Thursday, February 13, 2014

Breakfast Unplugged

A little story that will hopefully prove a point.

I was enjoying a breakfast with my family at a wonderful mom and pop restaurant. The place is lively with bright colors and good music. The staff has huge personalities and the cinnamon buns make you smile inside and out.

Just after we ordered a tune came through the sound system. It was a song I knew but I could not recall the artist. I could sing it, to the embarrassment of my daughter, and was frustrated I could not remember the name of the singer.

At this point I could have dug out a device and tapped away for the answer. I did not because I do not have a smart phone. Instead, I waited for the waitress. When this boisterous woman came back I asked her who sang the previous song, providing her with a few harmonious lines as my daughter buried her face into her hands.

Of course, the waitress knew. She gave me the answer that I was looking for. However, her and I went on to have a nice conversation about music, growing up with the radio always on, how much fun it is to sing in public with your children looking on in horror, and how annoying it is to have that song on the tip of your tongue. That exchange would not have happened if I had pulled out a device.

Jarred Haas (@jarredhaas) tweeted, "Johnson’s First Sign of Technology Literacy: Knowing when to use technology and when not to use technology." There are moments when tech integration is essential. On the other hand, there are moments when face-to-face conversations and human interactions are just as valuable. As we learn to navigate the technological landscape we need to provide opportunities for children to be conversationalists, debaters, and collaborators. Sometimes, the meandering path is better than the straight line.

Friday, February 7, 2014


My colleagues have been working to discover ways that we can make our students' digital work more visible. Currently the work lives in students' Google Drive accounts, stashed away in folders. The work is accessed by students, teachers, and parents who are curious enough to pull the login information from their child's long term memory.

Recently, Ben Thrash and I experimented with Thinglink. We have been co-teaching a Russian History unit as part of the Lower School's Global Focus Study. After conversations around community and the Olympic symbol, students began researching famous Russian individuals. We have artists, dancers, musicians, scientists, nurses, leaders, and writers. All played an important role in their community. The students generated short biographies on Drive and now we have the work available on Thinglink. We captured the Olympic Symbol and added labels generated by the students. We think that this platform will be a destination for other classrooms, for families, and for community members to visit to celebrate our students' work. Each group will have uploaded their document. Those that have extra time will use some of the digital tools available to them to create a more dynamic presentation. Check it out and let us know what you think.