Thursday, September 26, 2019

Minnetonka Screening "Like" Documentary About the Impact of Social Media

In our continued efforts to help our children (and ourselves) practice a healthy balance with our use of technology, Minnetonka Schools will be hosting a parent screening of a new documentary about the impact of social media on our lives called Like on November 13, January 27 and 31. (If you're in the area you can RSVP here and claim a free ticket). All students in grades 6-12 will also see the film this year as part of their health curriculum. 

I first learned about the film early this summer and previewed it with one of our principals. Then I pulled together a group of about 30 others 
to see it (principals, health teachers, counselors, media specialists, administrators and others). They confirmed its value and we discussed how to have our students and parents see it. Our health teachers liked the direct ties into their curriculum on relationships and the role of technology in our lives. Guidance counselors and administrators liked its messages about the impact of social media. Everyone agreed that it could be a helpful way to further educate both our students and their families and promote a healthier relationship with personal technology. 

Overall the film is really well done. It has a nice balance of interviews with students as well as experts. The film relays information about the purposeful design of social media apps to get us to use them more, a message that the Center for Humane Technology is working to inform the greater public about. This is an organization that I have been following and written about previously. The film includes interviews with Max Stossel, Head of Education & Content. It ends with an updated version of the Panda is Dancing short clip that Max stars in from a few years ago. The film also interviews the co-founder of the "Like" button on Facebook, Leah Pearlman, and discusses the effects of this numeric value on our interactions.

The film does a great job of educating the viewer on these important topics. The film not only addresses some negative effects of social media and phone use but also highlights positives, as well as suggests steps to take to regain a balanced and more healthy use. This is something other films I've seen haven't done and therefore we've avoided showing our community because they basically were too fear mongering and would not help bring change.

Post screening surveys were very positive about the film. As shown in the chart, 100% of parents agreed that the film was informative and worth seeing. Parents also listed many things they had learned from the film that they plan to implement.

Unfortunately one part of the film that is not helpful is a short, misleading 3 minute section on "Technology in the Classroom." They interview the principal of a middle school that is going phone free with expensive magnetic locking cell phone pouches for kids to carry around. They quote the often cited myth that Silicon Valley executives send their kids to tech free schools--including Steve Jobs--whose children were in school prior to the iPhone and iPads. Yes, a small percentage do, but relative to the thousands of executives in SV it's a very small number. Be sure to read Carl Hooker's blog post related to this about Technology Fear Therapy for Parents and SchoolsAt least at the end of these three minutes they acknowledge that creativity and intuition can happen "in conjunction with machines." When I spoke with Scilla Andreen, the CEO and Co-Founder of IndieFlix, I encouraged her to cut this section out. Any screening of LIKE should point out these misleading blanket statements and myths. 

More info
During the screening, I paused the film three times and gave the attendees a few minutes for discussion with others around them on some questions I posted on the screen. At the end I also shared a number of tips and ideas from my own family to work toward a healthy relationship with social media, personal technology, and entertainment screen time. You can watch a nearly identical recording of that presentation here: My 20 Minute Ed Talk: Screen Time & Student Well-being

As a follow up to our screenings of LIKE, we are holding a Social Media & Parenting Panel Discussion in Minnetonka on March 12.

In addition to the trailer linked above, here are two other for the film and learn about the Like documentary, visit

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Class VR Headsets Now in Minnetonka Classrooms

This year in Minnetonka classrooms our students and teachers have the opportunity to use virtual reality headsets for learning. Thanks to the Minnetonka Foundation, 24 Class VR headsets were purchased. Eight headsets are stored in one portable case, so the three cases are available for our teachers to check out and use all together or in smaller sets.

Each of the headsets allows the learner to experience virtual reality in a simulated environment guided by the teacher. Students can explore historical locations such as the pyramids or a castle. They can go into outer space or underwater to explore coral reef. Students can go into the bloodstream to learn about the body or go back in time to see what a site or location looked like in the past.

Class VR provides each teacher with the dashboard to oversee and guide learning. Teachers see a thumbnail in live time of what each student is viewing. They can push out content to all students at once or to specific individuals. Class VR has a library of pre-curated virtual experiences for students as well as a library where educators from around the world can create and curate content. Class VR headsets also work with Google Expeditions.

In the past I have written about a AR/VR experiences that our students have in Minnetonka, such as… We are excited for the increased opportunities to make learning more meaningful through augmented and virtual reality that these sets of ClassVR headsets will provide for our students. They will be a great way to enhance and make learning more memorable for students!

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Seesaw Starting in K-3 Minnetonka Classrooms

Starting this month Minnetonka K-3 Teachers will be implementing Seesaw for SchoolsSeesaw is a student-centered, student-led communications tool. It provides a variety of exciting features teachers can choose to use including individual student portfolios and journals, assessment tools and a class blog. It works great with shared iPads; students simply scan a QR code to log in. To learn more watch What is Seesaw? and read How does Seesaw work?

Each year on our annual parent survey elementary parents state their number one concern is not enough communication home. Communication home is a critical part of a child’s academic success as parents partner with us in their child’s learning. Seesaw will be a powerful tool in helping to build parent support and understanding of what is happening in the classroom.

Specialists working with K-3 students will each have a Seesaw course, too. Our Tech Department is creating teacher and student accounts. Later this month, parents will receive instructions to download the app. If parents choose not to use the app they can receive Seesaw updates via email. Our Elementary Tech Coaches will offer short before/after school Seesaw training opportunities beginning this week and help support teachers throughout the year. 

Additional iPads have were delivered to schools this summer for each third grade classrooms to support a 1:2 ratio, and additional iPads will arrive later in September for second grade, bringing the ratio to one iPad per two students as well. In K-1 classrooms, each classroom has six student iPads. 

Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to see Seesaw in use in other schools and how quickly it was adopted. I'm excited to see how our students, teachers, and parents in Minnetonka use Seesaw! 

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