21st Century, Communication, Digital Life

What’s Up With WhatsApp?

Note: This post was written by me and was originally posted on all Grade Four class blogs at my school following inappropriate use of WhatsApp group chats by a small group of fourth grade students (outside of school hours but impacting life in the classroom). I chose not to provide a link to the Harvard issue as the nature of the inappropriate use by those students far exceeded what is necessary for a fourth grade student to know about. If you are curious about that event, look here


What’s Up With WhatsApp?

cultureAt MIS we hope to empower our students to make good choices. Every choice made, both in and out of school, is a chance to show people who you are, what you believe in, and what is important to you.

We know that technology is powerful. We also know that educating our students on appropriate use of technology is just as powerful. We believe in developing responsibility through education instead of banning technology through fear.

With that said, we are also mindful that the interactions that occur between students outside of school via technology, have an impact on what happens in our classrooms during the school day. Specifically, this is happening with some students via group chats on WhatsApp.

Are there regulations for WhatsApp?

Let’s start with looking at two key points from the terms and conditions that are agreed to by WhatsApp users:

Age. You must be at least 13 years old to use our Services (or such greater age required in your country for you to be authorized to use our Services without parental approval). In addition to being of the minimum required age to use our Services under applicable law, if you are not old enough to have authority to agree to our Terms in your country, your parent or guardian must agree to our Terms on your behalf.

Legal and Acceptable Use. You must access and use our Services only for legal, authorized, and acceptable purposes. You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that: (a) violate, misappropriate, or infringe the rights of WhatsApp, our users, or others, including privacy, publicity, intellectual property, or other proprietary rights; (b) are illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, hateful, racially, or ethnically offensive, or instigate or encourage conduct that would be illegal, or otherwise inappropriate, including promoting violent crimes; (c) involve publishing falsehoods, misrepresentations, or misleading statements; (d) impersonate someone; (e) involve sending illegal or impermissible communications such as bulk messaging, auto-messaging, auto-dialing, and the like; or (f) involve any non-personal use of our Services unless otherwise authorized by us.

In a nutshell:

  • you need to be 13 or have parental permission to use WhatsApp
  • you may not use WhatsApp to send messages that are obscene, say things that are not true, are trying to make someone feel bad, are lies.

There are many examples of people who have been in chat groups and who have violated agreements such as the one for WhatsApp, and the content of their group chat has been made public. This is embarrassing for these people but more than that, it has cost them in other ways: the most recent being students who had their acceptances to Harvard University revoked after posting inappropriate content on a group Facebook page for incoming students.

Be Internet Awesome

There is a new online curriculum called Be Internet Awesome.

The parts of this program that relate to appropriate use of services such as WhatsApp are: Be Internet Kind and Be Internet Smart. Full details of the Be Internet Awesome program can be found here in the resources section.

Be Internet Awesome is a self-paced, game-based approach to reinforcing awesome behavior on the internet. We should not need a separate code of behavior depending on if our interactions are online or in person. As our children are becoming more active on the internet we need to ensure we are guiding them in a way that educates them to make better choices.

Make it a Family Affair

A family commitment to safe digital citizenship starts with a conversation at home and is reinforced with a pledge to practice being Internet Awesome—smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave—when online. Consider working through the Be Internet Awesome program as a family. It is never too late to make a change to the way we do things.

If you have any questions about appropriate use of the internet or how to build an ‘internet awesome’ culture within your family, please reach out – we would be happy to hear from you!  Please contact your child’s homeroom teacher, Junior School Learning Technology Teacher, Junior School Assistant Principal, or our Junior School Principal.


 

How do you handle misuse of technology/internet by students? 

As I left school today, I was talking with a parent who doesn’t have 4th grade students but children in higher and lower grades. I was explaining about this issue and another parent chimed in, “See! I told you Grade 4 was too young for a phone!”.  This really bothered me. I don’t think age determines whether or not you should have a phone. I think we have to remember we are not just “giving them a phone” – we are handing them 24/7 anytime, anywhere access to EVERYTHING. If it were “just a phone” – a device to make calls on – there wouldn’t be an issue. There has to be education that comes with getting a phone and how “the phone” is used by parents will have a huge impact on what kids think is and is not ok. A colleague with small children suggested that simple things such as seeing parents plug their phone in to charge outside of their bedroom or in a shared space and not taking it to bed would be a simple step to model for kids before they even get their own device.

