Friday, March 27, 2009

Duval Resources for Parents

In this week's parent coffee talk, our media specialist, Mrs. KK Cherney, came to speak about Duval county's free technology resources that can be accessed by students at home. Mrs. Cherney has introduced these resources to your children in the media center, but they may need some guidance accessing them at home.

The first resource is Destination Success for students in grade K - 5. Students log in by the following formula:

username: first name + last name + 264 (do not add any spaces)
example: hannahmills264
password: 2 digit birth month + 2 digit birth date
example: 0513

Once you're in, your student may have items already listed for them to do. If so, there will be a go sign next to those items. If not, click the "exploration" button to find activites on your child's grade level.
The second resource is FCAT Explorer for students in grade 2 - 5. This program has practice problems simulating FCAT-style questions for students. Here's how students log in:
username: last name + first initial (no spaces)
example: jonest
password: 16 + first 4 letters of last name + birth month + birth day
example: 16jone0123

The third resource is online leveled readers. There are thousands of books available for your child to access and read at home. To obtain log in information to this program you'll need to email me and tell me your child's full name, grade and homeroom and I will give you the log in information
I hope you'll make use of these resources throughout the rest of this year, as well as this summer!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cyber Safety for Parents

During all of my meetings with parents, the topic of cybersafety always comes up. Many people talk about web filters they have purchased or filters that have been recommended to them. What I wanted to talk about today in our coffee talk, was making sure our kids understand what to do online whether there is a filter or not.

In our school, we have a filter that blocks inappropriate content from the students. We don't have to worry too much about what may inadvertently be clicked by a student. One of our parents today gave me directions he thought might work around it I gave it a try and I was happy to see that it did not. I'm glad our students are protected while in our care, but I worry about what that teaches them when they are not with us. Somewhere, sometime, they are going to be at home or a friend's house where they will be in an unfiltered internet environment.

If a child never learns that "guessing" a website address may take them to an inappropriate place, or that some websites have chat features where people may speak to them, or that clicking on pop up boxes can invite viruses into your computer then they will probably be learning the hard way. We don't have a way to teach them at school.
Here's what kids need to know:

#1 What would be considered "inappropriate content"? A child needs to know with an answer that suits their age, what would be inappropriate for them to see on a computer. AND what will you do if this happens? Run get mom? Click the red X in the corner?

#2 What would be "inappropriate contact" online? This might seem a funny question if your child doesn't have email, but many websites have chatrooms embedded. (and can be a good thing, if monitored) If they come across this, what do you want them to do? Many websites have message boards for questions and such. Does your child know not to leave their last name or any identifying information? They need to understand there is a person behind all of those messages and those people are strangers.

#3 What would be "inappropriate conduct" by your child online? Does your child know not to upload photos or videos without your permission? Don't assume they don't know how. It's easy to figure out. Does your child know to leave comments or questions with appropriate language? Sometimes kids will behave in a different manner if they think no one will know what they did.

I found a great site that has resources for you to open up dialogue with your kids about these topics. It's called If you click "For Kids" on the left it will take you to a page with a great cartoon video to show your kids about inappropriate contact online. There are games, coloring sheets, etc. Appropriate for all elementary ages. Check it out!

We care about what happens to our students no matter where they are and we want to arm them with the knowledge they need to keep safe in an unfiltered world. If you have any questions about our topic today, please contact me at the email listed on this blog. Our next Coffee Talk date will be listed in the Principal's connection which comes home every Monday. I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's All About Audience

During our last coffee talk, several of the parents had questions about blogs. So, for this month's coffee talk, I thought it would be appropriate for us to talk about blogging. If you're not sure what a blog is, watch this quick video:

Many of our teachers here at Chets Creek have embraced blogging as a communication tool for the families of their students. The great thing about blogging is that it is a conversation. After a blog post is made, readers can make comments about the post or in response to other comments.

A few of our classrooms have the students doing the blogging themselves here at school. This can be a powerful tool, because there is a direct relation to the quality of work based on audience. Would you work harder on something many others are going to see or something only one person will see? Watch this video on why students should blog:

So when parents ask me, "Should I let my child start their own blog?" I have many more reasons why they should than why they shouldn't BUT, if they do, the most important thing is for the parent to take ownership of their child's online presence. Especially at the elementary level.
Do you know what is safe to talk about in a blog post?
Are photos safe, are videos safe?
When you live your life online, what are you opening yourself up to?
We'll be talking about these things in this morning's coffee talk.

Here are some great examples of kids blogging:
Little Brother
It's All About Me
Martha's Stories
Sarah's Super Blog

At school, we have strict guidelines because we are protecting your children. When it is your choice, you have to decide what you're willing to do online....but whatever you may decide: monitor, monitor, monitor.