Snapchat in the Spotlight

Part of my major project is a personal exploration of the app Snapchat. You can read more about my major project here and here. My classmate Sapna posted about this resource called The Complete Guide to Snapchat for Teachers and Parents. This article talks about three foundational beliefs about Snapchat:

On one side of the coin, these foundational beliefs remind me of this article (Snapchat Wins Because You Have No Attention Span) and also a video our professor Alec posted via Twitter last week called It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting. In this video, the vlogger, Tristan Harris talks about reversing the digital attention crisis and asking ourselves what is really worth our attention. It is clear that Snapchat has young people’s attention. However, is that attention being held in a meaningful way? I think that is certainly up for debate.

On the other side of the coin, these foundational beliefs are the reasons young people love Snapchat. created a Parent’s Guide to Snapchat that states, young people love Snapchat because “They love the spontaneity of it. It’s been (rightfully) drummed into their heads for years that photos and videos you share are on the Web forever and are really hard to take back, so Snapchat’s a relief in a lot of ways. It’s playful and “in the moment” – a nice change from the self-presentation and reputation issues in social media services that display photos and videos indefinitely”.

Snapchat seems to have a knack for getting to the heart of what young people are looking for. In fact, there has been many recent news articles about the decline of older social media platforms such as this one: Facebook lost around 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year. 2018 won’t be much better.

One reason, this article suggests, for the decline in Facebook users is that “Facebook…serves as a digital record keeper — but many young people don’t seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly”.

[I wonder how this phenomenon fits into our teaching about digital citizenship? Is it safer for teens to use an app of ephemeral nature while they are young to avoid the permanency of other social media platforms?]

However, despite the seeming popularity of the app, many users are outraged at the latest updates. Users spoke out in anger in a variety of ways (videos, blog posts, Tweets, etc.) calling for the app to reverse its most recent changes. Essentially, the app is now divided, with “Friends” on one side of the app and celebrities and news on the other side of the app. Snapchat queen, Kylie Jenner spoke out about the changes as well: Kylie Jenner kills Snapchat with one TweetCaptureSome users were upset that the old version of the app made it seem like celebrities were “friends” while the new version disconnected this friendly assumption. It is not new news that users are not happy with the new version of the app. Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel responded by saying “Snapchat’s redesign was meant for your friends, and celebrities aren’t your friends“. This Recode article highlights “Snapchat is making a big bet that uses want to hear more from their friends than from celebrities…or brands. Or at the very least, they want to separate most of those interactions into two different parts of the app. It’s not a crazy idea. Facebook just changed its News Feed algorithm to achieve the same goal. And Instagram realized a few years back that it needed to try and find ways to help users see more from friends and less from brands…But there must be a reason these tech companies keep coming back to prioritizing friend-to-friend interactions…It’s worth remembering that while Jenner’s frustration clearly surprised a lot of investors, it probably didn’t surprise Evan Spiegel”. This takes me back to the foundational beliefs of Snapchat mentioned at the beginning of the post. Snapchat’s main goal is to connect (IRL, not celebrity) friends in a fun and ephemeral way. Despite what Kylie Jenner says, I don’t think Snapchat will change their app development plan and it turns out, they likely don’t have to. It was all part of their plan in the first place!

In all of this Snapchat news, I think they are some key messages to think about as they relate to our ECI832 course:

  1. First, that there is an interesting element of Digital Commerce at play in that major social media figures, such as Kylie Jenner, can have a significant impact on the stock market. Many people jumped to sell their Snapchat stocks following her tweet about her recent distaste for the app. While her role may often be seen as superficial, her tweet was certainly a big deal for many investors and Snapchat users alike.
  2. Second, that there is an element of Digital Health Wellness that must be called into question as apps redesign their platforms. My mind is jumping back to the mindless scrolling and addictiveness of apps. What ethical role do app designers have in thinking about the digital health and wellness of it’s users? Do app designers have a responsibility to care or is it all about profit? This would be an interesting topic to explore in the future.
  3. Finally, that at the heart of Snapchat’s foundational beliefs is the idea of connecting people, making human contact (“We believe in sharing authentic moments with friends”), fun and creativity as it relates to one’s digital footprint (“Sharing those moments should be fun”) and allowing young people the opportunity for digital forgiveness and also privacy (“There is value in the ephemeral”).


