Why my Son Doesn’t have an Instagram Account

My son asked for an Instagram Account (1)

Let me preface this blog by saying that I LOVE social media – when used correctly. There are tons of people that use it properly. Those people are modeling correct Digital Citizenship for children and adults all over, and for that I am thankful. Here is a conversation that I had to have with my 11-year-old son a few weeks ago. Maverick is a really good kid, and he hangs out with really good kids. But I am no fool. Pictures get taken, posted, skewed, and I am going to try and protect him from that as long as possible. The other day he asked me if he could get an Instagram account. Although I totally trust Maverick, and I feel that most of the pictures would be of Megatron, I had to tell him no. My number one reason is because I am not going to lie about his age. Instagram asks that you be 13 before you have an account. Maverick is not. I am not going to lie and say that he is 13, and I am not going to let him lie and say he is older. I told him this, and he totally understood. I also do not trust what other people are posting. He would potentially see things that an 11-year-old child does not need to be exposed to. You know that infamous hashtag? You never know where it is going to take you. I don’t want Maverick to type in something innocent that takes him to something- not innocent. This was an important conversation and moment for us as we were able to target Digital Citizenship, good morals and ethics, and Frank and I were able to give Maverick reasons that he wasn’t quite ready to navigate through social media. Although I am teaching Maverick daily about his Digital Footprint, as his mother I know that he cannot quite grasp how detrimental one wrong post or picture could be to his future. Instagram gets that, or they would not have made the age 13. As he grows and matures he will be put in situations where he has to make small decisions that could make a big impact. He will start to see how one wrong choice, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time, can change everything. These are conversations that we all need to be having with our children and our students. Internet sites like Google take snapshots of everything that you post. So, delete it all you want…but Google has it forever. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal if Maverick posted something about a certain college “stinking”, but that one small post at age 11 could come back to haunt him later on in life. Let’s say he decides to go to that college and ends up in a competitive situation for a spot. The college WILL do a search of Maverick, and no matter how many years ago he posted that one little sentence, it WILL show up. Why would a college want someone talking bad about their school when they could choose a child that is saying positive things about their college? The same goes for students posting pictures of partying and other activities that maybe shouldn’t be publicized so freely. Extreme? I don’t think so. Why would a place of employment or a university want someone that is perceived as a partier when they could choose the person that looks like they will take things more seriously? People, the media – anyone can take a picture/situation and totally change the meaning of what was really happening. It is my job to teach my kids to be really careful when people are taking pictures, when people are “tagging” you in pictures, and when people are recording you. I love social media. I love being able to connect with people from all over and truly learn from them. It is my duty to model how to safely and successfully use social media for my kids and my students. Adults, they are watching us. They are looking to us for guidance. I challenge you to research the different apps that teenagers are using right now so that you will know what your child is involved in virtually. I challenge you to model how to properly use social media, and I challenge you to talk to your kids about this. We didn’t have to deal with this when we were children (thank goodness), but they do. If we don’t guide them then who will? Check out the following tips and apps that are circulating right now. Just remember, they are changing daily.

My number one tip to help your child when it comes to social media is to be proactive. Talk to them daily. Model the correct way to use these resources. And NEVER post anything that you would not want them to see. Show them how great social media can be when used correctly.

Here are the steps that a parent can take to prevent their children from downloading apps that are age restricted – or are supposed to be. Just like movies, apps have ratings. Kik is rated 17+ in the app store. If you use Apple products you can fix the App Rating restrictions on your devices to prevent your child from downloading apps that are not appropriate for them. Click here to find out how. You don’t have to do this every time. Once you have set it, as long as your child doesn’t have the password, you are good. If you use another device and do not know how to do this, shoot me an email and I will research it for you. When your child gets old enough, yes – let them know you can trust them and back off the restrictions, but for now we are the adult. Not their friend. Not cool at all. I cannot stress enough the importance of constantly talking about this topic together and the potential scenarios that could happen.

