Digital Identity

Avatars of M.Ed Students

Avatars of M.Ed Students

Over the last year or so I have taken complete control of my Digital Identity. While completing studies in Digital Citizenship, I accepted the idea that I was going to have a digital footprint and it was my responsibility that it was a positive one. This has allowed me to blog freely and tweet regularly without fear of judgement. From a teaching perspective this confident view of digital identity is actually quite difficult to pass onto middle years students (I teach middle years). They are at an impulsive age where they will write and post without discretion and often do not see the repercussions of their digital interactions. No surprised there really. Some adults are pretty bad too.:-)

I wonder if games that allow these students to create and take ownership of an avatar would make the concept of digital identity much more real as, from experience, an avatar almost allows you to see yourself online – even if he/she is not a literal copy of yourself. An avatar is a bridge between the physical and virtual world, controlled by the gamer to learn about the world, execute their intentions and to accomplish goals and intentions (McCreery,Schrader & Krach, 2011). From a pedagogical perspective I see the avatar as a digital tool to be mastered.

Avatar creation is at first a very confronting process but in the end quite liberating. A well thought out avatar eventually empowers you to take ownership of and play in these virtual spaces – and connect with the developing narrative. I must admit, it took me a while to developed this creative game playing confidence. In Second Life I took my avatar to an empty sandbox to make sure he looked Ok before having a social debut, so to speak. This is a wonderful thing about learning in virtual spaces – these spaces provide a low risk environment where participants can learn via experimentation..

This sounds slightly weird but in this course of study (INF541) we have been presented with the idea that digital identity is an elastic idea that contributes to the overall view of the self. Over the last few years I have taught some students with particularly low self-esteem and weak views of self. I wonder if they would have felt a sense of liberation by creating, naming and playing with their own personal avatar? At the very least I am sure they would have had fun participating in such a creative learning process.

McCreery, M. P., Schrader, P. G., & Krach, S. K. (2011). Navigating Massively Multiplayer Online Games: Evaluating 21st Century Skills for Learning within Virtual Environments. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 44(4), 473.

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Critical Reflection #ETL523

An Exploration of Digital Citizenship in Schools.

I thought I would start by writing briefly about readings I have completed in the last few days… at the end of this  #ETL523 journey,  regarding sustainable curriculum change in schools and the barriers that inhibit successful uptake of innovations in schools:

the paradox of innovation without change (Priestly, Miller, Barrett & Wallace, 2011)

This idea is an extremely important notion to reflect on, particularly in the context of coming to the end of an intense exploration of digital citizenship in schools and working to improve the digital learning environments that are being built in our schools. The professional risk is to fall back into familiar routines and practice and not really take heed of the messages we have been probing over the last few months, that relate to digital learning environments and digital citizenship.

My challenge is not only to look for ways to innovate in the classroom but to also influence the broader agenda. I feel a strong synergy with the idea of promoting digital citizenship by showing, not telling. In essence, this is good pedagogy. At present, I have a new class of students who I have very recently introduced to twitter (@MLC8S), Flipboard and google drive. In a short while I intend to explore wiki authorship with them.   These activities will create a scenario where we can engage in issues of digital citizenship: digital footprints,  information fluency; even perhaps the concept of connectivism;  even if I do not use the exact terminology; my students will understand.

A goal is to begin to develop in my students a global perspective of their online citizenship. I might achieve this by exploring collaborative programs through wiki authorship. My job is to build an engaging DLE and support the digital learners in my classroom. The reality though is that at first we need to develop good digital citizenship in the classroom. If ignored digital citizenship becomes a bit shoddy.

Technology has revolutionised their learning experience and yet change is slow. Yes, technology has poured into our classrooms at a rapid rate but some pedagogical practices remain the same. I suggest that this hints at teacher resistance to change (or institutional resistance to change), as they struggle to overcome internalised opinions about schools, pedagogy and even digital citizenship in schools. Student opinions and worldviews are also difficult to change, that is where digital citizenship embedded into the curriculum becomes important, so that whole school approaches can be developed in a collegial manner.

At the start of this course I was unsure about the concept of a digital learning environment but now I am at ease with the idea. I am thinking that over the next few weeks I would begin explaining this concept to my students, perhaps by building a classroom display that we all add to over time. The aim here would be to build an awareness of a DLE as being made up of tools, skills, attitudes and habits for learning while using technology.  When teaching within a digital learning environment the difficult concept to communicate is attitudes and habits. However, once again this can be achieved by good modeling.

