iPads that work

After writing about the iPad disaster in Los Angeles Unified, Hechinger’s Anya Kamenetz talked to a Chicago teacher who’s using iPads to help students succeed.

When the iPad first came out in 2010, Jennie Magiera made fun of her friends for buying them: “Nice job–you got a giant iPhone that can’t make phone calls!!”  But when a grant bought iPads for her fourth and fifth grade class, the teacher quickly found a path to transforming her teaching and learning practice. While tests are only one measurement of success, she went from having just one student out of 15 “exceed” on state tests in fourth grade, to having 10 “exceed” the next year.

Magiera is now the digital learning coordinator of the Academy of Urban School Leadership, a network of 29 public (non-charter) schools serving low-income students. She’s seen technology reveal hidden talents.

A disruptive, low-scoring student used “screencasting” to create a video explaining his math strategy.

“The answer was 15 cents and he wrote $16. . . . when I go into his screencast video, it was 60 seconds of the best math I’ve ever seen as a math teacher.”

The student had arrived at the wrong answer because of a tiny mistake, but he had devised his own original path through the problem, using his knowledge of fractions to create a system of proportions, a concept he wouldn’t be introduced to for another year or two. “He solved it completely on his own, narrated it beautifully, had the most amazing thought process.”  From watching this one minute of video, Magiera got insights into this student’s math skills that she hadn’t learned from having him in the classroom for over a year.

When the student rewatched his video, he caught his mistake.

She saw his reactions go from defiance (“lady, I already did it for you once, you want me to watch it now?”) to pride (“yeah! I got that!”) to dismay (“Oh my god, I messed that up! I can’t believe it! I was so close,”). And finally he asked her, “Can I do it again?”

Another student was afraid to speak up in class. Magiera used the iPads to let students participate in a text-based chat as part of the class discussion. The shy student was “the best in the conversation . . .  thriving and flourishing in a community of thought.”

80% of college students text in class

Eighty percent of college students text in class, according to a survey by Barney McCoy, a University of Nebraska professor.

More than 60 percent say they’re distracted by using digital devices; even more say other people’s use is distracting.


Tech-distracted students study — for 2 minutes

Asked to “study something important,” students stayed on task for two minutes before they “began responding to arriving texts or checking their Facebook feed,” reports a study, published in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior by Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills. The middle, high school and college students spent only 65 percent of the 15-minute observation period doing their schoolwork.

“We were amazed at how frequently they multitasked, even though they knew someone was watching,” Rosen says. “It really seems that they could not go for 15 minutes without engaging their devices,” adding, “It was kind of scary, actually.”

Media multitasking while learning means less learning, writes Annie Murphy Paul on the Hechinger Report.

. . .  evidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience suggests that when students multitask while doing schoolwork, their learning is far spottier and shallower than if the work had their full attention. They understand and remember less, and they have greater difficulty transferring their learning to new contexts. So detrimental is this practice that some researchers are proposing that a new prerequisite for academic and even professional success—the new marshmallow test of self-discipline—is the ability to resist a blinking inbox or a buzzing phone.

In “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds,” a 2010 survey, almost a third of those surveyed said that when they were doing homework, “most of the time” they were also watching TV, texting, listening to music, or using some other medium.

College students are used to texting, emailing and surfing the web in class. Eighty percent of college students admit to texting in class.

Young people think they can do two challenging tasks at once, but they’re “deluded,” says David Meyer, a University of Michigan psychology professor. “Listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.”

He adds,“There’s nothing magical about the brains of so-called ‘digital natives’ that keeps them from suffering the inefficiencies of multitasking. They may like to do it, they may even be addicted to it, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s far better to focus on one task from start to finish.”

Unplugged — and unheated

Superstorm Sandy forced digital kids to unplug, notes a lifestyle piece in the New York Times.

BLANK screens. Cellphones on the fritz. Wii games sitting dormant in darkened rec rooms. For a swath of teenagers and preteens on the East Coast, the power failures that followed Hurricane Sandy last month represented the first time in their young lives that they were totally off the grid, without the ability to text, play Minecraft, video-chat, check Facebook, or send updates to Twitter.

And so on. Some poor teens were forced to talk to their parents.

Unmentioned are thousands of kids and their parents who’ve been freezing in the dark for nearly two weeks. They don’t have running water or toilets that flush. No wonder they think they’ve been forgotten.

Uzbeks block texting on exam day

Uzbek authorities blocked text messaging and mobile internet service during nationwide university entrance exams on Aug 1. While one media network said the telecom system needed repair, Fergana News reported the measure was designed to prevent cheating.

 

OMG: Txtngz bad fr kidz gramr

Txtngz bad fr kidz gramr, concludes a new study of Pennsylvania middle schoolers, reports Ed Week.

Middle school students who frequently use “tech-speak”—omitting letters to shorten words and using homophone symbols, such as @ for “at” or 2nite for “tonight”—performed worse on a test of basic grammar, according to a new study in New Media & Society.

. . .  the more often students sent text messages using text-speak (shortened words and homophones), the worse their grammar—a concern as 13- to 17-year-olds send more than twice the number of text messages each month than any other age group.

Researcher Drew Cingel started the project after receiving texts from his young nieces “that, for me, were incomprehensible,” he said in a statement. “I had to call them and ask them, ‘What are you trying to tell me?’”

The Millennial Teenager

Today’s teens are “digital natives.”

The Millennial Teenager

Smart phone, stupid choices

“Gunna be at West Hall,” a Lanier Technical College texted, trying to tell a friend he was going to West Hall High School in Hall County, Georgia. But the smart phone’s auto-correct feature changed the message to “Gunman to be at West Hall.”

Then the student misdialed, sending the message to a stranger. That person called 911. The college and the high school were locked down for two hours till police determined the texter was armed only with his phone.

 

The Onion: Brain-dead teen to be euthanized

Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable Of Rolling Eyes And Texting, To Be Euthanized, reports The Onion, in jest.

Are texting teens losing empathy skills?

Texting teens aren’t learning empathy skills, according to psychologist Gary Small, who spoke at a Hechinger Institute seminar on digital learning in California.

The digital world has rewired teen brains and made them less able to recognize and share feelings of happiness, sadness or anger, said the UCLA professor of psychiatry and aging, who has also studied adolescent brains.

“The teenage brain is not fully formed,” Small said . . .  “I’m concerned that kids aren’t learning empathy skills. They’re not learning complex reasoning skills.”

Small noted that up to 60 percent of synapses in the brain are pruned away between birth and adolescence if they aren’t used. He cited the oft-quoted Kaiser Family Foundation study from 2010 that showed teens spend half their waking hours with technology, from cell phones to computers and/or television. The study found that typical eight to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day, or more than 53 hours a week. Thanks to multitasking, they are actually packing a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes’ worth of media content into those seven and a half hours.

Other researchers disagreed. Teens are adding media interaction to face-to-face interaction, said Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist who directs the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research on teens, children and families. Teenagers say they’d rather be with their friends in person than communicate via electronic devices, Lenhart said.