Sexting & A Safety Agreement for Families

February 15, 2016

After running a recent workshop on privacy legislation and educators, I was approached by an attendee. The person was currently going through a divorce, was just starting her teaching career and concerned about some racy photos she made and shared with her husband. They were now divorcing. She was wondering if she should be concerned about those photos. My response started with, “It would have been simpler if you hadn’t shared those photos…” (My advice continued, but that’s for another post.)


Sexting is risky business, there’s no denying it. We need to discuss the risks with our children as soon as they are ready, and have a plan in place to help and support them if they get in trouble. This post is provided as a tool to help families understand the issues and perhaps enter into an agreement (document template provided at end) with their children to lend support should it ever be necessary.

Sexting & The Issues

Sexting is the practice (even if it’s just one time) of sharing intimate, explicit images, videos or messages with one or more others. The practice of sexting between romantic partners or as a means to flirt and attract romantic partners has been on the rise—especially among older teens.

Often people share sexts under the assumption that the person(s) receiving the sexts will keep them private. When relationships breakdown, one of the parties may break that assumption of trust and share that ‘private’ sext with others. In fact, the top 3 justifications 18-54 year olds gave for non-consensual sharing of personal data were:

  • a partner lied (45%)
  • a partner cheated (41%)
  • a partner broke up with them (27%).1

The same data showed that 10% of ex-partners threatened to release intimate photos of their partner online and of those, 60% followed through and shared them. 1

But it’s not always relationship breakdowns that cause sexts to be made more public: loss of personal devices holding sensitive information like sexts (e.g. cellphones, tablets, computers) can leave parties vulnerable—especially when said devices have little to no password protection. (TIP: Use strong passwords- See ). Some people share their passwords—to their phones, or online accounts—and later find out someone breached that trust and shared content (like sexts) they wanted kept private. (TIP: Don’t share passwords guarding personal information—your devices or accounts. My one exception: my kids share their passwords with me.) Then there’s always the risk of a hacker revealing content—especially if any of the parties involved store their sexts online or in the cloud (E.g. In 2014, a hacker breached Apple’s iCloud and publicly posted private nude photos of female celebrities).

The risk of sexts:

  • They are permanent digital records of intimate/explicit things;
  • They are easily copied & distributed;
  • They could be shared without your consent;
  • They could be shared with unforeseen people: friends, family, future/ current employers, the world;
  • They could be shared in ways you never intended (like posted publicly online).

While sexting may be done consensually, age differences between the participants may make the practice a legal concern–this varies by country & legal jurisdiction (e.g. child pornography). Another concern is that social and peer pressure can be used to extort sexts from otherwise uncomfortable or unwilling participants. Englander (2012) writes that among 18 year olds, “Indisputably, the most important motivation for sexting…was pressure and coercion”. 2 The two main reasons for sexting were:

  • “because a date or boyfriend/girlfriend wanted the picture (66%)”
  • to attract someone you’re interested in (65%). 2

Youth are still discovering what constitutes a respectful romantic relationship. Sometimes the partners requesting the sext through pressuring and coercion may be unaware that they are crossing a line toward sexual harassment. In the case of youth and young adults who choose to sext, they may not be fully aware of the permanence of the content in the sext, how readily it can be distributed, and the potential impacts if shared.

Youth and young adults aren’t necessarily thinking about their future careers when they sext. Sexts made public can affect your employment—future or continuing—in trust professions like teaching. In British Columbia, you need look no farther than the Shewan Decision (1987)3 to understand the ramifications of how sexts in the wrong hands, or made public could affect your job. Other examples of trust professions where sexts-made-more-public could be an issue: counseling, law, law enforcement, medicine, politics, etc. Members of these professions are held to higher standards than the general public—particularly teachers who are seen to influence the development of children and youth.

Youth Reluctance Reporting Problems

Unfortunately, youth are reluctant to report problems that arise from sexting—especially to parents/caregivers. They are concerned that:

  • Someone will “judge” them for sexting.
  • Someone (parents/caregivers) will take away their devices or technology.

A Sexting Safety Agreement (V 1.0)

To support families in navigating risks associated with sexting and to encourage youth to report problems to caregivers, I’ve drafted a Sexting Safety Agreement (V 1.0)  along the lines of the M.A.D.D.’s Contract for Life (an agreement between caregivers and youth to manage the risks of impaired driving). This is one of the first documents I’ve released under Creative Commons licensing: BY-NC-SA (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike).



  1. McAfee, 2013, Lovers beware: Scorned exes may share intimate data and images,
  2. Englander, E.K. (2012) Low risk associated with most Teenage Sexting: A Study of 617 18-Year-Olds, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA. Available at:
  3. In the late 1980’s, a nude photo of a teacher in the Abbotsford School district was submitted by her husband (also a teacher) and published in a magazine as part of an erotic photography competition. The teachers were disciplined by the Board and it lead to a series of court cases. Ultimately in the BC Court of Appeals, Shewan v. Board of School Trustees of School District #34 (Abbotsford), 1987 159, the court stated: “The behaviour of the teacher must satisfy the expectations which the British Columbia community holds for the educational system. Teachers must maintain the confidence and respect of their superiors, their peers, and in particular, the students, and those who send their children to our public schools. Teachers must not only be competent, but they are expected to lead by example. Any loss of confidence or respect will impair the system, and have an adverse effect upon those who participate in or rely upon it. That is why a teacher must maintain a standard of behaviour which most other citizens need not observe because they do not have such public responsibilities to fulfil.”(page 6;

There’s Regulations & Then There’s Best Practices

February 3, 2016
Image of hand extended holding a light bulb with text: Pondering Best Practices

Image adapted from niekverlaan, 2014, lamp-432247_640.jpg, CC0,

(BTW, the ex-high school English teacher in me is making me say: I know, strictly speaking that title is not grammatically correct, but it sounded better. 🙂 )

In this blog, I’ve previously delved (in some detail here) into the nature of BC educators’ compliance (or lack thereof) with BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA, or as some people may remember it, FOIPPA) . I have also mentioned that practically speaking, I don’t think we’ll reach “full compliance” on the Compliance Continuum due to the rate of technological change and our ability to keep pace (access to resources, time, and professional development aside, though clearly important factors 😦 ). What I haven’t really differentiated between is what might be considered “strict compliance” (following the letter of the law) and best practices from an educational perspective with regard to privacy legislation and the use of web-based tools by BC educators. I believe technology savvy educators should reach higher than strict compliance to address students’ & educators’ best interests. In honour of Safer Internet Day 2016’s (2/9/16) theme, “Play Your Part For a Better Internet”, I’m going to share some personal examples of this difference. It’s my way to ‘get involved, inspire, and empower’. I encourage you to share something in honour this year’s Safer Internet Day theme too!

