How the Arts Unlock the Door to Learning

 

Student achievement was down. Teachers were demoralized. Until a bold strategy — integrating the arts into curricula — helped students embrace their learning and retain their knowledge. Today the faculty, staff, and students of Maryland’s Bates Middle School are crafting a whole new vision of school transformation.

What do Mars and modern dance have to do with each other? How do you connect fractions with Andy Warhol? At Wiley H. Bates Middle School, in Annapolis, Maryland, the answer is arts integration. Every teacher there is committed to weaving the arts and standard curricula together to create a richer and more lasting learning experience for their students.

Arts integration goes beyond including art projects in class; it is a teaching strategy that seamlessly merges arts standards with core curricula to build connections and provide engaging context. For example, in a science classroom you might see students choreographing a dance using locomotor and nonlocomotor movements to demonstrate their understanding of rotation versus revolution of the planets (PDF). In a math class, you might see students learning fractions by examining composition in Warhol’s Campbell’s soup paintings.

(See more arts-integrated lesson plans from Bates.)

What we also saw in these classrooms were students who were enthusiastically participating in the learning process, and having fun. It’s not revelatory to say that the arts can engage kids. But that that engagement can also be leveraged to boost academic growth and improve discipline seems like a secret that really needs to be revealed. When you see how the kids embrace these lessons, hear them tell how art helps them remember concepts better, and learn about the improvements teachers have noted in student understanding and retention, it makes you wonder why more schools aren’t integrating the arts in every class.

A Whole-School Reform

Bates decided to become a fully arts-integrated school in 2007 as the primary initiative in a whole-school reform effort. Other initiatives in their school improvement plan (PDF) included Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), an operational framework for implementing practices and interventions to improve academic and behavioral outcomes, and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a college readiness system with research-based methods for elementary through postsecondary students. Their principal at the time, Diane Bragdon, had brought the school back from the brink of failure and now was ready to aim its trajectory squarely toward greater success. Bragdon got the support of Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, long a proponent of schools of choice, who knew well the impact arts integration had had in other Maryland schools. The district applied for a four-year grant called Supporting Arts Integrated Learning for Student Success (SAILSS) from the U.S. Department of Education and was one of 15 districts and schools to receive it.

Arts integration goes beyond including art projects in class; it is a teaching strategy that seamlessly merges arts standards with core curricula to build connections and provide engaging context.

Since they started implementing arts integration schoolwide in 2009, Bates has seen a 23 percent drop in the average number of referrals and suspensions per student. The school’s percentage of students proficient or advanced in math has grown four times more than the state’s over the same period, and five times more in reading. Not all lessons are taught with arts integration, but Bates takes pains to diligently track those that have been in a regular log (PDF), and they report substantial improvements in student comprehension and retention.

Why Does Arts Integration Work?

Why does it work? Arts integration uses teaching practices that have been shown in brain-based research to improve comprehension and long-term retention. For example, when students create stories, pictures, or other nonverbal expressions of the content they are learning — a process researchers call elaboration — they are also helping to better embed the information. In one eighth-grade math class, students prepared for a test on linear equations by creating photo stories of the steps involved. This required that teacher Laura Casciato spend nearly a full class period teaching about basic principles of design (PDF). She explained the trade-off: “It was an easy decision to spend time on the art because we know that they retain that information better. They’re going to look at that test and say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that information from my photo.’”

As with any new initiative, there are a number of factors that must be in place for it to succeed. With arts integration, high-quality professional development is essential. Teachers don’t need to be “artistic” to be able to use arts integration; they just need to learn some of the fundamentals so they will be better able to think of ways to merge art concepts with other content. For example, knowing the basic elements of design, such as emphasis, balance, contrast, and repetition, enabled Casciato to teach her students how to create more informative photo compositions to illustrate each step in solving a linear equation (PDF).

(Read tips for administrators and teachers for getting started with arts integration.)

Bates used the bulk of their grant money for professional development, which they started in the 2007-08 school year. They have PD Thursdays every other week, and at least one per month is on arts integration. Last year (2011-12) was the final year of their grant funding. Teachers report they are now well versed in arts standards and know how to create arts-integrated lessons. Many now train their colleagues and new teachers entering the school.

