Monday, September 24, 2018

Goals for 2018-2019

  • Facilitate one meaningful tech integration project with every MS teacher
  • Bring 100+ attendees to EdCamp MetroDC
  • Attend 5 Edcamps
  • Go to ISTE, have kids exhibit.
  • Continue to vlog every week
  • Create a digital portfolio system on new Google Sites
  • Bring back StudentCam, the newscast, superlatives
  • Visit schools like Nuvu
  • Create Casey's maker space 
  • Learn Google Apps scripting
  • Make dreams happen
  • 40th anniversary video

Monday, September 03, 2018

Your Child's Device, and How They Use It

Most adults under-parent their child when it comes to technology. There’s no bad intention, it’s just that when you were in middle school, you had Garbage Pail Kids cards in your pocket, and your child will likely leave middle school with a device that contains the whole world in their pocket. When a student comes of age, oftentimes you will have a "birds and bees" discussion. When your student get's their first device, it is also time for a discussion.

Your Child’s Device

Whether it’s your hand me down cell phone, a school-issued laptop, or a tablet gifted from Gramma, what should you do before you hand a child their first internet enabled device? Surely you’ve thought long and hard about what device to give your child, and when to give it to them. I can’t help you there; that decision is personal and only you are the world’s leading authority on your child and their needs. But when you do decide to pull the trigger, you should treat it as seriously as their first car, and have a long conversation about it’s use. Ask them about appropriate and inappropriate ways to use the device (this is a good place to start). Lay down conditions on the device depending on the trust level with your child:

Common sense measures (for children who you trust to be responsible with a device):
  • No technology at the dinner table 
  • Establish the device as a privilege that is earned by responsible use or else taken away 

Additional measures (for children who could be mischievous with a device)
  • Requiring the device to always be used out of the bedroom, in a public space 
  • Requiring the device to be returned to the parent by or before bedtime 

Serious measures (for children at risk of doing harm to themself or others with a device)
  • Requiring the device to always be used in public spaces, with the screen pointed away from the wall, while a parent is home. 
  • The device is inaccessible when the child is not doing homework 

The parental controls listed above are not digital, which are manageable for any parent regardless of their technical knowledge. That said, you may still want digital controls. It’s very straightforward to turn on parental controls on an iPhone. You can also use your personal iCloud account on your child’s phone so you see all their texts and apps. It’s also straightforward to turn on Safesearch in the Chrome browser. In serious cases you may feel the need to install spyware on their devices. Be advised that even if you have the time and technical skill to implement digital controls, it’s very possible your child can defeat them.

How Your Child Uses Their Device

Congratulations!. You’ve had an in-depth discussion about proper use prior to issuing their first device. Now what?

At Lowell we use the Common Sense Media framework to teach digital citizenship. It concretizes the concept by breaking it down into eight discrete categories. If you don’t feel like reading all the parent resources on the website, here is the Reader’s Digest version:

Internet Safety: Children should give out no information that discloses identity or location (phone number, school name, etc). Most real life safety rules (like stranger danger) can be applied online. All social media should be set to private viewing (not viewable by strangers). Know that digital addiction is every bit as real as gambling addiction (but be careful about limiting screen time… Mark Zuckerberg did not have limits on his screen time for good reason)

Relationships and Communication: Learn social media. Make a Snapchat account and understand what your child is doing. Create an Instagram account and follow your child. Require that all friends on social media must be friends in real life. Enforce this by regularly reviewing their friends/followers and questioning them on names you don’t recognize.

Cyberbullying: Discuss with your child the dangers of cyberbullying. Why is it more common than physical bullying? (It’s easier to do from a distance when you don’t see their hurt; it can be done anonymously). What should you do if you feel bullied? (Don’t engage, tell an adult)

Self Image and Identity: It will be tempting for your child to experiment with identity online because it seems lower risk than doing so in real life. See “Digital Footprint” below. Talk about how sexting is not an expression of identity.

Privacy and Security:
Know the password of all of your child’s social media accounts. Reassure them that you will not use them without notification unless it’s their well-being is threatened. They should never, ever, give any password to anyone but you.

