Saturday, March 7, 2015

Should we be spying, monitoring and following our kids online?

We all would do anything for our kids that is within our power and even perhaps what is not in our power. The question I am asking is whether we should trust our kids with their judgement to make wise choices? Its called digital citizenship and where should parents draw the line on spying or snooping on our children? From my standpoint, I understand we need to teach our children to be responsible and have values that they will eventually take ownership for but our children can make one mistake and a predator, a bully or even a spy camera can be turned toward your child's computer and who can undo that? This also can go toward having a high school child's driving monitored using an app. My insurance company offered me a discount to monitor my driving. While I am not being singled out by State Farm, they really are hedging their bets.  In an article by Martine Oglethorpe in Digital Trends, she gives the pros and cons and when parents might be stepping over the line.

Should I be spying on my kids online? How can I keep watch over everything my kids are doing? How can I be sure they are doing the right things online? How can I be sure I am monitoring the right sites? What about privacy? And trust? Having the time to look? Knowing where to look?

From the toddler to the tween

When kids are young, yes you need to monitor. Not spying, monitoring. Spying implies that you are doing it behind their back. But you can’t teach if it’s not in partnership with your child. It needs to be a proviso of having access to devices, and games, and social networks and well, the rest of the world. They need to know you are watching. You need to use this time whilst you have control to teach them. You need to guide their behaviours. To do your best to protect them from content they don’t need to see. To help them make decisions to keep them safe. To instil in them attitudes and values that will ensure they become critical thinkers later on when you no longer have that control.
What do you mean ‘no control’?  Aren’t we, as the parent, always in control?

The end date to monitoring

Anyone who has a child entering the teen and even tweens years will tell you, that when it comes to what our kids are doing online, the years when we can monitor and friend and follow and be safe in having it all covered, are limited to say the least. The years when we know what sites they are visiting, who they are talking to, what they are uploading and reading and sharing has an end date.
The end date happens because kids have devices for school that are internet enabled and they can log in to the rest of the world at any time.
The end date happens because kids hang out with other kids and their devices on the bus or at friends houses or on the walk home from school.
The end date happens because our kids are curious, want to explore and know how to do it undetected.
The end date happens because kids still want and need privacy. They are trying to do it in a very public space, but they still want it and seek it out.
They are now logging in to sites we don’t know exist
They are opening accounts with usernames we’d never find
They are opening multiple accounts on one site to keep some control
They are talking to people they have never met
They are having people criticise their latest photo
They are being exposed to content that at the very least makes us cringe
They are basing the worth of a photo and subsequently the worth of themselves on the number of likes and follows and shares.
To read the rest of the article, please click the link below.

The question we need to be asking instead

Before we think about spying, monitoring and stalking to catch them doing the wrong thing, we must ask ourselves, “have we spent the time really teaching them how to do the right thing?”

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When students use creative ideas to create resources to make test prep materials

     Sure, the idea was mine.

Students make board games and use test questions from maps to pre-test questions. But after that, it was all them. They researched the questions, looked up the countries and came up with some Would You rather questions. Being this is geography class, Would You Rather (WYR) turns into would you rather be bit be a cobra or stuck in a Chinese prison? Yes, students came up with that. The real winner was the students. They took ownership of the project, made game boards that can be used for any unit and now know that they are all counting on each other to prepare for the tests. A handful of students in each class want to make their own game boards as they want to take ownership of this study technique. The best part for the students. ( Other than setting the lesson, it was all them). Here are some pictures from the great time.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

10 Tips for Increasing Student Engagement

iStock_000011537189MediumOne of our themes for March is Student Engagement. Here we’ve collected some of the best advice on increasing student engagement from Corwin authors and other experts!
  1. Study the data.

The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations (QISA) has done extensive research in what motivates students through their Student Voice Surveys. Students are asked about the 8 conditions identified by Russ Quaglia in Student Voice: Belonging, Heroes, Sense of Accomplishment, Fun & Excitement, Curiosity & Creativity, Spirit of Adventure, Leadership & Responsibility, and Confidence to Take Action. Read the 2014 Report.
  1. Collect your own data.

If you want to take it one step farther, distribute the Student Voice Survey at your own school. You may be shocked or pleasantly surprised to find out what your students are really thinking!
  1. Put yourself in your students’ shoes.

Pernille Ripp writes about 5 Rules We Impose on Students That Would Make Adults Revolt. Don’t forget that students are kids! Are you expecting them to act better behaved than even adults? Make sure you’re giving them the same respect you would give adults, and give them the freedom to just be kids.
  1. Use games to make learning relevant.

