≡ Menu

Rock Star Camp: Embark on a Hero’s Journey

The 2014-2015 school year was the educational equivalent of my morning cappuccino, a concoction causing me to gulp down the year in a fiendish, caffeinated frenzy. And it all started with CUE. Finding CUE was the answer to many years of hitting my head against the walls of outdated pedagogy.

For those of you that live in northern California, you know full well how difficult it can be to find quality professional development. We’re “in the middle of nowhere” [ed note- I went to college near there, you’ve got cows] and get the short end of the stick when it comes to conference variety and choice. I can’t tell you how many times walked away from professional developments feeling uninspired, drained, and often, with an empty wallet.

CUE’s Rock Star camps were the perfect answer for my colleagues and I. We were those who wished to engage in meaningful edu-conversations, out-of-the-box ideas, and who wanted a support system beyond our district walls. CUE delivered. Ten-fold. They not only provided us with engaging, hands-on activities and ideas to benefit our students, we also gained something even more precious: the beginnings of a state-wide network of amazing educators!

Being able to attend one conference and come away with so much was a breath of fresh air! In a matter of three days, I dove into the value of social media in education, online tools for effective student feedback, elementary STEAM activities, and project-based learning. My classroom vitality was renewed!

In just a few short weeks, I will attend my third CUE Rock Star Chico camp. I’m especially excited for this year, as the new “Hero’s Journey” format will help provide an alternative path for future lesson planning! Each “episode” (session) will be aligned to this journey and will reflect one or more of the following elements: engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate.

Some of this year’s episodes include screencasting, infographics, public speaking, maker clubs, engaging assessments, QR codes, Seesaw digital portfolios, iPads in primary grades, and many topics surrounding the use of Google Suite features. I have no doubt that it will continue to be a pinnacle of awesomeness in northern California, especially with the amazing presenters in this year’s line-up! I never leave a Corey Coble session without a new device to try (I imagine a 3D pen or some type of circuitry will be on my shopping list this year). And with Ryan Archer sharing his knowledge of virtual reality, I will finally understand how to use and integrate Google Cardboard! I can’t wait!

You can register for any Rock Star Camp at cue.org/rockstar and Chico specifically can be found here: cue.org/chico2017. This year’s two-day camp, happening June 14-15 at Chico Country Day School, is a mere $199 (which now includes a year’s CUE membership)! There are three 90-minute episodes each day, and lunch is provided. As always, it will be a hands-on learning experience with plenty of collaborative conversations! It is an incomparable value, and an experience you will not regret!

Hope to see you in Chico!


Laurie York has been a classroom teacher for twelve years and currently teaches fourth grade in Gridley, CA. She is also President of North State CUE, a #CAEdChat Moderator, a Seesaw Ambassador, CUE Rock Star Faculty, and Level 2 Google Educator. You can connect with Laurie on Twitter, Snapchat, and Insta @MsYorksClass.

Studies show that Americans are now spending up to eleven hours per day with electronic mass media. (source) While media content is not always produced to educate us, much of it does indeed educate our students about the world around them. How do we teach truth, then, when information travels at the speed of light regardless of its accuracy?

Fake news, propaganda and misinformation have been around forever. The difference now is its sheer volume, our ability to create it ourselves and our preference of our beliefs over facts. It’s more important than ever to give our students critical thinking skills so they can evaluate the deluge of information at their fingertips.

So how do we begin? Our students must continually ask themselves about the source of messages. In his book “I Live in the Future and Here’s How It Works”, tech writer Nick Bilton claims that our students can no longer distinguish between material produced by the Washington Post or CNN and material produced by Joe down the street. The democratization of online content creation may have leveled the playing field for producers, but the playing field does not easily recognize or label misinformation. That filtering is now our responsibility.

It’s also important to recognize what our students consider “news” and “newsworthy”. When I grew up, Walter Cronkite was one of three sources of news on evening television. Our students have thousands of choices for information gathering, and that information is not typically delivered by men on television programs. Information is a meme. A tweet. A post. A viral video. While many times these can indeed include true information, our students must get into the habit of determining what is real, meaningful and valid.

Perhaps the most challenging part of teaching truth is the inability for many of us to recognize our own biases and predispositions to certain sources and facts. In my media literacy classes, I specifically showed examples from both Trump and Clinton last semester. However, my students simply refused to believe anything negative about the candidate they favored. One student said “I want this to be false, so I’m going to ignore it”. How do we teach truth in a world where our beliefs will trump any facts we encounter?

