Click Barns, Sock Puppets & Troll Factories

The 2017 YouTube video #Socialnomics has recently reported that we are preparing almost 30% of students for jobs that don’t exist yet.  I’ve always wondered what kind of jobs they could be.  Sadly, we are learning about them in today’s times.

I was exposed to three new terms this year that didn’t exist years ago:

  • Click Barns
  • Sock Puppeting
  • Troll Factories

For those that don’t know about these, I wanted to share them, as these terms are creeping into education practices, but have been more prevalent in politics and news.

 

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A clickfarm.| image credit: bbc.co.uk

 

Ever wonder how something gets so many website hits or how it’s ‘liked’ by so many people? Look no further than a click farm. Click farms are offices/apartments that house hundreds of cell phones and thousands of SIM cards.  People and/or businesses that are looking to have search terms rise or fall can get click farms to change how you view products or people. Knowing that 90% of people do no go past the first page when a google search is conducted (Wressics, 2016), “pushing down” a search term is easier than ever.  Here’s the catch – it’s illegal; you’re manipulating data to reflect a false impression.  There are people now dedicated to finding the patterns of this practice and working with police to eliminate them.

 

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Sock puppets in action. |image credit: showtime.com/homeland 

 

If you ever watched the Showtime television series Homeland, you heard about sock puppets in the 2016 season.  Sock puppets are groups of people hired to create accounts (like the click farms above) of every rang of social media known to us as we know it, and then comment on various articles, news websites, blogs, and other topics to boost a search topic or sway an image. This may sound familiar, as Russia has been accused of doing this to sway the 2016 presidential election. You can watch sock puppets in action by clicking here.

 

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A troll farm in Europe. | image credit: reuters.com

 

The third term that has and is causing quite a problem in the online world is troll farm. Troll farms are like sock puppets, but their goal is not to just sway opinion, but incite hatred or anger. Troll farm employees are hired to deliberately cause/create conflict on a website, blog, or online forum. They do this by posting comments that are provocative or inflammatory. Troll farms have been confirmed on national news websites that typically show news in one angle (i.e. Fox News, MSNBC) and have been found to be at local news online stories as well. It should also be no surprise that all of the names that are created are just that; names. Less than 2% of people use their actual name as a username online.

A New Jersey Education Association executive once told me that education has changed more in the past 6 years than 60. I thought it said a lot coming from her; educators, in general, don’t like to acknowledge change, especially when they are comfortable in a routine (I know firsthand, I was one). With these new job creations, we all need to be cognizant of these changes so that our learners are aware of these things. The learner today has had the internet and social media presence in their lives for 100%. Scary as it may be, it is what it is, and we must be ready; our future depends on it.

 

Seriously, why all of the Edcamps and Conferences?

In the past few weeks, I’ve been getting a lot of questions as to why I attend so many conferences.  Most questions are implying that since I am a Superintendent, there is no need to be, since (as one person put it) “I’m at the top”. So, please allow me to explain my rationale for conferences:

1. I pick and choose. I’m not a teacher trying to become an administrator; I’m not a rookie administrator trying to establish my name.  I’m not going for recognition; I’m going because there are topics and items I want to learn about.  Sure they are on some Saturdays, some are far, and some aren’t even that great, but if I don’t go, I won’t expose myself to something that could be amazing — and then my students suffer.

2. I’m always striving to be better.  I have the responsibility to be better so my staff can be better and so my students can be better.  Going to conferences allows me to acquire new knowledge, and also allows me to…

3. I’m meeting my followers and those I follow through Twitter, my source PLN action. There are so many wonderful people on Twitter that I have been lucky enough to learn from. Meeting them face to face and having the chance to learn even more than I did before.  It’s a great chance to continue the important conversations from online in person.

4. Some are required. Yes, it’s true.  Some conferences are required, depending on the initiative and what’s specifically listed in my contract. Sometimes, there are even financial stakes involved (for schools and for me).  Recently, I couldn’t attend a conference out of state.  The conference was for a national program that I signed up over a year ago to be a part of and attend. It says very specifically in the details that I was to attend. I didn’t, and now my district suffers, and I lost out on a merit goal. I guess I’ll have to find that $3850.00 elsewhere.

