What I Learned About Internet Safety

Once again, I find myself torn as an educator parent living in this world of technology.  I want to allow my child freedom to learn about all that interests her using technology and trust her actions, but I do not want to have certain discussions with an 8-year old.

Long story short – after much debating, researching, and long term thinking….we surprised our daughter with her own Chromebook!  It is white, so she calls it Snow White. 🙂 So precious.

Very quickly I realized I needed make sure our knowledge of internet safety was the same!  Here is what is so very hard for me.  As an educator,  I preach (and I really have, to many other parents and teachers) that we cannot shelter our kids from this.  It is not going away.  We must teach them how to search responsibly and how to act, not react, when they do stumble across an ad that isn’t so nice. We need to TEACH them these things from the very beginning.

I feel safe search sites are set up to do their job.  I feel kids who know what to do and how to act responsibly will know how to properly use the internet.  I feel kids deserve our trust in them.  We cannot control their every move in real life when they are not with us.  Right?! I have followed this philosophy with my kids in class and we have never had a problem! Really. So, I will keep on preaching.

Then it happened!

When your child is searching what her name means on a kid safe search engine site, you would not think urban dictionary would pop up as a top site choice, but it did…and she chose it. As we all went about cleaning up the kitchen, unaware of this, she began reading aloud what other names meant.  I then realized, it was time to have a deeper lesson on the topics of internet searching, safety, media literacy, and all of the above.  And quite honestly, it scares me as a MOM, not an educator.  I had to find a way to protect my little girl as much as I can, while educating her on how to search effectively, while also allowing her freedom to search topics of interest without choices that are inappropriate showing up.  Is that too much to ask?  😉 We already have a house rule of using computer/iPad in same room as grown up, but when she is on a kid safe site….you just don’t think twice. Until now.

So, here is what I solidified in this lesson:
1.  You cannot be there all the time to hold their hand and protect them from everything, but you can teach them how to respond in situations. I use www.commonsensemedia.org regularly for lessons and tips.

2.  You cannot control everything, BUT you can monitor closely!  I stumbled across this great resource. http://www.omgchrome.com/a-parents-guide-to-supervised-users/

Call this control or whatever you want,  but I call it smart and the perfect answer for this mom of an 8 year old baby girl who likes to research because she is curious about life! It allows me to monitor her searching, restrict certain sites if needed, while letting her have the freedom of searching and growing as a responsible digital citizen.

I plan to hold tight to my beliefs on the importance of:
1. being present with students as they are learning how to search the worldwide web effectively.
2. teaching students how to act responsibly when things do pop up.
3. educating students how to be media literate and how to evaluate sites and resources.

Reflecting on The Innovator’s Mindset – Part 1

This quote pretty much sums up why I blog, and it is worth mentioning because as I read through George Couros’s book, The Innovator’s Mindset, I will write about what sticks out to me and how I am connecting to his book. I write to deepen and secure my own learning. I write to clear my mind. I write so that I won’t forget.

I pretty much was like a kid on Christmas morning when I knew my book was delivered!  I was able to sit down and read only a little bit before it was time to run to a kid Halloween party, and then deal with The Dramatic Costume Crisis of 2015. (Just a little embarrassed to say it was my costume crisis, not my child’s!)   Fortunately, I was able to dive into it the next day, and read Part I: Innovation in Education.

In an attempt to follow the advice in the book, I am going to put myself out there and take a risk by choosing to publicly write my reflections/responses to one question from the chapters. Yikes! These questions are only a tiny look at the reflecting George encourages you to do at the end of the chapter. I LOVE his idea of having these at the end of the chapter.  It is through these reflection questions that we can have discussions and take action to create opportunities for innovation. These are from his book and I have quoted exact statements, so I hope if George is to read this one day, he is okay with me sharing. 🙂 I will assume so since they are out there on his blog and will be discussed in #PISDbkclub come January.

