Blog Archives

Sexting And Cyberbullying in Schools

When students have access to mobile devices in school, either in a 1:1 or BYOD environment, much of what happens in their school lives cross over into their personal lives.  Here at Eanes ISD, over 80% of our secondary students have smartphones that they bring with them to school on top of the school-issued iPad they are given.  While we have some say about the activity on the school device, students’ use of their phones for inappropriate activity is an issue both in and out of school.  Last year, I wrote this post about the app YikYak and this one about Secret photo-sharing apps.  I wrote these (and accompanying letter to district parents) not to scare adults into taking away kids’ phones, but instead to spark a conversation between child and parent.

Today, I sent home the following letter about sexting and cyberbullying via a couple of different apps that we’ve become privy to here.  I share this letter with the rest of the world in the hopes that other schools and communities will also start having this conversation, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

The following is a letter sent to all parents of secondary school-aged children at Eanes ISD on January 11, 2016:

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Parents of Secondary Students,

Adolescents today have access to knowledge and learning right at their fingertips.  They are accessing and creating content on their school-issued iPads and on school computers.  More and more of our students also have their own smartphones to access the web and social media.  With that access comes greater responsibility and education about the appropriate use of technology and social media.  This letter is intended to help raise awareness with families about some trends around the country and possibly among our own students.

Sexting

There have been several recent instances at high schools around the country of teenagers transmitting illicit images of themselves to other students (also known as “sexting”).  Here’s a recent case at a Colorado High School – http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/07/us/colorado-sexting-scandal-canon-city/  

In the case of the school in Colorado, many students used a photo vault app like the one we shared last year that looks like a calculator. Students exchange these photos like trading cards, and in some cases, students feel pressured to share inappropriate photos with other students.  Once these photos are shared, they can be shared with others and even posted on the web.

Cyberbullying via apps like Brighten and After School

Bullying is not a new occurrence in schools, unfortunately. With technology and social media, there are now new venues for this same bad behavior. Two particular apps that have been brought to our attention as pathways for cyberbullying are  the Brighten app and the After School app. Brighten was originally intended as a way for people to send random compliments to each other to “brighten” their day; however, students have used this platform to anonymously bully, make racial slurs, and post other inappropriate comments about other students. Brighten has a way to issue a “time out” if inappropriate behavior is pointed out, but they are not actively monitoring posts.  When I reached out to them, they responded with this: If you are seeing specific instances of bullying, please send people to alec@brighten.in and I can personally take care of it.”  

The After School app is promoted as a way to anonymously post messages about your school or those in your school.  According to After School data, currently 363 Westlake students are listed as users of this app. When I reached out to them, they responded with the following: We are very, very sorry about the experience some of your students are having on After School. Our moderators and I are keeping an extra close eye on Eanes Independent School District . We added extra moderators. We are launching an investigation.”  They also shared this link: 5 Tips for Parents on Monitoring Their Child’s Social Media Use, which contains some good nuggets of information.

Why are you telling me about this?

We are sharing this news with you to both raise awareness and also to encourage you to have conversations with your child about these apps and sexting. While we can monitor school-issued devices, we can not directly monitor what students are doing on their personal devices. However, if we suspect a student is doing something inappropriate with their personal device, we will confiscate the item and contact parents.  

What do I do if my child receives an inappropriate photo or is cyberbullied?

Many students are afraid to turn in other students or afraid that they themselves will get in trouble when it comes to having sexting-like messages on their personal devices. Some students actually feel pressured to take illicit images of themselves as a form of cyberbullying. If a student receives an image and reports it immediately, there will be no punishment as the infraction is being reported. However, if there is intent to possess or promote inappropriate or illicit images, there will be disciplinary action. 

What does the law say about this in regards to sexting?

While there are some differences in terms of age (18 years old being the line between minor and adult), the possession or promotion of illicit content of a minor via sexting is similar to being in possession or promotion of child pornography. According to Texas SB 407 – (http://beforeyoutext.com/modules/3.html) A student in “possession” (having illicit content for an unreasonable amount of time) or “promoting” (sending/sharing illicit content with others) can be charged with anything from a Class C misdemeanor to a second degree felony.  

What is the district doing to help this?

Our counselors and administration are aware of the situation and ready to help any students that come forward with information around this topic.  In addition, we are holding “social media talks” with student groups at the high school as well as discussing digital citizenship and online safety at all levels.  For parents, we will continue to host parent talks during booster club meetings and also send out information on our Digital Parent Newsletter (you can sign up here). Starting in the spring, we will hold our 4th “Digital Parenting” course (for more information go to http://eanesisd.net/leap/parents).  We have formally requested, as we did with YikYak last year, the app developers put up a ‘geofence’ around our schools.  A geofence would block use of the app even on personal phones. However, these companies are not required to comply with this request and even if they do, the geofence is only active around the school, not at home.

What can I do as a parent?

