Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Continuing Issue Known as Bullying

Bullying has always been around. Years ago, people just ignored it or made excuses such as "boys will be boys" when something happened. So what has changed? Has bullying increased? Become more physical? No, I don't think so. I think that bullying is the same now as it was years ago in certain ways. It's unfortunate that it wasn't taken seriously years ago. For a long time, victims of bullying were told to ignore it. The people giving that advice must never have been bullied in their own youth. Tuning out bullying is like tuning out the barking dog when you're trying to sleep; you might learn to live with it but you never just ignore it.

I was trying to think of a good example to use so I decided to reference the 1999 movie, Never Been Kissed. In this film, Josie (Drew Barrymore) is a reporter that returns to high school undercover to write a story. Her original high school experience was full of bullying and taunting that culminated with the prom experience that would make anyone cringe. She eventually went to college and found people with similar interests to her own. She was able in some ways to move on from the experiences of high school, however they were always there in her mind and impacted decisions she made.

Now imagine that cell phones and YouTube had existed at the time. Not only was this poor girl tormented by her peers, now they've posted it online and it's gone viral. Suddenly, the awkward and horrible experience is everywhere. Josie can't escape it. Everywhere she goes, the video and a pre-conceived reputation follows. Although she was bright and went on to college, the video would follow. Moving on would be difficult when she would always wonder if people were being nice because they truly liked her as a person or felt bad for the girl from prom.

Cyberbullying is as old as the Internet itself. The ability to remain anonymous has allowed teens to become more viscous in their taunting. It also makes it more difficult for someone that is being bullied to find a safe place to get some peace. Where can someone go that Twitter doesn't follow? How can a victim prevent being victimized again when the video of his/her torment is posted to YouTube? While YouTube does allow you to report videos and try to remove them, this option is a slow process when it does work and the video has already been out there where it can be downloaded and re-posted.

Now more than ever, the Internet is so intertwined with life that it's impossible to just avoid it. Right now, as I write this post, I have flipped back to social media no less than ten times. I know that we can't stop bullying completely. It's a sad part of life. True or not, these posts and comments stay with us and influence the person we become.

So how can we help our students deal with the issues? Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. And "an eye for an eye" never works either. This is where digital citizenship comes into play. Instead of ignoring the problem we need to work within the system. Schools can try to block social media or claim to have zero tolerance, however it won't prevent students from getting on their phones or going home to post. School's can try but it's difficult to enforce policies outside the school building. We need to incorporate lessons on digital citizenship into the classroom.

Teachers and students need to work together to help each other. The Internet can be a weapon for bullies but it can also become a safe haven for victims. Someone might not feel accepted by their peers but that doesn't mean they deserve to be pushed aside or made an outcast. Use the Internet to search for local groups with similar interests. Do you live in a city but love agriculture? Do you live in a small town but love live theater? You can connect with other people online with similar interests. You might even find a local group of like-minded people to meet.

Let's start a discussion. Help find ways to combat the negative impact of bullying.

image source: Valentine’s Marathon: Never Been Kissed (1999)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Earning Free Supplies for Your Schools

Did you know that many companies want to give your school money and supplies? It's true. Businesses get huge tax breaks for making donations and often times it encourages people to buy their brands. Below are a few programs available to schools that will help you raise money or supplies for your campus. You can do them all. You can do none. It's really up to you and how involved your communities are in the schools.

BoxTops4Education - Probably the most famous program around. Each boxtop that is turned into the school is worth $0.10. Twice a year, your school will get a check. There are also times when products and/or stores will run promotions that double the value to $0.20 each.

Participating brands include:
  • General Mills
  • Ziploc
  • Totino
  • Betty Crocker
  • Hefty
  • Pillsbury
  • Green Giant
  • Land O'Lakes
  • and more...

Labels for Education - Each UPC is worth a set number of points depending on the item. The points can be redeemed in a catalog for school supplies such as gym equipment and art supplies.

Participating brands include:
  • Campbells
  • Pepperidge Farm
  • Spaghettos
  • V8
  • and more...

My Coke Rewards - Every bottle or package of Coca-Cola products has a code listed. For bottles, it is in the cap. For cases, it's on the cardboard. These points can be donated to schools and converted to quarterly cash payments. Schools can then use the funds to buy supplies.

