The Newseum’s Front Pages — A Rich Media Literacy Resource

FullSizeRender-2

The Front Pages exhibit in front of the Newseum. Can you see the Capitol dome in the distance?

If you are seeking a new and creative medialit resource — for home or school learning — take some time to discover and explore the Today’s Front Pages exhibit on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Visitors to the city can set aside a block of time to visit the Newseum itself, but those who don’t have time for a longer visit can still check out the front pages on the sidewalk in front of the Newseum (for free).

Not traveling to the Nation’s Capital? No problem. The Newseum makes it easy to visit Today’s Front Pages online — each day all 800 Front Pages are posted on the website. And there’s even a Today’s Front Pages app.

No matter where you see them, the Front Page exhibits are rich with learning possibilities.

Continue reading

Teaching Kids to Code With Robots: Great New Yorker Article

Visit the Sphero website.

Visit the Sphero website.

Check out the May 16, 2016 New Yorker for the article A Whole New Ball Game: The Rolling Robot That Teaches Kids to Code. Author D.T. Max, describes how Ian Bernstein and Adam Wilson invented the Sphero robot, and he explains how the ideas were conceived, how Sphero was designed, and the long process of promotion and sales. The article also includes explanations about how Sphero and other coding toys aim to help children develop 21st Century skills.

The comments from Sphero creators and from Paul Barberian, who became the first Sphero CEO, provide first-hand descriptions about working with and expanding ideas, connecting with a business incubator, and eventually starting a viable business. Max reminds readers about the Silicon Valley process — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test — and how this process is crucial to the success of new inventions and in the schools where students  use robot toys to solve problems. The article also includes thoughts from Barberian about how the business is considering expansion ideas, especially thinking about robots that develop personal attachments with their owners — what’s called adaptive personality.              Continue reading

Hour of Code Reflections: What a Difference a Few Words Make!

Image used with permission.

Image used with permission.

What if we encouraged young learners, when they encounter a difficult learning task, to replace the words “I don’t get it” with “I haven’t figured out the problem yet”? Can changing just a few small words make learners more comfortable when they work on unfamiliar or difficult activities?

I’ve spent the last month mulling over this word change idea after participating in Hour of Code activities with young 21st Century learners at my school in December. Watching the children in kindergarten and grades three, four and five solve puzzles and play the unfamiliar coding games was eye-opening, because in each class the majority of students — and some of the teachers — were working on learning tasks that they had never encountered before (definitely terra incognita).                        Continue reading

New Pew Report on Teens and Technology 2013

Growing internet use by teens and other age groups, too.

Growing internet use by teens and other age groups, too.

If you are an educator who teaches teenagers or a parent of adolescents, check out this newest research release — Teens and Technology, 2013 —  from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The survey results come from interviews with 802 adolescents between the age of 12 – 17 and separate interviews with their parents, conducted over the phone in English and Spanish.

If you have any doubts about how fast digital life is changing for young people, this should dispel many of them.

  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
  • 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
  • 95% of teens use the internet.
  • 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
  • 25% say they mostly use their phone online.

Most Interesting Quote

One in four teens are “cell-mostly” internet users, who say they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.

Schools must find ways to incorporate phones into the 21 Century learning paradigm.

Teachers Helped My Daughter Become Who She Is Today

I spent time on my porch thinking about the good teachers who helped my daughter thrive.

Another school year started this week, right after a relaxed three-day Labor Day weekend. But my three-days were more special than most, because I spent the time with my thirty-something daughter. As I thought about beginning the school year my mind kept wandering back to the years the two of us started school together, she as a student and me as a teacher.

I listened to my daughter, now a physician, talk about her work and her life, marveling at her competence, eagerness to learn, empathy, discipline, and, yes, her sense of fun. More than once during our conversations I thought about the teachers who helped her develop and strengthen these skills, people who took her interests into consideration — as well as the required topics.

A preschool teacher encouraged my daughter to get up and keep going after a fall or a spat, and her kindergarten teacher recognized her love of books but also reminded her to relax and play. In second grade her teacher came to the rescue when my daughter wanted to bring a book to read at recess, and this same gifted educator suggested that she “become an author” and write her own books.

Once a week in second grade each child was encouraged think of a hard word and learn how to spell it. Boy was my husband surprised one day, as he worked on his public health policy dissertation, when our daughter, age seven, came up to his desk and happily spelled epidemiology. She told him that she liked the way the word looked when she saw it on his pages and asked to know more about what it meant. I just know that teacher suggested that she ask her dad for more information.             Continue reading

Media Literacy in Bhutan

Question: What’s the last nation in the world to have television reception?

Answer: Bhutan, which used be an absolute monarchy and is now building democratic institutions as a constitutional monarchy.

Bhutan map from the CIA Factbook.

What a great bit of digital world trivia to begin a family media literacy conversation!

According to this press story from Ithaca College, the Kingdom of Bhutan invited representatives from the school’s media literacy initiative, Project Look Sharp, to work with the Ministry of Education and help train the country’s teachers to understand and use media literacy principles.

As Bhutan develops democratic institutions, encouraging citizens to assume the responsibilities of civic participation, the country’s  leaders want to ensure that the strengths of traditional Buddhist life are not overwhelmed by the exposure to western media influences.

Continue reading

The Virginia Earthquake: Oh How I Love Teaching and Technology

My upstairs hallway

Yesterday in the District of Columbia (my school) and Virginia (my home), we had an earthquake, the largest quake in our area in 70 years. At school things rumbled and doors slammed, so most of the adults, who were preparing for the start of the school year, headed outside for a bit. At my house I returned to find pictures askew. A few things fell on the floor at home, but my neighbor checked on the house and picked them up before I arrived.

But here’s an interesting observation. On a day in August, when teachers like me are getting ready for the start of school — and bemoaning the end of summer just a bit — I found myself wishing the students were already back in school, because I know how special “the day after” can be for young learners and for me,too. Continue reading