Cohesive Messaging: Maximizing the Impact of Social Media Storytelling

Social media is a large part of how we communicate in society. Parents, students, staff, and the community expect schools and districts to share with them via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other traditional means to make information available.

Anyone can start information campaigns that build an image of what’s happening in a school or district. Often, staff members are already doing this storytelling by posting to their personal social media accounts.

This session offered an actionable pathway to support novice social media users and long-time users to discover how, with a bit of planning, you can strategically align those efforts to promote a clear and cohesive message that amplifies your organization’s mission and values.

Education leaders and aspiring administrators will discover a concrete plan for K-12 school or organization. Get started on a pathway that includes values alignment, accurate and respectful representation, story arching, and message amplification. You and your organization can combine efforts to define your narrative how you want it to be received. It is wise to have a strategic social media and marketing plan that focuses on and amplifies a cohesive vision for your community. But not everyone knows where to get started. To begin with, try looking at your organizational mission & vision statements at whatever level of the organization you are at, and begin to incorporate words and short phrases that will center your social media posts and help you look for content to share that exemplifies these values. When you see it in action, capture it in a photo or video and shout it out. If none exist, start thinking about the personal vision and core values that you want to be associated with your work.

Try using this School Messaging Document to get started. Are you wondering what this might look like in practice? Click on this example document.

The next step is to think about what events might be coming up during the school year. For example, you may want to celebrate short-term events like the beginning of the school year, open house, holidays, or staff appreciation. Or you may choose to report out long-term goals as they progress, such as the implementation of a new math initiative, school community-building activities, or a series on famous scientists not traditionally mentioned in history books. As you do this, consider how you can use expansive notions of community and belonging to drive the stories you choose to post. To help you be more aware about accurate, respectful representation, consider the following:

  1. How can you accurately reflect the diverse identities and experiences of the community and model what it means to change existing paradigms?
  2. Does the student work articulate a commitment to inclusive curriculum and allyship?
  3. Do you leverage your platform to amplify the voice and agency of historically marginalized communities?

The San Diego County Office of Education is committed to ensuring the promise of equitable education for all students. Our work is grounded in the Equity Blueprint for Action. If you are looking for ideas on how to increase belongingness within your community, I recommend you visit the SDCOE Equity Services and Support, Equity Blueprint website.

Presentation Slides

Respond at

School Messaging Document:

Examples of Story Arching with Social Media:

Example Completed School Messaging Document:

What Can Parents do to Keep Children Safe Online

Many parents are concerned about their children’s safety while online and that children are becoming reliant on technology for facts and information. However, we live and work in a world where most adults are already dependent upon computers. If you question that statement, look at what people hold in their hands at some point during the day. We use cell phones to check our daily calendar, connect, get alerts, set alarms, take pictures, listen to music, read the latest news, and so much more. The internet will be and in some form already is a fixture in your children’s lives. So, what can parents do to keep children safe online?

The most important thing a parent can do to help keep children safe online is be present and actively communicate with them. Talk frequently, set limits, and be their guide and mentor as they get older.

We had technology growing up: TV, video games, computers, telephones. For the most part, all of these gadgets, except for the phone, were self-contained or had limited connectivity. We interacted by directly calling a small number of friends and figuring out ways to meet up in person. We had face-to-face conversations, and we followed a set of rules outside of our home to stay safe. Don’t talk to strangers. Leave a note where you are going. Stay in predictable or familiar areas. Be back home when the street lights come on. Remember these? With some tweaks for technology, all of these are still a good starting point for today’s kids and parents wanting to guide them.

Don’t talk to strangers. Talk to your child about personally identifiable information. Be clear about what information can be shared and what information should be kept private. Avoid sharing your name, birthdate, telephone number, and location. Create usernames that do not include this kind of information. Remember that images can convey information, so you need to be firm in your expectations for what kind of images they can post.

Leave a note where you are going. Stay in predictable or familiar areas. Make a point to get online with your child and understand what games, social media, and applications they will use. For younger kids, you should know their usernames and passwords. You can set an expectation that you might monitor conversations from time to time. Create a user account and get online and play with them or have them friend you. Help them learn how to monitor and adjust privacy settings. You’ll understand better what they are doing online, and it will help you anticipate conversations around behavior and safety.

