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Sep 8 14

Impact of Technology on Cheating

by fsanchez

cheatingHere’s an interesting blog post from APP.COM:

Cheating’s nothing new. But students and educators heading back to school this month say technology is helping take skirting the rules to a new level.

Text messages have replaced note-passing. Students can look up exam answers on smartphones within seconds or take a quick glimpse at a saved file of notes. One YouTube video shows how to digitally scan the wrapper of a soda bottle, and use photo editing software to replace nutrition information with test answers.

Companies such as will overnight-mail a kit with tiny wireless earbuds to allow a test-taker to discreetly “phone a friend” during a test. Others offer to write academic essays for a fee, and students are using built-in thesaurus software in word-processing programs to try to cover plagiarized paragraphs.

There are consequences to the easy access to information: It’s eroded students’ understanding of how to use technology responsibly, say some Shore area educators. But as rule-breaking becomes more prevalent, teachers also are developing their own arsenal of tools to combat would-be cheaters, educators say.

“We are living in a copy-and-paste society,” said Cindy Terebush, director of schools for Temple Shalom in Aberdeen. “Plagiarism has become so easy…. What they’re really doing is stealing, and they don’t see it that way.”

Amanda Earle, 21, of Jackson would agree. Earle, who is now studying at Georgian Court University to become a teacher, remembers feeling cheated as she watched classmates look up answers on their smartphones when she was a student at Jackson Liberty High School.

“I would personally think: ‘Wow, this test or exam is extremely hard,’… but other students would do well because they would have all the answers in the palm of their hands,” Earle recalled.

Cheaters’ high scores would make it difficult to convince a teacher that a test was too difficult, she said. Even when teachers witnessed a student cheating with a cellphone, they were told only to put the devices away, Earle recalled.

Changing profile of ‘cheaters’

About 51 percent of students admitted to cheating on a recent test in a 2012 ethics survey performed by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, a nonprofit teaching organization based in Los Angeles. About 32 percent of students admitted in the survey to using the Internet to plagiarize assignments.

Not only is easy information raising the incentives to cheat, but increasing academic pressure at home and school is contributing to the problem, Terebush said.

The profile of a “cheater” has changed from a struggling student to the modern college-bound student, according to the Education Testing Service, a company that develops, administers and scores standardized tests. The occurrence of cheating has risen from 20 percent of students in the 1940s to between 75 and 98 percent of students today, according to ETS.

Even the best and brightest students can succumb to the allure of cheating: In 2012, Harvard University investigated more than 100 undergraduate students who shared material on a take-home exam. In 2009, public school teachers and administrators, too, in Atlanta were found to have changed students’ test answers. Jury selecting began in August for the trial of 12 of those former teachers who now face charges in connection to the scandal. Like Georgia, New Jersey ties standardized test scores to its public teacher evaluations.

Increasing pressure

“We live in a society where a result on a piece of paper becomes evidence of learning,” Terebush said. Students “are afraid. I work with students who are panicking about these standardized tests…. We live in a very competitive society.”

Cheating on standardized tests is widespread, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. The center found that schools in 37 states — including New Jersey — showed evidence of manipulated test scores.

The center defined cheating in a number of ways, including teachers who ignored subjects and “taught to the test,” administered practice versions to students, and who pushed low-scoring students into charter schools or out of school completely. The center found evidence that some teachers allowed students to use electronic devices to look up answers during tests and use tailored calculator programs. In some schools, teachers and administrators filled in blank answers and shared test information.

Combating cheats

Technology has made some forms of cheating easier, but has also made getting caught easier, said Alex George, director of student and administrative services at Manchester Township School District.

“It’s a technology that very effectively works both ways,” he said. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword.”

While the internet has enabled plagiarism on a grand scale, Google has given teachers a tool to track down suspected source material, George said. Terebush said the increasing rate of cheating is a signal that more time must be spent discussing ethics with students. The importance of crediting and respecting the efforts of others must also be taught, she said.

“It’s so easy to get information now, that we think less about what we do with it,” she said. “I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that these lines have been blurred, so we can unblur them.”

Earle, the Georgian Court University student from Jackson, said teachers must also take a more vigilant role in preventing cheating, and more carefully monitor students during tests.

“They should walk around and make sure that everybody has a fair chance,” she said. “It should be equal for all students.”

Aug 25 14

K-12 Digital Citizenry

by fsanchez

KidTechClassOur last post focused on why we should teach Digital Citizenry. That is why I wanted to highlight two new posts from Richard Byrne in which he focused on K-12 resources that we can use in our classrooms.

Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Safety and Citizenship to Elementary School Students

Following yesterday’s post on Seven Deadly Digital Sins I received a couple of requests for digital safety and citizenship resources appropriate for elementary school students. Here are some of my favorite resources for teaching digital safety and citizenship at the elementary school level.

PBS Kids offers the Webonauts Academy in which elementary school students can learn about safe online behaviors. When students have completed all of the Webonauts missions they will graduate from the Webonauts Academy. The educators tips page offers some practical suggestions for using Webonauts in the classroom or in a school library. 

In an effort to teach children about potential dangers online and how to avoid them, the Council of Europe has offers a game called Through the Wild Web Woods. Through the Wild Web Woods is designed for students ages seven through ten to learn how to spot danger on the Internet and what to do when they do spot danger on the Internet. The game is available in twenty-four languages. 

Professor Garfield is a free resource developed in part by the Virginia Department of Education. Professor Garfield teaches students how to be safe online, how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying, and how to decide if something is a fact or an opinion. These educational activities can be found in the free Professor Garfield apps; Online SafetyFact or OpinionCyberbullying. All of the free Professor Garfield iPad apps use the same format. The format is a set of comic strips that students read to learn about the issues the app is focused on. At the end of the comic strips students play some simple games to practice recognizing good online behaviors. 

AT&T’s Safety Land is a nice game through which kids learn and practice recognizing danger on the Internet. The game is set in the city of “Safety Land.” As students navigate from building to building in Safety Land they are confronted with a series of scenarios and questions to respond to. If they respond correctly to each scenario they will capture the cyber criminal and send him to the Safety Land jail. Students who send the cyber criminal to Safety Land jail receive a certificate that they can print out. 

Digital Passport is an online program from Common Sense Media. The purpose of the Digital Passport program is to provide students in grades three through five with lessons and games for learning responsible digital behavior. Digital Passport uses videos and games to teach students about cyberbullying, privacy, safety and security, responsible cell phone use, and copyright. Students earn badges for successfully completing each phase of the Digital Passport program.

Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship to Middle School and High School Students

In response to yesterday’s post about digital citizenship lesson materials for elementary school students I received requests for middle school and high school resources. Here are five of my favorite resources for teaching digital safety and digital citizenship to middle and high school students.

Cyber Streetwise is a site developed for the purpose of sharing tips and techniques for protecting your identity and your electronic devices. The site is set-up as digital street that you walk along to learn about protecting your electronic devices, your identity, and digital footprint. Much of the content is geared toward businesses, but there is some good content for students and teachers too. Some of the content that applies to students and teachers includes crafting strong passwords, protecting mobile devices from malware, and responsible use of social media. Much of what you’ll find through Cyber Streetwise is hosted on other sites, but the Streetwise setting provides a good way to find that information in one place.

A Thin Line is a digital safety education resource produced by MTV in collaboration with other media partners. The purpose of the site is to educate teenagers and young adults about the possible repercussions of their digital activities. A Thin Line offers a series of fact sheets about topics like sexting, digital spying, and excessive text messaging and instant messaging. A Thin Line gives students advice on how to recognize those behaviors, the dangers of those behaviors, and how to protect your digital identity. Students can also take a short quiz to practice identifying risky digital behaviors. 

