OMG! She can share our address & other scary stuff!

First of all, I am suppose to know all about digital citizenship, online safety, and ed tech stuff, for middle schoolers anyway. I manage the 1:1 program and Innovation Lab at my  middle school. So this is suppose to be my gig. Somehow, I dropped the ball…

My 6 year-old had been repeating our address and telephone number to me for a few days. She was testing herself to make sure she knew them. I celebrated with her every time she recited them correctly. As parents, we want our children to memorize their address and phone number for safety’s sake, right? She is now in first grade and knows “a lot more stuff” as she will proudly tell you. She is reading, writing, and becoming “the best” at math.  Math is her thing! She is going to be a scientist, who will travel in space! Her words, not mine! She loves school and hates to miss it. Snow days are not her favorite kind of days. She misses her teacher and her friends when she isn’t there. She loves learning and exploring! She is sunshine walking, I tell you! So every time she spelled our address from the backseat of our car I cheered her on! Not thinking anything of it.

Recently,  Sophia began playing a new online game. She was totally into Minecraft, but found this app with other games that is apparently “more fun”, it’s called Roblox! With Minecraft, I would hear her speaking to players online, but she wasn’t really interacting with them. If you have little ones, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s all about their pretend play. She would do the same when watching Youtube for Kids. Talking to the kids playing with the toys (I still don’t get this). She didn’t have “friends” on there. We had set the privacy settings so that we could manage who could send invites. Up until this point I hadn’t really considered that playing these online games would be a safety concern, because she couldn’t really read, write, or communicate in the message threads.

Well that has come to an end. She is capable of communicating and so are your kiddos!

I woke up one night shaking, in a sweat, thinking, my six year old can now communicate online. She is reading and writing proficiently! My GOD, she now knows our address!!!! OMG! OMG!!!!!! She was spelling it out in the backseat of the car! Was she sharing it with someone online??????? She could now share private information online!


I woke up and stumbled for her iPad, opened up the Roblox App and started going through all of the friends!


It may not seem like a lot to you or barely a drop in the bucket for a tween, but this was my 6 year-old. She didn’t know them, I didn’t know them. They all had avatars and I couldn’t tell you if they were kids or adults!


Then, I started going into the different games (so many games) to see if there were messages. Sure enough, messages galore in the games. I could only see the last few posts. I did not see any from my little ray of sunshine! However, there were players on, playing and messaging when I went into the games. It was past 1:00 in the morning people!!!! So, I went to the Chat section! The privacy settings were not private. Anyone could chat with her. She knows her address and phone number! She could have shared that with any of these so called “friends”!!!

I was freaking out!


I was nauseous, and I was totally convinced that someone was on their way to abduct my girl! I immediately changed the chat settings to private. Opened every game she had played in the last few days, and read the threads. She did not write anything, and there wasn’t anything in the chats. Still, I was freaking out! She had a ton of friend requests! Who were these players?????? Did she share any information in the past? I had to know right then, or I would not sleep. I woke her and asked her if she shared her address or phone number online. Of course, she said she was confused, it was 2 am by this time. I did not sleep for the rest of the night, steeling myself for the child abductor, who was absolutely on their way.

FINALLY, she woke the next morning and I asked her why she was practicing her address, and did she share it with anyone online? I tried to be nonchalant, so that I wouldn’t scare her, but deep down, I wanted her scared, or at least cautious! She said no, and that she wanted to see her house on Google Earth. I was relieved and then, another concern came over me. She could now SHOW people where we lived!

Please, please, please, grab that device and check the privacy settings, the messages, and chats!

I took some time at that very moment to explain about privacy and information, AND I keep circling back to it. If you have concerns, but don’t what to do, you should visit Common Sense Media to get some helpful hints on how to talk to your little ones about online safety!



