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Dealing with Teens and Online Privacy Issues
November 17, 2015


Recently in a middle school poster contest, an eleven-year-old won with her very clear, very concise and very true words emblazoned in bold lettering: The Internet is public; The Internet is forever. She also wore the words painted on her t-shirt and it had many participants and educators talking. If her words rang so true, why do some teen still expect a degree of privacy in such a vast world of technology invading their daily existence, and should they?

Often parents are faced with the insistence from their teens: “I want more privacy”. This used to mean a private place to talk on the phone, or insisting a visitor knocks before entering a closed bedroom door. But today, teens are talking about more freedom with their technology devices. They don’t want parents to know their passwords on Facebook and Twitter, or to “friend” them and know their communication with others is being monitored. It used to be relatively easy to monitor browsing when the family computer was in a centralized location. But with all the handheld devises today, teens can get online anywhere – on the bus, at the mall, and even alone I their “private space” bedrooms.

Advocates of effective parenting skills insist that parents or guardians always be aware of all their child’s passwords, access, user identifications and anything else as they navigate the online world. When a teen refuses monitoring, that’s usually a good sign it needs to be watched. We want to trust our children, and to help them to grow to behave like responsible adults, but his trust can be risky. The Internet provides plenty of instant risk, as easy as pushing a button.

Technocracy writer and advocate Phil Elmore makes some serious points about how much privacy to allow your child with regards to using the Internet, particularly surfing sites that are inappropriate, violent and pornographic. “The solution is NOT to throw up your hands and decide that, if they’re going to do it, they might as well do it in the safety of your home. That’s weak parenting. It’s the abdication of your responsibility. You MUST do everything you can to slow them down, to monitor as much as possible, even if you can’t stop them completely and you can’t see it all.” He makes parents aware, as does Julie Rovolo, writing for Forbes, who contends: “pornography comprises fully 4 percent of all websites. That number may not impress you until you consider just how many websites there are. There are perhaps a trillion websites on the Internet.” Pornography is the most prolific of Internet material your child will likely encounter, often without your monitoring.

At school, teachers and administrators also want to develop a degree of trust among the students with regards to appropriate use of the Internet and degrees of privacy. A degree of respect for the world of the teenager and a striving to change the environment that helps educate young people should include more understanding about what and how they think, feel and act. Teens in particular will always seek privacy as they explore their world without the watchful eyes of adults.

Elementary Principal and education blogger Peter deWitt points out four categories that help break down the need for privacy in the age of social media. The first of these is Persistence; knowledge that teens have that today everything has the capability of being recorded and retrieved …and can linger, or haunt forever. Secondly he discusses Replicability, which we know as the simple ability to cut, paste, record, and plagiarize. Teachers have had to teach the use of a plagiarism checker as an assessing tool more regularly. Thirdly, Search-ability make the whole world visible and content readily accessible. And finally, Scale-ability he defines as the scope of sharing, and the infinity of an audience. Social media, especially for teens, makes this the fastest form of gossip available.

There is room for all this technology in education, even if at times it can feel invasive to students and educators alike. Teens in particular can be taught that they can choose, through their words, what they want to privatize, and what they want to publicize. They are keenly aware that their schools and homes are under the watchful eyes of adult, controlled situations, but within these walls there are still places where privacy can be granted.

Social media may blur what is public and what is private, as communication always has been. Privacy can also be attained to some degree through control of situations. Even in a place as public as shopping mall, a teen will feel they can have a private conversation without scrutiny, perhaps more than in the privacy of their own home. As tech research Danah Boyd summarizes, and perhaps may be the next poster published by a middle-schooler : “The Internet is Public by default, Private by Effort”.

Sources :

Google Classroom…the new IT silver bullet?

The goal: going paperless. Why? Not only is it better for the environment but it prevents me from *misplacing* those pieces of paper without names that were handed to me in the corridor period 9 on a Friday and aids easy tracking of progress.

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Year 11 google classroom header

I have been using Google Classroom with my Year 11 class since the 16th of June and introduced it to my Year 10 and A Level groups at the start of this school year. I had previously been using Edmodo which had been working well, however, with Google Drive being such an integral part of my teaching life it seemed stupid not to give Google Classroom a go.

How does it work?

For those of you familiar with Edmodo it is similar in many ways – you provide your class with a code to access the classroom page. This is all done through the google sign in details. You can post announcements (which can include links to websites, images or document attachments) and create assignments that are submitted via the student’s google drive.

The pros:

  • It allows for easy marking and editing of pieces of work that are submitted as google docs (tip: it is essential that students submit the documents as a Google Doc rather than a Microsoft Word document if you would like to edit or comment on it). The comments are seen down the side of the page and the student can then resolve them as they act on the piece of work.
  • It is easy to add missed worksheets or PowerPoints onto the page from my own Google Drive.
  • I can see the comments I have made on work previously submitted by a student and the mark that was given – this is lost when marking work on paper as the comment is returned with the students so it is difficult to verify whether the student has acted upon the feedback given.
  • Google drive is already an integral part of many workplaces.
  • It is easy to use and follows a similar format to Google Drive

The cons:

  • If your students do not already use Google Doc/Google Drive to store and complete work it can be quite an adjustment for them to get used to completing work in this format rather than in Microsoft Word.
  • Using Google Classroom is reliant on being connected to the internet – if you do not have access to a good internet connection either at school or at home it may not be for you.
  • For the marking and commenting process to be time efficient you should be comfortable typing and reading work from a screen.

For me, Google Classroom has made my marking both more efficient and effective and has worked in seamlessly with the way I already use Google Drive. Whilst it may not be an educational ‘silver bullet’ it may just save you some time (which we all need some more of) and seems to be one of the best ‘virtual classroom’ spaces available at the moment.

Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions about how Google Classroom works or how I have implemented it with my classes!


This is posted later than I planned but the rugby took precedent on Saturday night (What a game!) then life during the week happened.

I had my first experience of #pedagoo last weekend at #PedagooWorcs. Nervous and excited were just some of the great, albeit conflicting, feelings I felt before the ‘event’. I was originally asked to present by @DuncanSKing and although not having been to a Pedagoo event and only been to one TeachMeet I said, ‘Yes’.

I did my research before hand. I spoke, and am thankful, to Mark Anderson and Lee Parkinson for their time to discuss their thoughts on whether my topic and style was okay.

I planned my talk on the new Computing Curriculum and whether it was fit for purpose. What I meant by this statement was:

*Is there more to the Computer Curriculum than coding?

*Are we doing enough to prepare the children for the future?

*Is the rounded/balanced enough to be relevant in today’s world, and more importantly the future?

I set up (Well got my DLs to set up!) the iPads on the Friday. Now with the talk planned I arrived at Saturday’s event where I met @SBHSMissTaylor and @MurphieGirl and checked the room where I was to later present. At this point I discovered that the iPads had been used Friday afternoon and now needed setting up again; ah well the best laid plans! Once ready I joined my fellow #PedagooWorcs compatriots for a drink.

We were given a keynote talk from @DrMattoLeary where we encouraged to take all the positives from the day’s work event and similar TeachMeet events and to also take the power reclaiming and redefining your own CPD/PPD. I enjoyed the rest of the morning’s sessions and learned from other primary and senior school teachers.

The day passed quickly and then it was my turn. Well, what could have gone wrong went wrong! First the projector screen would not display the whole presentation screen and then Reflector would not show or sync with the iPads. Once ‘fixed’ and my blushing calmed down the session moved along quickly. I feel this is such an important of the day; I was very pleased to be able to share my thoughts and ideas and I feel all there were receptive and engaged. It was great!

I, personally feel, digital literacy must be given higher esteem in all our teaching.  There is the clamour for the teaching of coding and 85% of all our children’s jobs have not been created but not all will ‘code’ but all WILL have to use social media, email, video conferencing, computers  These ‘sharing’ skills are the ones that need to be looked at too.

Much was gained and I look forward to taking the idea forward and presenting and sharing again. If you have never been to a TeachMeet or Pedagoo event I wholeheartedly recommend them. As I said, ‘Been there, done that, loved it!


A new Digital Learning resource #digilearnscot
September 23, 2015
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Today sees the launch of a new resource to support the development of Digital Learning in Scotland: digilearn.scot

Supported by a new twitter account, the new Digital Learning Community website aims to support teachers to share digital practice and discuss digital learning and teaching. It’s a well designed, and open, site which has three main components: Talking Points, Sharing Zone and News & Events.

sharingzoneAs well as viewing the content, teachers are encouraged to contribute to the site and submit their own content. What’s great is that this is really easy to do. There’s no login required, no password to remember, just a really simple form with lots of spaces to include your links. Although it has been developed for Scottish teachers, the site is completely open and contributions are welcome from outwith Scotland.

So if you’ve found a great digital learning resource, or have got something to say about digital learning, get yourself over to digilearn.scot and join in.

Next Generation Virtual Learning Environments
September 10, 2015

Has your Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) become a dumping ground of resources that learners rarely access?   Has the framework of your VLE changed as frequently as its provider’s expiring contract that engagement from staff has plummeted?  What is the point of them anyway?

Their purpose is to allow teachers to share educational materials with their pupils via the web, but there are so many ways we can do this now that it makes you wonder if VLEs could serve a greater purpose.

How about approaching your VLE with a new perspective, why not host your version of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) where learners interact and engage with courses not because they have to, but for the curiosity of learning.  And if your VLE were to host MOOCs, what type of courses would you chose to host?  How exciting could it be to provide learners with a space where they could learn or discover new ideas with one another.  Where would their curiosity take them?

Stefan Caspar, Enhanced Learning Production Manager at the University of Southampton has a passion for VLEs.  He discusses on episode 28 of Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show how schools can improve their VLEs.

Before you listen to Stefan’s suggestions, if you could create your own VLE what would it look like and why would it be better than what you currently have?

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share with your community!



Instagram and #teach180
September 10, 2015
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I’ve not found much time for blogging over the summer since I’ve been moving house and deliberately trying to ‘wind’ down after a crazy busy year last year at work.

I’m back at work now and it feels like I’ve never been away! I’m enjoying my new timetable although it is jam-packed and I am sharing three classes which is a new thing for me – I’ve never had to share one class let alone three! I’m hoping to blog as I go this year as with previous years but there’s always a wee (big?!) stumbling block and that is time. There’s just not enough hours in the day, not enough days in the week, etc…

In fact I hardly ever manage to blog on a regular basis during term time so I know trying to commit to blogging is setting myself up to be disappointed and annoyed at myself… However, I take pics around my classroom almost every day. Pictures of good pupil work on sheets or in jotters, of unusual events such as yesterday’s school hike, of new displays, Puzzle club activities, etc. I usually save these pics and then take a couple of hours every few months to upload them to the department website so kids and parents can watch out for them. During the summer, however, I spent a bit of time with my sis who loves Instagram which got me thinking that I could create an account for my classroom.  So I did.

Here is my new Instagram account for sharing pictures from my classroom to the rest of the world.

I think this will make me feel better about not being a regular blogger although my heart wants to be! But more than that I have found the kids are eager to get their work photographed which has been a nice surprise and bonus :-)

Ed (@solvemymaths) has shared his idea of work selfies on his blog which is really good; so I’m going to get the kids to choose one piece/part/question/solution/etc. from the day/week’s work that is their best and they draw a wee camera beside it as a plenary exercise which will help me identify where the kids think they’ve done particularly well (self assessment) or on occasion get the kids to swap jotters and peers can choose where the wee camera logo goes as a peer assessment tool.

Earlier today I was over at Sarah Hagan’s blog stealing(!!!) more of her awesome wall display posters and came across her #teach180 idea for Twitter which also stems from a lack of time to blog regularly. It’s a great idea and I will be checking it regularly as the ideas so far have been brilliant and very interesting. It is especially cool that she is collating some of her highlights on her blog every week. My twitter account is for myself as a practitioner so I’m gonna ‘lurk’ around this idea without taking part and I definitely couldn’t commit to everyday. I sometimes don’t even get round to tweeting my week highlight for the awesome #PedagooFriday some weeks!!!

So my new Instagram account is for my kids and their parents. It’s for me as a teacher to display their awesomeness outside of the classroom on a display that the world can see… That’s gotta be worth the pupils putting the extra effort in for :-)

Raising the profile of digital citizenship
September 5, 2015
Year 13 students working onlineYear 13 students working online

We recently held our first Digital Citizenship Week at my school. Some colleagues and myself felt this was necessary given the amount of time our students now spend online. Ideally, of course, digital citizenship would be a routine part of all classes where technology is prevalent or widely used, and many teachers do incorporate it where possible. However, we thought that it was important to raise the profile of this topic, and so Digital Citizenship Week was born. The timing was ideal, since we had just produced an acceptable use policy for technology, which was distributed at a Parents’ Day shortly before digital citizenship week. This set out clearly what was expected of our students as they go about their daily use of technology in their learning. There were also digital citizenship posters prominently displayed in each classroom.