As your children get older, you should gradually release monitoring their conversations and passwords as you feel comfortable with their ability to act responsibly. Remember that they will be in charge of their accounts in a few short years. Have them keep accounts private and have them friend you. Let them know that you are always around to give advice, help them solve problems independently, and be back up when needed. 

Be back home before dark. Set limits around screen time. Learn about parental control settings offered through your child’s computer or phone, cellular carrier, or internet provider. Keep computer use limited to common areas, and consider storing cell phones and computers in your bedroom.

It’s all about communication, clear expectations, and being involved in your child’s online life. Remember, if you don’t communicate with your child about how to use online tools, someone else will, and chances are it’s someone without the ability you have to guide them with love and experience.

Nobody Flops with Flipgrid: Video that Gives Everybody a Voice

Conference Resources:

SDCUE Tech Fair 2017, Presenters Pamela Rabin & Cheryl Steineman

“Participants of all grade levels will get a general overview of the free version of Flipgrid. You will create your grid, create a topic, and experience Flipgrid as a student. Ideas for use in a variety of classroom situations will also be shared.”

Thanks to everyone who attended our beginner’s session! And big, special thanks to Flipgrid Ambassadors @KarlyMoura + @SEANJFAHEY who not only put together, but then actively shared, their ultimate resource for using Flipgrid: which my co-presenter, Cheryl Steinemann, and I relied on heavily for thinking about our presentation.

As we stated in our presentation, after noticing that nobody had signed up to do a dedicated, get-started session just for Flipgrid, Cheryl and I decided that this new tool deserved a 45 minute session all to itself!

Currently, Cheryl and I are both Instructional Technology Resource Teachers, we like to say coaches, working within integrated coaching teams. This means that we are part of a triad of coaches supporting classroom teachers through a six week coaching cycle. Our triad consists of a Common Core Support Teacher (CCST) in Math, an English Language Resource Teacher (ELRT), and an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher.

Through this process Cheryl and I have seen the benefit of video records, especially as they relate to sharing and reflecting on mathematical thinking.

Presentation Resources

Link to Conference Presentation

2nd and Up? Iron Chef Lesson Design is for you! Google Slide on In!

Conference Session

SDCUE Tech Fair 2017, Presenters Pamela Rabin & Dana Faccio

“This 45 min session introduces Jon Corippo’s Iron Chef inspired lesson design to a new generation of teachers. Participants will win a Google Presentation you can use with your students, digest an overview the lesson design, and slide into experiencing it for yourselves!”

I promise you that on occasion I do come up with great ideas all on my own. However, this is not one of those times. This is a great lesson design which I have used with my students, with student teachers, and within professional learning opportunities I’ve facilitated for teachers. To the best of my knowledge, we have Jon Corippo to thank for this fun twist on the traditional jig-saw format. Better still, the twist isn’t just because we are using Google Slides and computers to drive the lesson, but in this session I’m not going to tell you all about it, I’m going to make you figure out why it’s so cool by experiencing a lesson yourself and through exploring our resources. I can’t give you everything in one paragraph…where’s the learning in that?

If you were unable to attend our conference session at SDCUE 2017 this year, with me and my colleague Dana Faccio, you are welcome to check out our presentation and peruse the list of resources we’ve compiled below. If you attended our session, thanks for putting up with us! We hope either way you experience this lesson design for yourself and let us know when you try it on. We want to know how it went and if you and your students liked it!

Hey, send Mr. Corippo a shout out too while you’re at it! @jcorippo

Twitter:  @pamrabin or @danafaccio

Email: or

Presentation Resources

Conference Presentation

Link to Iron Chef Presentation

Lesson Presentation to Use with Students

Link to Presentation to Use with Students

Expanding Discussions & Empowering Engagement

Classroom discussion helps students develop critical thinking skills, strengthen language, improve listening strategies, and solidify concepts. This type of interaction is powerful because it provides students time to process information, compare thinking, and articulate their understanding.

Teachers employ proven discussion techniques to increase the numbers of students actively participating in academic discussion. We use strategies like partner and small group sharing or repetitive sharing like mingle sharing, parallel lines and inside-outside circles*. Instructors get a feel for the discussion by noticing a healthy buzz of conversation in the room, walk by observations, and drop-in conversations. They capture and share some of that conversation through exit-slips, journal writing, fish-bowl observations, and anecdotal records.

