Category Archives: Digital Citizenship

5 Alternatives to Padlet

For the last 24 hours the Twittersphere has been buzzing about the recent changes to Padlet. While none of the following tools have as many features as Padlet, they all provide the core element of a digital wall to which you apply digital sticky notes. Here are five alternatives to Padlet. These are in the order in which I prefer them right now.


Lino, sometime referred to as Lino.It, provides digital walls or corkboards to which you can add sticky notes that contain text, images, videos, or document attachments. Notes containing video links will play the video within your Lino wall. Images can be uploaded to your notes. And you can attach document files to your notes for other people to view. Like Padlet, Lino lets you change the background color scheme for your walls.

The best feature of Lino is the option to create private groups. You can invite people to join your group via email. Once they have joined you can create private Lino walls to which all members can make contributions.


Wakelet is the newest entry into this market. It offers a clean and easy-to-use user interface. On Wakelet you can create what they call collections. A collection is a set notes that you create. Your notes can include text, videos, links, and pictures. The options for adding pictures are limited to either linking to an online image or using Wakelet’s Unsplash integration. Like Lino, Wakelet requires you to email invitations to your potential collaborators.


Dotstorming was built for people to share ideas in the form of digital sticky notes and then vote for their favorite ideas. It works well for that purpose. Students do not need to have email addresses in order to vote on notes posted on Dotstorming. A free account allows you to have three topic boards at a time. The paid account ($5/month) gives you unlimited access. There is also a school-wide pricing plan. Watch my video embedded below to learn how to use Dotstorming.


Scrumblr is a site that provides an online space to create and share sticky notes with a group. Scrumblr can be used by anyone to quickly create an online space for sharing stickies. To get started just enter a name for your space. The name you choose will be a part of the URL for your sticky note space. To add notes just click the "+" symbol in the bottom left corner of the screen. Double click to edit your existing notes.


Pinside is a free online sticky note service. Pinside can be used to create boards of notes for yourself or boards to share with others. You can create a mix of private and shared notes within one account. Sticky notes on shared Pinside boards are designed for creating to-do lists. As each item on the the notes is completed you and or your collaborators can delete completed items.

This post originally appeared on Free Technology for Teachers
if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission

via Free Technology for Teachers

Today’s news: Real or fake? [Infographic]

Today Students have a blizzard of information at the ready: on devices in their pockets, at school, in their homes, by their bedsides on their wrists… It’s almost a constant information “on” world.

Information and content floods to their eyes and ears in never-ending streams, torrents, downloads, feeds, & casts. How do they determine what is real an what is not. What matters and what doesn’t? Here’s a cheat sheet to help out.

At a time when misinformation and fake news spread like wildfire online, the critical need for media literacy education has never been more pronounced. The evidence is in the data:

  • 80% of middle schoolers mistake sponsored content for real news.
  • 3 in 4 students can’t distinguish between real and fake news on Facebook.
  • Fewer than 1 in 3 students are skeptical of biased news sources.

Students who meet the ISTE Standards for Students are able to critically select, evaluate and synthesize digital resources. That means understanding the difference between real and fake news.

There are several factors students should consider when evaluating the validity of news and resources online. Use the infographic below to help your students understand how to tell them apart.

Click on the infographic to open a printable PDF.


Learn more about teaching K-12 students how to evaluate and interpret media messages in the book Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom by Frank Baker.


Supporting Students Efforts in Determining Real from Fake News

Our students use the web every day—shouldn’t we expect them to do better at interpreting what they read there? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Often, stereotypes about kids and technology can get in the way of what’s at stake in today’s complex media landscape. Sure, our students probably joined Snapchat faster than we could say “Face Swap,” but that doesn’t mean they’re any better at interpreting what they see in the news and online.

As teachers, we’ve probably seen students use questionable sources in our classrooms, and a recent study from the Stanford History Education Group confirms that students today are generally pretty bad at evaluating the news and other information they see online. Now more than ever, our students need our help. And a big part of this is learning how to fact-check what they see on the web.

In a lot of ways, the web is a fountain of misinformation. But it also can be our students’ best tool in the fight against falsehood. An important first step is giving students trusted resources they can use to verify or debunk the information they find. Even one fact-checking activity could be an important first step toward empowering students to start seeing the web from a fact-checker’s point of view.

Here’s a list of fact-checking resources you and your students can use in becoming better web detectives.

A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the nonpartisan, nonprofit says that it “aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” Its entries cover TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Science teachers take note: The site includes a feature called SciCheck, which focuses on false and misleading scientific claims used for political influence. Beyond individual entries, there also are articles and videos on popular and current topics in the news, among a bevy of other resources.


From the independent Tampa Bay Times, PolitiFact tracks who’s telling the truth—and who isn’t—in American politics. Updated daily, the site fact-checks statements made by elected officials, candidates, and pundits. Entries are rated on a scale that ranges from “True” to “Pants on Fire” and include links to relevant sources to support each rating. The site’s content is written for adult readers, and students may need teachers’ help with context and direction.


