May 19

Online Personas: How would you describe your digital/online self?

The New York Times created this slideshow where they compared a person’s avatar with the person who created it. What do you notice about these avatars? Why might someone change themselves completely to appear quite different than their physical self?

An avatar, a character that is created for an online space, can be quite different than the persona we create when engaging in online spaces and social media. Identifying what our online persona is, though, can actually be quite eye-opening and does take some honest reflection. And just like in some of the avatars in the slideshow above, our online personas can sometimes be quite different than our physical ones.

Helping our students to reflect on what their online personas are can be a healthy exercise and prepare them for their seemingly ever-growing digital futures.

One way to do this is having everyone in the family keep a Media Log (for a day, a week, etc.), and then follow up by evaluating how everyone would describe the interactions and the persona that is created with those online interactions.

Highlighting and helping students understand some of the riskier choices, consequences and benefits of having an online persona are equally important. Here are a few points from Common Sense Media to help with that discussion:

Riskier choices/consequences of online persona:

  • Setting up false expectations could set others up for disappointment later on
  • Inciting violence when engaging in false behaviors online could cause harm to self and others
  • Becoming dependent on the virtual persona/communication could make it easier to lose the skills to do so (or be confident doing so) in-person

Benefits of online persona:

  • Creating interest-driven communities that may not be available in physical world
  • Taking time to really think and process what and how something is said
    • Practicing responding to others’ reactions to what is said/done
  • Experimenting with opinions and how to present one’s self

Really identifying what our online persona is and using it to benefit us can be truly empowering, but students do need to be aware of expectations and responsibilities when interacting in an online space. They also need to be aware that what is posted on social media and other online spaces creates a person that others will associate with their physical selves. Asking students to identify and reflect on their online persona can be a step in empowering them, and while it may be difficult, it can open up dialogues that will keep students reflecting on what, how, and why they are posting when online.

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May 19

Transforming the Classroom through Blended Learning: Making Learning Powerful for Kids

Written by Karen Smith & Anne Atherton

Parents of many of our K-12 students have likely roamed the halls of their children’s schools or sat in their children’s classrooms and heard, in passing, the phrase… Blended Learning. What, exactly, are we blending, and how is this impacting our children?

Blended Learning is an instructional model that takes the best of traditional classroom methods and combines it with high quality online content. In a blended learning environment, students are interacting with and using technology to support their learning.

Today it is critical that our students are incorporating technology into their learning because technology is a tool that supports meeting  increased academic demands.  Twenty-first Century Skills have become a cornerstone in academic standards today. According to the Colorado Department of Education, “The 21st century skills are the synthesis of the essential abilities students must apply in our rapidly changing world. Today’s students need a repertoire of knowledge and skills that are more diverse, complex, and integrated than any previous generation.” These 21st Century Skills include the following capabilities:

  • Critical Thinking and Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Collaboration
  • Self Direction
  • Invention

Technology, then, becomes a critical tool that students can access to help them meet these 21st Century Skills in ways never before experienced. Technology allows students the ability to collaborate virtually, to communicate with various audiences, to think critically and to create using programs that capture thinking in unique and innovative ways.


Redefining the Role of the Teacher

In a Blended Learning environment, the teacher interacts with students in more of an individualized fashion as students explore learning opportunities utilizing the technology. An environment that incorporates the blended learning model provides the following advantages for students:

  • Choice
  • Active learning
  • Differentiation
  • Immediate feedback on student learning (from online assessments)
  • Authentic Learning

In a blended learning environment, technology becomes a powerful partner as it puts the student at the center of the learning and gives them control over the content, path, place, pace and time of learning.

What Blended Learning is: What Blended Learning is NOT:
  • A blend between classroom best practices and integrated online content
  • Student-centered
  • Teachers’ roles shifts gives time for the teacher to interact with students and gage understanding through formative assessment
  • Adapted to best fit student and classroom needs/practices
  • Inquiry-driven learning
  • Placing more control of content, pace, place, path and time of learning in students’ hands
  • A program driven by an online computer software (core instruction)
  • Whole group instruction through online videos
  • Learning through web resources/apps that are not integrated in core instruction
  • Online learning
  • Recording a lecture and posting it in Schoology without opportunities for active learning and assessment of knowledge
  • Posting class syllabi and resources online

For more information on Blended Learning and how you might continue to support the home-school connection around this instructional model, please visit the following link: Blended Learning in the Mix: The Informed Parent

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Apr 17

Creating with iPads!

Utilizing iPads in our PreK-5th grade classrooms enables students to create and share independent and group creations.  Students are not merely consuming content, but teachers are encouraging creations to share with a wide audience!  

