A Reminder: Social Media Best Practices

As summer begins and students have more free time to explore the vast treasures of the internet it's always good to remind them that they are essentially in a global public place. What they do, what they say or write, what they post or comment upon is visible to not just their family and friends, but the entire world and it will be around for a very long time.
Students' creations, comments, videos, and photos represent them and their personality, culture, and most importantly their reputations. Kimmel Farm created best practices for social media and made it part of the School Improvement Plan when it opened four years ago with the goal of making the entire school community educated and aware of the right ways to represent yourself digitally.
As a resource for parents, students, teachers, and administrators we have created a thinking map that summarizes basic "rules of the digital road" and that lives beside our full document on our school website. Click on the interactive Best Practices for Social Media and take time to remind your students and their friends that the world is watching when they participate online. Wishing you a fun-filled summer and safe surfing.


Summer Adventures - Physical and Digital

Summer break is just around the corner! Students have worked hard and get a break, but they still need to keep their minds and bodies active over the break. Outdoor games, swimming, playing in the park, and spending time with children are all important and summer offers those opportunities. Spoonful has a great list of ideas that are free, low cost, fun, and things you might not think of right off the bat. The Winston-Salem Parks and Recreation website also has ideas for summer fun activities that are scheduled and supported by the city.
During those cool down times, or times when the weather won't allow you to get outside and move there's no doubt students will want to use technology, and play on their gaming systems. Common Sense Media has a list of games and technology sites that includes everything from art, to music, to building, to computer programming. These apps, games, and websites are rated for safety and appropriateness, and are categorized by age level so you can find safe digital activities for children that will help them problem solve, and be creative. Keeping our students moving and thinking will help nurture them and develop healthy habits and a well-rounded knowledge base. You never know what talents children may discover!
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Problems Take Time - A Life lesson

One misconception students often have that bothers me is that if they can't figure out how to learn something quickly, in the first few tries, it somehow says something negative about their intelligence. So in the computer lab one thing we have been working on are simple problem solving games that require thought, but take time to solve - usually the whole class period. On some of these games there are multiple levels and I always tell students before they ever see the game - "this is hard, and this will take time, but you can do it."
They hear me say it, but rarely do they completely believe me. I'm certain to continuously encourage them and tell them it does not matter what level they finish on, but that the only requirement is THEY DO NOT GIVE UP!
What's amazing to see are students who get to the point of frustration, some to the point of tears, won't give up, but show an unwillingness to stop playing the game. Games and gamification are emerging teaching methodologies according to the annual Horizon Report, which yearly identifies emerging trends in educational technology. Students are able to maintain concentration far longer when playing a video game than if they were asked to do some other type of learning activity so why not leverage that in school?
My goals are by having students engage with these types of learning opportunities they build stamina for learning and develop a growth mindset where they authentically believe they can conquer any problem given time and teamwork (sometimes they are allowed to work in groups or teams) and that it translates to the regular classroom.
In processing these experiences I always reference the Wright Brothers (Orville and Wilbur), who invented the control system for the airplane and talked about how they tested dozens of wing shapes until they found the one that gave them lift. It took a good seven years for the Wright Brothers to invent a fully functional flying machine. Problems worth solving take time. What if they had given up? Encouraging our students to never give up in a worthwhile pursuit! Watch Steven Johnson explain his research about creativity, innovation, and where good ideas come from and see if you don't agree in the video below!
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Book Club off to a Page-Turning Success!

The first Freckle's Kimmel Farm Book Club (KFBC) meeting was a huge success. The first meeting had eight parent/student paired participants show up Mar. 7 at 6:30 in Mrs. D'Souza's room for an intimate night with great books! The 16 participants were reading "Frindle," by Andrew Clements and were given one assignment - to create three through-provoking questions to share and discuss with the group.
The discussions were lively and parents were able to identify with just how deeply their children must engage with books as they learn to read and comprehend on a daily basis at school. A book club is a great casual way for parents to build strong relationships with their children.
Some of the students are actually looking up other books by Clements and parents had comments like, "awesome book" - "great opportunity" and "I love this book." Students also made decisions about whether or not the book was fiction or non-fiction and made connections about events in the story, and with local historical events.
The book club is just getting started and will meet again April 11th at 6:30 at the school with 4th grade students reading "Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt. The book club is limited to 10 student/parent participants and are chosen by random drawing on entries received. Thanks to Mrs. D'Souza for organizing this event and for Ms. Southerland and Ms. McRae for facilitating discussions.        

Password Safety

It's probably something that isn't thought about much - a field on the electronic form to be completed as you sign up for an account, service, or make a purchase - but it's more important than most people know. Your password is an important step in staying safe online and students in third, fourth and fifth grades have been working on learning how to create strong passwords. It's a skill they will need as we continue to live in a growing digital world.
What are the risks? You don't want your personal information public, and that threat remains constant, especially if you are using free and unsecured wireless connections at fast food restaurants or coffee shops. It's amazing how easy it is for others to see what you may be typing into your phone or computer when the wireless is not secure. Computer viruses are another risk which can cause damage to your device which can be costly to repair. Worst of all, people can damage your online identity which is difficult to repair. The way you are seen online is very important and experts have said that your online reputation may be as or more important than your real life reputation because that's how employers and friends close and far will know you. If negative postings or activity under your name appear online it's hard to correct.
So how does one make a secure password? There are a few simple rules. NEVER use the word "password" as your password. Believe it or not, many people use this as their password. Common Sense Media recommends these steps in creating safe passwords. Changing passwords every few months also is smart for particularly important data.
• Don’t use passwords that are easy to guess – such as your nickname or your pet’s name. People who know you well can guess these kinds of passwords.
• Don’t use any private identity information in your password. Identity thieves can use this information to pretend to be you.
• Don’t use a word in the dictionary as a password. Hackers use programs that will try every word in the dictionary to guess passwords.
• Do use combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols. These are harder to crack than regular words because there are more combinations to try.
Although we have talked about this at school, talk about this with your students and teach them safe password habits. It's a skill they can use the rest of their lives.
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