Parenting in the Digital Age

This week, our counselors and tech team hosted a parent coffee morning on the subject of “Parenting in the Digital Age”. As the parent of a rising first grader who will be asked to buy my child an iPad for use at school next year, I was very interested in hearing what was said at this morning meeting. 

As a member of our school strategy team, I have been working with Grade 1 teachers to analyse at we already do in relation to iPad use. Our wonderings are focusing around the big ideas of:

  • educating students to be more mindful
  • the developmental path toward self-regulation
  • tech addiction – what are the facts?
  • what are our intentions for using technology in the first place

I recently came across the organization ZeroToThree. They caught my eye on Twitter when offering a webinar about screen time for young children in which they were planning on talking about “minimizing the negative effects of screen time”. 

Screen Sense: All the Need-to-Know Research on Screens for Children Under Three from ZEROTOTHREE on Vimeo.

This was the first I had seen anyone suggest that negative effects existed. Take a look. Most people when you ask them (and I did) start talking about creation over consumption. This is good. I have said these same things before. But I haven’t known what to say when it comes to minimizing what we know to be true: that there are negative effects of extended time on screens. Here are my notes from the Webinar. And here is a really useful and detailed report on the research behind the webinar

So, what are my big takeaways from looking into this thus far: 

E-AIMS

Negative effects of screen time can be minimised if the quality of content that your child is consuming/interacting with is high. If the TV they are watching is educational and interactive, if the apps are challenging and require mind-on thinking. ZeroToThree suggest you evaluate media and apps using E-AIMS:

  • Is it engaging? Is there a goal or story as part of the experience?
  • Is the child actively involved – that is, are they required to have their minds on? Are they responding to questions? Is it interactive?
  • Is the content meaningful? Does it reflect their everyday life and therefore can they relate to it?
  • Is it (or can it be) social? Is it language rich? Is there talking or responding? For some games or online experiences, this element can be provided by an adult or other child so there is an element of exchange within the experience. 

There is a flowchart to guide you through choosing media content that is available for download on the ZeroToThree website

For a copy of the full flow-chart, visit the ZeroToThree Website.

Evaluate

The suggestion is that all media pass through a simple test: 

  • Is it age appropriate?
  • Is your child on ‘auto-pilot’ while using?
  • Is your child challenged but not frustrated? 

This made me think about apps we load on iPads. Do they pass this test? Are we paying as much time and attention to the apps our kids use as we do the books they read? Are we as discerning? Are we seeking out the same quality? Are we playing the games with our kids the same way we might read with them (or read the same book as them before they read it?). 

Or, as Marina Gijzen put it: 

Is it intentional or out of control? 

Great question. I would argue that we have good intentions but our reality does not always match up. We are inconsistent. We are human. We want to allow for student choice – except when they make “poor” choices. In the case of technology, I would argue a need for a family/home/school/class agreement. I would also advocate for teachers to be mindful of when they are asking kids to use their tech and when it could be tech free. Sure there are great brainstorming apps, but there are markers and paper and they work well too. What percentage of your lesson are you expecting or allowing kids to be on a device? Now multiply that by the number of classes your child has in a day. 

What is your school doing to address tech use in your school beyond the ‘creation/consumption’ mandate? How are we helping our kids to self-regulate their behavior?

In terms of my own parent community, I enjoyed listening to our parents at the coffee morning. It made me think that there is still somewhat of a “them and us” divide with regard to kids and tech when really we all want the same thing: happy, healthy kids. Now to keep the conversations moving forward on how best we might achieve this in a way that is respectful, meaningful, and mindful.  Wish us luck! 

Secret Agency

unsplash-logoryan skjervem

Recently on Twitter, I posted a tweet in a moment of frustration but also deep questioning, hoping against all hope, that the ‘sunshine and jellybean’ type posts which Twitter EDU is somewhat known for, might step to the side for a moment so that my unperfect question could be posed. To my surprise, I quickly found I was not alone in my wondering, and, I got a massive amount of comments that were thoughtful, inspired, and most of all, really helpful.  

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Here are some of the responses that really got me thinking: 

Finding the Sweet Spot

This image from Maggie has definitely been a huge help when talking with students about their work. 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It actually reminded me of some posts on questions that I have used with students in the past when trying to create their own inquiries. Ask Great Questions speaks to the depth and quality of questions we can ask with students.  And Questioning Conceptually which drives home the idea of developing questions worth inquiring into via a number of thinking routines – in particular, the Visible Thinking routine Question Sorts   This routine is used by our grade 4 CNU teachers to help students choose ideas worth inquiring into and would transfer to any aged audience – especially middle school. 

Drive

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. These things are somewhat out of whack for me and my kids (I think). Most of all purpose. “Why do you want to do this?” or “How might you share your learning” are really difficult questions for some kids to answer. What I am finding though, is “Show it on the TV screens around the school” is becoming a really popular response. They want their peers to see their work – simple. They want that feedback. Other kids are looking to go further. Just this morning I got this email from one of my 8th Graders: 

How cool is this kid? I love stuff like this! Motivated by other students to rally his advisory group to action. I can’t wait to support him on this. Celebrating those who ARE motivated  and keeping trying with those who are not as per this suggestion: 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Making Time

Time is a massive factor. Fortunately, we have a lot of teachers all working together and we are each allocated students to mentor. This tweet stood out to me: 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Thinking about this I put together the following spreadsheet of questions. I am able to check in with 2 or 3 students during the X-block hour that I am working with my group. I have modeled these questions from this Kath Murdoch blog post: Getting Personal

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Having students respond to the question, “How do you know what success will look like? is proving to also be helpful. It puts the ownership of the project back in the hands of the students and reinforces that they are not doing this for me or for a rubric or even for a grade, but for a purpose of their own choosing. Which is challenging but also empowering for some. Working hand in hand with TIME, is it’s friend…

Trust

Today on Twitter, Tania Mansfield posted the following: 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The word TRUST kept jumping out at me as this is something we talked about earlier in the year as being vital in building a cohesive team as per the Lencioni Trust Pyramid (in which an absence of trust is a leading cause of dysfunction within a team). 

Lencioni Trust Pyramid

So I responded to Tania’s tweet: 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

To which Tania replied to the original thread on student agency in MYP:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This made me think of what happened when I did just what Tania suggests we do in her tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Do I think there is a ‘secret’ to Agency? Probably. The secret is going to be different for different kids though – and that is the secret within itself. My tweet is not indicative of ALL students – just the one or two I worked with on that day. Their purpose is becoming more clear, we are spending more time with each other, I am showing them I can be trusted to support them should they choose to take greater risks in the challenges they set themselves. It is an ever changing game or dance between the two of us. Learning about each other and what we are capable of, who we are, what we can do or can’t do….yet.  

I don’t have all the answers but thanks to this one Tweet, I do have a lot more than I began with. What’s up your sleeve when it comes to growing a culture of student agency in the Middle School? Another educator, Mary Wade has recently posted in light of my tweet: Strategies to trust students to own their learning when they seem uninterested. It is full of great ideas and is definitely worth reading to further your thinking on this topic.  Mary concludes her post with an Alfie Kohn quote that I love: 

“Working with people to help them do a job better, learn more effectively, or acquire good values takes time, thought, effort, and courage.”

Alfie Kohn

I am grateful to those educators who engaged with my tweet. Your time, thought, effort, and courage was very much appreciated. 

Reflections on Learning2

Recently, I led Extended Sessions on “Prioritizing Play” at the Learning2 conference hosted by the American School in Japan. 

This was my third L2 and my second time as an L2 Leader. As I began researching for this event I realized that I was accumulating a mountain of material. How to condense this into 2 and a half hours? 

With my decisions made and my presentation curated, I began. I am not “a natural” when it comes to working with adults in this more formal ‘classroom’ type setting. And despite polling the participants in order to tailor the session to their needs, I had that nagging doubt that I may not be leading them in the direction they needed or wanted to go. 

