4 Tips for Using Stories in the Early Grades
How to ‘Marie Kondo’ your Tech Life
It’s no secret that at GEMS World Academy (GWA) Schools, we love working with data.
In GWA Switzerland, under the expert direction of Sara Hodgson, students have worked on Data Visualisation projects in Art, culminating in large murals around the school. We invite you to explore their work in more detail here.
One of many data projects happening at GWA Chicago, is a year-long research project in collaboration with Apple on data collection in the field, which they will present this December.
We hope you enjoy our data project and we are happy to receive any suggestions of topics for the weeks ahead.
If you want to join us in our data collection, let us know!
An Icon is Worth (at least) a Dozen Words
5 Common Teaching Practices I’m Kicking to the Curb
Digital Breakout EDU Games
Overwhelmed? Do 5 Things
Grade 4 students had an opportunity to work with Mr Juan Felipe and Ms Ashley to create a persuasive radio message to raise awareness for a cause they felt strongly about.
Students incorporated elements of persuasive language, and techniques they identified that advertisers use to make their message more compelling to the listener.
Below are some examples of completed student work:
G4 have been exploring a unit of inquiry on how we express ourselves.
We are exposed to many messages that can influence our behaviour.
Lines of inquiry:
As a culminating task, students could choose to produce either a radio advertisement or a poster to raise awareness for a cause they felt strongly about.
Our resident expert Juan Felipe, together with Ms Ashley, supported students in using Garageband to create their radio advertisements (more details to come in a future post), while their teacher Ms Julie and I guided students in using Keynote on the iPad Pro to produce their poster.
Please enjoy looking at some of our finished products below.
National Geographic Educator Certification Programme
Adobe Spark for Education
Talk to Books
One of the biggest challenges parents face is how to approach potentially sensitive topics with their children. What age should they be? What should I say? How much detail do I go into?
As we know with parenting, there are so many different approaches to choose from. But before you go down that track, it might be best to examine your own experiences, beliefs and values, so you know where you’re starting, at least.
Below are results of questions we asked parents in our recent workshop on this topic:
Here are some questions for you to ponder:
How did you learn about sex?
Where did you get your information from?
Did you feel well-prepared?
What do you wish you had known?
Did your sex education focus on mechanics and how to avoid pregnancy?
Did it include aspects such as touching, pleasure, consent, emotions and feelings?
Did your sex education include sexuality education?
Did it include information about gender identity, sexual orientation and relationships?
Director of Wellbeing Daniel Johnston and I have teamed up again to put together some resources for parents about How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex and Pornography.
Our presentation to parents is below. Please view our slide notes (via the settings cog directly under the presentation) to see the points we try to raise throughout.
We also collated a fairly comprehensive set of resources for parents about common discussion points, which we encourage you to explore.
Regardless of the content, we encourage you to keep lines of communication open and make the most of those teachable moments that crop up, e.g. when watching TV. If your children don’t feel comfortable coming to you, then they will seek answers to their questions from elsewhere.
Have lots of small conversations, rather than one big "sex talk". Let’s also make sure we have appropriate, reliable resources for them (books, websites, videos) so they have access to quality information if and when they choose to explore further.
It is a tricky thing to look at one’s own biases: it can make us feel somewhat vulnerable. In the case of screen time, it is essential that we do so.
Professor Andy Przybylski (University of Oxford) opened the one-day event on Screen Time I had the good fortune to attend, by commenting on the very existence of the phrase “screen time”. Is there similar examination of “book time” or “food time” for example? There is an unfair rhetoric of analogue time being wholesome, good and entirely helpful, whereas screen time is seen as inherently bad, distracting, unhealthy and leading to nothing of value.
This displacement hypothesis is such that every digital minute is seen as taking away from an analogue minute, with the insinuation that digital minutes are taking you further away from you being your best, most successful self.
Professor Przybylski argued that the evidence simply doesn’t back up this theory. Any correlational findings (remember, correlation does not equal causation) are so statistically insignificant they don’t justify focusing on - less than 1% variability in terms of correlational findings around sleep, health, functioning and behaviour.
So what does this mean for parents?
Simply put, there is an over-emphasis on limits and not enough focus on thinking critically about how we use screens, particularly how we use screens with our children.
Alexandra Samuel who surveyed 10,000 North American Parents*, found three main parenting approaches to technology: Limiters, Enablers and Mentors.
Limiters focus on minimizing access to technology.
Enablers put few restrictions on access to technology.
Mentors take an active role in guiding their children in the use of technology.
