Podcast465: Reflections on The 2019 Summer Institute on Digital Literacy

Welcome to Episode 465 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 a reflection by Wes following the 2019 Summer Institute on Digital Literacy. Wes reflects on ten different “ingredients” which made this a powerful and transformative professional development experience, as well as five different lessons and ideas he’s taking into his 5th and 6th grade Digital Literacy classes this upcoming school year. Check the podcast shownotes for a full list of referenced websites and resources mentioned in this episode. This podcast also includes an interview from the conference with Brian Turnbaugh (@wegotwits) discussing the weaponization of social media and recommended resources for learning more about the ways Russia continues to work to subvert the electoral process in the United States. Remember to also subscribe to “The EdTech Situation Room” (@edtechSR), the weekly webshow and podcast Wes co-hosts with Jason Neiffer each week on Wednesday evenings. Also remember to subscribe to Wes’ (almost) weekly newsletter in which he shares a helpful technology tip, tool, text, and tutorial. Sign up on www.speedofcreativity.org/email-updates.

Shownotes:

  1. Subscribe to Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
  2. Wes Fryer (@wfryer) – Blog
  3. Wes Fryer’s FlipGrid Video Reflections on the 2019 Summer Institute on Digital Literacy (YouTube Playlist)
  4. Homepage / website of the 2019 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy (use the linked spreadsheet to connect to all the lessons / projects of participant groups / dyads!)
  5. Jim Croce “singin’ my song’ reference
  6. Books by David Warlick (@dwarlick) (also “Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century,” which is not included in the previous Amazon author link)
  7. “Design Studio” information from the Summer Institute on Digital Literacy
  8. Carla Arena (@carlaarena)
  9. Alice Barr (@alicebarr) and Cheryl Oakes (@cheryloakes50)
  10. Summarizing Summer Institute in Digital Literacy Learning via Twitter Moments
  11. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Renee Hobbs (@reneehobbs)
  12. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Julie Coiro (@jcoiro)
  13. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Kristin Ziemke (@KristinZiemke)
  14. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Dave Quinn (@EduQuinn)
  15. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Troy Hicks (@hickstro)
  16. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Kristin Hokanson (@khokanson)
  17. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeaways from Brian Turnbaugh (@wegotwits)
  18. #digiURI 2019 Learning and takeways from Beth Holland (@brholland)
  19. #digiURI 2019 Miscellaneous Learning & Takeaways from #digiURI 2019
  20. Wes’ Twitter Moments (Includes all the above moments from #digiURI 2019)
  21. Brian Crosby (@bcrosby) and The High Hopes Project (High Altitude Balloons)
  22. The EdTech Situation Room (@edtechSR)
  23. Unpacking and Understanding Media Controversy Lesson (3 minute Overview Video)
  24. BitesMedia Controversial Topics (appropriate for middle and high school)
  25. Controversial Topic Articles Curated by Allsides.com
  26. Voyant Tools WordCloud Generator and Analysis Engine
  27. Video Ant Video Annotation
  28. Vialogues Video Annotation
  29. Workshop resources: Filtering the ExoFlood: Strategies for Media and Information Literacy (shortened link: wfryer.me/exoflood)
  30. Joe Rogan Interview with Renée DiResta on Social Media Weaponization / Russian Disinformation (@noupside)
  31. Mind Over Media Propaganda Database (by @MedEduLab)
  32. MSON CoursesMalone Schools Online Network
  33. DigCitCommit Coalition and Competencies
  34. Digital Citizenship Resources from Casady School
  35. Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?
  36. Sign Up for Wes’ Weekly Educational Technology Newsletter Updates

Enthusiastic Media Literacy Educators by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr

Enthusiastic Media Literacy Educators” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

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?

Summarizing Summer Institute in Digital Literacy Learning via Twitter Moments

Whew! This week I’m attending the 2019 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy (#digiURI) in Providence, Rhode Island, and it’s been a wonderful whirlwind of learning so far. A few years ago, as my use of Twitter increased, I stopped documenting my learning from conferences and other professional development events on my blog via separate posts. Instead, I started primarily using Twitter. (@wfryer) Twitter allows me to not only archive ideas, links, and inspiring moments from a conference, but also amplify them for a wider audience. One challenge of this approach, however, is that individual tweets as well as collections of tweets about a specific session or topic can be lost in the “sea of content” which is Twitter and a prolific Twitter channel like mine.