Kik – You are supposed to be of college age to use this app. Why? Because there is inappropriate content floating around on Kik. Kik is a free text messaging service. Why do you want a service to text message through when you can already text on your phone? Well, people that prey on small children love this. They find your child’s username and easily contact them. They can lie about their age, become their friend, ask to exchange pictures, then maybe addresses. You see where I am going with this. Your child can say that their username is private, but is anything really private? Most teens and tweens take snapshots of their Kik names (amongst other things) and then publicize to “follow” them on their other social media accounts. So, then someone can take a snap shot of that and repost it, and then so on and so on and so on. You never really know who is seeing your pictures and statuses. Your student may really believe they are “private” and safe, but it is up to us as adults to coach them on true Internet safety. This is a good chance to share with them different scenarios. Just Google Kik with your child and show them real life scenarios that have happened to other children/teenagers.

Ooovoo – These is a video app. Once again, I do not see any reason that my kids should be using this. The draw is that you can have up to 12 people on a video chat at once. That’s fun for kids, right? So, what could go wrong? Your child could see or hear something that they do not need to be exposed to. Your child could potentially say or do something that could go “viral” and follow them the rest of their life. Oh, that won’t happen to me? Just Google Justine Sacco.

ask.fm – This is the one I dislike the most. This is the perfect platform for bullies and pedophiles. First of all, a lot of parents do not know their child is even using this because you have to know their specific username. The claim to fame is that the app is anonymous, and kids can post what they want without others knowing that it’s them. Kids and strangers are asking questions that should not be asked. Example: Why are you ugly? You should kill yourself. That is so detrimental to tweens and teens. Even adults. To read more about ask.fm click here.

Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram – They all want you to be 13. They all save everything you post forever. Teach your children to choose their words and pictures wisely. How do they want to be perceived? These sites are easier to monitor what your children are posting, but you can never really monitor what they are seeing unless you are sitting right beside them the entire time. When my children start using these sites I will challenge them to “change the world” with their words. Show kindness and love instead of speaking hate.

Whisper SecretClick here to instantly see why you do not want your children & teens accessing this site.

There are so many other apps and platforms that children and teenagers have access to on a daily basis. I could never list them all, but I promise to keep researching and staying on top of the current trends. I am obligated as a mother, a teacher, and an adult to be proactive when it comes to Digital Citizenship. It’s my job.

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Warrior Tech Camp – Day One (Beginner Group)

Warrior Tech Camp (1)

We had a great turn out today at Warrior Tech Camp. This is the third year in a row for Cherie and me to put this on for the faculty at Warren, and it is always a really fun time for the both of us. We love researching different ways for teachers throughout the district to infuse technology into their classrooms. Today Cherie took the “advanced” iPad users, and I took the “beginners”. We stayed pretty basic in my class; however, I did walk them through a Nearpod, which is a tool that I love. I promised that I would post the resources that I used today on my blog for teachers to go back to. I want to thank Angela Moses, Karen Ford, and Steven Cox for helping me in the beginner group. Click on the following links for resources that we used today:

1. Tips & Tricks for new iPad users

2. Socrative

3. Kahoot

4. Nearpod

5. ThingLink

School Supplies, Convictions, & a Challenge

Be thankful in all circumstances, for

God just got in my business. All in my business. I was at Walmart buying school supplies this afternoon. It was hot and crowded, and I wanted to be home. Maggie was seriously so excited, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “How much is this going to cost?” I see it every year on Facebook at this time. Parents complaining about the school supply list, the amount of items on it, and the amount that it will cost. I am a teacher, and I know the items on the list are needed. They really are; however, I also have a budget. So, like many parents in America I was begrudgingly putting item after item in my basket. And then God got in my business. This is what he said, “Be glad. Be thankful that you can buy these school supplies.”

Ouch. He was right, and here are the reasons why:

1. Maggie was so excited about the school supplies. Be in the moment, Daisy. Be excited with her. They are only little for so long.

2. I can afford these supplies. Some people truly can’t.

3. I went to college in hopes to provide my kids with a good life. Right? The best thing I can give them is a love for Jesus and an education. People can say what they want about the education system in America today, but I think it is pretty darn good. Look around us. There are countries that do not have clean water or school buildings, but I have the ability to arm my children with tools to learn with. Our schools have great teachers, air conditioners, clean water, food, love, books, and so much more.

4. Some people would love to be able to buy school supplies. A parent that has lost a child. A person that was unable to have children. A single mother or father barely staying afloat. Maybe a parent that messed up early on in their child’s life and wish they could start over.

