Without Moderation & Mindfulness Tech Can Diminish Our Personal Lives

Does too much technology, with our smart phones especially,os7iphone-2 interfere with the quality and the personal connections in our lives? Do we concentrate less because of the unceasing demands of our digital devices?

I’ve just finished reading Jonathon Safran Foer’s December 2016 article, Technology is Diminishing Us, and he makes thoughtful points about how, despite the good things that 21st Century digital devices bring to our lives, they can also diminish our daily emotional responses and contemplative experiences. The author reflects, with a personal emphasis, on digital distractions that increasingly disrupt of face-to-face communication, and his ideas connect well with the conclusions that Massachusetts Institution of Technology professor Sherry Turkle shares in her books Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversations, also well worth reading.

Foer, whose essay appeared in The Guardian, notes that early on technological innovations aimed to help people more easily accomplish daily life tasks — telephones replaced letters, answering machines supplemented phone calls, email made communication even easier, and texting easier still. Each change or invention sought to help people communicate more efficiently and effectively (in theory). Yet all this ease of use comes with caveats. The devices that connect us to others almost all of the time and to unlimited information whenever we seek it, have become electronic busybodies, obsessively notifying, alerting, locating, and suggesting (even when we try to turn many of the features off) as we attempt to concentrate, interact with others, and get things done. Most of us do little to stop these interruptions.                       Continue reading

Classifying News Sources With a Venn-Diagram Mapping Strategy

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See larger image below.

How to scrutinize, classify, organize, and evaluate today’s media — as much as possible, online and off? That’s the question.

As we search for ideas that can help young people explore news sources, evaluate their preferences, examine how the media outlets identify and share facts, we mustn’t forget incorporating the the opportunity to talk with one another about the perspective that each source brings to its news-sharing. Recently I found Vanessa Otero’s interesting diagram that demonstrates how we can focus on media sources as well as consider their viewpoints and biases.

Evaluating 21st Century news is more complex than it’s ever was in the 20th Century. Reading the news is de-emphasized and watching the news is more prevalent, so we don’t interact much with information sources. The Internet and cable television channels allow opinions or made-up stories to masquerade as news sources — even when those opinions have no credible or factual source. Social media amplifies everything. Truth and expertise are incidental.                                                                             Continue reading

Words to Use Besides Fake!

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-10-06-52-amFake is a generic term. It means one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. Anyone can say that something is fake or made up.

More descriptive words make it more difficult to label information that is untrue, and easier to challenge. We — kids, adults, parents, and teachers — need all the help we can get in this 21st Century connected world when it comes to evaluating credibility

My ideas?

  • Confirmed news
  • Authoritative news
  • Substantiated news
  • Verified or validated news
  • Corroborated news
  • Proven news
  • Authenticated news
  • Reliable news
  • Credible news
  • Unambiguous news

Teaching our children and all citizens to check for credibility, evaluate, and celebrate substantiated news has become more urgent In today’s hyper-connected world. Read my more detailed post on this topic.

Admiral Grace Hopper & Her Singular Achievements

Public Domain from the U.S. Navy website.

Public Domain from the U.S. Navy website.

In the late 1980s, early in my educational technology career, I attended a one-day conference about technology in schools. Held in a hotel in the Washington, DC area — I don’t remember which one — the conference convened a small number of teachers, identified as early adopters, people from that National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, what seemed hundreds of technology consultants from places like Cambridge, Palo Alto, and various state universities, and one older, somewhat fragile woman far ahead in the front of the room, who attended for a short time.

That was my first encounter with the life of retired Admiral Grace Hopper. She lived for only a few more years after that, passing away at the age of 85, but I remember her face, her eagle-eyed attention, and the reverence with which others in the room regarded her.

Yale University has decided to change the name of its residential Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College, honoring the computer scientist who played a significant role in moving the country (and the world) into the age of technology and who became a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. Hopper received a master’s degree and PhD in mathematics from Yale and was one of the mathematicians  who programmed some of the earliest computers before and during World War II.                                             Continue reading

iCivics: Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is a Video Game Entrepreneur?

With so much discussion today about the three parts of the United States Government — legislative, executive, and judicial — and the role and responsibilities of each section, it appears that the idea of checks and balances, what the founders of the United States had in mind, has become muddled. This information, often called the study of civics, used to be a part of every American child’s education, but now it may need a reboot.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had an idea about refreshing the study of civics, and you can read about it in the post below.

Media! Tech! Parenting!

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.48.36 PM Click to visit iCivics!

When she retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor could have headed to the golf course or just relaxed. But she did not. Instead she started an educational organization, iCivics, and she has been instrumental in the release and promotion of that group’s free video games — 19 of them!

iCivics is a non-profit founded by Justice O’Connor, and its goal is to “empower teachers and prepare the next generation of 21st Century students to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens.” Read the iCivics story.        

The organization has also created video games along with lesson plans and resource materials that aim to fill in the gaps in students’ civics education. Unfortunately the subject has often fallen by the wayside in many schools, so the focus of the games is to help kids learn about the different branches of government…

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No-Tech Zones Enrich a Child’s Life — and the Family’s

You might want to read 5 No-Phone Zones for Parents and Kids Alike, a January 2017 New York Times article.

screen-shot-2015-04-06-at-8-36-54-pm-e1428367741259Written by Perry Klass, M.D., a pediatrician and long-time writer, the Times article reminds  parents to put down their phones when they interact with their 21st Century children, and it emphasizes the importance of any time that a child spends away from digital devices.

Despite the wonders and access that our mobile phones and other connected world devices bring to our lives, screen-free time is essential in a child’s life as well as for an adult. Klass suggests five phone-free times that she considers sacred, though she points out that she is not always successful in her quest. Check out the article.

Posts on this blog highlighting the importance of screen-free time and space include:   Continue reading

George Takei’s TED Lecture About His Family’s Internment During WW II

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Watch George Takei’s TedTalk.

My recent blog post Japanese Internment in the U.S. — Information to Share With Your Students, was filled with learning tools that teachers (and parents, too) can use to help young people learn about the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. One of the connected world resources merits it’s own post.

Recommended by a colleague, George Takei’s TED Talk, Why I Love a Country the Once Betrayed Me, describes what happened when soldiers arrested his family and imprisoned them at one of the internment camps.Takei, who played Sulu on Star Trek, explains how his parents lost everything and yet possessed the resilience to start rebuilding their lives after the United States government allowed them to leave the camp. I was sure that I had watched this talk, but it turned out that I had not.

Takei’s TedTalk is powerful and engaging, and it brings to life fear, sorrow, patriotism, and the terrible things that can happen when people fear others solely because of their race and ethnic background.

An important lesson in this age when so many people fear refugees and others because of their religion..