Sunday, May 25, 2014

5 Ways To Avoid Burnout (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

I recently had a conversation with a phenomenal teacher, former colleague and friend, @mausigal, about staying above the fray, avoiding burnout staying pumped up in our last month of school, taking a deep breath, and getting rejuvenated over the summer.  It got me thinking...as educators, we can feel like there are too many initiatives, insufficient resources, not enough time, and too much to get done!  How do we stay focused on the most important thing: student learning?

5 Ways Avoid Burnout:


  1. Get pumped up.  According to a Boston Globe article by Deborah Kotz, recent research states that when you are feeling stressed, don't get subdued, go get pumped up.  And who better to get
    Get pumped up!
    you pumped up than Richard Simmons?!  Seriously: shift your paradigm to view a challenge as an opportunity and turn on some "Runnin' Down A Dream" by Tom Petty.
  2. Exercise.  Take care of yourself - mind and body.  Give yourself a mental break and go exercise.  The research linking exercise and mental well-being is exhaustive; you will feel better afterwards, and be able to put things into perspective again.  Remember, a 10 minute walk is better than a zero minute walk.  (Note: if you need a place to start, see Richard Simmons above in #2.)
  3. Participate in a weekly Twitter chat.  When I participate in a weekly Twitter chat, I am regularly excited, pumped up, and invigorated to try something new.  Whether you actively participate or just lurk, check out this exhaustive list of educational Twitter chats, organized by day of the week and time, and find one that gets you jazzed up: http://bit.ly/18CHmRo.  A big thanks goes out to @thomascmurray, @cevans5095 and @cybraryman1 for their hard work organizing this list!  This is something that is free, you can participate in a spur-of-the-moment, connects you with amazing educators and helps you build your PLN.
  4. Attend an #edcamp.  At an edcamp, like in a weekly Twitter chat, you will find engaged, passionate, excited and connected educators who want to engage in talking about progressing education, teaching and learning, and implementing new instructional techniques to teach students.  It is impossible to leave an edcamp empty handed and without new tools to implement in your school.  Go to http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/ to find one - close by or take a trip!
  5. Take a mini-sabbatical.  Propose a professional development day that involves you observing peers in your school or in local schools, and ask your principal for a sub to cover your classes for the day.  Spend some time to tune out all the nuts and bolts for 6.5 hours, eat a relaxing lunch, and take in all of the amazing things that colleagues in your very own school and neighboring schools are doing.  Recommendation: end your day with 30 minutes of written reflection that outlines your action steps and commit yourself to adapting at least three new things in your classroom before the year is over.  Sometimes just having the time to stop, observe, think and reflect can make all the difference.
Works Cited:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/03/10/how-make-stress-work-your-favor/vMAvOIaegqFCFamQvS4DzN/story.html
http://kamere.com/wp-content/uploads/richard-simmons1.jpg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXYl5NrHPb4
http://bit.ly/18CHmRo
http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/

Saturday, May 24, 2014

21st Century Classrooms: No Excuses (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

During #satchathack weekly chat this morning, which occurred in lieu of #satchat (which was on vacation), my PLN had a lively conversation about 21st century education, how to get there, and the risk of edtech being a facade of achieving a 21st century classroom.

Today's discussion continued to confirm for me that we are currently preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist.  What?!  How is this possible?  A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on "Your Child's Job," where I referenced a recent Boston Globe article that examined current employment trends, and made some predictions for the future job market in Massachusetts.  To understand more how we are preparing our children for jobs that don't yet exist, go to: Your Child's Job.

Another point that was made by participants surrounded this 19th-20th-21st century dichotomy.  Some argued that we are living in a 19th century school curriculum and agrarian structure; others lamented living 20th century physical structures, and others still felt that 21st century skills are outdated: we're already 14% of the way through the 21st century.  Should we be preparing for 22nd century skills?  What are these, and have we mastered 21st century learning?

