Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ultimate Distraction Devices

This year our district is integrating a 1:1 iPad program, and is southwest Ohio's first public school district to do so. I am blessed to teach at Reading Community City Schools where our leadership found a way to make it possible for us to integrate technology into our classroom, and use technology in everyday instruction. I enjoy to learn through technology myself.

There are numerous resources available to help teachers prepare our students to use the various educational functions and tools iPads offer (thanks Jerry - @cybraryman!), as well as suggestions for integrating iPads into the classroom for the first time. The new application from Common Sense Media Graphite even allows educators to search for educator evaluated applications and technology resources with advanced search settings. I also like the latest post by Edutopia, Back to School with iPads: 5 Steps for the First 5 days

The goal of this post is to share the information from a presentation I made to my students about the how technology can be destructive to the learning process if it is not used appropriately. As one of my students said last year in reference to my laptops, these things are "A.D.D. devices." If we are not careful, and do not integrate metacognition skills in the integration of our technology devices, he could be correct.

I spent quite a bit of time this summer reading about how technology impacts learning, and here are the key "watch-outs" I felt most important to share with the kids. 

College students were asked to watch a 30-minute videotaped lecture. Some were sent eight text messages. Others were sent four or zero text messages. What the research found was...
  • Those who were interrupted more often scored worse on a test of the lecture’s content. 
  • Those who responded to the experimenters’ texts right away scored significantly worse than those participants who waited to reply until the lecture was over.
15 minute observations by Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University–Dominguez Hills found that...
  • Students’ “on-task behavior” was disrupted 2 minutes in, mainly responding to texts or checking Facebook. 
  • Students only spent 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork. 
St. John’s University found through observation 58 percent of second- and third-year law students who had laptops in class were using them for “non-class purposes” more than half the time. The University of Vermont found that “students engage in substantial multitasking behavior with their laptops and have non-course-related software applications open and active about 42 percent of the time.” Technology has been cited in various studies as a distraction for surrounding students.

Checking social media/text messages draw on the same mental resources demanded by schoolwork. Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time.
  • Multitasking “can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources.”
  • There is a “lag” when switching from one task to the other.
  • Listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook uses the same area of the brain (prefrontal cortex).
Dropping and picking up mental threads leads to damaged mental threads and more mistakes.
  • Students’ subsequent memory of what they’re working on will be impaired if their attention is divided.
  • When we are distracted our brains process and store information differently, in less useful ways.
  • Multitasking with technology leads to “decision fatigue”.
These distractions are also real for adults, so this is a lifelong learning lesson for the students. Technology is a part of the 21st century labor force. Using technology effectively and efficiently, such as an iPad, is essential in the modern world if used as an empowering tool free of distractions. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why My Students Participate in Budget Challenge

I believe the Budget Challenge Personal Finance Simulation is the nation’s leading online financial simulation geared toward students to teach financial literacy in schools. The company seeks to change personal finance education from merely teaching concepts to applying them in realistic scenarios and practicing positive behaviors that reinforce sound money management.

They have been conducting simulations in classrooms since the 2007-2008 school year, when I was an original pilot. I am a big believer in the simulation. I feel it is the perfect tool for personal finance teachers to use to help bridge personal finance content with personal finance behavior. The three simulation advantages that are most important to my students are:
  • The simulation occurs outside of school hours, mirroring what it is like in real life to pay bills and make tough choices in their "down time".
  • The simulation rewards "gritty" and "persistent" students who are responsible enough to stay on top of their bills and budget, students whose positive financial behavior may not always be reflective in a traditional test.
  • The simulation ignites student prompted questions sometimes not covered in the curriculum.
Here is a video of the simulation in action.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Price of a Kindergarten Teacher

Our five year old daughter is our youngest of three children. She spends most of her time playing and competing with her two older brothers. As many would expect with such a dynamic, she is a gritty kid.

All three of our children are very different. My wife and I see special talents in each of them. Like any parent, we also worry.

This was their first week of school. Immediately after my daughter introduced herself to her teacher, she followed with "I'm usually mean or mad." Not the first impression we had hoped for, but one my wife had warned her teacher of before the start of the school year.

The last thing we want is for our daughter to go through life mad or identifying herself as mean.

I'm sure my daughter will test just fine. When we read together, she seems to pick up pretty quickly on words. She enjoys learning and adding numbers playing the princess iPad game (thanks Matt Gomez for the Twitter recommendation). So our concerns can never be quantified or measured with data.

We want our daughter to be happy. We want her to identify herself as happy and nice. In the years ahead, we want her to make society a better place personally and as a leader professionally. My daughter is a good kid, she just needs further nudges from others to help her down the path of our holistic vision of success.

On Friday I picked my kids up from school. As I was pulling them together I noticed my daughter's kindergarten teacher on both her knees, holding each of her hands, talking to my daughter; both were smiling from ear to ear. Her teacher pulled me to the side and told me how proud she was of her. For ten minutes she went on and on about how she included all of the children in her play, and how happy and nice she was for the duration of the day.

She explained to me how she handled my daughter's sometimes defiant personality. Her educated techniques were thoughtful and exactly what she needed. Equally as impressive is observing her demeanor with the kids as she masterfully builds their emotional intelligence.

We are blessed that Cincinnati Country Day prioritizes a whole child education. They have the means to keep classroom sizes small and are divorced from legislation that takes time and mind space from teachers to consider and tend to the individual needs of children like mine. They consider what kids need and assign them to teachers accordingly.

With that said, nobody is more valuable in her educational experiences than her teacher.

Despite our best efforts, our daughter began the school year looking in the mirror only to see a little five year-old girl who is often mad and mean, which could have been reinforced by a less trained teacher or a teacher in a different position when my daughter introduced herself on the first day of school. That was not the case because of a skillful, caring educator who instantly recognized the need to build my daughter's heart, not just her mind. 

How do you measure or put a price on that? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Seeking Suggestions For "Nudging" Text Messages To Help Students

I am seeking text message suggestions to "nudge" high school students into the following three actions:

• Set a savings goal
• Open or add to your savings account to achieve your goal
• Contribute regularly to your savings account, ideally with a direct deposit

I am beginning the second round of a project I initiated last semester with great success. This time the project will be a national level collaborative effort (more to come later). Students will receive these text messages in conjunction with personal finance classes. 

Your input is welcome and desired. Keep in mind the messages must be 140 characters or less.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 financial security resources

Here are five great financial security resources to share with students and parents facing financial hardships.

For educators who teach in high poverty areas, these are particularly important to keep on hand. Parents often do not know where to turn when facing financial hardships, so they turn to teachers. We are not experts, but we can share these five experts with them...

PEW Consumer Financial Security is an independent non-profit organization is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

Operation Hope is a silver rights empowerment, making free enterprise work for everyone.  They accomplish this through our work on the ground as the nonprofit private banker for the working poor, the underserved and struggling middle class. 

CFED is a multi-faceted organization working at the local, state and federal levels to create economic opportunity that alleviates poverty.

Center for Responsible Lending is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that works to protect homeownership and family wealth by fighting predatory lending practices.

New America Foundation Asset Building Program is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Texting and Driving

The National Safety Council estimated that roughly 200,000 crashes in 2011 involved texting; and an AT&T Wireless survey found that 75 percent of teenagers say texting while driving is “common” among their friends.

"From One Second to the Next" is a 35 minute gut wrenching documentary every teenager should see. AT&T will be distributing this embedded documentary into 40,000 high schools. If you do not receive a hard copy you can still watch the documentary in it's entirety online.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

An Emotional TED on Bullying: "To This Day"

I showed this video to my students last spring. The student response varied from applause from those who appreciated his poetic gift to teary eyes from those who identified with his words. 

This is a must watch for every high school student. 

The best advice for helping students reflect on their futures

In this three minute illuminating video, British philosopher Alan Watts poses the question "What would you do if money were no object?"

On the surface the question seems a bit heedless. Yet each question ties together seamlessly to pull students into looking inward to reflect and realize that life's greatest joy could serve their futures.

By the way, there is a consensus answer to whether money can buy happiness, and it's not what you think.

So now the next time you see a hand raise and hear a student ask "How am I supposed to know what I should do when I grow up?", you have the ideal resource to motivate each student to look inward to discover their own answer.