Archive for the ‘Social Network’ Category

Broadening Our Audience: Published Again!

After our short article “Teaching Social Media at Lawrence High School” was published in NJASA‘s newsletter On Target last spring (itself a follow-up to our January 2017 presentation at Techspo ’17 in Atlantic City, NJ), I spoke with my colleagues Dr. Andrew Zuckerman and Ms. Natalie Richey about fleshing it out further with more details and examples and maybe trying to get it published in a more widely circulated publication.

Just under a year later, our work paid off!  Andrew, Natalie, and I are proud that our updated, more fully fleshed-out article (with the same title) was published this week in Educational Viewpoints, the annual peer-reviewed publication by the NJ Principals & Supervisors’ Association (NJPSA).

Educational Viewpoints is also published in hard-copy format, but you can read the article online at their website (or mine).

I’ve been a member of NJPSA for four years now and have always been thoroughly impressed with the quality of professional support (including workshops) they provide.  I’m very proud to have been selected for inclusion in this year’s edition of EV.

ICYMI: Teaching Social Media at LHS

After our presentation at Techspo ’17, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators was kind enough to ask my colleague Dr. Andrew Zuckerman and I to contribute a piece to their monthly newsletter for school superintendents on the Intro to Social Media course that has run at Lawrence (NJ) High School since 2015.  The article below is cross-posted from NJASA’s April/May 2017 edition of their On Target newsletter; check the original here.

Students today have unprecedented access to social media but may not have structured opportunities in which to think critically about how and why they use it, and why doing so is important. It was with this thought in mind that the Business Department at Lawrence High School, Mercer County, designed and implemented a course entitled Introduction to Social Media.

Lawrence Township Public Schools is a technologically progressive district that has embraced the use of social media for professional learning, culture building, and public relations. When a flurry of simultaneous retirements brought some unanticipated changes in terms of the district’s ability to staff existing courses, we turned problem into opportunity by shifting a staffing position to another department and hiring an additional Business teacher. Introduction to Social Media came about as a result of needing additional curricular offerings to replace the ones that could no longer be taught, given the role of social media in our society and how the district embraces the use of it to communicate with the local and global community, it was an addition that made sense.

The course is run as an elective out of our Business Department and open to all students in grades 10-12. The scope and sequence (with approximate timelines, on a 60-minute block/drop schedule) is:

  • Digital Identity/Footprint – 2 weeks
  • Historical Perspectives – 6 weeks
  • Legal Considerations – 2 weeks
  • Ethical Considerations – 4 weeks
  • Peer Presentations – 3 weeks
  • Media Analysis – 3 weeks
  • Language/The Online Voice – 7 weeks
  • Business Applications & Engagement – 9 weeks

After learning about the safety, legal and ethical aspects of social media, students work with their peers to develop a presentation to educate their peers about digital responsibility. During the current school year, social media students conducted presentations on digital responsibility to other high school students. During the upcoming school year, the presentations will also be conducted at the middle school.

While Lawrence Township runs this course out of the Business Department with an emphasis on marketing in the latter half of the year, with some revision of focus, this course lends itself just as well to being run as an English, Social Studies, or Technology elective, at the middle or high school level.  So much of what the course can and does deal with has students grappling with big-picture questions of digital identity, ethics, societal movements, and the disparities between the evolution of technology and the evolution of the law that it would be right at home in any of those departments.  Additionally, social media plays a role in so many current events that teachers will never want for fresh discussion topics or opportunities to expand the curriculum.

The next steps for the course is to connect the social media classes with departments and/or clubs within the district that are looking to develop a social media presence. The students will be required to meet with the group to determine what they are looking to accomplish and identify the appropriate social media platform to support them in accomplishing their goals. In future years, we will look to connect the students with community businesses and organizations to help them develop an online presence to promote their businesses.

Interested in learning more about this curriculum or modeling a similar class in your district? Visit to see our complete curriculum documents or contact:

Andrew Zuckerman, Ed.D., Director of Instructional Services at

Damian Bariexca, Ed.D., Instructional Supervisor at

Required Reading

As someone who has been involved in a variety of social networks over the last decade, I know that my participation in each tends to ebb and flow, influenced by any number of factors both internal and external.  One service I’ve been making better use of recently is Goodreads, which – if you couldn’t tell from the name – is a social network for book lovers.

When I first started using Goodreads (and Shelfari before it), I thought it would just be a neat way to catalog all the books I’ve read, because I just have a tendency to want to suck the fun out of everything catalog, collect, and categorize things.  Goodreads allows users to sort books into “shelves”, and the initial three that every user gets are “Read”, “Currently Reading”, and “Want to Read”.

Up until now, I used this service primarily to catalog books I’ve read and maintain a list of books I’d like to read (something for which I previously used Evernote) for my own purposes, passively accepting friend requests but never really making use of the network.  Now, however, I’m starting to take more of an interest in the networking aspect – I see what my friends are reading (many of them don’t tend to share this information out to Facebook or Twitter) and getting good recommendations and suggestions for what to read next.

