Parent Technology Coffee Morning: The Filter Bubble

We had a small, and very dedicated group of parents with us today, the first Wednesday back after break, thank you! Our session today was focused on safety and privacy, particularly around the use of Facebook. Because we had such a small group of parents today, we started with a very informal conversation. A few of our interesting highlights were:

We know that the privacy settings on Facebook (and many other websites) change regularly, often with very little notice or information. Therefore, we think it’s probably best to consider all information shared in those spaces to be public. Only share what you would want to share in public spaces, because it’s quite possible that either your settings may be changed without your knowledge, or possibly someone could copy and paste (or screenshot) your updates and share them elsewhere.

Knowing that so much of what we share online is or could become public, we talked about the importance of regular, open and honest conversations with children so that they are aware of the different aspects of sharing online. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure that they are making informed choices, and conscious decisions about what they’re sharing.

We also talked about the importance of having your own online presence that you manage. Without having your own presence online, it would be very easy for someone else to create a false profile with your name, and to pretend they are you. A good way to keep an eye on this is to regularly log out of all of the services you use, and Google your own name. This is a good strategy to make sure that what others find out about you online is what you want them to find.

When we think about spending time online, we were curious to understand more about how the different services we use are connected. We can see that ads in Facebook and Gmail are specifically tailored to us, and using apps like Ghostery can track who is monitoring what we look at online. This conversation prompted us to watch the following TED Talk by Eli Pariser:

After watching the video, we had a great conversation about how we can actually work towards preventing this kind of filter bubble. Some thoughts we had were:

  • Be more conscious about how we spend our time online.
  • Instead of always making a choices that re-affirm our views, try to find, research or discover things that are challenging.
  • Use tools, like the groups feature on Facebook or the lists feature on Twitter, to compile and organize voices or ideas from different points of view.
  • Remember, every time we click, we are teaching the algorithms what we want to see. We are in control of what we click.

For sure this is an interesting time to grow up! It was great to hear  at the very end of our session, how happy our parents are with the way YIS students are learning with technology. Overall, they feel that students are learning both the positives and negatives of using technology and that they are able to make good choices both in school and at home.

We hope you will join us next month, on Wed, 1 May at 9:15 in the Cafeteria, when we talk about game-based-learning: Wondering what’s next in education? This recent TED talk by Jane McGonigal, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”, has helped propel the idea of game-based-learning or gamification of learning into educational conversations around the world. Watch the talk and see how we’re implementing this kind of learning environment in certain classes here at YIS.

Parent Technology Coffee Morning: Digital Citizenship

Even with the rainy weather this morning, we still had our core group of parents brave the weather to learn about digital citizenship! Thank you!

This week is Digital Citizenship Week at YIS, it’s the second year that we’ve had a week focused on digital citizenship, and this time we are expanding from just middle school (last year) to include elementary and high school as well. The purpose of this week is to highlight the key themes of responsible behavior online in a variety of ways to both raise awareness for our community, and provide strategies for making good choices. We have an exciting schedule of events for all students, and the results of these activities are being displayed around the campus.

To start our discussion, we talked about what digital citizenship means to each of us. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Making good choices online.
  • Understanding that sometimes we see things that are not appropriate online and how to deal with them.
  • Making sure to balance the amount of time you spend online with other activities.

Each year, our middle school students complete a survey about their behaviors online to help inform us about how we can better support them in their decision making. Here’s what the middle school students said on the survey last year:

To me, digital citizenship is.. from YIS Academics on Vimeo.

Another resource you may find helpful is this fantastic mini-documentary produced by YIS senior, Virgina Russolo, inspired by Robyn Treyvaud’s visit last year:

GCD – Digital Citizenship Video from Virginia Russolo on Vimeo.

One of the key themes we have talked about this week is ethical use, particularly in light of the new copyright laws here in Japan. As you may know, in October the Japanese government updated the copyright laws. For a brief overview, take a look at this article from Wired, or this one from Gaijin Pot. A key change is that copyright violators are now a criminal offense, punishable by jail time, rather than a civil offense (usually associated with a fine). This new was our focus for discussion with all middle and high school students on Wednesday.

As this raised some important questions during our discussions with students, and again with parents later in the morning, we advise reading the articles listed above and familiarizing yourself with the new laws. It’s important that the conversations we are having at school (about respecting copyright) and supported at home so that students fully understand the impact of their actions.