When working with a school staff or faculty, there is what I’ll call a “strict compliance necessity” to make sure that people know their legal obligations like “knowledge, notice, informed consent” when using cloud computing or social media tools–especially those with data stored or accessed outside Canada, or those where the location of data storage is unknown; however, knowledge of such strict compliance requirements is information without context. In my opinion, de-contextualized knowledge doesn’t stick very well–and prevents people understanding why things are the way they are and what makes the specifics important in a particular context. It’s like learning the formula for the Pythagorean Theorem by heart (i.e. a² + b² =c²) without understanding the context of a right triangle. In fact, during school math, I had difficulty with that entire formula until I finally realized that it dealt strictly with right triangles and always referred to the relationship of 2 sides of a triangle to its hypotenuse: while the sides might change, the hypotenuse never did. (A little math lesson, too? 🙂 ) This is one of the reasons I now like to give some sense of the historical context that ‘grew’ FIPPA, its amendments & regulations when I present the topic to BC educators–not only the global context but also regional, as pertains to our particular province. Ensuring educators have some understanding of the context in which FIPPA legislation was written, has been amended, etc., is a best practice.

(Note: If you’re interested in approaches to privacy legislation, you should be following the current developments in the European Union since the “Safe Harbor Ruling” was struck down in 10/15. If you are following the current EU situation, and are familiar with the BC context, there are clear parallels between  the circumstances under which the EU’s new privacy legislation is unfolding and BC’s current FIPPA laws and regulations; BC was just a bit earlier.)

Now for an in-the-field example of strict compliance necessity vs. best practice with students… In strict compliance with FIPPA and FIPPA Regulations, nowhere does it direct educators to specifically provide students (and their parents/guardians where applicable) with the steps to delete accounts after a class or course–though Section 11 of the FIPPA Regulations speaks to providing “the date on which the consent is effective and, if applicable, the date on which the consent expires” (See BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation, Section 11, ). It does, however, fit under the legally interpreted aspects of “knowledge” and “notice” for mitigating risks that are critical to the concept of “informed consent”. It is also a practice I encourage my graduate students to use in my OLTD 506  course (#OLTD506) here at VIU (#VIUEd).  When a course/class using a specific online tool comes to an end, providing support documentation or tutorials that walk students through the deletion of accounts or data–as is reasonably and practically possible–would be a best practice not only in British Columbia, but anywhere. In fact, teaching students how to manage the lifecycle of their accounts and associated services/products over time teaches good digital hygiene necessary for a digitally literate citizenry.

If you’re wondering what such a document might look like, here is an example I’ve drafted for our VIU Faculty of Education: Controlling the Lifecycle of Google Accounts_shared .

NOTE BENE: A ‘how to delete an account or data’ document such as this does not replace  the documentation required for obtaining informed student consent to use tools like Google Accounts & YouTube in a BC school under FIPPA. In our case, consent documentation was provided separately along with activity alternatives for students. Controlling the Lifecycle of Google Accounts_shared is provided to students as a supplement to consent documentation.

This document was designed for use with university students in classes where the use of Google and YouTube was encouraged. If you created a similar document, you would need to tailor your content to

  • the specific tool(s) you are using & their processes for deletion/ account closure
  • the level of your audience(s) (i.e. for students and caregivers)
  • your specific school policies, and/or regional laws/regulations

and the document should include the names & contacts for the relevant individuals who can lend support.

Let me know what you think of this post & shared document. I hope it inspires you to do your own thing to “Play Your Part For a Better Internet” on Safer Internet Day 2016.

If you would like to adapt this form for your own use, just contact me & I’m happy to extend permission.

(If you’re wondering why I don’t use CC licensing here, the research I’ve seen shows that “attribution” is rarely given as requested. You’ll see I gave attribution above to the CC0 image I used even though it wasn’t strictly necessary; it’s a thanks to the author from me. If you know of research showing the statistics have changed, share it with me and I’ll be happy to revisit my licensing commitments. 🙂 )

A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online

May 17, 2013

cover_capture_sm.fw  There is little doubt in my mind that web 2.0, social media, and cloud computing offer powerful vehicles for teaching and learning—but only if educators use them responsibly, abide by the rules and regulations, and teach their students to do the same. According to lawyer, Pam Portal, “BC’s privacy laws are arguably the strongest in Canada” (Cooper, et al., 2011, “Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses”,2). These laws and regulations protect the privacy rights of the individual in British Columbia, Canada. Our unique legal context sets the boundaries for what the K-12 should be doing online with student information, work, and data. If you’re not from British Columbia, or aren’t in touch with what’s happening here, consider us the “Europe” of privacy protection in North America. If you are an American teacher or a Canadian teacher anywhere but in British Columbia–you likely have more permissive regulations in the use of Web 2.0 tools–especially those that are housed in the cloud.

