WEEK 2: Welcome to DigiComm

August 23, 2017

It’s official. We’ve been together a week. Hopefully you’ve gotten an idea of what we’ll be doing in DigiComm this semester. I’ll try to keep it interesting if you’ll try to keep a mind open to learning and to new ideas.

We’ve been busier than you may think. You’ve had two assignments and you’re about to have another. Let’s recap:

The first week, I demonstrated how to correctly format an email and asked you to access your new district email account. However, most of your accounts hadn’t been set up yet, so I set that assignment aside. Now that everyone should be on track, let’s go back and catch that one.

Write an email to me at lisa.snider@duncanps.org. Your email should include the following:

  • A salutation (Dear Mrs. Snider or something similar)
  • The body of the email should contain information you are sharing with me about yourself, such as your likes and dislikes about school, your learning style, any interests or hobbies. Just help me to get to know you.
  • Include a link to a webpage about one of your interests. I mostly want to see that you know how to include a link the way I showed you, by highlighting specific words in your writing, clicking on the link icon, and pasting the URL from the web page you are sharing into the blank in the dialog box.
  • Closing. On a new line, close the email with something like, Sincerely, (new line) Your Name.
  • Be sure to use correct grammar, usage and spelling.

After the email lesson, we watched the following video together. You were to pay attention to the content of Svitak’s talk and observe her skills as a presenter. Look below for the two assignments related to the video.

Assignment No. 1: You were each to plan a “talk”, what I’m calling MeTalks, to present about yourself. I asked you to choose something about yourself, an interest or passion you have, an event in your life that was important or that you learned a lesson from or just something that defines you. You were to plan the talk to have a hook, some story with description and a close, and the talk was to be about two minutes. Most of you have completed this task.

Assignment No. 2: You will write a reflection on the video. For your convenience, I have developed a list of guiding questions. Take a look at these to consider what type of information to include in your reflection.

Do not, however, simply answer the questions. Remember that you are writing for an audience who does not know you, who does not know me, who certainly does not know what the assignment was or what the questions are. You have to sort of include the question content in the answer. For instance, if the question is, what is your favorite kind of ice cream? Don’t write your reflection with a sentence like, ” Chocolate.” Your readers would have no idea what you are referring to. Your response would be more like, “My favorite kind of ice cream is chocolate.” Or, even better, tell a story:

When I was between the ages of 4 and 8, I visited my grandparents for two weeks every summer. My grandmother was the controlling sort who demanded I clean my plate because “children were starving in China.” But Grandpa was fun. We’d build things like birdhouses or go fishing or go metal detecting and find all kinds of treasures. And, several afternoons a week, we’d go to town. Grandpa would take me to this little drugstore that had a soda fountain and get me an ice cream. They had this marvelous strawberry ice cream that was unlike anything I’ve ever found since. I’d sit on that chrome and green vinyl barstool at the counter and eat my strawberry ice cream cone while Grandpa visited with his buddies. As delicious as it was, I knew the whole time I was eating it, I was going to get into trouble because I wouldn’t be hungry enough to finish my dinner when we got home. But it was worth it.

Which would you rather read?

Look over the questions. Tell your readers, whom you do not know, about the video. You’ll have to introduce it or they won’t know what you’re referring to. Then discuss some of the aspects brought up by the questions. If you can pull in stories or examples, please do so. Finish up by referring to her presentation skills and talk about your own presentation, what you did well and what you’d like to improve upon.

Use your best knowledge of grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation. You’ll be publishing this. But before you do, share with someone in class (get their email address), and ask them to read and give you feedback with comments. Take what they have to say into consideration and make any improvements you wish. Then share with me. I’ll give you feedback as well. My goal is to help you be an effective blogger, whether that means improving spelling and sentence structure or helping you add story-telling elements to make it more interesting.

This item will be your first blog post once we get the blogs up and running.


Finishing up

May 22, 2017

This is it. We’re at the end. Presentations of Passion Projects last week went very well, I think, and I’m proud of you for the work you put into the projects themselves, and for presenting to your classmates.

This week, I’d like you to reflect on the semester about the work you did, what you learned and what skills you developed. Toward that purpose, please respond to this Google form.

Thank you!

WEEK 16: Focusing on the presentations

May 8, 2017

This week, you are focusing on your passion project presentations. I plan to show you a few sample presentations and help you organize your information to make the biggest impact on your audience.

When you are not working on your presentation – whether you are finished or waiting for more information – you should work on the following items:

  • Catch up on any missed work
  • Revise any work you’d like to improve, both to improve your blog and to improve grades
  • Work on your No Red Ink lessons. There was a reason I signed you up for this.

Let’s look at a couple sample presentations.

Thursday is the Vocal Music Concert. Those of you with tickets will attend, and those of you without will go to Mrs. Hefner’s class for the duration of the concert.

Friday you will finish up and our first volunteer or two will present, so we can save time next week.

WEEK 16: Finish up & plan ahead

May 1, 2017

The semester is winding down, and it’s time to get ducks in a row, er , assignments caught up, and plan ahead, specifically for the passion project presentations. So here’s what your week should look like:

Monday-Tuesday: Read feedback on your cyberbullying post, complete any revisions and try to get it posted to your blog. Remember to include a link in your post to a related article so your readers can get more detail than you may provide in your summary.

Wednesday-Friday: We’ll make decisions regarding the passion project presentations. Those will include:

  • How many slides should the presentations have?
  • How many images should you expect to incorporate in your presentation?
  • How long should your presentation be expected to be?

Other things you’ll need to be aware of for your speech (think TED Talk) are:

  • Hook your audience in your introduction.
  • Consider the points you plan to make (just like an essay, but with more passion and fun)
  • Keep audience engaged with stories, using imagery so they can ‘see’ what you’re showing them.
  • Modulate your voice so it’s loud enough, goes up and down with excitement. Pace your speech so it speeds up at certain points and slows down when it needs to.
  • Put key words on a note card to take with you. If you take the whole speech, you’ll end up reading it. Do not read your speech. Talk to your audience.
  • Look at your audience while you tell them about your experience.

Other things you’ll need to know about your slides are:

  • Use very little text on your slides. They should be guides for your speech.
  • Make the text you use big enough to see, larger than 20 pt. would be best.
  • Use a readable font, preferably only two, that will go together well.
  • Use colors that are complementary and contrast well. For example, avoid using a dark font on a dark background. Viewers won’t be able to see it.
  • Make sure images are big enough to be seen well, especially if there is detail in them.
  • Avoid stretching photos disproportionately. Grab corner handles and hold shift key to enlarge or make smaller. Place images appropriately to left or right so subjects aren’t looking or moving off screen.
  • Images can be photos, info graphics, drawings.
  • Consider using Canva for cover slide and any info graphics you need.

After the presentations, which will take place the week of May 15, you will write a post about finishing your passion projects, what you learned, whether about the topic, yourself or both. Consider including an image for the post, but also link your slide presentation. This is a big part of your project.

WEEK 15: Analyzing cyberbullying cases

April 24, 2017

Cyberbullying. It’s a word nearly everyone is familiar with, but not everyone really knows exactly what it is. We know it’s online bullying, but where do you draw the line between teasing, criticizing and bullying? How many different things constitute cyberbullying? What are the penalties for what types of behavior?

This week, we’ll discuss different cases as they pertain to civil and criminal law, and you’ll hopefully come out with a better understanding and more sensitivity.

Monday: On the board, we will share ideas about what we consider to be cyberbullying behavior. You will then research to find case examples from the news of cyberbullying for use in class. Summarize these on a Google doc for two purposes: 1. Summarizing it in writing will help you explain it to your classmates.  2. Your post will include details of the case, and having that summary will be helpful. At this point, though, a draft is all you need.

Tuesday: We will to over legal aspects of cyberbullying and then share the cases we came across, looking at what civil law is and what criminal law is and how each applies to cyberbullying. We will apply this knowledge to the individual cases.

Your assignment for the week is to further analyze your case, adding in prior knowledge of your own according to the law information. What type of bullying does your case fall under? Who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? Are any bystanders guilty? Do any civil laws apply? Could someone sue? Could they win? What about criminal law? Could anyone be arrested? Fined? Does the perpetrator have any defenses?

Thoroughly analyze the case in a blog post for the week. If your case isn’t workable for lack of information or other reasons, you may look for another, but be careful not to use too much time on looking for a case.

Remember to make the post interesting for your reader. You are telling a story and explaining something important. Background information for your reader may be necessary.

WEEK 14: What to review?

April 17, 2017

Okay, folks, this week is choppy. I’m in and out, so here’s a snapshot of your week:

Monday: While I’m out, you will

  1. Complete your Manifesto, if you have not already.
  2. Write a blog post about the manifesto project, from what it is to your own personal experience with it. Include why you wrote what you did and what app you used and why.
  3. Work on any missing content. It must be posted to the blog to be complete.
  4. Visit No Red Ink and work on your grammar lessons, practice and quizzes. See how far you can get!

Tuesday: I’ll lead a lesson on how to write a review, and I’ll show you how to use your WordPress Reader to find blogs to read. You will read several, find one you are interested in, and write a review of it.

Wednesday – Thursday: While I’m gone to a conference in OKC, work on writing the blog review. Draft it in Google Docs, share it for feedback from a classmate, make any revisions.
PROOFREAD. Check for capitalization. Check for proper punctuation (think about what you are learning on No Red Ink). Read it aloud while pointing to the words. This helps you catch missing words and clunky sentences.
Share with me and I’ll do my best to read and give you feedback so you can revise for posting by Friday.

Friday: Finish up your review and post an update about your Passion Project. Do not write that you haven’t done anything. If you have nothing to write about, don’t do it. Point is, you should be working on this on your own. It’s YOUR passion. You’ll soon be presenting to the class about it.

Next week should be normal and we’ll start something new. Be sure you are caught up!


WEEK 12: Me Manifesto

April 6, 2017


What is a manifesto? A mashup of several definitions gives me what I’m thinking of as I write this lesson plan: A public declaration of intentions, motives or views.

What manifestos do you know from history?

  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The 10 Commandments or even The Bible according to one list, so, yes, a book can be a manifesto
  • I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Here’s to the Crazy Ones, Apple’s ad after Steve Jobs’s return as CEO

There are many more. One example we’ll look at in several forms is the Holstee Manifesto, which was created by founders of a design company called Holstee. Mike, Fabian and Dave sat outside and focused as they began to form the idea of what they wanted from life and how they wanted their start-up to fit into that. This is what they came up with, and a video was eventually born of it.