Again, we think it’s important that you have repeated critical conversations with your child about their use of personal technology.  Talk to them about the risks of inappropriate use when it comes to sexting and cyberbullying, including breaking the law. Also, most smartphones have ways of checking which apps are being used. For instance, on an iPhone, owned by over 70% of our students, there is a way to check battery usage in settings (with iOS9).  Through this check,  you can see what apps your child has accessed in the last 24 hours and last 7 days. (see below)

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Please report any situations that you are aware of to either the local authorities or school administration.  We want to make sure our students know that we are having common  conversations between home and school when it comes to sexting and cyberbullying.

Thank you for your support, and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

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Does Social Media Really Have POWER?

FullSizeRender (2)“How are you leveraging the power of social media?”

I hear this question a lot in the educational world but even more in the marketing world.  It always seemed like such a nebulous thing to me.  I mean, let’s look at the first definition of the word POWER: (courtesy dictionary.com)

  1. The ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something

So in theory, if you are “doing or accomplishing something” with social media you are leveraging the power behind it. Again, a very nebulous explanation to me. I spend many days out of my year speaking to parents and students in our local community about social media.  While most of those talks center unfortunately center on cautionary tales and things to watch out for like this Yik Yak post from last year, I also try and mix in some good things about social media.

I’ve seen first hand the power of connecting with people via Google Hangouts when it comes to solving a problem or working on a project together.  I’ve used Pinterest to help communicate ideas with community parents (and my wife). The past couple of years I’ve utilized Facebook groups to host Weight-Loss challenges with my friends across the country.  These are very useful ways to utilize social media, but I never really viewed them as all that powerful.

At some point in the late summer I really started to “see” what potential power social media has for all of us.  Here are five personal examples of how I’ve experienced first-hand the power of social media. I’ll start with a fairly innocuous example:

Getting free coffee:

While attending iPadpaloozaSouthTx this August, one of the vendors there had a booth set up with a task for those that visited.  Simply take a selfie with their product and use the conference hashtag to post on Instagram or Twitter and they would give you a Starbucks gift card.  While this may seem like a shallow way to leverage social media for caffeine, it does have its perks. (get it?)

A new customer service hotline:

During two summer trips I had bad experiences with both Delta and United airlines.  Flight delays happen, but these were extremely frustrating in the sense that neither were due to weather.  In the case of United, I even got to watch my connecting plane sit at the gate while I stared (and recorded) my plea out the window. Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.19.49 AM

I continued to pester both companies on social media.  There was no response from United, but Delta replied right away:

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Through a series of DMs that I’ll keep private, Delta reached out and actually granted me a credit for the next time I fly with them. Talk about instant power!

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I attempted the same with United, but for some reason their social media account was pretty anti-social so I took to good ol’ fashioned email to get my refund.  What I gained from this is that industries have a social image to maintain and when we take to social media to vent about their service, it could potentially hold more power than an email. It means me and my 9,963 followers (maybe I’ll hit 10K after this) also get to weigh-in and see the experience I am having.  This isn’t a post about “get as many followers as possible” but I do think having the support of a large group helps with leverage when it comes to customer service issues like these.

Fixing errors in the local newspaper:

I follow a lot of local news on Twitter and some of the local news follows me back (which is scary to think I have anything newsworthy to share). The Westlake Picayune (@picayunenews) recently posted an article about our upcoming Digital Learning Symposiums but had a couple of errors.  Rather than call and spend time on hold or leave a voice mail, I took to twitter and got an immediate response and correction.

 

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(Thanks to the Picayune for your help and support!)

Answering an age-old debate:

I have a wide variety of friends on Facebook that share various political and religious beliefs.  I keep myself fairly private on Facebook except for the requisite picture of the girls or something tasty my wife I get to eat on the rare occasion we go out without kids and have an adult conversation.  However, this summer, I sparked a monumental debate on my Facebook page.  My controversial post would reveal a lot about my friends and family as well as shake the very ground of their core beliefs with this question:

When showing the Star Wars films to your kids for the first time, which film should you start with first? Episode 1 or New Hope?

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The amount of advice, links and argument lasted for several days and 40 plus comments. The responses ranged from Adam Bellow’s very to the point response:

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To more lengthy explanations like Phil Hintz’s post and accompanying research from Reddit.Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.44.04 AM

Regardless of outcome, I thought this was a great way to get a wide array of opinions from people you trust.  (Editor’s note: We decided to start with New Hope (Episode IV) as it made the Vader reveal [SPOILER ALERT] more powerful)

Getting out of a Traffic Ticket (ok, maybe not):

Having had so many powerful and successful examples of using social media to help me through life, I headed into the school year feeling cocksure and ready to take on the world.

A couple of days before school started, I was utilizing my “pick-up truck” skills to help iVenger Jennifer Flood move from one campus to the other.  With Westalke High School under some major construction this summer, my parking options close to the back door in the 100 degree heat were limited to a handicap spot or a fire lane.  Thinking I would only be 15 minutes, I opted for the fire lane.  When I returned to my truck, I had a souvenir from the Travis County Sheriff’s office waiting on my windshield.

