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Privacy, Trust and Voice

Privacy, Trust and Voice

For the past few hours, I’ve thought, rethought, written and erased…over and over again. In between going back and forth, I got to experience the vile realities of twitter trolls…people creating accounts for the sole purpose of saying the most unreal, racist, sexist, body shaming…things to me. Clearly, speaking out against the “media interpretation” of awesome teaching ruffled some feathers.

And yet, I am still stuck at…

How do I best convey why #IWishmyteacherknew is not just a “bad thing” but a “Oh heck no” thing….

First let me say that I am an advocate for student voice. I believe wholeheartedly in not just hearing from kids but fully including them in the education process. I have also called out the educational community, on a number of occasions, about equity, community and decision making with students and families of poverty.

So, naturally I was intrigued by this campaign as the example that I saw was mild. It was the child wishing for friends. I shared it and then I read the article…many articles. I was mortified because those shares were not just “students sharing their thoughts”….those shares were “students sharing personal family experiences”.

In the age of social media, this is NOT good…not at all.

You see…aside from this teacher, and the colorful index cards of notes that she tweeted, there are families who are also connected…families who have children in her class…in the community…families who have facebook, twitter…the evening news.

No family should have to hear that what their child was feeling and shared with their teacher was posted to social media while watching the news. Talk about being blindsided…

Now, before you go all, “She had to have had permission” on me…

Let me be clear in saying that this teacher was asked on multiple occasions about permissions and the only permission that she seemed to have had was from the kids. They are 8 and 9 years old….sharing personal FAMILY details. If those thoughts were shared without parental consent, this is a problem…a Big one!!

I even consulted with my sister who is blind on this issue and I asked what she would do if she saw that my nephew wrote to his teacher about issues that should have been discussed with her but were instead shared online. Let’s just say that if that happened, a visit to the school and superintendent would have been in order.

There are quite a few who demand that this teacher was “brave” in selflessly sharing the voices of her students. No…the bravery was in the kids who wrote them. I personally find it quite exploitive that following the viral state of her shares…were tweets to give to her donors choose projects. That’s not brave. That is called pushing an agenda. Those tweets were auto tweeted to anyone that used that hashtag…same verbiage…even to me.

In addition…I need to alert the greater world that…


Newsflash: Millions of children in this country live through extreme poverty or unreal living situations. As a matter of fact, if you extend this prompt across the nation…you may even hear stories about…

  • Homelessness
  • Abuse
  • Divorce
  • Neglect
  • Drugs/Alcohol
  • Depression (as a matter of fact, a teacher actually shared a student saying that they had depression via this hashtag)
  • Starvation
  • Lack of guidance
  • Struggle
  • Worry/Concern
  • Lack of resources/supplies

You may even hear about kids who are poor but still happy. Those stories exist too. (You didn’t read many of those though) Even with the pieces of story shared are parents, siblings and extended family members. There are multiple sides that are not considered. There are parents who work late and hard to support their kids. Often, kids at that age do not connect with that. Imagine that working mother reading that her kid needed her in a news article online…and feeling the guilt 10x over beyond what she may already feel.

Maybe that’s not the story. Maybe it is. We don’t know though.

(Anonymity does not exist in this case for these families because original work with handwriting was published. Most parents know how their own kids write. Again…minus consent = problematic)

Sharing student work is done across the edu-sphere in all forms. This was different. This wasn’t just “work”.

We were reading notes, written in the original handwriting of students (locally identifiable…If I am a parent of a child in that class, I can simply ask my child or use community knowledge to know who those kids were and which families they were. Community shaming is real. That is unfair…period!)

But…tell me…Did you really need to see it written in the handwriting of students to know that those problems existed? Were you completely oblivious to the real state of the american child that it took the “Freedom Writer-ish” act of a “still new at this teacher” to connect with the fact that our kids need help because the world sucks and they feel it?

You should probably check your privilege because if you are too blind or disconnected to see the world around you and know that kids are affected without needing them to pour their hearts out onto colored index cards for the world to read…you are a part of the problem.

These shares are doing nothing more than what they are already doing…

…Exploiting the struggles of families

Yes people…families are stuggling…lots of them!

