Posted in Edublogs

Digital Citizenship

digital citizenshipEduBlogsClub Prompt #28:

Prompt: Write a post about digital citizenship

  1. How do you teach students about being good digital citizens and appropriate behavior on the web?
  2. Have you had any specific experiences related to students, behavior, and the web?
  3. How do you think that digital citizenship is related to in person citizenship?
  4. What would you add to the list of digital citizenship elements and why?
  5. How have positive and/or negative experiences online influenced your digital citizenship values?

Digital citizenship has always been important to me as an educator. I recall very clearly the last year I was in the classroom (2015), that I promised myself I would make digital citizenship a priority despite the lack of significant technology in my classroom. My students deserved it. They needed online skills. What I mean by lack of significant technology is that my classroom of 30ish 4th graders had 4 desktop computers and we had computer lab time for only a fraction of the school year when state testing or district testing was not occurring.

Despite the lack of a 1:1 or a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative, I was able to teach digital citizenship. A safe way to do this was the use of Edmodo. It was safe for me as an educator because it was a district approved site and designed for student use. I took computer lab time to teach my students the ins and outs of Edmodo and they were very excited to use it. Because of our limited tech situation during the school day I fully expected most of the true interactions to happen at home where students were free to use their own devices. And use their own devices they did! It amazed me how quickly some of my students became cyber-bullies. It was shocking really and a very teachable moment. I would monitor Edmodo anytime I had the chance to, which meant several times a day during the school day as well as during my own time. I would then deal with any troubling issues like cyber-bullying as well as praise students for their creative ways of using the online setting in a positive way and related to their studies. I would always take a bit of class time to highlight things on Edmodo I had observed, the good and the bad. Mind you, I was careful to avoid publicly shaming students who had succumbed to cyber-bullying, but I did not avoid talking openly about it. We had very healthy conversations in class about what was good online behavior and what was not. I think it helped students to better understand what was bullying behavior and what was productive online behavior. It also helped students connect online interactions to their educations and not strictly social places to goof off.

I have been an ISTE member for a long time and have even managed to attend a couple of ISTE conferences. I highly recommend membership for all 21st Century Educators. They have amazing standards for Administrators, Educators, and Students that truly and clearly outline what sorts of goals we should have in all of those roles in today’s educational landscape. It has been the ISTE standards for students that has guided my instruction and motivated me to be creative and not let my limited resources prevent the instruction of digital citizenship.

I have been fortunate to have had many incredibly positive experiences online. The various platforms that exist to broaden our horizons and truly make us all global citizens is astounding. I want my students to be able to partake in that digital and global community and not only benefit from it, but contribute to it. That is why I teach digital citizenship with every opportunity I get.

Since I no longer have my own classroom, I have one active and ongoing student, my son: a 7th grader at Connections Academy, a public online charter school. Digital citizenship is a daily occurrence for him as his entire school day is spent online. He attends live lessons daily, which look more like interactive webinars for those familiar with such things. He interacts with his friends online as well, largely via Skype and whichever online game they happen to be playing.

Choosing online school was a family decision and took some rearranging of our lives. First and foremost I did not feel he was benefiting from what I call a “traditional” schooling within my own school district. Others in the online schooling community call it “brick and mortar” schooling. Either way, my son was falling through the cracks and also had to deal with escalating bullying. To make matters worse, he was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety. As an online learner myself (I completed my second Masters degree online and am currently working on my doctorate online), and someone passionate about online learning, I knew this was a viable option for my son’s education. I believe online learning has been successful for my son and my family thus far (we started this school year). It did require my mother moving back in with us (which she was going to do anyway) so that my son could have some supervision during the day while my husband and I are at work. However, I have never had his schooling be so transparent. I know exactly what he is working on and how to swiftly and easily reach his teachers. His current grades are only a click away and always up to date. My son is using technology all day long which is helping his digital citizenship skills tremendously and helping him work on the other standards that ISTE outlines for students.

I don’t believe the teachable moments I have with my son about digital citizenship are any different than I had with my students in the classroom. The only difference is perhaps I am a bit more direct with my son as the filter that teachers need to use with children that are not their own is not necessary when it comes to talking to my own child.

How do you teach digital citizenship to your students? How do you teach it to your children? Is it the same? Different?

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Posted in Edublogs

Celebrate and Reflect

celebrate and reflect#EduBlogsClub Prompt #40:

Prompt: Celebrate and Reflect

Some of the topics you might like to discuss this week include:

  • Goals: What are your blogging goals and how have these changed over the year?
  • Achievements: What are you proud of?
  • Benefits: What do you see as the benefits of blogging? Has it been worthwhile for meta-cognition? Relaxation? Building community? Gaining new insights?
  • The future: How would you like your blog to evolve?

