Friday, February 26, 2010

Internet safety: Whose job to teach kids about it?

I thought this was a pretty interesting article. It never occurred to me that teaching Internet safety wasn’t everyone’s responsibility! If students are using the Internet in school, then it should be mandatory to include cyber-security and cyber-ethics discussions in every classroom that uses the technology. Parents are not exempt from the responsibility either, regardless of how much their child uses the Internet at home.

I think it’s a shame that adults are arguing over responsibility about an issue with such serious consequences. In this case, no one should make any assumptions that another party is doing the job. Redundant warnings (from home and school) will only reinforce the importance of responsible Internet use.

According to a survey referenced in the article, only about a quarter of teachers, administrators and technology coordinators addressed Internet safety issues such as how to respond to online harassment and the seriousness of sexting –those numbers are entirely too low and considering how long we have been hearing stories of Internet abuse, I’m really surprised that there hasn’t been a strong nationwide movement. The article also points out that setting up filters is not enough – students can find their way around those. So it’s important to talk frequently with students on the subject.

Nancy Willard is the director of The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use which is a website that is dedicated to issues concerning technology safety and houses many valuable articles, professional resources and cyber-bully specific resources that can help parents and teachers get involved with Internet abuse prevention and intervention.

This is definitely an issue where educators, parents and students alike need to step up and take responsibility.

Teaching for the 21st Century

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Watch the Birdie!

No Comments please, this isn’t my homework blog on social networking - Scroll down to "Running in Place" for my homework blog.

Over the past decade I’ve heard a lot of people, myself included, brandish the self-diagnosed label of A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). Do we really have A.D.D or do we just lack discipline and/ or focus? Okay, now put that aside for a minute because I don’t want to ponder that right now. What I do want to air is that a chronic habit of “following shiny objects” can be detrimental to a tight schedule if you’re surfing the net with a purpose in mind. Here’s an example:

Tom very thoughtfully embedded some Twitter tutorials and other links on our Techfusion310 wiki. I didn’t find Twitter as intuitive as blogging, RSS-ing and Google-Reading, so I decided to take a few minutes to review the resources. I watched both videos and then noticed the link about hashtags (I am resisting the inclination to embed the link because I want you to stay here!) I had questions about hashtags so I clicked on the link. About 7 seconds later I was looking at this picture --> --> -->

Question: Why would Tom send me here to learn about Twitter?

Answer: He didn’t. He sent me to a blog about Twitter which had a link to this page that caught my attention and I saw the little birdies and clicked on them because, my friends, I am a chronic shiny-object-follower!

My Essential Question: Will a little less caffeine and a little more focus keep me from blowing my deadlines?

Running in Place

I have a passion for organizing. Colored paper, highlighters, sticky notes, bins, boxes (labeled) and shelving …these are a few of my favorite things. Why? I like the uniformity, yes, but the real reason is because I am a Type-A personality. I don’t like losing things and I don’t like spending a lot of time finding things.

This is why I’ve jumped into educational social networking with both feet – because it took what I was already doing and supersized it. The promise of cross-referenced searchable, bundled tags lured me to the rim of the social networking vortex like a shiny object lures a fish, but what I found when I got there reached far beyond my expectations.

In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson explains how to use RSS feeds to serve as alerts when students have updated their blogs. This saves the teacher time in that he/she can review homework entries when they’re submitted without having to search manually for individual student updates (p 77) Using this model, I set up RSS feeds to several of my classmates’ blogs as well as a few professionals in the outside world in hopes of starting my own PLN.

I follow the author of our book, Will Richardson as well as several other edu-techno-junkies. They don’t know it, but they've been helping me with my homework for EDUC 310 and 325 for the last few weeks. They’re also laying the groundwork for my career as a teacher. I’m already gaining valuable insight, tips, and tricks of the trade, and I haven’t even logged any classroom hours yet. Through Google Reader the RSS feeds alert me when one of my classmates or cyber-mentors updates their blogs and then I can participate in a conversation with the author and other readers by posting comments.

Many of my cyber-mentors have links to Delicious which is what I use for my bookmarking cite. I have included Steve Dembo and Will Richardson in my Delicious Network. If I’m searching for a particular tag, “free education software,” for instance, I can limit my search to include only those bookmarks tagged by myself and members of my social network. Assuming that my cyber-mentors are bookmarking judiciously, my search will return a manageable list of worthwhile resources to check out. This saves me time and that makes me happy!

The downside? My role in my social network feels somewhat voyeuristic. I read the blogs of others and search through their bookmarks, but I feel like I have very little to contribute. I have asked a few questions and received a few answers, but I am lacking the feeling of satisfaction that comes from playing the game rather than watching from the sidelines. For now I will continue to rove and collect what I can. In time I know that this will change, but for now I’m all revved up and running in place!

You can visit my Delicious site, my RSS feeds and view my cyber-mentor blogs by clicking on the links at the right. For additional blogs, search for EDUCATION and BLOG under my Delicious bookmarks.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Peace is Delicious

Please Note: If you are already a seasoned Delicious User then you should probably move on as this epiphany is meant for those who, like me, are just now pulling up from the rear.

