Becoming “Twitterate”: A Glossary

January 10, 2017


A Twitter+ Glossary

“Becoming ‘Twitterate’: A Glossary” by Julia Hengstler available as PDF & used under Creative Commons-BY, NC, SA–license here . Note: Some definitions adapted from Hengstler, J. (2011). Managing your digital footprint: Ostriches v. eagles. In S. Hirtz & K. Kelly (Eds.), Education for a Digital World 2.0 (2nd ed.). Open School/Crown Publications: Queen’s Printer for British Columbia, Canada. Available at .

Account. A Twitter account is necessary to post content or engage in Twitter conversations; an account can be created by an individual or group, and pseudonyms are possible; you do not need an account to view others’ publicly shared Twitter content; beware of ‘fake’ accounts; an account is like a plant and should be tended (participate in posting content and exchanges with others) to be healthy.

Block. Process whereby you prevent another account from being able to follow you, add you to their Twitter lists or see your tweets while they are still logged into Twitter; if your Twitter account is public, blocked users, are able to access your Twitter page content via a browser and see what you’ve posted there; the other user will still be able to mention you (@yourusername) in their tweets & you will not receive notification; not knowing what others say about you is not always best.

Client. A software program that allows you to access and use your Twitter account; the basic client is provided by Twitter ( ); other clients like Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite, provide extended functions and features; some clients are free & some fee based while others have a blended approach.

Deactivaction. Process of killing your account; once deactivation is requested there is a 30 day window for deletion; you can reactivate an account that is still in the 30 day grace period.

Digital footprint. Traces or records of a person’s online activities that may be aggregated to create a profile about a person (including groups/organizations); footprint data collected may be active—content voluntarily contributed by a person—or passive—data collected about a person by a second or third party—or second-hand—contents others contribution about you.

Direct Message. Original post by a Twitter user to another user considered a “private” communication; content usually prefaced by “D” or “DM”; users may only direct message those who are following them; a DM is not visible to followers or on the webpage version of any public accounts; it is very important to understand that the privacy of such direct messages can only be assumed and never assured; users are still able to cut/paste or screen capture such ‘private’ content.

EdChat. A subset of Twitter Chats (see Twitter Chat)  that are educationally themed; each chat has its own hashtag (see Hashtag; e.g. EdChatDE= edchat Germany); the original #edchat started in 2009 to help educators stay current with developments in the field; currently there are many variants, while many are geared to K-12 education, there are a number of post-secondary ed chats (e.g. #CdnPSE=Canadian Post Secondary Education chat; #digped=Digital Pedagogy chats hosted by Hybrid Pedagogy: A Journal of Teaching & Technology, #higheredchat, #msachat =social justice in higher ed; #fycchat = freshman youth composition; #HELiveChat=higher ed chat sponsored by UK’s The Guardian) (See ); often a ‘host’ Twitter account is created like @Cdnedchat for #Cdnedchat  that happens on Mondays 5 pm PST/8 pm PST.

Follow. Act of subscribing to receive content from a particular Twitter account in your timeline; anyone can follow any other account’s public Twitter feed at any time—unless an account has blocked you (See Block).

Follower. Person or group subscribing to receive content from a particular Twitter account; if a Twitter account is public, people can see who the account follows—this can reflect on your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint).

Handle. Your chosen username preceded by the “@” sign (e.g. Julia Hengstler’s handle is @jhengstler); you pick your username—choose wisely, especially if you will be using for professional purposes; remember that even if not for professional purposes, it is likely your twitter account can & will be connected to you.

Hashflags (and Twitter Emojis). Twitter has sets of icons that can be embedded in a Tweet; some icons are commissioned/purchased for use during advertising campaigns (hashflags) while others are more basic (emojis); paid icons are enabled for a specific event/occasion; paid icons go through periods of being active so when the ad or event campaign ends, the tweets (even old ones) will lose their icons but keep their hashtag text—which allows Twitter to re-cycle icons for future uses;  began in 2010 with World Cup to represent countries by flags; to further complicate matters, not all platforms support the images (e.g. visible on but not in TweetDeck or third party apps); if you want visuals in your Tweets, you can also cut & paste them from sites like .

