Monthly Archives: March 2011

Sexting: The Electronic Hickey

After reading Jan Hoffman’s, A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives in the New York Times this weekend, I am determined to make sure that my graduate students are aware that this is something we need to address in school.  It supports why we need to teach digital citizenship.  Teens need to have the opportunity to talk this out and understand the consequences of their actions in today’s digital world.

This topic upsets me greatly.  How do teens think this is a good idea?  Why would anyone take a compromising picture of themselves and send it digitally to anyone? And why would the receiver make the decision to continue to pass it on? It baffles me.  Am I old fashion?  I don’t think so.  In my day, which I don’t really think was that long ago, hickeys were given on the neck to show the world that you were in a relationship.  I guess its a part of adolescence, a rite of passage or something.  But, how do we help our students understand that an “electronic hickey” is not something you want to give or receive or forward?

It appears that we need to go back to the basics and have an open and honest conversation about respect – respect for yourself and respect for others.  Our students deserve and need it.  They need to take the lead in this conversation. What words, pictures and video are you taking and sending?  What kind of digital trail are you leaving behind?  Are you proud of it today?  Will you be proud of it tomorrow?  Would you like your parents to see this?  Teachers?   Neighbors? Grandparents?  How would someone feel it they received this picture or video of their child, sibling, grandchild, relative, etc.?  If you hesitate, the answer means don’t take it, don’t send it and don’t pass it on.

PS: Props to one of my graduate students @nhowley for being such a great (and patient) teacher!  This is my first WordPress post with a picture!



What Took Me So Long?

In response to @Nunavut_Teacher’s recent post, Why won’t you tweet? All I have to say in response is, “What took me so long?”

Four weeks ago, I thought I was on the cutting edge.  I was all about Web 2.0 applications and how to integrate them into PK-12 curriculum. Teachers that I met with had never heard of some of the applications, so it confirmed that I was actually ahead of the 21st century curve.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Four weeks ago, I didn’t know the lingo of Twitter.  Props to @virtual_teach for showing me the ropes!  I started by read posts and thoroughly enjoyed the resources provided, but said very little.  I branched out and started posting RTs.  Actually, I think I RT too much, but I’m still in my honeymoon phase and actually find what I RT to be absolutely incredible.

Four weeks ago (to the day), I launched The Dyslexic Professor and I sit here now in complete and utter amazement.  First, I had never used WordPress and found myself scrambling to figure it out.  Nervously, I sent a DM to @ktenkely and @francesblo to ask how do you get the word out about a new blog?  How do you get readers?  They both responded and shared some advice.  In four weeks, people across the United States, Canada, Australia, India, Egypt, United Kingdom, Korea, France, Argentina and Israel have visited this site.  I’ve met some fabulous virtual colleagues who took the time to read and respond to The Dyslexic Professor.  I’m so happy to know and learn with @analieses, @tomaltepeter and @yourkidsteacher!

Four weeks ago, I had no clue what a #FF was when I first received one and had to ask @virtual_teach if this was a good thing or not.  In four weeks, I’ve participated in #edchat, #sschat and #elmechat.  I’m giddy with anticipation for the #midleved chat this Friday!

In four weeks, I’ve transformed and realized I’ll never be on the cutting edge, but I’m willing, ready and able to have my learning curve stuck in the curve position because I love to learn!  So, back to the question that @Nunavut_Teacher asked, “Why won’t you tweet?”


How do You Model What it Means to be a Socially Responsible Digital Citizen?

“Surviving adolescence is no small matter; neither is surviving adolescents.
It’s a hard age to be and to teach.

The worst thing that ever happened to anyone happens everyday.”
Nancy Atwell

Young adolescents rotate the same three questions day in and day out: Who am I?  How do others view me? Where do I fit in?  It’s a difficult age to be, to teach and to parent.  As a middle school teacher, I witnessed young adolescents try on different personas each day as they were desperately trying to figure out the answers to these three questions.

Times have changed since I first started teaching in early 1990’s.  The landscape now includes digital media which makes our young adolescents on patrol 24/7. They are now circulating those same three questions online using multiple platforms to figure out the answers.  It is our civic responsibility to help them learn now to navigate through social media.  If we are not integrating it into our classrooms and schools, we are certainly responsible for some of the awful things that are happening all over the Internet.  Take for example the recent story about the “Smut List” circulating on Facebook.

Am I naive?  Could things have been different if social media had been integrated into the curriculum?  Would students have stopped and questioned how this list would have hurt and humiliated others on a global level? Would they have realized that the list included names that could have been their own?  Those names are someone’s daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, neighbor and friend.

We need to constantly model what it means to be a digital citizen in the 21st century.  What digital footprint are we leaving behind by the comments, pictures and videos that we post?  Students need the opportunity to talk about this and figure it out as part of a classroom community.  Please take the time to think about your responsibility to positively influence how children and adolescents treat each other in today’s digital world.

I am committed to changing the climate of how we treat others.  I’m currently conducting research with one of my colleagues.  Our website, Gone Virtual has more information and we would welcome your involvement and participation in our research.



Learning From Our Mistakes: The Art Of An Apology

Teaching teacher candidates is a challenge.  You want to share the best of the best with them.  I mean, really.  Open the newspaper and you can get depressed about the state of affairs in education.  So, week after week I make it my mission to balance theory and practice while always emphasizing the positive!  I share the good, the bad and the ugly (the stories I’m embarrassed to admit) because in all of it, you can find the positive.

The one lesson that we can all learn from is the how to apologize to our students and parents.  As teachers, our responsibility is to learn from our mistakes and take ownership when we are wrong.  Each semester, I painfully retell a story that I’m ashamed to admit.  Nothing about this story represents the person I am day in and day out, but it did happen and for this, I will always be deeply sorry.

