Yik Yak (Don’t Come Back!)

If Ask.FM taught the world anything, it was that teenagers and the ability to remain anonymous cannot be mixed. In the summer of 2013, the popular Q&A web site became known worldwide after a series of bullying related suicides. Despite the public outcry, the site’s developers refused to aide in the investigation into instances of bullying and threats.

Social App newcomer, Yik Yak, found themselves being compared to the infamous Ask.FM this past week when stories of threats of violence and bullying caught the nation’s attention.

(Check out What Parents Should Know About Yik Yak to learn more about the app)

The app has been linked to the arrest of an Alabama teen for threatening to shoot someone, countless bullying incidents and bomb threats at schools in California, Georgia and Massachusetts.

Unlike it’s anonymous predecessor, the developer’s at Yik Yak have heard and responded accordingly to the outcry of parents and educators over the last week.

In what can only be described as an unprecedented move, Yik Yak has teamed with Maponics to license GPS data for over 100,000 public and private schools in the US. Using this data they are creating “geofences” around middle and high schools which will actually disable the use of the app while the users is within that area.yikyakbanned

As of early Thursday, these fences have gone live. In a statement, developer Brooks Buffington noted, “If for some reason the app is still accessible on a school’s grounds, all they need do is email us at yikyakapp@gmail.com and we’ll look into it ASAP.”

While I applaud this bold move by the developers, I see this as band aid on a knife wound.

Students will still have access to the app once they leave school grounds and the possibility of bullying, rumors and threats still exist.

It is worth noting for parents that the app is rated 17+ or mature. I encourage parents to set restrictions on their children’s devices to ensure they are not able to download these apps.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 3

This marks the 3rd and final entry in the Blogging in the Classroom Series! To catch up on the previous entries you can see Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

What it comes to blogging in the classroom I feel like the ideas are endless! I have to be honest that I’m a bit jealous that this platform wasn’t available when I was in high school! Across the curriculum there are a number of ways blogs can be introduced to the classroom. A student can use one blog over the course of the year, or even over the course of their career at an education institution. This creates an amazing portfolio of their work!

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Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what are some ideas to get your kids writing!

Use Regular Writing Prompts
Put up a weekly or biweekly writing prompt for your students to respond to, setting a due date for the responses. Have them comment on one another’s responses to get a conversation going. Depending on your blogging platform, you can moderate comments before they are visible to ensure that nothing inappropriate comes through.

Respond To Class or Homework Readings/Discussions
Run out of class time? Post the topic of discussion onto your blog, letting the students know, and have the discussion continue. Ask students to discuss how a current reading applies to a student’s own life. This would be great for history classes and discussing how past events may mirror current happenings.

Current Events
Post a link to a current news article and ask students to respond with their thoughts and ideas. This is especially great if there is something that is going on that may affect their world!

Book Reviews
Ask students to write a review (positive or negative) of a book they read for pleasure, summer reading or a book your reading in class. If it’s a book they read for pleasure, perhaps offer extra credit for a review?

Free Write
Rather than investing money into notebooks (think of the trees!) have student do their free writing on a blog. This allows you and their fellow students to respond to their thoughts. Again, depending on the blog platform you choose, students can set entries to be viewed only by you.

Photo Blogging
Great for art and photography classes! Encourage students to share their projects only by uploading their photography or scanning in their artwork. Like with writing, this allows students to build an online portfolio for themselves and to share their work with the world!

Review Fieldtrips and Assemblies
As homework following a fieldtrip or assembly, ask students to react and review what they learned or saw. Did they take pictures? Ask them to include those moments in their entry as well. This allows students to work on their writing skills as well as getting feedback on these activities.

These are just a few ideas! A simple web search can find you loads more! Talk with your fellow teachers about how they would use blogging in the classroom and work together to create a blogging community!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share your ideas for blogging in the classroom in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 2

Last week I introduced part 1 of Blogging in the Classroom. The response has been amazing. I thank you all so much for the e-mails! This week I continue to Part 2 where I will discuss the pros of blogging in the classroom! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

Have you picked out your blogging platform? Now it’s time to move on to the pros of blogging in the classroom blog!

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Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One thing a teacher friend pointed out to me is how blogging can help with the federal mandate that literacy is to be a cross curricular activity. Try thinking outside the box for how students can use writing in each subject matter. A social studies class can blog about current events, science students can report regular findings on experiments, language arts classes have an entire world of possibilities! Now is a great time to start thinking outside the box!

