(My Students’) State of Technology and Media 2017

Sample Screen from Student Survey

Each year, I give a survey to my sixth graders about their use of technology and social media as one entry point into a unit we call Digital Life. I also share the compiled results back with families, too, so they have a sense of trends with technology.

Here are the results of this year’s survey:

A few observations:

  • The amount of time that kids spend on technology is certainly continuing to grow over time, moving pretty solidly into the two/three/more hours a day. This echoes the results of a lot of official surveys of this age group.
  • More and more of my students have Smart Phone, meaning parents are spending a lot of money not just for the phones, but also for the services.
  • Facebook has seen another sharp decline among my sixth graders while Instagram grows at a steady rate for this age group.
  • Snapchat continues to be popular and growing.
  • Fewer students say they have had negative experiences in online spaces than in years past, and this reflects a trend in my surveys. Good news there.
  • More and more students indicate that parents and teachers have had explicit discussions with them about using technology. Another piece of good news.

This is a small sample, of a narrow population group, but for me, I find it valuable as a way to talk about their footprints in the digital world, and what it all means — both in positive terms (connections, sharing, creating) and negative terms (harassment, bullying, privacy). It’s all about the balance.

Peace (in the numbers),
Kevin

Visual Slice of Life: Avatars on the Window

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Sticky Note Avatars on Window

We’re in the midst of our unit on Digital Life, and we were talking about online identity and the many ways people represent/misrepresent themselves in online spaces for all sorts of reasons: privacy, acceptance, gender, etc.

Before launching into an online activity around building avatars with different sites (and considering using what they made for their school Google Accounts), I had my sixth graders create Sticky Note Avatars and put them on the window as a sort of public display of representations.

They looked pretty neat, all there on the glass.

Sticky Note Avatars on Window

Peace (imagine it),
Kevin

 

Peace (falling),
Kevin

What They Suggest (Students Inventing Passwords)

Student PW Suggestions

One of the activities I like to do with my students during our Digital Life unit is to have them explore and think deep on the notions of passwords for their many apps and accounts with technology. We use a site that tests the strength of passwords, and I have them use password creation strategies to invent password suggestions for their four main teachers.

Student PW Suggestions

It then becomes a classroom challenge, where groups of students share the password that they have for me, their ELA teacher; share and agree on a single suggestion from the group; and then we pit each one against each other to see how strong it is. Each of these images is a slide from each of my four classroom’s challenge. One rule is that I would have to be able to memorize the password, and that is must contain different elements of password strategies (mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols).

Student PW Suggestions

Most of these contain clues and elements of what they know about me — from my teaching to my family life to my interests. During the activity, I was actively interviewed about favorite foods, favorite numbers, music I like to listen to, etc.

Student PW Suggestions

They like the game element of it, but as I remind them, what this lesson is all really about is reflecting on the kinds of passwords they use in their lives and how to make them stronger.

I know I have hit a nerve when students start asking, “Can you show me how to change my Google password?”

Peace (safe and secure),
Kevin

Slice of Life: I eye i

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I spent a good part of the long weekend reading and assessing short stories, the first large writing project that my sixth graders have done this school year. There were a lot of fun and interesting stories, but one thing kept sticking out for me.

i

i

i

You may know that I am all in support of the ways that technology and digital writing techniques and possibilities have opened up many writing opportunities for young people. Embedded media, hyperlink associations, etc. Composition is changing, and I’m fine with that. And young people are writing all the time. Writing is at the heart of most of the texting, video creating, commenting, Instagramming, status updating, etc. that they do.

Yet …

I still get frustrated by the use of “i” instead of “I” when it comes to more formal writing. It feels like one of those non-negotiables when it comes to formal writing, right?

I do mini-lessons around techniques of proofreading and of writing, and of how different formalities of writing call for different things. Lower case “i” is fine for texting with friends, I tell them, but not for formal school writing, and I show them, and explain it to them.

Still, the i persists.

It’s likely a combination of them seeing the lower case so much in other places and spaces that their eye doesn’t immediately notice it, as mine does. Immediately. When using their Google Docs accounts, the “i” is not always deemed a spell-check issue, I’ve observed. So no red squiggles appear on the screen. I don’t know why not. I also know they should not need to rely on the red squiggles for something as simple as “i” becoming “I”. Finally, we all know that proofreading is always a struggle for young writers.

Sigh.

Maybe there are a few ee cummings in the mix …

Peace (i mean it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Out On the Wire

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I may have written a bit about this last year, too. Our team-building outdoor adventure field trip happens this time of year, and yesterday, we took our sixth graders to an all-day outdoor space, with the highlight for many being the high ropes course.

High Ropes

Watching from the ground, with the deep blue sky above, is always an interesting perspective.

High Ropes

What you can’t hear are is the soundtrack of all the students not on the wires, shouting out encouragement and advice. That’s as wonderful as watching kids counter their fears of the course by completing it.

High Ropes

Peace (in the skyline),
Kevin

Making Writing Visible

Making Storywriting Visible

My sixth grade writers are in the midst of a fiction writing project, where our focus has been on plot design, dialogue writing, proofreading, openings and more. As usual, as they have been writing, I have been writing, too, and as I try to do, I have been sharing my drafts and process as we go along.

Yesterday, I shared out this opening to my story, in which the narrator is sent back in time by Book (a character I’ve pilfered from our reading of Book: My Autobiography) to Gutenberg’s time, in order to help him with the printing press and find a way back home for the narrator. I made lots of notes in the margins, and read them out as I read them the story, trying to articulate my “moves” as a writer.

It’s not that I want them to emulate my story construction, but some of the techniques become more visible this way.

It occurred to me later that a good activity would be to do a crowd-sourced annotation of a story with them, and ask them to identify and annotate places where various writing techniques are visible in the text.

Hmmm …

Peace (stories abound),
Kevin

100 Years From Now … State of the Book

Books (stories) of the Future

I mentioned the other day how I use Book: My Autobiography as a read-aloud with my sixth graders at the start of the year as a way to introduce creative non-fiction and a history lesson around the evolution of stories and books over time.

A writing prompt in their writing notebook afterwards asks them to consider the world 100 years into the future — 2117 — and sketch out and explain some ideas about what stories will look like and/or how stories will get delivered to readers. In other words, what will books be like in 100 years?

The picture above is my example — I envision Tattoo Stories which can be shared and remixed with others.

Stories of Future Collage

My students have a range of ideas, including:

  • Embedded story contact lens for your eyes (and/or wearable glasses that do the same thing)
  • Holographic characters who act out the story in front of you (and other variations of virtual and augmented reality concepts)
  • A device that you sit in and punch in information about protagonist and antagonist character traits, and a story gets created into some form, in the moment
  • Books and stories that float nearby, and move along with you as you walk around, so you always have new stories in reach
  • Story microchips inserted into your mind so that you can active a tale at any time
  • Portable personal libraries that appear when you need a book from the shelves and disappear when you don’t need it
  • Foldable books that can easily — no matter the size — fit into the corner of your pocket
  • Story cars, busses and trucks — the entire vehicle is a moving story of some sort and the driver is the reader

Who knows. I suspect we will still have good ol’ book with us, too. I hope so.

Peace (thinking forward),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Not Yet Grounded

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

So much of the start of the year is about finding out more about who our students are as learners, as writers. I’m still figuring that out, particularly now that I have a short story project underway that involves multiple steps (planning, drafting, etc.) and involves more critical thinking and effort that anything we have yet done this year. One of my four classes has quite a mix of struggling writers and behavior issues that stems from the grouping of students, and some of these students already seem disinterested in what we are doing (five weeks into the school year).

I lost my patience in class a bit with one of the students yesterday who was being disruptive, even after some warnings and moving to another part of the room. I knew in the very moment it was happening that calling them out was the wrong approach. This student clearly needs a more personal approach, and other ways to engage, and I am going to make time to today for a one-on-one chat, to both apologize for my approach and to try to brainstorm ways to deal with that behavior if it comes again. That doesn’t mean the disruption is acceptable. But I could have figured out a better way to address it.

Much of the behavior issue stems from a resistance to writing (so, it is going to be a long year, since writing is a key feature of everything we do) and struggles with learning. The behavior is clearly a way to divert attention, to provide a front for peers. I get it. I’m going to have to work through all that cloud to get to the real kid in there and help them make gains with their writing.

It’s on me, as much as on them.

I wish every class were this well-oiled machine, where everything flows perfectly. It’s not. Almost never is. And that’s one of the most challenging elements of being an educator — the unpredictability of kids and their lives, and how what happens in expected moments of the classroom changes the dynamics of the space  — and one of the things that makes being a teacher so rewarding when breakthroughs happen.

Peace (finding my ground),
Kevin

Teaching Attribution

This “card” will be helpful for my students to have in from of them when I get into my lessons around digital media and attribution principles, with a focus on how to search for Creative Commons for projects and how to use what other people have made in our own work.

This tutorial image comes from a useful post over at KQED called “Pause Before Downloading” and that article also includes a helpful list of places to look for Creative Common images.

And I don’t want to forget that Alan Levine’s handy attribution tool for images is something to install as a bookmarklet on our school laptop browsers. Alan has created a simple way to make sure you have the language of attribution down. Just drag the bookmarklet into your browser and whenever you find a Creative Commons image, just click on it and it will give you options for attribution. I use it all the time at home. Simple. Powerful. Handy.

Peace (link it),
Kevin