While we won’t keep publishing weekly prompts, anyone is still welcome to respond to any of the previous prompts. We will still be monitoring comments so would love to hear from you and read your posts.

Happy New Year!

I have been spending the past several weeks thinking about how I wanted to use my website and getting back on track with the posts from the EduBlogsClub challenge that I have not completed. It seemed fitting to take the last post in the series and use it at the start of a new year. I am not one for resolutions, but I do enjoy reflecting on the the year and thinking about what went well and what could have been done better. I have to say I am going to miss the regular challenges, I did enjoy the prompts, but I guess this is sort of a training wheels moment…off they come! I will remain a follower of EduBlogs of course, I think they do great work and while I never got to use them with my own students, I would recommend them to any educator looking to blog with students or to start their own blog.

What are your blogging goals and how have these changed over the year?

My only blogging goal last year was to complete the EduBlogsClub challenge. While I did not complete all the posts in 2017, I will be completing all the posts as I move into 2018, so I won’t count that goal as a fail. 😉

What are you proud of?

I am proud that I made it through the majority of the EduBlogClub prompts! As of this post I was able to complete 29 out of 40 prompts. I am very pleased with that and I know the other 11 will be complete in the coming weeks. Once this post is live I will only have 10 more prompts to complete!

What do you see as the benefits of blogging? Has it been worthwhile for meta-cognition? Relaxation? Building community? Gaining new insights?

I think blogging is very beneficial. It has certainly been worthwhile for meta-cognition, relaxation, building community and gaining new insights. I highly recommend blogging to anyone…not just educators and their students. I have always been one inclined to journal, but I have never been consistent with it. Perhaps I needed an audience to engage with and to learn from.

How would you like your blog to evolve?

That is a great question, and one I have given a good deal of thought. I left the classroom in 2015 and for the ten years before that my blog had been a communication tool I used with my students and their families. Once I left the classroom, I was unsure what the purpose of my blog would be and it was dormant initially. I then realized that my leaving the classroom was an opportunity to give my blog a new purpose and that is when I began the EduBlogsClub challenge. I am very grateful to them for posting such interesting prompts and for allowing me to be a part of their blogging community. As I transition from educator to aspiring administrator, I will continue to blog about topics related to education and continue to build my virtual professional learning community.

Thank you for reading and I wish you a 2018 full of opportunities and growth.

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Posted in Edublogs

Professional Learning and Conferences

conference-2705706_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #25:

Prompt: Write a post about conferences and professional learning.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a list of the top conferences you want to attend before you retire.
  • Have you presented at an academic conference? If so, write about your presentation and share with everyone!
  • Write about the most inspiring speaker you’ve seen at a conference, and tell about how it impacted your approach to education.
  • Write a post discussing tips for getting the most out of conferences.
  • Write a post about what conferences need to do to continue to be a positive force in education.

I love professional learning and conferences! I love them so much I decided to make one of them an annual thing and turn it into a family trip. 🙂

I am sure I am not alone in saying that my district doesn’t pay for a whole lot of conferences. I can see how something like that gets expensive real quick, but conferences are really a valuable learning experience. I have a passion for edtech and so that usually drives my conference interest, as well as academic innovation.

CUE logo

The first conference I used to go to on the regular was CUE (Computer Using Educators). It is a great edtech conference held in Palm Springs, CA in March of every year and is only about a 45 minute drive away. Many educators consider it a warm up to ISTE in June, and I would have to say that is a fair assessment. On the whole it is a great conference and I recommend it.

ISTE logo

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is my new regular conference now. It is a massive edtech experience. I have been aware of the annual ISTE conference for years but I first attended in Philadelphia 3 years ago, and attended again this past June in San Antonio. Next year it will be in Chicago. I have been telling my husband that I want he and our 12 year old son to accompany me to make it a family trip and I am excited that this time we will finally be doing that. So ISTE will officially be a family summer trip so I can get my edtech fix, and my son can see the United States. Win-win right?

sxswedu logo

SXSWEDU is one I only just became aware of about a year or two ago and I have yet to attend. It is held in early March each year in Austin, TX. I am interested in it because it showcases academic innovation and not just edtech. We need so much innovation in education right now! I am hoping to attend next March.

What are some of your favorite conferences? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Parents

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While this looks like a stock photo, it is actually my mother, myself and my son in a photo shoot from several years ago. It is one of my favorites. 🙂

EduBlogsClub Prompt #24:

Prompt: Write a post about parents.