Even math students can use their writing skills. I took a class in college called “Math for the Liberal Arts” (which translates into Theatre Kids that are Bad at Math but the Subject is Required). Rather than spending day after day doing math worksheets, we focused on one math formula or theorem and wrote a paper about it. It allowed for us to be creative and learn something at the same time (my paper of dimensions involves aliens from a 4th dimension- totally aced it)!

Blogging can also be a great way to give voice to students who may not feel they have one. This is one of the ideas that I presented in my pros and cons list of social networking in the classroom. Kids that are less inclined to speak up in class may end up being the best commentators on a discussion post made by a teacher or fellow student.

With technology being another cross curriculum requirement, blogging in the classroom helps students build skills they will be needing in college and beyond. In addition to building writing skills, blogging also builds typing skills, enhances their knowledge of working with media like photos, videos and, in some cases, HTML.

I also look at blogging as a fun way to enhance the creative process. Students will begin to look at the world in a new light- anything could be fodder for their next entry. It is a fun way to allow students to engage with one another and the world around them. Depending on whether your blog is private or public- it allows outsiders to stumble upon and share their thoughts on a topic. I’ve stumbled upon kids blogging about seeing one of my programs- not only do I read them, I’ll comment!

At the end of the day, blogging can also be a lot of fun! I do most of my writing on Tuesdays and set up a queue to get me through the week. I look forward to my weekly trip (read: hostile takeover of a corner) to Starbucks to take in the world around me (ie. eavesdropping on blind dates) and get my writing done! I think students would feel the same way once their start working to find their voice!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share some of the pros that you have found in the comments below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 1

A few weeks ago I introduced my new series “Social Networking in the Classroom” and the response has been inspiring! In the introduction to the series, I weighed the pros and cons of integrating social networking in the classroom. In the following weeks I discussed Facebook followed by Twitter. This week’s topic? Blogging!

This week’s topic is being broken into three parts! Why? There’s so much to talk about! This week’s entry will look at some blogging platforms I think are pretty awesome for the classroom environment. Next week I’ll talk about the pros of blogging in the classroom. In the third part I will share ideas for blogging in the classroom. (The other reason is that I wrote the whole entry and saw how long it was so breaking it into multiple parts just made sense to me.)

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might notice right away that I have avoided specifying one specific blogging platform to use. There’s a very simple reason for this, there are so many! I think it’s best to find what works best for you and your students. I’ve done a quick web search just to get an idea of the best blogging platforms for a classroom.

These are in the order that I thought of/discovered them and I promise I’m not getting anything special for promoting them…unless they want to give me something. Free Edublog? Hint hint WordPress!

WordPress- Since starting this blog back in June, I’ve really grown to love all that WordPress has to offer. The platform is simple to use and pretty straight-forward. It’s free to use though a premium account offers a few more perks but they aren’t important if you’re looking to keep things simple (I’m a simple user and paying $99 a year doesn’t seem worth it to me… I need that money to support my Starbucks habit!) The only drawback I would see with WordPress is that each student would need to create an account in order to become a contributor on the classroom blog. The perk I see with that, is that students are free to continuing their blogging once the class has ended!

Edublogs– Edublogs is exactly what it sounds like- blogs for education! The site is run by the people at WordPress and has all the same features!  The site is safe, secure, and for education only. While a simple blog is free, if you want to be able to embed video and HTML, you must pay for an upgrade. $35 will get you a year of Educator Pro and is great if you want to be able to facilitate blogging in your classroom and create accounts for students.  You can moderate students entries and comments with this feature as well.

Looking to connect the entire school? Edublogs offers that as well. Create a massive blogging community of students and educators. The cost varies by the number of blogs you wish to create. You can contact Edublogs for a quote. Not sure if Edublogs is a right fit for your school? They give you a free 30-day trial to give it a chance!

ClassPress- ClassPress is much like WordPress in its functionality. A one year subscription is the same at $35 with discounts if you subscribe with 5 or more teachers. Once you are a member you are able to create an unlimited number of students accounts. The site also automatically filters content in students entries unlike other which require you to actively look out for inappropriate language. One thing I really like on ClassPress is the drop-box feature which allows students to submit assignments digitally into one place. There’s no worrying about students misspelling your e-mail address. This also allows the teacher to upload files for download by students. Supported formats are Microsoft Word, Excel, PDFs and Powerpoint. Want the kids to have a record of their blogging at the end of the year? You can download PDF journals that can be printed, e-mailed or loaded onto a thumb drive!