For more about the daily themes we addressed this week, take a look at the overview here. There are great discussion prompts and examples that you might want to explore and discuss further with your children at home.

We hope you can join us for our next coffee morning:

Global Collaboration (The Flat Classroom Conference): Mar 6 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

As we’re just about to begin the Flat Classroom Conference this week, this session will share the key themes of the conference, the format and the ways that participating students and teachers will be learning together. The Flat Classroom Conference is a fantastic example of how we can be learning in an authentic and project-based environment. Join us for a preview!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning: Connectivity

We had another great Parent Tech Coffee Morning today, focusing on connectivity. With the exciting Flat Classroom Conference coming up at YIS (March 8 – 10), we took this session to highlight the ways that being connected can be highly valuable and help create positive change in the world.

The Flat Classroom Conference is a special event for students from schools all around the world, as well as teachers. The purpose of the conference is to bring students together to collaboratively solve a challenging global problem. What’s exciting about this event is that we can see the extensive talents, creativity and leadership skills of our students in an engaging and student-driven environment that highlights the use of technology in innovative and collaborative ways.

At our conference here at YIS, our challenge is: “How do we help each other?” We’ll be viewing this challenge through the lens of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as an example of a real-life disaster and response. We are very fortunate to have speakers from several disaster-relief organizes join us for a conversation about what helping really looks like in practice. Of course, we’ll also have virtual participants from around the world, and make extensive use of our Connected Learning Community to create solutions that are media rich.

This conference really highlights the value of being connected in authentic ways. However, time spent online is often viewed as negative (because it’s perceived as not being connected in the “real world”). This TED talk by Alexandra Samuel started our discussion about the perceptions we have about spending time online:

We talked about the ways that we are connected, and the ways that our students can use their connections to make the world a better place. Some of the highlights were:

Understanding the importance of how you spend your time online. It’s easy to spend time online doing shallow things, but if we choose to spend our time on websites and engaged in tasks that make us better, the web we see will reflect the best of ourselves, rather than the worst. How can we help students use their time online to develop skills, learn new things, help others, and expand their perspectives?

The value of being “yourself” online. Although it’s tempting to create an alternate personality, we need to remember that there are people on the other side of the screen. Representing yourself authentically, and expecting others to do the same, enables us to make more valuable connections and to react more appropriately in difficult situations.

When we spend time online, it’s not always “wasted time”. It’s important for adults to value the learning, creativity and connections that students make in order to help them develop strong networking skills.

Join us again next month for our next topic:

Building Good Habits: Feb 6 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

This week we’re focusing on Digital Citizenship: safe, responsible, respectful and behavior in digital spaces, as well as prioritizing a healthy balance in life. This week’s session will highlight the ways that parents can help support their children in building strong digital citizenship skills.

Parent Technology Coffee Morning: Creativity

We had another great discussion in our Parent Technology Coffee Morning today! Our theme was creativity (and technology), and we started off discussing ways that we see ourselves, our students, and others expressing themselves creatively through the use of technology. A few initial ideas:

  • Students in grade 7 are collaborating in a game called Minecraft to build historical buildings and create worlds. Using the game, they’re able to create any kind of structure they can image and they’re collaborating with each other to do it. This is actually a school project that Mr. Guenther and Ms. Madrid are working on in Humanities. Hopefully, Mr. Guenther will be able to come to another session to present his Pecha Kucha presentation called “What I learned from video games” (that was first presented at this year’s BTG).
  • Students are composing music digitally, creating soundtracks and exploring digitally created music as a way to build composition skills.
  • Students in grade 6 are using their blogs to share their passions, and creativity, like writing short stories, sharing about trains, insects, Apple product reviews, and sports updates (as a few examples).

After this discussion, we watched one of my favorite videos (for adults, as there are a few very short scenes with inappropriate language for students) about the way that the intersection of art and technology is providing great opportunities for consumers to also be producers. This is one in the series of mini-documentaries, called Off Book, by PBS:

Watching this video prompted a great discussion about the ways we can be creative, and how technology enables us to reach a much wider audience and interact with other creators around the world. Talking about this video also prompted us to watch one more, this one is a series by Kirby Ferguson, called Everything is a Remix. We watched Part 1: The Song Remains the Same:

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

This was a great conversation starter, but unfortunately we ran out of time. We’ll come back to this series next semester, so please join us next time for our session on Connectedness on Jan 9 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria: With the Flat Classroom Conference coming up soon here at YIS, this session will highlight some of the ways that students (and teachers) stay connected and why those connections are so important. From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, many people in our community are sharing, collaborating and communicating in a variety of contexts. Come to this session to find out why!

Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning: Staying Organized

Thank you to our wonderful parents for attending another Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning today! We focused on tools and strategies for helping students get and stay organized.

To kick things off, we discussed some successful strategies that parents have used at home:

  • Set a specific time for homework (2 hours is more than enough) – parent monitors
  • Organization is individual – different things work for different people – it’s good to experience different styles of organization to see what works best for you
  • Discuss how much time HW will take and plan backwards (together) from bedtime – works for individual deadlines, and also long term deadlines

Here at school, we use a variety of tools to help support these kind of structures at home (and to develop new strategies that take advantage of our CLC), most importantly Google Apps. Here’s an introduction to what Google Apps can do.

Using Google Apps for Education, we can:

  • Share documents (like assignment sheets and rubrics) with students and parents, and make changes and updates that are immediately visible to everyone.
  • Have students create a homework calendar and share that calendar with their parents, so everyone can keep track of deadlines. Each homework assignment can also have several different kinds of automatic reminders (by e-mail or pop-up)
  • Create presentations (and all sorts of documents) collaboratively with groups of students, or students and teachers.
  • Invite students to events, which automatically appear on their calendar.
  • Keep ongoing track of student learning through the revision history in Google Docs, Presentations and Spreadsheets, allowing teachers and parents to see exactly what has been done and when.

Here’s why Google Drive is so powerful:

There are so many options with Google Apps for Education, and we are regularly expanding our uses to be even more productive and organized. We recommend that parents create their own free Gmail account so they can have access to all of these tools as well.

Our topic for next month is:

Embracing Creativity: Dec 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Although technology is great for being productive, we also highlight the use of technology tools to promote creativity, collaboration and communication. This session will feature new creative uses of technology along with ideas for how to support your child’s creativity at home. We hope you will join us!

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Recap: Digital Citizenship

As always, thank you so much for joining us this morning for a conversation about Digital Citizenship!

Today’s session was focused on developing an understanding of what Digital Citizenship is, how we are addressing those big ideas here at school, and how you can help support at home. We started off discussing the term, and a few key words came up, all of which are features of digital citizenship: balance, safety, responsibility, transition from analog to digital, respect, ethics, and values. In a nutshell, digital citizenship means carrying the values, behaviors and ethics that you demonstrate in real life, into all environments, specifically the online world.

One of the key points of our discussion today focused on the fact that as adults, we see a strong distinction between the “real” world and the “digital” world, whereas our children do not. For almost all of the students at YIS, they do not remember a time when the internet didn’t exist. For our younger students, they do not remember a time when we didn’t “carry” the internet in our pockets (to access with mobile phones). For them, there is no distinction between the “real” and the “digital”.

To highlight some of the key strategies that parents can implement at home to support the transfer of “real” life morals, values and ethics into the “digital” realm, we watched a short video from Common Sense Media, called Rules of Road for Parents in the Digital Age. The video was re-affirming that parents already have all the skills they need to help their children be successful in online environments, the challenge is just to transfer those skills from the analog to the digital. For example: if a family expectation is not to talk to strangers, they shouldn’t do so in online spaces either.

FYI: Common Sense Media is our favorite resource for developing strong digital citizenship skills. They have tons of great materials for families too! Please check it out!

We had a great conversation that covered a number of topics, including:

A reminder for parents to treat online spaces like physical spaces – it’s appropriate and important for parents to be part of those environments the way they are in the “real” world. We have a tendency to look away when people are using a computer, but when it comes to our students, it’s important that we are a part of that experience. This way the morals, values and ethics we prioritize in “real” life, will be transferred to the “digital” world.

As we move toward more collaborative models of learning in digital environments, it is important to note that those spaces can be just as productive as a face-to-face environment, but because it’s harder to see facial reactions, or hear and interperet tone of voice, there is an extra layer of communication required. It’s important to focus on positive intentions, to assume that even things that may seem rude or negative, may not have been intended that way, and to react accordingly. Also in these kinds of environments, relationships are key. The stronger and more collaborative the relationship, the more successfully you can work together online. Of course it’s possible to build those relationships online as well.

