Are You a Model #DIGcit?

You’re at a conference and are introduced to a ton of new resources to use in your classroom.  You are so excited to share the resources with your teammates and anyone else who will listen! The evening is spent planning a super fun and engaging lesson that uses the latest app or website.  In the morning, you are all set and ready to get your students logged in and start using the resource.  However, there is one thing you forget to do.  As many of us have never done.  You didn’t check the Terms of Service of the resource to see how they use your student’s data.  I admit it, I’ve done this before.  I have used websites and apps without a second thought about my personal data or my students.  I need to make some swift changes and start being a better model of what a good digital citizen looks like to my colleagues and students.

Since I am starting a new position in the fall, I decided to start by reviewing 3 websites I know I’ll be using with my students.  FUSECodeCombat, and SketchUp for Schools .  The FUSE website is very straight forward.  It is an online STEM Lab and Makerspace curriculum housed at Northwestern University.  Users need to be 13 years or older, unless they have parent permission which is granted through the partnering school.  FUSE collects personal data such as name, gender, ethnicity, and birthdate. If a parent does not want that information collected, their child can set up an anonymous guest account.  This account however, does not keep track of the student’s progress.  Data collected is stored on a secure server.  Once your account is no longer active, FUSE will destroy any personal data related to you, but may keep information related to your progress or any demographic information, but your contact information will not be related to it.  I was actually not surprised by the information I found.  This is a reputable program geared towards middle school and high school users, I figured they would be compliant.  One thing I did find surprising was the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 4.0 license protecting the user’s content.  Under this license, any content submitted by a student allows other users to use and change that content as long as the original content is credited.  This is information I will need to share with my students as they begin creating.  I will definitely use the FUSE program in the fall.

CodeCombat is the second website that I investigated and is an open source coding program.  All personal data is stored behind a secure network with a limited number of persons who have access to it and abide by confidentiality.  The Terms of Service shared many different “Acts” that they comply to, many I’ve never heard of before.  SOPIPA, Fair Information Practices, CAN-SPAM Act, and General Data Protection Regulation for EU users to name a few.  The two that educators should be on the lookout for are COPPA ( Children’s Online Protection Privacy Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).  CodeCombat complies with both of these Acts which protect children’s data.  I again, was surprised by the Creative Commons Attribution license asking that any media or creative works used to create a level in the game be cited appropriately.  This website will be used with confidence this fall!

The final website I looked at was SketchUp for School.  This is a design site where you can create 3 dimensional designs that could later be 3D printed.  The language used in their Terms of Service, was difficult to read (very legal sounding).  It is required to use a third party login to obtain usage rights on the site.  The Terms of Service basically say that the third party is the one with any personal information so Trimble (home company) is not liable for any personal information of the user.  There is also a section that explains how Trimble owns any content created by the user.  They also state any comments, feedback, and any other data put on their site is their property and the user has no rights to it.   (It is all very legal sounding, so this is what I am interpreting it to say.)  Because of this last part, I am not sure I want my students using this site.  To me it sounds like my student’s intellectual property will be compromised and I am not willing to let that happen.  I am going to move forward by having our Tech Director take a look at these terms and see if I am misreading the information, I will update as soon as I get an answer back.

Our district has a committee that looks for COPPA and FERPA compliance on websites they know are being used by the classroom teachers.  But what about the websites or apps a teacher wants to use after hearing about it a conference or on Twitter?  Are educators aware that checking this information out is part of their responsibility?  Before I spend all night planning that fun and engaging lesson with a new resource, you can find me searching the bottom of the webpage looking for the Terms of Service and Privacy link.  Please consider doing the same!

Now that…is Positively Techie!

A Few of My Favorite #ISTE18 Things

My eyes start to soak in the scene in front of me.  A lobby FILLED with people walking in all different directions, some chatting with colleagues, some looking down at a device, others standing and looking around trying to figure out where to go.  A smile reaches across my face, my nose scrunches up, my heart starts to beat a little faster and a tiny giggle secretly bellows in my belly.  I want to let out a little scream… My first ISTE Conference and I can’t wait to share a few of my favorite sessions!

Fostering Creativity through Visual Storytelling with Keynote delivered by fellow ADE’s Wes Molyneaux @WesMolyneaux and Ben Mountz @BenMountz
This session on using Keynote for storytelling was awesome! Not only did you get to use a new iPad with Apple Pencil, you also had many ADEs around to help you if you got stuck.  Participants were led through a series of activities to try on the iPad.  We were able to choose from all of the new shapes and manipulate the size, color, and direction of the shape.  We also got rid of the unwanted background in photos using instant alpha, animated the shapes and photos using magic move and my favorite, using the drawing tool and animating the drawing.  (I will be posting about another Apple session and share some fun ideas that I will be trying for the beginning of the school year, so come back soon!) Everyone Can Create Curriculum
My takeaway from the session: You can use Keynote to tell a variety of different stories using animation, audio, video, drawing and more ALL created IN Keynote.  Oh, and a big game changer, you can export your keynote creation AS A MOVIE!!


