Sunday, March 25, 2018

3 Musts-Haves During Virtual Meetings and Conference Calls

Whether you are an innovative educator or a student, in the 21st century, we’re all global learners who make global collaborations. This means being able to effectively interact with people whether they are in your classroom, district, or across the state, country, or world.

You do not want your meetings or calls to look like this:

When you do, there are some protocols to put in place. Here are practices administrators can model for teachers and teachers can model for students.

Here they are:

1) Digital agenda that includes the following...

þ  Stored in a known place (i.e. digital folder or notebook) and linked from the invitation
þ  Timed
þ  Indicate who speaks when
þ  Links to all presentations and materials
o    All resources should be platform agnostic
þ  Attendance checklist for participants to indicate if they are in attendance or not
o    Checklist defaults to absent. When they join, or in advance if they know they will attend, they can update to present
o    This eliminates the need to waste time with a roll call
þ  Directions on how to join from the meeting from various devices i.e. mobile, PC, Mac, Chromebook
þ  Parking lot for off-agenda topics or if any item that lasts too long
þ  Section for notes
o    Eliminates need for a separate email with notes. It’s all in one place.

þ  Check out tips for creating a great agenda here and here.

2) Assign roles

þ  Notetaker
þ  Remote participant monitor
o    Brings chat items to attention of group
o    Ensure those participating remotely have had an opportunity to provide input
o    Watches to see who may want to interject and ensure voices of remote members are included

3) Outline participant protocols

þ  Ask participants to identify themselves when speaking
þ  Ask participants to direct questions to specific people
þ  Have a hand-raising protocol for both face-to-face and remote participants
þ  Ask remote participants to mute themselves, but if the meeting organizer has set participants on mute, they must remember to unmute someone who wants to speak using the hand-raising protocol
þ  Remind participants that should they put the call on hold, they should mute themselves so others are not subjected to background music or messages
þ  Do your best to eliminate background noise (wind, traffic) and distractions (i.e. children/animals)

Your Turn

What do you think? Have you encountered these problems? Are there any suggestions might work for you?  Anything missing?

Image result for virtual meetings

Sunday, March 18, 2018

5 Innovative Suggestions For Supporting "Kids Today"

Articles complaining about kids today aren’t too uncommon. Making the rounds is this article that asks, “WHY ARE KIDS IMPATIENT, BORED, FRIENDLESS, AND ENTITLED?”
I couldn’t disagree more with most of the answers among which include delay gratification, limit technology, and the very worst of all, “Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future ‘workability.’”

Here are some other ways to respond to kids today.

Suggestion 1: Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

Wrong: Don't set limits. This does not empower the young person to set their own limits. They think someone else is responsible to do that for them. It teaches dependence and compliance.
Instead: Have real conversations about decisions, choices, and help them make good choices using critical thinking skills you help them to develop.

Suggestion 2. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally

Wrong: Stop blaming technology. Sometimes tech is the very tool we use to connect with others in powerful ways.
Instead: Focus on what you are trying to achieve. If you want to connect with your kids figure out ways to do that. It may very well be by building something in Minecraft, memorizing every country by listening to a powerful video on YouTube Kids, or Skyping with Grandma.

Suggestion 3. Train delayed gratification

Wrong: Why manufacture reality?
Instead: Be real. Discuss benefits of having something now verses later. Sometimes there are benefits. Sometimes there are not. Discuss and decide.

Suggestion 4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

Wrong: Terrible advice. What kind of boring job are they trying to prep kids for.
Instead: Look at real careers and what that work entails. Many careers are not boring or monotonous. Geesh. 

Suggestion 5. Teach social skills

Wait. What? Who are the adults saying this shouldn't be done? No one. Of course we want to support kids in positive social interactions and that should be both face to face and online. 

Your Turn

What do you think? Which of these suggestions might work for you?  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

6 Innovative Options for Students Who Don't Like Regular School

Editor's note: This is part of a series entitled "Innovative Approaches to Support At-Risk Youth."

Let’s face it. A traditional school approach doesn’t work for every student... and that’s okay. Fortunately, there are options in place for students interested in pursuing alternative pathways.  Here are alternative options parents and students can consider.
1) High School Equivalency:
Students who are at least 17 (or 16 with a waiver) are eligible to pursue a high school equivalency diploma better known as the GED and currently renamed the TASC. In most districts students are not on their own. For students pursuing an equivalency there is often help for students prepare to advance to college and pursue career opportunities. Ask if your district has college and career coaches to help students plan for their futures. Some districts may have a workforce development program offering professional training and paid internships. More and more districts are also offering these students opportunities to walk for graduation and attend prom as well. If they don’t have a conversation and see what can be arranged.