Own Your Space is a free ebook designed to educate tweens and teens about protecting themselves and their stuff online. This ebook isn’t a fluffy, general overview book. Each chapter goes into great detail explaining the technical threats that students’ computers face online as well as the personal threats to data that students can face online. For example, in the first chapter students learn about different types of malware and the importance of installing security patches to prevent malware infections. The fourteenth chapter explains the differences between secured and unsecured wireless networks, the potential dangers of an unsecured network, and how to lock-down a network. 

Google has a good set of lesson plans on digital citizenship and digital literacy that middle school teachers should take a look at. The lesson plans are divided into three sections; becoming a digital sleuth, managing digital footprints, and identifying online tricks and scams. These digital citizenship lessons are part of Google’s Good to Know site. Good to Know is an excellent site on which you can find good and clear explanations of web basics. The detailed lesson plans can be saved in your Google Drive account. Even if you don’t use the entire lessons as they were written, they’re still worth saving in Google Drive to refer to as you build your own digital citizenship lesson plans. 

ThinkB4U is a series of web safety videos and tutorials from Google and its partners. Using the “choose your own adventure” aspect of YouTube video editing, ThinkB4U offers interactive videos to educate viewers about things like protecting online reputations, avoiding scams, research and critical thinking, and responsible text messaging. ThinkB4U is divided into three basic sections; students, parents, and educators. Each section addresses nine different topics related to safe and responsible use of the Internet and cell phones. The sections include short videos about the topics, a short written lesson, and some interactive games on the topics of responsible use of the Internet and of cell phones. The Educators’ section of ThinkB4U offers lesson plans from Common Sense Media and the National Consumer League. There are lesson plans designed for elementary school, middle school, and high school use.

Aug 25 14

Why Teaching Digital Citizenship Is Important

by fsanchez

appleDIGIThis site celebrates the use of emerging technology because we believe in the power of technology and learning. And with technology playing an even bigger role in education, it is vital that teaching Digital Citizenship be taught explicitly to all students. That is why we are showcasing an enlightening blog post from Salima Hudani, the Director of Educational Technology, at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy in Calgary, Alberta Canada. She is well known for her passion, insight, and enthusiasm for working collaboratively with educators to develop the best possible educational technology integrated learning environment that promotes innovation, creativity and digital know-how to help reinvent teaching and learning. She advocates the importance for students to learn how to use technology wisely and safely, with awareness and compassion so that they can become informed and productive citizens in a global digital society. She holds a BA, B.ED, and M.ED from the University of Calgary. You can find more from her here at her personal blog, .

Visiting and connecting with different classrooms over the last four years, I’ve seen that students do not understand the basic foundational principles of Digital Citizenship and are often in awe when I share with them why it’s important to safe. I believe students need to know that they are not alone when they post something online into a chatroom or onto a forum, even when it’s done in the privacy of their own home, it is visible to others. They need to know that a friend online, isn’t necessarily a friend to be trusted. Students also need to know that personal information can become public information extremely fast. Creating a positive Digital Footprint online is something that I encourage, but how do we teach students how to decide what’s valuable material to place online? How do we teach our students to become effective critical thinkers who question and critique not only their own actions but also understand how their actions may affect the Digital Footprints of others? 

As a school authority, we began teaching Digital Citizenship explicitly. We commenced by introducing the concept of the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenshipto all students from K-12. Displayed in classrooms, is a poster that identifies and defines each of these elements and includes a statement for each element as well as a statement that brings the element into child friendly language. We adapted this poster based on Alberta Education’s Digital Citizenship Policy Guide (link opens a PDF), as well as Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. What I love about this poster is that it is divided up into 3 parts that highlights the importance of Digital Citizenship to students. 