For a few years, I used the third-party website Storify to create discrete archives of my tweets from different presentations or events. I loved how Storify not only let me archive my own tweets, but also tweets from others and let users embed a complete archive of tweets on another website, like a WordPress blog. Unfortunately, however, Storify died and went to the “web 2.0 graveyard” in May 2018.

After the death of Storify as I searched for a replacement, I discovered Twitter Moments. Like Storify, Twitter Moments let users archive tweets from their channel or tweets shared by others. Unfortunately, however, Twitter Moments are not as robust as Storify, so there are limits (apparently undefined, but none-the-less real) as to how many past tweets you can directly browse to and archive. Tonight I was planning to create a single Twitter Moment for my first two days of learning at #digiURI, but I wasn’t able to. Instead, I created separate Twitter moments capturing the learning I’ve experienced and documented from different people here at the Institute. Use these links to view them:

  1. Learning and takeaways from Renee Hobbs (@reneehobbs)
  2. Learning and takeaways from Julie Coiro (@jcoiro)
  3. Learning and takeaways from Kristin Ziemke (@KristinZiemke) *
  4. Learning and takeaways from Dave Quinn (@EduQuinn)
  5. Learning and takeaways from Troy Hicks (@hickstro)
  6. Learning and takeaways from Kristin Hokanson (@khokanson)
  7. Learning and takeaways from Brian Turnbaugh (@wegotwits)
  8. Miscellaneous Learning & Takeaways from #digiURI 2019

These seven Twitter Moments capture most of my documented learning from the past 3 days (including my travel day to the conference) but don’t yet include tweets referencing Kristin Ziemke (@KristinZiemke). Kristin is our keynote speaker on Wednesday, so I’ll wait till later to collect all my learning from her in a separate “moment.” * (Update: I added a link above to my Twitter Moment for Kristin following her morning sessions Wednesday.)

The number of tweets I’m trying to archive and organize from the conference so far is a bit overwhelming, and the Institute is not quite half over. However, I feel like I need to work on this archiving and sharing process, because I may not be able to make enough time for it after our week is finished and because I suspect it will be easier to do this in stages.

For several years, I’ve used a personal installation of the PHP script Tweet Nest (twitter.wesfryer.com) to archive all my Tweets in a personal, searchable website. Tweet Nest shows my lack of tweets the first two weeks of the month (when I was mostly offline, camping with our family in Colorado) as well as the high volume of Tweets the past three days. Combined, I’ve shared 239 Tweets the past 3 days. That’s quite a few, and may be a personal record.

July 2019 Tweets by @wfryer by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr

July 2019 Tweets by @wfryer” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

There are SO MANY great ideas, web tools, pedagogical concepts, and resources that have been shared so far at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, that I certainly can’t do an adequate job in this post tonight summarizing them. Yet, isn’t this situation in many ways a reflection of the broader information environment in which we live? We’re awash in information, so our challenge is how to effectively FILTER and process “the good stuff” among so many choices. (That was, incidentally, a key theme of my April 2019 ATLIS Conference workshop, “Filtering the ExoFlood: Strategies for Media and Information Literacy.”) So, in addition to inviting and encouraging you to check out the Twitter Moments linked above from the Institute, here’s a list (in no particular order) of some key takeaways I’ve had from the week so far:

