Twitter is NOT for 1st Graders – and other things teachers should know

no twitter allowedToday I read an article in Education Week summarizing some of the “mind-blowing” professional development tips given to elementary school principals at The National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference.  These lessons in how to integrate and open up their classrooms to tech were dished out from a professional developer named Alan November of November Learning.  One nugget of tech advice that made my head spin was this gem:

There are so many things wrong with this that I had to read on to see if this was actually what he was suggesting to principals.  And, yes, it was.

First and foremost what is upsetting about his advice – being given under the auspices of a tech “expert” – is that kids under 13 are not LEGALLY allowed to have Twitter accounts.  Or Facebook accounts.  Or Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat – the list goes on. Why can’t they?  Because there is a privacy law, which I’ve talked about endlessly on this blog and elsewhere, called COPPA.  That law is meant to protect kids, their personal information and their data.  (I don’t even know if I could possibly write about it more than I already do!)

To not let that little fact be known to principals who are now going to go back to their teachers – their employees – and say,

“Hey, we should be using Twitter, it’s a great (free) tool!  Now we’re using tech in the classroom, woohoo!”

is malpractice.

I don’t know what the full agenda was at this conference, but ANY conversation with principals and teachers looking to integrate tech into their school has to begin with a discussion about privacy.  Just as parents need to understand it, so do teachers.  You cannot introduce apps and websites into a classroom without knowing what kind of data is being collected and why.  You most certainly cannot introduce children – 1st graders! – to a website that specifically bans them as users!  Maybe they should learn to mix cocktails as a science project – that would be some good real world job skill training!

He also told principals they should use Khan Academy to teach math.  Just this past year I did just that with my daughters when we were preparing for a middle school exam based on math one grade level above their own.  It was truly awful.  AWFUL.  And my daughters are crazy smart math girls.  But watching Khan Academy math videos and then trying to fully grasp the concepts and then execute them on their own?  That was a huge waste of time that made us all frustrated.

I’m sure some people have had success using the online math tutorials, but the majority of stories I’ve heard have been similar to my own.  I can’t imagine if a bunch of kids had to watch on math on a screen every day.

Young kids need to be hands on – with math, with writing, with creating.  They also need to learn how to be safe online since that is where a good part of their life will be lived.

There are so many wonderful tech tools, apps and sites that can engage and excite kids in interesting and new ways.  We have many wonderful teachers using KidzVuz in the classroom as a tool for getting kids to write and produce video book reviews – but our site is built FOR KIDS!  Just using tech because it’s novel is a waste of time and money – and that slapdash approach won’t help a teacher with their ultimate goal – producing true thinkers and innovators, and kids who want to learn.

I hope this article was just a snippet of what was presented to those principals.  And I really hope that NONE of them go back to their schools and get their 1st graders on Twitter.  Most of all, I hope the people in charge of teaching the teachers do a responsible job.  There’s a lot of money being tossed around to so-called experts, but I’m not sure who is truly vetting them.

Support the Arts in Schools with Blick- an Artsy Twitter Party

Blick Logo
As most of my readers know I am deeply involved in education advocacy and issues.  One of my favorite topics is the importance and role of arts education in our schools.  I actually think that art can and should be integrated into all curriculum areas – and that art can help illuminate concepts from math and science to make it more interesting and engaging for all students.
So, I’m thrilled to be a part of the Blick Art Room Aid campaign, and we’re kicking it off with a very hands-on event:  A Twitter Party!
#BlickARA Twitter party detailsWhat: Do you believe art is an essential part of your child’s education? Then you already know how important art education is — and how schools are struggling to keep their art programs alive. That’s where Art Room Aid can help! A program of Blick Art Materials, Art Room Aid is helping teachers across the country enlist the aid of parents, families, friends, and other art advocates to fund their art projects and keep creative learning going.Want to learn more? Join this Twitter Party to find out how you can support art education, make sure art continues to play a role in your children’s lives, and spread the word about Art Room Aid in your community. We’ll be discussing projects you can do with your own kids, and sharing sources of inspiration.

When: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2 p.m. ET

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #BlickARA hashtag to track the conversation. See this Twtvite for more info and to RSVP:

Hashtag: #BlickARA

Prizes: We will give away five total prizes – two $25 Blick gift coupons, two $50 Blick gift coupons, and one $75 Blick gift coupon.