The institution where I work, Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo, BC, Canada), is in the vanguard of addressing privacy issues associated with use of cloud based tools at the post-secondary level in BC education. In 2011, VIU  published “Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses” with BC Campus,  and our Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (under Director, Liesel Knaack) has been running numerous training sessions to raise faculty awareness of their obligations in use of cloud, Web 2.0, and social media technologies—especially with regard to students. As part of that effort, and in discussions with Liesel, I began to develop some resources to streamline how faculty in our Faculty of Education and other post-secondary instructors could meet the new requirements–items like forms to guide instructors, and an information backgrounder to share with students.  As BC K-12 educators got wind of what I was doing, I had individuals from BC K-12 schools–public and private, traditional and face-to-face–contacting me to see what knowledge, resources and guidance I could share. At that point I was solidly focused on developing resources I could use with my faculty, and I kept hoping that ‘someone else’ would take on that mantle and deal with providing specific K-12 resources. I happily provided what I had–but it was from the post-secondary perspective. When I shared content, I’d repeatedly ask the recipients to share back what they developed. Many of these individuals were dealing with these issues off the side of their K-12 desks—among many other responsibilities. I checked back with a few of them and their content development had gotten sidelined in one way or another.

Working in a Faculty of Education as I do, I am reminded that I am only a step away from the K-12 context. Our Education students are doing practica in BC K-12 schools–some of them with institutionally loaned equipment—and I need to support their responsible use of technology under current legislation. In September 2013, I will be teaching a course in social media in our new Online Learning and Teaching Diploma (OLTD) Program, and I will need resources to guide my students as educators in responsible use of social media in BC’s K-12 context. Knowing my interests, parents have approached me to describe incidents where students are using social media and cloud based resources in their local schools without any permission forms or information being sent home. One parent described Googling her child’s name only to find a Prezi with scanned family photos and information—yet the parent had never been approached for permission–much less had discussions or handouts on the activity and its potential privacy risks. I have heard numerous accounts of teachers doing great things with Google docs and their classes–using Facebook or Twitter, but when I pause to ask them whether they sent out and obtained written permission slips, I either meet a dead silence or am told, “Oh, our school media waiver covers that.” The likelihood that a school media waiver meets the key criteria set down in our BC law and regulations for ‘knowledge’, ‘notice’, and ‘informed consent’ with regard to these types of activities in these technological environments is slim.

So, last month, I decided that “someone” was going to be “me”. I’ve spent about a month drafting this document I call “A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online“.

This document was possible only with the support of these key individuals:

  • Liesel Knaack, Director, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia
  • Rebecca Avery, e-Safety Officer, Kent County Council, United Kingdom
  • Mark Hawkes, e-Learning Coordinator, Learning Division, Ministry of Education, British Columbia
  • Dave Gregg, e-Learning Officer, Learning Division, Ministry of Education, British Columbia
  • Larry Kuehn, Director of Research and Technology, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation
  • John Phipps, Field Experience Supervisor, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Consider this document Version 1.0. I hope you find it useful and that you feel moved to comment and share your insights for a future version. You are free to duplicate and share it according to the Creative Commons: Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike licensing.


Planning to Use Technology in a New School: What to Consider

February 16, 2011
Plan! on a computer screen

Planning to Use Technology

Technology provides significant levers for teaching and learning, but to use it effectively teachers must be prepared. Beyond knowing a specific technology, or having a certain skill set, discrete explicit planning is necessary. Moving between schools, or entering a new school—either as a teacher or as a practicum student—you encounter different ways of doing things, different tools, and different rules. Think of it like a morning routine. Generally speaking,  you might expect that people wake up, get dressed, wash, eat breakfast, & brush their teeth before leaving the house each morning. In reality, the order of those activities vary—in fact the inclusion of some of those activities vary—from house to house and person to person. How technology is handled from school to school is a bit like that. Each time you enter a new school, you need to get your bearings and reorient yourself—especially to the school’s policies, resources, infrastructure, & learner population.

When you plan to use technology, you can come at it from a couple of different directions. You  can start from the technology end (the policies, hardware, software, etc. existing in the school) or you can come at it from your learner end (the content area, potential activities, learner needs). I like to know my constraints first.  I like to look at the rules of what I can do, what I’ve got to work with—so that I can then plan what’s possible within those technology limits. This planning framework is derived from my approach. This is what I would recommend to student-teachers in my Faculty of Education @ Vancouver Island University, or anyone else who asked me.

Julia’s Points to Consider When Planning to Use Technology in a New School: (Version 1)

  1. Policies:

    1. AUPs: Find a copy of the school’s acceptable use policy or AUP if you haven’t been given one. This document is critical as it governs what can or can’t be done on the school’s systems. If you want to access Facebook for a class, but the AUP prohibits it, you could have issues if you try to use it. If you want to use a tool that is outside the AUP parameters, you can always develop a rationale and have a discussion with the school administration. You might be able to put forward a proposal for a pilot project. Note: If your school does not have an AUP, you should work with it to draft one. If you are interested in AUPs, take a look at the links here.
      1. Ask for AUP in school or district front office. You can also ask administrators, or school technology staff.
    2. Media Waivers: Determine if the school has any media waivers for students and parents/guardians. This will govern whether you are able to use student images in your online/offline publications. You also need to be aware of who has NOT signed a media waiver as you are responsible for preserving that individual’s privacy. There may be serious safety issues—e.g. hiding from an abuser—or other reasons. Note: If your school does not have a media waiver and uses students’ images or content online, you should work with it to draft one. If you are interested in waivers, take a look at the links here.
      1. Ask for waivers in school or district front office. You can also ask administrators, or school technology staff.
    3. Permission Slips: Some schools require permission slips for certain online activities like posting in a Wiki, or using a social networking site. Find out if your school does. If they don’t, it might be something you consider. Taking students out on the web is tantamount to taking them on a field trip off campus. It should be treated with the same seriousness. Permission slips allow families to make informed decisions—and to participate to a certain extent—in decisions about their student’s online lives.  Your school might have a generic template, but more often, a teacher might draft one and have it approved by administration. Note: If your school does not have a permission slips for online activities, you should work with it to draft some. If you are interested in permission slips, take a look at the links here.
      1. Ask about  technology/online permission slip templates in the school or district front office. You can ask administrators, or school technology staff. Remember that colleagues may have online permission slip forms as well.
    4. Approved Services: Some schools specify which online services may be used in a school. For example, one school may allow teachers and students to use an class portal like Engrade, while others may consider it a privacy risk. Some schools use Google Documents while others do not. You need to determine if there is an “approved” list of
    5. Other: Some schools have discrete policies governing areas that may not be covered in an AUP. You need to determine which—if any—other policies exist, so that you can be aware of how they might affect your use of school technology. If you are interested in other policies, take a look at the links here.
      1. Ask about additional technology policies beyond the AUP, in the school or district front office. You can ask administrators, or school technology staff. Remember that colleagues may have online permission slip forms as well.
      2. Some potential stand alone policies:
        1. Email use
        2. Social networking
        3. Dealing with a technology incident of concern (e.g. cyberbullying)
        4. Communicating with families & community online
        5. Privacy protection
  2. Resources & Infrastructure:

    1. Available Hardware: you need to do a quick survey to determine what types of hardware are available, the extent to which/where it is available, & when it’s available (if a shared resource, determine how you book it).
      1. Ask school or district technology staff about available technology. Colleagues might know as well. You can also ask in the front office.
      2. Some types of technology to ask about:
        1. Computers: does each classroom have a teacher computer? Other computers? Computer labs? Are labs portable or in a fixed room? Do computers have sound cards? Internet access? USB slots? Etc.
        2. Digital projectors
        3. Speakers
        4. Document cameras
        5. Web cams
        6. Video cameras
        7. Interactive whiteboards (e.g. SMART Boards) or tables
        8. Clickers (a.k.a. student response systems)
        9. Mobiles (netbooks, iPods, iPads, smart phones, tablets, etc.)
        10. Note: If you are planning to use mobiles—whether they are the school’s or borrowed from the district—and want them to have internet access, make sure you check with your school or district’s technology staff to ensure they can get online. Sometimes this involves the creation of accounts, opening networks, etc. and can take time.
        11. Other?
    2. Available Software:
      1. Many types of general productivity software are available in the “cloud”—for example, Google provides word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and form making software online for free. These may require specific browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari). Other times, you may want to work offline and need specific software installed on a piece of hardware. You should do a quick survey to determine the types of software available, the extent to which/where it is available, & when its available (if it’s on a shared resource, determine how you book it).
        1. Ask school or district technology staff about available software. If something portable isn’t available at the school level, you could ask at the district level.  Colleagues might know as well. You can also ask in the front office. Sometimes, district or school technology staff list available software information on a website.
        2. Some types of software to ask about:
          1. Internet browsers & add-ons (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, etc.)
          2. Email—does the school provide email accounts for students & staff? (Outlook, Entourage, Thunderbird, etc.)
          3. Word processing (Word, Pages, Google docs, etc.)
          4. Presentation (Power Point, Keynote, Prezi, Google docs, etc.)
          5. Spreadsheet (Excel, Numbers, etc.)
          6. Audio editing (Garage Band, Audacity, etc.)
          7. Video editing (Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, etc.)
          8. Web authoring (Dreamweaver, iWeb, Kompozer, etc.)
          9. Web conferencing (Skype, Elluminate, etc.)
          10. Interactive Whiteboard drivers & software (e.g. you may need SMART Board drivers & SMART Notebook installed on your laptop if you are using a SMART Board.)
          11. Response system drivers & software
      2. NOTE: Sometimes hardware is installed in one  or two classrooms only, and while it may be the actual property of the school, the resident teachers feel ownership. You need to tred carefully in this circumstance. This does not mean that the technology is out of bounds, but you need to use your SOCIAL graces to gain access. You might ask to observe the colleague using the technology a couple of times, then ask if that teacher might have a day, block, or period when the technology is not in use—so that you could try it—alone or with your class. In general, if a single instance of technology is installed in a school, it is good practice for the administration to make some provision for a mentorship and sharing model-along with getting the technology comes a professional responsibility.
    3. Internet Access: Access to the Internet is an important aspect of technology use & can be affected by a number of factors. You should determine:
      1. Bandwidth—this will affect how much data the school/district can send/receive at any given time. Ask what the school’s bandwidth will support in terms of whole class or group uses. For example, what happens if 3 groups want to Skype with classrooms in Taiwan? What happens when your whole class uploads a video to YouTube.
        1. Ask school or district technology staff about Internet access considerations.
      2. Filtering—Are there content or specific site or service filters in place? Determine if the school/district is blocking any sites you want to use. Some schools block YouTube, Facebook, etc. If you really want to use those filtered sites or services, you may need to negotiate some pilot or one-off projects with your school administrators and technology staff.  It is also good to know how attempts to access banned sites or content is logged and who has access to that information. For example, in a practicum placement, a librarian overseeing a mobile computer lab expressed concern to a university supervisor that a student-teacher was attempting to accessed blocked content.  The librarian could not say what content or site. People can assume the worst, so it’s imperative that you know the parameters of what you can use according to your school’s AUP, and its filtering procedures. This student-teacher may have simply been trying to show an educational YouTube video in a school that blocks YouTube—but the librarian wouldn’t know that.
        1. Ask school or district technology staff about Internet access considerations.
      3. Storage: Determine where students can store data. Is there virtual storage on the school/district server? Are all students responsible for carrying data on memory sticks or flash drives? Also determine the limits of that storage and whether it can be increased for special projects. If students are creating digital products, you should have some idea of the maximum size of the files or folders to determine how that data will be stored. For example, what do you do if students are creating videos but can’t save them anywhere because the files are too big? Determine where you can store data as a teacher and what your storage limits are. If virtual storage is available, ask if/how you can access it from home. If you can access your storage from home, can students?
        1. Ask school or district technology staff about storage.
    4. Computer Permissions: Nothing is more frustrating than attempting to download a software the day before a class, only to find out you don’t have administrator rights on the hardware. In many schools & districts, the ability of download & install new software or hardware is reserved for specific technology staff. You should always know what permissions—or rights—your account has. If you need software downloaded, but don’t have administrative rights, you will need to plan with your technology staff where and when the installation occurs. Remember, some software/hardware combinations may not be possible because it conflicts with existing software/hardware on the system. Don’t let your lesson or activity plan hinge on technology, until you know it is compatible and can be installed in time. If you need the installation in 1 week, I like to ask for it 2 weeks in advance. This allows a cushion of time in case the technology staff have to deal with some other critical issue. I then check-in by email about 2 days before the scheduled date, to see if the technology staff will get to it ‘in-time’. In reality, a lot can go wrong with technology, and the support staff may have lost sight of your item’s due date. I like to use email—rather than a call or a face-to-face discussion—because it creates an item in someone’s inbox while a call or discussion can be readily forgotten.
      1. Ask school or district technology staff about permissions for students and staff. Permissions may vary by hardware or software—try to determine the permissions specific to the tools you are using.
    5. Available Support: Determine who is available for support with regard to the specific technologies you might use (hardware, software, online service, etc.). These would be  your go-to people when a specific hardware or software crashes. In smaller districts you may have one or two people responsible for a broad range of hardware & software. In larger districts, there may be more staff—and they may specialize. When you have some idea regarding the hardware and software you are likely to use, it is a good idea to know who in the school or district supports it if you have issues.  It’s also helpful to identify any colleagues who are using the same or similar hardware or software—as they might be able to provide some initial level support.  Sometimes specific hardware or software may come with vendor support. If the hardware or software you are using came with vendor support for the end user like you, get the name of your contact with that company & his or her contact details (email, phone, etc.). Be aware, though, that some vendors only provide “tier 2” support. This means they expect you to access your school or district go-to person. If that person can’t solve the issue, it’s that person who contacts the vendor—NOT you.
      1. Ask school or district technology staff about the support available for the tools you are using. You might also ask the front office who they consider the “techie” teachers—as they can be good names to know if you are looking for some other support venues. Be sensitive to these teachers’ workload. Often “techie” teachers are providing a great deal of professional support to a school ‘off the side of their desk”—meaning the school has not provided them with release time or funding to provide this support.
  3. Learner Context:

