Tag Archives: Social Media

Navigating a Natural Disaster with Social Media

It has been more than a week since Hurricane Irma ravaged the state of Florida. As a long-time Miami-Dade resident, this is my third hurricane (but my first “big one”). My partner was here for Andrew as well as the 2005 season (when Katrina, Rita, & Wilma swept through the state). If you have never been through a weather related natural disaster, there is a lot of anxiety in the air before as well as after. What made Irma different for me was not the storm itself, but the myriad of tools available to residents to help prepare and recover from the storm. Social media played a significant role for my community as we prepared for the storm and as we began to pick up the pieces afterwards. However, in order to use these tools effectively, it was necessary to understand how to navigate them! Here are a few things that I learned over the course of the past week.

Follow your State/County/City Government

Miami-Dade county employed all of the social media networks to get their messages out there: Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope were how I got my information about evacuation orders, emergency supplies, and more. I am a cord cutter (meaning that I have no cable). This was the first time I was concerned about local channel access (antennas are an option as well). However, it was not a problem as Facebook Live notified me when Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Governor Rick Scott, or our local Emergency Offices were sharing updated information on evacuation zones, shelters, and storm preparations. I did not miss an update. What I found especially helpful on these announcements for the community at large is that, unlike the postings on major news networks, they shared information in all three of the prominent languages in Miami-Dade County: English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

Be Careful with “Viral” Information & Tips

Both before and after a storm, misinformation is rampant. People are trying to be helpful

Snopes dishwasher

Courtesy of Snopes.com

and, as such, may share out information that is simply not accurate. For example, prior to the storm I saw so many people share out this information about storing valuables in your dishwasher (and other appliances). In fact, even a few news agencies ran with the story. So, if there is a storm, should you do this? Absolutely not! The NHC, Red Cross, and other information sharing organizations made a point to try to correct this information. Just an FYI, the best place to store your important documents and valuables is in water tight, plastic containers. After the storm, misinformation spread about reimbursements or food stamps for those who lost food as a result of a power outage. Sadly, whatever food is lost can only be recouped via an insurance claim. However, as power outages lingered on, the community provided hot lunches at local parks and schools.

Follow Your Local News

Local news is far more important than national news during a crisis. They can give you up to date information about what is happening not just in your city, but in your neighborhood. Additionally, if you don’t have power, they may be simulcasting in your community. During the storm, our local NPR affiliate was great at getting out information, especially after the storm. They even started a Facebook group for Keys residents to help check in on one another.

Twitter is Incredibly Powerful, If you Know How to Use it

Both before and after the storm, Twitter was my best friend in getting pertinent, up to date information. Before the storm hit, I was trying to figure out where to put my car. Like most older homes in South Florida, I don’t have a parking garage. My neighborhood also has a lot of trees. I was trying to find a local garage in which I could store my carCapture (shielding it from wind, debris, and possible storm surge). So, I tweeted out looking for help. As the Miami Herald was working overtime, I asked them for help. I was surprised and pleased when they responded immediately with some up-to-date information. I was ultimately able to park my car in the garage at Marlins Park (after some local pressure, they finally opened them up).

After the storm, by navigating some local hashtags such as #Miami, #MiamiAfterIrma, and #Irma, I was able to find restaurants that were open (after day 3 of pop-tarts and Peanutbutter sandwiches, we wanted a hot meal), progress of Florida Light & Power, distributions of ice, and other areas where we could seek comfort and refuge after the storm. Twitter crowd-sourcing is one of the best ways to find out information relevant to you and your area during a crisis.

 

All in all, my city was spared the worst that Irma could bring. However, South Florida has a bullseye painted on it and I know that we will face another storm in the future. I’m hoping that these tips will help you and your community weather the next crisis.

