Digital Citizenship PSA’s





For our unit on Digital Citizenship, we watched movies from Common Sense Media and The Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Students responded to questions in a Google Doc shared with me for some of the movies and others we used a Moodle Forum in our class. The goal of the unit was to have discussions that would lead to deeper thinking of their digital life. As a culmination, students in both classes created Wordles for a Public Service Announcement. They could do it on any topic of interest as long as they felt they could provide tips. I love hearing it from the mouth of the digital natives as you will hear that they do know more then we often think they do when it comes to be safe and appropriate online. I suppose it could be do to the “pleasing the teacher” syndrome, but think that most students do have a plan and simply need guidance from adults in their life as the learn to make, as Cheyse calls it, “Digital Footsteps”.


We hope you enjoy our PSA’s and that in some way help you with your digital life.


Giving Students a Voice on the World Stage

I sent this message to the faculty today as I wanted them to read the ISTE articles. I can not attach them here as you must be a member, although the link below will take you to the articles that are visible. I reccommend that you become a member if you are not one now.

The evidence I see happens each day in the computer labs, in the classrooms with laptops, and sometimes even at lunch break when students do things like play online video games or collaboratively write a story in a Google Doc for “fun”. I also am slowing seeing students making better decisions with how they add to their digital dossier. Slowly….

Dear Faculty,

Durham Academy is a member of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) through a membership paid for by the technology department. Each month ISTE publishes a magazine called Learning and Leading with Technology. I read it cover to cover and then pass it on to the other members in the department. You can read some selections here:

I am attaching 2 articles to this message (see above) as I think they are thought provoking and show what is possible when students use their voice with the tools we have available to all of us on campus.

Dreaming Up Ideas discusses Social Media in schools and how it can help students and teachers develop a PLN (Personal Learning Network) This is not without controversy for sure since most schools take great pains to “protect” students from some of these tools. Many are available to our students and are a part of their life outside of school and for some in school when it comes to Google Docs, Blogs (The Cav), VoiceThread, and Skype. I think there is value in protecting but also in teaching students how to use these tools for learning as in the absence of this guidance, they can and often do make errors in judgement.

Lessons from New Zealand discusses how students were encouraged to develop and use their voice in the classroom, community, and across the world. Again, we have the tools are our fingertips and some students are already exploring them. I heard a member of The Cav say the other day that we have a reader from Pakistan and wondered why and if they were a terrorist? I assured them that not all people in Pakistan are a terrorist:(.

I do believe that giving student work “legs” as Matt Scully from Providence Day School called it in one of his NCAIS workshops is powerful in two ways. We all work harder to write it right when we know more people will read it. The use of the tools also helps students develop the digital and critical thinking skills necessary to more successfully manage their digital dossier. One big hurdle is that sometimes our work has mistakes or the learning is messy, but in the end we help the students to learn how to grow and use their voice and that is a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.

If You Give a Gift, How to Avoid the Inappropriate Gift


Common Sense Media is a wonderful resource for all sorts of information.  I encourage all Durham Academy and other parents to create an account at their site. If you are a Durham Academy parent,  connect with Durham Academy from under the Find My School Link. We are beginning to build reviews and suggestions with this profile. You can find other schools if you do not attend Durham Academy. This is a must connect website for all parents.

The link to Best Kid’s Gift or How to Avoid Giving an Inappropriate Gift is full of great tips.

Cyberbullying and Common Sense Media

All of us need to play an active role in helping the youth of today in how to use technology tools appropriately. The New York Times article sparked discussions around this topic. The problem I have is that this behavior goes with digital devices and in the analog world. It should not take an article, suicide of a young person, or other tragic event to bring up the topic and react. A solid resource is Common Sense Media.

This is a short clip from Common Sense Media on their YouTube Channel. I suggest you subscribe to it.


LotW for May 3 2010 – The FaceBook Edition

The FaceBook Edition

Full Disclosure – I do not use Facebook. I did set up an account once and all of the people I no longer wanted to be friends with were back. Call me antisocial but hey, there is a reason I do not want you to auto connect to me simply because I added a profile of where I went to Elementary School. I am not concerned that there is no longer much privacy as much as I am concerned about who controls my privacy. I teach and live in public ways that I choose and not a vendor. Therefore, I set my privacy controls depending on who I want to see my “stuff”. I prefer and Opt in versus Opt out policy.

