Educating and Parenting the Net and Next Generation

Yesterday, I attended the annual parent orientation at Xavier School. Unlike past years, there was something different about this year, I realized. I would be attending activities in this school for only one boy (my other boy already graduated high school and is facing a new life as a college freshie).

Ever since Fr. Johnny Go, S.J. took over the helm as School Director, I have seen vast improvements in terms of facilities, quality of faculty, curriculum, use of technology in academe and so many other aspects.  In a previous post, I described how the school turned virtual during Typhoon Ondoy when school was suspended for 10 days. While many schools lost school days, Xavier students continued to study and do assigned homework via the net.

At the orientation, I eagerly awaited Fr. Johnny’s presentation to the parents. His part is always something I look forward to. After all, when the School Director blogs, uses multimedia in his presentations, has a Facebook account and maintains his own YouTube channel, you can be sure his talk would be a very interesting one. I was not disappointed.

Fr. Johnny talked about how important it is for schools (and parents) to learn how to educate and parent this generation of tech-savvy kids.

He described the TV Generation I belong to (the age when baby boomers first encountered a television set and whose free time was spent in front of the boob tube watching episodes of popular shows). He also described the next younger set called Generation X (that age group between mid 30s to mid 40s that were schooled in classrooms where passive learning was the norm: teacher lectures and student “vomits back” what he absorbed during exams).

He next described the 2 generations that students belong to now: The Net Generation (kids from 13 yrs old and up) and the Next Generation (those below 12 years old). These two generations have absolutely no fear for technology; in fact they embrace it wholeheartedly. But with such wide access to information at the tips of their fingertips, schools face a new challenge in teaching them, something that Xavier is moving briskly into. Unlike the generations of parents where  a student WAITS for content before ASSIMILATING it, learning for 21st century kids must entail what Fr. Johnny calls the 5 “-ate’s”:

* LOCATE content (e.g., how to use search engines to find information)

* INTERROGATE the results (learning not to just accept search results as truth but to interrogate which is true, half-true, or false)

* CREATE and COMMUNICATE content

* COLLABORATE with others

At the same time, kids must learn 3 things that go along with ease of technology access and information:

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Today Marks the Start of Advent 2009

Today, November 29, 2009 is the 1st Sunday of Advent.

For years now, our family has tried to follow the Christian tradition of lighting the Advent candles at home, together with some prayers and songs. Here is an old post, Season of Hope and a Family Tradition, that describes what we have tried to do since the kids were small.

Tonight, we lit the first purple candle. Two family members were not around: hubby and M1, who are both abroad. But nevertheless, we continued the tradition of waiting and hoping for the coming of the Christ Child who is the Savior of the world. Despite the gloom that hovers over this country in the wake of the Maguindanao massacre just a few days ago, we continue to hope for speedy resolution and justice.

O Come, Divine Messiah!

Raising Healthy Kids Starts Early

As a mother of 4 kids, one of my major concerns is always how to keep my kids healthy and strong. There’s no underestimating the overused cliche “Health is Wealth“. It really is true!

It didn’t help that they all had frequent asthma episodes when they were very young. The nebulizer became a necessity and constant partner whenever we traveled. I was also spending a small fortune on medicines, doctors’ fees and ER visits.

No matter how careful one is about their health, children do get sick. And it is not a joke taking care of sick children. I remember staying up late when they had fever to monitor their temperature every 4 hours and if needed, give them a sponge bath if it went too high. No one else stayed with them in the hospital as I wanted to be there whenever they’d be given anything by mouth or intravenously. It was really hard to be a Florence Nightingale 24/7 those days.

I’m a firm believer that the first line of defense against illnesses is really how solid and robust your kids’ immunity foundation is. They may not be able to control external forces like exposure to sick people or contamination but their bodies stand a better chance of fighting these off when their internal defense system is strong. The earlier we start our kids on a healthy lifestyle, the better their chances of staying that way till their adulthood.

My kids don’t get sick that often anymore and that is a big relief. Here are a few things I learned along the way to keeping my kids healthy:

1. Breastfeeding – Although I used to work in the corporate world, every time I gave birth, I’d spend at least 3 months breastfeeding my kids. It meant some inconvenience. I’d report for work bringing a small ice chest packed with bottles & ice. I’d spend so much of mybreak time pumping breastmilk into the bottles so that they could be stored in the freezer or ref for those days when I was not at home. Given a choice, I would have breastfed longer than 3 months as I have read that children who breastfed longer turned out with a stronger immune system.

2. Complete vaccinations – This cannot be overemphasized. Vaccinations ensure they have the antibodies to fight off the viruses that are more deadly or damaging.

3. Healthy diet and lifestyle – I confess this is one of the harder things to implement. Some of my kids eat vegetables; the others don’t. I used to include junk food in my grocery shopping. I no longer do. Any junk food they want to eat comes out of their own pockets. Getting them to sleep early can be challenging too especially for my kids now that they are older. It seems the youth of today have this habit of sleeping way, way beyond midnight. Lack of sleep lowers their resistance and opens them to cough and colds.

