pe September 2012

Education & Tech

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Education + Tech

Education & Tech, was created to build hope that education based on social technologies, can transform the new century, and enable abundance not only spiritually but economically. Milton L. Ramirez, Ed.D. - @tonnet is the founder & editor. He is an instructor with UoPeople, is a blogger, writes on education, and hails this blog from Union, NJ. For further questions, tips or concerns please e-mail him to:miltonramirez [at] educationandtech [dot] com

Teacher + Scholar

If you are a regular to Blog Education & Tech, you shall remember that I am blogging and I'd written articles about education and technology almost every day since 2003. In the gazillion of notes, Education & Tech provides you with education news, tech advice, classroom management ideas, and social media tools for educators, administrators, parents and k-12 students.

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Game Change: How game-based learning helps Common Core

By Nigel Nisbet*

One of the exciting things that leaps out to me when reading the new Common Core standards for Mathematics is that the spirit of inquiry and curiosity is back, hardwired into a document that will likely form the basis for mathematics teaching and learning for a long time. My attention is drawn for example to the Standards for Mathematical practice where it emphasizes that students need to become persistent problem solvers, plan solution pathways, and ask themselves, “does this make mathematical sense?” Even the grade-level specific content standards themselves are full of phrases like “Students will understand...” and “use visual models to explain...” So in order to build true conceptual understanding during the learning process, students will need considerable practice at being challenged to make sense of mathematics for themselves.

Existing instructional materials do not meet this need, and reordering chapters and adding an “Now Aligned to Common Core” label doesn’t solve the fundamental problem: most materials are designed for use with direct instruction where we tell students how to solve a problem, and then have them practice by doing more of the same type of questions. By design there is no need to for them to think critically about solution strategies and there is little attempt to engage their curiosity: either they remember and correctly apply the procedures, or they don’t. And while technology does have incredible potential for education, most attempts to capitalize on it thus far, like the much-vaunted “flipped” classroom, are really little more than a “technologized” version of direct instruction and as such will have little impact on Common Core success. A more fundamental change in instructional design is needed.

Game-based learning is one way to change the educational paradigm. A game is inherently about challenge (think Angry Birds), and a game can engage children in persistently trying to overcome challenges (think Guitar Hero), and games often require the use of strategic thinking for success (think Chess or even Monopoly). However, all of these games are designed to entertain. To design a game for education is very different: The challenge, the engagement, and the strategic thinking used in the game must all have a specific learning target. Let’s take an objective, right from the Common Core, “Students understand a fraction as a number on the number line” and see what this looks like when built up into a successful game, currently played by over half-a-million students.

The penguin, JiJi, needs to get from the platform on the left to the basket under the balloons. Students, using tablets or mouse-based devices, need to drag the basket and balloons to where they think JiJi’s platform will roll to, and press go. The fractional pieces of the circle under JiJi’s platform roll out along the number line. In this case there are two one-third pieces, and if the basket is correctly placed, JiJi is lifted up and away, and they move on to the next puzzle. Otherwise the basket lifts up but without JiJi on board, and the students must try again. The puzzles get progressively harder, with different sized fractions, positive and negative pieces, and fractions given as symbols (like ¼). The game is even played in reverse, where students have to determine how many fractional pieces are needed under JiJi’s platform to get to a basket, already set in position on the number line.

The challenge of the game is simple and easily understood with no written or verbal instructions, even by third-graders - figure out how to get JiJi to the basket. The engagement is unbelievably high, and the strategic thinking is all focused on translating between visual fraction models, symbols, and the number line. This type of game design works at the Elementary level but also is very successful for Middle and High school mathematics, as evidence by an upcoming game dealing with parabolas in Algebra. Points on a quadratic graph are represented by balloons that need to be burst by positioning a rocket, using either a manipulative tool, or a symbolic equation depending on the level.

By activating students’ critical thinking skills in these game-based learning experiences, we can help them build deep conceptual understanding of the mathematics. And because all 800 games in the program are built around mathematically accurate and appropriate schema, or visual models, which the students internalize, mathematics now has a context in which to make sense. For the first time, technology is being used to create a new type of learning experience, arming students with the thinking skills they need for success with the Common Core and the 21st century skills they will need for success later in life.