    1. Demographics of the class or school: these should be a formal consideration in your technology planning & use. You need to determine the extent to which students have extracurricular access to the technology you plan to use. This determines whether you complete all technology components in class and whether you plan technology access time before school, during lunch, or after school. If demographics indicate that students need additional time for access in-school, you need to structure this in a way that does not marginalize the “have-nots”. Such additional access time should be framed as an “everybody welcome” time. You could partner with another teacher using technology and trade-off supervision times. Think about other activities that could occur during that time—like some technology mentoring. Maybe a tech savvy student could mentor YOU in something!
      1. Ask for your demographic—especially socio-economic indicators and access to technology in the region’s homes if they have it—from the school’s front office or counseling department. If they don’t have it, they’ll know where to point you. Your school district office or local statistics branch might also have useful information.  You can always ask your colleagues, but be cautious of those who may use lack of technology access as an excuse not to use technology, or others who presume that everyone has a computer and internet access at home.
    2. Specific learner needs: Technology is one of the most flexible tools to address a variety of needs. First, you must know what needs your learners have. Review the makeup of your class so that you can determine what—if any—specific needs there might be. For example, do you have students who need to use audio? Your planning might involve finding podcasts on a topic—or have them create podcasts on a topic. Visual learners might benefit from a video demonstration of a technique—or creating one. The general population of students also benefit from being exposed to these types of resources and activities. In providing variety, you should not marginalize any students. If resources and options are available to all—no one stands out as a ‘special’ case.  When you begin to incorporate multimedia, or specific software, you need to determine the hardware, software, and internet infrastructure necessary to support their use. For example, your school’s internet connection may not support 30 students trying to stream a YouTube video. That’s not something you want to find out on the day you run the lesson! If you know this, you can find tools that allow you to download the video and show it off line. You will need to know the students’ needs to plan what technologies would be the most beneficial to your area of study & your students. Then you need to cross reference that with what resources are available.
      1. For specific student needs, check in with your school’s learning assistance teacher, Special Education teacher, or Education Assistants assigned to your class. Most schools have a person responsible for contacting teachers at the beginning of each year or semester with specific cases. If you aren’t contacted by such a person, determine who heads the Special Education efforts in your school. Stop by to see that person or fire off an email as a “check-in”—along the lines of “School [or semester] start-up is such a busy time for us all. I’m sure you’re quite busy seeing to all your students’ needs. I thought I’d just get a jump on my planning if possible. Is there anything I need to know about my [insert class name here—so s/he doesn’t have to guess] class this year/semester? I’d like to make sure I address any specific needs in the class.” You can also ask any teacher who might have had your class or group before. Again, be sensitive to any potential biases.
      2. Once you determine the learner needs, & identify potential technologies to use: Make sure they comply with school policy. If you would like to use something outside of policy parameters, meet with the school administration to see if you can get permission to run a pilot project. Ask your school technician or technology guru, “I’d like to do [insert item here] with my class. Are there any issues that might interfere with this? If there are issues, are there any alternatives or work-arounds you could recommend?”

Grey’s Anatomy, Doctors, Educators & The Effects of Twitter?

February 6, 2011
Falling dominoes with twitter logo in lower left

Effects of Twitter?

I’ve had a couple health issues & have been in bed for about a week. (Nothing life threatening–if you were worried.) It gave me some time to catch up on Internet TV–when the 300 channels or so on my satellite were less than appealing. I hadn’t watched Grey’s Anatomy in about a year, but after a week, I’d about exhausted my options. So I watched season 7’s episode 13, “Don’t Decieve Me (Please Don’t Go)” There are several plots running though the episode, but the subplot that interested me here was Bailey’s use of Twitter.

