Techs & Balances

“Yes, kids love technology, but they also love legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.”   – K.G. 1st Grade Teacher 


In my classroom, there are eight Ipads making it a 2:1 student to iPad ratio. Still with a 2:1 ratio it’s important to be aware of the challenges of unnecessary use and it’s pivotal that I explicitly stress a balance early on.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I understand that the majority of my students are using an iPad for learning for the first their very first time.  My job as an educator when it pertains to rolling out these digital devices relies upon, the emphasis on balance, the promotion of ownership and shared responsibility,  and finally, deliberate and delicate approach dedicated to unraveling the misconceptions with both students and parents.

Each our classroom iPads have two student’s names stickered onto the back. The Ipads are enclosed in Kinder friendly and Kinder proof colored coded cases. Even with a 2:1 ratio, the students are still able to develop a sense of ownership over their devices. For starters, they have agreed to all signed the responsible use agreement / Ipad essential agreement that we came up with at the beginning of the year, agreeing to be respectful, responsible. In additioneach student also has their own personal folder on their device. That folder is used for them to store their iTime work.

I think the 2:1 ratio works well with this age group for two reasons. First, it promotes group work when we are researching, recording, collecting evidence, or helping one another on big projects.  Second, when doing independent work, such as when they add content to their individual iTime folders, it ensures that only a portion of them are handling iPads for a short period of time. These folders, saved on the iPad, allow my students preserve their work and showcase the progress of their passion projects over an extended period of time. Individual iTime folders also provide them have more opportunities to have a voice in what and how they learn.

Although it’s not 1:1 in my classroom Karen Kane 41 Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Your 1:1 Classroom still had some excellent takeaways. Specifically,  Reorganize your classroom space and flipping lessons.  


Mindful Moderation & Managment

When it comes moderation both the age of my students and the 2:1 ratio are both in my favor, however, real management has to be built over time. At the beginning of the year, I emphasized the importance of ensuring that my students understand that their time on the iPad is for learning purposes only. It has been explicitly stated in class over and over that the iPad is for creating, recording, and researching.  Apps on our iPad are only centered around open-ended creation tools such as Book Creator. Recordings are done through the use of SeeSaw or the camera app. Research is done by using Google Voice and asking questions through Google’s mobile app.  What they might do with an iPad at home is vastly different then what they do with them here. This took some time to explain and enforce as due to their age, many of my students have never used an iPad in this way before.  This works in my favor but it also extremely vital that as a role model, and one who might be introducing this tool for the first time in their lives, that I promote positive and purposeful use.

At this age, it’s equally important to Educate the parents for the same reasons.  By getting involved with events such as  Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings or informal Q & A workshops like Kim Cofino mentions in her post Living with Laptops from YIS,  you get everyone on the same page and alleviate any misconceptions and fears about passive screen time. Parents can help model similar structures and limits at home, reinforcing that home-school connection. As educators, we can introduce them to resources from Common Sense Media.  They have an excellent site that has a whole section on parenting in the digital age.  The following snippet, taken from the article, “Will my child be left behind if he/ she doesn’t use technology?”, sums up how well Common Sense does in assisting and alleviating parental concerns.

“Whether kids are no-tech by choice or circumstance, it’s important that all kids are prepared for success in a technology-filled world. Even if you prefer a tech-light environment, you can still talk to your kids about healthy media habits, such as balancing screen time, and digital citizenship, such as being nice to people online

By setting the tone early on for both parents and students  I’m ensuring that everyone involved a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, thus supporting learning both on — and off — the device. 


Tech Breaks

Zooming out a bit from my Kindergarten lens, I realize that this is an issue that can potentially affect students at all grade levels. In all actuality, it’s probably a lot easier to curb the tech obsession with early years and lower primary students than it is for teens in secondary school.

“Today’s note passing is text messages.”  writes  Larry D. Rosen   in his article, The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks ”  Later in his piece, Larry goes on to list a staggering fact from the Nielsen Company, “the average teen sends and receives 3,705 text messages per month, which translates to about 10 per waking non-school hour or about one every 6 minutes.”  Now, I’m not sure how many notes you wrote and passed in high school, but that statement sounds a bit excessive.  Rosen goes on to cite a national report by the Pew Internet and American Life  Project found.  stating that 58% of teens whose school bans cell phones have sent a text during class and 43% send texts at least once a day during class

As a member of the school’s technology committee, we have discussed the idea of rolling out Tech-Free Zones across our campus and unplugged time throughout the day. There have been talks to introduce and implement these new boundaries across the whole school at the beginning of the next academic year. Wondering now about similar resistance and backlash like the stats state above, I’m now leaning towards another unique strategy to curb teen tech enthusiasm.  Taken from the NPR article titled,  “Should College Professor GIve “Tech Breaks” in Class? , the specific method mentioned brings a whole new meaning to the term “tech break.” In this case, students are given 1-minute breaks to check in (or check out) on their mobile device. It’s certainly an interesting approach and one I’d like to run by tech committee colleagues.