My head was spinning.  This is what I get for helping someone?  Why are sheriffs waiting in the weeds to write tickets to educators?  I immediately took to twitter and Instagram:

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I then decided to directly start tagging the @TravisCoSheriff account to see if I could get some response.  What ensued was incredible:Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.10.30 AM

Their response:Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.08.55 AM

My response:

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Their response:

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My response:

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Their response: ——–

My follow up to their lack of response:

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Their response:Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.09.20 AM

 

So apparently the power of social media does not mean you can break laws and ultimately, despite my frustration and social media back-and-forth with the sheriff’s office, I did send in my fine (reluctantly) as ultimately I do obey and respect the law.  However, I did rest a little easier knowing that my refund from Delta covered the exact cost of the ticket. 🙂

I know that sharing these personal examples can be very ego-centric, but showing real-world examples from my life versus some I found online I felt packed a bigger punch.  Do you have similar stories? I would love to hear them!  Comment below, tweet me, Instagram me, or write me an old fashioned letter and share your experiences (both positive and negative) with social media.

Until then, please continue to leverage this power for good rather than evil and remember kids….don’t park in fire lanes!

Up Periscope? New Rules for the Latest Social Media Tool

New Rules of (1)I’ve always been a fan of sharing openly.  I sometimes tell people that my life is an open book that no one wants to read.  The nature of my job and my position is one that interacts regularly with social media as both a way of learning and a means of sharing.

Recently, I’ve been captivated by the phenomena of Meerkat and Periscope.  As I’ve seen throughout my many years in Ed Tech, whenever a new tool hits the market there are usually a slew of early adopters running out to grab it, figure out what it does, then figure out how we can use it for education.  I’m usually one of those first-adopters, but I’ve purposefully taken a more measured approach to the world of mobile live video streaming and becoming a “Digital Broadcaster”.

I have been to countless presentations where people have stood up during a certain slide to snap a photo of an amazing graphic or quote.  I’ve also seen people take photos of the presenter on stage with a poignant slide in the background.  I’m lucky enough to be able to present and entertain educators from all over the country and have no problem sharing my slides, my resources, and the occasional selfie.

However, this recent trend of live video streaming has me flummoxed.  On one hand I love the concept of free-flowing information to the masses.  On the other hand, the digital citizen in me feels like there should be some level of permission asked or granted prior to filming an entire event.  It makes me wonder:

When is it ok to live stream someone without permission?

At a recent event this summer, I was in the middle of a presentation and noticed someone standing off to the side with their phone in vertical video mode (which itself is annoying).  When I asked the attendee what she was doing she told me she was “periscoping” my entire talk. Figuring that this is sort of a new tool and I think it’s important that everyone has access to learning, I dismissed the lack of permission in this instance for the betterment of education.

Brody the bootlegger on Seinfeld

Brody the bootlegger on Seinfeld

However, that moment stuck with me and when thinking about the protocols for filming someone’s talk, I tried to relate to the music and film industry. They have some pretty clear guidelines about when it’s ok or not ok to film.  Despite these guidelines, if you go to any rock concert you’ll see tons of phones up and recording video. (presumably for personal use although many of these are texted and posted on social media) When thinking of recording movies, I’m reminded of the Brody and the “Death Blow Bootleg” episode of Seinfeld. I’m not saying this crosses into the “bootlegging” realm, but there are some similarities in the narrative of when is it ok and not ok to record an event without permission.

So what exactly does the law say?  Well, in less you are getting undressed or are naked on stage, photographers and videographers can capture you without permission. (see Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004) That leaves a lot of grey area when it comes to what can and can’t be captured without permission though.  And while you may not be arrested for doing such things, there are now some precedents set about being sued for capturing someone with out their permission and posting it on social media. (See Heigl vs. Duane Ready)

So with all these thoughts swirling around in my head, let’s flash forward to last weekend. While Todd Nesloney and I gave our opening keynote for iPadpaloozaSouthTx, someone actually periscoped the entire talk. Later, we learned that hundreds were able to see us that couldn’t attend the event because of this new app.  I was both honored and also slightly concerned…

Where do we draw the line between sharing and permission?  It’s a question that’s been churning in my brain for the last few weeks.  Since I don’t want to be someone that bashes a tool without trying it, I created my Periscope account and actually streamed a minute of the closing keynote that afternoon (the appropriately titled, “SHARE, it’s human” by Felix Jacomino).

I have to admit, it’s a pretty cool concept.  You record an event happening that you want to share with your followers (but not necessarily archive) and BOOM! It’s instantly out there with no tape delay or filter. Eric Sheninger recently wrote this post on the power of video in schools where he dissects the various video tools out there and some resources for how they can be used in schools. Tony Vincent also shared a great post of how he utilized Periscope at ISTE 2015.  While I think the digital broadcasting movement has a lot of potential, let me go back to the original question: When is it ok to live stream someone without permission?