Participating brands include:
  • Coca-Cola
  • Sprite
  • Dasani
  • Minute Maid
  • Powerade
  • and more...

Amazon - Amazon allows eligible non-profits, including schools, sign up for AmazonSmile. Once enrolled, any purchases made through will give your school a 0.5% cash donation of the total purchase price. The shopper just needs to designate your school as their charity and then shop as normal. Amazon sends electronic payments on a quarterly basis for any funds you have raised.

Target - If you have a Target credit or debit card, you can sign up to have Target make a donation to a school of your choice, 1% of what you spend in the store. Sadly, they announced this month that the program will be ending in May 2016, but there's still time to sign up your cards and earn some funds in the meanwhile. Schools will receive a final check after the program ends.

Additional programs may be available at a regional level. I've heard of grocery stores offering incentives and restaurants having designated "school nights" for fundraising. Good luck!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Next Chapter In My Life

Changing jobs is never an easy decision. It's made more difficult when you work closely with an amazing group of educators that feel like a family. While I had some challenging times, I also had amazing breakthroughs as I watched my students throughout the years.

Earlier this year, my principal discussed with me the possibility of changing grade levels. He was preparing a major change-up in the school and I do have multiple certifications. In hindsight, this was the push I needed. In my heart, I knew I could teach the content but wouldn't be happy. Shortly after, I took the certification exam for computers/business and posted my resume on the state's centralized teacher application website. I'm not sure what I was expecting at the time but I couldn't be happier with the end result.

Last month, I accepted a new position in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The position is going to be an amazing opportunity. I will be teaching computers and business in the high school and working with the district's technology coordinator on the cyber school. Additionally, I have already met with other administrators and will be helping to design ongoing technology professional development.

While sitting in the administration office for a meeting, I met another new teacher for the high school. She will be teaching English and also helping with the school's television studio. We spoke for a while and she seemed just as excited as I was to join this district. While I will miss my old colleagues, this is not really goodbye. I'm sure I will stay in touch with them.

Friday, July 3, 2015

I Just Went to ISTE and Barely Used My Technology

I'm still recovering from the week of intense technology and yet, the only technology I truly used during the five days was my phone. Even then, it was mostly to tweet about the amazing things I was learning. If you are unaware, ISTE stands for International Society for Technology in Education and each year, they host an annual conference for teachers to come and connect in person. This year, the conference was in my home city of Philadelphia so of course I had to take advantage. I put up a request for professional development on Donor's Choose and thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I was able to fund my conference registration along with materials purchased during the conference.

The official conference began on Sunday night with a Keynote but I took advantage of already being in town by participating in a pre-conference training through Microsoft. I spent Saturday and Sunday in full day professional developments. I had brought my own computer, however Microsoft provided Surface Pros with all the required software ready to use so I never took my own computer out. At the end of the two days I received a certificate starting that I was a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), also known as a trainer. Following the two day training I also took advantage of Micosoft's offer to take their certification exam for free, receiving the Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) certification.

Besides Microsoft, I also spent a good amount of time at the conference at events sponsored by Google. First up was a special breakfast for Google for Education Certified Innovators (the new title for Google Certified Teachers) and developers. This breakfast gave me a chance to hear about upcoming projects from Google and third party developers for Google add-ons. During the following days, I attended two more special events and learned about some amazing features that all teachers will appreciate once they become public. I wish I could share now, but I was sworn to secrecy. Just know you will love it when Google releases these new updates for Google Apps for Education.

The best part of volunteering at the Google booth in the expo hall, was when a professional sketch note artist drew my presentation on simplifying communication. I was able to take the artwork home. I then spent two hours answering questions and talking to people about Google tools. I meet some really cool educators from around the world including a group of three ladies from Guam. I also finally meet a ton of educators I have known online for a while. The best meeting was Nick, a theater teacher that encouraged me not to give up after being rejected from GTA on my first try.

On my last day of the conference I went a little overboard in my attempt to win a new Acer Switch. The person that tweeted the most would win the notebook. By the end of the competition, I had almost 200 tweets. The guy that won had over 400 so I had no shot. While trying, I sat down in Acer's display and had a caricature drawn. Even cooler was that the artist used a tablet instead of a traditional paper and pen to draw the sketch. I'm not sure about you, but I think it looks just like me. While I didn't win the Acer Switch, I did get lucky with one of the expo hall's raffles. I won a new laptop, mobile hotspot, and 12 months of data from Mobile Beacon, a company that helps bring high speed Internet to non-profits for reasonable costs. I'm not sure what kind of laptop yet because they are mailing it, but it's still awesome that I won something so cool.