  1. The Knight Foundation’s web tools are powerful and amazing: Timeline, StoryMap, Juxtapose. (h/t @hickstro)
  2. This clever media literacy lesson on memes is one I’ll likely use next year with my 5th and 6th grade computer class students. (h/t Dolores Flamiano & David Pallant)
  3. I will be spending several hours exploring and enjoying the 2012 multimedia article from the New York Times, “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.” (h/t @hickstro)
  4. I will likely use the Media Education Lab’s Propaganda Database to help my 6th graders study and better understand propaganda from a variety of perspectives, as well as the provided curriculum for teachers. (h/t @reneehobbs)
  5. I may propose teaching a MSON course for 2020-21 for my school on “The Weaponization of Social Media” with a specific focus on Russian disinformation, propaganda and information warfare. (h/t @wegotwits)
  6. I’m definitely going to to use the Desmos Activity Builder (free!) to teach interactive lessons with my students next year. (h/t @EduQuinn)
  7. I can’t wait to order, read, and share Julie Coiro, Beth Dobler and Karen Pelekis’ forthcoming book, “From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades, K–5.” (h/t @jcoiro)

There are many more ideas I’m eager to share with teachers back at my school as I serve as an instructional / pedagogical coach next year, as well as use with my own students in my computer classes. Stay tuned and keep following the #digiURI hashtag to learn more this week!

Renee Hobbs (@reneehobbs) and Wes Fryer by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr

Renee Hobbs (@reneehobbs) and Wes Fryer” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

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?

Understanding Russian Disinformation in U.S. Politics

I’m attending the “Summer Institute in Digital Literacy” (#digiURI) this week in Providence, Rhode Island. Although my flight landed too late for me to make the official opening session, thanks to Troy Hicks (@hickstro) I connected for supper with a great group of attendees and had wonderful conversations. Among many other things, we talked a little about our favorite podcasts and touched on some issues about disinformation, propaganda, and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. The Raw Data Podcast (@rawdatapodcast) was mentioned, and their recent 3 part series on Russian disinformation, including the superb, June 20th episode “Dezinformatsiya.” It features an interview with former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul (@McFaul).

I’ve added Ambassador McFaul’s recently published book, “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia,” to my running Twitter list of books I hope to read someday. As I’ve mentioned on “The EdTech Situation Room” podcast (@edtechSR) multiple times, I’m convinced our 2020 U.S. elections are going to be even WORSE in terms of the roles disinformation, propaganda and digital obsfucation will play.

Disinformation and “digital polarization” were two important themes in the April 2019 workshop I led at the ATLIS Conference titled, “Filtering the ExoFlood: Strategies for Media and Information Literacy.” In particular, I invited participants to discuss online disinformation campaigns using Destin’s (@smartereveryday) fantastic YouTube episode, “Manipulating the YouTube Algorithm” from March 2019.

During this week at the Digital Literacy / Media Literacy Institute, I’ll be working on some kind of project which ties to student lessons or professional development. I’m thinking about doing something which relates to better understanding the ways social media platforms are being manipulated today to serve malicious political purposes which seek to harm the cause of free and fair elections in the United States. Arguably, these methods and activities pose an existential threat to liberal democracy. That was the argument of Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla), in her April 2019 TEDtalk, “Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy.” If you haven’t watched this 15 minute video yet, either watch it now or add it to your “Watch Later” YouTube playlist.

I’ve started a Google Doc (shortened link: wfryer.me/disinfo) with some of these resources. I’m thinking tonight it could be powerful to use the video annotation tool VideoAnt to identify and share key ideas from these videos, specifically relating to political disinformation. I’m looking forward to attending Renee Hobbs (@reneehobbs) session tomorrow on using VideoAnt.

It’s going to be a great week of learning about media literacy here in Rhode Island! If you want to follow along with participants, check out the #digiURI hashtag this week! I’m sure I’ll be posting more on my blog as well as on Twitter as the learning continues.

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?

The Cognitive Cost of Carbon Copy Email

If you haven’t noticed, we have a major email overload problem in our lives and society. There are many reasons for email overload, and there is not a single solution, but one way we can address some of the underlying issues is to reflect on what I’ll term “the cognitive cost of carbon copy email.”

Carbon Copy, or CC email, are messages we send to recipients in addition to the primary folks included in the TO line of an email. One of the important and basic email protocol lessons all teachers should learn is how to BCC (blind carbon copy) both parents and students when sending email messages. By using the BCC field, others can receive your email but NOT view the email addresses of other recipients. Generally it’s a best practice to put your OWN email address in the TO line of a mass email, and then paste the recipient email addresses in the BCC line. Failing to BCC recipients can lead to an unwanted and potentially hazardous series of REPLY ALL messages. The BCC field is our friend, and we are wise to use it regularly, especially for mass emails sent to parents and other groups.