Digital Footprint and Reputation: Talk about the “Newspaper Rule”: never post anything online (this includes emails that your write) that you don’t want to see on the cover of the newspaper. This includes private posts on social media (which get cut, pasted, and published by frenemies) and even text messages with trusted family members (phones get hacked).

Information Literacy: When you were a kid, you got answers from the library, and everything there was basically true. This website is a good way to introduce young children to the reality that not everything on the internet is true. For older children, talk about the nuances between FOX and MSNBC. Don’t be that parent who thinks that Wikipedia is anything less than one of the most important websites ever.

Creative Credit and Copyright
: Tell your child to buy their music and movies. It’s easy to steal it; don’t do it just because you can.

And when things go wrong (and they probably will) try to see it as a teachable moment (realizing that students will likely make mistakes in the virtual world no more often than they would in the real world). Good luck, and let’s be careful out there.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Goals for 2017-2018

  • Leverage the power of the new touch chromebooks
  • Facilitate one meaningful tech integration project with every MS teacher
  • Bring 100+ attendees to EdCamp MetroDC
  • Attend 12+ Edcamps
  • Go to ISTE, and let it be the only non-free PD
  • Earn 7K Twitter followers, 60k Youtube views, and 15k Reddit Karma by 
  • Create a digital portfolio system on new Google Sites
  • Introduce MI, growth mindset, Farnum's free build, lip sync & earth day assemblies
  • Do PenPalNews, 90sec Newberry, Reelmath, StudentCam, Envirofest, Breakoutedu
  • Bring the newscast, Ocean Doc, CNN back, book trailers, superlatives, storywars, screencast
  • Enlist 10 teachers to create their own PLN
  • Visit schools like Nuvu
  • Casey's maker space at Lowell
  • Learn Google Apps scripting

Monday, October 24, 2016

And then there was EdCamp Creative...

EdCamp Creative was Saturday. I really, really thought it was gonna be a train wreck. But it wasn't. It was pretty fun.

Creating an online EdCamp has been a bucket list item of mine. I'm an edcamp junkie, and Saturday was my twenty-fifth edcamp. Bricks and mortar edcamps have grown steadily over the past six years. Online edcamps are virtually nonexistent.  So back in August I reached out to 20 colleagues to help make it happen. 

Traditionally you assemble a team of five or six dedicated teachers from the same city. This conference was organized by twenty connected educators who assembled in a Voxer group to crowd source the planning. All planning was done asynchronously in the Voxer group, and I'm not sure that has been done before.

It worked, but there were many lessons learned along the way:
  • Registrants were asked to give either their email address or Twitter handle. Both are necessary for an online conference. A Twitter handle is necessary for tagging tweets for publicity, and an email address is necessary to ping attendees right before the event with a final confirmation. Bummer.
  • Opening ceremony were a debacle. The Google Hangout bugged out. At least two people who were in the hangout did not make it into the first session. Bummer.
  • Having the event in October was not ideal. You want an online edcamp when there  is less incentive to leave the house, like in January or February.
  • While the crowdsourced planning on Voxer worked, a lot of the tasks with deadlines fell on me, and that felt different and lonely. Next time the plan is to do it more traditionally: a small committee using synchronous meetings.
  • I must not be setting up Google hangouts right. I set up 22 Google hangouts a week in advance, but after they were buggy, we switched to AppearIn, so none of the sessions were recorded. Bummer.  
  • People really like collaborative note-taking on Google documents, which I left out for simplicity. Oops.
  • I was really amped up and talked too fast. My wife texted me to slow down, but I was unintelligible at times. Oops.
  • The original vision of the event was to encourage EdCamp newbies to attend. That is not advisable as newbies should not have to wrestle with technology as they experience an unconference for the first time.
But after all that, 20 people hung in for two hours, and 139 people registered, and that’s what I call an unqualified success for a 1.0.  Online EdCamps are free and almost as intimate and magical as bricks-and-mortar EdCamps... and as a bonus, you see edu-friends from far away. This was truly a team effort and I'm grateful for the 20+ people who chipped in to make it happen.

It's funny to look back because this all started out as an idea called EdCamp Social Justice, which was my response to the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. After receiving a lot of good advice, we pivoted to create EdCamp Creative. I hope to do it again in February.

