Student Access to Writing for a Global Audience

Do you remember the days when you got back from summer vacation and within the first week you did a writing prompt: “What Did You Do For Summer Vacation?” and once you were finished writing it was filed back in your backpack, maybe hung on the fridge by your parents? If you were lucky, your teacher might just hang it up in the hallway for passing students and teachers to read. 

I think the majority of teachers are on the same page that students need an authentic audience to produce authentic work. When they know who they are writing to and why it gives them a purpose to not only write, but write well. So who is their audience? Peers? Teachers? Parents? Maybe they are writing something specifically for their principal? How do we move beyond the walls of our schools and write to a bigger audience? I’m not just talking in our neighborhoods or even states. I’m talking globally.

In my research on writing to a global audience, it seems to be a fairly uncommon thing still. Putting your students work out there for the world to see can be scary, people can be mean with comments and you never know who will see it. It’s also new and different, this new use of technology in schools is still developing, teachers are still being trained in new ways every day to incorporate tech in the classroom. 

So what are the benefits of writing to a global audience? First, having an authentic audience. Everyone has a desire to do better and try harder when they know their results will be public and it gives their writing a deeper purpose. Also, global collaboration can take place. Students have been sharing writing with peers, but what if a student in California sent their “What Did You Do This Summer” paper to a student in Wisconsin and vice-versa? 

Not only could they help peer-edit, but they can compare and contrast a summer in California to a summer in Wisconsin. What if they compared their winter vacations? Can you even imagine the learning that could take place with this type of collaboration? What if the student in California was writing to a student in China? Or India? We can have our kids read about winters in China out of a book and hope they remember it, or we can have them learn about winters in China first-hand from a student who is living there. Which do you think would stick better in their brain? 

Teachers may not know how to start sending out their student’s work to a global audience yet. Some ideas include via email, social media such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and more, SeeSaw, or publish to blogs. Mary wrote more in detail about how to utilize the internet for student writing a few years back. The best part of the internet is that limits do not exist. New platforms pop up each and every day and if something you need doesn’t exist, it’s simple to create it yourself. The internet can be a powerful place if we let it. 

If your students are writing to a global audience, I would love to hear about it! Comment below and let me know how you’re accomplishing this. 

The Whos, the Whats, and the Whys of EdTech

Technology in schools is ever-growing. In fact, I wrote a whole post about the evolution of technology and how the computers and iPads I used in school are now archaic. Laptops were not even a possibility, and this was only 10 or so years ago. 

EdTech in the education world is HUGE right now. Administrators, teachers, and parents are mostly accepting these advancements with open arms. You can find #EdTech and #EdTechChat all over twitter right now. 

So who is involved in this educational technology around the world? No age limit exists. College classes that hold all ages are using it. Elementary schools down to kindergarten hold some type of computer, iPad, or smart screen. You can even find it in preschools and daycares! Technology is not limited to a certain age by any means. Years ago we were limited by funding, especially without the sound research that it would work and benefit students. However, technology prices are dropping and becoming more affordable as we continue to learn new ways to create what we need. 

What kind of technology are we using in schools? Chromebooks and iPads are just the start of it. Augmented and virtual reality is becoming a big part of classrooms. Now we aren’t talking about the pyramids in Egypt, we’re visiting them and seeing them with our own eyes, yet in our own classrooms. Whiteboards are electronic, papers are typed, not written, and collaborating moves beyond the walls of the school, sometimes even beyond our nation! 

This technology advancement is taking place everywhere. I recently listened to a podcast about how a community in the rural areas of Florida are coming together to create more wifi accessibility to students. Resturants around the town were installing more free wifi for students to come to use after school, as well as leaving the school grounds open for sitting outside and using wifi. From big cities to small towns, technology is hitting the hands of students all over the world.  

Why are we becoming such technology-driven schools? It’s for the students. It’s all for the students. Plenty of studies have come out to show the benefit of using these apps and resources in our classrooms. We are providing them with more hands-on opportunities and more real-life skills because the technology they use in schools will carry out into their careers someday. It’s rare to find a job that doesn’t require some sort of competence on a computer, iPad, tablet, or with functions like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Google Drive. 

Tech is taking over our schools, and we can either shut it out and keep to our traditional teaching ways, or we can accept it with open arms to give our students the best chance at the best education. 

How are you using technology in your classroom? 

How My Kids Use the Google Home Mini #TeacherMom

Someone gave us a Google Home mini last fall. I don’t really use it, but we thought the kids might be interested, so we set it up. I recently found out I can view all of its history, which I found fascinating. Here’s how my kids have put it to use, most of the time without my presence. “Hey Google…”

  • “…can we listen to music?”
  • “…what are fake flowers made of?”
  • “…what do you eat for breakfast?”
  • “…start a timer for 20 minutes.”
  • “…how do you spell…?”
  • “…what should I be for Halloween?”
  • “…where do wolves live?”
  • “…are tarantulas harmless?”
  • “…tell me a story.”
  • “…are you a robot?”
  • “…what are orangutans?”
  • “…do you eat donuts?”
  • “…can you play a game with me?”
  • “…do you have a sister?”
  • “…tell me a joke.”
  • “…what author wrote Amelia Bedelia?”
  • “…tell me a fairy tale.”
  • “…when do you unplug cords?”
  • “…when do you go fishing?”
  • “…where should me and my dad go for our date?”
  • “…it is 9:45. How many more hours until lunch?”
  • “…what kind of claws do jaguars have?”
  • “…what’s 12 times 12?”
  • “…are fairies real?”
  • “…what colors can dogs see?”
  • “…how do you say bear in Spanish?”
  • “…what do dragons eat?”
  • “...how long does it take to walk between home and school?”
  • “…is there a Santa?”
  • “…what was the first thing people made with electricity?”
  • “…how many hours are in the morning?”
  • “…is the blue whale bigger than any building?”
  • “…what are very good kid jobs?”

I love the questions almost as much as the fact that they can so readily find answers. What a marvelous gift it is to have a record of the questions my children have been asking over time.

How is technology impacting your children’s sense of inquiry (like their ability to find answers to questions even before they can read), access (like their ability to turn on music and timers), and connection with the world around them (like their ability to feel like the information of this age belongs to them, too)?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Can We Talk About Rationing Screen Time? #TeacherMom

First, let me be clear. I am not in favor of kids spending excessive amounts of time on their devices. The addiction factor, sleep issues, and even growing risk of depression/suicide are all well-known issues for me.

7th grade teacher Pernille Ripp has even recently gone #phonefree in her classroom for these last couple of months, a move her students seem to love as it allows them to more comfortably share vulnerable learning processes.

What I want to discuss is the impact of rationing screen time for our kids. I’m talking about bargaining for behavior, tallying minutes, and otherwise keeping such a tight grip on the amount of time our kids spend on screens that they begin to fixate on it.

It reminds me of what happens when we focus so thoroughly on “forbidden foods” that we end up binge-eating.

What if, instead…

…we regularly discussed the importance of balance?

…we explicitly taught even our young kids that tech can be a tool for empowerment, rather than just an device for entertainment?

 

…we created reasonable default screen time allowances our kids can count on so they don’t have to spend their days worrying when they will next be allowed to watch a movie or play a video game?

…we talked honestly with our kids about our screen time habits — both how we use it for practical and/or positive purposes, and how we are trying to improve not-so-positive habits?

…we set up rules and limitations in a shared manner, learning together about what helps us achieve balance and healthy lifestyle?

Our kids have been born into an remarkable and unprecedented age of technology. Let’s find ways to work alongside them as they work to develop healthy, positive, and balanced habits.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Action

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Sometimes, taking action on something that matters to us is big. Sometimes, it’s small. How do we know which is the best path? How do we get started? How do we keep going when it’s hard? Use this week’s provocation into Action to help get kids thinking more about what it means to them.

Resource #1: What Matters to You//Me?

Resource #2: PSA from Patrick Larkin, via AJ Juliani

Resource #3: Mother of 4 Builds House From Scratch By Watching Youtube Videos

Resource #4: What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

Resource #5: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to take action?
  • Why is taking action an important part of learning?
  • How are we responsible for taking action on our learning?
  • How might our perspective on a particular action change over time?
  • Why is taking action so difficult sometimes, even when it’s something important to us?
  • How might technology transform the way we can take action today?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

The Baby, the Bathwater, & Empowered Tech Use

I’d like to first clarify what I do not mean by “empowered tech use:”

  • intensely rationed “screen time” for good behavior
  • hours spent at school on “personalized” programs that take the person out of personalized learning

Both of these uses are less about empowerment and more about control. And they both convey negative messages about tech use; at best, that kids’ tech use is limited to consuming, and at worst, that kids are not to be trusted when it comes to responsible, creative tech use. Neither message suggests kids can or should take ownership over their tech use.

We often worry about what’s at stake when students don’t use tech with responsibility. I wonder what’s at stake when students aren’t taught to use tech with empowerment?

When we turn the conversation around, we can empower our kids to take ownership over their tech use, to balance creating vs. consuming, to contribute in positive ways, and to develop skills as literate digital citizens.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

21st Century Literacy Opportunities You Probably Overlook #TeacherMom #IMMOOC

I’ve decided to join this year’s #IMMOOC as I finally read George Couros’ book, Innovator’s Mindset. I’m looking forward to making new connections with teachers around the world and to finding ways to push my thinking and comfort zone over the next 5 weeks!

Here’s a passage that has stood out to me most for this week’s reading:

“We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can’t do that we have lost focus on what we can do. Imagine that if every time you talked about the ability to write with a pencil, you only focused on telling kids to not stab one another with the tool. What would you really inspire in your students? Creativity? Unlikely. Fear? Almost certainly.”

It seems that the older my kids get, the more often I hear about the dangers of screen time, online predators, and cyberbullying. Rarely if ever do I hear parents share the amazing ways they are engaging in technology with their kids.

Apart from this being a missed opportunity to build positive associations with the possibility tech affords, it also misses out on some serious opportunities for literacy (both traditional and digital).

As rare as it is to hear about the positive examples among parents, I actually observed an impromptu example just this weekend as my mother-in-law sat at the computer with my nephew. They were searching out some fun gadgets together on Amazon, but what quickly caught my attention was the language my mother-in-law was using with my nephew. As they looked at new products, she helped him scroll down the page, saying things like, “When I’m looking at something I think I might like to buy, I look first at the 1-star reviews. That helps me find out what I might not like about it.”

I listened as they read the reviews out loud together and then discussed whether they thought those would be relevant issues. And as they navigated new products, it was clear my nephew was quickly becoming more discerning about what he was viewing.

Who would have thought Amazon could be rich soil for literacy? But I guess if we’re paralyzed by fear, we’re not exactly on the lookout for ways we might invite our kids to join us in our screen use.

Now, to be clear, if our kids’ device use is also limited to moments we “give in” due to begging or boredom, that’s also a missed opportunity. The key is in how we are engaging with our kids, and in positive, practical ways. I’m looking forward to finding more ways we can show kids what they can do with tech, both as parents and as teachers.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto