Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How Young is Too Young for Technology?

This past weekend, I got a text message from my mother that I was a little surprised by.  The message asked if my 6-year-old daughter, Elsa, knew how to text.  My immediate response was, "I think so."  While I have never seen my daughter text anybody, I was certain that she knew how.  I gave my phone to her, telling her that her Mimi wanted to talk to her by text.  Over the course of the next 15 minutes, I watched in utter awe as my "little girl" got to talk to her Mimi in a way that she never had before.

Look at that sweet little girl, who's not so
little anymore... 
I'm going to take a moment to brag about Elsa here.  My little girl is absolutely brilliant.  She was speaking full sentences at a year and a half.  She knew her ABCs, reciting them and recognizing them before she was 3.  Now, she is identifying 5th-grade sight words and reading chapter books that are considered 4th-grade level AS A KINDERGARTNER.  On top of that, her math skills are excellent, she has taken an interest in science, and she does a decent job with her coding board game that she got for Christmas.

Like I mentioned, I had never seen Elsa text before.  I had a good feeling that she would be able to, she can handle an iPad better than many adults that I have met, and coupled with her reading skills, I figured it wouldn't be hard for her to fire off a few texts to my mother.  Outside of asking me how to spell a couple of the things she was trying to say (when asked what she had been doing all day, my daughter wanted to reply, "just lounging around"), she did a very good job, even throwing in a couple of emojis, something that I don't even do.  Then Elsa asked me if I could help her make a Bitmoji.  I decided that I would, but I would set it up on one of my email addresses, so after a few minutes of hammering out the details, my little girl now has her own Bitmoji to share with the world!  I'm not sure how often she will use it when texting with family, as using the Bitmoji on the Apple keyboard tends to be more difficult than using standard emojis.
My 6-year-old's Bitmoji! And she has great taste in an outfit!

So over the course of the past couple of days, it got me thinking:  is there an age where it is too young to get kids going on technology?  In my opinion, the short answer is absolutely not.  This is the world that our kids live in, why not get them going on things as early as possible to better prepare them.  However, this does not come without its downfalls, some of which I can attest to from experience.

Then there is this handsome devil...
Kids in my children's generation are practically born with a device in their hands.  My daughter has been doing different things on an iPad for several years, as is my nearly 3-year-old son.  In fact, my son, Reed, is convinced at times that all screens are touchscreen and can be swiped so you can see him trying to swipe the television.  Another great one is when he takes the Amazon Fire remote and tries to tell it to turn on Peppa Pig or Hulk (his absolute favorite Marvel hero right now).  He also can operate an iPad, watching videos on YouTube Kids and playing some simple games.  He, like his sister, has also learned his ABCs very quickly, can identify the letters, spell his name, and other things that I couldn't imagine a 2-year-old being able to do.

However, while this is great and I am glad that my children are becoming technologically enthusiastic and literate, I also don't want them to become dependant on such devices.  My wife and I very rarely allow them to use devices while we are in public.  They do not get an iPad while we are grocery shopping or sitting at a restaurant.  The only exception is if we are at a restaurant with a group of people trying to watch a Golden Knights game and we are sitting for a long period of time.  Then, and only then, will be let the kids watch some videos on YouTube or play games, for the sake of keeping their busy little selves occupied contently for a bit instead of asking young children to behave for several hours on end.  Even though we limit their screen time, they still exhibit signs at times of screen addiction.  Both kids will get upset and sometimes throw fits if they are told that they cannot have their devices or if they are taken away after a set amount of time.

While discussing this post's idea with a professional colleague, she and I were on the same wavelength.  However, she also pointed out that there can be too much mindless use of technology that a child can be too young for.  Examples that she provided were video viewing/consuming versus creation, communicating versus "mindless button pushing" (the adult equivalent: an hour an a half of Facebook).  She stated that she is 100% behind getting young ones on board with tech, but to remember the difference between active screentime and passive screen time. 

The bottom line is this: It is important that we teach kids about using technology at early ages, there is no "too young" for tech.  But there is more to teaching tech than just putting a device in their hands.  Digital citizenship is more important than showing them how to navigate the device.  Modeling solid digital citizenship and outlining the consequences of actions on the Internet is core to teaching digital citizenship.  Once a foundation is set and the device is in a kid's hands, reiterating good digital citizenship, as well as showing kids how to use technology for learning, will set kids out on the right path to a bright future.

Are you stuck on some ideas on how to teach young students using technology?  I highly recommend checking out #gafe4littles and #k2cantoo on Twitter, as well as Christine Pinto and Susan Stewart, two great educators at the heart of those hashtags.  Don't be afraid of getting the young ones going, in fact, embrace it!

Until next time...

Friday, February 23, 2018

My #OneWord for 2018

If you have a social media presence, you probably saw the #oneword campaign a couple of months ago, people choosing one word to describe a change or a goal for the upcoming year.  Like many people, I settled on one word for myself, but beyond a Twitter chat in January, I didn't get too wild and crazy with it on social media, no reason in particular.  I focused more my goals for 2018, which I outlined in a previous blog post.  However, it's not like my one word isn't related to my goals for 2018; in fact, my one word, which is actually two words, fully and completely, will guide the steps I need to achieve my goals.  

Image result for tragically hip
Promotional photo of The Tragically Hip, with Gord Downie
on the far right.  Photo courtesy of
My one word came about months before the new year began.  It started with the death of Gord Downie on October 17, 2017.  Gord was the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, a band that never got much traction or attention in the United States, but is the unofficial band of Canada.  While not a lifelong fan of The Hip as they are more often referred to as I really started to get into them over the past few years.  Gord lost his battle with brain cancer in October, devastating a nation and a fanbase.  Even though he had announced his battle months prior, it didn't make the news of his death any easier, to the point that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke down in tears during a press conference announcing that Gord had passed.  

In the months since I have been listening to a lot of The Hip.  Gord as a songwriter had a beautifully cryptic style of writing that was wide open to interpretation often times.  Other times, the lyrics were dead set on something specific, such as the song 38 Years Old, a song about a prison break in Kingston, ON back in the 1970s (some of the lines are true to detail, other aspects are fabricated to make a great song).  One of the songs that really stood out to me over these months was Fully Completely.  Now, I am not the greatest at interpretations of art, poetry, songs, so on and so on.  When I listen to Fully Completely, my interpretation of the song is that it is the ending of a relationship, especially lines like, "Lover, she simply slammed the door" and "You're gonna miss me, wait and you'll see, fully and completely."  I could also see an interpretation of somebody trying to kick a drug habit as well.  Again, I'm not great at interpretations, but often times, things are purposely ambiguous for multiple interpretations and only the artist can explain the true meaning(s) intended.  

So, how do I take a song about the ending of a relationship and relate that what I want to achieve as a person in 2018?  To me, Fully Completely is a perfect description of how one should approach everything that they do in their life.  One should fully and completely approach relationships, work, play, etc. with a sense of purpose, an idea of an endgame, and take the steps necessary to achieve.  One should never "take a day off" when it comes to achieving their goals, all things should go toward a goal.  That doesn't mean work all day every day and never play, quite the contrary.  You NEED to get away from work stuff and do things that you enjoy, in fact, I believe that play and leisure will help one achieve a goal more effectively.

I want to take a moment to thank Ben Dickson and Sara Holm for my blog idea this week.  Ben and Sara moderate the #teachnvchat on Thursdays at 7:30 PM Pacific and originally focused on #oneword2018 a few weeks ago.  This past Thursday, we revisited our one words and had one of the best #teachnvchat sessions that we have had in a while (nothing against previous chats by any means, this one was just energetic and inspiring beyond belief).  Without their idea to revisit, I would not have been inspired to write this particular post.

What is your #oneword2018?  Think about it and share it with the world!

Until next time... 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Power of Positive

Right before winter break, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at my school about positive behavioral intervention and supports, also known as PBIS.  This wasn't the first time that I had attended a training on PBIS, as my previous school when I was an administrator was a PBIS school.  However, while the concept of PBIS is good for all schools, it is something that is especially useful at the alternative school environment, similar to what I am doing at the current time.  While much of the training was something that I was already aware of, I got some great things out of the training to try out with my students over the course of the past few weeks.  

The textbook that we used
in my Principles of
Coaching class back in 2004.   
It is no secret that positive interactions with people are going to bear more fruit than negative interactions.  You can look at the old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar" and apply it to education.  I also think back to a class that I took in college that was part of my minor program, a class called Principles of Coaching (my minor in college was Physical Education with a coaching emphasis, I coached various sports, mostly football, for 9 years before taking a hiatus that has now lasted almost 5 years; I miss coaching, but there is also a lot about it I don't miss, namely being able to spend more time with my family).  One of my coaches, Herb Greinke, was the instructor and the focus of the class was coaching and teaching through positive interactions, rather than the "old school" way of the screaming, chair throwing coach reminiscent of Bobby Knight.  I still remember that class very well, the textbook that we used, and the feedback that Coach Greinke gave me throughout that class. 

Fast forward to my current position teaching PE at a behavior school.  Most days can be very tough.  You have students that come from broken homes and often times have struggled with adult authority throughout their lives.  However, my bad days with students are very few and far between, and I credit that strictly to my ability to remain positive with students.  I make sure that I am interacting with students on a regular basis, asking students how their day is going, what kinds of plans they have for weekends, how they are doing in their classes, etc.  It is also essential to praise students for a job well done.  However, what the PBIS training got me thinking about was making that praise more substantial.  It's easy to be positive by telling a student, "Good job!", but it goes a lot farther if you can be more specific with the praise, such as,"I appreciate that you came to class today on time and participated in our activity!"  It is also helpful that rather than reprimanding a student for infractions, redirecting a student will be more effective.  Many of my students are used to using foul language on a regular basis, so rather than taking points away from a student's point sheet or writing a referral for language, I remind students of the school's expectations regarding language and often times, a student will self-correct.  

I get that this isn't my most groundbreaking post of all time.  If you are reading this, it's probably glaringly obvious that positive will go a lot further than negative.  However, if you are like me, you may have gotten into a mode where your positive feedback is too impersonal.  By harnessing the power of positive, tailoring it to your students in a personal manner, and making positive a part of every moment in your classroom, you will make a lasting impact on even the more difficult students.  

Until next time...