Then someone set the words to music with voice-over and animation.

And THEN, someone put it to actual video in a creative way. Same words, but how might the message be received differently?

What are your intentions? What motivates you? What are your views on life, love, happiness? Or other things? What is your manifesto?

This week, research manifestos to get a broader idea of how the idea has been interpreted by others. Pinterest will pull up a plethora of items when you put “manifesto” in the search bar. Brainstorm to figure out what you stand for, what motivates you, what empowers you. Write your manifesto. Share it and get feedback for what works, what needs work. Revise.

Things to consider:

  • First person? I am creative. I am strong. I will …
  • Second person, like commands? Go ahead and be yourself. Be strong.
  • Third person is less common and is sometimes mixed with the others: People will try to … Courage is … Leaders are built from …
  • If using a bulleted type of manifesto, try to use parallel structure, meaning your sentences should be built similarly. If you use second person commands, each sentence should begin with a verb: Be yourself. Communicate ideas. Open your mind.If you are using first person, begin each sentence basically the same way, with a first person pronoun and a verb: I will begin each day … We will rise above … I am strong …
  • You may choose to write your manifesto in more of a paragraph format like King’s speech.
  • Revise until you have the best parts and it isn’t too long, because …

Part 2: App that Manifesto

After you have written, shared and revised your manifesto, you will be ready to create a presentation for it. You’ll want to consider dividing up parts of your manifesto, whether that’s line-by-line or chunks that go together. These chunks should be able to be represented with images of some sort. You can use your own images, taken with your phone or camera of your family and friends, or you can use images from Creative Commons or you can create drawings and scan them or you can create other images with programs.

You have several options of web-based apps to use, and I’ve provided a few examples below:

Haikudeck has begun charging since I used it, but there is still a free version. Just click on ‘get started’ then ‘continue free’. I do not know how limited it is. At the time, I used either copyright-free images provided by Haikudeck or went through a creative commons site like Flickr, Pixabay or Wikimedia. My manifesto from Nov. 2015 with Haikudeck. Under edit, this is set to public, so it should play without having to sign in.

PhotoPeach is another option, very similar to Haikudeck, but you can also use transitions and music. This is the PhotoPeach version of my manifesto from Feb. 2015.  It is set to public, so it should play without having to sign in.

And for my new try at a new app, there is PowToon, more appropriate for funny things than serious, but its advantage is that it can be uploaded to YouTube. Here is my Manifesto, by way of PowToon.

Other apps to try are Emaze, with presentation templates already made, ready for you to customize; VoiceThread, an app in which you load photos, then record a voiceover of you reading your manifesto, then time the slides to coincide the way you want them to. Feel free to use another if you know of one you’d like to try, but the object is to apply current knowledge to help you learn new technology, to write something original and creative, using processes that include sharing and revising, to use images and, possibly music, while observing copyright laws.

These two big tasks, writing and creating the presentation may take some time to do your best, so the project is due by the end of class next Tuesday. We will present Me Manifestos in class beginning next Wednesday. Volunteers go first, then I draw from a hat, so be ready to go Wednesday. The lab is open to you at lunch or after school.

Below are a couple examples from earlier semesters:

An Athlete’s Manifesto

An Emily Manifesto

Katlyn’s Manifesto

Be original, be sincere, and make people think.

You will share your manifesto in a brief presentation. Just show us what you came up with and tell us a little about why you made the choices you did in app, words, and/or images. Presentations will begin Wednesday, April 12.

WEEK 11: Info in a graphic

March 27, 2017

Everything’s better with good visuals. Meet Canva, a user-friendly graphic design tool with almost unlimited options. You may be wondering what you can use it for or what you will be using it for. Here are some ideas:

  • Blog header
  • Presentation opening slide
  • Information graphic
  • Facebook or Twitter header
  • Book cover or ebook cover
  • Magazine cover (real or pretend)
  • Menus
  • Social media post images
  • What else can you think of?

No one is you


Creations can be made from free images on Canva or images for $1 each. Or you can upload your own. Templates provide a variety of layouts. There are also backgrounds, icons, illustrations, just everything you can think of to create what you need. And, again, you can upload your own.

Once your image is complete, you can download as a jpg for web at a lower resolution or a higher resolution pdf for print. It’s all user-friendly.

Think of how you can use Canva for last week’s listicle or for your Passion Project, as well as other possibilities. Work this week on at least one image for a digicomm project, but spend some time playing around with it and see how many different uses you can find and creations you can make.

Don’t forget to update your audience by the end of the week about your Passion Project.

WEEK 10: The Listicle


March 20, 2017

lis / ti / cle

‘listək(ə)l’ n. Written content, such as an article, presented in the form of a list. For example: Buzzfeed’s “20 Cheatsheets For When You’re Trying to Eat a Little Healthier”

With today’s short attention spans and the easy opportunity the internet provides its consumers to just “click away”, writers need to grab their attention and hold it. Readers want their information in bite-sized bits, and it’s even better if the bite sizes are appetizing – with sprinkles. Enter, the listicle.

