Leela Kids: Podcasts for Kids

It’s always important to remember that our students listening skills are in need of constant development.  I’m a huge fan of Listenwise and Flocabulary, but I recently came across the app, Leela Kids.  The app is full of podcasts organized by age group.  These podcasts are organized by age group and by category.

The Mask and the Task: How Martin Landau helped me in my classroom

From Youtube:CosmicHobo

Elena Maria Del Barra: Señor, uh, Miller, how long have you been selling laboratory equipment?

Rollin Hand: Oh, long enough to know that I can sell you.

This year my classroom will be run like an RPG.  A lot of it has to do with millions of hours of video game play, but a fair amount goes to Rollin Hand. The classic television series, “Mission:Impossible” has influenced the way I have conducted my classes for a while.  As I embraced design thinking more and more, “Mission: Impossible” provided a blueprint for planning versus a plan and solution seeking behaviors.  It was Landau’s character (Seasons 1-3) that is in many ways my patron saint.

 

https://giphy.com/embed/j03Jxg4BkZZGE

via GIPHY

 

Rollin Hand is such a great character because his function in the Impossible Mission Force is generally to be someone else.  Whether through use of make up and prosthetics or by assuming another identity, Hand slips effortlessly between personas, convincing even most hardened counter espionage agents that he was the “Real McCoy.”

But what does this have to do with education?

1. A “Confidence” Scheme

To solve problems, one must have the confidence necessary that one can find a solution.  To achieve my goal, I have to believe it.  In show after show, Rollin walks into certain doom with air of confidence that he’s not playing a character, HE IS THE CHARACTER.

Many times it’s necessary to think like someone else in order to ascertain possible answers to questions.  Students (and teachers) should be comfortable enough to know that thinking like “myself” might not solve the problem, but if I were to think like Maryam Mirzakhani, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Ken Burns, I might be more successful.  Having the “masks” available can result in divergent thought.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators to offer a myriad of stratagems, archetypes, and “characters” to choose from when working in class.  There is no one way to reason through a solution.  Concepts like challenge based learning, project based learning, and design thinking are “open worlds” where students can be free to try on different masks in order to be successful.

This also frees us from the “I’m not good at blank ” excuse.   That’s great that you’re not good at math.  Let’s put on our Mirzakhani mask and try this thing, again.

2. The Mask Should Match the Task

This also forces students (and teachers) to consider the “mask for the task.” Which character do I need to become in order to be successful in this particular enterprise? Why would I choose to think like this particular person as opposed to another? Could I take different aspects of different people in order to find solutions?

The metacognition is oft mentioned, but undervalued.  Having conversations and structures in place that organize thought processes in classrooms is imperative if students are to see themselves as successful.

3. Following the Leader

Everything’s a remix. Season 4 of Mission:Impossible opens with Landau and Barbara Bain absent.  Landau is replaced by Leonard Nimoy’s Paris, a character with a similar bent for disguise.  He performs the same function.

When we see people employ a strategy that works, we all want to try it.  Having students observe how others work, converse with one another, and employ new strategies allows all stakeholders in your classrooms to access the strategies that lead to triumph.  Observing how a peer uses the “right mask” for the job, makes it less of a competitive unapproachable task, and more of one that able to be grasped.

 

Take ‘Em to Church with Preach

Preach.gif

If 👏 you 👏 like 👏 emojis, 👏 you’re 👏 going 👏 to 👏 looooooooove 👏 PREACH!  It 👏 places 👏 emojis 👏 after 👏 every 👏 word 👏 you 👏 type! 👏  It’s 👏 available 👏 as 👏 a 👏 chrome 👏 extension. 👏

Just 👏 highlight 👏 the 👏 text 👏 you’d 👏 like 👏 to 👏 preach 👏 and 👏 choose 👏 “Preach!” 👏 Your 👏 “sermon” 👏 is 👏 copied 👏 and 👏 just 👏 needs 👏 to 👏 be 👏 pasted 👏 where 👏 you’d 👏 like 👏 it 👏 to 👏 be. 👏

Have fun!

Emoji Madness

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Emoji Pics Composer

Emojis are ubiquitous.  Even Duolingo has a emoji course. They are a modern take on hieroglyphics that give learners the ability to communicate their feelings and understandings VISUALLY.

Here are three ways to utilize EMOJIS in your classroom:

  1. Telling stories- Including stories during writing is magical especially if students blog regularly.  Emojis can be accessed through the keyboards on mobile devices and with hotkeys on computers.  Using apps like TextingStory, will allow students to write including emojis in a very fluid way.
  2. Health Checks- Emojis are great to display quickly how one is feeling.  Using them to determine how students feel at different points of a lesson or a day can be both impactful and fun.  Apps like Assembly, Emoji Me , and Emojify=You + Emoji , allow students to customize their emojis to insane levels.  Emoji Exit Ticket
  3. Exit Tickets- As aforementioned, emojis are visual.  They are so concise.  Leveraging these allows one the ability to create exit tickets that can be created quickly, delivered quickly, and assessed quickly.  Emojis are versatile enough to be used in any program or app that allows access to the keyboard.  In addition, tools like Emoji Pics Composer, gives one the ability to create a visual timeline of learning that can be turned in at the end of the lesson.

 

Interland: Internet Safety

image via Interland
Interland is Google’s new tool to teach children about internet safety.  You take the role of an explorer trying to avoid phishing attacks and being a good navigator of the internet. It’s aesthetically pleasing and game based as well.  Looks like Google has a hit on it’s hands.  I’m already integrating it into my first month’s lesson plans!

Flying Fish: Einstein was wrong

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – Einstein (?)

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Every time someone uses this quote, I hear the late great Reggie White in my mind. In 1998, the Hall of Famer was asked to speak to the Wisconsin State Legislature.  The following is from the New York Times.

In his effort to promote racial harmony, the Packer player, who is black, said that each racial and ethnic group has its own ”gifts,” that, when taken together, form ”a complete image of God.”

But in describing those gifts, White said that blacks ”like to sing and dance,” while whites ”know how to tap into money.” He said that Hispanic people ”are gifted at family structure. You can see a Hispanic person and he can put 20 or 30 people in one home.”

Asians, he said, know how to ”turn a television into a watch.” American Indians, he said, ”have been very gifted” in ”spirituality.”

Like Mr. White’s comments, the quote seems to imply that one is ‘naturally’ abled.  The talents that one has have been bestowed rather than developed.  You can see the rather troubling place that can lead us from Mr. White’s words.

Stay in Your Box

The quote, while well-meaning, seems to be saying that one is given a rather limiting set of skills that one should stick to.  One should not challenge the status quo.  Climb a tree? Nah, you’re a fish.  Stick to what you’re good at. Do fishy things, but don’t try to see beyond your pond.  That’s dangerous thinking.  Plus, you’ll fail. Absolutely you’ll fail.  Even though you’ve never tried, you’ll fail because fish don’t climb trees.

Change “fish” to black, poor, female, ELL, or IEP and that quote gets very grimy. Very grimy. It’s the stuff that eugenicists dream of.  It’s the ultimate “stay in your box because you don’t have the talents to do that” statement.

The Excuse Matrix

It also gives the “fish” an excuse for not achieving.  I can’t do certain things because I’m just a fish.  I didn’t do my homework because I’m a fish.  I can’t do math because I’m a fish.  Learn computer science? Fish don’t do that.  Make movies? I’m a fish remember.  Write a symphony? Fish don’t do music.

Teachers could also use this philosophy to deny opportunities to students.  I’m not going to teach script writing and movie making to these fish.  It’s not their talent.  I’m not going use certain tools with these fish.  Fish don’t do (insert skill). Fish in this neighborhood don’t do well doing (insert skill) so I’m not going to present it to them.

 

All Talents are Equal?

This quote is pretty Orwellian. Essentially, all talents are equal, but some talents are more equal.  It infers that some talents are more desirable than others and those that have those talents are therefore more valuable.  It creates a hierarchy that is “natural” and eliminates the possibility of dreaming.  It’s pretty literal.  Fish aren’t birds.  Birds aren’t lions. Lions aren’t hippos.  “Tapping into money” and being able to “turn a television into a watch” seem like a lot better talents than fitting 30 people in a house to me. However,  you get what you get and don’t have a fit, right?  There ain’t no changing.  If you’re a cockroach, get used to scurrying when the lights come on because it’s not going to change.

Solutions

We have to teach fish that they might not be able to climb trees, but they can build jetpacks.  According to science, all life started in the seas.  We’re all fish.  Some of us we’re told by others that another reality was possible so we evolved legs and lungs and left the pond.  This is what we need to teach students.  You don’t have to stay a fish.

We need a coherent curriculum that is knowledge based so that students are able to very rapidly eliminate the achievement gap.  We need students to be given the opportunities to not only learn the rudiments of reading and math, but also computer science, multimedia creation, science, arts, and engineering. We need to allow far more exploration and collaboration in schools so that no one sees themselves as a fish that can’t climb trees but as a school of fish that push each other to evolve into whatever they’d like.

 

So You Want To Be Digifficient: Time Is On Your Side

In the first part of this series, I talked about podcasts, systems, and Omnifocus. After that maybe you decided to start listening to a podcast or two (Cortex, perhaps?). You purchased Omnifocus or some other app in which to dump your thoughts so they aren’t occupying your brain and you started thinking about how to improve your systems.

I suggest bookmarking these posts and coming back to them from time to time for both my own shameless self-promotion and for a couple of other reasons. One reason is to ground yourself and get back to basics when things get crazy. Second, you might not be ready for the next step. Perhaps it’s been difficult getting into the habit of inboxing or remembering to capture your paper memos and put them into your cloud storage of choice. If you’re looking for a quick overview of Google Drive, check out the 60 Second Tech Tip video I made on it.

Today I want to talk about timers. As teachers, we rely heavily on them. I always struggled with buying enough of them. I was glad to have iPads for my classroom because every iOS device and probably most mobile devices come with a timer built in. You can even just type, “20-minute timer” into the Google search bar and it will give you the option of starting a timer on the search results page.

There are two timer apps in particular that I’m fond of: 30/30 and Due.

3030

30/30 is great for sticking to a routine. This can be useful if you think you waste time getting ready in the morning, you want to do HIIT at the gym or if you do rotating centers in your classroom. The app is created by Binary Hammer. Check out their website or download it and give it a try.

Due is another Grey/roommate recommendation (I’m starting to wonder if they’re just the same person). Due is actually a reminders/to-do list app, but the timers are where the power lies. You can create custom timers and when they go off, you can snooze them for a minute. At which time, they’ll pop up and remind you again.

I used to set a stopwatch to track the amount of time I did something. When I was done doing the thing, I would record the time on the stopwatch. The problem with this was I would often get distracted or forget that I set the stopwatch going in the first place. With Due, I make it a set amount of time and it’s a countdown instead of a count up. I find this helps me stay focused because I know that at the end of the countdown, I’m going to take a break (see: Pomodoro technique).

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Another app that I’ll give a quick mention to is Coffee Break. I like that Coffee Break puts my screen to sleep after a designated time. I have a tendency to keep working even though the timer goes off. Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes I forgo my break as a result which is no good for productivity and focus. Another reason I love Due, it keeps track of how long it’s been since your timer stopped. Thus, I know if I’ve spent an extra two or ten minutes working. Sometimes it’s amazing how quickly time goes by.

This whole timer thing might feel too regimented and stressful, but it goes back to reducing or eliminating resistance. If I don’t have to think about what comes next, it stresses me out a lot less.

Do you use a timer system? What systems have you tweaked or put in place in order to eliminate or reduce resistance and stress in your life? Share in the comments below.