Pink Day and Cyberbullying

This Wednesday is Pink Shirt Day and the focus this year is on cyber-bullying. By definition, cyberbullying is bullying behaviour that occurs in an online or digital environment. Just like regular bullying, cyberbullying can be obvious or subtle, it can involve several people or many and the effects can be harmful and long-lasting. With kids being online earlier and earlier, cyberbullying is a real concern for parents and educators. As with any bullying behaviours, proactive is better than reactive and keeping the lines of communication open is key.

Last week’s blog saw the official launch of West Vancouver School District’s Digital Citizenship Hub. Within the website, there are some lessons that lend themselves to the issue of cyber-bullying.

For the Kindie to Grade 3 crowd, the focus is on kindness and what that looks like and feels like. These discussions can be fuelled by picture books and there are lots of great picture books mentioned on the website, especially under the “Respect” section.

For the Grade 4 to 7 classes, the issues of cyber-bullying and respectful, kind online behaviour are dealt with under Digital Etiquette and Digital Communication.

For Grades 4 and 5, Digital Etiquette focuses on positive online interactions and Digital Communication focuses on sharing information carefully and playing online games respectfully.

For Grades 6 and 7, Digital Etiquette focuses on cyberbullying and digital drama and Digital Communication focuses on online friendships and relationships.

It takes a village to raise safe, kind kids. Take time this week to talk about kindness and bullying with your students. And if the lesson plans on the website help…fantastic!


Digital Citizenship Website

Photo by Pixabay on

Last year I wrote several blog posts about digital citizenship (here, here and here). Since then I have become increasingly concerned about our (and I mean that globally, not just in my district) students’ abilities to be safe and effective participants in our digital world.

This concern led me to spend many hours of my time scanning the internet, looking for lesson plans, ideas and a scope and sequence. The great news is that I found loads of information and resources. The bad information? I found loads of information and resources – some good, some great and some not. There’s a lot out there to wade through!

This resulted in more work, of course! Using ISTE as well as the British Columbia curriculum as my guide, I created this scope and sequence for our schools, Kindergarten to Grade 7.

I then took the resources I found and plugged them into the correct places in the scope and sequence and used Google Sites to build a website to house it all. Whew!

The website, the West Vancouver School District’s Digital Citizenship Hub is now ready to be used by educators and administrators alike, with the following understandings:

  1. I did not create the vast majority of the resources! They are collated from around the internet, with special thanks to Common Sense Media, Google’s Be Internet Awesome and Media Smarts.
  2. This website is meant to be a living entity, that will be added to as more resources become available or as people share more resources with me. Have a great lesson plan? Email me at!
  3. I have created custom, West Vancouver School District, digital badges for the units in Grade 4 to 7. My intention was to create self-scoring Google Forms quizzes that would automatically email a digital badge to any student who scored high enough on the quiz. Unfortunately, try as I might, I could not get the code to work! So, for any of you who work in West Vancouver, just send me a quick email if you want access to the digital badges.

I really hope that in creating this website I have made it easier for teachers to help their students become confident, caring, critical and ethical participants in the digital world.

Gamified Literacy? Sounds Like A Dream(scape)

Have you ever wondered how you could get your students to be as excited about reading comprehension as they seem to be about playing the latest online video game? My students will happily discuss the details of their latest foray into the Fortnite world but wouldn’t dream of discussing the main idea of the paragraph I asked them to read. At least, they wouldn’t talk about it without being asked to!

Well, the good news is that the people who created Squiggle Park, a Canadian “learn to read” app for K to 2 students, have created Dreamscape, a “read to learn” site created specifically with gamers in mind! And….it’s totally FREE!!! And….it’s Canadian!!!

So, Dreamscape is a literacy platform for Grade 3 to 6 students (Grade 7 is being worked on and Grade 8 is in the future). Through reading short passages and answering questions, students (Dreamseekers) can build their own “base”, or “dwell” in the Dreamscape world, with the goal of protecting their Visioncore, where they store their dreams. Successful readings give players the opportunity to add defenses and resources to their base, as they build their dwell and move forward in time. (Here’s a rundown on all the characters and magical buildings, for those of us who like to know what we’re getting into ahead of time!)