Beyond engagement and retention, adults and students at Bates cite numerous other benefits of arts integration: It encourages healthy risk taking, helps kids recognize new skills in themselves and others, provides a way to differentiate instruction, builds collaboration among both students and teachers, bridges differences, and draws in parents and the community. Plus it’s just plain fun.

Lastly, there’s equity. If we agree that the arts can provide all kinds of benefits for kids, from intellectual to creative to social-emotional, then shouldn’t all kids have the opportunity to learn about and experience them? But far too few schools have either the funding or the bureaucratic support to make this a priority, a lack often born out of fear of sacrificing academic achievement. What Bates and many other arts-integrated schools across the country are showing is that by creating a richer, more memorable learning experience through the arts, they unleash not only a rising tide of academic achievement but they lay the foundation for what it means to be a truly creative community.

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Why Identity and Emotion are Central To Motivating the Teen Brain

(iStock)

For years, common experience and studies have prescribed that humans learn best in their earliest years of life – when the brain is developing at its fastest. Recently, though, research has suggested that the period of optimal learning extends well into adolescence.

The flurry of new findings may force a total rethinking of how educators and parents nurture this vulnerable age group, turning moments of frustration into previously unseen opportunities for learning and academic excitement.

New evidence shows that the window for formative brain development continues into the onset of puberty, between ages 9 and 13, and likely through the teenage years, according to Ronald Dahl, professor of community health and human development at the University of California, Berkeley. Dahl spoke at a recent Education Writers Association seminar on motivation and engagement.

Adolescence is a tornado of change: Not only is it the period of fastest physical change in life – aside from infancy – but also newfound drives, motivations, and feelings of sexuality are amplified. There are profound shifts to metabolisms and sleeping cycles, as well as social roles – especially in the context of schools. During these years, motivation is propelled not by a tangible goal to work toward, but by a feeling of wanting and thirst. Within the tumult of pre-teens or teens is an opportunity to enhance their desire and interest to learn.

In the past decade, neuroscientists have been able to identify what makes the adolescent brain so geared for the kind of inquiry that can pay dividends in the classroom. As children enter adolescence, some developing neural systems have already stabilized, Dahl said. But puberty creates a whole new set of elastic neural systems that, when interacting with the already stabilized systems, offers unique windows of opportunity for engagement and experiencing the world around them in multiple ways.

“Adolescence is a perfect storm of opportunities to align these changes in positive ways,” Dahl said. “Learning, exploration, acquiring skills and habits, intrinsic motivations, attitudes, setting goals and priorities: There’s compelling need for transdisciplinary research to understand unique opportunities for social and emotional learning. But few people do it in fear of these challenges.”

These new scientific insights have large implications for how schools teach adolescents, which have traditionally viewed this age group astroublesome.

The feelings of acceptance, rejection, admiration, among others, are all the story of adolescence. Children in this age group also seek physical sensations and thrills. There’s heightened awareness of social status, especially as they realize that acts of courage can earn them higher social status among peers. Their wildly swinging neurological systems also mean that adolescents can readjust quickly – making those years critical for educators to engage students in “the right ways,” when the brain is learning to calibrate complex social and emotional value systems that use feelings as fast signals, Dahl said.

Contrary to common belief, children in this age range don’t actually have “broken brains.” Rather, these children are undergoing a profound update to how they process the world around them. Adolescents are often considered bad decision-makers who are thrill-seekers. These myths, however, stem from young people’s desire to display courage, which is valued across cultures — and adolescents constantly seek the emotional satisfaction of being admired. In fact, Dahl said that adolescents take risks to overcome their fears, not seek them out.

“[Adolescents] are learning about the complex social world they must navigate, including the hierarchies, social rules for gaining acceptance and status, and the mystifying discovery of a sexual self,” Dahl said. “This is a flexible period for goal engagement, and the main part of what’s underneath what we think about setting goals in conscious ways – the bottom-up-based pull to feel motivated toward things.”

