Friday, February 25, 2011

My Message to Parents about Social Media

This week I sat on a panel for parents about Social Media hosted by Michael Thompson. With me on the panel were two alums from the class of '05 and '10 (The '05 graduate is also on the faculty) and a current senior. The two youngest alums were also in my Digital Journalism class. 

We each opened with a few remarks. When I am in this position with parents I try to spin Social Media in as positive a light as possible. So many of these panels feature police officers that use scare tactics that I try to give the glass half full perspective. Here is what I talked about.

Digital Legacy
  • What goes online stays online.... forever. Even if you think it is private it really isn't. Anyone can take a screenshot of anything you write or post and share it with anyone. There is no digital privacy and we should all behave with that assumption at the back of our mind. It should make us "better people."
  • Take control of it, don’t let it control you. You have the ability to take control of your digital persona. The more you put online yourself, the more you drown out anything you might not want to be seen. Buy your own domain name, start a blog, get on Twitter and use all of these tools to create your best public self possible. This post, 5 Reasons why your Online Presence will Replace your Resume in 10 Years is an excellent example of how and why to do this.
Networking has benefits and drawbacks
  • Behavior changes according to context. Kids need to learn proper online etiquette for a variety of situations. This is a message we should be teaching kids at home and at school. You need to know your audience. There are things you can say with friends that you would never say in school. Students need to always keep this in mind, while also realizing that nothing is private online (see above).
  • Networks built young have great potential. Kids are building connections now that can serve them well into their professional lives.
  • Fail young. I believe it general it is helpful to let kids to "fail" in middle school when the stakes are lower. When you first get involved with a social network it can be addicting and wreak havoc on your time management. Usually this addiction passes after some time. It is better to get through those early heady days when the negative impact on your academics is less important.
Behavior is behavior
  • Parenting is parenting. Don't be afraid to parent when it comes to technology. Take the phone away, turn off the internet, keep the computer in a public room, limit time online. Trust your instincts.
  • Addiction is addiction. If you are concerned about your child's over-use of technology, address it before it gets out of control, just as you would any other addictive behavior.
  • Behavior is behavior. Kids know how to behave. They need to understand that their online behavior should follow the same rules as their offline behavior. The impact of bad behavior Online can have much greater repercussions!
There was more said, but this is the general message I tried to communicate.

What would you add or take away?

Image Source: A glass half full by sarah and mike ...probably

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NAIS Unconference Next Year?

Wordle from EBCEast Unconference
As I was following the #NAISAC11 Tweets last night I had an idea...
What if we organize an unconference before the main NAIS conference next year? I organize Edubloggercon East before the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston every summer and Steve Hargadon organizes one before the ISTE conference every year. The NYAIS folks throw a great unconference at NEIT every year. I'm helping to organize Edcamp Boston this spring.  An NAIS unconference seems like a logical next step.

We could call it ISEDCamp, IndyCamp, UnNAIS, ISCamp...

What we need...
The biggest requirement is space. ISTE and BLC both donate space the day before their conference starts. Would NAIS do that? Ideally we would need wifi, projectors, a large meeting space and some breakout rooms. Does anyone know anyone or know someone who knows someone? Could we use a local school in Seattle near NAIS next year?

I am not at NAIS this year. If you are reading this and you are there talk it up a bit and see what people think. If we can do it, I'll definitely find my way to NAISac12 to help organize.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Setting Intentions

At the beginning of each yoga class the instructor often asks us to set our intention for our practice and for our day.

Here are some examples of intentions you might set:
  • be nurturing to yourself
  • push yourself to the edge of what you think you can do
  • focus on your breathing
  • smile
  • let go of suffering
  • be present
  • give your best effort
  • try everything a little bit
Simply asking yourself the question "What is my intention?" can affect your whole practice and your whole day. It isn't something you share. It is something you do quietly and personally.

It occurred to me (and maybe it already has occurred to you), what if we asked our students this at the beginning of each day or each class. What if we gave them some quiet space to close their eyes and set their intention before beginning their learning journey for that day or that moment?

Does anyone do this already? I'm going to give it a try.

What is your intention for today?

Image credit: Meditation by skiegazer3

Friday, February 18, 2011

The freedom to fail...

Every year at Belmont Hill we have a student poetry festival. The entire student body memorizes a poem and recites it in English class. One or two boys from each class are selected to move on to a semi-final round, and from there one or two boys from each form are chosen to recite their poem at a morning meeting for the entire school community.

I love reciting poetry. When I was in high school I was on the speech team and competed in the poetry category. This year I am organizing our first faculty poetry festival, where faculty will read or recite poems for colleagues and students. I think it will be a lot of fun. I have chosen Taylor Mali's What Teachers Make, or Objection Overruled, or If things don't work out, you can always go to law school. It is a great poem and I think it will be a lot of fun to do for the school.

While many faculty members share my excitement and have agreed to participate, I have been surprised by the number of teachers who do not want to recite a poem because as they put it "I'm bad at it," "I can't do that stuff," or "I can't memorize." We so often talk about giving students the freedom to take risks and to fail. How many of us are willing and feel comfortable doing the same. In front of our students? In front of our colleagues? In front of our administration?

I fell like Belmont Hill is a place that would embrace any faculty members attempt to recite a poem, no matter how wonderful or terrible. I know our students will be respectful, regardless of our performance. Sometimes the fear of failure resides inside our own heart. How do we encourage ourselves and each other to take these risks? I've been trying to encourage my friends and colleagues to step outside their comfort zones and give it a try. I want my excitement to rub off on everyone.