Though it’s been around for decades (every year-end has a roundup of the year’s most memorable moments, best/worst movies, top recording hits, etc.), this form of article has been made more popular by Buzzfeed, Mic, Huffington post and other sites. However, it’s also a popular form for many, many blog posts. Check Pinterest for blogging ideas and inevitably, you’ll see links to blog posts about the types of blog posts you can write for your new blog. Those posts are invariably written as lists and include a point about Top 10 Somethings or 5 Favorite Places to Go For ___ or 17 Reason You need A ____.

Your Assignment

This week, we’re going to write listicles. The options are endless, so you’ll be brainstorming for topics, then deciding on an angle, then creating a list of points and either adding to or paring down. Then you’ll decide to find or create images or find GIFs to go with your points.

You’ll write an introduction portion, the list and a conclusion. Look at some current listicles to get some ideas, starting with the sources listed above or Pinterest. You will have to think and create and write and go find images and put it together, so manage your time.

Where to Start?

The nonprofitcopywriter suggests deciding first what kind of list you want to write:

  1. Personal Experience: Writing about your own experiences.
    “13 Sibling battles every Non-Only Child Can Relate To” (I just made that up, but I could produce it)
    “13 Books That Have Taught Me Empathy”
  2. Advice: Pairing expert advice with your own insight is a good combination.
    Regain Lost Energy and Positivity With These 5 Proven Strategies”
  3. Researched Lists: Do the research for your readers and report your findings.
    “Safety First: These 5 Cars Have the Highest Crash Safety Rating”
  4. Editorial lists: Note trends, then gather links with a particular angle for presentation.
    “21 of the Most Circulated Completely False News Stories During the Presidential Campaign”
  5. Mega lists: Many items listed together
    “89 References to Shakespeare in ‘The Simpsons'”
  6. Short lists: Under 10 items
    “2 Times Presidential Candidates Totally Kept Their Campaign Promises” (I thought zero was too negative and I really don’t know how many times it’s actually happened. Maybe this one should fall under researched lists?)

Of course, your list could be serious, helpful and heartfelt or ridiculously silly – and heartfelt. That’s up to you and has a lot to do with your writer voice.

On Headlines

Though listicle headline writing may seem straightforward (it’s a list. With a number. How hard is that?), you can still write a boring one or a compelling one. consider:

“My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2016”
“My 5 Blog Posts that had Readers Rethinking Their Lives”

Pinterest, again, is a good place to note how well (or not) writers write compelling headlines.

Regarding the numbers, evidence seems to bear out that odd numbers draw more readers than even ones, 10 being the exception. You’ll see 21 more often than you’ll see 20. Some experimentation also indicates that prime numbers (those divisible only by themselves) get more clicks. Go figure. Really. You may need a calculator. I would.

On Images

Besides the catchy headline, listicles use images, even GIFs, for each point in the list, which makes them more fun and very popular for sharing.

“So, Snider, I’ve got a couple ideas. Now what?”

Do your ideas lend themselves to still images or GIFs? For still, you know the drill: Flickr, Pixabay, Wikimedia or DIY. For GIFs, you can Google the subject + GIF. Or you can check out giphy.com, like I’m about to. We’ll do this together. I haven’t done this before (though I’ve wanted to), so we’ll do it together.

Your writing needs to be concise, clear and on point. It needs to be informing and entertaining, whether you are serious or humorous. USE MODELS. Look at a lot of these and imagine yourself creating something like it, but about your own topic.

 Go to your figurative cubicle. Ignore your neighbor unless you or s/he needs help and put in headphones, if necessary. Focus. See you on the other side.

WEEK 9: Two-fer

March 6, 2017

Two lessons in one week, sort of.

You’re getting two easy lessons in one short week, so hear goes.

Part 1: Cleanup on aisle 3

No, really, it’s on your blog. I spent some time this weekend, looking at your blogs so I can post grades. I see many things that I wonder if you see. Here are some things I see:

  • Site Title. That means you haven’t gone into Settings and typed in the title you want to have show up in the header. Do this. And it should be relative to your URL.
  • Landing page. Some of your blogs land on the blog page, and I see your posts in reverse chronology, the newest at the top, the others below. This is the way that’s best. Some of your blogs take me first to a Home page, which I find confusing because visitors will have to click somewhere else to see your posts and they may leave instead. Change this in settings. If you want to keep a static Home page, make sure there is good content on it and an invitation to read your posts.
  • Some of you do not have a tag line, that little added line in your header that is part of your branding, that tells a bit more about what you’re bringing to the game. You don’t have to have a tagline, but it’s clear that those who do are trying harder.
  • Stand-in copy. These days, as opposed to a few years ago when I started my blogs, the themes come equipped with stand-in copy for your first several posts (which I think is kind of pointless). Many of you are clicking “add” to add your new posts, which makes sense, but the stand-in posts are just sitting there, doing nothing for your blog but making it look amateurish. Go to “blog posts” (not add) and click. You should see the list of all posts. Trash the ones that came with the theme.
  • Stand-in widgets. Now, I’m not sure on this because I don’t have any on mine and don’t have access to settings on yours, but there must be a similar way to trash the stand-in widgets. See if you can figure it out and help your classmates delete these.
  • Now, go add some real widgets. This is done by clicking on customizing theme, the widgets, and continuing until you see all the widget options. Try calendar, archives, blogs you follow or others. You can often change how these read; for example, instead of “Contact Me”, you might replace it with “Let me know what you think”. This shows you’ve given time and attention to your blog.
  • Make sure you’ve added your weekly posts. If you’re not finished, catch up. It’s not finished until it’s posted, but make sure you follow the directions of the original assignment and get some feedback for edits before you post.