4. Home sanitation –  A clean home, free from pests and allergens, and frequent disinfecting of surfaces can rid your home of things that could make your kids sick.

5. Good hygienic habits – Simple habits to teach the kids would minimize their getting sick like frequent hand washing especially after a trip to the comfort room.

5. Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins – I am choosy about the multivitamins I give them. The one they currently take has zinc which is known to boost immunity. Besides that, I also give them Vitamin C to fight the colds.

Learn more about boosting your child’s immunity foundation by visiting www.immunityfoundation.com. On this site you will have access to expert advice and great tips on keeping your kids’ immunity high.

Kids: Teach Them Well Then Learn to Let Go

Our 4 kids are now either in their teens or in their early 20s. Our oldest boy is spending 6 weeks in Beijing with his schoolmates and teachers. Our oldest girl is on her last year in college and will soon be part of the workforce, either in the Philippines or abroad.

As I ponder on the years that have passed and the prospect of experiencing the “Empty Nest Syndrome” in a decade or even sooner, mixed emotions well up in me. I am happy that they are finding their own place in society and learning to reach deep down in themselves in order to cope with different situations. Another part of me is sad that the babies who were totally dependent on me in their early years are all now growing wings and learning to fly away.

About 4 years ago, this son of ours who is now in Beijing, left on a similar overseas program to Xiamen. First time abroad, first time in China. And he was only in the seventh grade. I remember feeling all anxious about how he would cope being away from us for 6 weeks. He had traveled in the past to the province to be with my in-laws, sometimes spending entire summers there. But he was always with family. That first trip abroad meant no family support. On his return, I saw changes, albeit slight, in our son’s persona. Yes, he had to cope with homesickness, and with weekly laundry chores, and with cultural adjustments. But in the end, he exuded more confidence in himself. When this Beijing program came along this year, he volunteered for it even without any word from us. It was totally his own decision. And he’s now there having a blast.

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Bridge the Generation Gap by Making Lolo/Lola Tech Savvy!

Kids now are so techy savvy that their whole life revolves around computers and the internet. My own kids would rather be online than watch TV these days. And when school’s out, like today — the last day of exams, they are with friends at the nearest internet cafe to play games. Their interests and lingo have become worlds apart from those who have remained in the era before the advent of computers.

I am one of the lucky parents who have kept pace with our children in terms of technology use. But when I go to visit my Mom who is in her 80s, I still see a person who does not know how to use a mobile phone, writes letters by hand and sends them via snail mail, and does most of her written activities with a pen and paper still. She prefers it that way but it also saddens me since there is not much common interest to keep conversations going between her and my kids for long. After a while, my kids drift off to their own conversations while Mom ends up conversing with us, her children.

Then, just the other day, I got the surprise of my life when Mom’s decades-long American penpal added me up on Facebook. It really made me think that if only my Mom (who is now widowed) became comfortable using a computer, how much more meaningful her life could be if she had direct contact with all her friends and relatives instead of being limited to snail mail.

In the book “The Five Things You Must Discover Before You Die”, author John Izzo wrote about cultures that have lost this connection between the young and the old. This can be observed mostly in cultures with very advanced technology. Tribes and clans, where the senior citizens continue to play a large role in leading and are looked up to, are few and seem to be a dying tradition. And yet, Izzo discovered that in talking with the seniors to gather data for this book, there was a richness to the wisdom and life experiences of the seniors that the youth would truly benefit from. Likewise, seniors seem to gain back some of their youthfulness and vitality when engaged with the very young generation.

MUSIC was the generation gap of my youth. My parents could not understand the “noise” that my friends and I would often love to listen to or dance to at discos. In the generation of our children, the generation gap is TECHNOLOGY.

How do we get the very young communicating again with their much older family members?

Bayan Telecommunications conducted an informal poll via Plurk and Facebook (2 social networking sites), which revealed that, given the chance, 87% of young people want to continue communicating with their grandparents (lolos and lolas). This same poll revealed that 81% of Filipinos are still close to their grandparents and 57% still visit from time to time. And yet, ironically, the Internet Age is also responsible for further widening the generational gap between a younger set that is used to the internet as a communications and research tool and an older generation that does not know where to begin and is in danger of being left behind.

This realization became the foundation for Bayan’s newest advocacy, Teach Lola – an initiative to bridge the communication gap between the younger and older generation.

This advocacy rides on the initial resounding success of Lola Techie, who has been seen in tarps all over the metro besides TV ads. Lola Techie aims to show that senior citizens are just as capable of enjoying the benefits of the internet just as the generations after them.

Lola Techie

“Project Lola endeavors to teach the older set about the computer and the internet. It offers training on such diverse topics as how to operate a computer, where to find the appropriate icons to click, how to write and manage e-mail, how to go about instant messaging, and how to navigate the intricate world of social networking sites,” Tunde Fafunwa, Chief Executive Officer of Bayan Telecommunications, shares.

The program has 2 components:

1. Teach Lola trainers;

2. An official website (www.teachlola.com) where anyone can download manuals for free.

For the first wave, Bayan employees’ grandparents were the first targets. 20 trainers from all departments in Bayan were taught by teaching partner, Learn.ph, to educate the targetted grandparents as well as spearhead events that will aim to bring more apos together with their lolos and lolas.

Aside from recruiting more people to become Teach Lola trainers, Bayan is enabling other people as well to participate through a do-it-yourself process. An online manual is available at the official website which anyone can download. Anyone can likewise update the Teach Lola modules, akin to how user-generated updates are done in Wikipedia. This means that more people nationwide and globally can get involved in this initiative.

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It is really not far-fetched that lolos and lolas will eventually latch on to the internet.

Lola Techie’s presence on Plurk, Facebook, Twitter, Multiply and YouTube gives us a glimpse of what could be. And guess what! A large majority of her followers are my kids’ generation! Just 2 months into the launch of Lola Techie, she already had over 90,000 Facebook fans, more than 4,000 Multiply contacts, and almost 2,000 followers in both Twitter and Plurk. This does not include hundreds of thousands of views of her videos on YouTube. And Lola Techie interacts with all her contacts on these sites. Imagine what it would be like for your children and their grandparents — sitting together in front of a computer, interacting and playing or chatting! How wonderful that would be to behold.

I am personally very happy that such an advocacy is being launched. I hope we can really get many of the youth involved to bring what comes naturally to them to their grandparents, for whom this can sometimes be a very intimidating obstacle.

One last thing. Here’s a teaser for the Teach Lola program.What a world it would be to see our seniors become tech savvy…

Celebrate International Left-Handers’ Day 2009 Today (August 13)!

Lefthanders in their Right Minds

Left-handers (popularly called Lefties) comprise only about 7-10% of the world’s population.

Up until the last generation, left-handed children were forced to switch to the right hand by most parents. It’s only now that lefties are acknowledged for their uniqueness and creativity.

Based on studies, here are some interesting trivia about left-handed people:

– Some famous Lefty personalities are US President Barack H. Obama, Henry L. Ford, Mark Twain, Jimi Hendrix, Michelangelo, and our very own Rafael “Paeng’’ Nepomucen and Emmanuel “Manny’’ Pacquiao.

– Men are slightly more likely to be left-handed than women.

– When NASA began searching for imaginative, reliable, multi-talented people for the moon, 1 in 4 Apollo astronauts turned out to be left-handed (a figure 250% greater than statistical probability).

– Left-handers reach puberty 4-5 months later than right-handed people.

– Lefties tend to draw figures that face the RIGHT.

– Probably because they use the right side of the brain more, lefties appear to be better in the music and arts scene.

– According to neurologists, lefties adjust more readily to seeing underwater.

– Left-handers seem to excel in sports such as tennis, baseball, swimming and fencing.

– The probabilities of producing a lefty are as follows: 1 in 10 if both parents are right-handed; 2 in 10 if one parent is left-handed; 1 in 4 if both parents are left-handed.

– 4 of the 5 original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed.

– Lefties account for a large percentage of those in remedial reading classes.

In my family, three of my kids were born Lefties. Our second daughter, C2, was born left-handed but since I did not know any better then, I taught her to use her right hand so she would not have difficulty in a right-handed world. However, our 2 succeeding children, both boys, also turned out to be Lefties. And to this day, I wonder about this because while we have other lefties in the family (my sister and some in-laws), both me and my hubby are right-handed.

We are fortunate that in the boys’ school, they took pains to accommodate lefties by providing desks with left-sided arm rests. It’s not so bad anymore now that they are in high school because the desks are tables with ample room for you whether you are right- or left-handed. But at home, I still have to contend with bumping elbows with M2 at the dinner table.

In 1990, the Left-Handers Club was established and on Aug. 13, 1992, they launched International Left-Handers’ Day. According to their website:

This event is now celebrated worldwide, and in the U.K. alone there were over 20 regional events to mark the day in 2001- including left-v-right sports matches, a left-handed tea party, pubs using left-handed corkscrews where patrons drank and played pub games with the left hand only, and nationwide “Lefty Zones” where left-handers creativity, adaptability and sporting prowess were celebrated, whilst right-handers were encouraged to try out everyday left-handed objects to see just how awkward it can feel using the wrong equipment!

These events have contributed more than anything else to the general awareness of the difficulties and frustrations left-handers experience in everyday life, and have successfully led to improved product design and greater consideration of our needs by the right-handed majority – although there is still a long way to go!!

Today, I greet all Left-Handers, including my lefty kids and blog readers. You are unique and in a class all your own. You have your own place in this world and can make a great contribution with your creativity and artistic talents.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL LEFT-HANDERS’ DAY!!!

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