Spark Change: Using Digital Skills to Share Your Story

I first met Olivia Van Ledtje a few years ago at a very busy Digital Playground amidst the chaos of ISTE’s annual conference. While I had been a fan of Liv (as she’s known by her audience), I was not prepared for the spunky and completely amazing person that she is in real life. Meeting her in person made me love her even more. She’s just so amazing!

Liv is the creator of LivBits, a series of bite-sized videos discussing her favorite books. She’s become an amazing voice for student voice and digital rights. Through her work as a student storyteller, she has shared her story of being a victim of bullying, developed into an empowered learner and creator, and met her favorite authors and illustrators. Recently, Liv and her mom Cynthia Merrill published a book, Spark Change: Making Your Mark in a Digital World.

Spark Change is a book for teachers about the importance of allowing students to share their voice. The book discusses the importance of Internet safety, digital citizenship, and digital rights. While keeping our students safe online is important, it’s also important to show them how to use social media properly. It’s inevitable that students will use the Internet, create a profile, and begin sharing their lives. It’s also inevitable for students to be bombarded with posts online that are rude, hurtful, and go so far as to cause personal distress.

Many times, we give our students a list of things not to do online. Don’t give your real name. Don’t share your password. Don’t post pictures that show where you live.

Spark Change exerpt

What would happen if we allowed our students to share their passions online in a controlled environment? What would happen if we modeled our social media lives responsibly for our students? What would happen if we encouraged our students to be digital activists and research their passions? Wonderful things! That’s what would happen.

Spark Change helps teachers apply digital literacy skills by providing real-life examples and anecdotes. It isn’t a digital citizenship curriculum. Spark Change helps us teach “students how to behave in all the spaces they interact.” Personal stories are scattered throughout the book. While Liv shares her point-of-view and knowledge of social media, Cynthia shares best practices, research, and classroom application.

With chapters discussing digital purpose, authenticity, creation, activism, exploration, and future, Spark Change has been the perfect book for me to extend my personal learning of digital citizenship. I want my students to be empowered sharers and creators, not just consumers. I’ve become more and more interested in this topic since researching digital citizenship in K-12 education.

With alignments to the ISTE Standards, information from this book is invaluable to teachers wanting to dig deeper into digital citizenship and practical application for their students. And the standards crosswalks make aligning the content to AASL Standards easier than ever. Sharing online doesn’t have to take place in the wild west of social media. It can simply be sharing questions and resources in a class-created document. Providing real-life applications for students truly allows them to see how powerful their words are. You can find book titles and links to an additional fifteen resources that provide real-life examples and lesson ideas at the end of this post.

My copy of Spark Change: Making Your Mark in a Digital World is full of highlights and post-it notes. They mark sections to return to and quotes that give me #heartbeeps. I can’t wait to begin implementing many of the strategies and lesson ideas shared by Liv and Cynthia in this book.


More Digital Citizenship Reading

  • Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities by Kristen Mattson
  • Connected Librarians: Tap Social Media to Enhance Professional Development and Student Learning by Nikki D. Robertson
  • Leading from the Library: Help Your School Community Thrive in the Digital Age by Shannon Miller and William Bass
  • Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today by Eric Sheninger and Thomas Murray
  • National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries from AASL
  • Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know by Mike Ribble
  • Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd
  • Fact Vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News by Darren Hudgins and Jennifer LaGarde

More Online Digital Citizenship Resources


Author: Ashley Cooksey

Library Media Specialist in Arkansas. Self-proclaimed geek. Lover of nature and music. Always learning.

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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