Adding to the confusion over how best to respond to adolescents is a wave of research showing children around the world are entering puberty at younger ages. One report found that in the 1860s, puberty for girls began at age 16. In the 1950s, it occurred at 13. Today it’s closer to eight years old. The transition for boys is similar, according to the report. The earlier onset of these pronounced biological changes puts pressure on educators and parents to update their expectations for what it means to be young, and how youth plays into adulthood.

“This is an interesting potential opportunity, with the longer time to learn activated motivational systems, longer time to increase skills and develop patterns of developing knowledge,” Dahl said. “If kids grow up in opportune settings, they can take advantage of the scaffolding and freedom to go on to take adult roles. But the risks are probably more amplified than opportunities for kids in disadvantaged settings.”

It’s still unclear how the earlier development happening in children might create other sets of challenges, Dahl noted, but it’s evident that it’s a key development window of motivational learning, a time when the brain more intensely senses motivational feelings, strengthening the patterns of connections to heartfelt goals, and creates potential for deep, sustained learning.

This period of learning is exemplified by even the forbidden love of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The young couple is brought together by a single brief encounter, after which all mental processes of planning, goals, motivations, longing, and desire are transformed. They begin to obsess over reuniting, and would sacrifice anything – including comfort, safety, family, and friends – to be together again.

Without the context that adolescents’ motives can explode entirely by the spark of a single passion, Romeo and Juliet’s story would be one of utter insanity, Dahl said. But adolescents’ abilities to rapidly reshape motivations and goals both supports their emotional volatility as well as presents a key period to find love – not necessarily romantically for others, but for academic activities and goals.

“With the feelings that pull you to persevere, maybe [adolescence is] a particularly opportune time to fall in love with learning itself, to love that feeling of exploring,” Dahl said. “There’s a new window to create that ‘Yes!’ feeling.”

This story was written for the Education Writers Association and originally appeared there.

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Minecraft for Moms – What You Need to Know

Minecraft for Moms

 

It seems like everywhere you look these days, a hot technology topic when it comes to kids is MINECRAFT.  Considering all the gaming apps that are out there, it can be hard for parents to navigate the good from the bad and even harder to understand how best to monitor and manage their kids usage of them.

Okay, so here are the main points you want to know:

What is it:

Minecraft is a gaming app, available for all types of mobile phones and tablets as well as gaming systems like the Xbox and playstation and even for your PC. The most common version of the game for younger children to play is the Pocket Edition, which is available for android and iPhone as well as the iPad.  The majority of this post will be specific to this version of Minecraft.

The easiest way to describe the game is virtual legos, but that is definitely an oversimplification. The graphics and even some of the basic functions of the game will at first appear poorly made or terribly outdated, like some kind of strange old school video game.  However, once you watch your kids in action on the game and see all  the ways they use their creativity to construct buildings and interact with their environment, you’re likely to recognize the genius of this game’s simplicity. In many ways, it’s almost a blank canvas without the typical rules and boundaries of a highly designed game. This sense of freedom seems to be a big part of the game’s appeal to kids.

How is it Played: 

There are two modes of the game available: Creative and Survival

Creative: This is where all children should start to get a feel for the game and is probably the better option for younger children, end of story. In this mode, players all become the generic character “Steve”(they can add their own name if they prefer, but everyone looks the same) and they are deposited into a minecraft world that basically looks like a typical landscape, with grass, hills, trees,sky,  and some lakes or ponds. There is also the occasional farm animal such as a sheep.  Players are able to select from a large variety of materials to build any structure they can dream up.  They can make houses of stone or glass that can be on the ground or in the air with gardens and trap doors. Again, it sounds pretty straightforward, but I was amazed when I saw how elaborate and unique my kids projects were.

Survival: Alright, so for those who have at least a little familiarity with Minecraft, you’re probably wondering about the zombies and the creepers you’ve heard about.  Those appear in this version of the game.  Again, due to the rudimentary graphics, these are not super scary and there is no real blood or gore.  Survivor mode is just like it sounds. In this version of the game you don’t have unlimited access to all the building materials and other resources that are available like you do in the creative version. You actually have to go out and find them. You start the game during “daytime” and have a limited amount of time to find what you need to stay alive and build some kind of dwelling to keep you safe. Once night falls, all the more sinister elements of the game come out and you have to fight to survive. Again, I know this sounds a little bit scary, but we’ve allowed our five year old to play this version of the game and she loves it. No nightmares, no fear, nothing! Why, because it’s too much fun, and its challenging. Players in survivor mode have to be clever and strategize to survive. Also, while you can “die” you basically are just recycled right back into the game again.

