How Plugged-In Families Can Have a Device-Free(ish) Holiday

“The trick is to downsize — not demolish — your family’s reliance on technology over the holidays. Advice from Common Sense Media editors.”

Just in time for the Winter Break, Common Sense media have created a succinct, useable resource for planning and enjoying the time off together with your family.

One of the things that I always appreciate about CSM is their balanced approach to media and technology and this guide is no exception. There are the predictable, #devicefreedinner-type of suggestions like putting phones in a basket or not checking emails obsessively, but also suggestions for enjoying tech time together in a responsible and fun way:

Have a download derby. Browse the app store together. Look for games and activities that the whole family can enjoy, such as the ones on our our best app lists.

Try some tech togetherness. Unplugging for its own sake isn’t the point. Family time is. Plan a night of video games, movies, or maybe preselected YouTube videos that you can all enjoy together.”

Read more of the suggestions on the Common Sense Media site below.

Source: How Plugged-In Families Can Have a Device-Free(ish) Holiday

Learning Creative Learning

Next week Mitch Resnick and the folks at the MIT Media Lab are kicking off another round of their terrific online course and community: Learning Creative Learning. I have already signed up and am excited to be joining other creative people around the world in this great learning and sharing community.

Read the summary below and click here to register.

“For many years, the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, led byMitch Resnick, has been developing new technologies, activities, and environments (such as Scratch and Computer Clubhouses) to engage all children, from all backgrounds, in creative learning experiences.

Learning Creative Learning (LCL) is our effort to connect and share ideas with people around the world with similar goals, visions, and values. It is an opportunity for like-minded educators and learners to meet one another and share ideas, strategies, and practical tips on how to support creative learning.

LCL is organized as a six-week online course (starting on October 18, 2017), but its real goal is to cultivate an ongoing learning community in support of creative learning around the world.

Each week we will offer online videos, readings, and hands-on activities. You’ll be able go through this material at your own pace. All of our materials will be freely available (including sections from Mitch Resnick’s new Lifelong Kindergarten book). You can spend as much or as little time you like — by watching, reading, making, sharing, reflecting, and discussing.”

Scratch and Friends


Scratch, the drag-and-drop visual programming language from MIT, continues to grow in popularity among teachers and students. The statistics tracker on the Scratch website shows:

  • 18,688,109 projects shared,
  • 15,314,275 users registered,
  • 97,400,962 comments posted,
  • 3,069,067 studios created

Students are creating, sharing, and remixing Scratch projects…and universities are remixing Scratch itself, building and sharing new flavors of Scratch to further expand the appeal and application of Scratch for programming.

Scratch | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you are looking for the original Scratch (now in v.2) this is the place for you. Create an account and begin coding games, simulations, musical instruments, and more!

Snap | University of California, Berkeley

Snap is for more advanced users who want to add their own blocks to Scratch. Built on Scratch v.1.4, Snap projects are also exportable as stand-alone apps for Windows and Mac.


Scribble | Monash University

Artists will appreciate this customization of Scratch (via Snap) that comes pre-loaded with cool red blocks for shapes, transparency and text.


No matter your students’ interests or experience levels, there is a Scratch flavor that is just right for them. Try them out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Recruitment and Digital Footprints

International schools are in the midst of their recruitment season and are reviewing applications from prospective teachers and administrators. Schools which have invested money, time and good will into building technology-rich environments for teaching, learning, and professional practice can capitalize on that investement by recruiting and retaining faculty members with demonstrated skills and enthusiasm for living and working in that environment.

To that end I am often asked how a school can recognize candidates who meet an arbitrary standard of “good with computers” (*cringe*). In those discussions I like to use the ISTE Standards for Teachers and Adminstrators as starting points: What is the school looking for in its faculty and what evidence do you have that a candidate exhibits those traits?

A candidate’s digital footprint can provide evidence both before and during the interview process and Google is my simple tool of choice. There are two things a school should do for every candidate under consideration:

Google the candidate.

That sounds simple and obvious, but I am shocked how many interviewers do not look up their candidates as part of the initial screening process. Candidates can promise anything in a cover letter or CV, but the public record can speak volumes about what they are currently saying and doing. You can learn a lot about a candidate by examining what is (and is not) visible in their digital footprint. Things to look for include:

  • a current professional website or blog with content that reflects the candidates ideas and opinions,
  • an active, updated LinkedIn or Twitter profile with a visible network of professional contacts and communications, and
  • third-party reports of participation in online communities, real or virtual conferences, committees, extracurriculars, and community service.

Ask the candidate.

In the actual interview simply ask the candidate “What would you hope I would find if I googled you?” The reason for this question is three-fold:

  • There might be “hidden” information online, perhaps concealed behind a login screen or in a private community. The candidate would then be able to discuss these items in the interview which you might not have found in your Google search.
  • Your Google search might have revealed conflicting or overlapping results for people with the same or similar names. A candidate who is aware of her digital footprint can then clarify which of those results are hers and which are not.
  • There is always the possibility that the candidate has no professional digital footprint. You might have found a Facebook profile or links to family photos, but no evidence of professional activities online.

Red flags.

A teacher candidate who does not “[p]articipate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.” (ISTE Standards for Teachers, 5a)

An admin candidate who does not “[p]romote and participate in local, national and global learning communities that stimulate innovation, creativity and digital age collaboration.” (ISTE Standards for Administrators, 2e)


These are first steps towards getting to know your school’s candidates, but I believe that they will help your school to pre-select the best candidates for further consideration in your recruitment process.