Ch.1

  • What has changed in our world today that not only makes innovation easier to do, but is also necessary for our students?
  • I am amazed at the opportunities to connect with others that have opened up for educators and students in the recent years.  Where in the past we may have had ideas to make things better, they just stayed in our room with us behind closed doors. We might have told a friend, if we had time.  Now, you can ask a question on a blog, Twitter, FB, email, Skype, Hangout….and within minutes you have a list of different ways to implement this from people who have done it and worked out the kinks.  Why would we NOT use this to our advantage?  I also think that innovation (defined by George as a way of thinking that creates something new and better) naturally happens when we think about our students!  Why not ask them for feedback on how to make a lesson better?  This idea of making the learning relevant for our students is what is necessary. They need to be able to THINK and CREATE.  They are our future. I can’t think of any better reason than that. Just a little pressure to develop the innovator’s mindset, that’s all!
Ch.2
  • How do we take what we currently have to create a better education system for our entire community?
  • I was recently discussing this idea with some fellow educators.  Some will say that in education all we do is try one thing, throw it out for the next thing that comes along until it doesn’t work and then try something else.  This is not about trying something else.  The book clearly shares how it’s about always asking ourselves, “Is there a better way?”  It all starts with empathy.  If we put ourselves in our students’ shoes, I bet we would look for ways to make things better every day. And friends…this is not a bad thing!  I hope to always ask, “Is there a better way of teaching this that is more empowering, more exciting, and so meaningful to their life it will stick with all learners?” until my teaching days are over.  Hold on…don’t worry, I probably will still ask these questions when I am retired.  🙂 easily connected this to my own daughter.  She is a third grader now.  This is THE YEAR!  You know it..testing starts and all teachers feel additional stress, which really saddens me, and every other teacher and parent you know.  This is when teachers start to feel the need to use teaching strategies that produce the scores and not necessarily create innovative cultures or empower students. (Please understand, this is a very generic blanket statement I know and it is not to be viewed as judgemental. I have never taught a testing grade, thank goodness, and so I am simply stating my thoughts from discussions with these teachers.)   We need to share the innovator’s mindset with our policymakers, voters, parents, teachers, students, and everyone!  Spreading the knowledge of our education approaches and developing this mindset will create a better education system because we will all understand the importance and urgency of this shift for our future.  (Alright, soapbox over.)    
Ch.3
  • How do you exhibit the innovator’s mindset in the learning and work that you do currently?
  • Here is the illustration from George’s blog that explains the innovator’s mindset so well.  I am sure many of you have seen it. I have these characteristics as a board in my room so my students can look at these daily and we can discuss the vocabulary word, examples of these characteristics, and even discuss which ones we aim to have.
This was MY FAVORITE part of the first section, so I have to share my key thoughts from each section!
  • Empathetic – Always ask, “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom.” This makes it real.  Who are we really doing this for?
  • Problem Finders – It’s crucial to not give the problem to kids, but teach them to look for this and be self-starters.
  • Risk Takers – “Risk is necessary to ensure we are meeting the needs of each unique student.”  Perfectly stated, Mr. Couros. 🙂 Another soapbox of mine.  It comes down to our kids deserve it!
  • Networked – The book talks about surrounding yourself with people who actively share ideas because it makes everyone smarter. I also think it makes us take more risks because we feel supported. Cannot say enough this is why I love my Digital Divas group! 
  • Observant – Love the idea that “sometimes the most valuable thing you get from your network isn’t the idea, but the courage to try something new.”  So true for me.  
  • Creators – The part in the book that discusses creating something helps make a personal connection and deepen learning is SPOT on!  Who doesn’t grasp something better when we use our hands to write, sing a rap to remember some facts, or create a picture to remember a concept?! 
  • Resilient – This was my HEART of the chapter.  “As you push the edges of the norm with your innovative ideas, hold on to your conviction and passion.  If you don’t believe in your ideas, why would anyone else?”  I want to engrave this on something and hang it in my classroom!  
  • Reflective – LOVE the idea of Drop Everything and Reflect.  How often we neglect this, but how important it is for learning and growth!  
This is just the first part, and I could have written even more than I have in this novel.  I always try to walk away from a learning experience with a plan of action.  My plan of action from this first part is this:
I will continue to ask myself daily, “Is this what is best for this learner?”  
I will make sure my students love being in my class because I have reflected on, “Would I want to be in this class?”
I will hold on to my conviction and passion.  I solidly stand by my ideas and know I am doing what is best for kids
I will not let one answer of “no” knock me down to the point of not getting up to try something else to make it work.  
I will continue to surround myself around the people who share new ideas and try new things.

WHY?   Our Kids Deserve It!!
I can only imagine the next section is even better!  If you haven’t gotten this book yet, or read about it from the hype on Twitter or Amazon…you are missing out.  Go get it! 





 

Symbaloo – How to Organize It ALL

I often write about matters of the heart in education.  Well, today…here is my informative post of the week about a fabulous technology tool that will really save you T-I-M-E!

Lately, I have often been asked how I keep all of the websites I use, blogs I read, and district information organized.  I recently shared this amazing trick with the rest of the teachers in my building.  Are you ready?  It is..SYMBALOO! 🙂  I think many have seen this site, but not really utilized it to the fullest, including myself.  Kasey Bell is a great resource for walking you through how to set things up in a user-friendly way and finding tips and tricks.  Check her site out!