It may seem radical at first but by allocating specific time for students to get their tech fix, the teacher is actually making a point to harness student attention on his watch, placing value on both his time and his students.  Periodic breaks seem to be far more reasonable then shaming or micromanaging.  If delivered consistently, I could really see this helping to maintain student focus. It’s a deal that pays respect to both parties and acknowledges the ever persistent elephant in the room.


Balancing Brain Evolution & The Digital Revolution

The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls attention, interest, motivation, and decision-making, does not fully develop until age 25. Therefore there’s still a major responsibility for teachers, teens, and parents to remain mindful of self-regulation as well as the impact that too much tech can have on the developing brains.  The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a manuscript titledThe Digital Revolution and Adolescent Brain Evolution which goes into great detail on consequences and implications for adolescents in the digital age. It’s well worth the read and applicable to all of us.

Focused attention and participation as an age-old problem in Education, the inclusive of digital devices have certainly raised the stakes. Our fast-paced culture and ever-increasing infatuation with productivity haven’t helped either.  Implementing positive habits at a young age may be effective in the early years but as children, technology, and society continue to develop and change, we must aim for a respectful balance that addresses our needs and pays tribute to a shared responsibility to maintain a human to human connection.


Final Wonderings?

Are “Tech Breaks” the antidote for teens?

This week’s final wondering is a call back to a question from a #KchatAP that I recently hosted on Twitter.


 

Professionally Navigating Social Media

What do you know about your own digital footprint?”

“Have you ever reflected on the imprints you left behind?

These are the questions that we need to be asking both students and teachers.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a digital native or not, the physical realm and the digital realm have become so interwoven that everyone these days has a digital footprint. Technology and the radical social changes that come attached to it have completely changed our everyday lives. Social media and technology, whether you like it or not, have completely changed the way we interact with each other. The smartphone has replaced the camera. Cloud-based storage has replaced photo albums. You may not realize it but, you definitely have some left some sort imprint out there on the web. Don’t believe me, just have a look at this outrageous snippet from Business Insider  


That’s right. An estimated 120 billion photos will be taken in 2017 and a mere 10 % of them will be taken by a digital camera. 89.7% will be taken by a device that is most likely linked to social media. That’s a lot of potential uploads.  Keep in mind that this is just data pertaining to photos, it does not even account for the rest of one’s digital footprint such as emails, texts, forums, etc.

We’ve have agreed to trade-off our personal privacy and information for convenience, comfort, and entertainment. That die has already been cast. What we now must do now is self-reflect on the type of imprints we as educators have left behind and help others understand the importance and impact of their footprints from here on out.


A Professional Presence

In 2017 a  digital presence will certainly help aid you in attaining a job. Understand, however, that if left uncheck and uncared for it can at the same time lead to your future endeavors. An article from the Irish Independent, titled, Why your digital footprint could ruin your career, isn’t intended to be a scare tactic. It’s more of a wake-up call, bringing to light the awareness of the shifting guidelines revolving around our privacy our, digital choices, and real-life repercussions.

I know that I’ve gotten many interviews and at least one job partly because of my professional digital footprint. The interview mentioned looking at the contents of my professional teaching blog and my twitter. 
The following infographic below provides an interesting look into how recruiters use social networks to screen candidates.

In my last blog, I linked an article that focused on cleaning up your digital footprint.  Perhaps for teachers unsure of there’s, this would be a good place to start in order to develop and maintain one’s professional presence.


A Healthy Dose of Digital Awareness

 

Student’s should be taught about cyber ethics and netiquette from an early age just like they are taught about diet and well-being. I currently do it with my Kindergarten students.  I think it’s important that we look at maintaining personal protection and privacy the same way we look after our physical selves.  It is this mindset that parents, students, and teachers need to adopt. It’s essential that teachers maintain a healthy dose of digital safety awareness. It’s equally important for our students to fully understand the complexities of today’s digital age and how choosing to create a negative or unhealthy web persona could potentially jeopardize their future. More modeling from the top down, (admin to teachers, parents to students and even student to student), will help us all instill this paradigm shift into our own teaching and learning journeys, in and outside of the classroom.

Some teachers might view the digital realm and the physical world as two separate entities, but to the children and students who have grown up as digital natives, it’s all one.  The line between our personal self and our social media/ avatars is so strong that, Elon Musk claimed that we’re already cyborgs. Have a look at his entire chat from the 2016 Code Conference below


Final Wondering: With Great Power comes great (global) responsibility…

In that same video clip from the 2016 Code Conference, Elon Musk also mentioned that “We have more power than the president of the united states had 20 years ago.”  Is it not our civic duty to educate and encourage the next generation of web users?   Would it be wise to embedding #digcit classes into the curriculum like social & emotional learning, our essential agreements, and other approaches to learning?  Afterall, we need to teach students to become good citizens first and foremost. How many of you have thought about tieing it into the Global Goals for sustainable development?? If our goal as teachers is to make sure we leave the future of the world in the hands of good human beings then we need to start holding our digital footprint into the same high esteem as we hold our carbon footprint.  My final visual aid is from a Twitter chat last week, summing up my thoughts on weaving the real and digital world together with the same moral fabric. 

Connect Safely

In this brave new digital world, where nearly anything can be instantly accessed, what can you do to ensure you are connecting safely and protecting your privacy?

Here are just a few things you can do about it.

  1. Think Before You Post
  2. Be Aware that on the Internet, “Free” Still Comes with a Price
  3. Clean up your Digital Footprint 
  4. Seek out Resources and Continue to Educate Yourself

Speaking of resources, the following playlist, titled Protect, was created by @teachwatts and centers around privacy and internet safety.

Have a look, below.


Adopting the Mindset & Maintaining Personal Protection

In addition to students and teachers maintain a healthy level of digital safety awareness it’s important for the parents to fully understand the complexities of today’s digital age. After flipping through the COETAIL Course 2 Flipboard, I came across two articles that unraveled misconceptions and myths about internet safety, particularly on social media. The first article, What Social Media and the selfie Generation did to my teenage daughter,  written by Candice Curry, provides the perspective of a concerned parent who comes to realize some of the benefits of sharing, once one assumes positive intent. The article, as well as the mother’s change in attitude towards social media, is surmised with this phrase, “These are good kids doing their best to navigate through a world that has instant access to everything and every event the moment it happens.”  

She’s right, too.

I honestly couldn’t imagine what it must be like growing up as an impressionable teenager with the looming presence of social media around 24/7.

 The second article breaks down myths about kids internet safety and once again showcases that the positives outweigh the negatives, once one is educated enough to take the proper precautions. Once teachers and parents are educated than the misconceptions can start to unravel.  Changing one’s attitude about students on social media is just the beginning, and dare I say only half the battle.  Once the perception is changed the level of awareness towards one online safety should be reviewed and scrutinized often. 

What I mean is that maintaining personal protection is a mindset and teachers need to adopt, model, and instill this paradigm shift into their own teaching and learning within their classroom.  Parents do too. This communal effort that brings about positive consistency, knowledge, and strategies, will help our children as they navigate their own digital journey. The following ISTE standard for educators lays it out in a clear and concise way, while at the same time promoting the critical thinking skills needed in order to embrace the mindset of digital safety and security.

 

3b. Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency. 

We must remember that this mindset, like technology, will grow, change and require constant upkeep.  As potential digital threats such as hacking, phishing, identity theft, and ransomware continue to evolve, so should our critical thinking skills and level of awareness. One might feel overwhelmed by this notion but if we continue to share and look out for each other like the article about Social Media describes, then we will be about to protect each other from the potential pitfalls out there on the web. We should assume positive intent and take a communal approach to being vigilant and looking out for another so that we are educated and equipped to step confidently and connect safely in the digital world.

 


Final Wonderings
With Great Data Comes Great Responsibility

 Is self-selecting into Big Data unavoidable? The article from the Guardian, When Data gets creepy, is heavy albeit a must-read for those wondering about the responsibility, or lack thereof, that internet companies have with the handling of our personal information.  When it comes to maintaining that healthy awareness of one’s privacy and responsible use, we must not lose focus on those who create the “Terms and Conditions” in which we self-select into.  How do we as educators seek transparency from these big data companies so that we can ensure that they too act ethically,  responsibly, and follow their own acceptable use policies? 

 

@NicholasKGarvin