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Friday, March 7, 2014

Do iPads build confidence in 2nd graders?

The other day I learned that my daughter's school will be moving to a one-to-one environment for technology from 2nd grade.  My son, who is now a 7th grader is already a part of this program as middle schoolers need to have their own MacBook when they begin 6th grade.  The new policy will require all 2nd graders to have their own iPads to bring to and from school.

I am sure that we are looking at the future of education with tablet technology.  Laptops and netbooks are already common in every class at the college level and visible all the way down the line through high school, middle school, and elementary.  It is simply too efficient having your textbooks, library, and notebook all at your fingertips in a neat multimedia package the size of a piece of paper for it not to end up that way.  So, I am not arguing against that introduction of technology into schools.  But, what are we losing and how will it affect my kid's chances of getting a good job (since that is what this blog is about)?

The influence (interference?) of technology in education is not limited to the gadgets the kids and teachers are toting around.  Blackboard or Moodle (enterprise level education software/service) along with intranets and blogs are allowing teachers to share information with their students 24 hours a day.  My son often has no idea what his homework is until he gets home and checks online at the end of the day.  This is great for everyone involved as it eliminates the excuse of forgotten homework assignments.  How can my daughter claim that she forgot when it is on the website every night?  The only challenge we have in our house is that sometimes my son will check his homework, do the first subject and then forget that he had more.  For that we created the printable to-do list you see here.  He is responsible for writing it all down so it is all in one place as soon as he gets home each day.  This is an open source to-do list by the way so please feel free to use it if you like.

The problem I forsee is that when our children head off to work, their boss is not going to post their assignment online.  I worry that along with all the other distractions that come with growing up these days (iPhones, soccer, puberty!) that knowing you can always check online to see what you missed will impact our kids efforts at paying attention.  Like everything else, concentration and attentiveness improve with practice and deteriorates through lack of use.  A common reason for companies to turn down applicants after a 2nd interview is because that candidate forgot what was said in the 1st interview or asked the  exact same question to the next interviewer!

For the iPad, MacBook, and technology overall, my Headhunter Dad mindset is asking, "Will my kids be more competitive or less competitive in the job market because of this early introduction of technology in their schools?"  There are some common technical skills that most companies will expect of new employees such as: basic typing skills, able to find their way around a computer, Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Early use of these tools of the trade will certainly help to increase the comfort and confidence of our kids so in that sense I would agree that technology contributes to their job-seeking competitiveness.  However, there are more critical virtues which will affect not only getting a job but succeeding at the job. To answer this question I referred back to a brief study I did about what the world's most attractive employers are looking for in our kids.  It came down to four common attributes: problem-solving, teamwork, maturity, and confidence (the articles can be seen by clicking on the maturity or confidence links).  So, does technology add to the opportunities to build on any of these four recruiting points? No, it does not.  Yes, you can exercise your problem-solving abilities on an iPad. You can collaborate electronically and learn how to work as a team. Technology, when taught properly also teaches responsibility when interacting with others and also about protecting that expensive hardware. Any achievement whether technology based or otherwise can help to build confidence.  But, I do not believe technology teaches problem-solving, teamwork, maturityand confidence any better than it can be taught without an iPad.

There is a need to learn how to use the tools of society but at the same time there is also value to getting away from the screens and keyboards. Each of our kid's will be different and the challenge is finding the right mix for each of them.  My conclusion?  Balance.  As the Headhunter Dad's Dad is fond of saying, "Life is all about balance Larry."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

100% Accountable When Talking To Our Kids

Do you feel responsible for how your kids hear you when you talk to them?  Do you inspire positive action when you speak?  In Loretta Malandro's book, Say it Right The First Time, she asserts the need for leaders (it is a business book actually rather than a parenting one) to be 100% accountable for their communication.  This means that if you say something to your son and he does not understand you, it is your fault.  Let me repeat that, it is YOUR fault if he does not get it.

I am going to take some professional license here and assume that we can put ourselves as parents into the role of leader for the purposes of this discussion.  We are after all (nominally) in charge at home.

This topic has two applications to the theme of Headhunter Dad.  The first is improved communication between parent and child.  Better communication up front will result in less yelling later on and less stress for everyone involved. If we are trying to communicate our expectations to our sons and daughters but they are not getting it that is our fault.  We are likely to be frustrated when they don't live up to our ideals which then leads to a loss of confidence and our kids feeling that, "I can't do anything right." OR, "No matter what I do I am going to get in trouble so why bother trying."  As my regular readers know, employers out there want Confident Self-Starters.

The second benefit to taking responsibility for what we say and how we say it to our kids is that they will learn to apply the same approach themselves.  If you ask any employer to rank the importance of accountability and communication in the workplace you will find that they place these attributes consistently in the top five regardless of function or industry.  Teaching this approach requires us to admit when we are wrong in order to make the point.  They won't learn it if we don't practice what we preach.  If I explained something to my daughter and then later found out that she did not get it I could follow up with, "I realize that I did not explain that clearly enough. Let's go over it again in a different way."  Taking responsibility openly and verbally is a way of teaching our kids through example.  One of the most powerful forms of communication we have to influence them.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mariko Bando - Global Minded Women (and girls)

Mariko Bando is the President of Showa Women's University in Tokyo.  Aside from her role as an educator, she has over 30 years of public life in politics and government administration.  In her spare time, she has published more than 30 books.  Not too shabby!

I had a chance to hear Ms. Bando speak recently to a group of international graduate students.  She gained some notoriety with the publishing of a book called "The Dignity of a  Woman" which she claims was written to help Japanese women get ahead in a male dominated society but some readers felt it focused too much on maintaining the traditional role of women in Japan.  I figured that she would talk about her book and being the equal opportunity kind of headhunter that I am, I was prepared to scoff at her old fashioned views.  I ended up walking away with some specific ideas on how to help my 5 year old daughter grow up to be a more competitive candidate in her job search.  A pleasant and encouraging surprise.

Bando's message for the talk was that women need to become global players and leaders in the world, their jobs, their communities, and their homes.  Her research and focus is mainly on the situation for women in Japan but I think there are enough similarities globally to make her comments applicable to other countries around the world.  Women are often pushed towards the "nursery" or the "kitchen" and therefore the focus of their thinking can be narrow and limited to domestic issues.  Reinforced, this image develops into one where society (including the women themselves) believe that women are good at managing a limited, micro environment like the home but are not suited for the larger, macro responsibilities of business or government.  You can see how this might affect a young woman's confidence as she prepares for a job interview with a big company?

Bando added to this need for more global thinking by pointing out that women have underlying strengths that they should not give up.  It is not necessary for them to become a man to compete with men.  Her comments reminded me of the Gallup book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths" which suggests that it is more productive to build on what you are good at rather than spend too much time trying to fix a weakness.

Sitting there listening to her discuss how society raises its girls, I recalled a TV commercial I had seen back in 2002.  Thanks to the magic that is Youtube, now you too can enjoy it! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbKsC4GCT5k)

So, what can I (we) do to encourage my 5 year old to think more about the outside world?  The world outside of the kitchen and nursery?  And, by becoming a more global minded, young woman, have more confidence in herself and be able to get the job she wants (whatever that may be).  Bando did not have too much specific advice but since I am fairly creative I came up with a few ideas of my own.  I would say that most of these are gender neutral:

  • Like the video suggests, fight the urge to answer questions with a cute answer.  If you don't know then look it up.
  • Encourage an interest in the world.  Watch the discovery channel together, as they get older maybe CNN.
  • Mix up the bedtime reading.  Instead of Fancy Nancy or Princess Sophia every night, throw in some Pippy Longstocking.
  • Expose them to different cultures.  Friends, TV, books, travel, etc.
  • Treat sons and daughters fairly and try not to discriminate.  I do think age has its privileges at home but gender should not.
If you have any other thoughts on this topic please share in the comments below.