Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tech Tools for Parents

I often hear parents say, “well my child knows more about technology than I do”, which is usually followed by a laugh and a shrug of the shoulders and a nod of agreement from others.  While this may be true that your child knows how to set up your iPhone and knows the newest apps, this might not mean they know how to be safe, responsible, and efficient with technology.  Assuming that just because your student or child knows how to use their mobile device, means that they are being safe and responsible, or know how to best use their computers or mobile devices to help them stay organized and do well in school is a missed opportunity on your part.  As parents we must engage our children in consistent conversation about internet safety, digital citizenship, and how their mobile devices can help them become more independent learners.  Here are some ways you can start engaging them about their mobile devices.

Help your child become more independent in school:
Having a personal mobile device now means that we all have access to a digital calendar.  These calendars can be used to keep track of assignments, due dates, appointments, help with goal setting, and as a way for families to share important information and events with each other.  Most calendar apps also allow students to keep track of information through text, video, voice, and even add links to materials related to their event.  For example a student might add that they have a vocabulary test at 1pm on Friday to their calendar.  They can then add a link to the vocab words so they have a quick and easy reference as they plan ahead to study for that test.  Many calendars make it easy to share with others, so parents can help students keep track of important events, or share family events directly with their child.

Using camera apps is a great way for your child to take quick notes or visual cues.  If your child struggles to remember to write down homework, encourage them to take a picture of the homework on the board to reference later, or better yet, add it to their calendar.  Cameras can also be used to take pictures of progress during an assignment or a lab for reference for homework or the next class.  If it is allowed, you may even encourage your child or your child’s teacher to film important aspects of directions or lessons so your child can revisit for clarification or to reference when they get home.

Stay on top of what’s new in tech world:
Many of my friends who are parents often hear about an app or a website that their son or daughter are using and want me to explain what it is and how it’s being used.  Often parents are late to the game in hearing about what is the next new thing, and miss an opportunity to talk with their child about whether they should be using this app or website, or even just engaging them in a conversation about why they enjoy using that particular app.  It is challenging to stay on top of the tech world, but parents and teachers can harness social media to help them get ahead of the tech curve.  The first step is to get on Twitter.  Once you create an account on Twitter, be thoughtful about who you follow, or you can get bogged down in tedium.

Here are some of my favorites:
Mashable @mashable
Steven W. Anderson @web20classroom
Edutopia @edutopia
Richard Byrne @rmbyrne

Organizing your family:
Many of my parent friends give their children cellphones when they reach middle school as a way to help stay in touch and keep track of their child.  Some great features that parents sometimes miss are sharing locations with each other.  Using Google Maps you can easily share your location for quick navigation.  Follow these great directions on how to find one another using your mobile devices: Dropping pins-location  This feature is great for sharing locations for games or events, or picking up from new friends’ houses.

Another time saver is using shared shopping lists.  I know I often ask my family for their suggestions before I do our grocery shopping and they have a hard time coming up with ideas on the spot, but it never fails that as soon as I get home they remember all of the things I was ‘supposed’ to get.  Using an app where you can share a shopping list will help everyone in your family contribute and cut down on confusion about what you were supposed to buy.  Some great apps can be found here: shared shopping list apps

Teaching your child to be safe and responsible with technology:
Teaching and guiding your child to be safe and responsible with technology is something that should be tackled at school and at home and with consistency.  As children transition through grades their questions, concerns and interests about technology will shift and assuming because you ‘had the talk’ once and now you are covered, is such a missed opportunity, and frankly not fair to your child. Luckily there are fantastic resources available to help guide you through these conversations.  Check out my favorite, Common Sense Media.  Common Sense Media provides engaging lessons for teachers and parents to use to teach and facilitate discussion, as well as interactives to further encourage your child or student to think about safe and responsible use of technology.  

Many parents aren’t aware of their ability to monitor or place restrictions on their child’s mobile devices.  While these aren’t foolproof, they are a great place to start.  Check out Apple’s resources on enabling restrictions on their devices.

These are just a few places to start in understanding some ways to get the most out of the mobile devices in your family.  

New Activity Feed in Google Drive

Google Drive added an activity feed where you can now get a quick glimpse of the most recently updated documents in your Drive.

If it is not currently turned on for you, click on the i in your drive (see image below) and it will give you preview of your most recently updated docs.  This is a great feature because it can help you easily locate documents you were just working on, or see when others are adding to shared documents.

Monday, February 3, 2014


We had a great kick off to brainstorm ways we can celebrate Digital Learning day last week at OQS. Students learned about Digital Learning Day, and then used Padlet to collaborate on ways they can take part in their classes. If you're interested in reading the students' ideas, look at our wall below.

Classes are also encouraged to contribute their work on Digital Learning to our VoiceThread. If you are a HSD teacher and would like to add your classes work to this VoiceThread, but need some help, please let me know!

Lastly, don't forget to add your event to the official Digital Learning Day celebration map.  I see one class at OQS is already on there-great job!