Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Social Media Policy

I just got done writing my Social Media Policy parent letter.  This is the first time I have attempted to write it myself, so I admit I borrowed a lot of the lingo already out there on the web and personalized it for my needs.  That is what teaching is right?

Social Media Guidelines
Parent Permission Form for Student Participation
Mrs. Diaz’s Scholars 2011-2012

Dear Parents:

This year, to help our students develop their reading and writing skills as well as cultivate our understanding of different people and cultures; our students are participating in using a variety of social media applications (blogs, wikis, podcasts) via the Internet. When students are able to safely share their ideas with an audience broader than just our classroom, often they can discover their voice and become even more motivated to learn, communicate and share their ideas effectively with others.

Often we hear negative stories in the mainstream media about the ways young people use the Internet and social media websites. One of the reasons we are participating in some collaborative social media projects this year is to help our students learn through experiences, ways to safely use the Internet to share information and collaborate. I am writing to let you know what we are planning to do, and to obtain your permission for your child to participate.

Planned Activities: We are planning to use several different social media tools to let our students safely share their work and ideas with other students as well as with our school community. (You!)  A description of each one and how we will use it is outlined below:

  1. Class Blog ( – This class blog will be used to post content such as pictures or videos of individual or group student work or classroom projects, and will usually include short descriptions of learning activities.  Our intended audience is parents, and other classrooms around the world we are connecting and sharing with this year.  This blog will be monitored by me and all content will be carefully screened to be sure to protect student privacy. All comments on the blog are monitored by me as well and inappropriate content will be removed immediately.
  2. Edmodo ( – This online educational social networking website is administrated and monitored by me.  All students will have a user name and password and will be given access to join our discussion group.  The purpose of this tool is to connect directly and privately with other classes during the Global Read Aloud project.  We will also use it as a class forum to connect with each other outside of normal school hours. Only members who are given a code can join our group, and students cannot join other groups without being invited by a teacher.
  3. Twitter (@mrsdiazclass) – Our class is using twitter to share what we are doing in our classroom with parents and other selected classrooms around the world.  Most likely this will be used to alert our audience that there is something we would like to share on our class blog. Our twitter account is monitored by me and only approved classrooms or parents will be allowed to follow us on twitter.
  4. Student Blogs ( – Kidblog is a blogging website for kids. We will be using it to journal topics assigned by me.  Usual topics include response to literature for the novel we are working on.  Each student will have their own blog page, a user name and password.  All use is strictly monitored by me and the intended audience is our classmates and me, although parents may also access the blog.
  5. YouTube ( – We will be making and uploading videos to YouTube to embed on our class blog. Our account is private, and our videos will not be searchable.  Access will be restricted to those who have the direct link.
  6. Skype ( – Our class will use Skype from time to time to video conference with other classes, professionals, experts, or authors during the year to enhance our learning experiences.

Safety Concerns
Our projects may be shared privately with other classes over the Internet and with parents, and also may be shared publicly on the Internet. To protect student privacy and ensure safety throughout all projects we will:
  1. Only use student first names, if names are used at all, in identifying student work and ideas.
  2. Never identify pictures of individual students or groups of students.
  3. Not intentionally post any identifying personal student or school information on any social media tools.
  4. Will read and follow the Acceptable Use Policy, whether at home or at school when using any social media tools.
  5. Remove any content at a parent’s request until such time as it is re-evaluated for any safety concerns that may arise.

If you have questions about our projects please contact me. I am happy to discuss the topic and your concerns until you are satisfied that we are using technology safely and purposefully for educational activities that enhance our curriculum. In addition, I will be in contact with you with specific to share links to specific projects as we create them!  If at any time you are not comfortable about an online activity, you should share your concerns immediately so that I can re-evaluate or modify it as soon as possible.

Please complete, sign and return the bottom of this form to me as soon as possible. Thanks!


______  YES, my child has my permission to participate in teacher-moderated, Internet-based social media projects and the planned collaborative activities outlined here.

______  YES, I give permission for my child’s work and ideas to be posted on our class blog and other social media tools.

______  YES, I give permission for my child’s pictures, or videos to be posted on our class blog and other social media tools.

______  NO, my child does not have permission to participate in these activities.

Date: ______

Student Name: ____________________________         Student Signature: ___________________

Parent Name: _____________________________     Parent Signature: ____________________

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update on the Summer Reading Blog

Before we left for summer break, my class formed a summer book club.  Here is the original post on the Summer Book Blog.

Unfortunately, most of the students did not participate.  In fact, only 4 students took the time to post (out of 13) and of those, only 2 posted more than once.  So what went wrong?  The kids loved to blog about our books during the school year.  So why didn't that carry over into the summer months?

Was it lack of parent support/access/interest?
Was it that we didn't have concrete dates to read certain chapters by?
Was it because they didn't want to read during the summer?
Is it because the cool things we do in school, are still related to school not cool to do in the summer?
Is it because I failed to help them become life long learners?

The only way I am going to know for sure is to ask them.  So this year, when we go back, I will be interviewing them to find out what, if anything, would have encouraged them to blog.

I had originally envisioned using a blog for my Reading Log this year.  Now I am not so sure...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Evaluation of the Nook Color in Education

Last week I attended an information meeting about the Nook Color and saw a presentation on its potential in the classroom.  I have to say I was very impressed.  My evaluation notes are below:

The Nook Color is primarily marketed as an eReader: books are downloaded to your machine.  For no cost, a representative at Barnes and Noble will manage the school account.  If you want to purchase a new book, you won't be able to do it yourself (and neither will your students - which is a great safety feature).  Instead the representative will handle the purchase and then push the ebook to the group of machines you want it installed on.  You can "group" machines in any number bundles you want (unlike iPad that requires the bundle to be in groups of 10).  So you can have 8 machines with one set of books, and another set of 6 with another set, if you wanted.  This is an advantage for literature circles, where not everyone needs the same book at the same time.

One helpful feature of the eReader is the highlight and sharing capability.  I downloaded Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and started to read the prologue.  I changed the backgrounds, text shape and size to make the reading experience more to my liking.  Then, I read a sentence that included the phrase "dog days".  This is something I wanted to save, so I used the highlight tool to highlight the sentence.  Then I added a sticky note with a question: "What does dog days mean?"  If I wanted to, I could choose to share this post on Twitter. Students could use this in the classroom to share with other classes during our Global Read Aloud project taking place in September.  Then, I decided to use the link to look up the phrase "dog days".  Three choices are presented for looking up words, a dictionary, Wikipedia, and Google.  The downside is that it would not look up the two words together, it would only look up "dog" or "days" one word at a time, however it was easy to add the other word during the search.  I came up with a great explanation of "dog days of summer" from Google.  This feature would really benefit all kids as they learn new vocabulary.

The other feature that doesn't get enough mention is the Internet browser.  Nook Color runs on an Android operating system which means that you can view flash files and movies!  I had no problem visiting websites like that utilize flash.  I was able to view any website I can view on my own computer from this mobile device.  The only criticism I had was that it was hard to locate and use the BACK button.  It was hard to maneuver backwards if opened a link or webpage I didn't want by mistake.  I eventually figured it out, though.  I also checked to see if I would be able to view our online math textbook.  It took about 30 seconds to download, (which I think is a lot) but once it did I could view the workbook and textbook pages as pdf files.

The Nook Color is also a storage device.  I learned that you can connect the Nook Color to your computer and save word documents, pdf files, and powerpoint presentations to it just as you would for a portable USB drive.  This would be great if I wanted the students to complete a worksheet or graphic organizer for Tuck Everlasting. I would not have to make copies to distribute anymore which is great for those who are interested in going "paperless". This would take time though, because each device would need to be connected to the main computer one at a time.  There is a lot of potential here if I could figure out how to have the students write directly on the template, and then save their work or email it to me.  There is likely a way to do it but I would have to research it further to see if an app like that exists.  At the very least, you can view and edit shared Google docs.

This brings me to the app store.  There are about 240 "education" apps that can be downloaded.  Again the purchasing and pushing of these apps to the machine would be done by Barnes and Noble (you can do it yourself, but for free, why not have them do it right?).  There was a good drawing app that turns your Nook Color into a portable slate, flashcards, games, and an app for publishing student books.  I did not do much research into the apps.  But to me, this was a bonus feature, not something I really woudl purchase a Nook for.  If you want apps, you go iPad...

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Nook Color.  I think it is an excellent alternative for schools who are looking to expand their digital library, go paperless, and have portable internet access.  The low cost of $250 makes it a realistic alternative to other devices.