Going Places Safely

As my students become more familiar with our app exploration (Seesaw), I decided that implementing a digital citizenship curriculum into our daily practice was critical. We started today with a lesson from Common Sense Media called “Going Places Safely“. We started by talking about going places, like our recent school field trip or a trip to the exhibition and discussed what the rules are when we visit somewhere new. The kids came up with a great list of rules including:

  • Stay with your group and adult
  • Be respectful of the new place
  • Don’t talk to strangers
  • Don’t wander off to places you don’t know
  • Don’t touch anything if you are not sure what it is

We then talked about what the Internet was and what online meant. The kids decided that the Internet was a “place” you go to communicate, create, learn or play.

We said, so if the Internet is a place that you go, do the same rules apply as when you go somewhere in real life? Many of them responded that they thought some of the same rules would apply, but not all. But as we went back through their initial list and discussed it further, they realize that all of the rules for visiting a place in real life applies to visiting a place (website) online. One student mentioned respect was important online and gave the example of not writing hurtful or mean comments on someone’s post (yay!).

We watched the video attached to this lesson called “My Online Neighbourhood” in which the character, Jeremiah, explains some of the activities that he likes to do online while following three important safety rules: always ask permission before going on a website, only talk to people you know and stick to places that are just right for you. We decided that these rules aligned nicely with the ones we came up with as a class at the start of the lesson.


Next, we went on an “Internet field trip” to the San Diego Zoo Kids website and did some role playing about how we ask permission, and think about what clues were on the website to know that the site was just right for us. There was a video that the students wanted to watch so they practiced asking an adult (me) by saying: “There is a video I want to watch but I am not sure if it is good for me. Can you check it out?” We also noticed that there was the word “kids” in the URL and in several places throughout the site that gave us a clue that it might be a good fit.

We ended with an assessment of the students comparing the ways in which an online trip and real life trip might be the same or different, writing about the Internet safety rules we learned about and sharing some of their favourite websites and drawing the clues they see to know if that website is a good fit for them. Their homework for tonight was to share their Internet safety rules with their parents.

I really enjoyed teaching this lesson. My students were engaged and enjoyed getting to discuss a new topic. As we dig further into the digital citizenship content in class, I am increasingly more cognizant about when and how this content should be taught in the classroom. While Seesaw is not a public digital journal, I think it is important that students are aware of the digital tattoo they are creating, even in the context of our classroom. Seesaw provides opportunities for students to interact with one another and link to other apps and websites so it is important that students understand the outcomes of this lesson moving forward.

Our next topic is privacy…stay tuned!


Start by Having an Honest Conversation with Yourself

A Side Note to Start

For some descriptions of digital identity followed by a social activism perspective on digital identity, check out my video “How do we approach the concept of identity in a digital and networked world?

Jumping In

Common Sense Media’s article “How to Have Honest Conversations About Social Media with Students” suggests that you need to start by having an honest conversation with yourself. So here it goes…

I would consider myself to be a Millennial. I remember a time when we didn’t have a computer in our house. I remember the first computer we got. I remember sitting through the incessant buzzing tune of a dial-up connection. I remember my dad building an office with a counter big enough to hold two desktop computers. Trust me, it was a big counter because of all the “stuff’ or hardware that came along with owning two desktop computers. Having two computers in one room meant having a friend over to chat on MSN at the same time, in the same room. My friends and I nostalgically reminisce about those times. I remember visiting the computer lab in my school to practice typing and other very basic software tools.

I remember opening my Christmas present in grade 9 (a Motorola flip phone). However, this was the second gift I had opened. My parents tried to fool me by wrapping up their

1980s brick-style cellphone. A joke I did not find very funny since I’d been asking for a cellphone for a long time. It was so awesome to text in T9 and take extremely grainy photos with a phone. Eventually I graduated to a Blackberry Pearl with a roller ball that need constant replacement which was fine because I could easily order several of these cheaply on eBay. Later in high school I receive the earliest versions of the iPhone.

I remember getting my own laptop for my grade twelve graduation, my very first iPad and as I write this blog post at my kitchen table, I am surrounded by two iPads, two laptops and my cellphone of which three of these screens are allowing me to do my university homework in an efficient and connected way.

The level of technology and personal devices has advanced so rapidly in the last twenty years. My parents, also new to this technology were excited to try out each new device. They had no idea about digital citizenship or digital responsibility because it was not something they had grown up with and therefore, had nothing to reference as this technology became integrated into my life.

I decided to start the exploration of my own digital identity by looking back to when I signed up for Facebook in 2007. This was the first step in having an honest conversation with myself about social media: As a teenager and young adult, I was not an informed digital citizen. Because Messenger wasn’t introduced then, most of the messages to and from friends were posted on their wall. My experience was similar to the flashback experienced by TED speaker referenced in my classmate Megan’s vlog. As the years have passed, I have tried deleting many of those posts and also prompt my friends to do the same. Reading through those posts, it is clear as high school students, no one was talking to my friends and I about the “grandma rule” or our digital identity because it was so new to the world. We were the guinea pigs,  with our uninformed teenage brains, trying to navigate our way through this new, interesting communication platform. It was a tool our parents didn’t know about and because of that, my friends and I weren’t really thinking about what we posted and who was reading it. Nor did we have a sense of the permanency of it. Now, I am constantly deleting old posts that pop up on my Facebook memories and thinking to myself : Why did I post that? Not because these posts were inappropriate, but more so because they were not helpful, inspiring or necessary. In other words, these posts back and forth between my friends and I were kind of silly, not necessary to be posted online and rather could have been saved for in-person communication as high schoolers.

As I reflect on my own digital identity, I realize that my education about digital citizenship and identity has been relatively non-existent until the past few years. I was unaware of how apps I was using archived data and did not think of the longevity of my digital interactions as a teenager. These are two key elements of digital citizenship as explained by my classmates Kelsie and Krista in their video on the importance of digital citizenship.

In recent years, I have been much more cautious and conscious about what I post online. Reminding myself of this important poster:

Another important reminder is that the answer to social media concerns is not to not post. Rather to fill the internet with positive images of yourself as Dr. Couros discusses in his blog post.

Returning to the Common Sense Media article I referenced earlier, I encourage you to look at the reflection questions they have posed as you consider your own social media experiences:


The idea here is that before we can talk to students about responsible social media use and the curation of one’s digital identity, we need to have the same conversation with ourselves.

If you are a Millennial like me, how might you have answered this question as a teenager compared to how you answer now, as an adult?

Back to the Basics with Snapchat

I have been using Snapchat for sometime as a personal social media tool. Prior to taking this class, I often signed up for the latest social media platform without giving it a second thought, which is what I also did with Snapchat (I know, not an informed digital citizen move — but after this class, I now know better!). But for my final project, I wanted to investigate this tool on a deeper level. So I decided to first head back to the basics:

As this Common Sense Media video describes, Snapchat is an app that allows people to share “disappearing” texts, photos or videos to others. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on the privacy policy and terms of use to hear more about the “disappearing” element of Snapchat. But, as I mentioned, this post is all about the basics…

For a brief history of Snapchat, visit this article which also includes a glossary of the snapchat elements. [If you are an elementary teacher like me, I like to think of ways to use popular media to teach reading strategies. With this article, you can talk about non-fiction text features (such as glossaries) and how they are used in text. Sorry for going teacher-nerd on you for a second!]