Kidblog-While featuring all of the perks of the above platforms, Kidblog goes a step further to ensure the privacy of its users. Student accounts are private by default and the site is fully COPPA compliant, not requiring any personal information from students using the site. Comment privacy settings allow for filtering out unsolicited outside comments. As the audience is fully limited to those in the class, the site allows for the creation of password protected parents and guest accounts. As far as I can tell, the site is free to use but I’m not 100% on that.

Have you used any of these platforms in your classroom? Have any suggestions for other sites that can be used (I know they’re out there!)? I would love to hear more in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Facebook

Last week I introduced my all new blog series and in the introductory entry I talked about the pros and cons of introducing social networking to the educational environment. The series continues, looking at each network and it’s uses in the classroom!

Facebook, for all its flaws, is still on top when it comes to the world of social networking with over 1 billion users (665 million daily active users). Facebook isn’t going anywhere. It is even predicted that within the next two years Facebook will have created and introduced Education Accounts. But why wait?

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Bringing a social networking site into the classroom can, understandably, be a difficult decision for any educator. There are many factors to take into account including your own safety and privacy. The number one rule I will provide: Never use your personal account!

There are very easy ways around having to provide your personal account information to students. Creating a Page or Group for your classroom allows you to have conversations and share with students without giving them access to your information. They can send private messages through the page or hold conversations on the Page’s newsfeed.

I suggest taking the time to understand the ins and outs of both Pages and Groups to find out what works best for your classroom. From there it’s just a matter of what you choose to do!

Communication: A Facebook page or group opens up a common line of communication between students and the teacher as well as other students with questions. The digital environment can encourage more conversations and less cliques. Wallflowers are more likely to contribute and work together with others in this environment, allowing them a time to shine.

A page also allows for absent students to stay connected and up-to-speed with what it happening in the classroom while they are gone. The can participate in online discussions as a potential way to earn class credit without being there (establish and enforce a rule on this early on and stick with it! Students may abuse the right!).

A Page or Group on Facebook also allows parents to stay connected with what is going on in their student’s classes. Groups allow you to upload files so forgetful students have access to permission slips and other important documents via the internet and don’t have to stress about looking for it! This also allows you to share photos from class trips, classroom activities and other on goings! Parents won’t need to pry information from their kids in order to have a conversation about their day.

Apps: Facebook offers a large variety of apps that are perfect for the educational environment. There are 200 available apps, some developed by Facebook, others by outside developers. To save you from searching I found some great one’s through Brian Jenkins’ blog post at TeachHub!

Study Groups: Students use this popular application to work together outside of the classroom. They collaborate on group projects, share notes, discuss assignments, and help each other prepare for tests.
SAT Quest: This application prepares students for the SAT with short, five question SAT prep games. The questions become more difficult as students move to higher levels.
Quizlet: This handy tool is on of tne of the largest and fastest growing flashcard websites. Over 1 million registered users have uploaded tens of millions of flash cards. Flash card sets are available for a variety of topics including standardized test prep, languages, math, and science.
To Do List: Students use this application to organize their school assignments. Students can make multiple lists.
Zoho Online Office: Although it’s designed for businesses, this application is used by students to store their documents and class presentations online. They can then share their documents with other students. It’s a great way for students to manage their information.
Quiz Monster: Students create their own quizzes with this very popular application.
GRE GMAT SAT Vocabulary Flashcards: This application includes 5000 words students should be familiar with before taking the SAT. It also includes 1100 words for the GRE and GMAT tests. Students mark a word based on its level of difficulty. An easy-level word repeats after nine days and a medium level-word repeats after three days.

Once you’ve established how you plan on using Facebook in the classroom it’s important to keep with it! Educator Dr. Rachel Baum of Wisconsin describes Facebook in the classroom as a ladder approach:

Baum also offers up her own list of Do’s and Don’ts of using Facebook in the classroom:

Post Frequently: This keeps the conversations fresh and keeps them going. It begins to feel more like a discussion rather than notifications that can get lost in a student’s regular newsfeed.

Post More Outside Information Then Class Announcements: Though many students won’t read these, those who do are invited to deepen their experience in your class.

Connect What You Post To What You’re Teaching: In a few words, connect what you are posting (videos and articles) to what the class is learning and make it a part of the next class discussion.

Let Students Know You’re Looking At Their Work: A fine example:
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Don’t Make Facebook A Requirement: Many students may not be on Facebook either as a personal choice or the choice of their parents. Be sure to think of alternative ways to connect with students who may not be on social networks.

