Family time over the holidays can be a wonderful thing. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to spend time with nieces and nephews, or grandchildren, while their parents are busy cooking, tending the fire, and generally bustling around entertaining you and others.
So get ready! Here’s a helpful list of interactive apps to share with the children in your life over the holidays. The list was created by four Harvard Graduate School of Education students at the Harvard Family Research Project--Karen Dunham, Laura Alves, Chalatwan Chattrabhuti, and Babe Liberman—who want to get word out. Check out their list of educational apps (PDF) in these categories. (All are free or inexpensive.)
The choices will take you from an Alien Assignment (Fred Rogers Center), to “Creatures of Light” (American Museum of Natural History), to WordGirl Superhero Training (PBS Kids).
Which apps appeal to you? What others would you add to the list? Let us know!
As teachers we’re always on the alert for tech tools that will benefit our students—from creating podcasts, to writing and creating images, to honing study skills. But what about our well-being? After all, we are easier to be with and more effective when we’re channeling our higher selves—rather than that stressed-out imposter who sometimes stands in for us.
Here are some apps for you to take a look at--for you. Yes you! Carve out a few minutes of your busy day to take a look. Maybe one or two will inspire a few New Year’s Resolutions. That’s what I’m thinking anyway. . .
Maybe you truly want to work out, but getting to the gym before or after school is tough. But what if you could turn your smart phone into a personal trainer. Check out Nike+ Training Club, and choose a workout according to how much time you can spare (15 minutes? 45 minutes?). You can also work toward a long-term goal. Reviewers have given Nike+ high marks for cardiovascular endurance and working up a sweat (read: burn calories) (free; some workouts call for dumbbells).
Another highly-rated workout app is Fitness Buddy. This is for you if you’re into building muscle and strength training. You can try out 300 exercises and full exercise routines before deciding whether you want to invest (99-cents and free to begin with).
This is a tough one for me, especially when life gets super busy and chocolate frozen yogurt seems more appealing than trying to whip up a kale salad. But for the past few months I’ve been using MyFitnessPal, an app that not only helps you count calories and keep a food journal, but also sends you email messages on topics such as workout routines you can do in five minutes and slimmed-down recipes for the foods you crave (turkey, apple, & chutney sandwich, anyone?). It’s helping me think in new ways.
Getting Your Head Together
When life gets frantic, why not take a few minutes to meditate your way back to a calm and focused state? Let a Tibetian Buddhist monk be your guide, teaching you various techniques. With Headspace you can try 10 free tutorials to set you on the path to serenity. After that you can pay a monthly or yearly fee to continue ($13; and $96 respectively).
Similarly, the Mindfulness app is all about brining you an inner calm through guided meditation. The goal? Meditating for 20 minutes a day to help you be “more present” in your life ($1.99).
What apps have you found that has made your life calmer? Healthier? More joyful? How has a positive frame of mind impacted your teaching? Let us know!
In our roles as international consultants, Nic and I recently gave a talk at the Learning & the Brain Conference in Boston, USA. I was there in person and Nicole provided her part through the magic of video(filmed from the UK). The title? “TechnoTeaching: Digital Literacy in the 21st Century.”
We loved having the opportunity to connect with so many smart and creative TechnoTeachers from all over the U.S., Canada, and other points on the globe.
Here’s one of the themes we presented: Finding yourself on the TechnoTeaching (TT) continuum. The idea was to give people a chance to reflect on where they are in the TT curve, where their colleagues are, and how everyone can step up their practice.
As far as what it means to be a TechnoTeacher, I explained about three key continuum elements - skills & tools, content, and mindset—and how, ideally, all three work together. In fact, we think this synergy is the single most important goal for teachers becoming TTs. For skills & tools, TTs uses a variety of edtech and other digital tools with ease. They help students learn the skills and acquire the necessary tools. For content, TTs integrate technology in a deliberate manner to engage student with the curriculum—a type of engagement would not be possible without the tools. And mindset—this is key. It’s all about a teacher’s worldview. TTs, I explained, embrace the use of technology and are willing to take risks. They are willing to take part in continuous learning and reflection for one major goal: helping students become global learners.
I hope this message was clear, and that it helped people deepen their understanding about their own skills & tools, content, and mindset.
So, here are our prototypes based on real teachers in real classrooms.
Three Prototypical TechnoTeachers: Which One Are You?