(*) Nigel Nisbet is the Director of Content Creation with the MIND Research Institute; a non-profit education technology  company based in Orange County, CA, and a former High School Teacher and Math Expert with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

U.S.: The Myth of Our Failing #Schools

The  leaders of the education reform (Michelle Rhees, the Bill Gateses, the Walton family, among others) movement have been pushing hard to make education fuction not like an academy but more like a business, profit motive and all, as Jeff Fecke writes on Care to Make a Difference.

Education, after all is a big business. Do I have to go over such a simple explanation?

"There are a few things standing in the way of business and all this money, however. Chief among them are the teachers, women and men who chose a career that is not especially lucrative, and indeed is constantly disparaged. The vast majority of teachers decided on their career not because they wanted to get rich, but because they truly want to help children learn. They understand that providing education to every American free of charge is the precise opposite of running education like a business, and thank goodness  --because business would spend less time educating the “unprofitable” kids.
We can, and should, continue to strive to improve our education system. We should not be satisfied with an education system that gets diplomas into the hands of only 88 percent of adults. But neither should we pretend that this system is badly broken, or in decline.
Improving educational outcomes does not depend on breaking the unions, or converting our public schools to charter schools. Rather, it depends on our ability to address problems outside of school --poverty, access to health care and child care, access to early childhood education. These are not problems our school system can fix. Indeed, as long as we continue to cut social services, these are problems that will only get worse.
Our schools have done a great job of improving outcomes over the past 70 years, despite a general lack of support. Our schools are not failing. Despite the demands of high-stakes testing, the attacks on educators as a group, the continuing sneering as schools in general, our education system just keeps doing what it’s always done -- educating children, as best they can with what little we give them. They don’t deserve a free pass, but neither do they deserve the opprobrium heaped on them. Our education system is better now than it has ever been. For that, educators deserve nothing but respect."

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Tips for Forming a Successful Online Study Group

By Kay Winders *

Some students who take courses online can begin to feel isolated from their fellow students if they don’t take proactive measures to actively participate in online discussions or to reach out to classmates. Some may just not know where to start – after all, you can’t just hang out after class and casually ask a passerby about this week’s assignment.

Forming an online study group is a great way to get to know online classmates better, as well as learning the material better and getting more support for your studies. However, you will need to make some special considerations when forming an online study group in order to ensure it’s a success. Here are a few

Select Members Carefully

The success of any study group – whether online or off – depends in large part on its members. Each person should be committed to the success of the group and should be able to meet regularly and contribute fully.

Start by reaching out to classmates who seem active in classroom discussions. Or ask a classmate whose work you admire in the class. These students are more likely to be valuable and dependable members of your group, which will bolster its success.

Choose the Right Medium

There are a number of ways for you to hold a virtual meeting online: Video conferencing through Skype or Google chat, discussions through online forums or e-mail, or special programs such as ThinkBinder.

Determine what the best outlet will be to ensure that all members can attend and that you can do the work you need to do. For example, if you choose video conferencing, do all members have a web cam to participate? If you choose a software provider, do all members have the technical capacity to download it?
Make sure you are all on the same page before you make these decisions.

Set a Schedule

Keep your study group focused and make sure you’re prepared for big upcoming tests and projects by setting a schedule. Not only can you ensure that everyone is available when it’s time to study by working out the scheduling conflicts ahead of time, but you can also make sure that everyone is adequately prepared to
make a meaningful contribution to your study session.

Also be sure to set an agenda – or mini schedule – for your individual study sessions. This will keep your discussion on track and help ensure that you meet your goals for the session.

Pre-Load Study Materials

Once you have your schedule set, make sure that members know to pre-load their notes and other materials before the study session begins. That way all members will have access to the same materials so that discussions are facilitated more smoothly. After all, you can’t have a productive conversation when you’re referencing materials that not everyone has.

