Sep 22

Privacy & Security: Using Strong Passwords

The recent Equifax data breach is a harsh reminder that protecting our personal data is of utmost importance. Teaching our children to protect their personal data by limiting what they share online and by using secure passwords will help them develop strong digital literacy skills that will serve them well in our digital world!

This year, all SVVSD middle and high school students are required to change their district passwords by November 1st. More information on how to set security questions and reset passwords can be found in this support article.

For strategies to use to help your children protect their data and set strong passwords, check out this article on Data Privacy & Security from Common Sense Media.

This short video for kids from offers additional password tips for kids.

And finally, DinoPass is a fun site to help kids create memorable, yet strong, passwords!

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Sep 22

When Technology Gets Out of the Way

Ben Kalb, Instructional Technology Coordinator and recently named Apple Distinguished Educator, reflects on the power of technology to help tell a story.  Video is a tool widely used in SVVS, not only in the classroom, but as a tool for professional growth and development district-wide.

The smell of hot plastic permeated the air as the hypnotizing hum of processors and internal computer fans ricocheted off the concrete walls of my college computer lab. I was a frequent patron to this place, although my visits normally entailed printing term papers from a copy machine that ate my coins as eagerly as I ate from the unlimited meal plan. But this was no ordinary trip to the computer lab, because this voyage empowered me! Rather than demonstrating my knowledge in something that could be printed from a 64mb flash drive, this particular assignment entailed telling a story through film. It was my first time editing a video and I’ll never forget how it made me feel! I had the power to tell my story and my canvas could be beautiful. I wasn’t in an over-priced production studio in Hollywood, I did not have an advanced degree in video production, but I was crafting a story a few feet from my door room…what a world. I was so excited about the opportunity that I wasn’t even bothered by the hour I spent waiting for my raw video to to be captured to the hard drive. After cutting up and splicing my video together, another hour under the flickering florescent lights flashed by as I waited for my final video to render. Walking back to my dorm room that evening with a freshly burned DVD in my coat pocket, I felt like I was living in the future! If you had told me on the walk back to my dorm room that some day I could do all of that and more from a personal laptop, I might have believed you.

In 2010, iMovie became available for iPhone and iPad. With minimal technical skill, you could take footage using the built-in camera on your device and cut, splice, and edit the footage right on the device! In subsequent years the iMovie App has become a free standard on all iOS devices and has improved countless features including advanced titles, voice overs, picture in picture, b-roll footage…etc. As a high school teacher in Illinois I would often have my students demonstrate their knowledge through video, and iMovie was a critical tool. For three years in St. Vrain I’ve seen countless teachers leverage video to amplify student voice and to empower students to take control of their learning. Creating an iMovie does take technical time to compile and while this time has been extraordinarily reduced since my days in the computer lab, students still log time tapping, swiping, and embellishing.

This year, a new iPad app called Clips makes creating and editing amazing videos easier than it’s ever been. I’ve seen 5th graders create an awesome looking video in less than 2 minutes of editing! I’ve seen families who create these Clips together to commemorate a special event. If you are curious how schools or teachers around the country are using Clips, search #classroomclips on twitter to see thousands of examples. It is unbelievable and exciting to know that every student every day has access to a more powerful and more efficient machine than the one I felt so empowered by in the computer lab fourteen years ago!




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Sep 22

5 Questions Teachers Wish You Would Ask Them

“No TV until your homework is finished!”

Is this phrase familiar from your own childhood? Today, learning and technology are often enmeshed and it can be tough for parents to know when or how to draw a line. Common Sense Media recently published this article for parents about about screen time, multi-tasking, and supporting learning at home.

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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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