Snapchat was started by two Ivy league dropouts (there is an interesting phenomenon going on here!) named Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy in 2011. While at times the app has been synonymous with provocative online behaviour, the app now hosts a wide variety of users who use it for a wide variety of purposes. While sharing photos and videos, the app allows users to get creative with filters, stickers, sound, time limits, colour, text, drawing and much more to make their production more interesting.

The second article I read this week called A Guide to Snapchat for People Who Don’t Get Snapchat is another useful place for users to begin. While this article is much more in-depth, it is also much less formal but worth checking out if you are very new to the app. This article doesn’t include information about the latest update of the app but is still useful for beginners.

Source – Snapchat’s tagline reads “the fastest way to share a moment”


My curiosities around this app stem from the fact that I while I have had the app downloaded on my phone for a long time, I mostly used it from a spectator perspective. This term I decided I wanted to explore the app from a user/creator perspective. I wanted to be able to explore why so many people are using the app and how it benefits them personally. I am also curious if Snapchat has a place in the classroom or not.

Currently, I only have my close family and friends as “friends” on the app. I don’t want to make this a public account because I find I am sharing more personal snaps (time with family and friends, pictures/videos of my dog, of course). One thing I have found interesting as I participate more in the creation of snaps is that in face-to-face conversations with family and friends, they often bring up what they have seen in my SnapStory. One example of this is that I signed my mom up for the app so she could follow what my husband and I did on our recent trip to Phoenix and Las Vegas. I also talked with her on the phone throughout the trip but having the instant access to photos and videos allowed for her to see and not just hear what we were doing.

I also enjoy the chat element of Snapchat which allows users to direct their messages, photos or videos at a certain person or group of people (much like a group chat — but with many more goodies such as stickers, filters and captions!). This is particularly useful, in a personal sense, to show one person or small group of people what you are doing. This is a busy part of the year for my husband at work and he enjoys receiving snaps of what is going on at home while he is away.

I am certainly enjoying the personal elements of the app Snapchat so far this term. I am curious how other classmates are finding this app (for those who are exploring it) and I enjoyed reading my classmate Sapna’s blog post about her journey so far. I am curious about the thoughts of my classmates on how they have or will use Snapchat in their classrooms and am particularly interested in the views of primary teachers.

That’s all for now! If you have been following tech news lately you will have noticed that Kylie Jenner has majorly influenced the Snapchat media scene. Stay tuned until next time!


Ribble & SeeSaw – The Valentine’s Edition

Implementing SeeSaw — one of the apps I am exploring for my major project — in my classroom has allowed both myself and my students to examine and understand many of Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship. Now for a cheesy Valentine’s pun: they seem to go hand in hand.

After spending some time viewing my classmates content catalyst screencasts and reading some of the course material I started to think about how my major project relates to the elements of digital citizenship. In class last week we discussed Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship that are briefly outlined here and described in more detail in this excerpt from his book “Digital Citizenship in Schools” (2007). Ribble separates these nine elements into three categories of respect, educate and protect (aka REP). In this article, Ribble explains that “respect, educate and protect are key principles in both the digital and real world. Recognizing similarities and differences helps us better understand the world on both sides of the device”. As the binary of online and offline self become increasingly fluid, Ribble’s elements of digital citizenship are becoming part of citizenship education (do we really need to call it “digital” citizenship?).

After all, citizenship is described in the Oxford dictionary as “the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community”. As members of the digital community, members are expected to be aware of and act on Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship. After reading Alec and Katia’s post on (Digital) Identity in a World That Never Forgets, it is increasingly clear of the importance of digital citizenship education.

In fact, Edmonton Public Schools has a rubric to assist students on their digital citizenship journey. You can also find a digital citizenship continuum throughout K-12 in the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools document as well as a significant amount of information and tools about Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship. 

I recently posted an update of my major project here. You can check it out to see how things are coming along so far! To recap, my project is a personal journey into media, described here. In particular, I think my major project focuses specifically on three of Ribble’s elements: digital communication, digital literacy and digital etiquette.