Whether it’s working with parents, being an educator-parent, or something about your own parents.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a post about successful parent-teacher conference moments.
  • What is the most challenging part of being a parent-educator or do you feel you are an educator-parent?
  • Write a post about how your parents have helped you develop yourself as an educator.
  • Write a post suggesting ways that parents and teachers can work together to ensure student success.

I am an educator-parent. As an educator-parent I am privy to a lot of insider information. I feel I am much better versed on the education system than a parent who isn’t an educator. I don’t mean this comment in a disparaging way, it’s simply my own experience.

My parents weren’t educators and they made the best decisions they could when it came to my schooling, but that largely consisted of sending me to the public school we lived near. I made the best of that experience. I had exciting teachers and boring teachers. I was an avid reader and where school could not deliver, I branched out, seeking my own answers via books.

I remember asking my parents if I could go to a private high school…mainly to be with my best friend, but also because the notion fascinated me. How would a private school compare to a public one? But the answer was no. We ended up moving just before high school as it was, and I did as I did before, attended the school assigned to my home. I remember being underwhelmed about high school. It was just something I had to do. I had a few cool teachers, but for the most part it was just something I was getting through. My grades were good as I was the sort of kid that always wanted good grades. My love of reading didn’t diminish and I kept entertaining my curiosity with reading. I remember a lot of time at the public library and how it was more to research my own interests than study for school.

I was thrilled when the time for college came. I got to choose what was next for me! I was exhilarated. I diligently studied colleges I might like to attend. I applied to the obligatory schools, like the UC near my house and my Dad’s alma mater, but there were 3 schools that were completely of my own choosing. I remember my Dad telling me to go to the UC or join the military to have my school paid for, but I rejected both. This was going to be my choice.

I ended up going to a small private college in Washington state. I always look back on those 4 years fondly. College was everything I wanted it to be. I had made the right choice.

My son’s experience has been different than my own. He has a mother for a teacher. I had been a teacher for 4 years when he was born. I had transferred to an amazing school site that year and knew I would remain there to see my son attend a great school. Granted, this school was not near our home, but because I worked there my son could attend. I personally knew all his teachers, and built relationships with each of them as both a colleague and a parent of one of their students.

That changed when my son entered middle school. The school I had worked at was K-5, so it came time for my son and I to part ways. I had chosen the middle school I wanted him to attend, but his voice is important to me. I listened to his preference and reasoning and in the end allowed him to attend the middle school he wanted to.

His 6th grade year was the hardest year for us both. I entered a district office position and he was at a school where I wasn’t. I didn’t know the teachers and I didn’t call them friends. I had never felt so in the dark. I realized that this must be what it feels like to be on the outside, and be “just” a parent. I didn’t care for it at all. I was as involved as I could be and made an effort to get to know the administrators and his teachers. I attended every event I could. My son loved his middle school for a while, then he didn’t. While the beginning of the year seemed to start off alright, come the halfway point he was showing signs of suffering. He was being teased daily. He was enduring verbal and physical bullying, he was afraid to go to school. He would tell me stories of his teachers venting to the class about how much they hated their job or how bad the kids were, and I was appalled. I reported all of this to the administrators, and while they were friendly and generally supportive and responsive, I got the impression that they felt helpless to truly remedy any of it…the climate was toxic and not at all good for my son.

I asked around in my own district about another school to transfer him to, specifically the school that had been my preference before and was told that it was largely the same at any middle school. This answer was unacceptable. I tried to look at the other middle schools around us and was frustrated that there was no true way to get information about the school without being on the inside. It was then that I realized there are options, online options.

I am a doctoral student whose dissertation will be about K-12 online learning, so naturally why not explore online schooling for my son? I am also an online student myself, having completed my second Masters in EdTech online and working toward my doctorate in Educational Leadership online. I felt confident that as an online learner and an educator, I could see my son through online school.

It came down to two online programs available in my state. I did my research, I asked around, attended online info sessions, discussed my findings with my family, and we chose one. My son started 7th grade in an online charter school last month, and while it has been an adjustment, I love it for him. I am not a teacher at his school, but I am his co-teacher. I see everything he is expected to do and the transparency of it all is what impresses me the most. His teachers are responsive and tech savvy, which is very important. My son has complained about the level of work he has to do, but I like that the bar has been raised. No more coasting and going unnoticed by teachers who don’t enjoy their jobs. I have never been so keenly aware of what he is working on than right now, even when he was attending class at the school where I had worked. This level of awareness is powerful.

