Category Archives: education

To bad or not to ban

The problem vexing administrators as they think ahead to the new school year: to ban or not to ban student cell phones.

Although cell phones have proven valuable in school shootings, the digital distraction is having a negative impact on learning.

Students at all levels are confident of their ability to multitask. However, research has shown that rapid attention shifts actually hijack our thinking.

Plus, the anxiety that results from being disconnected to phones, laptops and other gadgets also distracts from learning.

“To ban or not to ban?” The question is real. The answer is not clear.

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Exciting (really!) libraries

Look for more school-library partnerships, as checking out books to meet summer reading requirements will be merely one of many options.

Library directors have made intentional efforts to link with summer learning initiatives. Mobile media centers and STEM-focused “maker spaces” will be popular with kids and parents. Librarians are especially trying to engage entire families in digital literacy programs.

Educators and librarians hope the result will be to inspire a lifelong love of learning. I echo that hope.

Valedictorians be gone?

In some areas, nearly half of high schools have deleted the tradition of naming salutatorians and valedictorians.

Honestly, I was (and still am) proud of one of our daughters who ranked #1 out of more than 500 graduates. She worked unbelievably hard for that honor. I’m grateful her achievement was recognized.

Today, the anti-valedictorian movement has strong advocates. As a result, some schools award multiple students with top grade point averages. Other schools have an entire “row of honor.”

In today’s sport, appearance and popularity-driven schools, any recognition of excellent scholastic is worthy of the attention.

Soft skills vs hard skills

Students and teachers focus on a single goal this month: preparing for academic testing.

Test season comes around every year, even though a growing number of parents are starting to recognize children should also be taught soft skills during the school day.

Having integrity, perseverance and problem-solving skills are examples of soft skills. These character traits are critical to success in the adult world, but are only incidentally taught in school, where hard skills rule. An unfortunate truth.

Anti-intellectual reflection?

The “no homework, read instead” trend continues, even during this time of the school year in which students traditionally prepare intensely for standardized tests.

Some commentators view this shift as an awareness that current academics won’t prepare today’s students for the future. Others say flatly, “It’s another way to dumb down education.”

There is very little data on homework in the primary grades. For older students, homework tends to have minimal impact on academic achievement.

It’s a sticky issue, often overshadowed by emotions.

STEM, STREAM and STEAM

The importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, math) have been well documented.

That message has gone home with students: statistics show that fewer than one in ten parents want their child to excel in the arts. And yet STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, math) is suddenly being viewed more favorably than in the recent past.

Even coding supporters recognize that applying creativity and imagination are essential if future generations are going to resolve the weighty problems we are leaving behind for the next generation.

Real world lessons

Just a few years ago, I would have been amazed to overhear a mom give a very detailed explanation of the family composting system.

But I wasn’t surprised when that happened, recently.

Many parents have shifted their thinking. Instead of protecting their kids from realities, they are giving them a more grown-up understanding of real life issues.

This is not only happening at younger ages; this “realistic” teaching is often linked to suggestions of how to make our troubled world a better place.

And that’s all good.