Tech-Free Zone

Tech-Free Zone

No phones allowed here. 

For the most part, technology is good and making our lives more efficient, easier, more connected, and creating more opportunity.

I think kids today have the opportunity to learn faster than any generation before them simply due to access to information and adaptive/personalized learning technologies.

However, we have to teach “technology etiquette and balance” along with the empathy and communication skills needed for in-person interactions. There are different and new skills to learn now, like how to balance online and “real life,” in-person relationships or how to turn off the phone and be present with those you are with.

We need to teach a balanced use of technology and a responsible use of technology. We should consider “technology-free zones and times” in our schools and homes. Kids today might have more opportunity, but there’s more responsibility that comes with access to a platform to interact with the world at the click of a button. Click here for more ideas.

Do you create technology-free zones or times in your life?

Assignment: 20% Time Reflection

How did we promote reflection when students completed their projects?

We gave students the following prompt and asked them the following questions:

Strive to write a 3-5 paragraph essay explaining the process, your accomplishments, some setbacks, and the final result. Most importantly, tell us what you’ve learned: about the world, about a specific topic, and about yourself!

How did I do?

What did I learn?

What impact can this experience have on others?

How can we make 20% Time better and increase opportunities for students across the district?

20% Time “Sunk Costs”

Students have finished up their 20% Time projects and their presentations this past week.

Their work has been interesting, inspiring, challenging, creative, and most importantly self-directed!

Recently, I’ve been learning about a concept called sunk costs.  I’ll be sharing more about this in future posts, but for now, just consider it a cost, whether it be time or money, that we’ll never get back.  

Did every student produce a finished/completed project, solution, prototype, work of art that can be brought to market, change the world, or make a giant impact on their community?  No.

But, the metacognition, project management, communication, critical thinking, analytical, and reflective skills gained are so important.  20% Time Projects aren’t so much about finishing. Rather, these projects are about starting – starting something without a map and making something of their own fruition.

The students dug-deep on their final blog posts too, the metacognition was evident. Students wrote about how they see themselves as learners, and their personal strengths and weaknesses (at this time demonstrating growth mindset).  Plus, they wrote about how they will apply this knowledge in other academic areas.

A few Fridays of work focused on projects that students enjoyed and that some will eventually complete more thoroughly on their own time over the next few months have a value that only time and persistence with self-directed learning will deliver on.

Sunk costs?  Nominal, if you ask me.

 

Making and creating

Photography and writing are two hobbies where I see myself as “making” something.  It’s not quite building the “built-in” shelving that I’m planning to tackle one day.  Still, it’s creating something new to me and to share with others.  Like cooking, it’s all from scratch.

I think that there’s a place for all art, mediums, and re-mixes of tools that we have available today. This might even seem odd for me to say since I have a background in environmental science and as an Earth science teacher.  But, in my work as an environmental specialist, I made GIS maps for various spatial analysis projects.  It was science, math, geography, art, and design combined.  Later, as a teacher, creating, delivering lessons, and facilitating activities were also creative endeavors.

Back to education.  What about making with art supplies (digital or traditional), or tools, or crafts?  Are we giving our kids enough experiences with every medium available to them and become creators?  Let’s prioritize creativity in the classroom.

With my own children, we’re regularly making and creating new projects, games, and art.  We enjoy all sorts of making from cardboard box castles or rocket ships to painting to gardening to using scraps of wood to make tracks for Hotwheels.  To engage with those moments of play and making are some of the best moments of parenting.

Recently, I’ve seen some really creative, student-centered and designed projects made by our students.  From 3D printed bobbleheads to cardboard mini-golf holes to MakeyMakey projects to Pop-Art sculptures to group paintings . . . I’ve seen so much creativity around my school district, and I know we’re just getting started.

Share some creative projects you’re working on or that you’re seeing in your schools.

Going first

During the close of a recent class, I overheard a conversation about the students presenting during their next class period.  Essentially, no one wanted to go first.

I interjected politely and encouraged that they should all be volunteering to present first, to set the bar high, to be confident, that there’s nothing to fear, and to want to go first.  Now, I understand that presenting in middle school and high school is nerve-racking for some kids.  It can even be that way for adults, (myself included sometimes)!

But, I guess what I’ve come to learn is that by embracing this ‘fear’ or apprehension in the first place, let alone going first, is simply a false fear.  Our limbic brain, the amygdala, no longer has to worry about predators, like tigers or wolves, in our modern, civilized world.  The limbic part of our brain controls fight or flight responses.  So, the common fear of public speaking is now something this part of our brain can stress over.

Things to share with kids:

  • Be proactive.  Take initiative, own responsibilities, and prepare.
  • Visualize and begin with the end in mind.
  • Know your content and material inside and out.  Start with the biggest tasks to prepare.
  • Rehearse with peers and family.
  • Use storytelling and narrative to engage your audience, which will help you be better able to recall it yourself.
  • Nothing bad will happen even if a mistake is made.

These tips came to mind after hearing this exchange among those kids. I hope that we can all create a culture of empathy and rapport so that all students can flourish into confident communicators.

Slow down, when you want to speed up

Last year I watched the documentary called FishPeople.  Intrigued by the story of Kimi Werner, (an amazing freediver, spearfisher, chef, and artist) I took time to watch her TEDx Talk.  She said something that resonated with me, “When you feel the need to speed up, slow down.”  This applies specifically to stressful, in the moment decision-making.

Her story and TEDx Talk is inspiring and motivational.  For me, it’s a nice reminder that slowing down is so important for so many reasons – not only decision-making or practicing empathy, but for connecting with family, personal reflection, connecting with nature, pursuing interests, or health, to name a few.

She also created a short film called Variables.

I hope everyone has the opportunity to slow down as we “speed” towards the end of school year, plus, the opportunity to slow down each day.

How do you slow down to speed up?

Questions and Commitments

Ms. DiDonato’s class is officially one month along with 20% Time.  There have been a few pivots with project ideas, but no drastic changes from the student’s project proposals.

There have been many questions, ranging from “Now what?” to “Should I learn Python or Scratch?” to “Can I prototype this again with cardboard since styrofoam didn’t work?”

The consistency has been a commitment to research, production, writing, and sharing.

Every other week, students report out progress via their blog.  The “non-blogging” weeks students must read and comment on three classmates blog posts.  The commenting has been productive.  Students are sharing not only words of encouragement, but thoughtful suggestions, strategies, or ideas.  At the very least, these are exercises in digital citizenship, collaboration, communication, writing, and creativity.