Monday, March 28, 2016

Best Age for a Kid to Get a Cellphone with Internet Access

February 2016 Grade 5-12 Parent Survey
One of the most frequent questions I get asked when I speak around Minnesota with parents about kids and technology is, "What's the best age for a kid to get a cellphone with Internet access?" Last month, we randomly sampled our grade 5-12 students' parents and asked this very question. 528 parents completed the survey.

Almost one fourth (23.3%) of parents think that waiting until high school (grade 9-12) is best.

One third of parents believe that Grade 6 is the appropriate time for students to start having a cellphone with Internet access; 62% overall think middle school is when to start (grade 6-8).

Only 13.6% believe that it is appropriate for elementary students to have a cellphone with Internet access.
Less than 1% (0.8%) believe it is not appropriate.
This topic/question has changed over the past 10 years. It used to be the kids would get cell phone that could make calls and parents would ask me when their child should have text messaging, too. Some parents still began by getting their child a simple phone with just a text messaging plan, but many parents today skip this altogether and their child just starts with a smartphone with full Internet access. Often times the phone is a hand-me-down from a parent or older sibling.

Nearly one third (31.3%) of parents have a filter on their child's cell phone that blocks inappropriate content.

February 2016 Grade 5-12 Parent Survey
Before giving that first phone with internet access to a child or teen, parents would be well-served to pause and intentionally plan for safety. Providing any cellular data plan means giving your child the keys to unfiltered internet access--the good, the bad and the dangerous content of the world wide web. Most parents would agree: Kids shouldn't have unfiltered access to the internet. Personally, my kids received a phone with filtered internet access when they turned 12. We use and I have recommended Curbi in previous posts. I'm willing to pay $7/month for the comfort and peace of mind in knowing that my child's connection to the Internet on their personal device is filtered. Parents of younger children with smartphones may want to consider the built-in web filtering options of Restrictions right in the Apple iPhone or Android device for free, but this often blocks so much content that older students won't like it and complain. Restrictions was the most common solution listed by parents in our survey when we asked them what product they used for a smartphone filter.

“Everybody has one.”
“Everyone else has....” Perhaps the most persuasive words in the English language, “everyone else” has been the rallying cry for children trying to convince their parents to allow something for decades. Your child may tell you that they are the only one without a cellphone or perhaps without an iPhone. S/he may state that everyone but her/him has Internet access. Or perhaps your child says that no one else's parents have put a filter on their smartphone. This data proves that is not the case; even some upperclassmen don't have phones with Internet access, and of those that do, many are filtered. 

Related posts: 

Monday, March 21, 2016

86+ Day Facebook Fast: You're either busy living or busy dying.

Christmas was 86 days ago. So was the last time I posted to Facebook. I was never a frequent poster in the first place, but I did look at what others posted almost daily. Not only have I not posted for 86 days, but I've also not looked at what everyone else has been updating. 

Facebook offers us the unique opportunity to connect with family and friends, many of whom we haven't seen in a long time. However, although I do enjoy seeing what my friends and family are up to, I wish there was some hierarchy of news and posts which would allow me to see only the most important updates in their lives when I log in. If there were a cap in the amount of content a person could post to a social network, I'd join it. I'd like to view things closer to the importance level of events shared in annual Christmas letters sent by snail mail in the past than the situation I found myself in before starting my fast: sifting through hundreds of posts, including check-ins from restaurants and pictures of daily events that wouldn't normally even make a verbal recap of the day. All this was in an effort to keep tabs on important events in the lives of my friends and family. 

I suppose this sounds selfish or like I don't care, but what I really wish for is a realistic balance. As I've written about in the past, I have been monitoring my techcognition: the amount of time I spend using technology, time I am distracted by it, and time I'm not mentally present with those around me due to looking at news feeds, sports scores, social networks, texts, and emails. Last year I began to realize just how much time I was spending looking a Facebook and in many cases, a lot of trivial information from people whom I wasn't super close to and/or hadn't seen for years, sometimes decades. Facebook had become a time drain for me, and fed into FOMO.  

