Thinking about Tweens Online

I have been doing a little digging on this topic to get ready for a parent coffee.  Although the sites are ever-changing my advice is somewhat constant.

  • Don’t be afraid to look at your child’s device, in fact let them know you will be looking
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. There are some sites that are just inappropriate – little good has come from sites like yik yak – that allow users to be anonymous.  Any time kids can be anonymous they try on different personalities and even the nicest kid can do mean things – because they are trying on a personna that is not them!
  • Any sites you do allow your child on be sure to check privacy settings. And then keep rechecking them because many will change them from time to time, it’s part of the game.
  • If sites don’t allow accounts for kids under 13, then try to keep your child off of them, and if you can’t be sure to watch the account with them.
  • Don’t assume your child knows more about technology than you do.  Lack of fear is not the same as learning and being educated!  Take the time to work together. You have a great opportunity to set ground rules for your teen and BE A PARENT!

Here is an interesting article Reaching Gen Y-Fi about tweens. The punchline is that tweens are a big market and advertisers are looking for them.

What do we need to teach children?

In today’s world of constant access what children need to learn may be changing. While I don’t believe that children’s brains have changed because of technology, what they need to know may now be different.  Does memorization still have as important a place at the table?  Memorization as a skill will always be needed. Is memorization of trivial facts and figures as important as it used to be?

Consider the alphabet.  Absolutely young children need to learn their letters to learn how to read. But do they really need to learn the alphabet in order?  Most immediately jump to the answer that of course, there is no doubt that alphabetical order is as basic as well, your abc’s! But consider this, is it really so important that students know the letters in order?  In teaching computer science we teach sorting and searching.  In a computer language, it is easiest to sort according to the ASCII table.  If you didn’t realize it, the ASCII table is not in alphabetical order.  While the letters on the table are sequential, most are surprised to learn the B comes before a, and all of the numbers come before any letters.  When writing code to do a search you must compare ASCII values, not code to the alphabet.  While understanding ordinality is an important concept, is alphabetizing a thing of the past?  Why do we really need it anymore? When we search we are generally letting a device do it for us. As more records become digital, is there any purpose to knowing the order of the letters anymore?

My FETC’15 highlights:

 

If these are your areas of interest you’ve probably already seen the following but these are the highlights of what was new (somewhat or a new way to think about something old)  to me this year 😉  Overall, there wasn’t a lot new, but the biggest buzz was blended learning, maker spaces, and GBL and gamification

The gaming folks have probably all seen this, but I learned of http://www.kqed.org/assets/pdf/news/MindShift-GuidetoDigitalGamesandLearning.pdf (Links to an external site.) at FETC this week. Also look into the work of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. www.joanganzcooneycenter.org (Links to an external site.) (I had never seen this)

eyewire.org – a game to map the brain..(a student of mine showed me this one he spends hours on it)

uni motionsavvy.com is a deaf translator that looks quite cool on a tablet

newsela.com for kids as well as www.exibi.com (Links to an external site.) look interesting.

Big Brother 30 years later

When I was young, probably jr. high, we read George Orwell’s 1984. At that point the big brother world seemed science fiction. I’ve been doing some reading about Big Data. It fascinates me. The idea that statistics, the thing that gave me such fits as an undergrad, and understanding sample size will be a thing of the past. For in Big Data N = population is a liberating concept. But it is 2014, 30 years from the title of the book and this happens.
I compose an email from a gmail account. No big deal. In the body of the text I type attached is where I proceeded to embed a link. When I hit send, Google came back and gave me a warning. The gist of which was we see you have an attachment, and you don’t have a file attached, do you want to still send this email now?
Yikes! Google is reading my email. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Maybe this feature could have saved me some professional embarrassment over the years when I didn’t attach the things I meant to, but on some level Google reading my email I haven’t sent yet is really bothering me!!

