Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Chasing Life Podcast Season 6: The Science of How Tech Is Impacting Our Brains

I've mentioned a time or two that I'm a big fan of podcasts. One of my favorites the last few years has been Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Chasing Life." I love his intelligence, sense of humor, and demeanor, and I think he'd be one of the 5 famous people I'd love to sit down with at a dinner party if I could. I always learn something from every listen with him.

His sixth season of the show started this past February and I'm definitely drawn in. He calls this season "a personal journey" for him, and he has this as his introduction to the season:
"If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking at a phone or a computer screen. These days we spend most of our lives looking at screens – whether it’s for work, school, or fun – but how is it shaping us? On season six of Chasing Life, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us on his most personal journey yet, while he dives into the science behind how technology is impacting our brains. As a dad of three teenage girls, he explores how worried we should be about the effect screen time is having on kids’ health. Join us each Tuesday as we bring everyone to the table – from members of the Gupta family to content creators and medical professionals – and look for guidance on how to navigate a world surrounded by screens."
As a Lower School Technology teacher, a parent of teens, a person who has read a lot of books over the years on this subject, and someone who lives a lot of life on her phone...and who is living in a world where ChatGPT and AI are all in the news these days, this season's theme has really struck me as well. I often say I have a love-hate relationship with technology... but the deeper enmeshed we become in this "techified" world, the deeper we all get into ALL of it! Not to mention, more and more, the trickle down gets younger and younger and we are seeing the effects on more and more kids, in more and more ways: digital drama, mental health issues at all time highs, and new social and ethical dilemmas all the time.

I recently saw author Tom Friedman speak, and this image of him spoke to me, especially since I had read his book Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. In it he speaks of the speed of life and technology, globalization and the environment, and how people are resistant to change. This picture (and the slide is a visual in the book too) totally sums up where we are...and where Sanjay Gupta seems to be too with this season.

New episodes of Chasing Life come out every Tuesday. These are the topics Sanjay Gupta has tackled so far in season 6. Obviously, more are to come. In each episode he had several experts, authors, and digital influencers on that he interviews. I particularly liked the idea of "mediatrician" that he mentions in episode 3 when he speaks with Dr. Michael Rich, co-director of the Clinic for Interactive Media Disorders at Boston's Chidlren's Hospital. It all gives fascinating food for thought in this tech age in which we live. Definitely feel like this is a must-listen for all of us--parents, educators, and consumers of digital media.

Season Six, Episode 1: A Personal Journey for Sanjay - Feb. 7th, 2023

Episode 2: How to Raise Kids in the Digital Age - Feb. 14th, 2023

Episode 3: How Much Screen Time is Too Much? - Feb. 21th, 2023

Episode 4: Breaking Up (and Making Up) with Your Phone - Feb. 28th, 2023

Episode 5: Hank Green on the Future of the Internet - Mar. 7th, 2023

Episode 6: The Selfie Effect on Your Brain - Mar. 14th, 2023

Episode 7: Will Banning TikTok Help Kids? - Mar. 21st, 2023

Podcast cover image from, Tom Friedman picture taken by me on March 21, 2023 at the Baltimore Speaker Series.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Earth Hour: March 25, 2023 ~ Lights Out 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm

As the perfect follow up to Wednesday's World Water day... tonight is Earth Hour

As a global wave rolling over the planet, spend the hour from 8:30 to 9:30 pm (during your local time) by flipping off your lights and doing something positive for the planet. 

From its inception in 2007, Earth Hour continues to grow and inspire others to learn about, care for, and take action for our planet. Much like I mentioned in my World Water Day post, we are falling off course the planned 2030 trajectory of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Earth Hour's focus is on Goal Number 13: "Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts" and Goal Number 15: "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss." Seeing it as such, the Earth Hour organization is stepping up their campaign and the sense of urgency to reach the 2030 goals. 

When 190 countries have traditionally been involved in Earth Hour, that is a lot of power for the positive if that hour is spent doing something for our planet! Global unity at its finest...which is important when we all share the same planet! Not to mention, it is a great way to celebrate the power of people.

Not sure what to do for Earth Hour.... check out a variety of resources on their website:
  • Give an hour for earth--inspiration is here for you for the categories of "learn more about our planet," "reconnect with our planet," "restore our planet," and "inspire others to care about our planet"... and ideas that you can do for each in under an hour, exactly an hour, or over an hour.
  • Go beyond the hour--here are 10 ways you can continue to "go green" and impact our planet in a positive way.
  • Attend an event--see if there's one near you or a virtual one you can attend.
How can you use the positive power of your hour to make a difference and be part of something bigger than you?

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

World Water Day Is Today: March 22

As detailed in my last post, World Water Day (and its importance) is today. If you missed it, make sure to scroll back for a revisit to learn about why water is so important...and why we have the need for a World Water Day.

While knowledge is power, action leads to traction. From the UN World Water Day site, here is a list of things you can do today, even if you didn't plan ahead. Easy actions you can take to show a personal commitment to making this world a little better place. How many can you do? Even better: How many people can you inspire to join you to conserve water and take part in making a global difference?

And sneak preview....Earth Hour 2023 is this Saturday, March 25th from 8:30 pm -9:30 pm in your time zone. Not sure what Earth Hour is all about, check out some of my past posts. More coming this Saturday!

Image from

Saturday, March 18, 2023

World Water Day Is On the Way: March 22, 2023

I've said it before (and I'm not the only one): water makes the world go round. We all need it, in a variety of ways to maintain our health and wellness!

That is the basis for World Water Day. Since 1993, the United Nations has centered on March 22nd as World Water Day as a day to raise awareness to the global water and sanitation issues that challenge our planet. Not only a day for learning, but a day for inspiring action, World Water Day highlights that all are not equal when it comes to clean water. In fact, here are some sobering facts taken straight from their website: 
Additionally, from charity: water (an organization I have monthly contributed to for several years), there are these statistics: 
This year's World Water Day theme is "Accelerating Change." Eight years ago, in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals were established as ways to address 17 major global issues by 2030. Goal number 6: "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." Given that 2030 is a mere 7 years away, we are behind given the statistics above. What started as a theme of "Be the Change" shifted to "Accelerating Change." We all need to take part given we all consume water. How we manage the water we use can make a difference. For this reason, it's not a government issue, it is a global and individual issue.

Purposely overlapping World Water Day is the UN 2023 Water Conference, taking place March 22-24, 2023 in New York City. It is slated as the first event of its kind in almost 50 years. Individuals are inspired and encouraged to make personal commitments, which will then be added to those of nations, companies, organizations, and other collectives. The combined commitments will build the Water Action Agenda and serve as their main outcome.

In this 2 minute, animated video, you can get an overview of World Water Day 2023 and its theme of "Accelerating Change."

World Water Day--What Can You Do? What will you do?

On an individual level:
On a class or organization level:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Evaluating Digital Tasks with Bloom's Taxonomy

This is an oldie but goodie that's been around for a few years. As we become more and more enmeshed in the digital world at home, work, and school, it's good to remember!

Image from

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Environmental Stewardship: Board-Game Style

Years ago when my kids were younger, I ran across the game Earthopoly. Of course I just HAD to get it! As the name suggests, it's the eco-friendly version of Monopoly. We even played it in my classroom one Earth Day, many years ago.

We all know board games are a great way to have some fun. But they also serve as a good opportunity to learn along the way.... and for some, maybe even save the planet. Many of the environmentally-slanted games that are out thereare cooperative games, showcasing the importance of how we all need to work together to solve the planetary problems. We either all win...or we don't. 
Additionally, by working together to build a better future, games such as these promote an element of proactiveness and hope, which counter the bleakness and apathy that climatory concerns can bring. Not to mention, many of these games insert a little scientific information along the way, making environmental education even more accessible. While you play, you build your strategic thinking skills as well as creativity and empathy. All of these skills are important for helping to solve real world dilemmas. 

Some of the popular eco games that are out there (listed alphabetically):
Need to read more? Here are some great articles on the subject:
Image created at

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Endangered Animals: Where A Pixel Is Worth 1000 Words

In the category of "a picture says 1000 words"... How much does a pixel say? 

Here, I think both the pictures and pixels say a lot. 
University of Maryland student Josh Smith (whose Imgur screen name is JJSmooth44), used the 2008 WWF project Population by Pixel as inspiration to his own photo/design series. Using a computer generated design program, he used the number of pixels per picture of an endangered animal to show the equivalent number of animals left per species. What this means is that the more undistinguishable and pixilated the picture is, the more endangered or close to extinction the animal is. 
Josh Smith's series went viral nearly 4 years ago in our pre-pandemic world in September 2019, yet it has started circulating once again with views nearing 150,000.  This level of art-meets-environmentalism visualization can certainly pack a punch--especially when comparing those images that are sharply in focus (meaning the species is flourishing) versus those poorly-pixilated animal pictures.
In one article I read, it discussed that now that our human population has surpassed 8 billion people, the level of high resolution of that picture would have shown the most minute details, including being alert to zoom in to see individual facial pores.
Every Pixels is one animal. The more pixelated the image, the closer it is to extinction.

Images from and


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Is Sharing Our Stuff The Answer to Our Planetary Problems?

It's always an endearing moment on a made-for-TV movie when the 8 year old girl shares their half sandwich with an 8 year old boy (or vice versa). The reality in classrooms, however, is that we teachers really don't allow sharing of food because of "all the reasons": potential of food allergies, "your parent packed that lunch for you and wants you to eat it," "other kids could get jealous," and more.

But I was fascinated when listening to the February 23rd TED Talk Daily entitled "The Surprising Climate Benefits Of Sharing Your Stuff" from Tessa Clark. The concept of saving our planet could indeed lie in the idea of not only food sharing, but other things as well. (You can find this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.)

When Tessa Clark started in with the idea of food sharing, at first it struck me as an automatic "nope, not doing it." Get your food from someone you don't know versus from a grocery store?!? Feels blasphemous! Feels like there's a potential to be poisoned! (Which led to the immediate secondary thought of "Why am I so jaded and why did I automatically go there?") 

But, the more she spoke about it, it does make sense to share. For instance, if I have the lawn mower and my neighbor has the leaf blower, we both save money and we can just borrow from each other. Saves on space in my garage too. So, why can't that hold true when it comes to my refrigerator? Especially given the overwhelming problem of food waste in the United States, which amounts to 30-40% of our national food supply. Minimalists will agree: we have an over-shopping problem on top of a waste mentality!

Thinking about the option to share our "stuff" definitely is an interesting thought exercise. With the growing number of "share" apps that are out there, maybe Tessa Clark is on to something.

Take a listen for yourself and see what you think. I do agree that it is going to take thinking in a different way from our current way of thinking (and have been thinking for decades). Nothing will change unless something changes...and we do indeed need to come up with a way to bring about positive, lasting changes to help our planetary problems, environmental issues, and global climate concerns.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Checking Out ChatGPT

Unless you have been living under a rock or have banished daily news of all forms, you have heard about the latest platform in Artificial Intelligence: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is all over the news and has been almost daily for the last 3-4 months. 

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research lab in SanFrancisco created in 2015 with the goal of creating "friendly AI." There's a whole history lesson there, where you can learn all about it at Taskade's article "What is OpenAI?—Its History and How ChatGPT Is Changing the World."
ChatGPT launched November 30th, 2022, and it had over a million users in a matter of 5 days.
As educators, the buzz about it and what to do about it started almost instantly. Will it lead kids to cheat? Is the college essay dead? Should schools block this or embrace it? I will share a later post that will discuss some of the merits in the classroom that teachers can take advantage of AI & ChatGPT as a timesaver for busy teachers. 
When it first came to my attention (probably about the start of the new year), I tried repeatedly to get on to see it in action and I kept getting messages that the system was at capacity and they'd get back to me if I left an email address. I did, but they never did. 
I finally got a chance to play with ChatGPT mid-February, when they opened it up if you create an account. For now, it is free. Here's what you see when you login:
One of the first things I did was look into their FAQs. See if there wee any tips, tho the biggest one I knew: the more specific you are in what you ask, the better ChatGPT's response will be. 
One of the pieces that did strike me, however, was their general question of "Can I trust that AI is telling me the truth." This information is a good beacon to continually come back to:
Okay, so now that I was in, I start posing questions. My first question on February 19th was the following, just to see what it would post:
"Write an environmental education blog post for teachers 
about the 5 top eco win of the past year."
It was crazy quick how fast the information spit out!!! Full disclosure: this is verbatim what ChatGPT spit out in less than 2 minutes.
"As educators, it's important for us to stay up-to-date with the latest environmental news and progress. This past year, there have been some exciting wins in the fight against climate change and for environmental conservation. Here are the top five eco wins of the past year that we can celebrate and share with our students.

1. Renewable energy overtakes coal in the US

For the first time in over 130 years, renewable energy sources generated more electricity than coal in the United States. This is a significant milestone in the transition towards a clean energy economy, and it shows that renewable energy is becoming more economically viable than fossil fuels. This is a great opportunity for teachers to teach about the benefits of renewable energy and the importance of investing in sustainable energy infrastructure. 
2. Global agreement to protect 30% of the planet's land and sea by 2030

At the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, more than 100 countries agreed to protect 30% of the planet's land and sea by 2030. This commitment is a significant step towards protecting biodiversity and preserving critical ecosystems. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the importance of conservation and the impacts of human activities on our planet.
3. Amazon rainforest deforestation hits a 10-year low
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest decreased by 70% from August 2019 to July 2020, hitting a 10-year low. This is a significant win in the fight to preserve one of the world's most important ecosystems. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the importance of rainforests and the impacts of deforestation, as well as how we can support efforts to protect these critical ecosystems.
4. China commits to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060
China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, announced its commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060. This is a significant milestone in the global fight against climate change and shows that even countries with high emissions can take meaningful action to reduce their impact on the planet. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the role of countries and individuals in mitigating climate change.
5. Plastic bag bans and restrictions continue to expand globally 
Countries around the world continue to implement bans and restrictions on single-use plastic bags, reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans and landfills. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the impacts of plastic pollution and the importance of reducing our plastic use.
In conclusion, the past year has seen some significant eco wins that we can celebrate and use as opportunities to educate our students about the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability. By sharing these wins with our students, we can inspire them to take action and work towards a more sustainable future."
Holy guacamole! That was a lot, and it was fascinating--both from the eco-win standpoint but also the speed and capability of the AI side of it. But, given my question above of "is it telling the truth," I decided this might be a good next follow up question in the same thread: 

"Include the citations where this information came from."
Again, almost faster than a blink of the eye, here is the response I got. I will say, it threw me off a smidge with the conversational tone:

"Sure, here are the sources for the information in my previous response:
Renewable energy overtakes coal in the US:Source: US Energy Information Administration. "Electricity in the United States". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
Global agreement to protect 30% of the planet's land and sea by 2030:Source: Convention on Biological Diversity. "Kunming Declaration: Adopted at the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
Amazon rainforest deforestation hits a 10-year low:Source: Mongabay News. "Amazon deforestation fell by 70% in the past year". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
China commits to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060:Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "China Commits to Carbon Neutrality before 2060". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
Plastic bag bans and restrictions continue to expand globally:Source: UN Environment Programme. "Plastic Waste: What you need to know". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,"
With the exception of the Mongabay reference which I hadn't ever hear of before, these are some legit resources! [However, I have heard others on message boards report that this is not always the case--so do your homework!!]

I proceeded to ask a slew of other questions, more specifically about integrating ChatGPT in the classroom, but like I said, more on that later. It also left me pondering a slew of moral and philosophical questions and implications, making me wonder where this will all take us as a society. Didn't take long for me to feel like my head was completely spinning!
In a big way, it reminded me of falling down the rabbit hole of YouTube and the stereotypical "crazy cat videos." Posing question after question to ChatGPT is like that!
Just like an open tube of toothpaste, once it's squeezed and the toothpaste is out, there's no putting it back in. Same holds true for Pandora's box. Now that we have this capability, it's out there, and the technological advances will only continue to "speed racer" at double or quadruple the speed. AI is not going away! The slew of controversial conversations will only continue. Is it okay to use it as brainstorming or cutting through the writer's block, as long as we go in and edit it? I don't know. Would we accept that explanation from our students. Doubtful. That probably should be the guide. Is it okay to use it for thank you notes or resignation letters... or is it dumbing us all down? Seems like there are lots of parameters to figure out.
As all of this AI continues, let's just all hope we ALL make decisions to use this type of tech for the power of good, not the force of evil!!! 

Images from: Screenshot from when you first login to chat (Taken 2-25-2023), OpenAI/ChatGPT image from with Image Source: Amarujala