Spend time this week cleaning up your blog.

twitter-312464_640Part 2: Using the Twitterverse to expand your PLN

Last week I introduced you to Pinterest, a social media app that can be lots of fun and can steal lots of your time before you know it.

This week, I want to talk about another social media app, one you may be more familiar with. Twitter. It can also steal your time if you’re not careful.

You may have a Twitter account or you may not. You may have seen Twitter misused. So have I. I’ve seen students post random thoughts about being hungry, about feeling or not feeling cute at that particular moment, and, unfortunately, I’ve seen accusations, threats and bullying, too. You don’t have to participate in these things. There are good uses for Twitter.

Twitter is a tool to help you develop your own PLN – Personal Learning Network. What would you like to learn? Who would you like to learn from? Who provides information you’d like to have?

First, let’s go over the basics of Twitter.

Your assignment for the week is to begin building your PLN, perhaps with a nod toward your passion project, but don’t limit yourself to that topic only. Is it time to start looking for good post-secondary schools? Check some out and follow some of their accounts. They’ll likely have several: athletics, news, student information and more. Your assignment is to find at least five useful accounts to follow.

By Thursday,

  1. Before Thursday (because we don’t have school Friday), write a blog post describing your Twitterventure and the accounts you found to follow. Write a little paragraph about each of the five accounts you followed, about who they are, their purpose and why you followed them. If you want to do double duty and take care of the Passion Project update too, find a way to tie them together!
  2. Tweet a #FF (Follow Friday) post with the five most interesting accounts you’ve found, tagging those accounts. It will look something like:

#FF learning from new friends: @Geniushour @TIME @WSJ @OKContemporary @TheSkimm

Use your Twitter powers for good instead of evil!

Have a great spring break, and I’ll see you soon!

WEEK 8: Pinteresting your passion


February 27, 2017

Pinterest. You may have heard of it. You may already have an account and 30 boards. In case you haven’t heard of it, it works like this: Pinterest is like a virtual bulletin board or collection of bulletin boards. The app allows you to create “boards” based on topics you are interested in and then “pin” things you either discover in your feed or things you purposely search for.

Say you have a board for art (or if you’re hardcore, you might have one each for drawing and for crafts). You can “follow” people who “pin” items of interest to you. Those pins of your followers show up in your feed and you can re-pin items to your own boards. If you like the items a particular person pins, go see who they follow and follow some of their followers. This way you build your feed with more selections. But don’t stop at art. Interested in reading? Follow book lovers. Health? There are topics on that.

You can also use Pinterest to search key words. Want recipes for chocolate chip cookies? Put it in the search bar. Photography? Search it. Pin what interests you to the board where you want to collect it. Need a new board? Make one.

The items that come across your feed may be from blogs, articles, or just web pages, depending on the topic. One can pin something from any web page – works best if there is an image there – if you have a Pinterest app on your Chrome browser.

How can you search for info about your passion project? Begin by setting up an account. Remember your password. Pinterest will probably start by having you follow a few interests, but after your account is going, you can follow or unfollow any account you want. Set up a board or two that will help you with your passion project and start researching and pinning. You should probably go check out the item before pinning it to make sure it’s legit and useful. Sometimes it’s a bad link no one’s taken down.

By Friday, draft, seek feedback, revise and post to your blog a piece about researching your passion project, explaining what it is, if you haven’t yet, and how you have used Pinterest in your research. You can make these separate posts, one laying out the plan for the project and another about how you used Pinterest or you can combine them. That’s up to you, but be sure you cover both topics thoroughly so I can post two things in the grade book. You may choose to add a link to your Pinterest account if  you’d like followers.

WEEK 7: Passion Projects, getting started

February 21, 2017

I’ve been alluding to something called Passion Projects. Some call it Genius Hour, while some prefer 20% Time, but it’s all the same type of thing. The main premise is you deciding on a subject you are passionate about, something you’d like to learn about, developing a project around it and devoting 20% of your classroom time each week on that project, that learning.

First, let’s get the idea down of what we mean by passion.

OK, that gives an idea of what passion is, but how is that a project?

As Kesler points out in his video, you should start with a driving question. A driving question is hard to define, so let’s start with thinking of a passion project in two types:

  1. One in which you teach yourself something (French, crochet, cabinet-making)
  2. One in which you solve a problem.

The second can be divided further:

  • educating others
  • calling people to action
  • planning an event
  • raising money for a purpose
  • recognizing or inspiring others
  • designing a better way to do something

So a driving question should be one that is not answered with “yes” or “no”, but at length, the length of your project, actually. A few examples:

  1. How can I use a favorite game/cartoon character to teach algebra concepts or the history of WW2?
  2. What kind of weekly interaction could I come up with that could raise the spirits of nursing home residents?
  3. How could I raise money (several ways?) to donate to the homeless shelter, Sought Out Ministries, so they can keep the doors open? What’s my goal?

