Summer 2017 is here, and as we enjoy family fun, outdoor activities, trips to museums and historical sites, vacations, and all sorts of camps and special programs, it’s also important to discover activities that will help 21st Century children use screen time creatively and wisely.
So with less frenetic schedules and no school, use the summer months to collaborate — that’s parents and kids doing things together. Adults can learn more about the digital whirl that’s such a huge part of young people’s 21st Century lives, and kids can engage in meaningful, creative, and interesting projects — and even have fun working with their parents. The pay-off? Everyone will figure out more about digital life and add variety to the types of digital activities that they typically do.
Below are 12 family digital project summer suggestions — all work best if people work together — to consider for summer 2017.
A hackathon is an event attended by students who gather for a few days to focus on solving problems by using their programming skills. Collaboration is key. According to Zachary Liu, a manager for the Princeton event, about 600 students attended from over 80 universities.
A hackathon is 21st Century learning at its best. The aim of each event is to identify problems that need solving and encourage students to work collaboratively, using their programming (coding) skills, to figure out potential solutions.
Collaborating with colleagues from beyond our school walls helps us become stronger, better, and more innovative educators. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind…” To that I would add, “minds from other places.”
I am attending the 2015 International Society for Technology Educators(ISTE) annual conference where it’s a bit of a zoo — a crazy, good, really busy, intellectually stimulating zoo — with people to meet, activities to learn about, lectures to hear, things to play with, information to process, and much more. Collaboration is in the air.
After serving at a school for 33 years, more than 25 or them as an educational technology faculty member, I am departing in a few weeks and moving on to new experiences. This year I’ve had plenty of time to think about my service on an edtech faculty team, ruminating on my rich experiences. I’ve helped teachers and students use technology in ways that help them grow into more effective and reflective learners, though in truth, I’ve probably learned far more than I’ve helped others learn.
While I will miss the daily joys and the challenges of 21st Century school life, I expect to continue supporting people — students, parents, family, friends, and anyone else — as they discover more about living and learning in a digital world with social media, apps, the latest devices, and whatever else that appears on the edtech horizon. Of course, I’ll keep blogging right here at MediaTechParenting.net.
So below are 25 observations (lessons learned) that grow out of my 25 years of teaching and learning with educational technology.
1. The curriculum and student learning are at the core of our work. The mission is to figure out how to help teachers learn new skills so they can help students learn more effectively and productively.
2. Collaborating with teachers on new technology projects in their classrooms is essential and best way to help them learn. Communicating with those teachers is paramount.
3. We need administrators to evaluate faculty members regularly, assessing how teachers infuse technology into the curriculum and how these teachers expand their skills over time.
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.
I’ve just returned from the 2013 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference, where I presented a workshop with three colleagues, Renee Hawkins, Vinnie Vrotny, and Larry Kahn. In our Thursday afternoon session we shared our ideas about coaching the parents of 21st Century learners to help them understand more about the digital lives of their children.
As I reflect on our wonderfully collaborative NAIS presentation project — coming up with an idea and developing it over time — I now understand that the workshop planning process led me and my colleagues on a substantial journey featuring what I think of as extremely connected professional development.
This workshop’s journey began a year ago at EdCampSeattle, where I shared an idea about the importance of educating 21st Century parents. At my school I work hard at educating parents about their digital kids, so I wanted to learn lots more about what my colleagues do at other schools.
Actually, I initially shared my idea with independent school colleague, Liz Davis, a dedicated EdCamp advocate, and she told me that I just had to attend EdCampSeattle. (Note: Liz is also one of the main people responsible for getting me to start blogging, but that’s another story.)
If you’ve attended EdCamp, you know that participants suggest lots of great ideas, but not everyone becomes part of the program. At the beginning of every EdCamp people walk around the room suggesting and choosing the topics they are most interested in — called the “law of two feet” in “EdCampSpeak.” They go on to experience, a day-long collegial event that they have planned, essentially carrying out their own program — in itself extreme professional development. Expanding this idea, my workshop colleague, Larry Kahn, will shortly experiment with inviting parents to attend an EdCamp along with teachers.
Sometimes when I sit quietly in a computer lab at school and observe my students, I overhear the most wonderful conversations about learning. Today, as I sat in a corner working quietly, several fifth-grade students came in and sat down to work on essays. Focused on work, they took little note of me.
A delightful conversation ensued when one student asked the other student for help with the name of a country. As soon as I realized that an interesting 21st Century learning conversation was happening, I started typing their dialogue rather than my parent letter.
The two children went online together, searched, made all sorts of comments and decisions about what they saw, discovered a few things that they were not looking for, and finally located the information that they needed. But their searching led to additional questions.
The entire conversation lasted less than two minutes, but they learned a great deal.
Student #1: I am trying to write about the country that broke off from India when India became independent. Do you know its name?
Student #2: I’m not sure. I know it’s right next door.
Student #1: Hummm. Maybe it’s Pakistan? But I’m not sure.
Student #2: Maybe. Let’s go online and find a world map.
Student #1: OK. Are you going to Google it?
Student #2: Yes and look. If we go into Images there are lots of maps.