Discussing ClassenSAS Future at Northeast Academy in OKCPS

Today Shelly and I spent 2 1/2 hours at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City Public Schools, attending an OKCPS sponsored information event for parents, students and families. On January 22, 2019, OKCPS district officials presented the “Pathway to Greatness” proposal at the monthly board meeting, which includes 3 different options for closing, consolidating, and relocating multiple schools in the district. As a point of reference, OKCPS currently serves 46,000 students and after these proposed closures, I think the number of campuses would be 86. It’s a large, urban school district, and our largest in Oklahoma, with tons of challenges. See my post from last night, “Killing Classen SAS in Oklahoma City Public Schools,” for more background and opinions about these proposals, and particularly how they are likely to impact Classen School of Advanced Studies.

While there are some differences in options A, B and C of the “pathway,” all of them include splitting ClassenSAS’s current and historic “mid-high” model, and over a period of years seeking to double the enrollment at both ClassenSAS Middle School (located in the current ClassenSAS building) and at the new ClassenSAS high school, in the current Northeast Academy building. I live-tweeted the informational meeting today, and archived those tweets in a “twitter moment” I’m embedding below. Before including those observations and comments, I’ll summarize my takeaways, perceptions and recommended advocacy steps for those of us concerned about ClassenSAS, its students and families:

  1. The most important question we need to ask OKCPS board members and the leadership team is this: Do we want to replicate the success of ClassenSAS (which is by all measures the most successful school in OKCPS today) or do we want to potentially break/kill the school in an experiment which has no precedent, peer model in another part of the United States, or research basis to support it?
  2. School size and class sizes MATTER. The mid-high, application based model of ClassenSAS works today and has worked historically, empowering students to pursue their passion for the arts and their academic talents through the International Baccalaureate program. OF COURSE we should all be interested in replicating the success and opportunities offered by ClassenSAS for many more students in Oklahoma City. Replicating this successful model does NOT mean splitting it into two different schools, and moving the high school into a larger facility without well planned PRIOR investments of staff, facilities and resources.
  3. OKCPS families and taxpayers deserve opportunities for REAL dialog about these issues and proposals, and the chance to have meaningful input into them… not merely chances to vent frustration and listen to district officials defend decisions which have already been made / are already set in stone. As presented to the OKCPS school board on January 22, all 3 “pathway options” (A, B and C) include splitting up ClassenSAS and relocating the school to Northeast Academy. At this point, whether or not that is going to happen is not even up for discussion or debate within our community. This is a poor decision by the board and by district leadership, and should be reconsidered.
  4. Offer our Oklahoma City community a proposal to truly replicate ClassenSAS’s successful model. As I shared in my post last night, “Killing Classen SAS in Oklahoma City Public Schools,” our family moved from Edmond into the OKCPS district specifically because we wanted our children to have the chance to attend ClassenSAS. All three of them did, and two of them graduated, after spending 14 years of their lives (7 each) within the walls of ClassenSAS. There are so many ways to measure the success of a school, that I hesitate to mention just one statistic – but if you look at the number of scholarships won by the ClassenSAS Class of 2018 last year, it was absolutely incredible. Mind blowing. Kids graduating from ClassenSAS are among the smartest and best-prepared students in our Oklahoma City metro area for the challenges of life… including college… and as a community, we should INSIST and DEMAND that our elected school leaders seek to REPLICATE the success of ClassenSAS, not experiment in a rash manner which risks “breaking” many of the key ingredients which have come together to make ClassenSAS a shining gem of light and goodness within our city and school district.
  5. Ask Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt (@davidfholt) to take a seat at the table in all these discussions and deliberations. As our mayor, he has a huge interest and responsibility to see that our school district as well as larger business community develops in healthy, sustainable ways that serve our shared interests.
  6. What is the role (if any) of those advocating for more charter schools in Oklahoma City and in Oklahoma generally, in this “Pathway to Greatness” proposal? That is both a challenge and an opportunity to local journalists reading this post to investigate and report on further. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that I would be incredibly mad as a parent, homeowner, and taxpayer if the OKCPS board announced tomorrow that they would be closing our local elementary school down the street (Quail Creek) and a year later it re-opened as a charter school – either private or public. If that happened, I’d feel like I’d been deceived by this “Pathways to Greatness” proposal. I’d feel like it was misnamed, and should have been called, “Pathways to More Charter Schools in Oklahoma.” I am very supportive of multiple school models: Both charter schools and private schools can be wonderful and meet individual student learning needs in ways public schools cannot because of a variety of constraints. Positive Tomorrows, where my wife taught for 4 years, is an example that comes to mind. Public schools are part of the bedrock of our culture, society, economy, and way of life in Oklahoma and the United States, however, and we need to be clear about the true rationale and reasons for decisions our elected leaders make with our public tax dollars set aside for education.

