Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Microsoft Office 365 Symposium #itip365

I am excited to be using Microsoft Office 365!

I never thought I would say (or type) those words. For awhile I advocated GAFE at my school and pouted a bit when the decision was made to stick with Microsoft. Then again, I was surprised to hear that as of last year, there were 110 million Office 365 users in education and only around 50 million Google Apps users. While I still believe that Google is doing some great things in education, I am getting more and more excited about what I see coming out of Microsoft these days. 

Last week, I attended the Microsoft Office 365 Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. As TechLead at my school, it's my job to stay ahead of the curve on new technologies and help guide the push to bring new things in.  I really wanted to learn more about OneNote and how it can be used in education. (Ironically, I had mentioned to the organizers that I teach OneDrive in my computer classes, and I wound up presenting that during the conference.)

OneNote is a very powerful note taking app. Do you remember college? I don't know how you organized your notes, but I had a separate folder for each class. I went through reams of paper handwriting notes and shoved them in the appropriate folders. When college was over, I had stacks of these folders which followed me for years (mainly collecting dust till I decided to throw them away).  Today, a college student can use OneNote, and one OneNote notebook could feasibly cover an entire college career. You can create separate notebooks within the major notebook, and tabs within those notebooks, and this could go on forever. Of course, there are numerous other applications for OneNote, but I'm seeing value in teaching this tool to our high school teachers who can teach it to their students. However,...

I found out during the conference that Microsoft recently released OneNote Class Notebook. Here is an extremely powerful tool that could make huge strides in how you manage your class. Before you read anything else, you need to watch this. 

I first saw this video in the spring and got very excited but had no way to replicate it in my school. When they started talking about OneNote Class Notebook, I immediately tweeted Cal Armstrong (from Appleby College) about it. It seems that Microsoft took this idea and made their own version, which does some similar tasks.

I walked away from this conference with the determination to learn how to use OneNote and OneNote Class Notebook and teach these tools to my upper elementary classes. Once I am comfortable using it with students, I want to take the ideas to my colleagues with the hopes we can see the OneNoteLove spread across campus.

Microsoft has a number of other great innovations rolling down the pipe to schools these days. It seems that they have really started taking education programs seriously and are determined to keep a foothold in the education market. I'm looking forward to learning these new technologies and introducing them to my colleagues...and I'll continue to share them with you here.

As an extra bonus (if you want to all it that)...

As I mentioned earlier, I was offered the opportunity to present at this conference, my first time presenting in any way outside of my school.  You can click here to see my digital handout, and of course you can enjoy the picture one of the people in the crowd took of me while I yammered on.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

#HourOfCode 2014

Unless you are hiding under a rock and avoiding the edtech world, you probably know that this is Hour of Code week all over the world. I've been looking forward to this week since we completed Coding Week last year.  My last few classes this week will be covered by a sub while I'm in Columbus for a conference. I thought now would be a great time to reflect on the week.

This has been a hard post for me to write, because I'm not sure I'll add much to the Hour of Code conversation. My guess is that I'm a part of the vast majority of teachers who directed students to code.org/learn to do the various activities. Just before I decided to scrap the post completely, I decided to just highlight some of the better moments rather than summarize every grade level like I did last year.

I really like LightBot. In this game, you need to send a little robot around a maze of blocks, moving forward, turning left or right, and jumping till he hits a blue square. Then he lights it up. The concept is easy but each level gets a bit harder. One of my 5th grade girls, asked for help on a particular stage. I gave her a hint or two then moved on. A few minutes later I sauntered by. Seeing she was on the same stage, I made a comment. "Oh, it looks like you're figuring it out." Her response? "I already solved it. I'm just trying to do it a different way." #win!