*10 Alternatives to Think-Pair-Share for Classroom Discussion, by Mulvahill –

Why Use Technology?

As I go into classrooms to work closely with teachers, occasionally I’m asked: “If we can do this without a computer, then why would I use a computer?”

Beyond considerations given toward building 21st century skills, technology can be a game changer when it comes to discussions. The following is a brief overview of ways technology enhances instruction and can empower students in ways not possible without it.

Crowd Sourcing Communication

The use of online tools broadens the scope of community knowledge that students can tap into. Tools like Padlet, Linoit, VoiceThread, Formative, Flipgrid and other types of virtual walls make thinking public, displayable in real time, and accessible asynchronously to a larger audience than small group or partner-talk alone.

Used prior to a group discussion, these tools help students compose and rehearse responses adding to their think time in a way that is not only documented, but immediately shared to a much larger group than a sticky note. It can be posted asynchronously and used to drive a face to face discussion at another time. The collective knowledge will be available at their fingertips, and if it is needed later—accessible outside of school hours.

When used live or in real time, the tools let students post and discuss their ideas. They may add to their statements if they notice something that they have forgotten, thus creating a richer understanding. They may completely revise their statements based on the feedback they receive from viewing the group’s thinking, creating a disequilibrium that causes them to evaluate their initial thinking.

Finally, if students are posting their understanding after a classroom discussion, the record of the discussion is visible to all. Students have access to a larger pool of responses and can use those responses to drive deeper discussions around agreement, consensus, and thinking processes. Teachers can support further discussions through questioning that encourages students to compare and examine the statements of their peers with their own statements.

Independent Practice Made Visible

Regardless of the pedagogy through which you teach your students, the goal of any instruction is to get students to independence. However, it can be tricky to figure out ways to document and authentically assess independent practices that are metacognitive.

For example, as we engage in guided reading instruction and independent reading conferences with students, teachers use checklists to look for key indicators of behaviors that show students’ development toward deeper comprehension of texts. We may ask students to “try on” a targeted strategy during guided reading and then encourage them to use the strategy in their independent reading. Then, we may notice a student using that reading strategy when we conduct independent reading conferences and check off that the strategy was demonstrated. But, important questions may arise. How often is that student truly using the target strategy? Have they really internalized the strategy and find it useful, or are they only using it because the teacher is present and they want to comply with what they think the teacher is looking for? If you are not seeing the strategy being used, does that indicate that the student never uses it? How can you collect more concrete examples of student thinking?

To help answer these questions, I have seen teachers use reading journals and sticky notes to collect evidence of student thinking during independent reading to answer questions like: “What connections are they making across texts, media, and to their own lives?”, “What they are wondering?”,  “What questions they are asking as the read?”, and “What depth of meaning they are making on their own?”

These journals and sticky notes are used to drive partner and/or small group discussions: “Turn to a partner and describe what reading work you did today that helped you make meaning from the text.”  They may also be used by students during conferences with the teacher to remind them of their thinking at various stopping points within text. Through these kinds of discussions the teacher may capture anecdotal records, but probably only for a very few number of students each day. Additionally, partners may or may not be fully engaged in sharing, it can be a bit hard to tell.

Not only can technology help capture and document student’s trying on strategies independently, but it can also remove barriers that may exist for some students. For example, the asynchronous ability to video or audio record at any time, can allow  students to capture their thinking right in the moment, while they are reading, with or more preferably without the teacher present. ePortfolio platforms like Seesaw or EasyBlog provide a convenient collection and curation of student work and reflection. Choice of video, or audio recordings, or pictures/images with audio overlay and/or image annotation provide students choice for how they want to demonstrate their understanding. It gives English Language Learners (ELLs), shy students, students who struggle with writing, students who like to rehearse, students who LOVE to share, students who don’t like to share, and others an even greater opportunity to show what they know.  It allows students the opportunity to reflect in an authentic way, when they use the strategy and recognize that they have used it. Through purposeful reflection, it can empower and it can celebrate student growth.

