Blog Archives

Social Media Awareness: A Letter for Parents

This week some of the students and staff at our high school felt the affects of when social media can be used to harass with the app Yik Yak. While the app in this case is blocked on our devices and network, students were using their phones to participate in this harassment and cyber-bullying. What follows is the letter I sent to all Middle School and High School parents in our community.  I’m sharing this with you all in the hopes that we can all be aware of not only this specific app but also the fact that we need to have a constant communication between parent, school and child.

(UPDATE: Since sharing this, we were interviewed by the local news here)

In light of this week’s incidents involving the inappropriate use of the app Yik Yak to harass Westlake students and staff, this is a good opportunity to open the door to a greater conversation we should be having with our kids about social media and their “digital footprint.”  While we at Eanes ISD have taken the necessary precautions to block/restrict these types of apps on our network and devices, students still can engage in misbehavior on their own personal devices which can lead to serious distraction and, even more severely, possible prosecution.

We are sharing these tools and resources with parents in order to quell bad behavior and open up a dialogue between parent and teen when about their digital lives.  What follows is information about Yik Yak itself, next steps to take, other apps that can be inappropriately  used,and where to go for help and support as a parent.

More about Yik Yak

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.00.45 AM

Yik Yak is the latest in a line of social media apps using location services to post messages to those around the user.  These messages are
anonymous,
but they are not untraceable. This app has had many issues across the country at both high school and college level. While Yik Yak claims to have set up a Geofence (blocking cell data) around our schools, there are cases where students have been able to go out of range to post their messages. Here are some steps you can take as a parent to identify if this app is a problem for your child and what you can do to prevent its use.

If your child has the app, you can search what Yaks they have posted by clicking on “Me” and “My Yaks” inside their app. This will show you what they have posted, but know they can delete their yaks. However, you can see if they have ever posted on Yik Yak (even if they deleted the posts) by checking their “Yakarma” points in the upper left corner. By default, it’s set to 100.  If they voted on a yak, posted a yak, replied, or shared, the number will change.

Next steps –

If your child is a Yik Yak user, a conversation needs to happen with him/her about why they feel the need to be on the app. We are recommending all parents delete the app from their students devices, especially since Yik Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.00.54 AMYak policy states that you need to be of “college age” to use the app.  If you don’t see the app, but suspect it may have been downloaded, you can also check in   the Updates section of the App Store under “Purchased” on your child’s phone.  All apps ever downloaded are stored in there.

While deleting the app takes care of the immediate issue, there may be a larger issue at hand when it comes to the use of social media by your child. Please take this opportunity to have that conversation about how NOTHING on the internet is truly anonymous or temporary. 

Here’s a great article by Psychologist Diana Graber about 3 Things Kids Need to Know About Yik Yak.  I particularly love this excerpt from the article about Yik Yak and other apps that may follow it:

Here are articles about students being arrested for improper use of Yik Yak.  They can help our students understand the seriousness of bad behavior on social media. 

Yik Yak Working with Law Enforcement

Arrest Made at University of Georgia

So….What Else is Out There?

Like the above article states, there is always a new “something” when it comes to technology and social media.  Being aware of what else is out there doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, but it is a good place to start for parents.  Here are a few apps/sites to be aware of that have been making the rounds with teens nationally:

Kik

Ooovoo

Ask.fm

WhatsApp

Omegle

Yo.

Whisper

Secret

For a complete list of these and other social media sites gaining popularity with Teens, check out this Common Sense Media article on 15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook

Again, awareness is just the first step.  We need to continue to have an open conversation about this and everything else happening in their lives.  Social media may be a new thing, but there has always been a need to discuss issues and problems with our teens well before Yik Yak and long after it’s gone.

Where Can I Get Help and Support?

Common Sense Media is a tremendous free resource for information from age-appropriate ratings of movies and video games to “best of” app lists for parents and kids.  We especially encourage you to check out the “How-to” section on Cyberbullying.  It includes many great resources for parents to use when addressing these topics with their kids including things like: “How do I monitor my teen online without “spying”?” and “What should I do if my kid is bullied online?”

We here at Eanes ISD are also providing multiple resources and platforms for parents to get assistance or to report any issues that may be discovered down the road.  Individual campus Booster Clubs have offered to host “Parent Tech Talks”  led by me throughout the next several weeks. (Contact your local booster club for more info) I also send out a monthly “Digital Parent Gazette” to those parents interested to alert parents of any concerns and showcase some great examples of how technology is being used in the classroom.  To receive this newsletter, sign up here.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.01.02 AMFinally, I’m excited to announce this year’s “Digital Parenting 101” iTunesU course.  This is a free 6-week online course offered to Eanes ISD parents that covers a variety of topics such as social media, internet filters, device restrictions, and helping your child make a positive digital footprint.  The course begins on October 6th and runs through November 21st.  Click here for more information and to sign up!

Thank you for taking the time to not only review all this information but also to have this conversation with your child.  We know that it may be difficult, but it is important to have an ongoing conversation about social media and digital footprints. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact either your campus administrators, counselors, or me.

It takes a village to raise a child.  The more we communicate the better the learning experience for our kids.

Thank you!

K-12 iPad Deployment Checklist

School has started for most of us around the country.  Alarm clocks are set, bleary-eyed kids stumble their way to class, and iPads are being handed out.  Just a typical day here at Eanes and many districts across the country.  As the amount of 1:1 schools and districts continue to grow with many different devices, but specifically the Apple iPad, I thought it might be good to reflect and share the laundry list of items we’ve prepared in getting ready for our roll-outs.  (all high school students, 8th graders, and 2 grade levels at the elementary schools are 1:1 this year) I’ve already written about 10 things NOT to do in a 1:1 here (the list is growing in year 2) but  what about things we SHOULD do?

