Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Teens View Their Digital Lives, from Common Sense Media

This great infographic from Common Sense Media reflects recent studies of children’s media use. (The term “social media” involves social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, blogging, chat rooms, online video game chats using voice or text, etc.)  With just over 1000 kids aged 13-17 surveyed to collect this information, it is a somewhat small-ish study, but one that offers interesting insights into how kids view social media and themselves.
The research confirms and quantifies what many educators and parents already know:
  • Most teens text (68%) and use social networks (51%).
  • Of social networks, Facebook is king (75%) among teens.
  • Social media use can make some kids feel better about themselves and their abilities to make and maintain relationships, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Girls are more likely to use text messages and social media to share photos and messages.
  • Although they share more often than their male peers, girls report being stressed by photo sharing about twice as much as boys.
The following might surprise some, though:
  • Kids still prefer interacting with others in person (49%) instead of electronically.
  • Kids generally understand and often express concern that their use of social media technology can interfere with those personal interactions that they prefer.
  • Many kids actually like to “unplug” and experience what life was like “when there was no Facebook.”

So what does this all mean for teachers and parents?

  1. Social media services can be valuable tools to help build students’ social and emotional resiliencies. 
  2. More often than not, kids tend to feel better about themselves and their abilities to create & maintain friendships through the use of tools like text messaging and social networks.
  3. Kids (83%) in this study report that what happens in social media services doesn’t really impact their feelings of self-worth, depression, etc., as significantly as we might have heard or assumed in the past. That’s not intended to downplay the experiences or feelings of those kids who are negatively impacted, nor to say that a kid will never be hurt physically or emotionally through social media use at some point in the future. As parents and educators who care for kids, we of course would never want to see or hear of a child being hurt. The study reports that most kids do not feel hurt by social media interactions. They usually ignore the negative stuff when it does happen, and more often than not they simply don’t let it bother them or impact their confidence or self-worth.
  4. Kids still overwhelmingly prefer to interact with others face-to-face rather than over social media avenues.  They also get annoyed – just like their parents & teachers – when texts, tweets, or status updates interrupt their in-person time with family and friends. Some actively choose to “unplug” or “lose their phones” temporarily, even longing for time without social media access.

In the classroom:

  1. Learn how your students prefer to interact. We teachers tend to avoid what we don’t know, so we should find out how kids in our classrooms prefer to interact. As adults we might like to tweet or blog about something, but students may prefer a text or a status update instead.
  2. Incorporate these preferences into meaningful instructional activities. If your school allows it, look into ways to incorporate texting or social media into instructionally-relevant learning activities. If specific sites like Facebook, for example, are blocked in your school or district, try alternatives like Edmodo, Schoology, or Fakebook. If cell phone use is allowed in class, try having kids text responses to you using services like Poll Everywhere or Study Boost, or send homework reminders with services like Remind101 and others.
  3. Adapt for the Have-Not's. Not every child comes from a home that can afford or will allow the use of social media. What will you do for the kids who do not have cell phones or computers at home? Schedule some time with lab computers at school and guide kids as they develop new social media skills. Try finding non-tech ways to incorporate similar skills and activities into your lessons. Let kids write out their ideas for a blog post or comment and submit them to you on paper for the same amount of credit as those who do so electronically. Or try something like this Historical Facebook Profile. (Direct link to the Google Docs template) The possibilities are only limited by your creativity!
  4. Teach Internet and Social Media Safety. If you’re going to teach kids using social media, you must also teach kids how to use it safely. There are tremendous amounts of resources available to you. For our District, I’ve compiled links to online resources by grade-level cluster and required focus areas according to Illinois’ Internet Safety Mandate.
  5. Change it up. Any anthropologist will tell you that “technology” describes the tools and materials that are used to communicate, enhance and share the knowledge and skills of a society or culture. You don’t have to use social media technologies in the classroom all the time, but these tools are becoming a more widely-accepted tool in our students’ culture. Therefore, it is important to begin incorporating the safe and responsible use of social media tools into instruction when is it educationally- and developmentally-appropriate to do so. This data shows that social media is not some end-all-be-all panacea that will automatically engage every child and cure all of your classroom management headaches. It doesn’t have to take over everything you do, either. Start with just one of the ideas above and try it out when it fits in with your lessons appropriately and helps support or display student learning. If it takes, look for meaningful ways to expand its use elsewhere. If not, try something else some other time. Mix it up with some quality uses of presentation software, or even <*gasp!*> a debate or a poster or shoebox diorama or a good-old crayons-and-scissors project. If you only use one form of technology to help kids communicate their mastery of content & skills, they’re going to want to try to switch it off eventually. That will mean trouble for your lesson and for kids’ willingness to learn. The way I understand this study, variety is the key.