I want to place faith in our elected OKCPS leaders, their abilities and willingness to both listen to and respond to constituents, and their collective drive to make decisions which best meet the needs of our community. I’m hopeful in upcoming days and weeks to have opportunities for further face-to-face dialog with others in our community about these proposals, including some board members who I have and will contact directly.

I will close with a quick story before embedding the tweets I shared at today’s information meeting. I had an opportunity to visit and present at a conference in Cairo, Egypt, in November 2017. I not only learned a lot of important things traveling to Egypt, I also had sustained opportunities to reflect on ideals like democracy, responsive government, freedom of expression, and the Arab Spring. I visited and walked in Tahrir Square, and talked with Egyptians who had participated in the Arab Spring protests there in 2011… rendering aid to those who were beaten, shot, and abused in other ways by the security forces of Hosni Mubarak.

Why do I mention these things in the context of proposed changes to our public schools in Oklahoma City? The reason is that the tools for communication and organizing which we have right now to use and put to work in the United States, mainly via social media, are unprecedented in human history. Without Facebook and Twitter, Egypt would not have had a revolution in 2011. The outcome of that revolution, I would argue today, has not been wonderful for human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression in the short term… but I both hope and pray (and predict) the last chapter in that story has not been written.

For us today, facing proposed changes in a very democratic and ostensibly open political process like our public school system in Oklahoma… We each have opportunities as well as choices to make about how we engage with our elected officials, school officials, and each other regarding these proposals. Has “the train left the station” for OKCPS when it comes to the “Pathway to Greatness” proposals? Will district educators be forced to break the incredibly successful ClassenSAS school into two parts, and move the high school into another building without any prior investment in faculty, facilities, or resources? I don’t know. After today’s meeting, my perception of this answer is sadly, yes.

But that is not the way representative government and democracy has to work, and arguably should work, in the United States of America in 2019. If you are an Oklahoma City taxpayer, if you are a parent, guardian or grandparent of a child in Oklahoma City Public Schools, then you have both a right and a responsibility to speak into these proposals and decisions.

Contact our OKCPS Board Members and let them know what you think. They were elected to do many things, but one of the most basic is to LISTEN TO CONSTITUENTS. If we remain silent while our elected officials take drastic actions that may potentially break / irreparably damage the most successful school in our entire city (ClassenSAS), then we will have ourselves to blame.

Talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to your classmates, talk to your neighbors. Go to PTA/PTO meetings, go to district information meetings, connect on social media, seek to ENGAGE IN DIALOG. This is not a time for shouting, this is a time for listening and a time for sharing.

Let your voice be heard. And may our elected officials listen to the people.

ClassenSAS is an incredible school and a powerful school model which deserves to be thoughtfully and carefully replicated, not rashly broken into pieces without committed investment.

Together, let’s save ClassenSAS from destruction.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!

Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Killing Classen SAS in Oklahoma City Public Schools

This past Tuesday evening, January 22, 2019, the superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools gave an important and divisive presentation to the OKCPS board and community. I was not able to attend in person, but did view the livestream on YouTube along with our middle daughter, who just graduated from ClassenSAS last year in 2018. Our son is a 2016 graduate of ClassenSAS. Our youngest daughter attended ClassenSAS as a sixth grader in 2015-16. There are (and now “were”) many “ClassenSAS families,” and the Fryers were one of them. Sadly, Tuesday evening’s board announcement (if voted on as presented) means there won’t be any more of those ClassenSAS families in Oklahoma City – at least none from the “ClassenSAS mid-high experience” as it was and as it SHOULD continue to be. This blog post, therefore, is partly a personal OKCPS family history lesson, and partly a tragic tale of successful urban educational innovation gone bad. I write with both happy memories and sad frustration on my mind and in my heart. Classen School of Advanced Studies, we loved thee and supported thee, but now you are gone. Fleeting can be the dreams of urban educational innovators, particularly when they stand to be crushed by the overwhelming pressures of an enormous public school district too large to sustain creative innovation.