1. Respect and Protect Yourself, Digital Wellness
2. Respect and Protect Others, Digital Interactions 
3. Respect and Protect Intellectual Property, Digital Preparedness

The contents of this poster is taught to students and readily connected to authentic experiences. For example, when logging into a website, a teacher would mention “Digital Security”, one of the Nine Elements, and why it is important to keep information safe. Teachable, authentic moments are key. As a system we also developed a working Framework of Digital Citizenship Targets that we felt would be important for all students to understand. These targets are what teachers use to help guide them in teaching Digital Citizenship. 

In addition to teachers teaching Digital Citizenship, I personally have taught one Digital Citizenship lesson to EVERY classroom from K-8. In the hopes of delivering at least one foundational message that builds common language across our system. The lessons have been adapted for each level but have the same underlying theme. I rely heavily on lessons from Commonsense Media as this site has lessons and activities which easily match up to our system’s Digital Citizenship Targets. 

As transformative a force as technology can be, I agree that fixating on danger isn’t the way forward, but we must take measures and owe it to ourselves to better prepare students to greet the many positives and challenges the connected life brings, by preparing Digital Citizens. 

Aug 25 14

QR Codes with Bulletin Boards

by fsanchez

Over the past few years we have talked about the great benefits of using QR Codes in the curriculum. My favorite project so far was our centennial QR Code project. Well, this Sunday I saw a great article, “App makes bulletin boards come alive at Green school,” that explores how teachers are using this emerging technology. Take a look at it to learn how we can use augmented reality to spark further learning!

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The bulletin boards throughout Green Hills School may look normal — with colorful paper and pictures covering them — but hover a tablet or smartphone loaded with a special app over them and they turn into learning tools, complete with videos and interactive lessons.

“I didn’t want there to be all these passive areas throughout the school,” Superintendent John Nittolo said. “I wanted there to be chances for people to interact, to manipulate, to find info that changes so it’s not static.”

The brainchild of Louis Rossi, the school’s mathematics and ThinkSTEM coach, each bulletin board — technically known as “Augmented Reality Interactive Boards” — gives students an opportunity to learn away from the classroom.

“The big push this year is to turn walls into teachers,” Rossi said. “We want to have certain concepts in every classroom, a math board, a language board, a science board. This way if a teacher is working with one student, they can send another student to get a quick lesson they made from the board.”

With the help of the interactive app Aurasma, teachers can upload videotaped lessons, YouTube videos, demonstrations and pictures, so that when a student scans a certain picture on a bulletin board, the corresponding video plays on their device, similar to the QR codes that many manufacturers put on their product labels. For example, when scanned, the picture of Steve Jobs on the bulletin board outside Rossi’s classroom reveals a video about the Apple co-founder.

According to its Apple Store description, Aurasma is “the industry-leading augmented reality app that’s changing the way millions of people see and interact with the world.”

To use the interactive displays, students need to download the free app. It’s available for iPhone and Android. Rossi said he came up with the idea after meeting with a teacher from Sussex County Technical School who used the app to have students jump out of pictures. After learning about the app, he asked himself: “How do we take something that is fun and attach learning?”

“We want to front load the experience with engagement and backfill it with academics,” he said.

Use of the app isn’t all about academics, though. If the wall in the school’s foyer is scanned, Nittolo appears and welcomes you to Green Hills.

“You can find all that information that I say on our website or by having a conversation,” Nittolo said, “but in the back of your mind you think, if a school values cutting edge things like this technology and interaction and openness and transparency, that tells you something about this place. It’s more than just me popping out of a tree in the foyer.”

Rossi said that by the time school starts he will have two or three interactive boards set up in the school. By the end of the year, he hopes to have them in every classroom and in all the hallways.

“Part of this is teaching the teachers and students how to do them on their own,” Rossi said. “How to use engineering and design to create these boards.”

In addition, Rossi also has portable boards that can go from classroom to classroom. So far, Rossi said, the feedback for the his creation — he believes Green is the only school in the county to use the technology in this way — has been nothing but positive.

“It’s such a simple idea. He (Rossi) answered the question: ‘How can I work individually with 20 students when they all need me at once? I create this board so when I’m not with them, I’m with them,’ ” Nittolo said. “Brilliant.”

