Tag Archive | Facebook

Soaking Up November

Being a techie teacher I was quite excited when @JudyArzt invited me to her class for a Skype session with Alan November!  I use his book, Empowering Students with Technology, in two of the courses I teach and read it myself as a graduate.  @JudyArzt and I agreed that she and I would be mum during the Skype interview so that the students could ask their questions.  Can I just say how hard that was for me?  I was definitely using my wait time because when it comes to tech I can definitely monopolize the conversation, and having Alan November there to chat with I so easily could have done that!  I did get two questions in, as a follow up to his responses to others’, but focused on capturing the conversation on Twitter.  The Storify of those tweets is here, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few things he said.

One of the first questions was asked by @reisc25 about parent involvement.  Alan’s point struck me, not because of the tech solutions he provided, but because of how he removed it from tech.  Here I am, this teacher that strives herself in using technology to keep parents informed (Twitter, Facebook, website, Evernote) and have used DVD in the past, but these simple tips are just that…simple!  Not to mention that they are a fab way to maintain student relationships!

Another student asked at what age to put children’s work online.  I know that not everyone will agree with him, or me, but I felt validated.  I am of the mind that we should have children online as soon as possible.  If they can click their way through their parents’ smartphones and tablets, then they are ready to click their work online.  With the advent of touch technology, doing such things makes working with tech intuitive for kiddos.  In addition to that, I firmly believe that if we get kiddos on social media in particular then digital citizenship skills will be like breathing.  I say social media because when I think of putting student work online I think of portfolios, and immediately think of social media because of the reflective piece of portfolios and the learning process.

With all of the chatter going on in education about assessment and accountability the next question was pretty timely.  This student asked about whether Alan foresaw there being an assessment for technology, and how kiddos would fare with state and national assessments going tech.  His responses are below, but the rebel in me found his comment about no standards interesting.  But it also got me thinking.  If tech standards would be obsolete, than what about other standards?  Tech makes so much possible that doesn’t it make all other content standards obsolete?  He also commented on keyboarding, and I whole-heartedly agree with ditching cursive and replacing it with keyboarding.  He suggested some alternatives for kiddos to practice that skill, and I will be posting about an idea I kidnapped from someone about ten years ago that would also be an inexpensive alternative.

Thanks to @JudyArzt for the invite!  Thanks to @globalearner for taking time out of his day to Skype in.  And thanks to EDUC584 for asking thoughtful questions!  I appreciated the learning experience!


For Me, It Was Phoebe

January 2010, my husband and I were in the car on our way to Maine to enjoy a restful weekend.  As usual, my husband was driving and I wa jumping around the various apps on my phone.  Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds I spotted a post about a young girl in Hadley, Massachusetts  who committed suicide.  Immediately I was clicking on links to discover why.  Why would this young girl kill herself?  In the series of video clips and articles that I devoured my heart broke.  It broke for Phoebe.  It broke for her family.  It broke for all of us.

Do you remember her?  Phoebe Prince.  The fourteen year old girl recently immigrated from Ireland.  The freshman who caught the eye of a older football player at her school.  Who dated that older boy and paid dearly for it.  For three months, other girls (the “popular” girls) tormented Phoebe.  They taunted her in school.  Cornering her in the library, bathroom, and hallway calling her a whore.  These girls threatened to beat Phoebe up, prompting Phoebe to ensure she was never alone in school.  They made harassing phone calls to her home, sent her mean-spirited text messages.  They went on Facebook and ridiculed her, calling her an “Irish slut”.   On the last day of Phoebe’s life, as she was walking home from school, one of her tormentors drove by her and threw a full soda can at her head.

But that wasn’t all.  I wish it was.  What I later read is what makes a place in my heart for Phoebe Prince.   I wept when I read that after her death these same girls that tormented Phoebe were continuing to harass her.  They were publicly proclaiming at parties/dances and on Facebook that they were glad Phoebe was dead.  It appeared as if they felt no remorse for her death.  All I could think about was her family.  Could someone be so insensitive that they would leave disparaging remarks on a memorial page?  A page that was viewed by Phoebe’s friends and family, those who loved her?

And for all of those things I will remember Phoebe Prince.  I will always imagine the fear she felt as she walked through her school.  I will always imagine how helpless she felt when she attempted to protect herself by going to her school’s administration and them failing to do anything about it.  I will always imagine the pain her family felt upon losing her.  And their hearts being ripped apart when others spoke ill of their long-lost daughter.   I know that there were others before Phoebe, even as far back as 2003 (that I can recall) and others that followed.  And it saddens me that they are gone from this world.  That they felt suicide was their only option to escape their pain.  But for me, it was Phoebe that changed my views on social media and mean-spirited behavior.  And for that, I thank her.