We moved from Edmond Public Schools into Oklahoma City Public Schools in the summer of 2011 to insure our older daughter could attend ClassenSAS as an in-district student. At the time, the rumor was new transfer requests from out-of-district would be denied. In all, our family’s three children attended schools in Oklahoma City Public Schools for 9 consecutive years. From one perspective, the move of our family from Edmond into Oklahoma City (including our purchase of a home within OKCPS boundaries) was a success story for the application-based, magnet public school model ClassenSAS followed. We moved from a wealthier suburb into the city, and chose to send all our children to a wonderfully diverse and creative school within the urban core of our city. Our children thrived as International Baccalaureate (our son and youngest daughter) and drama majors (our middle child) at ClassenSAS.

We not only chose to send our children to ClassenSAS in OKCPS because of the outstanding academic and arts programs available there, but also because of the wonderful diversity. Every fine arts performance at ClassenSAS was a celebration of the diversity which makes our city and our nation great. Kids from all parts of the city, representing the gamut of cultures and ethnicities which comprise our communities, were there performing and cheering on the performers. Of course there were challenges, and of course no school is perfect, but we loved ClassenSAS. The experiences and relationships ClassenSAS afforded our children and our family were like no other in the wider Oklahoma City metro area, and that’s why we relocated our family and bought a house in the district so we could become and remain “a ClassenSAS family.”

The year our son was a senior at ClassenSAS, our middle daughter was a 10th grader at Classen, and our youngest daughter was just starting as a 6th grader at Classen. That was the year I started working as the director of technology at Casady School, and my wife was continuing to teach 3rd and 4th grade at Positive Tomorrows school, also located in downtown OKCPS. That was a very special year, when the other 4 members of our family carpooled downtown each day to attend ClassenSAS and work at Positive Tomorrows. We alternated weeks of responsibility making lunches for the downtown commuters, and I vividly remember making 4 ham and cheese sandwiches side-by-side when it was my turn. That year went by quickly, but it was, in many ways, a magical one, especially for my wife who got to spend a significant amount of time (in aggregate) in the car with all three of our children together… driving to and from school and work each day. I don’t have any photos of those special moments, but I know they were… As we get older, time truly does start to move much faster.

During those 9 years of family investment in Oklahoma City Public Schools and ClassenSAS, I served on the board of the ClassenSAS Parent Teacher Organization one year, and helped multiple years with PTO communications, establishing and maintaining the website classensas.com and also helping facilitate other communication channels with parents and families. All together, our children attended Oklahoma City Public Schools for 19 years of their lives. That was a huge and significant investment. So when I say, “the leaders of Oklahoma City Public Schools have made a decision to kill Classen School of Advanced Studies,” I make that assertion from the perspective of a parent with extensive experiences in OKCPS as well as ClassenSAS. The board decision on January 22nd is “a final nail” in the coffin of an incredible dream and school which was ClassenSAS. Sadly, some district officials and community leaders have been working to “kill ClassenSAS” for years. Unfortunately, I think some leaders in OKC have suffered from “urban education guilt” because of the remarkable academic and fine arts successes of ClassenSAS… a literal shining star in the midst of so much urban poverty and generally declining school enrollment.

The pending action of the OKCPS board to split ClassenSAS into a separate middle school and high school, and move the high school to a different part of the city, represents a tragedy for the students and families of Oklahoma City. This situation also offers a bigger lesson about larger public school districts like Oklahoma City too: It’s extremely difficult to support innovation and creativity in public schools when your district is so large. I’m convinced OKCPS should be broken up (eventually) into smaller districts, so community leaders can more effectively champion the needs of their constituents and better support the innovation and excellence our students and communities both deserve and crave.

Before elaborating a little more in support of those contentions, however, I need to share a couple special memories. One of the best traditions of ClassenSAS, sadly discontinued because of teacher cuts and different administration priorities, was the 6th grade field trip to the YMCA Camp Classen in the Arbuckle Mountains of south-central Oklahoma each year in the fall. I went as a sponsor when Alexander was a 6th grader, but by the time Sarah entered Classen (and later Rachel) the trip had been discontinued.

