Thanksgiving 2014, Gratitude, and Digital Life

Image made at

Image made at

We are about to celebrate Thanksgiving 2014, a time when we give thanks for family, friends, and the richness of our lives. It’s a time for gratitude when most of us take stock and think about how well we live.

As a parent, teacher, and 21st Century learning advocate with a digital parenting focus, I spend much of the year suggesting ways that families, educators, children, and certainly, my students can strategize, enrich, and improve their digitally connected lives. And, of course, we are always attempting to learn enough to avoid potential problems.

But Thanksgiving is different!

Last year at our Thanksgiving 2013 celebration my family took time to consider the many good things that have changed in our 21st Century lives since we now live with so much technology. Each of us came up with a broad range of experiences that changed our lives in positive ways, bringing extra excitement and joy to our lives: experiences for which we are most grateful. Check out my list below.                       Continue reading

Achievement vs. Kindness and Respect?

In case you missed it this past summer, take a moment to read Why Kids Care More About Achievement Than Helping Others, an article by Jessica Lahey. The June 2014 Atlantic piece describes a research project that surveyed 10,000 middle and high schoolers, asking them to rate achievement, happiness, and caring for others in order of importance. By far, students ranked achievement and happiness over caring for other people.

The article notes that many parents believe they are sending strong messages about values such as respect, caring, and kindness, yet the study illustrates a disconnect between what parents think they say is important and how their children interpret their parents’  messages. The students tended to believe that their parents rated achievement the highest.

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Family Online Safety Institute Conference 2014: Lots to Learn

A  year has passed and once again I’ve attended the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) annual conference — this time the 2014 edition. I was especially excited to be learning,  connecting, and enjoying the events with a bevy of edtech and teaching colleagues — 15 at last count — educators who are committed to supporting 21st Century learning and to guiding our students’ parents, grown-ups who must continually fine tune their 21st Century parenting skills.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.49.52 AMRead my FOSI 2013 posts.

Right at the beginning we learned about FOSI’s latest research, this time focused on parenting in the digital age. A presentation by researchers at Hart Associates gave us more insight into the excitement, the concerns, and the hope that parents have about their children’s connected world lives. The good news is that parents’ knowledge is increasing and so is the confidence that they bring to parenting digital natives. I’ll share lots more about that in a future post, but you can read the full report before I get to my review of the research.      Continue reading

Collaborative “Maker Team” Aims to Improve Ebola Protective Equipment

A maker table filled with supplies at the Constructing Modern Language conference in July 2014.

A maker table filled with supplies to help innovate and solve problems at the Constructing Modern Language conference that I attended in July 2014.

If you want a perfect example of people coming together —  as makers —  to work on a critical and life-saving  project, read the article How a Wedding Dress Maker is Trying to Stop the Spread of Ebola, in the Washington Post. The November 9, 2014 article describes how John Hopkins University biomedical engineers brought together a group of people to generate ideas about how to make a safer and more comfortable protective suit for the medical personnel who care for Ebola patients.

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Wide-ranging Ways to Design With Words

These days multiple word cloud options are available for students and teachers, and designing with words is an easy way for learners to create report illustrations or create graphics with spelling or vocabulary lists.

Created with Festisite

Created with Festisite

Word design sites offer users a range of opportunities. Some create conversation bubbles, others form shapes and images, and other word cloud sites evaluate short passages taken from reading material. While word designing is not, strictly speaking, an important 21st Century digital world skill, these websites encourage kids to organize information and create in clever and stylistic ways — activities that were not easily accomplished before web 2.0 arrived on the scene.

Many people are familiar with Wordle – the original word cloud site — that is especially clean, easy-to-use, and without advertising. Yet, as with everything else in the digital world word cloud sites are increasing. Sites building off Wordle’s success offer various options for saving, sharing, copying, and embedding, but no one word cloud site offers everything. Most of the sites below allow users to format with colors, fonts, and typeface sizes.

Check Out These Sites                                                       Continue reading