What also surprised me was that the another question was “Were they sending messages at school?”. I explained that the messages were all sent and read outside school hours but the impact of these messages was playing out in the classroom: distracted students, students not wanting to work with each other, withdrawn students upset at the content of the chat. This seemed to genuinely surprise the parent I was talking to. It is possible she was going to ask why we were getting involved if the messages were not happening on school time – I don’t know. What I do know is that we have to work WITH parents to help kids navigate their online world. We can’t have two sets of rules for home and school and it can’t be a list of “things that you can/can not chat about”. It has to start with a big picture understanding of choices, respect, and who we are. What we believe shouldn’t change between home and school. Our beliefs should run through everything we do and reflect the person we are and this includes online behaviors.

If you have thoughts as a parent or teacher (or both!) or have links to other sites that promote responsible internet use, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

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Leadership

Choosing My Fuel

Imagine you are a car. Your school year is the journey you are about to embark on. You need fuel in your tank to keep you going. What are you going to choose to fill your tank with? What is going to serve as your fuel? What will drive you on?

Seth Godin wrote an excellent blog post on this topic of “choosing your fuel”. Essentially, he outlines narratives (light and dark) that can serve as fuel as we push on to do our work.

I am in a phase of moving on from one school to another, one role to a new one, one life to a whole new experience. Seth’s post really made me think about ‘what I want to marinade in’. I love that analogy.

What am I going to immerse myself in?

What am I going to allow to seep into who I am?

Here is my game plan moving forward (thanks to Seth) of the fuel that will push me forward in my work in the coming months:

Fueled by becoming a better version of myself:

This is a personal one. In the last four years I have moved continents, had two children, changed jobs, and am on the move again to a new continent and new role. It is a lot of change and I have chosen to reserve very little time for me. This year, despite the changes in location and role, I want to ensure more of a balance and more time devoted to becoming a better, kinder, more patient, healthier version of myself.

Fueled by Connection

I want to be fueled by connectivity. By the idea that we are all connected and that in being connected, ideas are amplified. I want to see this evolve in the day-to-day by making connections with those I work with IRL, and I want to maintain and develop my connections to people and ideas online. I also want to establish connections with the students at my school. I want to make sure that the connection is not a one-way path of me pushing ideas to them, but a dual carriageway upon which we build a connection that sees me supporting their ideas, questions, and wonderings.

Fueled by Generosity

This might seem in contradiction to me wanting to take time out for myself but I also want to make sure I am balancing that with the concept of generosity. I want to ensure I am giving freely of my time in a way that serves my own needs and the needs of others. I think I am really lucky to have the PLN that I do, but I also know that I have done my part in generously sharing my ideas and resources which (hopefully) inspires others to do the same and thus, we all win. I fear if I lose that spirit of generosity I will lose a large part of what brings me joy and satisfaction as an educator.

Fueled by Possibility

I am very interested in being fueled by possibility. I love the idea of starting from a “How might we…?” mindset and moving forward from there. So often, I find myself looking through the lense of problems rather than possibility. Of what is not possible rather than what might be. While I realize that everything is not possible, many, many things ARE very possible, and that is how I will position myself in the year to come.

Fueled by Professionalism

This last one is interesting to me. I think we (as teachers) are professionals in a profession – and yet, sometimes, we don’t act that way. I am not choosing the fuel for others, but for myself, I want to strive harder to embody a professional demeanour. I am not always putting my best foot forward, I don’t always choose the best choice, I don’t always respond in the most appropriate manner. And I know that. And I want to change that. So I am writing it down here in order to help make it so in the real world (not just up in my head).

This post was not easy to write. I know there is a lot that I do well and a lot that I have to work on, and I could easily ignore the latter and pat myself on the back for the former. But then I would be fueled by avoidance, fueled by ego. I prefer to be fueled by the challenge of change.

What is your #fuel?

As I finished this post, I was reminded of the story of rocks, pebbles, and sand. A great reminder for us all as we set our priorities and choose our fuel for the future.

Approaches to Learning, Communication, PYP

Needs-Based Planning

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I recently saw this graphic on Twitter. Posted by Bethany Hill , it was retweeted 48 times and liked 71 times, so obviously it was resonating with an audience.

I have been thinking a lot about communication and how we communicate. I was also thinking about how we communicate through things like our unit planners and the ideas we choose to focus on in our classroom.

Over lunch today, a colleague and I were discussing the idea of planning units based on observed needs of the students at our school. It just seemed to make sense to us. What if we were to observe our kids and identify things that stand out to us (both positive and negative) and build units of inquiry with those things embedded in them? What if we were to consciously plan to help kids address issues that continually arise within and across grade levels?

Sometimes it can seem like the issues that arise have to be put aside because of time or other things that need ‘covering’ but what if the issues were the thing? How might we plan differently if we started with the needs of our kids in mind?

