Last weekend I saw a fall classic played out on grassy fields near schools and community centers across the country: the Columbus Day Weekend Soccer Tournaments. The autumn ritual, where parents of kids aged toddler through teenager converge for a day of orange slices, grass stains, the joys of victory and the anguish of defeat, celebrates the energy and joy of young athletes and pays homage to the work of the youth coach.
Youth sports coaches hold a special place in the lives of our children and our community. These men and women act both as educators and playmates, coaches and parents, mentors and friends.
As online communities and resources for educators have grown, parallel communities for coaches have developed, designed to support youth coaches and provide training tips and coaching tools.
Take a walk down the street, or through a school hallway, and you will find all the data you would need to confirm a recent study released by the Neilsen Company: No one texts more than teens (age 13-17), especially teen females, who send and receive an average of 4,050 texts per month. Teen males also outpace other male age groups, sending and receiving an average of 2,539 texts.
This means that the average female teenager is sending 135 texts per day, an average of more than 5 texts per hour.
Texting During School Hours?
I recently saw a Zits cartoon in which Jeremy continued to send text messages to his friend even while sleeping, but – to the best of my knowledge – actual teenagers have not yet mastered that particular skill. So lets say the average teenager gets about 7 hours of sleep per night: a texting girl actually sends about 8 texts per hour.
Unless a teenage girl crams all of those texts into the approximately 8 hours that she is at home and awake, sending nearly 17 texts per hour, some of this texting is bound to occur at school.
Does that number have any significance to you? Come on. Think a bit!
Still no clue?!
In his book Predictably Irrational, behavioral economist Dan Ariely points out, “Let me start with a fundamental observation, most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context”. The same applies to numbers—most people don’t know what they mean unless they see them in context. The $1200 sale on iPads seemed like a great deal in Dubai until I realized that I could get one with more memory in the USA for two-thirds the price during a recent trip back home!
As we can see, numbers alone don’t mean much. But, the second they are compared or put in context, a story starts to emerge and that, my friends, is when things get interesting!
So, given we need context and stories to make numbers make sense and come alive. Why do math and statistic classrooms for the most part remain so darn dull? How powerful would it be if math teachers took cues from writers and literature teachers so that their white boards (filled with numbers and formulas) actually told gripping stories with unforgettable plots?
Luckily the Internet is filled with tools to help kids and adults start telling stories with data (e.g., WolphramAlpha, Google Forms, Google Analytics, Hootsuite, etc.). Start playing with these tools and you’ll begin to see the numbers around you in a whole new light.
For inspiration, take a look at Global Health Professor Hans Rosling’s TED talk above as he uses numbers and data visualizations (via the tool Gapminder World) to tell a story of global development that will captivate your mind and leave you itching to learn more.
Because numbers can be beautiful when a story is involved…
A recent study in the UK suggests that putting houseplants in schools helps children learn and feel better about themselves. No surprise there! And it is such an easy thing to do – but requires that little bit of extra effort and will power that often sits on our to-do list for…. um, years in my case.
Recently I decided to splurge on a mini-garden for my balcony. I went to the garden center and picked out my favorite shades of green, some splashes of color and a nice array of leafy textures. Now fully installed and thriving I must say… what a difference it makes!
So what is this post about? This post is about how lazy we can be with our physical environment – especially at work. I spend a lot of time working from my home office and I can honestly say that having some plants around makes my work much more enjoyable.
So in our quest to be more productive on the web – to learn more and get more done – I’m suggesting that we take a look around our desk and office and evaluate our work environment. That added dose of productivity might really be a nice shurb or orchid!
While we often think of capital in terms of physical things (buildings) or human capital (degrees), Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Community, points out that social networks have value too. Basically, the more social capital a network has, the more resources, productivity, goodwill, fellowship, mutual sympathy, etc. that group will accrue.
Why does social capital matter? Well, many studies have shown that the more social capital a community has, the lower its crime rate, the better its public health and the more efficient its financial markets. Schools with more social capital display higher performance levels and youth with more social capital tend to boast higher self-esteem, satisfaction with life, better reading and math test scores and more engagement in after school activities (Tomai, et. al. 2009).
Given this is the case, how can a community, workplace or school take active steps to build its store of social capital? Find out how kids at one school in Italy took matters into their own “virtual” hands and what the research community in turn found out…
PBWorks is an Online Collaboration site that hosts millions of team workspaces for users. The platform is an excellent tool for educators who want to easily communicate with their classes through a shared homepage, while providing the opportunity for students to collaborate on or create personal sites within the workspace.
The PBWorks workspaces allow students to fully participate in class, both during class time and remotely after class.
Although not a very visually sophisticated platform, there are small inconveniences in editing tools, these workspaces are excellent resources that give educators and students the opportunity to collaborate beyond the confines of the classroom. Even better, you can open a PBWorks workspace for free!
Internationally recognized elementary educator and New York Times bestselling author Rafe Esquith warns us, “Parents, television is killing your child’s potential… Anyone raising a child has witnessed the destructive potential of the screen” (Lighting their Fires).
Henry Jenkins (Media Studies Expert and Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Art, University of Southern California) writes recent reports from the Kaiser Foundation lament the large amounts of time children spent on “screen media”:
The Kaiser reports collapse a range of different media consumption and production activities into a general category of ‘screen time’ without reflecting very deeply on the different degrees of social connectivity, creativity and learning involved… Yet, the focus on negative effects of media consumption offers an incomplete picture. These accounts do not appropriately value the skills and knowledge young people are gaining through their involvement with new media, and as a consequence, they may mislead us about the roles teachers and parents should play in helping children learn and grow (“Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture”).
Whether you fall into the camp of “Screens are evil!” versus “Bring on the screens!” one thing is for sure, as adults we need to:
Limit screen time and encourage children to engage in good ol’ fashioned sports and play at least once (if not twice) a day.
Or, if you can’t seem to pry your child (or yourself) from that laptop or video game, its time you invest in copies of Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit.
Recently I attended a live webcast ofTEDxChange in Dubai. Broadcast from New York City and sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the event hosted a series of famous speakers that reflected on the world’s progress towards achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (i.e., end poverty and hunger, universal education, global partnership, combat HIV/AIDS, etc.). After mentally chewing on the event for a couple of weeks, what keeps coming back to me is Melinda Gates’ praise of Coke:
“Coke is everywhere. In fact, when I travel in the developing world, Coke is ubiquitous! … We’re trying to deliver condoms to people or vaccinations… Coke’s success makes you stop and wonder—How is it that they can get Coke to these far flung places? If they can do that, why can’t governments and NGOs do the same thing? … They sell 1.5 billion servings every single day. That is like every man, woman and child have a serving of Coke every week”.
Melinda then went on to point out that much of Coke’s success is due to its use of real time data, ability to tap into local entrepreneurs and incredible marketing. First two success factors aside, for this post I want to think about marketing because when it comes to using marketing and helping kids understand the power of marketing, most schools and educational content companies completely miss the mark.
Members of the Bon Education team write this blog. We use this space to explore learning design, education technology, literacy and global awareness.
At Bon Education, we develop education programs and products for schools, families, businesses and community organizations. To learn more about our work around the globe, we welcome you to visit our company website and our global books for kids page.