost as soon as pen hits paper, if not before. We can teach them skills that will aid them in a world beyond the classroom where they will not be paid on the basis of remembering facts or figures, but asked to be analytical, creative and evaluative. In a world where they will be expected to check that the information they have is accurate and valid. Where they would be required to gather and analyse a range of sources and evaluate each on its merits.

I think technology can be and should be the death of lower order thinking.



Because you can does not mean your should – NOTW



The closure of the news of the world is a salient lesson for all who publish. While the lessons are easy to see for the newspaper companies and others in the media industry, they are equally relevant for all publishers. The demise of the news of the world was not due to lack of interest from its audience, they appeared to lap up the revelations the paper revealed. No the demise of the the news of the world was from those who were not the audience but influenced the people who paid the bills. They were the sixty million people in the United Kingdom who didn’t buy the news of the world. They were the people who would be buying the advertisers products.

The news of the world pampered to its audience at the expense of others. It probed, prodded and hacked its way into areas that should have remained sacrosanct. It was appalling, unethical and completely inappropriate.

But the demise of this British institution provides a saleint example for all of us.

Anyone with internet access is potentially a publisher. There are few restrictions on what you can say, unless you reside in repressive regime. No one is going to question the validity of your comments, the accuracy of your opinions or the suitability of your sources before you press the publish button.

Because you can does not mean you should.

As bloggers, tweets, wiki editors, photosharers etc, we must always consider what we are publishing. We must consider why we are publishing it, the context and content we are about to publish. Whom our audience is and how the content of our post may be interpreted. The tongue in cheek post, the humorous image, the satirical comment should be considered. The revelation you are about to reveal thought through. The consequences considered.

If, having considered these, you decide to present to the world you thoughts, opinions and creations great. But like the classic comment about emails send in haste repent at you leisure, post in haste and repent at your leisure.

Consider to the tenents of digital citizenship

  • respect and protect yourself
  • respect and protect others
  • respect and protect intellectual property

Atleast the news of the world is useful for something other than wrapping fish and chips in.



Talking to strangers and digital footprints

As phrases go “talking to strangers” is hugely loaded. It brings connotations of child molesters, kidnappers and generally wierd and unpleasant people. We teach our students and our own children about “stranger danger” and alas many people live in fear of strangers.

Given this you can image the response at a recent conference when Will Richardson said we should encourage our students to talk to strangers. But he is right we should talk to stranger.

I was sent yesterday an article from Ian Jukes About Digital Footprints. This is another loaded term, the digital footprint is

Dinosaur footprint in the rock. Is this how we see our digital footprint. Source:

Dinosaur footprint in the rock. Is this how we see our digital footprint. Source:

seen as this permanent and unerasable trail of actions, conversations and activities that you have on the web. It like talking to strangers is used in a negative context. But here’s the catch we should leave digital footprints.

So many of the discussions we have with our students regarding digital citizenship have a negative connotation. We shouldn’t talk to strangers, watch out for your digital footprint what you do will haunt you for ever.

But actually we should be talking to strangers, we must talk to them. This is how we develop a mutual understanding of different cultures and religions, this is how we discuss the issues, events and situations beyond our four walls. We live in a world where we can be in Auckland, New Zealand one day, Sydney the next and the following week in Singapore or london. Where Moscow, Beijing, Yokohama, Abu Dhabi, Montreal and New York are only a skype call away. These are the strangers we need to talk to. How many people have seized the opportunity presented by Skype for education?

Yes, there are Strange Strangers out there, and part of our digital citizenship program must be to educate students on what to do and what not to do, on what to share and what to keep private. It must not be to hide in our comfortable community, talking only to those we known, discussing only from a limited perspective and point of view the things that matter. This is living in fear.

I agree with Will, we need to talk to strangers.

The same can be said for Digital Footprints. We should be leaving digital footprints and making sure that these footprints



are the ones that will only be seen positively. We need to be reflective, considered, appropriate and sensitive in what we say and do. The photos we upload, the comments we post, the blogs we share should reflect positively and appropriately on us. The footprints we leave in the sand (we its more like concrete) should be sharp and clean, not smudge, blurred and dirty.

Our students should cherish their digital footprints as positive reflections of their learning and development. They are not something to be avoided, tip toeing around quiet and missable nor should they be huge stomping boot prints splattering mud. Instead they should show the journey of well placed steps traveling from one stage of learning to another.

The Great Firewall of … insert school name Part 3

One of my recent posts prompted this reply from Simon and I would like to respond to it. The posts in this series are challenging the use of filters and internet blocking in schools and questioning the reasoning behind it. The second post provides a solution to this. Simons responce is below:

While you’re at it, why not allow them to have sexual relations as soon as they’re biologically inclined. Encourage them to make a conscious decision or choice, it’ll make them responsible, ethical, moral citizens. Don’t remove the choice from them – what message does that send? Allow them the opportunity to have sex with each other, or their teachers, monitor it, and then deal with the issue AFTER it’s occurred.