As someone who has benefited from the power of social media and also encourages sharing, I’d be a hypocrite to say you shouldn’t live-stream someone.  But I do think that as we are discovering new ways to use these tools in education, we should perhaps develop some “Rules of Etiquette for Digital Broadcasters.”

So here goes nothing:

Rules of Etiquette for Digital Broadcasters

1.  Asking for permission

While it’s great to watch an entire presentation and not actually be there, many events and speakers actually have contracts written that state who can and can’t record.  We deal with this often with our keynote speakers at iPadpalooza.  Most contracts allow for internal use of video, but not external (especially not the entire talk).  Looking at YouTube and their guide to “fair use” I like their set of “4 questions to ask”.   The fourth question “Will you work serve as a substitute for the original” is where filming presentations may cause trouble.

Solution: Ask for permission prior to capturing any part of a talk but ESPECIALLY if you are planning on streaming the entire talk.

2. Consider the length

As I stated before, there seems to be some social norms that make it ok to take photos of poignant slides.  While this could potentially be a copyright violation, most presenters share their slides and materials so that others may learn from them. As a presenter it not only spreads the message, it drives interest in who the speaker is and the message they are trying to convey. The same can be said about Periscoping someone’s talk in that sharing a snippet of someones talk allows the end-user to experience a bit of what the audience is seeing, almost like a sneak preview.  The question is when do you cross the line between a sneak preview and recording an entire talk.

Solution: If you are going to capture someone’s talk or presentation, keep it to under 1-2 minutes.  This way those you share with will get to see some of the amazing things shared without sharing a “substitute for the original”.

3. Check your surroundings

Live-streaming someone in a public place means that bystanders around the recording device may be captured. While holding up your phone may give them the clue that you are in fact recording, they may not be as aware when it comes to their own under-the-breath comments.  A snarky remark shared lived by someone in the audience is instantly playable to everyone in the world even if it was only intended for their neighbor.

Solution: Let those around you know you are capturing the talk (and warn them what they say may be inadvertently captured) or move to a more isolated location to capture the brief recording.

4. Live Stream vs. Capture?

With both Meerkat and Periscope, there are time limits to how long the videos are posted.  Which means that only a few will get the opportunity to see it if they are following along.  Capturing and editing a video to put onto YouTube or some other platform is done with the intent of sharing over the course of time.

Solution: If you are just sharing a snippet of a talk or presentation to share where you are and what you are watching with friends, stick to Meerkat or Periscope.  However, if you are hoping to capture the entire talk for distribution elsewhere, you’ll want to do so with permission from the speaker.

5. Location

If you are at a large event like ISTE or a smaller conference, it’s likely that all featured speakers have some sort of exclusivity clause with the event organizers.  Filming without permission of the event, could result in getting you thrown out.

Solution: Find the organizers of the event and ask for permission.  While that may seem cumbersome, it’s possible that the event will give you access to their own stream or even ask you to post it to their social media feed for cross-promotion.  At worse they will tell you “No” and you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the talk while it’s being captured by someone else.

So there you have it.  Nothing too Earth-shattering but I’m hoping we can start to have the conversation around this topic of digital broadcasting.   I think it’s important that we have this  conversation with colleagues and students around the rules above to determine what is right and what isn’t.

What did I leave out?  Please comment below and let’s have a discussion about this.  Or better yet, periscope your thoughts to me @mrhooker. 🙂

Let’s figure out this dilemma before people start using the voyeurism prevention act and give talks while disrobing.  No one wants to see that!!

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In case you missed the Periscope, here’s our keynote captured a different way…

Update: Literally 10 minutes after making this post I got to experience a “private Periscope” with Felix.  He shared some thoughts on a workshop he was giving and some other ideas he had.  I can definitely see some educational benefits to that!  Thanks for sharing Felix!

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A screen shot of my Video-to-text conversation with Felix and this post. Appropriately done on Periscope!

Secret Photo-Sharing Apps…The Latest Teen Trend

Much like the Yik Yak incident of last fall, I’ve recently been asked to communicate to our local community about another trend with our students.  These particular apps an element of “secrecy” and some social sharing involved.  I also have to admit, some of them are very clever in terms of how they can be disguised. In light of some recent incidents with our high school students, I created a letter as both a source of awareness but also a resource for tools.  What follows is the letter that was sent out to all Eanes ISD secondary school parents on the afternoon of February 10, 2015:

This past week we discovered a new trend among teens with their personal use of technology.  While seemingly innocent on the surface, the latest in hidden photo-sharing apps could potentially cause trouble with our youth down the road, especially in the area of “sexting.” While the Eanes ISD staff 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. 

Similar to last semester’s issues with the Yik Yak app, we are once again asking for parents to keep an eye out for the following apps (or similar ones) that might be making the rounds on your child’s phone.

We are sharing these tools and resources with parents in order to promote discussion around responsible decision making, to correct poor choices, and open up a dialogue between parent and teen about their digital lives. What follows is information about some specific hidden photo-sharing apps, next steps to take, and where to go  for help and support as a parent.