5. I’m telling our story. As Brad Currie always says, “tell your story, or someone else will.” My District has done amazing things in two years.  This is not my doing; this is the teacher’s, administrator’s, and (most importantly) student’s doing. LAC has a whole lot to share.., especially what has worked, and more importantly, what hasn’t. Telling our story helps others along the way, and if I can help just one person help their school move forward, it’s worth it.

ONWARD!

5 ways I’m using Google Glass in my schools to enhance education

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OK, glass.  Change my school for the better.

In January, I got one of the best emails I ever received.  I got an email from Google Glass asking if I was interested to pilot their new project.  I was beyond excited.  My mind was running in every direction possible (and for those that know me personally, you know my mind runs all over as is); this email had me running like after a triple espresso.

I had to purchase the glasses frames as well, as my sight, well, is awful. After successful setting of frames, I was off and running.  Well, I think it took me  a few hours just to turn them on. Then comes your toggling, eye movement, using your fingers, and training your eye to look..

Naturally I read some articles of etiquette. There was nothing in Marie Post’s book, but CNN had a great article on how not to be a “Glasshole”.

Anyway, from my use thus far, here’s what I’ve been able to successfully do with my Glass in schools, that have help me be a better chief lead learner:

1. Recording teacher observations. In another school, when I got an iPad for the first time, a groups of teachers called it the “Spy Pad” when I was doing “Drive-by” observations. So, when I told my staff we got a pair, and what I was looking to do, the grumbles and moans carried through the school. At first, I was just wearing them and letting everyone try them on.  I also insisted that this was not the “Gotcha” camera.  This took great trust and a good leap of faith, but we did it. While in observations, I have recorded samples of students working, teachers teaching, and even some disciplinary issues.  The results?  Awesome.  I have played the video clips back to the Staff; they are fans.  The videos stay on my personal drive, and are not shared with the masses; not even the teacher.

2. Sending live updates of school happenings to social media to show all of the positives that are happening at the school. We all know the power of social media and how getting quick, simplistic information is beneficial to all.  With glass, I can take pictures and share them on our school twitter feed (@LACSchool), our Facebook page, and even attach images or videos to emails.  I have spent lots of time promoting and guiding our stakeholders to our website / social media avenues.  It’s been very successful, and this just adds more fuel to this educational fire.

3. Observe special education students at their best and worst, and providing footage to both Parents and the Child Study Teams. Sometimes certain students have certain needs that we can’t immediately identify or even explain properly.  Having the ability to record a student with Autism when they have a “melt-down”, and immediately sending that to the screen of the Child Study Team is paramount for our success.  It allows us to immediately assess, document, and begin to figure out to combat the situation.  It also has allowed me to show parents who are in denial. It has opened eyes, and in turn, allowed parents to make better decisions.

4. Get Email on the fly.  As A Superintendent, my email in-box is insane. Instead of being dangerous and reading email on my phone, I can see when email comes in on my screen and have google glass read it orally to me. I can then dictate a message back, save it, or delete it. It’s not used all of the time, but if I have a drive, I can weed out quite a bit.

5. Report concerns immediately to maintenance. I often walk the halls, and I’ll see something that needs cleaning, is in disrepair, or looks fantastic. I can take a picture and email it to grounds supervisor right on the spot.  No more trying to recall what hall, where, and when.

As Glass rolls out more apps, and as I (and the staff) get more comfortable with their use, I can see this being a permanent fixture in a school.

Glass is is helping us grow, learn, and move onward.

My presentations from Techspo 14

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As promised in presentations from the 2014 NJASA Techspo Conference can be found below:

BYOD: The Good, The Bad, and The Connected (presented with Sandra Paul – @SPaul6414)

Breaking Down Barriers (presented with Tim Charleston – @MrCSays)

EdCamps: Changing the Education Game

Sandra, Tim, and I all had follow-up discussions afterwards – each conversation was a great session and we were happy that so many of you attended.  Please reach out if you need any additional information.

ONWARD!

 

 

Learning Smartly

Twitter never ceases to amaze me. The people you can meet, the span you reach, and the things we find on here.