Are you a parent? Perhaps a parent-educator like me? How do you feel about engaging with your child’s school and education? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Video Killed The Radio Star

youtube-1684601_1280EduBlogsClub Prompt #23:

Prompt: Write a post about videos and/or that includes a video.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a post about any topic, but embed a video. Even better if you created the video!
  • Discuss how videos have helped you engage students?
  • How have videos helped you be a better educator?
  • Share a story about a lesson that involves videos and how the students responded in ways you didn’t expect.
  • Create a list of video clips that either provide educator professional development or help create lessons in the classroom.
  • If you find incorporating videos difficult, discuss why you find them challenging.

I love making videos. I love teaching students how to make videos. I make some “vlogs” with my son on my YouTube channel, but it’s pretty much a hobby and something he and I do for fun.  My YouTube channel is mainly just a catch all for the videos I make, personal and professional. If I was serious about focused video creation, I would make a new channel just for that specific purpose. So for any who look at my YouTube channel, you have been warned, it’s a mixed bag.

When I have taught students how to make videos, I am limited by district devices and allowed programs. I remember years ago when I taught 5th grade, I had attended an American Film Institute (AFI) training via the Discovery Educator Network on making movies. It was after that institute that I hosted an after-school film club and taught 5th graders what I had learned about making films. We had a few small video cameras and district computers that came standard with Windows Movie Maker. Those early years of film making were great for the kids, they really learned a lot about making and editing videos, at least on a very basic level. Sadly, over time equipment stopped working and was not replaced, so film making went by the wayside.

More recently in my classroom I had taken to creating paper slide videos with my students using a smartphone or a tablet. (The linked video is not my own, but I did have one once upon the time, though it doesn’t seem to be up on my YouTube channel.) Once again, it was the Discovery Educator Network that exposed me to this idea. It is a very affordable and fun way for kids to make videos.

When it comes to making the most basic of machinima, I have used Screencast-o-matic to capture myself gaming. Take for example some machinima I made of my Minecraft Club: (keep in mind I was VERY new to Minecraft and that I hadn’t worked out how to capture my students talking to me so you only hear me talking to them…I did say it was basic 🙂 )

Once out of the classroom and in my role as a teacher on assignment, I spent a little more time with PowTooons. It was a tool I had come across and had known about for some time, but hadn’t had the time to really dig into and learn how to use. Now that I have taken the time to create with it, it is certainly a tool I would use with students if I were still in the classroom. Here is a sample of one of my Powtoons:

I really enjoyed the concept of a “Mrs. Ruiz Explains” series, but I have not had much time to make that really come to life. Video making takes a lot of time, and producing something that could serve students (or a YouTube audience) is something most people make a full time job out of. So at the moment for me, video creation remains a hobby and something I know I can do if the need arises.

I have found that the use of videos increases student engagement, and even more so when you have students creating the videos.  As an educator, I have found that creating my own videos really focuses my thoughts on a topic and allows me to create a video for my specific instructional needs. On a personal level, I find video creation to be a very rewarding outlet for creativity.

How do you use videos in your teaching? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Social Media

tree-200795_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #19:

Prompt: Write a post about social media

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Do you use social media to share with parents or your school community?
  • How have you used social media in the classroom with students?
  • How do you use social media to make you a better teacher?
  • Do you have guidelines that you use with students?
  • Have you experienced a story related to the use of social media?
  • What do you think is next for the use of social media in education?

I just recently noticed that my Twitter account is 10 years old this month. I smiled when I noticed that, and proceeded to tell my husband who simply looked at me with an expression that conveyed “So what?” For me, being on Twitter for 10 years and having over 3,000 tweets seemed to be a milestone. While Twitter isn’t the only form of social media, I have to say it is my favorite for getting news and information related to my interests as a mother, educator, and voting member of society. I had long found traditional news sources unappealing. Newspapers and local news broadcasts always seemed to highlight the tragic crimes people commit against one another, instead of spending more time highlighting the good things happening in our local community and beyond.

I had to pause a moment as I wrote this post to reflect on what it was that got me on social media 10 years ago. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my involvement with the Discovery Educator Network. (I just visited that link and my photo is still on the home page! 🙂 ) It was just over 10 years ago that I came to work at my former school site. I had transferred sites craving the opportunity to work with passionate and innovative educators, and I was not disappointed. Within the first year at my former school site I was introduced to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) and my world exploded…in a good way. I had an incredible amount of access to educators outside of my immediate site and their wealth of edtech knowledge. I learned about Web 2.0 tools and was able to go to summer institutes where we learned all about the latest and greatest app or program to use with students, and how to use it effectively. It was because of the DEN that I bothered with Twitter at all. It was because of the DEN that I was taught the power of social media and how I could harness it for my own professional development. I had a virtual PLC before I even knew what a PLC was. If you have never heard of the DEN, I highly recommend you check out their website.