Meet TechnoNO! Melissa. Here’s a quick thumbnail sketch (above) for Melissa (much more in our book on all 3 prototypes—their dreams, fears, and how they learn to challenge themselves as teachers.
Next we presented TechnoMaybe Zayid.
Last, we presented TechnoYES! Jasmine. She is our rock star. Except that Jasmine needs to screw up her courage and take on a leadership role. In a nutshell, here’s Jasmine.
So, reader, while we had time to set the stage for this type of discussion, we didn’t have enough time to compare notes with the audience. We also didn’t get to hear their views on the skills & tools, content, and mindset of our TTs and themselves. And ours was the last talk after three intensive days, so people were a little fried. . . understandably. But maybe some of our TechnoTeachers who follow our blog will write in to tell us about the characteristics of the teachers they work with—and where they themselves are on the TT continuum! So, which type of TT are you?
Q: What is like “an air traffic control system for the mind”?
A: Executive function, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education writer Bari Walsh.
Says Walsh, “Executive function – our ability to remember and use what we know, defeat our unproductive impulses, and switch gears and adjust to new demands – is increasingly understood as a key element not just of learning but of lifelong success… [It acts as] an air traffic control system of the mind – helping us manage streams of information, revise plans, stay organized, filter out distractions, cope with stress, and make healthy decisions.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about executive function (let’s refer to it as EF, at least in this blog post) and how new technologies can support children and adolescents (and many adults as well) in developing these essential skills. My interest is fueled, in part, by all the parents and teachers who have said to me in the past year or two, “Josh’s EF skills are just not there.” Or, “There must be a better way to help Lulu stay organized, tuned in, and productive. I need help!”
So, last week, when Nic and I had the opportunity to speak at the Learning & the Brain Conference in Boston, I sussed out several talks about this subject. Which led me to Sarah A. Ward MS, CCCC-SLP, the co-founder of Cognitive Connections and an expert on helping kids develop EF skills. Sarah has coached legions of families and schools over the years in areas such as helping kids prioritize tasks and planning and using time efficiently.
How does Sarah use digital media?
Sarah is a believer in adapting apps. One of her strategies is to ask children to imagine the near future - too visualise it. It’s not enough to say to a child, “Time to get ready for lacrosse practice,” she states. The child might think she is ready when she finishes eating her cereal and places her bowl in the kitchen sink. Instead, take a picture of the child when she is dressed appropriately, is carrying her sports gear, and is standing outdoors ready to leave for practice. Then have the child refer to the picture in “getting ready,” so she knows exactly what ready looks like.
Sarah also uses media to create a series of photos to show the sequence of morning routines in a classroom. By mapping out each step, using apps if appropriate, children come to understand how to enter the classroom in the morning, hang up their jackets in the locker space, grab their blue binders from their cubbies, and so on. All very organized and sequential.
Sarah also uses a free app called Skitch With Skitch she can take a picture of the classroom and then draw boxes around the parts of the photo that she wants to draw children’s attention to. (You can also add annotations and sketches.) Then she attaches these customized photos to a digital calendar for children to refer to day-by-day. (Nic suggests creating a digital storyboard with software, like ComicLife, to help children “see” their progress.)
For teens, Sarah has had success with the free app Tellagami. She shows students how to create their own avatar and write a script for the kind of “self-talk” they can use to guide them in tackling various tasks.
What Do TechnoTeachers Think?
These examples just scratch the surface of what you can do. But in a nutshell, the more you can make home (and school-related) routines and expectations crystal clear for students with EF disorder, the better their odds for success in academics—and in life. That is, the more you can show children customized photos, or images of themselves doing something they are planning to do in the future (e.g., get ready for a test, or a play production) the more ready they will be to succeed. They won’t be the one who left the science experiment at home because they forgot what day the science fair was being held. So, get creative. And think about how digital media can help.
For more ideas, see the resources Bari Walsh has gathered in his article “The Art of Control.”
Many of the activities he suggests, such as adults and children telling stories and writing them down together, reading books, and taking field trips, can be enhanced using digital media (e.g., photographs, internet research to prepare for the field trip, book-making apps).
I’ll be back again soon with more ideas for using everyday features found on most smart phones (e.g., voice memos, calendar alerts). But mainly Nic and I are interested in hearing from YOU. What digital tools have you found helpful in “the air traffic control systems” of your students’ minds?
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.