Archive for the ‘Classrooms’ Category

The New York Times reports on the spreading use of the iPad in schools. In the article, Larry Reiff, an English teacher from Roslyn, New York, said, “If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later.” The shortcoming of Mr. Reiff’s views and of the article’s focus is that the iPad can be more than a device to facilitate access to information or new apps. Kids need to be enlisted in the design and creation of iPad apps.

And, they are more than capable, as the story of Utah 14 year-old Robert Nay illustrates.  His new app, Bubble Ball, “a physics simulator, challenges players to use objects and gravity to guide a ball to its destination.” His app has shot to the top of the charts, surpassing the ever popular Angry Birds.

Of course, his web programming learning curve grew outside of school and through his own initiative and passion. Ina Fried, from All Things Digital, writes:

“Although it’s his first game, Nay has been into computers for some time, including Web programming and helping others with their computers. When he’s not at the computer (or school) he also likes reading, especially science fiction, and playing the piano and trumpet.  Some months back, a friend suggested that if Nay liked his iPod touch so much, perhaps he should try his hand at programming for it. At first he tried the standard Objective-C programming tools, but found the learning curve a little steep. He tried another tool called GameSalad, but didn’t like the results. In the end, he settled on the Corona tools from Ansca Mobile. Corona was easy to use, he said, and also let him write once and publish for both Apple and Android devices.”

Kids should be able to have app learning environments in schools.  This is a perfect opportunity to embed design thinking into school curriculum. Kids in school communities can work together with different constituents to identify the needs of the community with app development. Schools can launch programming courses to help catalyze student interest and learning with technology and shift the focus to students as creators with technology, instead of just consuming new apps.

Mr. Reiff also comments, “It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls.” This is no different than laptops, but the iPad is lighter, sleeker, and easier to walk around with on campus. With the remote keyboard, it is possible to transform the device into a laptop.

The article also highlights benefits that educators see: “Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.”

One of the challenges with laptops is that students can hide behind screens; with the iPad that’s less of an issue. Students can’t flip screens the way they can on laptops.

Alex Curtis, the head of Morristown-Beard school in New Jersey, in the Times article, comments: “It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere.” It may be that the iPad comes with less potential disruption from distraction with laptops.

An additional benefit, if schools move to adoption, is the ability to give access to a broad array of applications to students, and facilitate the home-school transition with school work and learning.

Read Full Post »

Check out my letter in the New York Times, published last Sunday, December 12th. It’s in response to As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up.

Read Full Post »

Fascinating discussion of teaching with technology on Soundprint.  Teaching: The Next Generation.  Excellent points brought up about how to move beyond the “preparing for the worst” situation, knowing that the technology will likely fall apart in the middle of a lesson, and how to turn students into engaged problem-solvers with technology.  Worth listening to.

Read Full Post »

Check out my interview with Steve Hargadon on the Future of Education.

View the Elluminate Live! recording

Read Full Post »

Woodside High School’s principal David Reilly describes 17 year-old Vishal Singh as being “caught between two worlds — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.”  Vishal is the focal point of a New York Times front page story about digital distraction and teens.

The problem does not lie with Vishal.  Kids are not caught between two worlds.  They have been catapulted into the 21st century with the flood of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  Schools, on the other hand, have not yet figured out how to move forward with technology as learning tools to heighten student engagement, and deepen the learning experience for students.  Schools are “caught between two worlds” — the one that kids are living 24/7 online, and the factory model school structure that Sir Ken Robinson explains so clearly.

The key question for schools to ponder is how will technology deepen and further authenticate learning for students.  It’s not a matter of schools better start figuring out how to use technology — the technology for technology’s sake – or they will lose students like Vishal.  That’s a short-sighted and artificial approach to thinking about the role technology needs to play in schools.

Creating new courses, like the digital audio recording class introduced at Woodside, is a step toward capturing student interest.  However, at the end of the Times article, an English teacher at Woodside shares her frustration with her students and her inability to get them to read 30 pages of a book for homework.  So, to address this shortcoming, she engages in a read aloud of the book in class, “because students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own.”  She’s using old methods to teach students who are thinking in new ways.  She could instead have students create character Facebook pages, or use chat tools like Today’s Meet to approach class discussion in a different way to facilitate greater student-student dialogue about text.  Or, better yet, she could ask her students about ways that they would like to engage with text using different technology tools.

