Parenting In The Digital Age…Join The Conversation

Dealing with digital devices in the hands of our children is a constant struggle for so many parents. How long should we allow them to be online? How can we best monitor their activity? Should we just ban certain websites or apps?  
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t spend some time thinking about these issues. With this in mind, I am looking forward to our next Parent Technology Night in January (see information below) where we will have an open discussion about these questions and others.  
In the meantime, I was struck by the following quote from a great blog post on Slate by Danah Boyd and Eszter Hargittai titled How Politics, Race, and Socioeconomic Status Affect Parents’ Fears About Tech.
While there is a great deal to talk about here, my takeaway is the following:

“The internet is a part of contemporary public life.  Engagement with technology is key to helping youth understand the world around them.”

Over the next month and half, I plan on reading two different books to further my thinking on this important topic:

The App Generation –  by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis.

Our Main Goal For Unannounced Observations…

“Unannounced observations” –  Let’s admit that the idea of such a thing for brings about at least a minimal amount of internal unrest for educators.  Personally, i am reminded of the game hide and seek and the announcement that the seeker makes – “ready or not, here I come!”  However, creating unrest and distrust on the part of teachers is not the way to improve teaching and learning in our classrooms. The way to accomplish this is to create more opportunities to share and discuss best practice. 

Our main goal from the outset of this new teacher evaluation system has been to create more conversations around teaching and learning. Please keep this in mind as  we head into the unchartered waters of “unannounced observations” in Burlington. This is not intended to be a game of “gotcha” where evaluators walk into teachers classrooms when they least expect it.  This is intended to be an opportunity for all of us to share examples of the 
Burlington Public Schools Great Eight  in action.  We look forward to sharing in those discussions!

Stay tuned for the next post which will share a few of the logistics of Unannounced Observations. 

How To Choose The Best Digital Tools For You

This post originally appeared on Edudemic

best digital tools
As I look for entry points in working with school leaders just getting their feet wet with digital tools, I sometimes struggle to pinpoint the best place to start. I guess it is because there are so many useful tools out there that my colleagues could utilize to help them to change their workflows for the better. However, the important thing is not the tool at all.
The important thing is that educational leaders are modeling the fact that they too are continuous learners who are striving to employ the most relevant resources that they can access to do their jobs.
In tackling this dilemma, I have decided to look at a few of the functions that school leaders perform and provide a couple of tools that can not only assist them but also help them model the integration of digital tools into their daily routines. Again, I am looking to stay away from a specific solution and instead list some of the options that are available for particular tasks. Choices are a good thing, so let’s embrace the fact that we live in a day and age where we have them!
When first getting started with digital tools, the most important task for school leaders is communication. Whether it is with staff, students, or parents, school leaders need to be strong communicators and provide their stakeholders with the appropriate information at the appropriate time. There are also different levels of communication that we deal with here. Are we just putting out information on upcoming events or are we telling our story and providing people with asynchronous opportunities to share in events and presentations that they cannot get to in person due to their busy schedules?
In an era of transparency and connectedness, we have the ability to tell our story every day of the school year instead of waiting for media coverage of something going on in our school. Why wait for that negative news item that brings the media swarming to your school when you can inundate people with the positive things happening on a daily basis. When people Google your school or district what do they find? What is the first impression they get from a digital walkthrough?
These are the questions that you need to answer for yourself as you start to think about the tools that you want to choose to communicate and the information that you want to communicate. Here are some of the types of communication we do in our district and how we do them:
These are just a few of the countless ways that school leaders can communicate, collaborate, and engage with stakeholders in whatever the topic of the day is in their school community. It’s not critical that educational leaders use all of these resources, but it is critical that they start to get comfortable with some of them.
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Registration Open for the The New England 1:1 Summit (It’s FREE!)

From the BPS Ed Tech Blog:



Join us for the New England 1:1 SummitA FREE event from the BPS EdTech Team
Friday, April 11
1:1 School Visits at elementary, middle, and high school locations
Attendees will learn about the 1:1 iPad program in Burlington Public Schools. The Friday session includes a presentation about 1:1 learning environments and best practices for creating the most beneficial educational technology programs. Attendees will also have the opportunity to tour 1:1 classrooms in session with students. The opportunity to visit a 1:1 classroom in action is a powerful way to see what 1:1 learning looks like especially for those educators who have not yet taught in that environment.
There will be three options for attendees happening at the same time in Burlington – elementary, middle, or high school presentation and classroom visits:
Francis Wyman Elementary School which is 1:1 iPads in grades 1, 4, and 5.
Marshall Simonds Middle School which is fully 1:1 iPads in grades 6, 7, and 8.
Burlington High School which is currently an Apple Distinguished 1:1 iPad School for grades 9-12.
Saturday, April 12
The New England 1:1 Summit at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington
Join educators from around New England and beyond for the 2014 New England 1:1 Summit. The New England 1:1 Summit was first held in Burlington by the Burlington Public Schools EdTech Team in 2012. The 2012 event was the first educational technology event focused entirely on 1:1 learning environments held in New England. The event had over 450 participants and featured presentations from educators, administrators, and IT professionals.
The event returns to Burlington this April and will again feature presentations and hands-on learning about technology in the classroom. While the focus is on 1:1 learning, the event is not device specific. Sessions will include discussions about iPads, Chromebooks, PC and Mac laptops, as well as educational applications that help our students succeed and grow.
The event is FREE and even includes lunch and prizes!

How To Embed Your Google Calendar On Your Blog

One of my colleagues asked me today about embedding a Google calendar on her blog. Since I made the screen captures of the steps to share with her, I figured I would share them here as well in case anyone else is interested.

Step one: Click on the cog on the right hand side of your calendar and choose settings.

Step two: Click on calendars in the top left corner of the page.
Step three: Choose an existing calendar to share or create a new one.
Step four: Choose the embed code to paste into an html gadget on your blog. You may have to play with the size of the calendar. You can change the height and width numbers. I suggest 255 for the width and 400 for the height if you are going to use it in the sidebar. 
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How To Follow Your Child (or Anyone) On Twitter Without Joining Twitter

So I recently had to make a call to a relative regarding his son’s Twitter account because I had come across some pretty disturbing material on the 15-year old’s feed. When my relative answered the phone I asked, “Have you ever checked (his) Twitter feed?”  Not surprisingly, my relative responded, “never.”

image via –
At this point, I went on to describe a few of the things that I had seen and told my relative about an easy way to monitor his son on Twitter without having to go through the process of signing up for an account.  In fact, you can use this trick whether you have the newest smartphone or an old-school flip phone. Just text on followed by the Twitter name of the account you want to follow to the number 40404 (See the example below). If you ever want to stop getting the messages you can text off followed by the Twitter name to 40404. 

Parent Technology Night: Foundational Apps and iOS7

Elementary Parent Night.044

The Burlington Public Schools EdTech Team will be hosting a Parent Technology Night on Tuesday, November 5 at Marshall Simonds Middle School. Please join us for information about the BPS Foundational Apps and the new iOS7 for iPads. The session will provide an opportunity to learn about the core apps that we are using in our 1:1 programs. These apps include Google Drive, Notability, Explain Everything, and Evernote. We will also provide support if you are looking for guidance using iOS7 on your own iPad or iPhone.
Time during every Parent Tech Night session is also dedicated to other technology related questions and support.