My first session was high energy from the get-go. Keen participants, eager to share, eager to debate, discuss, and to reflect on their own learning. I was able to connect and relate and share ideas. I finished the session and it felt “successful”. This was reflected in the generous feedback I was given.

Great presenter – this should have been a whole day workshop. Too much good stuff to pack into the short time.

This session was amazing. Great presentation, lots of resources, approachable and knowledgeable presenter. Thank you

I thoroughly enjoyed the session and found it to be very informative.

L2 Participant Feedback

The second session felt different. A little more hesitant. A little more resistant? Pockets of energy and enthusiasm but a lot of critical thinkers. Deep questioners. We never got into the flow of the topic unlike the previous day. And I wasn’t able to turn that around. I left the second session buoyed by some of the personal connections I made but ultimately deflated by my inability to turn the discussion around.  And my feedback reflected my reaction to the session. Numerically, I went from solid 4’s and 5’s (out of 5) to a more solid 3/4 mix with a healthy dose of 2’s and a few 5’s. One ‘other’ comment: “It was a bit draggy” leapt out at me, and I took that to heart. But then I looked at the other comments. When asked, “What is one “takeaway” you are going to act on?” some participants responded: 

L2 Participant Comments  
Incorporating more play into my schedule. 
Continuting to explore resources

Using play as a means of assessing students skills.
Integrating play into my teaching seamlessly, and understanding that it’s ok for children to walk away from playing.
There are different types of ‘play’, for my group of students I will be more focused on guided play and games.
Useful resources shared the presenter
Have students write their own rubrics, think about ways play can capture standards that aren’t included in a given lesson, give every child a ball!
Prioritizing play is something I want to make time for. Letting go of “norms” I’m used to as a teacher, and embracing the authentic learning that can come out of this is something that inspires me to make more effort to include it in my lessons. 
Incorporating play, unstructured and structured play, in and outside the classroom to enhance and optimize learning. 
Play is important for learners of all ages! Include play more often 
Ask students to define Play in their own words
Use play activities for reinforcement or breaking into a new unit. 

And I realized that whether or not I scored a 2 was beside the point to some extent. I just proved what Dylan Wiliam et.al say about grades vs. feedback. I had looked at the numbers and based my success or failure on these alone. Yet the comments suggest that the participants have been thinking, reflecting, and learning, despite what their numerical scores might say.

I still stand by the lower scores and will endeavor to make explicit the learning outcomes the next time I present. Perhaps these were unclear? Perhaps our jilted way of ‘dragging’ through the session meant that we disconnected from our intentions? One strategy I would like to try next time I present is to have the participants reframe the learning objectives for each stage of the session. If my first objective is made clear, how can each participant then make it personal? 

L2 Talks

L2 talks are one of my favorite parts of the conference. The entire playlist is on the Learning2 Youtube page

If you haven’t seen an L2 talk before, here are some of my favorites (although truth be told, they were all pretty great!). This is a nice selection to get you going, constructed around the conference theme “It’s personal”.

Teaching Isn’t Magic – Geoff Derry

Geoff and I only “Twitter-knew” each other until we met in Tokyo. Through our interconnected network of friends and acquaintances, we started to see that our connection ran a little deeper than international schools – we both worked at Camp Pecometh on the Eastern Shore of Maryland back in the 90’s. It was a riot to meet Geoff and to share Pecometh memories and to marvel at how small the world feels sometimes. Geoff’s talk is pure magic.

Weirdness is a lot of things – Mike Bycraft

Mike is interesting, creative, a maker, a dad, a husband, an educator. And he’s weird. He delivers a personal talk about the power we all have to be like his 2nd grade teacher and embrace weirdness:  “It does look a little weird. But that’s o.k.” -Ms. Taylor

Filling the Space – Tricia Friedman

Tricia is a good friend and a great educator. She is someone who is able to reflect deeply, care generously, discuss respectfully, and strive tirelessly to advocate for equality in all realms of life. Her experience as a queer educator and the support she offers ally’s, form the basis of this challenging talk. 

