Monday, December 31, 2018

Easy New Year's Resolution: Add 40 Vacation Days to 2019 by Cutting Back on Social Media

The average time spent per day on social media in 2018 for most adults is around 40 minutes: Facebook users spent around 41 minutes per day, Snapchat users spend around 35 minutes per day and Instagram around 30 minutes per day. Back in 2016 Facebook reported that the average user spent 50 minutes per day across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. Depending on the age of the adult some spend more or less--for example younger adults spend more time on Snapchat and Instagram. (Source) While 30-50 minutes per day may not sound like much, added up over an entire year the numbers get startling when converted to eight hour work days. This seems more reasonable than converting to 24 hour days since (hopefully) no one is on social media 24 hours a day:
  • 30 minutes/day=183 hours/year, or almost 23 eight hour work days (over 4.5 weeks of vacation) 
  • 40 minutes/day=243 hours/year, or over 30 eight hour work days (six weeks of vacation) 
  • 50 minutes/day=304 hours/year, or over 38 eight hour work days (almost eight weeks of vacation) 
Imagine adding this amount of time to your life in the coming year! Even if you aren't spending this much time per day on social media (perhaps you are on Netflix?) consider these numbers:
  • 5 minutes/day=30 hours/year, or almost 4 eight hour work days
  • 10 minutes/day=61 hours/year, or almost 7.5 eight hour work days
  • 15 minutes/day=91 hours/year, or almost 11.5 eight hour work days
  • 20 minutes/day=122 hours/year, or over 15 eight hour work days (a three-week vacation)
In October I ended a one year Facebook/Instagram fast. In the past my longest break from Facebook had been about seven months and prior to that three months. Since ending this fast I've barely opened either tool. When I do I'm reminded of why I went cold turkey and stopped looking at it completely: I find it to be a time drain, a nearly endless string of posts that often don't improve my relationship with my friends and family. It seems to me that amount of non-essential posts such as check-ins at restaurants, posts about shopping or some link to a video is exponentially greater than the posts about something I really need to know.

s I wrote before, I really wish there was a way to get the most important updates and highlights from my connections without having to scroll through so much other stuff. Over the past year I've had more and more family and friends who have actually gone as far as deleting their account. I haven't done that...yet. (For more on that, check out this NYTimes article, Breaking up with Facebook is hard to do: Here's how.) But as I pay more attention to the amount of time I spend on social media and entertainment screen time, I've started thinking about what I'm not doing...and what I used to do years ago before these tools existed. It's not just Facebook that I'm monitoring. It's Twitter, Instagram, the Apple News Feed, YouTube, and more. Apple's new Screen Time tool is a great help with this personal monitoring as well as talking with my kids about their use and time allocation. 

So as I self-reflect and encourage my own family to monitor time on social media, I encourage you to do the same. Set limits and don't fill the extra time you gain with other forms of entertainment technology. As a family we continue to try to spend time together, playing board games, going on walks, sports, crafts, and even scheduling fun time together. Reflect on what you did before social media was part of your daily routine and help your kids, relatives and friends experience and build relationships through these activities, too, maintaining a healthy balance of social media and entertainment technology. 
Read more about this topic through these related posts: 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Be Where Your Feet Are: High School Edition

I first wrote about "be where your feet are" almost four years ago. It was a phrase I had heard from one of our media specialists, Kelli Whiteside. She used this phrase with her family to remind them to focus on the people around them and not their screens. I adopted this phrase with my own family and share it with students and parents when I present on digital health and wellness. 

Recently our high school students and staff put together a video (above) for the students to help remind them to be where their feet are in the hallways and classrooms at school, encouraging them to be present with those around them. This was shown during the morning school wide televised announcements. Through some funny scenarios students can see what might happen when they are too distracted by their personal devices to really be aware to what's going on around them. At the end the principal, Jeff Erickson, quotes Ferris Bueller and reminds students, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  Very true! With the New Year just a week away, consider setting a resolution so spend more time being where your feet are. It's certainly something one which many of us could improve.

Related posts:

Monday, December 17, 2018

Photo Recap: 7,300+ Hours of December Coding in Minnetonka Schools

Grade 6 STEM students programming with Scratch

Two weeks ago was the International Hour of Code. Each of our elementary schools participated, and a total of over 7,300 hours of coding by classes was logged for K-5 students. In addition to these hours, students in many classes at both of our middle schools participated in coding activities in their core subject classes and STEM classes, as well as an elective coding class in eighth grade, but these hours were not tallied. Coding is also offered as an elective in our high school.

I've posted just a few of the photos of students coding during this time to give you a glimpse of some of the many activities that took place.  

Minnewashta Elementary Kindergartener
illustrating sequences, photo by Shelly Traver.

Minnewashta Elementary 1st Grade
made binary bracelets.
Scenic Heights Elementary students
coded Ozobots, photo by Melinda Barry.
Scenic Heights Kindergarteners programmed
Bee Bots, photo by Amy Altenberg.
Deephaven Elementary held an after school
Coding Party, photo by Kelli Whiteside.

6th Grade STEM classes using Scratch
Clear Springs Elementary students trying one another's
coded games, photo by Tiffany Miley.
Clear Springs Elementary students using
Dash And Dot, photo by Tiffany Miley

6th Grade Science programming Spheros
6th Grade Scratch project

6th Grade STEM illustrating loops 
To learn more about coding in Minnetonka K-12, please see some of the related posts listed below:

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Day in Fourth Grade Math: Enhancing Learning With iPads & More

Last week I was at Minnewashta Elementary School when fourth grade students were in math classes. When I walked into Jeff Beckstrom’s classroom I could see students were learning about triangles with a student teacher. I heard terms like scalene, obtuse, equilateral, right, length, and more. I remembered teaching about this myself 23 years ago when I taught fourth grade math starting my teaching career in Minnetonka. Although the content and objectives were the same, so much about the instruction had changed. I taught with an overhead projector, transparencies and markers and students had a textbook, paper and a pencil. Now in 2018, paper and pencils were still present and being used, but each student had an iPad and the teacher had a SMARTBoard connected to a computer.