What do you want to know more about? What would you like to learn to do? Or what wrongs would you like to right in your community? One way to put that question is, “What breaks your heart?” The question must be one that will involve research and end in a product or service or learning that can be shown or demonstrated. What kind of question can we start with?


1. We will use “backward planning,” deciding on what we want as an end product, then planning how to get there. Will there be a product, like a video, a book, a website, pieces of jewelry? Will there be an event like a benefit fundraiser, a trip, a portfolio, a show? Will there be a model of a building, a campus, a robot? Then, how do you get to that point?

2. One component that will help you is having a mentor. Depending on what your subject area is, you’ll need to decide on and contact someone to be your mentor. A mentor would be someone who is a professional or expert in the field you are seeking to learn about. This person will be a contact for you, someone to give you ideas, help you consider ideas you may not have thought of, make contact with other people you may not have thought of, someone to check in with. In short, this person will help you to reach your goal and motivate you.

Your mentor does not have to live locally. In this day and age, you can communicate through social media or by phone or even by Facetime or Skype. For instance, if you wanted to explore some area of medicine, find a doctor who might mentor you. Interested in interior design? Perhaps a professional designer or an instructor from a university could help you out. Many adults would welcome the opportunity to mentor a student interested in their own career choice.

3. You’ll keep your learning transparent by posting your progress to your blog weekly. It’s helpful to post photos or videos to show folks where you are in the process. YOU WILL NEED IMAGES THROUGHOUT YOUR PROCESS SO YOU HAVE THEM FOR YOUR FINAL PRESENTATION. Tell your audience about obstacles and how you surmounted them. That’s part of the learning process.

4. Start brainstorming. If you feel compelled to say, “I don’t know what I’m interested in.” STIFLE IT. Brainstorm anyway. So many students say they hate being told what to do, what they have to learn. They wonder, “when am I ever going to need this?” Well, this is your chance to explore something YOU want to learn, something relevant to you. Use it.

Need some ideas? Here are lots from York School:

Where will you find your passion?

Need more samples? Here are some good TED talks from GrossPointe, a high school who does Genius Hour projects and presents as TED talks at the end. Once you connect to this one, you can scroll through and look at more of them.

You can also look under the student tab of this site to see some examples from previous semesters. Take into consideration, however, that although part of the assignment is to post the presentation to your blog at the end, many never did it.

Keep thinking!

WEEK 6: Your Digital Footprint

February 13, 2017

Challenge yourself with a couple of questions:

  1. How are you preparing for life after high school, whether you go to college, technical school or straight into the workforce? Make a list.
  2. What do the words “digital footprint” or “digital tattoo” mean to you? Make a list.

Now, what does one have to do with the other? After defining what a digital footprint is – the positives and the negatives of a digital footprint – you should see that decreasing the negative aspects and increasing the positive aspects should be a part of the first list.

To help you understand some of what composes your digital footprint/tattoo, watch the following video:


Some of what goes into your digital footprint is unavoidable, but much can be controlled by you and should be:


Ever think about what your own digital footprint looks like? What might others find if they searched for your profiles and other pieces of your profile?


Your assignment for the week is to do a search on yourself. Do the search without logging into anything from the computer you are on. Look for information as well as images. What can you find through Google or other search engines? Is there more than one person with your name? Look at the information on this infographic about Google Yourself searches and try some of the tips provided. Consider asking a friend, logged in to social media accounts, to search for you and see what comes up.

Once you find information about yourself, determine if it is information you’d like to have found about you by potential employers, college admissions counselors or scholarship grantors. If you were the college admissions specialist or employer looking for a solid employee, would you choose you?

Write a blog post about your findings and about what you can do to create a positive digital footprint to move your schooling and career forward. Also reflect on your privacy settings and discuss what changes you may make to your habits and to your social media privacy settings and what you hope that will accomplish.

As usual, draft in Google docs, share with a peer for feedback, then share with me. You may use an image from creative commons to go along with your final blog post. Be sure you credit it correctly.


February 6, 2017

Now that you have blogs, you need to know how to use images properly. If you missed the discussion in class you can find useful information about copyright law on the Student Press Law Center website, splc.org.

Here is another take on describing copyright and fair use, and entertaining one.

With a basic understanding of copyright law and fair use exceptions, it’s time to explore legitimate ways of finding images you CAN use for your blogs and presentations. A way of licensing work that allows the owners to keep some rights, but allow use by others is Creative Commons, and there are several sites where creatives share their images with Creative Commons licensing.

The best sources I have found for Creative Commons images are:

Wikimedia Commons: Wikimedia is an open source of free educational content that is contributed to by others. What I like about Wikimedia Commons is that it encourages participation with monthly challenges.

Flickr:  Flickr is an app in which you can put a topic in the search bar and images will come up. You can filter your search by usage rights in the upper left. Beneath the photo will be the information you need for attribution: the title (if there is one), the author and a link to the type of license. Hang onto this info. If you plan to download one of these and use it, you’ll need the attribution information.

Pixabay: Much like Flickr, Pixabay has a search bar and many images. You don’t have to have an account, and images are free, but they like donations. When you pull up a group of images, you’ll note that the top rows have a Shutterstock watermark on them. These cost money, but all the ones below that I have ever clicked on are in the Public Domain. You can download, note the author, but instead of a license, you note Public Domain.