In thinking about the amount of time we spend online, we talked about the importance of balance. Spending time doing other things, like making music, playing outside, sports, drawing, being creative. Mr. Clark shared a few of his favorite resources:

It’s great to note that YIS is really working hard to embed these themes into everything we do. With our Responsible Use Policy, and expectations for computer use at school, we really highlight digital citizenship every step of the way. If you would like to find out more about what we do, please have a look at our Digital Dragons site, which includes:

In addition, we’re working on a CLC Essentials site for parents where we can store resources to help support families in their efforts to prioritize digital citizenship. If you have suggestions for what to add, please leave a comment or e-mail Kim – we want to make this space as useful as possible for you!

We hope you will join us again next month! Our focus will be:

Managing Information: Nov 7 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

We use a wide variety of tools to stay organized here at YIS, including: Blogs, Google Docs, Calendar, and Reader. It can seem overwhelming at first, but they all interact together to make student workflow as seamless as possible. This session will share an overview of the different tools that we use and how you can help your child(ren) stay organized and efficient.

Parent Technology Coffee Morning Recap: Living With Laptops

We can all relate to the struggle to balance our many devices, from mobiles, to  laptops, to kindles, to iPods, and everything that comes next, so this time for focused conversation was perfect.  Along with our wonderful parent community, Mr. Clark, , Ms. Cofino and Ms. Raskin were there to help share ideas and practices that have worked (as well as those that haven’t). We had a very productive session, and developed tons of great ideas to help our children build and maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. This session was also run last school year, at the request of parents. We’ll host it again later in the year!

We started our session with a brief presentation, highlighting the big ideas to be discussed:

A few of the key points we discussed:

Although many of the tools we use to connect and communicate have changed, what we’re doing with them is very similar to more “old school” methods – like passing notes in class, or reading under the covers at night, or talking on the phone.

For some reason, it seems that when children (or adults) are using technology tools, we are reluctant to interrupt them. We have developed a kind of societal norm that “laptop space” must be private space. Adam shared a story about being hesitant to ask his son, in fourth grade, to show him what he was doing on the laptop, simply because it was a laptop – even though he’s the parent, he bought the computer, and it was actually his wife’s laptop.

Even though we already have great strategies, as parents (and teachers), to help children manage their time and responsibilities well, sometimes it’s challenging to remember to apply those strategies in this new context, because of the perceived privacy norms.

Although the idea of chatting, sharing, and interacting with peer groups is not new, perhaps the greatest difference is the visibility of the activities – which can be perceived in two ways:

  1. Technology as more visible: In the “old school” context, when children spent time hanging out at places like Gigi’s, their parents might not know really what was happening, and any mistakes made could be forgotten with time. It was almost like those mistakes and behavior were invisible. In contrast, today’s “hang out” space is often online, where every action is visible and permanent.
  2. Technology as less visible: In the “old school” context, when children hang out and chat at home, their friends are there, so parents can see and hear what they’re doing. However, with technology, children can be “hanging out” in a common space in the house, but parents can’t actually see or hear anything, since it’s all on the computer. In this sense, the technology almost makes the behavior “invisible”.

It’s important to remember that all of the adults in our children’s lives are role models. The behavior they see being modeled as adults is behavior they are implicitly being told is appropriate. At Parent Teacher Student Conferences yesterday, there were long rows of students on their mobile phones, sitting next to their parents, typing away on their mobile phones.

Although it sounds too simple, we see in the classroom that by clearly stating specific expectations and setting clear boundaries, students are much more likely to follow those directions. In contrast, if we allow expectations to be more implicit, it’s so much easier for students to ignore those unstated “understandings”.

In the end, we’re working towards each student developing their own self control, and an appropriate level of balance that works for them and their family. To do so, we would like to work as a team: parents, school and students.