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Smartphones, Depression, & Adolescents

Circling around the interwebs recently has been an article on the Atlantic by Jean Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” If you have not yet read the piece, then I encourage you to do so. It is a powerful and interesting look at the impact of social media on the post-millennial generation (that the author terms iGen). If you know me, or have been a reader of my blog, then you know that I do not advocate scare tactics and believe that these tools are both transformative in school and outside of them. I like this piece because it is a well thought out look at the shifting landscape of modern adolescents.

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Photo Credit: https://howtostartablogonline.net/ Courtesy of HTSABO

Twenge is not a luddite or an author nostaligic for the days of her youth. The piece is careful to highlight (repeatedly) that correlation is not necessarily causation and that generational differences are just that – differences. She is also careful not demonize smart phones or social media, rather the author focuses on the correlation between the prevalence of Smartphones and the rise of depression amongst teens.  Twenge highlights several disturbing and significant trends that we see in our communities that correlate with the smartphone and social media, especially among teens that spend less time socializing peer to peer and more time socializing online.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.

What struck me throughout this article is that iGen is a group of adolescents that are less inclined to engage, unsupervised, with their peers than previous generations. They are less likely to be independent through part-time jobs, unsupervised activities, and drivers licenses. This is not a trait that we can blame on “this generation,” but is more often seen as a result of parenting trends. danah boyd (sic) highlights throughout her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, that adolescents today are more governed and controlled by their parents and society than any generation prior. This is likely connected to the fact that while it has never been safer to be a child in the world, our perceptions of danger have never been higher. As such, children are sheltered to an unprecedented degree. While many of us Gen X’ers can remember being dropped off at the mall to “hang out” with friends for a few hours or “going out” with friends on a Saturday night, today’s tweens and teens are not afforded such freedoms. It is so uncommon, in fact, that a “new age” parenting technique deemed “Free Range Parenting” has arisen. The quotes are not accidental, the child rearing of our youths is now deemed “radical.”

Twenge does an excellent job highlighting that the struggles of today’s adolescents are more complex than simple “screen time.” The issue that most struck me was the role that social media plays in amplifying traditional adolescent anxieties, especially of “being left out.” All of us remember being the one “not invited” to a party or event. It was hurtful on Monday morning to find out that your friends were all having fun and you were at home. With today’s social media, however, “left out” teens are bombarded with images and videos of the events as they are happening. This is in keeping with technology as an “amplifier.”

There were a few elements in Twenge’s article that I felt merited further exploration or may be less conclusive than the author presents. Many of the trends she highlighted were already on the rise (or decline) by the time that smartphones came on the scene; for example teenagers dating or getting drivers licenses were decreasing for years. Additionally, measuring things such as mental illness, depression, and suicidal ideation have become more prevalent in the modern era with the professionalization of mental health services and the continual de-stigmatization of certain mental illnesses (such as depression). As such, these may have simply been grossly under-reported in the past. Additionally, while suicide remains stigmatic mode of death, more people are talking about and acknowledging when individuals (especially teenagers) take their own lives. Less often are suicides labeled “accidents.”

An article posted on JSTOR, “Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying a Generation But Not of Kids,” takes greater issue with Twenge’s research and data. It also highlights the fact that it is parents’ social media use, rather than kids’s, that is more alarming.

…when parents are distracted—as today’s parents are, perpetually, by our online lives—it’s the encouragement that suffers, more than the control. The result? Kids who stay inside their semi-gilded cages, because they don’t get the support they need to spread their wings.

This is not to say that I am dismissing Twenge’s conclusions. The piece is quite thoughtful and presents some compelling evidence that adults (parents and educators) should be more thoughtful about the time their children spend online and more open to more “analog” and “independent” activities for children.

Read the article and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

Fake News Lesson Plan Ideas

I recently had the privilege of participating in Vicki Davis’s show, 10 minute teacher. We talked about teaching students new Media Literacy skills in the era of “Fake News.”