Best of all, in my opinion, it is an example of technology integration that takes the focus off the tool and lands it squarely on the student behaviors being captured and more importantly, gives teachers information about their students’ thinking, strengths, and understanding so that teachers can better understand how to build on them.




You Fix IT: Uplifting Tk-2 Tech Agency

As I’ve shifted from teaching students to working with adults I’ve encountered something I don’t hear much with children. People who say, “I am not a technology person…” or “Technology hates me”.

This has me pondering the habits of mind our youngest students need to develop in order to grow into pre-teens, teens, and adults that technology does like? How do teachers help students begin to see themselves as “technology people”? Furthermore, how do we encourage them to develop the agency needed to be successful adopters of any type of innovation they encounter throughout their lives?

I’m on IT…

I asked my good friend and teacher, Renea Jaeger, @reneajaeger to help me compile a list of some of our best classroom tips for empowering young elementary school students toward technology know-how. Ironically, Renea quickly pointed out that in many ways the difference between middle school students and second graders is not always as great as it would seem. Here are some of the best tools we employ to help teach students that they can take an active roll in fixing IT themselves.

Does Yours Look Like Mine?

One of the first things you will see working with young students using technology is that they love confirmation. For example, when we show students a new tool they want to know step by step if they have done things correctly. Instead of dealing with a cacophony of inquiries “Is this right?” or “Look Teacher!” teach them to reflect on what outcome they are expecting and to see if they’ve accomplished that goal. If that fails, then show them how to check their device’s screen against yours and see if they look the essentially the same. This is easily accomplished if you have an interactive whiteboard or presentation monitor. If you don’t, share it like you would a shared reading book. What’s important, is that they don’t have to ask you if it looks right.

Tap and Wait

Patience may be a virtue but it can also be a skill that takes practice and the right frame of mind. Young students have grown up on technology. They figure out that pushing buttons is a good strategy for figuring out how things work because it gives them immediate feedback.

However, in a classroom where 25+ first graders are working toward a goal all at the same time the tap and go strategy needs little structure. The “Tap and wait” command is a great reminder to see what happens before you click again. Not all technology is created equal. That Android tablet that they have at school might not be as quick to respond as the iPad Air they have at home. Too many rapid fire taps and clicks can cause unintended problems and errors.

Try IT Again

This is where the “tap and wait” strategy meets trial and error. It seems obvious, if something doesn’t work the first time, try it again and wait to see what happens. However, we find some students have a fear of technology or inexperience with how it works. For example, they try to turn on a device and it doesn’t work the first time. Now what?

Many students will wait for direction from the teacher or allow their neighbor to fix it. Maybe they didn’t hold a button down long enough, tap the right spot, or the internet just glitched? We teach them that if something doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up, don’t shout out “Mine didn’t work”, or zombie walk over to the teacher. Instead, try it again and wait to see what happens. Encourage students toward perseverance, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.

Plug IT in

I’m always surprised by how many computer problems are solved by simply plugging the device into the wall. Similarly, many issues just require cables to be checked, pulled out, rearranged, and/or put back in. Put this on your list of skills to teach students and have them check for these simple fixes first.

Restart IT

The most simple and effective fix is the easiest fix. Turn the computer off and turn it back on. I swear this fixes 95%* of problems. Shutting down routinely can save students from encountering issues at an inconvenient time. Teach students to do this before they seek further help from others.

*No real research was conducted by me on this topic.

Ask 3 Before Me…

So a student has checked their device against mine, tapped and waited, tried again twice, checked their plugs, powered on and off, yet still thinks things aren’t right. Now do they zombie walk over to you, put their tablet in front of your face, and say “Teacher fix my computer!”? No, of course not.

Not if you train them to quietly ask 3 people near them for help first. This works for reading, writing, math, and science…why not technology?  When Renea and I have computers that aren’t doing what we want them to, we don’t immediately call our district tech support to come and fix them. We assume there is a simple solution and go find a friend to ask for help. (Incidentally, one of our best friends is YouTube.)

Hands in Your Pockets

This is a fantastic rule for everyone. Sometimes, when Renea and I work with adults instead of giving lengthy verbal directions, sending job aides, or showing how to Google search, it would be so much easier to just reach over and fix the issues. But we know that this is not teaching self-sustaining skills. So, we put our hands in our pockets, take a deep breath, and do what’s right for our learners.

