Category Archives: All Kids

Coffee and Cookies

I’m currently sitting a bagel shop drinking my second coffee of the day and reading a new report called Healthy Food Healthy Communities: Promising Strategies to Improve Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Transform Communities. This report by PolicyLink discusses in considerable depth the issues of obesity, for both adults and children, and the relationship between obesity and lack of adequate healthy food options in low-income neighborhoods.

Some background:  Obesity in the US (and worldwide) is reaching epidemic proportions.  One in three adults is obese and approximately 17% of children and teens are obese (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The two images copied below show the percent of adults in each state that are obese (BMI > 30).  The first image is from 1990. All states were either blue or light blue which means that 10-14% of the adult population in each state was obese (white indicating no data).  If you look at the second image (2010), you see that nearly the entire country is red, orange, or yellow- meaning that in every state in the US, more than 20% of the Adults are obese and in many states, more than 30% of the adult population is obese.  Click this link to see all other years obesity rates per state.

While the adult obesity epidemic is troubling the childhood rate is heartbreaking.  Look at the equivalent charts of childhood obesity in the US.  Here the light blue states have rates between 10-15% and the dark blue states have obesity rates between 15-20%.  Click this link for larger image.

The Healthy Food Healthy Communities: Promising Strategies to Improve Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Transform Communities report focuses on the communities in our country that are particularly susceptible to obesity and other related health issues.  The graphs above demonstrate that obesity is a nationwide issue but low-income communities are particularly vulnerable to obesity.  A recent concern for low-income communities is the lack of  healthy food options in their neighborhoods: there are fewer supermarkets and places to buy healthier foods in low-income communities than in wealthier ones , this is also the case for Latino and African-American areas compared to predominately white areas.

The report offers solutions that will lead to increasing access for healthy food for populations who currently have limited access. Some of the recommendations and solutions that are already in place in some communities include: The Fresh Food Financing Initiative, an initiative that provides loans and grants to encourage food retailers to locate in underserved low-income communities and provide fresh food to customers, improve small stores, increase grocery store access in low-income neighborhoods, and increase access to farmers markets.

Teaching young children to select “better for you foods” is one way to decrease the obesity rates in this country, but if youth do not have the opportunities to purchase more fresh, healthy, and “good for you foods” the educational benefit of learning to eat healthy will be wasted.  This report provides crucial information  for policy makers, business owners, and the general public about the issues related to lack of health food choices in America.

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Launch Education Guest Blog

I was given the wonderful opportunity to guest blog for Launch Education– a great tutoring company located in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington,DC.  The full blog post is below but can also be found on their website if you click Here.

The Crucial Role of Parents in Education

by Alexis Lauricella

It’s pretty clear that the education system as a whole in the United States is struggling to provide youth with an adequate, let alone quality, education.  For decades, the US government has enacted policies and programs with the goal of “fixing” our education system by creating new rules and procedures for schools and teachers. Only recently, after decades of continuingly failing schools, a new bill was introduced to the House of Representatives that recognizes the crucial role that families, and particularly parents, have on children’s academic achievement.  The goal of the Family Engagement in Education Act of 2011 is to provide incentives for schools and districts to engage parents in children’s education with the hopes of closing the achievement gap.  This bill is clearly only in its infancy, but the message is clear: parents and families are crucial factors in the academic success of children.

The teachers and school systems clearly can’t do it all on their own. Government funding and regulation are attempting to “not leave any children behind”, but unfortunately, kids are getting left behind and no one is coming to pick them up.  Recent reports from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Fiester & Smith, 2010) indicate that 67% of all 4th grade students are not proficient readers and these numbers are even higher for African American and Hispanic children.   Literacy isn’t the only issue.  Students are also performing poorly in Science and Math, especially compared to children in other countries (Fleischman, Hopstock, Pelczar, & Shelley, 2010).