Tweens & The Cell Phone Conversation

Back to School shopping has started. Here in Florida, we kick off “tax free weekend,” which allows parents and students to purchase back to school items and pay no sales tax. Items included on that list: clothing, school supplies, computers, tablets, and smart phones! For many parents of tweens, the start of the school year also marks the start of the “cell phone conversation.” Do I get my child a smart phone? If so, what kind of smart phone? What limits do I put on them? Is it yet age appropriate for my child to have a phone?

So, how do you start the cell phone conversation with your child? Or, if you are a teacher or school administrator, how do you advise parents? There are a few ways to get the conversation going and things for you to consider.

Is a smart phone Age-Appropriate?

I feel comfortable telling parents that a child should not have their own device if they are younger than double digits. While I have seen 8 and 9 years olds playing on devices, those devices should ultimately belong to an adult. After the age of 10, however, it becomes a little more challenging. It would be easiest if I could tell parents that X age is the right age for their child to get a smartphone. However, the reality is that every child is different.

Your child is unique in their maturity and tolerance for responsibility. A smartphone is a big responsibility. A few comparable questions: Do I feel comfortable leaving my child home alone for a few hours? Does my child take care of their toys (e.g. clothing, other electronics, etc)? Would I allow my child to supervise other children? These questions tell you a few things: Can my child safely navigate without adult supervision? Can they care for an expensive piece of electronics? Can my child effectively and safely manage and engage with others without adult supervision?

Have a Conversation About the Responsibility of a Smartphone

I know, I know… this sounds so cheesy. But the reality is that, like driving a car, getting a smartphone is a big responsibility. They are entering a new world of freedom and flexibility. One in which they can, likely will (and developmentally should) make some mistakes and missteps. If you want to know more about what kids really “get up to” 13893168079_a584a41d83_bonline, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (this link gives you access to a free PDF version of the book). danah’s (yes, she spells it that way) book gives you a realistic look at how children engage with one another online. Here are some questions to discuss with your child:

  • What will you do if you see something that makes you uncomfortable online?
  • What will you do if you think that a friend or a classmate is being mean to you or someone else?
  • How will you react if someone makes you angry online?
  • What will you do if you think you have made a mistake in how you have acted online?
  • What will you do if your phone breaks or gets dropped in water?

This should be realistic conversations. Try not to use scare tactic examples. Pull things from real life:

“One time, Aunt Edna and I got into an argument because she responded to my selfie by saying ‘You look soooo fat!’ It turned out that she was being sarcastic and meant it as a compliment; I had recently lost weight. I thought that she was being mean. We didn’t speak for two weeks because neither of tried to clear up the communication. What could we have done better?”

Set Boundaries for Your Child & Yourself

Boundaries are important in all facets of life, including electronics. Sit down and have a conversation with your child about rules and boundaries for their new device – both for you and for them. Make a physical list that you post in your home. Think of this as an evolving process. Some of these may change as the child gets older or if you or your child feel it needs to shift. Additionally, consider consequences for violating boundaries (loss of a privilege?) Parents, keep in mind that modeling is especially important! A few items for you to consider:

  • Will there be a “no smartphone” time? For example family meals? Homework/reading time?  Family events? Bedtime?
  • Will parents be monitoring smartphone use?
  • When (during the day) is it acceptable to text? For example, what about during the school day? Parents, keep in mind that if you text a child during class-time, you may be enabling behavior you don’t want!
  • What is acceptable to share online? When should you get permission to post or share something?
  • Where will the phone be kept at night? It is often recommended to remove smartphones from children’s bedrooms at night to avoid temptation. Charge them in a parent’s room or a neutral place.

Keep Yourself Informed

Have regular conversations with your child about what they do online. Reinforce the idea that you are a trusted adult and they can come to you when they run into problems. To me, that is the most vital part of tween cell phone ownership – knowing that their parents can and will help them if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or have made a poor decision. Some great resources for parents:

If you have some thoughts or contributions, please share them in the notes below!

