Monday, February 27, 2017

If My Parents Only Knew: My NBC KARE 11 Interview About Kids, Tech & Parenting

Last week Julie Nelson, news anchor on NBC KARE 11 TV, interviewed me as part of a series on parenting and technology entitled If My Parents Only Knew. Unlike my first appearance at KARE 11 talking about kids and technology, this format was not a pre-recorded story but an open interview for 15 minutes discussing some of my Top 10 Tips for Tech Healthy Kids. Once again, I answered questions from viewers through Facebook.

We talked about the importance of proactively sharing values and expectations with kids around technology, including keeping devices out of kids' bedrooms overnight and the great resources for parents available at Common Sense Media. We discussed the need for parents and adults to model a healthy balance with technology, including tech free dinners and being where their feet are. I also talked about the need to limit exposure to inappropriate material on our kids' screens by using filters both at home (I use Open DNS with Netgear Parental Controls) and on phones (I use and recommend Curbi). My list of tips and resources was shared with  the online audience.

The entire series for the week is a great educational resource for parents and included three other interviews about apps parents should know about, how technology is used to cheat, and revenge porn and sexting. You can view those interviews hereA big thanks to Julie Nelson and KARE11 for dedicating so much time to this important topic last week! Please make time to learn about these important topics, talk with your own kids, relatives, and/or students about them, and share these links and resources with others. Together we can all help keep today's kids safer, more healthy, and well balanced in their use of technology! 

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Minnetonka Research: An In Depth, Highly Advanced High School Research Program

This year Minnetonka Public Schools launched a research center for our high school students. The program provides on site laboratories with specialized equipment and allows highly advanced high school students to pursue authentic research. They work in partnership with mentors from the surrounding scientific, industry, and university community to research an answer to a math, science, engineering, or social science question of their choice. There are currently two research courses available to students starting in their sophomore year. A prerequisite is passing an  AP or IB math or science exam.

This happened after four years of planning and preparation. The idea was brought forth through our idea hunt, an annual process in which all staff partake to crowd source innovation (see Minnetonka Schools: Innovation is Now Our Strategic Plan for more info). Starting last summer, a few classrooms at the high school were remodeled and outfitted as science laboratory spaces. Equipment was donated by many area businesses. Students each have their own lab bench space to perform their experiments and have access to the lab every day of the week.

Students work with teachers and their mentors on detailed project proposals, learn project management, budget skills, keep detailed journals and lab notebooks, learn scientific writing and communicating, read research articles, and more. Student projects that involve human subjects, animals, or pathogens go through a committee process for approval and oversight. The projects themselves are complex, such as:

Inhibition of Bacterial Conjugation Through Regulation of Transfer Genes traA, traQ, and traM with Phosphorothioate Antisense Oligonucleotides in Escherichia coli.

Other student research projects include in more basic understandable terms include:

Self healing plastic as an artificial muscle
Researching cancerous liver cells
Developing an assistive bicycle stabilization system
Health study of Indian women
Improving bacterial DNA polymerases

Hearing these students explain their projects is amazing! Watch a DecemberSchool Board meeting in which staff and students presented about the program. Students in the program post to Beyond the Glass, the Minnetonka Research Blog, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays--check it out for more details. You can also follow @tonkaresearch, check out the Minnetonka Research website and contact Kim Hoehne, the program director.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Over 40 More iPad Integration Ideas for Elementary, Middle, & High School

Last week I presented at the Ed Tech Teacher Innovation Summit in San Diego along with one of our middle school principals, Dr. Paula Hoff, and one of our high school instructional technology coaches and science teachers, Patricia Price. We presented another edition of "Tonka Teacher Talks." We showcased over 40 Minnetonka 1:1 iPad teachers' examples of iPad integration in a variety of elementary, middle & high school curricular areas. We explained how each example fit into our Minnetonka Framework for Teaching & Learning and moved beyond SAMR to create more meaningful, deeper, and engaging learning experiences for students. 

The presentation is a collection of over 40 great things happening in Minnetonka classrooms daily harnessing the power of iPads for teaching and learning. It has many links to examples of students' work as well as some links to videos. Elementary examples are on slides with a green background, middle school examples have a yellow background, and high school examples are on a blue background. We are fortunate in Minnetonka to have so many great teachers doing amazing things with their students. You can view the slideshow presentation below.  

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Monday, February 6, 2017

The Difference Between Educational & Entertainment Screen Time

A recent question from a parent wondering about screen time limits in our classrooms made me realize that not everyone is aware of the difference between educational and entertainment screen time. Many of today's parents grew up at a time when most, if not all, screen time in their childhood was for entertainment purposes. There were no eBooks, educational apps, and many fewer (if any) computer programs for learning. Parents my age or older likely grew up at a time when the only screens in their school were an occasional TV/VCR wheeled into the classroom. This was also a time when our own parents warned us about spending too much time in front of a television screen, or later, perhaps too much time video gaming at an arcade (and eventually video gaming with a console connected to our television). Also, at this time we didn't hear anything asking us to consider the content on the screen, the only focus was on overall screen time limits. 

Until a year and a half ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics had long suggested limiting a child’s total screen time per day. Then in 2015, the AAP revised their screen time recommendations. They now encourage parents consider the content on the screen itself before deciding whether or not there should be any time limits. The AAP recommends limiting recreational/entertainment screen time to one to two hours per day for children over age two (source). There is no screen time limit for educational content and use. More tips from the AAP about children and media.

Personally, my wife and I limit the amount of entertainment screen time our children spend per day to about an hour: we have our kids limit their video gaming time to 20 minutes a day, setting a timer before they start playing. We also try to keep the time spent per day watching a television/Netflix show to 30 minutes. On the weekends, we do allow more--often they may watch a movie or two. The time our kids spend daily on screens for educational reasons doesn’t count toward these limits. We’ve made it a rule that homework needs to get completed after school first before screens can be used for entertainment, and hopefully this is creating some good habits for our kids to follow in their future!

The revised AAP recommendations were long overdue and I'm thankful they finally were made. However, in the past decade or so while there was exponential growth in the field of educational technology, the unrevised AAP recommendations remained in place and were a source of confusion for parents. As educators, we need to remember that many parents still aren’t aware that the AAP made these changes and still think that all screens are equal. We also need to realize that just because we share this information with parents once, we can’t expect that everyone will hear it and know it from this point forward. It will be an ongoing educational task. There will likely be new technologies that become widely adopted that may need revised recommendations and AAP guidance once again, too. Hopefully it won’t take quite so long!

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