Posts Tagged ‘ child development ’

How Twitter Can Help Shy and Introverted Kids in Class

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboardHere’s the one thing my parents heard every year at Parent Teacher Conferences: “Your daughter has really good grades, but she doesn’t speak up enough. She has to learn to speak up because it’ll be important for her later in life.” But as much as I wanted to, I was too shy and introverted to speak up, and every time that I did, I would suddenly feel my stomach tightening, my heart racing, my arm shaking as I raised it, and my lips parting without being able to form words in a cohesive, coherent way. My mind always went too fast for my mouth to process. And even after I spoke, it would take me a good 10-15 minutes to calm down again. I just hated everyone’s eyes on me and the silence in the room as everyone listened, tuning in to every nuance of my shaking voice. It was just easier not to say anything!

Because I still remember how I felt, I was fascinated by Amanda Wynter’s piece in The Atlantic, “Bringing Twitter to the Classroom.” Chris Bronke, a high school English teacher in Downers Grove, Illinois, has developed a brilliant way to get his freshmen class to participate in class discussions — by having them on Twitter. While Bronke isn’t the first teacher to use social media to improve classroom learning, he is one of the few making progress in a positive and effective way. By relying on a social media platform the kids were already using, Bronke has encouraged his students to post photos, quotes, quick thoughts, questions about the reading. Hashtags, of course, keep the discussions contained in one thread. Along the way, kids “favorite” each others’ tweets and connect more with each other any time, anywhere, and from any device (mobile, tablet, or desktop). Bronke found that discussions were rich and robust, and that kids were more engaged with the reading and with each other.

Although Wynter’s piece didn’t mention whether Bronke noticed more participation from shy and introverted kids online, I can only imagine this has been the case. There’s no doubt technology helps people develop alter egos that allows them to voice things in a way they aren’t able to in person — just check out these New York Times and Washington Post articles on how shy and introverted kids tend to be more engaged and “extroverted” online. There is something liberating about being able to process and write your thoughts and feelings — without the pressure of eyes and ears — and vet them before sharing them with the world. For shy and introverted kids who struggle with speaking in class and having the spotlight on them, but who need to speak up because their grades depend on it (site note: I always hated this!), participating in online discussions may be a good outlet. These kids are more likely to blossom online and share their ideas and opinions without fearing how they look and sound, and how others are perceiving and reacting to them. Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” even interviewed a teacher in Canada who noted the benefits social media in classrooms for shy and introverted kids.

Of course, using Twitter (or any other social media) to promote discussions certainly has its potential problems — online interaction is still no substitute for real-world conversations, and over-reliance on technology can negatively affect face-to-face social skills (like being unable to identify social cues). As much as shy and introverted kids may be more vocal online, they also need to develop public speaking skills because “real world” situations beyond school necessitate in-person interactions. I know that if I was given the ability to participate on Twitter during school, I would have loved  having another outlet to make my voice heard. But I’m also glad that I didn’t grow up with that technology — I may have relied on it too much and hid behind it. Without it, I had to force myself to feel at ease with talking in front of people — even if it took years, and is still something I’m still working on.

Eventually, kids will need to make speeches and presentations, and give and go on interviews, so it’s always easier to sharpen and refine oratory skills (or any type of skills!) from a young age. Of course, it’s possible that being able to “talk” freely and being “favorited” on Twitter will boost kids’ confidence and make them comfortable talking in person. But teachers will need to make sure they strike a balance with having online and roundtable classroom discussions, and they would also need to make sure that online participation doesn’t become a crutch as the only way to earn good grades. After all, developing well-rounded communication skills will help kids throughout life in all situations (with family and friends), beyond the classroom. Ultimately, this would be the true mark of learning — and even success.

Share your thoughts: Do you believe social media has a place in the classroom?

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3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student

Image: Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboard via Shutterstock

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What Are Our Kids Really Thinking?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Asian baby girl thinking question marksEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

Have you ever wondered what our pre-verbal infants and young toddlers are really thinking when we bundle them up, strap them in, and drag them along with us as we go about performing our adult to-do lists? As kids get older, of course, we can explain our plans for their day. Although they may not always agree, at least they know what’s in store for them: “We’re going to the mall,” “We’re dropping your sister at a friend’s,” “We’re visiting Grandma.” And they may answer, in adorable toddler Tarzan-speak, “Want ice cream!” “Need potty!” “More ice cream!” Or, simply, and not so adorably, “NO!!” Some days they might end up on the supermarket floor throwing a tantrum: “DON’T WANT TO!!” For better or worse, when they can speak, at least we know their opinions on the matter at hand.

But in the more tranquil months before they communicate with words, it’s only their gestures, body language, and the tone of their whimpering (or shrieking) that give us clues to their innermost feelings about…well, about everything! In particular, my wife and I were always curious about what our little ones thought we were doing when we packed them into a baby carrier, backpack, or car seat and set them in motion. It must have been especially weird for them when they were facing backward, looking at our chests or at the car seatback. What was it like for them to be helpless hostages to our adult whims, never knowing when each journey would begin, how long it would last, or where it would end?

I’ve come to believe that kids store up their responses to the ways we manipulate their lives until the day they have just enough vocabulary to burst forth with a revelation. Case in point: our youngest son’s first sentence, uttered into a plastic toy telephone while strapped into his car seat in the back of the minivan, was, “Driving-car-pool-be-little-late.” Or perhaps it wasn’t a sentence at all. It actually came out sounding like he thought it was one really long word, a “word” he’d undoubtedly heard his parents use far too often. He had accompanied his older siblings and their friends on the ride to school with us so many times that he learned to associate the term “car pool” with turning right-left-right-right-left after leaving the driveway. As it turns out, he knew where he was headed long before he could speak. And when he finally could speak, it all came out at once: “Driving-car-pool-be-little-late.”

Not long after that, he surprised us again with his growing car seat lexicon when, as we pulled into the hardware store’s parking lot, he shrieked, “NO MORE ERRANDS!!”

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

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Image: Wondering Asian baby via Shutterstock

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Five Ways to Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Relationship with Technology—and You

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

By Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D.

Photo: Claire Holt

Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D., author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. To learn more about how your relationship with technology can intersect with your child’s life – for better and for worse – head over to the 92Y Parenting Conference in New York on February 10, or watch the livecast right here at Parents.com.

The single most important relationship in your child’s life is the one she finds with you. What happens when you add a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer that routinely pulls you away? What does it mean when you use screens and apps as a pacifier for your baby or toddler, or as a babysitter or teacher? Tech not only changes the iconic picture of the parent-child relationship–it changes the relationship itself. There are so many ways that tech expands our connectivity with each other and with the wider world. The challenge we all face now is managing our relationship with tech so that it doesn’t take away from our relationship with our kids and family.

In my six months on the road since The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age was released, in deep conversation with kids, parents, an educators, the most asked question is “how?” How can I get a handle on this while my child is young? How can our family make some changes in habits we can all see aren’t the best? Kids themselves are asking, too. They may rarely admit it to us as parents, but they want us to set limits, to show them how to set limits, to model a life offline that is rich and real.

Here are five ways to support a sustainable relationship with technology for you and your child:

• Let your infant and young child’s room be a screen-free room. Let the space between you—playing, eating, strolling, care-giving—be tech free. Your child will join tech culture soon enough. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges a screen-free environment for children under two years old, and a thoughtful, limited exposure for the nursery and pre-school age child. In general, power down screens, pick up a book, and read or playfully engage with your child. Let your child plug into you.

• Don’t let the magic of the screen replace the magic of real-life play. Make a list of four or five different non-screen activities, such as drawing, building with Legos or playing outside, and carry it with you so you can use it as a reminder. Unplugging from tech is a struggle for most of us; share that with your child, perhaps recruiting them to do something together. Know that when you model the struggle and the choice to unplug and do, you’re showing them how it’s done.

• Create rituals for you and your child that acknowledge you’re turning your attention elsewhere. At designated times, give yourself the uninterrupted time to get your work done. But stay offline and present for at least 45 minutes from the moment you pick your child up from school or day care. Create your own Responsible Use Contract that everyone sticks to—including you! Be clear about what kinds of screen time are okay, where, and when. Through these conversations, your child becomes more self-aware, and understands the tech relationship as something to be managed, something for which we dictate the terms.

• Be picky about the types of tech-based media your child interacts with. Choose shows that teach them about the world around them in a way that is kind, hopeful and encouraging; not bratty, sarcastic, fast, or frightening. Pick any media exposure as carefully as you would pick a babysitter to leave alone with your baby. Common Sense Media is an excellent resource in this regard.

• Remember: With infants and young children, especially, an app is not a “safe distraction” like a stuffed animal or a musical mobile. Neurologically, it’s a stimulant. When we give babies and toddlers stimulants instead of a calming attention and offer tech distractions from ordinary life instead of guidance through it, we teach them at a very young age to deal with life’s ups and downs by plugging into external sources to self-regulate rather than develop those skills within. Resist the urge to let tech replace genuine parental support and guidance through moments of frustration, boredom, or other dissatisfaction.

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