smiley-163510_1280In my ed tech classes this rotation, I’ve started using the “Ask a question” section on my google class pages to work with our girls on how to post comments or reply to other people’s comments when online. I’ve come to the conclusion that whenever we leave a texting conversation or email back-and-forth, the people on both ends should leave that conversation skipping and whistling, happy with the “conversation” they just had and ready to go out in the world, be it to dinner or heading out to with friends spreading their joy and sunshine with the rest of the world.

Yes, that is a bit overblown, but think about it, in a world that seems to be brimming with negativity and disrespect, wouldn’t it be nice if this little corner of the world did their best to not allow a single text message or comment thread to end in a cloud of negativity? My hope is that our 7th, and 8th graders will get something out of this activity and even recall instances in their short texting life, where they wish they hadn’t posted something or wondered why someone was offended or hurt by their innocent text.

For the second activity, I had our girls post their favorite dessert along with a description of why it was their favorite. After they posted, one person from the class had to comment on a classmate’s to respectfully explain that, although the person’s choice was a good one, they thought there dessert was better. The tricky part was that they had to try to respond in a way that didn’t make them feel bad or like they were being mean or disrespectful. Below is an example of how our girls posted. I’ve blanked out names to protect the innocent.

Wilma Flintstone
Nov 14
My favorite dessert is a banana split because of the whipped cream and different flavors in one. Thank You!
2 replies

Betty Rubble Nov 14
Bananas are my least favorite fruit, but we can have different opinions!

Wilma Flintstone Nov 14
Thank You for your opinion and I appreciate your positivity.
Reply

Jane Doe
Nov 14
I love ice cream and I love brownies, so my dad and I combined them, so we go get a big bowl and chocolate ice cream and a brownie and whipped cream plus a cherry on top and BOOM!! Best Dessert ever!!
2 replies

Elsa Flan Nov 14
Jane, brownies and ice cream are excellent separately, but if you want to combine them to make one dessert and enjoy it, there should be no reason why you can’t. I just prefer them on their own.

Jane Doe Nov 14
Thank you for you opinion :) :)
Reply

Joan of Arc Nov 14
in Potomac, we go to this restaurant called the Pony Express. For dessert, they have this really yummy warm cookie sundaes with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream! It is so delicious!
2 replies

Betsy Ross Nov 14
Sound good, but I thing that a restaurant in upstate New York has the best ice cream and brownies.

Joan of Arc Nov 14
It probably does. Thanks!
Reply
You can see that the girls tried their best to be respectful of one another while find a way to disagree. I think it was a great first attempt and will continue to work with our girls to help them leave themselves and their texting mates skipping and spreading rose petals whenever they finish texting one another!pretty-woman-1509956_1920

I’m cheating here because I’m just reposting a video that I started showing to teachers and families more than12 years ago. There’s not much to say before, but I think it forces you to stop, pause, and think about what that information means for our middle schoolers as you peer into their future. The numbers can be kind of frightening, but it does suggest that our world is changing in ways that we could have never imagined and it’s in our best interest to allow our girls to take a deep breath and then help them prepare for whatever the world might throw at them in the coming years. Enjoy and contemplate!

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Update – Thanks to the families that joined today’s Parent Coffee that focused on guiding our daughters in a digital world. It’s clear there are so many things to think about regarding how to help our girls be safe in this always-connected digital world. The questions raised today suggest that we create more online resources that can be immediately accessible to our concerned parents and families of Stone Ridge. I hope you come back regularly and comment and ask questions in my Middle School Ed Tech Blog.

Greetings all! I wanted to invite you to my Middle School Ed Tech blog that I’ve maintained (not as consistently as I’d hoped) fort the past three years. All three educational technologists at Stone Ridge have been writing about all things ed-technological for the past three years, but have geared our posts mostly to our peers and educators throughout this world.

Today, I will start a bi-weekly (I think that means once every  two weeks) blog post specifically meant for parents and families of the Gator community. Here, you’ll find updates to the kinds of things we’re doing with technology in the middle school, share information on online safety and etiquette, as well as point you to the latest tech trends and more.