Can You Tell Fake News From Real? : NPR

"Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there," the researchers wrote. "Our work shows the opposite."

Stanford researchers assessed students from middle school to college and found they struggled to distinguish ads from articles, neutral sources from biased ones and fake accounts from real ones.

This is truly dismaying news given the post-truth world we are apparently living in now. NPR News presents a concise and informative report on Stanford’s recently published “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” and paints a grim picture of so-called digital natives’ ability to critically assess news and fake news.

The participants in this study were middle and high school students who were asked to evaluate websites, tweets, and images in order to determine whether they were legitimate (from the cited source), factual (presented information that was true or which stood up to basic scrutiny) or unbiased. The Stanford researched used items from across the politial spectrum and discovered that students could not identify advertisements on webpages, could not determine if sources of sources were real or fake, or even if images were what they purported to be.

We in the IT and Library world clearly have our work cut out for ourselves and need to have some serious curricular discussions within our schools. I for one would be very curious to see how our own students would fare in a similar study. Anyone care to join me?

Listen on

Read on Can You Tell Fake News From Real? Study Finds Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability : The Two-Way : NPR

Curriculum and the ISTE Standards for Students

standards-header-circleAs we update our draft technology plan with input from the various stakeholder groups around campus, I have been working through ideas for aligning our curriculum to the new ISTE Standards for Students. Our IT working group has informally adopted these standards for our school and our draft plan contains the first written reference to the standards and also the action steps to begin the curricular alignment, yet there has been no direct work with the faculty until now.

Yesterday I had the opporunity to present the ISTE Standards for Students to the Middle School and High School faculty. My colleague John Iglar and I introduced the standards with a matching activity: Working in table group, teachers matched four-item clusters of performance indicators to their standards, which we presented on colorful paper.

The indicators were then glued to the papers for the next activity. John shared a series of teaching and learning scenarios and asked teachers to suggest which standard or standards were being addressed. The ensuing discussion was lively as teacher held up the colorful papers (“Red for Standard 1!”) and we suggested additional alignment possibilities.

The final activity was an “exit ticket” to check for general understanding of the ISTE Standards for Students and to introduce the idea of aligning current units or lessons. Teachers we directed to a simple Google form and were asked to submit the name or description of a current unit or lesson and then check the standard or standards to which that learning activity could be aligned.

After the teachers had been dismissed to move on to their next activity I crunched the numbers from the exit ticket activity. (Actually, Google Sheets crunched the numbers for me with its Explore tool.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that this brief overview of “what’s out there already” revealed a basic level of alignment to the standards already.

While this was by no means a complete gap analysis, it shows that our teachers are already creating the kinds of teaching and learning opportunities that will make future alignment activities less stressful than I had envisioned. Aligning the written, garanteed curriculum to the ISTE Standards for Students is in our school’s future and on my plate as a member of the Office of Teaching and Learning and we are ready to begin this exciting work soon.

Please have a look at my write up of the activities and the data from our teachers by clicking on the link below. Questions and comments always welcome!

Source: ISTE Standards for Students

ECIS TID Committee Blog | At the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Code

Please read my latest post on the ECIS TID Committee blog:

Source: ECIS TID Committee Blog | At the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Code

Pencil-Pusher: A Satire


“I’d really like you to meet with the new hire. She comes highly recommended and we are lucky to have hired her..”


“Well, she really needs some help with pencil skills.”

“How can she be an excellent teacher if she can’t use a pencil?”

I already knew the usual responses to this question:

  • She is from a school that didn’t use pencils
  • “Seasoned” teachers like her didn’t learn to use a pencil in their teacher preparation courses at university.
  • She is so busy being an excellent teacher that she just hasn’t had time to learn to worry about “basic stuff” like pencils.

“She comes to us highly recommended by her previous school.”

“Her previous school praised her for her lack of skills?”

“Of course not. That school is not a 1:1 pencil school like ours, so we really cannot blame her for her low pencil skills. She is a seasoned professional who comes to us with lots of qualifications and experience.”

“Did you explain to her that we are a 1:1 pencil school? That every student and teacher on our campus is expected to use the pencils we provide them to improve teaching and learning?”

It felt weird saying that. I know that pencils alone don’t change behavior and attitudes, don’t suddenly provide us with knowledge and insights. It’s what we can learn to do with pencils, slowly and through consistent, deliberate application that will allow us to truly excel at what we do.

“She says that she saw that on our website when she applied for the position. We told her that she will be issued a Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil when she arrives here in August but she told us that all of previous pencil experience is with Faber-Castell pencils. We reassured her that these days pencils have many common features and that her skills should be transferable.”

“That’s true, but you cannot transfer skills that you do not have.”

“This is where you come in: We told her that we have excellent support here at our school. We told her that you provide hands-on training for individuals and small groups, that you are available for one-to-one help, that you can even visit her classes to see how she teaches and where she might be able to integrate pencils into her lessons.”

All of these things we true, of course, but something was bothering me.

“Didn’t her previous school also provide training and support for pencil integration?”

“Of course, why?”

Countdown Timers download |

Had a request for help finding a classroom time early in the new school year. The teacher needed a way to countdown the time in her class. Because we are a mixed-platform school I wanted to offer her a tool that would work on my Windows/Ubuntu laptop as well as her Apple laptop. This one met all of our criteria and made the teacher very happy.

Countdown Timers download |

Countdown Timers download |

10 places where anyone can learn to code

Mitch Resnick says what everyone is thinking: The so-called “digital natives” are good users of technology when it comes to text, chat, and games…”but that doesn’t make you fluent.”