Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oral Stories with Voki

Using digital avatars in programs like Voki enable students to call into with a code on their phones and use their voice for the avatar.  Students of all ages enjoy creating their character and watching it speak with their voice.  Voki allows students to re-record by calling in as many times as needed to get their report just right.  Students can also comment on one another’s avatar with their own original Voki, which is a great way to give peer feedback.  
  • Ideas for the Classroom
    • When students are experiencing writer’s block, have them call in and say it through their voki. This gets them started and a great oral (and/or written) report results.
    • Use Voki for public speaking practice.  By saying their speech in the privacy of their own home into their phone, they gain valuable practice and get to listen to themselves for feedback.  Speeches are rehearsed and memorized through Voki.
    • Storytelling benefits both the listener and the teller.  Use voki to pair middle school students with elementary students for storytelling, without ever leaving the classroom (or home).  As middle school students tell stories they are creating, acting, and engaging with language.  As younger students hear the story and comment they are tuning their listening and thinking skills.
  • Text Talk:  Classroom Stories Brandy Sparks, Health TeacherMy students could not write their experiences with trying to quit smoking.   They just didn't know what to say. However, when I had them call in and talk on their phones, they could tell all about how hard it was, how they did it, and how much better they feel.  They never would have read each other’s work, but they loved listening to each other’s vokis.  The Vokis were used by the American Lung Association as testimonials from students who quit.

This Voki was created by a teen mom, speaking from her child to remind herself and others of the dangers of second hand smoke.  Very effective!

For more information on using Voki check out Teaching Generation Text.  For more on Willy's experiences with the  the NOT on Tobacco program contact Willyn Webb or to get your own group going contact Diane Draper at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Continuing Connections Through Celly

While demonstrating Celly during a Simple K12 webinar a couple of weeks ago, I simply had the attendees text in to be part of the Cell.  I called it @simplek12.  They texted Celly at 23559 (C-E-L-L-Y) with @simplek12 and right before our eyes we were conntected.  We did not exchange numbers!  The group has 31 members and I've texted them as I wrote blog posts that supported the topic of the webinar, which was "The Seven Building Blocks for Successful Learning with Cell Phones."   I also ended with a poll via Celly rather than switching back to the poll I had originally prepared using a different site.  It just made sense to do it while demonstrating Celly.  The results are below.
It was fun to watch the results come in together almost immediately after all joining the group.  This is a great way to connect without a lot of sign-ups, exchanging numbers, or hassle.  Setting up a class can be done at registration and once the group is set-up others can join by simply texting the @(name of the group).

For more information on using cell phones for learning, setting your classroom up for success, convincing administrators, and many lesson plans, see Teaching Generation Text

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Be SMART with Your Phone-Cell Phone Safety Lesson Plan

 Subject: Cell Phone Safety
Cell Phone Tools Used: Poll Everywhere, tool of students' choice, such as Flikr or Voki
Preparation: Go to and create a poll with the questions below and have the polleverywhere number and text in codes ready to provide to students.  
Lesson Overview
:  Students will learn risks and share safety tips for cell phones.Lesson Description:  Set up a poll (yes/no) with Poll Everywhere that asks students the following questions:
  • Have you ever received a call or a text message from a stranger?
  • Have you have ever received a call or text message that bullied you?
  • Have you have ever received a call or text message that was sexual?  

Once you have your answers you can share the tips to combat these types of unsafe situations.  The tips can be generated from the group using a free text poll on Poll Everywhere that asks students to share safety tips to prevent/handle these unsafe situations.  Safety tips should be similar to:

  • Do not answer calls or read text messages from strangers.
  • Block unknown numbers. 
  • Share with adults when messages are harmful. 
  • Make good choices about what messages to send. 
  • Only take appropriate pictures or send appropriate messages. 
  • Only save appropriate pictures. 
When all students have had a chance to share, read through the results and as a group come up with the top suggestions. Allow students individually or in groups to use their cell phone tool of choice to create a safety tip for cell phone presentation that can be shared with others (such as with younger kids).  Some suggestions for tools would be create a podcast, a Flickr slideshow, a "forward" text message that could be sent around school, or a Voki explaining the safety tips.

How the Use of Cell Phones Enriches This Lesson:

  • The use of the cell phone tools demonstrates for students how, with good choices, cell phones can be used for educational purposes as well as social ones.
  • Using an actual phone to practice using the phone in a safe way makes the lesson more real to students.
NETS-S Standards Addressed:
  • Creativity and Innovation 
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship

NETS-T Standards Addressed:
  • Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
  • Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
  • Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
  • Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Research-Based Instructional Strategies Used: 
  • Cooperative learning
  • Summarizing
  • Nonlinguistic representations 

For more information on cell phone safety and setting your classroom up for success see Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning

Monday, March 12, 2012

Teaching Cell Phone Etiquette (including the Cell Phone Manners Lesson Plan!)

    Educators often complain that cell phones are a distraction in class, but how much time have they really devoted to discussing proper etiquette? This can be weaved into a general discussion around behavior and etiquette in different situations. Inviting students into the conversation about appropriate etiquette and what to say to those not exhibiting polite behavior usually works better than telling students how to best behave  .The following are some circumstances in which you might want to address etiquette.  Remember to discuss different types of cell phone use i.e. talking, texting, looking up information, photos, emergencies, etc.  For each of the circumstances below ask, "What is proper etiquette in each situation?" and "What might you say to someone who is not exhibiting proper etiquette in each situation?"     

    • During class
      • When the instructor is addressing the class
      • When a classmate is addressing the class
      • When the class is engaging in a discussion (unless the discussion involves responding via text)
    • During lunch or recess
      • When sitting with friends
      • When sitting alone
      • Passing in the halls
    • At home
      • During dinner
      • During homework time
      • At bedtime
    • When out
      • In a bus/car/plane / train
      • Waiting in line
Knowing proper etiquette with cell phone use is an essential 21st century skill. We need to support students not only in developing appropriate etiquette for themselves, but also discuss with them how they may handle a situation when others are not exhibiting appropriate behavior.  This lesson plan will help teachers address this topic with students preparing them for using proper manners when using cell phones both inside and outside of schools.  Not only will their parents appreciate this, but many of the future employers will as well. 

Phone Manners-Making Good Choices with Cell Phones
Cell Phone Tool Used:  Flickr                                                               

Lesson Overview:

 Students will learn and practice good phone manners by considering good choices for public and private cell phone use.  The areas addressed are choosing when to call/text, choosing where to call/text, choosing who to call/text, choosing appropriate call/text content, choosing appropriate ringtones and signature lines, choosing appropriate pictures and having permission to take them.  Students will “practice” good phone manners through their role plays.   
Lesson Description:  
  • After discussing the choices available for cell phone use (see above examples), assign groups the following categories: Choices about When, Where, Who, and What;  Ringtones; Signature Lines; Pictures. 
  • Have students set up scenarios of appropriate choices (maybe comparing them to scenes of poor cell phone etiquette that we have all witnessed). The main information to be communicated in the slide show presentation is how to use GOOD phone manners by making good choices.
  • In designing their Good Phone Manners Slide they could stage a scene of good phone manners and bad phone manners and/or go out on the scene and capture real examples of good and bad phone manners (with the subject’s permission).
  • Have students email the pictures to your class’s Flickr account.  Each photo will become a part of the class’s, "Good Manners" slide show. 
How the Use of Cell Phones Enriches This Lesson:  
  • Cell phones make the subject matter relevant because they are using the device they are advising about.
  • There is no cost of camera or video equipment for the school, no need to purchase tapes/disks/film.
  • The lesson will take less time because all groups can get started immediately.
NETS-S Standards Addressed:
Creativity and Innovation 
Communication and Collaboration
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Digital Citizenship
NET-Teacher Standards Addressed:
Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
Research-based instructional strategies:
Cooperative Learning
Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
Nonlinguistic Representations


Using a cell phone requires the same common sense that is used for using the old-fashioned home or desk phone combined with the common sense used for sending emails and instant messages which are akin to texting.