That trip offered such great opportunities for the students in the ClassenSAS Class of 2016 to have fun, make new friends, bond over exciting experiences in the outdoors, and learn about science in a beautiful classroom without walls. The loss of that trip happened primarily because the 6th grade science teacher who organized it for years left the school… And then his daughter who was hired to take his place was only able to stay at the school one year. She led the trip when Alex and I went in October 2009. A mandatory cutback in teacher headcount in the district and the school meant (at the time, we were told) “last in, first out…” and so the magical experience which was the fall 6th grade outdoor education trip to Camp Classen was over. For good, as far as I know.

The other story I need to tell involves our son’s best friend from Classen, who has become like a member of our family and we dearly love. He was born in Vietnam, and moved to the United States in the 1st grade. He grew up on the southside of OKC, and attended Arthur Elementary. One of his 4th grade teachers saw his aptitude, and told him about ClassenSAS. He applied and was accepted, and is now the first person in his family to attend college. He’s continuing his studies at The University of Oklahoma, but has also joined the Oklahoma National Guard and is finishing up school on his GI bill scholarship. I share this story because some of the resentment people in Oklahoma City have felt in the past over ClassenSAS was based on a perception that all the students there were wealthy transfer kids from the suburbs. Certainly there have been plenty of kids who would fit that description at ClassenSAS, but there have also been LOTS of kids from less affluent communities in Oklahoma City, who found in ClassenSAS a special culture of high achieving, passionate peers who both challenged and supported them to “become all they could be.” I know many past and present board members of OKCPS as well as community members yearn for diverse academic excellence in our city… at all schools… and I do too! However, with respect to the way board members have been slowing killing ClassenSAS for years… and now are poised to hammer in the final nail in the coffin… What I have to say is this, “ClassenSAS was that school.” It was a school of dreams for many… not perfect, but incredibly special. Not a school with always phenomenal facilities… but definitely a school with passionate students and teachers… a special mix of quirky uniqueness and a drive to excel which produced amazing results. ClassenSAS was a school of dreams for many, including students from all socio-economic levels. That’s one of the big reasons we chose to send all our children (who successfully applied / got in) to ClassenSAS. It was our “school of dreams,” and the school of dreams for many other remarkable human beings.

I’d like to close by reflecting on and trying to articulate my perception about OKCPS leaders having “guilt” over the success of ClassenSAS in the urban core of Oklahoma City. I am aware of some of the incredible discrepancies which exist today between our public schools, as well as our public and private schools in Oklahoma City. There are discrepancies between outlying suburban districts and OKCPS, and even within OKCPS. It’s absolutely terrible. I’ve walked though schools both close to our house in northwest OKC and across town, on the east side and on the south side of our city. Programs like MAPS have definitely led to much-needed infrastructure improvements, but true educational equity is about much more than facilities. ClassenSAS wasn’t a phenomenal school because it had the best facilities in the district. It was amazing because of the people, not only the students, but also and so-importantly THE TEACHERS.

Over time my wife and I noticed a decline in the quality of the new teachers who were hired at ClassenSAS… not in all departments, but definitely in some of them. In two cases, we had to intervene and demand a change in our daughter’s teacher assignment… In one case because the brand new teacher simply wasn’t competent in his abilities as a mathematics instructor, and we were risking “losing” our daughter to math altogether if a change wasn’t made. In another case, a teacher was a flagrant bully not only to his students but also to parents, attending “back to school night.” Both of these cases were extreme, and they were outliers… but they reflected a sad decrease in teacher quality that should NOT have happened at school like ClassenSAS. If ClassenSAS had to “settle” for sub-par teachers like these (and let me be clear, our kids had many AMAZING and FANTASTIC teachers at ClassenSAS through the years… those I’m describing here were exceptions to the norm) then what about “other schools” in the district and in our state? It’s not politically correct or a happy thing to discuss with others… but the quality of our public school teacher cadre in Oklahoma is in a free-fall decline. This breaks our hearts, it frustrates our spirits, and it challenges our natural optimism as both educators and parents. It should be a fundamental concern of every civic leader in Oklahoma City and around our state.

I have read some of the comments of other parents, elected leaders, and recent high school graduates concerning the decision to breakup ClassenSAS and move the high school. I understand “the logic” of doing away with a mid-high school model in the district, and “making all schools the same” for parents and families in our OKC community.