Why not teach kids this rule too? If your neighbor is struggling, offer help, but don’t reach over an fix it for them right away. Tell how, refer friends to support, and have patience.

This rule will help you build capacity within your room, encourage IT!


There will be times when you need mini-tech specialists in your classroom. Find those students who “technology likes” and at the appropriate time, put them to work. Renea and I find that there are always students in every classroom who just know things. Encourage your students to share what they know. Teach the ones who learn fast, let them teach the others.

“Hey class, Kimberly needs help adding the printer to her computer. Who can help her?” Or how about this, “Hey Timothy (who I know has a knack for technology), can I show you and Kimberly how to add a printer to her computer?”

Our district has routine updating and maintenance that needs to be performed on devices. Recently, I was in a second grade room and taught five students how to perform this update. You can see them in the image I used for this blog. When I came in two weeks later to assist with a few more updates, they all remembered exactly what to do with little support from me. Technology already likes them.

Sticky Note Your Problems

In our district we have a protocol for when computers break down. We call or email the district Help Desk and initiate a repair ticket. Some schools have an onsite technician who takes care of tickets, but overall that is a luxury most teachers do not enjoy. If a device breaks, teach your students how to help you document problems. Give them a sticky note, have them write down the device information (usually just copied), error messages, or a quick description of what is wrong. If your students are too young to accomplish this, keep your cell phone handy, take a quick picture of the device information, and video tape their description for your own reference later when you have time. It really works.

Model Graceful Failure and Fail Forward

The way you respond to technology failures models for your students how to boldly move forward when that happens. It can take courage to try something that you haven’t done before in front of your class. When the math lesson doesn’t go as planned we don’t say “I’m not a math person”and push our math concepts into a closet.

Everyone, beginner to expert, using technology has experienced a glitch, crash, malfunction, or fail. Think about how you respond in these situations:

  • Are you calm?
  • Do you attempt to fix it and think aloud your problem solving strategies?
  • Do you have a plan to seek help from a colleague?
  • Do you laugh it off, launch Plan B, and say let’s try it again tomorrow?
  • Do you complain and say “Technology hates me…”



Forget the Net: Rediscovering Some Offline Apps

Continental Drift

My Ed Tech topic for rumination today is the around an entry point for teachers who find themselves facing the dilemma of insufficient or inconsistent access to the internet.

Searching for a “Forget the Net” approach I began to look at the offline capability of our devices  and rediscovered the camera app and voice recorder. In fact, viewed through the lens of Common Core Speaking and Listening development these two humble apps can be very worth the classroom time.

The Power of Reflection

The ability to capture static images, live video, or simply audio, lends itself nicely to helping young readers and writers with self-reflection. For example, when students are reading for comprehension they may not attend to punctuation, fluency, and tone. Likewise, they may be unaware of how they sound because they are in the moment. They may be able to evaluate their peers, but not themselves in the same 3rd person manner.

Recording not only fosters self-awareness, but also gives a purpose to repeated readings. So if students are asked to read three times with a partner and record, they are more likely to see repetition as a useful endeavor.

Reflection is deep thinking. Reflecting helps you make a plan for future projects. You evaluate what works and what needs improvement. If you fail, you fail forward and make changes toward success. If you succeed, you feel great and have a process or tool that helps you achieve. Both outcomes help you dream about how to make something even better next time.

Reflection is reshaping experience by evaluating, reprocessing, and ultimately creating new ideas and deeper knowledge.

Pull YourSelfie Together!

With this information and a vision for designing a 2 hour workshop for teachers, my colleague, Adrielle Aldrich, (@Adriellealdrich) and I created a class we called: “Ten Ways to Use the Android Camera App”. Adrielle, along with colleague, Derek Suzuki (@suzukiderek) recently presented some of our thoughts at the SDCUE Tech Fair in October 2015. Here is a link to our presentation website:

The Short List:

