Biblionasium – a reading network for the Under 13 crowd

Tour of BiblioNasium from Coach Manzee on Vimeo.

In a previous post last year, I lamented the lack of options the under 13 crowd is getting in Web 2.0 tools. Most of the free ones lock out children under 13 and the ones that have dedicated education sites can cost an arm and a leg in subscription fees. Occasionally you get gems like Edmodo and StoryJumper who are both free and Under 13 friendly. Today, thanks to my blogging friend Henrietta Miller, I came across another Under 13 friendly, free Web tool, Biblionasium.

For anyone familiar with Shelfari, the Amazon book related social networking site, Biblionasium works in a similar way but has been built specifically for the under 13 student. It is a teacher/parent controlled tool that acts as a reading journal and book sharing/recommending site. The video above, from the site itself via Vimeo, explains the site’s features in fairly good detail.

In a nutshell, teachers are able to set up a class site and assign children usernames and passwords to login. The students can record what they are reading, the teachers can monitor and recommend books to read and, with parent permission and control, students can ‘friend’ each other and share/recommend books to each other. Teachers have options of adding reading level indicators to books so they and parents can monitor the skill level their children are choosing to read at and encourage them to challenge themselves ( or conversely recommend books that are more reading ability appropriate.

Because Australian schools are on holidays, I haven’t had much of a chance to check out how it works but from what I have seen it seems like an excellent reading tool to add to your literacy program. I was able to search for a wide range of books to add to my list ( every search I did was successful, including Australian books) and I set up a couple of dummy student accounts using my own children without a hitch.

I actually like the level of involvement it encourages from parents. While the teacher sets up the account, ( although a parent could do it personally for their child if the school doesn’t use it) for the social networking features, which is where I see the benefits of sharing and recommending books with fellow students, can only occur if the parents grant the permission through the site. This puts the parents into an active role with the reading program, something we need more of in schools today.

Some of the more mature Grade 5/6 students may find its interface a bit cheesy, with its chimpanzee mascot, but other than that it is good to find  an educational tool aimed specifically at the younger child. It could be a great incentive and resource in particular for the early to middle grades (Grades 1-4). Check out the video above, go to the site and explore. It could prove worthwhile.

Cybersafety websites for parents, teachers and students

Last week I attended a Cybersafety presentation aimed at parents. I went along mainly to see the message that was being presented to the parents who attended from our school. I wasn’t expecting to learn too much myself as I have always seen myself as a very cyber smart parent who has taught my two children, now 14 and 16, how to be responsible digital citizens. While I heard much that I have done for years, the presenter, Tony Richards from IT Made Simple in Australia, hammered home a few points that made me think.

What I appreciated most was his promise of a wealth of resources he would send us the following week. True to his word, this list of resources just landed in my inbox and I thought it appropriate to share with you on this blog. If nothing else it’s a good place for me to store them for future reference. There are probably too many resources, as Tony said himself, but what teacher doesn’t like a truck load of resources to browse?!?

Hello,

I hope you found the session you attended the other week informative. Please feel free to pass on these links to others that were not able to attend.

Remember to talk with your children and ensure they make smart decisions online.

If I can provide any assistance feel free to contact me, I also provide sessions for community organisations and businesses around social media and online issues.

Tony

The following are some of the sites I spoke about or alluded too during the presentation. Please keep this email somewhere safe to return to at a later date.

Sites – General Information and Help

Google Online Safety – http://www.google.com/goodtoknow/online-safety/
Australian Government – http://www.netalert.gov.au/home.html
NZ NetSafe – http://www.netsafe.org.nz/keeping_safe.php?sectionID=parents
Childnet International – http://www.childnet-int.org/
ThinkuKnow – http://www.thinkuknow.com/
Scams Little Black Book – http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/726050

Cyber Safety Sites for Children and Parents
Parents – http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/en/Parents.aspx
Hectors World -http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Young%20Kids/Hectors%20World.aspx (A site for young children to explore online safety.)
CyberQuoll -Cybersmart – Have fun (This site is for primary aged students.)
CyberNetrix – http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/cybernetrix/index.html (A site for teenagers to learn how to be smart online.)
Super Clubs Plus – http://www.superclubsplus.com.au/ (An environment for students to learn about online social networks)

CyberBullying
Facts about Cyberbullying – http://www.familysafecomputers.org/bullying.htm
Tips on how to respond – Parents – http://www.adl.org/education/cyberbullying/tips.asp#family
What is CYBERBULLYING? – http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/what_is_cyberbullying_exactly.html
Types of Cyberbullies - http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/educators/howdoyouhandleacyberbully.html
Quick Guide to Responding – Parents – http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/parents/guide.html
Texting Glossary features thousands of relevant and up to date terms. – http://www.dtxtrapp.com/glossary.htm