Similarly, let’s allow children to drive motor vehicles as soon as they can reach the pedals, drink alcohol, own firearms, get married, vote…

I find this comment a little surprizing and too be honest, melodramatic.

The whole concept being proposed is actually safe and appropriate use of the resources, its about developing a moral and ethical approach and behaviours. You don’t develop this by removing choice. Banning and blocking does not develop an ethical and moral approach. It is a bandage you stick over a gapping wound. It make it someone elses problem and does not address the issue.

You talk of sexual relationships as if the school saying you shall not do this is actually going to stop it. Of course a school takes a stand on such activities, of course they say its unacceptable, inappropriate and often illegal, but the school must also explain why. If we want to make a real impact on the students we must go beyond blocking, banning or setting rules and develop a deep and philisophical understanding of rationale, ethical and moral issues.

To do this we must be open and transparent, we must provide choice, where appropriate. If you explain clearly the rationale behind rules or guidelines and then the student must make a deliberate decision to behave in a certain way. Accompanying this must be monitoring that allows the school to easily check those who have diverged from the standards the school sets.

The country we live in sets the framework of laws that we must follow, as a school there are some absolutes that must be applied, for example there is no case for pornography being acceptable at school, this is a legal, ethical and moral stance. There are restrictions that governments set that must be followed as well.

However, school do go considerably further than this, schools set regulations, rule etc for a wide range of reasons – often these rules are set with out suitable explanation – often to they are TTWWADII – “thats the way we always do it”. These rules and regulations need, in fact, must be challenged. Our students on their cellphones can access websites, this does not go through the school system, they bypass any filtering we may put in place and our only way of effectively dealing with this is to instill suitable and appropriate behaviours. Most of our students have internet access at home, we as holistic educators want them to behave appropriately everywhere not just at school – we have no control over their use of the internet at home – but we can influence their behaviour by developing a suitable moral and ethical approach.

In the second part of the post you will not that this is also an age dependent process, that younger students have not reached a suitable level of maturation to be able to deal with the decisions and to balance the demands of the now and the concequences of the future so these processes are applied with this in mind. As the students progresses through their schooling the level of restriction is lowered progressively and the level of self responcibility increased.

As educators we need to prepare our students for the next stage of their learning journey whether this is employment, the next school or higher education. We are failing in this role if the student leaving us does not know how to act appropriately in an environment with out restricts, just expectations and where the concequences are some much great that at school.

The Great firewall of … insert school name here.. part 2

Its great to have a rant about firewalls and filtering, but its irresponsible to not suggest a solution. Here are some thoughts on what might be a suitable solution.


The core issue is having the student establish/develop a suitable moral and ethical approach to using the Internet. Establishing this moral and ethical approach will be of benefit to the student not only at school but at home, university and work.

The key facet of the concept is timely and appropriate use of the resources namely internet access .



For schools the key use of the resources (internet and email access) is for learning. Therefore students need to manage their resources including access to online social media, quota, educational and recreational use of the system.

Students need to understand that access to social media etc during lunchtime, breaks, before and after school is OK, but they have to manage their use/quota. They must also act in a appropriate manner while accessing these sites. They are to be digital citizens.

Access in class is strictly for educational purposes and other uses are unacceptable. Other activities are effecting the students learning and potentially the learning of other students in the class. Therefore, such behaviours must carry consequences, similar to using a cell phone in class or other off task activity.

To facilitate this strategy schools would:

1. Block sites that are absolutely unacceptable – pornographic etc – set rules to report students who attempt to access pornographic sites – follow up on any attempts. Attempting to access a porn site is essential the same as accessing one. The intent is the same.
2. Establish a culture of open access – core to this is that  access at school is for education not entertainment. We should have the students ask the question “does this have to do with my learning?” We must follow up on students who attempt to access anything via closed methods (i.e. proxy tunnels), this must be dealt with as a serious offence, because with open internet they can visit any site except those that are completely unacceptable.
3. Establish rules and procedures  that allow staff to examine who is accessing which site and when – Who, What & When?
4. Establish a process and procedures where staff follow up on unacceptable/non education related activities in class time. Often this will require a few “object lessons”, the student grapevine is incredibly efficient and they will quickly get the message about actions and consequences.
5. Establish suitable consequences for inappropriate behaviour. Since such actions are essentially a betrayal of trust, the consequences should reflect this.

6. Communicate this to staff, parents and students. Its an open model, with open process and clear consequences

This is an age dependent process – we know that the ethical and moral development of students is age dependent. I would recommended a progressive withdrawal of restrictions as the students progress up the school and accept responsibility for their learning and actions.

New Starter Sheet – Diigo

Its been a while but with the impending demise or sale of Delicious by Yahoo! I have created another starter sheet, this one is for Diigo – another social networking tool.

This starter sheet has an overview of the use of the tool and some of the key features it has. It also examines how this tool may be used in the classroom. In this example its a brief examination of how it could be used in a humanities classroom.

Comments, suggestions and corrections are always appreciated