Tag Archives: Twitter

The Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom

By Tracey Dowdy

If you’re looking to start a debate, I suggest bringing up the issue of social media and whether or not it belongs in the classroom. Parents, educators, students – everyone has an opinion, and it’s an interesting mix of individuals on both sides of the issue.

In our technology-saturated society, one could argue social media is already in our schools. Every day teachers battle to keep kids off their phones and focused on what’s happening in the classroom, and see social media as a distraction. On the other side of the debate, educators have embraced social media as a way to engage with students outside conventional teaching methods, recognizing that students raised on smartphones and laptops have developed very different learning styles from past generations.

Those against social media in the classroom say there’s no need to look further than the name: “social media.” In other words, its purpose is socialization and it should be kept that way. Gail Leight, teacher and contributor to pbs.org points out that many of her junior high students already live in a very “it’s all about me” world and the social media they engage in promotes a very narrow world view. For her, the goal of educators should be to open student’s minds, exposing and challenging them to see the world beyond their social media circles. In addition, students may struggle to shift between digital and real-life learning and may not be able to separate the two worlds effectively.

On the other side are educators embracing social media and making it an essential part of their curriculum and teaching methods. Recognizing this generation of students will be among the first to have lived out their entire lives online, the value of this approach is obvious. From moms posting baby photos through their own social media accounts, virtually every aspect of students’ lives will be out there.  As a result, it’s become more and more critical for students to understand the importance of curating their online presence. As these students graduate and move into the workforce, there will be a higher level of accountability for their digital footprints. Many employers already see social media accounts as an unofficial piece of a potential employee’s resume.

Don Goble teaches Broadcast Technology, Film and Multimedia at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, Missouri. He points out that: “Students communicate, research, collaborate, create and publish online with or without the help of parents or educators. These same students then hop on social media to promote, discuss and share their thoughts with the world. The digital environment is offering us some of the greatest learning opportunities that young learners have ever had.” He further compares excluding social media from the classroom to giving a 13 year old the keys to a Ferrari and telling them to have fun. Not only is it ridiculous – it’s dangerous for the teen and for those with whom they come into contact.

Educators aren’t suggesting adding Facebook or Snapchat 101 to the core curriculum. Instead, they advocate taking what’s already part of the curriculum – basic writing skills for example – and applying it to blogging on closed, education-based sites like Edublogs or Kidblog. Others may use Edmodo, marketed as Facebook for schools, Fakebook, or FakeTweet to teach students what is and isn’t appropriate to put online.

In the words of teacher Vicki Davis, “Social media is here. It’s just another resource and doesn’t have to be a distraction from learning objectives. Social media is another tool that you can use to make your classroom more engaging, relevant and culturally diverse.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Take Charge of Your Online Profile

In today’s world, if people want to find out more about you, they head to the Internet. It may be a prospective employer, a co-op board member, an old friend trying to look you up, or even a future date; anyone who is interested in learning more about you will jump online and open a browser.

So it’s important to ask yourself, “What are they likely to find?” Are they going to be reassured about what a fine upstanding citizen you are? Or are they going to be shocked with what Google uncovers? (Or maybe they will find nothing at all, which can also be a problem!)

I realize that you can’t control everything on the Internet but you can control some things. Every social networking site you participate in – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube – asks you to create a profile, and it’s these profile pages that are likely to come up first when someone conducts a search.

Properly managing your profile is a great way to control the message you want to put out to the world. Here are a few tips on how to present a positive image:

Be consistent. Use the same name and profile across all your social networks, so people know it’s you and you present a consistent personal brand.

Make sure your profile picture is appropriate. While photos of you drinking and partying might go down well with your old college buddies, that’s probably not the image you want to project to future employers and neighbors. Post a recent head shot – and don’t forget to smile!

Provide some background. Facebook, Twitter and all the other popular social networks give you ample opportunity to tell people more about yourself. Take advantage of that opportunity. Use the tools available to project an image and information that you are comfortable with.

Cross link to other web sites and blogs. If you want to highlight a blog or another personal web site, then make sure you cross-link to it from your other social networks. Make your best work easy to find.

Be sparing with the inside jokes. If someone needs to know you well to understand a particular comment, then perhaps it’s not for your public profile. It’s good to be cute or funny but make sure it’s a joke that everyone can share in.

Make the Internet your friend. Build a profile and control the message!

How To Get the Best Deals on Last-Minute Travel

By Tracey Dowdy

If your holiday plans haven’t quite fallen into place and you’re still not sure what you’re doing, have I got a list for you! These websites and apps are guaranteed to help simplify the process of booking last-minute travel or accommodation in less time than it takes to say “Are we there yet?”