What struck me is that 21st century learning has become a nebulous term - almost a buzz term, dare I say.  Everyone wants 21st century classrooms, learning, and schools - but what does this really mean?  It means deconstructing "21st century skills" that we want students to Know, Understand, and be able to Do (KUD) - into discrete skills that we can measure and provide feedback to students and parents/guardians: communication skills, creativity, collaboration skills, and critical thinking skills.

Regardless of one's district, school or classroom's access to technology, students' learning 21st century skills is a reasonable request.  It is our obligation to infuse these skills into our classroom and school culture.  Technology and innovation can come in the form of high tech or low tech supports and supplies.  The presence of an iPad makes not a classroom innovative or possessing 21st century characteristics, and the lack of technology does not prevent students from learning to be creative, collaborative, communicative critical thinkers.

Students must learn discrete technology skills, but embedded into the content and classroom.  The end game is for students to learn, and all good teaching must be based in, well, solid teaching.  A lesson will fail and students will not learn if the flashiest of lessons is not first rooted in solid pedagogy and thoughtful teaching and learning.  If the 21st century classroom were a basketball game, technology gets the assist - it should assist students and teachers in the learning process, not be the learning process.  (Unless the goal is to teach students specific technology skills - in a technology/computer class.)

No excuses.  Today is the day to emphasize the four Cs of 21st century learning in your classroom, and ensure that students and parents/guardians know the direction we are going.  Because we have an obligation to prepare our students for the future and for the jobs that don't yet exist.  Not to be overly dramatic, but the future of our nation depends on it.

- Steve Guditus
@sguditus

Sunday, May 04, 2014

What I Learned at #edcampBOS 2014 (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

What I Learned At #edcampBOS 2014

  1. Have an open mind and an open heart.  Several times throughout my day, I entered a session, and it wasn't what I expected, and I stayed.  And it was awesome.  I learned something new.  I expanded my PLN.  I met fantastic educators.  I formed new ideas.  Other times, I moved on, and hit up a few sessions, until I found the one that resonated with me - that I hadn't expected it, but
    there it was: the session that connected with me.
  2. Trust your instinct.  Have you ever felt: It is just me, or do other people feel the same way
    about this?...
    More often than not, educators forget to follow our instinct and our gut.  I wonder: Am I in this alone?  Am I the only one who feels this way?  Education is a blend of both science and art, and #edcampBOS reminded me to trust my instinct, trust my gut, and to remember that the network of people out there who are forging forward, progressively to push education to be what we need and what it to be for our students - and the world - is all around us.  Sometimes these folks are next door to us in our school, sometimes across town, a few districts over, or across state lines.  But regardless - remember to trust your instincts.  As an educator, be resilient and show grit - it can be difficult at times to be an educator, so remember to persevere and trust your instinct - and help our students develop these same qualities by modeling them.
  3. Cultivate your passion.  @tsocko and I (@sguditus) led a session on passion.  As
    the conversation emerged, folks spoke up, ideas were generated, connected, created and shared.  The room was energized - all because we took time to stop and remember why we are educators, and to remember what what gets us jazzed up.  Cultivate your jazz hands - and use them whenever you can.  You can't use them all the time, but when you can, be passionate, and share it with your colleagues and your students.  It matters.
  4. I have so much more to learn.  I suppose it's a good thing that I'm in the business of learning - I realized today that I have SO much more to learn.  In a good way.  The options were limitless.  Each session, there were at least 9 simultaneous sessions from which to choose at any given time, plus additional offerings during and between, breakout sessions under stairwells, in hallways, and during lunch.  And I still wasn't able to learn all that I wanted to.
    What I've realized is that it's time to take some road trips around New England to some other #edcamp sessions so that I can keep on learning.  The Smackdown alone provided an amazing set of resources for me to explore further (thanks @karenjan and @lizbdavis for taking the dueling notes): EdcampBOS 2014 Smackdown Resources
  5. Surround yourself with great people.  This doesn't mean people who necessarily think the same as you, but people who support your work in education, who challenge your thinking, and who support being a big education geek.  Remember, this is all about our students, our teachers and
    our schools.  There were plenty of folks who disagreed with me and vice versa during various sessions of #edcampBOS, but it made me a better educator for it.  Surrounding yourself with fellow education geeks and those who support your being an education geek is crucial to sustaining the effort, energy and passion needed to continually grow and make a difference in our students' lives.  Find your people.  I found lots of these folks at #edcampBOS, and expanded my PLN - virtually, and by finally meeting fellow educators that I had never met in person.  Having these conversations, all day, validates the hard work we are all doing as educators.  We're not in this alone!
  6. Be a leader.  It took me two years before I was willing to lead a session at #edcampBOS.  I was petrified I would say the wrong thing, not having anything worthwhile to say, and didn't have a presentation.  Then, I realized, it is about facilitating and guiding - not telling.  There were many folks at #edcampBOS who were lurkers - and lurking participation is great - but don't be afraid to start the conversation.  Your words, your ideas, your question could just be the one to change
    everything.  Go for it!
  7. Have fun.  Let's not forget: it's about our students and their learning, and it's about having fun, too.  Case in point: @edcampcrane - how did I not know about this?  @dancallahan and I (@sguditus) took a fabulous selfie with the @edcampcrane, and sent him/her home with @shevtech to Burlington, VT.  We had fun celebrating learning, teaching, and education.  