Kids earn the right to “buy” these things by reading passages and answering questions correctly.

For those who are wondering, as students successfully read passages and answer questions, the level of reading goes up, (and down when they are not successful) without the students even being aware of it. I was concerned that eventually my good readers would “run out” of passages to read but in speaking with the development team, I have been assured that they are constantly adding more passages and are seeking partnerships with publishing houses for even more reading passages.

Check out all the learning that can happen!

Now, I must admit, I am not a “gamer”, so when I first tried playing Dreamscape myself, I struggled to enjoy it. But when I got a few of my students logged in to their accounts, they immediately were comfortable and knew what to do. One of them told me “it’s sort of like Clash of Clans – I can figure this out easily!” There is a tutorial for those kids in your class who are not gamers and below you will find a video that shows you what the game looks and plays like:

One of the things my kids liked is that they can “battle” other players in the class. One of the things I liked is that the players can be at different levels when they battle each other. Battles are limited to 3 minutes in time and the game is designed so that students have to do a lot of reading in order to build up to a battle.

As an ELA teacher, I am thrilled when my kids get excited about reading. And it’s great if I can find something online that’s free and safe. And the icing on the cake is finding something that gives me data about how the kids are doing. When Dreamscape first launched as a pilot program this last fall, they hadn’t developed their teacher dashboard, so as a teacher, I couldn’t see any stats about how long my kids were playing, what things they were struggling with or where they were being successful. That has now changed. The teacher dashboard gives teachers all kinds of useful information, from what skills your class as a whole has mastered to what skills a specific student is struggling with.

View of a sample teacher dashboard

So…to recap:

  • Dreamscape is an online reading comprehension app/site for Grade 3 to 6 kids (Gr. 7 coming soon!)
  • It works on PCs, Macs, Chromebooks and on tablets with a free app – I’ve personally tested this!
  • Dreamscape has gamified reading comprehension skills
  • It is absolutely free – no cost to school OR parents! And it will stay free!
  • It’s Canadian – go Canada!
  • A little Math for you:
    • Kids + Video Games = Engagement
    • Engagement + Reading = Learning
  • Via the dashboard, teachers get all kinds of useful data to help drive instruction
  • Setting up a class and adding students is quick and easy

So, with all of that going for it, why not give Dreamscape a try? I bet your students will thank you for it!

Google Art Part Three

This is the last post on Google and Art and for me, it is the coolest one as it is the one that’s the most creative! As often happens with me, this last activity came up when two of my worlds collided. On the one hand, I was looking for some cool “selfie” assignment to finish off the Digital Art/Photography unit I did with my Grade 7s this last fall and on the other hand, I was chilling on the nap couch and skimming through youtube.

BANG! I found a video about how to use Google Drawings to create vector art portraits. They were so cool, and I reasoned that my students could use this technique to make their final selfie assignment.

The first thing I had to do was teach myself. Here is the first video tutorial I found. It’s a very thorough video and too long for the kids to sit through, but I was able to use it to teach myself the basics. Basically, you are using the polyline tool in Google Drawings to “trace” shapes on a real digital image and recreate it. Here’s my first attempt:

After doing some more searching, I came up with a better video, in terms of length.

So, here are a few tips, to get you started! I changed the size of my Google Drawing “page” to 8.5 x 11 inches, so I could print the selfies to regular sized paper. Think of the image like a collage. Build from the back, starting with the largest areas first. I usually trace the face shape, the hair, the neck and the shirt, then work my way “forward” layering colours on top of each other.

Some of my students found it easier to use a mouse, others were fine with the trackpad on their device. By the way, this does not work on an ipad (yeah, I find that strange, too, but Google Drawings does not work on an ipad).

The smoother you can “click” with the Polyline tool, the easier it is to trace the shapes. You get into a bit of a rhythm with it. I let my students listen to music on their headphones as they worked, as many of them found the general class chatter very distracting as they tried to get into “the zone”.

In retrospect, I should have given my kids an easier image to learn with first, like a picture of a flower or something. Faces are very complex, with loads of shapes and shadows. Once kids know how to do this, they can use this skill for any image. One of my students was so taken with the process that he went home and made another image of himself skiing – he was so proud of it!

Here are some of their “selfies”!