CC or carbon copy email messages, however, can also create problems. I’m not sure we take enough time to both reflect on and discuss the COGNITIVE COST of CC emails. By “cognitive cost,” I mean the time and brain processing energy which is used and required when someone receives a CC message. As a school technology director, it costs me nothing to send a member of my staff a CC message. That person, however, has “just one more” message in their InBox to process, and my CC send decision takes a chunk of time out of their day to view and process the message. That time could be a few seconds, a few minutes, or longer. The point is, I as the sender have not had to spend any more time or energy to send the CC message. My staff member, however, bears the “cognitive cost.”

Of course there are good reasons to send CC email messages. We want to keep others in the loop. Sometimes we’re documenting something and “covering” ourselves by looping in a superior or other individual who needs to be informed. Quite often in my case, however, I think I’ve been guilty of CCing more people than I need to… and the cost-free nature of CC email (from the perspective of the SENDER) has not deterred me from this habit.

As a side note, we have all likely experienced a co-worker who unnecessarily uses the CC field in an email in an effort to bully or virtually bludgeon someone. I’ve had these happen a few times as a technology director. Rather than just email, call or talk to me about an issue, I’ve had teachers email me as well as their principal and other school administrators. Unfortunately, these kinds of messages rarely produce a constructive effect. Another important email lesson for everyone is to address contentious issues offline, either with a face-to-face conversation or a phone call. CCing the chain of command, especially when the sender is upset or otherwise emotional, is rarely constructive in my experience.

I’m also reminded of current debates over climate change and debates about a carbon tax. I’m not going to focus on the opinions in this debate in this post, but I do want to highlight a key term for climate change discussions: Externalities. The English WikiPedia explains:

In economics, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

Externality. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Externality&oldid=900768871

We should all recognize that carbon copy email includes externalities for recipients but not senders. We place a burden of expected time and attention on others when we CC them. Recognizing this, perhaps we should all ask ourselves a few questions before we blithely add one or more email addresses to the CC line of a message:

  1. Is it really important that all the people I’m CCing read or even receive this message?
  2. Why am I CCing this person?
  3. How do I determine that the “threshold of importance” has been crossed when CCing someone?

I’m convinced we should not only be talking more about email overload in our schools and other organizations, we should also be taking proactive steps to address it and reduce its harmful effects. Information overload is REAL for almost everyone who is a knowledge worker today, and that includes all teachers, administrators and school support staff. Email is out of control, and while CC messages only represent a part of those unread messages, they do represent a fraction we can potentially address and work to reduce together.

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?

In Praise of Golden Retrievers

In the past year, I’ve become even more aware of how incredibly important and powerful the unconditional love of golden retrievers can be for health, wellness, and family happiness.

Thanks in large part to my uncle’s family, Ron and Kathy Henley, I’ve had contact and been familiar with golden retrievers since I was very young. I wanted to have my own golden retriever dog for a long time, so after Shelly and I were married we added “Bailey” to our family within a few months. Jake joined us in Lubbock, Texas, a few years later. We had many wonderful years of shared life and love with both of those fantastic dogs.

As our girls, Sarah and Rachel, have grown older and become teenagers, I’ve been struck many times by the realization that our dogs’ unconditional love and constant availability as well as loving nature has been HUGE for their personal senses of joy, stability, safety, and happiness.

I have always loved our dogs and known they are extremely important members of our family, but seeing our daughters especially interact with Willow and Scarlet in the past few years my appreciation and thankfulness for them has grown even deeper. There is something absolutely wonderful, pure, and powerful about the love of a golden retriever that it brings tears to my eyes to consider and remember. The gift of a dog’s unconditional love is from the Lord. Our dogs literally “minister” to members of our family in times of need, especially. They “know” and can “sense” when we are troubled and upset. They offer themselves and their full attention to us at those times… not entirely selflessly, I would add… but powerfully none-the-less. (Willow in particular can lose interest in me quickly if I’m not giving her attention… but she comes to her role of “family love therapist” quite willingly and naturally despite this.)