This leads me to the Facebook edition where I am putting together a few links that address some rather important issues for those of you with Facebook accounts. This is not a judgement on whether you should or should not share your life on Facebook. Obviously, I choose to not share my life. I still have an analog life and a digital life.

What drove me to this post was listening to some very, very, very, smart people who write programs, run Internet companies describe how hard it is for them to manage their privacy settings in Facebook. It made me realize that some of you who use Facebook, but perhaps do not realize the depth of information you are revealing. In fact, two of them were deactivating their Facebook account until they could figure out how to manage the privacy.

The issue has not to do so much with what your Facebook Friends and you do, but what happens when a FoF interacts with your Friend. It seems as if the privacy setting you set for your Friends does not stop your Friend from passing on your information to one of their Friends who you are not a Friend of.

Again, I do not have first hand experience as I deleted my Facebook account shortly after opening one to communicate with a friend in Uganda.

Facebook Eroding Privacy Policy Timeline from Electronic Frontier Foundation

See What Facebook Publicly Publishes About You – Lifehacker

Use this link to enter in your Facebook ID or alias

Time to Audit Your Facebook Privacy Settings – Here is How by Gina Tripani

Facebook’s New Social Plugins – Now 50,000 plus in one week – an article from Mashable
Facebook for Parents from CommonSenseMedia

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iTouch, iLearn

We were finally able to use the iPod Touch Cart today with Mrs. Hall’s 5th grade History class. It took some learning on my part to make sure the settings were correct to insure the students would be able to use them on our wireless network in a safe manner. Mrs. Hall had a great lesson designed that used Moodle, Dictionary, All Countries, Today in History, and Google Earth. Students found their pen pal school in Shipley UK.

This is a picture the student took of Shipley using Google Earth on the iTouch.

From Google Earth on an iPod Touch

From Google Earth on an iPod Touch

We purchased the following apps: (When possible I purchased multiple copies of the application since we have 30 iPods)
SAT Princeton Review $4.99
AlgebraPrep Equations $2.99
AlgebraPrep Factoring $2.99
AlgebraPrep Graphing $2.99
AlgebraPrep Real Numbers $2.99
Lemonade Stand .99 cents
Word Warp .99 cents
JV idioms .99 cents
More Blanks $1.99
Units – Converter .99 cents
Chemical Touch .99 cents
USA Factbook and Quiz .99 cents
Today in History .99 cents
Art .99 cents

We use the following free apps:
Vocab Wiz
Stanza – eBook reader
Dictionary and Thesaurus
VocabDaily – Word of the Day

Math Drills Lite
Math Tricks Lite
Elementary Math Lite
HiCalc Lite

Distant Suns Lite

Declaration of Independence
All The Countries
Maps of the World
USA Presidents

Spanish Tutor

iHandy Level
Google Earth

Podcasts and iTunesU Movies
Speaking of History
Grammar Girl
WGBH Earth and Space
WGBH Physical Science

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Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies Report

After last weeks CyberSafety workshop for parents, I wondered if the message was too overwhelming as there are indeed a lot of nasty and disturbing activities taking place online and in video games. I listened and thought of how important the word no is to helping young people stay safe until they can fully learn how to protect themselves online and offline. The video game scenes I saw disgusted me and I see no benefit to the world in learning to kill something for points. I encourage all parents and even students to talk and take time to think about how any action you take online could impact you for a long time.

Parents play a valuable role in helping their children grow up to be safe and happy adults. We promote CommonSense Media at our school as a resource for parents and students.

I am happy to see the report just released from The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard is the report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Below are some excerpts and my thoughts. I encourage everyone to take a look at the report as it is a good starting point for framing where we are and what we all need to be doing. There are also great resources on the site for parents and educators.

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced in January 2008 by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace. The scope of the Task Force’s inquiry was to consider those technologies that industry and end users – including parents – can use to help keep minors safer on the Internet.

