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December 06 2013

'Let Mandela Be a Beacon': What Teachers Will Tell Their Students Friday
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Nelson Mandela, former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary, died on Thursday at age 95. He leaves behind a legacy of courageous leadership that will undoubtedly inspire generations to come

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," President Obama said in a statement shortly after Mandela's death. "Today he has gone home [...] He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages."

While world leaders address their nations on an international stage, how will teachers do the same with their students in the classroom this week? We asked a few how they'll share Mandela's story. Here's what they said. Read more...

More about Teachers, Inspiration, Students, History, and South Africa

August 21 2013

Gadget Catches Students Cheating With Their Phones
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Teachers no longer have to rely on their eyes and internal instincts to catch cheating students.

In an effort to help educators take back control of the classroom, Berkeley Varitronics Systems has unveiled the PocketHound, a portable cellphone detector designed to let teachers covertly track cheaters.

The PocketHound works by vibrating and lighting up each time there is a nearby transmission from a mobile phone — a sign a cheater could be in action. Once the device is set off, teachers can nab the offender, Berkeley Varitronics Systems says.

The PocketHound, which has a battery life of about 2 hours and costs $500, features an integrated multiband antenna that is hidden under the label. The receiver continually scans all cellphone bands and utilizes a sophisticated algorithm that constantly samples the radio-frequency (RF) noise floor to distinguish real cellular activity from ambient RF noise. Read more...

More about Smartphone, Teachers, Students, Back To School, and Cheating

August 08 2013

9 Real Life Lessons From Television Classrooms
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Playing on a teacher on television requires serious smarts. After all, they educate the masses on morality.

While some shows that take place in a classroom had to teach lessons that no longer have relevancy to adults, most of the big picture advice still applies years after you graduate.

So the next time you suffer an existential crisis (or just need some decision making help), let Mr. Feeny teach you all you need to know

Image: Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images Read more...

More about Video, Tv, Lists, Teachers, and Watercooler

July 31 2012

An Apple a Day Is Great, But Teachers Really Want More Tech




In the days of yore, teachers routinely wanted paper towels and art supplies for their classrooms. Now, in this era of trying to teach to digital natives, they just want more technology in the classroom, according to the results of a survey of teachers across the country.

The survey was commissioned by PBS LearningMedia, a leading provider of free teacher resources and digital content for use in the classroom.

SEE ALSO: iTunes U Now Lets Teachers Invite Students to Lesson Plans

Three quarters of those surveyed said they want more technology in order to better engage their students.

One big barrier to more tech in the classroom is the budget. More than half of teachers polled s…
Continue reading...

More About: teachers, technology


May 27 2011

How Social Media and Game Theory Can Motivate Students

education image

Patrick Supanc is the President of College and Career Readiness at Pearson, where he focuses on new market development, digital innovation and product strategy. He has been a teacher in Indonesia, an education policy adviser at the World Bank and UN, and led K-12 market development at Blackboard.

Social media and online games have the potential to convey 21st century skills that aren’t necessarily part of school curricula — things like time management, leadership, teamwork and creative problem solving that will prepare teens for success in college and beyond. Making the transition between a highly structured environment in high school to a self-driven, unstructured environment in college can prove a huge challenge for many kids.

Educators spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix this problem. The solution doesn’t lie solely with games, but a lot of the psychology that motivates teens to play games holds potential. We need to figure out how to tap in.


The Status Update and Checkins


If teens feel empowered to broadcast a goal via a status update to a group of their peers, it becomes more real. Other people see it, comment on it, and offer positive reinforcement. That same strategy could be used for academic goals like performing well on tests. Closed networks can help students reach for educational goals and ask for help. These kinds of networks can be a great way for kids to know they’re not alone, and shouldn’t be ashamed to seek assistance.

In a similar way, checkins don’t necessarily have to be location-based. People check in because they’re driven toward some kind of status or reward. Teachers, parents, and students can start using checkins to monitor time management skills, show the progress of a student over time, and drive toward very specific goals (or rewards). Think of a network where a teen could check in to a certain class or subject. Updates like “Christina just checked into quadratic equations” could show her peers what she’s working on, encourage participation, and allow others working on a similar subject matter to pitch in.


Leaderboards


As anyone who grew up in the video game generation would know, leaderboards are an incredibly strong motivator. They’re surprisingly underused in education, considering their simplicity and that they’re completely powered by participants’ desires to do better.

Many students are motivated by friendly competition. They are also driven by the need to compare themselves to others. Leaderboards can foster this in a healthy way and encourage people to try harder with little incentive other than positive recognition. Why not set up a school-wide, inter-school or even nationwide leaderboard, similar to what Nike+ did to make an otherwise potentially mundane activity (running) fun?


Leveling Up


Game mechanics can be built into daunting coursework to help students understand complex problems. Anything that naturally has a step-by-step, logical process (like math, for example) can be easily converted to a game that uses levels to convey a sense of achievement along the way. This is called a “progression dynamic.”

Games are great for delivering relevant feedback in the form of a mission, level, quest or objective. The best games are just hard enough to keep users interested but offer enough frequent and positive feedback to make sure participants are having fun.


Social media and games have an incredible power to keep us engaged and connected. We’re probably a bit far from a future where kids say, “I can’t stop learning,” rather than “Five more minutes on my Xbox 360.” But understanding the psychology of games and applying it to the way kids learn can help us break down persistent challenges. And, we might just have some fun along the way.


For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Image courtesy of Flickr, smemon87

More About: education, gamification, gaming, Kids, parenting, social media, teachers, video games

For more Social Media coverage:


April 26 2011

How Schools Can Use Facebook to Build an Online Community


David Hartstein is a partner at JG Visual, an Internet strategy company that works with organizations to develop and implement their online presence. You can connect with David on the JG Visual Facebook Page.