Literally minutes before my kindergarten class came to the room, I had second thoughts about directing them to Daisy the Dinosaur. I knew some of the kids could handle Daisy, but most of them don't have the reading skills yet.  I decided to download The Foos to the iPads and see if it would be good. Yes, I realize last second lesson plan switches are not necessarily good ideas. Yes, I realize kindergartners need more individual attention I was able to give them as I frantically downloaded an app to each iPad in the room, but here is the beauty of my story. Just as I directed the kids to The Foos I realized some iPads didn't have the app completely downloaded. As I was working on those, I heard students excitedly interacting with the game. "You figured it out yourself?" "Yes! It's fun!" Needless to say I introduced it to my kindergarten daughter that same night. #thankyoufoos

For better or for worse, I tend to give students few directions when starting a new app. I want them to figure it out themselves and spread the joy to others. That's why I was excited to overhear a second grader exclaim, "I love Scratch Jr! It's a lot like Educreations!" Now, I have to say I'm not exactly sure how the two apps are similar, but that's not the point. I now have a student comparing and contrasting apps, and will no doubt be messing with Scratch Jr in the future.  #score!

I'm planning on dipping into coding again next week.  With visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, along with parties, play practice, and the like, I decided Coding Week, Part Two would be a glorious way to finish out December. I'm looking forward to seeing what great stories come from a second week of coding fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snow Days - Good for the Soul

The white death hit Cincinnati yesterday with a 4.7 inch fury! It broke an 84 year old record for snowfall on November 17, and many of the schools were shut down for the day.  I don't remember ever having a snow day before Thanksgiving, unless you want to count last year's "whooping cough day."

My daughter was literally jumping on her bed at the thought of playing in the snow, but at the time I only had a delay.  Fortunately, I got the cancel call before I hopped in the car, and we did the Snow Day Dance together in the living room.  Our morning was full of sledding, snowballs, snowmen, and general tomfoolery.  When we got cold, wet, and tired, it was time to go inside for the hot chocolate and popcorn my wife got ready for us, while we all settled in for some Cinderella

I love snow days! I think more than anything else, I love the license to put aside the constraints of adulthood and spend some time being a kid again. I can play and relax with no real feeling I need to work on this or do that.  Just enjoy my family and play till my heart's content.

I recognize there is a dark side to snow days.  Many families need to scramble to figure out childcare. Teacher plans get screwed up. There is always that threat of going to school deep into July.  But for one day, I get to enjoy this! 

and this..

What do you enjoy about snow days?

Friday, November 7, 2014

EdTech: The Balance

The other day, a friend and I got into a discussion about young children using technology. As a dad of a little one he was genuinely interested in my research on tech use and was asking tons of questions. I've come to realize that my blog has turned introspective of the entire edtech movement, trying to divine how we can navigate the murky waters we find ourselves in.

And that led to this three-part blog series: The Good, the Bad, and the Balance.

November 5: The Good
November 6: The Bad
November 7: The Balance

Having looked at the benefits and the dangers of technology in society and education, today I want to look out how teachers and parents can balance technology use so we can help produce healthy members of society.  Here are my top five balancing acts.

  1. Limit screentime. I do a great job of applying this to my daughter’s life. She is only allowed to be in front of a screen (TV, iPad, LeapPad, laptop) at specified times of the day.  I’m not so good at doing this myself. You may be interested in this article about tech execs who have very low-tech homes.
  2. Get outside. Breathe fresh air. Do something adventurous. I am amazed at how many kids complain about being bored during outdoor recess. Apparently, there’s nothing fun to do. Lately one of my most cherished times is walking my dog at 5:30 AM. I find myself free of distraction (unless she sees a bunny) and have the ability to think, pray, and process. You gotta try it!
  3. Digital Sabbath. There are all sorts of examples on the Web of people who are breaking free from their devices. One day a year, one day a week, one week a year? Whatever your choice, break free and enjoy yourself. Get your hands dirty.  Paint something. Build something. Play with dirt. It’s OK. We can always wash them. (And Mom can save the moment on Instagram.)
  4. Be very aware. I’m not interesting in telling you how to be a parent. I have a hard enough time with my parenting skills. However, I’m very aware of what my daughter is doing digitally. I no longer hover over her, but I do know the apps and software she is allowed to mess around with.  Parents, regardless of children’s ages, should have an idea of what is going on with their kids.
  5. Teach students and parents about digital citizenship, including The Good, The Bad, and The Balance.  We will only sound like fools to the ears of the students if we aren't saying the same thing the parents are saying.  Educating both groups will go a long way.

Honorable Mentions: Get standing desks at school, so students and teachers do not sit all day. Focus on creativity not consumption when it comes to tech use.

My father will not be on this earth much longer. As I look back on a lifetime of memories, the ones that rise to the top have nothing to do with digital media.  (OK, there is the funny time he mistook the credit card reader for the U-scan machine.)  What I will remember of Dad is how he coached me in basketball and took up distance running to support my brother and me when we were cross country runners. I will remember hiking in the mountains and swimming in the ocean.  His love for Angry Birds probably won’t make it to the hit list.

While I want my daughter to be tech savvy and have all the benefits of growing up in this tech world, I also don’t want her to remember me by how much my face was pointed at a glowing screen instead of at something beautiful - like a mountain, my wife, or her.

How do you balance technology in your class and in your family?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

EdTech: The Bad

The other day, a friend and I got into a discussion about young children using technology. As a dad of a little one he was genuinely interested in my research on tech use and was asking tons of questions. I’ve come to realize that my blog has turned introspective of the entire edtech movement, trying to divine how we can navigate the murky waters we find ourselves in.

And that led to this three-part blog series: The Good, the Bad, and the Balance.

November 5: The Good
November 6: The Bad
November 7: The Balance

As much as I am a proponent of using educational technology, I see some major potholes for our society that is so bound to our devices.  These are things not just issues for young kids but us adults too. In my opinion, here are the five biggest concerns we should have about running blind into the world of technology.

  1. Lack of social skills. You've seen it before.  You've probably done it before. I know I have. When I have a glowing screen in my hand I have to look at it.  It doesn't matter that there is a living, breathing human being wanting to talk to me. I have to look at the screen, and my people skills slowly wither and die.  
  2. Obesity. I sit a lot more than I used to, and with all that sitting my old and beat up body constantly struggles with aches and pains and keeping my waistline where it was a few years ago. I can’t imagine that our love society’s love for screens is keeping us healthy.
  3. Invaded privacy.  When we get on the social media train, we tend to share a lot of information about ourselves and our children.  According to this article, 92% of two year olds have a digital footprint. And it only increases from there. My daughter is 5. When I typed her name into Google, 3 of the first 16 pictures were hers. I’m not sure I like that idea.
  4. Inexplicable sense of accomplishment. In a recent post about SnapChat, I mentioned Jerome Jarre, who is famous apparently for his social media prowess.  He has 7 million followers on SnapChat alone -- plus tons on Vine, Twitter, and others. How many of our students are aiming to walk in his footsteps rather than a Steve Jobs or Howard Schultz? While our kids can do amazing things on their devices, many of them just feel accomplishment for the ability to take a good selfie.
  5. Inability to think deeply. The quick and easy access to all sorts of information should free up our minds and time for more deep thinking. Instead, it’s all too easy to help us skim the knowledge base on many topics. As this article explains, if we aren't careful we can lose our ability to focus for long periods of time. 

    One article I read today says, “Teaching is a human experience. Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.” Please don’t read this post as a plea to end all use of technology, but as a warning to stop and think about the direction we are heading as a society.  Tomorrow, we will look at how to have balance in our approach to technology in our lives. 

    This video sums things up nicely, but I like how it wraps up with a balance, some unplugging is necessary to get some moderation in our lives. Your thoughts? 

    What dangers do you see in technology today?

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014

    EdTech: The Good

    The other day, a friend and I got into a discussion about young children using technology. As a dad of a little one he was genuinely interested in my research on tech use and was asking tons of questions. I’ve come to realize that my blog has turned introspective of the entire edtech movement, trying to divine how we can navigate the murky waters we find ourselves in.

    And that led to this three-part blog series: The Good, the Bad, and the Balance.

    November 5: The Good
    November 6: The Bad
    November 7: The Balance

    This may seem to be an exercise in the obvious, but it’s important to recognize why we are working so hard to bring technology to our students.  Here are five reasons why I believe it’s important to delve into educational technology.

    1. Technology isn't going away anytime soon. From money management to ordering a sub, if you’re not on the technology bandwagon it will be harder to maintain any sort of lifestyle in America.
    2. Jobs are becoming more technical. I remember back in the day when I wrote in a grade book and figured report card grades via calculator. Those days are history in education, but all jobs are going high tech as well. As one someone in the banking field told me, having a basic IT education would reduce helpdesk requests manifold in companies and save lots of money.
    3. Facts are at our fingertips. Remember when we had to go to a bookshelf or a library to find information? Remember what it was like to look up a word in a dictionary?  Now we can find answers to anything we want in seconds with a few taps on the screen.
    4. Technology allows collaboration like never before. We have the ability to connect with people from all around the globe and thereby gain knowledge and expertise. Plus, by publishing our work online, we can get global recognition and feedback.
    5. Innovation, creativity, and coding are wonderful things.  If you can combine all three of these things in your life, you have some major tools for a successful career.

    What do you think are some of the benefits of teaching technology in schools?

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

    Book Review: A More Beautiful Question

    Title: A More Beautiful Question
    Author: Warren Berger (Website and blog)

    Why should you read this book?
    Because most American classrooms are a place to find answers not questions.

    Why are questions important?
    Because innovation doesn't happen without first starting out as a question. 

    Why should we be concerned about innovation in schools?
    If we can teach questioning and an innovative spirit in schools we can help our students flourish in a world cloaked in change.

    Yes, but why is that so important in K-12 schools?
    If a 15 year old can figure out how to screen for pancreatic cancer accurately and inexpensively, there is no reason to wait till someone graduates from our ranks to wait for good things to happen.

    Why haven't I heard of this book before?
    I have no idea.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone in education, especially those in the Genius Hour movement.  Berger tracks recent innovations back to questions asked by those innovators -- some out of necessity, some out of general inquisitiveness.  He explores how the pursuit of these questions grew into things we may take for granted today.  

    Sadly, our current education system is not geared toward questions.  Who asks the questions in your classroom?  Odds are, it's you.  And those questions aren't to pique curiosity but to judge knowledge. How do we flip that? 

    So, in the spirit of A More Beautiful Question, I leave you with a Why-What If-How? trilogy of questions. 

    Why is important to teach forming good questions and pursuing those questions in your school?
    What if you implemented these questioning techniques into a Genius Hour project in your class?
    How do we redefine what a student "needs to" learn? 

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    SnapChat Got Me Thinking

    Catching up on my blog reading, I stumbled upon this video about SnapChat.

    Full confession here... I don't use SnapChat and have no intention to get started. However, the blog entry intrigued me, and I thought I would watch the video since SnapChat is so wildly popular with students these days.

    Thoughts flooded my mind as I watched the video, but I'll try to limit them to two main topics.

    1. What is the value of sharing my entire day (my story) with you and the rest of the world? This summer, I read a very interesting novel called The Circle by Dave Eggers (my review here), which was a real eye-opener of what our world's obsession with social media could become if left unchecked. As much as the idea of showing every aspect of my day sounds good, the reality is some things are best left unpixelated. John Spencer summed that up beautifully in this recent post (though he came at it from a different angle).

    2. This is the direction our society is moving. Our faculty is reading Artificial Maturity by Tim Elmore this year. I'm holding off on a full-fledged book review till I'm done the book (one of only three I'm reading right now). Elmore writes about Generation iY  -- those born in the 1990s -- and their collective struggle to become mature adults. One of the causes of this phenomena is living life online. Our students are glued to their devices and spend more time sharing posts and pics with their friends than their own families. While watching the above video, I was stunned that Jerome Jarre could gain a million followers by just being online.

    Based on what I've written so far, you can probably guess I see a problem forming in our world. The problem isn't SnapChat specifically or social media in general. My concern is that we'll spend so much of our time online that we'll forget to live offline.  To quote a character in The Circle, "Do you even go outside anymore?"

    Even as I write this, I realize I'm guilty as charged. SnapChat isn't my thing, but I know I have tendency to be addicted to the social media I do participate in. If I'm not careful, my face can be pointed at a screen more so than the living, breathing human beings sitting in the same room as me, some of whom are infinitely more important to me than those people on the other side of the screen.

    Technology will be a part of life for the foreseeable future.  Indeed, barring a real-life Revolution it would seem that being a technonerd will be a viable skill for everyone moving forward. While social media is not exactly a necessary thing in our lives, it provides good entertainment, connection, and even learning.  It's not a bad thing...in moderation.

    Moving forward, our job as educators is teach a balance in these things.

    • It's great to be online with our friends, but when was the last time you spent a half hour with your family and no screen?
    • It's wonderful to see many things outside our own world online, but when was the last time you actually enjoyed something outside?
    • What is more important -- winning a level on a game or trying out something adventurous?
    • Learning from your device is good, but so is exploration and exploration.  When was the last time your hands got dirty?
    What do you think? Am I off base here? I welcome your comments below. 

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    SMART Boards: Reflecting On My Visit To Summit View Elementary

    As the TechLead at my school, I have been tasked with finding ways to use our Sharp Aquos flat panel touch screen TVs.  (From here on out, I'll call them our big screens or IWBs for Interactive White Boards.) We have a small collection of these big screens in our school - one each in our two computer labs and two science labs.  Sadly these are not being used to capacity, except maybe as projectors.  

    My desire has been to find ways to intentionally use these big screens as creative and collaborative tools rather than showing what the teacher wants the students to see.  This has not been an easy quest, but I have been learning how to better use them as teaching tools.  

    The classrooms at Summit View Elementary School in Independence, KY, are equipped with SMART Boards.  (One teacher I talked to said she has had hers for at least six years.)  I spent some time observing three teachers teaching with their IWBs and learned a lot. 

    In my research over the last few months, one thing I've learned is to ignore the software included with the IWB. Let me debunk that myth right now.  I watched Ms. Sparks teach her third graders about different types of rocks, how they are formed and identified, all while using the SMART Notebook presentation that came with the board. Let me say that in a different way.  Not only did she use the software, she used the "canned" presentation (which she tinkered with to fit her tastes). And she did a masterful job at it. Her students were engaged, listening, and participating. I've taught that lesson before, and I did a great job by making it boring -- reading it from the book and talking about it. Nope. Ms. Sparks let the software make it exciting.  When the computer used animation to teach vocabulary (and show how the rocks are formed) every student was paying attention.  

    I also spent time watching two different math lessons (Ms. Shumate in 1st grade and Ms. Suchanek in 2nd grade).  They used Houghton Mifflin's online teacher pages to assist them in teaching the lessons.  In both cases, students had manipulatives on their desks. The IWB was used to mimic what the students should have had on their desks. Students were chosen to go to the board and virtually put the manipulatives on the screen. Since the software was aligned with their books, they didn't have to change terminology or graphic organizers, making the process easy for the teachers.  The lessons seamlessly wove from IWB to manipulatives to (on one room) student white boards. This gave spark to more classroom conversation.  "Do you agree with Billy?"  

    Overall, I came to the realization that the IWB was merely a tool in the teacher's toolbox.  It did not define them as teachers.  They still used Cuisenaire rods and base 10 blocks. They still used white boards.  They still lead the conversations and asked great questions. They still needed to dig deep into their classroom management skills and use their primary teacher voices and facial expressions.  I got the impression that the SMART Board isn't used every day, but it was the tool of choice for today.  

    True, I didn't find a secret Web 2.0 formula to make IWBs the greatest tool to hit schools since iPads, but I did see that it can be a great tool to teach the basic building blocks of knowledge and skills.  And that's not a bad thing.  

