Monday, February 27, 2017

Safe Sharing in the Digital Age

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This week's prompt from #EduBlogs Club is related to Student Privacy. This has been an interesting topic to reflect on as both an educator and a parent. I work in a high school so I think we have approached the student privacy issue in a slightly more relaxed way than my son's school (he's in elementary school). And that feels appropriate to me.

Why we need to teach about digital safety

We live in a digital age so what we are now teaching has had to expand to cover online safety simply because if we are really doing our job then we are preparing our students for their futures. And let's face it, our students live as much on line as they do off line. So my approach, and what I coach our teachers in, is to help students learn how to interact safely and positively online. If we shelter our students from all that is available digitally then we are doing them a disservice.  Not only are we not allowing them to learn and create in a space that is inhabited by pretty much any profession they might chose to pursue, but we are also not giving them the opportunity to gain valuable skills that will give them an advantage as they pursue summer jobs, apply to college, or even seek to start their own business.


But this requires us to think about their safety and teach them how to be responsible for their safety in the digital realm as much as we teach our children how to be safe when crossing a street or how co-eds need to be safe at their first college party. At the high-school level, we work with our lower-grade students to not divulge personal information that predators could use to find them. They don't use their picture. They don't identify where they go to school or even what city/state they live in, and they don't use their full name. As our students become juniors and seniors, we teach them how to intelligently engage via social media.  We realize that they need to build a portfolio that can be useful for college and job applications and that means that they need to present themselves as real people. For our 9th and 10th graders, they are kept primarily to blogging and are not mandated to share their blogs outside our school.  The 11th and 12th graders however are creating more public blogs as well as interacting on social media. This has been our approach for several years now and we have not had any problems.  We also spend time providing instruction for our students in digital safety. We rely heavily on the materials available through Common Sense Media Education because, well, they are the best.  


The other important piece to educating our students effectively is good modeling. Just like most schools today, we have a release form that parents are asked to sign that allows their student's image to appear on school materials and social media.  Every year there are a handful of families who opt-out, and that is completely their choice. However, in this modern era, capturing your school's story via social media and sharing it out is necessary. So I have learned to capture images that can share our school's story without including the student faces or names. Here is an example of a photo montage I posted that does not include any faces but clearly (I think) shares a story: 

The students know that I post on social media.  When they see me with my phone out they often ask: "Is this going on Twitter?" Those students who are "OK" with having their image on social media will sometimes even tell me "It's OK to take my picture." It is these opportunities that help to reinforce that there is an etiquette to posting on social media, and that is part of the learning too.

The world of education is multi-faceted and seems to have more added to the expectations every year. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect a bit on student privacy in the digital age in this week's post. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Free, Free, Free!

This week's (well, technically now that it is Tuesday, LAST week's prompt) for the #EdublogsClub challenge was to write about a free tool that you enjoy using. It has taken me all week to find time to really reflect on this because my absolute favorite, can't live without and can't work without (yes, they are two separate things--you'll see) tool is the Google Suite. I know several people have shared some of the obvious tools contained in the GSuite so I am going to put forth a few of the lesser known, under-appreciated tools found within the Google domain.  May I present for reflection Google Draw, Google Hangout, Google Calendar (and the cool Calendly site) and Google Keep.

Up first, Google Draw. I love the flexibility of Draw for creating colorful flow charts, having students design word maps, collaborate on infographics, create Venn Diagrams, or just present information in a more playful, optically inviting way. If you haven't tried Google Draw, I encourage you to do so. There are loads of shapes to use, or you can free-draw your own (if you are really brave!).  You can import images and then have students fill them out using the text box tool. Think: have students demonstrate that they can label a cell using a real photo of a cell on a GDraw document pushed out through GClassroom instead of a black and white photocopy. I LOVE Google Draw and encourage teachers and students to impress me with new applications.  Just so you can get a feel for the fun that you can have with Google Draw, here is a document that we used to share out the teams for a PD exercise:

Who wouldn't be excited to get started with the fun call-out shapes and bright colors?! So give GDraw a try the next time you are looking for something  a bit different to give your lesson or presentation a boost.

OK, the next tool that I want to mention is Google Hangout.  Many of you are familiar with this tool for communication with colleagues or family members but here is one way that we use it at our school: to help students attend class who have temporary mobility issues due to  injuries.  You see, we have a three-story building built in the 1920s, pre-ADA.  Thus, no elevators. So when a student athlete (we are a high school with some pretty competitive students) shows up after ACL surgery or a broken leg from her weekend on the slopes, we set them up to use Google Hangout to attend their classes on the second floor or in the basement.  Pretty slick! And they thought they would get to skip Pre-Calculus for a few weeks 😊  It is also a great tools for students who might be quarantined at home but want to attend class. Our counselors will meet with the student and provide them a brief tutorial and then they are off and running. When we first started using Hangout to help girls attend class we had them call the teacher directly so that the teacher could screen-share their lecture slide deck.  However, that became a burden on the teacher.  So now, we have the girls call in via a classmate. It has been a great solution and our parents love that their girls don't have to try and negotiate our stairs on crutches.  It's a win-win.

So, on to Google Calendar. As an administrator, this is my must have. I love that I can give my assistant direct access to my calendar to add appointments for me.  No more emailing back and forth 17 times to find a time that works for me and whoever wants to meet with me. I also like that my coworkers can see when I am free simply by searching for my calendar.  Here is a quick video on how to see coworkers calendars if you aren't familiar with this feature.

I also like being able to create appointment slots for scheduling a series of meetings such as end of year reviews with our faculty.  Setting up appointment slots is fairly simple. What I find gets a little tricky is sharing out the appointment calendar link.  You see, there is one link for your calendar.  And let's say you create slots for one type of meeting in September, another type of meeting in December and a third type of meeting in March (for example, check-ins with your new hires). When you send the link (and it's a long link), it will open to your calendar on the day that the person is looking at it. So, you send out your appointment slot link in August to your new teachers.  They scroll to September and book an appointment but don't fully read your email to also scroll to December and March.  They then won't see your slots for those later meetings.  It takes a little bit of getting used to for some people.  This is why I actually prefer using Calendly for setting up appointments with people.  I actually shared Calendly with our counseling staff and at least one of them is now using it exclusively to set up meetings with all of her students.  Calendly links directly with your Google calendar and will update your calendar, as well as send reminders to both the person coming to see you as well as you. It is more user friendly for many and also free.

The final tool I want to share is Google Keep. I have to give a Google Ninja credit for introducing Keep to my world last summer at a Google Certification Training. Since then, I don't know how I lived without Keep! Here is why I love Keep:

  • You can share your lists with others and collaborate just like all the other Google tools.  This is great for clubs and work teams that need to keep tasks organized.  But my personal favorite use for this is to keep our family shopping lists updated. Try it.  Never again can your spouse or partner tell you they forgot the shopping list because there is a mobile app for Keep that is seamless!
  • You can geo-tag notes. What a great way to remind a student to do their homework--geotag their homework list to their home address 
Of course there are lots of other great tools in the Google Suite, but I thought that these four deserved a little shout-out.  I hope that you have a new idea for your classroom or school site (or home life!). How do you use Google to simplify your workflow?  Please share in the comments below.