The virtue of moving to new models in schools, in the form of one to one laptop or tablet programs, is that it accelerates thinking within the school community about ways to leverage technology to deepen and differentiate student learning. Also, schools eventually want to reach the point where teachers cannot begin to think about lesson design without technology.  Woodside is not there yet.

I was talking with a teacher who is using clickers in his math classroom, and he beamed with excitement about student engagement.  He also shared that students are now beginning to ask why other teachers and classes are not using clickers.  The kids can become the catalysts for innovation, and they can become the engines for change in schools, if schools and teachers can remain open to their ideas.

Read Full Post »

Read my guest article for Common Sense Media:  Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying in Schools.

Read Full Post »

The muddy terrain of bullying has gripped the ankles of adults, who are at a loss as to how to help kids climb out of the bully pit. Unlike playground bullying, online bullying is often hidden from view and can take weeks or even months to unearth.

Schools need to create clear protocol for how and when to handle online transgressions that happen off campus, in homes. Parents need to understand the role of schools in helping their children and family figure out how to manage the home environment. The fact is that online problems surface and play out at school, no matter where the origin of the transgression lies.

If something happens in the home, in the form of cyberbullying from a peer, or encounters with a stranger online, parents should notify the school right away. The school will likely not have an immediate
solution, but an important dialogue starts between home and school, and parents and administrators can work together to craft an appropriate response. This is of course the reactive phase. Parents
need to know whom to contact in schools. Is it the IT Director, the Principal, the School Counselor, a Teacher, or an Advisor? Schools need to take the time, inside of each community, to figure out who on
the school team is most comfortable on the front lines with parents to help have that initial conversation. After that, what are the steps that need to be taken to ameliorate the situation? What conversations
need to happen with students? What programmatic or curricular pieces need to be implemented to launch the larger, longer term work with students and their families?

In terms of being proactive, schools need to start with parent education programs. These sessions address challenging scenarios, and give parents the language to talk with their children about
appropriate boundaries. Also, parents, in hearing stories from other parents, realize that they are not alone and have the resources and support of a community. In addition, schools can and should offer
sessions that show parents how to set up their home environments, with privacy settings, and filters. Every home is different, and this should be an opt-in approach.

In terms of curriculum development, schools need to build in digital citizenship into their programs. A key question is where to put digital citizenship. It can be implemented in Advisory programs,
media literacy classes, or social and emotional learning programs. It can also be woven into the fabric of each class where technology is being implemented. Any time a research project comes into play,
teachers can talk about source, bias, and credibility. With the use of blogs, wikis, or Ning, teachers can and should create agreements with students about appropriate use, tone, and content. When transgressionstake place, in the form of inappropriate posts or tone, teachers need to grab the teachable moment and work through with students the lessons of healthy digital conversation.

Cyberbullying can be the most perplexing issue to handle for schools and families. Findings from a national study commissioned by Care.com reveal that parents want schools to take action when cyberbullying incidents happen. According to the study, 46% of parents feel schools listen to reported incidents, but 19% share that their child’s school is falling short in their duty to serve the needs of
children and families.

It’s not a matter of pointing fingers as to which side is falling short – parents or schools. Instead, steps need to be taken between schools and parents, as partners in a process of helping kids overcome cyberbullying incidents.

A typical middle school age incident might involve a student creating a fake Gmail account, under one of their classmates names, and then sending inappropriate, or out of line messages with that account. How should the school respond when it finds out about this type of incident?

Schools have an obligation to follow through on reported incidents, even if the incident occurs outside of the school network, on Gmail. The first step is for the family or child to report the incident. Then, the school needs to follow up with involved students, both victim and instigator, and any others who may be connected with the incident. Students need to be interviewed and parents have to be brought in as part of the conversation. Open dialogue has to occur between home and school, so that students do not go underground and suffer in silence.

Kids need to know that school and home are communicating, and that adults are supervising. Adults
need to be there for kids for guidance, support, and resolution, so that positive online culture starts to take hold.

Read Full Post »

There is sobering news from a just released study of bullying in schools from the Josephson Institute of Ethics.  Half of students in the survey shared that they had bullied or been bullied, but even more alarming is the news that 52% of those surveyed had hit someone out of anger.

Now more than ever, schools and parents need to work together to create programs to foster safe, healthy cultures.  Parent education programs, coupled with follow through from schools on reported incidents are important first steps to take.  Beyond that, schools need to create proactive curricular-based programs to address issues of bullying, and give students strategies to combat and thwart bullying situations. This needs to start at the youngest ages, so that positive school culture plays forward.