The Twitter Sub-Plot Summary

For those of you who don’t watch the show, all you need to know is that there are 2 surgeons in this part of the story–Bailey & Webber. Webber is older, the chief. Webber is doing a procedure in the OR while the residents looking on all have their mobiles out–apparently texting. When Webber tells them to put the things away, one resident explains that they are actually tweeting following another procedure in another OR on Twitter–an OR that was full. The full session being tweeted was Dr. Bailey’s. This gets Webber in a bit of a flap. He tells Bailey that she’s not allowed to tweet any more until he’s looked into this Twitter thing. Bailey points out that she has consent forms, she’s reaching a wide-audience of students–which is good for the teaching hospital, and that if the patient starts coding (going critical) she stops tweeting. [What she doesn’t mention, is that one of the observers actually does the tweeting and relays questions, comments, etc. to Bailey as Bailey does the procedure.] Regardless, Webber says no more tweeting until he looks into it and OK’s it.  

During her next procedure, Bailey is convinced to tweet when the doctor-observer in her OR points out that this is the 3rd procedure for the patient, Bailey now has a following–even from Australia, the followers want to know the outcome for the patient, and since Webber doesn’t use Twitter, he’d never know. As you can imagine, in typical TV fashion, Webber just happens to be researching Twitter at that particular time. With the help of a fellow doctor, Webber locates Bailey’s Twitter stream and sees the procedure being tweeted. He rushes into the OR to stop her. While he’s reprimanding her, something goes sideways in the operation. The doctor-observer continues to tweet and they get suggestions & questions from doctors at other hospitals via Twitter–one of whom was a previous resident under Webber. Basically, they get free consult and options they hadn’t considered–and are able to reach beyond the resources of their one hospital to save the life of a patient. During the surgery, Bailey leaves to get something from one of the hospitals who tweeted support, and Webber is left holding the bag and fielding tweeted questions on this procedure and others via Twitter.  Post procedure, it has him diving back into a fellow doctor’s old personal hand written journals to rediscover a procedure he had mentioned in a tweet but couldn’t remember entirely at the time. As you can imagine, he’s now hooked to an extent & Bailey gets permission to continue tweeting on her next procedure. As Bailey leaves his office, Webber asks her to tweet the procedure that he rediscovered in the hand written journal during her next procedure on Twitter.

Episode’s Twitter Use Reflect Reality?

You bet. There are numerous hospitals using Twitter to tweet procedures as done in this episode. You can read here how Henry Ford surgeons Twitter from OR: Here you can find the 2009 Top Hospitals on Twitter: To put this in professional perspective, imagine a teacher-observer, or student-teacher, in your classroom tweeting what you do from the moment you start class to the end of class.  For us, I think the closest parallel would be lecture capture systems–more prevalent at the post secondary levels–but alone it lacks the social networking aspect.

Episode’s Twitter Message

Clearly, Twitter is shown in a favourable light in this particular episode: 1) hospital and patient get access to more doctors’ knowledge, ideas, and suggestions; 2) the field is enlightened as various doctors can follow the procedure, ask questions, get answers, & learn; 3) the hospital–especially as a teaching hospital–has its profile raised especially among today’s mobile-friendly population; 4) the mention of Australia, gives us the notion of the global boundaries that can be transcended by technology; 5) the mention of reconnect with an old student, gives us the sense of the social connections & reconnections–as well as learning relationships–that can be built and maintained via technology–extending face-to-face professional learning networks. It’s all rosy–and when technology and social networking are used professionally and responsibly, I agree Twitter can be great.

Role of the Technologically Cautious & Issues for Rising Professionals

If you are a committed “bleeding edger” with regard to technology, you may never understand the important balance that the technologically cautious like Webber or the technologically fearful can provide. Their voice, in my opinion, is a critical check & balance in the technology adoption process. They help us to move beyond the rosy picture to think about what could go wrong, why people might be fearful, weigh the potential concerns. Sometimes those extra moments of consideration help us to envision what other relevant issues might arise–issues only the technologically savvy might envision when they take the time. In my opinion, when implementing newer technologies, we need to think about what could go sideways, BEFORE it does, in order to prepare for it, prevent it, or at the least mitigate it if it does happen.

As the episode was unfolding, I found myself at first judging Webber for his slower uptake of technology–but then asked myself, as “Chief” what would be his concerns beyond personal discomfort with learning a new technology. One issue that extra moment rasied for me was, what happens when a doctor makes a decision that could be considered “problematic” or “wrong” by others. If it’s tweeted, it’s permanently out there for the world to see & critique; it would reflect on the the hospital, the Chief, and the doctor’s colleagues–ultimately the profession as a whole. It could be fodder in a malpractice suite. People make mistakes all the time–it’s part of our learning process. Experienced professionals tend to make fewer of these–especially public ones–otherwise their professional longevity is questionable. What about as we’re rising up through the ranks of a profession? What then? Do we have ‘allowances’ for errors or misjudgement? As professional elders, or administrators, are we more constrained in dealing with these errors or misjudgement when they become a matter of the digital public record?  Do we ask students and rising professionals to stay off social media where their every posting is open to public, global, scrutiny? What training do we provide? What guidelines?

Tweeting Affect Decision Making Processes & Professional Behaviour?

This led me to other questions. Does Twitter effect choices made by doctors in a tweeting OR? Would doctors tend to take fewer risks, be less innovative if their every action could be scrutinized by professionals around the world via twitter? If a doctor has a personal need for fame, would it make that doctor more inclined to take risks? Would tweeting from an OR make doctors more thoughtful in their choices–more carefully weighing outcomes now that their actions and decision-making processes are revealed & set in digital stone for later review? Would they second-guess themselves and thereby have confidence issues? Have doctors and the tweeting hospitals considered these factors and accounted for them by setting parameters re. what procedures may be tweeted, by whom, and when?