Besides meeting the most amazing, informative PLN ever, I come across great pictures, graphics, and charts pertaining to, yes, education.  I recently tweeted out this picture I found online, and within 24 hours, this is the distribution it reached:

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I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes I could spend hours putting together one of these blog posts and I get a modicum of hits.  I send out a neat pic, and it spreads like wildfire.

My other half recently sent me another graphic… and now it all makes sense:

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So, when I tweeted something about NCLB to Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) – I got this:

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… and when I reached out to our new US Senator, Cory Booker (@CoryBooker), I got this:

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If by chance you are reading my blog and you are not getting my updates through Twitter, I would suggest you give it a shot.  You too can learn smartly!

Yea, I’m watching what you do online.

Remember that song by Rockwell in the 80’s called “Somebody’s Watching Me”? Well, in the age of the online analytics, they are. A lot. A whole lot. And yes, I am one of them.

Before you get totally creeped out, think about it. Go to google, yahoo, or bing, and look at your ads that pop up. Go to Amazon, Target, or any other store you shop at online. Look at the ads on Facebook. Notice a pattern? Every page is laced with ads relating to products or services you either like, bought, or researched. Why? Analytics.

Never have analytics been more important to a school. How? As a Superintendent, I am constantly publishing important information to our website. Today’s learner and parent circulate around online usage and obtaining the message in multiple ways. How many times have you pushed out a message and didn’t know if it was received? Analytics allows me not only to see if my message if getting read, it’s showing me who, what, where, and when too.

Yes, the good ol’ paper flyer can still get the job done, but 21st century learners and community members want information fast and simplistic. From tweets to Facebook posts to Smore flyers, there’s no excuse for getting your message out in a simplistic and timely way. If something is not working or if a message is not being read, I’ll be able to see it, correct it, and try something else.

It’s amazing what you can see online now. On our new district’s website, http://www.lacschool.org, I can see what pages are getting clicked, the number of hits, the geographic location (from continent, down to town), the server its coming in on, keyword searches, and even search engines. I can also get the same analytics on my Facebook page and my online newsletters I send out via Smore.com. I can even now see how long you spend on a page and if you read an entire newsletter.

Why am I even posting something like this? Simple; I want you to know that I am watching. As a leader of a school district who has the responsibility of getting the message out in a variety of ways, I want to know what works and what doesn’t. I’m doing the best I can to get what you need, and will always try to do so. From my local families, to my military Moms & Dads serving overseas, I know I am getting my message out, and that you’re reading it. I’m proud of where I work, and I want everyone to get that message.

Sharknado + Education in 2013 = Awesomesauce

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Image credit: Syfy network

If you read, listen to, or watch the news, chances are you have heard about it.

It was awful. It was heinous. It was so terrible, you HAD to keep on watching.

The syfy channel recently aired Sharknado, a movie that was suppose to be just another cheesy in-house flick for devout science fiction fans. To the chagrin of TV critics, something happened. It was a small spark. The small spark of social media became a, well, tidal wave of tweets, Facebook posts, vines, and every other form of social media out there. So many people were talking about it, that scads upon scads of people tuned in. 1.5 million tuned in. 5000 tweets a minute.

The plot, if you want to call it that: for the first time in California, hurricanes begin to strike the coast. These hurricanes become so powerful, that eventually the scoop up thousands of sharks out of the ocean and get launched onto land, naturally attacking everything in sight. Sharks plunge through restaurant windows, school buses, swim to the second floor of houses, invade a nursing home, and do a bunch of other things. Naturally, to combat such sharks, one needs to be prepared. A series of improvised weapons, combined with lots of chainsaws, allows our beloved characters to be saved.

Now you’re wondering, how does any of this relate to education? Simple! The ridiculousness of it all. Think about it… What was Sharknado competing against? The standard, same ol’ same ol’. People were bored. People want to engage. People want something different because they are tired of the same old repetition. IT’S THE SAME IN THE CLASSROOM TODAY. Learners are tired of the same ol’ Learners want to engage in a new way. Learners don’t want repetition– learners want new. Learners want to interact with other learners around the world, just like Twitter & FaceBook users did in Sharknado.

Granted if you’re reading this, you get it, or at least I hope you do. The message is here, the message is clear, and the message is not going away: educators need to be different, educators need to be as creative and ridiculous as those from Sharknado, and educators need to be able to embrace both change and criticism.

Just for the record, Sharknado doubled its ratings in the second viewing, has been on every network getting coverage, and is making a sequel. The power of social media? Possibly. The power of embracing your audience and giving what they want? Certainly. Imagine that kind of impact you could have in your classroom.

Until next time, make sure your chainsaws are operational in case of any looming hurricanes.

#WEtech13 = WE-learn, yet again.

Yes, kids, it has arrived, and it looks as if the movement is here to stay.

The 2013 West Essex Technology Symposium (AKA ‘WeTech”) occurred this past weekend in the West Essex school district.  Like other ed-camps / un-conferences, the format is simple: start with an excellent keynote, offer a plethora of workshops, and make sure you have free food 🙂  Two hundred educators from all over the state gathered, collaborated, and yes, learned a thing or ten. While I was also a fan of the variety of workshops, the keynote address given by Scott Rocco (Superintendent of Spotswood schools in NJ) had an excellent message and set the tone for the day; if you want progress, you need to ENGAGE.

If you haven’t attended one of these conferences, I’m sure you’ve heard of them.  The concept is simple – teachers, administrators, and all those in between to learn or share how technology has helped move their schools forward into this technology infused 21st century.

The nice part?  To many to list.  My favorites:

  • You pick what you want to go to, and if you don’t like it, you simply get up and leave.  No hard feelings, no egos squashed.
  • You meet up with old friends and new during lunch and get to share ideas and topics you liked or disliked.
  • You get exposed to a variety of classroom ideas, the thinkers, and technology that is helping our students become excellent learners.
  • You leave feeling good about yourself and your profession, knowing that there are others like you that want to utilize new ideas and technologies in the classroom.

I had the opportunity to co-broadcast video podcasts with Jeff Bradburry, the creator of TeacherCast.net. Several interviews with presenters, administrators, and teachers have been made available through http://www.teachercast.net or by searching for ‘wetech13’ on youtube.  Perhaps clicking on an interview or two may further explain the benefits of these conferences.

It’s just a matter of time before all PD ends up going this route.  Jump on the wave now – I certainly don’t want to see you left behind.

Winter Break – a time to relax & reflect

2012.  What a year.

Wait, doesn’t everyone say that every year?  

I think us folks in the Garden State and elsewhere really do mean that this year. Especially these of us in education. While one can argue that every year is a non-stop roller coaster, this year was  different.

New names are etched in stone for many, and not in a nice way.  Sandy. Newtown. Now through in your own school incidents / woes / drama at your school and mix it all up.  There were some rough spots!

Low and behold though, we got through it. We reached a point where everyone can take a breather. A real breather.  I was talking to a friend (not in education) who tried making the argument that when we all were ‘off’ for Sandy it was also a time to recharge.  Really?! I’m thinking it was just the opposite for everyone reading this too. Teachers were thinking how to catch up, Administrators trying to think how to re-schedule and catch up… even the cafeteria workers where I was were trying to figure out where to start!

Enough negative — 2012 was the year of social media for me.  Sure, I had  the typical social media websites and other online fixes that everyone has, and I’ve championed the use of technology in the classroom, but I never really correlated my social media use to my educational growth.  Ironic, because I’ve been always pushing for use of it in every classroom I come across. For me, social media and education was a high point.  I discovered the value of twitter and education, learned that I really can reach thousands of people around the world via this blog, reconnected and made some incredible connections and friendships with amazing educators and administrators from all over NJ and the US, and  even lost 91 pounds this year. Kudos to one of my former coworkers for getting me back to the gym.  Your persistence for exercise and changing eating habits really did pay off.

Winter break is a time to charge up. Sure, party after party, appointments, errands, and all of the little things, but all done at hopefully your pace… and with some leisure mixed within it. As a write this, I can’t believe how quick this week just passed. A week full of fun (despite catching a 24 hour bug on Christmas Eve), relaxing, and even a little daydreaming of sticking my feet in the beautiful sands of my jersey shore.

2012 is about to fade out.  What a year, and yes I really do mean that. See y’all in 2013.  It’s going to be an exciting year 😉