In either mode, there is no “winning” and no end goal. It is open ended and just an endless invitation to think bigger and better and create more.

Multi-Player:

The aspect of the game that most kids really enjoy is the fact that they can “connect” with others and play together.   Now, by “connect” I don’t mean to the internet where any crazy can hop in their Minecraft world with them.  The primary way to “connect” is on a shared network, most commonly your home network. If you have your network set up properly, it will be password protected, so no outsiders can access it (if you don’t ….that post is coming). For older and more advanced players, there are ways to connect to other outside Minecraft servers, but this is not something built into the game.  Unlike many other gaming apps, Minecraft does not automatically connect to the internet or require the internet to run.

We encourage parents to take advantage of the multi-player part of the game and actually play WITH their children so they understand how the basics of the game work. This will also enable you to try out the “survivor” mode and decide if or when your child might be ready for this next step. My husband and I have both played with our kids. My husband is Minecraft rockstar and he enjoys it so much I often have more trouble getting him off the game than the kids.  I confess, I’ve struggled with it a bit, but even I’ve managed to pull together a fairly impressive glass house in the sky decorated with artwork and boasting it’s very own sunflower garden. I even have had various pet sheep. My kids LOVE when I play with them, even if its only for ten minutes and they also really enjoy playing together. (yes, my kids enjoy playing together, this is a shocking side effect of this game).

Minecraft Pros:

Minecraft is not just some mindless activity, nor is it like any other gaming app. Whether in creative or survivor mode, players are required to think and create and strategize. There is a need for spatial understanding (geometry) and design. Plus, as mentioned, many children find the fun of the game enhanced by playing with multiple people. Doing this requires collaboration and communication.

Minecraft can also be expanded with “secret” elements or the introduction of “mods” (modifications) that enable new features.  Kids can find much of this on YouTube, but again you want to make sure you have the parental controls enabled (you can watch a video about it HERE)  The other major source of this type of Minecraft info is the Official Minecraft Wiki.  Researching and discovering the game enhancements, presents another new and engaging level of the game for kids and presents another opportunity for teamwork as they will often share and teach each other what they’ve learned.

Minecraft has been so successful in teaching kids some fundamental learning concepts that it is even being used in schools as  an educational tool. It has also spawned a number of options that introduce kids to the basics of computer programming. These include online courses  as well as something called “LearntoMod”, which will be introduced in October 2014.  These are add-ons to the game, which allow players to use code to design their own customization for the game (new tools, animals, or even creepers).  For more info Click HERE.

If you want to know even more about the benefits of Minecraft, check out this great article, “Hey, Parents. What Minecraft is Doing to Your Kids is Kind of Surprising.”

Minecraft Cons:

Minecraft is a teensy weensy bit additctive, especially since there is no “official” end.  However, as long as you set time limits and clearly communicate those limits to your children, then you shouldn’t have problems when it comes time to leave “Steve” behind until next time. However, like most activities that kids get absorbed it, a smooth transition is best facilitated with a five minute warning before it’s time to wrap things up.

If you truly find that it becomes a struggle to get your kids off the game (or any technology for that matter), it may be time for a technology break. You can simply tell them, “It seems that you are having a hard time using technology in a healthy way right now. Technology is fun, but it can’t be something we do all the time. Let’s take a break and in a week (or whatever time frame you set), we can try again.”

How Much Does it Cost:

Pocket Edition for Android and iOS $6.99
(This is the only cost, there are NO in-app purchases)

Xbox 360 $19.99

Playstation $19.99

You can even play it on your desktop PC – $26.95

You can find links to purchase any of these versions HERE.