There are important times when things do NOT need to be standardized, however. Innovation and creativity rarely (if ever) result from factory-model thinking. The closure of ClassenSAS as a unified, mid-high school for 6th through 12th graders represents a colossal failure of leadership by OKCPS board members and administrators. Sadly, ClassenSAS lost its advocates “in high places” over the years in OKCPS, and its founding vision which proved to be so transformative and beneficial for so many students as well as teachers became a “non-standardized school model” for adult outsiders who, sadly, JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.

If you are lucky enough to live in a community with a remarkable and unique school like Classen School of Advanced Studies was, please strive to UNDERSTAND the special ingredients which combine to make the school amazing… rather than try to close or support those who would kill it and “standardize it.”

Our public schools absolutely need and deserve much more robust funding, to support educational excellence and equity. Equally important, however, is our need to support INNOVATION and school leaders who are willing to THINK, ACT, and LEAD DIFFERENTLY. Innovation is not the product of a widget factory, or of widget thinking. Support creativity and innovation in your local schools.

Long live the dream which was ClassenSAS.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!

Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Why You Should NOT Quit Facebook or Twitter

Powerful tools can be used, by definition, in BIG ways. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, are globe spanning technological marvels. Unfortunately, these platforms have been used maliciously and abusively in recent years to radicalize politics, fuel genocide, and fracture cultural bonds in communities worldwide. At the same time, however, these powerful platforms have been used to positively connect people, empower organizations, and democratize free expression around our planet more than any previous technological invention. Without question, social media platforms (including Facebook and Twitter) need to dramatically and quickly improve their capabilities and policies to both identify “bad actors” and limit the harmful damage they can do online around the world. In the midst of this needed “technology correction,” however, most of us as netizens should NOT rashly throw in the digital towel and choose to quit using either of these platforms. Here are a few reasons why you should NOT quit using Facebook or Twitter right now.

Everyone is not a troll target

It’s both sad and upsetting to read frequent accounts of how Internet trolls harass, persecute, and intentionally sow discord online. Bullying is never pretty, but it’s sadly been a feature of human behavior forever. Anonymity paired with the long-tail collaborative potential of social media platforms (think 4chan) has and continues to produce ugliness and digital darkness we’re often better served to not even discuss and study, much less personally experience. It’s true that anyone sharing publicly online today is a mouse click (or touchscreen tap) away from potential public ridicule, unwanted online fame, and merciless persecution.

That said, however, most users online are NOT the subjects of Internet troll ire. We definitely need to be careful what we post and share, but we should not have our freedom to share and express our thoughts chilled or outright censored by the bad actions of a relatively small group of outlier net users. Agreeing to being pushed off the interactive Internet by trolls is tantamount to letting a single playground bully prevent you as a kid from ever going onto the playground again. It’s simply not right, and to do so would be a harmful overreaction.

I continue to listen with empathy and interest to podcasters and thinkers I respect, like Leo Laporte, who have quit Twitter with enthusiasm and never looked back. If you’re a mainstream media celebrity or Internet famous, the spammy or abusive drivel to which you’re subjected on a social media platform may well outweigh the positive benefits it can offer you to connect and learn from others.

The fact is, however, most of us (thankfully) are not media celebrities or Internet famosos. Most of us, if we’re generally careful of the content we share and the hashtags we use, thankfully have not been and will not become the targets of Internet trolls. Yes, the Internet can be a dangerous place. So can our local mall parking lot. The existence of danger and the reality of bad actors should not convince any of us to completely forgo travel outside our homes (or online) and participation in outside conversations with others.

Group Action, Not Individual Action, Will Change Corporate Behavior

I heartily agree with those advocating for governmental regulation of Facebook. I want to support, both ideologically and financially, groups which are pushing for regulation and reform of Facebook and its dismal track record when it comes to policing offensive and harmful content as well as supporting user privacy rights.

We need to recognize, however, that individual actions against any corporation like Facebook are unlikely to change policies or behavior. Group action is the only outside input to which Facebook will listen, because group actions can drive legislative change, regulation, and therefore profits.

We need grassroots movements to support user privacy, and we also need smarter elected officials at both the federal and state levels who better understand technology platforms. Coordinated, group action against Facebook specifically is needed. Individual, uncoordinated decisions to quit the platform are not going to change the larger social media narrative in our society, and that is something which MUST change soon.