“Games and simulations are rich in scenarios and have an amazing ability to embed information into their storylines or gameplay.” Moreover, games can help students think about how to apply information to their lives immediately. In a recent blog post, Ryan Schaaf gives five strategies for using digital games in the classroom.
  1. Appeal to students’ values.

In this great post on Edutopia, Heidi A. Olinger discusses the power of listening to your students and openly talking about things we would normally dismiss—things that are incredibly important to students: social fads, pop culture, crushes.
  1. Laugh together.

As John Spencer points out, humor is a powerful strategy for engaging learners. Laughing together creates a sense of community and makes class a more rewarding place for students to be.
  1. Let students pursue their passions.

“Schools mistake passion for an emotion, as something kids like to do in their spare time. Those are hobbies. Passion is what you must do, even if you have to suffer to do it. Passion is the genius of all geniuses.” – Angela Maiers
Read more about how to Close the Passion Gap.
  1. Remove distractions.

A class where students are engaged can be noisy and chaotic—but the quality of the noise and chaos matters. If students are too distracted, learning is impeded, not increased. Mark Barnes shares 3 Ways to De-Clutter Students’ Brains.
  1. Rethink your grades.

If students are brought into the discussion about their progress, they are more invested in the outcome. SE2R is a feedback system designed by Mark Barnes (Assessment 3.0) that gives students and teachers a common vocabulary for assessment: Summarize, Explain, Redirect, and Resubmit.
  1. Take the Classroom Cribs Challenge to redesign your classroom.

The physical environment of a classroom has a great effect on student engagement and learning. Erin Klein is a classroom teacher who studied interior design and writes on the importance of creative spaces that allow for deeper collaboration and creativity.

6 Ways Teachers Respond To Educational Technology

   Everyone has a different reaction to using technology. According to Teach Thought Magazine, the Pencil Metaphor is a basic rubric to show teachers where they are on the technology conundrum. I am willing to bet you that of the six levels, you are already at a 3-4 out of six minimum. Why? If you were less, you would not visit a blog let alone entertain technology in your classroom. But where do you really stand? Look at the pencil chart below and your attitude toward technology. The article itself is fairly short at 500 words and gives you the rationale. If you want to be at a five or six, you are already working on that rubric level and if you are not but want to, take a step and I promise you it will not hurt.
To read the article:

About the author

Steve Wheeler shared a post about in in January of 2012 as part of a #pencilchat discussion, and there was even an intended PD session in South Africa designed around it in April of 2012. Here’s a slideshare presentation from a university in Malaysia on the idea. But it goes further back than that–at least to 2007, to ISTE 2006 Educator of the Year Linda McKeown.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What comes first, the technology or the curriculum

Things have come a long way since my 3rd grade teacher had to thread a film into a movie projector.
Using technology is not a cheap parlor trick where the technology is the trick and the students are amused. Almost all (good) technology measures student progress and some of it happens right in the middle of a lesson with instant feedback. In an article by Elise Ecoff, she talks about this and how technology must enhance the curriculum and not entertain your students with suggestions on how you can make technology work for students at home and in the classroom.

Image result for students using technology in the classroomIt’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when handing a student a calculator to work through algebraic equations caused many teachers and parents great consternation. It makes you wonder what type of pushback the creators of the abacus faced! In both cases, while the tools students were using may have been more advanced than previous generations’, the goal remained the same – to enhance classroom learning.
But before moving forward with technology integration, every school must first have a great, robust and adaptable academic curriculum. Only then can you begin to find ways in which technology can help to elevate it. It’s important to never force fit technology – if it’s not supplementing what’s already happening in the classroom or a teacher’s goals for the school year, the addition will become more of a barrier to learning than a catalyst.

A Few Questions to Consider

Image result for students using technology in the classroom
  • Regardless of the technology, what’s the most important lesson for students to learn?
  • Why do I need to use technology in my daily curriculum?
  • How are these tech tools enhancing what we’re doing?
  • What will the students do with these tools – during and after class?