Read Full Post »

In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, teenager William Kamkwamba’s wonderful narrative of his journey and discovery to create “currents of electricity and hope” in Malawi, we are given a portrait of innovation, resource management, and community.  As part of the story, William shares how he attempted to combat bullying in his life with the aid of what he thought would be a quick fix elixir concocted by an acquaintance.

At the age of nine, William struggled with bullies who “stalked and tormented” him in the schoolyard.  “It was a time of crippling humiliation,” William writes.

Out of desperation and hope for relief from these torments, William turns to a powdery substance to be rubbed into the veins in his hands.  For this to happen, his hands need to be cut open with a razor so that the powder, made up of “the blackened bones of the lion and leopard, along with other powerful roots and herbs,” can enter his veins and make him the “strongest boy in school.”

William endures the stinging pain of what felt like “hot coals” and blood spilled from his hands, as the acquaintance finished the task.  It took three days for William to feel the strength of the anti-bully remedy.  On the fourth day, William, buoyed with confidence, seeks to try out his new powers and steps on the foot of a boy twice his size and strength, to garner a reaction from the bigger boy.  While William lands a few punches at the start of this confrontation, he quickly finds himself flat on his back and receiving a beating from the boy.  William is genuinely stunned that his powers failed him.

William returns to the boy who inserted the powdery substance into his veins and asks what happened.  The boy asks William if he washed after the substance had been put inside his veins.  William responds yes, and the boy informs him, “Well, that’s why. My medicine doesn’t allow you to bathe.”

At age nine, who wouldn’t want to believe that a powdery substance could solve the perils of bullying?

However, there are two critical pieces missing from this story:  the parents and the school. William, believing himself to be alone and without choice, resorts to a painful remedy, and suffers in silence and isolation, without the support of his teachers and parents.

At the youngest ages, children are subject to bullying, and parents are rightfully worried, concerned, and want advice and counsel.

In The Playground Gets Even Tougher, New York Times reporter Pamela Paul shares the findings of a recent nationwide Harris survey: “67 percent of parents of 3- to 7-year-olds worry that their children will be bullied.”

Bullying at the younger ages can come in the form of exclusion from games, taunting, name-calling, ignoring, and children making fun of clothing, school supplies, and appearances.

Where does the behavior come from? Is it part of the larger culture of media and TV and the case of “monkey see, monkey do,” as Ottawa University professor Tracy Vaillancourt wonders in The New York Times.  Maybe, but as with any behavior, if it is not discouraged or called out as inappropriate, it can continue to swell and grow in any setting.

What happens when an incident occurs?  If it happens at school, the teacher needs to communicate with the parents so that conversation takes place at school and at home.  The most successful learning environments are the ones where schools and parents partner to help kids navigate the murky waters of the playground and hallways at school.

Pamela Paul, in The New York Times, shares the story of Caroline Port, who had been bullied when she was in first grade. Caroline’s mother noted that Caroline was waking up with “night terrors, sleepwalking, and crying excessively.”  Caroline’s mother, after meeting with Caroline’s teacher, rightly asked, as reported in The New York Times, “Why hadn’t anyone told me?”

Schools can’t wait to communicate with parents when bullying incidents happen.  The close partnership that happens with regular communication between home and school ensures that kids don’t get lost in the shuffle on the playground, and go it alone, as William had to do.

Early elementary age students are constantly trying to figure out the landscape of social interaction at recess.  Parents rely on teachers to communicate when incidents occur, so that parents can reinforce positive messages at home, and help children to figure out appropriate responses and word choice when communicating with peers.

Parents need to be part of the solution and not the problem.  Pamela Paul highlights that some parents fuel “Queen Bee” behavior in young girls, and can be happy that their daughter “is so popular.”

No parent wants their child to be subject to bullying, and no parent wants their child to be the bully.  Without guidance and support from schools, though, parents may not know where and how to have the conversation with their child around how to foster kind behaviors and combat unkind behaviors on the playground.

If schools and parents do not join forces to create positive cultures in schools, then kids may end up going underground and devise dangerous solutions to escape bullying.  The last thing schools and parents want is for kids to feel desperate and cook up anti-bullying powders, like William Kamkwamba did.

Read Full Post »

Check out my interview with Education Week.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.