Reaction to codebabes

 

As a teacher, I have spent the last eighteen years of my life dedicated to teaching technology skills and computer science.  One of the most rewarding aspects of this work is when I am visited years later by former students and they have become successful coders or engineers, and I know that part of their introduction to their chosen field was in one of my classes.  The work that has been done by organizations like ACM, NSF, WIT, WITI and CSTA to name just a few, has been a joy to watch unfold.  Here are some of the truths. The glass ceiling for women in technology has been real. The declining numbers in enrollments in CS and engineering programs by women has been real.  This past year, the work done by code.org has made amazing progress.  Billions of lines of code written by students, regardless of gender or ethnicity has been nothing short of inspiring for classroom teachers like myself.

 

Now the ugly flip side. When you bring an issue to the forefront, you have to worry that some folks will take exception and try to create a satire in the name of humor.  Enter codebabes.com. Unfortunately, it was brought to my attention by an article in the Washington Post.  While not wanting to give it legitimacy by naming it, it is difficult to skip the opportunity to express my outrage. It flies in the face of the years I have spent trying to teach students to code for good.

 

Fifteen years ago, my school had a guest speaker from the Internet Crimes Task Force. He spoke about computer hackers and portrayed the typical hacker as a teenage male – yes, usually a teenager, but always male.  I wondered why this was the case, and decided that either there weren’t any female hackers, or they were so much better than their male counterparts because they had never been caught! As a middle and high school teacher, I have taught several talented young men. Some of them had great potential as hackers. I always felt a sense of obligation when I worked with them to try to get them to understand their potential and show them that it as important to do good things with their code.  Sadly, the spirit, which is intended by codebabes, is dangerous to women and dangerous to our future.  Too bad they couldn’t create a site that would not be offensive to women and offensive to computer science teachers. It is clear that the authors possess a really immature sense of humor, and we can only hope that someday, when they grow up, they will be ashamed at their sophomoric actions.  At the minimum, let’s hope that if they pass on their coding skills to future offspring  – such offspring are all girls, and that the antics of their fathers in their younger days, doesn’t dissuade them from bright coding futures.

Crowdsourcing with Caution

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a tech director at a small school who had implemented a great Maker space.  He spoke of the wisdom of crowd sourcing and that he saw it as the way our kids will learn in the future.  He pointed to his success in installing a dishwasher after watching youtube videos – instead of calling a trained professional. I can think of many times I’ve referred to youtube to teach myself how to do something – I taught myself java this way.  However, I started to think about it, and I began to worry a bit. It’s similar to the “wikipedia” problem. Since the wikipedia arrived on the scene, I’ve been educating students that the wikipedia is a great source, but that has to be taken with caution. A good starting place for research or general information, you have to be careful to verify what you find especially if you are going to use the information in your research. You need to verify, verify, verify!  We all know that since anyone regardless of expertise can add to the pool of information online, you can’t always trust everything you find. I worry about crowd sourcing in much the same way.  Here’s a recent example.

A couple of days ago while preparing dinner I had the evening news on tv. The report that ran was that it was the 25th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s invention – “the internet.”  I started screaming at the set.  Yes, it was the 25th anniversary, but not that of the internet, indeed, the internet is a lot older. His invention was something else that has been transformative not only to our society but to the world, and the national broadcasters didn’t get it right. A browser search the next day and there was a number of hits all touting the 25th anniversary of the internet. If I followed the crowd sourced model, history would be in the process of being rewritten.  Seriously, I understand the common usage of the terms, and that folks now use them interchangeably. I’ll admit I’m guilty of it too, but hopefully never in an academic situation. I always tell my students to use the internet to look things up, or to post something online, but I always explain the subtle differences to them about the Internet and the World Wide Web and the mark-up language, HTML, that started the transformation.  I guess over time, this difference will be lost, but I worry what other crowd sourced changes we will see. For history is replete with crowd sourced mistakes that have cost lives and even, I dare say, civilizations. 

Let’s be sure to embrace the pros of crowdsourcing and proceed with caution. How about a “Crowcau” movement? Oh, and by the way I checked it before proposing it, nothing comes up in our language for crowcau 🙂