Think Curriculum Enhancements, Not Technology Implementations

Even if you feel ready to utilize tech in your classroom, you need to be confident that the implementation will enhance your curriculum, not hinder it.  Here are five ways to ensure you’re putting the curriculum before the technology:

Image result for students using technology in the classroom1) Learn How Students Are Using Technology at Home

It’s important to understand what kind of technology students are already familiar with outside of the classroom.  Ask them what they’re currently using, what they’re interested in learning more about, and how much screen time they’re allowed at home. These conversations will help you determine the opportunities and challenges you’ll face when implementing tech into the classroom. It can also spark inspiration for your in-school tech solutions.  For example, if all your students are familiar with tablets and how they work, you can tweak your lessons plans to more heavily rely on tablet utilization.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

26 Teacher Tools To Create Online Assessments

26 Teacher Tools To Create Online Assessments

     It is incredible how much educators have on their plates today. While we could all tell war stories about all of the initiatives given out by districts, they all give you less quality time to plan and help your students and your planning time is rarely your own. Has anyone had you find out in the middle of the school year that your school has volunteered to be a part of a pilot program for something you did not know about and you are already overwhelmed? Well you get the idea. I like using assessments that not only give me data that I can use to assess and share with students that is meaningful. In teachthought, they have listed resources that do varying degrees of this. I use Kahoot and our district has purchased Study Island (not quite operational) and Nearpod which we are getting up to speed on. I think we can all agree that sitting down with a calculator burning the midnight oil is not what anyone wants when we can basically work smart and help our students without being burned out.

You teach, which means you need to know what students do and don’t understand.
Which means you need to assess.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

10 Educational Games That Teach Kids About Social Issues

     The following list is really incredible. there are so many great implications from issues in the US to international ones. This would be a great way to differentiate instruction in your classroom using a jigsaw, different levels and students can create their own enduring understandings.  A credit to Matt  Farmer who compiled this list. He is a teacher at Valleyview Middle School, in Denville, New Jersey.
10 Educational Games That Teach Kids About Social Issues

Incorporating games into the classroom is a great way to engage students and increase motivation.

But how can social studies and history teachers use games to help students better understand social issues? Our guest contributor and expert on gamification, Matthew Farber, shares his favorite tools:
Social impact games are a genre that seek to effect positive changes in society through play. Often, players are put in roles (known as “player agency”) and must make decisions that have impactful consequences. These games are not necessarily designed for teaching; rather, the goal is to enable players to have empathy about a social issues.
As a social studies teacher, I have found that they are effective in putting students in authentic situations in which difficult problems get engaged.
Here are some of my favorite social impact games that I use with students (listed alphabetically; not ranked). Be sure to assess learning by asking your students about the decisions they made, as well as the reasons behind it!


Ayiti: The Cost of Life (free; PC/Mac)
A human rights game in which the player is a young, poverty-stricken child in Haiti.

Darfur Is Dying (free; PC/Mac)
One of the first social impact titles, its message still resonates today. Missions task players with foraging for water while outrunning the militia, as well as experiences daily life in a refugee camp.

Gone Home (paid, inquire via email about educational bundles; PC/Mac)
An award-winning first-person exploration game set in the 1990s. The narrative is pieced together as players find objects in the empty house in which family problems unfold.

The Migrant Trail (free; PC/Mac)
Tied to a documentary about undocumented immigrants, players assume two roles: a migrant and a patrol agent. It teaches themes of empathy through simple role-play.

Mission US games (free; PC/Mac)
There are currently four missions to play: For Crown or Country, set in the pre-Revolutionary Boston; Flight to Freedom, told from the point-of-view of an slave; the award-winning A Cheyenne Odyssey, about the plight of the Cheyenne people; and the newly released City of Immigrants, about life in the tenements of New York City.

Never Alone (paid; PC, Xbox, PlayStation)
Never Alone is from E-Line Media and Upper One Games. It is the first game adapted from an Iñupiat folk story.

Papers, Please (paid; iPad and PC/Mac)
Papers, Please won multiple awards in 2014. It is an ethical decision-making game set in a fictional communist country during the Cold War. The objective is to checks immigrant papers. The penalty is delayed, such as a reduction in income that can affect the health of your family. (It is recommended for older students; Preview first. suggestive content can be toggled off in “Settings”).

Nightmare: Malaria (free; iPad/Android)
Nightmare: Malaria is a social awareness game about malaria. The narrator is voiced by actress Susan Sarandon. The game features facts about malaria and how simple solutions, like nets, can save lives.

Third World Farmer (free; PC/Mac)
Third World Farmer is a simulation game about the difficulties of farming in a developing country. Familyeconomicsare among the issues to resolve.

Quandary (free; PC/Mac)
An award-winning game about ethical dilemmas, or quandaries. In it, players must assemble a team to colonize a new planet.

Aside from this list, I recommend reviewing the games curated on the Games for Change website.
Similar to independent films, social impact gaming has a community of enthusiasts who recognize achievements with awards and recognition. The idea is that games, as “new media”—compared to “traditional media,” like books, theater, and film—can influence people in a positive direction. For example, in 2014, the Games for Change Festival joined forces with the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City.

What are your favorite games that you use to teach specific subjects? Tell us in the comments!

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