Friday, September 26, 2014

Reading a Real Book? Made of Paper?

I well remember the deep satisfaction of curling up on a comfortable chair with a book I could not put down.  I have been a reader since I could first decode those letters on a page. Just this week I sat in on the end of an honors English class. Students were reading, reading real books, and looked engaged and thoughtful and completely absorbed. I loved it.

Miss Whisler recently shared an article with me that resonated deep in my reader's heart. The article, published in the Wall Street Journal, was entitled, "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress." The article noted the difference between skimming through the words on a website and slowly reading a novel. Those who tout the benefits of slow reading say, "it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize."  I believe it!

When I listen in occasionally to Mrs. Horning as she walks her students through the thinking and discerning process of evaluating the literature they have been reading, I am delighted that our students are learning in this environment. When I stop in to work on computers in the third grade and hear students reading to each other, I am thrilled to be a part of all of this.

Yes, my job is working with the school's computers and technology, and I love that, but I will gladly put that aside for a while to just read. Time to head for the library!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Passwords, they keep you safe, and can drive you crazy!

One of the things that we teach students here at school is how to create strong passwords.  You probably know that one of the most common passwords used is "password." Not a good choice! A strong password uses both lower and uppercase letters as well as numbers.  It does not use recognizable words. Let the internet help you find a strong password. Just google "password generator" and you will have many to choose from. Of course, the "driving crazy" part is when you forget your password.  The line of students at my office door last week needing to reset their forgotten passwords testifies to that issue. So have a place (not beside your computer!) where you write down your passwords.

As for your iOS device (iphone, ipad, etc.), how secure is that?  If someone found it, could they figure out your passcode?  I recently read an article that listed the top ten iOS passcodes to avoid. They are the most common ones.  The top five are 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111 and 5555.  The article stated, "Also frequently used were patterns. Anything that makes a shape on the keypad, or a common word, should be avoided (5683, the 6th most commonly used passcode, spells LOVE)."

Is it time to reset those old passwords?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What do you think?

I like that question, "What do you think?",  much better than, "This is the answer."  I want my students to learn how to THINK!  My own children will tell you that when they were young, and asked me a question, I would often say, "What do you think is the answer?"  (This did not always go over well!)  This trimester I am teaching Web Design, and we start with learning XHTML code.  Experimentation is key.  Try putting something into the editing page: a hexadecimal color code, a new tag, an attribute for an image, guess what might happen, then save it and refresh the web page to see what actually did happen.  We learn a lot more from experimentation than from just copying and memorizing. Thinking for yourself and experimenting will often lead to mistakes. Mistakes are an important part of learning, and actually develop neurological connections which lead to more learning!  (See this article from the Khan Academy for more.)  So, the next time your child asks you how to spell something, or what the answer is to a math problem, try answering, "What do you think?"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Digital Citizenship

Here at CCS all students in grades 4 through 8 receive computer instruction on a variety of relevant topics such as: using different types of software, learning and improving typing skills, creating content, and participating in interactive online activities.  One important area of our curriculum is Digital Citizenship, teaching students how to be good digital citizens in today's connected world.  This includes lessons on privacy & security, digital footprint, cyber-bullying, information literacy, internet safety, and copyright. We use materials from Common Sense Media which are timely and appropriate for each grade level.  A new addition to our faculty, Mrs. Melissa Beagle, is teaching those computer classes this year. However, digital citizenship is not just for school.  It is important, also, for parents at all levels to keep the dialogue open at home about the many decisions we all have to make when we use our connected devices and interact with the media all around us.  You might enjoy the Back-to-School page at the Common Sense Media site!