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?

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?

Zoned Out.

When was the last time you that “zoned out?”

Unfortunately, many of us easily fall into the trap of picking up our phone to be entertained instead of having a moment to think or zone out.  The smartphone and all of the apps are doing exactly what they were designed to do.  Admittedly, I get sucked into the “vortex,” too.  I try to focus my time online learning new things, reading, listening, etc. But I’m still on my phone, and still, the distraction device, ultimately, wins.  It’s a weird way to use our downtime now.  There’s been numerous evidence pointing to the importance of zoning out or daydreaming; letting our mind wander.  Do we get enough time to just sit with our thoughts, observe, to notice new opportunities, to problem solve, or to be creative?

If you remember, share the last time you zoned out.  Share how you have recently had the chance to daydream, to create something just for fun, or “waste time” devoid of technology.

Finally, I wonder if we shouldn’t be so quick to redirect a student staring out the window during a lesson.  For all we know, he/she is listening and thinking deeply, but perhaps not about what we feel is important.

Pursue Your Interests

20% Time: week two reflections:

I had the opportunity to visit Ms. DiDonato’s sixth grade ELA class again last week for 20% Time.  It was awesome!

Students journaled, worked on their interest finding charts, discussed and shared ideas and bounced new ideas off one another.  Their ideas for projects were taking shape.  Some students were still deciding upon ideas to take action on.  Everyone still has time.

Via Hangouts, we also had an excellent conversation/student interview with one of the Google for Education team members, Peter.

Students asked him great questions about his college and career path, his current work, if he gets 20% Time (yes, he does and he shared a cool project for “social good”), and other examples of interesting projects Google has launched.

One of the more interesting questions was: “What did he think about all of the devices and time spent on the Internet by kids?”  Peter’s response was solid.  It was thoughtful, articulate, and mission-driven.

One of the most important messages that Peter conveyed related perfectly to our 20% Time project.  It was that every student should pursue their interests and passions because opportunities will usually find us.