The past two days, Carl Hooker (@mrhooker) shared a series of outstanding presentations on digital citizenship with students, parents, faculty and staff at my school (Casady School) in Oklahoma City. I have known Carl for many years, and had a chance to participate in his amazing iPadPalooza conference in Austin in 2014. I attended his Miami Device 2015 session “Raised by Siri: A course in Digital Parenting” this past November. When our school formed a “Digital Citizenship Team” in fall 2015 and started discussing options for bringing a guest speaker to campus, Carl was the first person I thought of. His balanced approach to digital citizenship focuses on not just Internet safety but also the responsibilities and opportunities we have as 21st century learners. Too often when school leaders present lessons on these topics to students and parents, the “dark side” of poor digital choices takes center stage. Using our digital tools well goes beyond avoiding cyberbullying, sexting, and other poor choices, however. Conversations about digital citizenship also should include the positive potential impact of a “digital footprint” as well as issues like screentime, hours of sleep, face-to-face interactions with others, and more. In this post, I’ll share a few of my key takeaways and learning points from this fantastic presentation series by Carl. I’ll also embed a Storify timeline of tweets I shared and others posted from Carl’s digital citizenship presentations this week. If your school or district is looking for a world-class guest speaker or conference keynote presenter on digital citizenship, I recommend you put Carl Hooker at the top of your list.

In his two presentations for parents, Carl encouraged families to collaboratively write a “Family Essential Agreement for Tech Usage.” Our family includes five avid technology users, and our consumption as well as production of digital media is likely an outlier for our neighborhood. (Check out our 6th grade daughter’s amazing Minecraft-focused YouTube channel, my wife’s classroom YouTube channel, and my own YouTube channel for evidence of this!) While we talk about screentime and our need to lead active lifestyles that are not dominated by screens, I know we need to work more in this area… and I definitely include myself in this diagnosis! I’m going to propose we create one of these agreements as a family in upcoming weeks. Common Sense Media’s (@CommonSense“Family Media Agreements” provide some good ideas for elements to include.

I am more interested in finding tools that show the Internet browsing history of our kids than resources which cut off Internet access at home during certain times or block apps. Those other functions are important to some parents, however, so I was interested to learn about KoalaSafe and the forthcoming Plug-n-Play Hub. For home devices which are connecting to the Internet via wifi, these devices provide parental control features including filtering, app blocking, and Internet access time restrictions.

In reading more about Plug-n-Play Hub, I learned its parent company is Securely://. It’s a cloud-based Internet filtering and access control platform used by schools as well as parents. We’ve used OpenDNS filtering at our house for at least the past five years, and some of the features are similar. A big challenge, however, if parents are looking for a comprehensive solution, is that kids don’t just access Internet content and use apps on home wifi. For kids with smartphones and data plans, like ours, a sizeable amount of their Internet use takes place on cellular network connections off of wifi.

Teensafe.com is a commercial service which costs $15 per month, and provides parents with access to information on children’s cell phones like text messages and phone calls. We’ve done some “checking in” with our own kids’ digital devices in the past, but probably haven’t done this as frequently or consistently as we should. I’m tempted to try Teensafe.com to see if the access it provides to information like SMS messages is helpful since it would make “checking up” so much easier, but I’m hesitant because I think of the impact this could have on our kids self-perceptions of responsibility and trust. These thoughts and feelings closely mirror many of the conversations Carl encouraged with parents at our school the past two days, however, and I know that our kids need to understand that privacy for them doesn’t extend onto their phone. Now that our son is 18 years old, that may be different for him, but certainly not for our daughters. This is something I’m going to discuss more with my wife as well as kids, and we may opt to try in the weeks ahead. At the very least, it would be helpful to try the service so I can more intelligently speak and share about it with parents at our school who are considering it or similar paid services.

One of the best iPhone tips Carl shared with parents involved using the built-in metrics under SETTINGS – BATTERY to view hours of screentime per app. These are metrics which can’t be erased or removed by users, so it’s potentially an insightful way to learn which apps family members are using the most and how much they are using them. I loved how Carl encouraged parents to help students work towards self-regulation of things like screentime, especially as kids get older and mature. This was an iOS feature I didn’t know about and am going to use to have conversations with our kids in the days ahead.

During the Wednesday evening presentation, in response to a PollEverywhere.com survey Carl gave to the audience about “words which describe technology today,” one parent shared the word “agathokakological.” According to Webster, it means “composed of both good and evil.” This was a new vocabulary word for me and definitely a great one to use for technology today!

One of the technology integration tips Carl shared with me during our conversations the past two days involved the iPad app Nearpod (@nearpod) and their integration of 360 panoramas which students can explore without extra equipment like Google Cardboard. The Nearpod Virtual Reality lessons can be used with Google Cardboard, but apparently don’t require it. Some are available free and others must be purchased. I’ve helped our service learning students experience VR digital stories via the “Clouds Over Sidra” video project, and am eager to give Nearpod’s VR offerings a try.

One of the coolest things Carl used in his presentations with both students and parents was a Catch Box microphone. It connects to a standard auditorium XLR microphone input, but is wireless and can be thrown to audience members so their ideas can be shared and heard by everyone in the room.

This is a short vine video of the Catch Box in action today during Carl’s last student presentation.

Before dropping Carl off at the Oklahoma City airport this afternoon, we dropped by my wife’s classroom just in time for their “passion projects” time. I helped one of Shelly’s students export a song he’d made on his iPad in GarageBand to his camera roll as a video, using Voice Record Pro, and Carl helped a student create a Star Wars themed game using Scratch Jr. He also shared some stories from his recent trip to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, which the students LOVED since they are quite obsessed with Star Wars this year. This visit was a real treat.

I loved Carl’s closing focus for his student digital citizenship presentations on the message, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If we have Internet-connected smartphones we’re all potential publishers now, and the potential of our words to impact others has never been greater. Carl did a great job informing, inspiring, and challenging the students, parents, and faculty/staff at our school this week. As our digital citizenship team hoped, his presentation series was a powerful catalyst for important conversations about a wide variety of issues in our community relating to digital devices and Internet access.

There’s a lot more I learned and could reflect on from Carl’s presentations, but I think I’ll close here and share the Storify archive of Tweets. Many thanks to Carl for two fantastic days of learning together about digital citizenship!


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