January 27

Reflecting on Roblox

Considerations for Parents

If you are the parent of an elementary aged student there is a pretty good chance your kids are on Roblox.  Roblox is an online game or app in which players from around the world converge in different games that are created by its own users or professional game development groups.  Some games, such as Adopt Me! get a lot more play than others.  On October 10, 2020, Adopt Me! reached 1,786,076 concurrent players (data from the Roblox Wikia) and these popular games require multiple servers to accommodate the amount of players on the game.  Players gain Robux game currency by overcoming challenges or accomplishing tasks and this money allows them to buy new clothes and faces for their avatars, new houses, new vehicles, new pets, etc…  Parents can also connect a credit card to the players account so that kids can buy Robux.  Kids quickly get hooked on these games and on making purchases.

So let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of the Roblox revolution.

Pros

  • These games allow friends to connect in what is essentially an online playground.  That means that during a pandemic when kids aren’t having playdates in the real world, they can play together in the Roblox world.  There is a chat feature that allows kids to chat with their friends (or anyone else in that game on that server), but I have noticed that most kids put their friends on Facetime or in a Google Meet and then play together.  This allows them to talk to each other while they play which makes them feel like they are hanging out.
  • The game allows ample room for creativity.  Kids can design their own Roblox games which is an amazing feature.  They decide the rules for their game (villains, time limits, the world it is in, music, reward system, etc…)  The sky is the limit in terms of game design.
  • They learn how to earn money by accomplishing tasks just like they do in the real world with chores!
  • You can easily set up a chore/Robux reward system at home.  For example, if your child makes their bed and cleans their room each day, they earn a certain amount of Robux at the end of the week that you pay for.  I use this system for my own daughter and it is amazing how easy it is to get her to clean her room now!

Cons

  • Kids enjoyment of Roblox very rapidly turns into an addiction.  Managing screen time becomes of the utmost importance as it can quickly spiral out of control with this game.  Many of the games that are the most popular simply never end, so play can go on indefinitely.
  • Some of the games have scary or violent themes involving horror movie characters or shooting.  You may want to dictate which Roblox games you approve of and which ones you don’t.  There is a parental control setting that allows you to choose the games you want to allow.
  • Kids can chat with strangers.  This can be turned off by parents in the parental control settings or parents can choose to regularly check your child’s chat history by logging in.  The only thing I will say in defense of the chat feature though is that it is monitored by Roblox so kids aren’t allowed to swear, say anything suggestive, say anything political or religious, etc…  Kids who violate the rules are banned from the game.  However, by the time they get banned the damage may have been done, so be aware that it is always a possibility.
  • If you want to raise a voracious consumer with a deeply ingrained love of capitalism then this is the game for you.  Kids will constantly need more and more Robux to be happy and will bug you for them all the time!

Each parent will have different opinions as to why or why they do not allow their kids to play Roblox.  I allow my 9-year old daughter to play because it is a great way for her to connect with friends during lockdowns and Robux are a great incentive for her to do her chores every day without being asked.  But it is highly addictive and has caused its fair share of arguments about screen time.  So I have personally experienced many of these pros and cons!

If your kids are playing Roblox regularly I would encourage you to stay in the loop.  Find out what games they are playing on Roblox, who they chat with regularly, and make sure that you need to approve any and all in-app purchases so they can’t be automatically charging your credit card.  Sit with them and watch them play for a while.  Most kids will love to share about these games with you.  Open communication with your kids about their online lives is the best way to keep your kids safe online.

To find out more about the parental control settings visit:  https://en.help.roblox.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000375686-Account-Restrictions

 

January 21

Let’s Think About Our Digital Footprints

A New Nearpod Lesson

I have created a new Nearpod lesson that can be used anywhere from grade 4 to grade 8 in which we will learn about Digital Footprints.  Digital Footprints are the tracks you leave all over the internet every time you go online.  Any time you visit a website, leave a comment, post a picture, create a post on social media, post a video on youtube, participate in online chats, etc… you are leaving behind a digital footprint.  It is extremely important to be aware of this because these footprints are permanent and searchable.  In this Nearpod lesson you will participate in polls, quizzes, and a game of ‘Time to Climb’ to learn about this topic.

If you aren’t a Nearpod user, here is more on the topic of Digital Footprints;

Let’s watch this little video about Digital Footprints created by Common Sense Education.

It may seem impossible to believe but 15 years from now a future employer may be Googling your name and finding the mean comments you left all over YouTube, or the crazy photos you posted on social media, and thinking you may not be the best person to hire for a job!  More importantly for today though, the things you are posting now will find their way back to parents and teachers.  Here are some tips from safesitter.org to making sure that the tracks we leave online are the good kind!

So let’s think about some places online we need to be extra careful…

Game Chats

  • Never share private information like your address, full name, school, phone number, or email in a game chat.
  • Don’t make rude or mean comments in a game chat.  Not only will it get you banned from the game, it will be permanently logged.