Can't wait for #edcampBOS 2015!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#BostonStrong: Boston Marathon Bombing, One Year Later

One year ago, I wrote the following blog post to share resources with educators and parents/guardians - to help work with students and to help adults themselves work through this tragedy that hit Boston, Massachusetts and the world.  In the spirit of seeing the good after a tragedy, we teach our students to focus on the leadership and human kindness that emerges from dark, tragic times.  The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was one such time, but Boston is resilient, and so are its people.  In addition to the resources below, some heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing are profiled one year later, which is a positive follow-up to either start or conclude a reflection on the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary:

http://www.aol.com/article/2014/04/14/4-heroes-of-the-boston-marathon-bombing/20868687/
http://www.necn.com/04/14/14/BMC-honors-victims-heroes-of-Boston-Mara/landing.html?blockID=865065&feedID=11106
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/13/boston-strong-ducks-marathon/7558195/
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303887804579502071001811960

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From April, 2013 (http://sguditus.blogspot.com/2013/04/after-boston-marathon-bombings.html):

As adults, we feel helpless after a tragedy such as the Boston Marathon Bombings.  There is so much
pain, grief and anger that we feel even as adults, it is important to stop and remember how these same feelings may be impacting our students.  Two big questions I've been considering are:


  1. How should I speak to kids about this?
  2. What can I do to help?
Below, you will find some resources and suggestions to help answer both of these questions.

Resources to speak with kids about the Boston Marathon Bombing Tragedy:



Ideas of How To Help:

  • Many victims and survivors have an incredibly long road ahead - emotionally and physically.  As a result, financial donations seem to be one of the best ways to help at this point.  As a parent or educator, consider helping students organize to help raise money.  A few ideas follow.  (Kids should not go door-to-door asking for donations and should always be supervised by an adult.)
    • Hold a car wash
    • Get donors for a honk-a-thon
    • Hold a garage sale
    • Organize a spirit day at school and request donations to participate.  Ideas include:
      • Boston Spirit Day
      • Marathon Mondays - wear blue and yellow (Boston Marathon colors)  
      • Wear jeans for the day
      • Dress up day
      • Wear a hat day
    • Consider having students choose where to donate money.  Boston.com has a very comprehensive list of places to donate.  Consider carefully how much information to share with your child/students.
    • Donate to the Boston One Fund, which is the official donation site set up by Governor Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino: http://onefundboston.org/.
  • The American Red Cross says that their blood supply is now current.  To schedule an appointment to donate blood in the coming weeks, go to: http://redcrossblood.org.
  • Show your support through the 26.2gether campaign.
  • Write thank you cards to first responders who helped on the day of the tragedy, as well as during the week: police officers, fire fighters, state police, EMTs, nurses, doctors, and volunteers.  You can send cards to your local police, fire and EMTs, or specifically to the Boston PD, FD or medical personnel (see addresses below).
  • Write get well soon/thinking of you cards to survivors of the blasts.  You can send cards to Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital or Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  See addresses below.

Boston Medical Center
1 Boston Medical Center Place
Boston, MA 02118

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

Boston Police Department Headquarters
1 Schroeder Plaza
Boston, MA 02120

Boston Fire Department Headquarters
115 Southampton Street
Boston, MA 021185

Image Credit: http://fpcmarathoncharityteam.blogspot.com/2012/09/run-2013-boston-marathon-with-franklin.html

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stress, Play and 21st Century Skills

While discussing stress with his students, our building's Health Teacher invited me up to discuss students' concerns - at their request.  Students felt strongly enough that they wanted to speak about stress, homework and academic pressure with the principal.  Seventh graders!  I popped up to his classroom, and what I heard was alarming, upsetting, and a bit sad.  Students reported things such as "there is so much pressure, that sometimes I have to decide between playing with friends or doing my homework" and "I'm thinking about dropping out of playing on my sports team, because I don't have time to be on a team and time to finish my schoolwork."

I polled the students, and on average, students have over two hours of homework a night, often not including studying for tests and quizzes.  What does this tell me?  We need to do some work with students around study skills, backwards planning and executive functioning skills.  In her article from the fall of 2012 "Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?," Washington Post author Valerie Strauss cites multiple studies that fail to paint a particularly persuasive case for homework - or at least for avoiding excessive amounts of homework.  

What can we do?  Yes, we can keep the amount of homework moderate; yes, we can provide more support and structure around study skills and staying organized; but ultimately, as a community, are our expectations for students where we want them to be?  Are we permitting our students to be kids, stressing the values that are important, and preparing students to play, to have fun, to be creative, to pursue their passions?  Are they avoiding these things because there doesn't appear to be value - either in their own eyes, that of their parents/guardians or the school?  Our schools need to ensure that
Play is crucial to building 21st century skills.
students have time - to be kids, to play, to find their passions.  

With spring finally upon us, I brought students outside during lunch for 15 minutes.  15 minutes, unstructured, and what I witnessed was amazing.  Students played, they solved problems on their own, created games, and had fun.  And I would imagine, more focused, energized and ready to learn for their afternoon classes.

Regardless of the path or the strategy, students need to be provided with time to be kids, to pursue passions, and have down time - and ultimately, they will build 21st century skills - problem solving, creativity and communication skills - and be more engaged in their learning.

Works Cited:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/26/homework-an-unnecessary-evil-surprising-findings-from-new-research/

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Your Child's Job (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

Melissa Schorr of the Boston Globe wrote an article in the Globe's March 9, 2014 issue on Learning and Earning 2014 entitled "Where The State Labor Market Is Headed This Decade."  Schorr reports Massachusetts-specific statistics about the future of the job market, helpful for current job seekers, college grads, or parents and guardians who are interested in persuading their children to plant roots in The Commonwealth later in life.  If you have ever asked me my thoughts on 21st century skills or heard me speak publicly to parents/guardians, student or staff, you know that I believe we are in a time where our
Where the Massachusetts job market is headed next.
public education system is preparing our students for jobs that don't yet exist.  In her infographic-style article, Schorr states:

The work we do is ever-evolving - some jobs emerge, others fade to black (think film projectionists).  The Labor Department's list of occupations, which has gown to some 840 items since its 1977 debut, is again undergoing review.  The last revision, in 2010, added genetic counselors, hearing aid specialists, MRI technologists, and nurse midwives: the 2018 version might welcome nurse informatics and data scientists.  Can Social Media Mavens be far behind?

18 months ago, in September 2012, U.S. News and World Report reported that the top job industries in 2020 likely include work in the fields of data crunching, database analysis, market research, mental health counseling, 3D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, software engineering, communication sciences, entrepreneurship and veterinary studies.  What does this mean for how we teach our students in middle school?