So, today I am sharing what I use Symbaloo for and I hope you list 10 others ways and share them with me!

  • To keep all of my district’s Most Frequently Used Sites in one easy place. (I’m only showing a partial screenshot, so you see the part I am referring to.)

I will not lie – I love that you can customize your background.  You can never have too much glitter!
  • To keep all of the blogs/sites that I frequently read in one spot.  (However, now thanks to a great post from the amazing George Couros, my new reader is Inoreader. Everything I read is housed there!  Check out his post and you will make this switch too!)
  • To keep Hook clips and songs for lessons.  I also house content related info pages here.
This is the Reading page.  It also has tiles that link to my Pinterest Boards on each topic.

This is the Social Studies page.  You can see, it is a work in progress!  🙂
  • To keep Brain Breaks (that I created or found) in one place so that we are not wasting time searching for our next favorite one.  🙂  
This is a Webmix already made by someone else that I added to my Symbaloo page.  

Here is my Brain Breaks Webmix that I started with our classroom’s favorite ones.  I added Go Noodle and the background music we use throughout the day.

Finding what you want on Symbaloo:

1. Use the magnifying glass at the top of the page to search.
                     
2.  You will see this:
              
Tiles will search for specific sites people have created. Ex: Sight Words, GCISD Teacher Resources, etc.
Webmixes are the “pages” I refer to that people have created.
Profiles are people who created them.  My profile is public and you can search for it by entering my name, Bridget Visser, into the gray search box and you will see all of the webmixes I created. If you choose to not make your webmix public, it still works the same. People will just be unable to find what you made or use it, and that’s okay if you want that.
Symbaloo can be used for so many different things to meet your needs and the needs of your students.  One year, I had it set up as the homepage on the laptops for the kids to navigate themselves through frequently used sites that they needed for research and other things independently.
I know this is just the tip of the iceberg on ways to use Symbaloo.  Try it out.  Use some of mine! Share your ideas with me!  I can’t wait to learn new ways to use this awesome tool.

George Couros changed my parenting! Say what?!

I am OVER-THE-TOP inspired by the keynote speakers at this year’s iPadpalooza in Austin. ( This is lengthy, but stay with me to the very end. It’s worth it. I promise!) I have never met and been in the presence of as many positive, enthusiastic, fired-up about education, innovative, learning focused, children first, creative thinking and why-not minded educators at one time!  What a way to start your summer.

All of the presenters were amazing (that’s another post), but there was one that I follow on Twitter and know how great he is, but to see, hear, and talk with him in person……it changed something in me.  I want to share with you the takeaways I got from 1 hour of listening to the amazing George Couros.  If you haven’t heard him speak, you must!
Laura Follett and I are still dreaming up ways we can have him come to our district’s convocation!  Hey…anything is possible, right?

My very first CANVA created product!  So fun.  Check this app out! @canva. 

As I left Austin,  I thought to myself, “I am on fire about integrating technology even more than our amazing district does.  I want to go and tell everybody right now! Every single teacher NEEDS to come to one of these events.  I am so excited about the professional connections across the world that I have made this week.”

Then I think,  “I am up to date and do a good job integrating tech in classroom and feel confident in this.  The kids do pretty well with blogging. Are they understanding how important their digital footprint is in this process?  Have I taught them this?”

Then, it hits me!  My heart feels this sudden panic and I see the whole picture.  OH MY GOODNESS, how have I helped MY daughter follow her dream of sharing her ideas on youtube and blogging? What am I doing to foster this learning and help prepare her for the world she lives in?  Am I the passionate tech teacher and scared parent?  I am.  Then I cry.  How do I change this?

I have this amazing, creative little girl who has asked me for years to blog and share the movies she makes on youtube.  I have always said no.  I do not want her to have anything out there that is unsafe.  However, it doesn’t have to be this way.  The safest way of doing this is to sit next to her.  Show her.  Guide her.  Help her.  Create something together that teaches her digital citizenship while bonding over something that is meaningful to her.  I do it with my classroom students, why have I not done this with my own child at home?

So, how did @gcouros change me you ask?

He changed my thinking as a mother of a little girl living with these resources at her fingertips. 

He changed my thinking in using what we have now for connecting in a million ways.
Most importantly,  I left there energized about not holding my daughter back. 
I am not going to hold back her dreams of sharing her voice singing, sharing her love of creating and using her God given talents and passion for creativity!  I will be right there beside her in the passenger seat for the ride of my life!