I’ve broken down the check list into three main categories -Administrative, Instructional, and Technical.  There are parts of each that intermingle, but needed some general categories to go off and these are the main three components.

– Administrative Duties – 


Communication –  This covers everything from Board presentations to community dialogues to basic stuff like making the campus aware of when deployments are taking place.  I can’t stress enough the amount of communication that will be needed in this entire process which is why it’s in all three components. Face-to-face communication is extremely important and should always be anchored in district goals and strategic plans.  Remember, like Simon Sinek talked about on TED, it’s the “Why” that’s more important than the “What”.

Documentation –  This almost goes hand in hand with communication, but these are areas where districts should seek some legal input.  Handing out expensive devices, while the total cost may be less than a stack of textbooks and a TI-83 calculator, needs to be properly documented for each and every iPad that is distributed.   Each student and parent should sign a Loan agreement and acknowledge the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).  In our district, we updated our AUP and turned it into a Responsible Use Guideline for all technology, whether it be BYOT, iPads or computers.

Budget –  These devices, their accessories and their apps cost money.  There needs to be time spent on the cost to fulfill a vision of 1:1, which grade levels to start at, and ultimately, which funds will be used to sustain it once it’s off the ground.  Depending on the model of deployment that is used, there will either be a lot of money put towards apps or personnel to manage the apps.

Process – Having a core group of educational leaders on campus and throughout the district is an important part of the buy-in phase.  Part of the beauty of these devices is surrendering control in some senses to allow students to personalize based on educational needs.  That means there needs to be a process for getting apps to them and an idea about what happens when they break their loan agreement or have discipline issues.

– Instructional Duties – 

Staff training – It can’t be overstated enough that these devices need to be in the hands of teachers well before the student models arrive.  They need to feel comfortable with them and start thinking of ideas to integrate them into their instruction.  Summertime is an ideal time to get most of the level-based integration training, but consider putting training in an iTunesU course to revisit at a later date.  Throughout the year, provide opportunities to share what they have learned with their peers in an informal setting (which we like to call “Appy Hours“).  The collaboration doesn’t have to be face-to-face either, set up grade-level teams in Edmodo so they can share ideas across the district as a way to virtually meet.

Student training – Don’t assume that every kid knows how to use the iPad.  These kids may be digital natives, but most of their exposure to these devices has been for entertainment more than for education.  Lessons of digital citizenship and internet safety will need to be developed and taught, but also don’t overlook the fact that many students will need tutorials on how to set up their email, submit assignments, and backing up their data.

Tutorials – To assist with the high-level of training, both prior to deployment and during the year, instructional teams should build a database of resources and FAQs for all staff, students, and parents to access.  This will help take care of some of the little questions that can really bog things down once distribution has happened.

Process –  Like administrators, teachers and instructional folks will want to develop and deploy processes for purchasing apps. There will need to be clear expectations for teachers and students in terms of use and what happens if that is violated.  In conjunction with these processes, devoting time to research an ever-growing list of apps and online textbooks is important to better inform future decisions.

Communication – Teachers are the conduit to the parent.  They are the first person many parents see in the morning and last one they see in the afternoon.  It’s important that they have a clear understanding of district mission and how apps/iPads are distributed.  They’ll also want an avenue for sharing exciting projects as the year progresses.  These projects help with both campus and district-based communication.

– Technical Duties – 

Prior set-up – Prior to even thinking of deploying iPads, evaluation of wireless infrastructure is a must.  Nothing can bring a network down quicker than the sudden introduction of a few thousand devices into the system.  The devices will need to be prepped with some form of identification (we went with this laser etcher) and a profile if distributing these to younger students.  Apple configuration can help with some of these profiles and detection of iPads lost on campus, but it’s advisable to have a form of mass deployment for apps pre-established.  Entering these devices into a student information system helps with tracking all the pertinent data, so forms and fields will need to be established prior to distribution day to make that process run smoothly.

Communication –  The common thread in all three components is also extremely important from the technology department.  Any glitches, issues, budgetary discussions, and processes for repair will need to be constantly communicated to campus staff and leadership.  The actual process of distribution and pick-up can be pretty cumbersome as well.  This is where a type-A person comes in handy for organizing these events in making them as trouble-free and emotional-less as possible.

Repair – The first few weeks after deployment be prepared for any and all issues.  Technology departments would do right in finishing any other campus projects prior to these distribution days as the amount of issues will spike immediately following deployment.  Most of these are workable with proper training and tutorials in conjunction with the instructional department, but it doesn’t stop little Johnny from coming to the help desk to ask about a certain app.  Ideally, there would be a service desk (ours is called the Juice Bar) that is centrally located and manned during high-density times for student off-periods (lunch, before and after school, etc.).  The final piece of the puzzle is having a plan for processing insurance, getting spares from Apple, and having a quick way to assess and turn-around repairs so students are without this instructional tool.

There you have in a nutshell.  I tried to make most of this list as district agnostic as possible, but some of the “Eanes way” snuck in there.  I’m also attaching this handy checklist that details these above duties in greater detail for you to use or adapt.  Best of luck in all your iPad launches and I hope you have a successful program putting this technology in the hands of kids.

iPad Deployment Checklist

iPad Deployment Checklist K-12