Hacked—It Stings!

Posted by Tim Landeck on July 14, 2013

Just when I thought it was OK to leave the safety of my district’s content filter and venture into the growing realm of social networking (SN), I was stung by the mighty SN wasps—my Twitter account was hacked! Before I knew it, I was advertising a weight loss program to all of my Twitter followers. To add to the confusion I actually had just lost some weight and won the “losers weight loss contest” at the district office. Many were aware of my improving health and thought I was endorsing a specific weight loss program! Even if you haven’t been hacked yet, find out how to prevent it.

Wasp face on.
Photo credit: Wim van Egmond. Used by permission.


How I knew that I was hacked

One morning I began to receive emails from friends and colleagues asking if my Twitter and Facebook accounts had been hacked. When you receive multiple versions of these emails within a couple of hours, it’s time to check it out as quickly as possible. I looked on my Twitter account and sure enough, I was advertising for a new weight loss program. It’s embarrassing to have your account hacked, especially for a “techie” like me; I wanted to stop the unauthorized posts as soon as possible.

How to secure your Twitter account

  • Step 1: Change your password ASAP. Usually this is how your account was hacked so changing your password will bring the addition of new, unauthorized posts to a halt. You can increase security by making your password long and complex,  such as IhateGetting365Hacked!
  • Step 2: Disable unnecessary third party applications.  Log into your Twitter account and under settings (look for the gear in the top right hand side of your web browser window) click the Apps menu. Look through the applications that are presently authorized to post to your account and make sure that you truly need and want each of those applications to have access to your account.  Revoke access for all the apps that you don’t recognize.
  • Step 3: Remove any saved passwords to your Twitter account that you may have on various computers and mobile devices.
  • Step 4: Run an antiviral software program on all computers that you use regularly to be sure that you don’t have a virus or keyboard logger on any of your computers
  • Step 5: Reset your password again.

Although being hacked and sending unwarranted posts to hundreds of your followers is a horrible thought, don’t let it prevent you from utilizing social networks. Twitter, Facebook and other social network sites provide excellent tools for educators. Just play it safe by following the steps above.

For more information, visit Twitter’s Help Center.





Getting Parents on Board, Part 2

Posted by Sheila Grady on July 5, 2013

Men, ladders, standards cartoonAs our elementary school prepared to take the STAR tests this spring,  a parent—who, as it happens, is also a former student of mine (sigh!)—stopped in and said, “Hey, whatever happened to the old CTBS test?  What’s this STAR thing?”  Oh my, did  I feel, well, experienced.

At the same time, the question made me realize that we have some parent education to do!  Smarter Balanced is on its way and our parents should know what to expect!  Here is what I came up with for my parent newsletter.  Fellow principals, feel free to cut, paste and mash up for your own purposes.  It’s all about collaboration! 

Common Core State Standards

California’s state education standards that have been guiding curriculum and instruction for years are being replaced with Common Core State Standards.  This new set of standards began development in June 2010 at the request of the Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.  Now simply known by the shorthand “Common Core,” they represent a change in our expectations of student learning.  Keep in mind the 21st Century Skills (see “Getting Parents on Board with the Common Core)—critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration—as we explore the Common Core.

We will start off with a comparison of the current California standards to the Common Core.   As you consider the contrasts shown in the chart below, think of how the world has change since 1997, the year that the current California standards were adopted. To help ground you, in 1997 the movie Titanic hit the theaters for the first time; Steve Jobs returned to a pre-iPhone Apple; and the new name “Google” was coined for a fledgling search engine that had originally been called BackRub.

California Standards Common Core
Adopted by California in 1997 Adopted by 48 states 2010 – 2012
Purpose to establish content of learning for California students at each grade level Purpose to prepare students to compete in a competitive global society
Developed by California Department of Education for California to reflect a strong consensus among educators Developed by educational professionals in 46 states and informed by national and international research, evidence, and standards from countries that are recognized for high-quality education.
Current (albeit 1997) state standards Built on the strengths and lessons of the current state standards
Each state had its own unique set of standards, varying in content and rigor. Standards are the same for students in all states that have adopted the CCSS.
Assessments designed by commercial educational testing services Assessments designed by two consortia; each state choses one.  CA has chosen Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
Assessments are multiple-choice items based on the California State Standards 1997. Assessments are “Next Generation Assessments” that assess depth of knowledge by analyzing and synthesizing information, writing essays and applying knowledge.
STAR Test for all students in California in Grades 2 – 12 Smarter Balanced Assessments in Grades 3 – 8 and Grade 11
STAR Results reported 3 months after test. Smarter Balanced Results reported within several weeks.
STAR testing consumes several days of class time. Smarter Balanced is expected to take 1 to 2 hours of student time.


In the simplest form, here are key changes in what we expect children to know and do at the end of K- 12 education:

English/Language Arts

Students must be able to demonstrate these skill “shifts” in English Language Arts/Literacy:

  • Read as much non-fiction as fiction
  • Learn about the world by reading
  • Read more challenging material closely
  • Discuss reading using evidence
  • Write non-fiction using evidence
  • Increase academic vocabulary


And under Common Core math, students must be able to…

  • Focus: learn more about fewer, key topics
  • Build skills within and across grades
  • Develop speed and accuracy
  • Really know math and really use it
  • Use it in the real world
  • Think fast AND solve problems
Map of states that have adopted Common Core State Standards
Green states have adopted Common Core State Standards. Click map for more information.

Show You Mean Business—Become a Content Curator

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on June 20, 2013

Sifting pepples in water.What does it take to be an effective school leader today? TICAL Cadre member Sandra Miller recently addressed this question here (see TBLOGICAL post Leaders of the 21st Century). In this post I’d like to piggyback on her discussion by describing one simple thing every school leader can do to demonstrate use of technology in professional practice.

My experience as a school administrator and professional development provider tells me one of the best ways administrators show they value technology is by modeling its use—practicing what they preach. This belief is underscored by Performance Indicator 3c in ISTE’s NETS for Administrators which states that effective school administrators, “Promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools.”

So what am I proposing? Select and use one of the free content curation tools now readily available to share digital resources with colleagues on a regular basis. What is content curation? It’s the practice of gathering, organizing, and sharing online resources. It’s no substitute for individuals doing their own research on a given topic, but curated lists of online resources can be very helpful when educators need a place to get started or want a quick overview of current resources related to a given topic. Curating content doesn’t have to be labor intensive—it takes just a few minutes to find and link resources to a resource collection that can be accessed by followers at any time.

A curated list of resources can be the work of one person or a collaborative effort, depending on the tool being used. Technically, content can be shared using tools like Twitter (micro-blogging) or paper.li (an article aggregator), but there are other free tools that make it easy to start and maintain online collections. Here are two I use regularly.

LiveBinders: Use this curation tool to create digital 3-ring binders on any topic. Organize resources using tabs (dividers) and sub-tabs. Share LiveBinders with the URL or by embedding them on a webpage. A LiveBinder It bookmarklet can be placed in a browser’s toolbar, making it possible to add resources while browsing the Internet. A LiveBinder can be curated by single or multiple authors and work well when a resource collection needs to be sustained over time. Here is an example of a collaboratively curated LiveBinder of BYOD resources for educators.

Bag the Web: I like Pinterest, but if a website doesn’t have an image, it cannot be added to a Pinterest board. Bag the Web is a reasonable alternative and a good choice when what’s needed is a short list of web-based resources related to a fairly narrow topic. Unlike Pinterest, Bag the Web allows the bag (list) creator to rearrange links once they’ve been added. A bookmarklet is available for quick posting and it’s possible to embed a bag in a webpage. Here’s an example of a bag of resources for teachers who are selecting Web 2.0 tools for classroom use.

So, the next time you’re working on a school plan, curriculum revision, or similar task, start a curated list of related digital resources to share with staff. Teachers will appreciate ready access to new assets and you will have seized an opportunity to model working collaboratively.



Getting Parents on Board with the Common Core

Posted by Sheila Grady on June 10, 2013

When it comes to implementing the Common Core State Standards, we have much to do, not the least of which is parent education.  Parent newsletters are one obvious avenue for getting the message out.  Here are some topics and ideas that can help you get a head start on next fall’s newsletters.  Principals, you are welcome to cut and paste and, of course, contribute your own “open source” musings in the comments!

 21st Century Learning

Things are clearly different in our 2013 world, and school is one of those things!  The model of schooling that most of us experienced was established in the 19th century and fine-tuned in the 20th century to develop a citizen workforce for the Industrial Revolution.  In many ways, the schooling we adults received was based on an assembly line model.  As we educate your children, we are not preparing them to work in a factory.  The skills they will need in the workforce will be a “blend of content knowledge, specific skills, expertise and literacies”.   (Source: Partnership for 21st Century Skills.)

Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity

The new basics are critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.  In fact, at our school, we add a fifth “C” to this: conservation.   Let’s review what these skills are and think about how we may already see them being developed in our school.