Image Source
Without completely blocking the news updates from someone, I don't know of a way to narrow this amount down and not miss something really important. I can't envision a company like Facebook wanting to create something that wouldn't be viewed as frequently or for as much time, so I doubt this will happen, but maybe some sort of grassroots social network will evolve soon. Until then, I've opted to just stay out of it. Facebook kind of reminds me of a prison where you are just spending time. This in turn makes me think of one of my favorite films, Shawshank Redemption, when character Andy Dufresne said to fellow inmate Red: 
"Life comes down to a simple choice: You're either busy living or busy dying."
I can honestly say I don't miss Facebook. I may end up checking it a few times a year. But as far as daily or even weekly log ins, I'm going to spend more time living with my family and friends in person. And I'm going to help my kids see the benefits of living this way to. My daughter tells me it's a social faux pas to post to Instagram more than once a week, so maybe our kids are learning this balance already. Less FOMO and more JOMO

If you haven't seen Prince EA's "Can We Auto Correct Humanity" video above, please make time for it. Check out the past episodes of Infomania from one of my favorite podcasts, Note to Self, too. I made a couple of brief appearances on those episodes related to this very topic.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program Visits Minnetonka Schools

Middle School East 7th Graders on a Google Expedition
On Friday, the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program came to Minnetonka Middle School East seventh grade science classrooms. Technology Instructional Coach and seventh grade social studies teacher Carson Hoeft signed up for the program last fall and recently learned that the school was selected to be a site to try out the new technology. If you aren't familiar with Google Cardboard, check out a previous post for an overview: Google Cardboard- Virtual Reality in the Classroom.
The Google Expeditions Program brings a class set of Google Cardboard viewers along with Droid devices preloaded with virtual environments. The teachers can select what they wish for their students to visit. For Friday's virtual field trip, students traveled to Borneo to visit the beaches, jungle, and scuba dive off the coast. 

The content includes information about the locations for the teacher who is a virtual guide for their students as they view things through the Cardboard viewers. The teacher uses a droid tablet to view the same content, and has the ability to pause the images, see a floating icon for each student to determine where everyone is looking, and can tap the tablet to make an arrow appear on the students' screens in order to direct attention to a specific location. 

The students were so excited about the experience. It was great to be present for their initial reactions (oohs and ahs, Wow! Cool!) when they began. In a way I felt like I was glimpsing the future of classrooms to come. I can imagine so many possibilities and so much content becoming available for teachers to engage their students. I can foresee a time when the students don't just have this as a one time event but a daily experience. Eventually students could have their own device to regularly walk across a battlefield with their history class or be virtually present during an important speech. I can also imagine it won't be long before the content is not just static 360 degree images but moving interactive video immersing us in an environment where we can interact with others. Wow!

Here is some additional information from Google about the program:

  • The Wildlife Conservation Society, PBS, the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, and the Palace of Versailles contributed to developing the curriculum for students.
  • These trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.
  • While nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, Expeditions provide an unparalleled opportunity for supplemental learning. Seeing the brilliant ways teachers integrate VR in their classes has taught us so much already.

About Google Cardboard viewer:

  • Google Cardboard is a virtual reality viewer made almost entirely of actual cardboard. Cardboard allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality. There have been more than 5 million Cardboard viewers shipped.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Video & Resources from Annual Minnetonka District Tour: Deeper Learning in the 21st Century

Minnetonka Teaching & Learning Instructional Framework
The 11th Annual Minnetonka District Tour: Deeper Learning in the 21st Century last week was a great success! We had 150 visitors from as far away as California, Texas, and Costa Rica come to Minnesota. They toured classrooms and attended sessions at Groveland Elementary, Minnetonka Community Education Center, Minnetonka High School, Minnetonka Middle School EastScenic Heights Elementary, and Vantage. (Open any of those links to see the site tour details and content.) We heard great things from attendees who appreciated learning about all areas of teaching and learning with this year’s focus not just on technology but on our Framework. The Minnetonka Teaching and Learning Instructional Framework is the lens through which teachers and administrators design student experiences for meaning, engagement, and deeper learning.
You can view some Twitter photos and comments from the two days in the Storify below. The full agenda and program includes links to 35 presentations during breakout sessions. Even if you weren't able to attend, you can read the descriptions of the sessions as well as open links to view any of the presentations. Topics included authentic and real-world learning, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, global perspectives, personalized learning, use of technology, and much more!