Teachers have an uphill battle when it comes to information literacy. Thankfully, there are some excellent sources to help us navigate this minefield. In no particular order, I suggest the following:

  • Snopes: This is the granddaddy of all fact-checking sites. They are especially good at pointing out when old photos are re-purposed as memes created to promote a political idea.
  • Emergent: This site handles rumors in real time. So if something goes viral this morning, Emergent will have its analysis up this afternoon.
  • Hoax-Slayer: What I love about Hoax Slayer is that they have all of their misinformation categorized by type: memes, emails, trends. It’s extremely easy to search.
  • News Literacy Project:  This site is chock-full of lesson plans and ideas for helping students view news with a critical eye. Check it out.
  • Poynter Institute Fact Checking: This site is the home of the International Fact Checking Network. One can spend hours here.

I teach college students, which means I have a bit more flexibility than a typical K-12 teacher. Which is why I don’t necessarily suggest these sites for your classroom, I merely want you to know they exist in case you feel adventurous or want to investigate on your own.

I have actually assigned my students to create fake news. Why? Because once they create something false, and see how easy it is to do, they will never consume news in the same way again.

  • News Jack: Enter the URL of any news site, and then start editing. Take a screenshot, and you suddenly have the New York Times (or any other source) showing your material.
  • Twerker App: This app will give you the mobile version of any news site’s URL that you enter. Simply double-tap a photo or story, and enter in your own information. Screenshot it and now you have a legit-looking source telling your story.
  • Break Your Own News: A super fun site that lets you upload a photo and description so that it looks like a television breaking news story.
  • Make Your Own Prank: This site will generate a fake news story you’ve created and put it in ready-to-share Facebook news format.

News and information literacy is a 21st Century survival skill. Our students need it. Heck, my older relatives need it! But we cannot wait any longer. Our democracy depends on it.


Julie Smith is the author of Master the Media and has been teaching media lit at Webster University in St Louis for fifteen years. She travels nationally and internationally to speak to parents, teachers and students about how to live and teach in this digital world.

Rock Star Camp: Embark on a Hero’s Journey

The 2014-2015 school year was the educational equivalent of my morning cappuccino, a concoction causing me to gulp down the year in a fiendish, caffeinated frenzy. And it all started with CUE. Finding CUE was the answer to many years of hitting my head against the walls of outdated pedagogy. For those of you that live […] Read More

Teaching Truth in an Age of Misinformation and Fake News

Studies show that Americans are now spending up to eleven hours per day with electronic mass media. (source) While media content is not always produced to educate us, much of it does indeed educate our students about the world around them. How do we teach truth, then, when information travels at the speed of light […] Read More

CUE Leaders Make National Impact: Members Educate Legislators and Policymakers in D.C.

A delegation of educators traveled to Washington D.C. to have their voices heard and to advocate for students and technology last week in the nation’s capitol. The focus of the advocacy efforts was on support for E-rate, LifeLine Program, Student Data and Privacy, and fully funding Title IV of ESSA. CUE members Pam Hernandez (SLOCUE) […] Read More

To BOLDly Go

For months, there has been a buzz of excitement leading up to CUE BOLD. This event has been promoted as something new, something different. “The premier lesson design event for the West Coast” did not disappoint. Trying to capture the energy and excitement from CUE BOLD was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. […] Read More

Herding Robots – the life and times of a robotics coach

This academic year I have been a coach for a First Tech Challenge (FTC) Team; as the father of a high school student, I stepped in to fill a void – and to spend time with my son I am one of two coaches – Jan is another parent (and a now-retired professor) who has the […] Read More

Let Paperslide Into Your Class

Isn't it great when you walk away from a keynote with something you can actually use immediately? This is what happened when I saw Lodge McCammon give the closing keynote at IntegratED IPDX 2017 in February. He introduced us to Paperslides, a new-to-me combining of the low tech paper-glue-and-scissors we all love and miss with […] Read More

Breaking Into Breakout EDU

What exactly is this Breakout EDU thing I keep hearing about? You may have heard about escape rooms, where you pay someone to lock you and your friends in a room and you must collaborate to solve puzzles within the time limit in order to escape. People do this for fun! And they actively seek […] Read More

Blending Together – Creating and Bringing Videos Into Class

Today I asked my students who their favorite musicians are. It was a natural extension of a conversation we were having that sprang from the curriculum and I was genuinely curious. I am an Old, and I don't know what The Kids are into these days. I mean, Taylor Swift is my jam, but other […] Read More