We all have our things and this is mine. I can't expect everyone to get on my poetry bus. But I think it would be a great example to everyone, if some of those nay sayers would just give it a go. I'll keep trying to convince them...

Image Credit: Collection of Poetry

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two For Tuesday, February 14th, 2011

1. Google Body - Google Maps for your insides
Check out this new tool in Google labs. Zoom inside this body to peel away the layers. You can even turn on labels and see the names for all your bits and pieces.

2. What's Your Sign? - It may not be what you think it is.
Recently some astrologers have made some changes to the zodiac. They have even added a new sign. So if you believe in this stuff, you might have to start reading a different horoscope.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

7 Tips for a Great Ignite Talk

I attended my first Ignite event this week with Dan Callahan at the Microsoft NERD center in Cambridge, MA. I was excited to see what one of these events is like and it was held in the same building where we will be having our EdCampBoston Unconference on May 7th.
What is Ignite?
"...It's a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea—and the guts to get onstage and share it with their hometown crowd." -From the Ignite Website
Presentations are all 20 slides which auto-advance every 15 seconds. This event did not have an education focus and the talks included a wide variety of topics:
  • Conception, Pregnancy, Labor, Delivery, and Infants (for Geeks), Jacob Buckley-Fortin, @jakebf
  • How Freestrapping Is Killing Our Start-Ups, Bobbie Carlton, @bobbiec
  • Code for America: Education and Technology in Boston, Max Ogden, @maxogden
  • How to Start a Summer Camp, Katie Gradowski and Will Macfarlane
  • The Real "MobileMe" How Smartphones Are Enabling a World of "Augmented Humanity," Joseph Flaherty, @josephflaherty
  • Social Media Science, Dan Zarrella, @danzarrella
  • The Future of Search Is Context, Mark Watkins, @viking2917
  • Trolling for Data, Courtney Stanton, @kirbybits
  • Social Enterprise: What Works, What Doesn't, Why It Matters, and Why You Should Hate Oprah, Meaghan Cassidy, @mcassidy8
  • Pure Imagination: How Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Is Really An Anti-Drug Parable, TC Cheever, @cheever
  • Compost Your Dishes: Better than Washing, Heather Gilmore, @ecoMV
  • 5 Things You Didn't Know About Beer, Sarah Hastings, @beeriety
What I learned:
While there were a few things I took away from each of these, my biggest take away was the qualities of a good 5 minute talk. I think this is a skill that our students are going to have to have and it isn't easy to present a message in such a short period of time. I would like to try to give one of these presentations someday. Here are some of the things I will think about when I start to structure my talk:
  1. Keep it super simple - 5 minutes is really, really short. There is only time for one idea. If you try to cram too much in, your audience will not be able to digest your message before the next talk starts.
  2. State your message clearly - Actually write it out in words for your audience. Say what you want everyone to take away. It is way too quick to expect that people will be able to figure that out for themselves. You might feel like that is condescending, but it isn't in this context.
  3. Repeat yourself - Tell your audience more than once what you want them to know. Say it at the beginning, in the middle and definitely again at the end.
  4. Use more than one slide per idea - You don't need a new slide for each idea. You only have 15 seconds per slide, that isn't much time. If you try to include something new for each slide you are trying to do way too much. Also, there is no rule against repeating your slides. You can show the same image more than once. That gives you 30 seconds to get your point across.
  5. Think about your audience - When you choose a topic, think about what the audience probably knows already. If you are going to an actual Ignite event, the people there are pretty technically savvy, but also come from diverse professional places.
  6. Tell a Story - Think of these as a 5 minute story, try to include a beginning, middle and end.
  7. Have fun - This event was pretty low key. Everyone was supportive and receptive to all of the presentations. The Twitter stream was very respectful and positive. So don't worry too much about it.
I'm not sure yet what my topic will be, but I am definitely challenging myself to try this out. Have you ever done a talk like this? Have you been to an event? Do you have any advice to share or questions to ask? Let me know.

Photo Credits:

Friday, February 4, 2011

You've got to accentuate the positive...

Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

My recent experience at Educon has lead to a lot of soul searching and thinking for me. We talk so much about change in education, new skills, things students and teachers and administrators need to do differently. And yes there are many things that need to change, should change, have to change. But there are also many things that work really well in education, in the schools we went to, the schools we work in, the schools we visit, and the schools our children attend.

I just started reading The Power of Appreciate Inquiry. A Practical Guide to Positive Change. I am loving this approach which involves "uncover[ing] and bring[ing] forth existing strengths, hopes, and dreams-to identify and amplify the positive core of the organization." I think this approach has great potential to give us a new lens to identify where schools should be going.

So let's make the glass half full. What would you keep? What are you doing in your school that works? What are some of the essential elements of schooling that you feel should stay the same?

Here are a two of my keepers:
  • Face to face conversations between kids and adults when we are engaged and thinking and passionate about our ideas.
  • The energy that comes from searching, exploring and uncovering the answer to a burning question, in myself and in my students.
Appreciative Inquiry suggests that we get what we study. If we focus on what is wrong, we get more of what is wrong. "We do not describe the world we see, we see the world we describe."

What great things are happening at your school? How can we take those positive stories and build on them? Please share your keepers.