7 Chrome Apps for Science (STEM) Education

1- 3D Solar System

This is a 3D solar system simulation application, which gives you the approximate location of the planets in the solar system at different time, and some information about each one of them.

2- Anatomy 3d

Anatomy 3D provides you with a bunch of interactive tools to use to dissect, explore and learn about the human body in 3D. The tool is also available for Android and iOS users.

3- Anatomy Games

This extension offers users a variety of anatomy games and atlases to help them learn about human anatomy

4- Planetarium

Planetarium is a beautiful interactive sky map that students can use to explore the stars and learn about planets. The tool shows over 1500 stars with a magnitude of up to “+5”.

5- Useful Periodic Table

This is a periodic table of the elements that has all the elements and most of their respective properties collected and stored in one easy to use and simple to find location.  Contained within this periodic table is a unit converter that will convert some of the scientific dimensions.  Also, containing links to wikipedia for further literature on that element that you wish to know.  Great for students because of the elements quiz contained within.

6- BioDigital Human

The BioDigital Human is a 3D platform that simplifies the understanding of anatomy, disease and treatments. Explore the body in 3D!

7- Anatomy Skills : Bones

Learn all of the major bones in the human body using three different modes: Learn, Game and Quiz. The app covers all of the major bones in the body from the phalanges to the femurs. Carefully selected graphics make the features easy to identify.

Obama, free community college may not work

Graduates from a community college.

In his SOTU, President Obama proposed making community college tuition free for two years

Michael Horn: We need a better strategy for skills training before going down the track of subsidizing students

“Michael B. Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation and executive director of its education program. He is author of “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools” and “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.”

(CNN)In his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed making community college tuition free for two years to boost college graduation rates and lift more people into the middle class.

Unfortunately, his plan doesn’t make the grade. The proposal would not only pile up more debt by further subsidizing runaway college costs, it would also perilously undercut the emergence of more innovative educational programs designed to help students succeed in the workforce.

Offering only a lukewarm pathway to the job market, community colleges are incapable of fulfilling the President’s lofty ambitions. Although there are some high-performing community colleges and stellar stories of success for certain students, the overall picture of success at two-year community colleges is dismal.

According to the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, only 22% of students graduate within three years, and 28% graduate within four. More telling, 80% of students say they want a bachelor’s degree or higher, and yet only 20% of these students transfer to a four-year institution within five years.

Even for those who earn a community college degree, it often isn’t as useful as other options. Thanks to credential inflation, pursuing a professional certification — which more clearly indicates a person’s skills than a degree — often pays off better than an associate’s degree, according to Census Bureau data.

The conversation around making community college free also masks a larger problem, which is that community colleges are already heavily subsidized and far less affordable than commonly believed.

At $3,300, community college tuition is well under the $5,730 currently available in Pell Grant aid to low-income students. But the expenditure per student at a community college — the true cost of the education — is far higher, about four times more at $13,000 per student. That means that more than 60% of the cost of community college isn’t paid for through tuition, but through various forms of government aid at the federal, state and local levels.

As a result, even if the President’s plan passed, it wouldn’t help the large number of already-overcrowded community colleges that have waiting lists numbering in the thousands. Tuition is only a small part of the funding needed to educate additional students.

What’s more, because of the limited productivity gains possible in the community college model, those costs will continue to rise, which means that tuition will, too. The proposal’s $60 billion price over 10 years is likely to grow with only a questionable return on the investment.

Opinion: Two years of free community college makes sense

The larger question the proposal misses is not how to allow students to afford college, but how to make college affordable. There’s a huge distinction. The focus should be to make postsecondary education less costly and of better quality, such that the question of how to afford it becomes manageable. The President’s proposal merely charges education, in the form of debt for future generations of taxpayers, rather than changes it.

Instead we need to encourage students to seek innovative offerings that are lower cost and improve the quality and accessibility of higher education.

Such options are emerging. Patten University offers a new online, competency-based program that charges undergraduate tuition of $350 per month, or $1,316 per term. Tuition includes access to as many courses as one can complete and all the ebooks and course materials needed, and Patten receives no government funding. Another online, competency-based program, Southern New Hampshire’s College for America, charges annual tuition of $2,500.