One STEM Chicago: Building a Digital STEM Community delivered by Michael Kosko @mrkosko
This presentation highlighted the program developed at CPS “One STEM Chicago” which uses the hashtag #cpsSTEM to help build communication, collaboration, and showcase all of the wonderful things students and teachers are doing in the classroom.  Three times last school year, teachers were asked to participate in a STEM related challenge/activity.  If a teacher was interested in participating, they filled out a Google form providing information such as school, grade level, and most importantly, a time that is good for the class to Skype or Google Hangout with another classroom.  Within a specific timeline in the fall, classrooms set time aside during recess, choice time, or whenever the teacher could find about 30 – 60 minutes in the schedule to let the students create a film canister rocket.  As the students create their rockets, they document EVERYTHING; steps in creation process, photos and videos, data collected from the rocket taking off, changes they had to make after testing, etc.  Students also spent time watching a video of an actual rocket scientist who shared information about rockets.  The last part of the activity was the time to Skype with the other classroom.  During this visit, students shared their creations, answered specific questions, and had meaningful conversations around the topic of the rocket building.  This whole process happened two more times throughout the school year with different STEM challenges.
My takeaway: This is definitely something I am going to try and duplicate within my district.  I think it will help build community around the topic of STEM which is needed right now.

#BookSnaps: Snapchat for Annotation and Digital Visualization delivered by creator Tara Martin @TaraMartinEdu
If you are looking for a way to get your students excited about sharing their thoughts on what they are reading, then you should give #BookSnaps a try!  Basically, you take a picture of a page in a book you are reading and annotate it “Snapchat” style. There are only two rules, include the title of the book and the author in your snap.  That is it, the rest is up to your student’s creativity.  Students can make #MathSnaps out of math problems, #Historysnaps, or #Sciencesnaps.   Whatever subject you teach, you can use this idea! My favorite #snap for the beginning of the year: #REALyouSnaps where the student takes a selfie and adds emojis, stickers, words, etc. showing who they are.  You can put them all together in the Clips app to make a movie and have it playing during Open House Night at the beginning of the year.
My takeaway: Tara’s story of how #BookSnaps became a huge sensation really hit home for me as her story is a perfect real life example of the message I share with my students ALL THE TIME.  Don’t be afraid to take risks, share your ideas with the world beacause your voice matters and you never know who will be listening.


I “heard” the same message over and over at ISTE, and I am so glad I did.  This message is what I try to do each day as I work with students in our weCreate Lab and it makes me smile, scrunch up my nose, and giggle secretly to myself: The job of a teacher is to help students become curators of ideas, creators, change makers, and global partners.

Now that… is Positively Techie!

Is the weCreate Lab Creating “Better” Students?

Three years ago, my principal asked our staff to think of something BIG that our PTO can fund.  Since I already acquired flexible seating and 1:1 iPads for 5th grade through the PTO, I needed to find something else that I was passionate about and that I knew the PTO could help me bring to life.  Over the next two years I slowly integrated using STEAM materials (purchased by the PTO) into my classroom and during an after school club for all 1st – 5th grade students at our school.  Finally this year, our school opened the first STEAM Lab in the District.  This video is a snapshot of what it looks like. 

The popularity of the lab is growing and now the District is working on a plan to guide in the opening of STEAM Labs in all of the other 6 elementary schools. We host tours for not only our fellow district members, but other districts have come for visits to see how they can implement a STEAM Lab in their buildings as well. 

The true success of this story is not the fact that this is the first in our district or that others want to follow suit.  The real success is seeing the growth of my students from the first day they stepped foot into the lab to now. It is amazing how quickly the students are changing right before my eyes.  I can’t even imagine how much influence this lab will have on the students who are in kindergarten and will have the opportunity to participate in the lab until they “graduate” from 5th grade.  Will they be better prepared for what future jobs hold for them?  Will they be better problem solvers and critical thinkers?  Will they be more flexible and self directed?   Will they be more willing to take risks and fail?  Will more girls become interested in a STEM career path?  

One can only guess what the the future holds. Our job as educators is to prepare students for that unknown.  We can never lose sight that the reason we do what we do, is for the students.  We need to keep dreaming BIG and find ways to make those dreams happen.  If we don’t do it, who will?

Now that …is Positively Techie!