Hashtag. A keyword preceded by the “#” sign associated with a tweet to make it more discoverable, or to support aggregation of tweets on a particular topic (like putting a handle you can grab on a box); more than 1 hashtag can be associated with a tweet (e.g. #postsecondary #education #highered); hashtags ‘count’ for your 140 character limit; there are commonly used hashtags, but you can also create your own like #oltd506 for VIU’s Education course, OLTD 506; it is a good idea to investigate if a hashtag you’re thinking of using is already in use and if so what it’s associated with.

Like. When you endorse a particular tweet, retweet, or reply (See Tweet, Retweet, or Reply), by clicking the “heart button”; your ‘likes’ are listed in the “Likes” tab of your Twitter profile page (See Profile); other people can see your “likes” from your profile page; what you like can determine what ‘sponsored’ content is displayed to you; what you like reflects on your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint).

List. Way to organize tweets from various accounts to see them in an aggregated stream; you can create and define lists by topic or interests; if your Twitter account is public, others can see your lists (and what accounts are in them) from your profile page and your lists can reflect on your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint); when you add a user to your list, Twitter notifies them.

Meet-up. An informal meeting of people in a Twitter network generally organized by a person or group that determines the purpose, specific time and place, and shares the details for the meeting via Twitter; individuals then physically gather face-to-face and participate; at larger events such as conferences, meet-ups can be good networking opportunities for people who have been connecting via Twitter around special interests.


Mentions. When someone posts a tweet, retweet, or reply, (See Tweet, Retweet, or Reply) including your Twitter handle (@yourusername). Twitter clients (See Clients) can monitor your mentions in columns (e.g. TweetDeck); if you block someone you will not see if they mention you (see Block); the mentions timeline is a subset of notifications (see Notifications).

Mute.  Allows you to hide a particular account’s feed from your timeline without unfollowing or blocking it; the other account is not notified that they’ve been muted; you can unmute accounts at any time; muted accounts can still follow you, & send you direct messages (See Direct Message) ; when a muted account mentions you (see Mention), you will see the tweet (See Tweet) in your notifications (see Notifications);  any tweets received prior to muting would be visible as usual; if you do NOT follow the muted account, you will not see their tweets that mention you in notifications; For information re. using mute see

Notifications. A special timeline in Twitter that includes any content relevant to your tweets (See Tweet) and handle (@yourusername); information includes latest retweets (See Retweet) of your content, tweets directed to you (replies or mentions using @yourusername), which tweets were liked (See Like) and by which accounts, & any new followers (See Follower); notifications can be filtered by type—certain Twitter clients (See Client) have more functions for filtering content.

Page. If you choose to publicly share your Twitter content, your content will be made publicly available as a web page with a URL similar to (e.g. the publicly available content from Julia Hengstler’s account is found at; people without Twitter accounts can read your public Twitter content from this location using any web browser.

Pin. When you maintain a particular tweet at the top of your profile page by clicking on the “…” button and selecting “Pin to your profile page”; a new pin displaces the last pin; works in Twitter but not necessarily in all Twitter clients (See Client).

Poll. You can create and share Twitter polls with your followers; Twitter polls can have questions with multiple response options; voting remains live for 24 hours; how an individual votes is not publicly shared, though aggregated data is available; For how-to see ; Note: other 3rd party apps like also allow you to run twitter polls with increased functionality and duration; could be used as a ‘response system’ (a.k.a. ‘clickers’) in a course.

Private Account. A private Twitter account is one where only authorized people have direct access to the account’s tweets (See Tweet); this doesn’t prevent someone accessing content and copy/pasting it outside of the restricted circle—though the retweet function will be disabled; with a private account users have to approve all requests to follow (See Follow) you; your tweets will be excluded from public Google searches, though your followers (See Follower) will be able to search them in Twitter; if you direct a tweet at another user using @thatuser’sname , they will not see it unless they are one of your approved followers; if you convert from a public to a private account, any previously public content will become private from that point forward; you can only share links to specific tweets from your timeline with approved followers.