I experienced authentic learning by collaboratively building  a wiki that taught me a lot about collaborative and participatory cultures and how peoples differing attitudes to learning impact on the process, as well as their skill set regarding technology. An important factor to consider in digital citizenship is peoples beliefs and attitudes to learning and their awareness of knowledge networks. Importantly approaches to participatory cultures is something to reflect on deeply. I teach middle years students and an impression I have gained over time, is that they are not adept at participating in structured learning, and yet they participate in, with high levels of engagement, their own social networks. The challenge is to modify their beliefs about learning and create a sense of ownership and participation.

Three concepts that I have enjoyed  exploring are:

  • The 21st Century Learner
  • Information literacy and digital fluency
  • Content Curation

These sections of #ETL523 relate directly to classroom practice and with a focus on activities of the learner. And herein lies a challenge. Within the Digital Learning Environment that I teach in, how do I indeed allow my students to be 21st Century Learners? To participate actively rather than be passive consumers of knowledge. Again, I think this is best done by immersing students into a culture of communication, collaboration and creation whilst putting them at the centre of their learning. I will attempt to develop their digital fluencies and guide then in becoming expert curators as this, they will soon realise, is a lifelong skill.  This I have learnt first hand by undertaking this online course. I already use the term ‘curate’ in my classrooms. Here, I think activities such as digital storytelling will come into play, so as to inspire students to communicate and collaborate when building digital artefacts. This is exciting stuff! However, what these activities call for are very student centred classrooms. What intrigues me here is that some students do not cope in a student centred classroom as their, often reinforced, worldview puts the teacher at the epicentre of the classroom. Students attitudes often act as a barrier to engagement and good learning, so the focus is to reinforce an attitude of ownership within the DLE’s that I connect with students.

The concept of a 21st Century learning is exciting indeed. My students are connected via their BYO devices and have the potential to communicate, collaborate and ultimately create digital artefacts for contributing to the so-called global narrative. If I need to think about how ubiquitous digital learning environments have impacted what we as educators do, in terms of digital citizenship and new approaches to pedagogy then the answer is right in front of me.   Over the last few months I have experienced what it means to be a 21st century learner, collaborating, communicating, curating and creating while experiencing deeply the connectivist notion of knowledge networks. My PLN has flourished and without it I would have not experienced such rich learning.  My learning has been inextricably bound up in the digital world and I am thankful that I have been able to strengthen my digital skills to explore this realm with confidence.  These are experiences that will not doubt enrich my teaching experience as I encourage my students to become active citizens in a digitally rich world.


Priestly, M., Miller K., Barrett L., Wallace C. (2011) Teacher learning communities and educational change in Scotland: the Highland experience. British Educational Research Journal. 37(2) pp. 265-284

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School Superheroes

How do we all become 21st Century educators?future (3)

In the digital world, such as on twitter and in  academic publications and curriculum documentation there is a lot of chatter about  21st century learning.  However,  how do we as educators, who in the end need to have a well informed classroom practice, get to a place where we can  confidently foster a culture of creation in our classrooms whilst empowering our students to  contribute creatively, responsibly and ethically to their learning community?

As is mentioned in the above publication, we as educators need to develop new capacities, deepen our networking abilities, strengthen our ability to use interactive media and embrace technologies of co-operation.

  • We must also challenge institutional hierarchies  and policies and provide exemplars of, and provocations for, innovation.

How to get there?  By participating in this digital space, writing, creating, sharing, discussing, reading…

Play in this place and bring a friend.

I have introduced by Year 8 class to twitter @MLC8S. These students already play in an online collaborative and multi-modal world  but I am sure I have a lot to teach them about digital citizenship. No, doubt I will learn a lot from them too.

Happy learning.


Iftf (2008).  2020 Forecast: Creating the future of learning (nd). Retrieved 29th May 2014, from









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Learning happens

I thoroughly enjoyed the post by @hbailie titled
Stigmergy, deep reading, and John “Pigsarse” Elliott

I find myself also asking what Rheingold and @hbailie have questioned “Can our digital tools make us smarter?” I too, have undertaken so much deep reading over the last month that my head is about to burst with ideas and questions. I too am being helped along tremendously by a number of digital tools and the network of knowledge that I am plugged into.

The concept of “knowledge in networks” is becoming much clearer to me.

Let me digress (my mind doesn’t sit still for long): I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that many of the concepts that we are exploring in this M.Ed journey have strong roots in social network perspectives, such as those presented by Kadushin (2012) and Carolan (2014). In his book “Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings” Charles Kadushin reminds us that:

Social networks… have been at the core of human society since we were hunters and gatherers. People were tied together through their relations with one another and their dependence on one another.