The word “Facebook,” so ubiquitous across the world, is enough to make any educator uneasy. When I was teaching at an elementary school in New York, the topic of social media came up from time to time. And generally when it did, it was about how teachers were being fired for posting too much information or were receiving disciplinary action for an ill-advised status update. The prevailing thought was, “better safe than sorry.” Basically, we were advised to be very careful when mixing our professional and personal lives in our use of social media.

Such an approach seems to be quite common and is understandable to a certain extent. When dealing with children, it is especially important to be mindful of protecting their well-being in whatever ways you can. There is always the possibility that teachers will say something that is inappropriate or share too much information. But “being safe” shouldn’t mean missing out on a key opportunity to engage the community.

It makes sense to have a policy to discourage individual teachers from posting specifics about their students to their personal profiles. But schools should counterbalance such a policy by setting up a Facebook Page to represent the school. Students, families, and faculty members are going to use Facebook regardless of whether or not schools choose to do so. By setting up a Facebook Page, schools can establish a controlled, professional presence that allows them to capitalize on this social space in many important ways, while still protecting their students. It’s important to note that while a Facebook Page is an excellent opportunity for schools to supplement their web presence, it doesn’t fully replace the benefits of a robust website.

Here are some ways that schools can benefit from establishing an effective Facebook presence.


A Quick Note on Protecting Students


As we discuss the potential benefits of using Facebook, it’s important to frame the discussion with a warning about protecting our students. Before launching a Facebook Page, school leaders must ensure they’ve thought through the types of content they’re going to share with the world. Before sharing any information about any student (including pictures, videos, first names, work samples, etc.) school leaders must ensure they’ve obtained consent from the child’s guardian. Additionally, schools should avoid sharing last names of students as this can potentially jeopardize their safety (and in some cases is actually illegal). With a little forethought, Facebook can offer a variety of benefits without risking any safety to students or members of the school community.


Share School News


Facebook is an excellent opportunity for a school to connect with families and share information rapidly. If a school is consistent in keeping the information updated and accurate, students and families will likely come to rely on the Facebook Page as a resource to find information about what’s going on at the school. There are many different types of information that a school could choose to share on its Facebook Page.

Share What’s Happening

A Facebook Page is a great place to post noteworthy happenings around the school via a status update that posts on the Page’s wall. This is an easy way to keep families informed as to what’s going on during the school day. Additionally, it only takes moments to do (which in a school is always a good thing). If an event is particularly exciting, take some photos to share. For instance, Citizen Schools shared photos of a recent visit from Arianna Huffington and Tim Armstrong.

Share Upcoming Events

A Facebook Page is an excellent opportunity for a school to post upcoming events using the Facebook Events app. This app not only allows people to RSVP, but also makes it easy for them to share that they’re attending. Utilizing Facebook Events can potentially lead to increased attendance at school functions. A school can also update attendees about any change in plans and send out a reminder as the event approaches.

Make School Announcements

Facebook is a great space for schools to make announcements to parents and students. For instance, if there is an ever-coveted snow day, announce it on the Facebook Page. If a school shares the snow day on its Facebook Page, the news will be sent to the walls of everyone that has Liked the page. Consistency is the key here. If the page is consistently updated with school news, followers will develop an expectation that they can count on the Facebook Page when they want to learn about something concerning the school. I’d also bet that news like a snow day will get plenty of Likes, which will spread the news quickly across the community’s social graph.


Use Media to Showcase School Culture


Many schools pride themselves on creating a unique culture that promotes not only academics but also the social development of its students. Facebook provides an opportunity to showcase this unique culture with those who can’t be in the building during the school day.

Share Photos

Photos are an excellent way to showcase school culture. A school may choose to use photos to highlight a variety of aspects of the school, including:

  • Students exhibiting values the school encourages
  • Celebrations of student work
  • Field trips
  • Experiential learning activities
  • Assemblies or school-wide celebrations
  • Recognition of individual students for excellence

Share Videos

Videos can be an incredible way for a school to personalize its online presence and actually demonstrate what it is that makes it special. A school may add videos that showcase a lot of different things, including:

  • A variety of learning, including different subjects and age groups
  • Assemblies or school-wide events
  • Community meetings
  • High caliber teaching and student engagement
  • Students, teachers, and members of the community discussing what makes the school special
  • Share songs, chants, or cheers that are used as a part of school culture or academics
  • Sporting events
  • Plays, concerts and other performances

Use as a Recruitment Tool


Facebook has potential to help a school attract talented teachers and school leaders as well as raise the overall level of awareness surrounding the hard work it’s doing. By using Facebook, a school can add another layer to their recruitment efforts and help attract staff and, if applicable, attract students as well.

Using Facebook to Attract Staff

Facebook is a logical place for schools to focus some of their efforts when recruiting talented teachers and school leaders. For starters, the aforementioned use of media to share details of the school will provide potential staff members a glimpse inside of the school. I know if I was torn between applying to work in two schools, I would likely favor one that was providing me with photos and videos to complement their description of what they’re doing to support students. As long as a school actually has a strong culture and learning community, sharing it effectively can significantly bolster its recruiting efforts.

Additionally, Facebook is a great place for a school to post its job openings. Facebook makes it incredibly easy to share content, which means if I know someone who’s looking for a certain teaching position and come across such a position on a school’s page, I can easily send it his or her way. Current teachers can also share job openings with people in their network that may potentially be interested in applying.

