When FOX (News) Came to Town

Yesterday, I celebrated Digital Learning Day with television cameras in my face and boom microphones dangling over my head. Don’t worry. I wasn’t in trouble. Instead, a crew from the Fox News network out of New York City traveled to my small school in Western Massachusetts to document an hour lesson around digital footprints and digital citizenship for a special they are producing in a couple of weeks.

Fox News Host John Roberts, fresh off the plane from the previous night’s grilling of Rep. Eric Cantor (whose ideology is as far removed from Western Massachusetts as I think you can get), hung out in my classroom as my students discussed privacy issues, data collection from companies, Facebook and Instagram, and their own media lives. I’ve known the television folks were coming for a few weeks now, and my students were ready.

“Act natural,” I told them in the morning. We all laughed at that.

They did more than that. While the class Fox joined is a wonderful one, the students really upped their game yesterday. They were articulate, thoughtful, and fully engaged in the discussions we were having about how the things they do now online impact the way people will perceive them in the future. John Roberts spent some of the time asking them questions about their own use of technology, whether parents talk to them about how they use websites, and what kind of steps they take to protect themselves. (He had his questions written out on his cell phone, which he kept pulling out to read to the class, ironically). At the end of the class, as my students were huddling to line up for their class, Roberts was right in their midst, having informal conversations with them about digital media. (I forgot to pull out my camera! Doh.) It was a nice moment, you know?

Roberts also interviewed me, one-on-one, in the morning, asking about why I think teaching 11 year olds about the concepts of digital citizenship is important. I think I was pretty articulate, too (although who knows what will end up on the cutting floor and how I will be portrayed.) Their larger piece is about data mining, and privacy issues, so I can’t say how much of our discussions will end up in the hour-long program (I suspect just a few minutes). While I was a little nervous about having a television crew in the classroom (and Fox, to boot), they were very kind and understanding, and appreciative of the time.

And if my own message gets out there to more teachers and parents about being vigilant about privacy, sharing and what companies do with our data, than it was time well-spent. I’m just hoping I am portrayed in the “fair and balanced” light.


Peace (in the settings),



Digital Learning Day: Not Everything Digital

This is part of an ongoing series of discussions I am having with my good friend, Anna Smith, about digital literacies. (You can follow the entire thread of our back and forth talks here.) The other day, Anna asked the question of “where isn’t digital” as she considered a quote by David Wees about the importance of digital literacies in a technology/media-rich world.

Here is an infographic that she created to make her point:

I could have gone in any number of directions here in response to her post, but I found myself thinking quite literally about the areas in my life when things are not digital, and how wonderful that is. It reminded me that technology can’t replace everything, and some experiences still require tangible connections (family) or intangible moments (dreaming).

Here is my infographic response:
Where isn't digital response

And, as per usual, I did some reflection via a webcomic about my thinking:
Reflection This Isnt Digital

Peace (in the learning and sharing),



Book Review: Who Could That Be At This Hour?

I admit: I don’t know what to make of this book. Part of a new detective-noir-for-kids series called All the Wrong Questions, Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket (who is the 13 year old detective narrating the story that is part of a four novel series) is both confounding and interesting and off-putting and grabbing — sometimes within sentences of each other. One one hand, the language and tone of the book is perfect for noir. You can hear it in the dialogue and Snicket’s inner thinking. On the other hand, the story unfolds at such strange angles that I wonder if any of my students would stick with it, even those who loved The Series of Unfortunate Events. I just don’t know.

There are places where I chuckled out loud (good jokes about books, and recurring lines that hit the humor vein), and others where I was scratching my head. I didn’t mind that the back story of the main character, detective Lemony Snicket, is barely revealed but the way the pieces are revealed are plain confusing.  Snicket (the write) is asking the young reader to put a lot of trust in him that all will be revealed somewhere down the line.

The plot itself — a recovery of a stolen statue and many misleading stories by characters with their own reasons for what they are doing — is a typical noir plot, with twists and turns and wrong questions being asked leading characters into sticky situations. And of course, there are the confounding females (three of them, at least) who lead our narrator in one direction after another.

I will say this: the cover is eye-catching. I just don’t know who will read it and stick with it.

Peace (in the noir of the night fiction),

PS — the video trailer:



App Review: Animation Desk

It’s no secret that I love stopmotion animation (See my website resource for teachers: Making Stopmotion Movies).

I love watching it as magic on the screen and I enjoy trying to make my own, too. I’ve always often brought stopmotion animation into the classroom. So I was intrigued by this app called Animation Desk, which is available for the iPod and iPad. I have it on the iPad, where the canvas is larger and easier to use. Essentially, it is a fairly intuitive program to use that allows you to draw, frame by frame, and then create a simple movie that can be exported to YouTube and other sites. I liked the relative simplicity of the design of the App, and while I am still trying out some of the bells and whistles, I had made a short video (Bouncy) in minutes and when my son joied me, we worked together on another one (Dognose). It was a lot of fun.

