Wednesday, November 29, 2017

4 Ways To Support Civil Discourse in Online Spaces

Is it possible to help students engage in civil discourse in social media and other online spaces? That is the topic educators discussed at the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on #DiversityMatters. 

The verdict?


Civil discourse is possible in online spaces if we work to prepare students to engage responsibly and in a civil manner.  Here are some ways to achieve that.

4 Considerations To Engage in Civil Discourse Online

  1. Consider the Source. Ask:

    • What are the sources?
    • Reliable sources?  
    • Look at data/ statistic - where did information come from?
    • Prep students to give resources for viewpoint.
  2. Consider the Facts

    • Check em.
    • Use em. Even if they do not support your idea.
    • Manipulation of data can support any story.
    • Teach students where to get information.
    • New sources are the starting point - then  look elsewhere(multiple sources are needed).
    • Consumers of information need to challenge/research data & how it is presented.
  3. Consider the Research. Ask:

    • Who is hosting site?
    • Who is writing the story?
  4. Consider Using Information Literacy Skills

    • Presence of misinformation makes people distrust all information.
    • People/youth give up.
    • Combat information illiteracy by ensuring students are prepared with information literacy skills

What do you think? Are some of these ideas ones you have used? Which might you incorporate into your classroom to support civil discourse in online spaces? 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

New Infographic: The 12 C's To Managing the Modern Classroom

Time off-task. Distractions. These are problems educators new to using technology might face in their classrooms. But used correctly, technology can easily move from a weapon of mass distraction, to a tool of engagement.  

Experienced and talented #NYCSchoolsTech teachers shared their tried and true strategies and the software selections that work in their classrooms. I categorized them and wrote them up into a list. Innovative educator Eileen Lennon took that list and turned it into this infographic.
Innovative educators know that technology is the key to empowering digital learners. These tips and tricks help them do so effectively. What’s your take? Which of these ideas have you tried? Anything new that you’ll consider introducing to your classroom?

PNG Version:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The 3 Hottest Posts on The Innovative Educator

The 3 Hottest Posts on The Innovative Educator

Haven’t been keeping up with The Innovative Educator? Don’t worry. That’s what this wrap up is for.

What’s hot? Measuring success when it comes to tech in schools.

In this post, we look at what we should look at to see if technology is effective in schools. Hint: It’s not test scores or student achievement. Next up is a post that outlines New York City’s path from banning to embracing social media and highlights an award from Government Technology that recognizes this work.

Rounding out the top is a post that is a must-read for anyone who still uses attachments. It not only shares why that’s a bad idea, but provides directions on how to send links instead.

So what are you waiting for? Now's your chance. Take a look at the articles below and click the link to read one(s) that looks of interest to you.

Nov 12, 2017
Nov 5, 2017
Nov 14, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

10 Do’s & Don’ts for Creating Accessible School Websites

contains wheelchair, closed captioning, magnifying glass
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal law most known for protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. It also gives them the right to a reasonable accommodation. This includes making all public-facing content accessible to them. In more and more places, this refers to website content as well. For example, as of 2016, New York City has local law 26. It requires that the City of New York make its websites accessible to the disability community.

Like New York City, more and more school districts are realizing that serving everyone is the right thing to do. By making sites accessible we include people of all education levels, who speak many languages, and have varying physical abilities. 

At the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on Diversity Matters, educators discussed the following do’s and don’ts to keep in mind to help ensure school websites are accessible.


  1. Follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines  so it is accessible for all audiences: Blind, deaf, languages other than English, etc
  2. Start with clear and easily understood content at a 6 - 9 grade reading level 
  1. To make it scannable, follow headline sequence regardless of aesthetics i.e. Heading 1, 2
  2. Add descriptions for all non-text content  (i.e. images, audio, video).
  1. Make it convenient for parents to find the information they’re looking for i.e. school schedule, lunch menu, staff, contact info


  1. Use color to convey meaning (like red for bad and green for good)
  2. Label hyperlinks with “click here” or “read more. Instead, create hyperlinks by describing where—or to what—they are linking
  3. Use PDFs
  4. Put text into an image—it cannot be read, nor translated  
  5. Use tables for anything other than tabular data (columns and rows of numbers)  

What do you think? Are you keeping these considerations in mind for your school website? What are some ways you might get started?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

3 Translation Tools To Address The Language Barrier with Students & Families

Innovative educators with students and families of diverse backgrounds use tech tools that can help overcome the language barrier . To follow are three tech tools teachers can use to facilitate conversations they have with students and families who are not fluent in English.

These tools can support students in connecting with speakers of other languages.

  • Option 1: Educators can send messages in English
    • The receiver will select in which language they would like to receive message on their own device.
  • Option 2: Two people speak into one phone in their own languages
  • Excellent tool during one-on-one meeting with parent/student and during teacher-parent conferences

2) Google Docs Translation
    • Great tool educators can use to translate long written pieces
    • Access at: Google docs - Tools - Translate
    • Effective translation tools for long messages

3) Remind App
    • Offers the opportunity for teachers to connect to students and families in numerous languages.

These ideas were captured at the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on #DiversityMatters conversation facilitated by Clemencia Acevedo.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stop Sending Attachments. How To Create Links Instead.

In the days of email, attachments were all the rage. Those days are gone. It's time to say RIP to old-school attachments and start using links instead.

Wondering why? Here's a comparison. 

Place on webpage
Share in form or application
Add to document
Use up storage space
Send in any text messaging / chat service
Make you seem out of touch
Device agnostic

Need more convincing? Here's another scenario:

You are at a meeting or class and the person running things asked if everyone got the old-school email with some important information. Some did. Some didn't. The email with attachments and other info is sent again. It goes to some people's spam. Some have the wrong email and never got it. Next thing you know, you've wasted 20 minutes.  You could have avoided all that, by just having a link on your agenda with the information and materials. 

So, what are you waiting for? Here's how you can turn any file into a link in less than a minute.

4 Steps to Turning Attachments Into Links

Step 1: 

Go to Google Drive and select upload file. 

Step 2: 

Right click on file and select "Get shareable link."

Step 3: 

Copy link.

Step 4: 

Select text to hyperlink. Select Ctrl +K. Paste link. Select apply.
That's it!  You now have a link that can be accessed from any device that you can use and copy / paste into any website, document, email, blog. 

The next time someone asks you to share, pause before you attach and send a link instead. Your friends will thank you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How To Measure Tech's Success in Schools

How should we measure the benefits of technology in schools?

For the most part questions revolve around asking if technology will:
  • increase student achievement
  • make students smarter
  • result in better test scores

No. It won't.

Innovative educators understand that those are the wrong questions to ask.  

A better question to ask when looking at the advantages of technology in school is this:

“How is technology helping students make the world a better place?”

When we look at and assess that question, we can start to tell stories that matter as well as cultivate buy in and support from the students, staff, families, community, and partners.

What could this look like?
  • Students create an app that helps their peers find free internet access throughout their neighborhood.
  • The robotics team creates cars for youth in the community who are unable to walk.
  • Students use technology to grow edible classrooms, raise funds for their school, and help themselves and the community become healthier.

When we start measuring success with metrics that matter, we can start empowering educators to support students in using technology to do the work that improves the lives of themselves and others.

This is an approach supported by how the International Society of Technology for Education defines “The New Digital Citizenship.” While it is important to support youth in becoming safe and responsible, it is not until we move from digital citizenship to digital leadership that we are really able to focus on helping to develop empowered digital learners. Here is a poster from ISTE that outlines this perspective.

So, what do you think? How are you and/or others using tech to support students in doing work that improves the lives of themselves and others?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 3 Hottest Posts on The Innovative Educator

Haven’t been keeping up with The Innovative Educator? Don’t worry. That’s what this wrap up is for. 

What’s hot? Developing your Personal Learning Network (PLN).

At the top is a post from the past that takes us back to the basics with five ways to develop your PLN.  Next up is a checklist for effective professional learning opportunities where I outline those things that you want to ensure you do or experience at a learning event. These are things that are all too often forgotten like properly greeting participants, posting important info i.e. wireless code, instructor name, hashtags, agenda url, etc. 

Rounding out the top is a post that looks at whether or not we should allow students to use messaging in schools. Find out the verdict by reading: Messaging – Tool of Engagement or Weapon of Mass Distraction.

So what are you waiting for? Now's your chance. Take a look at the posts below and click the link to read one(s) that looks of interest to you.

Oct 12, 2008, 23 comments
Oct 15, 2017, 1 comment
Oct 11, 2017, 1 comment

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Infographic: Empowered Digital Citizens Guide for Educators

New York City Schools are paving the way toward addressing what has long been an issue for low income students:

The filter divide.

Children's Internet Protection Act

Because the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires filtering for schools receiving funding for low-income students to access the internet, many districts have simply gone too far. While their privileged peers whose schools don’t have such restrictions imposed upon them have freedom to roam the internet, many low income students don’t have the same access. They are unable to access sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and are censored from information affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people and educational resources.

Beyond Safety First

Too often district decisions were guided by one thing: safety. While that is certainly important, our students deserve more. They deserve to be prepared for the connected world in which they live. Fortunately, now in NYC, schools will have a much easier time bridging the divide and providing students with access to the resources their more affluent peers have long embraced.

In an article on the topic, Mary Beth Hertz, the art/tech teacher/coordinator at the Science Leadership Academy told the Atlantic:

“We sometimes think too much about the content that we block, and we forget that when we cut kids off from social media we limit their opportunities to succeed, explore their passions, and discover their strengths and talents.”

New York City schools will give students the opportunity to move beyond the basics of safety and responsibility and upward and onward to becoming what the International Society for Technology Educators calls empowered and proactive digital citizens.  They are doing this by having much less restrictive filters so that schools can easily access sites that have often been blocked such as social media, YouTube, messaging sites, etc.

The American Library Association Agrees

The American Library Association supports the move to rethink filtering. They have this to say about web filtering:
They sweep too broadly, blocking only some sites with indecent materials while restricting access to thousands of legal and useful resources, and failing to block communications sent through e-mail, chat rooms, non-Web sources, peer-to-peer exchanges, and streaming video—now popular modes for distributing pornography. Filters are cumbersome to disable and to override. They do not reflect library selection criteria, nor do they block the images cited by CIPA as obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors. They are costly to purchase and maintain.

What’s more, filters cannot protect children from other dangers and concerns they might encounter, such as potential predators, gambling, or fraud. These are all issues better addressed through education than by pinning one’s hopes to a simple technological fix.

To support schools in this work, the NYC DOE has created social media guidelines, guides for parents and teachers, infographics and activity books for students, related learning opportunities throughout the year, and an online community.

Educator Guide / Infographic

There is also the infographic below which provides educators with a guide to developing empowered digital citizens by outlining the advantages, challenges, and considerations around filtering decisions.  

The guiding principal behind this is stated in the infographic:

"If we want to prepare students for the world in which they live, then life inside school should resemble life outside of school. The role of the modern educator is to ensure students understand how to use digital resources responsibly and effectively for college, career, and citizenship success."

Check it out. Share it. Use it to help convince your school or district to stop banning and blocking and start teaching and preparing our students to become empowered citizens.