Family Safety resources
Google Family Safety – http://www.google.com.au/familysafety/
FaceBoook Family Safety – https://www.facebook.com/safety
Scams and Tricks via FaceBook – what to avoid – http://facecrooks.com/
Online Privacy – http://www.microsoft.com/security/onlineprivacy/reputation.aspx#findout
Google Jargon Busters - http://www.google.com/goodtoknow/jargon/#cookie
Australian Government – Easy guide – http://www.dbcde.gov.au/easyguide/social_networking
Google Privacy Tools – http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacy/tools.html
Chat Acronyms – http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php
Digital Reputation Management: Remove content from the web: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=164734

Surf Safely with Browsers
The Facts about Search Engines – http://www.familysafecomputers.org/searchengines.htm
Google Safe Browsing - http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/safebrowsing/
Parental Control Toolbar: Free Filtering Tool – http://www.parentalcontrolbar.org/
How to use Parental Controls on IE Explorer – http://www.ehow.com/how_2033277_use-parental-controls.html
KID-FRIENDLY SITES – http://www.bewebaware.ca/english/KidFriendlySearchEngines.aspx
Web Surfing Tips – http://www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-guide/web-surfing.php
Safety First – Internet Explorer @ How Stuff Works – http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet-explorer-82.htm
Internet Explorer vs. Firefox: Which is Safer? – http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/secu/article.php/3698606
Safe Surfing Tips for Teens – http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html
Google Safe Search – http://www.google.com/safesearch_help.html

Monitoring Software
The following software allows you to monitor activity on computers systems – it’s up to parents to decide on how severe they want the monitoring to be. Personally, I like to use monitoring programs that aren’t spyware, meaning they show up on the device and my kids know the program is there. I feel that monitoring solutions should be used to reinforce positive behavior without taking away a child’s privacy by spying on them without their knowledge.

SpectorSoft http://www.spectorsoft.com/
The software is extremely comprehensive and utilizes key-logging, website tracking, social media monitoring and chat/IM logging, among other useful features that can give parents a comprehensive look into their child’s computer activity.

Screen Retriever http://www.screenretriever.com/

Mobile Monitoring Services
Code9Mobile – http://www.code9mobile.com/
Mobile Spy – http://www.mobile-spy.com/
eBlaster Mobile – http://www.spectorsoft.com/home-solutions.html

Social Media
Parenting with the Digital Generation (Article) -http://mashable.com/2010/05/13/parenting-social-media/

Videos
The following sites have a range of video content that you may be interested in watching and even later watching with your child/ren if you deem it appropriate:

Interview with Andrew Fuller on Self Harm – http://vimeo.com/46672640
Common Sense Media Advice Videos – http://www.commonsensemedia.org/video/advice
PBS – Growing up online – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/
Cyber Bullying – a view of this issue from the student view – great for children to watch – http://www.digizen.org/cyberbullying/fullFilm.aspx
Exposed – a view of the issue of sexting and its consequences. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ovR3FF_6us
ThinkUKnow – make sure you know who you are talking too. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDBDUX7KPT0&feature=fvwrel
Megan’s Story - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwKgg35YbC4&feature=relmfu

TalhotBlond
ABC aired an interesting documentary called “Talhotblond ” around an online chatting event that will make you think about the conversations we need to have with our children, even other adults about chatting and communicating online.
The website for the documentary can be found here:http://www.talhotblond.com/
* Please note this documentary contains adult content and language and is not suitable for children.

Online Books
Kids and Video Games
http://www.videogamesandkids.com/index.html

Student Links
20 Things I Learned Online
http://www.20thingsilearned.com/en-US

Password Bird
http://www.passwordbird.com

Protecting your PC
Lastly the following are the products I spoke about in regards to having on your computer to avoid viruses. All these products are free and do a very good job when used together, if you have Norton or McAfee or any other commercial product – please do not download the first product called AVG – as this performs the same task.

AVG – this program runs as a virus protection option and will scan email and software loaded onto your computer.
Product Information:: http://free.grisoft.com/
Download software:: http://free.grisoft.com/ww.download?prd=afe

Spybot – this program checks and removes any malicious software from your browsers, it also helps to scan common locations on your computer for items that should not be there.
Product Information:: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
Download software:: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/mirrors/index.html

AdAware – this program also checks your internet browser for malicious software.
Product Information:: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/
Download software:: http://www.download.com/Ad-Aware-2007/3000-8022_4-10045910.html?part=dl-ad-aware&subj=dl&tag=top5&cdlPid=10837062

Windows Defender
Site:http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/defender/default.mspx
Microsoft recently released this free tool that will do many of the functions the programs above provide – this tool is highly recommended. However please note that you must have a valid copy of windows to install this application.