An Introduction to Understanding Our Students’ Brains: Part One

Image Credit

Ugh, this blog has been in my back pocket for a while. My apologies for dragging my feet! This past fall, I was completing my Principal Practicum hours and getting our Innovation Lab going. First, I, in no way claim to be an expert in neuroscience. I am just sharing some very cool information I learned! So here it goes! In October, some colleagues and I from the Bristol Township Middle Schools attended a professional development session at the Franklin Institute, entitled Understanding the Brain. It’s the first of a series of brain researched professional learning opportunities developed for educators. The objective of the session was to help dispel and debunk some common neuromyths in order to identify the implications for classroom instruction.  

Before we can to take a look at the neuromyths, we need to consider the amygdala. The amygdala is part of Limbic System, located at the end of the hippocampus. There is a set of almond-shape neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe. The amygdala is responsible for the response and memory of emotions, especially fear. I personally consider it a rock star! If you don’t take the amygdala into consideration when teaching, you may not be as effective as you wish. Have you heard of the term “flight or fight”. Well, that response happens because of the amygdala. How it responds to emotion greatly determines whether learning will happen or not!

Priscilla Vail, an expert on learning, has described emotion as the “on-off switch to learning”. According to Mrs. Vail, when the switch is off, the system is dormant and only the potential for learning is available. When the switch is on, the pathway to learning is open. When the limbic system interprets sensory information and dispatches it to the cortex for processing, it sets the emotional tone of the information before it reaches the cortex. If the limbic system interprets the information as positive, it dispatches a message of purpose and excitement and directs our behavior toward a goal. When this happens, we become motivated to act; thinking and learning are enhanced. When the interpretation is negative, the switch is turned off and thinking and learning are stifled.” (Vail, 1994).

Hold up, shut the front door!!!!!!

I don’t know about you, but as an educator this is huge news! We can increase our students’ learning by connecting to them in positive ways, nurturing a safe environment, and providing fun experiences. This is huge! This is great! I can do this and so can the educators I work with! Cake! On the other hand, if they are feeling unsafe, and had negative experiences, or trauma, they will have great difficulty learning. You see if you are in a constant state of anxiety, fear, or stress, you are not able to learn. In the future we will need to explore and investigate trauma informed teaching.

Common Neuromyths

Neuromyth # 1

“We only use 10% of our brains?”

Our teachers learned about current research related to brain development, brain function, and debunked some myths (also known as neuromyths) about the brain. For example, did you know that we use all of our brain everyday, not the 10% everyone believes? Every portion of the brain is utilized in the minor and major things we do (unless there is some injury or other disformity). So let’s begin with a brief tour of the brain. Each part plays an integral role in our everyday functions. We will travel from the rear of the brain and move forward. At the rear of the brain is the occipital lobe. It is responsible for processing visual information. Next, is the cerebellum, which takes care of the actions we don’t seem to think about like, breathing, balance, and temperature regulation. Then, we move to the temporal lobe, which processes language and auditory information. Just above the temporal lobe is the parietal lobe, it is responsible for our processing of sensory information. In the very front of the brain is the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is responsible for planning, judgement, and executive functioning.


Neuromyth #2

“You are either right brained or left brained?”

Another brain myth is that we are either left brained or right brained, also known as hemispheric dominance. Some people believe that they are either left brained, which is characterized by being analytical, logical, practical, and organized.  People who believe they are right brained, describe themselves as being creative, intuitive, and emotional. Actually, each hemisphere of our brain is equally active. Both sides of the brain work together collaboratively.  There is no evidence of hemispheric dominance. You can read more about it here, in an article from Psychology Today.


Neuromyth #3

“There are multiple intelligences?”

Many educators have adopted the neuromyth that students were predominantly one intelligence style over another.  Multiple Intelligences, as described by Howard Gardner’s work in 1991 identified 7 different intelligences.

