Thursday, January 22, 2015

How #GAFE and #Chrome are helping @BrenhamISD stay CIPA compliant by educating students domain-wide with just a few clicks!

Pin It First of all, if you are not familiar with CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act), you can read more about it here.  According to the FCC:
The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted by Congress in 2000 to address concerns about children's access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries. In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and provided updates to those rules in 2011.
Because Brenham ISD receives e-Rate money, we must work hard to make sure we are meeting requirements by monitoring and filtering student Internet access and providing education about online safety, cyberbullying, etc.

A few years ago, we started a meme campaign and posted flyers in computer labs, on chromebook carts and in other public places that illustrated cyber safety topics in a way that would appeal to students.  My at-the-time-colleague-now-boss, Kim Strauss, made this one...

However, this became cumbersome as we tried to keep track of all of the locations, switch out flyers, maintain the little plastic sleeves we bought to hold them, etc.  As we were brainstorming in a department meeting, we remembered that you could set startup pages in your Google Apps for Education domain for every user in your domain.

WHAT WHAT?!  Genius.

As we explored this we totally had an AH-HA moment and there were high fives all around when we got it to work.  Here's what we learned and how you can get it to work for you...

To set a startup page in your Google Admin Console/Dashboard (whatever you call it), follow these steps...

Here's what I learned while I was setting all of this up...

  1. There is a little bit of a time commitment to front load this, but after that it's easy peasy.
  2. Use a Google Presentation that is published to the web - it's the easiest way.  (If you need help with that, let me know!)
  3. Inside of your Google Presentation, just insert the .jpg or .png or picture file of your meme.
  4. Every 6 weeks, all I do is go into the Google Presentation and switch out the picture.  Because the startup page is set to that preso, I don't have to do anything else!
  5. OUTSOURCE!  Let students and teachers submit memes!  It's more fun for them and easier on you!
Here's how it looks to your end user...
  • When a GAFE user logs into a Chromebook, a startup page automatically pops up and your Google Presentation slide is displayed.  The user can close that tab and continue with their business.
  • When a GAFE user opens a synced Chrome account (like opens Chrome on their desktop or laptop), the browser will automatically open to your Google Presentation.

See what we're broadcasting live now here!  If you would like to talk about this further or need help setting it up, let me know!  I'd be happy to help you.  This saved us SO MUCH TIME and it's really fun, too!  Work smarter, not harder!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What I saw today in my rear view mirror ... how are you pre-judging your students?!

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Today I was at a stoplight and I happened to look in my rear view mirror.  Behind me was a car that many people might refer to as a "beater" and in the driver's seat was a man who looked to be a mechanic.  He was dressed in a work shirt with a nametag on the pocket, he looked to be a little dirty and his hair was scruffy.  I am embarrassed to admit that I pre-judged him based on the car he drove and his physical appearance.

In the passenger seat was a teenage girl I assume was this man's daughter.  As I watched them, I realized I had grossly misjudged the man in the driver's seat.  During their conversation, he casually put his arm on the back of the passenger seat and said something to the girl and they both laughed.  The scene now revealed what appeared to be a loving father having a wonderful, engaging discussion with his teen daughter.  They looked relaxed and at ease with each other talking and laughing.  I was engrossed in watching them and nearly sat through a green light!

As I drove off, I felt heartbroken that I had made an assumption based on how this person looked on the outside.  I started to wonder how many times we do this as educators.  How many times have we judged a kid the second they walked through the door because of their clothes or their hair or who their parents are or the car they drive or the house they live in?  I challenge you to look beyond the surface and give everyone a fair chance.  You may be surprised what you see in your rear view mirror one day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Responsible Use Policy made fun for my #BHSwired students! Have students create RUP hashtags!

Pin It Today I was asked to come meet with some Brenham High School foreign language students to discuss the BISD Responsible Use Policy.  I have given the RUP talk a hundred times and let's face it... IT'S SO BORING!  I needed a quick new activity that wouldn't take a lot of class time, but that would involve the students in the discussion.

After crowsourcing Twitter a little bit (thank you all for your ideas!) and mulling it over for a few days, I finally decided to have the kids come up with hashtags for our policy statements.  It was a HUGE success and the kids actually participated!  {GASP!}  Here's what I did...

  1. I printed our policy statements in large font and cut them all apart to place inside a basket.
  2. In class, I put the kids in groups of 4 and had each group pick a policy statement from the basket.
  3. I gave the groups 3 minutes (which I later adjusted to 2 minutes) to discuss their policy statement and come up with a hashtag to sum it up.
  4. Each group reported back to the whole class about their statement and their hashtag.
Here are some of my favorites...
Students shall not send post, or possess electronic messages that are abusive, obscene, sexually oriented, threatening, harassing, damaging to another’s reputation, or illegal, including cyber-bullying and “sexting.”
Students shall not use e-mail or Web sites to engage in or encourage illegal behavior or threaten school safety.
 System users will strictly adhere to copyright laws, including Fair Use Guidelines.
Students shall not attempt to alter, destroy, or disable district technology resources including but not limited to computers and related equipment, district data, the data of others, or other networks connected to the district’s system.

