How Technology in Education is Flipping Things Around

by Shikha Das Shankar ~ Dec 13, 2018

Technology in TheFlippedClassroom

When I was first introduced to the concept of a class where “class work happens at home and homework in the class,” I flipped a little. How did we come to a point where the fundamental workings of a classroom is changing?

High-school teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams invented the flipped classroom concept and credit the research report “Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating and Inclusive classroom,” for their successful attempt at implementing this unique concept. They defined a flipped classroom as a “mindset that directs attention away from the teachers and puts it squarely on the students and their learning.

In a flipped, or inverted classroom, the in-class time is “re-purposed” to focus more on inquiry, application and assessment of students. The traditional lecture-style of teaching is greatly reduced, and a methodology is adopted to personalize learning. The students learn at home aided by technology tools like lectures streaming on their computers, eBooks, and other digital and traditional course materials. 

What it’s all about

Students take control of the learning process and do so at their own pace. A typical flipped classroom requires students to watch a video on a topic in a virtual space like Google Classroom at home or other vodcast apps. While doing the lesson, they take quizzes to ensure understanding, have access to additional digital materials, and take notes and write down questions that they might have about the lesson to ask the teacher in the classroom the next day. Students continue to be at the center of learning in the classroom when they participate in group activities and collaborate with others in the group to come up with a solution.   

The teacher takes on the role of a coach and guide, who helps each student develop a unique learning strategy rather than imparting the same knowledge to all the students.  What results is a rich learning environment that helps students foster real-world thinking skills and problem-solving techniques. Some of the activities that teachers can have a group do together include: digital storytelling, making ebooks, podcasts or instructional videos, and posters and quizzes using tools like Google Forms.

Works for all levels 

Though more popular in high school and college, a flipped classroom has been adopted by elementary schools too and seen great success. As per research data available from 2014, 96% of teachers who have flipped their classrooms will recommend it to others.

For elementary school teachers alone, there are hundreds of apps suitable to be used in a flipped classroom environment like, Edheads, Skillshare, WeVideo, and GoClass to name a few. Most videos and apps work well on a tablet, phone or computer at home. In the cases where students don’t have access to digital devices, they have the option to use the school or public library to access a computer and internet.

The Flipped Learning Network, an organization advocating for flipped classrooms, provides resources and support for teachers looking to implement a flipped classroom. Tutorials on how to make quality videos and infographics, screen-casting for elementary school teachers, along with plenty of resources on the know-how of flipping a classroom is available for educators through their network.

Technology as the enabler

A flipped classroom is just one of the many technology-driven trends being adopted by schools and colleges across the globe.

A paradigm shift in teaching techniques and the rise of real-world learning, to meet the needs of an evolving future, has undoubtedly been enabled by technology. Technology that has become the answer to many challenges that educators and students face. Technology that is an integral part of a student’s academic success. Technology that our next generation will use to pursue their dreams. 

When technology is made available to teachers, they are enabled to ignite the minds of their students innovatively and make learning personalized. When technology is made available to students, they are enabled to learn more engagingly and consider learning to be relevant.

What new trends are you witnessing at your child’s school? What do you expect technology to change or improve in 2019 in your child’s life?

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

If you can code you can change the world

by Priyanka Raha ~ Dec 06, 2018

Coding

When I started writing this article I wanted to talk about how important it is for every single student to learn how to code.

My third grader was sharing his experience of using scratch at his school. So I asked him. ‘What do you think about coding?’ And that’s what he said.

If you can code you can change the world.

So I went with it. I do not know how much you can change the world with coding but it certainly is a necessary skill in this changing world.

I found three ways to explain why there is a big need for including coding in the school curriculum.

It is not just for the engineer

Let’s first talk about the misconception that coding is meant only for engineers or students who will go on to pursue a career in software development. It is absolutely not.

Coding is nothing more than telling a computer what to do in a language that the computer understands. You see, coding is the language of the future. Look around us today, we are constantly interacting with computers in one way or the other. Given that our world around us is becoming more and more digital,  learning to code is equivalent to learning how to read and write.

Think how a child learns language. She first listens to her parents and people around her and learns how to speak. But that isn’t enough, she has to go on and learn to read, identify words when she sees them so she can make sense of the world around her. Then she has to express her ideas and thoughts, so she has to learn how to write. 

Coding expands the understanding of the world around you. The skills you develop while learning to code are actionable and universal all through out your life. Encouraging your children to learn these skills is equivalent to providing them with tools to not just interact but thrive in this world.