  • Visual Spatial
  • Bodily Kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Linguistic
  • Logical-Mathematical


Howard Gardner’s research didn’t define students learning styles, but described the teaching conditions that educators needed to provide for all students to make optimal connections while learning. However, educators have been duped into focusing on creating activities that are style centered, instead of brain centered. The human brain grows connections from novel experiences, emotional connections, and exposure to the various “multiple intelligences.” Howard Gardner differentiated between styles and intelligences. Howard Gardner’s goal was to challenge the belief that intelligence was predictive. He wanted to expose the nuances to intelligence and its ability to change based upon experiences. You can read more about what Howard Gardner says about his research and related myths here.

Neuromyth #4

“Our IQ never changes?”

As educators, and anyone who wants to develop their brain, we need to understand that the more connections we make (provide, encourage), the greater the learning. Our brains are capable of making lots and lots of connections! This is because of the wonderful neuron! A neuron is the specialized cell in the brain that transmits information. The information can either be electrical or chemical. The human brain has 86 billion neurons on average (some say 100 billion-research may dispute this number). Each of those neurons has the ability to be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, which can result in as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. I don’t know about you, but my mind is officially blown! So, this means we are all capable of learning, growing, and changing in a billion ways! Scientists call this neuroplasticity. Meaning the brain is not fixed, it can rewire itself or make new connections to expand or deepen learning.

Applications for the Classroom

Applying brain research to teaching practices-what makes sense?

Make Learning a Positive Experience!

Remember, when students are feeling positive emotions, the learning switch goes on. When students are feeling unsafe, threatened, or negative, the learning switch turns off. The inquiry approach creates more learning connections and encourages more positive emotions, therefore resulting  in more learning and memorable experiences. Maybe consider this checklist from Global Citizen to help you out:

The Safe Learning Environments Checklist

  1. Keep a clean and orderly classroom
  2. Allow students to be openly expressive and encouraging to others
  3. Celebrate student work in different ways
  4. Create a list of guidelines that are “law” (ex: no name-calling, bullying, etc.)
  5. Stay calm and in control always
  6. Practice useful failure and turn mistakes into learning opportunities
  7. Model kindness every chance you get
  8. Move around and interact with students, and create connection
  9. Be patient and smile
  10. Feel free to laugh with your students and be vulnerable
  11. Give kids choices on how they can do assignments


Connecting to Prior Knowledge:  

This allows the brain to sort and relate new knowledge to prior knowledge. That connection strengthens the learning. If the concepts can “fire” together, they are “wired” together. Connecting to prior knowledge encourages the information to move from short-term memory to long-term memory. Allow students to connect new learning to older concepts. Edutopia has some great suggestions to help tap into your students’ prior knowledge!

Make Learning Active:

Provide “hands-on” and “minds-on” learning opportunities. Allow for movement, problem-solving, and active participation. Inquiry Based, Problem Based Learning, and Challenged Based Learning are highly effective. Students have an opportunity to research topics of interest and personalize their learning outcomes.

Revisiting Concepts over Time and Contexts

Connect new learning to other concepts. Revisit the concepts to trigger the brain’s understanding that the concepts are important.  You know what they say, “use it, or lose it!”

Digital Leadership: Multimedia

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Digital Leadership Presentation

I feel like we just began this course. The end of the school year flew! I enjoyed the blogging the most. I always wanted to blog and reflect upon the practices and the innovative initiatives happening at our school, I just always said I was too busy. EDG 646 has forced me to reflect and create a blog. I am not sure I would have done so had it not been for this course. Sometimes we just have to put ourselves out there in order to get feedback, I find this to be the scariest part of blogging. Sharing your insights and reflections with others can put you in a vulnerable position. However, we don’t grow if we don’t take risks. I am going to continue to blog and connect with educators on Twitter. I am committed to being a lifelong learner, and digital media is an excellent tool for learning. I created a Haiku presentation to share my learning about Digital Leadership.

Check out my Hiakudeck Presentation! Lots to share about Digital Leadership and the new ISTE Standards!


Good Digital Citizens or Just Good Citizens?

“Digital Media can amplify the voices of the marginalized.”