  • How to use Microsoft OneNote
  • Upcoming releases for Google
  • How to correctly use features from Study Island
  • Warrior Tech - a concept for a student run computer science program
  • New (to me) websites and programs I didn't know about

  • Google Cardboard
  • Google portable phone charger
  • Google Certified Innovator pin and bag
  • IPEVO Interactive Whiteboard System
  • Tshirts from multiple websites I use in the classroom

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I Failed and That's Alright

Following my journey to become a Google Certified Teacher, I decided to apply for Apple Distinguished Educator. Based on the title of this post I'm sure you can already guess that I was not accepted into the program. Sure I could be upset but I'm really not. Just like becoming a Google Certified Teacher the process to become an Apple Distinguished Educator is extremely competitive. I was told by an insider that Apple received over 800 applicants for 100 spots. That means that 700, highly motivated and extremely qualified educators received the same rejection letter as I did.

If you remember, it took more than one try for me to be accepted into Google Teacher Academy so I'm not going to say that this is it for Apple. Sure, I wish I had been accepted for the week long training in Miami, but life goes on. I will still continue to present and attend professional developments to help myself grow as a teacher. When the next round of applications are accepted for the ADE program, I will be a stronger candidate.

If you're interested in my application video, you can watch it on YouTube. My idea was to create a mini sitcom and my students had a great time dancing and acting silly. This was also my first attempt at manipulating multiple videos on a screen.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Does Technology Help or Hurt Our Student's Future?

I recently spent a weekend at an education conference where teachers from all over got together to discuss best practices, new methods, and more. A big concept of the weekend was "conversations" and I got into an interesting debate with a fellow GCT. It stated innocent enough, as most debates do, but soon I realized I was actually arguing against technology.

So here was the start of the discussion: I was telling my colleague about a funny (in a sad way) story about when my students were taking a computer based reading test. One of my seventh graders, who reads on a third grade level, had headphones on in the computer lab. Our computer teacher said that some students put the headphones on as a way to cut out distractions so I didn't think much of it at first. When I walked past his station I realized that the headphones weren't being used to block the outside noise; I heard some sound coming from them. This student was using the browsers "text to speech" feature to listen to the story. I immediately muted the headphones and told the student to take them off, but the fact was this student used the technology to get around the issue.

Should we fault students for using the technology to solve their problems? During class, we help our students when they struggle to read. In fact, I'm the one that originally showed that student how to use the text to speech feature. However, technology is now becoming a crutch for some of our students. Why learn how to read when a phone will do it for you. Are some students not capable of reading? Are they lazy? I don't believe either of these to be the case. I feel that this generation just doesn't know any different.

From the time these students were born, some form of modern technology has existed. Today's student has never lived in a world without the Internet. This is where the debate began because as a younger teacher many of my more seasoned colleagues often look towards the millennials as if we are in that same situation. Yes. I grew up with technology but not the same way our students do. I had a 36k dial-up modem and AOL 2.0. I remember a time of card catalogs and needing to physically go to the library to complete a research project.

So what can we do as educators to prevent our students from over-relying on their technology? Can we force them to ignore the resources that technology has made possible? I doubt it. Should we just give up and allow the next generation to become lazy? No, that's not the right solution either. We as educators need to find the compromise between the two extremes. Let's keep the discussion going and prepare our students for a well-rounded future.

Image Source: Pinterest

Friday, January 16, 2015

When Winning Becomes Something More

Back in October, I was attending an event when I saw a booth for a radio station. As I often do at similar events, I stuck a mailing label on an entry form and put it in the box on the table. I then walked away and forgot about it because what are the true odds of ever winning something from a radio station? Then the phone call came: I won a Dell Latitude laptop and would be able to pick it up from the radio station. I was shocked and excited because my personal computer was dying after six years. The next thing the woman on the phone said blew me away. As one of the eight winners of a personal laptop, I could nominate a deserving school or community center to win ten laptops. Immediately I asked if I was allowed to nominate the school where I worked.