Aug 22 14

Cyberbullying Tools

by fsanchez

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 6.13.44 PMAlso from EDsurge: There are products you can introduce into your schools and classrooms this year to handle issues like cyber bullying. CBS recently named STOPit, an app that students can use to take a screenshot of a harassing message or picture, and anonymously send it to a trusted adult, one of five apps that are “changing the world.” There are others, too: TeenSafegives parents a peek at the social media messages their children are receiving. Meanwhile, the Bully Project is signing up support among town mayors, students, teachers and parents around the US.

Aug 22 14

Google A Day

by fsanchez

FROM EDsurge:

Let’s be real. Our students go to Google and YouTube first when searching for answers. They have access to amazing video tutorials and academic articles right along with ridiculous falsehoods. So, let’s bolster up the classroom research!

First, show them the right way to find the answers. Google provides the tools needed at Google a Day. In addition to providing your students with an online adventure that you could turn into a classroom competition, Google a Day has hints on how to really use search engines to find right and true information.

Aug 13 14

MindCraft in ED & Other Education MOOCs

by fsanchez

My daughters are HUGE fans of Minecraft and I have learned much from them about it. To me it is a great game that really fosters creativity with my young daughters. That is why I was interested in the post below from THE Journal education technology blog.

Teaching with Minecraft? MOOC Explores Gamification for K-12

Instructure has launched a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for K-12  teachers, students and parents, including two that use Minecraft to help teachers implement gamification best practices in the classroom.

The first Minecraft MOOC, Getting Started with MinecraftEDU, is designed to introduce teachers to using the game as an educational tool and provides help on planning the first two lessons with the game. The course will run October 20-November 17.
Getting Started with MinecraftEDU, is designed to introduce teachers to using the game as an educational tool.

“Even young kids have gotten very adept at Minecraft, so it can be quite intimidating for teachers,” said Jason Schmidt, an instructional technologist forBennington Public Schools who will teach the four-week MinecraftEdu MOOC, in a prepared statement. “If I can help get teachers over that hump, imagine how delighted students will be to have a learning environment tailored to their interests for a change.”

The other, Minecraft for Educators, “is a course for teachers who are wishing to gamify their learning experiences and deliver a unique pedagogy that will engage, enthuse and keep learners coming back for more,” according to information released by the company. Both MOOCs are available through theCanvas Network. Minecraft for Educators will start January 26, 2015 and run through March 9.

The company has also released a Minecraft app to allow students to submit assignments to the Canvas learning management system from within the game. Using the app, students can tag what they’ve made in the game for their teachers to visit, upload books they’ve written in game directly to the speed grader or use the game’s circuitry tool to complete assignments that will be automatically graded. A video demonstration of the app is available at YouTube.

Other MOOCs for teachers in the suite include:

Among the other MOOC offerings in the new suite is a course designed specifically for parents, Parenting in the Digital Age, which aims to help them address issues such as cyberbullying, digital citizenship, exposure to inappropriate content, media literacy and screentime. Taught by Andrew Swickheimer, director of technology at Noblesville Schools, the self-paced course opens September 22.

“Parental involvement in K-12 education has one of the biggest impacts on a child’s commitment to learning,” said Jared Stein, vice president of Research and Education at Instructure, in a prepared statement. “We’re launching the industry’s first-ever MOOC for parents to help them understand education in a digital world.”

Aug 7 14

iPads or Chromebooks?

by fsanchez

After a year of testing both devices in the classroom, New Jersey’s Hillsborough School District has decided to go with Chromebooks over iPads, citing several reasons: the keyboard (especially helpful with upcoming Common Core testing), easier student collaboration through Google’s Apps for Education suite, better tech support, and a focus on work instead of play. As The Atlantic reports, “Students saw the iPad as a ‘fun’ gaming environment, while the Chromebook was perceived as a place to ‘get to work.'”