In reviewing the Program of Inquiry, I would suggest we answer these sorts of questions:

  1. Are there needs not being met?
  2. What social skills do our kids lack?
  3. Do our kids have multiple ways to communicate?

What other questions should we be asking? Lets move beyond “vertical and horizontal articulation” and ensure the things we are choosing to focus on in our classrooms are reflective of the students in front of us.

Inquiry, Learning

Find Your Water

I read a great post by Kath Murdoch on Getting Into The Habit Of Inquiry. The post has so much to offer that you should read it in its entirety if you are or aspire to be an inquiry focused teacher. As I read it, I couldn’t help but connect Kath’s ideas with those of David Foster Wallace. I believe Kath has “found her water”. Living life through inquiry is something as natural to her as living in water is to a fish.

This is Water-David Foster Wallace from alexander correll on Vimeo.

What I particularly appreciate about Kath’s post is that she doesn’t just say, “Oh, I couldn’t teach any other way – lucky me!” and that’s it. She gives some great advice on how to develop your own skills and strategies to becoming a stronger teacher.

My favorite advice? Include your students in your learning process. Can you imagine yourself saying this to your class:

Hi everyone! I was doing some reading over the last few days about questions and asking good questions, and about giving you time to think about and answer questions. I have learned about this thing called “wait time” which means I have to stop talking and let you talk! I have written down some reminders to myself to help me learn and I would love your help too in reminding me to let you talk!

Maybe that is a bit cheesy? I don’t know. But I do know that we expect our kids to articulate their learning goals. Why not show them authentically what this looks like? Why not also show them that you are learning too? That in this classroom, we are all learners – and actually show them what that means.  What if we dared to let our kids know that we don’t know it all, that we are always learning and changing our perspective on what good teaching and learning looks and sounds like? What if we acknowledge when we slip back into old ways and share our struggles with learning?

What if we were all learners?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Kindness

An Extraordinary Life

This post was sitting in my drafts folder. When I heard Amy had passed away, I went to write about her but instead just watched this video. I have said before that the key trait I want in a teacher for my children is kindness. The second, is that they are always learning. Amy embodied both of those things with an understated elegance.

How do you want to be remembered?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Who’s Your Amy?

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Amy visits the American School in Warsaw, 2012. Photo courtesy of ASW

Last week, I was at the American School in Warsaw as a Learning2Leader for the Learning2 Europe conference. Part of my job was to give an L2 talk. A short talk on a topic of my choosing that fit the theme of the conference: Include, Inquire, Inspire.

I was tossing ideas around when, like over 4 and a half million other people, I read Amy’s column in the New York Post, You May Want To Marry My Husband. I was shocked and saddened beyond belief and I was also clear on what my L2 talk would be about. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 

I went to Warsaw with this idea firmly planted but my actual talk, very much in the air. I kept writing a eulogy that I didn’t have the position or authority to write. I had to make it more about my connection to Amy while still engaging those in the audience who didn’t know this amazing person.

After much drafting and editing and re-writing, The Yellow Umbrella was created. And I felt great about it. It was equal parts homage and inspiration and the most heartfelt thank you I could create for this amazing woman.

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Amy made wishes. She wished for me “Endless Bliss”. In turn, I wish that for her family who must be grieving her loss so much more deeply than anyone.

Here is the talk. The transcript is below. Who is your Amy?

 

The Yellow Umbrella

It seems somewhat weird or maybe even selfish to grieve the loss of someone you never really knew. But the grief and the loss are both real and the knowing comes through the willingness of a maker with an umbrella to share her passion.

Maybe you know Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Maybe you have read one of her books? Or maybe you have your own “Amy” who inspires you with their magic. This is not a eulogy for Amy. In all honesty, I don’t think I can do her justice. But it is my sincere wish that in sharing her story, a part of her maker spirit will live on in us all.

When I finished reading her book “The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life” I felt like I had spent the afternoon with a good friend. I was convinced that she and I, at some yet to be determined point in life, would collaborate on a project together. I wasn’t sure what that project would be and honestly, it didn’t even matter, I was just inspired by her perspective and her vision and I wanted to be a part of that.

This isn’t the collaboration I had imagined but with heartfelt appreciation of her generous spirit, let me share three pearls of Amy-inspired wisdom.

 

  1. Find the thing you can’t not do.

Amy was a maker. Among other things she made short films, salads, wishes and books. When asked, “Why do you write?” She would respond, “Because I can’t not.”

What is the thing that you “can’t not” do? What is the thing you find yourself doing above all other things? For me, I “can’t not” create. Whether it be doodles, a re-designed resume, a collection of art provocations, a book, or the slides behind me, I am constantly inspired to create and re-create. What is your “can’t not”?

