Friday, March 14, 2014

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.11

Happy Friday everyone!  Welcome to this week's edition of Five Tech Things on a Friday.  In reality, this is more like four tech things and a (cat) video I happen to like.
  • I enjoyed this thoughtful post on 14 Things That Are Obsolete in 21st Century Schools.  The list includes a variety of topics such as Isolated Classrooms, Unhealthy Lunches, and Computer Labs.  Do you agree with this post?  What do you consider to be obsolete in 21st century schools?
  • While I was at the ICE conference a few weeks ago, I learned about WeVideo, and I have been having a great time playing around with it.  WeVideo is basically like iMovie, but you use it in your browser.  There is even a Chrome App for WeVideo.  Check out this awesome video editing tool!
  • Have you googled yourself lately?  What did you find?  Good things...not so good things...nothing at all?  These days have no digital footprint can be just as detrimental as having a bad digital footprint.  What do you want people to find when they search for you?  Check out this great resource from George Couros on why and how to build your digital footprint.  George also highlights his own digital footprint on his website.
  • Finally, it's Friday...the sun is shining...and we can all use a good inspirational cat video from time to time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

We Used to Ban Books, Now It's iPads

Over the weekend, an article kept popping up in my Facebook feed.  I'm hesitant to even link to it just because it made me cringe each time I saw it, but for reference: 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.


I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned about things like radiation and overuse of technology, but there is more than one side to this story.  In fact, there are numerous factors to consider when we think about how much time children should spend with devices.  That being said, there is a world of difference between meaningful and responsible technology use and over use.  As with most things, there are plusses and minuses to children using devices.

Should we also ban paper books because reading for too many hours a day can lead to obesity and paper cuts?  Let's go back in time.  Twenty-five years ago, scrawny eight-year-old me lived with her nose in a book.  She read during recess.  She read in the car.  She even hid inside on warm summer days to read.  She spent hours and hours every day reading.  Should someone have taken books away from her because she was so intently focused on one thing?  Why didn't anyone worry about obesity?  What if she stumbled onto inappropriate content?  Now, one might argue that reading is a much more worthwhile activity than spending time on a handheld device, but I would argue that the opposite can also be true.  I've spent plenty of time reading nonsense.  I've also spent plenty of time using my handheld device to read, research, connect with others, and publish my work.

Am I comparing apples to oranges here?  A little bit...but I also feel that banning handheld devices for children under 12 is as extreme a view as banning pencils because they might cause carpal tunnel.
Instead of completely banning the use of handheld devices until the age of 12, why don't we educate children and adults on how to use these powerful tools in meaningful and responsible ways.  Use of handheld devices is not synonymous with overuse.  It's important to remember that not all "screen time" is created equal.

I think it's pretty clear that a bouncy seat that holds an iPad over your baby's head has great potential for misuse.  Though, the special education teacher in me can also see a lot of ways this could be used as adaptive equipment.  For the sake of this post, however, I'll go ahead and admit that this also makes me cringe.

But what about this:

Twins Skyping with their grandparents.  How exactly does bringing families together cause obesity or hyperactivity?

Here students with developmental delays are using the iPad to retell a favorite story.  This was an extremely powerful experience for children who struggle to use language.  Imagine receiving this as a parent.

This video was created using a handheld device.  Imagine how wonderful it is for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to have access to stories with sign language.

My 3.5 year old daughters used our iPad this weekend with the Tell About It app.  They loved making connections with the pictures they saw, I loved having tangible evidence of this developmental stage, and we all loved being able to share this experience with friends and family by posting it to Facebook.  Now, I'm using their work to construct an argument on my blog.

We can and should start teaching children about how to use these powerful tools early in their lives.  They can learn to use these tools to connect, collaborate, and share with the world rather than just playing mindless games.  By the age of 12, children should be able to use handheld devices appropriately in a variety of ways.  They should understand how to use them safely and effectively.  But, where will our children be if we completely ban the use of these tools until they are 12?  We don't keep books away from babies because some books contain content that is inappropriate for them.  Instead, we teach them to read starting at the level they come to us.  The same should be true for technology.  We can't lock up our devices until our children are twelve.  Instead, we need to meet our children where they are and teach them exactly how to use (and how not to use) these amazing tools.

If you are looking for resources and research on use the use of technology with young children, I highly recommend these resources:

Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Child by Lisa Guernsey

Common Sense Media

Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media

TEC Center at the Erikson Institute

While I was writing this post, my 3.5 year old daughter asked me what I was working on.  I told her, "I'm writing a blog post to share because someone said that kids shouldn't use iPads." Without missing a beat she responded, "But little kids can use an iPad if their families help them."  Out of the mouths of babes...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reflections from ICE -- We Have to Tell Our Own Stories

I was lucky to be able to spent some time at the Illinois Computing Educators conference last week, and, of course, I came away with a brain full of great ideas, tips, tricks, and things to try.  I will definitely share all of that here soon, but first I really want to reflect on my major takeaway from ICE: I have a responsibility to help my schools tell their stories.

