Thursday, July 17, 2014

E-mail: Getting started on the right foot.

E-mail has been around since the earliest days of the Internet. I won't go into a history lesson but e-mail as we now it really took off in the early 90s. Despite being a rather old technology, e-mail still is considered a core technology for business users. E-mail is simple, portable and relatively easy to use. It's also very inexpensive to implement, anyone with a computer or smart phone can set up an account in a matter of minutes. You probably already have at least one e-mail account. Some sites such as Facebook, Google and Apple automatically set up one for you.

Here's a quick and easy way to set up an account with Google:

A few tips about log in names. Try to use something related to your name without making it too long. For the purposes of this class, use your first two initials and your last name. If its already taken, add the last two digits of the year you were born. Do not try to be cute by using a nickname or something unprofessional. Remember, your e-mail address represents you. Make a good first impression by keeping your address short and easy to remember. Also. Remember that you will have to be sharing your e-mail address with others over the phone. If your name is long, difficult to pronounce or spell, you might want to shorten it to just your initials. A difficult address can create a lot of work later on if you're not careful.

Now for a few tips on using e-mail properly:

1. The address line. You can enter one or more recipients in the main address line. Personally, I only do this when I'm needing to send a message out to a group. If someone wants to respond, they can reply to me only or reply to the group if they want everyone to see their response. Try not to reply to an entire group unless it's necessary since many responses can clog up you in box very quickly!

2. Carbon Copy. The carbon copy or CC: line gives you a space to list additional addresses. If you want to key someone in on a conversation, use the CC: line to enter their address. This is a great way to keep colleagues involved in a conversation. This is a very useful tool in business since you will want someone else to know what's been said. This way,  if you're out of the office, another colleague can pick up where you've left off. Keep in mind though that recipients of your e-mail will be able to see who else is receiving the message.

3. Blind Carbon Copy: If you do not want to recipient to know that you are sharing their message, use the bling carbon copy line to enter their address. But please be ethical about using this feature. Do not use this feature to share information that someone would want kept private.

4. Signature. Create a signature for your e-mails. Some e-mail providers allow you to have two or more. You might want to set up a primary that contains most of your contact information and a second one that contains just your name. You usually use the abbreviated one for replies. Set up your signature like this:

Phone number

You might also want to include social media that you frequent line your twitter handle. Also insert a few blank lines above your signature so it won't crowd the rest of your message.

5. Writing. most people receive many e-mails throughout the day. So keep your messages brief and to the point. Also, make it a habit of including at least one "please" and one "thank you" in each e-mail you send. It's easy to come across as rude or curt if you do not. Also, try to include useful information in each e-mail. Don't waste people's time. It's annoying.

6. Replying. Always try to use the reply feature when responding to e-mails. It's much easier to keep up with a conversation. Do not change the subject line. The only time you might change the line is if two unrelated conversations develop. Then you might split the one into two separate e-mails. Also, try to stay on topic. If you need to change the subject in the middle of a conversation, just start a new e-mail with a new subject line. It makes tracking things down later much easier.

7. Attachments. You can attach files to an e-mail. But please watch the size. Files over 500 mb are often rejected by some e-mail servers. For large files, you'll want to use an online dropbox. (more on that in another lesson.

8. Etiquette. Do not use slang, jargon, or emoticons when sending e-mail. Use complete sentences and keep your conversation professional and concise. Also, avoid sarcasm in an e-mail. People cannot hear your voice tone or see your body language. What you might think is a joke could be offensive.

Congratulations! You're now ready to get started using your e-mail. Here are two quick assignments:

1. Send an e-mail to your instructor introducing yourself. Don't forget to use a salutary line when you begin. Again, keep it short and conversational.

2. Send a thank you note. One of the best uses of e-mail is to express gratitude. Think of a teacher or other adult that helped you in some way last year. Send them an e-mail expressing your gratitude. It will lift their day and it will make you a better person as well. Live a life of perpetual thankfulness and you'll be a better person.

Finally, save your e-mails! You can create folders for specific people or organizations. Also, you can create an archive folder for older e-mails. I usually archive e-mails after 6 months. You will find that an e-mail archive can be an invaluable resource. Often people forget what they said in an e-mail and it's easier to settle disputes when you can produce a copy of an e-mail that they sent. E-mails take up very little space on a server so keep them all if you can.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Digital Citizenship Analysis and Reflections

Nine Themes

The following is my description of the nine themes of digital citizenship. The original nine themes can be found at the nine Themes Web Site:

Digital Access – Digital access is the idea that all citizens should have the opportunity to fully participate in our society by having access to digital resources. This includes access to desktop computers at local public libraries. Also, it can mean having access to the Internet through wifi, digital phone lines, or satellite.

Digital Commerce – In recent years on-line retailers such as Amazon and Ebay have demonstrated that not only is digital retailing a possibility, consumers can benefit from the access and ease of on-line shopping. As a consequence, traditional “brick and mortar” retailers have become players in the on-line retailing arena. The growth has presented problems for states which often have difficulty collecting sales taxes through Internet exchanges. There have been additional challenges as credit card companies have had to meet the challenge of making transactions secure.

Digital Communication – The Internet has revolutionized how we communicate. Many phone lines now are digital with VOIP connections. In addition to traditional voice communications, people can communicate via e-mail, text, Skype, Facetime, Facebook IM, Twitter, on-line forums, and many others. The expanding points of communication have presented a challenge in how best to communicate with other people. Text only also presents the challenge of having to communicate emotion. Some forms of textual communication have also challenges us with brevity (Twitter). Users have to be taught how to use these tools to their maximum effectiveness.

