Monday, March 23, 2015

PlayMessenger: Supervising Children on the Digital Playground

This is a guest post from Sabba Quidwai (@AskMsQ) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

  Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.44.17 PM
How many of the above tools did you recognize?  Do you know which ones are safe and which ones are harmful? Do your students or children know the difference between them?  How many of the above tools frighten you as a parent or a teacher?  As the world becomes smaller, and children are surrounded by a variety of different communication tools, it’s time for us as adults to reevaluate what we mean when we teach children the classic lesson, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

The term “talk” used to be limited to face to face interaction, but with the rise of social media, the term “talk” can mean so many different things. This lesson used to also only apply to the dangers associated with talking to those who you do not know.  Countless stories, however, will tell us otherwise - not only about the impact of what we share with those whom we know but also with those whom we do not know in the real world.

As adults, we can try to shelter students from these growing forms of communication or we can give them the digital citizenship skills they need to successfully navigate their digital world.  The benefits and power that come with being a connected individual can far outweigh the negatives if students are taught from an early age what being a connected individual means in today’s world.

To assist parents and adults in this process, welcome to the Digital Playground, where your children can learn how to use social media tools to communicate and collaborate in a safe environment with the supervision they need to guide their experience with a new app called PLAYMessenger.  This is an app designed specifically for kids but with adults in mind. Kids are given a sense of independence and are able to send text, pictures and voice messages to their friends and family, all while adults have peace of mind knowing that their children are safe and secure. Parents and teachers can use PlayMessenger working together to model the many ways students can be safe and responsible connected learners.

PlayMessenger has many great features, however what really drew my attention to the app was the language filter.  Language filters monitor all text messages sent to kids and adults. Parents are alerted when their child has attempted to send another user an inappropriate message, and kids are warned when they have attempted to send an inappropriate message. This presents a great opportunity for adults to have conversations with children about how they are communicating and what the potential consequences can be for this type of behavior.

  play messenger

With PLAYMessenger, kids can send text, photo and voice messages to people approved by adults on their contact list.  All child accounts are linked to an adult account, and the adults can manage the settings, monitor activity, view the chat history, and determine which users the child’s account is connected to.

  Play messenger privacy

Adults have access to “Trust Mode” where they can choose the level of oversight they want and personalize it for each child. When Trust mode is OFF, all messages and requests require parental approval before they are sent to a child, and when Trust Mode is ON messages and requests are sent directly to the child without parental approval.  Again, this presents another great opportunity for adults to allow children to be responsible users.

To ensure that children are interacting with people who are who they say they are, all adult users are verified during the registration process through Privo to ensure they are who they say they are. Let’s educate our children and guide their learning in the Digital Playground so they become responsible digital citizens who use the power of being connected for positive, safe and healthy interactions. PlayMessenger is available on iOS and Android platforms. To learn more visit the PlayMessenger web site.

You can learn more from Sabba this summer! She will be leading hands-on workshops for EdTechTeacher in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Short Math and Science Lessons in Rap Form

Rhyme 'n Learn is a series of math and science lessons presented in short rap music form. About half of the raps are provided in video format with visuals to support the lesson. The other half of the lessons are audio only, but do have transcripts available to help your students or you follow along. A couple of the video raps are embedded below.

What Determines Hair Color? - And Other Lessons on Genetics

Brain Science is one of my favorite YouTube channels because they consistently produce concise, interesting, and informative videos. One of the latest videos is all about hair color. The video goes beyond the factors of genetics to explain how hair gets its color and why our hair (or at least my hair) turns gray with age.

To extend this video lesson about hair color take a look at the following TED-Ed lesson How Mendel's Pea Plants Helped Us Understand Genetics, students receive a crash course in heredity, genotypes, and punnett squares through the story of Mendel and his study of peas. The video is embedded below. The full lesson with questions is available here.

Thingdom is a fun and challenging game through which students can learn about genetics. The game, produced by the London Science Museum, asks players to select a "thing" then try to find a make for that "thing" based on various traits. Players move through a progression of challenges in which they try to create "thing" offspring that have certain traits.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Watchkin - Another Tool for Distraction-free YouTube Viewing

Over the years I've shared a variety of tools for watching YouTube videos without all of the "related" videos and advertisements appearing on screen. Watchkin is the latest tool in this market that I have tried. Watchkin is a service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on

Watchkin can be used in a few ways. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on to have the related content disappear from the page.

Applications for Education
The Watchkin website and browser bookmarklet are great tools for teachers who want to show a YouTube video in their classrooms without risking displaying "related" sidebar content. To be clear, Watchkin is not a work-around if your school blocks YouTube and it is not a tool for downloading YouTube videos. (Downloading YouTube videos is a violation of the YouTube terms of service).

The Week In Review - Back in Maine

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where I have finally recovered from the jet lag of my return from the Future Schools Expo in Sydney. Again, thank you to everyone who came to see me speak at that event. I'm home for the next month and during that time I'll be conducting a lot of webinars and working on a project that I've put on the back burner for the last month. But before I do any of that I'm heading out to ski in a fundraiser for Maine Adaptive Sports. I hope that you too have fun things on your schedule this weekend.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers
2. Five Ways Students Can Share Videos Without YouTube
3. How to Create an Audio Slideshow With Annotations in YouTube
4. How to Sign Documents That Have Been Emailed to You Without Printing Them
5. Journey to the Centre of the Earth - An Animated Infographic
6. Two New Apps That Are Great for Recording Audio Interviews
7. 5 Free Tools for Creating Whiteboard Videos

This week I opened registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp being held on July 13 &14. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is a two day, hands-on learning experience for teachers. This year's event is being held in downtown Portland, Maine just a few blocks from the ocean, great dining, and iconic lighthouses. Register by April 16th to save $50 on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.