Rather than supporting innovative options like Patten and Southern New Hampshire, the President’s plan would nudge students toward a community college sector that is incapable of repositioning its model around student success and fuel rising college costs.

5 ways community colleges are fixing higher education

If enacted, the President’s proposal would be unlikely to achieve its ultimate aims and would exacerbate a larger problem lurking behind college financing. Although the plan amounts to little more than political posturing given the current congressional makeup, it will negatively influence the political conversation around higher education in the years ahead.

By supporting free community college, President Obama is merely kicking the can down the road for future generations to confront. We need a better strategy for skills training overall before we go further down the track of subsidizing students to attend community college only to emerge with little to show for it.

 

Taking Control of Technology Before Technology Takes Over Your Family

Taking Control of Technology Before Technology Takes Over Your Family

  

Now that we’ve posted our first few articles in our Technology 101 for Parents Series, I’ve been noticing many of the comments from parents frustrated by the constant struggle technology seems to present in their families.   Here are some of the most common things I’ve heard parents say over the last few weeks:

 “I can’t get my kids to stop playing on their DS/Wii/Playstation/iPad/Phone”

“Anytime I tell them to turn it off, it turns into a major battle”

“It feels like technology is taking over our lives”  

While I absolutely sympathize and I understand how managing technology and our kids can feel overwhelming for parents, we really do have the ability to take control of technology before technology takes over our families.

Step 1
Well, I think there is an obvious starting place for this conversation – it’s us parents.  Before we can even begin to help our children to make wise choices when it comes to technology use, we have to ask ourselves exactly what behaviors are we modeling? If we aren’t exercising discipline and we’re constantly on our devices, we can’t expect anything different from our children.

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Step 2

We need some basic rules and boundaries that we’ve actually discussed with our kids and that we are sure they understand.  So, here are some “house tech rules” that should help tame the technology monster that has taken over your household. (there’s a super cute printable at the end of the post. Hang it over your family computer or on the fridge to serve as reminder for your kids and for you)

1. Technology is a Privilege Not a Right

As parents we ARE obligated to provide some basics to our children. These are their rights as our children and include things like food, shelter, clothes, a K-12 education and our love.  Nowhere in the parent agreement does it state we MUST provide them with a TV, an  iPhone, an iPad, a Computer, two different gaming systems with games for each and endless hours utilizing these various technologies. Those are NOT rights.

I have told my children for several years now, “your expectation for technology time should be zero, anything you get above that should be considered a privilege.” Then I make a cute little “zero” with my hands together kind of like the little hand hearts young people like to make these days. This helps them to understand that having technology available and being given the opportunity to use it is not an automatic, they have to hold up their end of being part of our family or else technology is the first thing to go. It also helps them to be appreciative of technology time when they have it.

2. All Technology Must Be Parent Approved

Whether it’s watching a certain television show, downloading a new app, using our family computer (which sits in our open living room by the way so we can always monitor them on it) or purchasing a new video game, they MUST ask our permission.  If they do not, and this includes at other people’s houses, and we find out then it results in a TOTAL loss of all technology. Each family has to determine for themselves the length of the time-out from tech based on the offense, but this is a zero tolerance policy and we as parents should NEVER make an exception.

If you are unsure about whether or not something is appropriate for your child – A simple visit to Common Sense Media should provide you with all the info you need.

3. We Value People More Than Technology

How often has your child completely ignored a request you’ve made b/c they are zombified by the TV or else maybe you’ve heard your children using unkind words when they are playing a video game with a friend or sibling.  Our children need to be taught to value their relationships and that those relationships should always be put first.

If my child fails to respond to me, because they are too absorbed in technology,  then the technology gets turned off for the rest of the day and sometimes the rest of the week.

When it comes to how we treat people when technology is involved, whether it’s smack talk gone too far when playing video games or for older kids it could be using texting or social media to be cruel to another child, I once again will remove the technology at that moment.  However, we will talk about why they made the choices they did and how to be better next time. If the behavior becomes repetitive, then we “take a break” for a determined amount of time until they can prove they are deserving of another opportunity.

4. Devices Don’t Come to the Dinner Table

Period. End of Story. The End. This is the best chance we have as parents to connect with our children and find out what is going on in their lives. If everyone is too busy with tech, then we lose out on this important family time.

5. There is No Tech Behind Closed Doors

There is plenty of evidence to support  that when children have TV’s, computers and other technology in their bedrooms it is not a great idea. However, this is really a family by family choice.  Whatever you choose though, there is NEVER a reason that a child (toddler to teen) needs to have technology of any kind behind a closed door. It simply invites trouble and while most of us want to trust our kids, why provide temptation that isn’t absolutely necessary.

6. Chores and Homework Come Before TV and Video Games

This goes back to technology being a privilege and not a right.  Our kids need to be able to put their responsibilities to their family first and also to adopt the work before play principle. This is also a step in teaching our children about priorities and how to put first things first.

7. Turn it Off is NOT a Negotiation

I do not demand my children turn off the TV or quit a game they are playing on our iPad without some warning, this is only fair. I will give at least a five minute notice before I am expecting them to turn it off.  However, after the grace period is up, I’ve made it clear that they should not beg for more time, whine and complain, or even worse, have some sort of tantrum.   In the event this occurs, no more technology privileges for a set period of time.  When they get tech time back, I remind them why they lost it and that they will have the same consequence doubled if it happens again.

8. We Break It We Help Pay to Replace It

Let’s face it, most technology is expensive. It is okay to talk with our kids about the investment  made in a purchase and the importance of caring for our possessions properly.  For our littles, we need to show them the right and wrong way to handle these different devices and for all our kids there should be an established safe place to put things when they are done using them.  If our kids are careless, then they absolutely need to, at a minimum, share the burden of paying for a replacement. For older kids this money can come out of an allowance or savings or they can do extra chores to earn the money to help replace the broken item.  Younger children may not be able to monetarily help, but it may mean an item just isn’t replaced or else if it is, they no longer can use it.

9. We Use Technology Appropriately or We Lose It

Using tech in a way that could potentially harm any human being, including oneself is inappropriate. This means you’re going to need to have age appropriate conversations with your child about the dangers that exist online. There needs to be a clear understanding about the language & photos that are acceptable vs. unacceptable to be placed online. Do not assume your child “knows better”, be blunt & state the obvious. We also need to coach them on appropriate social etiquette and how to be respectful online.  Children, and many adults,  feel a false sense of anonymity when they are interacting with others online and may act in ways or say things that they never would in other situations.

We can have good kids, but that doesn’t mean they will ALWAYS make good decisions.   Children do not have fully developed decision making capabilities or the ability to think through their decisions to the long-term consequences even in their teens.  That is why they are ours until they are at least 18.  If they do not demonstrate the maturity necessary to handle different aspects of technology appropriately, then they don’t deserve to have the technology. Both for their safety and the safety of others. Don’t be afraid to be the bad guy, you know your child better than anyone and it is your job to be their parent, not their friends.

“If we do not teach our children, society will.
And they-and we-will live with the results.”

– Stephen Covey

Below you will find a link for this Family Technology Rules Printable.  We will also be publishing another post in the Technology 101 for Parents Series soon geared towards older children and establishing a family technology contract. You won’t want to miss it, so be sure to sign up for our weekly email newsletter: http://eepurl.com/WXOv5

Taking Control of Technology Before Technology Takes Over Your Family

Links

5 Ways to Stay Safe (Relatively) on the Internet for Parents and Students

 

Click on any title to learn more about each tip.

1- Enable SafeSearch

By enabling SafeSearch, you can filter out most of the mature content that you or your family may prefer to avoid. If an inappropriate result does sneak through, you can report it to Google.

2- Filter YouTube Content by Enabling Safety Mode

If you’d prefer to not to see mature or age-restricted content as you browse YouTube, scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and enable Safety Mode. Safety Mode helps filter out potentially objectionable content from search, related videos, playlists, shows, and films.

3- Control what your family Sees on The Web

If you want to control which sites your family can visit on the Internet you can use Supervised Users in Google Chrome. With Supervised Users you can see the pages your user has visited and block the sites you don’t want your user to see.