Together We Are Better – Ben Sheridan

Ben’s talk on Professional Capital (Human/Social/Decisonal) and how that intersects with his own quest for a new tattoo, combine in this engaging talk about the power of being vulnerable in order to create something meaningful. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching – Gary Gray

Gary’s talk is powerfully engaging. “You’re too black. You’re not black enough” – a call to teachers to embrace culturally responsive teaching. All educators need to read this and ask themselves if their students are seeing themselves in the books, movies, lessons in your classroom. 
 

Photography Can Change the World – Dave Caleb

Visually stunning and a message that matches, Dave’s talk was inspiring for it’s depth, it’s beauty, and it’s meaning. A long-time fan of Dave’s photography, this was an L2 highlight for me. Every element of this talk could branch off into their own talks on relating to others, revealing truth, bearing witness, proving facts, protect what’s important, and celebrating our amazing world. 

Learning2 2019

Information is already up on the website and the call for L2 Leaders is out. Come and join us at Nanjing International School next year and be a part of the L2 conference experience: a conference by teachers, for teachers. As Chair of the hosting school team, I am very excited to be a part of this conference and I am looking forward to seeing the ideas grow and develop as we prepare for next October. Mark your calendars!  

Your Intentional Empty Space

AKRosenthal (43 of 199)

I would like to offer youwhat I was given:a blank of sheet of paper.What will you do with your intentional empty space,with your fresh start?

-Jason Rosenthal

It is the time of year when many people start summarizing their learning and thinking ahead to what both the holidays hold and the new school year beyond that.

I am no different and with less than two days on the calendar, the countdown is surely on – although the making and creating hasn’t slowed down in the classroom!

My introspection this year takes a different turn as I am once again deeply inspired by a member of the Rosenthal family, Jason Rosenthal. Husband of Amy Krouse Rosenthal – one of “my people”. Jason suffered a deep loss when his wife Amy, 51, passed away from ovarian cancer. Recently he shared this loss and his subsequent journey into uncharted territory of doing life without Amy, in a recent TED talk:

 

Saying goodbye in International Schools can be a grief filled process. There is happiness, sure. Celebrations of friendships made. But there is definitely grief for friendships ending, or in my case, friendships that could have been – the year just goes so quickly to make all the connections you wished you could have!

In saying goodbye and in starting a new experience either in the same school with new colleagues, a different school, or a whole new life experience (hello ‘Adult GAP Year’ – I’m talking about you!) we are all gifted the opportunity of a figurative blank sheet of paper. The chance to create our own new reality. An intentionally empty space into which we get to create our fresh start.

What will you do with this gift?

How will you honor those you are parting ways with?

What will you do over the summer to prepare your heart for new students, colleagues, experiences?

In life, Amy was a great source of happiness and really made me smile. In death, she has taught me to think more deeply about the gift of every day. She clung on to life fiercely. Even before she was dying.

#intentional

This might be my word for the coming year. I’ll keep you posted.


further reading…

You Might Want To Marry My Husband = Amy’s love letter to Jason

Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation

Reflections in Design

We do not learn from experience.

We learn from reflecting on experience.

-John Dewey

 

I read this great post from Jackie Gerstein about reflection in the maker space. I loved her cards and with many students from Grades 1-5 who are just beginning their learning journey in English, I was wondering how I could take this idea of reflection cards and eliminate the need to read in English.

The answer: Visible Thinking Routines. Specifically, Color, Symbol, Image.

My kids love to make. I want them to reflect on their time in Design but I also want to dedicate a very large chunk of our time together to making. So I needed something quick. Simple. Super easy. Something we can do in the two minutes after packing up.

So I have made a set of cards. Some colors, some symbols (thanks Keynote updated shapes!) and some images (thanks, Unsplash!). My plan is to have this deck of cards at the ready and to have kids reflect on their day in design:

What color was your day in design today?

What symbol represents you as a designer?

Which images describes how you are feeling as you leave design today?

What symbol matches your plans for our next design lesson?

What color matches your thinking in design today?

What image represents the way you worked with others?