Throughout the week, a number of teachers volunteered to forego their usual subject classes in order to teach lessons around digital citizenship. In this way, each grade level received a lesson about a particular aspect of digital citizenship. For example, I delivered a lesson around over-sharing online, based in part on materials from a very helpful organisation, Common Sense Media. Other teachers discussed issues around ensuring good digital footprints, and the responsible use of social media. One colleague had the misfortune to have a great lesson planned, only to open the website he planned to use during the class and find that it was down for routine maintenance. The patience and good-humour required when these things happen is an often overlooked aspect of digital citizenship!

Although it seems self-evident that we should be educating our students in issues around digital citizenship, there are a few other aspects to consider. Digital citizenship means different things to different people. One definition, from Teachthought.com, is ‘the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on’. Others have suggested that when we talk about digital citizenship, in the main we are referring to digital responsibility, a slightly different set of competencies, and when speaking of digital citizenship we should be encouraging learners to champion debate, justice, and equality via their online interactions. There are also, however, some valid arguments made that digital citizenship is so fundamentally important that we should drop the ‘digital’ part entirely, and simply include it as part and parcel of citizenship education. How many of our learners don’t go online at least once a day? How many of them use social media regularly, or download music, or play online games? Do they even make a distinction between the ‘real world’ and the online world?

However we choose to term it, we have a responsibility to our learners to guide them and help them to negotiate cyberspace safely and responsibly. Although some people may refer to millennials as ‘digital natives’, can we really assume that they are instinctively digitally literate, equipped to deal with everything the connected world may throw at them? I’m not convinced that we can, and so for now at least I think that we need to continue raising the profile of digital citizenship until it does become part of the everyday classroom conversation. I would welcome others’ views or thoughts about Digital Citizenship Week!

An iPad is ‘just’ another tool for learning

There has always been plenty of attention given to the Apple iPad, especially when it is mentioned in the same breath as education. But what we must always remember is it is just another tool for learning, like a dictionary, or a calculator.  We must always remember that if we can achieve better outcomes using something else, then use it!

We must not lose site of the end product, force ourselves to use the technology because you feel that you must; when actually the technology is slowing the process and is detrimental to the outcome.  Technology is great for engaging children, but if they don’t see a point in using it, the outcome will usually suffer.

We introduced 1:1 iPads in my classroom just after February half term with the idea being that we wanted them to be unnoticeable in the classroom. The children could choose when and how they used them to enhance their learning and outcomes. After the initial set up period and ensuring the workflow was understood by the children we set off on our journey. So what have we done so far?

Cricket:  Finding my own next steps

During our cricket sessions we use our iPads to review our performances. I allow the children to film a modelled example of a shot I perform and then use it to compare to their own performances.

If they need to check a certain part of the shot, the children can then watch it back to see were they need to improve.  They also filmed each other and reviewed their shots during the lesson, each time referring back to the example I’d given them.

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Here you can see one of the children have used Pic Collage to make a note of their next steps at the end of the week.  A great starting point for the next lesson – pick up from where they left off completely independently.  I really have seen the benefits of having 1:1 iPads for this as they have a record of their own performance.   I plan to use it for assessment purposes to track progress throughout PE sessions. The children have also uploaded them to Edmodo to share with parents. 

Blogging using Edmodo on the iPads

I’ve tried blogging before with children for years and now it finally makes sense when they have their own device. The freedom to write when they want to has enabled the children to write their blogs on the go, whenever they have a spare minute.

I chose to use Edmodo as a start to blogging with my current class. It gives them an instant audience, something we all crave as bloggers – someone to actually read what you’ve written!  The children have started to write comments and feedback for each other and improve their blogs. I’ve asked them to write at least one a week to keep the interest up.

One interesting thing is watching the children typing on the iPads.  Most use their thumbs or single finger in portrait mode. Very few actually type like you traditionally would on a keyboard using the iPads landscape view.  Something to watch and think about? Touch typing lessons on the iPads? It’s not as if they’re slow at typing, far from it, but is it something to develop?

Children Creating Maths Calculation Video Guides

We’ve been using video as part of our flipped classroom but I’ve always produced the videos for the children. I’ll certainly keep doing this as I’ve found it incredibly useful as it allows children to find their next steps and to know which challenge they are attempting each day.

The children have been using Edmodo recently to save and collect work and information and then store it in their online ‘backpack,’ Edmodo’s version of the cloud.