So, that’s it. My convictions for today. When I think about everything that I have I know I am absolutely blessed beyond measure. I am thankful for the ability to be able to purchase school supplies, clothing, and shoes for my two children. I also know that I can cut back somewhere else so that I am able to provide supplies for other children in my community.  My challenge to you has two parts:

1. Buy supplies for your own children with a thankful heart. Pray that these tools will help them to be successful.

2. Help someone else out, too. We have so much. Let’s give back.

Mommy Guilt – The Struggle is Real

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Maverick & Maggie – my heart and soul

Even as I write this blog I am struggling with the fact that I will be putting my raw emotions out for everyone to read. I like positivity, and I like happy. I don’t like seeing negativity spewed all over social media because it makes me sad; however, I feel like this is a post that I need to write for myself and for my kids, so when I look back in a few years I don’t forget the struggle. Because the struggle has been very real. I said I would never go to grad school. I had my teaching degree, and that is all I ever wanted. I did not need to go any further because being a teacher (and a mom) was my dream since 2nd grade. But…..I came to a stand still. I was over the TAKS, the STAAR, the worksheets, the mundaneness of doing the same thing over and over. Then Warren ISD adopted a 1:1 iPad initiative. The community as a whole was very hesitant as what this would mean for our students. Teachers were concerned and administration did not know how all of this would pan out, but there were certain people put in place that knew whole heartily that this was the best decision for student success in the 21st century. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? Thank goodness that all of this started happening because it ignited something inside of me that had disappeared after years of boring lesson plans and teaching to the test – guilty as charged. We were so excited. There were so many cool things that we could do with the new technology in our hands. After forming PLN’s on Twitter our eyes were opened up to a whole new world again. Project Based Learning, Augmented Reality, thinking outside of the box, collaborating with other teachers and students from all over the world, all of these things made lesson planning exciting again. I could not wait to get to work the next day to see my students actually excited about learning. One thing led to another and my assistant principal decided to sign me up for grad school. She paid the admission and everything. And just like that I was going back to school. I was really excited, scared, doubtful, so many emotions all rolled up into one. I was so scared that this would take too much time away from my kids. I did not want them to feel slighted. I did not want them to grow up thinking that their mom thought other things were more important than them. I have struggled with these emotions the entire span of grad school. I have cried. I mean ugly cried. I do not even want to say how much stress chocolate I have eaten. I have wanted to give up. A lot. My oldest sister literally had to talk me down a few months ago (over text messages) because I was so utterly overwhelmed that I did not think I could see this thing through. My husband would take the kids out for the day to allow me to work on homework, but then I would sit here feeling guilty because I wasn’t with them and sad because I wanted to be having fun, too.

I have even struggled with my Christianity throughout this grad school thing which makes my heart hurt because Jesus is and always will be my top priority. I have not read my devotionals like I should; however, I have prayed just as hard as I ever have. I can promise you that without my prayers and the prayers of my family and friends that I NEVER would have made it through this. I have not missed church no matter how tired I was. But I have had to listen to some people make pointy comments toward me. Things like that really get in your head. Make you question if you are doing the right thing. Questions about my lack of cooking. Questions about me going back to school in general while my kids should be my main focus.  Some have questioned me as to why I want to teach my daughter all of this “technology” when I should be teaching her to cook and clean and take care of a house. “We should be teaching our daughters to take care of a husband and her kids,” they say. Well, I agree. However, I will also teach my daughter how to take care of herself so that if something happens to her husband she will not have to depend on or run to another man to take care of her. She will be able to take care of herself. There is not a thing wrong with a woman having an education. My husband has an MBA that he earned two years ago while having two small children. No one questioned him. No one asked him if he thought that meant he was putting things before his children. I am lucky that he feels just as strongly about education as I do – for our son AND for our daughter. He also does not mind eating a bowl of cereal for dinner because his wife has homework. (Thank goodness)

Yesterday I passed my LCE, and when I got in the truck I cried. Relief, I guess. Knowing that I am so close to being finished. Maybe. When I started grad school I said that I was not going to “walk” that I would just get them to mail me my diploma. I have definitely changed my mind. I may do flips across the stage. This is the hardest thing I have ever went through. Not the classwork (I have a 98.3 cumulative average) but the time management, the many different hats that I wear daily, working full time, wanting to teach my students awesome things, wanting to teach my kids about Jesus and about kindness, balancing it all, and the occasional laundry – just feeling worthy as a mom and a woman in general in this Pinterest crazed era. You know what I mean. So props to all you moms that are doing it all, being it all, hugging your babies, and being the best YOU that you can be. You are AMAZING. You are not anyone else, so don’t compare yourself to them. My kids are proud of me, and I know without a doubt when I walk across that stage that Maverick and Maggie will be standing up screaming my name, which is Mom.

Psalm 46:5

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Virtual Field Trips

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Mrs. Marino’s 4th grade class heads to NYC

Do you ever wish you could take your students and show them the real world? Are you low on funds? What teacher isn’t!  Last week while surfing through Pinterest I saw where @TechChef4U (follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter) had pinned a blog about virtual field trips. What??? I was intrigued. It just so happened that we had just written a narrative on “My Best Field Trip”. Instantly, I thought why not take the students on a virtual field trip and then have them write a narrative about that. We can compare the two narratives, make a ThinkLink, make a Popplet, etc. Once again, this shows you the power of Twitter, Pinterest, etc. If I were not searching through other teachers’ ideas, I would have never thought of this! I digress. This truly was one of my favorite lessons that I’ve taught in eight years. I did not tell the kids that I would be taking them on a “trip”. I wanted everything to be a surprise. When they walked into my room that morning I told them to get their binder and a pencil and come sit in front of the SMART board. I already had my MacBook and the Apple TV ready to go. Beforehand, I printed out a sheet that had four empty squares on it for students to write down interesting facts that they learned. Once we were settled, I told the kids that we were going to NYC. Out of 65 kids only four students had ever traveled there, and one of those students was my son. The kids never questioned me on how we were going. They never said we can’t go to New York. That is the way kids are, though. Open-minded, carefree, excited for an adventure.  We started going through the slides. There were movies, aerial views of different parts of The Statue of Liberty, and a ton of information on how the Lady Liberty was formed and why. The kids seriously were in awe. They had a ton of great questions. They wrote their little hearts out on those four squares trying to fill in as many facts as possible. They were very engaged in the whole process. By the time the field trip was over, it was time to switch classes. When they came back to school the next day the students were still talking about the trip. They talked about how they told their parents that they went to NYC at school yesterday. They remembered facts and details. At this point we started working on our Popplets individually. The students turned their four squares of information into digital information to email to me. They love Popplet because they can change the box sizes, colors, locations, etc. They can personalize their work and save it easily. They are getting really good at exporting the information to me on their own by this point in the school year.  Making a Popplet is quick, easy, fun, and effective. Once all the Popplets were made we met together on my big rug. Then we started working on a ThingLink about what liberty means to us. I am always amazed at the students’ answers. They come up with some very thought provoking ideas. The great thing about ThingLink is that we can upload it to the school’s Facebook page. So, even though it is something the class created as a whole at school, every parent can still view it that night.  The third day of our project consisted of writing our narrative about the actual field trip. I was very surprised at how well students had retained the information. They knew there were 146 steps leading up to the crown. They knew that the foundation was made of granite and concrete. I truly believe that because the activity was interactive, engaging, and involved technology that students were more excited…that they wanted to learn and be involved in the activity. I love technology and everything that it allows me to do with my students. The possibilities are endless. I have been teaching for 8 years now, and this year I received the best Christmas present ever. One of my students bought me a Statue of Liberty bookmark. Now, that’s magical. I will keep it forever, and I will always remember the day that I took 65 4th graders to The Statue of Liberty.

CHECK OUT OUR THINGLINK …… http://www.thinglink.com/scene/469246669074989058

Virtual field trip link – http://www.nps.gov/stli/photosmultimedia/virtualtour.htm

Mobile Mania

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Mrs. Marino at Mobile Mania

People get tired of me talking about Twitter, but I can’t help it. It has changed the way I look at my career and has opened up endless possibilities for me.  I have met people I would have never met; I have gone places I would have never gone. I’ve seen lessons and ideas for my classroom that I would have never seen. My 4th graders Skyped with Canada last week for goodness sakes!  That’s major. My excitement for Twitter really grew last year when I went to iPadpalooza. (GO IF YOU CAN!) It was an amazing event that opened up my eyes to the potential of professional development. I had the chance to see people present that I was following on Twitter. They were just as amazing in person as they seemed on Twitter. Real teachers making a real difference in children’s lives. I mean @techninjatodd, @SAtechnoChic, @iPadSammy, @TechChef4U, and @mimg1225. Seriously! They inspired me. They gave me wonderful techniques and tools to take back to my class. I left there on fire and wanting more. When I returned home I was up late not able to sleep, searching through my Twitter feed and @CarrieRossTx mentioned something about an EdCamp. Well, I had no idea what this was. I asked a few questions, it seemed cool, so she helped me get signed up, I invited @NicotreSherri and off we went. We arrived at Region 6 to a ton of smiling faces. I can’t even mention them all, but they made us feel at home. And then the awesomeness of an EdCamp ensued. The plan is…there is no plan.Teachers sit around comfortably in a room chatting about what they want to learn. Did you get that? WHAT THEY WANT TO LEARN! EdCamps are tailored toward teachers!  Ideas are tossed around, people raise their hand if they can informally present on a topic, and then a schedule is made. The irony of it all is that teachers like schedules. They like to know what is going to happen. They want a plan.  So how does this chaotic, unplanned, unprepared, organic mess work so well? I don’t know. But it does. It was one of the best days of Professional Development I have ever attended. I went to the classes I wanted to go to. And if I attended a session and decided that it wasn’t for me. I just got up and found  another class. No one’s feelings are hurt. No one cares. Everyone just goes with the flow, and you learn SO much! It’s fun, it’s laid-back, it is AMAZING! We left there excited that day with new ideas to take back with us. And we wanted to learn more. I have attended so many great workshops that I would not have because of that very first EdCamp. Mobile Mania, Google Ninja Academy, etc.  @WISDtechguru and I even taught TechCamps at our own district this summer. That’s a whole other post. So, what does this all mean? If you are in a slump as a teacher (it happens) go to an EdCamp. Go to iPadpalooza. Go to anything Google. Learn something new that excites you because if you are excited, your students will be.  My next EdCamp that I am attending will be in April @EdCampHouston.  It’s going to be a wonderful event with a ton of motivated and excited teachers ready and willing to present. I can’t wait. Also, if you are from my neck of the woods (oh, yes I did just say that) @janamac is planning an EdCamp Region 5. When this happens…COME. Come and learn. Share and grow. Be awesome.

Writing Wonderland

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Mrs. Marino’s 4th Grade Class

Isn’t December one of the best months to be a teacher? I love the atmosphere, the school being decorated, the Christmas magic. I love the kids telling me what their traditions are and seeing the light in their eyes. Christmas is magical. Teaching is magical. Every teacher knows there are a ton of Christmas themed units, assignments, projects, etc the weeks leading up to Christmas break. I love it all. Santa letters, Christmas acrostic poems, we are even writing Christmas plays this year. Tuesday I checked out the iPads with the intention of writing Christmas stories with the app called Write About This. May I back track?  Last year when we received our iPads there were so many cool apps for reading and math and science and grammar…but nothing for writing. I teach 4th grade WRITING, so I was a little bummed. I was fortunate to have the chance to attend iPadpalooza in Austin this summer (follow them on Twitter) where I sat in a session called Celebrity App Smack-Down. I can not remember for the life of me if it was @ipadsammy or @techchef4u that presented on Write About This, all I knew at the time is that I wanted to do a round-off flip flop down the middle of the auditorium. The wheels started turning in my mind, and I started writing down ways to utilize this app in my class. I seriously tell every teacher I meet about this app. It is hands down my favorite writing app. We literally use it every week. There are a ton of built in prompts with beautiful visuals. You can also take your own picture and make up your own prompt. My students LOVE that. Their favorite thing to do is to email their finished project to me and their parents. Back to this week…when the students came in my room I told them to go to Write About This and pick their Christmas picture. Some chose the Santa and some chose the snowman. Then I told them they had a choice.  Kids love choices. They could write a letter to Santa, an acrostic poem, or a creative writing story about Christmas. The kids did an awesome job. I loved their stories and their poems. It always tickles me to see their thoughts. Listen, if you are new to tech, scared of tech, don’t know what to do…start with this app. It is simple; but it is AWESOME. The possibilities are endless with this one, and it is beyond easy to navigate. Merry Christmas to everyone. I pray that you always remember why you began teaching….Let Your Light Shine!