Internet Safety

The thrust of Internet Safety has changed over the last several years. This is a presentation I prepared for schools and local church and community groups about ten years ago. At that time there really were no mobile devices and so the concern was more in the area of computers and laptops. Parents and administration felt that they could control students and kid’s access to the Internet using filtering programs.

With the advent of mobile devices such as smartphones tablet's and other personal computing devices, the shift in Internet safety has gone from external controls over what they view by software to an internal locus of control teaching by using examples, information and education schools to teach digital literacy and digital citizenship to kids. There still are some very good programs available through state attorneys general and other organizations about the dangers of the Internet but citizenship has grown in importance.

The presentation for today would include less of trying to acquaint parents of the dangers of the Internet and more trying to acquaint the kids of what they could expect. It would include things like cyber starting, safety in Facebook, the dangers of sexting, I tended identity theft protections, and the impact of social media on current and future employment.

There are a number of sites that have valuable information regarding Internet safety.  They include:

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Need technology training for the upcoming school year?

We are presenting two workshops on educational technology next week at the BSU TECenter.  

Flipped Classrooms

With the increased technology available both in classrooms and at home many schools have started "flipping" the usual instructional format of instruction in class and practice at home to a format where instruction happens at home via the Internet and podcasts and practice happens in class where the teacher is available as the resource for particular questions that arise during the practice activities.

During this workshop you will learn:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of flipped classroom instruction;
  • What should and shouldn't be taught in a flipped classroom;
  • How to prepare yourself and your students for a flipped classroom;
  • How to design flipped classroom content;
  • How to prepare content for uploading to a website
  • How to secure and prepare a website for a flipped teaching class
  • How to survive in a flipped environment
  • Suggestions to make the flipped classroom easier to manage.

One day workshop


One to One Technology in the Classroom

With a greater variety and more affordable options of technology available to students and teachers, integrating these devices into the classroom has become more important than ever. This workshop will give you an overview of how to start using laptops, tablets and mobile devices in your classroom.

During this workshop you will learn:

  • Websites that can help you be more effective.
  • Policy changes that may need to be implemented.
  • Software that can help with instruction.
  • Processes that can help streamline you use of technology in the classroom.
  • What to expect with different devices.

Half day workshop

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Innovative Teaching and Learning Lessons from High Tech High

Of the several points raised by Larry Rosenstock in the video Innovative Teaching and Learning from High Tech High are four technology methodologies that should be applied to academic classes.  Those four methodologies are:

  1. Group performed
  2. Team taught
  3. Experiential
  4. Applied

Of those the one I want to focus on is the experiential methodology.  Teachers have long known that for the majority of people the highest retention rates can be achieved by having the learner do it themselves.  Even though I can accomplish the task faster than the person I am training I frequently have to stop myself, step away from the computer, and have the learner “drive”.  If they aren’t allowed to do the task themselves they will have no “muscle memory” to draw from when trying to repeat the task in the future.

In the assessment-happy US the emphasis has been shifting toward regurgitation of facts over the application on knowledge.  Of course there are some exceptions to the trend – math being the greatest.  Assessments for many non-math subject areas focus more on the ability to pull from an internal database the correct definition or fact or term without necessarily being able to use that piece of data in a useful manner.  Today’s kids are masters at retrieving data from friends, the Internet, or a variety of other sources.  Testing kids on their ability to behave like a computer shouldn’t be the measure of the success of a school.  Experiential learning, already taught in many technology classes, needs to be integrated throughout our school’s curriculum.  Grades in computer classes are usually based at least partially on the completion of tasks to specifications with extra points being given for creativity.  The concept of project based learning from technology needs to be expanded to all areas of the educational process with the addition of collaborative elements.

I have always taught my computer repair students that they need to learn to fight their way to the end of the problems they encounter.  Fighting your way to the end serves two purposes.  First, if you fight your way to the end the answer will always be yours – it becomes so deeply embedded in your brain It has folds of its own.  Secondly, people need to learn that some things in this life have to be fought for or nothing has any tangible value.

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Online Document Collaboration

I have used online document collaboration for a couple of years.  I have used it primarily with colleagues rather than students but I can see the potential for student interaction as well.

I have used the document creation function with a training I delivered to teachers in a district I worked for.  Their task was to pull together grade level and content area standards that were then used to develop curriculum.  Not all of the teachers involved in the project had the same prep and common release time was not always possible.  The teachers worked together when possible and alone if they had to core standard and curriculum elements.  My job was to train them to create, access, share, and contribute to the standards documents they were developing.

I have used the shared spreadsheet function to conduct surveys and hold elections for a couple of nonprofits I am on the boards of.  Google makes it extremely easy to create and share documents with people who have or even don’t have Google accounts.  Google docs allows you to determine the level of sharing you want to apply to each document and can allow you to give different rights to different people.

I have used network shares with classes in the past that required students to collaborate on work that was eventually used as the study guide for the current unit of study.  Online document collaboration would not only simplify the process of creating those documents, it also increases the accessibility for those students with rights to off campus and non-network computers and devices.