Patricia Brown,  ISTE 2018

I am supposed to be discussing Digital Citizenship and creative and copyright usage in this blog post, and I will.  First, I want to talk about some other aspects of Digital Citizenship that were highlighted at this year’s ISTE  2018 keynote address. The ISTE 2018 Conference is described by ISTE as an opportunity to “immerse yourself in powerful ideas and inspirational speakers while connecting with innovative educators who share your passion for transformative learning.” If you ever have the opportunity to attend ISTE, DO IT! You will be inspired and connected with others who want to change the world. This year the keynote address was so relevant for what is happening in our country, with and to our children. So I am going to add a little to my original post because it just seems appropriate.

Besides making sure kids are safe online and teachers are using creative and digital content responsibly, we need to focus on creating responsible and empathetic digital citizens, or as I like to call them citizens because the digital world is a part of our world.  I am currently attending ISTE 2018 in Chicago. The first keynote session focused on the ISTE Standards for Digital Citizenship. Yes, there was a reference to being safe online, but an emphasis was placed on using technology to make our community (our world) better.  Yes, more of that, please! 

“Digital Citizenship is about using technology to improve their (students) community!”

Patricia Brown, ISTE 2018

Key Points about Digital Citizenship from ISTE 2018:

Must actively teach Digital Citizenship to ensure active and vibrant democracy for the future.

ISTE Standards for Digital Citizenship are more than a list of don’ts!

It really is a list of dos!

ISTE Standards for Educators

Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world. Educators:

3a Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.

3b Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

3c Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.

3d Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.


ISTE Standards for Students

Students recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical.

2a Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.

2b Students engage in a positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.

2c Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

2d Students manage their personal data to maintain digital privacy and security and are aware of data-collection technology used to track their navigation online.

Clearly, in this highly politicized and transformative environment, our students need to have the ability to recognize truth from fiction, which is essential to our society. We can’t teach it without some sort of context. We can tap into what they see and experience daily. Students are exposed to so much negativity. How can we help them process it? How can we help them find their voice, resources, and a way to contribute to our world? The digital world can be leveraged to support them and build them up to be responsible citizens of the world, not just good digital citizens. We need to make it our mission to facilitate their growth.

Now back to the original blog post…

Creative and Copyright Usage

Whenever I need to create a professional learning session for our teachers, I know that I will need to include a lot of digital media. Digital media and digital resources are staples in presentations, lessons, and activities. Teachers, students, and pretty much everyone we know expect to see media when learning. It is apart of everyday life. Digital media and digital resources make our information and messages more engaging, they make them come alive!  We want our teachers and students to share their knowledge and learning in a digitally socially responsible way. We need to support our learners in their journey in being responsible digital citizens. We as educators and leaders are charged with providing our learners; teachers and students with the correct method for using media and creative material.

In our middle school, our students are taught Digital Citizenship with Common Sense Media curriculum. Creative and Copyright Use are apart of the curriculum. Our students are gaining an understanding of what it means to be responsible in the digital age. We as educators need to emulate the expectations of a good digital citizen.

I am going to focus on modeling good digital citizenship for our teachers. Educators are very creative and are experts at developing engaging and interactive lessons and activities that integrate various media and digital sources. We want our educators to continue to be creative, but in a digitally responsible manner.

Personally, I have found the most effective way to support digital citizenship is to model the expected behavior. As an instructional coach and educational leader, there are numerous opportunities to do so. Whenever I host a professional learning session I use images from Creative Commons in my presentations.  It makes it easy to share and adapt work to include in your creations. Sometimes we can rely on the rule of “Fair Use”. Fair use is a trademark lawn that allows limited use of a creative property. Usually, it is acceptable if it is used for commentary or scholarship and/or it doesn’t replace the intended use of the original creation.

According to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy...