    A few extra things. 
    • Houghton Mifflin's interactive site can be found here. Sadly, it doesn't appear to be free. 
    • SMART Notebook's software can be found here. It, too, appears to need a subscription.  
    • Ms. Sparks downloaded SMART Notebook to her student computers, including the interactive presentations.  This gives students another chance to check out the info (and the cool animations). 
    • SMART Notebook had a number of "quizzes" (for lack of a better term) sprinkled throughout the presentation to check for understanding.  These included matching (drag the term to the right definition), putting a check in the right box, and dragging a word from one side of the screen to the other to see if your guess was correct. The students ate this up.  
    • Keep the kids on their toes.  Pull popsicle sticks to see who goes next.  Those kids were paying good attention so they would be able to use the board and/or answer the next question to come up.
    • It's not easy keeping kids' hands off manipulatives and watch someone else tap the IWB.  However, the teachers did a good job of keeping students focused.  
    • All the classrooms had overhead lights dimmed (half of room off) and two had lamps on around the room.  That made  it easier to see the screen and created a homie ambiance.  I liked it.  
    • I learned that a group of butterflies is a flutter. Did you know that? The 2nd graders did.  
    • My school isn't the only one with intermittent connectivity woes.  Blessings on those IT people who keep things running as well as they do! 
    • There was one little girl who just loved my iPad and my laptop.  She was enamored. I hope she learned something about math today. :) 

    Thanks so much to the faculty at SVE for allowing me to visit and learn from them.  

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    Using Photos The Right Way

    Deep down inside, I know that it's just wrong to grab a picture off of Google Images and use it in a blog post, document, or presentation.  To be completely honest with you, it's just way too easy to do it that way, though.  And, who really wants to be the picture police? It's kind of like the grammar nazi who points out the bad use of the word "and" at the beginning of the previous sentence. Still, it's best to teach our students the correct, unconfusing, and completely legal way to finding usable pictures online.  I put together this list for my students to use, and I'll happily share it with you. 


    Perhaps the easiest way to find pictures for projects and personal use is to do a Google Image search for your topic. Save it and use it, and all is good...except one little thing. It could very well be illegal. By snagging a picture off Google Images (or Bing Images, for that matter), you could violate the original photographer's copyright privileges. For this reason, it's much more acceptable to use Creative Commons for your picture needs.

    Creative Commons is a fancy term to describe sites that post pictures that can be used for free. It is desirable that you use Creative Commons sites for your pictures while at school. The sites below may be helpful for you.

    • photopin.com -- Free pictures. (Beware the first dozen or so pictures are "sponsored photos" meaning they cost money. 
    • thenounproject.com - Free icons. 
    • pixabay.com - Free pics 
    • openclipart.org - Free clip art. 
    • canva.com - Spruce up your pictures with special filters and words. 
    • easel.ly - Create your own infographics 
    • recitethis - Spice up your quotes with fancy backgrounds 
    • aviary - Use this free app to create your own memes and do other fun things with your pictures.

    Of course, the best choice is to take and use your own pictures whenever possible.

    Below are some great photos I collected or things I've created using these tools. 

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    Is Google Making Us Stupid?

    Peter King ranks among my favorite writers of all time*. His unbiased and thoughtful insights into the NFL are unparalleled and he even throws in some news about coffee and travel tips. There was a day when I enjoyed sitting down and reading every word of his MMQB articles.  Then, reality hit. I don't have time for a 5-page article. I barely have time to be the husband and father I need to be, much less do my job and other responsibilities well.  And so, I merely skim the first few paragraphs to see if the topic du jour interests me enough to read the entire first page.

    I "follow" numerous blogs with my Feedly account, but I spend the bulk of my blog "reading" time skimming post titles to see if I really want to read the post. The goal is less about learning and more about getting to the end of the queue.

    I could go on and on with similar examples -- the email updates that are too long to read, how easily distracted I can be when reading or working online -- and I'm sure you could too. That's why this article by Nicholas Carr resonated with me from the title.

    I encourage you to click the link and read it -- the whole thing. It's kinda long, so get a cup of coffee and a snack.  He basically says that as we spend more time online we spend less time thinking about what we are absorbing. This instant connection to just about any bit of knowledge we want is causing us to be very shallow in our cognition.  I love this line. "Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

    I am a computer teacher. I love technology! That's not an inherently bad thing for us.  However, I recognize I may be becoming one of those "pancake people" mentioned in the article -- with knowledge thinly over many topics.

    I want something different for my students and for my daughter. I want them to know how to access knowledge with digital media, but I also want them to use that knowledge to think deeply and learn through experience -- not just flit to the next duck-faced selfie, then to fantasy football, then to... you get the idea.

    I was taught  to never present a problem without offering some solutions, so here come some solutions.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and I welcome your ideas.

    1. Be an example. Model good digital media usage. (Confession: I am typing this while subbing in an English class.  Since sitting at this desk, I have checked out Instagram, worked on my fantasy team, emailed my library, and texted a friend. Bad Mr. Dunlap.)
    2. Make this part of my curriculum. I push digital citizenship in my computer classes, but I also need to make discuss sticktoitediveness. This is not something I can push off on other teachers in other subjects, especially since my content area is causing the problem. 
    3. In conjunction with #2, assignments (at least some of them) need to focus on deeply reading content and thinking critically about it. I'm still pondering what this looks like. 
    I'm no expert in this area, and I know my mind is traveling down this slippery slope.  Hopefully I can help some of these kids to scuba dive deeply into a sea of words.

    Photo credit

    *I have to be honest. I typed that sentence and names of authors flooded my mind -- Christie, Tolkien, Clancy, Lewis, Grisham, Gladwell.  Man! There are a lot of names on the list of authors I love to read. King is up there, no doubt, but let's say he's one of my favorite to read online

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    Lessons from U2

    I was syncing my iPad not terribly long ago when I saw a new U2 album in iTunes. To say I was befuddled would be a bit of an understatement.  Did I prebuy it and not remember? Did my wife buy it for me as a surprise gift? I had no idea, but I listened to it and liked it.

    A couple days later, I realized everyone got the new album as a free download from Apple, and I couldn't help but to be appreciative. U2? For free? Why wouldn't I be elated!  Thank you, Apple!

    That's why I couldn't believe that some people were unhappy about this awesome free gift. Apple actually had to create instructions on how to delete the album from playlists, and I scratched my head. Why?

    And...there are other people who didn't like that Apple could just force content upon us.

    This came up in conversation with my friend.  "It's a bit scary that Apple can send music to my daughter's device without my knowledge or consent." I never looked at it that way, either. Will Apple continue to give us free content or is this a one-shot deal? What will the next free download be? Will I want my daughter to hear it? As parents we want some oversight into the digital content our kids are consuming, and it is eyebrow-raising to know that Apple has that ability to push that out to our kids.

    It's amazing to think what someone can do with some money and the right tools.

    It took me around 14 hours to think of a reasonable response...commercials. As parents we can be very intentional about what we put in front of our children, but you can't control what commercials they see.  Whether it's a trailer for the next big Disney movie, an ad on an app my daughter likes to play, commercials I normally ignore during a football game, or a free U2 album,  it's hard to monitor everything.

    Here is the lesson I take away from this story. Digital consumption is never really a plug and play event.

    My parents taught me this lesson back in the Stone Ages when I listened to vinyl.  To them, any music that didn't involve four men in matching polyester suits singing about an old rugged cross was suspect in the worst way. Imagine their surprise when their teenage sons started liking music by long-haired men playing guitars and drum sets.  I found myself having to defend my music to my parents -- proving that while the style of music and clothing were different, the message was essentially the same thing.

    Now, maybe your standards aren't quite what my parents' were. But, many of us in this edtech world talk about digital citizenship, and I think we can all agree that not all digital content is a beneficial for all digital consumers.

    As media consumers we will never be able to have complete control over what flashes in front of our eyes or enters our eardrums. However, we owe it to the children in our charge (in our homes or our schools) to teach them how to evaluate what they see and hear.  Because Mommy and Daddy won't always be able to monitor it for them.

    I think it's time I sit down and talk through some of these things with my kindergartner at home....