The popular online resource Snopes is a one-stop shop to fact-check internet rumors. Entries include everything from so-called urban legends to politics and news stories. Teachers should note that there’s a lot here on a variety of topics—and some material is potentially iffy for younger kids. It’s a great resource for older students—if you can keep them from getting distracted. is a nonpartisan organization that tracks the influence of money in U.S. politics. On the site, users can find informative tutorials on topics such as the basics of campaign finance—not to mention regularly updated data reports and analyses on where money has been spent in the American political system. While potentially useful for fact-finding, the site is clearly intended for more advanced adult readers and is best left for older students and sophisticated readers.

Internet Archive Wayback Machine

This one isn’t a site that performs fact-checking. Instead, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a tool you can use yourself to fact-check things you find online. Like an internet time machine, the site lets you see how a website looked, and what it said, at different points in the past. Want to see Google’s home page from 1998? Yep, it’s here. Want to see The New York Times’ home page on just about any day since 1996? You can. While they won’t find everything here, there’s still a lot for students to discover. Just beware: The site can be a bit of a rabbit hole—give students some structure before they dive in, because it’s easy to get lost or distracted.

Want to take your students’ knowledge of fact-checking a step further? Engage them in discussions around why these sites and organizations are seen as trusted (and why others might not be trusted as much). Together, look into how each site is funded, who manages it, and how it describes its own fact-checking process.

via Edutopia

Earth Day Picture Challenge

I have a new Twitter challenge going over the next SEVEN days. The 7 day Nature Photography Challenge is simple: The idea is to occupy Twitter with nature photographs every day for 7 days and to hashtag them with #WSD7dNC. That’s it really.

My plan is to Storify the lot when were done as sort of an EARTH day tribute. We see how that plays out.

Join me!

Exploring Digital Literacies – Doug Belshaw


REmix Meme
Remixing Life

The other day, I was reading a fascinating article in International Literacy Association’s, Literacy_Daily_ entitled “Knowing the Difference Between Digital Skills and Digital Literacies, and Teaching Both”. In my opinion, it’s worth the read on a number of fronts.

First off, it reminds of Doug Belshaw’s wonderfully clear work in the area of Digital Literacy and it’s eight essential elements. There is a thorough TEDTALK summarizing Doug’s work through MEME’s and Cats.

Besides the characteristics being bang on, I enjoy the fact that the central word in the theory is REMIX! It acknowledges the fact that what is digital is meant to be messed with and mixed and blended and, well… remixed. This is evident in the kinds of new offerings that are beginning to appear in the apps stores online!

One example:
One of my colleagues introduced us, through her daughter’s fascinating work, to a wonderfully engaging & creative app called … app icon

This app, to quote another of my colleagues, is “Brilliant”! It is described as the fastest growing social video community, and it allows one to create, share, and discover short videos. I have to say that I love this app both for the shear fun it provides, but also for the possible ways it may assist students in demonstrating their understanding through the process of remixing.

Here’s a substandard example that I threw together without taking a lot of planning time. However, I did think about the song’s theme and try establishing connections between this and my action and special effect choices. I did take two stabs at it. The first going for facial expressions and the second for position so that I could more easily incorporate special effects. I actually used three apps to accomplish my product…. SnapChat for the lightening/special effects, iMovie to stitch things together and to publish the lot. My efforts are below (try not to judge too harshly).

Without that much effort, I managed to create a decent piece that address 3 of 8 of Belshaw’s Digital Literacies. Not bad.

3 of 8 Digital Literacies Covered
3 of 8 Digital Literacies Covered

Imagine what more capable students could do with the challenges, contests, poetry readings, rap retellings and other samplings that are available through this app. Image how students and teachers could dream up ways to critically address cultural norms in a constructive manner using music, poetry, rap, popular music with a remixed video or a mash-up of many music snippets creating a new message.

The point is, Digital Literacies are facilitated by tools around use. When teachers show student a tool like and how to use it we are really looking at Digital Skills. Digital skills focus on what and how. Digital literacy, on the other hand, focuses on why, when, who, and for whom.

And this brings me to a second, and third reasons the article is worth reading…

I was reminded that the teaching of any literacy, digital or otherwise, should never happen in a vacuum. Authentic learning in authentic environments conducive to learners, such as maker spaces, tinkering areas, and the like are critical for the learner to succeed. Creating “real-world” experiences that connect learners meaningfully to tasks or problems is important. For example, rather than teaching Twitter and hashtags in isolation, have students participate in an assignment where Twitter may support their learning process, perhaps as a researching or reflection tool. This creates the need to learn Twitter and hashtags among other Twitter related items.

One downside to placing students in authentic digital learning environments is that there are potential risks involved: risks to privacy, security, personal safety, bullying and the like. Some believe we need to lock students out, block every questionable websites, keep cell phones out of schools and classrooms, deny access, limit access and the list goes on. But is this the way it should be? I wonder….

