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Learning Library Blog Find out how this 10-year-old became a digital citizen and empowered learner
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Find out how this 10-year-old became a digital citizen and empowered learner

By Team ISTE
June 6, 2018
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Kids are always listening – and learning. Sometimes when we least expect it.

That was the case with fourth grader Olivia Van Ledtje who overheard her mother reviewing some students’ Selfie Center videos and decided she, too, had a lot she’d like to share.

Two years later, Olivia has created more than 100 LivBits – short videos she posts on the video sharing platform Vimeo to describe what she’s reading, thinking about and learning. Today, she has over 35,000 Instagram followers and more than 44,000 followers on Twitter.

“Topics include the books I read, sharks, ballet, violin and my thinking,” Olivia, 10, explains. “I felt like I could make the Selfie Center into something brand new and fresh that has a little bit of style.”

She’s also introduced “LivBits on Location” where she interviews authors or posts videos from conferences.

After begging her mom, literacy consultant Cynthia Merrill, to let her create some videos last year, a bullying situation at school provided the perfect reason for Olivia to start documenting her thinking. That experience turned into three videos on bullying that were released last summer.

Olivia’s videos have spread far and wide via social media, and many are posted at the recently launched where she will also be blogging.

Olivia discussed her video creations as part of Merrill’s session at ISTE 2016 on the power of the Selfie Center, and has since presented at events for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, NCTE’s Whole Language Umbrella and the Digital Citizenship Summit held at Twitter headquarters. Olivia also gave a TED-style talk at Building Learning Communities in Boston.

She’s also working with students at an international school in Taiwan who are using video creation to improve their English. Olivia provides feedback on the Taiwanese students’ videos, and they weigh in on hers.

“I want to make my voice heard. I want people to value my kids’ voice and know that they can do amazing things with reading, thinking and technology,” Olivia explains. Making the videos also provides an opportunity to create with technology, something that’s not part of her typical school day.

“We use technology for a math program every morning, but not for talking about our thinking. We don’t use it to create, and you don’t see kids doing anything that could help people create things or doing something they really enjoy on the devices,” Olivia says.

Sharing her voice has not been without risk and reaction. A social media post in support of Hillary Clinton led to a flurry of unfavorable retweets from Trump supporters.

“There’s been a learning curve for Liv around digital citizenship. She’s learned a lot about crafting a good message thanks to the social media comments. It’s made her message even more powerful,” Merrill notes.

The response to the Hillary Clinton post also led to the creation of a “digital tribe” of adult supporters who engage on social media on Olivia’s behalf and teach her how to respond and when to “block to bloom.”

Olivia has these tips for students who would like to get into video creation:

  • You have to have big ideas.
  • You can’t be afraid to see yourself.
  • You need to know how to set up your device.
  • Know your audience; keep them interested.
  • Talk in a peppy voice.
  • Don’t be shy.
  • You have to like to talk – a lot.

Olivia thinks and acts a lot like an Empowered Learner and a Digital Citizen, as defined by the ISTE Standards for Students. She builds networks and customizes her learning environments; uses technology to seek feedback; cultivates and manages her digital identity; and engages in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior.

As Olivia explores her ideas and experiences through her LivBits, she’s also thinking about her future as an ichthyologist (one who studies fish), a ballerina or “a person that runs around being happy.”

This is an updated version of a post published on Jan. 18, 2017.

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