Goodreads also allows you to add shelves to your initial three.  I created one the other day called “Edu-Must-Reads“, which is where I tag books that are – in my opinion – “desert island discs” of the educational publishing world.  Not all of them are necessarily about education, but anything on that shelf is something I consider an essential read for folks in education, for any number of reasons.  These works have all had a significant influence on the lens through which I view teaching, learning, and leadership.  Not only is this a resource for my Goodreads friends, but I figure it’s a quick link I can share with anybody when the discussion of favorite books about education comes up (because those are the kind of nerd parties I go to).

Feel free to peruse my shelf – it’s a bit small at the moment (13 at time of writing) but as I read more, I have no doubt it will grow.  Also, if you’re on Goodreads, let’s connect so we can grow our respective collections together.

Teaching Social Media at #Techspo17

I was fortunate to be selected – along with my colleagues Andrew Zuckerman and Natalie Richey – to present our talk Teaching Social Media: Lessons Learned from Year One at the NJ Association of School Administrators’ annual Techspo event in Atlantic City this past week.  The session focused on our collective experience of rolling out an elective course called Intro to Social Media at our district high school.  The session description/sales pitch to the planning committee starts like this, and I think it nicely encapsulates the seed that eventually grew into this class, which first ran in the 2015-2016 school year:

Students today have unprecedented access to social media but may not have structured opportunities in which to think critically about how and why they use it, and why doing so is important.

If you’re interested in viewing the presentation slides, you can do so here (within is also a link to our curriculum document), but this post is not meant to be a presentation rehash.  Rather, I want to highlight some of my thought process going into the day, as well as share some feedback we received.

Photo credit: Elissa Malespina

The Road to Techspo

I attended the 2016 event and was disappointed that none of the sessions really pushed my thinking the way that those at an EduCon or an Edcamp have.  I didn’t feel I learned anything new, and – at the risk of sounding snobby – I felt pretty strongly that if this represented the cutting edge, both my district (collectively) and I (personally) were fairly far ahead of it.  I decided that if I was going to go back, I wanted to share some of what we were doing in our district, if for no other reason than to help push the conversation/standard a bit further.  Based on the feedback from the organization and the participants, I think we accomplished that.


Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive.  A common theme I heard from our participants was that they had never seen anything like this before (I’m taking that as a compliment, regardless of how it was meant!).  Many schools have one-off lessons here and there on “digital citizenship” or – worse – scare tactics about the dangers and horrors of social media.  Maybe it’s integrated into a technology class; maybe it’s a grade-level assembly.  Either way, none of our participants had ever heard of an entire high school level course solely dedicated to critical examination of social media, and many told us they left our session excited to explore the possibility of implementing one in their districts.

This matches our experience.  As Andrew, Natalie, and I all sought models upon which to base this course as we developed it over the summer of 2015, we found nothing.  That doesn’t mean it’s not out there, but if it is, not one of us could find it (I’ve since learned that Howard Rheingold has made public his syllabus from his Stanford course Social Media Literacies).

We also spoke with quite a few folks who wished to come observe a class session or two, which we are happy to accommodate, and I extend the same offer to you – if you can make it to central NJ, drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter and we’ll make it happen.

It’s worth noting that I was cool up until about an hour before we went on, when my Impostor Syndrome went into overdrive and I began to think of all the holes people might poke in our presentation – and publicly, no less.  Fortunately for my fragile ego’s well-being, the presentation was warmly received all around, and might even be responsible for the development of similar courses around the state.

We were also asked to write up a short 3-4 paragraph blurb on our story for an upcoming edition of the NJASA newsletter, which we’ll happily do.  In fact, that got me thinking that another professional organization of which I am a member publishes a magazine consisting solely of member-authored articles once or twice a year; we could certainly submit to that publication as well.

Reflections on the Process

Sometimes presentations are stressful (for any number of reasons), and sometimes even group efforts become one-man or one-woman shows.  My experience putting this presentation together with Natalie and Andrew underscores what I always say about my experience in my district: it’s an environment that truly values and supports collaboration.  What is perhaps even more unusual is that the three of us operate in different tiers of the district hierarchy: Andrew is our Director of Instructional Services (and my direct supervisor), I am an Instructional Supervisor who oversees a half-dozen different disciplines across all grade levels, and Natalie is a Business Teacher at our high school (and one of my supervisees).

None of that mattered, though, in the development of both the course curriculum and the presentation.  We worked together – sometimes face-to-face, sometimes asynchronously – but without any of the nonsense of pulling rank or exerting undue influence (at least not explicitly; I know that power and influence is sometimes exerted more subtly or unconsciously.  I do as much as I can to combat that but I suppose it’s never really removed from the equation).

We asked questions, we listened to each other, and we all respected the three very unique perspectives each brought to the table.  This was probably most evident in the revision of the curriculum last spring, during which Natalie – who had taught the course for a year and had the most intimate knowledge of the daily classroom environment – was the primary driver of discussion, and I – with more experience in both teaching and curriculum development – helped shape and give form to it all.