Here are some guidelines to consider.
  • Unknown calls
    Don’t answer calls from people you don’t know.  They will leave you a voice mail if it’s important and once you know who it is, you can determine if this is someone you wish to speak to.
  • Unknown messagesIf you receive a text from someone you don’t know, it could be spam or the wrong number. Use your discretion in replying as you would if someone called the wrong number or was selling you something i.e. I’m sorry, who is this, I think you have the wrong number.  If anyone texts you something inappropriate, the text can be ignored, deleted, or the number sending them blocked.  If they continue, the message should be shown to a trusted adult.
  • Stranger DangerJust as in face-to-face or online communications, you should not communicate with people you don’t know on your cell phone.  Online and via text, it is very easy for people to impersonate someone they are not.  Stick with those you know and never agree to meet someone you only know online or via text.   Meeting up with strangers (even if you’ve communicated virtually) is dangerous.
  • Block callsKnow how to block others from calling or texting your phone.  
  • Do Not Call RegisteryAvoid unwanted solicitations by registering with the “National Do Not Call” registery at or call 1-888-382-1222.  This is a sensible whole class activity and also something the teacher may consider sending out as a group text.
  • Act appropriately and expect the same from those whith whom you communicate Act appropriately on the phone as you do in your face-to-face and online lives.  Your digital identity whether on a cell or computer is often not private.  Don’t write or share (via pictures or video) anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable having others know about publicly. If someone sends you something inappropriate address them as you would in face-to-face encounters. If you are uncomfortable doing this, speak with an adult you can trust, such as a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor.  If messages are of a bullying or sexual tone you and the trusted adult you are confiding in may decide to save the messages and contact the police.  
  • Photos/VideosBefore taking and/or sharing pictures or video you should get the consent of the subject(s).  Ensure they know your intentions if you are sharing.  Once it’s uploaded to the internet, it is public for the world to see.  Never share any photo or video that contains inappropriate material.
  • Protect against loss or theft
    Place an “If lost” sticker on the phone with your email and the number of someone they could call who can notify you if your phone is found.
  • Cyberbullying
    Cyberbullying can be defined as messages or images that are mean, hurtful or threatening.  Do not respond to messages that you feel are bullying.  Instead, block the sender, report the incident, save the messages as evidence. If the message involves threats of violence, extortion, obscene messages, harassment, stalking or other unlawful acts, they should be reported to law enforcement. 
  • Using Cell Phones to Coordinate Fights
    There is a real fear among educators that students may use cell phones to coordinate fights.  The reality is that students can use a variety of tools to engage in inappropriate behavior from cell phones, to laptops, to the good old fashion pencil/paper note or even just by talking.  Instead of banning phones, clearly explain to students that using cell phones in this way will not be tolerated and that any students engaging in such activities will be referred to proper services.  They should also be informed that anything on their phones can be used as evidence will result in consequences of discovered by school staff.
  • Sexting
    Sexting is the act of sending explicit messages or semi-nude or nude photos via cell phones.  The law outlines three categories of sexting. 
  • Production/manufacturing = creating
  • Distribution/dissemination = sending or forwarding
  • Possession = keeping (receiving is not an offense, but keeping is and the longer it remains, the more serious the offense)
  • Never create or send messages or pictures of a sexual nature.  If you receive such a message--block the sender, share the message with a trusted adult, a teacher, or law enforcement, and delete it.

For more check out Teaching Generation Text !

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Come to Our Simple K12 Webinar Monday!

The 7 Building Blocks for Success for Learning with Cell Phones
How would you like to increase learning with "screenagers" by using one of the mediums they most enjoy – cell phones? In this presentation, we will take participants through the seven essential building blocks for success when learning with cell phones and other mobile devices in the classroom. Participants will find out if they are "smarter than a screenager" and learn how to catch up if they’re not. They’ll also be introduced to effective tools for measuring teacher and student success when learning with cell phones. We will share samples of appropriate forms and policies used by real educators who are effectively using mobile devices with students. Participants will leave this presentation with the building blocks necessary to stop fighting and start embracing the successful use of cell phones in the classroom.ipad
Who Can Attend:
Presented By: Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb
Date: Monday, March 12, 2012
Time: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM Eastern Time, USA

Register at this link:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Celly for Administrators, Teachers, and Students

Celly is primarily a free group texting service. Group texting saves time, improves communication, provides documentation of texts, and sets the stage for easily using many other cell phone tools. The Cells referred to in Celly are instant mobile networks. With Celly, you can have open group chat, one-way alerting, or a hybrid where curators can approve messages.

Celly also provides security and privacy as phone numbers are never exposed and there are controls. Cell curators filter messages before they are sent to the group. This keeps discussion on-topic and reduces abuse, impersonation, and cyberbullying. An @me feature lends itself to note taking. Celly even has a built-in polling feature complete with the tabulation of results.

So how might administrators, teachers, and students use Celly to increase communication and enhance learning? Here are some ideas.

  • Administrators

Delta Opportunity School needed an emergency notification system, but was out of money. I (Willyn Webb) suggested a free group texting service like Celly. It worked so well that we now use Celly for daily staff communication by sending inspirational quotes, staff meeting notices, or to gather input prior to meetings, and to poll for feedback after meetings. Cells also allow increased administrations involvement with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Because it’s not possible for the administrators to attend each PLC in person, they could still stay connected. Each PLC is set up as a Cell and the administrators are members of each.

  • Teachers

Mrs. Sparks, an English teacher at an alternative high school in Colorado, uses group texting with

her classes to gather feedback after class discussions. As homework, she sends a thought-provoking question from the discussion and has students respond. Mrs. Sparks reports that the students’ responses are often of a much higher quality than the ones shared during class. She’s not sure if it is because they’ve had time to think and process or because they are getting to text it in, but she knows it works. Every student gets a chance to answer. A definite improvement over in class discussions. She has also uses open chats and kept the conversation going outside of class. All of the texts sent and received can be viewed from her computer by logging in on the Celly site.

  • Students-

Willyn Webb used a Cell for her teen parent group to send daily writing prompts for journal entries. When set to open chat, the girls started using it to support each other as students and parents. Other examples are, the student council president has a Cell of members to send out reminders about activities, deadlines, and event announcements. A middle school student who has a Cell group to drill and review with classmates before tests.
 For more information about and ideas on how to use each of these tools, check out Teaching Generation Text.