Consciously Disconnect from your Devices

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Courtesy of Britany Lynne Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/84335369@N00/6902184950

Wednesday was my birthday. Growing up with a birthday just two days after Christmas taught me a few things: I would never have a “real” birthday party, my friends are out of town, everyone is broke from the holidays, and I would never get cupcakes at school (this one smarts the most). So, I’ve decided to make the day about me and I always book a spa day. It’s a few hours in which I can just focus on relaxing, reenergizing, and regrouping. It’s the best treat I can give myself.

While preparing for a luxurious day at the spa (trust me, in Miami we have some of the best), I locked up my phone and put it in my locker. Spa time is me time. No interruptions, no distractions; it’s magical. This time, when I walked out into the spa area, I was struck by something: many people were on their phones! Now spa etiquette tells you no phones! In fact, they post signs all over reminding you of this. However, when I looked at the haman style chairs next to the mineral pool, I saw people checking email. In the silent room, I saw others scrolling Facebook! In this sanctuary from the world, our devices have made a pernicious entry!

What struck me after my spa day this year was that all of us need to make a conscious effort to unplug…. regularly! Trust me, I am not great at finding balance around my devices. I own…. far too many devices and I check them too often. In recent years, however, I’ve been making more of an effort to maintain a better school-life balance. Am I perfect at it? No. However, by making an effort to “consciously unplug” I’ve been able to prioritize my life while at work or at home.

What does it mean to “consciously unplug?” This means making a conscious decision to turn off your devices or not checking them. For me, I set and keep hard and fast rules for no device time. I have limits on when and where I will check my devices; not always effectively. I also prioritize my “me time.” So while I may not always adhere to a “no emails after 8pm” policy, I do take email off of my phone on all vacations. Think about it. When was the last time you got an email so important that you had to read it right away? I’m going to guess never. Why? Because if it’s an emergency, someone will call you! Here are my rules:

  • I read books in analogue format or on my Kindle e-reader. No tablets or phones (with email and notifications). My phone is off when I’m reading for me.
  • No devices at shared meals. I enjoy my social time with friends, colleagues, and my boyfriend.
  • Phone is OFF (not on silent) at any show or event. If I’m there to watch baseball, a movie, or a play, I’m enjoying the event.
  • I remove work email from my phone during vacation times. I will check work email via the web every few days.
  • When in doubt, the phone is off. If I’m questioning if I need it, then I don’t.

These are my ways for consciously disconnecting. They will be different for different people. If you’re a surgeon on vacation, you probably can’t have your phone off at meals. If it’s hard for you to avoid temptation, you may want to take more drastic measures. For example, a colleague of mine just turned in their smart phone for an old fashioned flip phone because their phone was giving them too much anxiety. Now, I will never go that route, but I never question other’s methods.

So, the next time you’re thinking about your time outside of work, consider how you’re going to unplug. Do it consciously. Devices have become far too ubiquitous for us to let it happen organically. Pay attention to how your devices make you feel and when they make you feel that way. Set reasonable rules for yourself and your family (and be flexible when necessary). Also, don’t bring your phone into the spa! First, it’s bad etiquette. Second, it undermines the reason you are there!

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5 Gifts for Teachers that are not Starbucks Gift Cards

It’s the holiday season and amid the excitement and final exams, many people are thinking about what to give their own teachers or those educating their children. Now, first and foremost, as a teacher I must say that we do not expect or demand gives from our students or student’s parents. When we do get them, we are quite touched. That being said, I’m often asked by friends and families what to get the teachers in their life that aren’t just “another Starbucks giftcard!” Don’t get me wrong, Starbucks gift cards have fed my caffeine habit for many years, but I realize that some want to be a little more personal in their gift giving. Here are a few ideas for gifts for the teacher in your life.

Books

Educators love to read! If your student is in a subject specific class (think science or history), a book on that topic is great. As a US History teacher, my students have kept me in David McCullough books for years and I love them. If you need a little inspiration, try the New York Times Best Seller list. If you know the teacher has an eReader and you have a little extra change to throw around, consider a Kindle Unlimited gift subscription.

