Monday, May 18, 2020

Excellent Pandemic Parent Digital Well-Being Guidelines from The Center for Humane Technology

Recently Max Stossel, Head of Education for the Center for Humane Technology, worked with child health experts to create some great digital well-being guidelines for parents during the COVID pandemic. I have a picture of the main guidelines below, but be sure to visit their site so you can expand each guideline and learn more. These guidelines nicely point out the importance of understanding the how and why behind technology tools and apps: how they work to grab our attention, sway our opinions, alter our emotions and affect our relationships. There’s no time better than now with extra space on our schedules to make time to discuss the role of technology in our lives and become more cognizant of our use—“Techcognition” as I've called it.
Use some of your extra pandemic free time to discuss these important topics with your kids! 

Note: Max was the narrator of the "Like" Documentary About the Impact of Social Media we showed to all Minnetonka 6-12 grade students and parents this year. If you haven't seen the LIKE documentary, consider watching Max Stossel's 45 minute recorded student assembly and/or 60 minute parent presentation here. It's almost the identical content, just not professionally produced like the documentary which included interviews and graphics, etc.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Make the Most of Extra Pandemic Screen Time: Keep Entertainment In Check!

Our family has an enormous amount of free time due to canceled activities  during the COVID-19 pandemic. My wife and I are no longer like passing ships shuttling kids between sports practices, music concerts, school events, church activities and more. Even though we are missing friends and activities, we have found the extra time to be a gift, enjoying relaxed, less stressful evenings and weekends together. We especially cherish the extra time with our college daughter who is once again at the dinner table. We all spend more time on walks, playing games, doing puzzles, completing house projects, reading and of course, time with entertainment technology, social media and reading the latest news.

Despite all the extra time we still work to keep a healthy balance with our use of entertainment technology. We limit the amount of shows and movies we watch, the amount of time playing video games and time consuming social media and news. We have increased the amount of entertainment screen time per day by an hour--from about 90 minutes per weekday to around two and a half hours--but still have “guardrails” in place. 
We continue to use Apple Screen Time Restrictions to limit the time spent on non-educational technologyRather than have unlimited access, our kids have an hour for non-violent video games like Minecraft and an hour for Netflix. Our high school kids also have 30 minutes a day for social media. We also consider the content on the screen--whether or not it is engaging vs. mindless entertainment--and make exceptions to our guidelines as necessary.

Perhaps you haven’t set up any guardrails and much of your free time while sheltering in place is consumed by entertainment technology, social media & news. It’s not too late to make some changes! Years from now when things are back to “normal” (and you have a fully booked calendar), it would be great to think back to this time as something that brought your family closer together, rather than something that was simply endured. Make the most of it now!

You may also want to check this article
 on Screen Time in the Age of Coronavirus from another one of my favorite resources, Common Sense Media.

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Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Pandemic as a Catalyst for Technology Integration in Education

The past few months have been a whirlwind. Preparing and implementing an e-learning meant tremendous growth in the use of educational technology. I have to say: COVID-19 is the biggest catalysts for technology integration — ever! Most of us in instructional technology could never have imagined so many teachers learning and adopting new technologies so quickly! 

Years ago I wrote an ISTE article about the Interactive Whiteboard as Springboard for Technology Integration. There have been a variety of educational technology tools besides  SMARTBoards that have changed teaching and learning, such as the internet and the iPad. But we know it has always been a challenge to help teachers understand the benefits and CHOOSE to adopt new technologies. Of course, there are the go-getters—the innovators—who are willing to try just about any new technology tool. In any change/adoption cycle, there are those who follow the innovators—the early adopters, upon whose success an entire roll-out depends. But it’s those reluctant users, the hard to convince, with whom we often spend our time.

The pandemic and resulting quick transition to e-learning created an urgency that no amount of persuasion has ever done in the past. In a matter of a few days, every teacher needed to use our online learning management system, Schoology (Grades 4-12) and Seesaw (PreK-3), assign and collect homework electronically, record and post videos of instruction,  assess students (formative and summative), participate in and lead synchronous Google Meets, and much more. Administrators, paras, and other support staff needed to learn to use these tools as well.

Staff worked above and beyond the call of duty to help all teachers, students, and parents gain comfort using our technology tools. We spent countless hours--including some days late into the night and weekends--setting up systems, researching tools, documenting, troubleshooting, and training staff. The amount of professional development provided over the past couple of months far exceeds the amount of training that normally happened over a whole school year. We even held an EdCamp a week prior to e-learning. Teacher leaders clocked almost 1,400 hours of staff training—and counting.

We’ve all seen the “flatten-the-curve” graphs for COVID-19. Without social distancing we’d see exponential growth in COVID-19 cases. But think about the exponential growth in instructional technology adoption during this time. As I looked for a graph with an exponential growth curve combined with the diffusion of innovation model, I found the one pictured and am intrigued (source). Although it’s not an exponential curve, it’s perhaps a better graph to consider. The y-axis could represent the move to online teaching and learning, with rapid adoption of our e-learning technology tools. Perhaps a graph could also show the compressed time frame in which this has all occurred. If you know of other models, please share. 

For school districts like ours in which many have now mastered the basics of using technology tools for e-learning, what should be next? How do we move our teachers to higher levels on our Minnetonka Teaching & Learning Framework? We have been discussing this as a team, working on ways to enhance online instruction, make it more engaging for students, more effective and efficient for teachers, and more streamlined for parents helping from home. For example, now that teachers understand the basics of screen casting, what are the next skills and tools we want our teachers to learn? And now that many are using online formative assessment tools, what are the most effective questioning techniques? How can we make online discussion tools better and more meaningful for students?