The US school system undoubtedly needs considerable work and there is no quick-fix answer to the problem.  But, parents can help, and even when children in are highly competitive, wonderful academic institutions, parents have a responsibility to be involved and help their children academically.   No one expects that parental involvement will fix the achievement gap or the failures of our education system as a whole, but their involvement is crucial!

Research demonstrates that parent involvement does help- significantly! When parents are involved in their children’s education, their children perform better academically and socially (Henderson, 1987; Jenyes, 2003).  This doesn’t mean that parents have to volunteer at every school function or become the president of the PTA in order for their child to reap the benefits of education.  There are thousands of fun, creative, and easy ways to get involved in your children’s educational success. Here are just a few:

  • Parent-teach Conferences.  Parents can take the lead and work directly with their children’s schoolteachers to determine ways that they can enhance their child’s education at home. Parents can take advantage of the one-on-one time that is provided during parent-teacher conferences to determine what concepts will be taught in class that year and how to can expand upon these concepts at home.
  • Get Creative. The technological advances of the past decade have provided many new ways for children to learn.  Take advantage of quality websites that offer educational worksheets or activities related to a particular topic your child is studying at school.  Search for videos (either online or at your local library) related to the concepts your child is learning in school; maybe having the information presented in a new way will help your child learn. Take learning outside the classroom by bringing your child to the library to find related books on topics covered in class, to a museum to see a related exhibit, or even to a park where you can find real world examples of the science concepts being taught in class.
  • Combine subject areas and interests.  If your child is learning multiplication tables in school but really loves to write, work with your child to write a story about multiplication problems.  Similarly, if your child loves baseball encourage her to keep scores and calculate batting averages while you watch a game or ask her to write a newspaper article about the game you watched together using some of the new vocabulary words from class.

Teachers will educate and work with children at school, but parents need you to help; to expand upon the learning that is occurring in school and help your children prosper and succeed both academically and socially. It would be ideal if teachers and school administrators facilitated and encourage parent involvement with or without incentives provided by the potential Family Involvement in Education of 2011 bill. However, until this bill passes or other action is taken to encourage schools to include and incorporate parents, parents should take the lead and find ways to get involved!

References:

Fiester, L. & Smith, R.  (2010).  Early warning!  Why reading by the end of third grad matters.  A KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Baltimore, MD.

Fleischman, H.L., Hopstock, P.J., Pelczar, M.P., & Shelley, B.E. (2010). Highlights From PISA 2009: Performance of U.S. 15-YearOld Students in Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy in an International Context (NCES 2011-004). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Handerson, A. T. (1987). The evidence continues to grow: Parent involvement improves student achievement. Columbia, MD: National Committee for Citizens in Education.

Jeynes, W. H. (2003).  A meta-analysis: The effects of parental involvement on minority children’s academic achievement.  Education and Urban Society, 35, 202-218.

The Family Engagement in Education Act of 2011. Parent Teacher Association.  Retrieved from http://www.pta.org/FEE_Act_Summary.pdf on July 11, 2011

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Summer Learning: Social-Emotional Development

Over the summer it is important to maintain the skills that are learned during the school year.  I already wrote about the importance or maintaining literacy, math, and science skills, but other skills related to social-emotional development can also “slide” during the summer.

Think about the differences between the school year and summer:  During the school year your child is in a classroom for about 7 hours a day with a teacher and about 20 kids her own age. She has spent 9 months getting to know the children in her class (and sometimes they have known each other for years before).  Your child knows that Sarah has a short temper or that Billy tends to cry when he doesn’t get his way.  Similarly, your child has developed a relationship with her teacher.  She knows that Mrs. Smith will put up with whispering in the classroom during math but that she is strict about ensuring that each child has a chance to read aloud during story time.

In the summer, all of this changes.  Your child may be at home with a parent and an older or younger sibling, with a new summer nanny, or at various summer camps with new counselors and campers each day.  Your child may be going to the beach, the park, or the pool more regularly and thus meeting more new friends whom he will know for shorter periods of time. You and your family may take vacations which likely alter your child’s sleep and eating schedules, they may be slightly stressful or overwhelming, or they may be opportunities for your child to visit with cousins and other children he doesn’t seem as frequently. With all of this change your child might need to relearn and continue to work on social-emotional skills that are often a daily focus in early education classrooms.

Social-Emotional development is tough to define because it is quite broad, but basically it’s your child’s ability to control and express emotions in an appropriate and healthy manner.  This is something that is particularly hard for parents to  teach during the summer because there are no worksheets children can complete or assignments children can do to “practice” emotional development skills.  The best opportunity for children to work on social-emotional development is through play and experience.

For teachers, social-emotional development is slightly easier.  They generally work with the same age group/grade each year and know generally what to expect regarding emotional skills plus they have a classroom full of same-age students who will test each other’s ability to regulate and control their emotions.  At home during the summer, this can be more difficult.  A parent isn’t going to yank a toy away from a 5 -year-old just to “test” her ability to appropriately react and calm her emotions (meaning her ability to restrain herself from throwing a tantrum, grabbing the toy back, or hitting).

As a parent, you have the benefit of more one-on-one time with your child.  This provides more opportunities to sit down with your child and discuss emotions, feelings, and appropriate reactions to those feelings as they come up on a daily basis.  Also, given the new situations and people your child may be around during the summer you may have increased opportunity to see your child’s social-emotional skills “tested” in new ways.  While this can be challenging and frustrating as a parent, it’s also a great opportunity to continue to help your child develop these skills.

Some ideas of ways to discuss and work on social-emotional development skills with your child during the summer:

  • On your way to a park, pool, beach or anywhere where there will be lots of new kids around, remind your child that the toys you are bringing are toys that should be shared with other kids.  If there is a special toy that your child is very protective of, encourage your child to leave whatever toys he doesn’t want to share with his new friends in the car.  This will minimize the chances of a complete emotional breakdown.
  • Once your child is playing with other children, even before anything happens, remind your child to play nicely and share with her new friends.  Also remind her that if she needs or wants something that she should remember to ask for it.  By providing this prompt prior to any specific issue there is a better chance your child will ask rather than grab something out of someone’s hands (although depending on the age and personality of the child this prompt will have levels of effectiveness).
  • On your way home, talk to your child (even if they are pre-verbal toddlers) about the day’s events playing with their friends.  Talk about feelings that your child felt while playing with a new friend.  Was it frustrating to share a toy?  Did you like getting a chance to play with Timmy’s shovel, wasn’t that nice of him to share?  It was very kind of you to let Jill borrow your bucket, that was really good sharing.  Expressing and talking about emotions helps children begin to process the different feelings they experience and to understand the words for what they are feeling.
  • When there is an emotional meltdown (and yes there will be sometimes).  Try to remove your child from the situation.  Sit with your child on a bench preferably away from the other children so they don’t see what is going on without them there and give your child a moment to calm down.  Once your child is calm, immediately discuss what bothered your child and why he felt the need to react the way he did.  Sometimes with young children need help processing exactly what happened that set them off.  Sometimes their emotions come out before they cognitively have a chance to grasp what was going on.  Encourage your child to stop and take a deep breathe whenever they feel very frustrated or angry, this might give them a moment to process their emotions before actually reacting.

Social-emotional development skills are important skills for later school success and social experiences. Unlike other academic skills, social-emotional skills are often practiced and developed in summer camps or other social experiences that happen during the summer.  It’s not a skill that parents need to go out of their way to “practice” with their children, but it’s a skill parents should be thinking about when playing and spending time with their children during the summer months when they are less likely to be in large group settings with consistent teachers and peers.

