November 5th, 2013
When children and adolescents have unlimited and unsupervised access to media, evidence has shown that this exposure can lead to several health effects such as academic difficulties, obesity, substance abuse, and aggression. Yet, we live in a media-rich world where devices like tablets and smartphones can also provide many benefits. To acknowledge this need for balance, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently updated their guidelines for children and adolescents with new policy statements on screen time.
To start the screen time conversation with parents, the AAP recommends that pediatricians begin asking these two questions at every well-child visit: How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily? Is there a TV set or an Internet connected device in the child’s or teenager’s bedroom?
The AAP recommends that parents limit entertainment screen time to less than one to two hours per day. They suggest that families create a media plan for their homes and keep televisions and other Internet connected devices out of a child’s bedroom.
Schools and teachers should be considering these guidelines too. How can parents make a media plan for their family without knowing what is being consumed at school? We must be careful not to contribute to a child’s entertainment screen time diet.
Many games and apps are labeled “educational” but have no measured effectiveness to support the claim. Some are simply just interactive toys. Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and lead author of policy provided by the AAP in 2011, questions the link between an interactive game and the learning it promises to provide. “There’s nothing wrong with a toy being fun, engaging a child for an amount of time. But to promote it as being educational we really need to do research to find out,” explains Brown.
Based on the new AAP guidelines and recommendations, there are many things for teachers to consider. Online games and touch-screen apps can be incredibly engaging for students. However, we must select tools that can demonstrate a targeted approach to student learning. Look for tools that have research to support their educational benefits and be critical of those that will only contribute to a child’s daily dose of entertainment screen time.
March 18th, 2013
Another group is continuing the coding to learn theme. The non-profit foundation Code.org is hoping to increase computer programming education across the world. They’ve created a video with an impressive cast (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am, Chris Bosh…) but my favorite quote comes from Gabe Newell.
The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future. You know, you’re going look like you have magic powers compared to everybody else.
Check out Code.org to get started immediately.
February 26th, 2013
Scratch is the perfect tool to help kids (ages 8 and up) learn how to write programs or code. But in a recent Ted Talk, Mitch Resnick expresses another good point- the importance of coding to learn.
As kids are creating projects like this, they’re learning to code, but even more importantly, they’re coding to learn. Because as they learn to code, it enables them to learn many other things, opens up many new opportunities for learning. Again, it’s useful to make an analogy to reading and writing. When you learn to read and write, it opens up opportunities for you to learn so many other things. When you learn to read, you can then read to learn. And it’s the same thing with coding. If you learn to code, you can code to learn. Now some of the things you can learn are sort of obvious. You learn more about how computers work. But that’s just where it starts. When you learn to code, it opens up for you to learn many other things.
I highly recommend watching Resnick’s talk.
He demonstrates how kid-friendly programing tools like Scratch are not just for teaching computers, math, science, or engineering. Coding to learn can apply to almost any subject.
For example, consider teaching kids storytelling with the book Super Scratch Programming Adventure!
Super Scratch Programming Adventure!
Ruth Suehle at GeekMom writes:
Super Scratch Programming Adventure! helps your budding developer learn to use Scratch with a comic book story. Each section begins with a continuing piece of a story that ends by giving the reader a problem to solve with Scratch.
I got this book for my own kids and they were off in minutes. I think Super Scratch Programming Adventure! would be the perfect textbook to get your students off coding to learn.
March 6th, 2012
In her new book, titled Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain explains how we overlook the value of introverts. She elaborates on NPR:
Introverts are much less often groomed for leadership positions, even though there’s really fascinating research out recently from Adam Grant at [The Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania] finding that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes when their employees are more proactive. They’re more likely to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extroverted leader might, almost unwittingly, be more dominant and be putting their own stamp on things, and so those good ideas never come to the fore.
Here is another reason to get your students writing online.
February 13th, 2012
I was watching my kids play Angry Birds the other day when I noticed how quickly they went for the restart button.
When they didn’t get the first bird to land just the right way they bailed out of the level and started over.
I wonder. Are today’s kids less likely to make a comeback?
I’m all for trial and error and learning from your mistakes. Yet, I wonder if a penalty-free restart sends the right message. This has got me thinking about my students who ask if they can retake a quiz. Should I let them restart their assessments? Right now, assessment retakes become a logistical nightmare if you let everyone have do-overs but this will change as more and more assessments go digital?
Let’s assume that we have an unlimited supply of assessments. These are the questions I have:
- When, if ever, should we allow students to restart an assessment?
- If they restart, should the restart be penalty-free?
- Should there be a limit to the number of restarts a student can take?