I know that Twitter is our bread-and-butter as connected educators, but I've been in Twitter chats with people for weeks and felt like I barely knew them. But after even one online video chat feel like I've made a few new edu-friends.

In short, EdCamp is a movement, and online edcamps are a small but important part of the movement.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Goals for 2016-17: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Proudest professional accomplishments from last year:
  • acclimated to a new school
  • started a debate team
  • acclimated to a 1:1 chromebook school
  • Created WeVideo show-what-you-know videos 
  • entered the StudentCam contest & MCPS enviro fest
  • created digital citizenship curriculum for the 6th grade
  • facilitated the 8th grade genius hour projects
  • co-created the 6th grade STEAM curriculum 
  • documented the 7th grade trip to Selma

New Goals for this year:
  • Facilitate one meaningful tech integration project with every MS teacher
  • Facilitate excellence in the 8th grade genius hour projects
  • Bring 2D animation to the 6th and 7th grade tech 
  • Facilitate EdCamp Creative on October 22nd
  • Bring 100+ attendees to EdCamp MetroDC
  • Attend 12+ Edcamps
  • Create an online student edcamp
  • Go to ISTE, and let it be the only non-free PD
  • Polish the HOBY-NCA website and document the event
  • Vlog after every school day
  • Earn 7K Twitter followers, 60k Youtube views, and 15k Reddit Karma by September 1
  • Create a digital portfolio system on new Google Sites
  • Introduce MI, growth mindset, Farnum's free build, lip sync & earth day assemblies
  • Educate myself on campaign finance reform.
  • Do PenPalNews, 90sec Newberry, Reelmath, StudentCam, Envirofest, Breakoutedu
  • Bring the newscast, Ocean Doc, CNN back, book trailers, superlatives, storywars, screencast
  • Facilitate a faculty karaoke night
  • Enlist 10 teachers to create their own PLN
  • Visit schools like Nuvu
  • Casey's maker space at Lowell

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Reflections from EdCamp Global (#ECG2016)

So yeah. That was pretty much the best conference I have ever attended.

After it's third year, EdCamp Global has established a standard for what online professional development should look like. The model is as brilliant as it is simple: let life-long learners figure out what they need to learn.

It all started with a Google Calendar, which linked to sessions that usually took one of six forms: Voxer, Periscope, Google Hangout,, Twitter, or Blab. Then the EdCamp magic happens: teachers learn (and teach) about subjects they care about the most as they fully participate in the sessions. And here's the kicker: the sessions are saved forever and can be referenced later by simply going back to the schedule and clicking on the session that you missed. The entire conference is documented without an ounce of extra work. If there is a better model for online PD, please share it!

The event was exquisitely planned to the last detail. The team that facilitated (Team Texas?) created hourly challenges on Periscope, such as starting your own Voxer or video chat. These challenges served to bring the community together every hour (which is brilliant because it's hard to build community online), expanded attendee's skill sets, and most of all were addicting and fun. I hesitate to think how much time the organizers poured into their labor of love. 100 hours each? 200? Lots!

I think my favorite moment was the very first session on "global classrooms," when the facilitator was unable to attend. We sat there for a few minutes, and then drew upon our collective EdCamp experience and made it happen. Special thanks to @AllisonHoganEDU@DrBrianCook, @SheilaHill and @sconlineteacher for their expert improv skills.  Again, if there is another conference that works just fine when the presenters can't attend, please share it!

Then came my session on edtech tools, which was basically a standard EdCamp share-out slam. It had a rocky start as I hosted my first Google Hangout OnAir... GHO is a pain in the ass (There. I said it.)  Thanks to @PaigeDobbertin for hanging in for 15 minutes as technical difficulties were worked out, and to all attendees @EdTEchTinker, @Mr_Hayes, @Jumaryteacher, Andy, Kim, Susan, Brian, Denise, and @Danazacharko.