There is a free version of the app but I shelled out the  $4.99 because I wanted all of the features. I think the free version is a good place to start, though.

Check out our short videos:


Of course, now I realize that I had better do some app updating on my stopmotion website resource. I don’t even have an App area there.

Peace (in the stopmotion),


Student State of Technology 2013: Online Safety and Experiences

I’ve been sharing out some of the data from a grade-level survey that I did with my students around their perceptions and use of technology and digital media. I’ve talked about how much time and what they do with that time, and also, I’ve shared out how many of my students use Facebook and Instagram. Today, I want to share out their views and experiences around online safety and cyberbullying. All of these topics will be part of our class discussions this week as part of our work around Digital Learning Day.

This topic of safety is one that often falls below many of our radar screens until something has gone too far for the kids to deal with. I was curious if adults in their lives have talked about the issue of how to be safe when in an online space and what to do if the tone turns negative and maybe even threatening. I was pleased to see that about three-quarters of the students reported that they have had those kinds of conversations before with a teacher or parent.

In looking at their narrative experiences, you can see that the line between other just being annoying and being threatening is very vague for my students (and, let’s be honest, for many adults). When a student says that another person writing in Spanish or “liking” a picture on a site that encourages that, they may be reading more into the activity than is there. But when a student says that there are too many incidents to even count, that is a cause for concern, I think.

Parents/Teachers/Adults Talked About Online Safety?
State of Tech 2013 parents talked tech

I also wanted to know if they had experienced this negativity in online spaces, and about one-third said they had.

Negative Online Experiences?
State of Tech 2013 negative experience


Next, I asked, if they said “yes” to that last question, what was the incident, and was it resolved? Here are some of their answers:

  • Some creep “liked” my pictures and I blocked him.
  • People being mean.
  • Someone didn’t care about the Newtown ct. shooting so a big fight broke out on Instagram and the person who didn’t care had so many people against him, he just stopped typing. The guy was swearing a lot.
  • It is not really a problem people post pictures that say this girl died and if you don’t re-post you will be next.
  • Cyberbullying. I resolved it by going to a counselor.
  • People swear at you and it has not resolved.
  • I re-posted some of a girl’s pictures (what you are supposed to do and she said that I was “taking all her pics”) so I unfollowed her and yes it did work.
  • A rude message was left for me in Minecraft and it did not get fixed.
  • It was not resolved but someone kept calling me really bad things.
  • Someone was talking Spanish, asked to stop, and they said something in Spanish.
  • On fantage.com while I was playing (virtual world) and someone said those clothes you are wearing (on my character) are ugly. What I just did is clicked on them and then I reported them.
  • Well, I don’t know how many negative experiences I’ve had online. There are too many to count.
  • The people swear at you.
  • Teenagers on Xbox live mocking my gaming abilities.
  • People call me names on Xbox Live.
  • Me and a person got into a really big fight. We have really never talk ever again.
  • I saw an inappropriate and got it blocked from YouTube.

One of the areas I will be addressing this week is privacy settings and letting them know there are ways to report bad behavior of other users to most online sites. I’ll also be reminding them that they have supportive adults at home and in school who they can turn to for help in situations that seem to be careening out of control.

Peace (in the sharing),


Student State of Technology 2013: Facebook, Instagram and More

Yesterday, I began sharing out some data that I collected from my sixth grade students about their use and perceptions of technology in their lives as we lead up to Digital Learning Day on Wednesday. Today, I want to share out the data from questions about social networking, but in particular, about my students’ use of Facebook and Instagram. I should note that my kids are 11 and 12 years old — not officially old enough for Facebook and Instgram (as if Zuckerberg and company really care).

My observations?

  • The percentage of my students who are on Facebook seems to have dropped this year, from last. I don’t know if an informational email that I sent earlier this year to all parents with information about Facebook (age levels, advice on how to monitor traffic, controlling privacy settings, etc.) had any impact but I am glad that the numbers are not growing.
  • It’s clear that my students view social networking spaces for the value of connections among friends more than sharing of information. But still …a fair number on FB are sharing images and videos, and probably not at all considering the privacy ramifications, nor their digital footprints (that will be our topic next week).
  • I notice a few students are using Facebook without parent knowledge. That always concerns me. I know, from experience, how hard it is to keep track of what our children are doing. But it is critical.
  • More than half the class is on Instagram now, which means they are probably sharing a lot of photos. This app will be a main focus next week, I think, as we talk about privacy issues. I also know that they probably have access to a lot of inappropriate content in those spaces (thus, the age 13 level).

On Facebook
State of Tech 2013 facebook account

Use of Facebook
State of Tech 2013 Facebook use

Parents Know About Facebook Use
State of Tech 2013 facebook parents knowledge

On Instagram
State of Tech 2013 Instagram use

How Using Instagram
State of Tech 2013 Instragram use
Peace (in the social sharing),

City-States and Maps

Our social studies teacher is finishing up a unit around city-states, and students created their own maps of an imaginary city-state. I grabbed images and created this animoto video to celebrate and share the project with parents.

Peace (in the lands),