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Tag: digital citizenship (page 1 of 2)

Archie and Veronica Explore the Internet

For the past few minutes, I have been flipping through a copy of Exploring the Internet published in 1999. Surprisingly, I have found the Amazon link. The book is a very interesting stroll down memory lane.

Do you remember Archie and Veronica? How about Lycos, Atavista, and Infoseek? Did you know that Lycos is still in operation? Back in the day, I was a big fan of Infoseek, knew all about Telnet and IRC.

The book is full of names and acronyms that have come and gone over the past two decades. The statistics are hilariously quaint. Did you know that there were 35 million people accessing online content from home in 1998? Did you know they were posting as many as 250,000 articles to Usenet each day? Usenet posts were the nerdy precursors to tweets. How many tweets are tweeted each day?

Despite being hopelessly out of date on the tech front, the book has a lot to offer. The main focus is on finding and using information, a topic in which there is always something new to learn, no matter how much expertise you might have.

I am a firm believer in the mission of this book despite the goofy spider graphic.

Information literacy and digital citizenship must be a part of the recipe in every single learning activity involving any digital tool. They are not the exclusive domain of Language Arts teachers suffering through formal research projects with their students. I might hang on to this book to pull out ideas when I work with teachers.

Technology changes, and it changes teaching. The truth remains that good teaching always covers the most important concepts.

Teacher Dashboard and Google Passwords

Earlier this month I blogged about passwords, the importance of having strong ones and keeping them safe. It is important for students to learn to manage passwords. The first step is learning to remember passwords.

School is a place to learn with a safety net, and right now we have a safety net that is pretty easy to use. Any teacher can access Teacher Dashboard and reset a student password. The question now becomes how often we want to do this. It is up to you, the classroom teacher, to decide how often you do this for students. If you don’t ever expect them to develop a skill and provide opportunities and incentives, do they learn?

This is a tutorial to help teachers reset passwords for students who forget their Google password.


Teens and Technology

Last week we had to cancel our Social Media Roundtable due to inclement weather. That’s not all bad. Now we have an opportunity to make the event even better.

There is an interesting interview with danah boyd about teens and social media going around Twitter today. Why do teens spend so much time interacting on a screen rather than with the people in the same room? Take a look. It makes a lot of sense.

My favorite passage is at the bottom of the page.

The thing for me is it’s less about focusing on the technology and more about focusing holistically on a particular young person and how they’re doing. There are young people out there who are really doing poorly. Use the technology to figure out who’s not doing okay, and figure out ways to intervene. Because most of the reasons they’re not doing okay are classic–different kinds of stress or pressure, different kinds of family abuse. Mental health issues, peer social insecurities. Peer relationship dynamics, which is all the bullying issues. Let’s not get distracted by the technology, and realize that technology is showing us what’s happening in kids’ lives, and use that as an opportunity to make a difference in their lives, as opposed to thinking that if we make the technology go away we can solve problems. Because that is not at all the way this works.


Social Media Event – Passwords

A week from today, on February 13, Goochland County Public Schools will be hosting an event at JSarge.  Community members will have the opportunity to learn about social media and how to participate safely. We are working on resources to share with attendees, and I have been writing about passwords this morning.

I have written about passwords before, and I have spoken to almost every GHS student about passwords at some point this year. Here is my advice on passwords.

What’s your password?

Most of the time, your answer should be silence. Passwords have become increasingly important as our lives have moved online in so many ways. From email, to bank accounts, to Facebook and Instagram, our passwords are the only thing standing between a possible hacker and our reputation.
Creating secure passwords and safeguarding them requires some effort. Not expending that effort can lead to huge headaches. Here are a few rules to follow when creating passwords.
  • Use at least 8 different characters
  • Use at least one upper case letter, one number, and one special character
  • If you are allowed, change your password regularly
  • Don’t use incremental passwords such as superman1, superman2, superman3 when changing your password
  • Don’t use the same password everywhere
With all this in mind, how do you create passwords you can remember? Here is one example of how to create a good set of passwords.
Think of something you like and words related to it. Let’s say you like music, and one band in particular. Here is how to make passwords out of that:
The Beatles – fab4Beatles!
You could make other passwords for other accounts related to the same theme.
Of course, no matter how good your passwords are, they are only effective if you keep them to yourself. Author Clifford Stoll‘s famous quote is a great piece of advice when thinking about passwords: Treat your password like your toothbrush: Don’t let anyone else use it and get a new one every six months. Sometimes it is not possible to change your password, but if you keep it safe, you don’t have to.
Here are a few tips for safeguarding your password:
  • Do not say it aloud as you type it
  • Do not write it down, especially anywhere near the word “password”
  • Do not share it
  • Be aware of who is watching as you type your password
  • If you are using a shared computer, make sure “save my password” is not checked
Keep in mind all these strategies reduce the risk that your accounts may be compromised, but it might still happen. If you suspect any account has been accessed by someone other than you, change your password immediately, and alert people who need to know (network administrators, parents, teachers). If you are not allowed to change the password yourself, make sure you contact the appropriate person immediately.

“Grading” Digital Citizenship

Seeing technology as a distraction rather than a learning tool is ridiculously common. I see teachers struggle with this predicament and I feel an obligation to change their minds. When ball point pens were invented, some schools banned them because… well… I don’t know why. This is something my mother told me about years ago. Ball point pens were new technology and maybe kids would draw mustaches on pictures in textbooks with them. Who knows?

Of course. My job depends on teachers using technology. I have to defend my job. I also have to defend the future of the digital citizens these teachers are shaping.

Technology in schools is not a passing fad. We have transitioned from typewriters and radio, through film strips, television, desktops, laptops, tablets. What’s next? Who knows, and who really cares? We have to adapt or retire, I say. If you disagree, read a bit of Marshal McLuhan’s writings obsolescence and adaptation (Wikipedia link). Technology changes society, and education is an integral part of society. Therefore, education MUST change as technology changes if it is to be relevant.

It all sounds very nice in theory, but we don’t live in theory. We must put this into practice. We must use technology in teaching.

I doubt there is a silver bullet that will eliminate every single incident of misbehavior when using technology. We work with children, and it is perfectly natural for children to get distracted, to push their limits, and to misbehave sometimes. What we can do is guide students in order to minimize misbehavior and help them grow to be good digital citizens. We must set expectations and remind students of those expectations often.

A great way to keep digital citizenship in every students’ mind is to include it as a component in grading rubrics. Grades should reflect academic growth, so any part of a grade that is not related to required learning objectives should be small enough not to be punitive. If a teacher is planning a project worth 100 points, a small portion of that (5-10 points) can be set aside for digital citizenship. Rather than telling students what NOT to do, tell them what will earn the full amount of points:

  • time on task (distraction)
  • responsible use of technology (vandalism)
  • use of appropriate sources (media literacy)
  • collaborative effort (disrespectful or bullying behavior)

Having these on a rubric lets students know that you are serious. It will also prevent a teacher from reacting too harshly and shying away from technology in the future.


Civil, Polite, Informed

Should we teach our students to tweet? Is tweeting more important than cursive writing? I don’t know. Depends on who asks and when the question is asked. This was my response yesterday.

As I was typing that response to my friend Larry, I was getting ready for a virtual visit by Congressman Eric Cantor. His office contacted our schoola few weeks ago, and we welcomed the chance to offer our students this opportunity to engage in face-to-face conversation with the people they read about as part of their Government curriculum. I took care of the technology and Mrs. Yearout-Patton took care of the students’ participation. We had visitors from Central Office and the event went on without a hitch.

It is part of the Goochland County Public Schools culture that we highlight special events using our well-established online presence. We posted about the event on our GHS page. Dr. Gretz blogged about it. Mrs. Yearout-Patton, Dr. Lane, Dr. Gretz, and I tweeted about it.

We had many positive responses. Then, late last night, there was a tweet from @JoeBobLee about Congressman Cantor’s visit that denigrated our learning activity and insulted our school community. I thought I would just ignore it, but it is not in my nature.

As educators, we expose students to the full breadth of the political spectrum. It is our obligation regardless of our political leanings. In fact, as educators employed by taxpayers, we MUST maintain a neutral environment in our schools. We have hosted Senator Mark Warner, Delegate Lee Ware, and Governor Bob McDonnell over the past three years. I am unaware that we have turned down an offer for an onsite or virtual visit from any politician, Democrat, Republican or anything else.

As educators, we also encourage good digital citizenship. We teach students not to plagiarize. We combat cyber-bullying with special programs and events. We engage our students in collaboration and civil, polite, informed discourse through online tools such as Edmodo, Moodle, and Twitter.

Civil, polite, informed discourse. @JoeBobLee must have been absent the day that was taught at his school.



How Did You Guess?

This year we gave all our students in 3rd -12th grade Google accounts. We also made the decision to let all of them manage their own passwords. It was a conscious decision to help students learn very important lessons.

What should your password be? How long should it be? Should you write it down somewhere? Should anyone else know your password? Ask any student in Goochland, and they will give you very good answers.

If you are inclined to doubt them, take a look at this article about cracking passwords.


Vsauce, Photography, and Sources

Over the weekend I watched this video from the Vsauce educational channel on YouTube. I take dozens of pictures with my phone every week, and my whole life I’ve taken pictures with more traditional cameras, so I found the subject very interesting.


I’m a big fan of Vsauce and some of their collaborators Vi Hart and Minute Physics. I’ve blogged about them before.

What caught my eye this time was how the sources of the information were cited for this video. The people at Vsauce used the video description section in YouTube to link to each bit of information that required a reference. With more and more of our teachers uploading videos to YouTube through our Google Apps for Education accounts, I thought it would be useful to point this out.

Our students don’t currently upload their own videos through school-managed accounts, but they might some day. It is good to start looking at how good digital citizens operate and establish a collection of best practices.

Digital Citizenship In the Wild

Over the weekend, many people up and down the Eastern Seaboard relied on social media to keep up with the latest on Superstorm Sandy. There were useful tweets from government agencies and relief organizations, as well as news outlets with people in key locations. Citizen reporters helped fill in the gaps.

At the other end of the spectrum were the funny people posting manipulated images of sharks swimming down the streets of Manhattan and other pranksters. One of these people in particular, one with a large following, tweeted a few things that caused many to panic. Shashank Tripathi, a political consultant, might have thought it was funny to tweet about the New York Stock Exchange flooding. He did not think of the consequences. The tweets have caused him to lose his job, and have authorities in New York contemplating criminal charges.

As more and more of our teachers and students join the Twitter community, it is important to constantly remind ourselves that what we say online can be as powerful, or more powerful, than what we say in person to those around us.

Alone Together, and With the Right Pronouns

We are nearing the end of Screen-Free Week. I have not been very observant. I didn’t even know there was such a thing until this past Monday, when I heard a story on NPR produced for American Public Media’s Marketplace Tech Report.

In that story, Sherry Turkle, book author and professor at MIT, shared some of her views about controlling where spend our “attention dollars” and how that may sometimes prevent us from being truly engaged in the communities where we live, work, and learn.  Most of it was similar to what I’d heard a few days earlier on Morning Edition, and read in the New York Times. But, if you listen to the audio, at the beginning, Dr. Turkle talks about the way we edit our electronic communications. We present ourselves in the way we want to be perceived, or in the way we’d like to be, instead of the way we really are.

It is not so common now that every site where people interact has a spot for an uploaded picture, but when I first came to Goochland, the people who participated in my job interview had been expecting a much older person after reading my blog. My intention had not been to be perceived as an older person, but as a serious person with plenty of knowledge to carry out the tasks required of me. Five years later, my online presence goes well beyond my blog, and I freely admit that what I post online is not necessarily what would come out of my mouth, unrehearsed, in a face-to-face meeting. What I text or email is also different from what I say, more carefully worded and less impulsive.

And what about these pronouns?

Immediately following the Marketplace Tech Report, Morning Edition aired a story about analyzing relationships by tracking the frequency of specific words. It seems that people who feel superior to the person they are addressing use the pronoun “I” less frequently than people who are addressing someone they admire. This was based on analysis of text, not voice, so the participants both had time to edit the message.

So, during this supposedly Screen-Free Week, I have been obsessing over how I word my tech-aided communications. I have even gone back and counted how many times I used “I” in this blog post. It is not a feeling of insecurity, just curiosity.

Maybe this has little to do with education, or at least the kind of education encompassed by our curriculum. It does not matter. I would love to hear a discussion between James Pennebaker, the researcher in the pronoun story, and Sherry Turkle.

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