Connecting with Your Students (VSS2010)

Yesterday I sat in on several sessions at the Virtual School Symposium in Glendale, Arizona. Two turned out to be vendor driven, one never really got to the point and one truly provided some great ideas to think about.

The presenters were from the Branson School Online. Leanna Christians is the K-12 virtual principal and Christina Narayan is an elementary virtual school teacher. The theme of their presentation was the “Circle of Trust”. The idea that you don’t want anyone involved with the school to feel outside the circle. They talked about parents, students, teachers, administration and staff.

The entire time I was listening to Leanna and Christina I was thinking about how everything they were saying applied to every BAM (Bricks and Mortar) school.

Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Students need to connect with other students
    • Leadership groups
    • Peer counseling
    • peer tutoring
    • social events to build community
    • class pets (whether real or stuffed)
    • Reading buddies
    • Collaborative storytelling
    • Blogging
    • Group discussions
    • Learning Circles
    • “Gotcha” awards if the student is doing something exceptional
  • Survey families about themselves
    • They use Google Forms to do this
    • Christina subscribes to Hallmark.com for $10 a year in order to send out digital birthday cards to students and parents.
  • Administrators need to connect with the teachers
    • teachers should feel safe and free to take risks
    • admins can connect with staff via phone or e-mail
    • Administrators should make sure that teachers are competent in their abilities
  • The school needs to connect with parents
  • The school needs connections to the Community
    • College Fairs
    • County Parks
    • Career Planning
    • Field trips with other schools

In Leanna’s closing comments she said “if you don’t fail at atleast one thing, you are not trying hard enough”.

I challenge you to find three new ways you can connect better with your students and then implement them!

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Preparations for an Online Social Networking Safety Seminar

I agree with Chad Lehman’s post earlier this week that it’s helpful to be able to connect with the author of an article or blog post. Chad was nice enough to include me with the list of bloggers from Tech&Learning where I recently starting blogging every couple of weeks. As many of our PLNs have grown exponentially, I have truly benefited from the face-to-face connections that I have made as a result of  connections first initiated via Twitter or Diigo. Actually, I remember meeting up with Chad (@imcguy) in Second Life via a Tweet of his many, many months ago.

I decided a while back to use the “Lists” feature in Diigo to gather resources for a seminar that is tonight. The Online Social Networking Safety Seminar is being held at one of the local YMCA’s near me. I knew that many in my PLN had spoken on the topic before, so as I added resources to my list, I also began reading what they had posted on the topic. Here is some of what I found:

Jeff Utecht who blogs at TheThinkingStick had already prepared a workshop for parents and posted the information to his blog. I really liked the questions he suggested that parents ask their children.

  1. What do you think this pictures says about you?
  2. Do you know all (number of friends) of your ‘friends’?
  3. Can you trust everyone on your ‘friends’ list not to download that picture?
  4. What does that update say about you as a person?
  5. Is that who you want to be known as?

BJ Fogg who runs FacebookForParents.org also had a nice list of suggestions. BJ’s list was about signing up for Facebook. I’ll also be sharing this in the seminar tonight.

  1. Join Facebook.
  2. “Friend” your kids.
  3. Review your kids’ profile pages.
  4. Review who is “friends” with your kids.
  5. Select “More About” for your kids.

Dean Shareski who blogs at IdeasandThoughts.org has passionately posted on the topic many times. His posts led me to some extremely relevant research. It’s worth a read (Dean’s posts and the research).

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you might remember the day when I was looking for videos. I’ll be sharing three during the seminar. One is just for fun. You might be able to guess which one 🙂

  1. Social Media Revolution
  2. Facebook Manners and You
  3. The Facebook Song

Lastly, here’s my presentation. I tried to predict what folks might ask. There’s seating for 300. It’s bring-your-own-laptop. I was told to expect approximately 40 parents. I don’t really know what to expect. I’m sure I could have prepared differently, more, better, etc. But I thought I would share it with you.