Okay, so what’s the point?

Yes, there are dangers and pitfalls inherent in the use of social media tools. But think about it like fishing: Some like to go fishing and think it is a valuable social & family activity. However, if you take your kids fishing, they could fall into the stream or pond, stab themselves with a fishhook, cut themselves with a fillet knife, or encounter a whole range of other dangers. Can kids learn valuable skills and build strong social and family bonds through the occasional Saturday morning excursion to the local fishing hole? Of course they can. Is it the best or only way to build those skills and strengthen those relationships? Maybe, maybe not.

The point is, social media use is rapidly becoming part of many kids’ lives today. In fact, this study reports that 9 out of 10 kids have used some sort of social media at some point by the time they reach their teen-age years. Sure, there are dangers inherent with many activities in life. Should we insulate our children from those experiences? Should we never teach them how to fish? No, of course not. It simply means that kids need adults in their lives who will guide them through learning when it is safe and appropriate to use these new tools and activities, and help them learn how to integrate them into their lives in productive and healthy ways.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Timers for Teachers

I first learned of most of these resources from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) at Free Technology for Teachers.

Giving kids an in-class deadline or time frame in which to complete a task or assessment can help with classroom management as well as add a bit of urgency for those students who might not attend as well as we’d like. The good old egg timer or small plastic “sand glass” (think of an hourglass only much smaller) are inexpensive ways to help with this, but often times kids can’t see how much time remains from where they are sitting in class.

imageFree Technology For Teachers has posted the following “5 Free and Simple Timers for Teachers.”

All of these timers are free. Tips and specifics about the use of each of these are available at the original post.

In a SMART Board-equipped classroom, you can find 2 simple timers in the Gallery Essentials simply by searching for “timer.” (See screenshot below) The smaller rectangular timer is very simple and quick to use. It beeps when it counts down to “00:00:00.” 

The round timer can be set to count up or count down, depending on how you’d like them to work. You can also set a customizable alarm to sound, or set a custom action to occur with the SMART Notebook file (e.g.: go to a specific page in the file, inject text or an image, etc.) You can download SMART Notebook trial software at the SMART web site.


(SMART Notebook software is free if you have a SMART Board in your classroom – contact your sales rep or school tech guru for the product key.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sticky Teaching Infographic


This infographic has some great tips, reportedly backed up with brain research, for any teacher looking for ways to make instruction “stick.”  The suggestions are wise, and they’re followed up with an explanation of why they work. It also includes suggested follow-up reading.

The infographic was designed by Chris Lema. I found it through Larry Ferlazzo (on his blog and on Twitter @larryferlazzo).

There are actually two versions of the graphic – secular and Christian – available on Chris Lema’s Web site. Here’s the direct link to the secular version (PDF).

This is a great graphic to share with teachers as a guide for designing lessons and classroom activities. It is unfortunate that the designer did not include more extensive references for the “brain research” used to create it. Still, these are handy tips to keep in mind!  Love the mnemonic approach!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Project Look Sharp–Free Media Literacy Lessons


Project Look Sharp, from Ithaca (NY) College, offers teachers a collection of media literacy lesson plans, along with training and support, to help integrate media literacy and critical thinking skills into any classroom. 