 

5 Free #EdTech Tools to Check out for Back to School

The start of school is just around the corner! Many educators are brushing off old lesson plans for revision or restructuring their curriculum. As you prepare for the start of school, here are five ed tech tools to check out to help get your lesson planning game on point.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom has become the go-to tool for educators to assign and collect

assignments, disseminate information, and even to keep parents informed. With some new, robust updates (better ways to navigate individual student work, transfer classes, team teach, and third party integration to name a few), it’s time to up your Classroom game. By using Google Classroom, you can easily keep student work in one place; no more emails entitled “homework” from personal emails you don’t recognize (e.g. “swimlover02@email.com”). Remember that Classroom is free and available to all (even if your school is not a G-Suite for Education institution). It really is worth a look!

Remind

Email is dead, it’s all about texting. In spite of this, our primary means of communication with students and parents remains email. Most teachers move around this by simply sharing their personal cell number and collecting them from students. Of course, this can be a real hindrance on privacy and can lead to concerns about appropriate boundaries. This is where Remind comes in. If your school is anything like mine, it’s fast moving and constantly changing. Remind is a great way to text students and parents important information (e.g. “due to snow day, test moved to Friday” or “Field-trip departure moved to side gate”). This does not require teachers, students, or parents to share their personal cell phone numbers. It also keeps a record of all texts that a teacher sends out. Privacy and boundaries protected!

Socrative

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Socrative by MasteryConnect https://www.socrative.com/

Socrative has long been a favorite of educators. It’s a way to conduct reviews, run bell ringer or exit ticket activities, and otherwise gamify your classroom. Socrative has gone through several iterations. In addition to their free service, they now offer a “Pro” version ($59.99/year) that allows you to take your Socrative game to the next level. My students always enjoy days where we engage in Socrative activities; it allows them to show off what they know and tackle what they need to learn.

Quizlet

Now, you may be surprised to learn that I advocate a flashcard system. However, rote memorization still has a place in education. Whether you’re teaching geography, vocabulary, spelling, physics terms, or more, there will always be a place for flashcards. Quizlet has really become more robust than ever before. There are a number of ways to use Quizlet in your classroom. You can create sets yourself and share with your class in advance. Students can collaborate on sets. Quizlet now even lets you use your sets to engage in creative games (not just flashcards or matching).

Twitter

Twitter remains the go-to social network for teachers. If you are a Twitter user, it’s time to rejoin your chats and check out what your PLN is up to. If Twitter has been on your “To-Do” list, now is a great time to start! Check out my articles: “Effective Ways for Educators to Use Twitter” and “5 Ways for Teachers to Get Started on Twitter.” If you need to expand your “follow” list, here are some Great Educators & Institutions to Follow.

These are just 5 (Free) resources. There are many more. Please share your favorite in the comment section below!

Lesson Plan for Teaching Kids to Spot Fake News

Fake News is the phrase du jour. The reality is that misinformation propagates social media (especially Facebook). With the proliferation of Social Media and the use of Social Media (by main stream news organizations, political pundits, and our sitting President), it will remain a platform for sharing information (including the news) for the foreseeable future. Both Facebook and Google have made attempts to tackle fake news. In addition to their own filtering methods, Facebook allows users to flag and report fake news stories. Google has also expanded its fact-check tools to spot and flag fake news.

The reality is, however, that we cannot expect our online platforms to keep up with the deluge of fake media. Media literacy is a necessary skill for our students to learn in order for them to wade through the glut of information available to them online. However, a recent study from Stanford found that most students cannot tell real news from fake.

There is an exercise that I like to do with my students. We talk about the realities of fake news, perhaps ask them to share stories that they thought were real, but later learned were fake. I share with them resources for spotting fake news:

How_to_Spot_Fake_News

Next, I ask them to create a Fake News Story for me. Something that they are likely to see online via Facebook. For this exercise, students often create the obvious: “You Won’t Believe what the Democrats did this Time!” or “Donald Trump is Getting Impeached!” examples. These stories are the most obvious to spot.

The best exercise, however, comes when I ask them to team up and we make a game out of each. Each team presents five news stories. Three of those news articles are fake, two are real. If they are able to “trick” the opposing teams, they receive 1 point for each news article they fool the opposition into believing. They receive 1 point for each article they correctly identify as fake. Students then work really hard to “trick” their classmates – they play off of one another’s known biases, create convincing “news networks,” and spell check like no one’s business! They learn the ins-and-outs of posting and sharing news, viral marketing, and deceptive practices. This makes them better discerners of published media and more able-minded digital citizens.

The Kids are Alright: The Internet is NOT Destroying a Generation

When I tell people what I do for a living, I get a mix of responses. Some people think that it’s great others share their thoughts or concerns. After all, everyone seems to have an opinion on education: how it runs (or they think it runs) and how they believe it should run. Also, everyone seems to have an opinion on “kids these days.” The opinions on both (education & kids) tend to lean heavily negative… or at least concerned. So much so that my friend Carl Hooker published an article “When did Millennial-Bashing Become a Sport?” Like Carl, as an educator, I find it necessary to defend this generation of young people. The reality is, these kids are alright. While new technologies and connectivity may be changing the way the world engages, it is not destroying this generation.

Kids These Days…

Whenever I hear this phrase come out of someone’s mouth, I have the same reaction that I did when I was 15 and Gen X was the whipping boy du jour. I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes and groan… All generations lament the one that comes next. As an ancient historian by training, I can tell you of the Egyptian Papyri from 1500 BCE that complained that “kids these days” don’t respect their elders or worship the gods. Let’s not forget that Sokrates was condemned and put to death for “corrupting the youth of Athens.” Even the Roman poet Horace wrote:

“Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
corrupt.” Odes III

There are numerous examples of writers, authors, politicians, and scholars complaining that the youth of the day are self-involved, narcissistic, lazy, and corrupt. When I hear my friends or peers begin a complaint with “kids these days” I want to kindly suggest that they are now officially old and there is nothing left to do but get a rocking chair, sit on their porch, and yell at kids to get off their lawn! Of course, I jest. The reality is that as we age, we become nostalgic of our own youth and critique those coming up. Perhaps a realistic look back on our own follies, challenges, and quirks can give us a boost of humility.

But Technology is Different…

While engaging in one of these conversations, a friend of mine commented “Kids these days… they don’t even watch tv anymore!” I was a little taken aback. After all, we were the generation raised by the “idiot box.” Television was supposed to be dumbing down our generation at an alarming rate. Yet, we still produced functioning adults that today complaint about teenagers. Adults often argue (without any type of evidence other than perceived anecdotal experiences) that teenagers are eschewing social interaction for life behind a screen where they are engaging in harmful and morally defunct activities.

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Rebel Without a Cause, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

However, new devices are not really any different than technologies of past when it came to fears of corrupting youth. For example, the introduction of “car culture” in the 1950’s and 1960’s spurred fears of juvenile delinquency, extra-marital sex, and other forms of laziness and depravity. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists, politicians, and others were concerned that too much exposure to books might physically harm women and hinder their abilities to be effective wives and mothers. New technologies have often spurred fears of their negative impact on adults and (especially) adolescents.

But Technology is DANGEROUS (especially for girls), due to Predators & Crime!

Picture1As a woman in technology, I hear and see this a lot. Whenever I watch an “educational video” meant to warn students and parents about the dangers of the internet, the victim is often a young girl. Is it a wonder that young women steer away from technology fields in the middle school years? Stranger Danger is a fear often perpetuated when it comes to teens (especially girls) online. However, we live in a time that it has never been safer to be a child… especially in America. The reality is, crime has never been lower. However, our perception of crime has never been higher. Am I saying that children in this country or around the world are never abused? Of course not. Unfortunately, children are still the victims of crime, most often by a relative of a friend. However, our fear of the internet predator is so skewed from reality that it impacts what we think children do, or should do, online. Nothing contradicts this reality more than our relationship with ride sharing services.