At the start up of this year I signed up for Remind as a tool to communicate with parents. While this is a useful tool, I really haven’t used it to it’s full potential and I wanted to try SeeSaw after hearing about it from other teachers in our school division. I foresee myself replacing Remind with SeeSaw in the coming fall. Many of my parents are used to Remind and it might be a little tricky convincing them to switch over to a new app. But we will see what happens!

Having only used SeeSaw for a few weeks, I am already feeling like a like it more as a tool for communication for the student-parent-school connection as students create online digital portfolios to showcase what they are learning at school.

(One hurdle still to jump over is making sure media release forms are signed! After all, digital safety & security is VERY important!)

Further, using SeeSaw I am seeing students understanding of digital literacy expand as they use the various tools available on the app (drawing, typing, audio, video, photos, etc.) to demonstrate their learning. As students develop their digital portfolio, I am eager to open this up to parents in the coming weeks and examine how the connection (digital communication) becomes even stronger with parents having the ability to see, respond and comment on their child’s work at school. Digital access will certainly be something I watch out for as not all students/parents have access to devices at home so I am interested to see how the app will be interacted with outside the classroom. I will keep you updated!

As for digital etiquette, students are having to use the devices in our room in a equitable way and are seeing them more as a tool for demonstrating learning rather than a tool to simply practice (as they typically use it to practice reading on RAZ Kids or math practice on Mathletics). With this new use of our classroom devices, I have been using digital citizenship lessons from Common Sense Media and Google’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum to teach about digital citizenship. These resources allow us to explore almost all of Ribble’s elements as they relate to our use of SeeSaw and personal device use outside of the classroom. The students are learning about empathy (Digital Health & Wellness could be included here!) and digital etiquette as they learn how to comment, view and interact with the work of their fellow digital classmates. We have this poster hanging in our classroom with sentence starters on how to make positive and engaging comments:

The journey continues for my crew of learners and our interaction with SeeSaw. That is all for now, but please stay tuned as we continue to dig deeper into our digital citizenship education.

While I only mentioned three major elements of Ribble’s digital citizenship model in relation to my major project, I made reference to many others. There is some serious (and I’m sure, intentional) overlap in what Ribble is proposing. It is easy for me to see how my work with SeeSaw can fit into nearly all of Ribble’s 9 elements. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it fitting to title the post in the way I did. They fit together perfectly!


SeeSaw Set Up – Final Project Update 1

I have been busy over the last few weeks getting SeeSaw set up in my classroom. What I have enjoyed about the process so far is the training that SeeSaw provided for new users. It had information for teachers to read and some short videos to watch. It provided just enough information without being overwhelming at first. It was very user-friendly as well.


The other excellent part of my SeeSaw experience so far is the network that SeeSaw has created. SeeSaw is available on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where they post recommendations for activities to use in the classroom and other useful information. The best part is that they retweet teachers from across the nation who are using SeeSaw in their classrooms. Simply from connecting to their social media network, I already have so many ideas to create with SeeSaw in my classroom. More specifically, SeeSaw has Facebook groups organized by grade so I am only seeing content that is relevant to my classroom.

We tried SeeSaw out for the first time today. The website provides a grade specific presentation to introduce the app to the students and a series of tasks for the students to try out the features before diving into an assignment. The students were very engaged and interested in using the app, taking photos and recording their voice.

One of the skills we practiced today. SeeSaw has detailed lessons to get your kiddos started on the app!

There is etiquette that students must follow in terms of how to record their voice effectively and how to take pictures properly. This is what we will be working on next!

I have really enjoyed my experience with SeeSaw so far. One barrier I see is that we only have 5 devices with the app in my classroom. It would be ideal for all students to have access but right now all activities must be partner or group work. Suggestions on how to work with a limited number of devices is welcomed!

The Future is Here – Are We Ready for It?