Hosts: @theMotherhood, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

Check out Art Room Aid here:

Blick Art Materials website:
Hope you can join the conversation!

Join Me For The KidzVuz Twitter Launch Party!

To celebrate the launch of the new KidzVuz website we’re holding a full blown party the best way we social media addicts know how – on Twitter of course!  If you’ve never been to a Twitter party here’s how it works.

  1. Sign up with Twitter
  2. Once you have your user name hop on over the KidzVuz Parent’s Blog to put your twitter handle on the RSVP list
  3. Show up on Twitter at 10pm on Wednesday Oct. 5th and use the hashtag #KVBuzz (see that # sign?  That’s a hashtag.)

TIP: Download HootSuite to manage your twitter account, it’s easy to create a stream just for #KVBuzz to follow the party

Then just pipe on in to the party chatter!

We will be talking about tweens – those lovely kids ages 8-12 – and how they can use technology for creativity and self-expression – which is what KidzVuz is all about!

We will be giving away prizes throughout the party including a Redakai Gift pack, Fashion Playtes Gift Card and a Nintendo DS with a pack of Mario games.  Plus, a few more goodies that have fallen into our hive in the last few days.  We love when that happens!

So click here to RSVP now!

Got questions?  Comment here or find me on twitter @beccasara and I’ll tweet you back the answers!

KidzVuz 2.0 A Site is (re) Born

Consider this a sonogram of sorts.  A sneak peek at what is about to launch on to the web on Monday, October 3rd.  You can see our current version of KidzVuz now.  But, here’s a Wordless Wednesday of what’s about to launch.

KidzVuz is a site exclusively for kids ages 7-12 where they can create reviews about tech, toys, books, movies and with the new site – travel, food, pets and sports.  So, basically everything a kid would ever want to talk about.  It’s anonymous – user names only – safe and completely moderated.  Also, IT’S REALLY COOL!!!

So get ready for the big launch on Monday and join us for our Twitter launch party on October 5th at 10pm where we will be hosting awesome giveaways and talking about kids using technology to get creative.  Let’s empower our kids through tech, rather than scaring them!

One Post, A New Friend and A Look Back on Jewish Italy

"Little Jerusalem", the Jewish Ghett...

Image via Wikipedia

Two years ago today I was in Pitigliano Italy, site of one of the oldest Jewish towns in Italy – though of course not anymore.  I blogged every day of our month-long stay in Italy and Pitigliano was particularly hard to write about.  I thought about this post recently because when I wrote it I was still not very involved in twitter, my Facebook friends were all old high school friends or new real life friends, and believe it or not I had no idea if or why people read my blog.  I wrote, I published and I didn’t care about what happened after that.

But, when I came back from Italy where I had been posting every single day – and still not looking at my stats! – I was shocked to see that my blog readership had exploded.  I thought I was writing about our trip purely for my family and good friends, but it had been passed around and shared and so on.  It was my first real lesson in how far my writing could go on the web if I kept consistently putting it out there.  That’s when I discovered twitter too.  It was Amy Oztan,, who shoved me in to the twittersphere, but it was meeting Jennifer Perillo that made me stay.

Jennifer’s blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen is some of the best food and good old-fashioned writing you will find anywhere.  An Italian girl from Brooklyn married to a nice Jewish boy (ok – man), Jennifer was looking for and writing about Italian Jewish food.  I told her about the cookbook I wrote about in my Pitigliano post, which was the very one she was reading at the time  – and then that spurred a full-out conversation about the Jews of Italy, my visit to Pitigliano and so much more.  Jennifer linked to this post from her recipe on egg-free gnocchi.  And so a friendship was born – of twitter, but thankfully into real life.

So, in a Travel Tuesday reprise – here’s my post about Pitigliano and the testimony to how our food culture endures and social media can keep the conversation going.

Pitigliano – It’s So Not (Jewish) Ghetto

I’m in The New York Times (or at least my avatar is)

I got a super surprising Google alert today that I thought was a mistake.  There was my Twitter handle – @beccasara – and there was “New York Times” next to it.  So of course I had to click on over.  And my Harry Potter tweet was featured in the #trendingNYC column in the City Room Blog.  Screenshot and all.  My avatar will look familiar to those of you who play the Wii – it’s a Mii – or as my girls call it the Momii.

