I’ll never forget the day years ago when I stood in a donut shop, half asleep, bed head, with a monster sugar deficit. As I got to the front of the line, the man before me said, “I’ll pay for hers, too.” I didn’t know him. We hadn’t commiserated over how Krispy Kreme was always crowded. I’d just slogged onward, waiting my turn, eager to taste my apple fritter. His simple act of paying for my donut made me feel special, brought a smile to my face all day, and lightened the load of whatever happened after that.
That was one of my first Random Acts of Kindness, the feel-good event started in 1995. Now, February 17th in America is called the Random Acts of Kindness Day (September 1st in New Zealand) and is when everyone encourages acts of kindness without any expectation of consideration in return.
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain
What is Random Acts of Kindness Day?
February 17th — Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Day — is twenty-four hours when anyone who chooses to participate agrees to perform unexpected acts of kindness to pay it forward for that time they need a little bit of unexpected care. We flaunt our altruistic side by doing something nice for another without a thought for the consequences.
Why is Kindness important?
Why kindness is important seems obvious but really, it isn’t. I can name a whole lot of people who have succeeded despite being, well, jerks so why should we think there’s merit in a gentler approach?
Ask a Tech Teacher contributor Serhii Tkachecnko, CEO at Unicheck, shares his thoughts on how educators can teach students about the benefits of plagiarism checking.
Students experience an array of emotions toward education: from excitement to boredom. But when it comes to plagiarism checking, most students feel hostile. Many misconceptions circle around plagiarism checkers, but in reality, plagiarism checkers improve the cooperation, communication, and collaboration between educators and students. They are meant to help students and educators succeed.
Instead of being intimidated by plagiarism checking, why not educate students on its benefits? Here’s what you should explain to your students about plagiarism checking.
Using Plagiarism Checkers is Necessary
Before people accept something, they have to understand why they need it. Unfortunately, many students fail to understand the necessity of plagiarism checkers and treat them as a biased accusation of academic dishonesty. It will take some effort to change this mindset and help your students stop stressing about being checked.
It’s a pity that some students fail to get their A+ because of the improperly cited sources. Regardless of whether the assignment lacked a citation, the citation method was wrong, or the student didn’t cite the correct source, a plagiarism checker could have fixed that. However, it’s an even bigger shame that the will to cheat overrules the will to express oneself. Plagiarism checkers can help students become better writers, express unique ideas, and stand out. On top of that, when all assignments equally go through a plagiarism check, the competition becomes fair again.
Educators should start explaining to students that a plagiarism checker is their friend as early as possible. In this way, by the time they reach college, students will already know these checkers are not used to punish them, but rather to improve their writing skills and the quality of education, both higher and K-12.
I teach online grad school classes in how to integrate tech into education. One topic I always ask students is how they manage cell phone usage in their classes. Protocols for these mobile devices have little in common today with how they were addressed a decade ago.
In 2009, a National Center for Education Statistics survey showed that about 90% of schools prohibited cell phones during school hours. Now, in 2019, that’s dropped to about a third.
Schools that do allow cell phone usage struggle with best practices. For example, most students have them but not all students. What do you do about personal devices that circumvent the school security to access the Internet? How do you apply a different set of rules for in-class and outside-of-class?
Before I get into solutions, let’s discuss the pros and cons of using cell phones in class.
In many schools, Internet access is spotty, undependable, and a challenge to manage. More schools than you’d expect still struggle with the robustness of their infrastructure. Too often, school digital devices can’t connect, or can’t connect in the volume required to run a class. Cell phones fix that. I often hear anecdotal stories of how student personal devices are allowed in class to make up this shortfall in the school’s infrastructure.
Another common reason is that cell phones are simply easier to use. When students want to do quick research on a topic, look up a word, run a calculation, or review a concept, they can hop on a cell phone much faster than logging into a Chromebook or laptop. Because mobile devices are faster, it satisfies student curiosity and builds their passion to be lifelong learners.
Third, high school students are preparing for their future. Whether that’s college or career, it will include cell phones. Why not show students the right way to use these devices while they’re still listening?
Fourth, and probably the first reason parents come up with, is that cell phones provide contact in case of emergency. The most visible example of this was the Parkland School Shooting in February, 2019. Students not only called 911 but were able to reassure parents via messaging and phone calls that they were OK. And this works both ways. Parents, too, can reach out to tell their child they’ll be late picking them up or that they forgot a book. Calling or messaging a child on a family cell phone is much faster than going through the school office.
It’s been a couple of years since my tech teacher advice column “Dear Otto” got its first question about classroom digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. At that time, no one had much experience with these devices so discussion was limited to anecdotal evidence and speculation.
That has changed dramatically. Now, an estimated 20% of U.S. adults own about 100 million of these AI-powered speakers with close to fifteen percent of sales going to education. And why not? They’re affordable. They simplify mundane tasks, and students love learning with them.
But that’s only part of the story. Let’s dig into what they are, how they’re being used, and what you need to be aware of before buying one for your class.
What is a digital assistant?
A Digital Assistant is an AI- (artificial intelligence) powered virtual assistant you probably know most commonly as Google Home or Amazon Alexa. It is a physical device connected to the Internet via WiFi that you can talk to, ask questions of, and get help from on particular topics. It will sit passively on a desk or shelf until activated by a key phrase (such as “Hey Alexa”) and then will respond in conversational language. Each device is a little different. I won’t get into those today but I encourage you to check out the most common options and then choose the one best suited to your needs.
I first ran into Behaviorism in child psychology classes I took for my Early Childhood Education credential (ECE). It was developed by a renowned psychologist named John B. Watson and formed into the Theory of Behaviorism by another famous psychologist, B.F. Skinner. The technical definition they provide is:
“…scientific and objective methods of investigation concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors; all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment.”
They used the infamous example of Pavlov’s Dogs. No surprise, with this gobbledegook definition that used dog training as the example, I laughed, rejected it, and then forgot it.
Fast forward a decade, to a time when I was studying for my teaching credential. One of my classes reviewed education pedagogies such as Purpose-driven Learning, the Socratic Method, Depth of Knowledge, Unschooling, and Behaviorism. Applied to education, Behaviorism focuses on:
“… conditioning student behavior with various types of reinforcements and consequences…”
I still cringe at words like “conditioning” and “consequences”, but in the fullness of the class, I came to understand that whether teachers know it or not, they use Behaviorism as an effective, reliable teaching tool. I’ll get back to that later but first, I want to deconstruct how a theory that started with training dogs is now a cornerstone in education pedagogy.
Technology and the connected world put a fork in the old model of teaching–instructor in front of the class, sage on the stage, students madly taking notes, textbooks opened, homework as worksheets, and tests regurgitating facts.
Did I miss anything?
This model is outdated not because it didn’t work (many statistics show students ranked higher on global testing years ago than they do now), but because the world changed. Our classrooms are more diverse. Students are digital natives, in the habit of learning via technology. The ‘college or career’ students are preparing for isn’t that of their mothers.
What is slow to adjust is the venerable lesson plan. When I first wrote these teaching maps, they concentrated on aligning with standards and ticking off required skills. Now, with a clear-eyed focus on where students need to be before graduation, they must build on the habits of mind that allow success not only in school but life.
Here are seventeen concepts you may not think about—but should–as you prepare lesson plans:
In my summer digital citizenship classes, the biggest question I get is how to control student cell phone usage. Luckily, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Andrew Carroll, former High School teacher, has a great analysis of the problem and discussion of solutions below:
How to control smartphone usage in classroom?
Shoulders slouched and eyes down—you guessed it right! It’s a smartphone that your students are using.
Digital devices, especially smartphones and tablets, have become an appendage for schools. In the presence of a smartphone, children don’t pay attention to the lesson being taught. Instead, they would rather stick their heads into their smartphones and stay glued to social media or texting their friends.
But it is not their fault. In a time where digital devices are ever-present, it is difficult for kids to not be influenced by them. Smartphone are making it impossible for our children to focus on anything else, least of all their studies. And it has adverse effects on their health as well. We are all aware of the negative impacts of smartphones. It is known for causing depression and anxiety among adults and children alike. Owning a smartphone may make students prone to cyberbullies, which can bring its own trauma.
In a classroom, on average, children check on their phones 11 times a day. Distractions from cell phone cause students to get behind lessons and ultimately get poor grades. Text messaging between students, in a classroom, disturbs the atmosphere. Like a ripple effect, one student using a cell phone disturbs other students as well. This leads to inattentiveness and lack of class participation. Hence, some students are left way behind than others.
Summer is a great time to reset your personal pedagogy to an education-friendly mindset and catch up on what’s been changing in the ed world while you were teaching
eight ten hours a day. My Twitter friends, folks like @mrhowardedu and @Coachadamspe, gave me great suggestions on books to read that I want to share with you but first:
A comment on the selections: I did get more suggestions than I could possibly list so I focused on books that were positive and uplifting rather than dark and foreboding. Yes, there is a lot wrong with education around the world but I wanted a selection of books that would send me — and you — back to teaching in the fall with a can-do attitude for how to accomplish miracles with your next class of students.
Having said that, here’s a granular list of teacher-approved books to keep you busy this summer:
by Eric C. Sheninger
Digital Leadership defines a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverage resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture. It takes into account recent changes such as connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization of learning to dramatically shift how schools have been run for over a century.
by Clayton M. Christensen
Selected as one of Business Week’s Best Books on Innovation in 2008, Disrupting Class is filled with fascinating case studies, scientific findings, and insights into how managed innovation can unleash education. As important today as it was a decade ago, Disrupting Class will open your eyes to new possibilities and evolve your thinking. For more detail, read my review, Disrupting Class.
Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here.
BTW–lots of people ask why the name ‘Otto’. It’s a palindrome so beloved by geeks and nerds and techie-sort of folk.
I got this question from a colleague::
I teach computer literacy. K-4 teachers line their students up and they arrive all at one time, so with this age it would be easier to give instruction before everyone is seated. However, it is still difficult because I don’t really have enough open floor space to seat them away from their computer.
One of the most difficult chores teachers perform at the end of the school year is not final grades, saying goodbye to students, or wondering how to fill their summer free time. It’s preserving the digital files that made up their school year. Be it to close out one school year in preparation for the next, transfer student files to the next class, or the need to safely and effectively transfer teacher files to a new job, handling digital files for use later is stressful. In fact, teachers self-report that this task is one of the most stressful of their end-of-year chores.
There are a lot of products to address this nerve-wracking activity. That’s not the purpose of this article. Here, I’ll concentrate on schools that use Google products. That includes Google Classroom as an LMS, Google cloud as a digital portfolio, Gmail as an email program, YouTube to deliver videos, and other apps (like Google Sites and Blogger) included in the Google ecosystem. If this applies to you, you’re in luck. Google’s free product, Google Takeout, is one of the simplest available. It requires no installation, no new hardware, and is already part of the Google you already use. Google Takeout automates the download of your Google data across all Google services, making it ready to be uploaded to new accounts or preserved as a back-up. This includes but is not limited to:
- Google Apps (but not all of them)
- Google Calendar
- Google Contacts
- Google Drive files
- Google Keep
- Google Voice
How does it work
Whether you use Google at your school or as an individual, you’ll be pleased to learn that the Takeout process is intuitive. Here’s what you do: