The Balancing Act of Life

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

This is something I struggle with everyday.  As a connected educator, I just can’t keep up. I want to join Twitter chats (and lots of them), I want to participate in deep and meaningful conversations in the Google communities I have joined, I want to create content not just a consume it, but…

I can’t keep up and I feel like I’m drowning.

My son recently commented that I’m on my computer all the time.  Guess what? He’s right – I am.  I catch myself saying, “I have to do this one more thing,” or “I have to make this one last call” to him all the time.  What message am I sending to him? What am I modeling?

In reflection, I’ve always used this device contract via Janell Burley Hoffman with my teacher candidates as a way to begin the conversation about helping our teens become socially responsible both on and offline.  I’d like to take this concept and help other parents and caregivers create a family contract – to help adults model the balancing act of life.

Here’s my pledge and suggestions:

1. All devices should be on a docking station at night in a central location away from where we sleep.  For readers who use their devices as an alarm clock – go buy an alarm clock!  Don’t model that the first and last thing you do each morning and night is check your device.  Be present – say good morning and good night to the people you love (and live with).

2. Leave devices at home or in the car when you go out to dinner.  Make eye contact and enjoy the opportunity to be a family. Get caught up in conversation.  If eating at home, no devices at the table (and no getting up from the table to check a device).  When I was a kid – this rule applied if the phone rang during dinner – make it apply with devices.

3. Reduce the amount of time on devices – do work (participate in Twitter chats, Google communities, etc.) when everyone is at work or school. Family time is sacred.

4. Make an appointment with yourself each day – mark off time in your calendar for some peace and solitude.  Don’t give it all away – save something for yourself each day.  Walk away from devices even if it means missing Twitter chats and opportunities to network and collaborate.

I’m interested in what you would add to this list and why?  How can we help other parents and caregivers be more mindful of their choices and create a balancing act?

Creating Positive School Culture – How Do You Do It?

I am so inspired when students create solutions and I’m curious how teachers are engaging students in this critical conversation.

  • How are students creating positive school culture in your classroom and school?
  • Why is student voice so important?
  • How can we help empower students?

I have always loved sharing student examples like @westhighbros#SandersTHS and #YouthCC.  Currently, my new favorite student creation is “Rethink” created by Trisha Prabhu.  Her 2014 Google Science Fair project was created to combat cyberbullying.   All these examples illustrate that one person can create a positive change.

Last spring my undergraduates created an iConstitution for students, by students.  We would love to have more students add their voice and story to this project.  More students actively doing kindness and empathy will directly influence how we treat each other both on and offline.

As we prepare for the 2014-2015 school year, here are a few of my favorite resources:

Please share your ideas, lesson plans, resources – we want to encourage more student voice in creating a culture of kindness and empathy.  Please join me and the #digcit chat team every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 7pm EST.  Our next chat is Wednesday, 9/10/14 with Eric Johnson joining us as a guest moderator.  The chat is open to everyone – including students, educators, parents and community members.

Skimmers, Smishing, SpoofCards, Wifi Sniffing: What Do You Know About Cybersafety?

I was fortunate to participate in a Goggle Hangout with Sarah Thomas on cybersecurity this December. Sarah is the Technology Liaison at John Hanson French Immersion School in Oxon Hill, MD.  In addition to this role, she also teaches Technology Integration and English Language Arts at the middle school level.  She has served on the School Leadership Team, advising administrators and teachers on technology-related matters. Her cybersecurity session was informative and interactive and by the end of it, I made sure I subscribed to her interactive YouTube tutorials for teachers and followed her boards on Pinterest (I was already following her on Twitter). I also knew in December that we needed to bring her voice, as well as her talents to a #digcit chat in 2014.

I hope you can join us for #digcit chat tomorrow 4/9/14 at 7pm ET as Sarah shares “Protect Yo’Self Foo!” Please watch her GH prior to the chat, so you can actively participate in our cybersafety/cybersecurity discussion.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.10.59 PM

In the chat, we will explore skimmers, smishing, spoofcards, wifi sniffing and other cyberthreats:

Q1: Now that we have a working #cybersafety #cybersecurity definition how do & can we inform others?

Q2: What do you see as the biggest educational cyberthreat in 2014? #digcit

Q3: What is the biggest cyberthreat to you, personally? #digcit

Q4: What measures do you take to protect your identity? #digcit

Q5: How do we help protect our students & inform parents about the seriousness of #cybersafety? #digcit

Q6: What safety tips do you use that you could share with others? #digcit

To participate in the #digcit chat, all you need is a Twitter account.  You can follow the hashtag #digcit between 7-8pm ET and tweet your comments and questions to the group by including the #digcit hashtag in your tweet.

We hope tomorrow’s #digcit chat will provide an opportunity for us to examine the measures we are currently taking to protect ourselves, our students and how we are supporting parents in this critical conversation.  As one of my graduate students enrolled in my #digcit course said tonight:


Nashville + social media lesson = #digcit homerun

Props to ABC’s hit show Nashville for providing a teachable moment last night while Rayna addressed the seriousness of her daughter’s choices online. Our teens are desperately trying to figure out who they are, how they fit in and if others like them through a variety of social media applications. After making a music video and posting it online, Daphne, the younger daughter of Rayna demonstrated this as she announced, “I mean, we already have like over 400 views!” In fact, our teens our using #follow4follow as a way to increase their audience, viewings and “likes” on Instagram, Kik, Vine and Twitter. These choices to share personal text, pictures and videos with the unknown are permanent decisions, like a digital tattoo and have consequences that we have never had to face before the onset of social media.

This is conversation that needs to happen on a regular basis both in and out of school.  We need to help our teens navigate this uncharted territory. We should be talking about this 24/7, 365 days a year at home, the bus stop, school, the grocery store, dinner parties, family gatherings, etc. Just this week, I was interviewed twice by Bob Wilson on News 8 WTNH about Proposed Bill May Band “Revenge Porn” and Kids, Smartphones and Safety. All week long, I continued this conversation at home with my family, in my neighborhood, with the young lady who made my Subway sandwich, in the Dunkin Donuts line, at hockey practice and in my classroom with both my undergraduate and graduate students. How will you engage others in this critical conversation?  Can’t wait to see what happens on Nashville next week!

*Two must-watch videos to start the conversation on just how much information we are sharing publicly: Hashtag, You’re It! and You’re Instagram Turns This Man Into a Psychic or Just a Stalker. Additionally, here’s a digital citizenship resource I created for parents and teachers on where our teens are going online, what to avoid and what to encourage.

Connecting a Snow Hike to #GeniusHour and #20Time


© MBFXC 2014

I had meetings and a long to-do list planned yesterday, but Mother Nature intervened.  My son had a snow day and my to-do list quickly became going on a snow hike. He happily packed his backpack with a bottle of water, binoculars, a world atlas and my iPad (just in case we needed to look anything up on our hike).

We were on an adventure to find animals and their winter habitats. We found nests, carved out trees, crevices and footprints in the snow. We went to Salamander Pond (a name my son gave a pond years ago) to see if we could investigate where the salamanders go in the winter.  We stood in silence listening for clues and heard the sound of the snow falling.  It was a spectacular snow day and an even better snow hike!

In fact, it was one of those moments in life that you want to freeze and capture. As I write this post now, I have tears in eyes reflecting on the importance of being present.  When my son was in preschool, we spent every Friday going on learning adventures.  We called them Friday Fun Days and during our snow hike yesterday, we reminisced about all of our previous discoveries.  My son then asked, “Why can’t we have Friday Fun Day anymore?”  I responded, “You are in school now….”

My response kept me up last night, thinking and wondering why this type of learning has to end just because you’re in school five days a week?  I began to connect the concept of our Friday Fun Days, an opportunity for exploration, inquiry, discovery, curiosity, wonder and awe to what educators are doing with #GenuisHour and #20Time.  I reflected on how Nick Provenzano and Joy Kirr embrace this type of learning with their students and I was immediately filled with hope.  Then countless our educators in my PLN came to mind and my list of exceptional educators could go on and on….

My take away?  I have a few – be present and in the moment, cherish moments like a snow hike or Friday Fun Days because nothing in life is more important than the time we spend with each other.  Let students take the lead in their discoveries and learning.  If you are on the fence about Twitter and creating a PLN, you are missing the most incredible opportunity to connect and collaborate with passionate educators committed to student leadership and student voice in their classrooms everyday!  And lastly, I can only hope and pray that every child has a teacher like Nick and Joy, as well as all the educators I know and respect in my PLN.

The Tweet Seen Around the World


Dear PLN:

Please help me show the power of Twitter during the 2013 International Education Week on our campus.  I’m presenting, “The Tweet Heard Around the World” and will be sharing the benefits of embedding social media into higher education with particular emphasis on teacher education.  It is my hope that my presentation will support the need for iCitizenship in teacher education to further support global collaboration with classrooms, students and teachers across the country and around the world via Twitter.

Please leave a comment below sharing where you are from and any comments. Also, I’d be most appreciative if you would RT this blog post to see if we can get it seen/heard around the world!

Thank you for sharing your time, talent and passion with the world!

*Here’s the link to the presentation I did for the 13th Annual International Week. This entire project has been so inspiring! My 7 year old was actively involved keeping a tally on all the locations that have responded.  He looked up every place on a world map and as a result started his first blog.  He wants to keep the geography lesson going, so please take a moment to visit his blog, Around the World With Curran and leave a comment where you are from and a fun fact about your location.  Make sure you see my son as a guest blogger for Angela Maier too!

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: Practicing What I Preach

One of my all-time favorite lines to say to students each semester is, “It’s time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable!”  I’ve consistently modeled this throughout my years of teaching and like to challenge myself on a regular basis.  Tonight was the perfect opportunity to embrace the uncomfortable….

One of our faculty members needed coverage in his math methods course and although I could break out in the hives just thinking about teaching math, I took the challenge and immediately volunteered to take the course for the night.  Why did I do this?  First and foremost, I have the disposition and willingness and secondly, I love a challenge!

Serious props to two amazing and innovative educators for inspiring me!  Hands down @KatrinaKennett has transform the way I teach.  I first met Katrina at EdCampCT and later at EdCampBoston when she ran a session with her high school students on how to host an EdCafe in your classroom.  I have completely embraced EdCafes in my teacher education courses.  Couple this approach with my #iMentor model and I have a winning combination.  A special thanks to @MrBrotherton, one of my iMentors for giving me the courage to see math through a new lens this semester.  His new #MathLiteracy course designed specifically around #MinecraftEdu was just the content I needed to prepare for tonight’s math methods course!

Tonight was a huge risk.  I did not know a single graduate student enrolled in the course and they knew nothing about me. How was I going to be able to build trust, help them unlearn traditional roles in education, and introduce math through social media?  Easy — introduce my PLN, Twitter, Math Literacy, EdCamps and Edcafes: Twitter Meets Math Literacy and EdCafe.  The best part of tonight?  Modeling and practicing what I preach!

As we embrace #ce13 #CEM, take time to try something new, something that makes you uncomfortable and own it, embrace it!  Model what it means to be a learner first and foremost – it is without a doubt, the best thing we can do for our students!