In order to help get an idea of what students are thinking and feeling about these topics, Mr. Clark recorded some great discussions with students all across the middle and high school:

Our focus for the meeting was to develop as many strategies as possible to help support a healthy balanced lifestyle. Some of the ways that we’re doing this at school are:

  • All students sign a Responsible Use Policy, which highlights the importance of balance and responsibility
  • To help clearly define the expectations for balance (and to set clear boundaries), no laptops are allowed at break, and laptop use is only allowed in the CLC workroom during lunch (otherwise students are not allowed to use their laptops during lunch.
  • To get started well, we had two full days of orientation at the beginning of the school year where we discussed the Responsible Use Policy, Digital Citizenship and Balance at length in a variety of contexts, as an introduction to our CLC. We also had a mandatory parent information session for middle school parents and all middle and high school students (voluntary for high school parents).
  • We have an overarching Digital Citizenship curriculum, called Digital Dragons, which is currently being taught through Humanities in middle school.
  • After Spring Break, we’ll have a Digital Citizenship Week, when we revisit the major themes of the Responsible Use Policy through a variety of activities and discussions.
  • Our Student Tech Team regularly produces short video tutorials, to highlight important aspects of effectively using the laptops. Recently, they highlighted a number of productivity apps like “Self Control” which was one of the ways that students could help manage distractions.
  • We’re implementing homework calendars in all middle school tutor groups, where all major assessments will be added as events in a shared calendar for each tutor group. Parents and students can then subscribe to these calendars to have the reminders pop up on their mobile devices.
  • We’re developing a digital student planner to help students manage their assignments in an efficient way.
  • All of these topics are important points of discussion within our Tutor program at all grade levels.

Once we had an idea of the support structures in place at school, we spent the rest of the meeting developing similar structures for the home in small groups, using Google Docs. Everyone came up with fantastic ideas, including all of the ones we were planning to share!

Here are the strategies we developed:

Setting Limits:

  • Set time limit per day for total screen time, and gradually allow the child more control over how they allocate that time.
  • Set a specific time, or set of times, when the computer can be used.
  • No computer use after a certain time.
  • No technology at the dinner table.

Developing Time Management:

Take Advantage of Tech Breaks: Research shows that knowing you have specific time set aside to check social networking sites actually helps students focus better, so Dr. Larry Rosen recommends 25 minutes of homework time, then 5 minutes of a tech break, then study again.

Family Agreements:

Monitoring:

  • regular monitoring of comments made/received
  • checking the history regularly

Regular and open conversations with your child are always the best way to make these strategies successful.

Some further resources:

Thanks to all the parents that attended today’s session! Even if you weren’t there, please join us for our monthly Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings on the first Wednesday of every month at 9:15 in the Cafeteria. Our next meeting is: Wednesday, October 3rd at 9:15 in the Cafeteria and we’ll be chatting about  Digital Citizenship – what it means, why it’s important, how we’re addressing the major themes here at YIS and what you can do at home to support. Looking forward to seeing you there!

 

Parent Technology Coffee Morning: The Year at a Glance

Welcome back to another year of Parent Tech Coffee Mornings! This year we’re trying to share some “big ideas” in education with you to spark some discussion about the future of learning. In order to help you plan your attendance, here’s an overview of what we’ll be sharing this year:

Living With Laptops: Sept 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Welcome to another great school year at YIS! We know that developing strategies for maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle in our Connected Learning Community is a key priority for many families. We all struggle to manage our many devices, from mobiles, to laptops, to kindles, to iPods, and everything that comes next. During this session we will share ideas and strategies to help your family build and maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle based on current research, experiences last year and suggestions from families here at YIS.

Introduction to Digital Citizenship: Oct 3 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

In addition to the technology skills that student learn as part of our Connected Learning Community, we are also focusing on the “other” side of technology use: behavior, responsibility, and safety. These general skills are referred to as Digital Citizenship. Please join us at this session for an introduction to most important concepts in Digital Citizenship, as well as the ways that we are helping students learn these critical skills and understandings here at YIS.

Managing Information: Nov 7 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

We use a wide variety of tools to stay organized here at YIS, including: Blogs, Google Docs, Calendar, and Reader. It can seem overwhelming at first, but they all interact together to make student workflow as seamless as possible. This session will share an overview of the different tools that we use and how you can help your child(ren) stay organized and efficient.

Embracing Creativity: Dec 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Although technology is great for being productive, we also highlight the use of technology tools to promote creativity, collaboration and communication. This session will feature new creative uses of technology along with ideas for how to support your child’s creativity at home.

Connectedness: Jan 9 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

With the Flat Classroom Conference coming up soon here at YIS, this session will highlight some of the ways that students (and teachers) stay connected and why those connections are so important. From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, many people in our community are sharing, collaborating and communicating in a variety of contexts. Come to this session to find out why!