There were two eighth grade boys.  One was brilliant beyond his years.  The type of student who could talk sports, politics, religion, literature, art, history and everything in between.  He was the student every teacher wants in class.  I’ll call him Jimmy to protect his identity.  The other student had different priorities and put sports and his friends before his studies.  He was popular and not easy to engage in the classroom.  He was the student that teachers tend to send to the office and make phone calls home on a regular basis.  I’ll call him Michael to protect his identity.

Michael was known to tease Jimmy on a regular basis.  One day, Jimmy had enough and was upset.  I reacted immediately because I had had enough too.  I was hot mad for the constant harassment that Jimmy had to endure.  Enough was enough.  I pulled Michael out of class and went up one side of him and down the other.  I hate to admit this, but I wanted to break him.  I wanted to make him cry. To write this now is painful.  My actions were completely inexcusable.

When Michael told his side of the story it was much different than Jimmy’s version.  How had I forgotten to ask about the other side of the story before I reacted?  Without hesitation, I apologized to Michael.  I admitted that I was ashamed and embarrassed at my behavior and that I needed to call his parents. With Michael by my side, I called his mom.  I apologized immediately and admitted my wrong doings.  I told her that I had just apologized to her son and wanted Michael to be part of this conversation.  I admitted that I had jumped to conclusion and had wrongly accused her son.  I wasn’t expecting it, but his mother thanked me for calling and for being honest in front of her son.

Surprisingly, Michael changed after this completely unfortunate event.  He was a different student.  Immediately, there was a noticeable change in his behavior and effort in the classroom.  He began applying himself.  He was participating in classroom discussions and coming to class prepared.  He became a model student.  Is it my imagination or did the simple act of an adult admitting her short comings positively influence Michael?

I share this story with you now in the hope that you will always get both sides of the story before reacting, as well as take the opportunity to admit when you’re wrong.  It is never too late to learn the art of an apology.



A Little Like Casablanca

My Twitter experience and the start of this blog two weeks ago today is much like what Rick said to Captain Renault in the 1942 movie Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I’m amazed at the number of people I have met, the incredible resources they are so willing to share (or find) 24-7 across this magnificent world.  Dedicated educators committed to making a difference in the lives of children.  Two weeks ago, I had no idea the power of virtual colleagues.

As I write this now, I feel empowered.  My newly started PLN is what I’ve always needed and wanted in my professional career.  Teaching is all about relationships.  Relationships with our students, our colleagues, our parents and community.  But now, my vision is expanded and it doesn’t have walls or boundaries for either teachers or students!  The possibilities are really endless! Thank you, PLN!  This really is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!


Do You See Me?

I participated in my first #edchat this week.  It was hard to keep up, but I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the conversation which focused on how we provide effective and meaningful feedback to students.  To me, it starts and ends with creating relationships and building trust. Without them feedback is meaningless, so is learning.  Anyway you look at it, it’s a two-way street and we are responsible for modeling what it means to build positive relationships in our classrooms and schools.  Thanks to Twitter and @stumpteacher for sharing this must-see YouTube: The MHS LIP DUB: FIREWORK.  This is exactly the type of culture we need to develop in our schools.

One of  my #edchat posts says it all.  It confirms my belief for building and sustaining relationships with our students: “do you recognize my efforts, do u notice my attempts, do u respect me? do you appreciate my gifts & talents & celebrate them?” If we can do this in our classrooms and schools we can create a culture and climate that resembles what Magnolia High School demonstrated in their school video: a school that recognizes and appreciates the individual gifts and talents of each and every student.  When this happens providing effective and meaningful feedback will become a two-way street.

Make it a point to see me.  Recognize me.  Appreciate me.  Celebrate me.  I’ll be willing to go the extra mile for you if you do!

In One Week

At an early age I learned that determination can change the course of a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a life.

In this particular case, it was one week ago that I didn’t know what a widget was.  I didn’t have a WordPress account.  I had never blogged outside of my “invitation only” Ning and I had never participated in #elmenchat or #edchat.

Tonight I reflect on the power of a week: 7 days, 168 hours , 604800 seconds. A week ago, my husband dropped our son off at preschool which allowed me a few uninterrupted hours before teaching my graduate class, ‘Technology for Learners’ and I decided to use that time to model being a risk taker.  Little did I know that this risk was more than just creating a WordPress, I quickly found myself blogging about the challenges of being dyslexic. What made this week different from other weeks was the simple fact that I put my heart and soul on the line without fear or hesitation to the World Wide Web, not just my students.  What I wrote this past week, I have shared with hundreds of students, parents and colleagues over the years.  There have been waves of shame and embarrassment that have come and gone over the years, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and who I have become.

Believing that nothing happens in a vacuum or by accident, I have made such growth this week because of the influence of numerous people in my PLN!  Special “shout outs” to @3nmeinob and @crosbiematt for lots of WP encouragement and for getting me up and running on WP.  A big thank you to @virtual_teach, @ktenkely and @francesblo for helping me figure out how to get the word out and have people read and respond to this blog.  The biggest thanks goes to my husband Sean for figuring out how to customize my homepage – you are my rock star!

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from The Velveteen Rabbit:

What is REAL? Real isn’t how you are made.  It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for along time, not just to play with, but really loves you then you become real.  Does it hurt?  Sometimes.  When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.  Does it happen all at once or bit by bit?  It doesn’t happen all at once.  You become.

PS: I’m deeply grateful to many new followers this week as I begin this new adventure!  So looking forward to learning with you!  As I always end each class, “I miss you already!”  For those of you who know me, I’m signing it too!  🙂