Gourmet Coffee

Instead of the Starbucks gift card, if you know you have a coffee drinker, consider a nice coffee mug (even one personalized by your child) and an assortment of gourmet coffees. I got this one year and it was fantastic! I was pretty upset the year the mug broke.

Event Tickets/Passes

These can be surprisingly inexpensive and lovely personal gift for a teacher. Are they a coach? What about tickets to the local professional or college game? Music teacher? Tickets to the local symphony. Annual passes to local art, science, and history museums also make a great gift. Even passes to go to a movie are a wonderful treat for an educator; you can often pick these up on a discount at Costco or the movie theater itself. If you have a few extra dollars, consider giving them a MoviePass gift subscription. These gifts show the teacher that you know they need some well deserved leisure time.

Extra School Supplies

This one may seem boring, but trust me it’s one of the best gifts you can give. Educators often buy school supplies out of their own pockets and mid year (the holiday season) is when they start to run low. Sending in extra reams of paper, pencils, pens, tissues, and whatever else was on that “back to school” supply list you got in the fall will be valued you like gold. You’ll be saving your teacher’s pocket book and brightening the learning experience for others.

A Hand Written Note

I cannot stress this one enough. The most thoughtful and treasured gifts I have received from students were thoughtful, hand written notes. I keep them in a drawer and pull them out to read periodically. If your child is old enough to write, ask them to list two to three things they really enjoy about the teacher’s class and what they have learned. Trust me, long after your gift has been forgotten, this one will be treasured.

I hope that you and your have a wonderful holiday season! To the other educator’s out there, finish strong!

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).

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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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Show your Typing Merits with TypeDojo

sample-certificateMicro-credentialing has become a new trend in the educational world. It’s a quick and easy way to show off and demonstrate your skills without having to spend more on a new degree. Additionally, it’s a way to show skills that are simply not demonstrable through traditional methods. If you’re looking for a new credentialing service to show off your students’ typing skills (a skillset that is on the decline), then check out TypeDojo.

TypeDojo allows you to show off your typing skills using a variety of tests for both speed and accuracy. You can demonstrate proficiency in a 1 minute, 3 minute, and 5 minute tests as well as demonstrate mastery and words per minute (WPM). Even better, you can target a test’s word strength by grade level (grades 1-8) and then dive more deeply into the skillsets as you progress (e.g. compound words, left hand words, etc). If your students need a refresher (or to learn how to type properly), try out one of their typing games; I especially enjoyed Ninja vs. Zombie during the Halloween season!

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If you’re an educator, pairing the typing games with proficiency testing is a great way to help kids master their keyboarding skills. Check out TypeDojo today!

 

Play Video Games for Well-Being

I have been a (video) gamer since childhood. I played pong on a friend’s television. We got Atari one year for Christmas… my consoles evolved from there. Videogames specifically have been demonized over the years. Often attributed to violent or anti-social behavior. However, videogames are often incorrectly targeted. I loved this recent episode from the podcast Note to Self: Play Video Games for your Mental Health.

Featuring research Jane McGonigal, the episode focuses on the positive benefits of playing video games. Namely, honing your ability to work collaboratively, develop grit, creative problem solving, and stimulating positive feelings in your brain. If you are concerned about a child’s focus on video games, give this podcast a listen. It might change the way you think!

Edutopia’s New Resources on Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship is always a hot topic with both educators and their schools. I have long been critical of the “stranger danger” focus of most digital citizenhsip curricula. This focus has over-exaggerated the risks of online predators and misinformed a generation of children and their parents, often with detrimental effects.

I was so happy to see Edutopia’s updated curriculum and guidelines, What Your Students Really Need to Know about Digital Citizenship, crafted by the esteemed educator Vicki Davis. It focuses on students created robust passwords (that they don’t share with others), not posting private information, not sharing without permission, the idea of media ownership, and more.

With this ideas coupled with Common Sense Media’s curriculum or the new one introduced by Google, you will be well prepared to help your students be successful online.

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!