Don’t Be Afraid of Inappropriate Use: By introducing an educational aspect of Social Networking to students many educators have found that it has become less of a distraction and allows students to understand how to responsibly use this technology.

There is so much more to be discussed! Please use the comments section to share your own ideas, secrets or even do’s and don’ts you’ve discovered by introducing Facebook to your classroom!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Should Cell Phones Be Allowed In Schools?

I stumbled across a poll this morning that asked this very question. It wasn’t the poll itself that piqued my interest but the comments that followed. The issue seems to be a hot button topic among parents and students and some of the posts really had me surprised! Students that said “no, cell phones shouldn’t be allowed” and parents saying “Yes, they should be!”

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This is a head scratcher.

I’m having a hard time figuring out my own thoughts on this subject as I can think of many reasons for both the “for” and “against” arguments. And though I, as an educator, can think of many reasons to be against the idea, the reasons that fall into the “for” category are pretty solid. I came up with a list for both, rather than writing everything out here, I picked my top reasons and listed them below.

Against

Mobile Bullying Devices- Bullying through mobile technology has changed the face of the act. There is the obvious methods like being able to text hurtful things to fellow classmates or having access to social networking or apps that allow you to communicate throughout the day. Unlike the traditional bullying of the past, kids today have access to one another 24/7- at home, in the halls, in class, at lunch, everywhere. Having access to their mobile technology during school hours allows them more opportunities during the day to bring bullying into the school environment.

Mobile Cheating Devices- This speaks for itself. With phones today we have the entire world of knowledge in the palm of our hands. I can’t say I haven’t been tempted on trivia nights to pull out my phone and Google the answer- I never have because the trivia master watches us like hawks! As a student the temptation to cheat is a very real thing. I’d be lying if I said I never used crib notes (cleverly written on my ankle just below the sock line)  but today there’s more access than ever before.  Teachers do the best they can to curb this behavior but those magical eyes we have on the back of our heads can only do so much!

Social Interaction-  Back in the days of the walkman (read: when I was in high school) we weren’t allowed to listen to music in the halls between classes or even during lunch. The reasoning is simple- we want you to interact with the people and the world around you. I may have hated it at the time but I can’t help agree with the idea now. Our teenage years are important for developing the social skills needed to get through the rest of our lives. It’s difficult to develop these skills with music blasting in your ears or your face buried in a phone.

For

This list is a lot longer than the one reason I’m listing below but it’s the biggest one I can think of.

Emergency- I can’t ignore recent or past tragedies that have occurred in schools or businesses around the world. I can’t ignore natural disasters. I can’t ignore that when we hear the news of a major, devastating event our first instinct it to get in touch with the ones we love who might have been affected. I was in Boston the day of the marathon bombings and my friends and family knew this. My phone went nuts within minutes of the news hitting the social networks. With mobile technology being something we all have, it’s natural that it’s our go to in the event of an emergency. If something is happening at your child’s school- you can get in touch with them directly. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

However, when it comes to other emergencies, I feel that a student being notified via text message by a parent or family member is the worst idea in the world. Here’s what I mean:

Not too long ago a friend of mine was killed in a car accident. I was on the road at the time and hadn’t checked social networks that morning. I was presenting to a group of students when I came to the point where I bring out my phone to make a point. While I had my phone out, a text came from another friend about the accident. I felt paralyzed. It was the worst thing in the world because I wanted to know more information but the show had to go on and I still had 45 minutes to finish. In this instance, I would have preferred a phone call with a voicemail asking for a call back.

Now imagine having to deliver similar news to your child. Or even just letting them know that a loved one is in the hospital. Imagine getting that text in the middle of class? They are going to panic.

For some reason people are against the idea of calling the school. In the event of this type of emergency, calling the school is the best thing you can do. They will handle calling the student out of class and letting them know what’s going on in a controlled, private setting. If possible, they will have a guidance counselor on hand to talk with them while they wait to be picked up or to receive more information.

In The End

I feel like this argument is one that will never be settled. There are many schools of thought on this subject and each argument both for and against make perfect sense to me. I think the most important thing that can be done is that both parents and educators set expectations and standards for the use of this technology.

I’m also a big fan of anyone under 18 getting what I like to call a “dumb phone.” If the purpose of our kids having phones is to be able to stay connected in the event of an emergency, then let’s eliminate apps, web browsing, social networking from the equation. Give them a phone that makes calls and that’s it.

These are my thoughts on the topic. I’d love to know that ya’ll think! Feel free to share your comments!

Until next time,

Josh

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.