I praise God and give him thanks for the abundant and limitless love which our dogs share with us, and have shared with us over the years. Never underestimate the importance and power of unconditional love and full attention. These are gifts we have the ability to give each other every day. It just so happens that some dogs, like golden retrievers, are genetically endowed by our Creator with this amazing capacity and desire.

Thank you, Lord, for golden retrievers.

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?

Safety Tip When Paying with Plastic

Whenever you eat out at a restaurant or are using a plastic debit or credit card to pay for something, NEVER let the physical card out of your sight. Never let a server or business employee take your debit or credit card to another location out of your view, whether it’s the front of the restaurant where a cash register is located or to an undisclosed location in the back where they say they need to process it. The reason for this is simple: credit card “skimmers” cost less than $20 to purchase online at Amazon or via other retailers, and unscrupulous folks can scan your card in a matter of seconds when you’re not looking. In some cases, your debit or credit card may not be used immediately by someone else to rob you of funds, but rather is sold to a broker on the dark web where it’s then sold and traded to others for future use.

I’m more aware of the threat posed by credit card skimmers because I attended the Oklahoma Council of Educational Technology Leaders (OCETL) CTO Forum on 26 April 2019 in Moore, Oklahoma. We had a number of excellent speakers during this 1 day event, but the most hair-raising and attention getting presentations of the day were shared by Jonathan Kimmitt. Jonathan serves as the Chief Information Security Officer at the University of Tulsa, and has over 18 years of experience working as an information technology professional.

Just like using a password manager or turning on multi-factor authentication requires a MAJOR change in behavior and isn’t easy for any of us to start doing, making a conscious effort to NEVER let anyone else take your credit card out of your eyesight can be challenging. Many of us are so used to handing a server our credit card without thinking twice about it, that pausing to say, “I need you to run this card here at our table or come with you when you run it” requires both changing our THINKING and changing our BEHAVIOR. Yet this is exactly what we need to do. See the September 2005 article, “Skimming 101: How to spot it, avoid it, deal with it,” for more details on why you should always maintain eye contact with a credit card you’re using at a physical business location. The need to maintain eye contact with our debit and credit cards isn’t new (relatively speaking) the but importance of making this a habit IS bigger today, thanks to the prevalence of credit card skimmers as well as cybercrime more generally.

I shared all my notes from the April 2019 Oklahoma CTO Forum via Twitter, and collected them in a single “Twitter Moment.” If you are responsible for information security / network security / digital security in your organization, I highly recommend reading through this entire series of tweets. As more commerce and daily life becomes digitized, the prevalence of cybercrime will only increase. It pays to be informed and take proactive steps to protect yourself, your family, and your organization from others want to take your money and property.

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?

Email Overload at School and Work

What are we going to do about email overload? It’s been a problem, it continues to be a problem, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to systemically improve anytime soon. As much as adults today like to comment about younger students, “They don’t check their email,” graduates of our schools continue to enter a workforce highly dependent on email because it’s a “common denominator” for internal as well as external communication. As educational leaders, what are we going to do about email overload individually and for our organizations?

I vividly remember a pre-Thanksgiving professional development workshop I led around 1998 for staff at Wheelock Elementary in Lubbock, Texas, in which I introduced most of our teachers to email for the first time and helped most setup their first Yahoo email accounts. Teachers were VERY excited to have an email account! I remember one in particular that was able to contact her son via email for the first time during our workshop. She was over the moon! Ah, the days of digital innocence when email was still exciting and viewed as a net-positive in our lives…


Game and innocence … flickr photo by Claudio Gennari …”Cogli l’attimo ferma il tempo” shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

That workshop took place before many things we take for granted in our lives and schools today in 2019. In 1998 we did NOT have:

  1. School-issued email accounts / addresses
  2. Laptop or classroom desktop computers for all faculty *
  3. Direct, high speed connections to the Internet in our classrooms
  4. Smartphones with email and Internet access in our pockets and purses
  5. Cellular text messaging
  6. VOIP telephones in our classrooms *