Talking Tom


Does this face look familiar? It may as it is one of the most popular apps on the iPhone or iPod. I know it from my nephew who uses it to say silly things and once in a while slap it around or pull his tail. Because of this I never considered using it in the classroom. Too violent. But, scrolling through my tweets, and then downloading and reading a suggested book about using apps to encourage higher level thinking I changed my mind. The ladies at Appy Hours for You made me realize how beneficial it was. I did not realize that the speaking you do could be recorded and then shared with others! How beneficial!

Once the app was downloaded on all of the devices (a future post coming about that) a Guided Discovery followed. Because of the possible cruel nature of the app I knew that it would be important to do. The kiddos noticed a great deal of what the app could do: record, repeat what you say, feed Tom milk, Tom scratching claws and more. A few important things came up during the sharing of our Guided Discovery. One thing we had a quick chat about was advertisements. There are advertisements at the top of the app for similar products. We talked about how this is common in free applications and the goal was for the developers to make money.

An important conversation we had was about the option of slapping Tom and pulling his tail. One of my students said, “You can slap Tom in the face.” So I asked, what does he do when you do that? They stated that his head goes back and he makes a face. I replied that it sounded like he didn’t like being slapped too much. I then reminded them of our Twittequette and the part that says, ‘Be honest, positive, and kind’ and asked them if we would be following our Twittequette by slapping Tom. They agreed that it would be unkind and that if we slapped him we would not be following it, but one kiddo said, ‘Yeah, but you can do it.’ I loved this comment! Here’s how I responded, “You are right we can do it. There are a lot of things we can do in life if we choose to. We can also hit the people in our lives, but is that the kind thing to do?”. They understood and when we went to use it, they were all kind to Tom. Some pouring milk for him to drink. Once they were using it, they realized that another kind thing you could do was pet Tom and that he showed his appreciation for that by purring.

After the Guided Discovery, which lasted about ten minutes, the kiddos used the application to record one of the multiplication stories they created the day before while playing a game. It may sound redundant to have them record the stories after that, but my intention was that the more they say it, read it, write it, the more the story structure becomes a part of their repertoire. There stories are posted here. Please check them out. As my husband said, “They are really cute.”

Importance of Student Voice

When school districts and/or campuses decide to take the leap into social media they often do so after a great deal of consideration.  While I am of the ‘dive right in’ and ‘just do it’ mentality, I understand why some are more cautious.  And yet there is one thing that is consistently left out of these articles and decisions.  Students.  Being proactive and knowing what your own limitations is important and helpful.  It is even more important that students are included in the process.   They can be included in various parts of the process, from start to finish.  But the most important part of the process they need to be involved in is determining how to appropriately use it.

When it comes to deciding what can be posted on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube go to the students.  They’ll be able to tell you that.  They use social networks often enough that they can easily identify what is offensive or improper.  If you want to ensure that f-bombs won’t be thrown around online when social media is being used in (or out ) of the classroom, go to the kiddos.  They will be the first ones to state what type of language should be used online.   The same can be said about sharing content.  While students may need a bit of assistance identifying copyrighted materials and how to share them, they are fully aware of what it means to ‘rip off’ someone else’s work.

One of the biggest reasons why districts have been reluctant to embrace social media is because of cyber cruelty.  The deaths of Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi, and Megan Meier have shown the degrees of cruelty (intended or not) that kiddos can inflict on others.  However, kiddos of all ages do know how important it is to be kind to others.  In fact, they want to be kind to others (even though sometimes things get in the way of that).  Every year I create online guidelines with my students, they inevitably come up with something that has to do with being kind, honest, and/or respectful.  They want to do it, and they can do it.  We just have to hold them accountable.

Safety can also be a concern.  Understandably so with how we are frightened, on a daily basis, by stories of online predators.  Truth be told, over the years we have done a bang up job teaching kiddos about stranger danger.  Such a good job that they know that caution has to be extended online.  When I ask my students about how to stay safe online they always have great insight and suggestions!  They know not to talk to strangers.  They also know that they should be keeping some things private.  But what they don’t know is how to do that.

Today’s students are not only more intuitive when it comes to using technology, but they are also more aware of how to behave online.  They know that they need to be positive, honest, and kind.  They know they should be using language that is appropriate for their age and school.  They know they need to keep some things personal and private.  They know they need to think when they are online.  What these articles need  to be saying and what districts need to be outlining, is how we are going to listen to what our students already know and then build off of that.


This may sound a bit late coming from a Tweet-a-holic like myself, but I just got around to using Storify. I have had it bookmarked in my Twitter and Facebook Symbaloo for quite some time, but just have not had the time, or need, to use it. Until today!!!