Should we be teaching responsible use? The profession often talks about turning responsibility for learning over to the students, scaffolding student learning, providing descriptive and supportive feedback that moves learning forward. But when it comes to technology, especially when it comes working online and using smartphones, we enter an almost “prohibition state” and forget some of our best practices. Perhaps what we should try to do is talk openly with students about risks and how to mitigate them. Perhaps we should normalize the existence of smartphone use in schools/classrooms and allow students and teachers to leverage them for learning both on the consumption and creation side of things. Perhaps by openly talking, sharing, negotiating and critically thinking about these issues we can come to an agreement that privacy, permissions, mutual consent, lower risk behaviour, mutual respect and support for each other are quite important characteristics for digital citizens in a digital age.

Analytics & Metrics Galore Oh My!!

One Million Tweet Map

Lately, I have seen analytics & metrics showing up all over the place & I am sure you have seen them as well: on Twitter streams, WordPress blog sidebars, Tumblr footers.

I like to espouse using the right tool for the right job. If the tool is not right for the activity at hand, find the one that is and use it. I simply don not understand the latest trend in analytic use in social media – or at least a part of its use. Let me explain…

I don’t actually have an issue with analytics or metrics as they can be instrumental in helping a user in supplying their viewers or clients with the content they require. But there is some work involved. There’s a lot of data that is collected that needs to be carefully considered & analysed. Unfortunately, this is where the users usually stop thinking and over rely on the powerful metric software tool they have selected.

The Net is filled with sites & services that promise to serve up numbers and copious amounts of all kinds of data: total tweets, total unique visits, country of origin and much more. Some of the ones I’ve seen in use are (not the best – Google being the exception):

By their nature these services are rather hands off, giving users auto-posting and autoupdating options that take one out of the ‘thinking’ & analyzing equation. Three of the services post maplets showing where in the world people are posting from and one other posts stats about new #s of new followers, mentions and the like to a public timeline. Interesting some say – but completely pointless from an analytics standpoint.

Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially >valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous >application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify >performance. Analytics often favours data visualization to communicate insight.
Firms may commonly apply analytics to data, to describe, predict, and improve >performance. Specifically, areas within analytics include predictive analytics,
decision management, web analytics, predictive science, etc…(

Analytics or metrics are data collected to help inform decisions about what’s happening with sites, etc. that are under a user’s control. The key phrase here is ‘inform a user’s decisions’. Looking at the numbers or a pretty map without any analysis of what that data means is fruitless!

It might be like having someone else put a letter grade on your student’s assignments, handing them back to you and then having you continue teaching them. You have no idea where students went wrong on their assignments because you haven’t done any analysis of either the results or the trends or the particulars of the assignments. The number on the assignment itself isn’t all that useful. It doesn’t inform your instruction in the least and therefore the grade or number itself has no benefit to you at all without the analysis piece!

However, analytics tools can be potentially useful, even one of the ones listed above:

Maplet Example
Maplet Example

For example, if you must post a maplet, and the map indicates a dearth of activity in say Australia, what might you learn from this? I might have tweeted something like this: “This is interesting. I have good coverage in North America. I wonder how I could make better connections in Australia? Thoughts?” Not maybe the best tweet, but at least an attempt to use the tool as a conversation starter to broadened my reach. Perhaps a better use would be to not post the maplet at all and do this thinking, make my decisions and plan of attack offline.

What’s the difference you may be asking? I have a few reasons why posting analytics without thought is a practice that you may want to reconsider:

  • This is the same with ANY kind of analytics or metric. Without looking at the data and actually spending sometime THINKING about what they mean, they aren’t really interesting to anyone, they’re pointless and can only really serve one simple purpose especially if they raw numbers are just posted to a twitter stream or blog post: that of being potentially boastful.
  • Social Media Etiquette suggests that you shouldn’t humblebrag. In addition to your bio basics and account stats, most people will read your last two tweets when they are checking out your Twitter profile. One of the things that come up in research was hatred of the “humblebrag,” and self-aggrandizement in general. Posting material like the image below or maplets amount to nothing more than humblebrags in the absence of thinking and analysis.

    Humblebrag: Nothing Humble about it
    Humblebrag: Nothing Humble about it
  • Social Media Etiquette also suggests that you shouldn’t allow Robots to craft your tweets. If your recent tweets look like they were automatically generated, people may see you as disingenuous. Generally they are frowned upon. What people want on Twitter is to hear your genuine voice, in real time. They don’t want lofty quotes that you’ve scheduled to go live at strategic periods, stats from your latest workout or what your “top stories” are via a third-party curation service. Twitter is about engagement, not just broadcasting meaningless words.
  • In my opinion, here is the biggest issue with analytics and why they cause issues. Most people start with data instead of a question they are wanting to answer. The most common misunderstanding about analytics is that if you look at data hard enough, you will find insights. Staring at daily dashboards in the hope that insights will miraculously reveal themselves is often overwhelming, confusing and unsuccessful. Successful analytics start by identifying the question you’re trying to answer from the data.

I was scrounging the Net trying make sense of this and stumbled upon some resources that might assist in sorting through how to successfully get started using analytics with social media platforms, at least as a starting point:

To download the above PDF simply click the link below:

Hopefully, this post has helped to make clear the function of Metrics & Analytics and the useful but silent function they serve in assisting a user think about reaching clients and broadening their social media reach.