YouTube, TikTok, and Social Media Comments

  • The comments you post online should be supportive and kind.  Hurtful comments can never be erased, even if you delete the post.  It is very easy for others to screenshot and share the things you’ve posted.

The Sites You Visit

  • Make sure you are visiting sites that are appropriate and approved by parents and teachers.  Every site you visit shows up in your Search History and can be seen by parents and school administrators.

Your Messenger Chats

  • Most parent-approved texting apps like Messenger Kids allow parents to see every chat.  Other chat apps allow friends and family to screenshot and save messages.  So be aware of the kinds of photos and messages you are texting with others.  What you say today may be online forever.

Your Social Media and Blog Posts

  • Make sure that all of the videos, photos and posts you put online are ones you’d be happy to share forevermore, because that is how long they will be searchable online!
  • Never post pictures of your friends without their permission.
  • Make sure you have parental permission to be posting certain kinds of posts on the internet.

January 13

Online Safety Workshop – Protect Your Passwords!

You might have heard that there are some very commonly used passwords that you should never use because they are very easy for hackers to figure out.  Passwords we should never use include;

  • your pet’s name
  • your own name
  • your siblings name
  • your birthday
  • your street name
  • password
  • 123456
  • abc123
  • iloveyou
  • princess
  • dragon

But how do we create a strong password and keep them safe?  This video slideshow will help you learn some easy tricks to creating and protecting your passwords.

Activity

We are going to learn how to create a super strong password by playing the game Password Protect on the Common Sense Education website.  Remember, when you are finished, don’t share your super strong password with anyone except for your parents or teachers!

January 5

Digital Citizenship Workshop – Facts vs. Opinions

Today we listen to the story;

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex

Afterwards we will complete a short assignment to make sure we understand the difference.  Understanding the difference between facts and opinions is another way we can be great digital citizens.  There is so much information online presented as a fact when it is actually just an opinion.  And in this book we learn how important it is to listen respectfully to the opinions of others even if we don’t agree with them.  This is especially true online when we make comments on each other’s blogs and social media.

 

December 14

Reaching Students Through Nearpod

As a part of my professional development this year, I had the goal of using Nearpod to create lessons that could reach students that I could not see in person.  I wanted to start by creating lessons that would cover essential research skills and then move them on to working on digital citizenship and media literacy.  To that end I created four lessons to date that work to engage students and allow them to practice new skills along the way.

Research Skills

The first one that I created was Using Keywords.  The goal here was to teach students how internet search works, how to search effectively using concise keywords, and to give students a chance to try it out for themselves.  They also learned how generate keywords for much larger search questions.  And finally, I present them with many kid-friendly research sources.  This workshop can be used from grades 4-8 but is specifically for our 4-6s.

The second lesson I created is called In-Text Citations and Bibliographies and was designed specifically for middle school.  Upon entering middle school, citations and bibliographies take on a new level of importance.  This lesson explains to students how critical citations and bibliographies are in avoiding plagiarism.  It demonstrates through a tutorial how to use the citation and bibliography creation tool in Google Docs and it also allows students the opportunity to practice these skills with built-in assignments.

Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy

This lesson on cyberbullying was designed for our 4-6s.  It is a quick lesson on what cyberbullying is and the different forms it takes, how to stop bullies who are bothering you, and how to be an upstander.  This lesson is based more on discussion and collaborative boards than assignments.

And finally, the lesson that I am most proud of and the one that is the culmination of years of running my library workshops is my Nearpod lesson on Information Credibility.  This covers a broad range of topics and is meant to give students a comprehensive knowledge of different forms of misinformation.  It includes several built-in assignments and is a much longer lesson that could cover two periods or more.

It is my hope that these lesson become a valuable resource to our teachers and can be used year after year.  It is also my hope that they can be used in other schools to facilitate teaching these key skills.  I am looking to solicit feedback from any teacher who uses these lesson with their classes.  Please post your feedback in the comments here or send me an email b.ruel@theojcs.ca

 

November 30

Digital Citizenship Meets The OJCS Reading Challenge!

This year the OJCS Reading Challenge is designed to make reading fun, encourage our students to reach for new reading goals, and to teach digital citizenship while connecting globally.

We will be getting students to participate in the class creation of tweets, instagram posts, youtube videos or tik tok videos (whatever social media formats the teacher prefers, the accounts are owned and regulated by the teacher and are professional (not personal) accounts).  These posts will share their class reading goals and accomplishments in fun and creative ways.  The class will then check those posts regularly for likes and words of encouragement from around the globe.  They may even be able to  connect with other schools participating in their own reading challenge.  Students will also use their blogs as a place to post book reviews and to blog about their personal reading goals.  They can even embed or link the class social media posts directly to their blogs!

Class goals could include a certain number of books read by the class each week or each month, a certain number of books of a specific genre or a variety of genres read, etc…  These goals are determined by the teacher or decided as a class and can change week to week or month to month.

Students love being online, so this is a way for them to practice their digital citizenship with post creation (spelling, hashtags, using photos and videos in posts) and take pride in their reading accomplishments, as well as get global props and encouragement.
The end-of-year prize is a classroom movie party for each class that participated regularly.  The library will provide popcorn and candy for each class.
November 16

Learning to Assess Information Credibility with my Favourite Tree Octopus

A Fun Lesson for our grades 3-5 students

Each student will need a device for this activity.  You will share the link to the following site with your students.

https://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/  

Teachers will then need to print the web evaluation checklist.  Click the button on the upper right hand corner ‘pop out’.  Only print page 1.  Students will fill it in to determine if this website is credible or not.

When they have formed their conclusions, you can explain that the last step, lateral reading, is often the fastest way to fact-check information and can be your FIRST step.  Running a Google search on the topic and or the author or site name can often provide you with everything you need to know.  And following the rule of three, checking information against two other sources, is also a wonderful strategy to use.

Finish by sharing this great video!

October 15

Let’s Get Unplugged

Lower Grades Digital Citizenship

First, let’s read Unplugged by Steve Antony

So how do you use your time?

Everyone is going to get a sheet of paper and on one side you are going to write down all of the things you do plugged in (online) and on the other side, all of the things you do unplugged (offline.)  It will look a little something like this…

Once you have finished, I want you to fold this piece of paper in half.

What would your lives look like if you only got to do the things on one side of the paper?

Living our lives mainly online…

  • Let’s start with the plugged side.  If we spent our entire day online and did little else, how would we feel?  Discuss with your class NOW!  
  • After the discussion… 7 hours of Roblox or YouTube might sound great, but in reality, making media choices like this can lead us to feel tired, frustrated, headachy, and sick!

Living our lives completely offline…

  • Now what if we only had the unplugged side?  Would we be completely happy?  Is there anything we would miss?  Discuss with your class NOW!
  • After the discussion… It is okay to enjoy being online!  We get to chat on Facetime, play awesome games, and watch fun videos.

Let’s Aim for Media Balance

Media Balance is making sure that the time we spend online allows lots of room for the other awesome things in life.  This makes us all feel healthier and happier.

Being Unplugged means more time for colouring!  Here is a cute colouring page!

October 7

The Sad Little Fact – Being a Fact-Finder in the Age of Misinformation

A fake fact is otherwise known as MISINFORMATION…

Misinformation is ‘false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.’

Where do we hear this misinformation?  Unfortunately, the online world is absolutely full of it.  From youtube videos, to tiktok, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, people are bombarded with fake facts and fake news.  Here is an example of misinformation that I found on youtube.

If you saw this video online you’d be terrified.  You might tell your friends about it and spread this information further.  So how do we verify if it is true or not?

Now it’s your turn to give this a try.  I need you to be a fact-checker and find out if this information is true or not using the techniques we just learned.

  1. Check the source – run a Google Search on the publisher or author of the information and try to find out more
  2. The Rule of Three – check three other sources of information
  3. Check a good fact-checking website like Snopes.

So here is the information I want you to check.  It was posted thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter by regular people so there is no author to check.  You will need to rely on method 2 and 3 here.

 

 

June 1

Life Hacks That Seem Impossible Likely Are

There has been a rise in the past year of viral video ‘life hacks’ or ‘kitchen hacks’ depicting recipes or experiments that create impossible results.  These videos have kids rushing to try out these sometimes dangerous experiments thinking that incredible things will happen, only to be left disappointed that it didn’t work for them.

What’s wrong with posting these kind of hoaxes online?  They contribute to the growing problem of misinformation.  That is, spreading information that simply isn’t true.  In some cases, they are also putting children in danger.  Bleaching strawberries, making popcorn with a clothes iron, microwaving things that shouldn’t be microwaved, playing with hot glue, plugging random things into electrical sockets are just a few examples of potentially dangerous hacks.  One woman in England ended up in hospital after trying a life hack where you boil eggs still in their shell in the microwave!  In the following video, Chris Foxx tries out some recipe hacks to see if they work.

In this video Lifehacker explains what is wrong with creating pointless hack videos.

This video, made as a joke, shows how silly and simple making these types of videos can be. He uses a lot of squishies to make it look convincing.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Make a fake life hack or kitchen hack video!  Yes, you heard right.  The best way to learn about the ridiculous nature of incredible and untrue hack videos is to make one yourself.  Maybe you will use baking soda to transform an apple into an orange.  Or put toothpaste in chocolate chip cookies to make them mint chocolate chip.  The sky is the limit with this assignment.  If you would like to share with me, I will post your fake hacks on this page.  Send your videos to b.ruel@theojcs.ca.

Our student lifehack videos!  Amazing work.