Like most parents of my generation, I feel guilty.
Maybe it's because almost every other day, a Facebook friend/Twitter follower/LinkedIn peer posts yet another article about how we're failing our children: we're too overprotective, we're too permissive, we over-schedule, we aren't strict enough, we hover too much; we're "helicopter parents" and "tiger moms" and "snowplow parents;" our children are overly attached and unable to function without our constant intercession; we're raising a generation of self-centered whiners who will never be able to independently function.
Like I don't beat myself up enough. Now I've got every writer, blogger, and Tweeter doing it for me.
So when this article by Hanna Rosin was brought to my attention the other day, my self-esteem took a nose dive simply by reading the title: "The Overprotected Kid." But it's precisely because I'm an overprotective parent that I knew I had to continue reading. Ironically, I'd be doing my overprotected kids a disservice if I didn't discover how I was providing them such a disservice, right?
Indeed, parents today are exceedingly overprotective, as the article goes on to explore in great detail. As Rosin keenly notes, "even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers—and fathers—of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to." We arrange playdates, spend our weekends chauffeuring our kids to basketball and art class and ballet, volunteer as den mothers, and chaperone the class field trips. Our parents were never that involved in our lives. Why are we?
Rosin attempts to explain the root of our child-centric obsession and posits that the motivation behind this behavior is fear-based: we've either come to believe or have been shaped to believe that if we don't overprotect, something bad will happen. She offers this gentle and (thankfully) non-condemning explanation for our behavior: "For a variety of reasons—divorce, more single-parent families, more mothers working—both families and neighborhoods have lost some of their cohesion. It is perhaps natural that trust in general has eroded, and that parents have sought to control more closely what they can—most of all, their children."
I recognize myself in that remark. I'm a divorced, working, single mom who most definitely has pursued a focused and single-minded path of controlling what I can, especially when it comes to my two sons. And yes, I certainly recognize my own "helicopter," "tiger," and "snowplow" behaviors. (But let's not get into those just now.) There's a thin line between being overly protective and being overly controlling, and I seem to walk that unctuous tightrope more often than I'd care to admit.
I will admit this, however: as a teacher, I abhor helicopter parents.
Yes, you read that correctly. I'm a hypocrite. Or maybe I'm in a unique position to judge. By coming into contact with overprotective parents, it's forced me to confront my own parental overprotective behaviors.
As a teacher, I've been begged to change grades after report cards have been issued. I've been bullied to extend offers of extra credit a week before the quarter ends. I've been grilled about assignments and projects. I've been accused of being wrong, boring, mean, unprofessional, and unfair.
And all of these behaviors come from parents.
A generation ago, this type of behavior was unheard of. I was raised, as were the majority of my friends, by parents who lived according to the following credo: your teacher is right, and you're wrong. Or if you're not wrong, you're probably at fault somehow. My mother would never dream of signing a detention slip with the following postscript: "This is completely unreasonable. My daughter is a good kid and I protest this discipline notice." (A parent actually wrote that to me. And to further drive home her point, she even refused to sign the detention slip.)
So how did a generation of children raised to be independent and accountable for their own behaviors in turn become ferociously overprotective to the point of attacking and accusing the people our parents once demanded we respect?
Being horrified and made weary by this behavior has benefitted me, though. It's forced me to back off my own kids--at least a little bit. And even though it sometimes makes me queasy when they fail to hand in a homework assignment or don't study enough for a test and subsequently receive a less-than-desired score, I have to let them fail. As much as I want to swoop in and save them and email their teachers and ask for a reprieve, I have to keep the tiger mom in her cage.
Because the last thing I want to become is the parent about whom I complain.
Near the conclusion of Hanna Rosin's article, she gently suggests to parents that "the real cultural shift has to come from parents. There is a big difference between avoiding major hazards and making every decision with the primary goal of optimizing child safety (or enrichment, or happiness). We can no more create the perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion, and a harmful one; remind yourself of that every time the panic rises."
So when the panic rises, as it frequently does for this overprotective mom, I'll try to swallow it and allow my sons to experience less than perfect situations.
After all, experience is the best teacher. For my children, for my students, and for myself.
Image by Peace In Your Home
I am a HUGE fan of QR codes in the classroom, not only because the possibilities are endless in terms of applying these codes to every level of the Bloom's Taxonomy model, but because they make learning fun. Plus, they're one of the easiest ways to integrate technology into your lessons--especially if you're more of a digital immigrant than you'd like to admit!
My go-to QR code generator has always been QRStuff, but I've discovered some new sites that have really piqued my interest:
1. QR Treasure Hunt Generator
This site is the only site you'll need to create your own QR Code Treasure Hunt for any subject. Type your questions and answers, generate a QR code with the tool provided, and display the codes around your classroom and even your school.
