How Colorado teenagers hid a massive nude sexting ring from parents and teachers – The Washington Post

Here is a must-read wakeup call for educators and families. Kids will probably always out-pace us in the deception race but we owe it to them and ourselves to at least stay in the race.

Disguised to look and function like an innocent smartphone app, photo vaults — also known as “ghost apps” — allow people to conceal photos, video and information in plain view on their phone. They’ve been around since at least 2011, but have grown increasingly common as smartphones have gained popularity. The App Store and Google Play are littered with apps designed to help users hide their activity and camouflage sensitive information. “If you look at your kid’s phone, everything looks normal, but one of

Source: How Colorado teenagers hid a massive nude sexting ring from parents and teachers – The Washington Post

Anything you tweet can and will be used against you…

I should know better. I spend all week working with kids and technology, reminding them to watch their digital footprints. It is as simple as the Miranda warning. Anything you tweet can and will be used against you. None of my students got hung out to dry digitally (at least that I know of)this weekend. It happened to me.

After watching a great high school football game on Friday night between Fennville (where my dad coaches) and Saugatuck (where I used to coach, my wife teaches, and my daughter attends) I was unwinding before bed with a little time on Twitter. One of the Holland Sentinel reporters was tweeting a little bit about the game so I shared a couple of thoughts, specifically that I thought Fennville could have taken advantage of interior matchups and run more between the tackles. Here are the tweets.

What I didn’t expect was to have the reporter quote my tweet about what Fennville should have done in his story of the game. When I called my dad on Sunday morning, the first thing that he wanted to know was what the heck the Holland Sentinel was doing quoting me questioning their play calling. Yeah, instant tummy ache. The cool thing about my dad is that he actually thought it was funny.

As I would later tweet to the reporter, I was not expecting some meaningless post-game chat to be quoted. But, like I also stated to him, “I know Twitter is public. My big mistake.”

This guy must have really been digging for filler if he is taking some random guy on Twitter’s thoughts about small town high school football. In a later tweet I didn’t bore you with, I told the reporter that my dad was the Fennville offensive line coach. You would think he would understand how publishing a quote that sounds critical might cause some drama. Maybe that was the goal all along.

Bottom line: I should’ve known better.

Flocabulary and Common Sense Media team up on Digital Citizenship

We use at Blue Star Elementary to help develop student academic vocabulary knowledge via Marzano’s Six Steps. Kids love the catchy hip hop songs and animated videos.

Here is a great one that Flocabulary produced in association with Common Sense Media to teach the top rules kids….or any of us should remember when posting to social media.

The great thing about anything Flocabulary does is that it sticks with kids. They really get it.


All of the motivation you need for a great school year

Whether you have been “back at it” for weeks or if you have removed all months and weeks from your calendar after next in hopes of preventing the inevitable, here is a little motivation from the genius of Michael Mills at the University of Central Arkansas to get the juices flowing for a great school year.

Michael and a panel of other educators want to continue their mission of hacking professional development. If you liked the video, give them a vote to present at South by Southwest this Spring in Austin, TX.

Fix your grammar

From the geniuses who brought us the best tool ever for stamping out vertical video syndrome comes “Fix your grammar.”

We can make all of the excuses we want for why such terrible grammar is perpetuated not only across the Internet but by an alarming amount of of our society. Here are a handful of funny reminders for all of us and especially our older students.

Enjoy…and hope with me a sequel is in the works directed at knocking “I seen” from the world’s lexicon for good.

Just one note from famous

"I'll make you famous." - Wm. H. Bonney
“I’ll make you famous.” – Wm. H. Bonney

We educators are just one note away from being famous…or more like infamous. I am not talking about winning The Voice or American Idol either.

This week a nearby school district made national news when a couple of kindergarten teachers got fed up with recess problems related to the age-old game of tag. A note was sent home to kindergarten parents that tag and chasing was being banned until further notice with severe penalties handed down to violators.

We can agree or disagree with the decision to outlaw tag and I reacted to it in a number of ways. I got a chuckle as it seems that I recently wrote about a certain teacher disgusted with tag. I shook my head at the proliferation of more “It is easier to ban something than teach it the right way” mentality and I yucked it up on Facebook, calling it the “Wussification of America” and warning that the recent domination that school district was seeing on the football field was 8 years away from drying up when these kids hit high school. Then I thought deeper.

