Friday, February 14, 2020

Local vs. Online Documents

I've been a Google Docs user longer than most middle schoolers have been alive. I don't need convincing that online documents are great. But not everyone is convinced. In fact, just last week I had a conversation with a teacher in my school who wasn't convinced that there could be any benefit to moving away from using Word on his desktop PC. I even tried telling him that there is an online version of Word. (This was also the same person who didn't want to use two-factor authentication on his G Suite account because "who knows who can see my phone number?")

If you find yourself, like I did last week, trying to explain the benefits of online documents to someone, consider using Common Craft's new video on the topic. In my case, with the colleague I described above, it might not help. Hopefully, in your case it does help explain the benefits of online documents.

Disclosure: I have a long-standing, in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

How to Get Reminders Based On Your Location

Without using reminders in Google Keep, I'd forget half of the things that I'm told asked to do every day. I use time-based reminders and location-based reminders in Google Keep. The location-based reminders are particularly useful to me when running errands around town. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Google Keep's location-based reminders feature.

Applications for Education
The obvious use for location-based Google Keep reminders for students is to set reminders to do homework or get papers signed when they arrive at home.

Location-based reminders is just one of many Google Keep features. In the following video I demonstrate ten other useful Google Keep features.

Kissing, Love, and Math - Three Valentine's Day Lessons

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It is also day of the Winter Carnival Dance at my school. In short, love and hormones will be flying all around the hallways of my school tomorrow. Perhaps the same will be happening in your middle school or high school. If you're looking to work a little Valentine's Day themed lesson into your day tomorrow, here are three good videos to consider viewing.

Why Do We Love? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores some philosophies on why people love. The lesson won't provide you with any clear answers, but it will make you think. And isn't that what philosophers want you to do?

The following video from It's Okay To Be Smart (produced by PBS Digital Studios) explains why humans kiss, the history of symbols associated with kissing, and some cultural views of kissing. When I saw this video I immediately thought of my friends who teach middle school and high school health classes.

The following fun video, also from It's Okay to Smart, attempts to use math to determine the odds of a 25 year old woman finding love in New York. (Remember, the video is just for fun).

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Fifteen Digital Citizenship Resources for K-12

As it is Safer Internet Day it's a good time share the following excerpt from my free Practical Ed Tech Handbook.

Common Sense Education (often referred to as Common Sense Media) offers an extensive set of free lesson plans for teaching digital citizenship to all K-12 students. The lesson plans are listed by grade level on Common Sense Education’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum homepage. As is to be expected Common Sense Education’s series of lesson plans include videos and instruction about privacy and what to share or not share online. What I like about Common Sense Education’s curriculum is that beginning with Kindergarten and running through twelfth grade there are lesson plans under the heading of “media balance & well being.” Those lessons get beyond the nuts and bolts digital citizenship by making students think about how their media choices and media use affect them and others.

Planet Nutshell's Net Safe series contains eighteen episodes covering topics like protecting personal information, responsible posting of pictures, and mobile location privacy. The videos are labeled with grade levels. Below each grade level label you will find a summary of the key points of each video.

Elementary School Resources
Be Internet Awesome is Google's Internet safety curriculum. The Be Internet Awesome site features a game called Interland. The game is set in a virtual world that students navigate by correctly answering questions about Internet safety. The graphics of the game are great and there are some elements in which students navigate, but there is also a heavy reliance on multiple choice questions in the game. The Interland game can be distributed through Google Classroom. G Suite administrators can push the game to the taskbar on managed Chromebooks. There is a 98 page PDF containing lesson plans on each concept in the Be Internet Awesome curriculum that teachers can download for free. The curriculum is based on five concepts: Share with care, Don't fall for fake, Secure your secrets, It's cool to be kind, When in doubt, talk it out.

Ruff Ruffman: Humble Media Genius is a PBS Kids online series of videos and online quizzes designed to help elementary school students understand the importance of things like online privacy, safe texting behaviors, and managing screen time. The series also includes a section on how to conduct internet searches and how to tell the difference between what is an advertisement on a webpage and what is useful information.

Professor Garfield is a free resource that has been helping students learn about internet safety, search, and responsible online behavior for more than a decade. developed in part by the Virginia Department of Education. Professor Garfield teaches students how to be safe online, how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying, and how to decide if something is a fact or an opinion. These educational activities can be found in the free Professor Garfield apps; Online SafetyFact or Opinion, Cyberbullying. All of the free Professor Garfield iPad apps use the same format. The format is a set of comic strips that students read to learn about the issues the app is focused on. At the end of the comic strips students play some simple games to practice recognizing good online behaviors.

Middle School / High School Resources
A Thin Line is a digital safety education resource produced by MTV in collaboration with other media partners. The purpose of the site is to educate teenagers and young adults about the possible repercussions of their digital activities. A Thin Line offers a series of fact sheets about topics like sexting, digital spying, and excessive text messaging and instant messaging. A Thin Line gives students advice on how to recognize those behaviors, the dangers of those behaviors, and how to protect your digital identity. Students can also take a short quiz to practice identifying risky digital behaviors.

Own Your Space is a free ebook designed to educate tweens and teens about protecting themselves and their stuff online. This ebook isn't a fluffy, general overview book. Each chapter goes into great detail explaining the technical threats that students' computers face online as well as the personal threats to data that students can face online. For example, in the first chapter, students learn about the different types of malware and the importance of installing security patches to prevent malware infections. The fourteenth chapter explains the differences between secured and unsecured wireless networks, the potential dangers of an unsecured network, and how to lock-down a network.

Seven Digital Deadly Sins is an interactive story produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The story contains seven chapters each containing short videos, essays, and polls. The videos and essays tell the stories of people suffering from digital sins like greed (illegally downloading media) and wrath (cyberbullying). After reading or watching the stories viewers can vote on questions about what they would do in similar situations. Seven Digital Deadly Sins does deal with some content, mostly in the section on lust, that you will want to screen before deciding if it is appropriate for the students in your classroom.

Factitious is a game for testing your skills at identifying fake and misleading news stories. The game was developed by the American University Game Lab and the American University's School of Communication. To play Factitious simply go to the site and select quick start. You'll then see an article appear on the screen. Read through the article, click the source listed at the bottom, and then select either the green check mark or red X to indicate whether or not you think the article is a real news story. After you make your selection you'll get instant feedback and an explanation of how you can tell if the article was a real or fake news story.

Checkology is a service that is designed to help students develop those skills. Checkology's free version offers four interactive modules for students to complete. Each of the modules is comprised of between twenty and forty-seven instructional video clips and interactive comprehension checks. The four modules are titled Info Zones, Democracy's Watchdog, Practicing Quality Journalism, and Misinformation. As you might expect, the contents of the modules gets progressively more difficult as each section is completed.

Bad News is a website that offers simulations that show visitors how misinformation is spread through social media. Bad News is available in two versions. The regular version is intended for those who are high school age or older. Bad News Junior is appropriate for middle school and older elementary school students. The difference between the two versions is found in the news topics that are used in the simulations.In both versions of Bad News players work through a simulation in which they attempt to build a Twitter following by spreading misleading news stories. (I must emphasize that there are no real Tweets sent and you don't have to even have a Twitter account to play Bad News). Through the simulation players learn how headlines, memes, and Tweets are designed to manipulate people and prompt reactions from them. The simulation also shows players how Twitter bots are used. There are six distinct sections of Bad News. At the end of each section players are awarded a badge signifying that they have learned about the manipulation techniques associated with trolling, impersonation, discrediting, polarizing, emotional manipulation, and conspiracy theories.

Creating and Protecting Strong Passwords
One of the best ways to protect your online identity is to create strong passwords containing unique characters. Creating a strong password is the first step in securing your online accounts. Google offers good advice in this video.

Sometimes it's difficult to think of new strong passwords. When you're having a mental block thinking up a new password try using Wolfram Alpha to come up with a new password. To do this simply go to and type in “password.” Then a random eight character password will be shown to you.

Whenever it is offered as an option, it is a good idea to use two-step or two-factor authentication on the online services you use. Google, Dropbox, Box, and many other cloud services offer this option. Two-step authentication means that just entering one password isn’t enough to log into a service. Learn about Google’s two-step authentication in this video and read about it in detail at

Common Craft offers some excellent videos on crafting strong passwords, understanding why creating a strong password isn’t enough to stay safe online, and how to protect your mobile phone from hacking.

A Few Good Reminders for Safer Internet Day

Today is Safer Internet Day. As Google is reminding people when who visit today, it's a good day to perform a little check-up on your account security. That means making sure you're using strong passwords, not re-using passwords on multiple sites, and using two-factor authentication whenever it is offered.

One of the best things that you can do to keep your online accounts safe is to use two-factor authentication. In fact, my school district just made all staff start using two-factor authentication on their G Suite accounts. Here's how you can enable two-factor authentication on your Google account.

The mandate for all staff in my district to use two-factor authentication was a response to a few faculty members falling for phishing scams that compromised their G Suite accounts. Here's a Common Craft video that explains how common phishing scams work.

Of course, the first line of defense in protecting your online accounts against brute-force attacks is using a strong password. Here's Common Craft's explanation of how to create a strong password.

Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

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