Profile. Information you that you choose to share with Twitter and the public; includes the name you supplied (can be pseudonym), your twitter username (See Handle); it can also include other links you provide, brief biographic or other statement, and a profile picture; your profile picture will appear next to your tweets when others view it in their twitter streams; sharing your bio or a statement allows others to connect with you on the basis of interests—people might avoid following or replying to accounts with no descriptive information; clicking through to an account’s profile can help you determine if you would like to follow or otherwise interact with that account.

Promoted. This is content that is delivered to you by Twitter in exchange for money from their customers—Twitter advertising; accounts, tweets, moments, trends, & videos can all be promoted by Twitter advertisers and displayed to/in your Twitter account when you login; various hashflags are a form of promoted ad campaigns (see Hashflag).

Protected Tweet: A tweet where you have actively chosen to restrict access to just your followers (see Followers); while the general public does not see a protected tweet, your followers can use cut/paste or screen capture to further share it.

Reply. On Twitter, an original post of 140 characters or less directed to a particular Twitter user; retweets are prefaced by “@” followed by the username of the person to whom its addressed; replies can help structure a conversation thread; many Twitter clients allow users to monitor replies regardless of whether you are following the person who posted the reply; replies can be a way to contact people who are not following you; a reply is visible to followers and on the webpage version of any public accounts; any account names embedded in the reply count in your 140 character limit.

Retweet. A tweet (See Tweet) from another Twitter user that is re-published on Twitter with attribution; a retweet is usually prefaced by “RT” followed by the contributor’s account name; attribution may be multilayered to indicate the path the original tweet traveled; a RT is visible to followers and on the webpage version of any public accounts; you can see who retweeted your content in notifications (see Notifications).

Settings. In this area of your account you can control aspects such as username, language, time zone, security/privacy, password, muted accounts, blocked accounts, etc.; go to your Twitter page at , log in, click on your profile picture/icon and select settings.

Storify. An online application that allows users to capture data from Twitter (and other social media platforms), edit, organize and republish it; useful for curation especially for Twitter chats (e.g. ; See

Stream. The timeline of a Twitter account organized in chronological order or that can be viewed publicly online.

Timeline. This is content streamed in real-time to your account and organized in chronological order.

Timestamp. Content separate from the body of a tweet (See Tweet) that indicates when a tweet was posted; depending on your Twitter client (See Client)—can appear above or below a tweet, or in details of a tweet.

Trends. A special timeline visible in Twitter (available on your home page on ) identifying popular or powerful hashtags or content; by default preferences are determined by Twitter based on your account information but you can manually change your preferences.

Tweet. A posting of 140 characters or less via Twitter sent to a user’s network or follower’s (see Follower); tweets may carry embedded links, images, video (recorded & streaming); a tweet is by default public but you can protect your tweet (See Protected Tweet).

Twitter Chat. A semi-formal online Twitter exchange among several accounts (see Account); a scheduled event generally organized by a person or group that generally follows a Q & A format around a specific, pre-determined theme hosted by a designated moderator; participation is open to anyone with a Twitter account by using the hashtags (see Hashtag)  & following the Q&A format; sorting through related tweets can get confusing as people often use a Twitter chat hashtags outside of a scheduled event to tag tweets; often a ‘host’ Twitter account is created like @Cdnedchat for #Cdnedchat  or @HigherEdChat for  #higheredchat; other e.g.s of postsecondary Twitter chats include #msachat =social justice in higher ed; #fycchat = freshman youth composition chat; #HELiveChat=higher ed chat sponsored by UK’s The Guardian); See .

Twitter. A social networking platform for posting informal online journal or diary entries in postings of 140 characters or less called tweets (see Tweet)  that are shared with followers (See Follower);  Twitter allows for embedded links, images, and videos; See: .

Unfollow. When you remove someone from the accounts you are subscribed to receive content from on Twitter; procedure may have social ramifications though unfollowing may be required to preserve professionalism or the character of your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint).