If a school has an online system for accepting job applications, it should include the link on the Facebook Page. If a school doesn’t have such a system in place, it may want to consider using an application that integrates with Facebook. Here’s an example from TEAM Schools, a Network of KIPP Schools, which is using the Job Magic Facebook app to recruit and accept applications.

Using Facebook to Attract Students

For schools that also focus on recruitment of students or enrolling students in a selection lottery, Facebook can be an excellent resource. First of all, a school can share the aspects of the school that make it appealing through photos and videos. But it can also share key information about enrollment, including deadlines, links to an online application, and links to resources that may be useful for a family that is interested in enrolling a student. The fact that information is easily shared via Facebook again bodes well for a school interested in recruiting students.

The Power of Data

Many schools use their strong academic results as a key to their recruiting efforts. Facebook provides a great opportunity for a school to share their aggregated academic data with the world. Not only is it available to those interested in potentially becoming a part of the community, but is also accessible to students and families that are already in the school. These results are easy for students, teachers, and proud family members to Like and share with people in their Facebook network.


Get Feedback from the Community


Facebook allows a school to lower the barriers to participation for members of the community. By effectively leveraging Facebook, a school can make it easier for community members to get involved and share their opinions on a variety of fronts. While some schools may fear this increased participation, others will embrace it as it not only increases involvement, but can also lead to a healthy discourse about what’s happening at the school.

Use Facebook Discussions

One opportunity lies in the Discussions tab on the Facebook Page. A school can create a discussion about a specific topic and allow members of the community to share their thoughts within the thread. Admins will be able to moderate the thread and remove any posts that are inappropriate.

Use Polls

Polls provide a chance for a school to solicit feedback directly from its followers. The nice thing about using a poll is that a school can limit the choices available and, with a few simple clicks, blast it out to all of its followers. It’s a great way to quickly collect data that can help inform decision making.

Use Facebook Questions

An alternative to polls, Facebook Questions allow a school to solicit feedback from the community while being a little less restrictive. Questions provides the option for a school to allow users to write in answer choices as well as share the question with others in their network. However, it’s worth noting that Questions opens responses up to friends of friends, which may not necessarily provide the best sample if a school is trying to poll just members of its community. If only sampling those in the school isn’t a priority, Questions could be a good fit. For example, YES Prep Public Schools used Facebook Questions to help determine what mascot they should use for a new school they’re opening in the fall. As of the writing of this article, “Titans” is winning handily.


A Note on Settings and Privacy


Once a school has set up a Facebook Page, there are a few settings it may want to consider to ensure it’s easy to monitor. Please note that in order to do any of the following you must first be logged in and designated as an Admin of the Facebook Page.

Posting Ability

It’s a good idea to control the permissions regarding what content users are allowed to upload. To access permissions, do the following:

1. Click “Edit Page” in the upper-right of the Facebook Page
2. Select the “Manage Permissions” tab on the left side of the screen
3. Uncheck “Users can add photos”
4. Uncheck “Users can add videos”
5. Leave “Users can write or post content on the wall” checked
6. Click the blue “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page

It’s a good idea to start off by limiting these permissions. If a school ultimately decides it would like to expand the permissions it offers its followers, it’s easy to do so. It’s better to become more permissive than more restrictive.

Also, it’s worth noting that unlike with personal photos on Facebook, followers won’t be able to tag people in the photos that the school uploads to its Facebook Page. As discussed above in the privacy section, this is a good thing when children are involved for many reasons.

Profanity Blocklist

Facebook allows the Admins of a Page to enable an automatic screener for profanity. To enable this profanity blocklist, do the following:

1. Click “Edit Page” in the upper-right of the Facebook Page
2. Select the “Manage Permissions” tab on the left side of the screen
3. In the dropdown beside “Profanity Blocklist:” select “Strong”
4. Click the blue “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page

If there are specific words that a school would like to prohibit from being used, it can write them in the box beside “Moderation Blocklist” on the same page. If a user tries to use one of these prohibited words, it will automatically be marked as spam and won’t show up on the Facebook page.

Enable Email Notifications

To prevent page Admins from having to constantly be checking the Facebook page, it’s a good idea to enable Email Notifications. To do so, do the following:

1. Click “Edit Page” in the upper right of the Facebook Page
2. Select the “Your Settings” tab on the left side of the screen
3. Check the checkbox beside “Email Notifications”
4. Click the blue “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page

Now, whenever a user posts or comments on the Facebook Page, the Admin will receive an email letting them know that the interaction has occurred.


Make It Personal


The key to any school successfully leveraging Facebook is finding what fits the personality of the individual school. The above ideas are merely suggestions as a way to get started. The important thing is that each school makes their Facebook Page an extension of the amazing things they are doing every day in the classroom.

While Facebook is at times a bit daunting, when used effectively it can provide schools with an excellent opportunity to engage the communities they serve and act as a key component in a school’s online presence.

Is there a school in your community using Facebook to its full potential? Do you have any additional tips? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Interested in more Education resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RichVintage

More About: education, facebook, family, Kids, List, Lists, parents, privacy, schools, social media, teachers

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December 16 2010

10 Free Online Resources for Science Teachers


One of the greatest ways technology can empower teachers is by helping them demonstrate concepts and by making it easier for students to learn through their own exploration and experimentation.

Because science teachers are often called upon to teach topics that are too large, too small, happen too fast, happen too slowly, require equipment that is too expensive, or has the potential to blow up a laboratory, the Internet can be particularly helpful in assisting them convey a concept.

Universities, non-profit organizations and scientists with free time have put an overwhelming number of resources for teaching science on the web. These are nine of our favorites.


1. The Periodic Table of Videos


A group of scientists based at the University of Nottingham added some character to the static periodic table of elements by creating a short video for each one.