Keep Safe Private Photo VaultScreen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.53.49 PM

Keep Safe Private Photo Vault is one of many new “secret vault” type apps making their way through the app stores of Apple and Android. This app is  advertised as a way to keep photos and videos safe behind a private PIN and not post them on your public photo roll.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.54.00 PMThe app is easy enough to identify (see icon here) however, if you share iCloud accounts or check your child’s photo roll regularly, you  won’t notice it as photos don’t appear there. While hiding photos is one issue, our concern is with the “Invite friends” premium feature. With this enabled, kids can potentially share photos privately without anyone knowing. One additional premium feature is called “Secret Door”. This allows you to make the app look like another app. Pressing and holding down on the “fake” app enables the PIN pad.

Next steps –

If your child is a Keep Safe Private Photo Vault user, (or a user of other “private vault” type app) a conversation should happen with him/her about why they feel the need to hide their photos and share them privately. 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. Any apps ever downloaded are stored in there.

Additionally, there are new apps that are disguised as a calculator or a folder on the device, so it’s becoming harder to find these. Two such apps include Fake Calculator and Best Secret Folder   (Both pictured here)   

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These apps look innocent and most of the calculator apps actually are real WORKING calculators. However, if you punch in a secret combination of numbers and symbols, you can “unlock” the secret photo compartment hidden behind the calculator.   Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.54.25 PM

Rather than checking every single app on your child’s device, one quick way to check on an iOS device is to go to  Settings->Privacy->Camera. There is a list of every app that uses or has used the camera at one time or another. 

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 private photo sharing by your child. Please take this opportunity to have that conversation about how NOTHING on the internet is truly anonymous or temporary. 

So….Why should I worry about this?

Much like with Yik Yak in the fall, it is likely that many students will learn about these apps from friends and be curious to try them.  Teens have a certain level of curiosity and experimentation anyway, but with the added peer pressure, it could lead to a more serious issue like “Sexting.”  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton goes into the details of sexting laws in the state on this site. While the majority of these cases are tied to state courts, here is some more information on the federal side of things.

What else is out there?

Besides those stated above, there are many other apps being made that provide the same service.  Here is a Mashable.com post that describes 7 different apps for iOS and Android that are out there to hide photos and videos.  Much like social media and kids, the best method of avoiding any type of negative behavior with this technology is openness, awareness and communication with your child.

Where Can I Get Help and Support?

Common Sense Media always has helpful resources for parents and kids.  Here is an article for parents on how to discuss sexting with your teen.

Eanes ISD also provides multiple resources and platforms for parents to get assistance or to report any issues that may be discovered down the road. On February 25th we’ll hold our second annual “Parent University” at Riverbend church to discuss these and many other issues with raising kids in the digital age. Click here for more information on Parent University. I also send out a monthly “Digital Parent Gazette” to interested parents to alert them of any concerns and showcase some great examples of how technology is being used in the classroom.  To receive this newsletter, sign up here.

Finally, I’m offering another “Digital Parenting  101” iTunesU course this semester.  This is a free 12-weekScreen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.01.02 AM online course offered to the public that covers a variety of topics such as social media, screen time, gaming, and helping your child make a positive digital footprint.  The course has already started but it’s not too late to sign up.  It officially runs from February 2nd through May 1st.

Click on this link on your iOS device to enroll today

(note: download the free iTunesU app before enrolling)

Thank you for taking the time to not only review all this information but also to talk 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!

 

Giving Parents a Voice in a 1:1 or BYOD Environment

Our focus in education has always (or at least should always) been on the kids.  They are the reasons the school building exists.  However, we’ve blurred the lines in modern education between school and home. Once you start inviting technology into your school (via BYOD) or you start supplying the technology (via 1:1) you instantly put some pressure on parents to not only comply but be on board.

Where most districts fail (and where we failed initially) is that thinking a “parent night” type meeting or newsletter would be enough to notify parents of this disruptive change. I use the word “disruptive” here not as hyperbole, but to really drive home the point that many parents are not ready for the digital world that lies ahead for their teens.  Whether you are doing any type of mobile device initiative or not, there NEEDS to be conversations taking place on your campuses about this from elementary through high school.

I feel like as a district, we’ve improved from the unidirectional communication methods to more of a collaborative conversation with our parents around technology usage and their kids. I’ve written in the past about our Digital Parenting 101 course.  This semester’s 6-week course had over 130 parents involved and one of the best parts of the course is the discussion forums.  As an administrator it’s such a blessing to be able to have insight on the struggles of the community with screen time, gaming addiction and social media troubles.  It helps me stay informed as well as finding resources to help parents in this digital era.

Yesterday, we took the discussion a step further.

With the help of a parent (Jeff Brantley – father of 3 boys and a guru at facilitating discussion) and a couple of my team members (Tim Yenca and Kacy Mitchell), we started our first of many parent-led collaborative workshops.  In the spirit of sharing,  here’s just a few highlights and a fabulous infographic that Kacy designed to summarize the meeting.