Twitter

twitterTwitter may not be the first name that comes to mind for last minute travel, but if you know where you’re going and who to follow, it can be a lifesaver. Airfare Watchdog (@airfarewatchdog) covers all major airlines and tweets destination-specific deals daily, and JetBlue (@JetBlueCheeps) posts low fare deals every Tuesday. If you’re not sure who to follow or are looking for a getaway rather than planning a specific destination, TripTwit  searches the best travel deals on Twitter and sends the five best to you via email.


Last Minute Travel

last-minute-travelLast Minute Travel provides exactly what you expect – deals on last minute travel, including flights, accommodations, and touring activities once you reach your destination. Sort flights by price, stops, airline or length of trip and booking is literally as simple as one, two, three – it’s a three step booking process. For the best possible deal check out their hotel+flight+car rental packages. One recent deal offered 4-nights in a 3-star hotel in New York City, plus airfare, for $350.
Platform: Web, iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Next Flight

next-flightNext Flight offers up-to-the-minute information and deals on airline travel. Simply start with your location, add your destination and departure date, and the app sends you a list of flights with arrival and departure times, terminal and gate information. You can’t book directly from the app because the information is geared to travelers booking at the last possible moment, so a call to the airline is required.
Platform: Web, iOS, Android
Cost: $3


Hotel Tonight

hotel-tonightHotel Tonight promises you a room with “three taps and a swipe”, all in 10 seconds. The site works in conjunction with hotels to fill unsold inventory and provide you with last-minute discounts – some pretty deep – on rooms. Type in your destination and the app loads hotels in that city divided into categories like “Basic,” “Solid,” or “Charming” with prices included. Tap on the photo for reviews, additional photos, and to book.
Platform: Web, iOS, Android, Windows
Cost: Free


Travel Zoo

travel-zooTravel Zoo is a favorite among those who can take advantage of spur of the moment vacation packages, but it’s also a great option for last minute holiday travel. They promise discounts up to 65% on flights, hotels, dining and entertainment.
Platform: Web, iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Expedia

expediaExpedia gets top marks for simplicity and convenience as well as price. The home page is divided into three columns, “Tonight, This Weekend, Next Weekend,” and provides a list of the best flight and hotel deals for your destination. Click on a deal to see photos of the rooms, which other rooms are available, and pricing. Similarly, click on the flight you want and a list of flights comes up with similar arrival/departure times for your destination.
Platform: Web, iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Get Away Tonight

grouponGet Away Tonight is a mobile-only feature from Groupon. Under the Hotel tab, users can search for accommodations in the desired city and Groupon will bring up a list of offers. Room assignments are made at check in and users not only get to take advantage of deep discounts but also get a 5% Groupon credit.
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows
Cost: Free

Keep in mind that last minute travel can sometimes mean taking the red-eye instead of a day time flight or a courtyard view instead of beach front, but if you can be flexible, these sites and apps can ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts After You Die?

By Stacey Ross

A close friend of the family unexpectedly passed away not too long ago, and it was touching and supportive for his family and friends that we were able to honor his life online. The reality is that since more and more of our lives are going digital these days, it warrants a discussion that many of us have never given much thought to – namely “What happens to our social media accounts when we pass on?”

Here’s a brief look at how three popular social media platforms handle accounts of the deceased:

Twitter

Twitter officials will start deleting accounts after six months of inactivity, while most other social networks won’t touch your profile unless specifically asked to by a family member or an agent of law enforcement.

Twitter will work with a person authorized to act on behalf of an estate or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased (with both requiring a government-issued ID). To deactivate an account, Twitter needs the username of the deceased, a death certificate, a written explanation, a current address and the relationship to the deceased.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn will work to delete an account so that the username and password no longer work and the deceased individual’s profile is removed from the site. If you are taking action in this area, you will need to know the deceased member’s name, the company he or she worked at most recently, and provide a link to his or her profile.

It’s also helpful if you can provide LinkedIn with the member’s email address. You will be required to state your relationship to the deceased, as those without a close relationship might not be able to have the account removed.

There is a way to export the deceased user’s connections in case you have a need to contact them in the future, which can be useful for small businesses if an owner or key partner passes away.

Facebook

If you are an immediate family member, you can go through the various steps to deactivate an account or you can turn a lost loved one’s profile into a memorial page. The memorialized timeline is accessible and searchable only by friends, who will have the opportunity to post and look at pictures. Nobody would be able to tag the deceased in photos or posts, send messages, or ‘friend’ the deceased. Similarly, the account will no longer generate birthday reminders, or show up in “People You May Know” prompts.

Millions of users have died since Facebook has been around. Since Facebook won’t delete profiles on its own, it poses a viable curiosity to some that one day the dead might outnumber the living!

