AoP Tech News January 2018

Tech News, Support, and Information for AoP Educators!

Yay or Nay: Facebook Messenger for Kids

by: Ms. Alissa DeVito, Associate Director of Educational Technology

I knew something must be happening in the tech world when my phone started buzzing with messages from teachers, parents, AND techies. Last month, Facebook released Messenger Kids, a messaging app aimed at children ages 6-12. By the end of release day, I had received a flood of questions about this new app: Is it safe? Should I download it? Why does a six-year-old need a messaging app? AoP Tech is here to break it down for you!

The Basics: The new Messenger Kids does not require kids to sign up for a Facebook account. Instead, kids are registered via a parent’s accounting using their first and last name. Parents must approve the child’s contacts before there is any interaction and any other children in the app must be signed up via their parent’s account. Currently, this app is available for iOS devices with an Android version in the works. Stickers, gifs, and fun messaging features are all included to draw kids in.

The Uses: Facebook sees this as a way for kids to interact with family members or peers without having social media accounts themselves (since most social media apps have an age requirement of 13). Facebook views Messenger Kids as a “gift to parents” as it is easy to monitor what messages their children are sending, and to whom, than if their kids lied about age to create a Facebook account.

The Concerns: As with any tool for use with children, privacy is the biggest concern. Messenger Kids is COPPA compliant (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) as it does not sell data for advertising purposes. There are no advertisements in Messenger for Kids. However, Facebook will collect data from the app - including messages, photos, and information about the device being used - for possible 3rd party use to “improve the platform”. Facebook has not made it clear how they will monetize the app or their exact plans for the data collected.

And a verdict? That’s up to you! While Messenger Kids does not have a place in the classroom curriculum, parents may opt into a service such as this. As always, it important for us as educators and parents to stay on top of what our children are doing online and on their devices. Many kids and parents alike are already using iMessage, FaceTime, Duo, or Hangouts for communication with family and friends. If nothing else, the introduction of Messenger Kids makes us pause and consider what’s best for kids.

Share your thoughts on the new Messenger Kids by tweeting us @aoptech!

The Fallacy of “Digital Natives”

by Aaron Heintz, Technology Integration Coach PreK-12

They know Snapchat. They can Instagram. Their ability to capture the perfect selfie is unrivaled. But when it comes to writing a professional email, performing academic research or building a Google Slides presentation these digital natives often struggle and suddenly need additional supports to help guide them. Why do our students experience this struggle?

As teachers, we are accustomed from switching gears from one lesson activity to the next. We know that it is during these transitions is where kids easily get lost, get off task and miss those important directions we just finished explaining to them. It is no wonder then, that as much as our students struggle in transitioning in the real world, they also struggle when it comes to transitioning between sites, apps, and programs in the digital world. The disconnect for Digital Natives lies in the transition between the digital tools and the Culture or communities that use those tools.

Doug Belshaw stresses that, “The Cultural element of digital literacies is best acquired by being immersed in a range of digital environments” (46). The Cultural pillar reflects the unique rules, terminology and expected community behavior of a particular digital community. Each digital tool has its own community Culture. If you have missed previous editions of this column I encourage you to check out the AOPTech Newsletter archives to fully understand our journey and discovery of the 8 Pillars of Digital Literacy.

One of our jobs as teachers is to guide our students through numerous digital contexts and cultures. We need to expose them to, and transition between as many of these tools as possible. It is also important that we address the transition itself. While these digital natives may understand what a tool does, they may not know the cultural expectations behind that tool. As educators, we need to address that question first.

January Challenge: Plan a lesson using a new digital tool. Prior to its implementation, ask the students to share the culture behind an app or site that they frequently use. What are the rules? What’s the lingo? How is the tool used? Then, introduce the new digital tool. Share or have students identify the culture around this new tool. Then compare the two tools. How are they similar? In what areas or context do they differ? Let us know how the conversation goes. Share it with us on Twitter @AOPTech

Leadership Feature: Mrs. Jeanne Meredith, St. Mary's Interparochial School

My advice about integrating technology is this:

Try it! With so many online resources, take advantage of them and perhaps you can reduce your workload. By the time you use an online resource, it has been tested and tried, it will work! Young scholars love using technology and they may very well listen better and be more engaged. Your administrator will be very proud of you for trying something new that has so many benefits for you and student achievement.

AoP Tech Team

Bill Brannick, Director of Technology

Alissa DeVito, Associate Director of Educational Technology

Aaron Heintz, Technology Integration Coach

Annabel Dotzman, Technology Integration Coach