Building Good Habits: Feb 6 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

This week we’re focusing on Digital Citizenship: safe, responsible, respectful and behavior in digital spaces, as well as prioritizing a healthy balance in life. This week’s session will highlight the ways that parents can help support their children in building strong digital citizenship skills.

Global Collaboration (The Flat Classroom Conference): Mar 6 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

As we’re just about to begin the Flat Classroom Conference this week, this session will share the key themes of the conference, the format and the ways that participating students and teachers will be learning together. The Flat Classroom Conference is a fantastic example of how we can be learning in an authentic and project-based environment. Join us for a preview!

Revisiting Facebook, Safety & Privacy: April 10 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Each year parents have requested a session on Facebook to understand exactly how it works, what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing with. This session will give an overview, as well as some strategies to “take control” of your Facebook profile.

The Gamification of Learning: May 1 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

Wondering what’s next in education? This recent TED talk by Jane McGonigal, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”, has helped propel the idea of game-based-learning or gamification of learning into educational conversations around the world. Watch the talk and see how we’re implementing this kind of learning environment in certain classes here at YIS.

Summer Fun with Technology: June 5 from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Cafeteria

This will be our last Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning session for this school year. We’ll explore fun and collaborative tools like VoiceThread, GarageBand, blogging, and more to find ways to help your child continue to develop his or her technology skills this summer – and to share the fun you’re having with your family and friends.

Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning: Summer Fun with Technology

This morning was our last official Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning of the year. Thanks to our dedicated group of core parents who braved the rainy weather today to discuss ideas for summer fun with technology!

As we’re getting ready to think about summer break, there are tons of fun ways to help your child use his/her laptop creatively this summer (i.e.: not just for social networking). To get us started thinking, we watched this episode in the PBS series “Off Book“:

Although this might not be considered “art” in the traditional sense, technology has enabled the development of a huge variety of new and constantly growing and changing mediums. The skills demonstrated in this video are the kinds that we’re working towards here at YIS: innovation, creativity, communication, expression, collaboration and influence. Watching this video, it’s exciting to think about the innovative and creative ways that people all around the world are using technology to create art – and then to share it with a global audience.

Here are a few ways you can encourage your child to create, connect and share this summer too:

Regular blogging

All students in middle and high school have their own blog on The Learning Hub. We are encouraging students to use this space as their own personal learning environment, to publish posts about topics that are interesting to them, to write their own stories, to share ideas and resources they find interesting. The posts on their blog do not need to be exclusively posts written for school (although, of course, they should all be posts that are appropriate to be read/watched/listened to in school).

So, students can use their blogs this summer to:

  • Share stories of their travels
  • Upload a picture a week, and share a story that relates to that picture
  • Free write their own story, or collaborate with a friend to write an interconnected story using links
  • Embed videos they create or videos of places they’ve been
  • Read other student blogs (or other blogs that are interesting to them) and leave comments
  • Write posts related to the comments they’ve made on other blogs, or inspired by comments on their blog

Basically, any time they spend blogging is time reading, writing, thinking, and connecting.

Create a family vacation VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a fantastic tool for sharing images (or video, presentation slides, or .pdf documents) and recording several voices talking about each image. Here’s a great introduction to VoiceThread to see what it’s all about:

All students at YIS should already have a VoiceThread account, but if, for some reason your child can not access their own, you can create an account for free. Once you have an account you can:

  • Create a VoiceThread about a summer trip with everyone in the family collaborating to choose the photos and record their thoughts.
  • Create a VoiceThread about what you did and where you went here in Yokohama.
  • Make a book or movie trailer.
  • Create a project idea, like: finding math in everyday life, or teaching how to do something that you’re passionate about.

Basically, you can create a VoiceThread about anything, and the exciting part is that other people can watch and add their comments too! VoiceThread is great for starting conversations.

Use GarageBand or iMovie to Create a Vodcast or Video

All of the YIS students have created a podcast or video at some point at YIS, it would be fun to use some familiar tools to make something creative and fun, like this fantastic video created by our PE Department this week:

Creating a multimedia project with a theme is a great way to keep a project going for the whole summer. Here’s a great example of a “regular guy” named Matt, who made dancing around the world his job:

As you can see, there are tons of ways to be creative and use your laptop for fun, engaging and entertaining ways this summer! Creating something unique uses tons of essential skills like critical thinking, project-planning, innovation, and collaboration.