This week Alec posed the question, “what sort of world are we preparing students for?”  This question really digs deep into the purpose of education. What are we doing as teachers in the classroom? Are we preparing students for a career several years down the road? Are we teaching them to explore their current world through inquiry? Are we focused on raising adults or focused on kids current interests? For me, the answer is a combination of all of these things.

When we think about the world we are preparing students for it is a world we largely have no idea about. Especially as a teacher of young elementary students, their future is quite distant. Technology and the world around us is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to predict what their future will look like. To help me think about this in a more in-depth way, I read the articles 9 Things That Will Shape the Future of Education and 2020 Future Work Skills. This latter document lists projected skills people will need to be successful in the future. These skills include: sense making, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, new-media literacy, transdiciplinarity, design mindset, cognitive load management, and virtual collaboration.

Sense making is the ability to find deeper meaning in a variety of texts/medias. In my classroom we talk about surface ideas and deep ideas using imagery of the iceberg at the top of the water versus what is below. Students need to be able first to make those literal, surface connections of what they are learning about but also be able to dig deeper. Part of the digging deeper is in making connections (to self, other texts/medias and the world) and the ability to make connections comes from students experiences and exposure to the world. Being a so called “digital native” doesn’t automatically give children the experiences they need, adults must help curate the vast range of experiences children require to be skillful sense-makers.

Social Intelligence is the ability to connect deeply with others and be able to sense and stimulate reactions. When I think about the students who are in front of gaming systems all weekend long, I strongly feel that they lack this skill when they come to school. Some argue that this is where students are making the friends that they don’t find at school, but there is still significant value in face-to-face interaction, in conversational skills, and understanding how others react to your communications and actions.

Novel and adaptive thinking, design mindset, new media literacy, cognitive load management and computational thinking are inextricably linked. Students need to be able to consume and analyze a large amount of information and data to determine what is and is not useful to them. With the information they are given they need to be able to Create. This is where multiple literacies, opportunity for play and makerspace are so important.

Cross-cultural competency and virtual collaboration are important as we think about what education “looks” like in the future. Classrooms without walls and borders come to my mind. We are no longer confined to the walls around us. Our EC&I832 course is a perfect example of how these skills can be lived out in an education setting. The idea of “global” has many implications in regard to these two skills.

I have briefly touched on each of these skills for future. What I find however is that none of these skills is far-fetched or something that we are incapable of teaching. I like how my classmate Dani, said it. As a teacher, “it my duty as a teacher to be doing more to ensure my kiddos leave me as critical thinkers, multi-taskers, digitally literate, cultural responsive citizens”. In fact, many of these skills are being taught by parents and teachers that I personally know. Is there work to be done? Yes, certainly. My classmate Nicole suggests that this is the case in her blog as well. However, we are already on our way. Teachers too, need to possess these important skills if they are to teach about them. The students in my classroom will need these skills in the future which means that we need to be teaching them now. Are we ready for it?

To conclude, I will comment on what I think is a major weakness in the 2020 Future Work Skills document. This document is bright, colourful, and full of excellent suggestions for what the future will look like. However, it also has an air of exclusivity. I attended a private high school for grade 9-12 and I can certainly imagine how my high school classmates would achieve these skills and many are living out these skills in their current work places. However, I have also spent some time teaching students whose socio-economic status and opportunity is not equal to my high school classmates. The skills suggested in this document are certainly attainable if students have access to the tools they need to achieve them.This issue can be referred to as the participation gap.  To fill in the important information missing from the 2020 Future Work Skills document, the 2017 K12 Horizon Report and Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century do an excellent job of highlighting inequalities as we think about our students of the future. Three key problems are highlighted below from the Confronting Challenges to Participatory Culture document:

“The Participation Gap — the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.
The Transparency Problem — The challenges young people face in learning to see
clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.
The Ethics Challenge — The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants”.

The future can be bright and colourful, like the document suggestions but it is important we address these structural and ethical concerns in a timely manner if all students are to have equal opportunity to gain these important skills.