Today a group of executives from Comcast and KYW Newsradio 1060 came to my school building to deliver ten brand new Dell computers. It was exciting and my students seemed happy to represent their school. I spoke with one of the executives while we were waiting for the reporter to arrive and he mentioned how nice it was that an inner city school won this year because he knows what a difference these computers will make for our community. We talked about the struggles my students face in the classroom and how additional computers will help them.

For those that don't live in the Philadelphia area, KYW Newsradio 1060 is a station that repeats the same stories often for people that are commuting. It's also the go to station when you stuck in traffic and trying to find out what happened on the road ahead. On my drive home from school, I listened to 1060am hoping to hear our interviews but I didn't hear it play. About ten minutes later, my mother called and said "was that your voice I heard on the radio?" I then sat listening to the live stream of the station for the next hour until finally I heard the repeat. I quickly grabbed my phone and used a recording app to get the audio. It kind of reminded me of my childhood when I would listen to the radio for hours just hoping to record that new hit song onto a tape. I am a true child of the nineties (technically eighties but who remembers their toddler years?).

So here's the interesting part which led me to write this rambling post regarding the entire experience. Since my sister, and then mother, aunt, etc. all posted the article on social media, I keep getting comments such as "Your students are lucky to have you" and "Super teacher! Nice job Cori." However, I'm having trouble understanding some of these responses. How did being lucky constitute being a good teacher? I could understand if I had written a grant, or organized fundraisers to get these computers but all I really did was put my name in a box at an event. The event wasn't even about education; it was a fundraiser for the local animal shelters and I took my dog for a day at the park. I know that these computers will really help our school but I just can't wrap my head about the attention I'm getting for it.

Since my colleagues found out about the new computers, I've been asked what I would be doing with them. Again, I just nominated my school. These computers were donated to our building, not directly to my classroom. I don't know any teacher that would turn down more computers for the classroom and I hope to see these computers put in the middle school classrooms, however I will respect the decision my principal makes. Ten computers can help any classroom or be split to help multiple classrooms. He sees the big picture and will know where the computers will do the most good for our students.

I am truly grateful to both the radio station and cable company for their community support. As one of my students stated to the reporter "It's nice to have people give us computers; we can't afford them sometimes."

borrowed image sources: KYW Newsradio 1060

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Action Plan - Google Hangout on Air for Holocaust Memorial Awareness

World War II and The Holocaust are often taught in classrooms, but how many of our students actually have that moment when they realize exactly what it means? They memorize the dates and names and then forget it after the test. It often saddens me when I hear of people talking about The Holocaust in the same manner they might refer to The Trojan War. What many students can't comprehend is that The Holocaust took place less than one hundred years ago.

At the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, a separate memorial was placed for the children that were killed. The memorial is extremely simple with just a few candles and mirrors. However, the message is clear: not only must we remember those that died, but the infinity mirrors are used to represent all those that will never be born.

It is those somber thoughts which make me want to complete this project I have begun. I am going to bring Holocaust survivors to classrooms through a Google Hangout on Air (GOA). I am currently messing around with a few different formats which include one long HOA or multiple short HOAs. Using the Connected Classroom Google Community, I have connected with another GCT and we are working together to create this learning experience for our students. I have also emailed a few organizations to help connect us with survivors. My hope is that we will be able to connect with classrooms that might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear first hand accounts.

The hardest part of this program, and future conversations, is that while these people persevered and survived The Holocaust, they are all senior citizens. My step-father is the son of a survivor and his father died about ten years ago of natural causes. We must hear their stories while they are still here to tell them. Future generations of students might become even more disconnected from the events of generations before them. It is important that we preserve the stories from people that lived through it to keep the memories alive and prevent history from being repeated.

Action Plan - Google Doc

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My New Year's Resolution

2104 was an amazing year for me professionally:
  • Added Biology to my teaching certificate
  • All teaching certificates were updated to level II
  • Became an authorized Google Education Trainer
  • Presented at multiple conferences
  • Became a Google Certified Teacher

Now that 2014 has officially ended and 2015 has begun, I have made myself a few goals for 2015. These goals are for outside my classroom.
  • Write at least one blog post a month. It can be something about education in general, or a reflection on something happening with my career.
  • Organize a Hangout On Air (HOA) to connect Holocaust survivors with students around the world.
  • Continuing to present at regional conferences.
  • Become an Apple Distinguished Educator.
  • Begin my Master's degree in Educational Technology