It will teach you how to think

‘Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.’ ~ Steve Jobs

Coding is not about lines of commands on a screen, it is rather about going from point A to point Z in 24 different ways. It is figuring out the minute well-thought-out steps to achieve a goal. Coding forces you to start thinking in logical steps and how variations in those steps can lead to a different action. 

The essence of coding is in computational thinking, breaking down large complex problems into small digestible chunks and forming repeatable solutions.

Learning computer programming also improves your attention to detail. Given that a missing hyphen or a semicolon can lead to different results, you become quite skilled at paying attention to details.

It can ignite imagination

Have you ever solved a puzzle? Do you remember the excitement of accomplishment at the end of it? What if you told your child she can create her own maze and play with it? Learning how to code will open that door to a world of imagination for her.

Coding is about joining the dots to make the picture whole. Imagine you can make a character of your choice and make it jump up and down. Imagine dragging code blocks that allows you to make catchy music beats and mix them up. 

Coding provides creative ways to build your own worlds and see them come to life. The sheer joy of making things and being able to add movement to complex interlocking parts on screen can be very entertaining. In the words of a tynker maker, who is also a 7th grader ‘Coding is fun because once you have finished it, it’s really fun to play with it.

I can go on and on of all the things that coding enables you to do but for now I want to leave you with the Hour of Code activities. These are categorized by age and they not only teach basic coding skills but are fun and interactive.

So go on, have some fun. 
Let technology be the wind in your sails.
Let the knowledge to code fuel your flights of fantasy.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

Let’s talk about grit

by Priyanka Raha ~ Nov 29, 2018

Education Learning Google Translator

She shrugged in a matter-of-fact way, not happy with what the sentence meant. She looked at me and gently took the iPad from my hands. She wrote down the line one more time on the open text box on her iPad.

For the sake of protecting her identity, let’s call her Mia.

Mia is an 8 year old girl from China whose family had just moved to the US.

She is writing a story as part of her class project.
She has to write it in English.
She is new to the language.

I work with elementary school students from time-to-time to help them with their writing assignments. Most of  the times the discussion revolves around the following suggestions, as I nudge the students to expand their stories.

‘Can you try adding more sound words or action words?’
‘Can you look at adding more punctuation?’
‘Can you add more details?’

As I sat down on a chair next to Mia, I noticed she had an iPad along with her writing paper and pencil. Her teacher mentioned that she would be using Google Translator to work through the story-writing process. This was new to me. I couldn’t simply start at nudging her with the same questions as I usually do. I realized I was learning as well.

So this is how it went before we had a full sentence of any of Mia’s ideas on paper.

She would write down her ideas in Mandarin on the open text box on the app. The app would translate them into English. This helped me understand what she was trying to say. I would then read it aloud to her, changing the words here and there so that the sentence in English made sense. I would encourage her to add sound words or action words. All of this would be accompanied by a lot of hand-gestures. As I changed the English sentence the translator app would re-generate it in Mandarin. This helped Mia confirm whether it conveyed her idea correctly. We would go over this process, together, repeatedly, until we arrived at the correct English sentence. Mia would then copy this onto her writing paper.

For the most part Google Translator correctly converted the words from one language to another. But grammar and semantics don’t work in similar ways in different languages. So you can only imagine how frustrating this can get. In one of those exchanges, as we worked through finding the correct sentence to add to her story, I kept saying, ‘The translator is not doing a good job.’ 

She smiled gently at me, almost to say, ‘It’s okay it happens to me all the time.’ She put a hand on her chest to indicate, ‘I can fix this.’ She went on to add her words in Mandarin again, to start the process over.

Mia simply kept at it until she was satisfied.

I was very impressed by the Google Translator app. It did a good job of translating words and sentences. I had never used an app like that until then. I was happy about how technology is bridging languages, helping kids learn and opening a vast new world of possibilities. 

Technology is certainly acting as a catalyst here but this isn’t a success story of any particular application.

This story is about Mia. The eight year old girl who uses this app to learn every lesson in her elementary school class. The little girl who is in a new place, far away from everything that is familiar to her and trying to put words in a language she doesn’t understand.

I had the privilege of listening to her finished story. It was beautiful.

That day I might have helped her finish a story but she taught me something much bigger. She taught me grit. She taught me patience. She taught me to stay strong and keep pushing.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

Is It Time To Reconsider The Way Our Children Read?

by Shikha Das Shankar and Priyanka Raha ~ Nov 15, 2018

Introducing children to eReading devices and apps does not mean changing traditional reading habits.