Today, however, most teachers and school classrooms have all of these things.* Many of our students also receive a school-issued email account. (Our students get a Google account in 1st grade, but don’t have email activated until 5th grade.) With so many ways to stay in touch and send/receive email, and with most parents connected via an email account, and with every company wanting to send emails about sales, coupons, new products, new workshops, etc… Email has become one of the most congested but still important communication channels in our lives. This has been a “mission creep” dynamic over many years, it did not happen all at once. Email has now become a primary vector for cyberattacks via phishing attacks against organizational networks and data systems. Amidst all these factors, I think it’s time we take a big picture look at email and make some changes, both personally and professionally, with and for our organizations.

One of the biggest things we need to stop doing is simply issuing email accounts and assuming employees or students can figure out how to efficiently and effectively manage messages. This is especially true in our era of email overload. How many “unread” email messages do you have in your school account? Your personal email account? As a GSuite administrator for our school, I wonder how many unread emails we have across our entire faculty and staff, and how that number has grown over the past few years? My guess is the number is exceptionally high, and it would shock many administrators to see those data trends in a line graph.

We also need to help our students learn to manage email effectively. As I develop curriculum for our required 5th and 6th grade digital literacy courses next year, email is one of the GSuite tools I’m including. These are some of the basic but important email management techniques as well as concepts I plan to introduce to students. These also should be taught explicitly to our staff members, as they come onboard as well as for existing staff:

  1. Skills:
    1. Gmail Labels
    1. Gmail Filters
    2. Gmail Contact Management
    3. Mark as Phishing or Spam
    4. Email Signature
    5. Vacation Responder
    6. Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts
    7. Turning off Google Hangouts / chat notifications
    8. Schedule Send
    9. Gmail Mobile App advantages
  2. Concepts:
    1. InBox Zero
    2. Archiving versus Deleting Email in GMail
    3. Email Expectations (choosing an appropriate communication modality)
    4. Email Retention (Gmail Vault and eDiscovery)

When I have built that portion of next year’s middle school digital literacy curriculum I’ll link it here. I’m not sure I’ll take this on for next year, but it I do think we should build in these email skills into an onboarding process for new faculty/staff. I’m likely going to draw on Google’s existing Applied Digital Skills curriculum in both cases.

What are you doing for your students as well as colleagues to address email overload and needed email management skills? Please comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer, or use my electronic contact form to send a message.

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?

Twitter Documentation of Classroom Folio Observations

This year faculty at our school have utilized Folio Collaborative (@foliocollab), an outstanding framework encouraging teacher peer-coaching and mentorship relationships among educational professionals. I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a “Folio coach” for three of our faculty, and today I worked on website documentation of the classroom visits and observations I completed last fall and this spring. Ideally I would have entered each one of these into the Folio website as I finished them. My plate has been full to the point of overflowing with professional responsibilities and tasks, however, so while I did successfully complete required classroom observations as a Folio coach, I’m playing catch-up now with my digital documentation of these visits.

Thank goodness for Twitter! On most of the occasions when I visited the classroom of our Middle School MakerSpace teacher, Aric Sappington, I usually took a couple minutes to take and share a photo or video of the awesome lesson he was facilitating with our students and faculty. Since I maintain a Tweet Nest archive of all my tweets (twitter.wesfryer.com), I was able to search the site today for all my posts referencing Aric. I shared about 15 tweets in all from Aric’s classroom over the course of this 2018-19 academic year.

It’s great that in addition to documenting the dates and times of my classroom visits, these tweets also archived some of the innovative lesson strategies Aric utilized with our students and faculty! Here are some of my favorites from this past year. Next year as I’m able to do even more instructional coaching with our faculty in all divisions of our school, I’m hopeful I’ll be able to keep using Twitter in this way to not only archive (for myself and my mentee teachers) but also amplify their innovation with others!

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?

