Private Profile Pictures: Teaching Elementary Students AboutTheir Digital Footprint

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My “safe” profile picture



uniqueThis year I embraced the use of Google Apps for Education in my teaching.  However, I wanted to teach my students about privacy and digital citizenship as well.  While Google Apps for Education creates a sort of “walled garden” for my students, I also wanted to make sure that parents were comfortable with what we were doing in class.
The main problem is that there are a plethora of amazing tools at my fingertips as an educator, but teachers and parents still have a lot of fear around using technology with young children.  As a mother and a teacher, I understand the fear, but the reality is that things have changed since the days when the internet first came along and we had to be super careful.

These days, everyone is putting everything out there.  Literally.  So I see a real shift in how we present technology to our children and our students.  The fact is that these kids will use social media.  Period.  Whether they do it now or down the road is irrelevant.  Our job now becomes teaching these kids how to use social media in a responsible way.  We need to show kids how to present a positive digital footprint.

Teens these days are posting inappropriate photos and comments all over facebook, twitter, and other social media sites.  I think the main reason for this was the explosion of social media and adults’ fears and reservations.  When social media first came about, the majority of educators did not embrace their use in teaching.  As a result, the first generation of social media kids had no training and therefore have no knowledge of applying a filter to what they do online. They are not aware that what they post at 16 will follow them for the rest of their lives and affect their job prospects in a few short years.

That’s why I started the year by explaining to my students in no uncertain terms that from now on, whatever they post online will be online forever.  They can never take back the inappropriate comment they post, or the photo of themselves that they send out to someone online.  We talked about how to stay private, and the students came up with all the answers I was looking for.  Try it with your own students.  You will be surprised how much they know.

As for pictures, we started the year by creating “safe” profile pictures for my students to use online.  I introduced the idea after we discussed internet safety, and gave my students the tools to access various web tools to create photos.  You can find these resources listed below.  I also went to each site ahead of time and created my own profile picture to show the students how creative they could be.  You can see my examples above.

So, you are probably wondering… how did it go?  My students were so engaged with this activity, and used their profile pictures all year long.  Better still, they applied what they learned to our subsequent activities with Bitstrips, Comic Life, and Kid Blog.  Success?  I think so.  And maybe, just maybe, when my students are 16, they will think twice when they post something online, and consider how it will impact their digital footprint.

For more information about Internet Safety, check out this great Common Sense article.  It’s a great resource to share with parents.

Tools for Creating a Safe Profile Picture with your Students:

  • Clay Yourself – Create a clay version of yourself.  From
  • DoppelMe – Create a dynamic avatar.
  • Lego MinMizer – Create a Lego figure of yourself.
  • Marvel Super Hero Creator – Create a super version of yourself
  • Unique – by Rasterboy
  • There was also a great Toy Story 3 Toy Creator, found here, but it doesn’t seem to be working anymore.  Hopefully it will be back some day, because it was FANTASTIC.

My First EdCamp

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I want to start this post by saying that I am feeling overwhelmed right now with all of my new learning and the way I have started using technology in my PLN.  I have a bunch of blog posts in my head and am trying to filter them so that they are relevant and useful to people who may be reading, rather than just spewing thoughts from my head as they appear there.

On Saturday I attended EdCamp Hamilton with my colleagues from the AQ course I am currently taking with Brenda Sherry (Integrating Information and Computer Technology in Instruction, Part 1).  I had never been to an event like this before, and I honestly have mixed feelings about it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the EdCamp model, it is what is referred to as an “unconference.”  Basically, you show up to the event with some ideas of what you would like to discuss with like-minded attendees.  Everyone meets at the beginning of the event to pose their questions, and then the questions are posted on a schedule.  You choose the discussions you want to join, and everyone contributes.  There is no leader.

There are, however, organizers who set up the event and run things on the day.  For EdCamp Hamilton, we had a great team of organizers, who did an absolutely amazing job.  The event ran smoothly, and there was a great turnout.  Lunch was delicious, the space was great, the scheduling was done quickly and efficiently, and the organizers were extremely helpful.

I first want to say that since joining Twitter I have met so many educators online, and the best part of EdCamp for me was seeing a bunch of them face to face.  However, I was a little outside my comfort zone, and therefore didn’t talk to many people or introduce myself to them.  In retrospect, I think this is the problem I had with the EdCamp model.

I took part in some great discussions with some amazing educators, doing amazing things in their classrooms.  But I don’t think I enjoyed the event as much as I could have, simply because I was more reserved and introverted than a lot of the people in attendance.  I also missed having someone to lead the discussions and present a visual to accompany my learning.

In short, I’m not sure what this model can really offer that I can’t do on Twitter or by reading blogs.  Yes, it’s nice to chat with people about what they are doing in a face to face atmosphere, but how is it really that different from a Twitter chat?  I think I prefer the traditional conference model, although I do recognize that my reserved attitude on Saturday may be to blame.  Perhaps if I had put myself out there a little more and introduced myself to more people, I may feel differently right now.

Feeling Twitterpated

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This week marks another first for me: I participated in a Twitter chat.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

For those of you – like me – who are new to Twitter (or at least new to using it as a professional resource rather than a place to follow your favourite celebrities), this is what I have learned about Twitter chats:


  • Before the chat begins, the moderator assigns a hashtag, so everyone can follow along.  Hashtags are searchable.
  • When the chat begins, everyone participating uses the assigned hashtag to answer questions posted by the moderator, or to open a discussion with other participants.
  • Moderators label questions Q1, Q2, Q3, etc.
  • When answering a moderator’s questions, participants use A1, A2, A3, etc.
  • Chats are usually limited to an hour or so, and well defined in terms of an agenda.

The chat I participated in was #Cdnedchat.   It was massively successful, and even the moderators were surprised at the participation level.  The tweets were flying by so fast that I still haven’t had a chance to read them all, but I did connect with some new people, and added them to my PLN.  As a result, I have some new ideas to look in to, and will hopefully be posting some exciting uses for technology in the primary divisions very soon.

In the meantime, if you want to take a look at a nice version of the #cdnedchat, take a look at the Storify they made, or better yet, look them up on Twitter!  @Cdnedchat