I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions of blog posts you’d like me to wax technologic about. So, if  you’d like to get a reminder of when IScreenshot 2015-12-09 at 11.45.08 PM post to my ed tech blog, click on the green button to your right and subscribe to my blog.

As an added bonus for my first parent blog post, here is the link to the presentation I used for the summer laptop orientation sessions. Here you’ll find much of what Ms. Shah and I shared with you in MS Parent Coffee on Wednesday morning. Link

PS – Click on the Home button  way up above and then scroll down the home page to see all of the blog posts I’ve written over the past three years. You can also drill down or narrow your viewing by clicking on the various categories on the right of this page.

 

 

 

 

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I always felt that my sweet spot as an elementary school teacher was the 2nd grade. The family joke was that that was the point where I knew I was teaching at my intellectual level. Funny. Not.

Actually, what I really loved about teaching second graders was that, for the most part, many of those students had the basics of reading and writing down. I didn’t have to start from scratch. I only had to make sure the stuff I was putting in front of them was “just right” or a little out of their reach so they could grab it and run with it and continue to grow. For writer’s workshop, it was making sure I gave them time to develop thoughts or ideas in their writer’s notebooks and help steer them toward a genre that matched wha they were writing about. I’m a softie for poetry, so oftentimes, I would move them into that genre just to see what magical and memorable words they would write. For reading, I spent an enormous amount of time developing and organizing a classroom leveled library so students didn’t have to go far to find perfectly matched books, topic and reading level specific.Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 3.52.37 PM

Here I am 23 years later, no longer a classroom teacher, but a middle school educational technologist. I find the same methodology still applies – it’s my job to research and tinker with the latest forms of technology, be it a website, a program or a piece of hardware and develop lessons and activities that allow them to try things out and figure out for themselves if it is something worth exploring and working with.

At Stone Ridge, our girls have learned to use the basics – keyboarding, google docs, google mail, electronic whiteboard graphic apps, Moviemaker, basic photo editing applications which they use in various ways in their subject area classes. What is new to many of them, is that we are exposing them to coding, 3D modeling, robotics, computer aided design programs (CAD), movie and image editing, and basic photography skills.

On Gator Grill Day last spring, we got to see how this works in real time. My classroom is strewn with digital cameras of all sorts. One of my job at Stone Ridge is the middle school yearbook sponsor. Along with editing the middle school pages, I get to help with the layout and choose photos of the middle schoolers in class, sports, arts, plays, hallways, outdoors, Calleva, and more. Many students ask to take photos at sporting events, so I give them a quick intro to taking photos and send them on their way.

The morning of last year’s spring Gator Game Day, a fifth grader asked if she could take photos of her sister playing lacrosse on the turf. Not wanting to lend out one of the more expensive cameras, I handed her a $25 digital camera I just picked up from the Goodwill store in Rockville, MD. I hadn’t really taken any photos with it, but it had a good zoom and was reasonably easy to handle, so I sent her out to the game with it, not expecting terribly too much. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the camera or the photographer! As I bulk downloaded hundreds of photos from the day, I was quite pleased with all of the photos “I” took. After sending several lacrosse action shots to our web master, I began to realize that I wasn’t actually the photographer for those shots. So many of those shots were taken by my 5th grader with my Goodwill camera! As soon as I realized this, I let this budding sports photographer know and within a couple of days several of those shots were running, full Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 12.00.55 AMsized, on the SR website, as well as the electronic bulletin board in the front entrance of Hamilton House! I really don’t know if this talented and energetic 5th, now 6th grader will continue to develop her skills as a photographer, but I realize that these are the types of experiences that sometimes point students into areas of interest that happen outside of the subject-area or classroom experience, through some good luck, timing, trust, and a lot of praise and support! Here’s to hoping this young lady asks for the camera for this fall’s Gator Game Day! I know she’ll take some more amazing shots and I’ll even hand her a better camera!