Photopin: This is a new one I found as I was searching for more possibilities. It seems to work much like Flickr and Pixabay, with a search bar, multiple images, download capability and licensing information. They promote themselves as “free images for bloggers and creatives”, so it seems promising, but I haven’t used this site personally.

Your assignment: Write a post on  your choice of topics: any special interests you have, anything you’ve learned lately (like this), issues you and your peers face, something in the news – whatever – just consider what kind of image would go well with it. Don’t forget to share your draft in the class editing Google folder for feedback, then revise and share with me in the Snider folder for additional feedback. Consider revising again to make it the best it can be for posting.

Then search for the perfect image in one of the above Creative Commons sources. Once you have selected and downloaded your image, save it (desktop is most convenient, but trash it once your post is complete or save it to your Google folder). Add the image to your post. Then you’ll have the option for captioning information. In the captioning box, attribute the photo, following the TASL format: Title, Author, Source and License, providing links to the photo and to the license.

Title: When you click to download your photo, there is usually, but not always, a title for the photo. It may be a simple slug, like “traffic light”.

Author: This is the owner of the image. Sometimes it’s a full name; sometimes it’s a username.

Source: Where did you get the photo? Pixabay? Flickr? I usually follow the owners’ name with “via Flickr”.

License: Depending on the source, the license may be clear on the download page or you may need to click on a link to take you to it. The link might say “some rights reserved”. What you see will be something like CC by NC 2.0 or similar.

After adding category and tagging information and proofreading ONE MORE TIME, you are ready to publish.

WEEK 4.5: Housekeeping

February 3, 2017

I want to clear up a few issues we’re having and questions you may be having.


You are a great assortment of individuals, with a scope of interests and comfort levels with the work I ask of you. Some of you are conscientious workers who know what to do and get it done – and have time left over. Other conscientious workers like to take time to produce exceptional content. Some of you just want to do what’s needed to pass the class, while some of you may be having a hard time even understanding what it is you are supposed to do. Some of you may feel you can do it later, so for now you’d like to play games, watch videos – or nap.

I recommend getting the assignment done well in the time it takes to do it well. Then with time left over,

  • read other blogs, either those of your classmates or others you find online.
  • comment on them
  • write additional blog posts
  • work to improve the appearance of your blog by customizing or adding widgets
  • learn to understand the analytics and improve your following


You get instructions verbally, by demonstration and as written on this website. There’s no excuse for not knowing about an assignment or an aspect of that assignment. Everyone’s work is individual and tough to grade completely objectively, but I look for following instructions and going above and beyond what I suggest, so that you make it your own.

If you want a …

B: Do mostly what the assignment requires, but you might not put a lot of creativity into it. Do the suggested revisions to make your work grammatically correct before posting online, and don’t miss any assignments. Good idea to get them mostly done on time.

C: Do mostly what the assignments require, but you might be late on some or you might miss one or two. You might revise some of them, but not all of them. In short, you’ll do work that doesn’t look like you care a whole lot, but  you do it.

D: You do some work, but you are not consistent and you are very late on most of it. You don’t generally revise well, so consequently, your blog may contain lots of errors.

F: This grade happens when I really don’t have anything to assess. I simply have no evidence you’ve done anything to learn the skills taught in this class.

If you want an A:

Go above and beyond what I show you. A-level students take the information I provide about images, about different apps, about digital citizenship, and they go learn more. They take pride in their blog and its content, always working to improve everything. They do more.


Let’s go over a few actual housekeeping items:

  • At the end of class, log out of any programs you are in: Google, WordPress or other
  • If you are using a laptop, shut it down under the Apple in upper left. Wait for screen to go black, close it. Put it away in the cabinet and plug it in to charge.
  • Do not bring food and drinks in the classroom. I have computers in here, and I have floors in here. Neither like sticky fluids or crumbs.
  • Throw away trash. If there’s no food or drink, there shouldn’t be much trash; nevertheless, make sure any trash goes into the trash can.
  • Take your things with you, including handouts I give you and papers from other classes. And pens and pencils. And headphones. And phone chargers. And keys.
  • Yes, you may go to the restroom, BUT you did just have a 70-minute lunch period. Please take care of this during your lunch. However, if later in the class you need to go, it’s OK. Let me know, sign out and take the pass. And only one at a time.
  • Be on time. Again, you just had a 70-minute lunch.

That’ll do for now. If you have questions about other things I need to address, let me know.




WEEK 4: Let’s get to blogging


CC0 Public Domain

January 30, 2017

This week, we’ll get our blogs started. You’ll pay careful attention to the name of your blog and your name as the blogger. You’ll choose a theme – what your blog looks like – that helps reflect your personality and the purpose of the blog. You can change later on if you want. You’ll write a “Welcome to my blog” post, but make it interesting enough for folks to want to actually read it. Share with someone for feedback to improve.

Your blog is the main component of your work in this class. You’ll want to put lots of thought into the impression you impart, which also counts with your bio.

Most bloggers have an About Me page on which the blogger introduces him or herself to the world. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so some care and thought should be given to what info you provide and what tone you write in. And, to be taken seriously, you want your writing to be correct – as in all that stuff your English teachers have been trying to tell you for years. You may not want your voice to be formal – and that’s OK – but you still want to capitalize and spell properly and use correct subject verb agreement and so forth. So take advantage of your classroom peers and their editing skills, as well as that of your instructor.

You have had an introduction to what blogging is all about and a crash course in terminology. If you missed it or want to review it, here it is.

To recap:

  • Start a WordPress account
  • Find a good blog name (it will be the URL) and blogger name (this is  you)
  • Search themes for one you like. This is what your blog looks like.
  • Come up with a tagline, a brief line or sentence that tells more about your purpose.
  • Continue individualizing your blog with header titles, header images, widgets and color choices.
  • Draft a Welcome to My Blog post in Google Drive and share with class mates and instructor for feedback to make it interesting and engaging.
  • Draft a bio, a bit about yourself, in Google Drive. This will go on the About Me page of your blog. I’ll give you more specific instructions later in the week.
  • Finally, post your TED reflection as your first real post (after the Welcome post)

If you work fast (and well) and get ahead of your peers:

  • You may write an additional blog post.
  • You may search WordPress to read other blogs. Consider commenting on some.

You will have questions. You will have answers. Help each other out. Ask when you need help, but don’t be afraid to explore WordPress and get to know this Open Source app. If you can’t figure something out, someone else has usually run across the problem, and Google can find the conversation.

Let’s blog.

WEEK 3: Reflecting on Adora’s TEDTalk

January 23

Ruminations on Childishness

Week before last, we watched the video of 12-year-old Adora Svitak addressing an audience of adults for her TEDTalk presentation. She discussed the misuse of the term childish, and offered several examples that illustrated children being adult-like and adults being childish, arguing that adults should be open to learning from children as much as they expect children to learn from adults.

What did you think of what she had to say? Did you form opinions of your own as she was speaking? What did you think of her presentation skills? You presented last week. What did you do well, and what would you like to do better next time? Do you remember the video? If not, view it again because your first blog post will be reviewing and reflecting on that video.

In the folder shared with me, open a Google document. Use a heading with your name and the date, and I prefer that you use double spacing. Consider how to introduce the topic of the video. Remember that your readers – people in cyberspace – do not know you, do not know me, do not know the assignment. You will not be replying to me. You will be writing to them. Think about writing to your idea reader, the one you invented last week. Explain to him or her that in your digital communications class you viewed this video (name it and explain it); you will also embed it when you post it on the blog so they can view it. Then tell them what you though of it and what it made you think about.

To give you a few ideas of what to discuss, I have prepared a list of guiding questions. Do not simply go down the list answering them (your ideal reader would be confused), but consider addressing most of those topics in your article.

Use paragraph breaks when you change subtopics. Online readers hate long blocks of gray text and will click away if it looks like too much work to read.

Make your writing interesting by adding description, little stories, bits of you. Use good sentence structure, changing it up with some short sentences and some long sentences. Capitalize and punctuate properly and proofread before sharing with a class buddy for feedback. Once you have made revisions, share with me for additional feedback.

I dislike providing length requirements, but if it’s too short, there won’t be enough to interest the reader. If it’s too long, you risk losing the reader. Make it juuuuust riiiiight.

WEEK 2: Who is your ideal reader?

January 18, 2017

Today, Wednesday, we will finish up MeTalk presentations that we started last week, based on watching the video of Adora Svitak’s TEDTalk. We lost Friday for inclement weather that turned out not to be so inclement, but better safe than sorry. And Monday was a professional development day for teachers, so we’re a tad behind where I wanted to be. Flexibility is key!

As you know, our main focus in this digital communications class will be online communication in the form of producing written content for blogs. As you are writing your articles, which are more than simply answering a few questions for the teacher, you will do better by imagining your ideal reader.


Image by PDPics via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

First I will demonstrate for you some highlights of using Google docs, like controlling fonts and spacing, how to share and comment. We’ll discuss how to provide feedback for each other so you can help one another develop your drafts to be top-notch content capable of holding an audience.

Ah – that audience. So to practice using the Google docs and the sharing and providing of feedback, we’re going to start with a fun assignment. When  you write your blog posts, they’ll go live where they can be read online by anyone, anywhere.

The question is, who will be most interested in your content?

Will it be a 20-year-old college student attending a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania? What’s her major? What does she like to do in the spare time she rarely has? Does she have any bad habits she’d like to break? What good habits is she trying to develop?

Or is your ideal reader an high school junior who just moved to a new school and would rather play video games and make friends in the blogging community than the people he’s met so far at his school?

Is your ideal reader one of two or three conservative 15-year-olds in a field of liberals at a California alternative school for gifted students?

Use your imagination. Tell me who your ideal reader is. Describe all kinds of things about him or her and tell me why he or she likes your blog so much. Is it the straightforwardness of your opinions in your posts? Is it the imagery you use in your descriptions? Or maybe you’ve worked really hard on your theme (what your blog looks like), and everything has aesthetic appeal. May you’re really good at providing lots of links to additional information, and your reader likes that he can depend on you to have done good research and provide plenty of additional information.

Remember that even this assignment is being created to engage and entertain. People will be reading it, so make it interesting. Proofread it for flow and correcting any errors before you share with a classmate. Make any revisions you deem necessary, then ask Snider to read and provide feedback.

Enjoy the exercise and have fun with it. Write, share, edit and revise, having it polished by end of class Friday.