Where can you find me now?

Well, things have been very busy and I have not been blogging here, but blogging at Transparently Teaching and for my students on my class blog.

It has been a little daunting, but I love blogging for my students, even when the post is more instructional rather than reflective.

Some great projects that we are now working on:  using NING to bring Romeo and Juliet to the Social Networking era, and my other classes are embedding media for allusion essays.

Stop by and say hi!

 

 

Trans-PARENT-ly Teaching

A little while ago I was posting about my position being reduced and looking into consulting. I have had a few people interested and I am looking in to possibilities.  I just can’t seem to leave the idea of being in a school.  I love education, I love working with children,  without the opportunity to  benefit those little people either through teaching or administration- I will be not be completely satisfied.

Parenting in a Digital Age

Parenting in a Digital Age

I still know my ‘lens’ but I have shifted it a bit, Transparently Teaching is now a site purely for parents, it will be an online seminar in Cyber Safety and it even has its own blog.  After communicating with the parents of my Google Group I realized that this was something I can not end, it must continue, and I hope to involve as many parents as possible.  It is one of those moments where your inner compass leads your decisions.

No matter where I am employed it is absolutely essential that parents are informed and proactive about the impact digital media has their child’s lives.

Clicking on the ‘Parent Seminar’ link will bring one through the actual discussions and lessons shared with my parents.  There is also a Forum where I am hope my former participants join.  In its best use this site will provide simple, sequential, and easy to follow instructions that parents can apply in their child’s lives.  The Google Group was designed to meet the needs of  busy parents who can not make it to face to face seminars. Transparently Teaching will make it even easier for busy parents to stay on top of all the issues their children could face online.

Redefining Lay-off

Screen shot 2011-05-06 at 9.03.05 AM

After learning a couple months ago my position of 11 years was being reduced (thank you Governor Cuomo) I went through the normal grieving, anger, sadness process. I am still going through it. No matter how legal it all is, I do go through feelings of betrayal and self pity.

On fantastic up-shot however is that I finally found my blogging Lens. I remember starting blogging and reading Will Richardson’s reflections on his blog. Wondering how to develop my lens, I always was intimidated for a number of reasons. I could not find my blogging niche.  As some one that grew up with a 504 and had processing issues, I always felt inadequate in my ability to represent my thoughts in a coherent manner.

Fast-forward to the current day, I have no teaching position waiting for me in September, I presented my approach on my Cyber Safety curriculum (I teach my students and their parents) at the LHRIC’s Tech Expo. The aftermath is still amazes me.  I was asked at least 4-5 times with in an hour if I had considered consulting, and presenting.  In truth? not seriously, but I dreamt about it many times when I should have been planning.

So the best part of my Lay-off? Finding my lens and my courage at the same time.  I am not from a cookie cutter background, but that history has provided me an inner strength and a desire to drive others forward.

I sat down two days ago and and was inspired, before I realized it  I had jotted down my core values for a business, then a mission, then my catch phrases.  I had the name of my consultancy. And it all resonated with me.

Brainstorming the future

The next day I sat down I had in the span of an hour had 4 presentations, and 8 workshops that I am very capable of delivering,  and delivering well.  The scary part? Being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is very difficult for the employed teacher in a blog.

Will Surmises exactly what my fears are:

But here is the thing: no matter how you slice it, blogging is a risk. And it’s a risk not just because you are putting yourself out there for the world, but because unlike many other types of writing that we do, it’s unfinished.

So, focusing on the good? I have the ability now to be more vulnerable and present myself completely rather than the professional version I think everyone wants to see. I can take more risks that I feel will benefit students (I can’t help but want to say “my students”) teachers and parents.

I will be launching my new site and consultancy May 17th, right now it is under construction.  Why the 17th?  Because that is when the town will vote and the proposed budget that eliminates my position will be adopted.  I want to have something good happen for me that day.

I work for and with amazing people, and I am honored to have been here as long as I have.  My students? I carry them in my heart where ever I go, every single little face has changed me. I cherish every one of them, especially the challenging students, they remind me of myself.  Often times the most challenging ones are the young adults who come back to me to say thank you.   How many people truly get to love their job everyday? How many people know they are touching a life forever? Not many… that is the nature of teaching.  No matter what happens I will always be grateful for that.

A letter to my “parents”, social media parenting

One of the reasons why I have not blogged in so long is because I have been engaging in email lessons with my students’ parents.

It never occurred to me to use this correspondance as the fodder for blog posts. All this time I have felt like an epic blogging failure because I had not picked it back up after the birth of my daughter. But I have been blogging this whole time, just to a private audience.

My efforts have been to teach my parents augmented Cyber Safety lessons while their children are learning the same subject. I feel this two pronged teaching approach is the best way for me to keep my students safe.

Below is today’s letter:

Good Morning Parents,

I had this in my Twitter feed this morning and I wanted to forward it
to you as well.

As a parent I am definitely guilty of being on my phone while sitting
on the couch with my kids, I am surprised that I have not come across
social media parenting lessons before.

In an age where many of us are connected all the time, we begin to
lose touch with the subtleties of face to face human contact. I
noticed this myself while my son and I are having ‘our’ time after I
put my daughter to bed. It is the only time of the day when it is
just me and my son, and I am ashamed to say that I found myself often
plugged into my phone rather than enjoying that moment of cuddling
with my boy.

‘Social Media’ (being the tools we use like Facebook, Flickr, Youtube)
have made all of us use ‘Social Networks’ (the people using the tool)
to stay plugged in. Because of being plugged in citizen journalism
has taken off, like the example below.

It is rumored that Twitter was used to first to announce attack on Bin
Laden and then later his subsequent death. That example just goes to
show how social media and citizen journalism is changing our world

We are living in amazing times, being “plugged in” is a natural part

He is not this little anymore but his eye are still bigof our lives, but that makes it ever more in important to prioritize

times to be “unplugged” with our children. Our kids will learn from
or behavior more than anything we will say.  I need to remember this the next time my son is asking for my attention when I am mid-text. Is it more important for me to answer that text? Or put the phone down and look into his big blue eyes.  And they are BIG blue eyes.


The parenting article is a worth while read. Enjoy your day!

Dealing with safety and too much exposure

For my Advanced Computer Applications Class- follow every link,

This morning I had the luxury of sitting on my couch and watching the news,  once again I was saddened to hear of yet another case of a Cyber-Predator luring a teen victim named Ashleigh Hall.  I know many of you feel secure, or feel like you are educated or savvy enough online to protect yourselves, but so did every single teen who has been groomed and seduced into meeting strangers off line.

Grooming is a nasty process where the predator will endear themselves to their victims, make them feel safe and trustworthy. And one of the sick things is that it can take a long time, several months to a year or so. Predators are usually juggling a few prospects and the ‘grooming’ process  is part of the excitement for them. Almost like a hunter.. it is the hunt that is just as exciting.

I found another article by Mark Williams-Thomas (on a UK news site) who pretended to be a 14 year old girl signing on to Facebook with a public profile. The Article goes on to describe some staggering facts:

What happened to Ashleigh Hall is desperately sad, but not surprising, given the proliferation of paedophiles online and the fact that 25 per cent of girls and 14 per cent of boys who make contact with someone online will go on to meet them in person.

(This is a UK site so the spelling will be different in some instances)  A quarter of teen girls on Facebook in the UK and 14% of boys will MEET a stranger the have encountered online.  That is just the teens that choose to admit that they have met someone online.  I am sure you would agree with me that this number is probably greater.

You have two assignments. The first for today is to comment on this blog about your reactions to the information you have read here, the second is to develop your own blog post about cyber-safety and cyber predators from your own perspective. Remember that cyber predators exist everywhere, not just on facebook, but while you game, chat, post on message boards etc…

It is very important that you focus and get both of these done. The comment MUST be done today. The blog post you should be developing today and will finish and publish tomorrow.  Tomorrow afternoon I will read your posts and grade you on your thought development, how well you write and your ability to hyperlink to relevant information. Yes, you can use my blog and one of the links I provided but you need to find a relevant link as well.

I should be available on twitter if you have any questions just tweet me by using @jenniferacronk

Taking the conversation out of the classroom

While trying to find something to bring to my Advanced class I found this great post by Jeff Utecht regarding the validity of blogging in the classroom.  More often than not the major impediment that Technology teachers face is the fear of the unknown.

We have all heard horrible stories about what happens to people when they reveal too much online.  What about teaching proper online behavior? What about teaching the relevance of the authentic audience?

I think that this post perfectly articulates the power of blogging and building a network of learners. I am interested in what my students have to say about this post and what it means for that class and for the Student Haley.

Dream Come True

I have long wanted to teach students all the amazing things I have learned while blogging. Recently, I have gotten the  opportunity to change my curriculum in my Advanced Computer Applications class.  I am now calling the Advanced Computer Applications” class the “21st Century Skills” class.

As an opener I played the class a video created by Mike Wesch and his students “Vision of Students Today”.  I was hoping that this would be a great eye opener for the kids and to get them thinking about their daily activities interacting on the Web.

Once I am home and have access to Youtube I will embed the video.

The class has only been meeting for one week. So far we have created Netvibes accounts, a twitter account and have subscribed to Weblogg-ed, The Thinking Stick, and The Fischbowl.

I will have the kids also subscribe to this blog as well so they can have insight to my thought process and how I learn. I actually have debated creating a separate blog just for the class, but I want it to be authentic and not contrived.  The beauty of this class is that we meet everyday so we can discuss much in class instead of just using my blog as a directing medium, I will use it for modeling.

Now to the good stuff, today ‘s assignment was to read Will Richardson’s post on the Obama speech, and the first 20 comments, and to THINK.

I have to admit I was nervous, I have never taught a course like this and I was worried that I would have to pry responses out of them. I was very pleasantly surprised. Let me preface this with the fact that we were not in school during President Obama’s speech. So, this was a non-issue for my district.

The students were directed to look for the “Lens” of  Will Richardson, and to find the focus of the controversy.

All the observations were great. I even got comments along the lines of “fear limiting what schools can teach”,  some of my students started Googling the debate while we were discussing it, which I totally encourage.  The point of the exercise was to have my students think out loud about the post and its comments.  One of the things I said to them was

“When I say things like: Where did that come from?, or I don’t know what he/she is talking about. I am thinking out loud for you, I want you to know how I think about these things, and so you  become a student of your own thought process. I am not openly disagreeing with the post or the comments, I am just trying to make myself think on them and then I will follow links, think and learn.”

One of the best observations came from Simone who when reading one of the comments said, (I am paraphrasing)

“The more schools are limited, the less we will learn. School already does not prepare us for life, it is only about academics, not life.”

Just gives me more to think about…

Google Docs for Educators

Part of my action plan as an attendee of the GTA is to offer a series of free after school workshops for my teachers.  On of the Tabs on my blog is the Teacher Academy which is my ideal vision of offering inservice to my teachers. 

Unfortunately, the opportunity to make inservice credits is not available because of all the budget cuts we are enduring.  I decided to continue the idea to meet my action plan goals, and because I really want my teachers to get excited and not frustrated about technology. 

My first workshop will be Google Docs for Educators. I cannot begin to express how Google docs has pretty much changed everything I do in regards to documents and spreadsheets. 

My premise is that teachers will gladly participate in professional development if you make it meaningful and convienent. My workshops will be only one or two a month, only one hour each, right after school.  I have already had a great response to this idea at work and hope to USTREAM my first session so I: 1. can learn how to use USTREAM, and 2. Will have an archive of the PD. 

 

Google Teacher Academy- Life changing

Wow, all I can say is wow. A more cohesive post to follow

The Google Certificate says “Be the change you want to see in the World”.  I can’t wait to apply this.  One of the things that stands out for me is the Google concept of 80% -20%.  All employees are encouraged to take 20%  of their time at work and use it to develop ideas they are passionate about.

The whole concept of the Google for Educators was just a 20% for one google employee who felt an affinity for education.  

So powerful and FREE!  With all the problems the economy is having there is nothing that Google does not address!

Hyperlink minds need Reflection…

Since Jeff Utecht’s post about reflection (that spurred me to invest more time reflecting) and the fabulous post of David Hamilton in “Principally  Yours” about refelection I have been thinking a lot……about reflection!

I have been furiously ripping through my aggregator as of late to re-visit some key topics of Web 2.0’s impact on education and I found my self reading Mark Prensky again.  I love Mark’s take on education reform (or the lack there of) and the change in the student mind. But what I found very interesting was this quote:

One key area that appears to have been affected (in regards to the effeciency of the teen hypertext mind)  is reflection.  Reflection is what enables us, according to many theorists, to genralize, as we create “mental models” from our experience.  It is in many ways, the process of “learning from experience” in our twitch-speed world, there is less and less time and opportunity for reflection, and this development concerns many people.

It doesn’t just come down to adaption to digital the “shift” that our students are spearheading, but also reflecting on change.  Better yet, we should be reflecting on the change in our thinking.  Metacognition  is not a buzzword to be thrown about to sound learned in a staff development session.  Awareness of one’s own thought and learning process is a skill that needs demonstrated and modeled for our students. In my mind, the best way to teach toward the goal of metacognition is to practice the skill of reflection on our thoughts. The best way I know how to do this is to blog, and to use my aggregator to read the thoughts of others.

Observation of our learning process both individually and as an educational society is paramount to technology being transformative.