  1. Reading Fluency: Teacher reviews a student rubric. Partners take turns reading and recording a few pages from a leveled book. They review each video and using the rubric, think about what they did well and how they can improve. Partners record their reflections.
  2. Collaborative Conversations: Students work with vocabulary words that are appropriate to the content being taught. Partners or small groups are given a word, they brainstorm objects that could show that word or the concept behind that word. Using the camera app students are working with diverse partners, having collaborative discussions as they negotiate decisions. They take pictures and then present their image and thoughts to their peers.
  3. Book Talks: Once students have mastered “book talking” without the camera app, you can add another level of complexity by having students take a photo of an important part of the story, the part they liked best or a part that showed the main idea. The image is available as a talking point when they are presenting their book talk. Students could use a partner’s device to record and share their presentation.
  4. How To (Procedural Text): Students can complete a procedure, at each step they take a picture. Then they can use the pictures in sequence to discuss and ultimately write about the steps they took. Students could use transition word labels (first, next, then, last) as they take pictures to help move their writing a more cohesive piece.
  5. Documenting a Process: Students use the camera to document an experience. Then students use the pictures to reflect on the process as the experience as a whole. Many times, students are so involved in completing each of the steps of a process that the process itself gets lost over time. Documenting with the camera app can help students strengthen their understanding of the utility and importance of the process.
    1. Steps in the scientific process
    2. Steps in design thinking
    3. Steps in a complex math problem
    4. Steps in the writing process
  6. Storytelling: In her Units of Study for Primary Writing, Lucy Calkins suggests creating “predictable opportunities” for students to tell stories about their daily lives. Rather than replacing writing time-which I would never suggest-have a recurring time each day when students can practice the art of telling a small moment. The sound recorder or video capture could be used to remind them of the story if they were only able to capture it in pictures. Instead of recounting the story as “That’s me, that’s the dog. That’s the water.” They may hear themselves saying their original thoughts: “It was so hot yesterday at the beach, my dog and I jumped into the water. He splashed me when he shoot his fur!”
  7. Know Thy Selfie: Students create various portraits to demonstrate knowledge or share ideas. Self-portraits can help students communicate their interests through a visual representation. Biogra-selfies can allow students to capture a moment when they dressed up like a famous historical figure or a favorite character. Culture-selfies help students express their own culture or compare themselves to pictures of other people from other cultures found online.
  8. The Best Part of Me/The Best Part of My Work: Students take pictures of a part of themselves or something they accomplished at school. Then, with a partner they can explain why they took that picture. Ultimately, they could create a written reflection from their image and discussions.
  9. Video Diaries: Students reflect about an assignment, experience, or interaction. They speak off the cuff, unscripted, to document their current state. Hearing themselves describe a recent experience can help you think it through.
  10. Scavenger Hunts: A great way to build vocabulary and speaking skills, you would give students a concept or a list of objects to go out an find. They document their findings with the camera to discuss later.

Building Agency:

The seemingly simple camera app and voice recorder app allow for student reflection. The whole point of reflection is to create a plan of take action that builds on your strengths and improves or changes your previous action when they were not so successful. To me, agency is where metacognition meets action. To build agency, students need time to reflect and own what helps them learn, understand what gets in the way of their learning, and through this process determine a plan for future learning experiences.

My Ever Shifting World…

I may not think about it often enough, but just as the ground beneath my feet is always on the move, so too is the world of Educational Technology. I named this blog to remind me that shift happens, and I need to move or become fossilized in my comfortable ways. I recently finished up a very inspiring weekend at the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs and have decided to try different ways to reach out to the thirty-one K-12 schools in San Diego Unified that I support. I also hope to help the teachers in my district become more connected with each other and the world. 

After all, this is what I’m asking them to have their students do in class. So, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m entirely new to this whole idea of blogging, tweeting, and sharing my crazy perceptions. As I’m typing this, my daughter asks me, “Why are you doing this again?” To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it all out.

As suggested by CUE keynote speaker Adam Bellow (, I’m not going to worry about making “mistrakes” but will go out on a limb and jump in. So, here it is, world! The good, the bad, and the ugly! Hopefully, I will pick up followers.

I’m working on the project Reuben Hoffman (@reubenhoffman) encouraged us to go out and start. This blog is my project, and this is just the start.

4/24/2022 – Author’s Note: When I started this blog project, I originally called the blog “Ed Techtonics: Technology integrations that rock my world.” I’ve since moved on to something less silly.