What is COPPA?

The Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, more commonly known as COPPA, is a law dealing with how websites, apps, and other online operators collect data and personal information from kids under the age of 13.

COPPA has a number of requirements, but some key ones are that tech companies making apps, websites, and online tools for kids under 13 must:

  • provide notice and get parental consent before collecting information from kids;
  • have a “clear and comprehensive” privacy policy;
  • and keep information they collect from kids confidential and secure.
    (Source: Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions)

For a more detailed, yet still accessible, overview of the law, you can also check out EdWeek’s “COPPA and Schools: The (Other) Federal Student Privacy Law, Explained.” The article gets into the somewhat confusing and contentious issue of whether or not schools can stand in for kids’ parents when giving consent. In short, schools can grant COPPA consent if—here’s the tricky part—the tool is used solely for an educational purpose. As the FTC explains in its COPPA FAQs, the information collected must be “for the use and benefit of the school, and for no other commercial purpose.” And it can often be hard to tell exactly where that line is drawn.

In addition to knowing when teachers and schools can consent on behalf of parents, teachers and schools should also follow other best practices with respect to COPPA: conducting appropriate due diligence in vetting products and providing appropriate information to parents (such as the names of sites or services it has consented to on behalf of parents, and those sites and services’ information practices).


The Global Read Aloud

This week’s #BloggerMondays share is the wonderful blog of Pernille Ripp, creator of The Global Read Aloud and a relentless advocate for creating environments that instill a passion for reading for students.

Ripp’s focus, however, goes well beyond developing readers. She is a fierce advocate for all students and she shares routinely about resources that can support our students who are the most vulnerable.

My favorite thing about her blog is that she is willing to be vulnerable and share the real struggles that educators face. A great example is a post from November 2 titled Good Enough. A line that resonated with me was the reminder that we need to take time to recharge: “So give yourself a break. Do the work, do it with love, do your best, but then step away.”

Reading blogs from educators like Ripp who understand the work that goes on in schools and classrooms is a great way to maintain perspective!

[Editor’s Note: eSchool News will be highlighting a different blog every Monday. Send your favorites to eullman@eschoolnews.com.]


3 ways lesson planning is like following a recipe

Recently, when a friend shared a recipe on Facebook for a pumpkin cheesecake (yum!), it reminded me of the time I tried to make my own cheesecake. I purchased all the ingredients and some new equipment, including that special pan that snaps around the cake. Unfortunately, I missed a step. I did not soften the cream cheese properly. All these years later, I’m recalling myself with four different spoons in the bowl, trying to maneuver my creation and figuring it to be an utter failure. Because I did not want to waste my ingredients, let alone my fancy new bakeware, I pressed on. In the end, the cheesecake was delicious, but the preparation was a bit of a horror story.

Not too long after my attempt to make the cheesecake, I became a teacher (trust me, I’m going somewhere with this). And recently, it occurred to me that lesson planning is like following a recipe.

Like following a recipe, lesson planning …

1. provides order and organization.
Whether you’ve used a recipe before or not, you expect a recipe to contain the following information: necessary supplies and ingredients, a step-by-step set of steps to prepare the ingredients, and a timeline for doing so. By the end, if all goes properly, you’ve created something tasty.

Likewise, whether you’ve used a lesson plan before or not, you can expect it to inform the reader what you plan to teach, how you plan to teach it, methods by which you’ll determine whether your students have learned what you’ve taught, and perhaps steps to prepare for further learning. While each administrator (or school district) might require variations on these steps, there is still a logical order required for someone else to be able to understand what you plan to do during those 42 minutes with your students.


OnEducation Podcast

OnEducation is a source of entertaining and timely conversations about “teachers, teaching, and everything in between” as well as trusted, expert-level opinions on the best software and technology for the classroom. Since March 2018, OnEducation has consistently grown its listener base and is now regularly the number one podcast on the iTunes “Educational Technology” chart.

OnEducation is hosted by Glen Irvin and Mike Washburn.

Irvin was a foreign language teacher for almost 20 years before recently moving into a new role as an educational technologist in Sauk Rapids, Minn. He is best known for his groundbreaking work integrating Minecraft with Spanish language instruction.

Washburn is a computer science teacher and technology integration specialist from Canada. His Game Design Challenge asks students to spend an entire school year crafting a video game: designing the graphics, music, narrative, and programming the entire game themselves.

OnEducation also offers a blog to allow Irvin, Washburn, and their guests to take a deeper dive into the topics they discuss on the podcast.

[Editor’s Note: eSchool News will be featuring a K12 podcast every Friday. Send your favorites to eullman@eschoolnews.com.]


Leave little to chance with a discovery-driven approach to blended learning

Almost every educator I’ve asked about leading a blended-learning initiative has expressed that building a blended program is a process, not an event. That’s a big reason why the Blended Learning Universe (BLU) includes as a resource a 9-step design guide to support educators at every step in their blended journey. The design guide is based on Heather Staker and Michael Horn’s design advice in their 2013 book Blended. The journey launches with identifying a problem to solve or a goal to achieve and continues through refinement and iteration. Just as we portray it as a wheel, like most worthwhile endeavors, a strong blended program essentially involves perpetual effort and ongoing design decisions.

The final step, step 9, of the design process recommends an important discovery-driven planning process. Internally at the Christensen Institute, our team has recently engaged with this very process as we launch a new research project filled with unknowns. Starting with discovery-driven planning has helped us to pave a way forward that doesn’t leave our next year of work to chance. Rather, it lets us identify our goals upfront and think through not only what we want to see happen, but ways of testing whether those aspirations will actually hold true. If we test our assumptions as the project moves along, we aren’t taking the risk of waiting until the end to see if we are right or wrong.

There’s never any guarantee of success, but if as a team you honestly, thoughtfully lay out all of the risks involved when starting an endeavor—especially one as layered and intertwined with multiple stakeholders like blended learning in a school or district—you increase your chances of discovering a clear path forward.


6 resources for National STEAM Day

Smart is the new cool, and that’s the message behind this year’s National STEAM Day on November 8.

The impending STEAM worker shortage is no secret, and districts are working hard to ensure their students have early and frequent exposure to STEAM learning.

In fact, early exposure is key to keeping students engaged in progressively challenging material. And even if students don’t pursue a STEAM field in college, that’s OK–the skills they learn in K-12, such as collaboration and critical thinking, will serve them well in whatever career path they take.

Keeping girls engaged in STEAM seems an uphill battle at times. Once they enter middle school, STEAM becomes “uncool,” and that unfortunate social classification, coupled with tougher concepts and lower self-confidence in STEAM classes, leads many girls to opt out altogether.

You may have noticed Project Mc² products in stores; the STEAM line for girls features experiment sets and dolls that focus on skills and smarts. The products have a companion Emmy-nominated Netflix show featuring a team of girls working for a government organization called NOV8. (See what they did there? November 8 is National STEAM Day, and NOV8 sounds like “innovate.”)

And while STEAM doesn’t necessarily need a girly hook to capture girls’ attention (not all science kits need to be pink or involve makeup creation), it does show that companies and organizations are thinking more about how to snag girls’ attention and get them involved in the science behind their hobbies.


3 steps to implementing an ecosystem of phonics-based learning

When Florida State Assessment scores revealed that our third-graders were under-performing in reading, my colleagues and I analyzed the data to determine the root cause of performance. The data showed a need for an explicit, phonics-based approach to literacy for our young students. Unless they develop foundational reading skills early, students will experience literacy deficits across all subjects, and phonics instruction embedded in comprehensive reading instruction is the most effective way to teach them how to read.

In fact, last year the Florida Senate passed a bill that requires instructional materials to incorporate evidence-based strategies, including a phonics-based approach to acquiring literacy skills, with the goal of improving reading performance for all students. According to the new law, Florida districts aren’t required to provide state-approved literacy resources until 2021. However, our team had a great sense of urgency. Whether it was required by the state or not, we set out to create an ecosystem of phonics-based learning that would reduce the number of students who struggle with reading.

Setting goals to satisfy all stakeholders
Our goals in creating this ecosystem were to increase reading achievement, help students succeed on their third-grade state assessments, and, most important, inspire our students to become lifelong learners through reading.

To put these goals into action, we looked for a platform that would appeal to not only the students and educators, but also to the curriculum developers, instructional coaches, and school- and district-level administrators. We considered every perspective to get everyone behind our final decision.

Choosing the right phonics-based platform
The feedback we gathered formed the following guidelines for our ideal platform:

  1. We needed a platform that keeps students actively engaged. No worksheets! We want to teach and then have students apply what they learn to gain a well-rounded understanding of concepts.
  2. It had to not only improve student reading skills, but also provide professional development to help our teachers develop a deeper understanding of the difference between phonological awareness and phonics, and how to identify where students are struggling with phonics.
  3. The platform had to use integrated literacy units to complement our current curriculum.
  4. The student activities had to include multisensory and systemic elements that go beyond the state requirement.
  5. It needed to benefit students at a wide range of ages of abilities. All our elementary and K–8 schools are Title I and serve a significant number of ELL students, so the platform had to support a multi-tiered intervention system for educators to use small groups to hone specific skills.

5 doable digital citizenship goals for teachers

Internet safety, online privacy, cyberbullying, media balance, online relationships, news and media literacy—digital citizenship topics tackle big questions. It can feel daunting to integrate lessons on these weighty topics into your already-packed classroom agendas. But does it have to be such a heavy lift?

It’s true: Educators who can teach digital citizenship as a standalone unit can really dive deep into the dilemmas students face online. But digital citizenship can also simply be part of your classroom culture.

It can be baked into your daily routines, messages home to families, informal conversations in the halls, and more. Set a goal for yourself that feels achievable—big or small. Here are a few ideas to get started:

1. Embrace teachable dig cit moments.
We’ve all encountered a situation in the classroom that required spontaneous, unplanned digital citizenship instruction: viral rumors blowing up students’ social media feeds, drama or misunderstandings in an online discussion, or an instance of oversharing online that you happen to witness. No matter what content area you teach, don’t shy away from addressing teachable moments related to digital citizenship when they arise. A little bit of guidance can go a long way in helping students think through the digital dilemmas they face.


3 ways to tell stories with robots

Though coding and robotics is new to almost all of the students coming into my workshops and classes, storytelling is something they’re familiar with. As the manager of educational programs for KID Museum in Maryland, I use narrative to help teach young students how to code and program robots. Introducing programming concepts using storylines and characters flips the mindset around robotics and technology from consuming to creating.

My programs are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and I’ve found that learning through storytelling improves student engagement, boosts retention and memorization, and makes learning fun. I use robots as a physical representation of a narrative, which adds a rich layer of understanding to otherwise challenging concepts for my young students. Storytelling with robots helps create accessible entry points for all types of learners, especially those who may not be initially drawn to robots or technology. Here are three different ways educators can make that powerful connection among kids, robots, and narrative.

1. Start with a book that grounds the concepts of the lesson.
Absorbing concepts using narrative and symbolism allows students to talk about what they’re learning and express their understanding using characters and plot. During my KinderCoders program, my K–1 students bring stories to life using introductory programming tools like KIBO or ScratchJr.

I began a recent Kinder Coders class by reading them Night Animals by Gianna Moreno. This silly story about nocturnal animals was my introduction to how the light sensor on the KIBO robot can sense light and dark using programmed “if/then” statements. We decorated our robots as nocturnal animals and programmed them to behave differently, depending on whether the light sensor detected light or dark. One of my students decorated his robot to be a bat, and he programmed the light sensor to let his bat “sleep” when it was light out. To represent flying in the nighttime, he programmed his bat to move around when the light sensor detected darkness.


How to fight fake news

Twenty years ago, it was easier to identify fake news. There were the tabloid papers in the grocery store checkout line and the sensationalized “news” programs that promised inside looks at celebrity lives. Now, between the number of online information sites and the proliferation of social media apps, plus near constant mobile phone use, determining a story’s credibility seems to call for advanced detective skills.

In her edWebinar “Fight Fake News: Media Literacy for Students,” Tiffany Whitehead, school librarian for the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says that’s exactly what we need to teach students. While today’s youth may be aware that not everything on the internet is true, they don’t have the tools to evaluate accuracy and authenticity.

First, Whitehead says educators and students need to use the same definitions for the same terms, such as news literacy and fake news. Otherwise, any conversations could result in miscommunication. For her students, Whitehead uses definitions from the Center for News Literacy. More important than defining the words is how just discussing the definitions can engage students in reflective conversations. This is an opportunity for them to identify what they have seen and read online.

Next, Whitehead teaches her students about the different forms of logic and reasoning inauthentic sources use to appear legitimate. These tactics include:

  • Confirmation bias: only pursuing sources that confirm your own point of view
  • Echo chamber: similar to confirmation bias, discussing news or sources within a group that confirms existing views
  • Circular reasoning: when a piece of information appears to come from multiple sources, but they are really one source citing each other

In addition, she talks about filter bubbles. Whitehead wants students to understand that search engines and apps watch their online activity and filter search results and ads based on perceived preferences. Thus, before students even type in a word, online media is already funneling them the news the media thinks they want to see.

Whitehead doesn’t believe in lecturing students about news literacy. Her lessons include several activities to help them embrace the idea that they can’t just accept what they see. For instance, she has shared television news reports about bloggers profiting from fake news stories, engaged them in activities to evaluate news reports on similar topics, and had them create their own source decks. Most important, she gives them tools they can use outside of her class like fact-checking websites and checklists to determine a website’s, article’s, or author’s credibility.