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from the desk of @SoperWritings

Category: @SoperWritings (page 1 of 2)

Avoiding Device Hypocrisy with Teenagers

If you are a teacher or a parent looking to break through a teenager’s screen addiction, nothing is more important than avoiding device hypocrisy yourself.

Technology is everywhere. Digital communication (and the reliance on the devices that go with it) has become a crucial part of the professional and personal lives of most adults. Teenagers see this and are quick to use it to justify their own compulsions to constantly stay logged into their own digital lives. Continue reading

Cultivating a Learning Culture that Empowers Students

As a middle school social studies teacher, one of the very first things I teach my students each year is a unit on culture. Sure, the concept of culture is first up on my curriculum guide, but the overarching concept of culture is something that is essential to setting the tone for a productive year.

We begin the unit as most would expect: we define culture, we identify our own cultural markers, and we examine the cultural makeup of key civilizations throughout history.

But then we take a turn. I shift the conversation from cultural identification to cultural activism; we look at how the problem of cultural extinction is rapidly changing the face of our world. The students engage with stories from the past and from the present about how real people are faced with the challenge of carrying on and preserving cultures that are fading away forever.

For my students, the culture unit is no longer about defining cultural elements, it becomes about cultivating and preserving cultures in the face of increased globalization.

This may seem like a heady ask for a room full of 12-year-olds (…and it is), but by infusing a sense of agency into the learning, students buy in. They aren’t learning because they have to, they engage because they have a felt need to learn. By learning about culture in this type of classroom environment, I am setting the table for a classroom culture that will empower my students to be active learners.

Empowered learning is engaged learning

This trend of trying to motivate students to learn from an intrinsic place can be truly challenging. I have spent time as a part of a Learner Active Technology Infused Classroom (LATIC) cohort over the past three years that has worked to try to bring about this fundamental shift in our respective classroom pedagogies. It’s a lot of work, but it’s important work.

The studies are out there, but any educator who has had the experience of watching a student or even an entire classroom of students chasing knowledge knows the impact of a learner-driven environment.

In order to do so, whether it is in a classroom or a small group tutoring environment, there are a litany of considerations that need to be made:

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7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

Sean Covey made a big splash in the world of self-help writing with his best-selling 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Often placed on a pedestal next to other classics like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Covey’s 7 Habits… created a recipe for personal and professional success that has transformed the lives of those who have read and followed its sage, yet practical advice.

The concepts are simple ones, yet can take on powerful meaning with the right perspective.

 

The Teenage Take

Covey has followed up on the success of 7 Habits… with a variety of other books built around numbered lists of habits, decisions, and reflections. One of the best of these follow-ups is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

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Getting the Rock Band Together

Back at the beginning of May, I wrote a piece about the positive impacts of music as an educational tool in the classroom. As school is winding down, I couldn’t help but reflect upon how influential music has been in my life. In most of these cases, what I learned from music came from moments outside of school.

Whether it’s singing karaoke, rocking out with a guitar, or pounding away on a cow bell, playing music can be a powerful experience. It can spark emotion, foster creativity, increase student engagement, and even make you smarter!

However, there is truly a magical quality to playing music when it is done with others. While playing music involves instruments and developing some fundamental skills, even novices can reap the benefits of finding ways to harmonize and create together.

The Power of Musical Journeys

Growing up in a musical family, I’ve always had access musical instruments and the encouragement to learn to play them. I spent hours in my room practicing for my clarinet lessons, noodling around on keyboards, and teaching myself guitar. While these efforts were personally rewarding, they pale in comparison to the experiences I’ve had playing music with others.

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Video Games Are Not the Enemy

Video games are continuing to grow as a mainstream form of entertainment. Whether it’s tapping away on a smartphone or mashing the buttons on a controller, kids (…and adults) are increasingly turning to interactive entertainment over more passive activities like watching TV or movies.

Along with this rise comes the recurring complaints about the negative impacts video games are having on our society: a lack of social skills, overexposure to violent and mature themes, addictive obsession, general lethargy.

While these arguments certainly hold water in certain contexts, at their root they tend to blame video games for larger underlying issues.

The fact of the matter is that video games are not the enemy. In actuality, video games can be the catalyst for meaningful growth and relationship building. When it comes to video games (as with most things in life) moderation and personal accountability are key.

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