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How education can prepare for a future that has already arrived?

Once again Richard Wells nails the reality of the world our students are in (and that education has yet to catch up to).

EDUWELLS

You should be scared … or should you? This post is not about computers but it’s a result of their impact. The graph below depicts calculations per second capable on a single computer in each year since 1940. In 1940 a computer was capable of one calculation per second but due to exponential growth in speed and power, the world has experienced an exponential impact from computers and their accompanying technologies. Preparing for exponential change is difficult because of its two phases. Phase one: Today looks just like yesterday; Phase two: What’s going on? If you compare current developments we are experiencing in phase two, phase one made life in 1940 and 2005 essentially the same.

Exponential changes where each number is double the last. New computers have and continue to double their power every 18 months.

You can understand these two phases if you just take a moment to…

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Learning How to Learn

As a history teacher, I am a great fan of the Crash Course history series. Over the years, Crash Course has expanded beyond World and US History, covering physics, philosophy, mythology, and more. This Fall, they launched a new series: Crash Course Study Skills. This is great series to help students learn various techniques to help them be successful in school. Through their series of amusing and informative videos, students learn how to effectively take notes, retain information, active reading, and more. Try it out!

Can the New York Times Social Media Policy Become a Teaching Tool?

Marti has a great take on the latest New York Times Social Media Policy.

Media! Tech! Parenting!

Today, October 13, 2017, the New York Times introduced its new social media policy for people who work in the Times newsroom. Not only is it interesting to read — it may will also become a useful document for educators to share with students. The policy clearly illustrates the advice educators share over and over with 21st Century young people, basically that anything a person puts online can become a public story.

Times Social Media Click on the headline to read the article about the new policy..

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Lesson Plan for Teaching Kids to Spot Fake News

Fake News is the phrase du jour. The reality is that misinformation propagates social media (especially Facebook). With the proliferation of Social Media and the use of Social Media (by main stream news organizations, political pundits, and our sitting President), it will remain a platform for sharing information (including the news) for the foreseeable future. Both Facebook and Google have made attempts to tackle fake news. In addition to their own filtering methods, Facebook allows users to flag and report fake news stories. Google has also expanded its fact-check tools to spot and flag fake news.

The reality is, however, that we cannot expect our online platforms to keep up with the deluge of fake media. Media literacy is a necessary skill for our students to learn in order for them to wade through the glut of information available to them online. However, a recent study from Stanford found that most students cannot tell real news from fake.

There is an exercise that I like to do with my students. We talk about the realities of fake news, perhaps ask them to share stories that they thought were real, but later learned were fake. I share with them resources for spotting fake news:

How_to_Spot_Fake_News

Next, I ask them to create a Fake News Story for me. Something that they are likely to see online via Facebook. For this exercise, students often create the obvious: “You Won’t Believe what the Democrats did this Time!” or “Donald Trump is Getting Impeached!” examples. These stories are the most obvious to spot.

The best exercise, however, comes when I ask them to team up and we make a game out of each. Each team presents five news stories. Three of those news articles are fake, two are real. If they are able to “trick” the opposing teams, they receive 1 point for each news article they fool the opposition into believing. They receive 1 point for each article they correctly identify as fake. Students then work really hard to “trick” their classmates – they play off of one another’s known biases, create convincing “news networks,” and spell check like no one’s business! They learn the ins-and-outs of posting and sharing news, viral marketing, and deceptive practices. This makes them better discerners of published media and more able-minded digital citizens.

Growing Up Under Constant Digital Monitoring

Quite recently, the Washington Post published a provocative article: “Technology allows us to monitor our kids around the clock. But should we?” More than once this week, I have returned to this article as a talking point when discussing topics such as Digital

Citizenship, privacy, and even childhood development. We live in an age where children, from Pre-K through young adulthood, are under constant surveillance by and communication with their parents. Now, any reader of my blog knows that I am not one to stoke fears of children on screens or stranger danger. Much of what “kids these days” do virtually is a reflection and continuation of what they do in the real world. However, I do have a concern about the impact of parental and school over-reach through these devices.

Growing up, I was the exception in high school. I had a home computer and (dial up) internet. When I went off to college in the 1990’s, cell phones had begun to inundate the world. As I drove about 1,000 miles each way to school approximately 4 times a year (Fall, Winter Break, and Summer) and long-distance plans were pricey, I purchased a cell phone with about 100 minutes a month (that was a thing). The reasoning was that I could use it should my used (and not particularly reliable) vehicle break down on I-95 and I could keep in touch with friends and family. This was before texting and unlimited long distance. I called home about once a week. This was also a time before email had truly permeated the ethos. I paid the University of Miami $100/year for an @miami.edu email address and was one of a handful with that privilege. I checked my email a few times a week. Social Media had yet to be invented.

Two decades and change later, the world for adolescents and college students is so much different than the one I experienced. Students often get their first smartphone by Middle School. After this, parents and children are in almost constant contact. Couple that with social media platforms, which many parents access (per school directives), online learning platforms where teachers disseminate grades and feedback virtually, and a myriad of other tools parents employ at different levels to keep an eye on their kids (video monitors, GPS tracking on phones, text/email trackers, and peer parents’ eyes).

A lot has been written about the detrimental effects over-parenting (think helicopter parents and tiger moms), including learned helplessness, anxiety, and delayed maturity. Dean Julie Lithcott-Haims addressed these issues in her book How to Raise an Adult.

To be fair to parents (many of whom are my peers), I believe that a lot of over-parenting derives from a place of fear; fear that is cultivated by the media, schools, and even the best meaning parenting books. In fact, while it has never been a safer time to be a child in the United States, our perception is that crime is higher than it really is.  Add to this regular “digital citizenship” nights that focus on “stranger danger” and worst case social media scenarios (I find it interesting that we don’t do this when kids get a drivers license, even though car accidents are the #1 killer of children) and parents live in a perpetual state of fear. Fear that their child will be hurt or damage themselves irrevocably, that “one mistake” will ruin their lives. The reality is, we hardly let children be alone whether physically or virtually. This does not necessarily breed a healthy (or realistic) dynamic. If you would like to learn more about that, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.

While delaying maturity and creating dependence is certainly alarming, my greatest concern with all of this engagement and, let’s call it what it is, surveillance is that it is robbing young people of an important right of passage – separating themselves from their families of origin. When young people went off to school for the first time in kindergarten, that was when children first began to develop a sense of self. Who am I outside of my parents/family perception of me? This includes making your own friends, tackling your own schoolhouse problems, processing challenges and victories yourself, and (perhaps hardest for parents) making your own mistakes and living with those consequences. We have created a world where students do not do this. Sometimes, parents know a child’s grade before the child (and may draft an email to the teacher). Students and parents often text each-other throughout the school day; teachers often bemoan that parents rush to “rescue” a child who has forgotten homework or their round of snacks. Parents snoop through their children’s texts and social media to see what’s “going on” in their children’s private lives. However, this prevents a child from developing themselves apart from a parent, learning to deal with their own mistakes, or processing their victories and defeats without a cheerleader or a sled driver.

I don’t know that there is an easy answer to how much to monitor and engage with your children. I do believe, however, that given your child some distance and privacy (both in real life and virtually), can and does go a long way in helping them to develop into their own, independent self.

How to Use Google’s Data Gif Maker in the Classroom

Google just announced a new tool, primarily aimed at journalists, a data gif maker. This is a great tool for students to use in the classroom as it allows for a new way to convey information (specifically change over time) visually. Check out how to create data gifs on google’s blog.

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Something New: Codey McCoderson

I cannot wait to see what my friend Daniel Schneider is going to post about his Computer Science adventures!!

Mathy McMatherson

So here’s something new: I’m gonna try writing at a new blog for a while. It’s called Codey McCoderson because good jokes only get better with age. Here’s why:

I’ve spent this last year mostly out of the classroom doing quasi-administratory-things as a Math Interventionist. I’ve managed our online credit recovery program, gathered & analyzed data, and created personal relationships with our intervention students to the point where our school has a pretty robust math credit recovery program for our students who fall behind or transfer students whose credits never made it with them. I’ve also helped bring ST Math to our school (based in a large part on a recommendation from Christopher Danielson) which has been a huge boost to our ELL Math program we’ve developed. I’ve written grants for manipulatives, recruited tutors to participate in the class, and gotten to the point where basically a team of 3…

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