Sticker Dot Activity (before the meeting begins) –

As parents walked into the meeting they were presented with some sticker dots.  Around the room, we had posted the top 5 biggest issues for parents (based on the discussions in the iTunesU course and informal discussions with community members).  Those 5 issues were:

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We gave every parent 5 stickers and told them they could place as many as they wanted on the posters.  In retrospect I would have only given them 3, which would have forced them to decide on just their top three topics.  Doing this tells the facilitators which topics are the most pressing for the parents.

Line-up Activity:

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Social Media partner activity

Following some brief introductions, we asked parents to line-up based on how “Social Media Savvy” they felt they were.  I first saw this done by Tim Lauer at iPadpalooza last summer.  Once the line was successfully flattened (they tend to group in the middle) we folded the line in half so that the least savvy person was paired up with the most savvy person.  Once in partners, they discussed their views on social media both with themselves and their kids.  After a few minutes, we had the pairs group into quads and continue the discussion.  This served a couple of purposes:

1. It forced the parents to be in groups with people other than their friends, thus avoiding the “echo chamber effect.”

2. It opened up discussion amongst each other around ideas and strategies when it comes to social media.

Round-robin Activity:

Staying in their teams of 4, the groups then went to one of the 5 topic posters around the room. It worked out that there were 5 teams in the room, but you could have them combine if there are more. Once at their poster they were given three different color post-it notes to relay either strategies, problems, or quotes they hear around their house about these topics.

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B2vBInZCcAAG25K.jpg-large Parents discussion strategies, problems and quotes.

The discussions within these groups were incredible!  After rotating every 5 minutes and insuring that every group had time in front of a station, we had them come back and regroup for a final activity.

Final Report Out:

Now that parents had spent time in at a station, we let them choose the one that they were most concerned with and regroup with “like-troubled” parents. The final group’s job was to discuss the problems and report out some final strategies that parents can use to solve the challenges presented.  While we didn’t solve everything we did open up several connections within the community and came away with a wealth of discussion and resources.

Here’s an amazing infographic that Kacy Mitchell captured and created to synthesize the day’s activities:

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I’m looking forward to continuing these parent-led collaborative workshops throughout the year and the data that they will yield.  One word of caution is that it may be necessary to frame the day for parents prior to starting. Mentioning the goals of the workshop are to find solutions rather than ranting about issues would be a good thing. It could be easy for one or two parents to turn this from a positive experience to a negative one if they have an axe to grind so going over norms would be good.

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

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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!

21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do This Year

The Past mixing with the Future #selfie

The Past mixing with the Future #selfie

A new school year always brings about new ideas and hopeful ambition for teachers. However, it’s almost 2015.  Gone are the days when we can use the excuse that “we don’t do technology”.  Part of being a teacher in the 21st century is being creative in integrating academics and learning into student’s digital lives. With access to content being ubiquitous and instant in student’s out of school lives, we can either reject their world for our more traditional one, or embrace it.

While some of the ideas that follow may seem a bit trendy, it’s never hurts to model ways to interact with all this new media as a covert way of teaching digital literacy and citizenship.   The great news is, you don’t need every student to have a device to make these happen. Heck, in most cases all you would need is a single smart phone.  All you need is an open mind and some student-led creative thinking.

And so, I present the 21 things every 21st century teacher should try in their classroom this year:

1. Post a question of the week on your class blog

One of the best ways to engage student (and family) interaction with your classroom is to have a class blog.  While these are becoming more common, I like the trend of having a weekly student “guest author” write up the ideas and learning objectives discussed in class.  This is also a good place to discuss appropriate commenting behavior on blogs and websites.

2. Have a class twitter account to post a tweet about the day’s learning

Just like a blog only smaller.  Nominate a “guest tweeter” and have them summarize the day’s learning in 140 characters or less. Then ask parents to follow the account so they can also get a little insight into the happenings of the school day.

3. Make a parody of a hit song

The ultimate form of flattery is imitation.  The ultimate form of stardom is when Weird Al makes a parody of your song.  Why not take that to an creative level and have students re-write lyrics to their favorite hit or a popular tune?  Sure, this might take more time than it’s worth academically, but the collaborative sharing and engaging aspect of producing such a thing can be a positive.  Who knows, maybe someone in history class will remake “Chaka Khan” into “Genghis Khan” or something like this classic:

4. Create an infographic as a review

Those clever little graphics are appearing everywhere from Popular Mechanics to Cosmopolitan. Why not make one as a way to help visual learners review and remember information?

5. Go paperless for a week

Depending on your grade level, this might be harder than you think. Even in a 1:1 district we still print or have need to print things from time to time.  The idea behind this challenge is see if you can figure out ways to make things more digital.  Maybe instead of a newsletter you print and send home, you write a blog or send a MailChimp?  Or instead of asking kids to write and peer-edit each other’s papers, you ask them to share a Google doc?   If your students don’t have devices, then challenge yourself to try this personally for a month.

6. Have a “No Tech Day” just for nostalgia’s sake

And then have your students blog about the experience.

7. Create your own class hashtag

Tell your students and their parents about the hashtag and have them post ideas, photos, and questions to it.  It’s a great way to get people from not only in your class but also around the world to contribute to your class conversation. You can also use this with your blog posts (#1) or classroom tweets (#2). Bonus points if you use something like VisibleTweets to display your posts in your class.

8. Create a List.ly list to encourage democracy in your class.

It could be as simple as a list of choices for a project or something as grand as what is one thing you want to learn about this year?  Whatever the choice, use List.ly to create a crowd-sourced voting list and let your students have some say in their learning!

9. Integrate Selfies into your curriculum5b7df7199ed9f846a52813b021033049

This one might take some outside the box thinking,  but I’m guessing that there are students in your class that could come up with a creative way to do this.  Maybe take a selfie next to a science experiment? Or a selfie with an A+ paper? #SuperStudent

10. Curate a class Pinterest account 

Pinterest is a great visible way to curate resources but why not create a class account that has a different board based on projects throughout the year.  Add students as collaborators and let them post their projects to the board.  You could also have a board on gathering resources and information for a topic which would be a good time to mention what is and what isn’t a valid resource?

11. AppSmash Something

Besides just fun to say, you should definitely take multiple apps on whatever device you use and smash them together into a project.  Check out this post for the basics and remember, it doesn’t have to be you who is doing the smashing.  Let your kids come smash too!

12. Participate in a Twitter Chat

Twitter can be like drinking information from a fire house at times, but finding a good twitter chat on a topic and participating can be a great way to learn and grow as a teacher.  Check out Cybraryman’s list of twitter chats and times to find one that interests you. Don’t see any you like? Make your own! Remember in step #7 when you created your own class hashtag?

13. Make part of your classroom “Augmented”

Why not make take an app like Aurasma and hide some easter eggs around your room? You could make them about a project or just secret nuggets about you.  It’ll keep kids (and parents during back to school night) engaged and turn dead space in your classroom into an interactive learning opportunity.  Need some ideas?  Check out Lisa Johnson‘s List.ly List (Remember, you know how to make those now from #8!) of over 50 Augmented Reality apps.

14. Create a recipe on IFTTT.com to make your life easier

With all of these tools and social media platforms, it might be a good idea to create some ways to automate tasks in your classroom.  IFTTT.com has some great pre-made “recipes” to combine some of your accounts into simple workflow solutions.  You can even have your plant email you when it needs water.

15. Create a Class Instagram Account 

Have a daily student photographer who’s job is to post an example of something your class/students did that day. If you don’t want to mess with “do not publish” lists, you could ask that it be of an object or artifact, not a person.  This would also be a good time to talk about when and how to ask permission to take someone’s photo.  Mix in your class hashtag(#7), throw in an IFTTT (#14)recipe, and all the sudden you can also auto-post selfies (#9) to your class Pinterest board (#10)

16. Perform in a LipDub Video 

This can be either a solo project or for even greater effect, tie in your parody song (#3) and have your students act out their learning throughout the video.  Don’t forget to hashtag it. Bonus points if said video goes viral like this one:

17. Make a class book

The ease with which you can publish books now is amazing.  Using a tool like Book Creator or iBooks Author, you can publish to the iBooks store or Amazon.  Don’t want to do something that intense? Keep it simple and make a book using Shutterfly and then have it printed as a keepsake.

18. Participate in a Mystery Hangout

This sounds a lot scarier than it is but essentially think of playing the game 20 questions with another classroom somewhere in the world. Here’s a link to a community page with more resources. It’s a great way to increase cultural and global awareness and you could event invite the other class to add to your Pinterest board (#10), vote on your List.ly (#8), comment on your blog (#1) or maybe co-collaborate on an eBook (#17).

19. Produce a class Audio podcast

Have students create a podcast highlighting classroom activities, projects or students.  To get it to the web quickly, post it to Soundcloud.  For the more advanced user, use a podcasting site like Podbean.com and actually get the podcast posted to iTunes.  That way mom and dad can listen to the weekly recap while going on their evening walk or driving to work.

20. GHO on Air with an expert

With so many resources and experts available, it only makes sense to bring in someone from “the real world”. This not only creates interest in the topic, it adds an air of authenticity.  Using Google Hangouts On Air means you can record this session on the fly and post it to your class site or embed it on your blog to generate discussion at home.

21. Become an activist for a worthy cause.

If the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge can teach us anything, it’s that sometimes a little creativity is all you need to awareness to a cause. Whether it’s helping a country in need or finding a cure for a disease,  our new connected society can be a powerful thing when galvanized for good.  Participating in a global project gives students perspective on their own lives while helping others with their own life challenges.