DigitalBooks

The muted colors of the local library have invited you with your children joyfully, many times over. That pack-of-five chapter book series was never on any of your Costco shopping lists but always found its way into your children’s bookshelf. And the best steals on children’s books have been the ones you purchased on impulse at the half-price book stores.

Your children love books, and you love watching their little hands flip, scribble and sometimes tear pages of books.

But what if we tell you to sprint, and not walk, to your nearest gadget store to purchase the young reader in your house an eReader device this Christmas? Your home is already a docking station for numerous tech gadgets for you and your children, so why are we suggesting you to add another gadget to your impressive roster of devices?

An eReader is a harmless and easy approach to reading for children. And it does not replace or displace the wonderful reading habits you have worked so hard to establish in your children.

For the sake of clarity, the scope and reach of this article is not limited to eReader devices. It includes the entire range of digital books that can be read on dedicated digital book devices through apps, and reading software and apps that can be installed on a phone, tablet, laptop, PC and Mac.

It is not Books vs Ebooks rather it is coexistence

To accept digital books and eReader devices, parents need a slight mindset change. Just like we did. As moms of grade-schoolers and preschoolers trying to raise readers, we dug in our heels, reluctant to let anything come close to the tangible literary possessions we have accumulated for our children in cozy nooks and corners of our home. We questioned the basic premise of whether eReaders and digital books have any utility in a child’s life. Will introducing digital books snatch the joy of watching a child run his hand on the rows of books on library shelves? It doesn’t have too.

So what changed?

We stopped pitting paper and digital books against each other. We stopped treating it like a debate between the titan of knowledge—paperbound versus new-kid-on-the-block—eReader, where one will dominate the other. Rather we thought on the lines of coexistence of books and digital books, and the complemental role digital books can play in helping children become more proficient and confident readers.

I love my Kindle but what’s in it for my kid?

The first digital book was created way back in 1971 but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they became popular. That was mostly triggered by the availability of digital readers in the market. Then came Amazon Kindle in 2007 which sold out within five and a half hours of its release.

Many found instant love of this device. More devices were launched with time. Phone and tablet versions of digital book apps found popularity, and self-published digital books became a rage. Some switched gears, alternating between digital and paper books while some completely turned to their eReaders for all reading needs.

For even those ardent lovers of paper books, who find immense sensorial satisfaction in flipping pages or all together defacing it with markings and post-its, the ability to carry a mini-library docked with the choicest of books where ever you go, at no extra cargo, became a reason for accepting digital books and eReader devices.

For children as well, the adoption of digital books is not meant to replace paper books or reduce its use in a child’s life. Digital books add to a classroom’s library where space and budget are constraints, encourage reluctant readers, and help engage children constructively when traveling and during school breaks. When you can’t keep up with your voracious reader, who insists on more paper books as presents, digital books are a great option too.

Digital books and eReaders enable children to continue reading on–the-go; allow siblings, classmates and friends to read the same title simultaneous without worrying about shelf space or limited stock; and allow parents and teachers to collaborate with the child on group discussions, book reports and even writing their own version of the story through apps that integrate with digital book apps.

We also undertook research and groundwork to support our views. We reached out to our respective county/district library, namely, King County Library System or KCLS (west Washington) and Broward County Library System or BCLS (southeastern Florida). King is the most populated county in the state of Washington while Broward is the second-most populous in Florida to understand the adoption of digital books. The results were highly encouraging.

Libraries and schools walk the talk

Libraries and schools play an important role in creating knowledgeable, aware and involved youth, and that begins by helping children harbor a love for reading.

Libraries have been actively turning to digital books, working with publishers to acquire more books digitally; providing schools with more digital books and digital reading libraries; and adding more digital titles to the juvenile reading section of the libraries.

In the state of Washington for KCLS alone, we see an interesting trend of the borrowing pattern of patrons. The number of digital downloads including digital books have doubled since 2014 while the number of physical books that people have borrowed have gone down by 11%. As we don’t see more than a 1% rise in total number of items being borrowed, there is a clear shift towards preferring digital books over physical books.

This trend is different when we consider the sales of e-books, which went down by 10% in 2017 from previous year. This follows a similar trend in the UK market as well, where the digital books sales declined by 4% in 2016 while the sales of printed books went up by 7%.

Mr. James Jones, Collection Management Manager, BCLS, says, “We tied up with the Broward County Public Schools about two years ago to offer digital books to children through a digital library service, Axis 360. The app can be installed on a classroom tablet or computer, and children have access to a curated collection of digital books to choose from. They can use Axis 360 with their library membership as well and have access to the entire collection of juvenile digital books at their local library. This initiative was slow to pick up initially but has become more popular now.”   

