Spell Check Your Spell Checker!

spellcheck spell checker2Spring vacations are just about finished for 2014, so now it’s time to think about staying challenged and strong for the last few months of school.

One aspect of completing a school year is to pay special attention to writing and editing while completing assignments and projects. And an important part of editing is searching for misspelled words using two steps.

In spell-check, step one, a computer program or website, runs through a person’s prose,  identifies the mis-spelled words, and offers the writer options for correcting, changing or leaving a word alone. These days many programs and sites spell check as a person writes, but that is no excuse for not going through the editing process.

The second, more challenging step — and perhaps the bigger responsibility — requires a writer to follow-up the spell checker, searching for errors that the automated process may have missed. Many of the remaining errors are not technically mistakes. Instead they are correctly spelled words that the writer typed by accident (or with the help of auto-word completion) or misused homonyms — accurately spelled but used incorrectly.  So the spell checker missed these words.                 Continue reading

Action Words that Describe Digital World Learning

digital-citizenship Can we teach pre-adolescents and teens to reflect on what’s happening as they use digital world tools and  interact with online content? Can we help them understand more about what they are doing when they work and play online?

Educators often provide a checklist or rubric for students to use as they work on assignments or projects. A rubric usually contains editing specifications, project requirements, resource documentation, and expectations — all for students to consider while completing the work.

Now I’ve discovered that Mia MacMeekin over at the An Ethical Island blog offers what I think of as a digital learning graphical rubric. The easy-to-understand graphic features World Wide Web nouns and action verbs that describe the ways people  encounter, process, and use online information. MacMeekin thinks of her infographic as a digital citizenship tool, but it’s much more than that. The chart offers educators with opportunities to ask questions as they teach, and more importantly, expect students to answer them.          Continue reading

The International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL): Changing the World One Book at a Time

What if our children had instant access to a library with thousands of books from countries all over the world — a place that invited them to drop by, read, and learn about one another (without any driving)? Imagine what they could find out about the world’s cultures, celebrations, languages, differences, and also about what they have in common  with all these other people and places!

That just about describes the mission of the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), a World Wide Web destination hosted at the University of Maryland. The massive website includes digitized books in 61 languages, and it’s the largest online collection of multicultural children’s literature with a mission to the promote the love of reading AND the love of diversity. The books are beautiful filled with colorful and detailed illustrations — you almost feel like you are holding an old-fashioned book!

By clicking on the animated Read Books! icon in the middle of the ICDL home page readers, young and old, are off and reading. The multi-cultural aspect comes from interacting with books that are read and languages spoken by children in 42 other countries as well as seeing pictures by artists from around the world.

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How We Teach Digital Citizenship Makes a Difference

Digital Citizenship Posters Become a Hallway Exhibit

Digital Citizenship Posters Become a Month Long Hallway Exhibit

When it comes to digital citizenship, we cannot just lecture or watch videos.

Everyone learns best by doing — whether it’s tying a shoe, mastering letter sounds, figuring out a science concept, learning to drive, parenting a new baby, or any other activity, including what we need to figure out on computers and digital devices. When people tell us how to do something by talking a lot, most of us can’t wait for the person to stop talking so we can try to do it ourselves.

Now consider how we have gone about teaching 21st Century children — at home and at school — about digital devices and digital world behavior. Mostly adults talk and talk, telling children, pre-adolescents, and teens about all the things that can go wrong and explaining what we don’t want them to do.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve spent way too much time talking to kids about digital life issues and not nearly enough time doing things with them. So these past few years I’ve changed the way I teach.

Digital Footprint Venn Diagram Project

Digital footprint Venn diagram group project on 18″by 24″ paper.

Now my goal is to design digital citizenship lessons that connect with the mission of my school, with age-appropriate social-emotional skills, and with each grade’s curriculum. I spend time developing ideas, sometimes borrowing parts of published lessons, but more often figuring out activities that correspond to the academic topics that my students are already learning about in their classrooms. I have limited time with students, and I need to use it well.

Each of my classes includes some talking, some moving, sometimes some improvisation, and a hands-on project. Most importantly, I’ve  realized that the students don’t usually need to be anywhere near digital devices for digital citizenship lessons.

A Few Activity Examples       Continue reading

Innovative Teaching: How on Earth Do We Get Started?

innovative teachersYears ago as a beginning teacher, I asked one of my University of Chicago professors how it was that my mentoring teacher seemed to do everything at once — teaching one group, keeping an eye on other parts of the classroom, and continuously but quietly communicating with everyone in the room — all at the same time. She even knew when a student some distance behind her was not completing the assigned task.

“She acquired those skills step-by-step,” my professor replied.

Today as we cope with the challenge of transforming our teaching skills to make what goes on in our classrooms applicable to the ever-changing world of digital information (a.k.a. innovation or 21st Century learning), many of us are renewing our commitment to lifelong learning as we explore and acquire a range of new skills and behaviors. We are learning, step-by-step, how to teach differently and stretch ourselves in ways that help students access, process, and use information in innovative but sensible ways.

To get started we each need to figure out how to reconstruct our skills, making changes one step at a time and figuring out how to cede control at the front of the classroom.

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A Few Apps for Parents to Learn More About

Check out these apps.  Just two months ago, when presented to a group of parents, some of these were not on the radar for preadolescent and teen digital life. I’ve linked each to an article. For additional reviews, but not for every app, visit the Common Sense Media App Review Page.


hide mobile phone apps


image bulletin board – pretty good up front rules


share secrets


social media shopping

Yic Yac

anonymous texting


more anonymous messaging


share with friends secretly


share everything, including video, pretty good rules

Retailers Track Adults by Monitoring Device Wifi

We most often worry about advertisers tracking our children online but sometimes forget to think about how much we adults are followed around digitally.

FTC Privacy Series

FTC Privacy Seminar on Mobile Device Tracking

Check out the Washington Post article, Privacy Advocates Push Back on Stores’ Tracking, describing how retailers keep track their customers by monitoring smartphone wifi signals. No guidelines currently regulate this type of information collecting so no privacy parameters exist. Essentially this mobile device tracking is a way to get more information about shoppers, track what they do, and target advertising and target advertising more effectively.

The article, by Amerita Jayakuma, describes how a Maryland legislator has proposed a bill to require retailers to inform people if the store is watching them while they shop.  The Federal Trade Commission recently held a seminar on mobile device tracking.

I’ve been wondering for some time if I was tracked a few months ago when I visited a huge regional outlet mall with my husband.

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It’s Something New and We Don’t Understand: On Fear, Part #2

Susannah Fox, over at Pew Internet Research Project, recently Tweeted a statistic from her organization’s Social Networking Fact Sheet — 73% of online adults now use social networking sites and 71% are on Facebook. I read her Tweet just after sharing another statistic on a recent post, Amaze Your Kids with Internet Statistics, writing that the average age of Facebook users is 41.5 years old.

who uses social networking sites

Adults Online Who Use Social Networking

My first thought was, “What happened to all of the adult Facebook fear and anxiety?” Even five years ago most adults seemed to avoid the social networking platform with its attendant loss of personal privacy.

The answer? As trendy new practices, apps, and sites become a part of life, we adults often worry especially about our kids, their behavior and safety, and what they are learning. But eventually these new things — in this case Facebook — aren’t so new anymore. We figure out how to keep track of our kids and even begin to use some of the new ideas in our own adult lives. Initially some of us use social media just to keep track of the kids or merely to connect with family members, but the fact is, we are less fearful — for ourselves or for our children. Read my story about joining Facebook.

The same thing happened with Wikipedia. First we couldn’t believe it was around, then we feared mis-information — that using it would cause our children to learn bad habits and forget to use the expert references. Finally we realized that we teach kids to use lots or resources and confirm facts. Gradually our attitude about Wikipedia is changing. Go ahead and read it, we eventually told kids, but cite it and confirm the facts with reliable reference sources.

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What Digital Risks Should We Worry About the Most? On Digital Fear — Part #1

When we interact with digital kids about their hyper-connected lives, I wish we could de-emphasize the fear factor and re-emphasize education and understanding, helping young users become stronger digital world problem-solvers.

fear risk

Image made at Festisite.

A day doesn’t go by without hearing an adult comment about children’s digital world risks, and invariably these conversations focus on predators, strangers, pornography, and cyber-bullying. The relatively high concern about these potential Internet encounters — events that do not occur nearly as often as the mainstream media imply — obscures the importance of so many other interactive problems that happen all of the time to digital kids — daily social events gone awry.  It’s these problems, often the result of online mis-judgments, that most often contribute to a child’s public humiliation and embarrassment.

An article worth reading, Risks, Opportunities, and Realities of Children’s Internet Usage: A Few Moments With Sonia Livingstone, is posted over at the DML Central blog. The piece features an interview with Dr. Livingstone, a professor at the London School of Economics (LSE) who chairs the Department of Media and Communication, and whose research focuses on children’s online safety and risk. The interview covers topics such as developing digital skills, parental control of their children’s Internet activities, risk, and potential harm. While Dr. Livingstone’s research focuses on children and families in Europe, her thoughts and research results may be just as pertinent for families in the United States.

If you want to read a lot more about Dr. Livingstone’s research, check out the PDF report describing the comprehensive 25 country LSE study of more than 25,000 European children, ages 9 – 16, and their parents. Risks and Safety on the Internet is well-researched, detailed, and readable. Easy-to-read graphs are also included. The report offers parents, yes even in the United States, an accurate digital world prism through which to view the lives and activities of preadolescents and teens.

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