Ben Cogswell is one of our favorite educators. Here’s why…
Of all the many amazing educators, and students across the world, some stand out as real leaders in digital citizenship.
Ben Cogswell, is one such leader.
Based in Salinas CA, Ben reaches out to fellow teachers, students, parents across the world to help them navigate the digital world positively, through a super engaging online personality, known worldwide as Coach Ben!
Ben is a great advocate for positivity in the digital world and for the power of tech to do good. So he can very much be classed as an expert in his field and was recently recognized as CUE 2019 BOLD Educator of the Year for his commitment to learning in a virtual or blended setting.
“There are so many amazing possibilities with tech.”
But, it’s his empathy with kids and their parents that is probably his strongest asset.
And it was his dual experience as a teacher and a parent that drives him to help others:
“Being an educator you always see what kids are doing at school, and seeing what’s appropriate and inappropriate”, says Ben
“But more importantly I think is being a parent. I feel like tech has a bad rap. A lot of it is seeing that there are so many amazing possibilities with tech, and how do we get people to create things with it.”
“But kids need support, teachers need support and parents need support, to make the most of it.”
Ben also is inspired to act by his own experience is a tech-enthusiast kid, discovering the online world for the first time:
“I go back to when I was a kid and I remember I had a computer. I had an Apple 2E, and then we got a 28k modem. I feel like no one ever taught us how to act on the internet. We just had to figure it out for ourselves. And I did some things I shouldn’t have. I was probably in some chat rooms that I shouldn’t have been on AOL - but back then I guess we didn’t really know that we shouldn’t just go in all these random chat rooms and talk to all these different strangers.
“Well now we know!”
“Citizenship is being kind to people.’
For Ben, Digital Citizenship is an idea that translates into every aspect of our lives, both on and offline; and whether you’re a kid or an adult.
It’s a really persuasive argument, when we consider how engrained technology has been to every aspect of our lives; down to how we interact with our favourite family activities:
“I just got back from Disney Land with my family. While I’m there, I pull out my phone and scan my ticket; then I took a picture. And I thought ‘where is this line between how I’m acting as a person, and how I’m acting with my device?’”
“So I’m taking a picture, but now I’m posting that picture, and all of a sudden now I’m a digital citizen? That doesn’t make sense the way we view it.”
So, is it time to drop the “digital” from “digital citizenship” when we think about how to be a productive, positive person in a tech-enabled age?
Ben thinks so:
“Citizenship is being kind to people. Helping to raise the next generation to be better. Being positive, being productive, solving problems, and giving back.”
“It’s so much easier to give back: it’s easy togo to a forum and help someone. It’s about how we manage our lives.”
“It’s not so much this dichotomy between the digital world and the real world. It’s lessening all the time. Especially now that we have these portable devices - they’re really almost a part of everything we do now.”
Ben is a constant source of learning and inspiration in this area, and is well known and regarded online.
But, his approach is maybe not as planned as it appears!
“I throw my rock in the pond wherever I can and try to create some ripples!”
And those ripples help teachers with everyday challenges that, as a parent of 4, he empathises with only too well:
“The other day I came home and my kids were watching YouTube, and I could see they were pulling their iPad back, so that was a conversation we had to have. So I wondered how other parents were dealing with this, so literally I streamed it on Facebook Live. So I had that real conversation right there.
And the response from parents on such impromptu online gatherings can be very meaningful:
Parents say” Thank for sharing that” or “I never thoughts of that!”.
So what does Ben find that adults are most concerned about when it comes to tech:
“They look at tech as something that isolates us. They look at the kids walking down the streets on their phone.”
“For many teachers it’s like ‘Ok go to the computer, open this program, log in, answer the questions and get some feedback.’
“For most parents it’s like ‘here’s your device, go watch some YouTube, go play a game.’”
"Parents are worried about cyber bullying on social media - and some of them are very valid concerns, so I try to create that splash how I can, when I can.”
“Video games can be great!”
Ben of course is a loving parent, and an inspiring teacher.
But what also really comes across when you speak to him, is his genuine enthusiasm for tech and digital play:
“I mean I think video games can be great! I grew up playing video games. There’s problem-solving, there’s challenges in them (depending on what you’re playing).”
“But the problem is that kids don’t necessarily do it together. You often have the situation where Kid A over here is playing Fortnite, and Kid B over here is doing something separate. And when do we ever say, ‘Hey we have the Nintendo Switch, we’re going to take turns, you guys are going to work together?’”
Ben says, that when it comes to video games, we need the same approach to how families wold traditionally play board games together”
“We used to play board games as a family, now all of a sudden we’re playing video games, and it’s seen as negative. But I said, ‘we’re playing this together - we chose Yoshi’s World, because it’s a family-friendly game, with barely any violence. We can play it together. We can take turns.' There’s a lot of imagination in there . And so we were saying that you need to be a more critical consumer, and think what your kids are playing, and do it together “
The California DigCitSummit
We’re super excited to be working with Ben on bringing the DigCitSummit to California in September 2019.
And it’s a challenge that Ben has a great vision for:
“My goal is to strike some of these things that people aren’t aware of, and face to face is a great opportunity to connect people across California and beyond to start connecting about these things.”
“The goal is to connect students, parents and teachers around some of these topics.”
It’s about asking: “how do we start having some of those conversations, because the whole world has changed. How do we keep these things positive.
“It’s at a high school - but our aim is to have a bit of a mix of presentations on site, and remote. Whether it’s people streaming from their house or doing some pre-recorded sessions.”
And the Summit will be as inclusive as possible, with many of the sessions and materials being provided in Spanish:
“In California we have a large Spanish speaking population. I teach a class where 100% of their parents speak Spanish. A lot speak English too, but I want to make sure we give that understanding to everyone.”
We’re proud to be collaborating with Ben, and Monterey Bay CUE in bringing the Summit to California.
“It’s people coming together who are passionate about DigCit and trying to make it happen”, says Ben.
“The DCI have connected us on a larger scale.”
“This is just one conference but it’s going to take all these people coming together to help make some of this stuff shift culturally.”
Ben’s enthusiasm, drive, and empathy are some of the reasons why he’s one of our favourite DigCit advocates and educators.
Find out more about the California Summit
See more about Ben’s work