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Investing in Professional Development for Technology and Inquiry Based Learning

Investing in Professional Development for Technology and Inquiry Based Learning is an overview of a professional development program called eMINTS, enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies. eMINTS is a statewide program similar to what I have tried to implement on a much smaller scale as part of my private consulting business.  We have thrown thousands, even millions of dollars at classrooms in the form of technology and provided little ongoing professional development to support the investment.  I have scheduled time to work with teachers only to get called away to provide technical support for a server or printer. That leaves the teacher who was expecting some help and support for a technology they are still learning how to use in a classroom setting to go it alone in on upcoming lesson with her class.

Professional development needs to quit taking a back seat to other programs and be equal to the academic curriculum in our schools planning.  Some schools I have worked in place more emphasis on lunch counts and the sizing of class rings or graduation robes than they do on sustained, comprehensive professional development.  Not that PD should take precedence over everything else in our schools but to use an analogy from the auto world if you don’t change the oil in your car regularly the engine will fail.  Why do we expect anything different from the people who run our schools and educate our kids?

To achieve this parity there are three things that need to be done in school districts.  First, clear goals and benchmarks need to be established for the technology program as it applies to students, teachers, and administrators.  Those goals and benchmarks need to be clearly stated, time bound, and have sufficient resources made available to be achievable.   Second, time needs to be scheduled at the beginning of the year for professional development to happen.  Professional development too often becomes an afterthought in school planning.  It is easy to predict when the majority of fire drills happen in schools – “Oh, it’s the last day of the month and we haven’t had a fire drill yet.  Someone pull the station in the hall.  Oh, don’t forget to call the fire department to let them know this is just a drill.”  Planning discussions in administrative meetings takes a similar tone – “Oh. Right. Professional Development.  The state says we need to have X number of hours of professional development.  What are we doing that we can call professional development and what can we wedge in to make up the difference?”  Finally, technology integration needs to be one of the evaluation criteria applied to all parties.  It is unfortunate that in most jobs – if there is no accountability, there is no work done.  If participation in professional development and integrating technology into the curriculum aren’t included in the evaluation criteria there is no reason to expect that the majority of teachers will give any more than a token effort toward using the technology we have placed in their classrooms.

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Personal Learning Networks

According to a Meyers/Briggs assessment I am an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensor, Thinker Judger [oddly enough my wife is the exact opposite]).  As an ISTJ my Personal Learning Network is fairly small.  If I don’t know them personally or haven’t already read enough of their work to verify their bona fides, I am unlikely to accept someone’s opinion without checking it out.  The majority of my contacts are on LinkedIn – the Thinker/Sensor side of me and are related to business.  I am not interested in small talk and so delete most Facebook notices that come through from “friends” other than family and a assume that most non-family do the same with mine.

Having said that I do realize that most of the current generation of students is the exact opposite of me. Another Zits cartoon illustrates perfectly the difference between the generations:

Zits 3/7/11

This generation is used to doing a survey of friends to find out information, check sources, and work on assignments.  The greatest thing instructors can do is to help students develop a mechanism by which they can check the validity of the information they are listening to.  Not all points of view are viable and youth (of any generation) sometimes don’t understand that.  An example of that can be found in the James Surowiecki video from lesson two.  Anyone can put up a website with nothing more than a minor investment in time.  For less than $100 you can even get one that won’t run ads and will be indistinguishable from a big corporation.  The second part of preparing students after learning to identify fact from fiction is teaching them to look for perceived biases in the facts you find.  This starts as simply as using more than one search engine to do your searches, to researching the background of the sources you choose to use.

We live in an age of vast information at our fingertips.  We have the responsibility to teach students how to use the resource intelligently.

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Intranet vs Online

I started using the Intranet a great deal in the school I taught at to cut down on copying cost, transfer assignments, have student collaborate on projects, turn in work, and give assessments ten or twelve years ago.  Being as I was the person running the network it was fairly easy to set up shared space, assign rights, and implement the behind the scenes software implementations required to make these things work.  Several teachers seeing how they could reduce their work and copying load asked me to implement various parts of what I was doing for their classes.  No one wants to be on the bleeding edge of technology but once they see it working successfully they will consider trying it out.

The downside to using the Intranet approach is the limited availability of the resources.  Students (and teachers) have to be able to access the network to use the resources and network administrators are loath to open portals to the outside world.  Using a CMS (content management systems) such as WordPress, Drupal, Moodle or Joomla allows teachers, students and administrators to prepare, upload, access, and collaborate on resources from anywhere with Internet access.  The wide variety of extensions/plug-ins/add-ons that are available allow for a great deal of customization for these sites and make them more user/administrator friendly.

