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Sometimes I Have to be the Fun Police...

Fun Police PictureYesterday, I had two instances where I had to be the "Fun Police," in my role as Digital Learning Specialist. It is not a role that I rellish, as philosophically, I want our staff and students to have an authentic experience as possible and utilize tools that may be of benefit to their learning. However there are times, when for safety or due to missuse of a tool, I have to put on the hat and shades...
Case #1
The first instance was when I got a request for a group of 5th grade students to use Prezi as a presentation tool. Now Prezi may not be as popular as it was a few years ago, and some folks wish they had kept their "Classic" tools and format, but it still offers a nice way to make non-linear presentations.
However, for elementary educators, there is another component that makes Prezi problematic: their Terms of ServiceGiven this restriction, unless the student has been held back 3 years, odds are the 5th graders will not be able to use Prezi for their presentation.
What to me is interesting, is that when Prezi first came out, they were even more restrictive!
Fortunately, the kids have options, and if they want to make it non-linear, they can create navigation on Google Slides.
Edina Approved Tools

We have created this site as a resource for staff to know the age restrictions and recommendations for most common Web tools. In many instances, the sites require teachers to get parent permission prior to having students sign into the site. Even sites that are popular with elementary teachers, like Flipgrid, require parent permission for students under the age of 18!

In a perfect world, organizations like the International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE would require vendors to include the age restrictions of their products in promotional materials. Currently, few vendors do this, leaving it to educators to read the "fine print." If they are truly committed to digital citizenship, ISTE should mandate that vendors at their conference give full disclosure. 


Case #2
The second case of me putting on the Fun Police persona came last night. One of my colleagues sent me a direct message sharing this thread from Kathryn Byers, an AP World History Teacher from California. A quick look at her blog shows that she is a generous teacher, who is working hard to make connections with her students. She in the thread below, she talks about using Instagram Stories as a way to help her students prepare for the AP exam. 




Byars does a great job here, articulating how and why she utilizes the tool and the modeling she is doing for her students. She is helping them learn about proper use of social media AND connecting with her students around World History. My colleague wanted to know my thoughts, and whether this was something he could pursue based on our policies?

Up until about a month ago, Instagram was open on our network for students. While Byars is using the tool effectively as an educator, unfortunately, it was not being used that way by students in my district. My colleague, Jack Salaski, put together this presentation for our Technology Advisory Team that illustrates the distraction Instagram had become. Ultimately the group, made up of parents, teachers, students and administrators, chose to block Instagram on our network.


Fortunately for my teaching colleague, there are alternative options. Many of my colleagues use Twitter in a similar way that Byars uses Instagram. Erik Anderson is a great example of that...


For a more "walled garden" approach, especially for younger students, our learning management system, Schoology includes a built in Media Album that can be added to courses. It can act in a similar fashion to Instagram, with the added benefit that posts can be moderated. Granted it is not as authentic as Instagram, nor is it as accessible for students, but it is an option. Here is a quick video demonstrating the process.


It's not always easy being the "Fun Police," but it is a necessary one to make sure that terms of use are being followed to protect student privacy and that the tools we use enhance learning and don't distract from it.

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