I think the information will allow all of us who are involved in helping students learn how to protect themselves in the online world a reason to practice a degree of moderation in how we explain the dangers of being online. This is not to say there is no danger, but that in many ways the dangers are often overblown by media stories.

Some of the findings that I have often believed to be true based on personal experience with my students are the following.

Minors face risks online, just as they do in any other public space in which people congregate. These risks include harassment and bullying, sexual solicitation, and exposure to problematic and illegal content. These risks are not radically different in nature or scope than the risks minors have long faced offline, and minors who are most at risk in the offline world continue to be most at risk online.

My contention is that the risks for youth are as much online as offline and in fact, I think there is more risk offline for some of the students I teach.

Sexual predation on minors by adults … This research found that cases typically involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

I believe this will help us to bring balance to how we tell students that there are predators online who will get you. This at times seems much like the boogie man stories I learned in my youth. I no longer wonder if there is something under my bed. It does not lessen the need to keep the area under my bed clean, but I do not expect to see a boogie man.

Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.

I know this is a fact as it is an issue we deal with often at school. This is an area where every adult and student must have a zero tolerance. We have a saying: O. U. C. H. Our Unkind Comments Hurt.

Minors are not equally at risk online. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.

I was talking last week with a colleague about how school seems very similar to when I was in school. We all need to be aware of students who are acting out as they are in need of assistance.

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Keeping Kids Safe on a Macintosh

I know that many of our parents are buying MacBooks or iMacs for their children. I have read Chris Breen for many years and trust his knowledge so I feel good about being able to recommend this article on using the built-in parent controls in Leopard OS.

Configured correctly, Parental Controls are remarkably effective. But you may want to do more. Your next steps depend on how strict you want to be and how much you trust your children. Beyond talking to them, there are several ways to allow them access to the online world while retaining some control.

Read the entire article at

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Cyber Safety in Middle School

I have been working with the 5th and 6th grade students this past year on ways to keep themselves safe while online and how to be a good cyber citizen. I talk about managing their digital legacy as many students have had their pictures taken by classmates with out permission or even videos. Where could they end up and how could they be mashed up (edited and combined with music to “enrich” the original) to become a mean artifact in their digital legacy? What happens in ten years if that file is still searchable?

Many students were nervous about sharing what they actually are doing online as they figured I would punish them or possibly tell their parents. I gave them assurances that for the purpose of these lessons, honesty is the best policy as we are discussing how to protect yourself from strangers along with the larger issue of Cyberbullying. I like how WiredSafety defines it in this video. What is interesting as we discussed cyberbullying was that not many students wanted to admit to being mean, saying hurtful things, isolating students, forwarding messages about other students or other ways that the practice of bullying has moved online.

Since I am teaching this course within our DAILE Moodle, I am able to engage them with videos that really have some shock value. The video Talent Show is a great one to start with as it sets the “stage” nicely for discussing having the courage to say something to a person’s face or by telling the person who is saying the mean things to stop. Of course walking away works onland while hitting delete works well online. The conversation leads to examples of how some students have hurt themselves and the importance of asking for help from caring adults. I feel less like a computer teacher and more like a counselor as I have these discussions. Perhaps I am the cybercounselor for my students. As a school we must help our students and their parents address Cyber Safety and Cyberbullying at a younger age and with continued discussions and a low tolerance for utilizing technology to bully our students.

Parry Aftab, Executive Director of Wired Safety says:

Everyone is panicking about sexual predators online, … that’s why parents are freaking. But what they really need to freak about and pay a lot more attention about is cyberstalking, harassment and cyberbullying …

I talk to 10,000 teens and pre-teens a month in person, 10,000. We have polled 50,000 of these kids and found that between 85 and now 100 percent … of the kids told me that they had been cyberbullied at least once.

A wonderful resource for parents to learn more about is the PBS Frontline show on Growing Up Online. I highly recommend it to all parents to watch with their children.

As a school, we are going to have parent training next year done by teachers are our school in order to have long term help and strategies for our community of learners. Even though the text message may have happened off campus, it affects our learning community.