My Twitter account is something that has always been open to parents for the following, but I don’t recall any parents ever following me. I think that was largely due to the fact that I taught elementary school and many parents were not thinking about social media much, and the few that were and were on social media were not interested in following their child’s 3rd grade teacher. For the longest time I tried to keep my Twitter strictly education related, but over the years I have allowed it to represent more of who I am as I share and retweet things related to non-education things.

I don’t like creating multiple social media accounts as they get overwhelming to manage very quickly, but I did use my own Twitter account on several live virtual field trips I took my students on in order to participate in the discussion. I would live tweet and project the hashtag for my students to see and they were always excited to see themselves as a part of the global discussion, if only through my Twitter account.

Being that I taught young students and knowing the importance of teaching them digital citizenship, I embarked on using Edmodo in my 4th grade classroom. It was my hope to use it as a safe school pseudo-Facebook. I used it for everything. We had discussions there, we all would post things for discussion, respond to one another, etc. It amazed me how quickly a couple of my 4th graders became “trolls.” It was a very valuable learning experience for everyone involved. The experience opened up a real dialog on what it means to be a good digital citizen. My school district does not have an official learning management system (LMS), but Edmodo is the closest LMS tool that we have.  I would highly recommend that teachers of any level use something like Edmodo or their district’s LMS to be able to safely mimic social media and teach their students valuable lessons in digital citizenship.

How do you use social media in your personal or professional life? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

Posted in Edublogs

Art, Poetry or Music

desert-749692_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #18:

Prompt: Write a post that uses art, music, or poetry.

Write a poem or song, draw a picture, create a meme/gif. Get creative!

Or write a post that shares how you use art, poetry, or music in the classroom.

I love art, music and poetry. I remember the few classes I had in those categories over my K-16 career with much fondness. I wish I had received more formal training in those areas and that they had not been treated like fun “extras.” It’s that sentiment that has me rather hyper focused on the arts for my 7th grade son. He had expressed an interest in music from a young age. In my school district, students are not provided any music education until 4th grade. So I asked around and eventually my son ended up at a local university for their community school of music. There he spent a few years learning piano, which served to be an excellent foundation for him picking up other instruments as he got older, including saxophone, trombone, and guitar.

In elementary school I remember being so excited to be a part of the choir. I had wanted to learn how to play the oboe, but family finances prevented that from happening. I also remember enjoying dance, but again, money stood in the way of any extensive lessons. In middle school, I remember balking at home economics (it was the young feminist in me) and signed on for art. I enjoyed the class, but felt I was rather bad at it unfortunately. In high school, my interests turned more toward writing. I really enjoyed my English Composition and AP English classes. I recall enjoying the depth that we dove into various texts. Then during my undergraduate years I remember loving my humanities courses, especially art history and philosophy. It was in college when I finally became a published author, it was a poem I had written for our local literature publication. I could not find it in time to share with this post, but it had been called “La Gitanita” (the gypsy) a poem I wrote in both English and Spanish to represent both sides of my life experience.

There seemed to be little room in my life for art after that. I have to admit I rarely did art in my own classroom for a few reasons…one of the big ones being the fear that doing too much art would be frowned on as the connections to state standards wasn’t strong enough, and the other main reason being having to manage 30+ elementary students excited about art and doing whatever they wanted with the supplies instead of the intended task.

I wish my students would have just been allowed a time for art, just to explore and create, without having to be held accountable for standards. The maker movement makes me think that education is finally coming around to allowing students to just explore, without standards needing to be a major factor.  They key is being at a school with an administrator who supports student exploration. I was at a school like that, and I was allowing my students to explore. While my experiences with traditional art were not strong, my experiences with technology are. I soon realized I preferred my art creation digitally. I ran an after school Minecraft Club, and while I tried to focus the students in my club on activities, I found they just wanted to be free to explore and build. They produced art digitally in Minecraft, and that is not any less valuable than traditional manifestations of art.

This leads me into what the prompt actually asked for, a sharing of art. While I can’t paint or draw or sculpt, I don’t play an instrument, and only sing in the car with the music turned up so loud I can’t actually hear myself, I can take digital photography in a virtual world that I consider art.

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How does art manifest itself in your personal and/or professional life? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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