Hydrogen, for instance, seems much more exciting after you’ve seen what happens when you hold a match to a balloon that is filled with it, and it’s easier to remember the name Darmstadtium after you have seen Darmstadt.

The group also puts out a non-YouTube version of the site for schools that have blocked the site.


2. Teach the Earth


SERC

The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has compiled just about every fathomable resource for geoscience educators. By serving as the portal to helpful web pages from dozens of independent project websites, the site provides visuals, classroom activities and course descriptions for everything from oceanography to “red tide and harmful algal blooms.”


3. Stellarium


Stellatarium

Stellarium is a planetarium for your computer. Just input your location and explore the sky outside or the view from any other location. The program offers up information on stars, nebulae, planets and constellations according to 12 different cultures.

In addition to being ideal for classroom astronomy lessons, Stellarium’s open source software is also used to light up the screens of a number of real planetariums.

Even though Google Sky won’t give you a view from a specific location, it will direct you to specific galaxies, planets and stars or to a map of the moon that notes where each of the six Apollo missions landed.


4. YouTube


“What happens when you put Cesium in water?” is a question that in some cases is best answered by YouTube. YouTube’s archive of demonstrations have the advantage of being safe, clean and unlikely to catch on fire.

You’ll find experiments for most concepts just by using the search bar. But if you’re in a browsing mood, check out this list of the 100 coolest science experiments on YouTube.

Most schools that block YouTube allow access to educational alternatives like TeacherTube and School Tube.


5. NASA Education


NASA

NASA has lesson plans, videos and classroom activities for science subjects ranging from Kindergarten to university levels. The best part of this resource gold mine is that it’s easy to search by keyword or to browse by grade level, type of material or subject.

Check out the Be a Martian Game, the interactive timeline and the NASA Space Place for some smart fun.


6. Learn.Genetics


Learn.Genetics

These resources for learning about genetics by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center include interactive visualizations, 3D animations and activities. Student activities include taking a “tour” of DNA, a chromosome or a protein, building a DNA molecule, or exploring the inside of a cell.

The university is also building a sister site, Teach.Genetics, with print-and-go lesson plans and supplemental materials for some channels on the Learn.Genetics site.


7. The Concord Consortium


Concord

The Concord Consortium is a non-profit organization that helps develop technologies for math, science and engineering education. Their free, open source software is available for teachers to download to use in their classes. They include visualizations and models for a broad range of topics.

Some examples include: The Molecular Workbench, a free tool that creates interactive simulations for everything from cellular respiration to chemical bonding. Geniquest introduces students to cutting-edge genetics using dragons as their model organisms; Evolution Readiness is a project designed to teach fourth graders about evolution concepts using simulations; and The ITSI-SU Project provides lab-based activities involving probes, models and simulations.

To search for classroom activities across all projects, teachers can use the site’s Activity Finder to browse by subject, grade level or keyword.


8. The ChemCollective


ChemCollective

The ChemCollective, a project that is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students to design and carry out their own experiments in a virtual laboratory and provides virtual lab problems, real-world scenarios, concept tests, simulations, tutorials and course modules for learning basic chemistry.

The project recently won a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from Science Magazine.


9. Scitable


Scitable

Scitable is both the Nature Publishing Group’s free science library and a social network. Teachers can create a “classroom” with a customized reading list, threaded discussions, news feeds and research tools. There’s also an option to use the material on the site to create a customized e-book for free that can include any of the more than 500 videos, podcasts or articles on the site.

Topic rooms combine articles, discussions and groups related to one key concept in science and make it easy to find material that is relevant to your class and connect with people who are also passionate about the subject.

What resources did you find most helpful, or what great science tools did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.


10. Impact: Earth!


Impact

Want to see how a particular projectile from space would affect the Earth? With this tool that was developed for Purdue University, your students can enter the projectile parameters, angle and velocity to calculate what would happen if the object were to actually hit Earth. You can also get the details on the projectiles that caused famous craters.


More Education Resources from Mashable:


- 8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education
- The Case For Social Media in Schools
- 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers
- How Online Classrooms Are Helping Haiti Rebuild Its Education System
- 5 Innovative Classroom Management Tools for Teachers

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rrocio

More About: education, education resources, Kids, List, Lists, resources, school, Science, social media, teachers, tech, visualizations, youtube

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December 01 2010

5 Innovative Classroom Management Tools for Teachers

The Smarter Products Series is supported by IBM. Find out more about how IBM is working to create a Smarter Planet.


Few teachers are drawn to the profession for its administrative duties. But the reality of attendance taking, lesson planning, grading and parental communications is that they’re a big part of the job.

These tasks, however, need not take over. With help from the many online services and mobile apps designed for teachers, it can be easy to efficiently organize and complete classroom management responsibilities.

Here are five of our favorite virtual tools for tackling some of the most common classroom chores.


1. Digital Gradebook: SchoolCircuit


SchoolCircuit won us over by making its online gradebook easy to access for parents and students, and easy to manage for teachers. By assigning access codes to create accounts, teachers can give students and their parents the ability to check grades, attendance and assignments, as well as messages from the teacher and upcoming events. This feature alone goes a long way in saving time for teachers who are used to fielding inquiries about grades and due dates.

The interface makes it easy to create classes and notifies the teacher when students and parents create their accounts. The grading feature itself is equal parts flexible and easy to use; the teacher can choose his or her own grading scale; choose to make certain assignments weighted; and color code by late, missing or complete assignments.

Another similar free option is Engrade, which also includes options to build online quizzes and create class wikis.


2. Give Feedback Online: Backboard


Backboard

As more students complete their work on computers, why not skip the paper drafts and give input online? Backboard enables groups to access a shared document and make notes and corrections. It saves time in group projects, draft assessments and even grading.


3. Create and Grade Quizes: ClassMarker


Instead of printing paper quizzes and grading them by hand, teachers can use ClassMaker to make online assessments that are graded instantly. Teachers can choose between five different formats including essay responses (obviously excluded from the “instant grading” feature). They can also randomize test questions and set time limits.

The free version allows unlimited use of the basic functionality. For $25 per year, teachers can remove advertising and also have access to e-mailed results, overall question percentages, overall quiz results percentages and learner score averages.


4. Manage Lesson Plans: PlanbookEdu


PlanbookEdu is a free, online lesson plan book that functions much like a paper book with a couple of important exceptions. First, since it is cloud-based, it’s impossible to forget at home or at school. It also makes customizing and editing easier, and each box functions much like its own tiny text pad. The capability to easily share plans with substitute teachers, colleagues and administrators — probably the biggest advantage — comes only with the $20 per year premium version.

Also worth checking out is TheLessonPlanBook and Apple’s Lesson Planner web app.


5. Take Attendance: Attendance for iPhone


Attendance

It shows in the features that this $4.99 app was created by a teacher. Instead of typing each student’s name manually, users can upload from an address book or a CSV file. Teachers can snap headshots of the students with their phones or upload them from an address book to display with the names while taking attendance, and the attendance statuses are customizable. A “random student” feature helps teachers avoid calling on the same students to answer questions too often.

It’s also easy to e-mail attendance reports, or other announcements, to particular students or to the whole class. Using the same method, teachers can back up the data they’re inputting on the app during call.


Series Supported by IBM

The Smarter Products Series is supported by IBM. Find out more about how IBM is working to create a Smarter Planet.


More Education Resources from Mashable:


- 8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education
- The Case For Social Media in Schools
- 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers
- 5 Fun and Safe Social Networks for Children
- How Online Classrooms Are Helping Haiti Rebuild Its Education System

Image courtesy of Flickr, George Eastman House

More About: apps, attendance, classroom management, education, gradebook, List, Lists, Smarter Products Series, students, teachers, teaching, tools, web apps

For more Tech coverage:


November 22 2010

8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education

The Education Tech Series is supported by Dell The Power To Do More, where you’ll find perspectives, trends and stories that inspire Dell to create technology solutions that work harder for its customers so they can do and achieve more.

child_learner

Don Knezek, the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, compares education without technology to the medical profession without technology.

“If in 1970 you had knee surgery, you got a huge scar,” he says. “Now, if you have knee surgery you have two little dots.”

Technology is helping teachers to expand beyond linear, text-based learning and to engage students who learn best in other ways. Its role in schools has evolved from a contained “computer class” into a versatile learning tool that could change how we demonstrate concepts, assign projects and assess progress.

Despite these opportunities, adoption of technology by schools is still anything but ubiquitous. Knezek says that U.S. schools are still asking if they should incorporate more technology, while other countries are asking how. But in the following eight areas, technology has shown its potential for improving education.


1. Better Simulations and Models


While a tuning fork is a perfectly acceptable way to demonstrate how vibrations make sound, it’s harder to show students what evolution is, how molecules behave in different situations, or exactly why mixing two particular chemicals is dangerous.

Digital simulations and models can help teachers explain concepts that are too big or too small, or processes that happen too quickly or too slowly to demonstrate in a physical classroom.

The Concord Consortium, a non-profit organization that develops technologies for math, science and engineering education, has been a leader in developing free, open source software that teachers can use to model concepts. One of their most extensive projects is the Molecular Workbench, which provides science teachers with simulations on topics like gas laws, fluid mechanics and chemical bonding. Teachers who are trained in the system can create activities with text, models and interactive controls. One participant referred to the project as “[Microsoft] Word for molecules.”

Other simulations the organization is developing include a software that allows students to experiment with virtual greenhouses in order to understand evolution, a software that helps students understand the physics of energy efficiency by designing a model house, and simulations of how electrons interact with matter.


2. Global Learning


At sites like Glovico.org, students can set up language lessons with a native speaker who lives in another country and attend the lessons via videoconferencing. Learning from a native speaker, learning through social interaction, and being exposed to another culture’s perspective are all incredible educational advantages that were once only available to those who could foot a travel bill. Now, setting up a language exchange is as easy as making a videoconferencing call.


3. Virtual Manipulatives


Let’s say you’re learning about the relationship between fractions, percents and decimals. Your teacher could have you draw graphs or do a series of problems that changes just one variable in the same equation. Or he could give you a “virtual manipulative” like the one above and let you experiment with equations to reach an understanding of the relationship. The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, run by a team at Utah State University, has been building its database of these tools since 1999.

“You used to count blocks or beads,” says Lynne Schrum, who has written three books on the topic of schools and technology. “Manipulating those are a little bit more difficult. Now there are virtual manipulative sites where students can play with the idea of numbers and what numbers mean, and if I change values and I move things around, what happens.”


4. Probes and Sensors


About 15 years ago, the founders of the Concord Consortium took the auto focus sensor from a Polaroid camera and hooked it up to a computer graph program, thereby creating the ability to graph motion in real time. Today there are classrooms all over the world that use ultrasonic motion detectors to demonstrate concepts.

“I’ve taught physics before, and you spend a lot of time getting these ideas of position, and what is velocity, and what does motion really mean and how do you define it,” says Chad Dorsey, the president and CEO of the Concord Consortium. “And you end up spending a lot of time doing these things and trying to translate them into graphs. You could spend a whole period creating a graph for an experiment that you did, and it loses a lot of meaning in that process. By hooking up this ultrasonic motion detector to a graph right away…it gives you a specific real-time feel for what it means to move at faster rates or slower rates or increasing in speed or decreasing in speed and a much more foundational understanding of the topic than you could ever get by just drawing the graph by hand.”