Some apps we’ve used in this process include: Book Creator, Explain Everything, iMovie, and DoInk Green Screen.

How can you inspire and support at home?  Below are some project ideas you and your student can create with an iPad to share with family and friends.  I bet Grandma would love to see and hear about school through one of these digital projects!


1) Journals

Use Book Creator to create a digital journal documenting the process of a project, trip, experience, etc.  Book Creator will allow you to add text, photo, video, audio, and drawings with a very friendly user interface.  (Will you try the comic book feature too?)

Book Creator Tutorials


2) Tutorials

Use Explain Everything to teach others the content learned at school.  This year, students have shown how to do the steps of a math problem with text, drawing, and audio.  Students can specify and point out parts of their illustrations with the pointer feature in Explain Everything.  We learn best by teaching others, right?  

Explain Everything Tutorials


3) Commercials

Use iMovie to showcase what your student is learning in a fun way!  What is their opinion on the book they are currently reading?  Use iMovie to retell major story components in a trailer for potential readers.

iMovie Help and Support


4) Travel Vlogs

Use the DoInk Green Screen app to document travel through time and location with a video blog !  Find photos of the moon, ocean, or anywhere of interest to serve as a background.  Students can record themselves in the scene explaining their location. (Some research might be necessary here, so head to for a safe, kid-friendly search engine!)

DoInk Green Screen Tutorials

Give it a try and let us know how it goes with a message below!

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Apr 17

Digital Footprints

“I can delete it, don’t worry!” Kids today frequently say this in regards to what they do online. The reality is that we live in a world of data collection and this trend is not going away. Data collection can be as benign as keeping the history of the websites you visit or as invasive as inserting bias into your search results based on your previous visits and searches. Everyone has a digital footprint. The Oxford Dictionary defines a digital footprint as the information about a particular person that exists on the Internet as a result of their online activity. As the world changes and technology becomes more prevailing throughout our society, everyone should be aware of their digital footprint.

So why should you care? Looking at social media and doing a Google search have become very common with universities, employers, and many others.  Digital footprints are used to make decisions about you, so how do you protect yourself?

1. Don’t overshare – Use privacy settings to control who see what on your social media. An inappropriate comment from a “friend” can degrade your positive footprint.

2. What goes online stays online – Remember that even after you may delete something, that data still lives somewhere. There is always data that is left behind that could reflect upon you in a negative way.

3. Think before you post – Before you post that picture or comment, think if you would want your boss or that university you hope to attend or your 90-year-old grandmother to see it.

Use your digital footprint as a positive reflection of yourself. Know that others are watching what you do online, so use this to your advantage and make wise choices as to how others will form their impressions about you.


More resources:

  1. How Important Are Students’ Digital Footprints?
  2. Creating a Positive Digital Footprint
  3. Protecting Your Profile

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Apr 17

End of Year Tech Tips and Conversations

With the end of the year fast approaching we hope you’ll help your middle and high school students think about things they’ll need to save PRIOR to the date when they turn in their iPad at the end of the year. With the advent of cloud computing, saving data or backing up looks different than when we were in school. Below are some helpful tips for parents and students.

Note: Here’s a resource for students exiting the school district. 

Before we get to the tips consider some of the conversations that you could engage in during this time:
  • The importance of regularly backing up data – Perhaps you have a story about a time when you lost something because you forgot to back it up.
  • What kinds of things might be desirable to save and why. (Think about saving their best work for a portfolio they can use for scholarships and applications.)
  • What was learned throughout the year and how their iPad data demonstrates their learning.

Tech Tips

If your student uses an an Apple ID on their school device:
  • They will not be able to restore from an iCloud backup due to the tool we use to manage devices, but their can still use iCloud to save and sync some things such as Notes, Reminders and Contacts. The green indicates that this tool is being backed up.
  • iCloud can be used to save or sync some data, but is limited to 5 GB.
  • Students will need to save any content connected to their apps if they want access to it in the future. See below for recommendations on how to do this.
If your student doesn’t have an Apple ID connected to their school device:

We recommend using Google Drive to back up important information, as there is unlimited storage available for SVVSD students.

Content students might want to backup includes:

  • Photos
  • Files from important apps used in school such as Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iMovie etc. [Note: only completed movies will transfer in a backup.]
  • Explain Everything files
  • Notability files
  • Files from other apps that can be shared to Google Drive
With regard to Schoology:
  • If a student has submitted an assignment that was created in Schoology, they will not have access to it once the school year is over. If they have an assignment they’d like to save they will need to save it in their Schoology Personal Resources folder to access it the following year.

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