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Posts Tagged ‘KidsNews’

The internet is an endless reservoir of resources.  Wading through what is current, valuable and relevant though can be an exhaustive and laborious process for many, most especially our students.

KidsNews, a resource designed to be informative and appealing to students, presents current and reliable news sourced from a wide range of News Corp publications. The content is written in child appropriate language and is filtered to remove inappropriate content or imagery.  Pitched to students from Year 3 to Year 8, a colour coding system is used to identify age appropriate content and comprehension levels:

  • Green – Simple to medium vocabulary, story content easily understood, accessible to all readers (especially with audio option)
  • Orange – medium level of vocabulary, story content a little more complex but still able to be read and understood at middle to senior primary level (audio option and glossary to assist)
  • Red – contains complex vocabulary and content that is of a higher level, suited to more able readers, requires teacher scaffolding for less capable readers.

Three new articles, divided into two main categories, are added each school day:

  • News — covering current affairs, key curriculum topics, interesting stories about people, animals and things
  • Sport — Australian and international sports events and people.

Aiming to be a quality resource for teachers, KidsNews has been developed as a literary resource for teachers using current daily news stories suitable for students.  The classification of content can be sourced by selecting the ‘Key Topics’ tab from the top menu:

The recent gathering of leaders from over 40 countries worldwide to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the World War II concentration camp Auschwitz is just one of the recent subjects highlighted on this website.  By integrating photographs taken by The Duchess of Cambridge into the KidsNews article Photos a moving tribute to Holocaust survivors this webpage incorporates an explanation of the Duchess of Cambridge’s photographs, a brief explanation of The Holocaust, a glossary of key vocabulary, two extra reading articles, a quick quiz, an audio in which the article is read, a number of classroom activities and finally an opportunity for readers to leave a comment. A clear statement at the start of the article indicates to teachers that the article relates to the Key Topic of Humanities and that both the text and content are pitched at a red – more able –  reading level.

In addition to the content are a range of classroom activities – three per news article – written by teachers for teachers that are linked directly to the Australian curriculum.  As noted on the KidsNews website:

The activities vary each day and are specific to the article. Each activity also includes an extension for higher students. The types of activities include:

  • Written projects for literacy, comprehension and storytelling
  • Art projects
  • Geography
  • Speech writing
  • Persuasive text
  • Maths etc.

Explore many more features available on this fabulous website by selecting the How to Use tab at the bottom of the webpage or spend a few minutes watching the video incorporated on this page:

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It’s just over 12 months since France passed new laws banning smartphones, tablets and smartwatches in schools.  The law came into effect just one month later and aimed to extend an earlier ban of smartphones in classrooms, in place since 2010, to a ban of smartphone use across the entire school premises.

Studies citing the success or otherwise of the ban are hard to come by.  An article in Forbes magazine a year later, The Mobile Phone Ban In French Schools, One Year On. Would It Work Elsewhere? (August 30, 2019) indirectly comments on its benefits by quoting research from the London School of Economics:

  • due to increased concentration, limited phone use in schools directly correlates with exam success
  • restricting phone use is a low-cost policy to reduce educational inequalities
  • reduced screen time reduces the negative impact of social media: bullying
  • phone theft has been reduced

The Forbes article notes that the most difficult aspect of the French ban is enforcing it. Despite the consequences, including confiscation or detentions, students being students, have found ways to get around the ban, mostly it seems by using their mobile phones in either the toilets or in the playground where there is less supervision.

So how does this report bode for schools and students in Victoria?

Announcing the new Government Policy on June 26, 2019, Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino stated quite clearly the bounds of the new policy and its intended aims:

Mobile phones will be banned for all students at Victorian state primary and secondary schools from Term 1 2020, to help reduce distraction, tackle cyber bullying and improve learning outcomes for students.

Mobile Phones To Be Banned Next Year In All State Schools, 26 June, 2019

It sounds good.  Will it work though?  Will students comply or will they rebel against school rules imposed on them by the Government?

Could this ban becomes counterproductive?

Instead of banning mobile phones, should we instead be acknowledging the negative issues raised and do what we know to do best:

Teach students how to use mobile phones responsibly!

The arguments for and against the ban of mobile phones in schools raise many issues:

  • Can we ignore the fact that mobile phones have become the dominant mode of communication?
  • Does a ban of mobile phones in schools inadvertently highlight their negative use: aka cyberbullying?
  • Should we not be tackling the sticky central issue surrounding mobile phones – distractability?
  • Is the onus not on educators to create programs that develop and improve sustained concentration?
  • If mobile phones are a dominant part of our daily lives, doesn’t it make sense to incorporate them into our day-to-day school life?
  • Can educators, by creating positive opportunities for the use of mobile phones in the classroom, effectively teach students appropriate use?

So hot is this issue becoming, that a recent post on Education Review (October 4, 2019) took the question to the streets.  While watching this short video, I couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of mobile phones in the hands of people on the street behind the interviewer!

 

 

As we edge toward D Day – or should we be saying B (Ban) Day?! – educators still have a month or so to toy with some of the positive possibilities of using mobile phones in the classroom.  Take a few minutes to read through Will Longfield’s article: I’m a teacher, and I have no problem with phones in my classroom. Here’s why. (EducationHQ News, November 18, 2019) to glean lots of pertinent insights of the value of mobile phones in the classroom and ways they can be used in a classroom setting.  Some salient points raised:

  • learn what mobile phones can do – recognize an apps User Interface
  • cameras in mobile phones can take photos of teacher’s notes
  • monitor what’s going on – mobile phones should be screen up on desk
  • voice recording between two students = authentic student reflection
  • listening to music may not be all that bad
  • it all boils down to developing mutual teacher-student respect

Yet ….. arguments such as these are countered by the positive results reported in one school in New South Wales which has been trialling lock-up pouches for students’ mobile phones.  Reporting on ABC News: When schoolkids lock their mobile phones away in pouches for the day, amazing things happen (22nd June, 2019) students themselves are saying that they valuing the opportunity to be disengaged from technology.

While only time will tell the outcome of this debate, it is heartening to read positive comments, such as those in a recent KidsNews article which reports findings in schools in which a ban has already been trialed. The article: Kids in schools that have banned devices are seeing the benefits, whether they like it or not (August 12, 2019) reports that:

  • kids are now playing and having conversations with their friends at lunchtime
  • kids are finding it easier to be organised at school without their mobile phones
  • students are doing things together; not sitting on their phones
  • students no longer have to check their phone every two minutes
  • not being able to check emails and timetables during lunch forces students to get more organised
  • fully immersive conversations at lunchtime have replaced conversations that go off track when people look at their phones
  • social interaction among students has improved
  • the absence of phones had helped students to avoid distractions during the day
  • Michael Carr-Gregg (child psychologist) adds that banning phones is a sensible *mental health strategy* that lets children focus on learning

It will be interesting to re-visit this issue sometime in early 2021 to check the impact the ban has had on students in schools throughout Victoria.

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