Why do any of us know about a single behavior management decision made by a couple of teachers at one suburban elementary school? How did this become national news and why was it lighting up Twitter? One  tweet from a  parent. That is all it took.

Here is how it happened. A parent received the letter about a “No Tag, No Chasing” policy and was concerned about a threat the teachers made that children violating the policy would have it recorded in their “permanent record”. Dealing with the granddaddy of all awful…This could keep them out of Harvard after all…the dad tweeted to the local NBC affiliate with a copy of the note but requested his identity be concealed. The station did a story and within a day, the story had gone viral.

That is the reality of the world in which we live and the reality of teaching today. This should have started and stopped within the school community. Instead of tweeting a news station, the parent should have followed a common sense protocol of respectful courtesy. Go see the teacher. If that doesn’t work, go see the principal. Get other concerned parents to join you if it is that big of a deal. Try a little diplomacy. Running to the press is the nuclear option. Back in the day only the President…or Matthew Broderick had nuclear capabilities. Now every mom and dad can launch thermonuclear war on you and your school in 140 characters or less.

Oh…one more thing. Remember all of the concern over the potential demerits in the permanent record? Well there is a far more serious permanent record at stake in this case, the digital footprint. There is no more permanent record than what is online about you. Although I completely disagree with the approach the teachers took, I am glad they weren’t identified by name. They don’t need to be forever known  and consequently digitally stoned by the masses as the people who outlawed tagged. Let’s hope this undisclosed dad has as much concern teaching his child to protect his or her online lifetime permanent record as he does with the one at school hardly anybody ever opens.

Five great Pinterest boards from five Hamilton educators

Since its inception, Fridays on Twitter have been full of tweets encouraging the following of others. Today, we’ll take #FollowFriday over to Pinterest as I share five great pinners who I get to work with each week here in Hamilton, Michigan.

Jill Sloothaak, Kindergarten – Literature Extensions Sloothaak

On this board Jill is collecting all kinds of activities to use with the books she and her kids are reading in her class. Some of my favorites are for the books featuring Pete the Cat.

Brooke Vruggink, First Grade – Math

VrugginkBrooke has close to 100 great ideas for making math come alive for her first graders. I love spending time in her and teaching partner Megan Reilly’s classrooms. The creativity they bring to teaching and the accountable talk they teach their students to use really build dynamic environments.

Kristi Zoerhof, First Grade – School Treasures

ZoerhofThis board really lives up to its name as it pushes nearer and nearer to 2100 pins. Kristi is a pretty amazing educator and was my partner on the Sony Xperia Case study I featured last Spring. Her stuff on Pinterest is great and so are the resources she shares via @KristiZoerhof. She also tweets with her kids at @MrsZFabFirsties.

Teisha Struik-Kothe, K-5 Principal – School Ideas


Here is one for the administrators, especially the elementary ones. Teisha brings a special flair to Blue Star and always has resources at her fingertips to share with the staff. If you are interested in developing academic vocabulary Teisha has lots of knowledge and her board features great activities.

Jodi Hansen, Fourth Grade – School

If you are an upper elementary teacher and need new ideas for language arts, this board has you covered with all kinds great techniques. Some of the neatest things I have found  that Jodi has pinned involves communicating with parents. She does a great job building that school-to-home connection.

I am a pretty lucky educator to work with these five people 2 1/2 days a week at two different schools. There are a lot of other great educators in Hamilton. These are just a handful.


Michigan district halts groundbreaking 1:1 childhood obesity initiative

Saucony Grid Youth
Michigan district puts the skids on sneaker initiative.

What was initially hailed as a groundbreaking effort by the Rivermont Public School district (Mich.) to fight childhood obesity is now being re-examined and possibly moth-balled by school administrators over concerns of student mis-use. When students arrived at the district’s three schools twenty-five minutes north of Grand Rapids this September, each was issued a new pair of Saucony running shoes in the nation’s first ever 1:1 sneaker initiative. The district received a special mention on Good Morning America and a framed, hand-written letter of congratulations from First Lady Michelle Obama hangs in the foyer of each building.