This partnership provided a way to supplement the existing library collection at schools, where budget and space restrains make it challenging to add new titles in the classrooms. Some of the most popular categories of digital books according to download numbers include Beginner level books–33,955 out of 1,721,193 in circulation; social themes–33,094 out of 801,026 in circulation; humorous stories–22,381 out of 632,538 in circulation; and holidays and celebrations–16,589 out of 399,120.

How do I get my kid started on one and find their fav titles?

Just like you would get a paperbound or board book for your children— through libraries, online retailers, and schools.  

Libraries allow users to downloads multiple digital titles for adults and children. Schools allow students and encourage parents to download the eReaders apps being used in the classroom at home too. This lets the child continue reading where he left off at school and allows parents to see their child’s reading progress.

In the past few years we have also seen the rise of many reading apps for young children. Homer, Epic, Endless Reader and Bob Books Reading Magic are to name a few. These apps provide new ways to promote reading and with the family sharing option they provide a way for parents and kids to consume content together. For example, Epic provides a plethora of books for children to read. Parents or teachers can create an account for the kids to continue reading. The app is available at a monthly subscription model. The music and interactive visuals contribute to a fun learning experience.

Apart from the above children reading apps, the apps of popular eReaders like Kindle eReader, iBooks, B&N eReader, eReader Kobo, and other eReading apps like Wattpad, Stanza, and Google Play Books have been adding more and more children’s titles to their collection too.

Where publishers were once reluctant to release popular titles in the digital version, they are now opening up to the idea. Self-published children’s digital books have a huge following too.

“To prepare the children for the future, we need to provide them the best of both worlds. Introducing digital books through the library and schools ensures they are reading at their level,” says Mr Jones. He also adds that the management at BCLS is big on digital books as they are able to add new titles to the collection without worrying about doing away with old ones. Space is always a problem for libraries and digital books help overcome that problem.

It’s Reading that matters

The future of reading will largely be governed by factors like availability of popular titles for children, ability to provide a device for eReading at home, and overcoming the mental block that screentime for children will increase if we provide them with another gadget, even if it is for reading.

Just like schools adopt eReading apps to offer children as an additional reading resource and not a substitute to the physical books; at home as well, an eReader will encourage reading by providing more titles for your child to choose from while providing reading material according to his reading level.

Whether your child loves the idea of submitting himself behind piles of books, or is keen on finishing reading his favorite series on his tablet, or alternates between the two, at the end of the day it is quality reading that counts.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

 

Houston, we are not ready to launch yet!

by Priyanka Raha ~ Nov 8, 2018

We are not ready to launch yet

I woke up with a panic attack this Monday with an email from a friend that said ‘I tried to download and install your app and ran into issues.’ A voice in my head goes, ‘Err, umm, what?’. I am grateful she reached out because it helped me resolve it sooner than later.

It was not a problem of epic proportions like, ‘Houston, we have a problem’. But it was certainly a problem of ‘Houston, we are not ready to launch yet.’ 

By the way, did you know that the term ‘Houston, we have a problem’ is an erroneous quote made highly popular by the 1995 film Apollo 13. The original words spoken by astronaut Jack Swigert to base were, ‘Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem’.

Well, back to my present day Monday morning.

Are you signed up on PopSmartKids to receive newsletters and email updates? Then you know what I am talking about.

Ever took the brownie out of the oven way too early and packed it off for a bake sale? Then you know what I am talking about.

As I started digging I realized an email had gone out to all my enthusiastic friends who have signed up to be with me on this journey. The email was an invitation to download the kid’s story telling app. It was completely unintentional. My team and I were researching on getting our email lists integrated in preparation to our launch at the end of this year. We are not there yet. Have you heard of tech misfirings? I am calling this a tech-misfiring.

The only logical thing to do for me was to reach out to each one of my trusted ally and tell the truth. I sent out an apology email, explaining what had happened. To quote a colleague I respect, ‘Experience over knowledge. Failing forward is the way to go’. I believe him.

I am grateful for each one of you for taking this ride with me. Stay with me, it is only going to get better.

It was also the same day that I found this little poster on the walls of the school while I was picking up my son. It definitely resonated.

We all make mistakes – it is the most human thing to do. We hear everywhere that we should encourage our kids to make mistakes and not shy away from trying. Our everyday experiences can be teachable moments for our children.

As a parent the best way I can mentor my kids is to live by example.

