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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How to Survive the Boy Band Phase

Sorry, sorry, sorry…

That’s the most popular song of the equally popular boy band, Super Junior (Suju), which held a Super Show concert here in Manila last Saturday, April 10. Preteens, teens, young adults and not-so-young-anymore adults have been going gaga over them. My daughter C2 is no exception. She has their CDs, follows them intensely on Twitter, joined an Asian fan club, reads fan fiction, and many more things that get her excited when she talks about them.

Now this post is NOT about the Super Junior boys although I will get to them in a while. This is a tale of how I am surviving the boy band phase.

Flashback to several years ago.

It was the Taiwanese boy band, F4, and Meteor Garden then. I think all of you still remember that. Everyone was swooning over Jerry Yan, Vanness Wu, Ken Chu and Vic Chou. Meteor Garden was THE soap opera to follow then and I myself was caught up in its love story and drama. We even have the entire series in Mandarin with English subtitles (which the children claim is a whole lot better than the dubbed versions – I agree).

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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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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!!!

Technology: A Tool for Schools in the Wake of A(H1N1)

Many mothers like me here in the Philippines are growing more and more worried by the day as the number of people becoming sick with the A(H1N1) virus increases. Classes have just began in our part of the world and in the first week, some students were found positive resulting in classes being suspended and moved by about 10 days.

In the university where my girls go to school, there were initially 3 high school cases but another case was confirmed yesterday. So far, the school where my boys study has been virus-free but as more and more schools confirm cases of their students getting sick, I worry.

However, I have suggestions for school administrators and teachers especially in schools that are well-equipped to use technology and the internet. You can have a back-up plan to ensure that in the event you will be forced to suspend classes, your students do not lose too many days out of school. This will require a paradigm shift in the way you conduct classes but it can work.

You can shift to the web.

Of course, many of these moves may require coordination with DECS but just think of the possibilities:

1. Email addresses and mobile numbers serve as point-to-point contact – Many schools, as part of information sheets during enrollment, ask for the email addresses and mobile numbers of parents & students. Take this to the next level. Use your database of email addresses of all your students/teachers/administrators/parents and create mailing lists now. One mailing list for faculty, another for parents, another for students (by level). This will be one of your ways to disseminate information.

2. School websites are not just for information; they can be transformed into online classrooms. – A few days ago, the boys’ school held parent orientations. I did not go. I was feeling under the weather and chose to stay away from crowds. But I heard that the orientations did not last long. The class advisers went through powerpoint presentations to introduce the line-up of teachers as well as answer a few questions from the attending parents.

Now this got me thinking. If that was all it took during orientations, why could we not have put this same information up on the website of the school, giving access to parents via some form of security code?

I remember the inauguration of Pres. Barack Obama. CNN created a Facebook page linked to its website. Any Facebook users who subscribed to the page could literally jump into a chatroom as the inauguration was going on and add his/her comments to the global community. Bring that down to a school community.

Could we  create a smaller version of a chatroom so that parents could do conferencing with the school administrators/faculty as they are viewing a presentation?

Could Powerpoint presentations be simply uploaded to the website for parents to access?

Could the teachers have made podcasts/videos of what they wanted to say to parents as well?

Can lessons be broadcast via podcasts or YouTube?

3. Think ONLINE QUIZZES!!! – Yes, there will be issues like: Do we really know if it is the student answering the quiz or not since he is not visible to the teacher? But maybe with proper sanctions in place for those found cheating, or with appropriate security codes/log-in requirements, students can take quizzes online. Cheap webcams can be required so that a student would be visible via webcam to his teacher while taking an exam. Grading would be a cinch too since the correct answers can be keyed into a program that does instantaneous checking of papers.

4. Collaborative tools make team-based projects easy online.Google Docs is one example of a collaborative tool. Word documents, spreadsheets and presentations can be created and shared online. Team members can all view the same document, make changes, chat online about it and essentially, collaborate. No need for face-to-face interaction.

5. Use Mobile broadcasting for important announcements – Many schools in Metro Manila utilize this tool already. Parents/students/faculty subscribe to the service and important announcements from the school are pushed via SMS to the subscribers. While mobile broadcasting nowadays is in the form of school cancellations, event announcements and the like, this can be used also to alert parents and students to check the school website for newly posted classroom activities.

This internet mode of schooling is, of course, a temporary measure and can be utilized only in extreme cases when the school is forced to suspend classes for long stretches. But if the DECS accepts this as an alternate mode of schooling, cases like the A(H1N1) pandemic need not interrupt school days drastically.

At the moment, I also realize that it is the private schools that would have the advantage in implementing this over public schools due to their access to technology and computers but we can start from here.

Leave a comment if you have other ideas as to how classes can be conducted online to reduce the interruptions.

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