Less than a month into the new school year, the district has slammed on the brakes and each teacher is being asked to collect the athletic shoes and store them in a closet until further notice. The holdup you ask?  Apparently the kids are having too much fun in them.

“Our grand vision was that students would use the sneakers for a school-wide fitness program that is guided by a rigorous curriculum of lap running and agility training throughout the day,” stated superintendent Eli Tanis. “Our teachers are coming to us and telling us that the kids have no interest in these activities and instead are using the shoes for their own personal activities.”

“Never before have we seen so much spontaneous running, noise, or such large groups of roaming mobs playing tag at recess. It can get terribly stressful,” said first grade teacher Susan Vanderslice who has been at the same position for 31 years. “Before the shoes were just given to the children without any formal teacher training the playground was much calmer. Children simply milled around. It was very easy to maintain control.”

After talking with a few students whose families asked that their identity be concealed to avoid any problems with staff at school, most kids don’t see what they are doing wrong.

“They gave us these sweet shoes,” says Fifth Grader (we’ll call) Jake. “I couldn’t wait to get on the court at recess and work on the cross-over dribble I have been perfecting this summer. Our teacher won’t even let us wear the shoes outside though because he is afraid they will get dirty or something. He only lets us carry them to the track, put them on to run laps, take them off, and then carry them back inside. Running laps feels like doing penmanship.”

Jake’s parents echo their son’s sentiments. “It seems like they are really missing the forest for the trees. They seem so focused on limiting what the kids do in the shoes. Shouldn’t they just encourage any activity and movement at all? Take the time to teach the kids new games and give them time to just enjoy being active, whether that is outside when the weather is nice or inside once winter comes. We think that should be the ultimate goal, building healthy habits.”

Rivermont curriculum director Shirley Wolverton defends the district’s approach. “We have to insure growth. If we simply let the students play whatever they want in the shoes then there is no way to guarantee teachers will meet the benchmarks we have prescribed. If our lap numbers don’t increase, our staff will have failed. The only way to increase a student’s ability to run laps is to run more laps. ”

A meeting is scheduled for Monday night at the school’s board room where a sub-committee has been formed to investigate what modifications might be made to the program.

“We hope to have some answers quickly,” Superintendent Tanis explains. “My biggest fear is that we will wait too long and the students will have all outgrown the shoes by the time we return them. We are also missing valuable lap-time on the track. Students need to know though that there is a difference between serious school work and the taxpayers of this community aren’t financing just play.”

Thankfully the above account is fictitious. There is no Rivermont, Michigan but unfortunately  this kind of thinking is far too prevalent in education. This silly post was the mental fruit cultivated by my hearing that Los Angeles Unified School District is temporarily moth-balling its one billion dollar 1:1 iPad efforts because students have easily hacked the devices’ security controls.

Certain school districts seem so worried that students or in many cases staff will use a device for something other than “school work”. We are not talking about accessing adult content here, but doing things like connecting with the rest of  the world through social media or making a multimedia project of vacation photos. To me, any time on the device that is not malicious or obviously inappropriate is learning. It is learning to use a tool to communicate and create. It is building comfort and efficiency within the operating system. The more you use it, the better you become. Allowing kids to create content they are passionate about makes it all the more motivating for them to create a similar type of project on something being studied in the classroom. The same is true with giving every kid a pair of sneakers. Running laps isn’t the only way to increase the ability to run laps.

Being a Connected Educator is my teaching life support system

I can hardly remember what teaching was like before social media. Twitter runs on my laptop all day long through Tweetdeck. My contacts are organized by education, local, friends, news, and sports. It is a constant stream of ideas, reflections, and life experiences.

Every day I get a list of links and new apps to try. I have instant answers to teaching’s seemingly un-answerable questions. All I have to do is ask. I try to give back as much as possible by sharing techniques and resources I find helpful and offering up the occasional “don’t bother” on websites that seemd promising but bombed with the kids. Bob Sprankle was one of the first educator I followed as I got connected. He talked way back in the day about “Professional Learning Network currency”, essentially the idea that the more you contribute the more you will benefit.

Take a look at this video featuring many edtech all-stars as they better explain how impactful being connected can be. Get connected this month at