Then came @braveneutrino's presentation on AR/VR. Stacy is a maven and was so well organized; it's worth a look. Then @Msdayvt again pulled off something that would rarely happen at a traditional PD: she livestreamed from an actual maker faire! Then @TheEdsaneT and I had a lovely conversation about "fun in the classroom," and even with only three of us in the room, EdCamp magic happened: my big takeaway was Amanda explaining the ins and outs of my first Then @dkreiness did another truly EdCamp-style slam, only this time on Voxer and Padlet.

This leads me to my only VERY minor concern: less than half of the sessions were truly EdCamp-style i.e. egalitarian discussions. The majority of the sessions featured some kind of central speaker who controlled the conversation. But frankly there were so many people new to the EdCamp format, mixing in more traditional PD was actually a good thing, because it's still quality PD, it's what people know, and there's always a backchannel to participate.

I was super impressed with @CrystalGermond's presentation on PenPalSchools. At first I was like, "this is kind of breaking EdCamp norms, as vendor influence needs to be minimized" (Crystal is employed by PenPalSchools). But she was so respectful of the EdCamp format as she engaged with the audience; it was win-win (and her product is free, which helps). Everyone should be using PenPalSchools because there's authentic writing, cultural sensitivity, and global collaboration. Seriously, I swear I'm gonna do it this year.

And finally, the low point... which I think could have a silver lining. I facilitated two more sessions: one entitled "Fearless Conversation about Race in Schools" and the other "Is There a Place for Activism in Schools?" Two people showed up for the first one (thank you @mostats_mrmfl) and after 15 minutes we ended early. Only one person showed up for the second session (full disclosure: it was my wife... thank you @BethFratt).  This was actually the second time that my sessions did not succeed during the 21 EdCamps I have attended, so I should know not take it personally, yet inevitably I do a little. But suddenly, more EdCamp magic happened...

So I wondered why they didn't succeed, and the answer was obvious: the EdCamp was not marketed for these topics, and Law of Two Feet applied. So what now? It's time to explore an EdCamp with a social justice theme, and I have set my intention to do so. And of course #ECG2016 concluded with a session to help inspire this: a final twitter chat entitled #edcampstartup led by @sarahdateechur to encourage attendees to do just that. I tweeted some feelers, and already there is some interest in forming an #EdCampSJ exploratory team.

So yeah. It was pretty awesome.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Reflections from EdCamp MetroDC


It was the first time I facilitated an EdCamp session framed around the question the "Tell the group your best tech story from your classroom this year." This session was inspired by @MrFichter who at AIMStech last week asked the same question as an icebreaker, and the introduction took over an hour! So I was like, "Telling edtech war stories could be an EdCamp session all by itself." It worked out great... every person in the room participated and told at least one story!

Mr. Fichter also introduced the "Step up and step back" concept to the group (stepping up to be brave enough to contribute, then stepping back to listen and ask questions) which is my new favorite conference norm! 


Could not ask for a better steering committee. @JourneysOfJess had fresh ideas like having the schedule posted on a TV in the hallway, @Esimpson1990 is an expert facilitator and again came up huge with food sponsors, @MarisHawkins exudes warmth at the registration table and uses so many tech tools in her classroom, and huge thanks to team leader @ChipChase who did so much heavy lifting before conference day as we moved the venue to his home base at Cap City. Thanks also to @TechyMargaret who is a consummate team player, offering to pitch in to help, as well as inspiring me to try Canva for the first time.

Lots of new faces, including @AWollack who is a young teacher who clearly is heavily invested in her students and was super positive. Team Stafford and @Renard_Spicer who retweeted my "EdCamp: it's like the teacher's lounge with people you don't know" quote, which was really thoughtful. @Alexander_teach who brought her class of over a dozen teachers who may have been somewhat skeptical at first but as the day got rolling genuinely seemed to enjoy the new form of PD where their voices were valued. And @TimidStone who gave one of the best EdCamp session I've ever attended on even more remarkable was that he had never done a digital breakout before; he was totally winging it, and the room was riveted.

The Conference

The only major change to consider is the date. It was an accidental oversight that we were on the same day as EdCampMayaF, and we missed @SarahDaTeechur's boundless energy. And having it on a beautiful mother's day weekend did not help attendance; we may explore an earlier date next year. The feedback forms were uniformly positive, which is really gratifying. Hope to see you at the next EdCamp!