Unpin. When you release a particular pinned (See Pin) tweet (See Tweet) from the top of your profile (See Profile) page by clicking on the “…” button and selecting “Unpin from profile page”.


Capture Twitter chats & #edchats with Storify

January 10, 2017

Quick tips to capture an #edchat or Twitter chat with Storify

  • Create a Storify account @
  • Participate in your edchat and note its hashtag (but this will work for any topic with a hashtag in Twitter).
  • When the edchat is over, login to Storify
  • Select “Create New Story”


  • In right column click on Twitter icon, enter the hashtag in the search field (you can specify some other items using the search field like Type, Location, Language if you need), & click on search icon


  • Storify collects all relevant tweets w/ hashtags in right hand columnedchat_storify3-fw
  • In the Story panel on the left, create a headline like “[Name of edchat] [Date of edchat] [hashtag]” like “EdchatDE November 5/2016” & add description if you wantedchat_storify4-fw
  • Pick the tweets on the right that you want to add to your “Story”
    • I usually pick “add them all” at the top of the column


  • You can also scroll through the list on to drag/drop specific ones into your Storify story.
  • It’s now up to you if you want to “edit” the Tweets in the Storify window:
    • Delete extraneous comments (e.g. do you want to keep the “introduce yourself” responses in your content here?);
    • Organize content users strung across multiple tweets that got interspersed with other’s tweets (e.g. ones that have “1/2” and 2/2” indicate it’s a 2 part tweet);
    • Organize the question tweets by an edchat leader with all the answers (i.e. put Q1 first and all the A1 responses under it; move on to Q2 and then organize all the Q2 ).
  • Once you have edited the number and order of the tweets to your likking, publish your Storify and share the link using the “Share” button (you can pick the social media where you want to share the link via icons).
  • Of course you don’t have to share, and could keep the edited copy for yourself…but others might be interested.

If you have any other tips or tricks for capturing #edchats or Twitter chats with Storify, please feel free to add them in the comments.

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. 🙂 )

Working with Visitor Posts in the Timeline of a Class, School, or District Facebook Page

September 17, 2015

[Note: This post is geared for people who are starting out as Facebook Page administrators, managing a class, school, or district social media presence via an organizational Facebook Page.]

Icon of One Cartoon Head in profile talking to another

By Terry [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may have set up a class, school, or district Facebook page to connect with your audiences on social media. Maybe you created it as a page which is managed by a single–or limited number–of individuals to ensure that the page is content is moderated & reflects your social media & organizational standards. Maybe you’ve been moderately successful getting it of the ground for pushing out information, but are missing the interactivity people in your audiences have come to expect from social media.

One day you find that Visitor Posts are popping up on your organizational Page in a box entitled “Visitor Posts”. Congratulations! Someone’s listening and you’ve made contact. How do you respond?

You have two main tasks: determine whether the content posted aligns with your organization’s (class, school, or district’s) objectives and mission and/or serves its community? If not, click on the down arrow to the right of the post’s account name and you’ll find the options to:

  • Hide from Page
  • Delete from Page
  • Report post
  • Embed post
  • Turn notifications (off or on so you can know when comments are added)

Your decision will depend on the content you see. If the content is clearly spam or offensive, go ahead and report the post. If the post is irrelevant, or not useful for your organization at the time, but you want to be able to see it later as the administrator, hide it from your audience using Hide from Page. If the content the other account posted in your Visitor Posts is relevant and useful to you or your audiences, let it keep it showing on your Page in the Visitor Post section.

But maybe that Visitor Post is so good you’d like to do more to connect with it, the person or organization behind that other account, and share. What do you do now?

