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August 2014
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October 2014

September 2014 entries

Oliver 💜

It's bittersweet, but our run of Oliver! has come to an end. Despite an insane schedule the past two weeks and a sometimes frustrating process, I will be forever glad that I was in this show with my son Aidan. I love those moments when I can see memories being made for him. He's already asking about the next show he can be in...Heaven help me!

Oliver 💜

Oliver 💜

Oliver 💜

Oliver 💜

Oliver 💜


Balanced Media Diet

It's back to school time, and for many teachers like me, that means it's time to be encouraged to incorporate technology in the classroom.  Many schools are moving to a one-to-one student-to-device ratio, and many are incorporating electronic textbooks in lieu of actual books.  Last year, the rage seemed to be "flipped classrooms," in which the teacher videotapes a lecture for students to watch as homework, thus allowing "hands-on" work time in the classroom, with the teacher available for individual help.  At my school district, we are taking more of a "pilot approach," before jumping into buying iPads or Chromebooks for every student.  We are trying out programs with small numbers of students to study which option or options might be best for our particular demographic.  

Last week, I read with interest an article from National Public Radio which reported that students who spend a lot of time on electronic devices have greater difficulty reading emotions in real life, on real live faces.  This makes logical sense to me, and I hope the researchers continue to explore the impact of screen time on our kids . . . especially since electronic learning and entertainment are so very en vogue.  

As with most issues, I can see both sides of the spectrum.  In my own home, we have a one-to-one device-to-rugrat ratio, thanks to my generous father.  One might think that my kids log in and tune each other out.  I admit to a small sample size in my research, but I'll share my findings anyway.  Instead of disappearing into their own orbits, my kids are active and engaged with each other while on their devices.  One favorite game perfectly illustrates this:  Minecraft.

If you aren't familiar with Minecraft, I can tell you that it is a creative game which allows users to make their own worlds, including buildings, animals, people, natural resources.  Aidan, Gabrielle, and Liam love this game.  (Actually, many of my high school students love this game.)  They love to design their own landscapes.  

Minecraft1
 

Not only do my teacher-mom ears love to hear comments like, "That didn't work the way I thought it would  I am going to re-do that" and "Waterfalls!  Those really make my water area a lot more beautiful," but Minecraft also offers a feature which gets my kids interacting: they can actually link up, using our Wifi, and be in each other's screens.  They collaborate as they design a unique and creative world.  I overhear these kinds of conversations:  "Follow me over here.  You are going to love what I did to the dragon place," and "Do you like what I did to the nature place?  What should we call it?"

Minecraft2

And, Liam plays as well...or in this case, gives Ellie some feedback as she works on "the think room -- a big place where you can walk around in circles and just think."

Minecraft3

This isn't to say that my kids don't argue about where to put "the thinking place" or which plants to put in "the nature place."  We certainly have those moments.  Sometimes we let them work it out, sometimes we have to intervene.  That's life.

The real researchers (as opposed to my little home-grown approach) studying kids' emotional reading ability suggest finding a "healthy media diet" for kids, including time spent in educational pursuits.  In my own classroom, I strive for a balance as well.  My English students write a weekly blog post and comment on the blogs of their peers.  Sometimes I use a video clip to illustrate a concept or to jumpstart a conversation, but for the most part, I place a high value on face-to-face discussion...in real time, in real life.  My students will often start class by writing in a journal in response to an open-ended question.  Then, we talk about their responses in small or large group scenarios.  Teaching my students to rationally exchange opposing viewpoints is crucial to me.  

Most of my student reading takes place outside of the classroom, from real textbooks.  Eventually, they might have an e-book, but we will still discuss what we read together -- and being able to read each other's emotions will come in handy.  

So, what is the take away here?  I believe there is a universal application: from students losing ability to read facial cues to adults struggling with technology's impact on their relationships, we could all benefit from a balanced media diet.  After all, the best advice may be:  "Everything in moderation."  

(Great...I just did a Google search on moderation, and found this article.   I just can't ever catch a break, can I?)