Finding My Little Sister on Facebook

Amber&IOkay, I realize that title might be a bit deceiving. I don’t really have a “real” little sister. But I did have a sister about 11 years ago in college: a Little Sister with Big Brothers/ Big Sisters. And I just found her on Facebook, 11 years later! It’s a long story. Let me start at the beginning.

When I was a freshman in college at Emory and Henry, two of my friends and I decided to become Big Brothers/ Big Sisters. We were all three matched with a family of three girls…5, 8, and 11. I was matched graduationwith the middle sister, Amber. It was wonderful having my close friends matched with the entire family…we often did things together. The “Littles” quickly became a HUGE part of our lives on campus. We saw them at least once a week, and they frequently spent the night or traveled with us. I even took Amber home over a few holidays and on vacation to the beach with me. As I look back through my college scrap book, her face is everywhere: bowling, skating, plays, amusement parks, playgrounds, the beach, sledding on cafeteria trays, reading, painting, making Easter eggs, celebrating Christmas, PTA programs, and on and on. We were matched all four years, and she came to graduation. However after graduation through uncontrollable family circumstances on her end, I lost her. By then she was about 13.

Because she was such a big part of my life, I continued to wonder where she was and how she was doing. My old friends would often ask about her…she’d become such a big part of my life for those four years.

Then, this past summer, I decided to join Facebook. Yes, that horrible “unsafe” world that we hear about over and over in Internet Safety programs. I originally felt that I just needed to know what it was all about since technology is my job. I quickly found out how powerful it could be, but in a good way. I learned that it was a wonderful way to get in touch with old friends and even family located in far away places. I found my close high school friends, my cousin in China, my college buddies. I was able to see family pictures of my friends and family, and get to know my step-mother’s side of the family much better.

But then it happened! One of my college Big Sister friends found me there and THAT started a ball rolling that ended up with me finally finding Amber again after 11 years, despite her new married name.

The first time I heard from her, I cried. I had been so worried about her all these years, but to find out that she’s okay totally made me so happy, and brought back all those wonderful memories from college. I was able to see pictures of her family…her 2 year old son, her husband, and her trip to Disney World and to St. Augustine. We have talked back and forth, and I found out she’s now a nurse–and LPN on top of that. I’m so very proud of her, and so very relieved to be back in touch. Next month I’m going to visit–she only lives 2 1/2 hours away. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found her again!

Now, I’m not advocating that minors should join Facebook, or that you should post whatever you want on your Facebook page, or allow anyone and everyone to see your personal information. Not at all. Whenever we post on the internet, we should take internet safety very seriously. In Facebook, though, there are security settings that allow you too keep your pictures and information private to everyone but your friends, if you want. Facebook also recommends that you only become friends with people you know in person. I think that’s a great recommendation.

But I did want you to know that there are some very good things about social networking…and that it can, if used correctly, really enhance or rekindle real live relationships. I can offer many stories to support this claim, but finding my long lost Little Sister is definitely, by far, my favorite!


I finished “A Whole New Mind” a month or so ago, and am still going through many of the resources Daniel Pink included in the book. One resource is called StoryCorps, and it’s located in the chapter where Pink describes Story as one of the six high-concept, high-touch senses needed in the Conceptual Age.

Storycorps in a non-profit organization that specializes in stories…yours, mine, people we love. It records stories in booths all over the United States, and even sends out traveling kits for you to record individual stories. You can listen to some of them in itunes or on their website. What a super idea! In looking at the site, it appears they are going to be in our area next fall…Sept. 25-Oct. 18, 2008 at the WVTF radio station. I’ll have to keep a lookout for more info!

The process of recording a story of a loved one reminds me of something I did in college…a journal for my parents with questions about their lives. I didn’t have much money one Christmas while I was in college, so I bought two blank journals: one for Dad and one for Mom. At the top of each page I wrote questions like

  • What were your grandparents like?
  • Who was your favorite teacher?
  • How did you meet dad/mom?

I put a note in the front of the journal asking them to write the answers and give it back to me the following Christmas. They did give them back to me the next Christmas, full of stories. I can honestly say those two journals are my most treasured possessions, especially now that my mom has passed away.

So, what’s your story? What are your parents’ stories? We all have them, no matter our age. Even our students have stories! Wouldn’t be neat to have students record their own stories, or even stories of their loved ones? It could be a writing assignment, but also a lesson in learning to tell a story. I do have 4 or 5 portable mp3 recorders you can use if you are interested in doing this!

Learning from 4th and 5th graders

I’ve spent the last week having a chance to go into classrooms and talk to kids about internet safety at East. While it’s not my favorite topic to teach, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve learned during the whole process. I have always believed our kids use more technology than we realize, but being there and listening to them talks cements it even more in my mind. I thought I kept pretty on top of the games and sites kids like, but I’ve heard about all sorts of new games and websites this trip! I’ve spent my weekend trying to catch up. And while I was pretty sure that many of our kids had cell phones, I was surprised when a third to half of a class of 5th graders raised their hands when I asked that question. Pam recently posted a video on her blog that we have been talking about redoing with our own students, and after this week, I’m even more excited about doing it. I can’t wait to see what I learn about our students. Here’s the original video:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Meme: Passion Quilt

Last week I was tagged with this meme by fellow Elementary Instructional Technologist, Kevin Jarrett. I do have to say that this is the first time I’ve ever been tagged for a meme, so I feel quite honored! Thanks Kevin!! I’ve been a little delayed in responding, though. I was supposed to post a picture and tell what makes me passionate about teaching with technology, I actually had a hard time deciding on just ONE. There are so many reasons I love technology and what it can do…

I finally decided, though, on this picture (thanks to FlickrCC), which I will call, “Technology: A Key That Opens Many Doors.”

doorOne of the things technology can do for students is to open doors: doors to new places, doors to new ways of thinking, doors to an entire community of learners and thinkers very different than themselves, but also very similar. It can broaden the meaning of community. It can allow students to see and listen and even talk to people in places across the globe and to learn empathy, understanding, and tolerating opposing points of view. It provides a means to teach students what it is like to stand in someone else’s shoes, and helps gives them an audience when they tell what it’s like to stand in their own place in the world. These skills are of utmost importance in the 21st century, as our world gets smaller and flatter…

I can quickly think to some of the projects I’ve seen in going on in our classrooms during the past couple of months, and I see where this is true…

  • Third Graders exchanging brochures and letters with students around the world, thanks to Jennifer Wagners’ Technospud projects.
  • Classrooms virtually traveling to underwater with Meg Swecker as she explored coral reefs thanks to VoiceThread.
  • Students collaborating, writing and publishing their own podcasts, and the excitement and creativity that this medium inspires.
  • The 4th Grade bloggers who now have a global audience for their writing, from Connecticut to Australia…and to hear them talk about the impact and motivation that audience has for them as they share their ideas.
  • I could go on and on and on…

3 Simple Meme Rules:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

So I’m tagging these 5 folks to keep this meme going…

Thinking About Toilet Brushes (and Design)

tbbrush.jpgI’ve been thinking a lot about design lately. Our superintendent, Dr. Seibert, inspired by a presentation from Daniel Pink, mentioned design at our Welcome Luncheon at the beginning of the year. He showed pictures of toilet brushes. He mentioned the fact that students should be thinking about design because in today’s world, design is as important as function.Since his presentation, I’ve also been thinking about the difference between teaching students software vs. teaching them a process. And where does design fit into the picture?

A few examples come to mind: webpages, slide shows, and digital storytelling. For example, is it more important to teach students how to create a well designed slide show, or is it more important for me to make sure they understand the ins and outs of PowerPoint? Which part (the process or software) should take the back seat when time is limited? How important is the content and design of the end result…the product?

I’ve always thought that this was an easy answer: the process always outweighs the software and that the product is very important. Software will change, but it’s the process of creating something with it that makes the activity rich and rewarding and challenging for students. Learning and developing a process makes an activity beneficial…and gives students something they can transfer to other things they might do. But maybe my thinking is limited. I plan on reading Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, to help me answer some of these questions. But I’m also interested in what other people think. What are your thoughts?

Image Citation:
Gillingham-Ryan, Maxwell (2007, Apr, 30). Top 10: Toilet Bowl Brushes. Apartment Therapy, Retrieved Nov 11, 2007, from

Summer Learning

Yikes! I realized that I haven’t posted here in over a month. It’s not that I haven’t been learning, but just the opposite, I’ve spent the summer multitasking more than usual. I’ve learned a bunch! I’ve also missed a bunch…I can’t keep up with all the blogs I’ve been trying to read. Partly that’s because I’ve met a whole bunch of really great people through Second Life and have added their blogs to my aggregator, and partly it is because I’ve spent a ton of time in Second Life with Pam Elgin designing a place for ITRTs to collaborate. It’s almost done…I’ll post more about that later.

The other thing that has kept me tied up has been a class of 14 energetic second graders in summer school! This is the second year I’ve had the chance to work in the three week summer school program in Salem, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. It gives me a chance to get my hands back into teaching, and to build a few (albeit brief) relationships with students, something I miss terribly being an ITRT. I’ve been trying to post some of the projects we worked on in class on a class blog. I have a few more projects to post, but you can check it out here.