How an online shift increased outdoor learning opportunities

One year ago, we at The Ecology School were confronted with the pandemic reality of cancelled in-person programs in exchange for remote, virtual learning. What we created in the wake of those changes led to new outdoor learning journeys–relevant not just on Earth Day, but every day.

We quickly filled a need and began by connecting with our students and families through Nature Nuggets, short activity-based videos shot with our cell phones and shared through social media. These videos were structured to engage participants in observation-based field ecology and discoveries within their quarantine bubbles. Using their five senses to explore and learn, viewers were introduced to complex scientific concepts through simple activities and playful experiences.

As the at-home days wore on and our Nature Nuggets gained thousands of views online, we realized additional resources could help us reach so many more people who were desperately seeking this sort of content. …Read More

The Social Institute Unveils Curriculum for 4th Graders on SEL

 The Social Institute today announced that it has expanded its pioneering social-emotional learning curriculum to meet the needs of fourth grade students, available beginning in January of 2021. The developmentally appropriate lessons come after requests from schools, and will focus on The Social Institute’s Seven Social Standards, which serve as a set of guiding principles for social media and tech use. Examples of standards include: Protect Your Privacy Like You’re Famous, Strike A Balance, and Find Your Influencers.

Surveys reveal the average age kids get cell phones is ten years old, and exposure to mobile devices begins at a much younger age. Further, most parents report technology use has become more prevalent in the last year as schools and families turned to technology to assist with remote learning activities during COVID-19.

“Ten-year-old students today have more information in the palm of their hands than any previous generation,” said Micah Adams, Head of Content at The Social Institute. “Combine that with the fact that they now use technology as a primary means to connect with one another, and it’s clear that we need to be empowering and equipping this age group with the skills they need to succeed in today’s digital world. Nobody gets behind the wheel of a car without first learning the rules of the road and then discussing and practicing potential scenarios with adults. Why should this be any different?”…Read More

Video of the Week: Dealing with digital distraction in the classroom

Ed. note: Video of the Week picks are supplied by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to watch the video at Common Sense Education.

Digital devices put the world at our students’ fingertips, whether with their own cell phones or with school-provided computers and tablets. But along with opportunities for powerful learning come the risks–and realities–of distraction. So, what are the best ways to manage digital distraction in the classroom? Check out these practical tips on supporting students and modeling productive 21st-century learning. For more ways to manage classroom technology, check out Common Sense Education’s collection Dealing with Digital Distraction in the Classroom.

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7 TED Talks All About Mobile

The psychology of mobile devices, a 12 year-old app developer, how phones make us antisocial, and more

mobile-teensThis month’s TED Talks focuses in on a subject near and dear to our thumbs—our mobile devices.

TED Talks are some of today’s most popular examples of the internet’s power to expand learning opportunities to all. They’re also fun to watch.

I picked this month’s theme because I find the subject endlessly fascinating and the talks listed here, illuminating. For educators juggling using mobile devices in their personal lives and in the classroom, the past, present, and future of the device has a special importance.  There’s plenty to learn about the psychology, anthropology, and future of the mobile device.…Read More

ACLU says Washington schools can’t seize student phones

The American Civil Liberties Union has objected to a proposed new policy in a Washington state school system that would let school officials seize students’ cell phones if they have probable cause, reports the Seattle Times. Bullying has taken a technological turn, and officials at Oak Harbor School District are looking for ways to control it. Under a proposed new policy, that might mean seizing students’ phones with probable cause. But do schools have that right? The ACLU of Washington says no. “One shouldn’t have to give up the right to privacy to have the other right of public education,” said Brian Alseth, director of the group’s Technology and Liberty project, which aims to protect technological rights and prevent governmental abuse. The organization objected to the proposed policy in a letter to the district superintendent; it has offered proposed changes, too. The School Board discussed the policy at its Aug. 30 meeting. Superintendent Rick Schulte said the district wouldn’t implement it until at least Sept. 13. He said the board will take that time to consider advice such as the ACLU’s. The proposed policy would fulfill a state requirement that bullying policies be updated by 2011, he said. Alseth said his main concern is that school officials would have “unfettered access” to students’ phones. If principals were searching a phone for harassing messages, they might, for example, learn about a pregnancy or a student’s politics—information that should be private. But Schulte said that although the policy would allow district officials to seize cell phones without permission, they’d avoid doing so…

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Researchers: Digital devices deprive brain of needed downtime

Cell phones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed internet connections, can make the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect, reports the New York Times: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas. At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience. The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn. “Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them, and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”

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Panel: Cell phones have much potential in classrooms

Teachers should embrace the technology that students use outside of classroom while creating compelling lessons.
Teachers should embrace the technology that students use outside of school while creating compelling lessons, panelists said.

Teachers are finding interesting and creative ways to include mobile phones in classroom instruction in an effort to bridge the divide between the technologies children use at home and what they use in school, education technology experts say.

Common Sense Media hosted a series of panel discussions April 21 that examined how mobile technology can both help and hinder children’s development and education.…Read More