As a technology implementation trainer and specialist I work to use distance learning tools in both a synchronous and a synchronous environment.  Different tools work better with different groups and ages so finding the best tools to satisfy the needs of the learners and instructors can be challenging.  In one district we are moving toward our students working in one-to-one computing classrooms.  To achieve this we are having to overcome several mindsets that could scuttle the effort.  The old school mindset is that students need a textbook for each class, three ring and/or spiral notebooks and pens or pencils to be learning anything of value.  The business mindset is that students must be working on fully functional desktops or perhaps laptops in a pinch with Microsoft Office Suite loaded.  The piece that seems to be missing in the development of our technology plan is that computing devices will change before these year’s freshman graduate from high school much less college.  That makes it even more important for us to develop content that will allow our students to learn regardless of platform they are using or location of their “classroom”.

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Singapore’s 21st Century Teaching Strategies: Education Everywhere Series

The video Singapore’s 21st Century Teaching Strategies: Education Everywhere Series brings to the forefront the issue of data availability in today’s world.  Sitting in a restaurant on a Saturday in August while taking a weekend off in a mountain resort town, I realized I hadn’t seen how one of USA’s Olympic teams had done in their afternoon game.  Twenty years ago I might have picked up the answer on the evening news or waited until the morning paper came out.  Instead I turned to our teenage daughter and asked her to see if she could pull up the results on her phone.  After a couple of minutes (she could only get a 2G signal so it was slow) she told me that our team had lost.

Today’s students (and their families) are used to instant access to knowledge on virtually any topic anywhere they happen to be.  The volume of data available is almost beyond comprehension.  Lou Boyd, a newspaper columnist who wrote about little known trivial, said in the 1980’s that if a person picked up a Sunday New York Times and read it cover to cover he would acquire more knowledge in one sitting than the average person living in the late 1800’s would have acquired in his entire life.  I don’t know the source of Boyd’s information but if it was even remotely true, image what the quote would be now with the availability of the Internet and instant messaging.

A dearth of data is not the problem in today’s schools.  We have more facts, opinions, and conjectures than we know what to do with.  What is missing is the filter system that can weed out the wheat from the chaff so that we and our students can get down to the true kernels of insight that are of value.  If we want to truly prepare students for a future about which we can only guess, we need to help them become connoisseurs of knowledge.

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Over Testing in Schools

Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York in the blog entry titled Three Ed Reforms Parents Should Worry About addresses concerns about the New York State’s policy Annual Professional Performance Review.  In her blog she talks about several concerns on testing in schools that teachers and administrators have been aware of for years.

First is the over-testing that goes on in schools.  Because of the emphasis placed on testing by states and the federal government, students hardly have a chance to learn anymore.  The education system is supposed to be teaching students 21st Century skills.  At the same time prepare them to pass tests that aren’t always related to 21st Century skills.  All things are possible – just not all at the same time.  We need to decide what we want first; and that should be centered on what is best for the students.

Her second point is that using test scores for purposes other than evaluating what students have learned and helping them know what to improve is using the wrong tool for the wrong purpose.   I am reminded of a poster I saw in which someone with bandaged hands was using a hatchet to drive a nail.  If we are using the right tool for the wrong purpose should expect poor results and angry staff.  An assessment shows what a student was able to do on one particular assignment on one day.  Standardized tests are not an accurate indicator of how a teacher is doing in the classroom, how much sleep the student got the night before, whether the parents read to the child when they were young or whether it will snow tomorrow.  Including them in teacher evaluations or merit pay decisions is using the wrong tool for the wrong reason.

Her last point is that much of the data being amassed is being pulled together into huge, shared data-bases holding information about our kids.  In shades of 1984, is this what we really want to have going on?  It isn’t just non-identifiable data being saved, but data that includes names test scores and other information that will likely follow our kids for the rest of their lives.  Students are assigned permanent ID numbers by the state so that no matter what school they attend their past will follow them.

Big brother is watching and if you don’t do as they wish you can expect to have your funding pulled, everyone replaced, or your school taken over by the state.  So much for local control that has been touted by governmental education leaders.

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Social Bookmarking

In the “Old Days” one of the ways we attempted to keep elementary kids safe and on task was to pre-search for websites with content that was acceptable and valid for whatever assignment they were working on.  This was before web-filters were very accurate and did a good job of screening out images that were inappropriate for elementary students.  The easiest way to accomplish this was to save web links to a Word file and then have that file on an accessible network drive or copy the document to individual computers.  That worked if you were onsite but it was very time consuming.  Using Delicious to find and share base-line or starter links to guide research would have several advantages.

First is the ability to draw from other people of a similar interest rather than having to do all the base research yourself.  A list created by 100 people each spending 10 or 20 minutes would be more comprehensive and better researched than one created by one person spending 16 hours staring at their screen using a single set of search terms.

Another benefit would be the cross platform nature of the resource.  Not everyone has Word and so they may not be able to open the document.  Anyone with an Internet enabled phone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer could view and even add to the curriculum.

Finally the learning could take place anywhere the learner can access the Internet.  A selection of links about Jimmy Hendrix could enrich a student visit to Experience Music Project museum in Seattle for any student with an Internet enabled device.
Social bookmarking will become not only the way for teachers to guide student learning but also to get them contributing to their and fellow students education.

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