Teacher Perceptions: the Pros and Cons of Kids and Technology

At the start of a professional development session the other night, I asked the participants to take a short survey (which served two goals — gather information to guide the session and show them how to use a Google Form to gather information to guide teaching) about the  perceptions we have about our students and their use of technology. They were limited to two choices from each list that I gave them on the things they see as positive and the concerns they have as teachers (so, be aware of the limitations).

But here are what they see as positives. Notice how finding information at your fingertips is a huge positive, and second is the use of social networking for a good cause.
PD Digital Kids 2 positives

For me, the most startling thing from the results is that no one clicked on developing a positive digital identity or footprint, and that lack of awareness by these teachers led me into a three hour session around that topic of digital citizenship and digital identity, and how to nurture both in our students. What the teachers came to realize is that their district has no systematic approach right now to this topic (other than visits by the police and district attorney’s office about cyberbullying, from a legal perspective), and so for many, it was an eye-opening experience, and a powerful step forward to staff discussions about what role schools play in explicitly teaching kids how to be good citizens with technology. (disclaimer: my district doesn’t have a systematic approach either.)

On the flip side, they also gave information about the negative perceptions, or most pressing concerns, of technology in the lives of their students. Here, the data showed a wider range of views.
PD Digital Kids 2 negatives

Concerns about protecting kids from bullying in online spaces and the posting of images online without regard to permanence and/or privacy garnered the most clicks here. We talked about these two topics a lot, particularly with the rise of Instagram in the past year.

I’d like to point out that gaming got a bad rap  (maybe deserved on some level), and I suspect that many teachers and adults see very little value in gaming, even though that is a huge part of kids’ lives right now. (But, notice in the top chart, a few did select the math/science connections to gaming, so maybe I am reading too much into this). I did not really address that in this workshop, as much of our time was spent doing work around digital identity, ways to address negative online behavior before it happens, and perusal of the CommonSense Media Curriculum.

Peace (in the PD),

Nurturing Teacher Voice

I had the pleasure of being a guest on a recent Teachers Teaching Teachers show with host Paul Allison, where the discussion centered on nurturing teacher voice. (On a related note, I am also a guest for this week’s show on Wednesday night, as we talk about the summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC project. Come join us).

In this TTT show, we covered a lot of ground, from the importance of balancing out the views of teachers in the political arena, to the idea of posting things anonymously versus making yourself known and the relation to teacher identity, how to encourage more teachers to get ideas published in the newspapers, and how to make a difference in your teaching world one kid, and one day, at a time. My own role was to talk about our Western Massachusetts Writing Project partnership with a local newspaper to get our teachers published, and how successful that venture has been in many ways.


Peace (in voice),

What’s Cool Now Won’t be Cool Tomorrow

I hate to say this but I do remember when all my students (sixth graders) were talking up MySpace as the place to be. Today, it’s Instragram. In between, it was Facebook. Is Twitter next? I don’t even know. But this chart from the Piper Jaffray company’s survey data, as found in a post over at Slate , is certainly an interesting look at the trends of social networking spaces over the last few years.

Where all the kids going next? I suspect that “other” category is where many of my kids would put their video gaming worlds (Minecraft, etc.) as places to connect socially with others.


Peace (in the data),

I Don’t Know What the Fox Says

Maybe this is your story, too.

The other day, one of my sixth graders came into school and said, “We have to show this video to the class.” Now, my policy is that I am open to suggestions for videos, but I need time to check it out and make sure it is appropriate. I don’t ever just cold-show a video. She insisted this video about the fox was hilarious. I had no idea what she was talking about and then, promptly forgot about it. She never followed up with me again (she probably thought I had nixed it, not forgotten it).

Then the other day, we were on our whitewater rafting field trip, waiting on the bus, and one of the guides stood up and asked the bus of students, “What does the fox say?” and the kids all start singing, ding ding ding. I had no idea what was going on but I had a inkling yet another viral pop cultural train had pulled into the station and left before I even knew it was there.

And I have three kids at home, too. You’d think I would have known about the video “What the Fox Says” by the band Ylvis. I see the video has 116 million views. Yes, 116 MILLION.

But somehow, consistently, I find myself weeks behind the loop around viral pop culture. It may be due to my refusal to join Facebook. It may be I have my teacher head in the sand. But it is an odd, disjointed feeling to sit on a bus with kids you know and nurture each day, and feel completely left out of the picture of what is holding their interest at any given moment. It made me feel old. And it made me realize just how fast and furious pop culture is these days, and how surprising the memes and viral videos can be, taking root quickly and fading fast.

And it once again reminded me that we need to value the digital lives of our kids outside of school. How to do that, in a meaningful way, is what is still difficult to navigate. Of course, once your teacher thinks something is cool, that means it is no longer cool. Such is the dichotomy of being the adult in a land of connected kids.

Peace (ding ding),

Top 10 Ways to Document Learning (presented with humor)

The other day, the Daily Create asked us to list 20 ways that we document our learning. Sure, I could have gone the serious route. But … I didn’t. So, here using Haiku Deck as a way to connect to themes of “design practice” this week at DS106, is my Top Ten Ways to Document Learning.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad
Peace (with your dog, cat, smoke signals and talking drum … preferably all at once),

An Odd Sight: A Frog at the Door

Frog on door
We had some rain yesterday and when I looked out the front door, there on the window … was a frog. I caught my own reflection taking an image of the frog. It came out odd, but oddly right in tune with seeing a frog stuck to the door.
Peace (in the sharing)

Still Got Beach Head

I’ll be back to the blogging about teaching and writing and learning and more soon enough, but my head is still on the beach with my family even though my body is back home. And in less than a week, I will be at school for PD, getting ready for this coming year’s students. I feel my brain getting full already, and have begun to have those middle-of-the-night-preparation-wake-up-moments when school starts creeping back into sleep.

You know what I mean?

For now, though, here are a few scenes from Maine. I used a panorama app on the iPad.
Maine 2013
Maine 2013
Maine 2013
Maine 2013

Peace (from the sea),


A Choose Your Own Path for Leadership Day 2013

Scott McLeod has been hosting a blogging Leadership Day at his Dangerously Irrelevant site for the past few years, encouraging bloggers to give advice to administrators. I’ve participated a number of times, with comics and blog posts and other various messages. (See some of the past posts of mine). Today is Leadership Day 2013, and Scott encourages you to write and share for administrators in the world of education. Go to his post and see how to go about doing that (basically, write and post and tag, and then put the link into his Google Doc survey to share)

This year, I am using Twine to create a “choose your path” story for an interim administrator. Although Scott has many possible prompts around technology and learning, I did not focus on that this year. Instead, I focused on leadership in general. We have an interim principal this coming year, and that must be a difficult job to come into, particularly when you are following in the heels of a longtime administrator who made his mark on our school. I wish our new interim principal well, and hope she is an active listener.  She has already reached out to me about technology and learning, so I will take that as a positive sign.

Here is my story: To An Interim Principal

This is what my story looks like “behind the curtain,” so to speak.
Peace (in the day),



A fun remake of “Who’s on First?”

We’ve finally (mostly) ended youth baseball in our house (the playing, not the watching, darn those Red Sox last night), and I was reminded of this classic joke of “Who’s on First” and a later version of it.  The heart of the joke, of course, is language, and timing.
Here is Jimmy Fallon and a crew of famous comedians (You should recognize most of them):

And the original, which is a classic:

Peace (on base),