 

  1. Stand Under Your Umbrella

On the 8/8/08 Amy put a message out that at 8:08pm she would be standing under the Bean in Chicago and that anyone who wanted to make something with her, was welcome to join. She would be the one with the yellow umbrella.  And the association between Amy and a yellow umbrella was born. Imagine an umbrella, yellow, hanging in your schools – in a shared space, a classroom, a teacher workroom. The umbrella would remind you that in this school, in this space, we

  • Take risks
  • Are makers
  • Amplify ideas

 

We have ‘blue sky’ thinking, why not “yellow umbrella living”? How would a yellow umbrella move you forward in the way you ‘do’ school? What would it amplify? What new things would arise?

  1. More

More is a key word I associate with Amy. It is tattooed on her arm. It is in the title of one of her books. She believed that the more you looked, the more you would find. Her biggest more? Was that through her work she would connect with people.

Like all of us, I wear many hats and have a full schedule. To think of adding more seems near impossible. But then I think, what if I take some things away in order to add more things in? Less structure, more freedom. Less talk, more listen. Less work and more play. How would doing less make room for more?

This umbrella is new. I bought it a week or so after Amy died because I wanted something to hold on to that represented a great maker. Amy taught me to make.When I am stuck, when I am not sure, when in doubt, MAKE.  Make good art. Make a connection. Make a difference. To be a maker was Amy’s passion. It almost seems as if it were her destiny.

Who is your Amy? Who inspires you to make the most of your time here. What magic will evolve from the maker in you?

Action, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Creativity

Watch Me!

It is the phrase any parent will know in their sleep. But why isn’t it echoing in our hallways at school? Where is the demand to be seen? To show off what has been created? To share one’s creative endeavours?

The other day I (somewhat) jokingly said to a colleague that we should “Banksy” the heck out of our school walls. Art Activists. Spreading a message. I think I would start with “Watch me!” – the war cry of children who create.

This leads me back to having a Bias Toward Action. Think of your kids. How often are they taking action? And don’t confuse this with “working” or “being busy” but actually making, doing, creating, producing of their own accord? 

One of my Maker heros passed away last week. The phenomenal Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was a maker. She was a creator. She was someone who looked at the same things as everybody else, but through “Amy colored” glasses. She was kind, lovely, generous, smart, and oh so creative. I miss her already. And I wish for more. I have more to say on Amy. But for now, in her honor, please think about having your kids make things. Challenge yourself to do away with worksheets and pre-cut shapes and cookie-cutter “art” projects. Let your kids MAKE things. Stop having them fill in checklists and tick boxes and conform to your timeframe and LET. THEM. MAKE.

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Innovation

Producer Mindset

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Recently I posted about a Maker Mindset. My friend, Darcy, shared an article with me today about a Producer Mindset – specifically, Raising Producer Kids. Written by Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Philip Guo, this is a great piece with loads of ideas about the concept that we need our kids to be more actively producing ideas/products/songs/plays/art/games than they perhaps are at the moment.

Here are some of the best parts from the post:

Encourage your kids to become producers. To the extent possible, have them strive to consistently produce something new rather than consuming all the time.

Producing isn’t limited to creating tangible artifacts.

…engaging in creative activities can give them a deeper sense of personal satisfaction than the superficial fun that comes with passive consumption.

Fostering a producer mindset isn’t hard.

You can still let them spend the vast majority of their free time consuming media like all of their friends are doing; as long as you encourage them to spend at least some time producing

…kids (at least in America) desire both conformance and uniqueness: Consuming the same media as their peers allows them to conform and fit in with the mainstream crowd, and producing gives them a legitimate sense of uniqueness, which can make them happy regardless of what their friends like.

The key here is intrinsic motivation—doing things for their own sake rather than for the promise of external recognition or reward.

…observe what your kids naturally like doing and then figure out ways to get those activities to involve producing rather than just consuming.

Modifying existing works—taking the constraints of an existing book, game, or activity, and then being creative within those constraints—is often the first step toward developing a producer mindset. It also teaches your kids that the things they buy aren’t sacred—they can feel free to alter or remix them.

Exactly what they’re producing isn’t important; what’s more important is the fact that they’re getting into a habit of producing regularly.

Here comes the part that I just LOVE:

Reading and school learning are also forms of consumption. Yes, they’re healthier than ad-ridden mass media, but they still involve passively absorbing, memorizing, and regurgitating information. I’d go as far to claim that if your kids have hobbies they’re passionate about concentrating on for long periods of time, then that’s better preparation for being a happy and productive adult than studying more and possibly getting better grades.