It has been the claim that putting students’ content on the internet can make for higher quality product–students know the world is watching and want their work to reflect well upon them, but students have the time to make drafts, edit, and post polished work. Tweeting from an OR is the professional equivalent of  having a teacher-observer, or student-teacher, in your classroom tweeting what you do from the moment you start class to the end of class–fielding comments, questions, suggestion based on the parameters you may outline–or maybe you didn’t. You’d know they’d be tweeting–but still what would be the effects on your instructional style and interaction with the students? What happens when you forget they are there? What happens if you make an error in judgement? What if you had a bad day?

Perhaps in the education profession, our closest parallel is today’s lecture capture systems (primarily at post-secondary) at least as far as the issue of what happens when things go sideways and it’s captured in the digital public record.  Does lecture capture affect your inclination to take instructional risks? What if you have a bad day–and it’s the day you forget that there’s a lecture capture system running because you’ve gotten so used to it? Case in point is that of Carnegie Mellon University’s  Professor Talbert when he went sideways about an “overly loud yawn” during a lecture to HA 1174. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it and see for yourself:  I was so stunned by it, that I quickly dragged 2 colleagues to see it. One thought it was a hoax. This was not a hoax video–research revealed it was taken from a lecture capture system. I’ve had bad days in class as I’ve come up through the ranks. What if they were captured for posterity and came to define my teaching? I recently read an article that some US States will start recording class sessions for teacher evaluation–where a 3rd party goes into the class and records it for others to review and critique. These are pilot projects leading toward a wider scale US evaluation process. 

Ultimately, lecture capture is a poor cousin to Tweeting in respect to immediate feedback, suggestions, questions, and support when dealing with an instructional issue, procedure, or strategy for our students. In education, it is far more likely that we will be gaining this kind of support asynchronously in face-to-face situations, though digital or blended instructional environments may lend themselves more toward synchronous, real-time, discussions about at class and its students as it unfolds–much like the OR.

 The are interesting questions, that have me pondering what the implications might be for both the medical and educational professions.

TAIP Framework for Educational Tool Assessment

November 30, 2010

While teaching an introductory course in educational technology for pre-service teachers this semester, I attempted to create a framework to help them evaluate new educational technology and tools. The ability to evaluate potential educational tools and technologies is a useful skill for all educators–getting pre-service teachers to develop this as a habit of systematic thought seemed a worthwhile pursuit. I began to think about my thought processes when looking at some new technology. I then based the framework on what I thought  I do when evaluating these tools.  I called it the TAIP Framework:

TAIP Tool Assessment Framework

TAIP Tool Assessment Framework (Hengstler, 2010)

The first time I used it with the class, I realized I had to further guide students in what was expected in answering each of the items. After comparing their initial attempts to my implicit expectations when reviewing them, I built the first rubric for the TAIP:

Beginning No specific tool delineated like a named website or service; no brief description of what it is or does in general
Developing Specific tool delineated; may or may not have brief description of what it is or does in general
Capable Specific tool delineated with a brief description of what it does in general
Powerful Specific tool delineated with a brief description of what it does in general that does not provide extraneous or irrelevant information.

Beginning No applications outlined or applications are general and not specifically related to potential uses of the tool by teachers, students in relation to education
Developing Few educationally relevant  applications are outlined
Capable Several educationally relevant applications are mentioned demonstrating how a teacher, student, class may use the tool.
Powerful A variety of educationally relevant applications are mentioned demonstrating how a teacher, student, class may use the tool not only teacher to student; but teacher to teacher; teacher to parent; student to student, etc.

Beginning No discussion of the educationally relevant benefits or challenges of using the tool. No mention of planning & resources necessary to use the tool.
Developing Little discussion of the educationally relevant benefits or challenges of using the tool—though there may be some general benefits or challenges mentioned. Little mention of planning & resources necessary to use the tool.
Capable Discusses several considerations of the educationally relevant benefits or challenges of using the tool. Establishes necessary planning & resources required to use the tool in at least 1-2 contexts (e.g. teacher-teacher; student-student; teacher-student).
Powerful Thorough consideration demonstrated of the educationally relevant benefits or challenges of using the tool. Planning & resources necessary to use the tool are considered & anticipated in the various contexts.


Policy & Professionalism
Beginning No discussion or consideration given to the types of policies or practices that may be in place –or would need to be developed–to encourage the use of the tool. No consideration of existing policies that might affect tool use. No discussion of impact that tool use might have on  teacher digital footprints
Developing Evidence of consideration given to the types of policies or practices that may be in place –or would need to be developed–to encourage the use of the tool. At least one consideration evident of what  tool use might mean for a  teacher’s digital footprints
Capable Several points considered re.  types of policies or practices that may be in place –or would need to be developed–to encourage the use of the tool. Mention made of existing policies that might negatively affect tool use. Discusses more than one impact  tool use might have on a  teacher’s digital footprints
Powerful Several points considered re.  types of policies or practices that may be in place –or would need to be developed–to encourage the use of the tool. Mention made of existing policies that might negatively affect tool use. 

Mentions forms or other permissions required. Considers the impact  tool use might have on a  teacher’s digital footprints from more than one perspective: teacher-teacher, teacher-student, teacher-parent, teacher-professional community, etc.


Beginning Several grammatical & spelling errors evident 

Several issues with sentence structure.

Content strung together with little logical connection to move reader from one point to next.

Developing May have occasional grammatical & spelling error evident 

Few issues with sentence structure.

Content strung together with some logical connection to move reader from one point to next.

Capable May have 1-2 of the following overall: grammatical error, spelling error, issue with sentence structure. 

Logical connect is evident between points.

Powerful May have no more than 1 of the following overall: grammatical error, spelling error, issue with sentence structure. 

Logical connect is evident between points.

Responses in “Applications” & “Implications” show some evidence of creative or unique thought/perspective.

[Notes: Had to break rubric out of landscape table as there wasn’t room to display it properly here. Also, as a result of my lack of clarity, my students received a done/not done mark on their first attempts. When the rubric evolved, they were then given a chance to self-assess for editing and resubmission.]