Collecting real-time data through probes and sensors has a wide range of educational applications. Students can compute dew point with a temperature sensor, test pH with a pH probe, observe the effect of pH on an MnO3 reduction with a light probe, or note the chemical changes in photosynthesis using pH and nitrate sensors.


5. More Efficient Assessment


Models and simulations, beyond being a powerful tool for teaching concepts, can also give teachers a much richer picture of how students understand them.

“You can ask students questions, and multiple choice questions do a good job of assessing how well students have picked up vocabulary,” Dorsey explains. “But the fact that you can describe the definition [of] a chromosome … doesn’t mean that you understand genetics any better … it might mean that you know how to learn a definition. But how do we understand how well you know a concept?”

In Geniverse, a program the Concord Consortium developed to help students understand genetics by “breeding” dragons, teachers can give students a problem that is much more like a performance assessment. The students are asked to create a specific dragon. Teachers can see what each student did to reach his or her end result and thereby understand whether trial-and-error or actual knowledge of genetics leads to a correct answer.

The organization is also developing a program that will help teachers collect real-time assessment data from their students. When the teacher gives out an assignment, she can watch how far along students are, how much time each a spends on each question, and whether their answers are correct. With this information, she can decide what concepts students are struggling with and can pull up examples of students’ work on a projector for discussion.

“What they would have done in the past is students would make a lab report, they’d turn it in, the teacher would take a couple of days to grade it, they’d get it back a couple of days later, and two to three days later they’d talk about it,” Dorsey says. “But they’ve probably done a couple of lessons in between then, [and] they haven’t had time to guide the students immediately as they learned it.”


6. Storytelling and Multimedia


Knezek recently saw a video that was produced by a group of elementary students about Bernoulli’s Principle. In the video, the students demonstrated the principle that makes flight possible by taking two candles and putting them close together, showing that blowing between them brings the flames closer together. For another example, they hung ping pong balls from the ceiling and they pulled together.

“With a simple assignment and access to technology, researching and also producing a product that would communicate, they were able to do deep learning on a concept that wasn’t even addressed in their textbook, and allow other people to view it and learn from it,” Knezek says.

Asking children to learn through multimedia projects is not only an excellent form of project-based learning that teaches teamwork, but it’s also a good way to motivate students who are excited to create something that their peers will see. In addition, it makes sense to incorporate a component of technology that has become so integral to the world outside of the classroom.

“It’s no longer the verbal logic or the spoken or written word that causes people to make decisions,” Knezek says. “Where you go on vacations, who you vote for, what kind of car you buy, all of those things are done now with multimedia that engage all of the senses and cause responses.”


7. E-books


Despite students’ apparent preference for paper textbooks, proponents like Daytona College and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are ready to switch to digital. And electronic textbook vendors like CourseSmart are launching to help them.

E-books hold an unimaginable potential for innovating education, though as some schools have already discovered, not all of that potential has been realized yet.

“A digital textbook that is merely a PDF on a tablet that students can carry around might be missing out on huge possibilities like models and simulations or visualizations,” Dorsey says. “It takes time and it really takes some real thought to develop those things, and so it would be easy for us as a society to miss out on those kinds of opportunities by saying, ‘Hey look, we’re not carrying around five textbooks anymore. It’s all on your iPad, isn’t that great?’”


8. Epistemic Games


Epistemic games put students in roles like city planner, journalist, or engineer and ask them to solve real-world problems. The Epistemic Games Group has provided several examples of how immersing students in the adult world through commercial game-like simulations can help students learn important concepts.

In one game, students are cast as high-powered negotiators who need to decide the fate of a real medical controversy. In another, they must become graphical artists in order to create an exhibit of mathematical art in the style of M.C. Escher. Urban Science, the game featured in the above video, assigns students the task of redesigning Madison, Wisconsin.

“Creative professionals learn innovative thinking through training that is very different from traditional academic classrooms because innovative thinking means more than just knowing the right answers on a test,” explains The Epistemic Games Group’s website. “It also means having real-world skills, high standards and professional values, and a particular way of thinking about problems and justifying solutions. Epistemic games are about learning these fundamental ways of thinking for the digital age.”

These eight technologies are redefining education. Which technologies would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.


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The Education Tech Series is supported by Dell The Power To Do More, where you’ll find perspectives, trends and stories that inspire Dell to create technology solutions that work harder for its customers so they can do and achieve more.


More Education Resources from Mashable:


- The Case For Social Media in Schools
- How Social Gaming is Improving Education
- Why Online Education Needs to Get Social
- Social Media Parenting: Raising the Digital Generation
- HOW TO: Help Your Child Set Up a Blog

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, BanksPhotos

More About: Children, education, Education Tech Series, Kids, schools, teachers, technology in education, technology in schools

For more Tech coverage:


September 29 2010

The Case For Social Media in Schools

Laptop School Image

A year after seventh grade teacher Elizabeth Delmatoff started a pilot social media program in her Portland, Oregon classroom, 20% of students school-wide were completing extra assignments for no credit, grades had gone up more than 50%, and chronic absenteeism was reduced by more than a third. For the first time in its history, the school met its adequate yearly progress goal for absenteeism.

At a time when many teachers are made wary by reports of predators and bullies online, social media in the classroom is not the most popular proposition. Teachers like Delmatoff, however, are embracing it rather than banning it. They argue that the educational benefits of social media far outweigh the risks, and they worry that schools are missing out on an opportunity to incorporate learning tools the students already know how to use.