They have found this incredibly useful as they are not losing documents and can post work simply from their backpack without searching for it.  It also allows you to link your Google Drive account, which I have found incredibly useful. Easily share work from my library/backpack with the children.

So why ask the children to start creating their own videos and how did we do it? 

I asked the children if they could prove to me that they could use the four written methods of calculation for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Their response was – it’s in our books. True, but I wonder if they can verbalise their calculations and show a real understanding, using the correct mathematical language?  

Through discussion we also decided that it could be useful to create a video when we got stuck. Basically, “this is the bit where I got stuck, help me!”  I liked that idea and set the children to work.

I use Vittle FREE A LOT when creating my short maths video guides. I find limiting my explanations to a minute enables me to get to the point. Its simplicity also stops me from spending ages ‘beautifying’ the presentation.

I simply speak alongside my screen drawings and then upload them to Edmodo to share with the children.  There is plenty of information on my past posts about how we use videos to help us learn.

How do you create the video in one go? You make it look so easy! 

This was a common comment during the sessions – they’re right, I have mastered the skill.  

This got me thinking during the session – this could be a great assessment tool as well! Can the children subtract competently using a written method? Their explanation would tell me – I’ve only watched a handful so far, but from what I’ve seen has been priceless.  I am watching 30 children calculating in real time, I’m not waiting to mark an end product and then trying to work out where they’ve gone wrong.  I can actually see and hear them!

In the future I can see children beginning to use this to build up a portfolio of evidence to support assessment without levels. Pictures of writing with annotations analysing what was good using explain everything; mathematical videos modelling understanding of a skill and a collection of videos and pictures created by me and other children in the class or school.

A Project Based Learning Opportunity for UK Teachers

Pedagoo has teamed up with Dreamdo to offer an exciting opportunity to UK teachers. We’re recruiting teachers and their classes to talk part in a project-based learning pilot using Dreamdo’s fantastic resources.

What is Dreamdo all about? I’ll let them explain:

Dreamdo Schools is a biannual program that helps school classes all over the world do great projects in one semester. Participating in the program is free and any students from 7-19 years-old can take part. Any teacher and their students, anywhere in the world can join the program and become a part of a global network of teachers and students who dream and do.

Dreamdo Schools is aimed at inspired teachers who want to connect with other teachers and classes around the world to share their projects and learn from each other. Student projects can be used as part of a normal curriculum or as a complementary extracurriculum activity. There is no restriction on the theme of the project, as long as it is something students themselves decide to do.

Imagine how much your students would benefit from taking part in this online, international, project-based learning experience with growth mindsets underpinning the entire approach…for free!

What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Dreamdo is run by a not-for-profit in Finland and they already have schools taking part across Europe. They just want to increase participation internationally. All that they ask in return is that you give them feedback and, if you like it, to help spread the word amongst UK teachers.

How does it actually work? Check out this fantastic video guide to the site:

If this sounds as if this would be beneficial for you and your learners, please get in touch to by completing the form below.

Overcoming technological fear

“The lizard brain, is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.” – Seth Godin

WBWKY1FQ2IThat pre-historic unwanted lump is what throws our brain into panic mode when faced with a new challenge or something that we don’t yet understand.  We’re all guilty of it, “Ah, I don’t get this, so freak out!”, and that is the precise moment our brain shuts down and we escape to the dark recesses of our grey matter.

This is a frequent scenario when presented with the gauntlet of embedding technology into our teaching practice.  “But I don’t want to try something new all of the time!” I hear you say, and I would agree!  We must be selective, but when someone else has pioneered how to weave technology into the fabric of learning, overcome the challenges and found solutions, we all benefit!  Therefore, the idea of embedding technology into aspects of our teaching practice becomes less daunting and more attractive, especially when it enhances our teaching practice and advances our learners.

My latest guest on the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show has won awards for his innovative approach to using technology to enhance his students’ learning and the quality of his teaching.  Scott Hayden, Specialist Practitioner of Social Media and Educational Technology at Basingstoke College, UK, has forged differentiated approaches to evidence submission, shaped schemes of work and assignments around the social media platforms that his learners engage with, and has developed collaborative narrative across curriculum hubs using Twitter.

Episode take-aways:

  • Ideas for embedding technology into your teaching practice
  • The best technology, apps and programmes to use to engage learners
  • Enhancing your professional teaching practice, where to find support and ideas

What next?

If you enjoyed this article, please pay the knowledge forward and share with your community!


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