(Kadushin 2012)

These observations link in extremely well with the concepts explored by @hbailie in the above post. The ideas of stigmergy and collaborative stigmergy sit well with the concept of people being intimately connected. These thoughts all hint at the need to collaborate and learn together. We are social beings and current shifts in education are reminding us of these connections and how they need prioritising in 21st century pedagogy.

Chatting with @hbailiee at the State Library of Victoria and her subsequent blog post also led me to mull over the writings of Carolan (2014) who presents a social network view of education saying simply that “relationships do matter” and “relational ties between individuals are opportunities for transmission of resources;” (p. 21). This unit of study (Concepts & Practices for a Digital Age) is introducing and reinforcing ideas of connected learning that I have no doubt will transform my professional practice as an educator.

I contrast these meanderings with how dominant views of education isolate learners in the classroom, even attempting to isolate individual actors (in this case students) from one another, even within the classroom setting. Carolan (2014) talks about removing the actor from his/her social context. This is something that I have always struggled with as an educator because the focus of any classroom then is not the students but outcomes. This is stated so eloquently by Connie Yowell in the recording “Connected learning” (DMLResearchHub 2012). Yowell declares that we start with the wrong questions and must move towards a core question that asks “Is the kid engaged?”

So, here we are learning about knowledge networks, stigmergic collaboration, social networks and even connectivism as a learning theory (Siemens 2004). The question that I must answer is; how will my students learn from me next week, the week after…in six months time? Hopefully, slightly (radically) differently.  The trick will be to show these young learners explicitly that they can learn from their classroom networks as well as the extended knowledge networks that they are already connected to, now and in the future.

Let me leave one final quote that hopefully speaks to others within their context of teaching and learning:

Educational research treats learning as an individual outcome, ignoring the messy relational processes through which you form an opinion or an understanding on a topic of interest. Social networks obviously play a central role in the sharing of information and formation of opinions.

These words also spoke to me loudly as I collaboratively built a wiki relating to digital citizenship. The process was collaborative but messy and relational …but that’s another story.


Carolan, B. (2014). Social network analysis and education: theory, methods and applications. California. SAGE Publications

DMLResearchHub. (2012, September 19) Connected Learning: Interest, Peer Culture, Academics. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks: Theories, concepts and findings. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from

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The Third Place

Today, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Levine (2012) ponder that age old question of “Who am I?” via his YouTube video “We, Our Digital Selves, and Us

The Third Place

The Third Place

Firstly, this resource is an awesome prompt for any teacher willing to explore and reflect on their own digital identity. The video has some very thought provoking questions and challenges, such as “What is the difference between offline and online?

What really grabbed me  was the discussion of “the notion of a place that was neither work nor home”. Levine tells us this concept was originally described by Ray Oldenburg as a Third Place. Intriguing. A place that is highly accessible, involves food and is welcoming. “Can this happen Online?” asks Levine.

Sure, I have been to that place. I go there via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Hangouts, Skype …

What’s more, when I visit this Third Place I can drink coffee, order lunch, world best cappuccino or just simply sit on my balcony. You?

I have then connected with people I met in this “Third place” by meeting them at pubs, schools, hospitals and museums while attending Teachmeets in Melbourne. Or, I meet them in other more formal places during professional development activities. Some I now teach with.

This opens up a vision of how my students will benefit from this Third Place that is neither work nor home … nor school? Maybe my future students will not be locked in a classroom with me; that’s not such a bad thing! 🙂  Perhaps we will meet somewhere more compatible to digital citizens and we will use our connections to learn from the world. Maybe we will only ever meet in this Third Place?

Taking this imagining one step further … my vision is not a #TMMELB but a student meet (#SMMelb) at a local cafe, or … you get the drift. What a great way to teach youth that learning happens anywhere, anytime.

Just pondering out loud here but it’s exciting to ponder.


Levine, A. [Flat Classroom]. (2012, March 21). We, our digital selves, and us [Video file]. Retrieved from

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1.1 Digital Citizenship as a concept


Enlightened Digital Citizenship

My developing definition of digital citizenship :: Digital Citizenship is a way of using technology responsibly that focusses on the skills, attitudes and personal behaviours that allow citizens to engage with their networks in a positive manner.

I am enjoying the idea that the Concept of Digital Citizenship is multi-faceted as described by Mike Ribble at

The model shown above (Davis & Lindsay, 2012) is also very helpful as it helps  us acknowledge that as Digital Citizens we need to develop an understanding of our online citizenship from a variety of perspectives.