Frictionless Idea Sharing

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have not made idea sharing entirely frictionless, but they have definitely made it MUCH easier than it was in the “early days” of the interactive web / web 2.0. As someone who’s been blogging for 15 years (since 2003) and podcasting for 13 years, I have a relatively long perspective on this topic. I know the number of young people using Facebook is declining, but the number of adults using the platform is staggering and can be life-changing. From a very personal standpoint, I’ve been blown away in the past month by the way Facebook has allowed our family to connect with others after the death of my mother-in-law right before Christmas. I’ve also been deeply moved by the support and responses of family and friends as our family has been going through some tough times this month. Much of that support came via Facebook.

There is no way our family would have made these connections and received this level of support, which has truly made a significant psychological difference in our lives, without Facebook. As a follower of Jesus and believer in God, I also believe in the power of prayer. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I don’t think I would have ever imagined an interconnected world like the one in which we live today, where family and friends both near and far are able to pray for me and my family… and reach out with loving words of support… via phones in their pockets or computers at home and at work. These uses of Facebook have been and are for me, transformatively powerful and literally life changing. I don’t think most of us should give up the incredible connecting power with family and friends which Facebook offers today, thanks to the network effects which have pushed so many of us to be connected via the platform.

On a professional level as a teacher and educator, I cannot overstate how transformatively powerful Twitter has been and continues to be for me. (I’m @wfryer, BTW.) No other technology has permitted me to “hang out with the minds” and share ideas with so many smart and passionate educators as Twitter. The 100+ folks on my “educational Yodas” Twitter list alone generate so many good ideas on a daily basis, that I could subscribe to them with Flipboard and have more “fuel” for my professional learning than I have time in the day to consume and reflect on.

Asking me to delete my accounts from Facebook and/or Twitter today would be like asking a modern farmer to give up mechanized agriculture. It would be like asking an author to not only give up word processors, but also all forms of keyboarding and revert back to a pen, ink, and a scroll. The very idea is preposterous. I’m not giving up the most powerful communication, learning, and collaboration tools in human history, and most likely, neither should you.

Critical Mass is Infrequently Achieved

I’ve seen the 2010 movie “The Social Network,” I’ve watched the recent two-part PBS Frontline Special on Facebook, and no, I’m not a big fan of Mark Zuckerburg. Yes, Zuckerburg is a smart person, but he’s also a CEO who has repeatedly made huge mistakes. Facebook’s shareholders as well as the citizens of our nation should insist that he step down and make space for more capable as well as moral leadership at the helm of his company.

The growth of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and other large technology companies today is attributable to network effects, among other factors. Facebook specifically has reached an incredible “critical mass” of users. Why do you need to be on Facebook today? One clear reason is that it’s likely a majority of your older family members are on Facebook, and it’s a social platform without parallel today to stay connected and interact with people you care about. This kind of critical mass is difficult to create, and very challenging to replicate. The conditions which led to the rise of Facebook are not going to recur in exactly the same way, as the World Wide Web and the devices we use to access it matured in speed and capabilities. In a world characterized by fractured news sources and information authorities, Facebook is a unifying platform which brings us together and lets us interact in powerful ways we’ve never been able to experience as a human race on planet earth. This is a big deal, and it’s not something we should discard or reject rashly.

Bet on Innovation, Creativity, and Freedom

As I’ve already stated, I’m a firm believer in our need for “a technology correction” which includes external, governmental regulation of Facebook as well as grassroots efforts to champion personal privacy rights. I’m both a careful observer as well as thoughtful critic of our emergent culture of “surveillance capitalism.” This economic model has given us “free” access to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, but most of us remain relatively ignorant of the personal as well as collective externalities which are the costs that pay these bills. We are sacrificing personal data privacy at the altar of free digital social interaction, and most of us don’t realize the debilitating price we are collectively paying. I encourage you to watch my 2016 TEDx talk, “Digital Citizenship in the Surveillance State,” for a deeper dive into some of my concerns about these issues.

Acknowledging those important concerns, however, I still find myself betting on innovation, creativity, and freedom. Current events in social media have been and continue to be very challenging for an optimist and idealist like myself. Technology evangelists have misled us in the past and in some cases, encouraged others to hold naively destructive perspectives on technology generally. Since at least 2000, I’ve encouraged others to “Remember the Luddites” and consider how lessons from that era of industrialization can apply to our modern digital world. (I do NOT consider myself, btw – a “technology evangelist.” I’m an evangelist for transformative learning, interactive engagement and effective communication. Digital tools can and should have a significant place in our toolboxes as learners.)

