Internet Safety and Security

Building an interactive Novel Unit Study that uses online social media requires some time up front putting in place a classroom blog and a communication platform.

In our school, each student has an iPad and access to the internet and course material online. Having an interactive novel student that uses social media as a vehicle for assessment only seems natural.

Open social media platforms like Twitter and Snap chat are currently blocked from the school network, and students do not have access to these mediums. Knowing that parents have concerns about internet safety, it is important to incorporate blogging and messaging that is secure and limited to only to those invited to be part of the class.

For a safe and secure classroom blog, the best choice out there is


For safe and secure messaging, that is a modified version of Twitter, one of the best choices is


The next few hours will be spent setting up a Kidblog classroom and Remind class list. At the same time, it is important to build in a couple lesson plans to provide instruction on how to use each social media outlets and have practice posting sessions. That will be coming up next week.


Project Proposal Research

Taking risks and meeting students in the world they are most familiar with – Social Media.

As I am researching how other middle school teachers are using blogs and Twitter to enhance the educational process, I am coming across some amazing teachers. I am inspired everywhere I turn by educators who are stepping outside of the brick and mortar box; taking risks to connect to students through the world of social media.

Blogging with Middle Schoolers: Frontloading and First Steps

by Heather on September 8, 2010

“So I just finished introducing blogging to my middle school classes. They are hooked, as each year before them was hooked. I use it as a substitute for Reading Logs, that dreaded love-of-reading killer which causes eye rolls in many a Language Arts class. Rather than simply log the quantity of books, perhaps embellishing with a short summary or bibliographical entry, I have them discuss quality.”

Quantitative Representation: Data Shaping our Personalities

“This is where my original fascination with society’s inability to disconnect from technology and social media morphed into a twisted concern.”   JKaufenberg Reflection, Week Four

This week’s reading, chapter 1 and 3, Seeing Ourselves Through Technology (Jill Walker Rettberg, 2014) grabbed my attention and intrigued me in more ways than one.

Watching teenagers around me digitizes what seems to be every waking moment of their lives; I have been in a constant state of concern with the greater impact that technology may have on their lives in the future. After reading, Rettberg’s concept of Written, Visual and Quantitative Self-Representations, I developed a better understanding of digital self-representation. Even though society as a whole continues to ridicule selfies and blogs, the digital forum plays a major role in everyday lives of individuals.

The digital mediums that Rettberg focuses on, written, visual and quantitative, have a definite place in our modern world. A place that would be here in an alternate format if we did not have our current technology. According to Rettberg, blog and written status updates are descendent of diaries, memoirs, commonplace books, and autobiographies. Selfies are descendants of visual artists’ self-portraits, and the quantitative modes of lifelogs, personal maps, productivity records and activity trackers are descendants of genres such as accounting, habit tracking, and to-do lists. In today’s digital culture, the three modes are intertwined (Rettber, 2014).

Relating to and understanding the writing and visual self-representations was easier to comprehend, while the quantitative side was a little more challenging to wrap my head around. The more I read, the more I thought back to the Insightful human portraits made from data, TED Talk. In an earlier post, Inspiration from Data and a Little Creative Thinking, I connected to this same TED Talk after reading Heilyeah: Weekly Summary and Digital Artifact. It is definitely worth bringing up again because this is where my original fascination with society’s inability to disconnect from technology and social media morphed into a twisted concern.

As Language Arts and Communications teacher, I am seeing directly and indirectly how technology and social media are influencing students in a variety of ways, both positive and negative, every day. Part of our, middle and high school Language Arts, studies involves personal character, first impressions, and self-image. We look at who we think we are and how people view us. As students mature, they can see that the two are not always the same, and the choices we make can change how others view us. Adding technology and potential “alternate personal characters” into the mix can shape the reality of our future selves. It is important that we continue to discuss the impact of data, technology, and social media with students of all ages. Technology creates an open book that displays the “who” we want people to know and even the “who” we want to keep private. The important thing to remember is that no matter “who” that is, once it is out there it cannot be taken back.