What is my stance on digital citizenship? :: I have learnt that students need explicit modelling and guiding as to how to be good Digital Citizens. They do not necessarily do this naturally; nor do adults.

This student mentoring needs to go deeper than the training of students to use various tools but also requires explicit discussions on acceptable use of social media, in its many forms.  In the digital medium there is always the temptation for youth to say things or post artefacts that are socially  inappropriate. Young students quite often engage in online behaviours that they otherwise would not when communicating face-to-face with their peers and wider communities. This also relates to the adult world; some of the most inappropriate emails that I have received have been from parents of students. I would take this one step further and suggest anyone that engages with digital communication technologies be made ware of the global perspectives of digital citizenship.
What should an informed, publicly engaged digital citizen look like? The informed publicly engaged citizen not only has access to the appropriate technology but they are skilled in contributing to their social networks.  They can do so in a way that is sensitive to a variety of audiences across social, cultural and global boundaries.

What direction are you (or your school) taking? To generalise,  in both my work places, policies appear to focus on acceptable use of ICT: the dos and don’t of social media and behaviours online. No explicit discussions of digital citizenship are apparent – to the depth that  we are exploring here and is communicated by Davis and Lindsay in the above image.

Of interest, my current school is what I call a high technology school; students work on their BYO iPads on a 1:1 basis. These students are supported by a renowned School Wide Positive Behaviour Support program. In place is also a supportive social media policy that works in conjunction with an ICT and responsible use policy.  Good use  of social media and other web 2.0 tools is explicitly advocated.  In the classroom students are encouraged to make decisions about how to use the digital tools at their disposal.  So, the school is clearly on a journey of exploring issues of Digital Citizenship similar to those being explored in the early modules of #ETL523.  However, perhaps a more in-depth journey is required to engage in the areas of awareness as suggested by Lindsay and Davis (2012).
I must say that in the museum where I work there is strong a commitment to digital transformation including “in the way people work, think and interact.” This includes but is not limited to 1) Staff incorporating digital systems into their daily life 2) trialling and adopting digital systems and platforms that enable flexible content generation 3) A digital infrastructure that meets business needs.  No explicit policy on digital citizenship  … more goals and acceptable use policies. It is my understanding that there is a strong difference between “Digital Citizenship” and “acceptable use”. Digital Citizenship certainly involves ‘acceptable use but delves into deeper issues, including those of a global relevance.


Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends 55(4) 37-47.

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. (2012). Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a time. New York: Allyn and Bacon. Chapter 5: Citizenship.

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1.0 Introduction to Digital Citizenship

Here I sit, surrounded by technology that I now take for granted whilst pondering issues of Digital Citizenship with a focus on the school environment.

My desk

Digital Tools

Digital Learning Environments – what are they?

My developing definition of a “Digital Learning Environment” (DLE) is any place in which  learning is facilitated by current and emerging digital tools. It is an environment into which information flows easily and we have “anywhere, anytime” access to information (As described by the Digital learning statement produced  by the Victorian DEECD).

However, as participants in #ETL523 we are discussing and reflecting on the idea that a DLE is not just a place cluttered with digital tools, think mobile phones, iPad and laptops. It is more than just a ‘place’. When thinking about or defining DLEs this course of study is encouraging its participants to think on the supporting skillsstandards, attitudes and habits that are required when accessing digital content.

Digital Learning Environments (DLE) are participatory and collaborative by nature as they allow learners to drive their own learning via the  manipulation of technologies.

What are some of the changes created by our digital lifestyle that I need to be aware of as an educator?

Good question … let me dot point:

  • People across a multitude of cultures are more connected to their social networks.
  • Huge flows of information into our lives: “anywhere, anytime”
  • Growing communication across digital networks, on a global scale
  • We are more likely  able to be able to manipulate tools of social media.
  • Employers demand anywhere/any time access to workers 🙁
  • A call for a participatory experience wherever we go, classrooms, TV, Museums etc.

What has been the impact of social networking on teaching and learning?

  • Strong development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs).
  • Teacher driven PD in the teaching sector, supported by social strong networking. This is perhaps accompanied by a decline in subject orientated professional association. Think about the increase of the ‘un-conference’ format.
  • A growing need to develop in our students an awareness of Digital Citizenship.
  • A need to adjust our approach to teaching and learning which includes a strong need to adjust curriculum … not just pedagogy. In fact, I think a lot of teachers are ready to adjust their teaching to take account for the digital shift, however, they feel encumbered by formal curriculum.
  • Students have the ability to plug into their own social networks to facilitate their own learning … even though they might not be aware of this …. more on this at a later date.


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