Resources:

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Math & Girls

It’s sad that it is 2011 and we are still discussing gender differences and gender stereotypes in math and science performance in America.  It doesn’t help when the President of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, makes comments that there are innate differences between men and woman that result in fewer women succeeding in math and science careers (Bombardieri, 2005).  The good news is that research evidence doesn’t support Summers’ theory, the bad news is that many students still believe that boys are better at math and science.

In response to Summers’ statement a few years ago, professors at Stanford got together to discuss gender in math, science, and engineering.  According to Jo Boelar, an associate professor of mathematics education at the School of Education at Stanford, “There is a huge belief that boys are better at math which is vastly out of proportion to any data that we have.  And yet people believe it. You go into schools and the children will tell you that.” (Johnston, 2005).

A recent article in the Journal of Child Development by Cvencek, Meltzoff, and Greenwald (2001) provides further evidence that even 6 years later, this vision that boys are better than girls at math than girls still exists- even with elementary school-aged children.  A fascinating study that examined both implicit and explicit attitudes about gender stereotypes and math (e.g., “that math is for boys”) found that children ages 6-10 years old believe “math is for boys” and that boys are more likely to identify with math than girls are.  These stereotypes appear even in the youngest children tested.

What’s really interesting about this study is that unlike most other research that has relied on explicit self-report measures (asking children or adults how “good they are” at math, etc), this study used BOTH explicit self-report measures and an implicit association task to examine children’s attitudes toward math.  When thinking about research with young children you have to consider how the child is interpreting and understanding the question that is being asked.  There are some limitations to asking children how “good they are” or “how much they like” anything.  For example, asking these types of questions may be a better measure of self esteem than actual performance, a child may say, “I’m great at math” because she thinks she is very good at everything (measuring self-esteem more than actual ability).

The authors of this study adapted an implicit association task to examine how children viewed gender stereotypes related to math implicitly (meaning without directly asking the children about their attitudes about this topic).  How did they do this?    Children played a computer game where they were given target words one at a time (e.g., story, Emily, graph, David, numbers, Hannah) and were instructed to categorize them as fitting into one of two categories.  Children played this came when the categories were stereotype congruent meaning that they paired “boy” and “math” together in one category and “girl” and “reading” together in another.   The then saw and heard the target words, for example “number”, and had to indicate using an keyboard whether it fit in the “boy/math” category or the “girl/reading” category.  Children also played a version when the categories were stereotype incongruent meaning they paired “boy” and “reading” together in one category and “girl” and “math” together in another.   They then measured the association with math terms and the child’s own gender compared to the opposite gender.

Findings from this study indicate that children demonstrate both implicit and explicit gender stereotypes at very young ages, even before any performance differences begin to appear related to math.  Given these types of findings, it is important that as parents and teachers we work to minimize these gender stereotypes related to performance in any academic field!

Ways to encourage your children to excel in all academic fields, regardless of gender:

  • Meet New People & Learn about Careers.  Take your children to places where people don’t fit into gender stereotype roles.  For example, when you take your child to the doctor’s and there is a male nurse, ask why he became a nurse and what he likes about his job.  Likely he will say that he was interested in helping others or learning about medicine, explain to your child what types of classes and skills he had to learn to become a nurse.  Similarly, when you see a woman working at the Science Museum, don’t just ask about the display that she is showing, if she has time, ask her to explain to your children how she decided to become a scientist.
  • Be Positive. Encourage your child to practice and study all of the subjects.  Avoid statements that “math is hard” or “I’m not good at math either”.  Instead provide positive statements like, “doesn’t it feel great to get the answer right?”
  • Always Do the Best You Can  Remember that not everything is going to come easily to every child and kids get frustrated when they don’t understand.  Not every little girl is going to be a math whizz and not every little boy is going to become a literary genius- but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to try and they should always strive to do the best they can!  (The same goes for the parents- even if you hated math growing up, keep your negative comments to yourself and work do to the best you can too!)
  • Books about Careers and Academic Success.  Find books at the library that provide models of women and men in non-traditional women’s roles and vice versa and talk about how anyone can be anything they want to be.
As much as this is still something that people think about and discuss there is hope that gender stereotypes related to academic success will continue to decline.  Just last year more woman than men earned PhD’s (de Vise, 2005)!
References:
Cvencek, D. Meltzoff, A. N., & Greenwald, A. G. (2011).  Math-gender stereotypes in elementary school children.  Journal of Child Development, 82, 766-779.
Bombardieri, M. (Jan 17, 2005).  Summers’ remarks on women draw fire.  Boston Globe http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/01/17/summers_remarks_on_women_draw_fire/
de Vise, D.  (Sept 14, 2010).  More women than men got PhDs last year.  Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/13/AR2010091306555.html?sid=ST2010091401351
Johnston, T.   (Feb 8, 2005).  In wake of Harvard president’s comments, Stanford professors discuss gender in math, science and engineering education.  Stanford News Service: News Release. http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2005/pr-math-020905.html

