Tag Archives: common sense media

iPad Time!

As a class we have decided it is time to update our system of iPad access in class. Up until now the teacher has had control over when the students have access to their iPad’s. Increasingly students request their iPad’s for a range of tools (spelling, translation, research etc.) and I realised it is time for me to let go of the control. I asked myself ‘Am I hindering my students’ learning?’

Previously, I have been concerned about device distraction, lack of social interaction and an overload of screen time. Common sense media recommends one hour per day for primary aged children. We have six hours of class time per day. Does this same amount apply to supervised educational use? There appears to be limited research that applies to our specific situation: a small class of motivated Grade 5 students who are encouraged to independently make the right choices about their learning.

Are we hindering student learning by restricting tech use?

I proposed to the class my idea for allowing them to use their iPads at any time in the classroom. Surprisingly a quick vote showed me that students wanted a list of rules that they could follow. They explained that having some guidance made it clearer to understand what was acceptable.

When deciding on these rules the following points came out in a class discussion:

Encouraging self-management skills.

We conducted a ‘think, pair, share’ thinking routine to analyse these results. We narrowed these ideas into four workable class rules that addressed our concerns. A student also suggested we review these rules every month. Another student suggested that they monitor their own daily screen time – if we use the iPad’s a lot at school – play outside at home.

Class designed rules.

I look forward to the monthly review!

Another Feather in a Teacher’s Cap

teachers cap

Image from pixabay

Teachers are adept at wearing many hats. In a ‘normal’ week in a primary school a teacher may also take on the role of coach, leader, nurse, engineer, editor, designer, cleaner, peace-maker, philosopher or facilitator. The list is endless and ever changing and now often includes blogger, web-designer, vlogger, social media marketing managers and many more roles.

The hurdle for many teachers today is that they are not equipped with the correct skills to fulfill these digital roles successfully. An understanding of web design, topography, visual hierarchy, scanning patterns etc. should now be a priority for all educators (and their students) both as consumers and producers of information.

An informative post by web developer, Brandon Jones, has helped me to understand the essentials of web design. He explains web design as visual communication. He goes on to explain the importance of using size, colour, contrast, alignment, repetition, proximity, density and whitespace, and style and texture.

Good visual hierarchy isn’t about wild and crazy graphics or the newest photoshop filters, it’s about organizing information in a way that’s usable, accessible, and logical to the everyday site visitor.

Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones

So now time to make my learning authentic. How can I improve my own blog? Admittedly I have not given much thought to the design of this blog. I am now reviewing my own blog through the eyes of my new role as a web designer. The size of the large sunset image draws the eye but it is now relevant to the content of the blog. The background colour could be toned down to be more ‘calming on the eye’. I also need to consider which widgets and headings I want.

Digital Inquiry

My COETAIL blog homepage


One of the questions that Brandon Jones tells us to ask ourselves is:

Does the expected importance match up with the actual designed importance?

Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones

This is an important question for me as the expected importance in the layout, particularly the widgets, does not match up with the designed importance. A photograph of personal significance doesn’t have a lot of relevance to my audience. I am also now analysing the priority of the tool bars and widgets. What do I actually want you, the reader, to take from my page? The aim of my blog is to connect with like-minded professionals and to promote collaboration as a tool for developing classroom practice.

Possible design updates:

  • technology related header image
  • reorder widgets depending on relevance
  • new background colour to complement new header image
  • upper tool-bar categories for each coetail course
  • twitter feed more prominent
  • links to my other blogs
  • include some personal information about me
  • global visitors map/globe counter
  • clear licensing details

As always, I look to my COETAIL colleagues for inspiration. The design of these blogs have given me some great ideas.

chez vivian with comments

A screenshot of Vivian’s COETAIL blog.

chamada with comments

A screenshot of Clint’s COETAIL blog.

And now I shall begin the process of updating and improving the design of this blog. I now feel more confident to include web design in my own teaching as I help my students to understand and benefit from the importance of visual media. As George Lucas succinctly put it in an Edutopia article:

We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word.

James Daly, Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education

And here is a screen shot of my ‘new look’ blog, which may continue to evolve as my confidence in visual literacy grows. Watch this space!

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.25.53 pm

My new look blog; constantly being updated.

Respect Your Privacy

As an educator my privacy is something that is very important to me. I am aware of my digital footprint and aim to always represent myself positively and professionally at work and online. However, as the boundaries of online privacy are continually changing I feel that it is an area where all educators should continue to be knowledgeable. My main concern is that I’m not sure what exactly I should be concerned about.


Is every touch of a button being monitored? Image authors own.

Privacy online can be distinguished into two main categories:

  1. Personally Identifiable Information (name, age, address etc.)
  2. Non-Personally Identifiable Information (your behaviour on a site)

A useful website, ‘Mark It Write‘ has a great ‘Beginners Guide to Online Privacy‘. Part of the guidelines explain the importance of not using your telephone number or date of birth online:

‘your date of birth is also a key piece of information that is often used for identity verification purposes by various providers. And the same is true about your telephone number.’