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 10.04.06 AMI’m sure you’ve heard the above sentiment before – it’s generally meant as a bit of a slight  – “You know, as a chef, you’re a pretty good plumber!” . In this case, however,  I think it’s a metaphor for how teachers should view students (and probably vice versa). Although I’m a passionate educational technologist and I spend many hours honing and developing my profession, I’m sure I sometimes fall into that category of the classic classroom teacher, teaching subject area specific content to my students. It is in that latter,  very narrow description, where the danger lies. If we, as teachers, only see our students as pupils listening or not listening to what we are teaching them, then we are sorely missing out on the other 99.9% of who they are – incredible, multi-faceted, yet still-learning-the-ropes, individuals. The insights you get from seeing them doing something outside the classroom is often more valuable than anythingScreen Shot 2017-04-19 at 10.05.06 AM you might learn from them inside it.

The other day, I headed off campus to cheer on the MS softball team in a game against Woods Academy. As per usual, I took my camera along to snap some pix for the yearbook and other MS purposes. I got there during the school’s end-of-day carpool and weaved my way back to the softball field where our Mighty Gators were just coming off the field after a multi-run top half of the first inning. Supportive parents and siblings cheered on their girls as I set up along the third-base line to take pictures (and give Coach Basney a hard time).

I watched each and every ballplayer on our team work their specific positions on the field, and while at the plate, in such a serious and proud manner. Imagine a little girl building a sandcastle, protecting it from the crashing waves at the beach, and you’ll get the focused demeanor. The before and after part of a play, hit, defensive gem, or bobble is often more important than the play itself. These players, at such a young Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 10.04.48 AMage, already get this  – you want an authentic assessment – you got it!

To continue, one of the Gators, with runners in scoring position, crushed a deep deep homer over the head of the center fielder during the latter part of the game. I watched her (took pictures) rounding the bases, yes, with a smile on her face. But, as she crossed home plate, she retrieved her bat, trotted back to the dugout, got a couple of pats on the back, but then proceeded to go about her business as a teammate – not dwelling on her own moment – cheering on the next batter.

I don’t even remember the final score, but I know I got to watch a dozen of our Gators working together, selflessly, passionately, confidently, skillfully, supportively, and so many other “-lys” for me to write down here. I know I will look at them differently, even when it looks like they’re goofing off behind the screen of their laptops in my next tech class!

Who won? I did, actually. Our girls are incredible in so many ways. Period.

 

 

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Being a human being, and I’m assuming that you are because you’re reading this, you and I are prone to view things subjectively, as we are shaped and formed by our own diverse experiences. I know for a fact that the highway sign said the speed limit was 65 mph. That’s why the officer pulled me over and ticketed me for going 67 in a 55 mph zone. A bit of advice – always say thank you, regardless of whatever an officer does or doesn’t hand you. I digress.brain-605603_1280

It has ALWAYS been important to make sure you find and state facts, as accurately as you can. It is also equally important to be ready to state why you believe something is a fact – either as a first-hand witness to the fact (there was only one sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints, not two, before I finished off the box) or share where you got your information. Saying “some” have said or “they”  or “I’ve heard” doesn’t make it a fact. There is still so much work to be done with my middle school students in getting them to properly and accurately cite the resources they use for their various reports and projects. I’d like to say that they have mastered this important skill, but they still think it’s okay to use and restate most things so long as they paste the url somewhere in their report/project. I know, I know. That’s not quite enough.

mistake-1966448_1920If you do find yourself on the short end of information regarding a current topic, theory or statement, and you don’t have time to develop a 15 page Google Slides presentation on your findings, there are a few websites that do the best they can in confirming or dismantling facts or statements put out there for people to chew on. Thanks to Connie Mitchell for sending along this link – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-spot-fake-news-and-teach-kids-to-be-media-savvy# Commonsensemedia.org lays out how to check for fake news. If you you’ve never been to commonsensemedia.org take a look as soon as you can as it’s a great website that helps teachers, families, and students navigate through the never-ending assault of video, movies, music, and social media on our children in the 21st century.

Along with the video link above, here are some websites that do a pretty good job of staying down the middle regarding theories, facts, information that is at times ambiguous. I hope they will be good resources for you as you try to navigate what is real and what is UN-real.

