Digital Devices

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LEGOS Empower Students to Try STEM

Many teachers use Legos in the classroom for hands-on STEM exercises, particularly as an enticement to get students who are less confident about their engineering aptitude to give it a try. Middle-school robotics teacher Ian Chow-Miller says he likes using Legos -- from the basic blocks to the higher-end robotics kits -- because his students learn something from every possible outcome. A Marketplace story from National Public Radio highlights some of the projects the class has tried, including videos.

There’s A New Tablet for Kids

Amazon now has a version of its Kindle e-reader designed specifically for kids. The device includes educational tools such as a built-in dictionary for defining complex words, achievement badges for meeting reading goals, enhanced search features, and a vocabulary builder with flash cards.

Helping Your Kids Manage Digital Distractions

Digital tools that kids use for learning also can provide some of their biggest distractions. In a recent article on the EdSurge site, author Ana Homayoun shares how to help kids manage these digital distractions by supporting their intrinsic motivation to make better decisions, both online and in the real world. A key takeaway from the article: “When working with kids, I start from a place of compassion, empathy and understanding, rather than fear, anger and frustration. I recognize and admit how challenging it is for all of us to navigate this relatively new world of technology and its related distractions. Kids are receptive to this approach. They become excited to try new ways to manage and block distractions as I encourage them to realize they have a choice in how they spend their time and that they are competent to make choices that promote their social and emotional well-being.”


Recent studies have shown that teens are reading less these days, with many parents and educators alike placing the blame on smartphones. Since smartphones likely aren’t going anywhere, here is a list of ways to encourage teen reading in a digital landscape without demonizing devices. Biggest advice? Be a good role model and a digital ally who takes a genuine interest in your teen’s digital pursuits.

“Talk Pedometers” To Aid Early Literacy

Five US cities, including Detroit, are equipping toddlers with wearable devices nicknamed “Talk Pedometers” that count the number of words the children say and hear in a day, with the goal of increasing that number. The Providence Talks program, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, created the device that aims to help boost early literacy. The program tries to instill in parents "the habit of reading, the habit of talking, turning off electronics, playing with their children, getting that dedicated time and being a little bit deliberate about the back and forth with children, including asking them more certain kinds of questions”.

Should Schools Reconsider Cellphone Bans?

Some school districts have implemented restrictions on students' cellphone use, but parents and others caution against all-out bans, saying the phones are useful during instruction and for helping parents stay in touch during emergencies. Elizabeth Kline, vice president for education of Common Sense Media, said educators should "have a plan, not a ban."



Harry Potter Wands Teach Math and Coding

Seventh-grade students at one Pennsylvania middle-school are using Harry Potter wands to learn coding and complete puzzles on a tablet. Students use their math skills to program the wands to perform "spells" such as create fireworks on the screen. Parents can buy the same wand on Amazon for about $70.

Screen-Time Rules From a Mom and Teacher

A middle school teacher and mom shares her “School Year Screen Time Rules” in a blog post on the Common Sense Media site, recognizing that tech is never going to be a one-size-fits-all thing. She writes that what works for some kids will not work for others and that finding what is best for your family can involve a bit of trial and error. Her three biggest recommendation for parents are: to know what their children are playing and when, to control the WiFi, and when in doubt, remove the temptation. Most of all she recommends balance - especially knowing when it is time to unplug, both for parents and kids.

Can A Fitbit Predict Loneliness?

MobiHealthNews reports that a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows data from Fitbit and smartphone devices can be used to predict loneliness among college students. Students with high levels of loneliness were in fewer social places during weekdays and spent less time outside of campus at night and on weekends, the research found.

Toddlers Learn Best in No Screen Settings

Little ones can easily be mesmerized by digital screens. A cartoon character on TV  asking questions and pausing for a response can bring them to a complete halt. But science shows that children under the age of 30 months rarely learn from such encounters. A study of 176 toddlers aged 24 and 30 months gauged four different conditions under which children would best learn the name of a new object: directly from a person with the child, a responsive video chat, an unresponsive video, or an unresponsive live person. None of the toddlers learned under the video conditions, which Vanderbilt University researcher Georgene Troseth says is “because to toddlers, a flat image of a person on a screen isn't ‘real’, so their brains tell them what they are seeing isn't personally relevant and not something they can learn from.” This study is further proof that toddlers need face-to-face interactions with living breathing humans in order to learn new information.