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.

BundleHunt!

If teachers buy a lot of stuff, then creative teachers buy even more. If you are a Mac using educator, Bundlehunt might be a place you drop a few bucks. Currently, they have a 10 Mac Apps for 20.00 bucks “design your own bundle” hustle that’s pretty good.

There’s something for everyone and enough of a selection that you can take a flyer on something there just to play around. Even if there’s only one app that you like, the price point makes it worth your while to pick nine more new toys to test out on your computer.

To check out the bundle, click here.

E Highlighter for Close Reading

by @chocolateteacher

eHighligher is a pretty nifty way to integrate both physical books and technology into your close reading activities.  The app is reasonably priced at $1.99 and offers real value with minimal risk.

Say you are using a text book, reading a novel with your students, engaging in research, or having students read independently with certain goals in mind.  You have iDevices at your disposal and you want to integrate notetaking and transcription into the activity.  eHighlighter could be a tool you might employ.

Have Barcode? Will Scan

The first thing I love about the app is that you can acquire a books bona fides (title, Author’s name, and publisher) by just scanning the book’s barcode.  The app uses WorldCat, “The World’s Largest Library Catalog,” for reference and the speed in which it returns results is impressive.

If you’d rather search for the book and edition you possess, that option is available as well as just manual entering the information.

You scan a barcode and..."Voila!"

You scan a barcode and…”Voila!”

If you can take a picture…

Then you can bring in your text pretty easily.  Once the picture is added, you’ll have options to add page numbers, any notes and tags, which will give you the ability to organize any work you’ve done.

Take picture, bring in your text

Take picture, bring in your text

Adding a Note (for Metacognition)

Want a response to a text dependent question?  Want to record an “Aha!” moment, a question about the text, or something to bring up during class discussion? Make a note of it.

Notes for Metacognition? That's convenient.

Notes for Metacognition? That’s convenient.

Transcribe

You’ll be prompted to add highlights to the beginning and ending of the text you’d like to have transcribed.  This is my only real beef with the app.  It can take a while to transcribe something.  The good thing is that I wouldn’t necessarily be using the device for transcription as the original image and note you take are always available for viewing.

Even if the transcription process is labored, the functionality of the app makes it one that both teachers and students could use effectively.

It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn close

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close