BONUS – Let your students drive the learning

While you could do all of these challenges by yourself, the real power comes in letting students own a piece of it.  They have the curiosity and the digital acumen, it’s the teacher’s job to give them instructional focus and empowerment.  We live in wonderfully connected times.  Despite all of technology’s perceived misgivings and the apocalyptic fears that we are losing ourselves as a society, why not use some of this power for good?

Just know that as a teacher in the 21st century you ultimately hold the key to unleash this creative beast.  So try something on the list this year that may force you a bit out of your comfort zone because there is no better way to learn than trying.

Just be sure you blog about it when you are finished as learning in isolation helps no one.

Oh….and be sure to hashtag it.

 

Update: Thanks to Sean Junkins who made this great little graphic for the challenge.  Collaboration at it’s finest!

Thanks to @sjunkins

Thanks to @sjunkins

Digital Parenting 101: An iTunesU Course For Parents

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Digital Parenting iTunesU course

Part of having any type of success in a school is to have the support of parents.  While some schools can overcome a lack of parent involvement or support, most depend on the idea that “it takes a village” to raise a child.  The same is true of any successful mobile device initiative.  I’ve had over 50 talks/discussions/trainings with community members and parents in our district since the launch of the LEAP iPad Initiative in Fall of 2011, and that’s still not enough.

We’ve hosted panels of parents discussing their concerns and values with technology use.  We’ve brought in experts on cyber-bullying and internet safety.  We’ve even had back-to-school nights where we’ve invited parents to see and use the device as a child in the classroom would.

Knowledge is a powerful thing and lately, many parents are looking for more and more materials on what to avoid online, what to turn off and restrict, and how to help “stay ahead” of their kids digitally.  The hard truth is parents will never be able to stay ahead of their kids digitally.  Kids have more time and much less responsibility on their hands which means they can spend their free time trying to figure out ways to “game” the system and push limits.

As parents, our job has never been so important, but at the same time, so challenging.  We must now manage the lives of our actual kids and the virtual life they portray online.  One of my darkest moments during our 1:1 initiative was also one of my finest hours.  Following a highly attended parent orientation, I was encircled by about a dozen angry parents asking why we were “doing this to them.”  In their worlds, they (thought) they had control over screen-time, online behavior, obsessive gaming, etc.  Now the district has placed a device in the hand of every student and completely disrupted that well-maintained home life.

As the parents pointed their fingers angrily and voiced their frustrations over this disruption…a strange smile crept over my face.

“HOW CAN YOU BE SMILING?!?” they shouted.

My answer was simple, “I’m actually happy we are having this discussion right here, right now, when we can all do something about it.” I calmly stated. “In a few years, when your child has left for college, there is nothing I can do to help them with their digital lives.  But because they all have devices from our district, we can now join forces with parents to better educate our students.  After all, we aren’t raising children.  We are raising adults.”

Flash-forward a couple of years to this past spring.  While parent turn-out at “Digital Parent nights” and various other events were good, we were still missing a large chunk of parents who couldn’t attend due to their own schedule.  We decided to LiveStream several of these events, which helped with exposure, but I wasn’t sure we were really reaching those parents struggling to “keep up” with their kids.

After much bantering on my part, I finally decided to blackmail myself and set a date by which parents could sign up and be a part of an online course for digital parenting.  Publishing that date and sign up forced me to create the course, hence “blackmailing myself.”

I created the course in iTunesU and did so for a couple of reasons:

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1. iTunesU is super-easy to manage.  The only time consuming part is gathering content and resources.

2. I wanted the parents to use their student’s iPad if possible to take the course. This helped model some of the educational expectations of the device at home.

So, on February 17th, I launched a 6-week iTunesU course titled: Digital Parenting 101.  I broke the course into 6 sections and rolled out content each week to parents that were enrolled in the course (I ended up with 43 parents enrolled). My sections were broken out into the following categories:

Week 1 – Digital Wellness in the 21st Century

Week 2 – Internet Safety, filters, restrictions & security

Week 3 – Screen time & the Brain

Week 4 – Social Media & Gaming

Week 5 – Guidelines for the Household

Week 6 – Building a Digital Footprint

At the end of each week’s content (designed to take 2-3 hours a week), I gave a brief 10-question quiz to check for understanding.  Parents that scored 80% or higher were emailed a ‘secret code’ that they would use to enter in the final exam to prove they completed each section.   In addition, I used a free platform called Moot.it to create a discussion forum for Q&A and to stimulate some discussion over the weekly topics.

All in all, the course went very well, but still needs some room for improvement.  I’ve asked the “students” in the course to email me feedback and will use that to craft the next course I offer in the fall.

That said, I’ve been asked by several colleagues to share the course with the public.  So, with a little iTunesU magic, I duplicated the course, removed the links to the private forums, and made it public for anyone to use.  I share this backstory and course with you in the hopes that you’ll continue to work with parents on educating them about their children’s digital future.  I also find a course like this strengthens the bond between school and parent in collectively raising their child.

Enjoy!

Eanes ISD Digital Parenting 101: iTunesU Course