We must teach students a well-rounded, exploratory and rigorous curriculum which emphasizes constant growth, lifelong learning, communication skills, critical thinking and creativity.  What exactly these jobs will be, we still do not know.  In ten years, however, as our current middle schools are graduating from high school, higher education or the military, they will be well-prepared if they possess a skill set that teaches not only content but adaptable, 21st century skills that can be used - and this should begin in middle school.  Our schedule and school should reflect this growing uncertainty about the future of the job market, as well as the need for our students to be learning, starting in middle school, how to think critically, creativity, and communicate effectively.  These skills will be needed for certain in 10 years, even if we are not entirely sure for what job title our students are applying.

So what can we do?  We can provide feedback to students in school about how to be creative, critical-thinking communicators; we can make our curriculum and school schedule be exploratory in nature and provide opportunities for many different seeds to be planted amongst our students, and provide a safe place for students to make mistakes, fail, and recover - and find their passions as a result.  Our schools can and should invest in STEM, STEAM, communication and public speaking classes, and providing opportunities and support for our struggling learners, those in the middle, and our highest-achieving students.  Everyone should be in the challenge zone - and we need to fund our schools accordingly.  To not is to fail our students and the future of our nation.

Works Cited:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lessons from The Olympics (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

The Olympics is such a great event for so many reasons...but as an educator, I can't help but view the events unfolding in front of me through the lens of "how is this an authentic way to teach students?"  Though this list is in no way comprehensive, The 2014 Sochi Olympics has provided several great ways to teach our students.  A few lessons to learn from the Sochi Olympics:

  1. Be courageous.  Hopeful to medal after winning the US Championships a month prior, Jeremy Abbott crashed to ice in his short men's ice skating program, within just 10 seconds of starting.  What he did next said more about his character than the performance itself: he stood up, and continued skating.  And he went on to skate one heck of a performance.  Jeremy Abbott might not have medaled, but he demonstrated picking oneself up after falling.  To read more: http://es.pn/1fiqMvL 
  2. Be determined.  Charlie White and Meryl Davis, the American Ice Dancing Team that won gold, have been working together for 17 years.  17 years!  Success doesn't come overnight - it takes consistency, determination, hard work, and longevity.  To read more: http://on.mash.to/Oclto8
  3. Stay positive.  Noelle Pikus-Pace overcame multiple obstacles in her Skeleton racing career, including a multiple broken bones, personal struggles, quitting and then returning to the sport.  Her path to success?  Stay positive no matter what, and focus your energy on achieving your goal. To read more: http://bit.ly/Ocmg8B
  4. Persevere.  Swiss skier Dominique Gisin has been through nine knee surgeries - and despite this ongoing threat of further injury, she pushed herself to gold - sharing it with Slovenian Tina Maze.  To read more: http://bit.ly/1fAWnp1

What great authentic opportunities to teach students how to succeed, win, and persevere!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Resources to Support All Learners (@sguditus Steve Guditus) #satchat

The amazing #SatChat strikes again.  On Saturday morning, January 25, 2014, I participated in the weekly #SatChat with colleagues from around the country and world.  Not only does participating in #SatChat challenge me personally and professionally, it allows me to stay current and gather best practices to share with students, parents/guardians and staff.  The topic on 1/25/14 was "Supporting All Learners," and as participants were asked to share resources used to support all learners, I couldn't keep up with the great list supplied, collectively, by educators around the world.  What follows is the start of a list of apps, programs, websites and programs used by educators to support learning.  Please comment below to add additional ideas to this list!  If you have questions about how-to or implementing effectively in the classroom with students, I would suggest you tweet a message to the idea's author: their Twitter handle is next to the resource.