Whenever people ask me about apps for the iPad, I talk about consumption -vs- production apps. It is no secret that Book Creator, Adobe Spark, Stop Motion Studio, Doceri, Draw and Tell, iMovie, Hopscotch and Garageband are among my favorite apps. Games and apps that are task specific (solve these problems, drag these words, fill in these boxes) are really just a substitution for a worksheet, and while they may be “fun” and “the kids really like them”, they are not building a producer or maker mindset.

So what? What can I do now with this information?

Excellent question! This is why you need Darcy at your school! Cue an email she sent this morning to a small group of us, currently exploring Makerspaces and the Maker Mindset. This email was about a new global event on May 2nd (which happens to be DARCY’S BIRTHDAY – coincidence? I think not!). Check it out:

Global Day of Design

I have signed up and the email confirmation comes with a file of goodies that are absolutely worth your time in downloading and looking through. I also bought the book (all in the name of education as part of my Masters course on creativity, of course!) But don’t JUST look at the resources! Share them, print them, doodle on them, remix them, leave them out for the kids to see, loop the videos on your Smartboard. Part of our job as educators is to “light a spark” – kids are going to be curious about things we pay attention to so make sure the things you are spending your time on are worth it!

How does this link to the PYP Exhibition?

If I were in charge of the world, I would have kids work through as many Launch Cycles as possible leading up to the exhibition. Traditionally, most PYPX groups follow an inquiry cycle. While these are great, many teachers use them in a very sequential manner that is theory heavy and research heavy and takes a lot of cognitive processing time rather than tinkering/doing/making time. In many cases, kids don’t move toward the messy, making, action, doing part of exhibition until well into week three or four of the six to eight week process. I would love to see iteration become one of the buzzwords of Exhibition. Instead of coming up with one way, come up with ten ways, twenty ways. Try eight or nine different ideas out. Be bold!

Embrace the Bias.

Bias exists. Everywhere. We all lean toward one thing or another which inherently means we lean away from something else. We read one more chapter which means ten less math problems. The PYP is HUGE. There are many components, each jockeying for attention in our day. Ideally, we would slice the day up into fractional perfection: Knowledge, ATLs, Concepts, Attitudes, Action. But life isn’t a perfect pie chart. So why not embrace a Bias Toward Action? (Thanks, Patty!)

According to the d.School, here is the What/Why/How on Bias Toward Action:

Bias Toward Action

How amazing does this sound? We promote action-oriented behavior. We see action as a way to get a group unstuck. Action inspires new thinking. Action promotes group agreement. Action helps make decisions.

Why would we NOT want more tinkering, producing, and action in our classrooms?

 

What else can I read about tinkering & producing?

For further reading on the subject of tinkering, have a look at these posts previously published with links to loads more ideas to bring a Producer Mindset to your classroom:

Action, Exhibition

Inspiring Action

Action.

It is one of the core components of the PYP and yet it is often something teachers seem to struggle with – inspiring action in their students and helping grow authentic action from inquiries.

Thankfully, there are a lot of really great resources out there to help us in our quest to help kids take action. I have posted about a lot of these, but in light of the fact that it is “Exhibition Season” for many PYP schools, I thought I would do a little roundup of some oldies-but-goodies from the Post Archive and a new graphic that I created last week on the heels of a quick photo posted by a friend of her kids in Singapore working in their classroom.

Speak to Inspire Action

This is the title of a post and of a download by Simon Sinek with 11 “tips to help you speak and present in a way that will inspire others”. It is a great resource and is accessible to fifth graders as well. Check out the blog post about this resource.

Six Ways of Taking Action

This post was sparked by one I read by an Aussie educator, Richard Black, who had broken “action” down into six ways of being, doing, thinking, saying, feeling, and having. I took his words and turned them into a set of posters to help kids visualize what it means to take action. The post also includes links to playlists of inspirational videos for kids and teachers to get them fired up for making a difference.

Action Pyramid

I was tagged in a tweet by my friend Jocelyn, who teaches in Singapore. (Side note: Jocelyn is an amazing educator, please follow on Twitter – she is so generous in her sharing and creative and thoughtful and inspired in her teaching practice). As I flicked through the photos, I saw an action pyramid. I loved it. And I also knew I could feed my addiction to The Noun Project if I took her picture and ramped it up a bit with some iconography.

Here is the visual or here is the PDF of the Pyramid

Pyramid

I really like this as a conversation starter for kids. I think it breaks things down really nicely, having them look critically at what is happening, hypothesise why this might be so (and even research to make sure that is true), reflect on the impact their own actions could make, think creatively about solutions, and DO IT!

How do you build a culture of action taking at your school?