System users will not reveal personal information about themselves or others, such as: phone number, address, password, or username.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New year, new goals, new priorities for this EdTechChic ... reduce anxiety, build relationships, self reflect. Are you in?! :)

Pin It For the first time in as many years as I can remember, I did not work over the break.  Not at all.  Not even responding to emails on my phone.  Nada.  I was just a mommy.  I played with my kids.  I did domestic duties.  I cooked and traveled and enjoyed the holidays with my family.  It.  Was.  Amazing.

So when I returned to work yesterday, I was thrilled that I got to ease back into work by attending a wonderful 1/2 day of professional development with Karen Bowles from the Flippen Group.  She spent the morning talking about anxiety, leadership and building relationships.  Much of the discussion centered around this premise...
Increased anxiety leads to decreased cooperation and performance, which in turn leads to increased discipline issues.
WOW!  Talk about get to the heart of the problem!  Anxiety is at the heart of most problems!!  And as Karen said, anxiety is NOT a "kid problem."  We have all felt anxiety and anxiety doesn't have to be "true" for it to be real.

The #1 job as leaders, whether you lead children or adults, is to reduce anxiety so we can increase cooperation and performance.  So what causes social anxiety?!  According to Karen...
Fear + motivation = social anxiety
That makes sense.  Karen pointed out that people are hardwired to want success.  Combine that with the need for acceptance and you've got the perfect storm.   So what can we do, as leaders, to help reduce anxiety?

  • Help your students (and/or teachers) feel safe both with you and with their peer group.
  • Focus on building relationships (and trust!) before you try to do anything else.
  • Make a good first impression ... you only have 30 seconds to do that!
  • Start each interaction with a smile, a firm handshake and good eye contact.
  • Be aware of your body language, tone of voice and the language you use.
  • Try to maintain a positive energy level.
As Karen pointed out, many times students (and sometimes adults, too!) would rather "behave out" of a situation than deal with the fear and anxiety inside of that situation.  People have baggage and although it's not our job to try and solve all of their issues, many times just showing that we care can be enough.

So how does this tie in with my goals for the new year?!

Karen had us do an exercise to rate ourselves on our body language, tone and spoken language.  I realized I rated myself pretty fairly in those 3 areas in relation to how I behave at work.  However, when I rated myself for home, my numbers were lower.  I realize that I am much more patient and understanding with my colleagues than I am with my family!  (Ummm...not ok!)  Karen told us to focus on improving relations within our family FIRST and this will naturally spill over into our work life.  Excellent advice and what I needed to hear!

In 2015, I am going to work hard to keep my priorities in line.  My kids come first.  Period.  And my husband is a really close second.  :)  My main concern in 2015 is going to be keeping my home happy and healthy and slowing down to appreciate my small children who are growing WAY too fast!  In addition, I am going {TRY} to STOP MULTITASKING, whether it's at home or when there is someone in my office.  It's rude and I do it way too often.  If I am going to build relationships and trust, then I have to STOP what I am doing and give my family or the person in my office my full attention.  This is going to be hard, but I think it's worth it.  I am also going to pay more attention to what I say and how I say it, especially at home.  Words and tone of voice can do damage and I need to remember that always.

I hope those of you who see me often will help me stay accountable.  Feedback is an important part of the process and I am open to yours.  What are your goals and priorities for 2015?  Cheers to a wonderful new year full of growth and opportunity!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How do we stop our school libraries from dying?! HELP! (And please pardon the rant!)

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I had a very interesting discussion with a wonderful Librarian this morning about the perception of school libraries and how more and more teachers are refraining from bringing their kids in to the library to check out books.  Why is this??  The teachers are not necessarily letting the kids read books on their personal devices, so does this mean the teachers aren't letting them read at all?!  Or are we force feeding them certain books (and then wondering why they hate to read?!).  Have you walked into a secondary classroom while kids are reading ... in desks ... sitting straight up ... is that how YOU like to read?!

The Librarian then told me of an interesting experiment she did ... she took a box of books to the ISS room and asked the ISS teacher if he'd let the kids read when they finished their work.  He told her, "I'M not going to MAKE those kids read!"  (Well, there it is ... can we please STOP 'MAKING' the kids read?!)  The Librarian told him he didn't have to do anything, just make the books available.

Guess what happened?!?!

The VERY NEXT DAY two girls were arguing over one of the books!  Kids were asking the Librarian to hold books until after the break so they could finish reading them!

AMAZING!  Who knew?!?!

Steve Gardiner (Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading) says:
The theory behind sustained silent reading is that if students read more and enjoy it more, they will become better readers, the same theory that drives the basketball player to stand at the free-throw line after practice each day and shoot 100 free throws. By the end of the season, he will be a better shooter, whether he has direct instruction or not. While practicing shooting, he will apply what he learns each day to the next day's practice. Readers are the same.
WOW!  I find that very powerful.  Are we giving kids ample time for sustained silent reading in class?  Are we harnessing the power of our school libraries and taking full advantage of our school librarians?

What are you doing to help keep the libraries in your school or district alive?  I would LOVE to hear your ideas, especially for secondary!