I work as a district coach with ten schools that are in federal restructuring.  It's hard work -- for teachers, for administrators, for all of us.  No matter how you try to dress it up, federal restructuring is often seen as synonymous with failing.  No one wants to hear that their hard work resulted in failure, but here we are.  This is the message that is being shared about our schools because we aren't telling our own story.
When I interviewed for this position, one of the things I was hoping to bring to the table was the ability to help schools tell their own stories.  Instead of being represented by test scores in the newspaper, I wanted our schools to represent themselves.  I wanted our schools to reach out to our community and the world.  I wanted our schools to share who they truly are.

I dropped the ball.

Despite my strong belief in the power of stories, of sharing, and of relationships, building a digital footprint with my schools got put on the back burner.  I'm new to this position, and this position is new to the district.  Things were changing daily.  I got lost in the minutiae of learning the ever-changing ins and outs of my job.  I got bogged down in meetings. I was waiting for guidelines to be finalized.  I lost sight of this critical piece of my work.  This isn't to say that I haven't done good work this year.  I've done plenty that I'm proud of.  It's just that ICE was a real wake up call for me.  I lost sight of something really powerful, and I needed to be reminded.
Steve Dembo talked about this idea of ambient intimacy.  If we share who we are through social media --  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, what have you -- we send out a series of light touches to the world.  Through these light touches the world gets to know us, and we get to know the world.  Our schools deserve to be seen as more than just poor test scores, but the only way to do that is to use our own voices.
The world we live in amazes me.  We are more connected than ever before.  As educators, we are no longer isolated from each other -- in fact, educator isolation has now become a choice.  We have to choose to share our stories, to learn from each other, and to make those global connections.  I have a responsibility to my schools to help them find ways to share their stories.
I truly believe that telling our stories is worth it.  I've experienced the power of sharing my story in my personal life -- it brought me connections to others dealing with infertility, moms of twins, book lovers, and connected me with people all over the world who are now some of my closest friends.  I've also experienced the power of sharing in my professional life.  I get to learn from other educators all around the world each and every day.  I get to share my ideas, learn new tricks, and talk about teaching and learning.  I've seen how powerful social media can be in my own life.  I've watched it work for other schools.  It's time to help my schools find their voice.  I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

February 2014 Reads

I didn't read quite as many books in February (8) as I did in January (12), but it was still a good reading month!  Here's what was in my reading stack in February:

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson -- 4 Stars.  I always enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson, and this book was no disappointment.  This book tells the story of Haley and her veteran father who suffers from severe PTSD.  Like most of Anderson's books, this was hauntingly realistic.

Creating Innovators:  The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner -- 2 Stars.  I was disappointed in this book.  The author told half a dozen redundant stories about the lives of modern innovators and the people who influenced them.  The conclusions he drew appeared to be largely based on personal opinion rather than research.  Wagner lost me fairly early in the book when he referred to a student as a high school and college dropout, yet the student left his boarding school early to attend Stanford and then left Stanford before completing his Master's degree.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo -- 3 Stars.  This book started off slow for me.  It was fine, but not all that into it.  The second half, however, sucked me in and I'm eager to read the next book in the series.  Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of YA fantasy.

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi -- 3 Stars.  I was really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy, but it fell kind of flat for me.  The first two books really grabbed me, and this one...well...didn't.  It wasn't bad.  It just wasn't great.  I'd love to hear how others felt after reading this!

Speaker For the Dead by Orson Scott Card -- 4 Stars.  I loved Ender's Game, but I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the sequel.  Turns out, it was great!  I loved seeing Ender as an adult, and the world that Orson Scott Card has created was as fascinating as ever.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab -- 3 Stars.  I think I got this for free from the Kindle store.  The premise is interesting --  when you die your life is archived and kept in a library, sometimes those archives wake up.  Another book that started out slow for me, but in the end I enjoyed it enough to want to see what happens next.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion -- 5 Stars.  This was, by far, my favorite read of the month.  Don is an adult with Asperger's (though he doesn't know it) looking for a wife.  Don's voice was just fantastic.  This was quirky, sweet, and lovely.  I missed Don and Rosie as soon as I closed the book.  Read it!

 The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood -- 4 Stars.  Oh, Margaret Atwood.  Such amazing writing.  Believe it or not, sometimes I like my dystopia a little more grown up.  I loved Oryx and Crake, so I was excited to dive into The Year of the Flood.  It took me a bit to figure out the who, the what, and the when in this book, but overall, it was fantastic.

There you have them, my February reads.  I think my theme for February was "it took me a while to get into this book".  With the exception of Creating Innovators, I was glad that I stuck with each of these titles.

What did you read in February?