Do you sleep with your cell phone? Pew Study on Millennials

cell phone graphic

Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials — the American teens and twenty-somethings who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium — have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.

They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.

Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.

from The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center

The latest Pew Study on “Millennials” (people born after 1980) is part of a Pew Research Center series of reports exploring the behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and twenty-somethings that make up the Millennial Generation.

These youth say that “technology” is the defining characteristic of their generation. And it’s not just use of gadgets, it’s the social aspect of how technology shapes their lives.

The obvious question is: How has school responded to this demographic shift?

Take the quiz: How Millennial Are You?


New – Technology literacy whitepaper

Download PDFToday we are happy to announce the release of a new whitepaper written by Jonathan D. Becker, J.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, with Cherise A. Hodge, M.Ed. and Mary W. Sepelyak, M.Ed. Dr. Becker is an expert researcher in achievement and equity effects of educational technology and curriculum development.

Assessing Technology Literacy: The Case for an Authentic, Project-Based Learning Approach (PDF)

This whitepaper takes a comprehensive look at the research, policies, and practices of technology literacy in K-12 settings in the United States. It builds a research-based case for the central importance of “doing” as part of technology literacy, meaning more than just being able to answer canned questions on a test. It also explores the current approaches to develop meaningful assessment of student technology literacy at a national, state, and local level.

Where “doing” is central to students gaining technological literacy, traditional assessments will not work; technological literacy must be assessed in ways that are more authentic.

Building on this definition, the whitepaper connects project-based learning and constructivism, which both hold “doing” as central to learning, as the only authentic way to assess technology literacy.

True project-based assessment is the only way to properly assess technological literacy.

Finally, it examines our TechYES Student Technology Literacy Certification program in this light.

A review of existing technology literacy models and assessment shows that the TechYES technology certification program, developed and implemented by the Generation YES Corporation using research-based practices, is designed to provide educators a way to allow students to participate in authentic, project-based learning activities that reflect essential digital literacies. The TechYES program includes an excellent, authentic, project-based method for assessing student technology literacy and helps state and local education agencies satisfy the Title II, Part D expectations for technology literacy by the eighth grade.

This whitepaper can be linked to from our Generation YES Free Resources page, or downloaded as a PDF from this link.


PS – Share this important research with your PLN!

Let me save you $6,162.48

Wikimedia commons. Ingvar Kjøllesdal. Click for original.
Creation is in the child, not the table

This morning in the Washington Post, an article critical of educational technology tore into the heart of the matter – the relationship between schools hoping that there is some new magic wand that will improve student achievement and the capacity of sales-driven companies to invent expensive “solutions.”

Focusing mainly on interactive whiteboards, the article quotes teachers and researchers who point out that they are little more than glorified chalkboards, and one student who says exactly that.

“There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement,” said Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University. “But the value of novelty, that’s highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are “innovative” is to pick up the latest device.”

“Or, as 18-year-old Benjamin Marple put it: “I feel they are as useful as a chalkboard.”

The end of the article leaves you with a sobering vignette – the advent of the next wave, the multi-touch table.

“One recent morning, an amiable corporate salesman in a dark suit wheeled into a Maryland classroom the latest high-tech device — a $6,500 table with an interactive touch screen that allows students to collaboratively count, do puzzles and play other instructional games. “We had a first run and boom! They sold out,” Joe Piazza said in his presentation to administrators at Parkside High School on the Eastern Shore. “It was kind of like the iPad.”

In the cinder-block classroom, a few kindergartners sat around the fancy table, working a digital puzzle as blips and canned applause encouraged them. The school officials seemed pleased.

“So,” the district’s technology director asked Piazza, “do we just call you for pricing?”

So, as promised, here’s a shopping list that will provide you with EVERYTHING a multi-touch table does. I’ll even spring for the high quality “classroom” versions.