Other tips are mostly to avoid advertisers tracking your browsing habits including blocking cookies and location services. However, as a keen online shopper and someone who enjoys the increased convenience of the internet I don’t feel the need to block all cookies and data location services.


Cookies: Delete or ignore? https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Choco_chip_cookie.jpg

Julia Powles wrote an interesting article in the guardian recently about data privacy which has helped me to understand what my concerns should be.

Privacy is about having decisional power, control, over which acts and events of our lives are disclosed and to whom, free from the prying eyes of states, corporations and neighbours. Privacy affords us the freedom to develop ourselves in the world.


The element of control over how my data is used is perhaps something that I have taken for granted. Previously we had more choice about what and how we share about ourselves but as technology continues to evolve at an astonishing rate we have to accept that the notion of privacy has changed. I enjoyed reading @braevans recent post ‘Goodbye Privacy‘ where he states that it now is ‘simply a matter of limiting how public we are’.


As I continue my adventure into ed tech I will attempt to stay knowledgeable about my own online privacy. This will begin with understanding my expectations of what privacy is and why it is important. I will also research, share and reflect on my awareness of how my own data and online habits are used and why. Hopefully this will help me to have some control over how my information is used.


Image authors own

All Steps Leave a Footprint


At what age should children manage their digital footprints?

Is there an appropriate age for children to be encouraged to consider their digital footprint? Should primary students be worried about their college applications and future employability? Who is responsible for ensuring a child has a positive digital footprint?

Image authors own.

Image author’s own.

Ultimately, I believe it is the responsibility of both parents and the schools to educate children about Digital Citizenship. However, it is critical for both teachers and parents to learn how to manage their own online presence first, if they are to be able to effectively teach children about the positive and negative consequences of digital footprints. Lisa Nielsen discusses the importance of teachers firstly managing their own digital footprints in her blog:

“Teaching kids to manage their Digital Footprint really starts with the adults. Teachers can’t teach this effectively if they, themselves have not managed their own digital footprint.”


A few events this week have given me a chance to reflect on young children’s digital footprints and how concerned we should be about them. Firstly, my ten year old son was telling us about a school project he had worked on. When he searched our home town for a photograph he was surprised that his image came up on the beach. Even more surprising for him was his parents reaction to this (panic and intense questioning). Did it have your name? Why was it there? What else came up? Have you saved our photo’s somewhere? Every online parenting fear quickly went through our heads. After a bit of investigation, it turned out it that was a photo that we had submitted to ‘The Guardian’ as part of a ‘UK beaches after the storms‘ article. The storm at home subsided. Panicking parents were the only problem.

Image authors own.

Image author’s own.

Another interesting discussion occurred in my Grade 2 class after we appeared in the national newspaper ‘The Hindu’ this week. My class were very concerned that my surname had been included in the article. We all know the rules; you don’t share your name. ‘It’s okay in the paper you can throw it away’ was one response. And another student pointed out that ‘If you are an adult it is okay’. Both were excellent observations and some interesting conversations followed. Yes, adults are responsible for themselves, and yes, when things are on the internet they are permanently accessible. What also felt important was that the students themselves had initiated this dialogue. This awareness and reflection about identify safety from such a young age is important in the understanding of a positive digital footprint.

Image authors own

Image author’s own.

I am fortunate to teach in a school that values Digital Citizenship. Our class blogs have links to age-appropriate Digital Citizenship lessons from Common Sense Media. The Information Literacy Teacher delivers the Common Sense Education programme to students at an age-appropriate level. Students as young as 6 learn what a digital footprint/trail is and that this can be helpful or hurtful.

common sense




Parents also have access to this information on each Class Blog.


Image author’s own.


We also have guidelines that outline how students’ images or work should be used. This helps to create an awareness of what is appropriate, with clear guidelines about what can and cannot be published. Within this document it also mentions the importance of representing students positively:

“we will not publish materials that may be considered objectionable or detrimental to the interests of any individual member of the Stonehill community or the school.”

Guidelines for the Publication of Students’ Images or Work, Stonehill International School

The Common Sense Media resources that we have adopted at our school have many excellent resources for teachers to use. Below is one of the videos used to help explain to students what a digital footprint is, and why you should consider what you post online.

So to answer my initial questions, no, we do not need to panic a 5 year old about their college application or employability. However, teachers and parents should be aware of content they are publishing and the impact it may have when viewed by audiences with multiple perspectives, both now and in the future. A Grade 2 student should have an understanding of what their digital footprint is, and should be encouraged to reflect on their online presence. And lastly, I believe that teachers, administrators and parents are all responsible for ensuring that children have a positive online presence and that they help them develop an understanding of their digital footprint as soon as they are given access to the web.

What does your digital footprint look like? Were you online before you knew what a digital footprint was?