What is especially interesting about these approaches, is that for school-aged students, the children of Limiters were twice as likely to access porn, or post rude/hostile comments online. They were also three times as likely to impersonate a classmate, peer or adult (see Samuel’s article in the Atlantic for more information).
Likening the Limiter approach to abstinence-only sex education, Samuel argues, “Shielding kids from the Internet may work for a time, but once they do get online, limiters’ kids often lack the skills and habits that make for consistent, safe, and successful online interactions.”
Mentors typically make up a third of parents overall, but Mentors are equally represented in each age range, suggesting that this might be an approach that works effectively throughout your child’s life.
What we like best about these findings is that they reinforce the idea that establishing and maintaining positive relationships with your children around technology is beneficial to everyone. We want our child(ren) to come to us if they encounter problems, knowing we won't freak out or overreact. For this to happen, we have to show that we care about and value their digital world in the same way we show that we value their other activities, e.g. reading or sports.
Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise, suggests, "Take an interest in what your kids do in their digital lives. Learn together with your kids. Play Minecraft with them or share photos on Instagram with them. Show them what you are doing online and ask them for advice about your Facebook posts or LinkedIn Profile. Your goal is not to become an expert in technology but to get a window into how your kids think about, and interact with, technology."
With an awareness and understanding that no parent is all-Mentor all of the time, how can we engage in more Mentor-like behaviour with our children? How can we move from being Media Police, to being Media Mentors?
My colleague Daniel Johnston and I came up with a few suggestions, which we have organised into a March Media Mentor Month Calendar (see below).
We know as busy parents, it is unlikely you will get to all of these ideas (especially not only in March!), but we hope this provides a resource for you to explore and find ideas of activities to help you develop a positive digital relationship with your family.
Click to access a larger A3 PDF version
We presented to parents recently about Parenting in the Digital Age. Please find our slides below. To view the presenter notes, use the cog directly below the presentation.
Please feel free to share your ideas with us in the comments below, or add the hashtag #mediamentormonth on social media posts.
* "About the data: All the charts in this article are drawn from a series of surveys conducted on Springboard America and the Angus Reid Forum between March 2014 and February 2016. More than 11,000 surveys were completed by parents of children under 18; each individual survey sampled between 500 and 1000 North American parents." Please note this data has not been made publicly available and is not peer reviewed.
It is not uncommon to see Middle Schoolers with earbuds in their ears, but how many of them have been encouraged to explore the podcasting genre?
For the past 2 years, teachers Ceci Gomez-Galvez and Nathan Lill at Shekou International School in China, have implemented a podcast project with their middle school students based on the popular NPR podcast series “This I Believe.”
Students listen and respond to a range of “This I believe” examples - both from the original podcast and samples from previous students - and then undertake the process of creating their own.
Attending a workshop with the pair last year, I couldn’t help but feed off their passion and excitement for the project. Listening to some of the finished student samples gave me chills. What phenomenal work students produce when given a platform to (literally!) share their own voice with the world.
Ceci and Nathan have shared all of their resources (linked here with permission), so I encourage you to check out the vast array of material they have shared and get this project started in your school community.
In addition, why not incorporate podcasts into your regular literacy programme? Below are a few of my favourites, which I hope you will explore with your Middle Schoolers.
This I Believe
Welcome to Night Vale
As a very visual person, I arrived relatively late to the Podcast party. It wasn’t for lack of interest - I just didn’t know what to do with my EYES! Thankfully, the need to take my dog for a walk solved that problem for me.
I listened to several outstanding podcasts and found myself thoroughly engaged. It made me think that kids really need in on the podcast action too! If we want students to ‘Read the World’ - and we do! - we need to give them opportunities to read books, online texts, images, videos AND podcasts.
Obviously, I’m not the only one thinking of using podcasts in the classroom. English teacher Mike Godsey, writing for The Atlantic, shares his experience with The Value of Using Podcasts in Class. Unexpected benefits for his high school students included wanting to engage more with reading as a result of listening to podcasts. But would the same benefits apply to younger learners? G5 teacher @JKSuth thinks so, based on how her students responded to popular podcast The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel.
Fortunately, I have 2 guinea pigs children of my own with which to test out some podcasts. We listen to an episode or two in the car on the way to school (a welcome alternative to the monotony of Swiss radio…). I can attest to their engagement in the podcasts, discussion after each episode involving shared hypotheses as to what may happen next, and general enthusiasm for listening.
Below are some podcasts I recommend for the new generation of listeners out there.