What started as a Facebook-like forum where Delmatoff posted assignments has grown into a social media component for almost every subject. Here are the reasons why she and other proponents of educational social media think more schools should do the same.


1. Social Media is Not Going Away


In the early 1990s, the Internet was the topic of a similar debate in schools. Karl Meinhardt was working as a school computer services manager at the time.

“There was this thing called the Internet starting to show up that was getting a lot of hype, and the school administration was adamantly against allowing access,” he says. “The big fear was pornography and predators, some of the same stuff that’s there today. And yet…can you imagine a school not connected to the Internet now? “

Meinhardt helped develop the Portland social media pilot program after Delmatoff saw his weekly technology segment on the local news and called to ask for his advice. In his opinion, social media, like the Internet, will be a part of our world for a long time. It’s better to teach it than to fight it.

Almost three-fourths of 7th through 12th graders have at least one social media profile, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The survey group used social sites more than they played games or watched videos online.

When schools have tried to ban social media, now an integral part of a young person’s life, they’ve had negative results. Schools in Britain that tried to “lock down” their Internet access, for instance, found that “as well as taking up time and detracting from learning, it did not encourage the pupils to take responsibility for their actions.”

“Don’t fight a losing battle,” says Delmatoff. “We’re going to get there anyway, so it’s better to be on the cutting edge, and be moving with the kids, rather than moving against them…Should they be texting their friends during a lecture? Of course not. They shouldn’t be playing cards in a lecture, they shouldn’t be taking a nap during a lecture. But should they learn how to use media for good? Absolutely.”


2. When Kids Are Engaged, They Learn Better


edublogs image

Matt Hardy, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher in Minnesota, describes the “giddy” response he gets from students when he introduces blogs. He started using blogs in his classroom in 2007 as a way to motivate students to write.

“Students aren’t just writing on a piece of paper that gets handed to the teacher and maybe a smiley face or some comments get put on it,” he says. “Blogging was a way to get students into that mode where, ‘Hey, I’m writing this not just for an assignment, not just for a teacher, but my friend will see it and maybe even other people [will] stumble across it.’ So there’s power in that.”

Delmatoff says that at first her students were worried they would get in trouble for playing because they actually enjoyed doing activities like writing a blog.

“But writing a blog, that’s not playing, that’s hard work,” she says. “Karl and I started thinking we were really on to something if kids were thinking that their hard academic work was too much fun.”

Her students started getting into school early to use the computer for the social media program, and the overall quality of their work increased. Although Delmatoff is adamant that there’s no way to pin her class’s increased academic success specifically to the pilot program, it’s hard to say that it didn’t play a part in the more than 50% grade increase.


3. Safe Social Media Tools Are Available — And They’re Free


kidsblog image

When Hardy started using blogs to teach, he developed his own platform to avoid some of the dangers associated with social media use and children. His platform allowed him to monitor and approve everything the children were posting online, and it didn’t expose his students to advertising that might be inappropriate. He later developed a similar web-based tool that all teachers could use called kidblog.org. The concept caught on so quickly that his server crashed in September when the school year started.

Many mainstream social media sites like Facebook and MySpace are blocked in schools that receive federal funding because of the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which states that these schools can’t expose their students to potential harm on the Internet.

Kidblog.org is one of many free tools that allow teachers to control an online environment while still benefiting from social media. Delmatoff managed her social media class without a budget by using free tools like Edmodo and Edublogs.


4. Replace Online Procrastination with Social Education


nielsen graph image

Between 2004 and 2009, the amount of time that kids between the ages of 2 and 11 spent online increased by 63%, according to a Nielson study. And there’s no reason, Meinhardt argues, that schools shouldn’t compete with other social media sites for part of this time.

He helped Delmatoff create a forum where she would post an extra assignment students could complete after school every day. One day she had students comment on one of President Obama’s speeches; another day she had them make two-minute videos of something on their walk home that was a bad example of sustainability. These assignments had no credit attached to them. “It didn’t get you an A, it didn’t get you a cookie. It didn’t get you anything except something to do and something to talk about with other students.”

About 100 students participated. Through polls taken before and after the program, Meinhardt determined that students spent between four to five fewer hours per week on Facebook and MySpace when the extra assignments had been implemented.

“They were just as happy to do work rather than talk trash,” Delmatoff says. “All they wanted was to be with their friends.”


5. Social Media Encourages Collaboration Instead of Cliques


edmodo image

Traditional education tactics often involve teacher-given lectures, students with their eyes on their own papers, and not talking to your neighbor.

“When you get in the business world,” Meinhardt says, “All of [a] sudden it’s like, ‘OK, work with this group of people.’ It’s collaborative immediately. And we come unprepared to collaborate on projects.”

Social media as a teaching tool has a natural collaborative element. Students critique and comment on each other’s assignments, work in teams to create content, and can easily access each other and the teacher with questions or to start a discussion.

Taking some discussions online would also seem to be an opportunity for kids who are shy or who don’t usually interact with each other to learn more about each other. A study by the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, however, found that this wasn’t the case. The study found that using educational social media tools in one of the Institute’s courses had no measurable impact on social connections.

Delmatoff argues that with her students, however, new connections were made. “If you’re shy or you’re not popular or any of those hideous things that we worry about in middle school — if you know the answers or have good insights or ask good questions, you’re going to be really valuable online.” she says. “So I started to see some changes that way.”


6. Cell Phones Aren’t the Enemy


69% of American high schools have banned cell phones, according to figures compiled by CommonSense Media, a nonprofit group that studies children’s use of technology. Instead, Delmatoff’s school collected student’s cell phone numbers.