I encourage you, also, to bet on innovation, creativity, and freedom. This is one of the reasons I’m a teacher and an educator! Like my wife (@sfryer), I’m passionate about helping students not only learn to code, but also learn to wield digital tools with kindness, respect, and motivation to make the world a brighter rather than a darker place. I’m a champion for digital citizenship. I believe we, along with our students, can and will “invent the future.” The status quo is not ours to accept, it’s ours to iterate upon, improve, and shape together into a better tomorrow.

Don’t quit Facebook or Twitter. The collaborative tools at our fingertips are too powerful to forgo, and we’ve got far too many problems to solve together in the years ahead to give up our most powerful tools now.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!

Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Podcast463: Reflections on The Florida Project Movie

Welcome to Episode 463 of the Moving at the Speed of Creativity podcast, a show by Dr. Wesley Fryer (@wfryer) focusing on digital creativity, media literacy, digital literacy, digital citizenship, instructional technology integration and engaged learning both inside and outside the classroom. This episode features an interview with Shelly Fryer (@sfryer) about the 2017 movie, “The Florida Project” (@floridaproject). The IMDB description of the movie is, “Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.” The Florida Project raises a host of important issues facing every community, including poverty, homelessness, social services, education and schools, non-profit and church outreach programs, and more. As a lifelong educator with extensive experiences working with families in poverty through church ministry, as well as educational and social services for homeless children and families in Oklahoma City, Shelly Fryer has unique and important perspectives on the issues and needs highlighted in “The Florida Project.” Check out the podcast shownotes for links to referenced books, resources, organizations and websites mentioned in the show. Please reach out to Shelly or Wes with feedback and additional resources or ideas this movie or this podcast interview encourages you to share.


  1. Subscribe to Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
  2. Shelly Fryer (@sfryer) – Blog and Classroom website
  3. Wes Fryer (@wfryer) – Blog
  4. The Florida Project Official website (@floridaproject)
  5. The Florida Project on IMDB
  6. Podcasting and the Slow Democracy Movement (@lessig)
  7. Building Relationships with Students (Shelly Fryer, March 2017)
  8. Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City (@ptokc)
  9. Project 66 Food and Resource Center in Edmond, Oklahoma (@p66ok)
  10. [VIDEO] Rolling Green Outreach Ministry (3 min, 30 sec)
  11. First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma (@fpcedmond)
  12. The Curbside Chronicle in Oklahoma City (@CurbsideOKC)
  13. Eric Jensen’s Books – “Poor Students, Richer Teaching,” “Teaching With Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It” and more (@ericjensenbrain)
  14. Rep. Katie Porter on how capitalism is failing by Ezra Klein (@ezraklein)
  15. Oklahoma Education Needs / Donations on Facebook (Closed Group)
  16. This podcast was recorded on an iPad using Ferrite Recording Studio and normalized / post-produced with Auphonic (@auphonic) and Audacity

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!

Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Guidelines for Digital Sharing

The predominant technologies of a culture change literacy. When our society was primarily a print reading culture, reading and writing texts were appropriately the main activities of students in schools working on developing literacy skills. As our society has become increasingly dominated by multimedia, the imperative grows stronger to formally change the predominant literacy development activities in our classrooms. Today, students should be regularly communicating both inside and outside the classroom with multimedia. Teachers need to be fluent multimedia communicators as well, both in personal and professional learning contexts. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when sharing multimedia formally in school contexts or informally for personal communication and learning.

Include Related Images

As a general rule, share a related image alongside text whenever possible. Whether sharing a blog post, a slideshow, an eBook, or another multimedia product, images draw and focus the attention of your audience to your topic and message. The idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true. Images can convey complex ideas rapidly. Our human eyes are able to ingest visual information more efficiently than text, and our attention is more readily captured by visual media. By including related images when possible with text, we can practice and refine a basic skill of multimedia communication, as well as increase the chances our message will be received and processed by members of the audience we want to influence.