  • Like the post as your organizational Page identity.
    1. You may have a personal/professional identity on Facebook separate from the identity of the organization whose Page you manage. You want to keep this personal/professional identity separate from your actions as the organization’s (class, school, district’s) account that you are managing on Facebook. Make sure you are liking the post with your appropriate identity. To do this look in the shaded bar directly below the specific post in the Visitor Posts section. There will be an icon/avatar to the right of the “Like   Comment” with a dropdown arrow. If the icon/avatar is your personal/professional & not your organizational one, be sure to switch it.
    2. Remember “liking” implies and endorsement, so you might want to do a little reconnaissance on the Facebook account that posted to your Visitor Posts section BEFORE you like it. What or whom you “like” in Facebook terms reflects on the professional/organizational reputation of your page. For example, if an account posts something kind about your Facebook Page content, and you visit that account’s page only to find slews of racist jokes posted there, think twice about “liking” that particular account’s Visitor Post and building seeming endorsements of that account’s content.
    3. Also, feel free to add a thankful or useful comment to the Visitor’s post if you feel so inclined. Interacting with it, boosts its presence in your Visitor Posts area.
  • Share the content in your organizational Page’s timeline.
    1. Click on the day & time beneath the Visitor Post’s identity in your Visitor Posts section. This takes you to the original Visitor’s post.
    2. Below the content of the post is a bar with “Like Comment Share”. Click on Share.
    3. You have 3 options: Share Now (only Me), Share…, or Send as Message. Click on Share…
    4. You are taken to the “Share this [Link, Status, Photo, etc.]” window. Below the title of the window, use the drop down list to select the timeline you want to share it to: On your own Timeline, On a friend’s Timeline, In a group, On a Page you manage, in a private message. Select “On a Page you manage”
    5. This brings up some additional options. You will see two boxes that help you specify where the target Timeline is by selecting the Page you manage and the identity with which you are posting. Ensure that both boxes are set to the correct organizational Page, and the correct identity you want to use to share it in your organization’s Timeline.
    6. You’ll have an option to add a comment in the Share before it posts up to the Page Timeline. Feel free to post a thank you or other relevant comment.
    7. Below the content of the Visitor’s Post that you share, you have additional options for having the share be “Public” to all, or to limit your audience.
    8. Once your settings are correct, click the Share Link button in the lower right.

Hope this helps you as you begin to manage an organizational Facebook Page. If you have any other hints for newbies, feel free to share them here.

Concerned: The Flip Model, Mobile Tech, and Achieving Balance

November 26, 2011

20111126-160704.jpgThis summer, a colleague in SD 10 (Arrow Lakes, BC) Sally McLean (@sallynmclean) had me in to present to her district on digital footprints. From our discussions during my visit, it was evident she was very excited about the “flip model” of education. (For a bit more on this model see The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture). More recently, I’ve been chatting to my colleague, George Kelly, more about this model as he looks at ways to apply it in his classroom. A great deal of our latest chats have been on developing the personal responsibility of the learner in a flip model–self-direction/self-actualization–so that they actual do the requisite materials outside of classroom time. Today, an article from Australia on the flip model, has me a bit concerned about the potential for promoting hyper-responsiblity (a.k.a workaholism) through an unhealthy combination of mobile technologies and the flip model. The article is “Technology brings the classroom back home in role reversal”from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Am I in favour of the model? You bet. In fact, I taught a substantial amount of my distributed learning program this way for a number of years while I worked in the Gulf Islands School District (SD 64, BC). Students worked through curriculum using me as a resource, facilitator, and support as necessary. Sometimes I filled information gaps, explained things differently, referred students to extension materials, or just plain paced them (or pushed them 😉 to complete by their goal time. That was a number of years ago when technology was not as prevalent–or as hand-held–as today.

Am I in favour of mobile technologies? Definitely. I believe that they enrich our personal and professional lives, learning opportunities and more. I think that having access to information technologies everywhere/anytime is a benefit when used wisely. I use my iphone and ipad often, have brought ipods into my faculty and hope to bring in some ipads soon. I am constantly looking at how mobile technologies can optimize learning and teaching in the classroom. (I’m not an extremist, though. There is a time and place for everything. The QR codes on the notices placed on the inside of our VIU bathroom stalls by our student health group? Not a place and time I endorse re. using mobile technology for obvious reasons.)

So why the concern? The combination of mobile technologies & access to education is a great thing, but it needs to be framed appropriately. I think that the Sydney Herald article hit on something we haven’t anticipated in shifting education to an everywhere/anytime paradigm–at least as not as far as kids are concerned in a mobile friendly world. While not the thrust of the article, the concept of the classroom extending far beyond the physical classroom is exciting & problematic now–in a way it wasn’t before highly mobile technologies. For me, it raised the question of how we avoid developing a culture of workaholics who can’t establish boundaries between ‘work’ and personal time.

Technology as a venue for workaholics isn’t new. I think the issue hit the business sector hard first as mobile technology–Blackberries–infiltrated that market. With the advent of smartphones, you didn’t have to be a workaholic staying in the office, you could be one anywhere–even on vacation with your family. I bet we all know people who can’t stop themselves from answering work emails when not working, continuing to work because technology has reached them everywhere/anytime. I think it first hit the education sector hard with the proliferation of online learning & the rise of digital communications. Those early online instructors were barraged with email & other digital communications 24/7–in a way no F2F (face-to-face) teacher had to deal with (unless you live in a small rural community–but that’s another issue).

Managing time efficiently is one of the techniques that needs to be taught to those taking up online instruction–or those who have a heavy technology component to their educational roles–or even just those educators who are very into digital communications, social networking, & mobile computing. My colleague & friend, Rachel Moll (@rfmoll) says she thinks I’m very good at setting boundaries between my “work” time and my personal life–as I trail around with my computer, or iphone, or ipad. (Rachel catches me on my good days! It’s all relative–ask my husband, Arnie, and he might disagree.) Though I love my job, am passionate about technology, and like to go above & beyond, I believe I am getting better balancing when I work and when I don’t. (At least I hope that’s how my dean and faculty members perceive it–as well as my two young sons and my husband.)

Do I think that learning shouldn’t occur everywhere/anytime? I’m totally in favour of learning everywhere and anytime. It’s a very Zen concept. However, I think it’s different when it’s a passion or personal interest versus when it’s driven by outside forces–your boss, your 9th grade science teacher, etc., under deadlines, pressure, etc. moving into time that was previously reserved for other important items that make us healthy humans. As we move ourselves and our students into the everywhere/anytime paradigm, we need to teach ourselves and our students to achieve balance and establish boundaries–allowing time for personal lives, families, friends, working out, resting, being spiritual–goofing around. As we look to move to a flip model, we must ever be aware of ‘reasonable’ workloads based on student capacity–general or specific to an individual–and work to establish boundaries.

My recent conversations with George on the flip model were centred on the need to build up students’ personal responsibility and commitment with regard to their own learning so that the work assigned outside of class got done–without the teacher acting as a heavy handed overseer, administering quizzes, etc. During those conversations, I didn’t look at the other end of the spectrum that the Herald article brought to mind. Some of our students can become overwhelmed, become compulsive about completing content. Some educators can be over zealous in assigning homework–let alone learning–outside the bounds of the physical classroom.

Boundaries don’t need to be rigid–they can be flexible or fluid, but when when we look at the balance of what we do, that balance should always be healthy for the individual. If you’re using an everywhere/anytime approach with a flip model using mobile technologies, help yourself and your students manage their time and efforts in a healthy manner. Check-in with yourself and your students: Is the workload or activity manageable in a reasonable timeframe? If not, be flexible and fluid: adjust them. I included the picture of the acrobats as a reminder of what amazing things can be achieved when we are experts at achieving balance. Technology and changing our pedagogical approaches should ultimately make teaching and learning better and help us achieve amazing things–when well balanced.

Policy Alarm: Beware Collecting Sexting Evidence

September 26, 2011

Fire Alarm altered to read "Policy Alarm: Pull in Case of Sexting"This post is meant ring an alarm bell for all the teachers and administrators out there who might be in a position to collect evidence of sexting from students. But first a little background if you are new to this topic:

What is “sexting”?

Sexting is the practice of sending sexually related content through digital means. Most commonly, sexting involves the transmission of nude or partially nude pictures or videos. It can be over cellphones, through email, on social networking sites, etc. Increasingly, youth with digital tools are sharing this type of content without any thought to the ramifications. A recent research study conducted by MTV & AP found that:

  • about a quarter of all teens 14-17 years have engaged in sexting activity
  • girls are more likely to post nude photos of themselves
  • most share the pictures with significant others (boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.)
  • 29% share sexts with people they never met–only know through online contact
  • 61% of sexters say they have been pressured to do it at least once

Is “sexting” illegal?

