Monday, April 25, 2016

Happy Sweet 16! Now You Can Snapchat. (34% of Parents Don't Allow It Until High School.)

Image Source: Social Times
Our oldest daughter just turned sixteen. She has been asking for a Snapchat account for a few years now. Until now we have said no.

As I poll students at the presentations I give around the state, about two years ago I started seeing Snapchat surpass all other social media tools used by tweens and teens. Despite its popularity as well as our daughter insisting that we were unfair (and that she was the only one without an account), we held off. We certainly had a lot of discussions about it and my wife and I spent a lot of time reflecting on our decision and beliefs. 

We haven't allowed Snapchat for two main reasons. One, we are concerned about the inappropriate content and sexting that an app like Snapchat could potentially encourage. We trust our daughter and she is a great kid, but research has shown that not everyone uses Snapchat appropriately. It is quite likely that she might receive inappropriate content even if she doesn't want it. An app like Snapchat that leads users to believe that technology is temporary is often in the news for negative reasons. Second, we want to help our children maintain a healthy balance in the amount of entertainment/social screen time in their lives, and we know that having yet another social media tool will likely take up more time, not just replace time already spent on Instagram or texting with friends. 

I know that by waiting we have been more conservative than some parents. In fact, I know of some elementary students with smartphones that use Snapchat. When we recently randomly sampled our grade 5-12 students' parents and 528 of them completed the survey. One of our questions was "At what grade level do you think it is appropriate for students to begin using social media tools like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter?" Here are the results:

5.6% think upper elementary is appropriate

53.1% think middle school is appropriate

34.3% think high school is appropriate

7% say it's not appropriate

Image Source
So according to the data, we are in the minority of parents who have held out. We've been OK with that. A few years ago we had a parent/community book read on Dr. David Walsh's book, No: Why Kids--of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It. We found the book and Dr. Walsh's advice helpful, and believe it is important to not always give in. Our kids will be stronger and more resilient people because of it. As a parent, it can be tough to hold your ground. As stated on the Amazon book description, "Although saying No to your child is obviously important, many parents still have a hard time following through—even when they know they should—especially when other parents and the culture around them are being permissive."

As I've written in the past, I believe we should gradually and slowly expand the technology tools and freedom our kids use after practice and success (see How much should parents snoop?) For example, we waited until she was 12 years old to get her a phone (see Best Age to get a Smartphone), use Curbi so her phone is filtered (more on Curbi here), and until she was 14 and in ninth grade to allow Instagram (see Raising JOMO kids in a FOMO world). We also keep tech out of the bedroom at night. We continue to have frequent conversations about using technology and social media appropriately. 

As she has proven she is responsible we have allowed more tools and given her more freedoms. Now she is 16 and has a drivers' license. As difficult as it is to let go, we plan to continue to guide her on the path to adulthood. It's hard to believe she only has two years left with us before she is on her own. We hope that the guidance we have provided will give her a solid foundation for making wise decisions.  Who knows, maybe some day she will even thank us for it!

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Monday, April 18, 2016

3D Printing in Minnetonka Schools

Fourth grade student created substitute teacher robot of the future.
During our Annual District Tours last month, visitors had the opportunity to see student created designs printed on 3D printers at both Groveland Elementary School and Minnetonka High School. We have 3D printers at other sites as well; they are used in our eighth grade advanced robotics courses and at Clear Springs Elementary School. 3D printing manufacturers were a major presence at this year's CES Conference which I attended where there was everything from printed food to a printed motorcycle on display. There will undoubtedly be more 3D printers in schools in the future.