Teachers can:

  1. Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works and use them and keep them for educational use-
  1. Create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded-
  2. Share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded-

Learners can:

  1. Use copyrighted works in creating new material-
  2. Distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard-

Teachers can also use images that are considered copyright-friendly. I find the easiest way to do this is to adjust my Google Search to limit the images to common use for usage rights. Another way that I include images is to use my own photos or create images and graphics myself. I credit the images I use and request to share images of friends and colleagues.

When using music in a digital presentation, I use royalty free music from Ben Sound or Purple Planet. There are many choices that fit the theme of many projects and digital creations. Teachers can also access many online resources to curate digital material. The Media Education Lab has great resources that teachers can use in their content.

Recently, I worked with a group of students who created a video production about the technology in our school. We applied the above principles to our productions.

Tiger Tech Video

We made sure that we used our own photos, and royalty free music to create our video. It’s not quite finished, but it’s almost there!

Happy creating!



Creating Empowering PD

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There are less than 8 days left in the school year. It’s Friday afternoon, the kids are gone, and I am sitting amongst collected iPads and chargers. Every year at this time I am like, “That went by too fast!” As an Instructional Coach, manager of the Innovation Space and 1:1 Initiative, I feel that there was a lot accomplished this year. There are areas that still need development and tweaking. However, I am going to share the positive, because we need more of that!

As a district we have been focusing on being innovative. Innovative in our curriculum, our practice, our technology, and our learning communities. I am sure many districts are rethinking how they are delivering content and assessment in innovative ways. Here is what I can tell you from my personal experience, innovation requires everyone to be thinking about learning environments that are conducive to creating. The classroom is going to look different, learning will most definitely look different, and this all means PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SHOULD BE DIFFERENT! If we want our future learning to be different, today’s professional learning must be just as different.

This hangs in my bedroom to remind me of what I need to do!

Where do you begin? I think if you are truly interested in providing your students with a learning experience that is going to prepare them for a global economy, you need to facilitate the learning experiences with opportunities to seek problems and create solutions. We can’t expect our teachers to teach innovatively or creatively if we offer them professional development that is the same old same old, or mirrors the classroom of previous years.  Today’s students need to be empowered and engaged. Learning is not passive and never has been. Your professional development has to be engaging and empowering. You need to provide PD that is interesting, relevant, leverages technology and addresses the different learners. It’s kind of what we expect teachers to do, as educational leaders, we are charged with the same task. I’ll share with you how the other instructional coaches in my district and myself have created engaging and empowering PD, that allows for teacher choice and voice. Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s a start!

In our district, we provide our teachers with an EdCamp style of PD. First, we send out a survey to gauge what interests our teachers. Next, we recruit volunteers who are ready to share their experiences with the desired session topics. Teachers can sign up and attend sessions by other teachers in our district. We limit the sessions to about 40 minutes and allow teachers to move to other sessions. Yes, they get to move around! Check out this sample of our sessions. We have had great feedback from our staff. We try to facilitate our PD sessions in this format most of the time. In addition, we have allowed teachers to visit professional learning opportunities outside the district. We have a group of teachers attending the Pittsburg Fab Network 2018, and ISTE 2018 in Chicago.

George  Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity”   lists in his blog, The Principal of Change, some other factors to consider when developing PD.

  • Invite students and parents to your professional learning days. (Need to add this!)
  • Ensure staff leads sessions. (We do this!)
  • Give staff time to NOT attend sessions and collaborate with colleagues. (Need more of this!)
  • Look at the different environment to try them out. (We got this too!)
  • Time for health and well-being! (More of this, please!)

Again, we have room to grow and improve, but we are on our way. Hopefully, you can apply some of these methods for professional learning in your planning and facilitation. I know I will be suggesting some more collaboration and well-being initiatives for next year’s PD. I welcome your questions, share them in the comments. 