 

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Summer Learning-Math & Science

There is a lot of popular press about the importance of kids reading throughout the summer in order to continue to improve their literacy skills.  There is a also  LOT of evidence supporting the importance of these statements.  Kids really do need to maintain their literacy skills and continue to develop them during the summer and often times children who do not read during the summer come back to school in the fall having lost the skills they had worked on the previous year.  But it’s not just literacy skills that have the potential to decline during the summer.  Having 2 months off school (or more) has an impact on all subjects and when schools are out parents do need to take steps to make sure their children are still learning outside of the classroom.

The good news is there are a whole bunch of ways to work with your children on math, science, geography, current events, and other subjects that they are not formally studying during the summer.  Here are just a few ideas, but get creative, opportunities for fun learning are all around you during the summer!

Math:

Check out Sesame Street’s Math is Everywhere site.  The site provides math related videos including my favorites with John John counting with Henry, videos of Sesame Street clips related to shapes, patterns, addition & subtraction, and printable activities that you can do with your child. Of course my favorite part is the Parent’s Guide that provides great tips, games, and activities to do with your child at home that are math related!

For slightly older kids, Cyberchase is a great math TV show and their website has all sorts of information for parents, games and activities for kids, and list of resources for how to use math at home in everyday ways.  The Cyberchase website also offers suggestions for science tips and resources to help children pick out science projects.  Cybercase also offers the Summer Challenge which combines tv episodes of Cyberchase with related activities.

Figure This! is another fun website for families.  Figure This! provides families with math challenges and has a Family Corner section that provides parents with a variety of resources and connections between math and literacy

If your child enjoys playing games on your smartphone of table computer, MotionMath is one of my favorite apps out there!  MotionMath provides users with the opportunity to connect physical movement (moving the device around) with learning math (fractions, etc).  It is a very creative and fun way to practice math skills!

There are a lot of great resources available on the Internet, either to do online or to help give you ideas of ways to incorporate fun learning activities into your summer days. Here are a list of other non-electronic idea to keep your kids excited about learning all summer long:

  • Geography: Have a trip planned?  Pull out a map (or print one) and have your child highlight the route he thinks  you should take to get there (if you are driving this can be roads, if you are flying have them draw how the plane should go).  Ask questions about what stats and cities you will pass through, will you see any rivers, lakes, mountains? What direction will you be traveling to get there? What about to get home?  This activity can be used for even short trips to the pool or to the park.
  • Science: The great thing about summer is it’s nice and you can be outside with your kids.  Take this opportunity to get a book out from the library about the different plants, trees, or bugs that are in your area in the summer.  Have your children try to catch ladybugs, butterflies, or worms and learn about how these animals live.  What foods do they eat? Where are they on the food chain? Do they come out during the day or at night? Have them collect different leaves or flowers that they see growing when you are at the park.  Look up what types of trees the leaves came from and have your children draw pictures of the trees or leaves, etc. Another great science topic in the summer is fruits and vegetables.  Why are strawberries so delicious in the summer and apples in the fall?  All these are great science related questions for young children
  • Math: Math is around us constantly!  Have your child add up the cost of her favorite groceries at the supermarket, count how many mosquito bites you get, how many steps it is to the pool.  Remember that math is more than just numbers.  Talk about the shapes you see in the summer- circle wheels on your bike, triangle seats, cylinder handlebars.  In the car, play -spy with shapes, first everyone has to find something that is a square and take turns guessing until you figure out each person’s item. At the beach or at the park, do math problems in the sand and have your child use a stick to fill in the correct number.
  • Art & Music:  Take advantage of the warm weather and the easy clean up, let your children do art projects outside: chalk is always fun in the summer, but finger painting can be awesome outside too, let your child add in some of his natural world into his art with leaves, dirt, grass, etc.  Summer is also a time where many communities have free music festivals.  Take your children to hear some live music, encourage them to dance, and make their own songs.
  • Physical Education/Movement: With very young children learning to move and control their movements is a very important part of development, but even for older children physical exercise is extremely important and lots of fun.  Summer can get hot, but take advantage of local pools for swimming; get out early in the morning and take a bike ride with your kids or just a walk, the parks a great place to run and play but with more daylight in the summer get creative and try out new parks- your kids will love the new climbing structures and challenges and novel parks!
Most importantly make sure learning is fun for your children!  It takes time to think of fun activities but make a list of things as you think of them so that you always have fun learning opportunities for your kids this summer!  And talk/email ideas to other parents or start a summer learning activities email exchange- pass along great ideas and ask for some back from your friends!

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Summer Learning- Literacy

Just because your child’s school closes the door for summer doesn’t mean that your child’s education should take a “summer vacation”.  It is crucial that your child read or be read to throughout the summer so that everything that they learned at school this year is not lost.  Reading Rockets provide a brief article about “Summer Reading Loss” which includes research that indicates,  “Our research with 116 first, second, and third graders in a school in a middle class neighborhood found that the decoding skills of nearly 45% of the participants and the fluency skills of 25% declined between May and September. Lower achieving students exhibited a sharper decline than higher achieving students.”  (Click here to read more research on Summer Reading Loss).

Here are some quick tips to keep your children reading and learning this summer:

  • Visit your local library or bookstore.  Most libraries and many book stores offer Storytime for young children where a librarian or volunteer reads books to the children.  Even in the summer, try to keep a schedule for your kids and go weekly if it’s available.
  • Bring books with you (both for you and for your children).  It’s important that children see you reading as well. By modeling book reading you are demonstrating that reading is fun and something that you value not just something you are pushing  them to do. With nice weather, bringing a few books with you to the beach, pool, or park will allow your children some time to read in between other activities.
  • Schedule reading into your daily routine.  If your children are old enough to read themselves, schedule half an hour of reading a day when the entire family sits down to read (parents too!).
  • Set goals for your child’s reading.  Together with your child, select 10 books that your child will read between the time that school gets out and when your child starts up again in the Fall.  After each book is completed, have your child do a mini-book report where they write down what the story was about, draw pictures, and reflect on what they liked about the story.
  • Select books related to vacations. Select books that will get your child excited about your vacation and that you can use as talking points when you are on vacation.  For example, if you are going to Boston this summer, get “Make Way For Ducklings” by Rober McCloskey and then make a point to go visit the duckling statues in the Boston Public Garden.
  • Book Club Play Dates.  Just like parents form book clubs to get together with friends and discuss books, schedule summertime book club play dates with your child’s friends.  This makes reading fun and helps your child associate reading with something fun.  Let your child and her friend select the books they are going to read together when they meet up each time.
  • Get Creative.  Traditional books aren’t the only things that can help children develop and improve their reading:  books on tape, ipad reading apps, literacy developing TV programs also help develop literacy skills.   SuperWhy, WordGirl, and Between the Lions are all literacy focused TV shows that also offer online games and activities to improve literacy.  Some literacy apps include: StoryKit where you can create your own storybook with your child.  WordWord has ebooks that can read to your child and are based on their shows.  Also create your own books, have your children create stories about their summer vacations, activities, and camps!
  • Check out Readingrockets.  It has wonderful resources for fun ideas to keep your kids reading all summer.  They include a 2011 Summer Reading List that provides wonderful age-appropriate book suggestions for your child.

Additional Resources:

Reading Tips for Parents:  Reading Rockets provides quick and helpful Reading tips for parents of Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers,Kindergarteners, First Graders, Second Graders, and Third Graders!!!

Empowering Parents: Reading Rockets Parent’s Guide (Scroll down to the middle of the Page).  Reading Rockets provides a wonderful PDF that helps parents build their child’s reading skills at home.  The guide begins by explaining that Parents are a child’s first teacher and offers easy tips to help your child become a reader!

Toddling Toward Reading Video: Reading Rockets provide a great video narrated by Reba McEntire about the importance of parenting laying the foundation for their children to read.

Learning to Read and Write: What Research Reveals: Reading Rockets provides a wonderful review of the extensive research on how young children learn to read and write and the important ways in which parents and teachers can aid in this crucial development.

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Technology as a Tool for Learning

I use technology all the time to help me learn and understand things.  Just a few weeks ago, I was attempting to analyze data with complex statistical tests using a statistical package that I wasn’t very familiar with.  Completely frustrated, I did three things:  (1) I posted a status update on Facebook that read “Does anyone know how to use STATA?”.  While I waited for a reply, (2) I googled the specific questions I had “logistic regressions STATA”.  When that only provided part of the answer (3) I searched our University’s Library website for statistics program workshops.  Never once did I open a traditional textbook.

As adults, technology provides us with efficient ways to search for and learn information. So why is there such resistance when people mention using technology as a learning tool for children?  In April, an article in the Christian Science Monitor reported about a school in Maine that has decided to give each of their Kindergarteners and ipad2.  The title of the article was “iPad2 in kindergarten classrooms: A good idea?”  The article includes criticisms about the iPad potentially taking away from teacher instruction.

What I find so fascinating about this is the hypocrisy of the entire issue.  First, adults are constantly modeling the use of technology as a teaching tool.  How many times has your child asked you something to which you have responded, “That’s a good question.  We should google that when we get home” (Or right this minute for those of you who have a smart phone).  You can learn from technology so why can’t your children?  Second,  our current education system isn’t working.  This generation will be LESS literate than the one before it (Waiting for Superman), 44% of American 4th graders cannot read fluently (National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Pinnell et al., 1995), and low income and less educated parents are less likely to read to their young children daily (US Department of Education).  And these are just statistics related to literacy- our children are also struggling in Science and Math as well (See the National Center for Education Statistics Early Childhood Longitudinal Study for more details on 5th grade Education skills).

I am a HUGE advocate for research.  I want studies to be conducted that demonstrate the ways in which technology can be used in the classroom and by teachers to help educate  young children!  However, there are many apps and computer games that have not yet been tested but that are being created with the help of educational consultants and child development researchers to help educate children in a way that is fun which can help to potentially create a generation of children that LOVE learning!  And in response to the criticisms that iPads in schools will take away from teacher instruction–  As of 2007-2008, the average public elementary school classroom had 20.3 students; maybe providing other ways for children to learn in which they can receive scaffolding, help, and immediate corrections and reactions to the work they are doing is a good thing- even if those reactions are being provided by a computer (some of the time).

No one is recommending that teachers or parents disappear and that we let Steve Jobs or Apple raise our children, but the question is why can’t they help? Because at the moment it looks like we can use all the help we can get!

Resources for Parents:

Common Sense Media is beginning to review and rate apps to help parents and teachers decide which apps to use and what types of educational skills children may learn from each.

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