Week of: May 12, 2008
- Robots in Overdrive
Budding high school engineers got a chance to show off their science skills at the annual FIRST Championship, a robot-building competition held recently in Georgia that brought together more than 1,500 students from across the world.
- Student and Teacher Blogs that Succeed
There is a new teacher or student blog created every 2.2 seconds. Okay so I just made that up, but the point is we are seeing blogs created at blistering pace with the hopes of connecting with the world and providing an authentic audience for writers. Sadly, many of these well-meaning blogs die a slow death after a smattering of posts. Well-intended teachers and students often lack perspectives need for success.
- Social Networking—Why Are We Afraid?
Cyberbullying, online predators, and other Internet-related dangers make headlines almost daily. Fear of what lies beyond that glowing screen at which our kids so love to stare dominates the current perception of what the Internet has become. In this climate of perceived threat, schools do what we all do with that of which we are afraid. We avoid the threat and try to forget it's out there.
- The Trouble with Txt
A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project confirms what many worried English teachers have reported-64 percent of teens admit that they use some informal writing styles used in personal electronic communication into their writing for school.
- What students are searching for
Search engine site netTrekker.com now publishes a quarterly index to the most popular search terms by students with games taking the top spot this spring.
Robots in Overdrive
The annual FIRST Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta last month had more than 1,500 student teams from the U.S. and seven other nations building and operating their own robots from a kit of hundreds of parts. This year's game, called "FIRST Overdrive," tested students' and their robots' ability to race around a track knocking down 40-inch inflated balls and passing them either over or under a six-and-a-half-foot overpass.
Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and other robotic devices, started the program in 1989. The mission: to motivate young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math while building life skills (FIRST is an acronym—For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). "It is inspiring the next generation of innovators and engineers," says Kamen. "Years from now, some of the students who competed in the Georgia Dome will be inventing solutions to society's most challenging problems."
The organization also recognized the recipients of educational scholarships worth nearly $10 million from the most prestigious science and engineering schools in the country, such as Georgia Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Purdue University. Along with the robotics competition, FIRST also hosts a Tech Challenge for high school students, the FIRST LEGO League for children 9–14 years old, and the Junior FIRST LEGO League for kids 6–9 years old.
To learn how to compete next year, go to www.usfirst.org
Student and Teacher Blogs that Succeed
So how does a teacher or her students find blogging success? Here are a few things I've discovered in both my own blog as well as with my work with students and teachers.
Blogging is way more about reading than it is writing. Many teachers don't see this at first. Most classrooms provide a good balance of traditional reading and writing opportunities. Teachers recognize that in order to be a good writer you have to read good writing. Yet when it comes to blogging, most want to write immediately and sit back and wait for the world to pay attention. It won't happen. Provide as much time for your students to read blogs as write. If you decide you want to blog or have your students blog, don't feel badly about spending a few weeks or even months reading blogs. Look for exemplary work. Look for blogs that you relate to. Find blogs that have a different perspective on things you're interested in Talk with your students about the blogs they enjoy. Before you write a post, be sure you are responding to something you've seen, read or heard.
Blogs are easy to create. But just because something's easy doesn't mean it will stick. As someone who supports teachers in understanding and using digital learning tools, this is a pattern I've seen all too often.
Social Networking—Why Are We Afraid?
Social Networking is the current scary word. By definition social networking encompasses virtual places and tools such as Facebook, MySpace, Club Penguin, and Second Life, as well as the traditional instant messengers our students use. Our studens share their lives online using these tools as well as the text messaging built into their phones—which have morphed into video cameras, web browsers, and instant messengers.
But we adults are afraid. This is not the way we grew up. We had our group of friends, our own little group. Now, the groups to which today's young people belong are hundreds and even thousands strong. Their "friends" lists go on for pages, many of them hundreds or thousands of physical miles away. This is so far from the way we communicated and learned about each other, that we cannot understand it. So we do what most people do with things they do not understand. We ignore it. If it intrudes on the way we do things, we find ways to block it.
The Trouble with Txt
Some 25 percent have used emoticons in their school writing; 50 percent have used informal punctuation and grammar; and 38 percent have used text shortcuts such as "LOL," meaning "laugh out loud."
Richard Sterling, chair of the advisory board for the National Commission on Writing, executive director emeritus of the National Writing Project and senior fellow at the College Board, says, "We think these findings point to a critical strategy question for all educators: How can we connect the enthusiasm of young people for informal, technology-based writing with classroom experiences that illuminate the power of well-organized, well-reasoned writing?"
What students are searching for
"Search engines like Google and Yahoo pull together lists of the most popular keyword queries, underscoring our nation's interests and fixations and showcasing trends and patterns," says Thinkronize CEO Randy Wilhelm. "Our report offers a different view—a real-time school-based mirror of what our children are searching for—both for academic purposes and out of genuine curiosity." The now used by more than 11 million students, 600,000 teachers, and 20,000 schools in all 50 states in the United States. The total number of unique search terms for the spring quarter was 1,844,677.
Most popular student search terms
- Civil War
- George Washington
- Abraham Lincoln
- Math Games