Teachers as Prophets: The Power to “PROF-a-sigh” Into Students’ Futures

As a teacher, you may have not considered yourself to be a “prophet.” When we recognize, call out, and encourage special and unique giftedness in our students, however, I believe we can act as prophets in their lives. The verb “prophesy” (pronounced “PROF-a-sigh”) means “to predict something.” Have you ever recognized one of your students has a particularly strong aptitude for something? It could be writing. Or empathetically listening to and understanding others. Or using computational thinking skills to creatively author algorithms. When you recognize giftedness in a student, help them recognize it, and celebrate it together, you’re “PROF-a-sigh-ing” into their life. You’re helping them “see” their own unique giftedness, and the important contributions they are and can make to our world by using their gifts in powerful ways.

Words matter. Our encouragement to our students matters. The ways we recognize and encourage the unique abilities, talents, and giftedness of our students can create ripples which will “echo through eternity.”

This week, I encourage YOU to embrace the unique and special opportunities you have to act as a prophet in the lives of your students. Our school year in the northern hemisphere is wrapping up, and we might have opportunities to write short notes to our students, celebrating their growth and wishing them well as they depart our classroom to continue their journey of learning beyond the walls we’ve shared the past 10 months. Consider sharing with some of your students the unique talents and gifts you “see” which they possess and demonstrate. Encourage them to recognize and “name” those gifts, and continue to use them in the months and years ahead to make our world a better place.

With our words, we have the power to bless, and the power to curse. Use your words this week to bless, and open the eyes of the students in your care to the bright future which awaits them as they discover and live into their special “calling” in our world. Share your insights of prophesy with others.

As teachers, we wield tremendous power to influence and durably impact the minds and lives of others. Embrace your role as a prophet in your classroom.

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?

Essential Technology Support Staff Skills and Characteristics

What are the most important skills and characteristics of the technology support staff members at your school or other organization? As the 2018-19 school year winds down, I’m wrapping up my fourth year to serve as the Director of Technology for Casady School in Oklahoma City. As I’ve been making preparations for a job transition next year, I’ve been thinking a lot about this question. Here are my top three answers.

Relationship and Communication Skills

Technical knowledge and skills to work in a technology support department are definitely important, but they are less important than relationship and communication skills. It’s much easier to help someone develop more technical competencies than develop their abilities to communicate effectively and cultivate positive, respectful relationships with others. Both can be taught and learned, but the latter are more closely tied to an individual’s personality and overall disposition, and therefore are more challenging to change and develop.

When it comes to technology support, for a variety of reasons, many people are reluctant or reserved to ask for assistance. I heard a wise observation a few months ago about “support tickets” which are formally reported in an organization like a school. If you have X number of “open tickets” waiting for resolution right now, you almost certainly have twice that many technology support issues out there that need to be addressed. Over half of them just haven’t been reported (yet) in your formal ticketing system.

It’s far easier for a technology support staff member to make someone else who needs technical assistance feel inferior, inadequate, or otherwise “put off” than respected, listened to, and understood. The most important thing I do at our school, as our director of technology, is cultivate relationships with our faculty and staff. If I’m able to develop a positive relationship with someone, where they perceive me as a “safe” person to reach out to for assistance, I am much more likely (as is our technology department) to be able to succeed in my support roles with them as well as their colleagues.

Have you ever had a conversation with a technology support person who made you feel stupid, belittled, and/or ignorant? Sadly, those experiences are much more common than they should be in the arena of technology support. Whenever I have an opportunity to hire a new technology support staff member or provide input for a new hire, I always look for relationship building and communication skills first. Some questions I consider are:

  1. Does the person come across as kind, genuine, and a good listener?
  2. Does the person seem to have a humble disposition?
  3. How do other people who have worked with this individual, in a situation where they have received technical support, describe the way they were treated and felt as a result of their interactions with the prospective hire?

In recognizing the importance of relationship and communication skills, I’m certainly not saying I’ve completely mastered those skills myself. I’m definitely “always learning.” There are some people who are, for different reasons, exceptionally challenging to build relationships with. I have struggled and continue to struggle with relationship building in several cases. Overall, however, I feel positive about the priority I place on relationship building in our school both for me personally and for our department.