What about privacy?

There is an ongoing debate over the ownership of “digital assets” and the laws are still catching up with the times. Certain areas are still unclear, and different laws in different states only add to the confusion.

What do you think? When a person dies, should their loved ones should be granted access to their information, photos, videos, etc.? Some say yes, yet others have concerns about confidentiality. There are crucial legal but also practical implications which come into play when loved ones are allowed to access previously password-protected accounts.

Making provisions as to who could legally assume responsibility for your accounts could help streamline the process, as well as leaving an instruction letter with your wishes, account names, and updated passwords.

A new plan endorsed by the Uniform Law Commission proposes legislation that would automatically allow loved ones to access social media accounts (though not post from them), with an exception for wills that specifically request restricted access.

Of course, privacy activists argue that confidential information kept online should remain secure. It would be wise for online enthusiasts to create a social media will, particularly if they want their digital assets to be accessed by others.

Be proactive!

There are certainly tools available – actual websites where you can save all your passwords in a digital vault, along with instructions for your loved ones for when you die. You can even leave legacy videos or create “dead social accounts,” which enable you to communicate with people at predetermined times after your death. (Although the idea of curating information to be sent virtually once you are gone can seem a bit creepy, and could expose loved ones to digital identity crimes.)

Once these services receive proof of death, they will email passwords to people nominated by the deceased, along with any other instructions. This is a lot to “byte” off, but is well worth considering!

Meanwhile, while you are growing your digital footprint on a daily basis, give some thought to what happens after you’re gone, and to what degree you wish to maintain an online identity while you are dancing in the clouds of Heaven!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Where Your Teens Are Hanging Out Online

By Tracey Dowdy:

As a mom, I try – try being the key word in this sentence – to keep up with trends in social media. It helps that it’s part of my job. But honestly, there are days when it feels like I’m jogging with a greyhound – there’s just no way to keep up.

Inevitably, when parents do catch up and get onboard with the latest and greatest, we immediately “mom it up” and our kids start to leave in droves.

So, in the hopes of helping you keep up without embarrassing your children, here are some of the most popular sites, what they’re about, and why they’re popular:

Twitter

Twitter isn’t new – it’s been around since 2006 – but it’s steadily gained popularity, particularly among teens. Limited to 140 characters, Twitter is a microblogging site that provides a platform to share snippets of your day and keep up with breaking news, major sporting events, and celebrity gossip.

When you join Twitter, you choose to follow other users and their tweets then show up in your Twitter feed. Your own tweets can be seen by people that choose to follow you. Tweets can be deleted but users should keep in mind that, like everything else online, our words can still come back to haunt us. Teens like Twitter it because it takes what they like best about Facebook – sharing every waking moment and detail – and shrinks it down to a manageable sentence or two.

Instagram

Instagram lets users post photos or 15 second videos either to a group of followers or publicly. Like Twitter, users can follow friends, strangers or celebrities and leave ‘likes’ or comments. Photos can be edited and filters utilized to create different effects.

Instagram recently added a private message feature, so users can post a photo to up to 15 friends and the photo won’t show up in a user’s regular feed. Likes are a big deal in the world of Instagram, so though the Terms and Conditions specify that sexually suggestive photos may not be posted, users may push the envelope of what is considered acceptable to draw more likes. Teens like it as it takes what they like about Facebook – endless selfies – and lets them filter and edit those duck-faces into artsy photos.

Snapchat

Snapchat has received a lot of negative attention as a way for teens to sext. In theory, the photos disappear after just 1-10 seconds (users determine how long recipients can view the photo) but the problem is that 1-10 seconds is plenty of time for recipients to take a screenshot. As with any form of social media, there are those who will abuse it but, for the most part, teens like Snapchat because it’s another way to connect, be silly and have fun.

Tumblr

Think of Tumblr as an online scrapbook. Users create “Tumblogs” (Tumblr blogs) of images, text and videos, and share their blogs with a list of friends or leave them public. Users can create private profiles but only after creating an initial profile that stays public. Tumblr is a lot of fun – it’s basically a cross between Twitter and Instagram – but content is far less regulated. Sexually explicit language and images are easy to find, as are posts related to self-harm, drugs or other topics parents may find objectionable. For the most part, that’s not why teens are using it. Teens like it for the obvious reason: it’s fun.

Vine

Vine allows users to create and post looping six-second video clips grouped by categories like Art, Music and Dance, Comedy or Style. Videos are intended to be fun, but again, it’s not hard to find objectionable content. Teens like Vine because it’s entertaining and users get to be creative.

Ultimately, like every other area of parenting in our digital age, it’s up to you to decide how much you need to screen and monitor your teen’s activity and what sites are appropriate.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.