Artist R. Luke DuBois makes unique portraits of presidents, cities, himself and even Britney Spears using data and personality. In this talk, he shares nine projects — from maps of the country built using information taken from millions of dating profiles to a gun that fires a blank every time a shooting is reported in New Orleans. His point: the way we use technology reflects on us and our culture, and we reduce others to data points at our own peril. TED2016

Self Portrait of a Secondary Teacher: Part II

Are you an open door or a closed window?

“Recognizing our Imperfect Impact on the World,” JKaufenberg

Educators have an immense role in the bigger picture of our society and the lives of individuals. With the responsibility of guiding students through the formative years of their lives, educators need to recognize they can either be an open door to all of the world’s possibilities or a closed window blocking the mind from opening up to its potential.

The second self-portrait that I would like to share is a poster I created to represent the philosophies behind educational psychology. The words strung through the hair represent all of the positive and negative things that affect me as an educator, as well as my direct and indirect effect on students.

It is important to remember that, while this blog focuses on the student, relationships with collogues, parents and the community is extremely important to the overall success of a classroom and the school community as a whole. Future blog articles will feature Community, Family, and School topics.

Creative Commons License  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Self Portrait of a Secondary Teacher: Part I

An American Teacher – who am i?

As a teacher, part of my inner self is connected to my students and the adolescent world. Education is not limited to academics. Education is about the whole student, helping them see beyond the four walls they know and into the world that is bigger than they can simply comprehend. Guiding students through adolescents includes providing them opportunities to discover themselves as individuals. At the same time, it is equally important that young adults learn that no matter where you are from or what cultural background you have, teenagers deal with many of the same challenges.

The first self-portrait that I would like to share was created for an instructional unit called “An American Teenager.” I created this unit for 9th and 10th-grade students, as a platform for students to get to know other teenagers from around American by reading journals, diaries, and biographies by young adults. Next year, I am going to attempt to take the knowledge I am gaining in the “Weblogs and Wikis” course and incorporate it into the unit. Blogs and social media in general play a major role in the lives of teenagers and it is only natural that we use this to connect students to their peers going through similar life challenges.

“An American Teenager,” JKaufenberg
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Fostering Critical Thinking with Comprehension Questions

The student centered classroom revolves around understanding that we learn more from each other than we could ever learn on our own.

Many students are surprised to hear that I am more excited when students get answers wrong than I am when they get them correct, especially during discussions and discovery time. My enthusiasm for incorrect answers often confuses students during the first month of school, until they realize how much emphasis we put into learning from each other in the classroom.

As a teacher, I relish in teachable moments and the best time to learn is when we do not understand a concept or when we have the wrong answer.

As part of the daily learning within my classroom, students are guided through the learning process by questions that drive them through the process of discovering why.

Simply, answering a question correctly is not good enough. Students need to prove they are right or convince the rest of the class to agree with their reasoning.

The core reasoning behind this method of learning is to stimulate critical thinking and allow students opportunities to learn from mistakes. The theory is that we learn more from the incorrect answer and proving why it is wrong than we merely learn from selecting the correct answer and moving on to the next question.

Here is an example transcript of how the whole class works through comprehension questions after reading a Newsela article. Together the students debate and discover evidence that supports their thoughts and ideas.

The Newsela article used for this lesson sample: German shepherd named Rumor wins Best in Show at Westminster dog show, by Associated Press, adapted by Newsela staff (1000 LL).

Step 1: Teacher assigns an article to the Newsela Class. The teacher has students open the article in their Newsela Binder using their personal technology device (teacher may use a printed copy). Newsela allows students and teachers to selectnewsela-1 Reading Level that it appropriate for the individual student or reading situation. During whole class guided reading use an appropriate instructional reading level for the class.

Step 2: Students open article from their Newsela Binder.


Step 3: Teacher read the article allowed while students follow along. Depending on grade level and goals of the lesson, students may annotate the text during reading or as instruction permits. After reading students, DO NOT answer the quiz questions independently. It is important to WAIT to enter answers for this whole class reading and inquiry lesson.


Step 4: Go through answers together as a class. newsela-3

Student Volunteer read aloud Question One: Which sentence from the section “Always A Crowd Favorite” BEST describes how the audience reacted to Rumor’s victory at the Westminster dog show?

READ each answer aloud:

A The crowd favorite, Rumor came out flying into the final ring to fans whistling and calling her name.

B Moments later, as Boyles did post-show interviews, Rumor spotted him and ran toward the man who guided her to victory.

C  The moment any German shepherd steps into the ring at the Garden, the crowd goes crazy.

D Some say it’s because rooting for a German shepherd is the same as putting on a New York police department or fire department hat.

TEACHER: What answer do you think is best?

STUDENT VOLUNTEER: A The crowd favorite, Rumor came out flying into the final ring to fans whistling and calling her name.

TEACHER: Why is this answer correct?

STUDENT VOLUNTEER: This answer is correct because [student justifies answer]

TEACHER: (asks class) does anyone disagree? Does anyone think another answer could be better?

STUDENT A: I think a better answer would be C the moment any German shepherd steps into the ring at the Garden, the crowd goes crazy.

TEACHER: Why do you think that C answers the question about how the audience reacted to Rumor’s victory at the Westminster dog show better than answer A?

STUDENT A: [student justifies answer]

TEACHER: (to class) thumbs up if you think A is the correct answer. Thumbs down if you think C is the correct answer. Thumbs sideways if you think it is another answer.

TEACHER: Continue to foster discussion and encourage students to engage in academic discourse. Use questioning to help students justify why they think the answer is correct. Continue to take a thumb poll throughout discussion until the majority are selecting the same answer. Go back to the original STUDENT VOLUNTEER and STUDENT A to see if original stance has changed. (REPEAT process for each question).

When first learning how to discuss and support thoughts and ideas with evidence it is important to give the students the correct answer. Giving students the correct answer and discussing why the answers are correct or incorrect is essential to developing critical thinking skills.

TWO Options for continuing:

  1. Once the majority of the class has come to a consensus, have students enter the answer into Newsela Quiz. After everyone has entered the class choice select submit, then give students the correct answer and have discussion
  2. Provide the answer first and then have students enter the correct answer into the Newsela Quiz. This provides everyone an opportunity to have a perfect reading score during whole class guided reading time.

NOTE: when using Newsela as a whole class instruction tool, it is best practice to have a separate class code for guided reading articles. This allows teachers to keep the guided reading scores separate from individual scores when tracking individual growth and progress.



Developing a Great Weblog with Credibility

Understanding Common WordPress Mistakes: Weblogs and Wikis, Week 3


Thank you, WordPress, for inspiring a week’s worth of journal writing lessons for my 11 and 12 grade Language Arts class based on the posted quote “Battling dragons is easy. It’s stepping in chewing gum that brings me to my knees.”

Weblogs and Wikis readings for the Week of January 24, have us looking closely at the weblog format, design, and layout. As I worked my way through “The Most Common Tiny Mistakes Made When Setting Up a WordPress Site,” I tried to review the Weblog I am creating to make sure that I am avoiding common errors that can discredit the blogs credibility. It is important that bloggers remember that, often times, blogs lose credibility because of simple errors that turn away readers.

For example, spelling and capitalization errors may seem like a futile battle with students and adults alike; however, a blog with multiple spelling and capitalization errors can turn off a potential follower. The letter “I” is an extremely important letter, especially to bloggers who write in first person. When referring to yourself it is essential to capitalize the letter “I.” not only is “I” a proper noun, in this case, “I” is the most important person in the world. That is you! The concept of capitalization and punctuation holds equally true when replying to postings. Many professional bloggers will not approve postings that are riddled with spelling and capitalization errors, or contain factually inaccurate information because this is a reflection on the quality of their weblog. Technology is an amazing thing – believe it or not, there are built-in spelling and grammar checkers that indicate errors that they can easily be fixed with the “right click of a mouse.”