It’s important to recognize key relationships within your organization to which you must give special attention and time as a technology support staff member. Administrative assistants often are in this category, because they are the staff members who are in a position to be most attuned to the interpersonal dynamics as well as technical support needs in their area / department. Never underestimate the value and importance of “small talk,” and also the importance of “regularly being present,” even for short amounts of time, with different people in your organization.

Relationships can only be built through shared experiences and the mutual exchange of perceptions. Those things take time. “Small talk check-ins” with staff, especially administrative assistants, are analogous to micro-investments you’re making in your relationships with those folks and the department in which they work. We don’t have time every day for face-to-face check-ins, but as technology support leaders and staff members, we should periodically make time for drop-in visits and short conversations. These are the raw materials upon which relationships are built, and correspondingly a successful technology support culture. The perceptions and feelings which other people have about you as a colleague and staff member are shaped much more strongly by these face-to-face interactions than by emails you send or policies you develop for your department.

Quick and Adaptable Technical Learner

The technical skills and past technical support experiences of IT staff are important, but it’s even more important that these individuals be quick and adaptable technical learners. By “quick and adaptable,” I mean they are able to readily learn how new systems operate, interact with other elements of the network and computing environment, and can troubleshoot issues with many of these systems without formal training. Some complex systems definitely require and need formal training and even certification programs, but the majority of technical systems we support daily in our school technology department require “just in time learning.”

I sometimes joke that when I was little I dreamed of becoming a fireman, and now as a technology director I’ve realized that lifelong aspiration: I’m constantly “putting out fires.” I don’t have an exact percentage, but a large number of the situations into which I’m called are novel to me. The longer I’ve been a technology director, the more I’m able to draw on past experiences and learning… but the nature of our computing and information environment makes addressing new challenges a “norm” rather than an anomaly.

In this environment of constant change and new challenges, it’s important to know how to search the web effectively and iteratively for technical solutions. It’s also important to be able to “escalate” help to corporate / vendor support channels, if local staff are unable to figure out a solution. One way or another, trouble tickets need to be resolved. Technical support staff don’t have to know all the answers / have all the answers to every problem (that’s actually impossible, in my experience) but we DO need to be able to efficiently find answers and implement fixes / solutions.

This can be a challenging disposition to effectively identify when you are conducting job interviews. One helpful strategy is to ask a prospective hire to describe a recent technical support challenge they faced and overcame, and describe their “process” in finding a solution that worked. While it’s not absolutely essential, today I think it’s important that support staff have and use a “professional learning network” which extends well beyond the walls of the organization.

Attention To Detail

In addition to good relationship/communication skills and the ability to learn quickly, technical support staff absolutely MUST have outstanding “attention to detail” skills. This means when they are applying a technical solution to a problem, they can consistently (and without much supervision) metaphorically “cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s.” While many technology systems today have (thankfully) become simpler and easier to support than their predecessors, there still can be LOTS of required steps when applying a technical fix / solution to a problem.

Two examples of fantastic and powerful systems which have made our technical support requirements much easier at school the past four years are Cisco Meraki switches and access points, and our Jive VOIP phone system “in the cloud.” I’m extremely thankful, and have been richly blessed in terms of the reduction in required support hours, for our school to have adopted these platforms for our computing needs. Even though these systems are MUCH easier to use and manage than many competing products and platforms, there is still a high level of complexity to the design as well as support utilization of these systems. Attention to detail is vital.

I’m not sure how to effectively test and filter for “attention to detail” skills in a job interview. It might be best to give a job candidate an actual work challenge, with a long series of steps which they have to apply and then repeat several times. I haven’t used this strategy in a job interview with a candidate myself, but it’s certainly worth considering. “Attention to detail” was something that was literally hammered into our brains repeatedly during basic training and our freshman year (4 degree year) at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Flying an aircraft, or maintaining an aircraft, or doing just about any other task related to “flying, fighting and winning” in the Air Force requires attention to detail. I find it’s an essential skill and cultivated ability in the arena of technology support as well.

There are certainly other important skills and qualities for technical support staff than the ones I’ve highlighted here, but these are definitely among the most important. What have I left out? Share your thoughts as a comment below, or by reaching out to me on Twitter @wfryer.

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?