One of the most noticeable differences for me was how many more tools were instantly accessible at the learner’s fingertips. This school year we increased the number of iPads in our fourth grade classroom sets providing enough so that every student has a device. Students in K-3 classrooms have a class set of six iPads and students in grades 5-12 have an iPad that they carry to and from school each day. With the increase of devices in fourth grade this year, every student can use technology for learning at any point throughout the day, and they can save and store their work without having to log in to a shared device. This really increases the amount of time for enhanced and individualized learning.

The day before I visited the classroom students had cut out a variety of triangles on paper and sorted and named these. Then they had each taken photos of their work and even labeled the images as pictured. Students were referring back to these photos during the lesson while I was present, something that wasn’t possible back when I was an elementary math teacher. Students were also using Notability to complete some problems on a worksheet (as you can see pictured as well). Since they don’t bring their iPad home, they had notes and definitions writing on paper (also pictured). se

Every few minutes in the lesson, the teacher would guide the students into a different activity, really doing a nice job of maintaining their attention and keeping them engaged and motivated. Students used some apps to practice measuring angles, such as Pattern Shapes (pictured). They also worked through problems on IXL (pictured). And throughout the lesson, students used the teacher’s Schoology site as the go to place to access these different materials (pictured). Each of these activities complimented one another nicely to really enhance the instruction and students’ learning. I sure wish I had all this access to technology a couple decades ago when I was trying to teach my students these same skills--it’s obvious how much more students can learn and how much more they are able to understand with all these technological resources at their fingertips!

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Who is Talking With Your Kids about Pornography?

If you're not talking with your kids about pornography, who is? Have a conversation about 
this is not something to which most parents eagerly anticipate. Often parents worry that having this talk may get their kids to start thinking about sex, perhaps even becoming curious and seeking out content earlier than they would have had nothing been said. But waiting means that rather than proactively setting up guidelines sharing our beliefs and values about sexuality with our children, we will be discussing these after we find out they have already been exposed to pornography. This could potentially be well after their initial exposure and perhaps long after a lot of time spent viewing it.  

The fact is this talk needs to be more than just a one time conversation. It needs to be frequent and ongoing. The negative effects of pornography and its effect on our brains is difficult enough for adults to navigate and certainly not something that a young impressionable mind knows how to handle. Women are often seen as objects in pornography. Young boys and grown men watching pornography learn to objectify women, valuing them for how they look rather who they are as individuals. The viewer may also come to see her/himself as an object. Mistreatment and physical harm of others is modeled through pornography. Pornography can become very addictive for adults and for kids, creating a desire to see more extreme and unusual content. It can train your brain into thinking what you see is normal, healthy, appropriate, and how relationships work. 

Dove Campaign for Beauty
If this is a taboo topic in your home then your kids don't have your guidance helping them along the way, instead learning about sexuality from the internet. In a Moth podcast recorded a while ago, Adam Savage of Myth Busters describes parenting as trying to influence the computer code in our kids' operating systems. In Talking To My Kids About Sex In The Internet Age, he explains how he tried to influence the code by having this talk with his twin sons. He said "curiosity is OK but it will quickly take you to places that you don't want to's reasonable to be curious...but you will quickly see things that you won't be able to unsee, images that will stick with you the rest of your life." In short, in an effort to put things into context he sums it up for his boys as "the internet  hates women." This is both a startling and intriguing way to describe things and set up a framework for more discussion. Years ago Dove had some PSAs about media's influence and portrayal of women that are worth viewing and discussing with our kids: Evolution and Onslaught.

(Approximately 11 minute clip)
A while ago in one of the webinars I did with Mathew Meyers, a licensed marriage and family therapist,  we discussed how to talk with your kids about pornography. Starting at a young age, we can tell our kids that there are pictures out there of naked people and explain why we believe you shouldn't look at these and why it isn't healthy or ok to look. We should also talk about why these pictures and videos are on the internet- that many unhealthy people are looking at this and creating a market for it. It is also important to talk through what to do if/when this content is viewed by playing out possible scenarios like, "What would you do if you're at a friend's house and s/he wants you to watch an inappropriate video?" Be sure to take shame out of the equation. Do not make it a taboo topic--talk about our sexuality being normal. (See Simple Tip for Powerful Conversations with Kids: Start with "What if.." vs. "Have you..?") I often tell kids to practice the Grandma Test when wondering whether or not something is OK: keep your Grandma proud of the content you view as well as create. 

Last year at the National Digital Citizenship Conference, I met Kristen A. Jenson, author of Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids (Second Edition), a great short book in kid friendly language written for parents to have the difficult and often avoided conversation about pornography. Kristen helps parents explain the difference between your thinking and feeling brain and how pornography can become addictive, tricking the brain into an addiction. She lays out a five step plan entitled "CAN DO" which stands for Close my eyes immediately, Always tell a trusted adult, Name it when I see it, Distract myself, and Order my thinking brain to be the boss! There are about 2-3 discussion questions after each short chapter to help parents with this important discussion.

We need to talk with our kids frequently about pornography. Don't put this off. If you've already had this discussion, revisit the topic once again. I have more links and resources to help talk with kids about pornography here.