Due to tools (remember that idiot box Gen Xers?) such as the 24 hour news cycle, we are inundated with stories of crime. The more horrific and random, the more common it will show up in our news feed. The mundane doesn’t sell ad space.

To-catch-A-Preditor

But the Internet is Different – Teens are Addicted to Social Media!

This is another refrain that I hear from adults. Teenagers are addicted to their devices. Addiction is a loaded term. If you have an addict in your life, then you know the power of this disease. Also, adults commonly put their own relationships and experiences onto
their children. In my experience as an educator, I have found that teenagers often have a healthier relationship with their devices than their parents. Be honest, how many of you have criticized your children/nieces/nephews or other adolescents for behavior you engage in? Do you check your phone at the dinner table or respond to texts while out with friends? What about while driving (which you should never… ever do!)?

teens on screens

Courtesy of at the Speed of Creativity in? 

I would argue that adolescents are not addicted to their devices so much as adolescents are driven to be social! When I was an adolescent, I literally spent hours on the phone… when it was connected to a cord to the wall. I would extend it to the pantry on the other side of the room so that I could close the door and talk in relative privacy. It drove my parents so nuts they got me and my brother our own lines! That led to some robust fights over phone squatters rights… We also spent hours and hours walking around the mall (without adults and well before cell phones) talking to one another or other teens that we met while out. Were we expounding on detente or our latest interpretation of Tolstoy? Perhaps going over our homework? Of course not! We were teenagers. We talked about boys we liked, the latest episode of 90210, or gossiped about other kids in school. That is what adolescents do. This is how adolescents learn valuable social skills that they build on as adults.

What is different in this technological age is that, because of our perceived concept of crime and dangerous for adolescents, they have little to no unstructured and unsupervised social time. One of my favorite books in the last few years has been danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIf you have not read danah’s work, you definitely should. She delves into the relationship that teenagers have with their devices and one another, arguing that because we as a society have removed their physical social spaces (when was the last time you saw children biking or playing at the park unsupervised), they have delved into Social Media and technology to extend their social circles and engage with friends in an unstructured way, outside of adult’s prying eyes. In fact, this level of helicopter parenting has led to a movement: free-range parenting. If you read their website, you will find that it advocates what many of us viewed simply as “being a kid.”

But I’ve Seen Stories of Kids Being Hurt or Engaging is Online Bullying!

Of course you have. As I’ve said, while we have made great strides in protecting children in this country and the world as a whole, children still get hurt by adults and by other children. While our conversation on Bullying could likely use a re-examination (check out the book Bully Nation by Susan Evaporter), we certainly do need to help children engage online safely and more effectively. The answer to helping children that are acting out online is not to condemn the tool or ban its access (prohibition never works to begin with), but engage children and adolescents with empathy. Technology is not the cause of adolescent misbehavior, but rather an amplifier. The adolescent that is arranging to meet strangers online for trysts is clearly troubled and in need of adult intervention and help. A student discussing their depression or contemplating self-harm needs medical and social support. In fact, there are numerous examples of peers intervening to help one another when they see something online.

Benefits of Teens Engaging Online

Rather than lamenting the fact that teenagers are being corrupted by devices, I think it’s important to highlight what they can do more effectively because they are engaged. For one, children and adolescents are writing now more than ever. And no, they are not handing in essays in emoji and textese, they know the difference of context. Just as none of us were Shakespeare at 15 (not even Shakespeare), their writing still needs to grow. However, between social media, online forums, and other digital spaces, they write more than the average adolescent of our generation.

They are also creating meaningful connections online. For example, students in a Chinese class can engage another class in China. Learning to text in another language is a great form of cultural immersion as well as a means to grow language skills in context! Students are building (and even selling) apps, creating online YouTube sensations, and are even more up to date on current events than their parents (they’re also less likely to fall for Fake News than their more mature counterparts, aka US).

The reality is, technology and the internet is not ruining this generation. The kids… the kids are alright.