Which symbol describes you while you were making?

What color represents how you feel about your prototype?

 

We are trying this out tomorrow. I will update this post to report how it went!  Other single subject teachers: how do you have your students reflect on their learning in your class?

If you want to download the color/symbol/image slides: Reflections in Design.

We Need More X Students

At the end of last year I read “Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passions, Peers, and Play” by Mitchel Resnick. It is a brilliant read and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A few pages in, the author, a professor at MIT, meets with the President of Tsinghua University in China – known at “the Chinese MIT”. Chen Jinging describes his students as “A” Students – good grades, compliant, smart. But when he visits MIT and sees the playful way in which these students grapple with ideas, seek solutions, and create innovative pathways in their learning. He calls these students “X” students. And he wants to change the way learning happens at Tsinghua to cultivate more of them.

This is what an X student does:

94B10A65-0F1B-4FDE-98B4-50FEF4FE5CA1

What are we doing to cultivate X students in our schools?

At Nanjing International School, we offer CNU (Creative New Undertakings) and X-Block to our grade 4 and grade 6-8 students. Both of these are derivatives of a “genius hour’ type mindset in which students are guided to learn through contexts of their own choosing. Having read the description of the X student and how this was the creation of a Chinese university president, I wonder if the ‘placeholder’ name of X-Block wasn’t meant to be, for our students, in China? Perhaps this is our way of responding to this need for more creative, innovative, X-learners? We have to do more than just call them X students though. We have to be like Jining and seek to change the way we learn.

Take a look at this video and then think about what it would look like to video your students as they LEARN. What can we do to embed authentic experiences in order to develop the creative innovators the world needs – and our kids deserve to be?

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

 

Project Planning Paralysis

I have a love/hate affair with projects.

I love them because students get to choose what they do.

I hate them because students get to choose what they do.

 

It boils down to three things for me: judgement, control, and fear.

I find myself checking if I think this project choice is worthy of our class time. I wonder if the project they choose is going to be something I know anything about. I am fearful that even if I overcome both these hurdles, there is still the judgement of teachers or parents who may not see the value in the project choice.

I have a long history with student choice. I won’t call it agency because, for much of the time, I found myself setting the parameters for the choices. Ultimately, I want kids to have a voice, I want them to learn through something they love to do.

My fifth grade Design students have been eager to have more say in what we do. I wanted to respect that so we started looking at what “Design” was and I opened up the floor for them to choose their next design project. But I couldn’t help myself and I started throwing in “rules” to hamper their freedom of choice. Before I knew it, I had created a framework for their projects of my making. It looks like this (and I still am not sure if I like it or not):

75966437-DE74-4FFC-9537-DC8DE00DC4D4

I created this, if I am to be honest, out of fear that should my kids stop at step one, “PLAY”, other people may judge the worthiness of them doing so. Who are these “others” that have so much control over my instinct to let my kids play, that I would go and create four more hoops for them to jump through?

This is where I am struggling at the moment in my quest for agency. Where do scaffolds come in? How can we help our students with things like authentic empathy or exposure to the Global Goals as a springboard for design? Who is to say what is purposeful and what is not?

Here is an example from one student:

After doing a “tournament of champions” with all the ideas of things that could be done in Design (similar to this one below) a student chose: Minecraft. 

Grade 5 Design.001

Example of how the kids each chose the thing they wanted to “Play” with in Design.

Students were then re-introduced to the Sustainable Development Goals (something they were already familiar with). This is where they would connect “Play” with “Problem”.

They then needed to “Pitch” an idea: what were they going to make? Do? Create? And then I wanted them to think about why? What was their “Purpose”?

Here’s one example:

Grade 5 Design1.001

“Plan” made it’s way in when I saw that many kids didn’t quite know where to get started. Or, to be fair, they did know (they started to Play!) but I wanted something more concrete.

Even as I write this I am questioning the whole thing. How much interference is too much? How much freedom is too much?

How do you make this work in your school?

Do You Know My Name?