1 Kindergarten Table – $169.99
Deluxe Wooden Classoom Tangrams – $18.95 (go crazy, buy two) $37.90
Classroom Coloring books – $3.74
Finger paints (classroom set) – $19.90
MathBlaster on eBay – $5.99

I’ll even spot you $100 to go get a collection of maps, human body visuals, and other stuff to lay on the table so  students can point at them. (Actually, if you really are bargain hunting, you can get a lot of this stuff for free on the Internet. Cha-ching!)

Oh, and don’t forget the canned applause when students do things “correctly” – priceless

Total cost – $337.52

These tables cost around $6,500. So there, tada! I’ve saved you $6,162.48

But as I’ve said before, “You can’t buy change. It’s a process, not a purchase. The right shopping list won’t change education.” That quote got picked up in an article by Bill Ferriter for Teacher Magazine “Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards.”

So do yourself (and the kids) a favor – save $6,162.48 today, and in a few short years you’ll be able to say, “I told you so.” when the articles about “tables don’t teach” start appearing.

As the kids say — ur welcome.


Students raising funds and technology awareness in Maine

(via Media Release) – More than 1,000 students and teachers will fight hunger this Thursday by correctly answering vocabulary, math and other curriculum area questions on their state-issued laptops. This is part of the largest Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI)  annual student conference ever, held at the University of Maine, Orono.

The conference is partnering with the United Nations’ World Food Programme to host the students and teachers on a specially-developed version of, a web site where users make donations of rice to feed hungry people by answering core curriculum questions around vocabulary, mathematics, geography, science and more.

Maine’s laptop program is the first to work with to create a localized effort to raise food for the hungry. A customized version of the site will be available to challenge Maine students, along with invitees from around the world, to raise as much food as they can.

The project showcases how technology can help make learning relevant and engaging for students by allowing them to address a real world problem via a social network while learning.

There is also a local hunger connection – students have been encouraged to bring canned foods to donate to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest food bank.

The project also presented a technological challenge for network technicians at the University of Maine System, who are busy finalizing a wireless network that will host more than 1,000 wireless laptops simultaneously in the 1400 seat Hutchins Concert Hall in the Collins Center for the Arts.

A representative of from the World Food Programme will address students via video conference to kick off the event.

There will also be student-led workshops all day, such as:

  • “I came, I saw, iPod!” (Mary C. McCarthy & Students from Middle School of the Kennebunks)
  • News is Now, News is Complex, News is Us, News is Important! (Nicole Poulin & Students from Messalonskee Middle School)
  • Get Your Geek On! Starting a High School Tech Team (Shana Goodall & Students from Orono High School)

This sounds like a great idea to raise funds and awareness of what students are doing with technology! You can participate too – pass it on!


Why Education Reform Will Work This Time

This is a remarkable piece of video from 1998 unearthed by Gary Stager. In it, Ryan Powell, then a GenYES middle school student, interviews Seymour Papert and John Gage about the model of students learning technology in order to help teachers in their own schools. Both of these heavyweights of educational technology say some really interesting things about the model, including Dr. Papert saying that it’s the best thing the US Department of Education has ever funded! Pretty nice to hear that.

As further background, Dr. Papert is the father of educational technology, a colleague of Jean Piaget, and an internationally renowned educator famous for the theory of constructivism. His advocacy of student laptop programs extends around the world including the XO laptop for developing nations, and he invented the Logo programming language for children. John Gage, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, started the NetDay movement to wire schools and originated the phrase, “the network is the computer.”

About halfway through this clip, Dr. Papert talks a bit about why he believes that education reform can happen now, even though decades of reform efforts have not had much impact.

He says there are two things that are different now. One is that school was designed to fit the previous “knowledge technology” of chalk, blackboards, paper and pencil. These technologies match quite well with the prevailing pedagogy of the last century, which relied on instruction, teacher as the center of all knowledge, and delivery of content. So criticizing it was a bit idealistic and theoretical. But now we have new technology that directly enables construction, connection, and distributed expertise. These new knowledge technologies tip the balance and as a result, new pedagogy can become reality.

The second factor is what he calls “Kid Power.” The technology amplifies the voices of people who are traditionally without voice or representation in our society.

For more explanation of Papert’s view on why technology will power education reform, check out this speech: Chlld Power: Keys to the New Learning of the Digital Century.

In Gary’s post about this video, he also recalls some of the early days of Generation YES, when Dennis Harper had this “crazy idea” of kids being at the center of changing education with technology. Seymour Papert on Generation YES & Kid Power : Stager-to-Go

By the way, Ryan is now a college graduate serving in the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa with his wife Kimberly.


Ten commandments of school tech support

The ten commandments of school tech support

  1. Thou shalt test the fix.
  2. Thou shalt talk to actual students and teachers and make time to watch how  technology works during actual class time, not just when it’s quiet.
  3. Thou shalt not make fun of the tech skills of teachers or students, nor allow anyone else in the tech department to make disparaging remarks about them.
  4. Closing trouble tickets shalt not be thine highest calling; thou shalt strive to  continually make the learning environment better.
  5. Thou shalt not elevate the system above the users.
  6. The network will be never be perfect. Learning is messy. Get thyself over it.
  7. When teaching someone a new skill, keep thy hands off the mouse.
  8. Thou shalt listen to requests with an open mind and respond in plain English.
  9. Blocking shall be controlled by educators, not filtering companies. Thy job is to enable learning, not enforce behavior.
  10. Thou shalt include students and teachers in decision-making about technology purchases and policy. Their interest is not an affront to your professionalism.

Your thoughts?


What does project-based learning look like?

“Even as I write this, I am amazed at how much kids did in just 20 minutes. I can’t wait to see where they go next and what they do when I introduce ideas such as storyboarding, clay animation, etc. It will be interesting to hear their conversations about the things they notice outside of school–times when photos are manipulated, etc I didn’t realize how much they would learn from this one tool.”

via A Year of Reading: Discovering the Possibilities of Stopmotion in Grades 2-5.

People ask me all the time – so what does project-based learning look like? This blog post is a great example of a teacher explaining just that. It’s the details that stand out – the choice of a good tool, the thoughtfulness of finding the right balance between too much or too little initial instruction, and the reflection on what happened.

People think that project-based learning is more difficult for the teacher, but this article points out that the teacher used the same tool and same lesson plan for grades 2-5. The projects were age-appropriate and varied because students brought their own experiences to their projects, not because the teacher designed the lesson differently.

I often ask teachers to share in sessions what happens in their classrooms when they allow these experiences to unfold. These stories share a sense of wonderment at what students are capable of when given the chance. Yet it’s hard to explain exactly how this happens or what the teacher does besides “let go.” To many people, project-based learning seems like an “if you build it, they will come” kind of mystical promise.

Articles like this explode some of that mythology. It’s clear that the teacher is actively guiding students in their natural pursuit of learning. And it’s clear that for technology based projects, open-ended tools like Frames allow students to not only succeed quickly, but support longer and deeper experiences as students gain fluency.

Please read Discovering the Possibilities of Stopmotion in Grades 2-5!


Free technology and education conference – C3 2010

CRSTE logoThe Capitol Region ISTE affiliate (CRSTE) is hosting a free online conference on education and technology called C3 – CRSTE Cyber Conference 2010 every evening from Feb 21 – March 5, 2010 . You don’t have to be from the mid-Atlantic region (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware) to participate in this conference, and you don’t even have to show up!

The conference is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous events, and everything will be archived so you can check back in at any time. I was honored to be asked to participate and I’ll be presenting a session live.

Student Leadership ‐ Building Authentic 21st Century Skills
Date: February 27, 2010 Saturday
Time: 5:00 PM EST

Session Description:  This session will present 4 models of student leadership focused on improving technology integration in real schools around the world. Having tech-savvy students help solve the authentic problems of 21st century education builds future leaders, learners, and citizens.

You can download the conference schedule here (PDF)

To register for the conference, you simply check off the sessions you are interested in. Online conferences are great ways to participate without a huge committment of time or money! And yes, although the sessions will be permanently archived, it’s more fun to be in the “action” online. You’ll be able to chat and interact as the session goes on.

Hope you’ll stop by!


Still no free lunch 2.0

So the dominos continue to fall in the force-march to reality that is the current economic crisis. Surprise! Companies can’t give away stuff for free, even to educators. This week, two popular Web 2.0 tools made announcements that will impact educators who developed classroom activities based on these tools. (free photo sharing) is closing. Wet Paint Wikis announced they will no longer provide ad-free wikis for educators for no charge.

Every day there are more announcements about companies pulling the plug on free services. (Techcrunch runs announcements in what they call the “deadpool.”)

Last year I posted some rules for deciding whether a Web 2.0 tool is worth investing in for the classroom, and these are still good strategies..

…don’t assume that their business model will stay the same, and that your use won’t be affected. A few will just disappear without a word. But there is no doubt that all these companies will have to make money off these services to survive. Don’t expect them to send out a memo, these people are fighting for their lives. When you find Viagra ads embedded in your “free” videos in the middle of a class project, that’s when you’ll find out how they decided to monetize their service.

At the end of the day, using a free tool is a gamble. If it’s just you as an individual taking a risk on a free tool, that’s one thing. But if you are recommending these tools to others, spending money and time implementing them, planning lessons, or shifting your “business” to them, you really need to think about it. You may decide instead to use tools you can really own, like a do-it-yourself open source implementation, or tools from a company you can trust. They might cost a little more time or money up front, but give you peace of mind as bubbles burst all around us.


The Gift

1076955_vibrant_giftA few weeks ago at the Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009 institute in Manchester, NH, I needed to make some copies. I walked down the quaint main street of this lovely New England town and found the local copy store.

Inside, the machine wasn’t working so the owner came over to help. We started talking and he asked me what I was doing in Manchester. I told him I was at a workshop with teachers learning about how to use computers in school. He immediately said something to the effect of, “That’s funny! Why don’t you have students teach the teachers, the kids know everything about technology already!”

We both laughed, sorted out the copying mess, and I walked back to the hotel meeting room where teachers were intently building robots, making movies, programing, creating art, building webpages, and more. Suddenly, it struck me. How wonderful is it that society actually believes that children are competent at something. Here in Everytown, USA, a random guy in a random moment confirmed a commonly held societal belief that children are competent human beings, in fact, MORE competent than adults. And better yet, competent at something important.

We see it in commercials where the exasperated parents hand the new, incomprehensible cell phone to their five year old to figure out. We hear ordinary people joke about getting their grandchild to set the blinking 12:00 on any appliance. And we all know that TV commercials and marketing professionals are very adept at mirroring the “norms” of society. Mention some problem using technology and more likely than not, someone will say, “Ha! You need to find a ten year old!” It’s always good for a chuckle when you tap into commonly held beliefs.

Of course this isn’t a sophisticated or deeply thought-out conclusion. There are underlying contradictions, simplifications and outright myths. The “digital native vs digital immigrant” slogan is a symptom of buying too deeply into this belief.

But what irony and what opportunity this is! What a gift that society actually thinks that children are competent at something, anything, especially something that is so vital for the future. When does this ever happen?

How can advocates for using technology to enhance learning leverage this gift to advance the cause?

I don’t think the answer is to lean on this myth or use it to justify NOT teaching students about technology. My main criticism of the digital native/immigrant metaphor is that it is used in just this way. (See my post Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan?)

I DO think we need to find ways to build on this gift, to acknowledge that yes, indeed, kids do know a lot about technology, and that school must take that natural talent and nurture it into something MORE valuable for the student and for society.

So thank you, Madison Avenue, for helping portray children as competent individuals. Now, what can we do with this gift?


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