Guiding our kids into their fast-changing futures.

Just How Big is This Change We’re Going Through? Big. Really Big.

So, if you have a few minutes to spare to read some interesting research this week, head on over to Common Sense Media which recently released “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America in 2013” (.pdf) In just two years, young children’s access to mobile media has increased dramatically, and use of other technologies such s computers, video games, etc. is falling precipitously. The implications are huge both in terms of challenges and opportunity. Either way, the takeaway is that this generation of kids is accessing information and content and other people in ways that we grown ups couldn’t even have imagined when we were growing up.

Related: The Wall Street Journal reports that pediatricians have set new suggested limits on screen time.

Where do you fall in the discussion over screen time?

Rethinking School…Seriously

We’re always interested in efforts by existing schools to seriously rethink the model given the modern world of learning, education, and work that our kids will be living in. To that end, take a look at what Dr. Jim Calhoun at Castle View High School in Colorado is proposing: No subjects, no class periods, same teachers for four years, an education built around the passions and interests of students, and more. Says Calhoun:

“What goes on in public education doesn’t adequately prepare students for the future, because these students don’t really care about what we are asking them to know. We’re asking them to learn things that have no relevance to their lives.”

We agree, and we’ll be interested to watch the school’s progress.

Related: Our friend Gary Stager offered up 18 most excellent thoughts for the parents in the Castle View community that we think are absolutely worth sharing.

Share your thoughts on this news with us as well.

Pushing Back Against the Test, Author / Illustrator / School Board Edition

Over 120 children’s book authors and illustrators have expressed their alarm at the “negative impacts of excessive school testing” via a letter to President Obama  Among the signatories are Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, and Alma Flor Ada. To quote:

“Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.”

And that’s not all on the testing front. Check out this New York City school where 80% of parents voted to hold their kids out of the test. And this resolution (doc) signed by over 40 school boards in Virginia that asserts tests are “undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage…”


What do you think of the tests, and how are you pushing back if you’re as unhappy as these folks?

The Privilege of “Digital Literacy”

We’ve been saying for a long time that the real divide in the future will not be between those who have access to the Internet and those that don’t. Instead it will be those who know how to use that access well compared to those that don’t. This essay by Ryan Holiday in Betabeat makes the case more compellingly than we ever could. He writes:

“I’m wondering if the new digital divide…is not about access but about people who have the time, energy, and skills to develop new media literacy and those who don’t.”

If you really want to understand the complexity of all of this, check out this mind map of Net Smart author Howard Rheingold’s talk to the AECT conference. Literacy ain’t what it used to be.

So, what’s challenging you about your own digital literacy?

Not Too Much Light at the End of the Jobs Tunnel

So here’s a sobering statistic from CNN Money: Less than 78% of people aged 20-34 in the U.S. either have jobs or are looking for jobs. That means that almost on quarter of people in that age group aren’t gainfully employed. And the reasons are many; poor economy, need for advanced degrees, and “structural changes” in the workforce. In short, the path to a middle class existence in this country is shifting dramatically.

The worst part? The trend shows no sign of slowing down.

And if you think it’s bad here, it’s even worse in Europe. The unemployment rate for those 25 and younger is topping 50% in many countries, and the trend lines there are even more depressing.

What does that all mean for our kids who are about to enter this reality? At the very least, it might require some rethinking about what we emphasize in schools…entrepreneurial thinking anyone?

What do you think?

Desperately Seeking Creativity

The New York Times reports that a growing number of colleges and universities are getting more and more interested in the creative sides of potential applicants, asking them “off-kilter questions” designed to gauge more than just what shows up on a transcript. The University of Chicago, for instance, wants to know “What does Play-Dough have to do with Plato?” (We’re working on our answer.)

Student reaction is mixed, with some embracing the opportunity while others would just as soon stick to the more predictable college essay topics. (Not for nothing, but the latter may not fare to well as CEOs in the future according to a recent IBM survey.)

As for us, we wondering how we can help write the questions.

Let us know what creative essay topics you might pose to your kids.

First Take: The Back and Forth on Teens and Social Media Chapter #374

In our ongoing efforts to provide a (pretty much) fair and balanced digest of the ongoing debate around social media and kids we bring you this extremely positive overview from author Clive Thompson, who recently published Smarter Than You Think: How technology is changing our minds for the better. Thompson, a parent of two elementary school boys, says “New technologies always provoke generational panic, which usually has more to do with adult fears than with the lives of teenagers.” (Rock and Roll, anyone?) We’re not naive enough to suggest the mix of the Web and our kids is all good, but we tend to agree with most of his observations here.

Related: On the subject of books, we’ve both been taken by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s new book Age of Context  which paints a provocative picture of what the world is becoming for our kids given the ubiquitousness of technology.

If you’d like more of our thoughts on where we’re at with all of this, read on.

Here’s what we need to remember about social media…it’s still in it’s infancy, and we really haven’t had enough time to fully parse the good and bad opportunities that we’re now faced with. It’s especially tough because in large measure, our kids are the guinea pigs here. In many cases, they are the first adopoters, the ones who are prone to hack new tools to their own needs, to experiment and test the limits while we adults watch and at times follow. That shift has left many adults filled with angst and confusion. (We admit to some of that from time to time as well.)

We know this much: our kids (and we ourselves) will be connected by technology for the rest of our lives. We may not know what the next generation of tools and connections look like, we may recoil from the blistering pace of the changes ahead, and we may never feel fully comfortable with what we put in our kids hands (or what they get for themselves.) But welcome to what many are calling “perpetual beta,” not just in technology  but in learning, in education, and in parenting. Out of necessity, we’re going to be figuring this out as we go. Not that parenting hasn’t always been like that. But there’s little question that the changes of the last decade or so have come at a larger scale and with a greater speed than parents in the past had to deal with.

As always, the truth in the debate around social media lies somewhere in the middle. It can be amazingly powerful to connect and share and learn with others regardless of age. But it can also be incredibly complex, confusing, scary, and harmful. The good news is that we can share our stories more easily now, learn from one another about various ways to approach these questions with our kids, and write the ever-changing manual together.

The Perfect Holiday Gift for That Geek Athlete in Your Life

We’ll leave you this week with a taste of what the future may look like for all of us (once the price comes down) and with a gift idea that will make you the hit of the holidays: Oakley Airwave Ski Goggles, coming in at a cool $650 US.

That’s right…$650.

Why so much? How about GPS integration with a built-in trip viewer to review your downhill performance, jump analytics, navigation, buddy tracking of friends with Airwaves, music and…wait for it…smartphone connectivity to view incoming calls and text messages.

Any wonder Oakley is making you sign a waiver from any injuries suffered from texting while skiing?

Welcome to the “Wearable Internet.”

Got any other great techie gifts in mind?

The Invasion of Games in the Classroom

Angry Birds. Zombie Apocalypse. World of Warcraft.

According to the Wall Street Journal  the influx of younger, computer game-playing teachers is driving what seems to be a “new frontier in education,” one that teaches an important lesson that most classroom work doesn’t: the benefits of failure. As professor Joey Lee of Columbia Teachers College notes, gaming “creates a positive relationship with failure, especially because the stakes are so low.”

And that equals persistence, reflection, self-direction and a whole bunch of other stuff we hope our kids take with them into adulthood.

Related: There may, however, also be a downside to all this gaming stuff.

We’d love to know your thoughts on games in the classroom.

Let’s Give Every Student an iPad…and Then Cross Our Fingers

Our friend Audrey Watters made what we think is one of the most important observations regarding the recent iPad rollout and, subsequent rollback in Los Angeles due to student “hacking” (and more) of the devices. In the Atlantic, she writes:

“It’s important to recognize how students do learn with technology. It isn’t simply a matter of a digital version of analog lessons and readings—something implicitly presumed by the Los Angeles’s school system’s plan to ‘limit the tablets, when taken home, to curricular materials from the Pearson corporation, which are already installed.’”

This shouldn’t be rocket science, but we see too many schools and districts giving every child an internet-connected device without having developed a different vision for teaching and learning in the classroom. Using iPads or laptops or smartphones to digitally deliver the traditional curriculum misses the point. Connected technologies give kids a freedom to learn that is powerful and different from the standard classroom, and different from the way most of us learned ourselves.

Related: If you’re interested, here are the details on the LAUSD debacle.

What do you think needs to be in place for a 1-1 rollout?