Student work is not owned by teachers or schools. We have zero right to share their progress, thoughts or examples. That right belongs to families and unless we get permission from parents and/or students…when they can legally consent…we have no business putting their thoughts on the web.

No, I am not muting kids. It is about ethics. It is about what is right and wrong.

One of the many twitter trolls that I had today reminded me that at the beginning of the school year, parent permissions to share student work are sent and retrieved. Let me guarantee you that parents who sign those forms did not count on their personal lives being shared. There is no way.

If this is the practice in your school or district, it is time to revisit that.

One more thing…

I am most disappointed in an educational community that turned a blind eye to this in public and were not strong enough to speak up for what we know is right concerning student/family privacy…until it became apparent that silence wasn’t the best option. It shouldn’t have to be me or any of the other educolor group members to push these discussions. Silence means that everyone loses.

If you were silent on this issue…what lessons can you possibly teach kids about the same?

In case you missed it…

We do not own student work. We cannot share personal thoughts of kids without consent. Trust matters.

My son shared a personal narrative with his teacher last week. He did it because he has great trust in her as another caring adult. Let’s hope that she does not betray that trust.

Dear Twitter Marketing: An Open Letter

I’m writing you this letter because I think that you should be much more intentional about connecting with the education community. To be honest with you, for a platform that fundamentally enables users to share stories, you are missing out on some of the most amazing stories involving twitter.

I know that you are fully aware of the impact that you are having on education. You see the stats and you may even be aware of the educational hashtags that scroll amongst the billions of tweets per second but I wonder if you truly “get it”…how deeply your platform has supported the transformation of teaching and learning.

Think about that for a second. Plenty of tech companies have tried but not many have done what you are doing…without really trying. I’m not asking you to provide any form of sponsorship, send money to schools or even change your platform in any way. (Although a private periscope channel would make that app a bit more user friendly for education)

What I am suggesting is that you have a more intentional presence in the education community.

There is an initiative going on right now to connect more kids, teachers, schools and communities. As a former teacher who used to be limited to the boundaries of her hometown, this connecting is critical and can be life changing. I had no idea that there were so many different ways to disrupt learning (in a good way) until I started connecting via twitter. I am one teacher. There are thousands more just like me.

There are schools who have completely changed the way that they approach learning because their school leaders and teachers engaged in conversations beyond their school walls. Teachers that could barely talk to the teachers in their halls are connecting daily with other teachers all over the world. That’s huge! There are kids gaining more opportunities because through twitter, practices were questioned through thought provoking questions…all in 140 characters or less.

It’s not just our teachers. Our students are connecting to each other and also to professionals in the field…real people who want to help support education.

I know that I may be asking for quite a bit but, it would be awesome if you had a presence at our educational events. You…dear czars of open communication…could even participate in conversations ranging from principles of learning to impact beyond textbooks through social justice.

You could be a part of the conversations about tech, diversity, equality and equity.

You could share amazing stories of connectedness on your blog or even help promote stories as they are being told.

The key, though, is in recognizing that we are an audience worth sharing about. Can you imagine the impact of capturing those stories on the ground in schools and sharing videos from around the globe? Think about the thousands of schools that are not connecting and that are not using your platform yet. Why aren’t they and how can you help them?

We share the power of twitter to anyone who listens because we know how much it has changed many of our lives and classrooms.

Maybe you could start sharing these stories too.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 3.33.10 AM


Thank you!


PS: At minimum, you should have a section on your blog that shares stories specifically from education. There are plenty of them…as long as your are intentionally grabbing them.

You Don’t Know Grit!

gritThere’s a really huge myth that kids come to class with zero experience in the grit area…that somehow “struggle in school work” is supposed to magically teach that. By definition, grit is about courage, resolve and strength of character in the face of obstacles. In real life, those obstacles can be hindering and impossible sometimes to just “do”…because of grit. Some kids thrive and some struggle beyond school.

With boys, especially black boys…those obstacles can be crippling, especially in a world that immediately judges them unfairly because they have those obstacles to begin with and not by how they rise above them.

I am a mother of a son who struggles. Over the past year, I’ve experienced his highs and lows, mostly in private yet still very much so out in the open. He has struggled emotionally with the constant rejection of his father and financial hardships of his mother working to support him alone. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders but his spirit in doing so is empowering and motivating…especially to his mother.

No one knows his real story. They see him, the son of a “seemingly successful” educator and assume that he is belligerent and just needs a little grit.

Trust me…he doesn’t need any more grit. He needs meaningful experiences, curiosity and the ability to escape into wonder…to be inspired. He has plenty of grit…even when you don’t see it and especially when you refuse to see it.

I can’t talk about grit without talking about my son’s good friend. He’s a young man who is learning how to survive in the face of obstacles and he is certainly trying hard. His mother, gone from his life indefinitely, is locked up and his father, unable to cope and deal, threw him from the home. He’s now thriving, in the face of hardship and rejection…living with his grandmother.

…An yet, he smiles

But…you want to teach him grit???

These two boys, for me, represent much more than the lives that they live. They are the epitome of hope. What their teachers/schools need to do is focus on how they can build a culture of support for them. How will they know that there are opportunities that can help them transcend the cards that they are dealt? How will they channel the anger and hurt into positive outcomes? How can they question the world that they live in and know that they too can contribute ideas and maybe even innovate to change their future?

If you’re focusing on grit, you’re focusing on the wrong thing because the ones who you think “need grit” the most…are the ones who are already drinking a full cup of it.

More of us need to sit back…learn from them…and create the system for their success.

Right now…it doesn’t exist.

One more thing…

Technology is not accessible to either of these boys at school. So, there’s that.

Storytelling with Adobe Slate and My Dad

Storytelling with Adobe Slate and My Dad

I’ve been an Adobe Voice user and have used it countless times with students. However, there was a piece missing for students who needed a platform to liven up projects or ideas that required much more text. A few weeks ago, I was able to get a peek inside Adobe Slate and I’ve been anticipating its release since.

Simultaneously, my father…with his ipad…has been thinking about publishing his family history based on his research. Today, Adobe Slate released and I put it to the test with my dad who at 63 years young is a complete tech novice who has never used an app beyond safari and the photo album.

Ironically, I was asked today if I have ever used this app with students. In a non-traditional sense, my dad is a student. We all are…aren’t we? As a matter of fact, my work with my father is something that I recommend for all of us to do. Whether we capture these stories via video, portfolio or web…capture them. This is necessary. Adobe Slate was simple enough for him to use and we appreciated that.

A Few Tidbits

  • The app was created with schools in mind although it definitely has applications beyond school. For now, sign-ups are limited to Adobe and “Facebook”. For many schools, this is limiting and even more so when students do not have email. Come on Adobe? Work with us here!
  • Typing was problematic so we’ll definitely have to purchase a keyboard.
  • The app includes an internal image search and cites it accordingly, which is awesome!
  • Adobe boasts that stories can be embedded yet, that option is only available via the ipad app so to embed his story, I had to copy the code to a note file and then share it. The published web piece should have an embed option, somewhere at the bottom or where ever the share options are, but it does not.
  • Adobe Story allows videos to be saved to camera roll. Adobe slate should at least export as a pdf. It does not and that alone almost made us not use this app.
  • Where is the option to copy the published link to share? Yes, we can post to social media and then grab the link but if I wanted to embed a Slate story into thinglink, I have to share it to social media first and then grab the link. Updated below!
  • When the research supports that schools using Chromebooks outweigh those using ipads, why make an application that works on an ipad only? Creative storytelling via the web should always be a thing!
  • I recommend this app for grades 5 and up or any age when a person is writing full stories, research, essays or letters. (The sign-up will continue to be problematic for the under 13 crowd)

My dad’s first creative app was Slate and so far, he is pretty happy with it. Now, to work on his space to house his published library!

Edited to add…

Thanks to Ben at Adobe, the “copy link” mystery has been solved.

“To embed and get the kink, go to the Projects, click the … and select Share, you’ll see an option to Copy Link. You’ll also see Copy Embed Code.”

Check the image below!