  • Livebinders: help capture student learning and utilize electronic portfolios (@Ronbrogers)
  • TedTalks: inspire and engage with cutting edge ideas (@MaineSchoolTech)
  • Remind101: free communication tool to push out information via text (@DavidHochheiser)
  • Twitter: develop your PLN, interface with experts, flatten the world (@sblwilliams)
  • Instagram: capture real-world examples (@sblwilliams)
  • Vine: bring in stories to your instruction and learning (@sblwilliams)
  • Symbaloo: social bookmarking site - focus on research skills, webquest, exploration (@ipadbrainology)
  • QR Codes: students can research, teachers can instruct, focus on exploration (@ipadbrainology and @bekcikelly)
  • Photosynth: provide 360 views (@idesignit)
  • Today's Doc: examine primary sources (@idesignit)
  • Google Earth: explore the world! (@idesignit)
  • Explain Everything (@idesignit and @techgirljenny)
  • Snapguide: create your own instructions (@idesignit)
  • Google Sketchup: focus on design and 21st century skills (@sguditus)
  • Audio Boo: quick and easy recording (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • Dragon: speech recognition app (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • Speech with Milo: practice with parts of speech and language skills (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • Mobile Education Apps: focus on questioning, story building skills (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • iTunes U: download free lectures on math - or any topic (@teachhub)
  • WolframAlpha: search engine on steroids (@teachhub)
  • Calculator +: iPhone/iPad calculator, handwriting support, scientific functions (@teachhub)
  • Math Bingo: patterns, basic math practice (@teachhub)
  • Free Graphic Calculator - William Jockusch: scientific and graphic calculator (@teachhub)
  • Monkey Math School Sunshine: building basic math skills (@teachhub)
  • BrainPOP: animated videos, interactive quiz; free and subscription (@teachhub)
  • Math Drills Lite: focus on basic math facts and skills (@teachhub)
  • Math Fact Master: flashcards, challenge modes - basic math facts (@teachhub)
  • Mathemagics: mental math (@teachhub)
  • Mabble: middle school math (@teachhub)
  • Raz-Kids (@rosso_n)
  • Dreambox (@rosso_n)
  • Xtramath (@rosso_n)
  • Socrative (@msfrenchteach)
  • Edmodo (@seanrussell311)
  • Educreations (@seanrussell311)
  • Kidblog (@seanrussell311)
  • Youtube (@seanrussell311)
  • Google Drive (@seanrusell311)
  • Notability: create notebooks, passcode protection (@techgirljenny and @idesignit)
  • Aurasma: augmented reality (@idesignit)
  • Lapse-it: stop-motion app (@idesignit)
  • Fade-in: create scripts (@idesignit)
  • Over (@idesignit)
  • Typo-Pic (@idesignit)
  • Xperica (@idesignit)
  • Haiku Deck (@idesignit)
  • Newsela: collaborate with other students about news articles, differentiate non-fiction text (@girltraveling and @JohnFritzky)
  • Jing: capture screenshots and video (@hendylou)
  • Dropbox: share files seamlessly, between mobile apps and hard drives (@StJMagistra)
  • Evernote: take in info, create, share, save creation (@iplante)
  • PicCollage (@msfrenchteach)
  • iMovie (@msfrenchteach)
  • QuickVoice (@msfrenchteach)
  • Fotobabble @msfrenchteach)
  • Voicethread (@sguditus and @idesignit)
  • Geoboard (@MathMinds and @kkidsinvt)
  • Minecraft (@MathMinds)
  • Auto Rap (@FinkTeach)
  • Learnist (@runningdmc)
  • Wordpress (@runningdmc)
  • Socratic (@runningdmc)
  • TouchCast: great research tool (@idesignit and @42ThinkDeeply)
  • Ask3 (@idesignit)
  • Autodesk Apps (@idesignit)
  • Zinio (@idesignit)
  • Halftone (@idesignit)
  • Strip Designer (@idesignit)
  • Subtext (@idesignit)
  • Strip Creator (@MrCsays)
  • Puppetpals (@MrCsays)
  • Skitch (@kkidsinvt)
  • Doodle Buddy, Doodlecast Pro (@kkidsinvt)
  • AudioMemos (@kkidsinvt)
  • Numberrak (@kkidsinvt)
  • Lexia (@kkidsinvt)
  • Screen Chomp (@askteacherzcom)
  • Camtasia (@askteacherzcom)
  • Book Creator App (@techgirljenny)
  • Popplet (@techgirljenny)
  • Videolicious: videos, collages for assessment (@NLHSprincipal)
  • Power Up WHAT WORKS: free evidence-based resources (@sguditus)