Digital Literacy – Schools have invested millions of dollars in developing their computer and networking infrastructure. However, schools still face the challenge of teaching children how to navigate and use the resources they have. Teachers must also be challenged and trained in integrating technology into their curricula.

Digital Etiquette – Networking technology ultimately centers on people and their ability to communicate. Interacting with people involves developing new standards of behavior to accommodate new communication methods. Digital etiquette seeks to address the issues involved with interacting over digital networks.

Digital Law – As commerce and communications over the Internet have grown, our system of laws governing digital commerce has had to grow with it. Patent and copyright laws have had to be revised, commerce laws have had to be reconstructed for products delivered digitally, and some international laws have been rendered almost unenforceable in some situations. Privacy laws have also been revised. Digital law seeks to protect both the rights individuals and corporations on both a national and international scale.

Digital Rights and Responsibilities – The ubiquitous nature of the Internet has given each person the power to be a publisher. Like the printing press of the past, individuals now have the ability to communicate with millions at a time. At the same time, professional credentials have been diminished. Users of blogs and personal web sites have a right to speak freely but they also have a responsibility to communicate accurately, fairly, and ethically to the best of their ability.

Digital Health and Wellness – One of the concerns of the growth of the Internet is its ability to impact the psychological and physical well being of those who use it. On-line bullying has become a major concern among young people. Also extensive use of the Internet has impacted the physical health of many. We have to know when to put down our digital tools and take part in physical activity.

Digital Security – The pervasive and invasive nature of digital technologies has provided many with the opportunity to disrupt human interactions and commerce. Viruses, Trojan horses, and "phishing" have become major problems. Also, the security of on-line identity information and credit card information are a major concern.

Personal Practices

I personally practice on-line security by providing as little information as possible on social networking sites. I only provide only what information is necessary. Thus my Facebook profile might leave a lot to be desired. I do not include my address, education or employment information. What information I do disclose is guarded and shared with only contacts that I know. I also screen my contacts to make sure that they are actual friends.

With regard to passwords, I use a multi-layered approach that I prefer to keep confidential. So far, I have not lost any information on-line. The only time I have ever had a credit card number stolen was at a gas station pump. Students do need to be coached on best practices on creating good passwords. Passwords such as their last name, "ABC123," and "Password," are simply unacceptable.

In regards to on-line payments, I choose to pay by credit card instead of a debit card. This gives me the opportunity to challenge charges before I pay any money from my account. I have had to challenge incorrect charges before but since the money was withheld from the vendor, the issues were resolved quickly.

One practice that I do need to change is using my real name. My name is unique so it’s easy to track down things I have said on message boards for the past 15 years. I also need to avoid disclosing personal information on health message boards.

School AUP

I am beginning to teach my first year at a new school this coming fall. I have reviewed the AUP ( It has some good points with regard to student safety and privacy. However, I would like to use Google Docs this year and require my students to have an account. I am going to have to receive some guidance on how to implement this without violating the AUP. I trust that I will be able to work this out with my administration but I have not discussed all of my plans.. The policy deals with student work published on school web sites. however it is unclear how I should proceed concerning student created web sites or student social media posts created independently. The school policy falls short in this regard and it somewhat antiquated.

Plagiarism and Safety

I plan to have students cite sources for pictures and other information acquired on the Internet. I also plan to utilize software such as to insure that work has not been lifted from other sources.  I also like use Holly Clark's idea of working with a class to develop a AUP (Clark, 2013). Students should have a say in how policies are created and implemented. We cannot say we respect their voices without listening to them. Student buy-in to AUPs also allows students to police policies themselves.

Another of Clark's ideas is the concept of maintaining a digital brand. Since my background is in advertising, I understand the concept of brand equity and the importance of maintaining an on-line brand. I also want to introduce students to the concept of influence measurement. Sites such as Klout seek to measure leading influencers and thought leaders in a number of fields. It's never too early to begin teaching students about building their brand equity. my plan is to help students begin to shape their personal brand by creating attractive and informative social media brands.

Keeping students safe requires education, but it also requires engagement and interaction. As stated in the excerpt from Leadership in the Information Age (Anderson, Grant & Speck, 2008), Internet filters and blocking software isn't enough. I also believe that policies are not enough either. Parents and teachers need to be interacting with students on-line, coaching them in how to conduct oneself in a variety of situations and forums. Adults must also watch how young people interact with each other without interfering with their lives. This is a fine line but I believe we can walk it. Adults cannot afford to simply give up leading in this area and turn it over to the domain of children and young adults. We must lead in this are of their lives. We would not allow our young people to travel in areas of the city or country that we are not familiar with. Why would we do the exact thing by allowing them to travel to parts of the Internet or social media that we are not familiar with?

Another concept that I would like to implement is a personal statement of ethics. I am planning on giving each student the task of creating their own statement of ethics. Personal values are a part of who we are as human beings and our ethics must emanate from our character. I feel that to be effective, ethics must come from the student rather than being imposed by the teacher. As teachers and parents we can guide young people to make ethical decisions, but ultimately they must live in the world that they create.


Clark, H. (August 19, 2013). How To Tackle Digital Citizenship During The First 5 Days Of School [Web site]. Retrieved from

Anderson, R.S., Grant, M.M., & Speck, B.W. (2008). Technology to teach literacy: A resource for K-8 teachers. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Merrill Prentice Hall.