Minimize Headline Text

A good newspaper or magazine article always begins with a catchy as well as descriptive headline. Similarly, effective multimedia communicators are intentional as well as judicious with their use of leading text. Infopics should aways be textually concise. A lengthy text reference in an infopic is unlikely to be read fully, and therefore detracts rather than enhances communicative value. Blog post titles should generally conform to the same guidelines journalists use when creating good article headlines. The iterative process of crafting effective and appropriate headlines for multimedia messages requires higher order thinking and consideration of a variety of complex factors. This process has inherent value for digital literacy and multimedia literacy, or as we have previously noted, simply “literacy” as it is being redefined in our increasingly digital society.

Legally Utilize and Remix Images

Multimedia literacy and communication normalizes conversations about copyright, fair use, and intellectual property respect. Media communicators should understand the legal differences between using “homegrown” (personally created) images and those found online via a search engine query. They should also understand what it means for media to be in the public domain, to be shared under a Creative Commons license, or to be legally remixed under “fair use guidelines” of copyright law. Unfortunately, many of these concepts remain foreign to students and teachers in classrooms where literacy development remains stuck in predominantly text-only formats.

Two of my favorite sources for finding and appropriating images I can legally remix and reuse in media communication messages are Unsplash.com and attribution-only Creative Commons licensed images shared on Flickr. As I’ve done with embedded images in this blog post, I use ImageCodr.org to quickly create attribution linked embed code. Images shared on Unsplash do not legally require any type of attribution, although including it is always a welcome courtesy. Whether you use these websites or others, developing an understanding of copyright, fair use, and intellectual property through the regular creation and sharing of images is an essential part of media literacy.

Respect Privacy and Image Sharing Permission

Digital Citizenship encompasses many things, including the importance of respecting others’ privacy and power to grant or deny permission to share a photograph of themselves online. The proliferation of smartphone cameras, along with text messaging capabilities and social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, have made photo sharing an almost frictionless activity for many teens today. Many parents (or even grandparents) may not think twice before sharing a photo of family members on Facebook, but in all these cases, permission from individuals in the photos should be solicited and respected. The “age of photographic sharing consent” would be a great topic to bring up with students in your classroom or family members at home to discuss.

At what age should a child be allowed to decide whether or not their photograph can be shared by someone else online?

Provide Hyperlink Attribution

Hyperlinked writing is often a hallmark of effective online communication. Students, teachers, and other multimedia communicators should practice hyperlinked writing as an essential part of interactive writing.

Whenever possible, include a hyperlink to a photographer’s photo page or an author’s source material when utilizing media created by someone else or quoting others. This is one of the ways interactive writing should include a “twenty-first century bibliography or works cited page.” In contrast to an old-school / analog bibliography, from which a reader cannot readily access and view original cited source material, hyperlinked writing can provide directly clickable (or “tappable”) links. Hyperlinked attribution can and should not only be provided in formal essays and articles, but also in shorter forms of multimedia textual communication. This includes blog posts and social media shares, like Twitter posts.

Provide Twitter ID Attribution

Everyone does not use Twitter today, and it’s unlikely any social media platform will ever be utilized by one hundred percent of any society. Twitter is, however, used by a large number of journalists, authors, and an increasing number of academics. Twitter provides an exceptionally powerful and useful way to share different kinds of attribution today. These include:

  • authorship attribution (by @username)
  • via attribution (when you learned about something from a specific individual or organization: via @username)
  • “shout outs” (sometimes abbreviated as “s/o”)

Use these forms of Twitter attribution when you can!

Maintain Digital Sharing Channels

The advent of social media channels has led to a precipitous decline in interaction via blogs and blog comments, relative to the “early years” of web 2.0 / the interactive web in the early 2000s. From an intellectual property standpoint, it’s important to remember that the “terms of service” for different media sharing platforms may require users to cede some rights to ideas and content, when its shared on a platform owned by someone else. In addition, the growing number of apps and websites in the “web 2.0 graveyard” continues to grow.

It’s valuable and important, therefore, to consider creating and maintaining your own website(s) for sharing ideas as well as archiving your own thinking in a hyperlink accessible medium. Consider creating and maintaining, if you don’t already, different “channels” for digitally sharing your ideas. Then “plant your flag” online by collecting these links on a website which identifies you by name. I’ve used the website About.me (about.me/wfryer) in this way as an example.

I hope these suggestions for guidelines on digital sharing are helpful to you! If so, please let me know by reaching out on Twitter (@wfryer), with a comment below, or by filling out my electronic contact form.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!

Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?