Tracing History Horatio Hearne Adams

It’s Not About The Tech, Unless It Is

It’s Not About The Tech, Unless It Is

Over the past week I have been looking a bit more deeply into the Future Ready Summit coalition partners in order to learn more about how each one contributes to the #FutureReady initiative. One of those is Digital Promise, an independent, bipartisan nonprofit, authorized by Congress in 2008 as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies.

Earlier today, I came across a blog post written by Krista Moroder called, Words Matter: Let’s Talk About Learning, Not Technology. In it, Krista reflected on a moment from her training experience in which she came to understand the power of focusing on learning outcomes in lieu of the “tech tool” heavy phrasing that is too often utilized in learning spaces. She goes even deeper by offering alternative phrasing that tech trainers can use to better adhere to the needs of classroom teachers. This is a topic that has been near and dear to my heart for some time and as a matter of fact, I wrote about it in October from the lens of the edtech conference which also too often relies heavily on tool focused sessions.

Remember…It’s not about the tool.

…Unless you are talking about access instead of professional development because for schools without technology, it IS about the tools.

“It’s not about the tech. It’s about the learning” has become a buzz phrase no different than the buzzwords of tech that it’s said against. There are two different sides to this conversation and it’s important to acknowledge that. I agree with the phrase completely in the case of school learning and implementation when it comes to technology as Krista described and even as I described from the tech training circuit. However, the phrase does not apply in schools where there is no technology.

A few years ago, I led a technology implementation initiative at a school where teachers were using the equivalent of “overheads” by way of document cameras that were only connected to projectors and not computers. Picture…stacks of notebook papers of notes being used for lectures.

School policies prohibited cell phone use and 150 classrooms sharing two common labs plus one cart of broken netbooks, meant that technology use was limited unless students took technology courses.

Professional development involved a projected ppt, foldables, TAP evaluation rubrics and the Marzano book. Teachers, under a distict paper limitation mandate, had to find creative ways to help kids learn. So…we focused on “the learning” but there was always something missing…the technology…and by default, the opportunities.

Again…I agree wholeheartedly that we must refrain from letting tech tools dominate PD but at the same token, let’s not forget that as many of us have access…too many do not.

At some point in time, no matter where we are in the spectrum of learning, there exist a period of time that it is about the tools. There also exist a transition when it is not about the tools.

It’s important to acknowledge this as we work to make access to digital learning the norm.

Diving into Tech with My #EdtechDad

Diving into Tech with My #EdtechDad

For the past few years, I’ve shared many social media postings about my #edtechdad, who earned that name because of his adoration of tech company branded t-shirts. He has never actually used any of the products that he freely advertises around town but that doesn’t stop him from talking about them. As a matter of…Continue Reading

5 Questions You Should Ask Concerning EdTech, But May Not Be

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A few weeks ago, I attended a great session led by Katrina Stevens (US Office of Edtech) and Chike Aguh (Advisory Board Company) called, “Building an Edtech Bill of Rights“. In this session, Katrina and Chike masterfully facilitated a necessary discussion on purposeful innovation amongst teachers, EdTech leaders, researchers, entrepreneurs and students…with a focus on…Continue Reading

Yep, I Resigned

Yep, I Resigned

If you asked me five years ago if I would have ever left the halls of my high school, I would have laughed and said…”No way!” I loved it too much. I still do. I also would not have ever considered leaving my home town…nor would I have seen myself traveling the country to talk…Continue Reading

Let’s Have Edu Gamathons, Not Just Gamification

Let’s Have Edu Gamathons, Not Just Gamification

This past weekend, I had the unique opportunity to serve as a teacher mentor for the Austin Education Game Jam, hosted by Globoloria, Atlassian HipChat and Skillpoint Alliance. This “Gamathon” event challenged development teams to create high-quality, commercially viable video games that were content focused while also empowering learning through more meaningful and engaging experiences. From a spectator…Continue Reading

The Privilege of Learning, Rethinking Traditional Schooling

The Privilege of Learning, Rethinking Traditional Schooling

In 2009, I was fortunate enough to visit New Tech High School in Coppell, TX…a “New Tech Network” school centered on project based learning and authentic student-led experiences. Prior to that visit, everything that I understood about education involved teachers as the holders of information with students waiting to grasp onto every word. Within a few…Continue Reading