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Posted by on in What If?

teacher and children

Those of us with children have all been there: standing in a queue as long as the river Nile at the supermarket with a slowly unraveling toddler in the cart. You could hand her your iPhone with a colorful app that bings and boings to forestall that tantrum. Or, you could talk to her – where are those apples in the cart? Can she find the picture of the little girl on the cereal box, or find the letter “G” that her name starts with on the big sign over head?

In fact, researcher Julia Ma and her colleagues suggest that you just might want to have that conversation. At a recent Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, they reported their findings from a study of over 1000 children under the age of 2. They had asked parents to report how often their children used handheld digital devices in an average day. These same parents then responded to a questionnaire about their children’s language abilities. What did they find? Children with more screen time were more likely to be delayed in their language expression! Moreover, these researchers were careful and took many other factors into account when they did their analyses: maternal education, family income, infant temperament, and parent - child overall screen time on other than handheld devices. These precautions suggest that their finding was really about children’s handheld screen time.

Handheld devices are pervasive – found in every crevice of our lives. We check them before we go to bed and they are the first point of contact with the world when we awaken in the morning. Recent data shows high uptake by even the youngest children. Reports suggest that the 2-4 crowd goes digital for almost 2 hours a day. But the widespread use of these devices is a relatively new phenomenon. We just sang "Happy Birthday" to the 10-year-old iPhone and the tablet is just 7 years of age. Not surprisingly, research has lagged behind the rapidly changing technology. But that means that we are putting devices into the hands of our toddlers when we know very little about their possible effects.

But we do know what helps our children learn language. Decades of research tell us that language learning depends on human interaction and on what researchers call ‘contingency’ – responding to our children soon after they speak and building on what they say. Digital devices can interrupt the conversation that is so vital to language success. Research from our labs shows that children will not learn new words when their conversation with a parent is interrupted by a cell phone call.

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Posted by on in Project-Based Learning

 Screen-Shot-2017-06-05-at-8.35.27-PM.png

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way. — Wayne Dyer

I think we got it all wrong in education.

Consider this. We always talk about connecting the classroom (the instruction, the subject area, the concepts etc.) to the real world. But, doesn't it make more sense to take what's happening in the real world and just teach that? The whole idea of having to connect school to the real world came from the fact that most subjects are taught in isolation from it.

Why can't we change that?

Take Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). You can use this very relevant and controversial issue and teach about it from multiple perspectives.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

fidget spinner

As educators, we have all encountered colleagues bemoaning the rise of fidget spinners, whether in-person, on blogs, or on social media.

For some perspective, consider how people outside education view fidget spinners. Watch The Young Turks enjoy playing with them. Forbes magazine calls them the "must-have office toy for 2017." The sheer delight of staffers playing with fidget spinners at AJ+ bears this out. Most poignantly, YouTuber Bunny Meyer says, "I find...I've been struggling with depression and anxiety...and these things [fidget spinners] calm me down." Quick aside: How awesome would it be if we cultivated creativity in our students that resulted in them having eight million YouTube subscribers like Bunny Meyer does?

These positive takes are not surprising when you consider Nerdist's piece about how physics explains why fidget spinners are so fun. Non-educators think of fidget spinners as fun and comforting, so...

What does our discomfort with Fidget Spinners say about education?

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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

I didn’t always hate school. In fact, I used to love it. I still recall exactly when I fell in love with school, and precisely when I started disliking everything about it.  

The image is dim, but I can vaguely see the front of the classroom. I see the teacher, and I see me. We’re decorating the walls for the new school year. Yup! Just me, Miss Jones, lots of construction paper, Elmer’s glue and Scotch tape. The process was creative and fun. She made me feel like the project we were doing really mattered, and I felt connected and valued. I was somewhere around six years old and utterly convinced that school was cool.

Fast Forward…

Don’t know why my sisters and I moved to a new school, but I remember everything about the culture shock. We went from being one of 10 kids in a class to be one of around 30. I can’t remember any of my teachers’ names and wonder, in retrospect, if they ever knew mine. I do recall feeling invisible and disconnected. I went from sitting in the front of the room to hiding out in the back. Eventually, my body was showing up for class, but my mind would leave the building.

Fast Forward Again…

Both of my sisters are now educators.They have advanced degrees and a three-decades-long history of walking through school doors. They apparently loved school enough to go back again and again. Not me… I bolted for freedom at the earliest possible opportunity. I was going to be a pilot or an entrepreneur -- whichever one didn’t involve algebra.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

swing set

On my way to work, I pass no fewer than 6 child care centers. As my life revolves around Early Childhood and young children, I am always interested in seeing what’s happening in programs in the community. It had been puzzling to me, no matter the weather or time of day, how few children I ever saw playing outside. In the winter, when it was approaching 40 degrees, after a fresh snow- no children. In the fall, it was sunny and windy and leaves were everywhere- nobody. In the spring, it had just rained, the sun was out, but all I saw were abandoned play areas.

It first, it was a curiosity, but as the seasons changed and the pattern persisted, I was concerned why there was this lack of outdoor, physical activity in child care.

I decided to do some unofficial investigating and started asking child care staff if they had some answers. Boy, did I get an earful!

The staffers very often cited children’s clothing as the problem. They said parents send their children in clothes not meant to get dirty or in shoes not safe for playground surfaces or equipment. It was also reported that parents, in their hurry to get out the door in the morning, forget jackets or hats or boots. A couple care providers even expressed their belief that some parents did these things on purpose, so their children would have to stay indoors.

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