I have written more on this at the Durham Academy web site and look forward to more conversations as:

I am reminded of the song by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Teach Your Children
(Crosby, Stills and Nash)

You, who are on the road,
Must have a code that you can live by.
And so, become yourself,
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, ….

Straddling Teaching with New Tools and Old Tools

I attended a conference yesterday where I presented along with colleagues on how our school is using Moodle and the impact it has had for changing the educational environment of our school. I started by showing a log of recent activity which is followed by my speech about “Walled Garden and Safe Digital Network” that Wesley and Miguel have made me aware of in past posts on their blogs.

I use this log as a teaching tool since it contains IP addresses and other important user data just like every other web site they visit. It helps get the awareness raised to the need to keep private information private and how web sites gathered all sorts of data from visitors. There have been stories on how some technology companies allow this data to be “screen scraped“. Awareness is the first point of the process of changing a behavior.

As we went through the presentation I could see the eyes of the attendees (along with their heads shaking) that they were seeing the power of it. Last Friday I taught the 5th graders about Cyber Security regarding passwords and user information and how there is a big difference between private and personal information. Private is meant to be kept off line while personal information like what cookies I like and how many dogs I have will give a viewer some information but will not let them triangulate where I live or will be at 3:30 today.

I constantly see the value of Moodle and do not know what I would do without it. In fact tomorrow all 8th grade students are taking a Computer Competency Exam through Moodle. While I will have them in the lab through their Science, Language Arts or History courses, they can do a review course now via Moodle. The exam covers Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Information and Digital Literacy. I wish I did not have to administer it as I think the skills that need evaluation are not measured by an exam. I do very little if any instruction on Word, PowerPoint or Excel but do a lot on using Discussion Forums, Journals, Podcasting, Images and other creation type tools. I know it is important to know how to use a word processor, presentation software, and even spreadsheets, but Microsoft is not the only game in town. I have students who use only Google docs as they do not own copies of Office. Until I figure out a better solution, I will evaluate students to make sure they at least know the skills tested. If a student does fail the exam, the only result is that they need to take a computer course in the Upper School before the end of their sophomore year. If they pass it, then they are exempt from taking any computer course in the Upper School. This actually is a bigger concern for me as in the age of information overload, knowing more is better then knowing being done. I think this is an example of a straddle effect.
Update 2/26/08: I had a meeting with the Middle School Technology Committee where we discussed items of interest and out of it came the need for instruction for students in how to send email, write email, and other uses of current technologies as feedback from professionals students contact is that they do not know how to write an email or letter. Maybe if we give students email accounts we could model and teach this curriculum. I remember learning how to write these documents in the dark ages of no computers.

New tools abound and one I am learning today so I can be in 2 places at once is called ScreenFlow. I am working at purchasing it since the demo mode is splashed all over the finished video unless I purchase it. This may seem easy enough, but the company is in England and they will not take American Express unless I use British Pounds instead of US Dollars for American Express due to the exchange rate. Get the idea! A global economy affects my learning and teaching here in Durham. Flat World indeed:)

Parents and students are great sources of links as well. Here are some I have been looking at lately: This is a movie about the life cycle of a learner in high school. There are about 2, 000, 000 minutes in a high school student’s career. How best to use it? This video will definitely provoke discussions and disagreement. I think like most things in the world, it all depends on the lens you view it with as to how you react. The video came about after Bob Compton visited India.

Futures Channel Jessica P. was finishing up her Independent Science project and wanted to embed the video on the Wind Farm. She had done her PowerPoint and has a link to the site, but wanted to see if she could just show the section of the film she wanted to show during her presentation. Since the video is a Shockwave file and because it appears that they hold all rights to the work, there was no way to do this mashing up or repurposing of the video. I was intrigued by the site and the tag line: “Connecting Learning to the Real World”. I think her use of it to support her presentation is great and I would have loved to of talked with her more about how she found it “I was looking around for resources”. This is where we need to be teaching and not how to insert a table into a Word document.

This post feels scattered and I guess it is as I have been teaching podcasting to 6th graders, helping a student get their Google Presentation Offline (No luck yet) and other duties that come up as I straddle each day with one foot in the future and one foot in today.

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