The section, Category and Tag Management, helped me develop a deeper understanding of how to use categories and tags as a tool to help readers navigate the weblog. At the same time, categories and tags help with organizing and maintaining a quality weblog. One error that I made right off the bat, which I cannot figure out how to change, is the capitalization of the tags. According to the blog, tags are a part of a site’s first impression and in general, keep tags all lowercase or title case for a clean tag cloud or list. Note that if a tag name is added as a category first, the tag name will be capitalized. Edit the tag to change the case.”

“The Most Common Tiny Mistakes Made When Setting Up a WordPress Site” has a section labeled EDIT TAGS, which goes through a set-by-set process of how to change capitalization; however, I have been unable to correct this error. One thing I would like to do is clear the drop down box that is automatically created as you add new tags. The first tags I entered are capitalized and when I enter them, again in lower case, it defaults to the first entry of that word with the capital. Only new words that I enter are correct with no capitalization. In the [To edit or delete a tag] section, the step by step directions say to go to Posts > Tags, search or scan for the tag you wish to change, Hover over it and select Edit – this is the point where I get stuck – I do not get the option to Edit.

As I move through the process of building a weblog, it becomes clear that creditability is like our first impression when we meet people. Whether we want to admit it or not “image is everything” and even weblogs need to “dress for success.”


Outside the Box Assessments: Using the Internet and Technology

With students stuck in the world of technology both in school and out of school, it is important to provide them opportunities to disconnect from their cell phones and the world of resistive and capacitive illuminated screens. Equally important to allowing time to disconnect, is allowing time to stay connected and demonstrated knowledge and understanding using the mediums students are most comfortable.

As I was reading the article, 8 Smart Ways to teach Current Events in the Classroom in 2017, by Kim Moran for We Are Teachers, I was inspired to take a closer look at using technology to provide students opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and show off their abilities.

We Are Teachers suggests using Podcasts as a method of assessment in place of research projects.  7. Create podcasts instead of research projects:When kids hear they must do a research project, they groan. The work can feel overwhelming from identifying a topic to writing a long paper with sources. Instead of going the traditional route, try a more current use of technology by having kids research current events in order to create a podcast for their technology class. This is one project that covers all content areas and brings them together under one roof. Students listen to podcasts designed for kids like Brains On! And Buy Why? Then they find a current event, research it just enough to write a script, record the podcast in GarageBand (found free on all Macs), and export it to an MP4. If the podcasts are uploaded to one location, both kids and parents can enjoy and learn from them. This article has more on doing podcasting projects with your students.”

More ideas using technology as an alternate assessment:

  1. Google Forms
  2. Google Classroom
  3. Twitter in the Classroom
  5. Newsela
  6. iMovie
  7. Wiki Spaces
  8. Moodle – Open Source Learning Platform
  9. Schoology Online Classroom and Discussion Boards
  10. Cartoon Making Tools for Teachers

Creative Commons and Intellectual Property

During BootCamp activities, I was introduced to Creative Commons. This was the first time, that I have ever read or heard about Creative Commons (CC), and as I worked my way through the Creative Commons website, the history section revealed that as an educator my life is directly affected by the CC.

Even though Creative Commons as a whole touches my everyday interaction with on the Internet, Open Education has the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. According to the CC, “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

Little did I know, before today, the CK-12, KHAN Academy, and edX are who they are in part to CC and the educational path the CC has been blazing since 2007.

The future of education revolves around engaging students in their world and their world revolves around technology. With an ever-changing world, it is essential that teachers have access to tools and resources that can meet individual student needs. At the same time, CC provides another level to education by establishing a platform, School of Open, which educators can use to help students learn about the meaning and impact of open licenses and resources. This opens the doors to unlimited collaborative project resources and applications where students can apply what they are learning to real world problems and creation of potential solutions.