An aside  – I actually pulled the following list from mediabiasfactcheck.com, which was an adventure in itself. The website is about a year-and-a-half old and has the look of a sketchy website. The owner of the website uses anonymous information regarding website information, but it’s based in Scottsdale, Arizona and has a specific address associated with the company. Not knowing if it was reputable forced me to look at the links that it supplied to validate their accuracy and lack of agenda or slant.  Each website seems neutral once you get to facts that they research. One might give pause by the inclusion of  thefact checker link by the Washington Post. It is widely held that the Post leans left, but the facts they seek to prove or disprove seem objective in the research. Take a look for yourself and decide which of the sites work best for you. I’ve always felt that snopes.com was down the middle. Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.51.25 AM

The 10 Best Fact Checking Sites (from the mediabiasfactcheck.com website)

7/20/16

The purpose of this website is not only to deliver news, but to also be a resource on media bias and fact checking.  When checking facts these are the 10 sites we find to be most valuable.  In most cases, one of these sites has already covered the fact check we are seeking, making the job easy.  Listed below you will find our favorite (most trusted) fact checking websites.  Bookmark them or just visit MBFC News and we will filter them for you.

Politifact– PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida. Politifact is simply the best source for political fact checking.  Won the Pulitzer Prize.

Fact CheckFactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.  They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. They monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.  Fact Check is similar to Politifact in their coverage and they provide excellent details.  The only drawback is they lack the simplicity of Politifact.

Open Secrets– Open Secrets is a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, which is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.  Open Secrets are by far the best source for discovering how much and where candidates get their money.  They also track lobbying groups and whom they are funding.

Snopes– Snopes has been the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation for a long time.  Snopes is also usually the first to report the facts.

The Sunlight Foundation– The Sunlight Foundation is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses the tools of civic tech, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all.  Sunlight primarily focuses on money’s role in politics.

Poynter Institute– The Poynter Institute is not a true fact checking service.  They are however a leader in distinguished journalism and produce nothing but credible and evidence based content.  If Poynter reports it, you can count on it being true.

Flack Check– Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.

Truth or Fiction– Very similar to Snopes.  They tend to focus more on political rumors and hoaxes.

Hoax Slayer– Another service that debunks or validates internet rumors and hoaxes.

Fact Checker by the Washington Post– The Washington Post has a very clear left-center bias and this is reflected in their fact checks.  Their fact checks are excellent and sourced; however their bias is reflected in the fact that they fact check right wing claims more than left.   Otherwise the Washington Post is a good resource.

I hope these links are useful to you. Please, comment if you think some of the sites listed are too slanted, one way or another.

All images from pixabay.com, except the screengrab of the mediabiasfactcheck.com website.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 4.19.14 PMYes, that makes very little sense and is redundant is redundant. Today, I posted a video to the ed tech team’s EdTech Tools website. It’s probably not going to take the ed tech community by storm, but I decided to post it because it’s interesting and unique AND it doesn’t necessarily have an academic, educational or ed-techie purpose. Almost all of the videos that we’ve posted before this had some academic purpose. We encourage you to click through these if you’re looking to try something different in your classroom.

Over the past three years, each of our divisional ed tech teachers and Urvi Shah, have lead  ed tech PD sessions on many of the ed tech tools found on the website. But, what I found was that smaller numbers of teachers were trying them out and them for classroom instruction. What I have been doing for the past three weeks is teach my classes using goformative.com, socrative.com, ed.ted.com, to get a sense of why these tools aren’t catching fire in teachers classrooms. What I’ve found that they are all amazing and are exactly the right tool to use in the classroom, but each of them has idiosyncrasies,  little problems, and issues that might keep teachers away from them. So, I’ll update you on my deeper experiences with these tools and see if I’m able to understand how to push through these little roadblocks so that teachers can use them effortlessly and seamlessly in their classroom instruction.UrviBlogBanner

 

 

Greetings all,

brain-605603_1280It’s been a while since I’ve used this space, but I want to remind you of all of the great resources that you can find by browsing my blog. Along with resources, insights, classroom experiences, tech bargains, you’ll also have access to the ed tech tools blog/link that has more than 50+ videos of ed tech tools that might be useful to you and your classroom – you’ll find that link right here – edtech tools.

