Category: Course 2

Developing a empowered use policy

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This week’s resources had me really inspired. After reading a few of the articles mentioned I turned around to Jason Edwards, our Director of Technology, had a rich discussion about the history of responsible use policies at YIS and our vision for the future. Thanks to those who have come before me (Kim Cofino, Clit Hamada and others), YIS was revolutionary in developing the Connected Learning Community (CLC) – a technology support community of learners that focused more on the learning and less on devices. Our CLC was primarily developed in the Middle and High School, but it’s now working its way down to elementary. With this move down to elementary, we’ve dug out the old responsible use agreements.

Our current responsible use agreement for upper elementary students

One challenge I’ve been facing recently is our current responsible use agreement. I say it’s our current one, but in reality no one is using it – it’s just the most recent one we have. It is too wordy, it is a bit too negative for my liking and it would be challenging most of our upper elementary students to digest. Most importantly, our students don’t know it or believe in it.

Take a look at it:

Find the full PDF here

What’s missing?

  1. Simplicity. It’s long and inclusive, but is that necessary for an elementary school student?
  2. Empowerment. It includes way too many “not’s” – It doesn’t empower our students to use technology to be creative and share their creativity.
  3. Trust. Our students want to do the right thing and they are just waiting for us to support that. Of course, sometimes they need some guidance, but they need us to trust them and empower them.

What are some good examples?

A lot of international schools are really pushing forward with their technology agreements and policies and it’s really inspiring to see what others have spent the time putting together. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Scott McLeod’s blog post about implementing an Empowered Use Policy really inspired a lot of my thinking. He was discouraged by the negativity of traditional acceptable use policies and developed an empowered use policy:

When it comes to digital technologies in our [school / district], please…

Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.

Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.

Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.

Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.

The American School in Japan has a great graphic for their digital media and citizenship program that has a very easy to digest and inspirational message. Check out more about how they learn with technology here.

Copyright The American School in Japan

Next steps

Because of this post, I’ve quickly shifted my priorities so I can spend some time working on an empowered use agreement for elementary school students. I want to create a document that is a living, breathing policy that our students and teachers know and appreciate. I want a document that inspires our students to create and share all of the amazing things that they are doing with technology, not restrict and challenge their creativity.

Creating a new empowered use agreement isn’t something I can just sort out in a couple of days, my vision is to work with a group of students put together a policy that they believe in. I look forward to sharing what I’ve come up with soon.


Combating misinformation online

What is the world’s fastest animal?

If you had an elementary school education like I did, you would probably answer cheetah. While there is some truth to that answer, it isn’t technically correct (and let’s be honest, the best kind of correct is technically correct). Fast Company shared a well researched article on the cheetah being the fastest animal:

For some reason, the idea that the cheetah is the planet’s fastest creature has hardened into fact through years of childhood repetition. But not all superlatives in the animal kingdom are so easily settled as weight (the blue whale) and height (the giraffe).

In fact, determining the fastest creature on earth is much more complicated than we’ve all been led to believe.

“When we talk about something being fast, it’s really not clear if you’re talking about the total duration, the total time it takes to perform the movement, the speed at which its performed, and the acceleration at which its performed,” said Sheila Patek, biologist and founder of Duke University’s Patek Lab. “Each one of these things mean very different things.”

The Fastest Animal On Earth Is Not A Cheetah

Cheetah’s are only the fast animal when you only consider land animals running from point A to point B. With that constraint, yes, cheetahs reach amazing speeds up to 29 meters per second (Nature journal article).

Some other animals that hold fastest records:

Sailfish – the sailfish can reach speeds just over 30 meters per second.

Falcon – falcons reach incredible speeds when performing a stoop (a high speed dive used when hunting) – over 82 meters per second

Termite – yes, a termite. It bites at a speed of 67 meters per second (read more about it in Current Biology)

And many more (like this Dracula ant)!

Is this #FakeNews?

Thanks to some lovely political discussions coming out of the US, fake news has become very polarizing dinner table discussion. However, the underlying idea of checking researching and fact-checking what we read online is very valid. Stanford University research suggested that students “may focus more on the content of social media posts than on their sources”.

Is stating the cheetah as the fastest animal #fakenews? Well, somewhat. Unfortunately, in an attempt to make information more accessible for younger students we’ve often over simplified fact statements so that they no longer have become fact anymore. Then combine that with no one questioning what information they received as a child is correct, then passing along that information without proper research and you have many people believing that the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world.

As teachers, it’s our responsibility to break these chains of misinformation and teach our students how to properly detect misinformation online.

How do we teach about misinformation online?