Their curriculum kits are available in 6 different categories and are searchable by content topic, media type, or grade level. (See screenshot, below) Materials are available for all grade levels, Kindergarten through College.


See videos about Project Look Sharp on their Vimeo Channel.

I took a few minutes to browse through the materials available, and I must say I was quite impressed. Units can be ordered in hard-copy with a phone call, or the can be downloaded in their entirety or one lesson at a time as needed. Many of the lessons I sampled included a Teacher’s Guide, a Student Worksheet, and an audio or visual media file of some sort (Power Point, Quick Time video, audio-only recording, etc.) Other lessons and units were much more extensive.  There were also links to Project Look Sharp’s YouTube Channel as well.

(BTW: Any project that teaches important skills with a clip of Peter Sellers' stellar performance as Dr. Strangelove has earned this History teacher’s vote!)

The materials are very well done, with links to sources, overviews of the units, etc., and very high-quality reproducible content. While the lesson plans lack notation of National Common Core State Standards addressed, the Lesson Objectives can help teachers connect the lessons to any subject area imaginable. The lesson plans themselves are detailed and very easy to follow, even offering slide-by-slide instructions on how to present the materials in the classroom.

Project Look Sharp would be an excellent resource to help teachers in any classroom assist students in decoding media messages and their influences on our society and in our daily lives.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Advice for Grads, on TED Talks

Now that many graduates are starting to look ahead and realizing that they still have lots to learn (don't we all), you might find these TED Talk videos a good source of advice and inspiration:
You Graduated... Now What?
My personal favorite: Bill Cosby at Carnegie Mellon University, 2007  

Please read the original post from Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Battleship for SMART Board


James Hollis of Teachers Love SMART Boards has published a link to a free Battleship game to use with SMART Boards.


Anyone who teaches graphing or coordinate grid systems in Math, or latitude and longitude in Geography or Social Studies can see the obvious connection between Battleship and their curriculum content. Also, why not use this as a review game activity, too? Answer a question correctly for a chance to spin  & shoot? No need to input questions into the file, etc.; Just read off your review guide!


Simple – Mr. Hollis has created a video of the instructions here:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Digital Advice for Graduates

So you’re graduating from high school… Congratulations! Time to forget about all that school stuff, go out and have a great time, right? Hmmm… let’s think about that for a second… Take a look at this video, from iKeepSafe:

Here are a few tips from Mashable for graduates and their parents regarding steps to take to preserve your online reputation. Your future could depend on it!

  1. Investigate Yourself: Search for yourself on Google, Bing, etc., and see what comes up. Check out who has tagged you in photos on Facebook, MySpace, etc. Think about how employers would view you if they saw these results, pictures, etc. Then set your privacy settings on your social networks to make sure that people can’t tag you in posts or pictures without your consent. Consider signing up for Google Alerts or a similar service so you know when people have posted something about you.
  2. Bury the Bad: Okay, so there’s stuff out there that you can’t get rid of, so what do you do? Time for a reputation makeover. You could create a completely new Facebook profile and start from scratch, but keep in mind that the two profiles could show up in the same search. You want to show prospective employers your completely new game face, so. Sign up with a completely different service like Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., to start creating a professional presence in social media. Consider tips from sites like BrandYourself, Monster, Reputation, and other sites for cleaning up your online reputation, too. (Note: Some of these services require fees.) That way, when prospective employers search for you online – and they will – they’ll be more likely to see the good things you’re capable of doing, too!
  3. Create Positive Profiles: Facebook allows users a number of ways to control who can see what in their profile. Check out Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings Every User Needs to Know for more information. Also consider using sites that allow you to create an “online resume,” professional blog, job-hunt website, etc.
  4. Investigate Facebook Applications: There are also several apps that users can tap into to use their cleaned-up existing or new professional Facebook profile to help find jobs and communicate with employers.

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