Create a space online where group members can share this information. There are several possibilities, including Drop Box, Google docs, and similar services. Make sure that everyone has usage rights or the login credentials to access the materials.

Choose a Group Moderator

Finally, make sure that your study sessions stay focused and on schedule by appointing one member to be a group moderator. This person can oversee the agenda you have set for the meeting and ensure that discussions stay on topic and that you meet your goals.

You may consider appointing rotating group moderators to distribute the responsibility so that one person doesn’t feel pressured to do more work. A rotating moderator can also give you the opportunity to figure out which member can do the best job of leading the group.

Forming an online study group is a great way to build relationships with classmates while also strengthening your understanding of the material. When you form your online study group, follow these tips to make sure it’s successful.

Have you formed an online study group? Share your tips for success in the comments!

(*) Kay Winders is presently the resident writer for http://www.badcreditloans.orgwhere she researches the best way for people to pay off their debts without damaging their credit. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing, the beach and gardening.

Taking Action Against Bullying in the 2012

Most students are coming back to school again this year and it's just time to remember that we all have a right to live our own lives, but in peace, and it's also a right to go to school without being hassled.

Bullying means disrespect. Showing respect for other people means accepting their differences and treating them the way you'd like to be treated. Unfortunately, bullying is the exact opposite.

In the process appears four subjects: The bully, the target, the bystanders, and the ally. When you're getting picked on all the time, it's hard to feel good about yourself. Bullying can affect a teen in middle and high school, in all kinds of ways. Some symptoms may include: Aches on their head and stomach, absence of concentration in class,can't sleep, low self-esteem, depression, skipping school and the most dangerous of all, thinking about hurting themselves or others.

Last year, the media covered a variety of cases where young students lost their lives as a consequence of bullying. One thing is teasing (a playful thing you do with friends) and another is taunting (which is meant to hurt someone's feelings). Both terms mean making fun of someone, but under this situation they're quite different.

Fortunately, two media specialists from Maine had published a book which aims to help parents, students and teachers this year to combat what Kay Stephens and Vinitha Nair called Cyber Slammed. That's precisely the name of their book: Cyberslammed: Understand, Prevent, Combat And Transform The Most Common Cyberbullying Tactics.

Authors focused on six different tactics and ways parents and educators can be informed, and armed to protect their children. The two main references used in the book were,, and, along with Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard (Hinduya, S & Patchin, J.) Of course they used other techniques and surveys.

Some of the bullying activities are very subtle, which is why teachers and other adults often don't notice that it's happening at all. There are four common kinds of bullying: Physical Bullying, Verbal Bullying, Social Bullying, and Cyber Bullying. The aforementioned book talks about cyberbullying, understood as a bad use of technology to threaten, harass, or hurt someone, spread rumors or pass on someone's private information.

Since most teens who are bullied often don't want to tell adults what's going on, Stephens & Nair propose free workshops(In Maine only) on a series of internet safety. They also have created a digital learning network. Writers suggest these six tactics of self-defense are what is missing from today's cyberbulying curricula:

Using the Internet

1. Digital Pile On. Ganging up on someone on chat forums or Instant Messaging.

2. Rating Website. Using Internet polls to get bystanders to vote for their "ugliest," "fattest," "dumbest" peers.

3. Imposter Profile. Creating a website or social networking profile to deceive others to assume it is genuinely owned and maintained by the target.

4. Haters Club. Spreading mob mentality on websites or social networking sites to persecute an individual.

Using Cell Phone

5. Sexting. Taking or sending an explicit photo of oneself and forwarding it to friends or potential suitors.

Using a Digital/Video Camera

6. Videojacking. Videotaping a target without his knowledge/approval and uploading the video to a popular video-sharing websites.

The money you spend buying this book is well worth it. Each one of the tactics is accompanied by a guide to conflict resolution for the teacher and 'inmediate steps' to be taken by either adults or students. One of the sections I love most is the Tech Defense which elaborately shows you what do in the event that you need to help and defend a teenger in your school with lawful, and practical strategies.

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