  • Critical Thinking requires one to reason effectively, solve problems, make judgments and decisions.  We scaffold our students’ opportunities to think critically and provide a foundation upon which to base their thinking.  (Hint – our “Character Counts” program) 
  • Collaboration is the ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams, to be flexible and able to compromise, to assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and to value the individual contributions of each team member.    (Hint – Parent-Teacher Committees, Fundraising Drives)
  • Communication is the ability to express ideas clearly in a variety of ways—written, spoken, drawn, built, acted out—and to receive ideas from others by effective listening, watching, and questioning.  (Hint – Reading and Writing for sure, but also Art, Music, Tech)
  • Creativity not only means having new ideas.  It is the ability to elaborate or refine  the ideas of others and to be open to new ideas and possibilities.  (Hint – PTA Meetings, Science Night)
  • Conservation means that our students will take individual and collective action towards addressing environmental challenges.  (Hint – our school Green Team!)

“The Delegation”

Posted by Skip Johnson on November 30, 2012

Students of El Crystal Elementary SchoolFacing incipient school closure

Last April I found out late on a Friday evening that my school had been unexpectedly listed in a San Bruno Park School District governing board agenda for closure at the end of the 11/12 school year. Up to that point only one other school had been recommended for closure by a consultant firm hired by the district. To say the least, there was a strong reaction from our school community. At the next board meeting dozens of parents and students lambasted the board and district administration. The final vote was 5-0 to not close any school in the upcoming year. However, knowing that with the the state and federal budget crisis, the potential failure of Proposition 30, and the uncertain success of a district sponsored parcel tax (it did not pass on November 5), as a school community we knew that we had to do something to fend off closure for the 13/14 year.

For the last couple of years, the former PTA president had wanted to establish our school, El Crystal, as a charter school. We looked at the district policy but quickly decided that none of us had the time to invest in that endeavor. However, with closure on the near horizon, Vince (the former PTA President) and I sought school and community members to create a mini-task force to discuss and consider other alternatives. By June of 2012 we had a group of between ten and twelve regular participants that met every other Thursday over the summer to strategize a plan. Eventually, we settled on becoming a Magnet School for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Our site has been designated by the district as a Demonstration School for the Integration of Curriculum and Technology for the last four years, so this move seemed logical. The staff had considered this notion during the school year, so it met with their overwhelming support.

Creating a proposal

We created our Magnet School Proposal throughout the summer. Just before school began, four members of what the district soon labelled “the delegation” met with the superintendent and one board member to present our proposal. The delegation was asked to come back with answers to a number of questions posed during the meeting. The district asked that I as principal, should serve as the liaison to the parent group. We met one more time to offer our responses. Our proposal was put on the board agenda in October as a presentation item. The board voted to place our proposal as an action item for the upcoming November 14 board meeting.

Whether or not our proposal gains the needed wind to take flight is in the hands of the governing board. But what I want to share is the extraordinary relationships that were established within the parent group known as the delegation.  Ten regular participants composed the group:

  • Parent and former PTA President who is a property manager
  •  A nurse
  •  A real estate broker
  •  An architect from the community
  •  Manager of a major department store
  •  Director at a bio-medical company
  •  Self-employed illustrator and author
  •  A former parent and community activist
  •  Director of fundraising at a public television station in San Francisco
  •  Webmaster for a non-profit organization

A model of collaboration

I have been an administrator in public schools for almost 25 years. I have facilitated, met with, and participated in numerous parent groups including PTA, ELAC, School Site Councils, and special committees designated by the governing board. Those meetings are usually agendized, focused on support for a specific school or school system, and driven by interest or protocol. Folks can participate or just ‘sit on their hands’ and let others do the talking and decision-making.

The delegation turned out to be a much more intense, personal, and gratifying experience. The participants were open-minded, candid, task-driven, solution-oriented, focused, and respectful to the perspectives brought by each member. The STEM idea was offered by Vince and myself. The group took this notion as a great idea, did research away from the meeting, brought their individual experiences and perspectives into the discussions, read everything given to them, and asked driving and well-thought out questions.  In other words, they were the ideal collaborative group. They were a model for what any teacher would want to see students achieve at any level in any classroom learning any subject.

Invest time with parents in open-ended problem-solving

I said at a recent conference that every principal should figure out a way to invest time regularly with a group of parents and an open-ended problem to solve. From this experience I gained insight to how parents perceive my behavior as an individual and administrator, how they perceive the goals of our school, how they perceive classroom activities, and how they perceive the intended culture of the school. If you asked folks to give you this insight straight up, you would receive nothing. In many ways, these participants were the faces behind the survey questions you send out about your school. I learned that some people perceive me as sometimes too frank and honest, that I could be more tactful, and that there was tremendous respect for how we care for the students in our charge especially with the technology we offer throughout the curriculum. In the final analysis, I learned that collaboration is an essential condition at all levels if any system if it is going to function at its maximum.