B.D. (Before Delicious)
In an attempt to organize and manage the plethora of websites that I was becoming exposed to in my studies at Drexel University, I set up folders and created links on my desktop PC.

I was trying to keep track of DOE websites, curriculum, lesson plans, games, local educational news, social justice websites, teaching standards, state academic standards, national education standards you name it.

This worked fine for the first fifty or so links. You can probably guess how the story ends.

Here’s a little piece of what it looked like:

Please take note: These 21 icons represent one sub-folder (which is found under another sub-folder that is located under a sub-folder….and which are all subject to my remembering which sub-folder is for storing what…).

Problem #1: I can never remember what I’ve stored or where I’ve stored it.

Problem #2: Since these links are saved on my desktop computer, which is sitting on my desk at home, I cannot easily access them remotely. (That’s a lie, really I can log into my GoToMyPC account and find them that way, but that takes about 45 seconds to do and I don’t have that kind of time!)

Problem #3: No easy way to search. Yes, I can click on Start Search (blah, blah, blah). There is no easy way to search.

The Delicious Way

<< double click the image to enlarge >>

If my lame screenshots don't do it for you, then maybe one of the million tutorials out there will!

Click below for a delicious tutorial:

Visit my Delicous Link at:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Curb Your E-nthusiasm

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve seen so far with regard to integrating technology in the classroom is found on page 45 of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classroom, by Will Richardson. The advice is this: “start small.”

Although we are in the throes of an obvious revolution, we are not yet all on the same “virtual” page. Some students have had more exposure and enjoy greater access to computers than others and I think it’s important not to overwhelm or alienate those who may be playing catchup.

I am a big fan of the concept of blogging in the classroom and I foresee myself using blogs for many of the tasks that Richardson outlines in his book including: posting reflections on class discussions (extra credit for posting links that support or refute our arguments), collaborating on written assignments, posting homework, publishing a class newsletter, managing a book-club or literature circle, etc. (p. 38) However, I think in these early stages of the game it’s a good idea to let the class dictate the pace. As teachers we must be ready to react and respond to the needs of our students, but that doesn’t mean setting up a complex system of blogging right out of the gate.

I think, too, that it’s important to remember that a classroom blog is not a showplace for what we as teachers know, but instead what our students can do. I like the idea of giving them some say in designing the class website. I think that a project such as that would give the students a great sense of ownership.

Richardson gives some great advice on introducing blogs to the classroom. Whether we follow his advice or forge our own path isn’t as important as the idea that we must make sure we’re on the path that best benefits our students.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Digital Divide in Education

On the first night of EDUC 310 we spent time discussing the rate at which technology changes and the ways that it has changed not only how we learn but also the rate at which we learn. Since that class I have been thinking about the existing educational achievement gap between urban and suburban public school students. I began to wonder how that gap is going to be affected as the trend of infusing technology into classrooms and curriculum gains momentum. My initial reaction was that as the wealthier school districts continue to foster environments with 2:1 or even 1:1 student to computer ratios, their rate of academic acceleration is going to increase exponentially. What is going to happen to students who attend schools with strapped budgets, limited resources and poorly trained personnel? Like the rate of academic acceleration, will the achievement gap too be widened exponentially due to this digital divide in education?

I did some research on the topic and was surprised to find little in the way of actual statistics. I found some articles that addressed the problem, but most were several years old and none provided a direct answer to the question that I was asking.

In her article, Permanent Injustice: Rawls' Theory of Justice and the Digital Divide, Elizabeth Hendrix points out that many students in lower-income school districts do not have convenient unlimited access to state-of-the-art computers. Yet progress continues and the use of computers and the Internet are being introduced into the curriculum in the form of home-based projects and homework assignments. For some students gaining access to a computer after school hours may involve transportation, long waits in a queue, and timed usage. Roadblocks.

The buck does not stop with home usage though. Classrooms in schools with a low budget are not equipped with the same student to computer ratios as we are seeing in wealthier suburban schools. I visited a fourth-grade class room in Kensington last year. There were four computer and 36 students – a 9:1 ratio. According to the NEA Policy Brief, there are many classrooms that have no computers in them at all so the students must move to the library or trade equipment back and forth between classrooms.

Hidden expenses are also a factor. Technology costs much more than just the price of a computer. Teacher training, education-specific software, and regular upgrades and maintenance are all extremely expensive. How can a school with budget problems be expected to maintain any kind of competitive edge for its students? Where will this stream of funds come from?

My question remains: how big of an impact is the digital divide in education going to have on the achievement gap? It may indeed be too soon to tell right now, but I don’t believe it’s too soon to forecast.


Hendrix, E. (2005). Permanent Injustice: Rawls' Theory of Justice and the Digital Divide. Educational Technology & Society, 8 (1), 63-68.

NEA Policy Brief. (2008). Technology in Schools: The ongoing Challenge of Access, Adequacy and Equity.