The key with these tools is that you need to scan your computer based on your usage – if the internet is used a lot then scan with Spybot and AdAware every fortnight – if the internet is only used a low or moderate amount then scan once a month. if you are every concerned with anything on the computer then run a scan just to be sure. These products are designed to simply help eliminate viruses and unwanted software on your computer.

One other tool to have a look at is Norton Online Family :http://onlinefamilyinfo.norton.com/ – more information on this product can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OnlineFamily.Norton

Or check out the K9 Web Protection tool:http://www1.k9webprotection.com/

Open DNS – http://www.opendns.com/parental-controls
OpenDNS is the only Internet parental controls solution that empowers parents to manage Web access across every device that accesses the Internet on your home network. This includes phones and computers that your kids’ friends bring into the house,

Thanks for being involved and taking time to understand the environment your children are growing up in.

Regards

Tony

Tony Richards
Web. www.itmadesimple.com
Twitter. itmadesimple
Blog. http://blog.itmadesimple.com/
Podcast. http://www.edtechcrew.net

I’d like to thank Tony for the effort in compiling these resources and his presentation. While it focused on the dark side of the Internet, which was necessary in being a strong wake up call for parents who excuse themselves sometimes from responsibility of being in control of Internet usage in their house, he still took time to stress the good that children do online as well, which I tend to focus moore on here on my blog. It was well received by all who attended and if you are in Australia, I recommend getting him to your school to talk to all stakeholders – students, parents and teachers.

Who should we consult about technology in our schools?

Thanks to edtech times for this infographic
From their website:

Nonprofit Project Tomorrow aims to make student voices heard in education. Speak Up, an initiative of Project Tomorrow, surveyed 294,399 students, 35,525 teachers, 42,267 parents, and others in fall 2010 to determine the benefits of certain types and uses of technology for teaching and learning. The results are depicted in the infographic below.

20120923-154619.jpg

I think we can learn a lot from the results of this very extensive survey. On reflection, I wonder why we do things so differently to the rest of our society. Politicians, businesses, the entertainment industry, sports organisations spend up big on researching the stakeholders in their product or idea or policy. Education departments and schools too often make the mistake of deciding what is best without asking the real stakeholders in our system what their opinions are, often to the detriment of what follows.

What I really appreciate about this survey is that it focuses on ALL THREE ( I’m not including the bureaucratic side ) interested parties in education – Students, Parents and Teachers. While I haven’t seen the actual survey, this infographic suggests that in-depth questioning took place and the results encourage a lot of thinking about how we should go forward in planning for technology in schools. It also raises questions about what we as educators consider important as opposed to the parents and students think. Finally, it would also be interesting to conduct this same survey two years on in 2012, when the use of technology has accelerated so much, to see if there has been significant change in perceptions.

Student Responses
I found it interesting that the factors that scored highest involved independent activity. Students find tech beneficial in organizing their times, managing their own learning and working at their own pace. With the push towards student centered learning, this shows technology can contribute to the success of this learning strategy in the eyes of those that count – the students. It’s also an eye opener that well less than half of the students surveyed find tech as motivating or the key to easy success. This is a cautionary tale for those tech advocates ( me included ) who think that iPads, 1:1 programs and web tools are the answer to all engagement and learning problems. We need to balance our thirst for tech spending with reflection on multiple intelligences and learning styles research that stresses students have different preferences. Technology is not necessarily the answer for all students.

Another observation that comes to mind is that we have work to do on some of the skills we want to ingrain in the learning behaviors of our students. Collaboration and asking questions are important but the survey suggests our students are not necessarily using tech effectively for that, despite all the great collaborative, sharing, networking tools at our disposal. It brings home the point that its not enough to introduce Edmodo, Diigo, blogging and the like to the students and expect it to just happen. We have to work hard to show them how it will improve their learning. Obviously, we also need to do the same for teachers, parents and leadership as well.

Parents responses
I was particularly interested in this section of the infographic. Parents are often the last people we consult when we make decisions. They are often the first we get concerned about though when they start to question our decisions or pedagogies. Maybe we should communicate more with them and find out what they want. Then we can address the issues they raise and educate them in what we believe from our training and experience is best for their children.

What interested me most from the survey results in the infographic was the motivation behind the parent responses to what can help them assist their children in their learning. They want access to curriculum materials so they can support their kids. How often have we heard ” I can’t help my son because you do it differently to when I was at school.”? Technology today gives us the perfect tool for sharing what we do in school with the parents. Blogs, social networking sites, video lessons ( only 22% in this survey – before the flipping classroom boom – but it would be interesting to find out what the interest would be now ), online newsletters are practical ways to communicate how we teach the students in a contemporary classroom.

It’s encouraging to see such large percentages of parents wanting regular updates and viewing of children’s work. They don’t want to wait for reports or interviews or portfolios to come home at the end of term. They want technology to provide them access. This is a huge challenge for us as schools as we are not used to parents seeing the students work before its “ready”. There needs to be a shift in thinking about what this access to students work will entail. Parent and teacher education ( and students too) will be needed so there isn’t a misunderstanding of the difference between work in progress and published work. Technology has the potential to allow for real partnerships between all the stakeholders in a child’s education. From this survey parents want to be a part of it. We just need to make sure we get the balance right in the partnership.

Another fascinating tidbit from the infographic was the response to purchasing tech for students to use at school. Without knowing the demographics of the survey, it’s enlightening to see such a large percentage of parents willing to buy mobile devices for their children to use AT SCHOOL. It raises the weighty issue of BYOD ( bring your own device ) programs in schools. To me, this suggests there needs to be serious discussion between school and parents about the prospects rather than just dismissing the idea. Of course, just because parents might think it’s a great idea, doesn’t mean it is. Many parents aren’t necessarily in control of the tech use of their children and don’t understand the pitfalls of such a program. Again, it means Parent Education in responsible digital citizenship, their responsibilities and how they can support their children will be needed but if they are prepared to make the commitment the discussion needs to be had.

Teacher/Student responses
Some telling observations can be made from the results in this part of the infographic.
First, it is apparent that digital literacy is not clear to either teacher or students in some cases, particularly in analyzing, interpreting and detecting bias in media stories. It suggests we need to have a conversation about new Literacies with our teachers and why technology has an important role to play in this.

Not surprisingly, students don’t place importance on checking their sources. This is a big part of digital literacy – the more children are using the Internet for both research and presenting their findings in a public forum, the more we have to change their behavior. They are exposed to so much info in such easily accessible and unchecked ways, we have to place importance on convincing them this is important. We think of them as ‘digital natives’ but they’re still not skilled in the nuances of its use. We have to consult teachers, parents and the students themselves in this area.

One final observation here is the low percentage for producing digital media reports from both teachers and students. Again, a lot has changed in the last two years since this survey in the proliferation of web tools in schools. Nevertheless, less than one in three teachers and only 40% of students thinking digital publishing is important is interesting to consider. This is one area I would really like to investigate at the local level before making massive investments in technology.

Final thoughts
It seems to be accepted that we need to invest in technology on a large scale to prepare our students for the tech rich world they are going to be living in. Before making this investment though, it seems to me we need to make sure we consult with everyone involved. A lot of time, effort and most of all money can be wasted if we don’t find out what our clientele wants. That’s teachers, students and parents. Decision makers need to consider all stakeholders. When you look at the numbers of people involved in this survey, its hard to ignore the importance of the responses received. I would love schools to conduct a similar survey to find out what everyone involved thinks. It would allow for considered decisions to be made rather than hasty purchases. What do you think?

Parents – making them part of the solution

We spend every day of our working life talking to our colleagues at school about the challenges of the students in our care – and rightly so. The students in our classes are given feedback daily on their learning – that’s part of teaching. But how many times do we talk to the parents of the students beyond biannual parent/teacher meetings? Education is changing before our eyes. It’s a challenge for us and we experience it first hand every working day of our lives. I think we forget sometimes that the changes we are implementing are so foreign to the parents in our community there is no wonder why they have so many questions.

So how do we react? How often do we proactively seek to communicate with the parents of our schools? If you surveyed a group of teachers, I think that situation in the cartoon above is probably the most common interaction we have with our parents. Does this really build the supportive collaborative relationship we area trying to encourage our students to develop with others as 21st Century Learners? As we revolutionize the education system we have to make sure we modify the parent/school relationship as well.

The more parents have hands on experiences with school, the more they become accepting of the changes we are trying to initiate in education. As someone who has gone away on school camps with parent helpers, I have seen first hand the appreciation parents develop for our work as they observe and ‘live’ what our job entails. Why don’t we replicate this “parent helper” experience more often in a classroom setting? These are just my initial thoughts and ideas for what we could do at schools. It’s a bit of a ‘What If?’ list that I invite others to contribute to.