Depends on the ages of the individuals involved and where they live. Basically, when it involves images of nude or partially nude children under the age of consent, it is likely covered under your local laws dealing with child pornography. This means that those found in possession of sexting evidence created/transmitted by minors will be treated under the local child pornography laws–e.g. if charged, be required to register as a sex offender, etc. Various US states and Canadian provinces are looking to change the relevant laws so that minors in possession of sexting content from other minors are not treated as severely as adults found in possession of the same.

Why should you care?

If at any point you are made aware of evidence of sexting, you will need to react in some manner. How you react may mean the difference between a future in education or in court. You need to be VERY careful how you handle that evidence–especially how it’s collected, how it is stored and WHERE it is stored. This is a discussion that most school boards and teachers’ associations should be having right now–if they haven’t already. Your district, your teachers’ association, your administrators’ association should be very clear regarding the legal framework you are working under with regard to sexting, collection of evidence of sexting, and transmission of sexting evidence to police, RCMP or other bodies.

What you absolutely don’t what to have happen is what happened to Ting-yi Oei in Virginia. He was a long time veteran vice principal whose entire career and future was called into question when he collected evidence of sexting and ended up in a witch-hunt accused of possessing child pornography.(Read K. Zetter’s piece in Wired,  ” ‘Sexting’ Hysteria Falsely Brands Educator as Child Pornographer.”) In a recent Canadian case, Richard Cole, a secondary school communications teacher in Sudbury, Ontario collected evidence of sexting from student emails on the network and found himself and his harddrive (that contained personal information) the subject of search and seizure. (Read more on the Cole case in Kirk Makin’s online Globe & Mail article.)

Does Your School Have a Policy?

If so, review it! If not, get on it!

If your school or district has a sexting policy in place, be very clear on how evidence is to be handled and collected. Make sure that there is a clear directive to collect evidence from an administrator. For example, a policy, an email–just some record that indicates that YOU personally were required to collect the evidence. Your school should also clearly define where that data will be stored and a chain of custody for that data, and how that data will be transmitted to authorities when necessary. For example, you should NEVER store that kind of evidence on your personal digital devices that you bring to school. If your school encourages–or even just tolerates–individuals using their own devices on the job, your personal devices are not the place for that evidence to reside. Storing on your personal devices can call your motivation into question.

Review your school or district policy for any point at which you might become vulnerable to accusations of possessing, storing or transmitting child pornography.

If you are looking for some examples of how to deal with sexting, take a look at the Miami-Dade School District’s approach here: Empowering Students to Engage in Positive Communication: A Guide to Combat Student Sexting. District administrators are charged with ensuring that the fewest individuals possible handle the evidence, and that it is “immediately labeled and placed in a safe and secure location”. Faculty who confiscate equipment must “immediately“[their policy bolding] turn over the equipment to the principal or his/her designee. Pages 15 and following are particularly relevant. Even schools that already have sexting policies, might have something to gain from a review of the Miami-Dade approach. Their appendix, “Comprehensive Procedure to Combat Sexting Action Plan” (p. 23)  defines benchmarks, action steps, and key deliverables in a manner I have rarely seen with regard to moving from policy to practice and page 24 has a “handout” to raise awareness of the issue.

In all cases you need to be aware of the legal framework within which you and your school are operating. The US National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys published “Sexting at School: Lessons Learned the Hard Way” (February 2010) which provides some excellent ideas for the development of sexting policy and procedures. I wish we had a similar resource for my British Columbia & Canadian context. (I have hopes that we will see something like that soon.) Even if you do have a local legal framework, I firmly believe you also need to be aware of how such cases are handled elsewhere. The time is coming when a “reasonable” administrator or educator could be considered responsible for staying current on how other jurisdictions are handling sexting–especially when such knowledge could reasonably prevented a negative situation.

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?”