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
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 Yak 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.
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:
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.
Finally, 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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
Tags: 101, children, cyber bully, devices, digital footprint, digital parent, digital wellness, eanes, filters, gaming, guidelines, ipads, kids, parent, parenting, restrictions, safety, screen time, social media, students, training