So fast forward to the evening the same day, one of the things we spoke about over dinner was what happened with Mommy at work. And boy, did I get some questions. But it was all in good intent. I had fun talking through them. I am hoping that my sons now know that it is okay to make mistakes. And when they do they will always have a space to share, pick up the pieces and get moving again.

That was my win for the day.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

Cyberbullying – What You Can Do?

by Priyanka Raha ~ Nov 1, 2018

StopCyberbullying

October was the National Bullying Prevention Month. To honor the national campaign we talked about cyberbullying last week. We want to extend that discussion and go into how we, as parents and teachers, can prevent it from happening.

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.

We have mentioned cyberbullying is hard to detect, that is because cyberbullying happens online. So it requires a different strategy to deal with. Here are a few things that you can do.

Pay Attention

The first step to remedying any problem is to acknowledge it. Here are a few questions to ask yourselves to tell if our kids are being cyberbullied. Although this list is not exhaustive, it certainly is a place to start.

  • Is your child emotionally upset during or after using the internet or being on the phone?
  • Is your child being super-secretive of his digital life or his online persona?
  • Is your child wanting to stop the use of computer or cellphone or does not like playing his favorite game any more?
  • Is your child getting anxious on receiving a text or email?

Participate

This has to start way before any signs of cyberbullying happens. Just like you would make an effort to know your kids’ world he lives in – his friends and activities, along the same lines make an effort to know his online world. Ask to ‘friend’ them on social media and do not abuse that privilege by posting his/her baby pictures and commenting cute, or having conversations with him/her that you should have in the privacy of your home. That will be against everything we have been trying to coach.

In fact I think the mentoring should begin before kids start to interact on social media. Talk to them about the importance of online privacy and why it is a bad idea to share personal information online.

You have preemptively done the ground work. It will be that much easier to prevent cyberbullying. Then if it happens make sure to talk to them about what is happening, who are involved and how it all started.

Identify

Ever been in a moment of pain? How do you feel when you hear your friend say, ‘I get it, I have been there’? As a parent, share your own experiences of being at the receiving end of cyberbullying. Of course you should censor unnecessary details of the situation, like all conversations keep it age-appropriate.

In light of this, it is worth mentioning that a few weeks back, I had to experience a personal attack over the social channel. While I was discussing this incident with my husband, my 8 year old goes, ‘What are you talking about?’ I found it as an opportunity to make it a teachable moment. Needless to say, personally it helped me talking to my family about it.

When you get vulnerable and share your hurtful moments you are creating a safe space for your child to know that he or she can do the same when the time comes.

Document

This might be easier said than done, but take an effort to document everything if you witness cyberbullying. Keep an account of the comments and posts that are derogatory. This will come handy if you ever need to report it officially.

Report

Sometimes cyberbullying can take to extreme forms, like threats of violence, child pornography or sexually explicit messages. Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy is an act of cyberbullying. Stalking and using words to perpetrate hate crimes is a serious offense.

If you see or hear any of these happening, and you have done everything you can to resolve the situation, like blocking the bully, it’s time to report. This list provides a good guide on the different ways that such incidents can be taken up with the higher authorities.

There are laws today to prevent cyberbullying. There is growing awareness of the problem of bullying, which may lead some to believe that bullying is increasing. However, studies suggest that rates of bullying may be declining. Although it still remains a prevalent and serious problem in today’s schools. This means we, as parents, educators and adults have work to do.

Every effort we make, however small that is, will go a long way to ensure a safe and kind growing environment for our children.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

What is Cyberbullying?

by Priyanka Raha ~ Oct 25, 2018

DigitalCitizenship Cyberbullying

My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain. 

This was said by Charlie Chaplin. As a kid, I loved watching his acts. I still do. When I think about bullying this quote certainly rings a bell.

Bullying is when someone shows unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. It is prevalent among school-aged children, and both the kids who are bullied and the ones who bully, may have serious, lasting problems.

Facts about bullying show that about 28% of US students in grades 6-12 and 20% in grades 9-12, have experienced bullying.

Bullying can happen in broadly three different ways but  – verbal, physical and social. Whatever be the type, the effects are menacing and if not prevented can have long lasting ramifications.

With the increasing presence of digital and social media in our lives there is a new kind of bullying that we are all too familiar with – Cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets.

About 9% of students in grade 6-12 have experienced cyberbullying, where as 15% of students going to high school (grades 9-12) have experienced it. The percentage goes up to 55% for LGBTQ students. The number that is concerning among all this is only 20% to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.

October is the National Bullying Prevention Month, so we are taking a deep dive into looking at the different aspects of cyberbullying and what it involves.

Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing harmful, false, negative or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

Before we start talking about preventing it, it is important to identify all the different ways that cyberbullying can happen:

  • SMS (Short Messaging Service) or text sent through personal devices like phone.
  • Apps, or online gaming forums where people can view, participate in or share content.
  • Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
  • Email – you know what they say about emails, is to never forget that there is a real person sitting on the other side of it.

The effects of cyberbullying on the victim is the same as that of bullying. But here are a few ways that cyberbullying is different from bullying.

Incessant

Given that our digital devices are available to us every second of the day it is difficult to walk away from the torment of cyberbullying. We can be by ourselves and still be accessible to hurtful comments from others. Add the fear of missing out syndrome of a tween or teen and you have a situation where it might get difficult for the child to find relief.

Permanent

Most of the cyberbullying happen over social channels and for the most part those hurtful comments stay there. It’s not like when someone says something mean to our face we ever forget it but it certainly makes it all the more painful when you have the ability to go back and read them. Talk about reliving your moments of dread.

Undetected

Bullying is hard to detect as it is. Research shows that most of the bullying activities like name-calling, kicking, teasing  or pushing happen when an adult is not looking. The fact that cyberbullying never happens on a playground or in the class makes it all the more difficult to notice. That is because parents and teachers may not  overhear or see it happening.

Like all serious matters at hand there is a road to prevention but it needs effort – from ME and YOU. Watch this space because in the next edition we will be taking a closer look at how we can prevent cyberbullying from happening.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

The Road Ahead for Technology

by Shikha Das Shankar and Priyanka Raha ~ Oct 18, 2018

Digital Citizenship

A UK-based research agency in a report called “The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia,” explains why over-reliance on digital technology is limiting our ability to create lasting memory. Humans are now more likely to forget a phone number or a piece of information after they are done using it.

The World Health Organization added gaming disorder to the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases—an international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions used by medical practitioners around globally.

In 1995, the first Center for Internet Addiction was established and so was coined the term Internet addiction disorder. 

As technology made inroads into our lives so did issues like these. We were overdue a rethink on how to safeguard our interest in light of technology’s exponential growth. There were escalating concerns about the effects of technology, especially on children, as digital media is giving rise to a breed of distracted youth, privacy issues and tech addiction. 

So why is a technology company in the making talking about woes of the digital era?

Because we believe technology can be used without being a hindrance to our cognitive skills — if we use it as a tool.

Because we believe technology is more likely to benefit our children by teaching them new skills rather than turning them into technology addicts—if we teach them balance.

Because we believe technology can have ethics and moral value as an objective—if we are taught not to cross the thin line demarcating use and misuse.

As we celebrate Digital Citizenship week, it is optimal for PopSmartKids as a community, to highlight the efforts of a few notable organizations that are inspiring us to build a digital platform that lives up to the need of the hour — bundle creativity and learning with ethical and sustainable digital practices.

We want to be part of technology’s growth story but also be a part of the change that these three organizations are bringing about – advocating for making the digital world a smarter, safer and more ethical place for us and for the generations to come.

Center For Humane Technology

As technologists working at big technology companies, developing technology that we have at our hands today, they were also noticing some disturbing trends surfacing with the spread of those technologies. Short of stirring up a tumult, these people—former tech insiders and CEOs of tech companies — joined hands and vowed to be catalyst of change.

And thus was created the Center for Humane Technology that is “realigning technology with humanity’s best interest.” They believe that technologies, predominantly made by a few tech giants, that surround us are eroding important pillars of our society. Using persuasive techniques for having us glued to our devices and putting profit over ethics are what they are fighting against. The organization is helping bring about change in the way technology is designed, by pushing for humane design standards, policy and business model changes.

Earlier this year the organization tied-up with a prominent advocacy organization for children, Common Sense, to launch a campaign called the Truth About Tech. The initiative aims to protect young minds from potentially harmful manipulation and addiction of the digital media. They aim to achieve this objective by putting pressure on technology companies to make design products that are less intrusive and less addictive.  

Common Sense

Common Sense had earned the trust of more than 80 million consumers who seek objective information on their website in pursuit of quality screentime for children. For 15 years, the nonprofit organization has been helping children thrive in the digital world by providing parents and teachers with advice and information on how to make smart screen choices for our children. They offer innovative tools to parents and teachers to help reach digital media’s full potential, and thus, empower them to teach children how to use technology wisely.

Common Sense works in threefold, namely, Common Sense Media, Common Sense Education and Common Sense Action Kids, each branch working as guides for families, educators for children, and advocators for policy and business change, respectively.

It’s very likely that you pop open your browser to commonsensemedia.org, find the rating of the show on the website and read the parent-generated reviews in satisfaction before you nod your head in approval to your child’s request to watch a new show. If you are a family with children, an educator or someone interested in figuring out how best to use the digital space to benefit young minds, your search will inevitability land you on one of Common Sense webpages.

International Society for Technology in Education

International Society for Technology in Education or more popularly known as ISTE is a community of passionate global educators who believe that technology can be harnessed to devise creative ways to solve difficult problems in education. Technology has become an integral part of our lives and as adults we use it to accomplish multiple tasks during the day. Given how the world has changed, we need to revisit how we educate our children. ISTE upholds that mission through its multiple events, guidelines and evidence-based professional learning for educators.

Navigating this digitally interconnected world is tricky for educators because they have to prepare the next generation to thrive in this world. ISTE Standards are guidelines that help educators, education leaders, coaches and students. It is not like the job of the educators was ever easy, now they need to align the lessons so that they can help students build the digital age skills. ISTE plays a huge role in assisting teachers with reinventing the pedagogical needs to support student achievement. Digital Citizenship is in the core and heart of what ISTE is. The organization strives to use the potential of technology to allow ‘humans to create, to dream and to change the world’.

What we love about ISTE is its relentless focus on how best to use digital media to ‘bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be’. It does so by defining standards for coaches so they can help the educators design tools that can best support learning for students to equip them for the digital age. When it comes to technology for education, the baton lies not just with the educators and coaches, the support of the education leaders is imperative so they can design innovative tools using technology that is not for the sake of technology but for the sake of education and learning.

As a society in need of being constantly connected, judicious use of technology is possible and should be the obvious choice. The efforts of organizations like the Center for Humane Technology, Common Sense and International Society for Technology in Education, are carving the way for realizing those thoughts.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

Make Way for Mentoring Digital Screentime

by Shikha Das Shankar ~ Oct 11, 2018

Screentime battles have you surrounded day in and day out. The scene of your children sitting in front of the TV saying, “Five more minutes”, “One more show,” and “He is not letting me watch my show,” has played out in your living room many times. Pangs of guilt surface as you read that the American Association of Pediatrics has lowered its recommendation for acceptable screentime for toddlers.

We hear you, Parents. You have our attention.

Children have access to multiple gadgets today and that poses a big challenge in managing their screentime. They watch TV, play games on a tablet, and use a phone for social media—mostly simultaneously. The challenge is greater as schools are now geared towards more digital learning, in which children spend a significant amount of time in front of a screen to finish a school task or homework.

Let us begin by saying there are no foolproof action plans to manage screentime.

Many parents set timers to limit screentime, many use inbuilt apps on tablets to control media usage, and some completely say no to screentime during weekdays. Even with an elaborate rule-consequence system in place, you may find that no amount of reminders or threats are doing a lick of good when it’s dinner-time and you want your children to switch off their tablets.

While these monitor and control techniques are necessary, our efforts should not be limited to them.

We at PopSmartKids are dyed-in-wool members of a camp that believes healthy digital consumption habits can be achieved through gradual and consistent mentoring. We strongly feel by being role models for appropriate digital usage and an active participant in our children’s digital world, we can successfully raise children who set limits for themselves and practice good judgment when using digital media as teenagers and young adults.

Mentoring your children to exercise good digital habits is an effort for the long haul. But the process can start now. Try these simple steps to bring attention and awareness to your children as their curious mind sets out to explore the captivating world of digital media.

Accept it like other things

Accept that digital media will have a place in your child’s life, and increasingly so as they grow older. Mentoring him to use it appropriately is where we come in. Teach children that this, like everything else in his life has limitations—too much sugar is bad for health, playing basketball for six hours is not okay, and the next chapter of the gripping adventure series will have to wait till tomorrow morning—screentime too comes with limits.

Explain the purpose

The multifold purpose of digital media should be explained to children from the beginning. The knowledge that technology is a means of entertainment, a tool for learning and way to communicate can be planted early in a child’s mind. This awareness helps children understand why parents may say “No” to more TV shows but will encourage them to use the internet to search for information required to complete the history homework.

Include not replace

Teaching children that digital technology should not replace social interaction, physical activity and doing a household chore is important for them to understand that we should not let TV and tablets take over. If we teach children to include digital screentime in their daily routine just like we include piano lessons and playdates, children are more likely to understand the importance of balance.

Be a part of their digital life

Including yourself in your children’s screentime is a great way to bond with them and encourage learning. Working with your child on an app that allows you to collaborate with him on learning to code or writing a story is a fun way to share screentime. Show interest if he talks about a new app or video game he heard about from his friends at school. Don’t be quick to download it on his tablet. Show him that due-diligence is important for everything in the digital world by practicing it.

Trying to strike a balance in today’s digital world is learning for parents as much as it is for our children. We support you in your efforts to create that balance and strive to be a motivating force for raising the next generation of responsible digital natives.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

Shattering patriarchy one conversation at a time

by Priyanka Raha ~ Oct 05, 2018

Sometime last year I went to the ‘Western Washington Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ event to support a friend. I fell in love with this book titled Cuddles (well of course can’t beat that title) but this is the page that caught my eye.

And no cuddles at all please. Not right now.

In the light of the recent events, I have thought about these words a lot. These words are a representation of one and one thing only – consent.

Last few days have made us angry, disgusted and ashamed. It started about an year ago with the unfolding of the Weinstein story. We have seethed in rage and anguish as one story after another has been laid bare before us and so has been laid bare the ugly nature of the patriarchy.

Time is now to take the opportunity to tear this down. It is not going to happen in a day or in a year. It will take years but it has to start today. There is no better place than our home to start the mentoring. It starts with preaching and practicing consent with our kids.

I will admit it is not easy. I was brought up in a culture where talking about anything related to sexual assault is (yes, is and not was, because it still is that way) taboo. But sweeping things under the rug, burying it and being quiet about it is not the answer. As a mother of two boys I want them to grow up knowing that their bodies are their own, their words are powerful and they should always respect the boundaries of the body.

We have to be conscientious about it, we have to own it, and so we need an action plan.

Action Plan 1

No and Stop.

The first and the foremost lesson to teach our kids is to be able to say ‘no’ and ‘stop’, to identify when to say no and to respect when someone else uses these words. Understanding the concept of consent can be difficult. And don’t forget the absence of a ‘yes’ means no.

It is never too early to start this conversation.

This can start in our very own homes, with simple things like giving a hug. Use words like, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ And in return respect his wishes if your kid says ‘no’. Don’t just preach it, practice it as adults.

Action Plan 2

For boys and girls

It is often forgotten that these lessons are important for growing boys as much as they are for growing girls. As the events have unfolded in the past week, I have witnessed women talking with disrespect, indifference and hurtful words. Our enemy here is patriarchy, not men. 

So, mothers of boys, please take note here – I feel we have been provided with this opportunity and this added responsibility to contribute, to mend and to help build gender equity. We need ALL hands on deck. And so we need to educate our boys and girls equally.

Action Plan 3

Keep it age appropriate

These conversations are meant for children of every age. They don’t need to know every sordid detail but the key is to keep it age appropriate but more importantly keep the conversation going. For a young child it can be something like this, “A very powerful man made some very bad choices that made many women feel uncomfortable, powerless and terrible inside. He exposed his private body to them without their permission. For others, he touched their private bodies without their permission. He bullied them in a way that made them feel that they couldn’t tell anyone about it. It hurt them very much.”

These short videos which are cataloged by age-appropriateness can be a great resource to keep the conversation going on consent. Do remember to watch along side the child and be prepared to answer any question.

Action Plan 4

Be an ‘up-stander’

It is important to not just have a conversation about consent, but to be an up-stander. A ‘no’ is a no, there is no grey area. And that includes a child’s willingness to participate in hugs to aunts, uncles and other close relatives.

Do not let anyone make your child feel guilty of not wanting to give him or her a hug even if they gave a cool present. Subtle messages go a long way in cementing the idea of consent. When it comes to something as innocent as hugging or tickling, if the child does not want it then he or she is not obliged to participate in it. It is important for him or her to know that a child’s personal space is far more important than an adult’s feelings.

Action Plan 5

Teach your kids that authority figures can be bad.

Remember Larry Nasser, the former gymnastics coach who abused more than 160 women and girls and it went on for years. He is now sentenced to 175 years in prison but this brought forward stories of how he was surrounded by enablers. As a man whose office walls were plastered with olympics memorabilia he held a position of respect.

I am sorry about dragging his sorry name here. But if we are talking about actions we can take as parents to educate our children on consent this is a story we, as parents, should be aware of. Don’t let the seeds of self-doubt about consent grow in their little heads. Provide them ample room to question people of authority. Let them practice saying ‘no’.

Today, we have the ability to make a change, get involved and conduct ourselves in a more helpful manner. We can do just that as parents – and teach our children to do the same. We can bring the patriarchy down – one conversation at a time.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.