Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parent Technology Coffee

On Tuesday, October 18th, we hosted our first parent technology coffee.  The session was hosted twice, once at 9:00 AM and then again at 6:00 PM.  Twenty-five parents and members of the community came together to discuss digital safety, security and the Opt-in/Opt-out choices in the iPad User Agreement sent home to students in grades 5-8 earlier this month.
For those of you that were not able to attend (or those that would like to review some of the topics and resources we discussed), this post serves as a brief re-cap of the event.
We started out with some brief introductions of staff members and attending parents.  Staff members present were:
  • Ed Longfield - Superintendent (morning session)
  • Chris Burr - Middle School Principal
  • Russ Vogel - Manitou Springs Elementary School Principal
  • Cat Butler-Olimb - Technology Coordinator (morning session)
  • Lisette Casey - Technology Integration Specialist
  • Glenn Char - Parent and Facilitator for parent meetings
After introductions we talked a bit about the focus and format of the coffees.  The main focus of the coffees are to build understanding of the ways that technology is changing society, and therefore, changing education.  Every month we'll watch a short video related to the featured topic and then discuss the implications of the video on education and learning, always with practical examples from classrooms here at MSSD.  All Manitou Springs School District parents are invited to attend.  We'll always meet in the Multi-Purpose room of the SILC building at 9:00 AM and then again at 6:00 PM.
Norms for the parent coffees are as follows:
  1. Start and end on time.
  2. Adhere to the agenda and honor the time allotted for each item.
  3. Engage in honest, focused, and respectful discussions surrounding the focus topic.
  4. The coffee is not a place for discussion of school policy.
Lisette Casey spoke for a bit regarding technology integration in the classroom around the topic of today's parent coffee.  Currently, Glenn Char and she are presenting the topic of digital security and safety to all students in grades 5 -8.  Since many students have internet access at home via computers, personal devices and gaming consoles, the need to keep kids safe and secure online is at the forefront of everyone's mind.  Many kids identify themselves as the family person responsible for performing routine maintenance and tasks necessary to keep their home networks/computers running smoothly.   Detailed diagrams, schematics, and discussion about what network makeup is shared with students.  This leads into a discussion about the importance of making responsible choices regarding the downloading of files. The second half of the presentation is geared toward keeping a person safe from dangerous files, predators, and cyberbullying.  Movies shown during this presentation can be found under today's parent coffee topic in the iPads Wiki.  A simulation is shown to students that reinforces the need to always check for reputable sources before downloading material of any type from the internet.  This simulation was also shared with parents during the coffee.
Following this Glenn Char presented on the subject of digital security,   The presentation elaborated on the differences between filtered and unfiltered networks and what this means for families when iPads leave the school grounds at both elementary and middle school levels.
The presentation is embedded below.

The Home Network Security Page on the iPad Wiki was shared as a resource for parents in regards to securing their home networks.  A call to your internet service provider or a visit to a retail store selling routers and interent connection equipment followed by a conversation with a sales person was recommended to steer parents in the right direction.  Remember, regardless of what type of content filter you employ in your house, the  best filter will always be you.  Talk to your child often about what to do when they encounter inappropriate sites on the internet as well as why it's important not to purposely visit these sites.
Our next coffee topic is social networking on November 15th.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Google A Day

"Information is powerful, but it is how we use it that will define us."
 -Zack Matere, Kenyan Farmer.

There is no denying the need to teach kids how to search for information on the internet in efficient, safe manners.  There are few sites that teach this skill better than A Google A Day.

A Google A Day is a web search engine by google that helps sharpen search skills by those who participate.
The game is quite simple in design: you're given a question and need to find the answer.
Your efforts are timed, and usually take several layers of searching to arrive at the desired outcome, however, there is of course more than one way to discover the answers. Hints can be given along the way if you get really stuck.

Users can go back in time to complete questions on days they missed, and of course, you could repeat the search of any question as many times as you'd like, trying different query approaches.

Along with the game, is the resource, "Tips and Tricks" which includes the link to "Google Inside Search," where users can learn even more about successful searching techniques in the "Features" and "More Help" sections. (There's plenty more to do at the "Google Inside Search" page, such as enjoy and learn the meanings of all the Google Logos that have graced the past Google pages).

"A Google A Day" is an excellent resource for teachers to use with students together or pass on to students for their own independent study. It can be used as bell work at the beginning of class.  I can imagine classes breaking up into teams to compete against each other, or graphing their best times each day. Each daily answer could also lead to even more research for students.

The site is open at the middle school, not sure about the elementary.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Demitri Martin

I saw this image by Demitri Martin on Facebook the other day.  It resonated.  
Success is seldom a straight shot; it's often messy and adjustments are often necessary in the process of achieving success.  
I'd been thinking about a Winston Churchill quote my friend and colleague Shaunda McQueeney mentioned to me - "Success in not final, failure is seldom fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts."  Sometimes it takes lots of courage to keep going, especially when the road your own may seem like a bit of a mess.  A clear, communicated vision helps smooth out the road.  Need to work on this.

Winston Churchill also quoted, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."  Just took a dose of enthusiasm and I'm headed forward.