When thinking about Applications, I wanted students to think about the uses the tool was meant for as well as unanticipated/unplanned uses.  I also stressed that virtually every TAIP’s Implications should include the issue of  providing access to selected tools outside of class without singling out individuals with limited or no access beyond school.

My ultimate idea was that my pre-service teachers would be able to collect solid TAIPS in a wiki and share them among our class and beyond. Our semester was short, so I could only devote a limited amount of time to using the framework.

In this blog post, I’m looking for some feedback & discussion around this TAIP Framework for Educational Tool Assessment & it’s attendant rubric to improve or reinvent them entirely.

Shortly, with my students’ permission, I will share some examples of their reviews using this framework.

Fleas in a Bottle?: Will Social Networking Stymie Personal Development of Youth?

October 28, 2010

Recently I was giving a workshop on digital footprints at the CUEBC Conference Saturday at Simon Frazer University, Vancouver, BC. A digital footprint is the collection of all the traces you leave in electronic environments as you use or move through them. Some is content you actively volunteer—like your Facebook profile. Other material is passive—the cookies a site stores in your browser, the content your district collects about your use of their equipment, etc. All this data can be aggregated to build a profile of you and your behavior—to profile you in the FBI-sense of the word. The PEW Report, Digital Footprints (2007) states that what can be found and assembled through a simple Google search today, used to take a private investigator months to do. We tweet where we are and what we’re doing complete with pictures. Social networking profiles itemize our likes & dislikes, our friends & families. As PEW (2007) states, we’ve crossed from being “findable” to “knowable” .

We are living in an unprecedented era with regard to digital footprints. Mashable posted a recent article by L. Indvik (October 10, 2010) citing that 92% of all toddlers in the US and 81% internationally, already have a digital footprint. This would be a passive footprint as it would be data posted about those children versus data they post themselves. Further, Indvik (2010) cites that 23% of children have a prenatal presence—like sonogram images and such posted before birth. For these toddlers and the unborn, their digital footprint will encompass just about their entire lives. Contrast that to adults in their 30’s-40’s (I’m in there): for us, our digital footprints will stretch back about 15-20 years (Indvik, 2010). In between these groups are the tweens, teens & twenty-somethings—let me call them the 3T’s—who are just starting out with their digital footprint—often in the absence of good judgment or good adult modeling.

For those of us in our 30’s & 40’s,  our digital footprints began at just about the same time we were entering mature adulthood. I know there are exceptions, but by–in-large we would have started posting at about the same time our impulse control, and mature thought processes of foresight, etc. were emerging. This is in stark contrast to the 3T’s who often started posting when their impulse control, long range projections and overall mature thought processes were barely emerging. I would argue that their age, lack of foresight, discipline/personal control coupled with the emergence of social networking and lack of elders’ scaffolding in those networks created a “perfect storm” that will adversely affect their digital footprint in a way 30/40 somethings and beyond will rarely experience. (My position that society & educators abdicated their responsibilities in regard to preparing these young people to handle this technology–but that’s for a later post.) Some of the 3T’s most thoughtless and foolish actions are being chronicled for the world before they have the opportunity to reflect upon them and decide if sharing them with the world & posterity is a good long term strategy.

What will be the effects? Will these young people be labeled for life because of young foolish indiscretions?

When we were talking in the session, I likened it to growing up in a small town where everyone knows your business. For example, there’s a woman in my small community—in her late 30’s holding down a respectable job, mother of a few kids, who during her wilder teen years got drunk and jumped on the hood of someone’s new car with her boots on. She damaged the car, but ultimately paid for repairs. To many people in our community, she will forever be labeled. She will be that woman-who-got-drunk-&-jumped-on-X’s-new car-in-high-school. Of course, she could have always moved to another town or bigger town where she’d be relatively anonymous. Quite often that’s what people do if the situation becomes too uncomfortable—at least that’s what they did before the advent of the Internet, high powered search engines, identity aggregators and social networking. That got me thinking about the fleas-in-the-bottle analogy used by Zig Ziglar. If you’ve never read it or heard it—fleas are confined to a bottle and when the bottle is removed they continue to jump roughly within the confines of where the bottle was. They have been conditioned. (There used to be a video on YouTube showing the fleas, but I’ve been unable to find it. If anyone knows where it is, please let me know and I’ll add it here.) For our youth, the questions I pose are:

  • Will the 3T’s (tweens, teens & twenty-somethings) of our time forever be constrained by the behavior they published on MySpace, Tagged, Bebo & Facebook—or that others have posted about them?
  • Will they be the proverbial fleas in the bottle? Will it hinder their ability to move past the youthful indiscretions onto productive adulthood?

During the workshop, I also spoke about the need for professionals to unfollow or unfriend individuals in a social network who post problematic content (discriminatory language, off-colour jokes, sexual content/comments, etc.) that would reflect poorly on the teachers’ professional standards/code of ethics (BCCT Standards, BCTF Code of Ethics, etc.). I explained that though you may not repost the content you see in your network (like retweeting it in Twitter), if the problematic content is in the other person’s public stream (e.g. a public Twitter stream), and the person is publicly visible in your network (e.g. your Twitter “home page” who you’re following ), that person’s problematic content will be associated with you. I advise people to contact the network member privately and state that though you valued his/her previous content, the current statements would reflect poorly on you professionally—and that for professional reasons you will be unfollowing/unfriending/unnetworking him/her. It is my belief that if you simply click unfollow because they post offensive content, people may never know that the content is offensive and affecting their digital footprint. Sending a private message can be a teaching/learning opportunity.

One of the attendees looked at it from a different perspective:

  • What happens when all the more socially and politically correct people unfollow/unfriend/unnetwork the problematic ones?
  • Wouldn’t that leave all the politically incorrect “fleas” in a smaller bottle reinforcing each other in their politically & socially incorrect views?

What will the impact of the perfect storm be on youth development? What will its impact be on toddlers and unborn who already have digital footprints? Will they be Ziglar’s Fleas in a Bottle?