Delmatoff would send text messages to wake chronically absent kids up before school or send messages like, “I see you at the mini-mart” when they were running late (there’s a mini-mart visible from the school). She called the program “Texts on Time,” and it improved chronic absenteeism by about 35% without costing the school a dime.

“The cell phone is a parent-sponsored, parent-funded communication channel, and schools need to wrap their mind around it to reach and engage the kids,” Meinhardt says.


Conclusion


Nobody would dispute that the risks of children using social media are real and not to be taken lightly. But there are also dangers offline. The teachers and parents who embrace social media say the best way to keep kids safe, online or offline, is to teach them. We’re eager to hear what you think. Tell us in the comments below.


More Education Resources from Mashable:


- Why Online Education Needs to Get Social
- 15 Essential Back to School Podcasts
- How Social Gaming is Improving Education
- 3 Ways Educators Are Embracing Social Technology
- 5 Innovative Tech Camps for Kids and Teens

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, dem10, Alsos

More About: education, Kids, Mobile 2.0, phone, schools, social media, social media in schools, teachers, teaching, tech, teens, texting

For more Social Media coverage:


May 11 2010

4 Tips for Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom

Sketch Social Media Brown Bag ImageA former local newspaper reporter, Tanveer is a student at the Medill School of Journalism learning all things digital and entrepreneurial. He also writes about political figures for WhoRunsGov.com and hopes to own the high score on multiple Ms. Pac-Man machines one day.

While kids may rely social networks for personal use, there is a place for them in K-12 education, as well. In 2007, half of all students who used the Internet said they use it to talk specifically about schoolwork, according to a National School Boards Association survey. Still, most schools continue to discourage or outright ban the use of the technology in school. This is often due to a lack of understanding, its status as a distraction, or both.

The fact is, social networks are here to stay, and with or without rules, kids are going to use them. Here are four tips for educators on how to develop a technology policy that seizes on social networking as a learning tool and teaches children how to use it responsibly.


1. Let Down the Filters, Cautiously


Schools have been understandably cautious in allowing students access to social media sites. After all, they are required to filter content under U.S. federal law. In the NSBA survey, 52% of schools said they prohibit any use of social networking sites on campus. Some districts are working toward making those sites more accessible to students, but they need an educational justification to do so while ensuring usage won’t be abused.

For many schools, it is easier to apply broad filters that restrict access to inappropriate sites and social networks alike, allowing for minimal supervision. Dan Weiser, who is working on the digital policy for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in California, said his district allows teachers to work around the filters to access sites, but doesn’t have staff that could monitor and customize usage on a regular basis.

While dedicated staff should soon, if not already, be a necessity, there are simple ways to monitor access. Patrol computer labs, place computers where staff have a presence, and install management software allowing monitoring from one computer, says Justin Reich, co-director of EdTechTeacher.org.


2. Add “Digital Citizenship” to the Curriculum


Kids Computers ImageWeiser also said his district won’t open up social networking sites to students unless a curriculum explaining how to use them is in place. “How do you teach ethical use if you can’t access it?” Weiser asks.

Enter “digital citizenship,” or the idea that with the growing importance of the social web, students should be taught about digital ethics. While children are usually savvy when it comes to using new technologies, they aren’t necessarily aware of the issues that come with them. Behavior is as important as know-how, and the framework for this type of curriculum addresses issues like intellectual property, security and privacy.

Susan Brooks Young, a former educator who is now a technology consultant for schools, likens children’s social media usage to driving; neither activities are going away. “We really guide them through the process of driving to make it as safe as we can. Social media in a lot of ways parallels that. You would never just give that child a set of car keys.”


3. Keep One Eye on Student Conduct, the Other on the Law


While schools can regulate what students and teachers may do with on-campus computers, their ability to police usage both off-school grounds and with students’ personal devices becomes murkier in terms of the law and technological ability.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. Different states and countries have different rules, and a variety of factors come into play including the devices used, whether the communication took place on or off school grounds, and the context of what was said or done online.

Many states have laws giving schools authority over off-campus conduct if it disrupts in-school instruction. Francine Ward, a California-based lawyer specializing in social media issues, expects the number of cases involving social media use and schools to climb in the next few years. The best way to get ahead of this is to amend every school’s “Code of Conduct” to include online activity, if only to have a policy in place when something does erupt. Adding social media policy to student handbooks sends a message that schools take online usage seriously.


4. Teach With Social Media


One way to keep social media use from being a distraction in schools is to find ways to use it in existing curricula.

A 2009 survey commissioned by PBS shows digital and social media use by teachers is on the rise, but social media usage in classes lags behind other types of media. While 76% of American K-12 teachers say they use digital media in class, only 29% say they use a social networking site or social media community for instruction.

Part of the delay is because educators are at a loss about how to incorporate social media into lesson plans. But there are ways educators have seized on using social media tools like Skype, cell phones, and Twitter to connect the classroom with the outside world. Teachers have also used accounts at Wikispaces, an free online Wikipedia-style software system, which even first grade classes have found a use for.

Not surprisingly, there are social networking sites devoted to use in the classroom. Classroom 2.0 is a good community for bouncing around some ideas.


Conclusion


Instead of dismissing social media as distracting or destructive, schools should embrace it as an essential part of the curriculum. Not only does this limit the potential for students to abuse the technology, but it opens a new set of valuable educational tools.



For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook




More education resources from Mashable:


- 3 Ways Educators Are Embracing Social Technology
- How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement
- Why Banning Social Media Often Backfires
- 5 Ways Classrooms Can Use Video Conferencing

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, morganl


Reviews: Facebook, Internet, Twitter, Wikipedia, iStockphoto

Tags: Children, education, educators, facebook, Kids, school, social media, social media policy, teachers, twitter


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