Finally, a few words on the course itself: we mentioned during the presentation that we run it out of the Business Department as an elective, but with a little revision of focus, I think it could just as easily and just as effectively be taught as an English, Social Studies, or Technology course.  So much of what the course deals with (as we run it, anyway) has students grappling with big-picture questions of ethics and the disparities between the evolution of technology and the evolution of the law that it would be right at home in any of those departments.  Additionally, social media plays a role in so many current events that teachers will never want for fresh discussion topics.  The other edge of that sword, I suppose, is that it can be exhausting for a teacher to keep up with the latest tech and latest developments, but it’s a deal I’d gladly take, were I in the position to do so.

Since my dissertation defense in October 2014 and a few public addresses surrounding my doc program graduation in January 2015, I’ve had a bit of a dry spell in terms of presentations the last few years.  After giving a small workshop at the beginning of the month, it felt good to get back in front of an audience on a bigger (read: statewide) platform such as Techspo.  Hopefully there will be more to come soon.


Deven Black

At the time of writing, I’m supposed to be researching school reform initiatives for a grad class assignment.  Instead, I’ve spent the last hour or two refreshing my Facebook and Twitter feeds, watching educators from around the country mourn the loss of Deven Black.

I came to know Deven, as I have so many other wonderful educators in my career, through our shared activity on Twitter.  When we first “met”, Deven was a special education teacher in NYC, and he and I had many conversations about education (special and otherwise); we would later co-moderate a weekly chat on Twitter geared toward special education issues, which we did fairly regularly for the better part of a year.  He struck me as an interesting and deeply thoughtful guy for many reasons, not the least of which was the route he took into teaching.  From his blog’s “About” page:

After a stellar career as a middle school student I dropped out of two different high schools and a college, all before I was 17. That started what has been a long-lasting and continually evolving interest in schooling.

I started teaching at age 50, after being a newspaper reporter, radio newsman and talk-show host, voice-over artist, political campaign operative, bartender, restaurant manager, advertising copywriter, and public relations person. Of these careers, teaching is the most difficult, lowest paying and most rewarding. It took a long time to figure out, but being a teacher is what I want to be when I grow up. Like that is ever going to happen.

His career path in education later took him into the role of a school librarian, and I remember the zeal with which he approached his new position at the time.  He was written up in the School Library Journal in 2013, and won the first Bammy award for school librarians later that year.

While the specifics of our many conversations have long since faded from my memory, what stays with me from Deven – and what continues to inform my own work – is how much kindness, humanity, and thoughtfulness matter in teaching.  In the day-to-day work, it’s easy to get frustrated by and hung up on things that are, in the greater sense, ultimately pretty trivial.  Sometimes we – children and adults alike – put other things ahead of kindness: bureaucracy, pedantic rules, paperwork, outdated notions of authority, whatever.  In the long run, though, none of it is as important as showing kids you care.

His perspective, to me, was that of the underdog.  That may not be exactly the right word, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that he often pushed back against popular notions or opinions; sort of a “But did you ever consider…?” in defense of whatever people were tut-tutting about in the “these kids today” vein.  I don’t know if that was influenced by his own experience with formal education (as noted above), but it seems possible.  Listening to him was so valuable to me in part because that was a very different perspective than my own, as someone who was always very compliant and good at “doing school” as a kid.  He helped me get more in touch with my own empathy and humanity, which was particularly helpful in my position as a school psychologist.

Even in casual conversation, Deven challenged my thinking in such a way that even after we had fallen out of touch, I would (and still do) ask myself from time to time, “What would Deven have to say about this?”  He is one of a few educators whose influence – unbeknownst to them – acts as my own internal Jiminy Cricket, constantly checking my assumptions and gut reactions and forcing me to reexamine stances, situations, conflicts, and resolutions from multiple perspectives.  It’s a fairly short list of people who actively influence my thinking on a regular basis like that, but Deven was most certainly on it.

The circumstances surrounding Deven’s death are, to be frank, shocking. Maybe delving into that is appropriate for a piece on how it might and should have been prevented, but there are far better ways to memorialize the man, which is why I haven’t linked to any news articles here.  There are better things you can read.

Go read Deven’s blog.  There’s nearly four years worth of his collected writings on education archived there.

Go read his Twitter feed.  It seems to have been hijacked by spam most recently, but scroll down to the tweets dated early 2014 or earlier to see the kinds of resources he shared and hard questions he posed.

Go read his interview with the School Library Journal and find out why they called him “Middle School Maverick.”

Go read ALA’s writeup on his Bammy award win.  Regardless of what you or I think of these awards, he was recognized by his peers as one of the best.  That has to mean something.

Go read his interview with Wide Awake Minds, wherein he discusses the value of failure, curiosity, and school (h/t Ira Socol for the link).

Go watch his 2012 talk at #140Edu, “How to make dropping out of school work for you” (h/t Kristin Hokanson for the link)

I only knew the man for 7 or 8 years.  I certainly didn’t know him as well as others did, and I only actually met him face-to-face once, but through his writing and our conversations, he has had a tremendous influence on me.  I will miss him.

Update, 29 Jan 16 6:00pm

As expected, the tributes to Deven from the many people he impacted are starting to roll in.  I’ll add them here as I come across them: