Have you read the terms of use??

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There is nothing better than walking into my local grocery store, or better yet, an Apple Store and getting the “Welcome Don” greeting on my phone. I get the newest specials and deals right as I walk in the door. I think most realize that this type of personalization comes with a price…a lack of privacy. As an adult, I have consciously decided to allow certain stores and apps to track my movements so I can get this personalized service. Privacy is a different monster all together for the students in our schools. There are both state and federal regulations that govern when we can provide and how we use student data. As a technology integration specialist, I work with both the technology and curriculum departments. I love having a foot in both because I can be that bridge between the back end of the tech side and what teachers need to do their jobs. One of my roles is to help monitor all of the privacy policies for the numerous apps that are requested and eventually pushed out to all of the 3,000+ student iPads.

When I first started in this role, I had to dig into the Terms of Service as well as the privacy policies for each app developer. It was overwhelming! I would try to catch all the nuances of the various policies, but we eventually decided to go with a company that would do the details work. We chose Education Framework. This company does a wonderful job, but I find myself not actually reading the privacy policies anymore because someone else does. As I work to complete my ISTE Certification, one of the assignments is to explore the policies of some of the apps that we use. 

My district uses Buncee, Seesaw, Flipgrid, and Edpuzzle quite heavily. What did I find as I explored the user agreements and privacy policies? It was not surprising that all four of these services take privacy and data sharing seriously. All four of them are signatories of the Student Privacy Pledge (the pledge). In a nutshell, the signers of the pledge agree not to collect student information beyond what is needed for the service to work. They also agree to not sell or disclose information to outside sources for the purpose of advertising. Those of us entrusted to judge educational services should be happy to see the companies with whom we work willing to sign this type of commitment. The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) is another certification that checks for compliance to state and federal regulations. My research shows that Buncee and Edpuzzle have that certification. After this research, I am confident that these products are keeping student data safe and private.

Teachers sometimes ask for access to services that are not set up to deal with educational institutions. I want to make it clear…I am not saying these are bad companies, they just don’t have the focus on education. One of those products is Bitmoji. Who doesn’t love to be able to share their likeness in the form of these cartoon-type characters? Their user agreement clearly states that the service should not be used by children 13 years of age…period. In addition, my district does not allow access to it at school for those older than 13 because the privacy policy states that information is shared with several entities, many of whom aren’t specified. Adults can decide to create an account with Bitmoji, but students can’t, nor should they, be allowed to create accounts that could potentially provide personal data to other entities. A parent might allow it, but the school can’t be a part of that agreement because of the risk of the violation of student privacy laws.

So what’s the point of all of this. Mostly it is awareness. If you are an educator who has had an app/service denied that you would like to use with your students, there might be a good reason for that denial. On the other hand, before submitting an app/service for approval, do some homework on the privacy and terms of service policies. If you find that they have signed the Student Privacy Pledge and/or are certified by iKeepSafe, include that in your request. 

#OneWord2020

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2020 makes the 3rd year that I have taken part in the #OneWord movement. I have found that condensing my goals for the year into one specific word is a great way to self-reflect on where I have been and where I want to go. It is one word…no mantra or goal statement to remember. It is a more natural way to always keep my word on my mind. I continue to come up with a guiding word because it has worked! 2018 my word was CREATE and create I did. 2019 was DISSONANCE. My whole goal with PD was to get people thinking about what they believed versus how they ran their classrooms.

My #OneWord2020 is EMPOWER. In my position as a technology integration specialist, it is easy to get into a rut of putting out fires related to tech problems. I will continue to do that, but my goal is to also be sure to work closely with teachers and administrators to make them feel like they can start to make empowered instructional decisions. The issue with starting a conversation with the other party having a problem that has to be solved is that there is a problem that has to be solved! Usually, that problem has to be solved pretty quickly so that a lesson or unit can run smoothly. Many times, I solved the problem, and the other party is grateful beyond belief. It is a good feeling, but it doesn’t do much to empower the person with whom I was working. In fact, sometimes the other person feels deflated because of the feeling that they couldn’t solve the problem.

Empowerment is a feeling that comes from a place where you feel confident to try new things. I don’t think I have been a force of empowerment for many of the teachers with whom I work. The feeling of relief and/or gratefulness are not the same as empowerment. The empowered educator feels confident in trying new things and asks for someone to offer feedback and suggestions. Don’t get me wrong, I do have that relationship with some teachers, but my goal is for that number to grow. The “trick” will be to not only be there to help solve the problem but to follow up regularly about how things went. These follow up meetings are where the best learning takes place because I can help walk them through some self-reflection about the lesson. The more we self-reflect, the more that we can feel empowered to make tweaks and improvements to what we are doing.

Here’s to a great 2020!

 

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Thanks to Heather Lippert for this reminder of my #OneWord2020! #4OCFpln 

 

The Domino Effect

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I know that I can be persistent. Some might even call me annoying. My goal over the last five years as a Technology Integration Specialist has been to get educators out of their bubble by making contact with educators outside of the city/state/region where they teach. While some educators took me up on my offer to help them connect, most of the times my pushing was met with quite a bit of resistance.

“I don’t have time for it.”

“How do I know the people I make contact with are good teachers?”

“Social media is stupid.”

“What I have been doing has worked so far.”

Thankfully, I have continued to be persistent/annoying because this year has been different. More teachers and administrators in my district have been taking to Twitter and Voxer to get outside of their bubble. I beam with pride (sort of like a proud poppa) when I see these new interactions on a variety of social media platforms. Consider these examples…

  • The 7th-grade math teacher who wants to flip his classroom began Voxing with the author of Tech with Heart, Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) about her nine years of experience with flipping her math classes. There are no other “experts” on flipping a math classroom in my district, so Stacey has provided reflective, just-in-time answers to his questions. I sense his increased confidence level with every interaction.
  • The 3rd-grade teacher, Kelley Friedrich (@KelleyFriedric1), who wants to change up what and how she does things is getting involved in Twitter and making connections in order to learn more about topics like #geniushour. Kelley also wondered if there was a better way than charts and points to handle discipline in the classroom. I helped her make connections with Elizabeth Merce (@EMercedLearning), founder of #DitchtheClips, to discuss her experiences and expertise in social-emotional learning (#SEL) with early primary students. These conversations have taken place on Twitter and Voxer.
  • The high school social studies teacher, Jaclyn Smith (@JaclynSmith21), who wants to rework her classes to better meet the needs of her students is jumping into Twitter and Voxer to make connections with others who are on the same journey. I have had more contact with her on Voxer and Twitter this summer than I was able to have most of the last school year! That goes to show you that social media can connect people who aren’t all that far apart.
  • The elementary administrator, Michelle Peterson (@mbpeterson719), who was on Twitter but didn’t do much with it (she didn’t even have a profile picture) is now becoming an active contributor. She has also jumped into Voxer to have discussions with Jacyln Smith about the recent Strobel Summit sessions (@strobeled, #StrobelSummit). Imagine that…a high school teacher and elementary administrator having a discussion about teaching and learning!
  • The high school counselor( now elementary principal), Stephanie Brown (@brownfamoffive), who has gone from an inactive to active Twitter contributor also made the leap to Voxer. She is now an actively contributing member of the #4OCFpln on Voxer. This group has been a game-changer for me professionally! She jumped right into the new platform and is not only active in that group but brings her #SEL and trauma-informed instruction expertise to the group members. She even joined forces with two other #4OCFpln members (@jchandlerteach and @jmartinez727) to offer a Voxer book study on The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog.
  • The kindergarten teacher, Haley Veldhuizen (@HaleyVeldhuizen) who is new to Twitter but is jumping in with both feet! She has used this new medium to share her learning as well as finding resources for incorporating Seesaw (@Seesaw) into her classroom next school year. I can only imagine how she will use Twitter to share out about her class next school year!

Social media may have its faults, but it can and is used for good. If you are reading this and don’t consider yourself very connected, find something for which you are passionate and connect with others who share that same passion. If you are a connected educator, reach out to others (be persistent/annoying) and help them experience the power that connecting with others through social media can have on your classroom, students, and you as a professional. This is the domino effect…you push others, they get involved, and they push others to do the same. The end result is the positive impact that all of these professional connections will have on students!

Don Sturm

@sturmdon on Twitter

@dsturm823 on Voxer

Personalized Hashtags

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In my position, I spend a lot of time trying to convince educators to get connected by using Twitter and/or other social media platforms. Most of the time I tout the connections that can be made and how those newly formed connections can help to transform classrooms and schools. This blog post isn’t about all of those critical reasons but how to use hashtags as a way to document and retrieve what you are doing in the classroom.  I recently attended an EdCamp in Central Illinois and was in a session discussing the need for and importance of connecting with others on social media. I didn’t need to be convinced, but when I mentioned the beauty of a service called Wakelet in being able to gather Tweets to help others see the power of connections, the light bulb starting going off. Simply put, Wakelet is a curation tool that allows you to add PDFs, links, images, Youtube videos, and Tweets all in a visually striking way. Here is an example of a Wakelet I made to show others the benefits of Seesaw. I started thinking about how teachers could leverage the power of hashtags to demonstrate their professional growth. I also need to give some credit to Carrie Bauchcum for helping me think through my ideas.

Hashtags are a way of categorizing information on social media sites like Twitter. While some users craft hashtags that are funny and sometimes only for one time use, consistent hashtags are a powerful way of being able to find information. Going to Twitter and searching #GrowthMindset will provide you with a plethora of information about the topic. Results might include GIFs, blog posts, images, etc. and can serve as a starting point for an exploration into this topic. My thought…what if we used personalized hashtags (#personalizedHT) to share information that we want to show others about what we are doing in our classroom and/or school?

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There is probably a familiarity with the Danielson Framework as many districts use this model for teacher evaluations. Teachers are asked to provide specific evidence under each of the domains to help evaluators rate their overall efficacy. I think it is a common practice to leave this evidence gathering process to the last moment and then frantically try to gather what is needed for the summative evaluation. Imagine for a moment teachers working throughout the year to capture this evidence and sharing out the story of their classroom and pedagogy using Twitter. Each post could have a school hashtag as well as a personalized hashtag (#PersonalizedHT). I might post an image of a group of students effectively using the flexible seating in my room. Adding a hashtag like #sturm2e would record this as a piece of evidence for Domain 2e- Organizing Physical Space. This process would continue throughout the year and might include personal reflections, uploaded videos, self-reflections posts using an app like Periscope. The important part is that each Tweet is “coded” with at least one domain based on a specific personalized hashtag. Just a quick note on hashtags–No one owns them so if you come up with something really catchy, others can use it. Bland and boring might be a good rule of thumb for these hashtags.

Enter Wakelet. I love it because you can link your Twitter account to the service and pull in Tweets by account or hashtag. The person viewing the shared Wakelet does not have to have a Twitter account to be able to see the Tweets you have added. You see where I am going with this?? Create a Wakelet for each domain and every week or so (Twitter only allows Tweets to be searched 2 weeks back on Wakelet, though you can search for and add individual Tweets at any time while in Twitter) and do a search for the hashtags that corresponds to the relevant domain. This evidence is not limited to Tweets. You can add other items to the Wakelet to help present an accurate, real-world portrayal of you as a professional.  Each Wakelet can be shared using a link with anyone needing to see the information.

I am excited to start using #PersonalizedHTs to document my learning and growth as an educator. How do you see them being used for yourself?

Don Sturm (@sturmdon)

The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags

Wakelet: A how-to guide for the skeptical educator

The Educator’s Guide to Wakelet

The Box

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When I read The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros three and a half years ago, I remember the change that happened within me. This guy was speaking to me about ideas that I had been thinking about for a number of years but couldn’t articulate nearly as well. The concept of innovating within the box was particularly intriguing. It became my overarching philosophy as I worked with teachers and administrators to make school a more relevant place for students. Innovating within the box made sense and was an easier sell. Common sense says that we cannot change ingrained systems overnight, but we can make changes within the box of school as it now exists. I would work with teachers to try to make their lessons a bit more innovative but still inside the box. This was my role…little changes that might start the ball rolling to bigger, more impactful changes.

I am in no way bad mouthing the idea of innovating within the box, but I do think that we need to start to think more about that pesky box. Since reading The Innovator’s Mindset, I have encouraged others to tip the box on end, turn it around, turn it upside down, etc. This has caused some teachers to think about changing their practices, but ultimately after all these changes, we are still left with a box. The eyes of some teachers have been opened to the oppressiveness of this box. For example, changes to age-old grading practices have been attempted but, ultimately, grades still have to be given. The hope of getting students to see that grades are not everything might work for that semester, but they will move on to the next grade level and/or subject matter and back come traditional grading practices. The students are still in that box!

 

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So what do we do? I have spent a lot of time this year thinking about that box which is school. I even picked dissonance as my #OneWord2019 to match with this idea of genuinely starting to question what schools and education should look like in the future. The goal of creating dissonance within teachers, administrators, students, and community members is that we can start to experiment with truly outside the box ideas. Ultimately, I think we need to start making the box look less like a box. Maybe start by cutting a hole in the box so that outside the box thinking can enter. Remove one side of the box so it looks less like a box. One way that I try to help others deconstruct the box is by running deep dive professional development opportunities where the goal is to force participants to think about what it looks like outside of that comfortable box in which we have been functioning for so many years. Topics include taking a hard look at issues like grading and assessment practices, student compliance, and the role of student voice and choice. How do you encourage outside the box thinking?

Don Sturm @sturmdon

2018…Professionally the Best Year Yet!

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As I take some time to reflect on 2018, it is apparent to me that this was the best year of my career. Other than a couple of years where I struggled to get a hold on the stresses of being a teacher, my career really has been a positive one, but this year was a particularly good one!

