Transient and Anonymous Social Networking Tools

A couple years ago, Snapchat just came out and was one of the new, popular tools for sending messages that could include video or photos that disappeared. Billed as a feature, this service offered its users the ability to send things without worry about accountability. For instance, the service might be used to send very private photos, but the unlike regular texting, it would prove difficult for the recipient to save the photo. As it turns out, the service is still popular, but it’s being joined by other services that either emulate its main feature or else has capitalized on new ways to communicate under a cloak of anonymity.

Watch our video explaining some of these tools.

Tools we think parents should be aware of include:

  • YikYak (anonymous location-based messaging service),
  • Snapchat (encourages distribution of images and videos),
  • Periscope (live video streaming via Twitter),
  • Meercat (live video streaming via Twitter),
  • Kik (peer messaging system).

There are also alternative apps that mimic Snapchat. What’s difficult is to track what are the new tools and which are the popular ones. As new tools are developed that allow for communication in different ways, it becomes of paramount importance not to necessarily ban the apps from kids—or ban a specific way of communication—but instead to talk in more general terms about what you, as a parent, find acceptable.

As an example, let’s assume you do not want your child using dating apps on their smart phone or tablet. Many of these services are intended for young or older adults, but lying about your age isn’t an impossibility to gain access to these types of apps. This article from April, 2015 looks at some of the more popular dating apps that allow for communication with others. While parents can go online to learn about what’s popular, the conversation and expectation might be more far-reaching: “there will be consequences if you use your phone to use apps aimed for adult users that encourage dating. I am not comfortable at this time you using these services.”

What we find interesting of late is the generational divide and diversity among social apps. Adults (18 years+) prefer to use more mainstream apps, such as:

  • Facebook,
  • LinkedIn,
  • Pinterest,
  • Instagram, and
  • Twitter.

In addition to Facebook and Instagram, the most popular tools used by teens also include:

  • Google+,
  • Vine, and
  • Tumblr.

The same report cites that 73% of teens have access to a smart phone, and 87% have access to a laptop or desktop computer.

Some tips for staying on top of the latest apps allowing us to communicate in new ways:

  • Set up your app account so that you are granting permission to the account and can control the password;
  • Regularly check the device to see which apps your child is using and in what capacity;
  • Read the age ratings of apps provided by the app stores;
  • Have regular conversations with your child about your expectations for communicating online and what the consequences are;
  • Understand that there is an incredible amount of peer pressure for students to communicate socially with online tools, including texting (also called SMS messaging). Just because the tool can allow something inappropriate, does not mean your child will use the app or service for something inappropriate. That said, all the apps in general allow for private conversations, and unlike a phone call, these conversations written in text can re-surface causing embarrassment;
  • As a general rule, you should not communicate with text, picture, or video anything that might later embarrass you, another person, or you wouldn’t mind your own mother (or father) seeing.

Parents in Schoology

For a few weeks now, I’ve been getting complaints about the Schoology logo on the GCPS homepage linking to the “wrong” Schoology website. The link is not wrong. We linked to the non-Goochland Schooloyg page on purpose.

When parents log in to Schoology, they do so from the non-Goochland page. We are hoping more parents will do more than dip their toes in Schoology and embrace the tool as a main avenue for information to flow between home and school.

If you have not already done so, please share access codes with your student’s parents. The codes are easily accessible from the Members section of any of your courses. Parents can learn all about registering and keeping up with their children on the Schoology help page. They can even sign up for email alerts any time their children have overdue assignments.

Schoology – Messages

What do you do when high school students don’t check their email? Use Schoology messages instead.

From any of your classes’ Members section, you can send a private message to your students. The students can send a message back, too, if they prefer not to ask questions in the Updates section. Just click on the gear across from the student’s name, and select the message icon.




I have been meeting with teachers over the past couple of weeks to help them get started with Schoology. Most of the time, I have no way of knowing if the help I have given teachers makes a difference. This time, however, I know it. Look at the trends in logins. After my initial trials and training sessions, student logins are finally higher than teacher logins. Data is beautiful, no?


I didn’t know what to say…

Communication is a necessary part of our lives as educators in many different ways, but let me focus on communication as it relates to our parents. We must build partnerships with parents so their children stay successful. Because parents are not at school every day, we must convey messages to them regarding their children as far as academia, behavior, and socialization. Sometimes we are effective Sometimes we are not.

My own experience with parental communication is a little different as an administrator than it was as a teacher, but the premise is the same.

  1. Listen, listen, listen! (WITHOUT interrupting…)

  2. Assure the parent that you want the best for his/her child.

  3. Keep the focus on the child.

  4. Thank the parent for bringing the concerns to you. Tell him/her that we need to work together toward the same goal: student success!

  5. Let parent know that you will always be available if he/she has another concern.

Here are a few more perspectives:

In the Trenches: Everyday Solutions at Work – Effective Communication with Parents




We have the same goals in mind…

I love to research and I often find myself reading or googling something of interest. My daughter calls me a Google-holic. I simply cannot help myself! And when I stumbled upon this article, albeit old, I could not wait to share it. Collectively, educators and parents, have the same goals in mind for ALL students. We want the best for them. We want success for them. We want students to reach their potential. The following article is old and a little long, but its content is timeless and well worth the read.

The gist? We must work together to build a better future.


Home/School Partnership



Who Reads This?

The teachers of Goochland County have been blogging for years and years. Blogs were how I first learned about Goochland County and decided I wanted to work here. I believe our blogs really make us stand out, but sometimes it is hard to convince teachers of this. All they want to post is a list of objectives for the week.

Ms. Townsend, our ESOL teacher, sent me a message today letting me know someone from the British Council had left a comment on her blog. Our ESOL students have been using iOS devices since the fall, and one of the apps that have become essential to them is MyWordBook, created by the British Council. Ms. Townsend mentioned it in one of her blog posts, and now they’ve read it.

Does a representative from the British Council read our blogs regularly? Absolutely not. However, if a blog post is interesting and contains more than a bulleted list of objectives for the week, it is more likely to have a wider audience.

Teacher blogs should be a window into the classroom, and a showcase of good instructional practice, and a tool to advocate for public education.