Just before I went to our faculty meeting yesterday, I saw this graphic in my Twitter feed:

 

I went off to our meeting to find we were about to engage in a grade level protocol based on an Edutopia post titled “The Power of Being Seen”.  As a team, we were given a page with three photos of our kids down the left side. The rest of the page was blank. We were to start writing and write everything you knew about that child.

Do you know their face?

Do you know their name?

Do you know something personal about them?

Do you know their family story?

Do you know their academic standing?

 

It was really interesting to see who we had lots to write about and who the 8-10 teachers had very little to write about. It also made me think about the data we collect about students. So often we talk about how learning is about connecting with other people and that kids will learn from people they trust and like. I was reminded of this TED Talk by Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs A Champion:

 

I was reminded that developing relationships with our students are key to moving them forward in their learning. And I sat asking myself, “Who am I championing?” But, so what?  So what do we do with the data we have now gathered? Now what? Where to from here?

These questions will be up to each grade level to respond to but I know for me, it was a call to action to get to know the kids I teach a lot better than I do now. I teach all Grade 1 – 5 students or about 45 kids per grade level so that is a lot of information to know. But aren’t they worth it? As grade level teams respond to this data, my hope is that we are supported to move forward in our understanding and connection with students. We are really lucky to have a very permissive and open culture in which “grassroots” uprisings of ideas are encouraged, if not expected. What can we do to truly connect with our kids?

What would your next steps be?

My TA and I are doing a couple of things. Firstly, we have created similar photo pages and I have put these in my iPad to make notes on during or straight after class. We spend a very short time of each design lesson talking to the whole group and the rest of the time working with individuals or small groups. Often there is time to talk about things other than the project we are working on. We know that we don’t get to talk to everyone and that we also tend to gravitate toward those kids who are perhaps louder or more assertive. We want to collect some data to see who we are missing.

As I was thinking over this protocol, I was reminded of a similar protocol suggested by the Responsive Classroom.  This one is a little more simple but equally powerful. In summary, you need a piece of paper folded into three columns. In the first column, write the names of your students – any order. (That in itself may lead to some understandings about your relationships in the classroom.) In the second column write one thing that you think is cool about that child, the child is passionate about, or something they really care about.  And in the third column, make a star if you are sure that the child knows that you know this about them.

IMG_0959

What would you do next after one of these protocols?

 

UPDATED: Related Concepts on Concept-Question Cards

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 8.57.44 AM

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 8.45.43 AM

The IB recently sent out this tweet which has sparked renewed interest in the Concept-Question cards that I first put together when working as the Grade 3-5 Coordinator and Grade 3 teacher at Yokohama International School in 2008.

I have used them for teacher workshops, PYP Exhibition, parent workshops, and most planning meetings I go to.

Recently, Sam Sherratt wrote a blog post: Being A PYP Teacher Part 1: Carry the Book. The “book” he referred to is Making the PYP Happen.  All of the concepts, descriptors, questions and now related concepts that are on the cards, are from this book.  I am in agreement with Sam that we need to be so familiar with “the book”.  There is a wealth of information about the PYP in there that I think often gets overlooked in favor of other things from other sources. I am all for diversity in ideas but as PYP educators, we do need to make sure we are not passing over some really great ideas in our own program guide.

In the comments that followed on Twitter, the suggestion to add related concepts came up. These are also in the book and some users said that they have added these to the cards themselves.  I have now made a quick edit and added them too. Please download and use for good!

Happy conceptual thinking and questioning!

Concept-Question Cards with Related Concepts

 

Ask And You Will Receive

Last night I posted about Single Subject teachers and I asked the question:

How might we all move toward a more open system of schooling in which the boundaries and delineations that divide us, did not exist?

This morning, the single subject teachers at my school got an email from our head of primary:

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 10.47.17 AM

Everything is a two way street. If single subject or integrating teachers want to be included and more than an “add on” they also have to do their part in making this happen. What I appreciate is that the need for holistic inclusion has been considered and is already part of “what we do”.

What systems do you have in place that show all teachers are a vital part of each child’s day? How do you purposefully plan for collaboration?