4- Limit access to just approved apps and games

Want to share your tablet without sharing all your stuff? On Android tablets running 4.3 and higher, you can create restricted profiles that limit the access that other users have to features and content on your tablet. Learn more about this feature from this page.

5- Use app ratings to choose age-appropriate apps

Just like at the movies, you can decide which Google Play apps are appropriate for your family by looking at the ratings: everyone, low maturity, medium maturity, or high maturity. You can filter apps by level, and also lock the filtering level with a simple PIN code (keeping other users from accidentally disabling the filter).

Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?

This article was originally posted in the NY TImes:

The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.

(We tried to include other factors, including income mobility and measures of environmental quality, but we were not able to find data sets covering all counties in the United States.)

 

We used disability — the percentage of the population collecting federal disability benefits but not also collecting Social Security retirement benefits — as a proxy for the number of working-age people who don’t have jobs but are not counted as unemployed. Appalachian Kentucky scores especially badly on this count; in four counties in the region, more than 10 percent of the total population is on disability, a phenomenon seen nowhere else except nearby McDowell County, W.Va.

Remove disability from the equation, though, and eastern Kentucky would still fare badly in the overall rankings. The same is true for most of the other six factors.

The exception is education. If you exclude educational attainment, or lack of it, in measuring disadvantage, five counties in Mississippi and one in Louisiana rank lower than anywhere in Kentucky. This suggests that while more people in the lower Mississippi River basin have a college degree than do their counterparts in Appalachian Kentucky, that education hasn’t improved other aspects of their well-being.

As Ms. Lowrey writes, this combination of problems is an overwhelmingly rural phenomenon. Not a single major urban county ranks in the bottom 20 percent or so on this scale, and when you do get to one — Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit — there are some significant differences. While Wayne County’s unemployment rate (11.7 percent) is almost as high as Clay County’s, and its life expectancy (75.1 years) and obesity rate (41.3 percent) are also similar, almost three times as many residents (20.8 percent) have at least a bachelor’s degree, and median household income ($41,504) is almost twice as high.

http://goo.gl/pacOSn

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10 Must Reads about the “New” Literacies or 21st Century Learning

The literacy landscape is rapidly evolving to the extent that we can no longer expect what it will be like in the next coming years. Regardless of the nomenclature, whether you call them new literacies, emerging literacies, 21st century literacies , the traditional concept of literacy has definitely undergone so much transformations and modifications in the last two decades especially in the light of the the new technological advancements and the emergence of new forms of using and interacting with text. Literacy now entails more than just being able to decode (read) and encode (write) text, but also includes the ability to express and communicate through a multimodal system of signs, the ability to analyze, evaluate, synthesize, critically appraise and share different forms of information.

For those of you interested in delving deep into the concept of new literacies, the academic works below are definitely a must read. These books will help you understand the essence of 21st century  literacies and enable you to conceptualize a working definition of what they mean in an academic context.

1- New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning  . By Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel

2- The New Literacies: Multiple Perspectives on Research and Practice. By Elizabeth A. Baker EdD (Editor), Donald J. Leu (Foreword)

3- A New Literacies Reader: Educational Perspectives (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies). By Colin Lankshear (Editor), Michele Knobel (Editor).

4- What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media. By Scott McLeod (Editor), Chris Lehmann (Editor), David F. Warlick (Foreword)

5- Literacy in the New Media Age (Literacies). By Gunther Kress (Author)

6- Teaching with the Internet K-12: New Literacies for New Times. Donald J. Leu Jr. , Deborah Diadiun Leu , and  Julie Coiro.

7- Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. By Henry Jenkins (Author), Ravi Purushotma (Contributor), Margaret Weigel (Contributor), Katie Clinton (Contributor), Alice J. Robison (Contributor)

8- Handbook of Research on New Literacies. By Julie Coiro (Editor), Michele Knobel (Editor), Colin Lankshear (Editor), Donald J. Leu (Editor)

9- New Literacies In Action: Teaching And Learning In Multiple Media. By William Kist (Author)

10-  The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. By James Paul Gee