While some parents and students consider an equivalency diploma to have a stigma associated with it, others see it as an innovative and efficient ticket allowing students to pursue academic or work passions. It’s also important to remember, that in the modern job market few people place their high school graduation on their LinkedIn resume.
2) Virtual School:
Many states now have virtual learning options available for students such as Nevada Connections Academy. Benefits of such options include that they are available at no cost, they provide a flexible pace and schedule, they can be taking from anywhere in the world. This is a safe option for students who have had issues with face-to-face connections, bullying, or social anxiety. If you don’t have a virtual school in your state, schools such as Florida Virtual accept out-of-state students.
3) Homeschool/Unschool:  
Homeschooling is legal in every state. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about homeschooling. If you scratch below the surface you’ll learn some important facts about homeschooling. For instance, there is a high college acceptance rate for homeschoolers. You can receive a high diploma as a homeschooler. You don’t have to have parents or tutors teach you. There are lots of innovative options to learn such as jobs, internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and more. Those completely new to this idea can enroll in a program like Pacific Sands Academy which will walk parents and students through all the requirements for a high school diploma as well as provide support in developing a personal learning plan.
4) Career & Technical Education School:
Career and technical education (CTE) schools fell out of favor in the age of No Child Left Behind and College for All, but to the relief of many students, teachers, and parents, they are making a comeback. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that not everyone needs to pursue a career requiring college and that there are many honorable, high-salaried careers that don’t require a degree. The best place to pursue such options in New York City which has the largest portfolio of options that train about 60,000 students a year. If you visit a quality CTE school like Co-op Tech as you walk the school halls, you will see students who work in fully operational beauty and barber shops, students constructing real buildings, an eyeglass repair store, car repair, and students fixing cars. Students are set up with paid internships and a real shot at a viable career upon completion of the program. 
Classrooms at Co-op Tech
5) Drop In Options for Drop Outs:
Many districts have options for students 21 or younger who have dropped out or fallen behind on credits. This varies from state to state and city to city. In places like New York City options include:
A)  Young Adult Borough Centers: These are evening academic programs designed to meet the needs of high school students who might be considering dropping out because they are behind or because they have adult responsibilities that make attending school in the daytime difficult. Students attend part time and in the evening to earn a high school diploma. Students between the ages of 17.5 and 21, who are in their fifth year of high school and have earned at least 17 credits, are eligible.
B)  Transfer Schools: These are small, full-time high schools designed to re-engage students. These schools look at the credits a student has and provides a personalized plan for them to complete school providing extra support to help students meet academic and personal goals. Support includes access to workshops, tutoring, Regents prep, and extracurricular activities. Schools support students in developing college and career plans for life after high school. Many Transfer Schools have the added component of Learning to Work, which offer students paid internships, job and career development, and more. Hear more from a student perspective in the following video.
6) Alternative School Models
There are both public (Big Picture, Schoolwide Enrichment) and non-public (Agile, Montessori, Democratic) models that provide passion-based learning options that may be better suited for students. These models generally do away with traditional approaches that include teachers, tests, and textbooks and instead invite students to discover and pursue their passions. This post provides more details and additional information n each model.  
Your Turn
What do you think? Are any of these options ones you think could work with students you know? Have you seen any of them in practice? Which ones resonate with you for the type of students you encounter?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

5 Parent Resources to Support Children in Being Safe & Responsible Digital Citizens

Kids today!  If you believed the headlines, you'd think that technology has created a generation of kids who are impatient, bored, and entitled. While that could be true, don't blame the kids or the tech. It is up to the adults in their worlds to ensure we raise kids who know how to be safe and responsible digital citizens.  

Educators do this by following the curriculum from providers like Common Sense Education, Google’s “Be Internet Awesome,” and EverFi’s “Ignition.”

I asked a group of Common Sense Educators which sites they recommend for parents. 
Below are the resources they suggested schools can share to support parents in keeping their children safe online.

5 Digital Citizenship Resources for Parents 

1) Common Sense Widget for Families

Want live, updated information regarding digital citizenship on your website? You can give parents easy access to advice on parenting in the digital age by adding the Common Classroom blog for educators and the Making Sense blog for families to your school’s or district’s site.
Produced in partnership with Digital Awareness UK this video series is designed to help parents keep their children safe online. It consists of six short films for parents, six matching films for children as well as downloadable online safety fact sheets. The resources are designed to encourage and support open discussions in families about how to enjoy the online environment while staying safe.
Practical advice for parents from NetSmartz on some common sense ideas for keeping kids safe online.

4) Online Safety for Families

Wired Safety provides advice for keeping young people safe online at various ages from age 8 and under through the teenage years.

5) District Guidelines and Responsibilities

New York City schools created guidelines and outlined responsible internet use with students, staff and families which you can view at the links below.
  • Social Media Guidelines - NYC
    These are the student guidelines schools share with parents. There are also guides for parents, infographics, and an activity book that go along with the guidelines.
  • Digital Citizenship Responsibilities - NYC
    New York City Schools educators created plain language guidance to advice for supporting good digital citizenship with students and infographics to accompany this advice.

Your Turn

What do you think? What has your experience been with supporting parents in being safe online? Are these resources you feel would be helpful for the families of your students? Have you tried any of these resources? What did you think? Anything missing? 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: School Safety Tonight at 7 p.m.

During this month's #NYCSchoolsTechChat we will address ways to increase school safety. #NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me throwing in my two cents. 
You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1 What approaches are you using to keep you and your students safe at school? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q2 You have to Maslow before you Bloom. How are you ensuring your students feel a sense of love and belonging in your classroom? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q3 What are schoolwide approaches used where you teach to help students who have experienced trauma or are suffering from PTSD? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q4 How does class size and class load affect your ability to connect & build relationships with students? How is your school ensuring you have a manageable number of students? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q5 How does your school and classroom help families and students feel welcomed and a sense of belonging in the school community? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q6 What methods is your school using to combat bullying / cyberbullying? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, March 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: School Safety
Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)

Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at (coming to Android soon).