Have fun! And don’t forget to spend some time outside, talking, reading, running and playing too!

Thanks so much to our amazing parent community for attending these sessions so frequently, just wanted to share one bit of feedback that arrived in my inbox today from one of our regulars (a special thank you for this!):

Thank you so much for hosting parent tech coffee mornings every month!  I had so much to learn this year. These coffee morning kept me up to date in tech skills with my son.  I look forward to attending more Tech Coffee mornings to learn something new next year!

Our Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings will start up again next September, watch this space for our schedule for the year.

Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning: Facebook

As a follow up to our popular Living with Laptops session in late March, this month’s Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Morning focused on Facebook, and in particular the privacy settings. To get us started, we watched a Common Craft video that highlights the advantages of social networking (and there are many!):

After watching we brainstormed the way social networks have enabled us to connect more regularly with friends and family. Here are a few highlights:

  • Reconnecting with old friends from high school, and discovering that the connections we have between each other are more diverse than we initially thought.
  • Sharing photos with family and friends around the world.
  • Being aware of what our children are talking about and who they are friends with online.
  • Staying informed after the earthquake last year.

Although we could see that there were many benefits to being connected in this way, there were a few questions raised as well, particularly the issue of privacy:

  • Who can see what I post?
  • Is what I post searchable online?
  • What if someone posts something I don’t like?
  • Who else can see items I’m tagged in?

As anyone who uses Facebook knows, one of the most challenging features is the rapid changes in the privacy and account settings. Here’s a great visual example that clearly demonstrates the changes in privacy policies during 2005 – 2010. Because they’re changing so frequently it can be hard to stay on top of the settings, to make sure you are only sharing with the people you want to share with.

So, it’s important to keep checking back to your privacy settings to make sure that they are how you want them. Here’s the tutorial from Facebook (the most likely to be updated), but you can always search for tutorials online as well.

However, even though the settings change frequently it’s important to know that:

You control who sees your posts. You can limit who sees your posts to specific people, or groups of people, just by creating lists or blocking individuals. For example, although I am friends with former students, they can only see what I post on my wall – not what my friends post. This is a simple way to limit who can see what.

You control how searchable your Facebook profile is – many parents (and students) have their profiles set to be searchable by Google, but don’t realize they do. The easiest way to check is to log out of all of your various accounts, and then search your own name on Google. If you see your FB profile as a result, click to see if you can actually see your profile (and how much you can see). All of these settings are customizable.

You always have the ability to delete posts and comments from your own wall. If someone posts something you don’t like, you can delete it. As you mouse over the comment or wall post, an “x” will appear in the right hand corner of that space. When you click on the “x”, you’ll have the option to delete (or just hide) that post. You can always control what appears on your wall.

Facebook has started adding new privacy controls for tagging. Now you can choose to have all photos and comments that you are tagged in “moderated” – meaning you have to approve them before they appear on your wall. This is a great way to stay more informed and aware of what’s being posted about you.

Overall, these settings can be complicated and confusing, but it’s worth checking back and keeping them updated. Even though this can be challenging, it’s worth having a FB profile for a few key reasons:

Most of your children are on FB. If you are planning to talk to them about how they share and what they share, it helps to have an idea of how it works.

If you are not in control of your online presence, someone else will be. This doesn’t mean you have to be constantly updating your profile or checking up on your friends, but it does mean you want to be the one who owns the FB account with your name. And, ideally, you want to see the things you share, the things that positively reflect you, when you Google your name. This is an essential part of having a positive online presence.

There are lots of great opportunities for connections, sharing and networking that tools like Facebook make even easier. You never know what opportunities or potentially important information you’ll be able to find by leveraging your network. This is an increasingly important skill in our digital world, and one that we are teaching the students as well.

Hopefully this session was an opportunity to explore the potential of social networking tools like Facebook. There are many more available, so we’ll be coming back to this topic again in the future.

Our next session will be Wednesday, 2 May from 9:15 – 10:15 in the Loft. Our topic will be Summer Fun with Technology! This will be our last Parent Technology & Literacy Coffee Morning session for this school year. We’ll explore fun and collaborative tools like VoiceThread, GarageBand, blogging, and more to find ways to help your child continue to develop his or her technology skills this summer – and to share the fun you’re having with your family and friends. Hope to see you there!