February 10th, 2012
In this article, Andy Young writes:
Programming is the act of giving computers instructions to perform. This is true whether the output is your word processor, central heating or aircraft control system. If you can’t code, you are forced to rely on those that can to ensure that you can benefit from the greatest tool at your disposal.
I can’t agree more. Every kids should learn to code. Even if it’s just a little bit. Programming skills are empowering and they teach kids the importance of building models.
The easiest way to get started is to teach your students how to build a simple web page using HTML. It’s not really programming but it will get kids thinking about code.
To dive into programming, check out these tools to get kids started. My personal favorite is Scratch. It is free, easy to use, and designed so even young kids can understand programming without actually having to write out complex code. Below is an overview.
Resembling Scratch, App Inventor is another easy to use programming tool for building apps on Android devices.
App Inventor was announced by Google but has recently been handed to MIT to manage. Watch for the “MIT App Inventor” this spring.
Finally, maybe for the more experience coders, give VPython a look. It allows students to create 3D interactive models. Compared to Scratch, it looks a little intimidating. However, there are many sample programs and tutorials available to help you get started.
January 24th, 2012
In more password related news, the New York Times reports:
In a 2011 telephone survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30 percent of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Sure it’s a symbol of trust, but we don’t need much of an imagination to see how this can go horribly wrong.
The password sharing results were revealed as part of a larger survey title Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites.
This is what happens when we have a generation growing up without Seinfeld. George taught us to never share our passwords.
Kramer also demonstrated that we should never make passwords about ourselves since they can be guessed easily.
October 18th, 2010
It has been about a month since we changed our electronic devices policy at our school but I’m still catching student using their phones in class.
However, I approve of most of the use (as shown below).
Yet, a few students have tried to sneak texting sessions at the wrong time. At first I was disappointed. I thought, “We had an agreement.”
However, I quickly remembered that my students are still getting use to their new found freedoms.
From now on, I plan to give a “gadgets in school” speech every few weeks. Like most rules, we all need reminders from time to time.
September 7th, 2010
"Principles of Physics" from Kinetic Books
One study suggests that tablets, e-readers, online learning, and pricing are leading a shift that will make one out of five textbooks digital by 2014.
My physics students gave up the old paper books in 2008 when we switch to our new “text” from Kinetic Books. I’ve been quite happy with the product. The new system still provides students with traditional text but it also includes narrated animations, interactive problems, virtual labs and online assessments. Our digital text provides content in a variety of ways by helping each student learn new physics concepts in a style that works best for the individual student.
Even with their multimedia capabilities, digital textbooks have a lot of room to grow. Here are a few things I’d like to see:
- A system that starts with an interview of each student. It finds out what the student’s interests are and generates the book’s content around this profile. If the student plays the saxophone, then his unit on waves will feature music. Another student who likes to fish might see ocean waves as the focus of her waves unit.
- Open the books up for socializing. The digital books should allow students to see what other students are saying about the material as they move through a unit. Students vote up what they liked and found interesting. A student could highlight parts of her text and leave comments about that section for her teacher, just her friends or study group, her entire class or all the students in the world using the same digital book. No earthquakes in Wisconsin, that’s okay. Your friends in California can give you some perspective.
- Allow students to add content. Now your text comes with the stock photo of a hailstone along with the other five that were submitted by students.
- Collaboration is a must. Imagine laboratory investigations and projects that allow your students to have partners in another part of the world.
- Access the digital book anywhere. The worst thing is five digital books that run on five different platforms. I want a digital textbook that wants to be everywhere- much like magazines that have successfully gone digital. You can get content from Wired magazine via your computer, phone, iPad and TV. Textbooks should offer students the same flexibility.
August 31st, 2010
Four out of five teachers know what this student is doing.
Photo from Blaise Alleyne - http://flic.kr/p/6xJSQL
After working on a presentation for my students about using mobile devices in school, there are a few things I’ve decided to emphasize when I talk to them at the start of new school year.
- Teachers can usually tell when students are sneaking looks at their mobile devices.
- When they’re using a mobile device, I’m going to expect students to ask themselves, “Is this really the right time?”
- If they have to sneak, it is the wrong time to be using a mobile device in class.
So when is it okay to use mobile devices in class? Simple. Anytime teachers think that it can help students learn.
Mobile devices have quickly become part of our daily life. A quick text message can put sites like Google to work for our students without a trip to the computer lab. More and more students will start the new school year with smart phones that run apps that make text messaging look like a stone tablet when we look at how engaging and functional they are. We need to put these devices to good use.
The trade-off for integrating these tools into the classroom is that we’ll have to teach students when it is and is not appropriate to use mobile devices in class. I think these lessons are worth it. And who knows, maybe our lessons in restraint will stick with students when they’re at movie theaters, restaurants, dinner tables, or even their own graduation ceremony.