Sunday, February 26, 2012

Technology and Teacher Observations

A growing trend is for principals to use iPads and other mobile devices to gather information when they observe teacher. A number of apps are now available, some customized for individual school districts. They make it easier and more efficient for principals to gather information and share it with teachers. We have not used, nor recommend, any of these apps but we have talked with principals who routinely use them in their work. Note that not every app is compatible with every mobile device.

Here are just a few of the observation apps on the market.
We'd enjoy hearing from you about your use of mobile devices to gather and share information during your classroom observations.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

US Supreme Court and Student Online Speech

The US Supreme Court recently declined to review two cases that involved the discipline of students based on student speech on the Internet. One appeal came from the 3rd Circuit. In these cases the Appeals Court said that students who ridicule their principals online cannot be disciplined by school officials because the speech occurred off campus and did not "substantially disrupt" the school. It's a reminder that just because we don't like something that a student might say, it doesn't mean that it can be restricted, particularly if it took place off campus and outside of the school day. Another case the Supreme Court declined to hear involved a student who created a MySpace page about another student. In that case, the lower court concluded that the speech was disruptive and upheld discipline of the student.

Together the two cases remind us of the uncertainty about how to respond to student speech on the Internet. It is clear that students' do have free speech rights. Principals must consider where the speech occurred and must be able to demonstrate a disruption to the school environment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Laptops Improve Student Learning

The NY Times recently reported on the success of East Mooresville Intermediate School (NC) using technology to dramatically change instruction. Mooresville has seen steady gains in student learning since adoption of their program and graduation rates have climbed to 92%. About 88% of students now meet proficiency standards on state tests in reading, math and science. The district freed up money in many areas and provided each student with a MacBook Air leased from Apple. Old computer labs were eliminated and teachers were provided professional development on the integration of technology. For example, "who needs globes in the age of Google Earth?" The Mooresville story is a fascinating example of the way technology can positively impact students' experience by making learning more engaging, more flexible, and more relevant. You can read the complete story about Mooresville's success here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Teens' Social Media Experiences

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shared data about the social media experience of teenagers. The study looked at teens' behavior and experiences using social media. Among the findings:
  • 95% of teens 12-17 years of age are online;
  • 80% of those online teens use social media.
Teens also shared their experience on social media sites.
  • 69% of teenagers who use social media say their peers are mostly kind to one another on the sites;
  • 88% report witnessing people being mean or cruel on the sites;
  • 15% said they were the target of mean or cruel behavior.
  • 90% said they ignored the mean behavior;
  • 80% say they defended a victim of meanness and cruelty;
  • 70% say they told someone to stop being mean; and
  • 21% say they joined in the harassment of others on social media.
Thirty-six percent of teens sought help about online problems. Most (53%) asked for help from friends and peers while 36% talked with their parents.

Most teens (62%) of teens reported that they keep their privacy settings on private so that only friends can see content. Twenty percent keep their site semi-private and 17% keep their site fully public.

These data provide interesting insights into the online experience of today's teens. The full report from the Pew Research Center is available here. We'd enjoy hearing from you about your experiences with teens and social media in your school.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


First it was cyberbullying. Now it's cyberbaiting. That's an emerging trend where students taunt their teachers to the point that the teacher reacts. Then students capture the outburst on their cell phone and post a video online. It's another example of using social media inappropriately.

According to a recent report from the Norton Online Family Report nearly one in five teachers has experienced cyberbaiting or knows a teacher who has. So, what do you do? First, talk with your teachers about the phenomenon. Awareness is perhaps the best strategy for assuring that it won't happen to you. Second, work with your students on appropriate use of social media. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that educating students, and their families, about responsible use is the best way to deal with cyberbullying and cyberbaiting. Finally, review your school's discipline code to make sure that it is up-to-date and provides explicit guidance about how to respond when cyberbaiting, or other forms of cyberbullying, occur.