Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.

So kids aren’t playing with rubber bands and string anymore?

True story: Recently I took a small group of students to visit a lab, and while breaking for lunch on some garden benches, they began climbing the trees nearby. They were getting a bit noisy when a lady walking by stopped and looked up into the branches. I thought I would get asked to get them to ‘behave’. But the lady smiled and said loudly to others passing by, “Look! look! children are playing on trees again!”

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was really saying – that having seen so many kids today plugged into screens, it’s thrilling to see them having fun scampering up trees. (Side note: this was outside a Mars Space lab in Tempe, Arizona, and we were on a field trip to see a whole lot of technology!)

Drawing from : 7th period: Feed a Fish Wikispaces page Click on image to visit this class project page

I keep this in mind when I introduce students to new technologies. Last week, I began a lesson on animation, and as subject matter, I returned to the ‘Rube Goldberg Machine.’ We don’t always need screens for this. (Unless we need to check out the many Rube Goldberg contests like this.). How could we turn students into makers, and innovators, problem-solvers and scientific thinkers?

A Rube Goldberg Machine (or ‘contraption‘) teaches us a lot about levers, gravity, kinetic energy, and chain reactions among other things – such as precision, iterative design, and learning from failure. All it takes is some lengths of wood, string, paper cups, shoe boxes, old clothes hangers, marbles and/or ping-pong balls, rubber bands and cardboard tubes.

I like to get them to ‘design’ their machine first, and see what they come up with – then set them on a building mission! We could use a drawing app, but paper and pencil work just fine!

Image on right – One of the manyprojects from a 7th grade class – found here

Starting a Robotics Program? Check this!

Here’s a video I did with Ruben Gameros, a grad student at State University. It’s about what it takes to start a Robotics program.

This was a hot topic in the STEAM Workshop last December in Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka. We know drones are changing the game in many areas. How about ‘Swarm’ robotics? Watch Ruben explain!

Science and Tech Workshop in Sri Lanka

Just got back from a short trip to Sri Lanka, where I conducted two workshops for teachers.The first was in Maharagama on Dec 15th & 16th. The second workshop was in Kandy on Dec 18th.

Here are some stories about the workshops:

Much thanks to my co-presenters:

  • Dr. Paul Funk – Engineer, US Dept. of Agriculture, New Mexico (Via Skype)
  • Ruben Gameros – Autonomous Collective Systems Laboratory, Arizona State University (Via Skype)
  • Scott Logan – Montessori International School, Mesa, Arizona (Via Skype)
  • Lal Medawattegedera – Lecturer, Open University of Sri Lanka
  • Nalaka Gunewardene – Science writer, author, trustee of the Science and Development Network
  • Nazly Ahmed – Web App Dev at Social Seed Media

Also the two Keynote Speakers:

  • Dr. Ajit Madurapperuma – Dir. Of Information Communication Technology, ICTA
  • Dr. Nalin Samarasinha – Astrophysicist at Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona (Via Skype)

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Hands-On Engneering – Spaghetti Tower Challenge

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Hands-on session on Audio Recording

Scot Logan & Students

Hands-on session on Motors and Electro-magnetism

Scott Logan & students at Montessori International School, teach class – via Skype

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Aaron Fernando facilitates session

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Using audio and video for content creation

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Photography in Science – From SLRs to GoPro

Nazly Ahmed, Social Seed Media explains Depth of Field

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Engineering & Problem Solving – Building a Solar Oven

Paul Funk, US DOA

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Teaching Science Writing

Nalaka Gunewardene

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Future Ready Classroom – Google Cardboard & Augmented Reality

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Future Ready Classroom – Teaching Robotics

Ruben Gameros, ASU, teaches class on robotics – Via Skype