This is Google's version of a URL shortening tool (like bitly and ow.ly). Use goo.gl to shorten a website link and a QR code automatically gets created for you! To find the QR code, click the "details" link after you make your abbreviated URL. You'll also learn how many times your link has been used. This would be useful to count the number of students who've followed the link or QR code.
3. QR Voice
QR Voice lets you to create QR codes that play an audio message when scanned. Record a message or type it in 100 characters or less. I'd like to try this with student feedback!
How are you using QR codes in the classroom? If you haven't yet explored the possibilities but want to try it out, I'd recommend beginners start here and those who are more experienced with QR codes check out this site.
For fun, scan the QR code in the photo and see where it takes you!
Formative and summative assessments have been one of the major tenets of the Common Core roll-out.
Formative assessment is a process by which teachers evaluate students' needs while students are learning. This feedback allows teachers to adjust their teaching methods to meet student learning goals.
Summative assessment evaluates student learning at the end of an instructional unit. This allows teachers to know if students have met the curricular standards or benchmarks. Listed below are some examples of formative and summative assessments.
These examples are pretty standard and are often used, as they should be. With regard to formative assessment, however, there are some useful tech tools out there that make learning more fun and engaging for students--and easier on teachers! After reading this recent blog post from one of my favorite sites, I decided to try them out, and here are my three free favorites:
Socrative describes itself as a "smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets." Teachers log in via their own device, select an activity, and direct the students to login and respond in real-time. Many of the activities and games are pre-designed, saving teachers much-needed time. Socrative activities include the following:
Kahoot is a game-based classroom response system where teachers can create quizzes, discussions, and surveys and project these items on the classroom screen. Students join in through their personal or school devices and "play against each other aiming to top the on-screen leaderboard" while the teacher has the ability to "facilitate and discuss the content." Kahoot's drag and drop feature makes content creation easy. In addition, students can create their own quizzes and then "think up and answer their own questions through thorough research and the collation and/or self creation of imagery and video."
3. Collaborize Classroom
Collaborize Classroom is an online collaborative education platform that allows students and teachers to "transcend the boundaries of their physical classroom to engage in an online collaborative learning environment." With this tool, students can
If you want to get started, but feel overwhelmed by the technology, I'd suggest you start with Socrative and allow yourself and your students time to get comfortable with the platform. I'm definitely looking forward to getting started myself! Good luck, and let me know how it goes with your class!
ThingLink does exactly what it sounds like it does: it links your stuff to, well...things on the web. Think of it as an interactive poster: you choose an image and create "hot spots" on the image that launch you to related information (e.g., websites, video, audio) about that topic.
And did I mention it's free and user-friendly?
Last year, I collaborated with the art teacher, who was (a) teaching a unit on Impressionism to the 5th graders, and (b) looking to incorporate technology as an extension of their learning. I was (a) looking to create a cross-curricular unit, and (b) eager to have a class play around with this new application I had discovered. And thus, our Impressionist ThingLink unit was born.
We started simply. The kids each chose one of three artists whom they were studying in art class: Renoir, Cassatt, and Monet. After a brief introduction to age-appropriate keyword searching, students were directed to find websites with the following requirements: (1) biographical information about the artist; (2) 2-3 examples of the artist's work from a museum; (3) a video or audio spot that provided additional information about the artist; (4) any other cool stuff that an eleven year-old kid would enjoy. Here's an example I provided for the students to use as a model.
Of course, the kids loved it--and asked if they could create their own on a topic of their choosing. I was already devising ways to utilize it with other subject areas.
Before you get started, take a quick and closer look at ThingLink's features and to get some ideas. If your students don't have their own email accounts, teachers can set up classroom accounts here, and you can view these examples of ThingLinks that have already been created by students and teachers.
Here are some quick and easy ways for you to get started in your own classroom:
1. Interactive Book Report
Students download a Creative Commons image that represents the author/theme/protagonist of the book. They then add information specific to the usual book report.
2. Interactive Map
Using a map as a base image, students add links to the history of the location, attractions, important historical events.
3. Multimedia Definitions
Find an image with a vocabulary word specific to the subject area. Students add links to websites, photos, videos, and audio that demonstrate the meaning of the word.
4. Periodic Table
For each element of the Periodic Table, students provide links to, again, websites, photos, and videos that further explain the element.
5. Study Guide
Students download an image related to an upcoming quiz/test and provide links to sites related to vocabulary, concepts, historical dates, etc., to help them prepare. They're simultaneously learning while they create.
ThingLink works on iPads and iPhones, too, if your school has a BYOD policy.
What things can your students link? Please share your ideas!
Educational consultant + #pedtech coach in Cleveland, Ohio sharing innovative technology ideas for educators.