Becoming Citizens

This week I have been reflecting how to use digital technologies to engage my students in participating in deliberative processes.  According to Barber and Mourshed, 2007 (cited in Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 259), I need to first begin with reflecting upon the weaknesses in my own teaching, have access to best practices and I need to be motivated to adopt changes.  “These elements have proven to be prerequisites for teacher change and can be achieved in the context of a school culture that enables teachers to learn from each other, engage in teamwork, and practice coaching on a regular basis.” (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 259).

How can I best orchestrate an effective learning process and begin to develop the skills required for my students to take a participatory role in their community?  Currently our town is looking at what to do with the old pool space in the original recreation centre.  They have established a blog, to invite participation of the entire community.  I’m currently reflecting on how to engage my students in this community dialogue and help them see themselves as participatory citizens.  “…the main purpose of integrating digital technologies into citizenship education programs is to offer students opportunities to broaden and enrich children’s identities and actions as citizens. “ (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 249).

Communication students interviewed as part of a study exploring the opportunities and challenges for journalism and news in participatory democracy mentioned, “that the public should be involved, contribute to civic dialogue, provide feedback, and report alongside journalists.” (Mihailidis & Shumow, 2011, p. 43).  So should our students, regardless of age.  Our goal is to foster a “commitment toward community, increased ability to listen and participate in dialogue, and increased ability to relate and cooperate with others.” (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 254).  Digital technologies further enable children’s voices to be heard.


Fonseca, C., & Bujanda, M. (2011). Promoting children’s capacities for active and deliberative citizenship with digital technologies: the CADE Project in Costa Rica. Annals of The American Academy Of Political & Social Science, 633(1), 243-262.  Retrieved from:

Mihailidis, P., & Shumow, M. (2011). Theorizing journalism education, citizenship, and new media Technologies in a Global Media Age. Taiwan Journal Of Democracy7(2), 27-47.  Retrieved from:


Happiness is… Student Engagement

The following finding by Levin, Belfield, Muenning, and Rouse (2006) struck a chord with me; the best predictor of health, wealth, and happiness in later life in not school achievement, but the number of years of schooling.  Our students need to stay engaged!  “Close to 25 percent of youth who enter Canadian high schools do not graduate within the standard twelve years of schooling.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 5).  This is detrimental for not only the student, but for his/her community.  How can we help teenagers make good choices about staying in school?   

You Can Read Anywhere!  Personal Photo, January, 2013

You Can Read Anywhere! Personal Photo, January, 2013

I have had the privilege of working with colleagues this year on a shared vision of instructional excellence.  This group is deeply committed to learning.  Why is this work imperative?  Our students are entitled to high-quality schools and instructional excellence is an essential component.  “School leaders need to drive change, taking on new, collaborative roles and using inventive thinking to integrate the emerging “science of learning” into their school systems.” (Metri Group, 2003, p. 11).   Are we ready to “do school differently” and strive for engaging students socially, academically and intellectually?

Student engagement is not easy to measure or teach (Parsons & Taylor, 2011).  “We need to extend its potential as a powerful construct for engaging both students and teachers in the transformation of schools and classrooms into places of effective teaching and deep learning.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 6).  Where to start?  The literature says relationships.  “…respectful relationships and interaction – both virtual and personal – are essential to improve student engagement.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 7).  Intuitively, teachers know relationships are at the core and research supports this notion.  Schools are to be places of deep learning and engaging students will not be easily achieved.   Yet this is what teachers happily strive for their entire careers.


Dunleavy, J. & Milton, P. (2010). Student engagement for effective teaching and deep learning. Canadian Education association, 48(5), 4-8. Retrieved from:

Metri Group (2003). enGauge 21st century skills: Literacy in the Digital age. 1-88. Retrieved from:

Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from:

BYOD – an Acronym with Potential

Education is rife with acronyms.  While BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is yet another one, it is one that is influencing teaching and learning in our schools.  Alberta Education defines BYOD as “Bring your own device (BYOD) refers to technology models where students bring a personally owned device to school for the purpose of learning.” (2012).  I was proud to see Canadian Rockies Public Schools as a contributor to Alberta Education’s document, Bring Your own Device:  A Guide for Schools (2012).  Recognizing the potential of BYOD’s for teaching and learning is an integral step to bridging learning between home and school.

The role of teachers is shifting and BYOD continues to push it along. “Along with the interesting uses for both the iPod Touch and iPad devices that both teachers and students found, we noticed a significant shift in the roles and responsibilities for teachers, IT support people, and school based administration.” (Crichton, Pegler, & White, p. 27).  Working isolation is no longer feasible. For BYOD to function smoothly, teachers are collaborating with IT staff and administration, addressing issues of infrastructure, access and educational uses of personal devices.

The importance of digital citizenship is magnified as the shift to BYOD increases (Alberta Education, 2012).  As the trend seems to be moving into the younger grades, the need to develop a culture of digital citizenship begins in Kindergarten. “That means that the school culture must embrace digital citizenship, which Alberta school authorities have identified as critical to the success of the use of technology in schools.” (Alberta Education, 2012, p. 24).  Although BYOD is a dreaded acronym, its potential is certainly an exciting one.


Alberta Education (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Retrieved from:

Crichton, S., Pegler, K., & White, D. (2012). Personal devices in public settings: lessons learned from an ipod touch / ipad project. Electronic Journal Of E-Learning,10(1), 23-31.  Retrieved from:

Did you say Get Out?

Lake Louise

Personal Photo

The Get Out Banff Community Challenge was launched this afternoon at Elizabeth Rummel School.  This initiative promotes the connection to nature and time spent outside.  Two students performed an engaging skit and shared some compelling facts.  They reported children spend so much time indoors; they are in danger of attention disorders, obesity, and depression.  By spending more time outside, children do better at school, and they are happier and healthier.  One of my favourite lines was, “Didn’t you know I’m in danger of getting Nature Deficit Disorder?”

Technology is our new toy.  We are so enamoured with our devices, we haven’t found the balance yet.    “The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a nationally representative study of recreational media use among children and found on an average school day, children aged 8 to 10 years spent 3 hours and 41 minutes watching television, 46 minutes using the computer, and approximately 1 hour playing video games during the2008/2009 school year.” (cited in Racine, et. al., 2011, p. 749).  Astonishing statics!  If that’s not enough, Trends E-Magazine (June, 2011, p. 29) cites those who have an ‘addiction’ to media experience real feelings of cravings, anxiety and depression.

Do you enjoy the outdoor benefits your community has to offer?  I experience feelings of peace, well-being and gratitude (not to mention sore muscles) on my ventures on the trails of Canmore.  The exact opposite is true for media use.  “Internet users (using mainly for communication) experienced a decline in social circles, increases in depression and increases in loneliness.” (cited in Ross, Raiger, Kirschner, Christl, & Laye, 2012).  Children of the Bow Valley are just as likely to engage in recreational media use as children from around the world.  Let’s model for our children how to balance their technology use, to value time spent outdoors, and to Get Out!


Racine, E. F., DeBate, R. D., Gabriel, K. P., & High, R. R.  (2011).  The Relationship between Media Use and Psychological and Physical Assets among Third- to Fifth-Grade Girls. Journal Of School Health, 81(12), 749-755.  Retrieved from:

Ross, T., Raiger, L., Kirschner, Christl , Laye, A. (Jan. 16, 2012) Children’s Dependence on Technology, Social Problems. Retrieved from:

The Challenge of “Media-Addicted” Consumers, Employees, and Citizens. (2011). Trends Magazine, (98), 27-30. Retrieved from:

Relationships through a Phone

My 65 year old mother upgraded her phone to a smartphone several months ago.  Her primary impetus was to foster her relationship with her teenage granddaughter.  She wanted to be able to communicate with her via texting.   According to Brown (2011) technology can strengthen ties to family and close friends.   Has the ability to text strengthened her relationship with her granddaughter?  They do text regularly, and texting has become their most frequent form of communication.  My mother would agree.  She feels a greater connection and says texting allows them to easily keep in touch.

So how does all this texting and time spent on Facebook affect our children’s relationships to those beyond family and close friends?  “Students who can communicate via informal and formal communication channels are becoming increasingly valuable in organizations.” (Sacks & Graves, 2012, p. 81).  My daughter secures an amazing number of babysitting jobs via texting.  Perhaps this is a first step to blending her communication skills for future employability.  It is interesting to note that contrary to Brown’s findings, Pollet (2011) found “Thus neither the use of IM and SNS nor the intensity of their use was associated with a greater number of offline relationships or the emotional closeness of these relationships.”  (p.256).

Social Media has found a place in our lives, but it is not in lieu of face-to-face conversations.  As Turkle (2011) says in her TED talk, all the ‘bits’ do not equal a conversation.  Conversations with our children and our students continue to be integral to understanding and learning about each other.  The texting my family participates in is not the equivalent to meaningful conversations and may not increase the emotional closeness, but it does prompt a strong desire to connect in real-time.  Try texting “Your granddaughter has a boyfriend” to Grandma and see what happens!


Brown, A. (2011). Relationships, community, and identity in the new virtual society. The Futurist, 45(2), 29-34. Retrieved from:

Pollet, T. V., Roberts, S. B., & Dunbar, R. M. (2011). Use of Social Network Sites and Instant Messaging Does Not Lead to Increased Offline Social Network Size, or to Emotionally Closer Relationships with Offline Network Members. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 14(4), 253-258. Retrieved from:

Sacks, M., & Graves, N. (2012). How Many “Friends” Do You Need? Teaching Students How to Network Using Social Media. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(1), 80-88.  Retrieved from:

Turkle,S.(2011). Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? | Video on  TED:Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved from: