Category Archives: K-12

Fight the Coded Gaze

In a recent episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Zoey, a software developer, learns that her company’s smart watch has a coding glitch – it doesn’t recognize Black people. What she discovers is that this is not merely a software problem but a systemic problem in her company and her industry, where there is a disproportionately low number of Black employees. Though the show is fictional, the storyline is not. As more and more products utilizing artificial intelligence enter the market, we are finding that even computers can exhibit bias.

As Joy Buolamwini explains in this TED Talk from 2016, facial recognition programs are dependent on machine learning, and that learning is dependent on training sets. If those sets are not diverse, then we end up with problems like those described by Buolamwini and others.

After realizing that she needed to be part of the solution for this problem, which Buolamwini describes as “The Coded Gaze,” she set up The Algorithmic Justice League, which aims to combat racism as well as any type of discrimination in artificial intelligence. In a recent Twitter thread for National Geographic during Black History Month, Buoloamwini gives more examples of the ways AI can fail.

As artificial intelligence becomes more ubiquitous, it is important to continue to encourage diverse groups of young people to learn how to code ethically so that future generations will not inadvertently (or deliberately) create biased programs.

To help students learn more about how artificial intelligence works, here are some new free resources from Code.org. Also, here is a post about Machine Learning for Kids that I did in 2019.

I will be adding this post to my growing collection of Anti-Racism resources. Please take a look, and feel free to offer suggestions!

Photo of Joy Buolamwini, byNiccolò Caranti, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Patrick’s Day Resources 2021

I know that this will come as shock to many of you who are faithful readers, but I am feeling pretty good that I got Pi Day and St. Patrick’s Day covered this year before the end of February. Not only that, but I spent a little time today making my St. Patrick’s Day S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activity into both a Slides presentation and a Jamboard. Talk about UNPRECEDENTED!!!!! (No one needs to know that I was putting off folding laundry and doing yoga in order to achieve these magnificent accomplishments.)

If you are unfamiliar with S.C.A.M.P.E.R., here is a previous post where I explain the acronym. You might also note that the paper version of St. Patrick’s Day S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is for sale on my TPT page, but don’t waste your money on that, since you can just download the Slides and print it out if you want. For free! I’m working on updating all of my resources and making them free because that is exactly how much housework and exercise I am willing to sacrifice for you.

And that’s not all! I noticed that quite a few of my St. Patrick’s Day resource links were not working anymore (not surprising, since I’ve been publishing this blog for nearly nine years), so I gathered updated versions in this Wakelet for you.

Now I must go scour the March calendar to see what I’ve forgotten…

6 Ways to Support Spatial Reasoning Skills Online

I’m back online here in Texas after our week of crazy weather. It’s 74 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny today – and I’m perfectly happy for it to stay that way!

My latest blog post for NEO was published last Thursday while my fingers were still too cold to type on a keyboard. “6 Ways to Support Spatial Reasoning Skills Online” emphasizes the importance of offering plenty of opportunities to children to learn and develop aptitude in this area. During my 29 years in the classroom I observed that spatial reasoning was often overlooked, but has many extremely practical applications in our everyday lives. I also saw, and was the casualty of, gender discrimination in this area. Though I think physical practice is the best way to sharpen spatial reasoning, I mention many free digital tools that you can use in the article. In addition, I’ve made this Wakelet of over 40 links to games, toys, articles, and websites that support spatial reasoning.

My previous NEO articles have been:  Let’s Talk a Good Game: Mining Talk Shows for Classroom Engagement Ideas, How to Do More with Less Screen TimeHow to Facilitate Meaningful Discussions in Hybrid or Virtual ClassroomsTop Ed Tech Tools for DifferentiationFrom Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve EducationApplying Universal Design for Learning in Remote ClassroomsHow Distance Learning Fosters Global CollaborationHow to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

Teaching for Tolerance is Now Learning for Justice

I confess that I have never liked using the word tolerance when it’s used in conversations about race, gender, or any other targets of stereotyping and prejudice. To me, “tolerance” has always connoted a level just above hatred and far below acceptance. I have tolerance for careless drivers (my husband does not) and I tolerate physical pain fairly well – but I’d be more than happy to rid my life of both.

So, when I saw that Teaching for Tolerance, an excellent website that provides incredible resources for classrooms intent on abolishing bigotry, had changed its name to Learning for Justice, I applauded the upgrade. The new name does not only appeal to me because of the elimination of a word that seems to be limited in its ambition, but also because of the important verb substitution. Switching from “teaching” to “learning” communicates that no one is an expert and that we are on this journey together.

As we continue toward reaching an understanding of what “justice” means in this country and this world, it is vital that we look toward a future where we embrace differences instead of tolerating them and recognize the importance of lifelong learning about ourselves and others.

I will be adding this post to my growing collection of Anti-Racism resources. Please take a look, and feel free to offer suggestions!

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Little Free Art Gallery

By now most of us are familiar with the “Little Free Libraries” that have popped up all over. Often located in structures that look similar to large birdhouses, these publicly accessible boxes provide books to anyone interested. Their motto is, “Take a book, share a book,” and the organization began as one solution to combat illiteracy.

Stacy Milrany of Seattle, Washington, decided to adapt that concept to art. You can read the details of her story in this article by Cathy Free at The Washington Post. Her miniature gallery, complete with tiny art patrons, is set up in front of her home, and people are encouraged to add art and take what they love.

Imagine applying this idea at a school! Students love to create for authentic audiences, and this would be a joyful way for the community to celebrate and and encourage creative endeavors. It is similar to the concept of an Art Drop that I described in this post, but would be isolated to one spot 365 days a year. And, of course, there would be the added constraint of diminutive canvases.

Let me know if you try this, or have tried this, in the comments below!

More Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep

One of the most popular posts on this blog is called, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.” One problem is that I keep updating it, so the number is misleading. Another problem is that I don’t update it enough, so there are many sites that I’ve discovered that weren’t on the post. I spent this morning putting all of the site links into a Wakelet, and it now has 56 items! Some are brand new to me, while others are ones that I’ve written about in the past. Quite frankly, it was difficult for me to stay focused as I re-discovered old friends, like Splat Math and SolveMe Mobiles, and stumbled upon unfamiliar but intriguing ones like Mystery Grid and Cube Conversations. Whether you love math or despise it, I guarantee you will find at least one site on this list that will fascinate you!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com