One reason is that I am finally comfortable with my position as a technology integration specialist after five years. When I was hired to be a tech integration specialist, I was thrown into a new 1:1 iPad initiative that meant learning on the job… every day! I always felt like I was behind the curve and was reacting to situations rather than looking ahead as I was used to doing in my classroom. As my district has become more comfortable with iPads, my position has turned into more of an instructional technology coaching position. This is where my passion lies, helping teachers to provide students a relevant education. Teachers view me as more than just a tech resource and contact me for instructional advice, rather than just a technology issue.

One huge impact on my 2018 has been the #4OCFpln of which I am an active member. This is a Voxer group that I was introduced to by Louie Soper (@mr_middle_2 ). I was in a direct message conversation with Louie and another social studies teacher about the idea of standards-based grading. During this conversation, Louie messaged me and said he had this “think tank” that I should consider joining. It has honestly been the best professional decision of my career. This group of passionate educators who I talk (yes, Voxer is a walkie-talkie app) with everyday challenges my beliefs and make me strive to be a better, more informed educator. I have had more rich educational discussions since I joined in May than I have had throughout my whole teaching career.  This group is truly a family. Many of us are going to present at ISTE19 on the power of Voxer and social media connections, and we are all staying together in Philadelphia!

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I have read more this year than I ever have. In fact, I think as I write this, I am on target to read 54 books. This surpasses my goal of completing 50 books in 2018. Most of these books have been non-fiction books focused on instructional strategies and education related topics. While I have always been a reader, it has been the Voxer book studies that have upped my reading game. This online, asynchronous book study group was started by the founder of #4OCFpln Matt Larson (@mlarson_nj ) and Ricardo Garcia (@rokstar19). We conduct an in-depth study of one book a month. Invariably, each of the discussions brings up other books that “need” to be read. I am much more knowledgeable about the profession of teaching as a result of this book study group and my reading habit. 

Lastly, my #OneWord2018 was CREATE, and create I did. One of my goals is to get teachers and students to realize the importance of creation using technology, not just consumption. As has been part of my position from the start, I continue to create tutorial videos for both students and teachers to help navigate the ever-changing world of technology. I create graphics with a quote of the day every day using Buncee (@Buncee ). This year also saw the creation of new professional development options that I call deep dives. These deep dives posit teachers into situations and discussions where they hopefully start to think deeply and reflectively about education topics. These deep dives have covered topics like assessment, grades, student engagement, creativity, and student voice and choice. I am also in the midst of writing a chapter and vignette for a member of #4OCFpln (@Rdene915 ) who is publishing a couple of books in the near future. While I am hoping they are good enough to be included, the process of writing down my thoughts about the changing nature of education over my career has been a valuable self-reflection exercise. In the wings is a podcast series with a 4th-grade student discussing books that she will choose. I am excited about this new endeavor because it does involve working directly with a student and sharing our joy of reading.

I am looking forward to starting 2019 with all of the positive habits of 2018. My new #OneWord2019 is dissonance. Getting educators to consider what education should look like for students in 2019 versus the current reality is an important step in making our schools better and more relevant for students. Here is to a great 2019!

Don Sturm

It Takes Time

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As I talk and work with those in positions to influence others, I am struck by the concern expressed that the change they are promoting isn’t happening fast enough. I get it…I have felt that way many times in the past. Honestly, I feel that way on a weekly basis. I think it is human nature to want to see the fruits of our labor as quickly as possible; however, it is also important for those wanting change to keep in mind that it does take time!

One way of looking at the issue of impact is to consider the simple graphic above. I am a space race fanatic and often think about those mathematicians and engineers in mission control during the lunar missions. If the mathematical calculations were off by one degree we would have missed the moon. One degree doesn’t seem like much but it is a big deal when amplified over 250,000 miles. A more relatable example of this would be if you have ever done a home improvement project. A “minor” eighth of an inch mistake at the beginning of a project will end twenty foot later as a giant mistake that might not be easily fixed.  What if we think about educational change in this way but with a positive spin? It may not seem like the ideas and suggestions you are promoting are having an instant impact but consider what your school/classroom might look like after some period time has passed. That change you promoted gets implemented in a few classrooms, those students move to the next classroom, more teachers are indirectly impacted, those teachers decide to make a change and,  before you know it, real change has happened.

There is some educational change that is much needed right now. I am not suggesting that we throw our hands up and wait for time to pass for each and every change, but it is also wise to remember the idea of change growing exponentially. A few strategic, small changes now might start the ball rolling for real, lasting, and necessary change to our educational system in the future.