Student State of Technology 2013: Tech Useage and Perceptions

Each year, I have my sixth graders take a survey we call The State of Technology. The data I collect over a series of questions forms the basis for discussions (we will have next week) around digital citizenship and privacy and footprints. Plus, I find it fascinating to get a glimpse into what they do with technology and how they perceive it. I’ll share out more elements in the coming days, but these questions ask about amount of time on tech and what they do, as well as their impressions of themselves as tech savvy kids.

What observations can I make?

  • First of all, notice the amount of time they spend with technology. Hours and hours each day. That’s a bit frightening, and it is something we grapple with in our home, too, with our children. I continually return to the questions as a teacher of the amount of screen time I am bringing into my instruction.
  • Mostly, they are using the technology at home and not in school. No surprise there, I suppose, given the proliferation of devices now available.
  • The shift to mobile devices over desktops and computers is clearly evident, and this has grown by leaps and bounds each year (reflecting society, I suppose). In fact, each time I introduce some technology in class, the first question is always: is there an app for this? (We had this yesterday, as we worked with Glogster for the first time)
  • It’s also interesting that text messaging is still an extremeley popular use of technology, but playing in online gaming environments has grown considerably in the past year, and watching videos online is a steady growth pattern over previous years.  What I would love to see is more growth in the categories around making, creating, producing … instead of the ones around watching, experiencing, staring.
  • Finally, the question about self-perceptions shows another shift in my students. Not long ago, I would have had a whole group identifying themselves in the “uncomfortable” category, but now, the vast majority either feel comfortable with whatever device or platform we put in front of them, they also consider themselves “experts.” (Reality check: they still need guidance and help to see the larger picture of how things work, and why.) And when they think about their own use in comparison to their parents, well, kids always know best, right? Here, they clearly think they are more knowledgeable and savvy than mom and dad.

Amount of Time
State of Tech 2013 hours of tech

Where Time is Spent
State of Tech 2013 time on device

What They Do on Tech
State of Tech 2013 outside of school

Home vs. School
State of Tech 2013 Home vs School
Self-perceptions of Tech Use
State of Tech 2013 rate self
Compared to Parents
State of Tech 2013 compare to parents
In the next few days, I will share out their use of social networking spaces

Peace (in the data to understand),

PS — Want a copy of the survey to use with your students? I think I created a blank template in Google Drive that I can share here with you. Feel free to use it as you see fit.



IDEO: The Future of the Book

I am always fascinated by inquiry into books and how technology is shaping, reshaping our writing and reading experiences. This video comes from the IDEO site, which has a lot of interesting projects and research elements underway around literacy and design. It focuses in on Nelson, Coupland and Alice — three platforms for literacy. (I’ve heard about Alice numerous times and need to check it out)

Peace (in the share),

Book Review: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal might as well be me.

So many of her entries in her wonderful Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life feel as if they were cribbed from my journal — if I still kept one — or from any of the Slice of Life writing or Six Word Memoirs or Day in a Sentence writing activities that I often take part in. Well, sure, she’s a woman and I am a man, so there are a few differences in perspectives and experiences, and her insightful writing goes deeper than mine usually does … but this treasure of a book (recommended by Penny Kittle in Book Love) is a look at Rosenthal’s life, set up as encyclopedia entries (with scattered other tidbits woven in), that should resonate with anyone leading what they consider to be an “ordinary” life.

I liked that format here — that we can organize our thinking about the everyday events and people in our lives as a sort of encyclopedia that keeps on growing (which to me would give the digital book format a leg up on the paper format — the book is done and published, unless she writes a sequel — but a digital version could keep growing and expanding).

What I liked best of all in Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is Rosenthal’s voice as a writer — her honesty about the world around her, which may seem mundane at times but is not (just like the lives of most of us), and it’s fascinating to watch the lens that she sees things through — with humor, compassion and off from an angle. Her lens helped me to look around and see things that way, too. While some of the entries might seem rather light (she writes about going out for coffee quite a bit), Rosenthal can suddenly take your breath away with a piece about the murder of the woman who was her nanny, and the last night they spent together as friends.

As a Meta-reading aside, I loved that the back of the book jacket is a blurb about how Rosenthal reads the back of a book jacket to gauge a book, and I adored the little lists that were hidden away inside the flaps of the book. I like how she opened up the last few pages to give her illustrator and bookmaker a chance to have a few words about the making of the book. There are all sorts of little tidbits of interesting information scattered throughout the book like that, and as a reader, I appreciated the fun of the discovery.

There are plenty of additional goodies at her website, too.

Peace (in the life),


Slice of Life: The Crunch of Snow and Ice

Please link up your slice of life story to this post today. As always, be sure to check out other bloggers’ writing by clicking through the links in the comment section of this post. If you’re dropping by to link up quickly today, then please come back later to read through others slicers’ posts.

Yesterday, we had a moderately messy snow storm. It was a mixture of freezing rain and snow, but not as bad as it could have been (and not as bad as our local television stations would like it to be, if you know what I mean). This morning, I took the dog out for a walk, and the air felt fairly warm but there was still this layer of ice on top of everything. There was a satisfying “crunch” as we walked in the dark morning hours before anyone else was up. Our crunching footfalls echoed off the houses. I like that feeling of the body just heavy enough to crash through the first layer of ice, and then sink down into the soft snow underneath. I suppose the warmth will melt a lot of yesterday’s snow, leaving it packed and dirty. But this morning, it was fresh and clean and full of sounds not yet created.

Peace (in the morning of the day),



Playing with Pixton Comics and Audio Layers

I’m reviewing the Pixton Webcomic site for some work that I am doing and want to see if the comic embeds OK here in my blog (if not, here is the direct link). I also used the interesting feature in Pixton that allows you to add sound to a comic. I used it for audio narration. I like that feature. (Hover your mouse over the text box and you will see the little flash icon for listening to sound).

Peace (on the strip),

Book Review: One Size Does Not Fit All

Nikhil Goyal is a self-proclaimed child of No Child Left Behind. That is, he is one of the generation of students whose educational experiences from elementary school through recent high school graduation was defined and structured through the lens of standardized testing and standardized curriculum. And he is not happy about that (nor should he be). His insightful book — One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School — is a powerful call for our country to rethink the ways schools are structured, and the way learning environments are established, from the most important constituency of all: the student.

Goyal wrote this book when he was just 17 years old. He conducted numerous interviews, did extensive research and considered his own educational experiences in New York to form a powerful screed on the ways that standardized learning is dulling the minds of too many students and sapping the creativity out of their lives. Luckily, he takes the next step, too, and proposed various ways that he thinks schools should (no, must) change in order to nurture the critical thinking skills and creative prowess of young people. Goyal’s book is full of voice, and passion, and frustration for the ways that the Bush presidency moved us in a direction of testing-first, and how the Obama administration has continued and built upon that theme.

If you, like me, feel as if the only voices we have been hearing are our own (educators, and maybe even some parents) and those of the government (local, national) and educational businesses (textbook companies, Gates), it is refreshing to get a glimpse of what a recent graduate is thinking. Refreshing, but saddening, too. Goyal might be in unique in his perseverance of his research and interviews, and in his ability to understand that his voice might lead to change (and his gift for writing), but you can’t come away from this book without thinking of those generations of NCLB/Race to the Top students and how the shifts in education have affected them.

I am sure educational policy wonks will point to One Size Does Not Fit All and say something like, “See? He learned to make arguments, was able to write and publish a book, and is now a speaker on the world stage. Our system works.” Gosh, though, I hope not. I hope, instead, they read Goyal’s book (they better read it!) and think, “Wow. Maybe we are sapping the creativity our of our educational system. What a miserable learning experience he had, and if he had that kind of public school experience, maybe many others are having it, too.”

I’m not holding my breath, though.

Peace (in the pages),
PS — here is Goyal giving a talk:



Step Back Stickman: Using Stykz for Stopmotion

Mac Interface

The other day, I wrote about the technology hemming me in, and I use a song that I had written and recorded as a demo as an example of why I was feeling that way. Today, I wanted to share what I did with that song, and maybe reversed things a bit. I still liked parts of the song, even though it had been changed irrevocably from what I had first envisioned it as for my band. And I didn’t want to lose it completely. As it turned out, I had also finally gotten around to downloading and toying around with the free Stykz software — which is a sort of updated version of Pivot Stick Figure stopmotion software (both are free).

I wondered: what if I created a stopmotion video in Stykz that used the chorus of the song? Yeah.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Peace (in the dance),


Considering Text Features: Narrative Versus Informational Text

The opening activity of a workshop that I gave on the Common Core on Friday to my colleagues had us moving around the room, thinking and talking about the text features of narrative text versus information text, which I broke down further into the content areas of science, math and social studies. The carousel activity was designed to spark our thinking about content area reading, in particular, as that was the focus of a lot of our discussions that day.

Here are the charts we ended up with:
text features narrative

text features info math

text features info science

text features info history
Peace (in the share),