As mentioned above, misinformation is a problem and it is affecting our students. They need some direct instruction on how to combat this. Thankfully, here at YIS, we have a wonderful research continuum created and spearheaded by our librarians that addresses misinformation and #fakenews. I’ve supported their inquiry into misinformation with a couple of resources:

Take it APART

Content by Tim Staal, design by Matt Broughton

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to design a poster created by Tim Staal to support students evaluated information they find. It’s a great tool students can use to take apart the information and evaluate it based on 5 different criteria – authority, purpose/perspective, accuracy, relevance and time.

Download a high-quality, printable version here.

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Another great tool for tackling misinformation is to use a hoax websites to teach students how easy it is to find misinformation online. My favorite is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. This is a very believable hoax website that details all about a specific species of octopus that lives in trees.

Copyright Lyle Zapato of The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Our grade 4 How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry inquiries into how media can influence thinking and behaviour. Each year I have the opportunity to work with our grade 4 students on misinformation online and use The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website as a tool to present the idea that misinformation is everywhere online and we need to be vigilant in taking apart what we find online to find out if it is credible. It’s a wonderful provocation into using a tool like Take it APART.

If you’ve seen or used The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus site before, another great resource is The Dog Island. A very similar concept, but a bit better with older students (we use this with our MYP students).


Investigating Educational Implications on Data Protection Laws in Japan

Our readings this week drew a lot of connections to conversations the Japan international tech community has been having recently about improvements to Japan’s data protection laws. Like our colleagues in Europe dealing with the educational implications of GDPR, Japan has recently significantly amended their Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI), which has large implications on businesses that hold personal information of clients (school’s included).

Here at YIS, I just stopped by a grade 5 class and did a quick, informal survey of services students have used just this week that collect their data. They include:

  • Veracross (our student information system)
  • Seesaw
  • Google (G.Suite for email addresses and Drive)
  • Flipgrid (via Google)
  • Padlet (via Google)
  • Quizlet (via Google)

What information about our students are these organizations holding and how can we ensure that it is being used appropriately?

What changes in data protection are we seeing in Japan?

Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI) was one of the earliest privacy laws when it was enacted in 2003 (read an English translation of the 2003 act here). It was created to “protect the rights and interests of individuals while taking consideration of the usefulness of personal information.” The original act was amended in 2015 (coming into force in 2017) after numerous high profile data breaches in Japan (see Sony’s 2014 data breach).

The 2003 act applied only to business operators that had 5,000 identifiable individuals in their database on at least one day during the previous six months, with the 2017 amendment, that restriction is now gone.

What is the impact on education?

Every school in Japan is collecting personal data of its students. That data often includes what Japan terms “special care required” personal information. This data includes a clients race, creed, social status, medical history, criminal record, fact of having suffered damage by a crime, or other descriptions – while most might not apply to schools, we certainly have some data on medical history.

Having the data isn’t the problem according to APPI, it’s more about the rights data subjects have in regard to their data. Schools need to be prepared to respond to requests for the purpose of how we are using their data, and if we don’t reply in two weeks we could face legal action. We also must apply cybersecurity measures to guarantee the security of data we house.

How do we address these changes with our community?

Being open and transparent with what data we collect and why we need it. As schools, we need to have a comprehensive review of the data we are collecting and actually decide what is necessary and build concrete rationale on why that data is necessary. While I’m not a lawyer, I believe a great first step is a well developed privacy policy that is shared with the community.

Or even better, join the Japanese Privacy Law Conference on May 21 at Christian Academy of Japan and learn from a real expert from the Personal Information Protection Commission.

What about teachers? This seems aimed at administrators…

While conforming to the expectations required to be APPI-compliant are mostly at the administrative level, there are some important elements that apply to teachers. As teachers we have access to a lot of this date and use this data regularly, especially with the growing amount of tech tools that require student information. Our teachers are at high risk for having that data stolen. One school in Japan that I recently chatted with are using KnowBe4’s phishing security test with their teachers to see how likely their teachers will fall for phishing emails. This data can then help train staff in data protection.


Coos, Andrada. “Data Protection in Japan: All You Need to Know about APPI.” Endpoint Protector Blog, 1 Feb. 2019,

Insights, Focal Point. “Beyond the GDPR: What You Should Know about Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information.” Focal Point, 18 Apr. 2018,

“Amended Privacy Protection Law.” The Japan Times, 1 June 2017,




After surveying 40 ninth and tenth grade students, that’s the number of hours per day on average they spend in front of their phone.

However, these are my stats for the last seven days. While it isn’t so far off from our students, I might add that a huge chunk of my “Reading & Reference” category is Google Maps, which I use for car navigation and I’m not sure that counts as true screen time.

To narrow it down a bit further I asked the students what their top used app was for the past seven days:

Instagram and Snapchat are a huge part of our students digital usage and are impacting and influencing them in many different ways. Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop with Adam Clark, one of our counselors and COETAIL grad, about teens and their digital use/presence. He shared some of the top 200 Instagram comments and almost all were positive messages about looks. What kind of identity expectations are we setting for our children? Why are these themes normalized in social media? How can adults help shift this?

However, as adults, and educators in particular, I think we are quick to jump to the negatives of this new social connection, but I think it’s fair to also look at the positives. I like to remind myself often that US graduation rates are continuing to increase – it’s not the end of the world and we are certainly still doing something right. Our students recognized the positives as well, they commented:

  • We are able to communicate with friends family very quickly, we are aware of any change in school programs or world events.
  • It is easy to socialize and contact people, as well as there is a wide array of resources available for academic purposes that expand our knowledge.
  • Maintains personal connections and relationships
  • Being a global citizen and knowing what is going going around in the community and the world
  • Although technology can seem antisocial, it is actually one of the most common ways of teens and kids socializing in the modern day. It provides an alternative to actually going out and spending time with that person as you can still “hang out” in the virtual world. It’s an alternative that can be used to avoid external factors that can’t be controlled when hanging out with friends (such as bad weather).

We also asked our students about the negatives of always being connected. This is what they had to say:

  • Can be tracked
  • I’m not focused enough during school.
  • That we can lose track of time and not spend physical time with friends and or family cause were always being our phones.
  • No privacy
  • It can be hard to keep track of time when using technology, so you find yourself overusing your devices at times.
  • It can influence you in ways you don’t realize especially your confidence in your body image, capabilities, etc.
  • Missing out on what’s going on in front of you
  • You are not disconnected
  • I get glued to my phone
  • You get attached to your phone and procrastinate
  • Cyberbullying which is a current problem due to the birth of social media.
  • decreases real life communication and socialization opportunities
  • That any information you put up there is published forever, and your personal information is always tracked by online companies to show you the ad that you will most likely be interested in.

The self awareness among our ninth and tenth graders is quite amazing, actually. I think it shows that they are very aware of some of the challenges with social media/phone usage, but likely lack some of the strategies they need to solve the problems they face. It’s a challenge that doesn’t have an easy one-size-fits-all solution, but I’m encouraged by the steps we are making to combat the challenge.


Starting small to tackle intellectual property rights

This weeks post is quite timely as I just had a conversation today a passionate group of teachers about digital citizenship, and the topic of intellectual property came up. Katy Vance, our amazing librarian and COETAIL graduate, shared some of the challenges she sees as she oversees the grade 10 Personal Project in regards to student understanding of intellectual property rights. One of the challenges she’s faces is that our grade 10 students haven’t been properly scaffolded in understanding intellectual property rights. they realize the importance of it now but they were never really concerned when creating ‘regular’ school work. As teachers and leaders, we haven’t done a great job of being consistent with and insistence on respecting intellectual property rights. We haven’t laid a strong enough foundation of intellectual property.

Starting small (really small)

Developing students who respect intellectual property rights isn’t just about teaching a few lessons and hammering home some concepts for the next big project, PYP Exhibition, Personal Project or Extended Essay. We need to start small. And it needs to start with the smallest members of our school.

Nelle, one of our fantastic kindergarten teachers, describes well how she teachers intellectual property to kinder students. She teaches that just the same as how she teaches sharing in her class. Her students always ask before they borrow something from their peers, and using digital works is no different. I love that approach because it isn’t about making teaching intellectual property rights something too abstract for a kindergartener, but instead bringing it to their level. Then, with that solid foundation, we can scaffold students and develop them to grow into grade 10’s as they work on their personal project.

Unfortunately, I think a large number of educators themselves don’t truly understand copyright and intellectual property. Many are even lacking a basic understanding of intellectual property rights to be able to adequately practice what they preach. A number of teachers understand that taking an image from Google is not okay, but struggle with the intricacies of fair use and an understanding of the various Creative Commons licenses. So, while I think it starts with our youngest students, it also starts with our teachers. That’s one of the reasons why I think the infographics shared in this week’s resources are so valuable. They take something that’s actually quite complex, like intellectual property laws, and make it easy to digest by your average, busy educator. I already plan a few to share a few of those in my weekly ‘learning with technology’ post to teachers.

What about my posts from course 1? After a quick review, most of my images were either used with permission or cited royalty free images. I also used a few purchased images. I have a NounPro education subscription which is well worth the 20 USD a year. Occasionally, I also purchase graphics from GraphicRiver – a great selection of graphics for those design-challenged, like myself. I did use the iBooks Author icon and one of my posts. I’m not sure if an educational post about using iBooks Author in the classroom warrants fair use of the icon, but I certainly should have cited its use, which I didn’t.

What I haven’t used in a COETAIL post yet, but love is Photos for Class, I learned about Photos for Class at Learning2 last year and it’s been a great tool I’ve used with both teachers and students to help in finding images that can be used and correctly citing them – making it easy to respect intellectual property rights.