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Aug 1 14

Calling Out for Moms Who Code

by fsanchez

TECH NEEDS MOMS: Mom and founder/CEO of MotherCoders Tina Lee thinks kids should learn how to code–and moms should too. According to Lee, “most training simply is not designed for women, let alone mothers,” who “must juggle childcare responsibilities against time and financial constraints.” Read her perspective here

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To address the tech industry’s “pipeline problem,” a spate of investments have targeted programs that teach coding to kids, including Google’s “Made With Code,” a new $50 million initiative to inspire girls to become programmers. As a mother of two young daughters, I am delighted with such efforts.

Just one question: What about me? More specifically, what about the millions of moms like me who have the education and work experience but not the coding skills to join the tech industry?

I want in. But as a working mom, it’s almost impossible. For the last few years, I’ve tried learning to code through online classes and weekend workshops. In one class, I built an app typing with one hand, while carrying a squiggly infant on my hip with the other. During lunch, while other workshop participants munched and mingled, I sat in a dirty back office alone, breastfeeding my baby. It was January and the office was unheated. That is how much I want in, and I know I’m not the only one.

In addition to having education and work experience, moms represent a $2.4 trillion market and are quick to adopt technology: 90 percent are online, 81 percent have smart phones, and we dominate social media. Given all this, and that 81 percent of American women become mothers, there ought to be more technologies that are “Made by Moms.” Yet those are far and few between because most training simply is notdesigned for women, let alone mothers.

Going back for that computer science degree, attending weeknight or all-weekend coding workshops, taking online courses after the kids go to bed, completing a full-time training course – these options just aren’t accessible to moms who must juggle child-care responsibilities against time and financial constraints.

These barriers, mind you, stand in addition to the gender-related ones that women must overcome when breaking into the technology field–lack of role models, gender bias and misconceptions about what a career in technology entails.

Yet our status quo leaves too much talent on the sidelines. The tech industry’s lack of diversity is compromising business performance and innovation. There are more than 126,000 job openings that require programming skills. While having a computer science degree may be preferable, the truth is many tech roles don’t require one, and there are many talented and educated moms hungry to work in a high-growth industry offering career advancement and economic security.

With the number of tech jobs expected to balloon by 1.4 million by 2020–70 percent of which will be unfilled–moms would alleviate the talent shortage in the near term while ensuring the integrity of the talent pipeline. After all: there’s no better role model for aspiring tech-maker daughters than tech-making moms, and no better way to build strong communities than providing economic opportunity to women. Plus with 40 percent of households now dependent on moms who are either the sole or primary breadwinner, this kind of investment can lift up families and rebuild the American dream.

As “software eats the world,” we should urge companies, policymakers and the philanthropic community to take a more coordinated and targeted approach to bringing moms to careers in technology.

Mothers are a diverse set and we’re ready to bring our unique perspectives to bear, to help drive the creation of new products and services, to shape the world in which our children will live. Tech needs us, and we want in.

This article was originally published here in the San Francisco Chronicle

Aug 1 14

Coding for Youngsters

by fsanchez

Check out EdSurge’s Teaching Kids to Code Guide! They’ve added new tools (there are more than 50 in there!) and some fresh articles. 

Can coding be taught alongside literacy? Yes, according to researchers at the MIT Media Lab. On July 30, the group released ScratchJr, a free iPad app enabling children ages five to seven to program interactive games and stories, inspired by the Scratch programming language and its first user tool. If “coding is the new literacy,” as the MIT Media Lab’s Mitch Resnick explains, then ScratchJr should certainly help kids get a head start.

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CODING ON A ZERO-DOLLAR BUDGET: Want free tools to teach coding? There are plenty out there. But inexpensive or free personnel who are trained in curriculum and coding instruction? Now that’s a challenge. In comes Google with a program that won’t cost you a cent–yet has South Carolina students hungry for more. Here’s what students and teachers are saying about the CS First club.