The Moral Imperative of Sharing

Eep-!! This blog is late! It’s the end of the school year and there are events every other day at my school and my kid’s schools. Throw in my dad having a heart attack, iPad collection, and today a softball tournament. Well it’s been busy, crazy, and I’m just sharing it ALL with you!  I think I share a lot, because I am a teacher, or am I a teacher because I like to share a lot? Ugh, I can’t do the philosophical gymnastic routine for that concept, especially tonight! What I do know is most teachers I know like to share!

The world of education has always been about sharing. Sharing ideas, resources, programs, current events, and the news. Teachers love to share, they are naturals at it. It IS what they do, pretty much all day long. Many educators want to share more. Any time I put out a survey for professional development, the teachers request time to share with their colleagues.

Why is sharing so important? Why are teachers compelled to share? Is it an obligation? How does it ultimately help our students? How can we support sharing and adding to the greater body of knowledge?

Collaboration is key! Sharing ideas, procedures, and the practice and art of teaching, helps us as educators and ultimately our students.

Where and with whom do we share?  If you’re a GAFE (Google Apps For Education) School, Google  makes it possible. Google docs, sheets, forms, videos, and blogs are great places for sharing and collaboration. Google Plus Communities venture into the Social Media world. However, the community members have to be invited or approved. It’s a great way to share information in a monitored environment.  At our middle school, our principal has created a Google Plus Community for our parents and teachers. Teachers, staff, and building administrators can post information to the community for the parents and guardians of our students.  Events, assignments, activities, athletics, and daily pictures of classroom activities can be posted. Families are invited virtually into the building, thus creating a sense of community and improving relations. As an educator you can join educational communities to gather resources and share experiences.

Another great way to access resources and information about teaching is to follow other educators on Twitter. This allows for global collaboration and sharing. This past fall I facilitated a Professional Development (PD) at our school about using Twitter for Professional Learning and Professional Growth. Why Twitter? Well, it’s personalized. You can follow topics and tweets that are relevant to your content area, grade level, or interests, You can check the tweets at your convenience. You are not relegated to an assigned seat at a PD session in your district, it’s on your time, when you want it. Think of it as Professional Learning On Demand!

The Twitter PD was well received. Many of my colleagues signed up for Twitter that day. In fact, some had trouble verifying their accounts, because  so many teachers were signing up with the same email ending. I was hopeful that my fellow educators were going to jump on and Tweet and share about their expertise, experience, and knowledge and maybe even their classes. We have rock star teachers, who do great stuff!!! Some did! We always have those early adopters who want to experiment and try things out. But, for most, they became stalkers at first, and then slowly began to tweet. Stalking is fine! As an educator you can gather a great deal of knowledge and access resources by stalking. But there is even more learning in sharing! There is even more value in adding to the body of knowledge! Why?

When we are contributing to the greater body of knowledge and accessing it as a resource, we become networked with other educators, sharers, and leaders. The networked teacher is learning forward. Adult learners need a variety of resources to be actively engaged. They need to demonstrate their voice and choice. Using social media allows them to be engaged, self-directed, and reflective about their learning and practice. The reflection is MAGIC! When do we, as educators really get to think and process how a particular lesson, activity, or day went? Maybe for five minutes in the car on the way home? It certainly is not enough. Sharing opens you up to feedback, comments, and others’ perspectives. This enriches the teaching practice. Think of it as a dance! Sure you can dance by yourself, but you can have more fun dancing with others.

Social Media can be intimidating if you are not use to it, or understand who can see your tweets. I think this may be the culprit for may educators not tweeting. I use my Twitter account primarily for education related topics. I don’t post my personal opinions, politics, or events from my vacations. I keep it focused on education. This helps me connect with other like minded educators. Educators have valid reasons for being concerned about social media, however keeping it focused on education will help you to self monitor your tweets.

Tweeting Tips

So where do you begin? Besides checking out my Twitter PD Presentation, you can also follow the recommendations on They have a great Teacher’s Guide for Using Twitter. If you don’t know  who to follow, try following  other Educators. We Are Teachers has a great list for educators to follow.  


Good luck, and I hope I see you in the Twitterverse!