Almost three years ago, I wrote: Accelerating Changes Needed in Education, a reflection on Thomas Friedman's claims that education was not keeping up with technology’s exponential, accelerating changes. He explained that we still had a chance to bridge the gap between the two growth curves of technology and human adaptability (shown in the graph). Mr. Friedman, over the last two months, I think we closed this gap considerably. 
I also realize that not all school districts are in the same place. The move to online learning has amplified the substantial disparities in educational equity communities face. In Minnesota, like other places around the world, we have a well-documented lack of broadband access.  So, some schools are “distance learning” without internet or device access. Hopefully the need to provide equitable access for all students will now get the attention and funding it needs.
It is, of course, still early to know what the next school year will be like. At this point, it seems that we will need to plan for four scenarios: 1) continued fully online school as we are now, 2) some sort of modified face-to-face school with social distancing and other new procedures being practiced, 3) a mix of #1 and #2, or 4) a return to February 2020 with our regular face to face schooling and past ways of doing things—but even that would be different.

Whenever we return, we will welcome back students and teachers who have new skills and experiences. So many teachers are experiencing for the first time what can be accomplished with technology. It seems that the traditional whole-class instruction format, without technology, will be a thing of the past. Why would we want to go back to pre-pandemic levels of instructional technology use? Now we can begin to focus on individualized and personalized instruction, self-directed and self-paced learning, frequent formative assessment, and things like flipped learning among other things. Return to normal? No, thanks. There is an exciting future ahead for students, teachers and learning.

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Monday, February 24, 2020

Students Identify Disinformation Using Stanford’s COR Method: Coronavirus, Fact Checking & Lateral Reading

Recently our high school media specialist, Ann Kaste, taught all Minnetonka High School ninth grade students Stanford's Civics Online Reasoning method for fact checking information. This is a newer, research proven strategy for discerning fake news. The core principle behind the method is to teach students to think like professional fact checkers.  Stanford discovered that readers practicing COR techniques were much more likely to quickly know what is false or misleading online. Rather than doing ‘close reading’ on a single webpage to examine elements such as the title, quality of the site, layout, name of the website URL, etc., readers practicing COR quickly begin opening up other browser tabs to fact check information and background of the content from several sources.  This method is called ‘Lateral Reading’. Readers using COR were much more likely than academic scholars to quickly and accurately determine the legitimacy of the information on a website. 

Ann began the lesson with a pre survey on a Google Form asking students to identify why it is important to be able to discern factual information online. One student explained why it was important to identify real from false information in this way: 

“It will help us build a more informed population that can make decisions for themselves without influence from others telling them what to think. It also makes the truth more clear so we don’t need to question whether something is true or false.”

Once students understood and expressed the importance of learning these skills, Ann explained and demonstrated the COR method. She showed the students some screenshots of real coronavirus Tweets. She modeled how to use the COR method to fact check the information on websites cited in the Tweets. She pointed out that some of this news is actually “bent” from the truth, not outright fake. Ann asked students the 3 COR questions: “Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? What do other sources say?”

Although many students may state that they already know how to ask these questions, Ann explained, “We know how to throw a baseball but we need to practice to get better at it.” The students then worked in partners to pick one of over 20 example coronavirus related Tweets and use the COR method to determine fact from fiction. Students quickly began investigating the Tweets using the COR method and then shared their findings with the group.

Having the ability to quickly identify fact from fiction online is a necessary media literacy skill in today’s world. Starting in elementary school and on into high school, our media specialists work to teach students research skills so they will be prepared for the future. This is part of an ever changing and adapting media curriculum that evolves in tandem with core classroom curricula.

Learn more about Minnetonka's Media Program:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Don’t Miss Out--Visit Top Ranked Minnetonka Schools on April 9!

Don’t miss out! Come see for yourself why thousands of educators from across the country have visited Minnetonka Public Schools over the past 15 years. Experience K-12 learning in action at one of the top ranked school districts in the country. Witness proven programs and gather innovative ideas to take back to your school! Discover best practices for implementing meaningful instruction that will accelerate learning. Register Today!

Visitors can choose to start your visit at an elementary school, middle school or our high school. Specialty programs include Navigators and high potential programs, VANTAGEMinnetonka ResearchChinese and Spanish language immersionTonka Online, athletics and the arts. After your tours at a school, you will transition to our District Service Center for lunch and breakout sessions of your choice. Choose from a wide variety of sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching and Learning Instructional FrameworkcodingDesign for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, gifted and talented programming, student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads and more. Discover best practices for implementing meaningful instruction that will accelerate learning, have time to ask questions and head back to your own school full of ideas! Additional details about possible sessions to choose from can be found hereAvailability is limited in order to keep sessions small. Lunch is provided. Register here! 

Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

Monday, February 10, 2020

My 20 Minute Ed Talk: Screen Time & Student Well-being

The recording of the 20 minute EDTalk I gave last month in Minneapolis is now available. The talk was titled How to Raise Tech Healthy Kids. I spoke about creating habits that lead to digitally healthy individuals and shared simple tips to help both kids and adults balance the use of technology in our lives. In addition to the video above, there also is an audio recording of it if you'd prefer. After the EDTalk there was an audience Q & A session which you can view below.

Prior to my talk, Erin Walsh from the Spark & Stitch Institute gave a great presentation about Students, Social Media and Mental Health. That recording can be watched below.

Learn more about Achieve Minneapolis EDTalks.

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