My students have classroom Twitter accounts that we use for various things. This year we will be using them as a way to share books, TweetQuest discoveries, and learning with folks (like BrainPOP! and BrainPOP! Jr.) outside of our classroom.  After working on creating (safe) age-appropriate profiles and outlining our Twittequette, we began sharing and learning.  My students have already posted their updated Hopes and Dreams as well as participated in a TweetQuest about Kate DiCamillo.  But…I wanted to find a way to share their use of the social network.

This is where Storify comes in.  There are a variety of tools that can be used to share and/or archive tweets.  Some of my favorites are The Archivist and paper.li (more are listed in my Symbaloo).  But I wanted something that was a bit more visual and would allow me to edit the content.  Storify does just that.  You can choose from a variety of tools, not just Twitter, to create a story.  You can pull from Google, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and more!  The two stories I created today (each in less than a half hour) are below.

[<a href=”http://storify.com/merciermagic/hopes-and-dreams” target=”_blank”>View the story “Hopes & Dreams” on Storify</a>]

[<a href=”http://storify.com/merciermagic/kate-dicamillo-chat” target=”_blank”>View the story “Kate DiCamillo Chat” on Storify</a>]

I will probably be creating a how-to video later on and will post that as soon as I do!

Project 365

Since I have been on Twitter I have seen tweets about project 365.  I think I even saw my youngest sister post about it on Facebook.  I asked @gregkulowiec about it last night after he tweeted about it. A quick Twitter search led me to a link thY summed it up as this:
     * take a picture a day for 365 days
     * snap pix of things that are important to you
     * create a photo journal of a year of your life
     * share your pix with others.

I can see how a project like this could be difficult to stick with.  For one you have to become very aware of your surroundings.  You will want to try to snap a different picture each day. You are sharing a piece of yourself when participating in a project like this.  All can be daunting, frightening, and intimidating.

Despite all of this look at the power in a project like this!  Not only do you get to hone your photo skills, but you learn new things about yourself.  You may discover new interests. Or upon looking back at your photos you will notice patterns and uncover new passions.  So let’s imagine for a moment that we did this with students.  Of any and all ages.  Obviously, guidelines would need to be set up from the go, but after that…

What a gift we could give our students! Showing them how to be keen observers of life. Their lives and the lives of others. Showing them how everything is important, no detail is too small. I remember one year, as part of a writing unit my students took photos of things that were important or of interest to them, one of my students took a breath taking photo of his aging grandmother’s hand.  What a window of what he valued and how attentive to detail he was.  Not only is this a gift for our students, but for us as well, seeing our students in a new way.

I will be taking the project 365 challenge and posting it to one of my blogs.  I haven’t quite decided whether it is best to throw it on here and tag it #project365, If I am going to post to my class Tumblr account and invite my students to join in, or both.  I am excited either way!

Sharing PBL

I began teaching in 2001 and that is when I fell in love with Project Based Learning (PBL).  The longer I teach, the more immersed I become in PBL and the less I rely on worksheets and textbooks.  The same is true for the integration of technology.  I began my journey with technology integration in 2008 which has gradually decreased a reliance on paper and pencil tasks.  While this means that I am working at engaging my students with relevant tools, it also means that there are some unconventional practices occurring.

One problem is that grades are not the means for student feedback.  For some this can be difficult because that is what students have experienced in the past and that is what their parents are familiar with.  Despite my own crisis in faith with rubrics, I value them for communicating expectations.  This can be difficult for some as well because it too is different from a grade.  Because of these two things, I often provide feedback verbally, in a 1:1 and/or small group situation.  Sitting side – by – side my students, engaging in conversation about what they are currently doing.  The other problem? Very little paperwork goes home.  For some this can be difficult because papers are seen as evidence of teaching and learning.

For teachers who value PBL how do you inform parents about what’s happening in the classroom?  Here are a few ideas that a few friends and I have used over the years to keep parents informed.

  • Newsletters: a 1-sided sheet that shares what is happening in the classroom
  • Home Journals: a notebook that goes between home and school allowing the children to write a letter to their parents outlining what they’ve learned during the week
  • Websites: a central place for messages and publicly display student work
  • Weekly Folders: a folder that gets sent home with any notes and/or work that has been completed
  • Rubrics: send a copy home before, during, and/or after a project/task
  • Copy Student Work: take pictures or photocopy student work, during and after task completion for parents to see the work ‘in progress’
  • Events: invite parents to project culminations; plays, museums, walk-throughs, poetry slams, author’s chair, etc.
  • Social Media:YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (and more) are forums to send out quick bursts of information about what is happening in the classroom before, during, or after it happens.
  • Progress Reports: postcard that highlights a student’s current achievement on assessment

I would love to hear how you hear keep families up – to – date with what’s happening in your classroom!