1. What if we organize regular, timetabled, informal chats in the staff room for interested parents (limited numbers to keep it simple) before or after school to just share what’s going on in the classroom, the latest initiative your school is starting or a strategy or two you are developing that week?
Keep it to 15 minutes, just sitting around the table ( compulsory coffee in hand ), with no expectations to always be there but give parents an opportunity to hear some positive messages from the school and build a positive community relationship between parent and staff. I don’t want to cut into teacher downtime here but i don’t think 15 minutes once a month would kill us.

2. What if we create a blog that is open to parents, students and staff? 
Schools could share information about new initiatives taking place at school, post links to websites that explain what teachers are doing in the contemporary classroom, give access to websites that can help parents support their children in their learning. Of course this could happen through your typical school website but instead of static, rarely updated website, a blog would allow for two way communication and content contributions from everyone in the community, including student work to showcase the best of what the school can achieve. It would also allow for moderated discussions through comments and discussion boards so that parents could provide positive feedback to the student and ask reasonable questions directed to staff about the work being done.

3. What if we open up some of our staff PD to interested parents?
Most of us teachers are learning new ways of teaching these days. What if we did this learning alongside parents so that they could talk to us in real time about how their children are being taught today. Parents could then be informed participants in the traditional parent car park talks after school and let other parents in on the secrets of the school. It could be a part of a staff meeting, a student free day, a before school “techie brekkie”‘ or an off site conference with attendance open to anyone. It would mean less confusion about homework, less contradiction over “times tables” and more open communication between school and parent about teaching methods. Like everything else I am pondering here, it would have to be carefully thought through so there is no extra commitment for teachers and parents don’t overstep the mark on what is expected of them.

4. What if we bit the bullet and went for full Parent access with Edmodo?
For those who don’t know, Edmodo has a parent account that allows for access to their own child’s work on Edmodo and also allows for communication between child, parent and teacher. Not everyone uses this option ( we certainly aren’t yet ) but planned and implemented properly, this would provide an effective way for parents to track work and check in with their child’s teacher via an easy online service without any additional set up or planning.

5. (Staying old school without tech) What if we just made far better use of the old fashioned student diary?
If the student had the diary beside them all day every day, we could write comments about the work at the same time we record comments in our assessment records. I would be. Nice change for parents to read about the successes of the day rather than the usual reminders about school uniform and late homework issues. Of course, if the student was in a 1:1 iPad or laptop school, their diary could be in electronic form and the process could be far more streamlined.

6. What if digital portfolios or file books were accessible all year?
Too often in schools we keep all the work that children do throughout the year in folders, files, computer programs etc and don’t release them until the end of the year/semester/term for the parent teacher interviews. We stress over the the layout, the organisation of the work, how many stickers they have on their work, how attractive the published pieces are and so on. Why don’t we make it accessible to parents all year?

Digital or paper based, send it home every week, finished or not. This would make the parents aware of the progress their children are making on tasks and projects and also make the children more accountable for their work, knowing Mum and Dad are going to see it all the time. Parents would get used to seeing the real work their child does, not the artificial perfectly published work for display purposes only. It could place the need for unnecessary homework preparation – sharing the work done in class would allows for revision of work without having extra work to prepare or complete. Parents would know exactly what their child is doing before the formal interview and can be more active in dealing with issues before it’s too late. I would prefer it digital and easily accessible from school and home. Digital portfolios are more engaging, easier to maintain and build on and allows for online interaction between student, parent and teacher.

7. What if we have have more open days or evenings so parents can see their children in action with their teachers? Have an occasional late start/late finish day to accommodate the working parent and let the parents see first hand how their child is learning.

8. What if we have regular online surveys created for specific information we want to get fromparents? With all the online do-it-yourself survey tools available these days, this is a simple task and could be a way for parents to feedback to the school in a non threatening way.

In today’s always connected tech driven world, there is really no reason for parents to be out of the loop. School should be a 3 way partnership. We need to embrace relationships with parents to ensure the best possible results for our students. If we don’t communicate with each other we can’t expect miracles. All of these ideas would need to be carefully thought through and the expectations of parents need to be controlled but I think we need to be finding ways to share what’s happening at school and what we are doing with the children more effectively. It will never be 100% access either way but we can make a go of it.

What other what ifs can you think of? Am I expecting too much of teachers and parents for this to really happen? Let me know what you think. Join the conversation.