Works Cited: 
http://www.teachhub.com/special-education-ipad-apps
http://www.teachhub.com/top-12-math-ipad-apps-students-and-teachers

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Parent/Guardian Alert: Ask.fm (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

There has been an uptick in recent use of anonymous, unmonitored social media websites by adolescents.  One website in particular, Ask.fm, is cause for serious alarm.  What makes this website so dangerous is the fact that it provides a forum for adolescents, who may already be feeling isolated, to be victim to receiving and responding to anonymous messages - sometimes from strangers and oftentimes from peers they already know, but who want to post anonymous (and frequently hurtful) messages.    

Ask.fm is a Latvian-based company that requires users to create a homepage, which others can view and comment upon anonymously and without registering or logging in.  This website allows anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world to view one’s Ask.fm profile, post information, ask questions, and communicate with users – all anonymously.

Other social media outlets such as Instagram, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter require all users to register, so communication is linked to specific users.  Ask.fm, however, provides a forum for anonymous users to post hurtful, upsetting, harmful or dangerous information on a user’s profile – with no trace of who the author is.

If you are a parent or guardian of pre-teen or adolescent, you may want to take the following steps to help protect your child's overall well-being and safety:
  • Speak to your child about his or her online profiles and online behavior, habits and communication.  
  • Ask your child for his/her usernames and passwords, check the content of his/her messages and with whom he/she is communicating.  If he/she will not provide their username or password, that may be a red flag there is content he/she may not want you to discover.
  • Regularly monitor your child's social media accounts.
  • Determine if your child has an Ask.fm account.  To do so, try googling your child’s name and ‘ask.fm’ to see if a profile page appears.
  • Reiterate the importance of online and offline behavior being consistent.  One should not type something online they wouldn't say to someone's face - both children and adults! 
  • Reiterate the importance of keeping information private.  Never share personal, identifying information, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses, especially on public websites like Ask.fm.
  • Engage your child in a conversation about positive behavior and making good decisions - spanning online and offline behavior. 
  • Speak to your child's school about to ask how they address student behavior and encourage a culture and climate of tolerance and kindness.
Technology itself is not the danger; students engaging in risky online behavior is the danger.  You can find a list of resources below that may be helpful in learning more about Ask.fm and helping to support your child with improving his/her online social media behavior:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homework Tips for Parents/Guardians (@sguditus Steve Guditus)


What can you do to help your child succeed with homework assignments?  Short of advocating for limiting homework assignments outside of school (and referencing relevant recent research on the topic), read on for several tips to help facilitate the homework-completion process at home with your middle school child.

  • Prioritize homework assignments.  Based on difficulty levels and due dates, create a numbered to-do list each afternoon/evening to help your child efficiently complete their homework.  Encouraging students to start with the most challenging assignment when he/she is fresh may work best for him/her.   
  • Encourage your child to advocate for him/herself.  If an assignment is confusing to your child, he/she needs clarification, or additional support from his/her teacher, create a game plan with your child.  Brainstorm with them to whom he/she should speak and about what, including specific questions to get the help they need.  These are life skills!
  • Utilize a calendar or a student agenda.  Especially for long-term assignments, it is helpful for students to use the calendar in their agenda to plan backwards from due dates of assessments and projects.  It will be helpful to your child if you can help break the project or studying into pieces with mini deadlines.  Try color-coding for various classes; this will help students better chart out and track their after-school time. 
  • Have a consistent work time and space.  Everyone deserves some down time, especially after a long day at school!  Allow your child some time to relax and unwind, encourage them to stay hydrated, and have a consistent start time and public location for homework (e.g. the kitchen table, not the bedroom with the door closed).  
  •  Stay positive.  Homework can be difficult, but modeling a positive attitude, especially when work gets difficult will help teach your child develop problem-solving and self-advocacy skills.  Encourage and support your child by providing guidance as to how to solve a problem, seek help and ask good questions.  
  • Take a break.  If your child has been working for a good chunk of time, keep an eye open for frustration.  It is ok to take a break!