Fun way to start the day!  Does this count as press?

Ain’t No Party Like a BlogHer Party (except the 50 other BlogHer parties)

As BlogHer looms ever closer the party haves and have-nots are starting to make their voices heard on Twitter and across the blogosphere.  It’s inevitable that when there are 3000 women at a conference, but only a small amount of invitations available for many events, that jealousy – or even panic – will set in.  I am co-hosting two events at BlogHer this year – one for KidzVuz and one for the Blogging Angels – for the first time ever.  For both events guest lists had to be created – and agreed to – by the different hosts, and everyone had their reasons for choosing certain people.

But, truth be told I just don’t know everyone at BlogHer, and many of the people I might want at an event won’t be at BlogHer.   And then there is the added requirement that the blogger actually fit the event.  Bloggers write across many niches and when you’re thinking about who will get the most out of the sponsors or event theme you have to consider that too.  So, we’ve done the best we could and I hate that some people might feel left out.  They shouldn’t.  See, the best thing about BlogHer is that all of the official parties are open to everyone.  There are endless opportunities to meet new people and grab a drink and wear your most fabulous shoes or sparkliest earrings.  It’s not about the number of invites it’s about what you make of the parties you do attend.

This is an article I wrote for Mom Blog Magazine way back after the Disney Social Media Moms debacle.  I think it still applies, and hopefully makes sense to those looking for guidance on how their social media footprint looks to event organizers:

So you weren’t invited to the big event that everyone is talking about.  Maybe it’s a lunch with some fabulous celebrities, a cocktail party with sneak peeks at new products or even a hugely coveted three-day conference to a magical place and you’re wondering why others were asked while you were passed over.  It’s not an easy question to answer because in the end PR reps will not divulge how they make their lists.  But that doesn’t mean you should sit around and wait to be asked to the ball.  No matter what stage of blogging you’re in you can be proactive about managing and building your online presence.

The first step in getting taken seriously by brands is to treat yourself like a brand. Your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter stream, your YouTube channel – all of these social media outlets are your ever evolving online resume. Unlike real life where you are judged by your clothes, your home, even your accent, your online persona can be crafted in a way to always present yourself in the best light, maybe even a brighter light than you can even imagine. First, take a look at how you appear online to others.

These Tools Can Get You Started

  1. Social Mention: You can use Social Mention to monitor your blog and your own name.  It’s like a Google Alert on steroids.  Get a snapshot of where your blog is being mentioned, linked from, stumbled and commented upon.  See the keywords that define you and how strong your influence and passion are.
  2. Klout: The ultimate cheat sheet for brands — though many industry pros know that it’s not the perfect tool — it doesn’t measure quality, loyalty or other important traits that could help identify bloggers that make a good brand match. But, brands love it.  Make sure you register with them and link your Facebook account too to maximize your score.
  3. In one beautiful page view you can see your blog mentions or your name in various outlets: Google Blog Search, You Tube, Twitter, Tweetmeme and more.  It gives you an instant sense of your reach and where you need to improve.

(NOTE: Forget Compete.  It’s so off and lags so far behind that the stats are always way off.  Unfortunately some brands and PR people will still use it because it’s fast and free so you should at least know what they’re seeing if they do.  But, check out this post: Why and How to Keep Track of Your Blog Traffic by Kris Cain for some other traffic stat sources.)

  • Compete: I know, we’re all in this together and you should focus on yourself right?  In a perfect world of course, but in the real world go ahead and type in your blog with some of your peers and see how you stack up.  Then check out the blogs that are doing better than you and see how you can improve.

So, now you’ve got all of these stats and a clear picture of how you and your blog perform across platforms.  Where can you improve?  Tweet more meaningful links?  Spend more time commenting on other blogs?  Create better links in your own posts?  Most importantly, be true to yourself and your voice.  Be aware of trends, but don’t jump on every meme that comes your way.  Be consistent, be unique and be engaged. Chances are you will find yourself with an inbox full of invites and an even bigger problem – what to wear?