After learning about 3D printers at the annual Minnesota TIES Technology Conference in December 2014, principal Dave Parker met with Media Specialist Colleen Small and put together a plan to begin researching and secure funding for a 3D printer at their school. Colleen wanted an enclosed printer that would keep fingers out during the printing process, so she began a trial period with a Stratys Mojo printer. The vendor was very supportive in helping to get things going. Colleen began learning how to use it and get students involved, too. The Groveland PTA ended up purchasing the printer.
Groveland Elementary's Stratys 3D printer
When 3D printers first came into schools years ago their use was pretty limited. Until easy to use and free software became more available, a lot of the uses I saw for 3D printing by students and teachers seemed to basically be to print off pre-designed objects. Although these items are still available on sites like Thingiverse, Colleen wanted the students to make their own. To do this, she had fourth grade students set up accounts and use TinkerCad. They began to create and design models of robots that could help with something around the school. In TinkerCad, students saved their designs as .stl files which were printed from their Stratys 3D printer. 

Colleen explained that although each kid had an account, not all designs were printable. She says it was a great spatial learning task and experience for the students, as many didn't realize their drawings and objects were not on the same work plane. Some students robots might have looked OK from the front, but when viewed from all angles the models had disconnected parts. Students who created models that were all connected were able to print their designs and take them home. Some students' projects are pictured.

Hand printed from Project Enable design.
In addition to fourth grade students, third grade students in Tatiana Giraldo's class at Groveland Elementary also recently used the 3D printer. When they were learning about the skeletal system in science, Tatiana introduced the students to Project Enable, an organization that is "A Global Network Of Passionate Volunteers Using 3D Printing To Give The World A "Helping Hand." The organization's members use 3D printers to create "free hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device." Tatiana and her students ordered the kit of parts and then printed off the hand pictured. Students were able to manipulate this hand and observe how the fingers work as they learned about exo and endoskeletons. They will be donating the hand to the organization later this spring. Colleen is hoping that students next year in fifth grade can use the AutoDesk app on their iPads to build models and designs for their water rockets science unit. Besides science and health, there are so many possibilities with other subject integration such as math and language arts. She hopes to have younger students design models of a storybook character they are writing about. High Potential (gifted) students at Groveland used the 3D printer this year to create architectural designs.
Senior student designed phone case.
At the upper grades, students at Minnetonka High School in Mitch Burfeind's classes use AutoDesk Inventor to apply the engineering design process. When guests at our Annual Tours were in these classes last month, they saw students working on designing objects that they could use in their life. Students could then print their design on a MakerBot printer. One senior student showed me his phone case design (pictured) and the finished printed product. He explained that it was very difficult to get the case to actually fit on the phone and stay on, so he had gone through multiple iterations on his project. 

It is fun to see 3D printers in use from our youngest to oldest students. I'm anxious to see more of what they create in the future. Perhaps soon they will start to include integrated and printed circuits like I saw at CES. Perhaps they'll be printing food for our cafeteria, too!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Students Learn to Visualize a Process: A Valuable Life Skill for Everyone

Catherine M.'s Visualization 
Recently senior students in a Minnetonka High School Composition for College Hybrid Course visualized their writing process. Teacher Charley Barniskis had students reflect on their own writing process and talk about how everyone's writing process is different. He also explained that after high school, students will have to work through this process on their own. Whether in college or the workplace, they will be given writing tasks and have to complete them by a due date.
Tom Wujec's TED Talk
Charley had the students begin by watching Tom Wujec's TED Talk about making toast. If you haven't seen it, make time for it and reflect on how you illustrate a process through drawing, what makes for the ideal number of steps or "nodes", and the benefits of models worked out by a group-think synthesis. Think of creating a vision statement, or illustrating a change or project. You can learn more on Wujec's website, too. As Tom explains, pretty much every problem area and/or challenge in life and work can be represented and worked through by breaking it into steps, reflecting on what is most important, and acting on it to completion.

Allison M.'s Visualization
After watching the TED Talk, Charley’s students were to imagine that they were asked to write something by a boss, religious leader, coach, etc. and think about how they would normally complete it. They thought through how they normally brainstormed ideas, worked through drafts, proofread their work, and even where procrastination fit into their personal style. Students created drawings of their writing process, some using the Explain Everything app, others Notability, some used paper or index cards. They then posted their images to a discussion board with an explanation in Schoology. The discussion board allowed them to view other classmates' work and interact with one another through comments. Charley prompted his students to reflect on what they learned about one another's writing processes and explain what they found surprising. You can view the entire assignment here.

Technology was used to augment the lesson and it was an option that students could use to illustrate and represent their process. They also used technology to share their work and communicate with one another through Schoology. One of the great things about this project is that by taking his students through this exercise, Charley not only had them reflect on their own writing process, but see one another's thinking. They were able to see differences from themselves and realize that multiple methods exist for tackling and completing a project. Charley explained to me that "this assignment also compelled some students to change how they write because they were exposed to so many other ways to do it. They were taken out of their isolated practice and shown other ways to go about writing. It also fostered a conversation about procrastination: the Death Star of the writing process, which NO college composition textbook discusses when it discusses the writing process." Plus the ability to visualize and represent solutions to problems is a valuable life skill that these students will use a lot in their future, well beyond reflecting on their personal writing process. 

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Over 1/2 of Parents Keep Digital Devices Out of Kids' Bedrooms Overnight

Numerous studies and research have shown that allowing electronic devices in bedrooms overnight has negative effects on children's health and wellbeing. A quick search will lead you to many of the most recent reports. Most notability, children don't sleep as well when they stay up late and/or wake up during the night to use their devices, check social media, text and Snapchat, etc.  

February 2016 Grade 5-12 Parent Survey
As part of our work in Minnetonka to help educate parents and establish community norms, we recently randomly sampled our grade 5-12 students' parents and asked them a number of questions related to technology use at home. 528 parents completed the survey. We asked them "Does your child keep an iPad, cellphone, or other personal technology in their bedroom overnight?" (You can see last week's post with the answers and details to the question "What's the best age for a kid to get a cellphone with Internet access?" here.)

Over half, 55.4%, of parents stated they keep technology out of their kids' bedrooms overnight.

This is a sizable increase from the results on last year's survey when 43.9% of parents surveyed stated that they kept devices out of their kids' bedrooms at night. 
38% of parents of 9-12 grade students keep devices out of bedrooms overnight.
Furthermore, you might assume that this only is the elementary or middle school parents who do this. However, when you break the data down and just look at high school parents, 38% of our parents of current 9-12 grade students keep devices out of bedrooms overnight. This number has also increased from last year's survey when 32.7% of 9-12 parents responded that they keep devices out of their kids' bedrooms.

Families are encouraged to keep the iPad and other
technology in a central location to charge overnight.
We have been actively educating the parents of students in our 1:1 iPad program and advising them to keep all electronic devices out of their children's bedrooms since the program began over five years ago.  The following information has appeared on our parent handouts and Parent Guide website about our 1:1 Program:

Put the iPad to bed, but not in the bedroom
Parenting experts suggest parking all technology devices, from cell phones to iPads, in a common spot overnight to discourage late night, unmonitored use and sleep disruption. Don’t allow your child to sleep with the iPad, laptop or cell phone. Remember to model appropriate use and balance of technology in your own life, too!

As mentioned last week, sometimes our kids tell us that everyone else else gets to do something except them, such as keep their phone in their room overnight. 

"My phone is my alarm clock."

Cellphones at our house are kept out of
bedrooms overnight, even parents' phones. 
"I need it for my alarm clock" is what my own high school daughter tells me even though she has a clock radio. Despite this request, as well as statements about her friends whose parents do allow technology in bedrooms overnight, we don't. This survey data helps parents understand that not every other parent allows technology in bedrooms overnight. It is reassuring to know you're not alone in setting up guidelines for technology use. Our children will be out from under our roof soon enough, especially our high school aged kids. We can help them get a restful night's sleep at our homes now and help them create some great habits for their future at the same time.

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