I’ve also put together a video for anyone that needs a quick refresher on using google drive and google apps for education link. As always, feel free to find me or even schedule me for a one-to-one. Here’s the link to the video for our MS divisional meeting today on google docs – link

Finally, for our faculty ed tech sessions, I think you might find you can use a website named noisli.com. Noisli kind of of sounds like the opposite of what it does – it’s a soothing sound generator that lets you choose from apple-304470_1280various soothings sounds like forest, wind, ocean, and more. Use your google log in to sign up (click on log in, then click the red button “sign in with google”). You can set up timers and make playlists of the various soothing sounds you’d like to hear. I played it for one of my classes earlier and they couldn’t figure out why it sounded like we were in a crowded restaurant!!!Enjoy, and welcome back to my ms edtech blog!

Stone_Ridge_logoIt’s taken a couple of years, but I wanted to welcome you to a space that the edtech team has been working on for the past three years. Although we created this blog and the LS and US blogs to support teachers over the years, we realized that families could benefit from a weekly blogpost speaking directly to your needs. Today marks the first post. Please, comment, make suggestions or ask me to share thoughts on all things technological. If you click through other parts of my blog, you might even ask me to make recommendations on personal tech bargains.

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From B&H Photo website

From B&H Photo website

FIRST TOPIC – Do you know all of the websites your daughter has signed up for?

For my 10-year old daughter, it was Club Penguin – a cute and attractive kids website that required a boy or girl to type in some information and create a username and password in order to gain access to fun games and stickers and other tasty tidbits designed to attract pre-teens into their domain. There are mostly positive reviews about Club Penguin as a website for kids (see commonsense media.org link – there’s a chatting feature that can be problematic), but my big problem was that took about six months for me to find out she signed up for the website. I had no idea that she had done this, but more importantly, I had no idea of what type of information she needed to give up in order to sign up for this site. Turns out, the most personal thing she had to input was my email address. Not too much of a biggie, but there was nothing there that showed that you needed to be 13 years or older to sign up.

After finding out about Club Penguin, I sat with my daughter and asked first asked her about the website and if was fun. I didn’t want to make it a negative experience for her, so we had fun with the site together and then talked about what she did to sign up. After we finished I mentioned that if she finds another website that she needs to create a log in and password for to find me or her mom to help her sign up. exclamation-48283_1280

As she (and her brother) got older, I shared with them the problems of signing up for websites without mine or her mom’s permission.

My advice to you as parents is to sit down with your daughter and ask her to show you all the websites that she goes to that required her to sign up. You might be surprised to find out what kind of information she might have given up to get access to those games or virtual stickers or whatever.

The main reason you want to have this sit down with your daughter is to let her know that you love and care for her and you just want to make sure that she is being safe when going online.

image from pixabay.com

image from pixabay.com

Thanks for checking out my blog. Check back every now and again or subscribe by clicking on the link in the upper righthand corner.

Also, please check out commonsensemedia.org – it’s an incredible and reputible website that reviews current movies, books, online games and more.

image from pixabay.com

Stone_Ridge_logoWelcome back all! It feels so good to be back! The summer was great, but I was ready to to see our girls! It was nice meeting new teachers and checking in with returning teachers during the first part of August, but nothing beats the excitement and energy of students coming back after a long hot summer.

We’re into our fourth year of ed tech teacher blog postings and this year I hope to make this blog a much more useful and interesting place to visit. Whether you are a returning teacher or new to our incredible teaching community, I think you’ll find my blog to be a useful place to het a sense of what is happening in the world of ed tech integration, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll find this space to be a great resource for tools or strategies to more fully integrate your girls’ ThinkPads into your activities and lessons.

The absolute first place  you should go is to our very expansive EdTech Tools link. This link is organized and categorized so you can more easily find a website, app or program that will help you use technology to enhance your classroom activities.

Because we are always trying to make things more useful, please feel free to email me at ralfonso@stoneridgeschool.org if you have any suggestions about website organization or any ed tech tools you’d like for us to research and share with our teaching apple-304470_1280community.

Please, remember to click on the EdTech Tools link to see all of the great ed tech tools we’ve gathered for you to learn about and use.

Finally, have an incredible year!!!