Thursday, 28 August 2014

Growing Up Digital: Resources for Families

We recently hosted another edition of our annual Growing Up Digital night for grade 6 families and grade 7 and 8 families new to UWCSEA East. The evening's primary purpose is to provide space and time to begin the important conversations between Middle School students and their parents around how and when digital technology is used at home. We recognize that putting a device -- a Macbook Air -- in the hands of a (pre) teen can often change the dynamics of the home. While it's impossible (and, some might argue, inappropriate) for us to give blanket "digital rules" for every family, we do think it's crucial for each family to have conversations to determine parameters and agreements for technology and media in the home. Growing Up Digital night acts as a prompt to begin these discussions, guided by our leadership team and Digital Literacy Coaches, who can act as both facilitators and consultants with families.

Slides from the evening are below. You'll note that a significant part of the evening -- nearly 30 minutes -- was for active discussion between parents and children around the Family Media Agreement.

As promised, we have for you a list of resources to help you navigate your conversations about Growing Up Digital in your family. We've roughly divided these into three categories, but you'll note that there is a lot of overlap between them.

Time Management Tools

SelfControl is an app for Mac OSX that you can set to block what you determine to be distracting websites. You can block them for a certain period of time, or forever. 

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension you can use similarly to SelfControl, but just for sites you access in your Chrome browser. It's highly customizable -- you can set it to kick in at the same times every day, for example -- and easy to set up. However, keep in mind it is only for one specific browser. 

RescueTime is an app that installs on your Mac or mobile device, and it tracks all of the time you spend on every app or website. It automatically determines standard "productivity" ratings for each site and app, but you can customize this in a very granular way. While RescueTime does not block or limit any apps or sites, it's an excellent tool to use to track how you are actually using your digital time. Each week it sends you a report with detailed infographics which you can view by the day, week, or month. 

Parental Controls exist in the System Preferences panel of your Mac. You may want to consider setting up a separate "study buddy" account on your Mac that has Parental Controls enabled. 

The Tomato Timer is a web-based tool based on the Pomodoro Technique. (There are several other tools and apps available based on this technique -- a quick search will turn up hundreds of hits!) Set the timer and while it is running (25 min), dedicate your time to focus on a specific task. When the timer finishes, take a break! Check your Facebook, go for a walk, get a drink, and then get back to work. 

Tips for managing media at home

Common Sense Media is one of our favorite organizations, and they have several ideas to help you manage devices at home, from setting screen limits to helping kids use Facebook (or not) for homework. On a related note, our colleagues at Dover have written a piece about how multi-tasking and learning don't mix very well. 

For families who would like to set up filters, there are a couple of solid options. Norton Family allows you to set filters on specific computers and other devices. If you'd like something that isn't device-specific but rather filters all traffic into the home, Starhub and SingTel both offer "safe surfing" options, though there is a small monthly fee for these services. 

School policies

You and your child signed several forms before we allowed you to take that laptop home. If you'd like to review the official policies and protocols for use of College technology, on and off campus, our College iLearn page has all the paperwork you need. 

We're here to help! Please feel free to email us or stop by our desks in C319. 

The Noun Project

Thumbs Up designed by Nick Holroyd
from the
I would like to highlight one of my favourite sites ever:
The Noun Project. It is incredibly useful in the classroom, and is a delight to use.

You can search for anything on The Noun Project and find a graphical representation of it.

Designers upload their creations to the site, and people can download and use these icons as long as they attribute the designer. Attribution is made incredibly easy: all you do is click on the 'how to attribute' button, and it's all ready for you to copy-and-paste.

The really exciting thing for me, is the ability to change the colour of the icons using a simple Chrome Extension called
'The PNG Project'. Provided you know the hex code (I use the websafe colour palette in Pages or Keynote to find mine usually - though a google search of hex codes would lead you to some great sites), you can change the icons to match whichever colour scheme you like.

For details on how to use The Noun Project, please watch the tutorial below.

Digital Portfolios - Organising your Google Drive Folders

At UWCSEA East, we are using Digital Portfolios for Grades 3-5. These take the form of Google Sites.

One technique we are using is embedding Google Drive folders in their sites, so content can be populated automatically.

Students already have folders set up in their Google Drive (via Hapara, or Teacher Dashboard), so the following tutorial shows how students set up their folders ready for embedding in their sites.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Digital Portfolios using Google Sites

Grade 3, 4 and 5 students in our school are using Google Sites for their digital portfolios this year. One of the ways we can support them is through short video tutorials that break down some of the aspects involved in creating a site.

The tutorials have been uploaded to Vimeo and put into an album. We will continue to update the album with more and more videos over time.

How to Search for Creative Commons Licensed Images

One aspect of the UWCSEA Profile we can develop with our students is being principled by choosing Creative Commons Licensed images in our work. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, at UWCSEA (and many other leading schools), we believe that ethically, we have a responsibility to teach students (and teachers) about academic honesty and what Rodd Lucier terms "creative integrity."

To this end, we encourage our students to:

1. Create their own content first.
2. If this is not possible, we recommend searching for Creative Commons licensed content.
3. If they still can't find what they are looking for, the next step is to use a copyright image with permission from the original creator.
4. Only once they have exhausted the above steps, will we accept the use of copyright images, with attribution.

For some, this can seem a daunting prospect. Where do I even go to find CC licensed content?

The following tutorial will help alleviate some of those concerns. It will explore the use of as a starting point for finding images. It also shows how you can reference any CC Licensed Flickr image easily using Cogdog's Flickr CC image bookmarklet (simply drag the blue button to your bookmarks bar and click to attribute from Flickr).

For more information on Creative Commons, please read our blog post Creative Commons Explained.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Changes to Tabs in Student Google Sites

A couple of changes need to be made to Primary student Google Sites so they can work more effectively.

1. The literacy tab needs to be renamed Reading Workshop.
2. A new page needs to be added to Writing Workshop.

See the video below for details:

Attaching New Keynote or Pages Files to Email or Putting Them in Google Drive

When using the new Keynote or Pages applications, you cannot attach the files directly to emails or put them right in to Google Drive. There are two simple solutions to fix this problem. Save the files as Keynote '09 or Pages '09 files or compress the files before attaching them to emails or inserting them into Google Drive. Have a look at the screencast.