another post on ScreenTime … I say (essentially) this to parents at least a couple times a week …
I was in the garden with Augie, my four-year-old grandson, watching the bees in the lavender. “Bees make honey,” I said, transmitting the wisdom of the ages in good grandmotherly fashion. After a pause, Augie replied, “How do they make the honey?” There is nothing like a child’s question for exposing the limits of a grandmother’s wisdom.
“Actually, Augie, I don’t know,” I said.
“But, Grandmom, you have your phone,” he said. For Augie, a smartphone is as natural and unremarkable as the bees and the lavender, and holding one is almost synonymous with knowing.
I Googled “How do bees make honey?” There were dozens of videos explaining it. As we stood in the garden, shielding the screen against the sunlight, Augie and I learned that worker bees secrete an enzyme called invertase, which converts nectar into dextrose, then flap their wings to thicken the nectar into honey.
“It’s kind of hard to see the bees,” I said, squinting at the screen.
“Why don’t we watch it on the big computer?” Augie said.
For the next hour, we sat inside, bee-surfing. Someone in Sweden had posted a speeded-up video of bees building a hive, months of construction compressed into two minutes. There was a whole subgenre of beekeeper selfie videos. Best of all was a BBC documentary about the “waggle dance,” the remarkable communication system that allows bees to give one another directions to the places where they’ve found nectar.
My own childhood was dominated by a powerful device that used an optical interface to transport the user to an alternate reality. I spent most of my waking hours in its grip, oblivious of the world around me. The device was, of course, the book. Over time, reading hijacked my brain, as large areas once dedicated to processing the “real” world adapted to processing the printed word. As far as I can tell, this early immersion didn’t hamper my development, but it did leave me with some illusions—my idea of romantic love surely came from novels.
English children’s books, in particular, are full of tantalizing food descriptions. At some point in my childhood, I must have read about a honeycomb tea. Augie, enchanted, agreed to accompany me to the grocery store. We returned with a jar of honeycomb, only to find that it was an inedible, waxy mess.
Many parents worry that “screen time” will impair children’s development, but recent research suggests that most of the common fears about children and screens are unfounded. (There is one exception: looking at screens that emit blue light before bed really does disrupt sleep, in people of all ages.) The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend strict restrictions on screen exposure. Last year, the organization examined the relevant science more thoroughly, and, as a result, changed its recommendations. The new guidelines emphasize that what matters is content and context, what children watch and with whom. Each child, after all, will have some hundred thousand hours of conscious experience before turning sixteen. Those hours can be like the marvellous ones that Augie and I spent together bee-watching, or they can be violent or mindless—and that’s true whether those hours are occupied by apps or TV or books or just by talk.
New tools have always led to panicky speculation. Socrates thought that reading and writing would have disastrous effects on memory; the novel, the telegraph, the telephone, and the television were all declared to be the End of Civilization as We Know It, particularly in the hands of the young. Part of the reason may be that adult brains require a lot of focus and effort to learn something new, while children’s brains are designed to master new environments spontaneously. Innovative technologies always seem distracting and disturbing to the adults attempting to master them, and transparent and obvious—not really technology at all—to those, like Augie, who encounter them as children.
Like the bees, we live by the reports of others. Unlike the bees, we can invent new worlds, constructing them out of sonic vibrations, ink, or pixels. Sometimes those worlds deceive and confuse; at other times, they tell us something revelatory. When Augie’s father got home, Augie rushed to meet him, his words tumbling out in excitement. “Daddy, Daddy, look,” he said, reaching for the phone. “Do you know how bees make honey? I’ll show you. . . .” ♦
Hamlin girls are learning with, playing, and creating with tech companies around the Bay Area today!
Thanks to all of our community partners in this innovative endeavor!
As has been recently reported the gender gap in the tech industry persist in 2015 – we see Hamlin Girls as an essential part of the solution to closing that gap. On December 4th Hamlin girls will be learning off campus. They will be visiting one of 18 participating locations with the goal for students, at all grade levels, to see, interact, and learn from dynamic women working within the San Francisco tech industry.
We hope that over time these experiences and exposure will help us in our goal of STEMming the Gender Gap within the Bay Area tech world and beyond.
Where we will be learning:
Learn with our girls on this exciting day by following @hamlin & #STEMgendergap
reposted from the Hamlin School’s Global Citizenship Blog:
This is the second year that our 7th and 8th grade Spanish students have exchanged pen pal letters with Middle School students at Fundación Colegio Americano de Quito in Quito, Ecuador. Last year, Middle School Spanish teacher Alison Trujillo was introduced to Alexandra Colina, a Humanities teacher at FCAQ, by Mark Picketts, our Director of Educational Technology. Hamlin Spanish teachers and Alexandra are helping their students connect in an authentic and meaningful way.
Alison explains that personal connections with peers are of utmost importance to a Middle School student, especially when learning about one’s place in a global society. “Our pen pal exchange gives students an opportunity to connect and learn about one another’s lives: What is your partner’s daily life like? What music do they listen to? How did they spend their vacation? How do they describe their family and friends? This is the foundation upon which we, as global citizens, begin to develop empathy, understanding, and a genuine interest in the lives and well-being of other people around the world.”
This school year, students will exchange about 5 rounds of letters. All of the writing is in Spanish. This gives the students at FCAQ an opportunity to practice writing skills in their primary language, and Hamlin students the chance to write in Spanish for an audience. Hamlin girls say that they love hearing about popular music and movies in Quito. They visit YouTube immediately after hearing about a new singer or band to see what’s popular in Ecuador!
When asked about her students in Quito, Alexandra Colina says, “We are reading a book that takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown, so our kids were thrilled to get the chance to talk with someone their own age from a place they have recently learned about. I find myself constantly answering the same question, ‘No guys, they haven’t responded just yet. Be patient!’ They eagerly await to hear back from their Californian friends!”
For more information about Fundacion Colegio Americano please visit:
To read Alison Trujillo’s engaging blog “Life Translated,” please visit:
The event was opened to San Francisco’s Common Sense Media Supporter Schools and a packed group of parents listened as Bay Area Director Dana Blum asked the panel about what it is like to be a middle schooler on October 21, 2015 – or “Back to the Future Day“. Their responses were honest, clear, thoughtful, and at times surprising – we could not have had a better panel of students – thank you. This week’s focus for Digital Citizenship week has been – it’s time to have the talk and Hamlin’s hope is that today’s panel will start a discussion in classrooms as well as homes.
The session was highlighted by not only this Huffington Post article on the tables as participants arrived, but also with this video:
examples of the many ways technology can be used to “fill buckets”
For the parents who could not make it this morning an audio recording is available here:
It was also a great day to announce that @Hamlin has gone beyond being a Common Sense Media Supporter School and yesterday was recognized as a Digital Citizenship Certified School. As our vision is that “all Hamlin faculty are #digcit educators” recognition is shared and celebrated school wide. That said, there were also six teacher leaders who were simultaneously recognized as Digital Citizenship Certified Educators for 2015-16: Ms. Brown, Ms. Davis, Mr. Dworkin, Mr. Lengel, Mr. Picketts, and Ms. Windell – thank you for your thoughtful guidance and work to ensure our girls are ready to meet the challenges of their increasingly digital times.
Carnegie Mellon’s Finch robot and UC Berkeley’s Snap! drag-and-drop
programming language have made robotics a little more accessible to
our younger students. In our second grade STEM class, the girls have
been using Snap! to program their Finch robots to move, turn, change
colors, and make noises. First, we created mazes out of blocks and
programmed the robots to move through those mazes. We then added
parameters to the mix, changing the speed of the motors, the color of
the LED, and the notes played by the beeper. Using those new blocks,
the girls choreographed a “song” and “dance” to perform in front of
the rest of the group.
On Friday the technology team welcomed the Middle School staff into the Riveter Lab to get a look at some of the tools that are in the space. Our hope is that they can begin to envision integrating these tools into their lessons. We strive to provide cutting edge tools and know how enabling Hamlin students to demonstrate their understanding in innovative and new ways.
Staff arrived and after a brief introduction they went to learn more in depth about 2 specific tools. Staff self-selected their sessions and attended two of: 3D printing, Arduino, laser cutting, video production and editing with Green Screens, Circuit Scribe by Electonink, or Autodesk’s Project Ignite platform. Staff were engaged and using the tools in a hands on way. We look forward to inviting staff back to the tools knowing that the more they use the tools, the easier it will be for them to see curricular connection for their students.
The newly opened Riveter Lab on the second floor of historic Stanwood hall is a space and resource that brings together (rivets) the entire school. This has been a message the tech team has worked hard to communicate with faculty and students in both lower and middle school. We also have been vocal in regards to welcoming faculty and staff to be trained on using the array of tools in the space. That is why we were so happy to invite the Development Office and the chairs of this year’s golf tournament into the space.
They were looking to create a video, highlighting teachers that would outline the goal of the “Raise the Paddle” fundraiser – to support our Professional Development fund. The team was trained on using the iOgrapher equipment, our green screen, and DoInk’s Green Screen app. They filmed the staff and used the app to create this video:
Pretty good for a first attempt! Like anywhere good news travels fast and it was only moments before the chairs of the Golf Tournament contacted us requesting to sign out the necessary materials to create a “photo booth” hole at the tournament. This would allow the tournament committee to take pictures and place them on creative backdrops for display at the tournament’s dinner. Here are some of the unmodified “green” shots:
We don’t know if it was the fantastic video or the exemplary cajoling of the division heads, but the Raise the Paddle was a huge success and the entire faculty will be attending this year’s NAIS conference. We feel so fortunate to work with families who recognize the ongoing need for teachers to grow and improve their craft.
On Monday I introduced the @Hamlin Lower School staff to NewsELA. I did so with the help of NewsELA’s trainer Nicole Boyle. Truth be told, the staff was really introduced to the tool by Nicole who led a quick and informative webinar that walked the entire staff through the system. What is NewsELA you ask? Well according to Sofia in first grade:
“Its like a newspaper but its written just for kids.”
Truth from the mouths of babes. In fact NewsELA is a site that reworks non-fiction text and publishes it at a variety of Lexile levels. This enables teachers to assign articles that share current content to students at a variety of reading level; thus ensuring that students have an equal opportunity to read the information with understanding. Or from their site:
Newsela is an innovative way to build reading comprehension with nonfiction that’s always relevant: daily news. It’s easy and amazing.