30. January 2013 15:20
In an age of perpetually shifting technologies, interactive whiteboards are here to stay, according to a 2012 report issued by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. GIA’s research shows the global IWB market should reach 1.85 billion dollars by 2018. The report cites increasing demand for technology-based education solutions, as well as strong governmental and funding initiatives, as primary indicators of the IWB’s longevity.
This is excellent news to those teachers and administrators stuck in holding patterns over which of the seemingly countless educational technologies to spend their limited budgets upon. As the rate of innovation has skyrocketed, so too have the number of ‘game-changing’ technological initiatives: tablets and other personal devices, ‘flipped’ classrooms, and student-directed online learning, to name a few. While these are valuable solutions for any educator to consider, a strong argument can be made that interactive whiteboards reign supreme in the technological classroom. Long thought to be education’s next big thing, the demise of IWBs has been often reported, though never realized. Each year, reports like GIA’s show that the technology is going to be around for a very long time; and that it will continue to improve and develop as more and more educators embrace and invest in it.
Here are just a few more reasons to say yes to interactive whiteboards:
It’s truly amazing what a motivated teacher (or student) can do with this device. Far more than a surface upon which to project a lesson, the IWB makes your lesson an organic experience. Teaching a unit about Ancient Greece? With a whiteboard, you could project a map showing important city-states; if students are particularly interested in, say, Athens, you could go to the Internet and display photos, videos, and information about the city. You could play audio that teaches students how to say their names in Greek, have students read Greek myths, or play educational games. Best of all, you can do all of this on an IWB – no additional materials are required.
Let’s be honest: this is why you really install an IWB in a classroom. They allow hands-on interaction for students, increasing incentive, attention, and enjoyment. Students don’t sit back and watch; they participate by using the board to directly manipulate lesson materials. IWB developers know this, and are constantly introducing features that focus on this student-lesson interaction. For example, many IWBs now feature dual-touch functionality, meaning that multiple students can interact with the board at the same time. Its also an undeniable fact that students respond more positively to IWBs, thanks to their increasingly technological lives (cell phones, tablets, video games, etc.).
It’s true that IWBs don’t come cheap, but they are an investment that pays off in multiple ways, thanks to their versatility and adaptability to student and teacher needs. There is a growing catalog of IWB software. The next generation of textbooks and workbooks, these products are designed around the capabilities of an IWB, approaching traditional educational content in an entirely new and creative way. But that’s not all: IWBs also support teacher-created content. It’s simple to create your own lesson plan or interactive activity. And many of these resources are available, for little or no fee, at special websites such as Promethean Planet. This, along with the many ways an interactive whiteboard can be used on a daily basis, more than offset the cost of buying and installing one.
It’s getting more and more difficult to envision an educational future without interactive whiteboards. It’s been a valuable technology for years, but it’s only starting to hit its stride. We recommend joining the race to the future.
9. January 2013 09:10
In the spring of 2012, the state of Texas overhauled their student assessments and introduced the new State of Texas Assessments for Academic Readiness (STAAR). Unlike the TAKS, the state’s old testing system that had been in place since 2003, STAAR is much more demanding and requires students to use their critical thinking and application skills, as well as demonstrate their knowledge.
Since this immense change requires time for teachers to adjust their lesson plans, the final requirements for STAAR are being slowly phased in. The testing requirements will grow in rigor each year until 2016, when the final performance requirements will arrive. After the first year of STAAR’s implementation, most educators find the new testing system promising. Throughout the state, students met expectations and, oftentimes, outperformed them.
In order to create this new testing system, public school & college educators, as well as testing experts, came together to develop new educational standards. Students are now tested on the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), which are composed of Readiness Standards and Supporting Standards. Although Texas has not accepted the Common Core Standards, the TEKS are designed specifically to meet the increasing educational demands in a globalizing world. Most importantly, STAAR and the TEKS are meant to assess students’ college and career readiness. Educators believe this will help students make the transition from high school to college a little smoother. With more students taking AP courses and attending college, it is easy to see that STAAR is intended to take students to the next level.
In fact, the most significant changes between STAAR and the TAKS occur in high school.
Instead of the four tests students were required to pass in order to graduate, students will now have to pass twelve different subject exams. It is easy to see that this will require much more time and preparation, both for teachers and students.
Although college preparedness is vital, some teachers believe too much class time is spent on state testing.
Instead of gaining important skills, teachers often have to spend time focusing on assessment-specific material in order for their school to receive the grade or funds they need. Unfortunately, testing can often be more about making the school look good than ensuring that students are actually learning and growing. Likewise, general testing cannot always assess students’ knowledge accurately.
Students’ brains works differently; it seems almost silly to believe that one basic test will meet everyone’s needs and be able to accurately determine what a student has learned.
What do you think about state testing? Does it help students and schools in the long run? Or is it too broad and general? What do you think about Texas’ plan to gradually introduce STAAR requirements?
For more information on STAAR: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147504081&menu_id=692&menu_id2=796
Check out our new test preparation system for STAAR, including student workbooks, parent/teacher editions, and flashcards.
28. November 2012 15:29
Praised by the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and recognized in 2011 by the President’s Council on the Arts and the Humanities, A+ school networks are starting to receive plenty of attention. These schools, which originated in North Carolina and spread to Oklahoma and Arkansas, are known for integrating art education in practically every facet of their curriculum. A+ schools are governed by the following eight essential principles: arts, curriculum, experiential learning, multiple intelligences, enriched assessment, collaboration, infrastructure, and climate. While their instructional material is diverse, A+ schools as a whole are also hard to define. Certain private, public, and charter schools have adopted their policies, and the schools can also be found in urban, rural, and suburban areas, where they cater to children from different economic backgrounds. However, the A+ schools have at least one thing in common: a desire for a change in the American education system.
That change can be clearly seen in the classroom. In dance classes, students learn about mathematic equations. Visual and creative illustrations are used to explain scientific principles. Third graders learn and create spoken-word poetry. In Oklahoma, these methods are used in the hope that every student will be creative and inspired. In fact, their methods have become so popular that KIPP schools, which are known for their discipline, have also started to adopt A+ policies.
The A+ essentials appeal to many schools for different reasons. For instance, schools might decide to adopt A+ policies to raise test scores, to add collaborative projects and activities, or to increase the presence of the arts in the classroom. In order to become part of the network, 85 percent of the school’s faculty must decide in favor of the change. A+ staff will then review their school and decide if they will be able to carry out the A+ essential standards. Schools are judged on an individual basis.
Although change for the sake of change can be destructive, these schools have proven that altering education can be exceedingly positive. Because of their unique approach to learning, A+ schools are frequently studied by outside researchers. In Oklahoma, a recent study showed that the schools outperform all others in their state and district. It also showed that A+ students have higher attendance rates, a smaller number of disciplinary issues, and more parent and community engagement. Interestingly, the schools that most closely adhered to the A+ essentials had the most positive results; those that held loosely to the essentials did not perform quite as well.
What do you make of A+ schools? Do you think the arts should be further emphasized in classrooms? Is this too much focus on the arts? Can a balance between the arts and math and science ever be achieved?
Check out the website for the Oklahoma A+ schools: http://aplusok.org/
21. November 2012 13:17
If you have heard of MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, you know that they are the latest trend at many high-tiered college campuses. Professors offer these classes free for students, and virtually anyone can join. MOOCs are not usually offered for credit, but they do give many students from all over the world the opportunity to study new material with some of the leaders in academia. The first MOOC was offered by a Stanford professor in 2011, and over 160,000 students in 190 nations signed up for his free course. As a result, universities have been encouraged to remodel their ideas about classes and credit hours, envisioning a world where, someday, everyone can have access to a university-level education.
In particular, universities that now use MOOCs are often considered some of the top schools in the U.S. While Stanford started the trend, Princeton, Harvard, and MIT have all followed suit. The expense is often too much for smaller schools to handle, but it makes sense that universities where the “best” education is available would want to spread their knowledge to everyone who desires it. Since their names are extremely recognizable, it is also understandable that many students would be attracted to their free courses. In fact, top universities have the most to gain from MOOCS, which clearly help increase their reach and prestige.
So how do the courses work? Usually, the professor posts videos of his or her lectures. Online discussion boards are normally employed, but when there are 160,000 students in a course, it is impossible for the professor to view all the comments. Instead, students can vote on the best comments, so that they become more visible. This allows the professor to see the main points of discussion and tailor his or her lectures accordingly. Grading also become nearly impossible with these massive numbers, so peer grading is often utilized. Students might read and rate a few of their classmates’ essays. In the same strain, final grades for the class are usually pass/fail. Clearly, MOOCs are student-driven, and they require the student to take on new roles in the virtual classroom.
Additionally, some schools have seen the immense popularity of the MOOCs and decided to offer them for credit. For credit, students might have to pay for proctored exams or for a certificate of completion. However, universities are often concerned about giving credit when the final grade rests solely in students’ hands. Peer grading, while proven to be helpful for students, can also provide means for cheating or unfair grading. While professors have attempted to refine rubrics, peer grading will never be perfect. Thus, it remains to be seen how MOOCs will be used to fulfill college credit requirements.
Because of their massive numbers, MOOCs really emphasize learning over grades and requirements. Most likely, students who enroll in these types of classes would be more interested and enthusiastic about the material and less preoccupied with fulfilling a list of dull requirements. In other words, these classes might hold more engaged learners, maybe even more than the average college classroom. MOOCs can give retirees a way to continue learning and provide students in China with access to a Harvard-level education. While credit for these classes might not yet be ideal, MOOCs seem like a perfect way to offer free education for the masses.
What do you think about MOOCs? Should they be offered for credit or just for fun learning? What effects will this have on college education as a whole?
17. May 2012 15:34
In recent years, international test scores have shown that the United States has fallen behind other countries’ results. While many contributing factors have been debated, including cost and logistics, the effectiveness of the time students spend in school should perhaps bear the heaviest consideration.
Data from The Center for Public Education shows that most U.S. schools require as much or more instructional time as do other countries. Typically, American students in younger grades receive fewer instructional hours than students in higher grades; this is also the case in high-performing countries like Japan, Korea, and Finland. When the number of required hours increases, however, test scores don’t seem to tag along.
Collectively, the states require between 900 and 1,000 hours of instructional time per year depending on the grade level. According to the OECD, by 8th grade, students will have been required to receive more hours of instruction than students in most industrialized countries. Data shows that countries with less instructional hours, such as Japan (868), Korea (867), and Finland (777), have outperformed U.S. schools, suggesting that increased instructional time does not correlate with increased achievement.
Therefore, maybe it isn’t so much the number of instructional hours that matters, but the quality of instruction. Students should get the most out of their time in the classroom, so the question becomes, “How effectively is classroom time used?”
Are teachers engaging students? Are lessons and activities creative and well-developed? Will assignments advance the learning process rather than overwhelm students? Do supplementary materials actively involve students? Are teachers motivating rather than demanding?
Achieving the goal of increasing test scores in U.S. schools starts in the classroom. It is largely the responsibility of teachers to make material interesting for students and engage them in the learning process. One thousand hours is a lot of time to be used otherwise.
20. October 2011 15:40
I love reading. Always have. Ever since my parents read to me from dog-eared copies of The Hobbit
and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
, I've eagerly devoured literature of every sort.
LEP's homepage currently features a promotion for Story Squares(TM)
, a language arts resource that offers 800 reading comprehension and response activities based on 40 classic books from children's literature. I couldn't help but scan the list of included books. An impressive collection of memorable stories, timeless characters, and popular authors is on display. I've read many of the selections, and I'd be surprised if you or your children haven't experienced at least a few of them firsthand. Highlights include Charlotte's Web, How to Eat Fried Worms, The Whipping Boy, Matilda,
and a Judy Moody
This list is far from exhaustive, of course. If one were to attempt to include every classic of children's literature in a single resource, the page count would no doubt approach astronomic proportions - the index would intimidate even the most stalwart reader.
Allthat to say, reading through the list got us thinking: what makes a 'classic' book: the thrill of the story? the cast of characters? the lessons learned by last page's turning? Why are students still reading books that were published in the early 20th century and, in some cases, much earlier?
When I think of books I read in school, three specific titles spring unfailingly to mind: S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders
; Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
; and Gary Paulsen's Hatchet
. The characters and their stories have stuck with me through more than 15 years and literally thousands of additional tales, novels, and poems. What makes these classics? In my opinion, it's in how they encourage readers to view life from new and challenging perspectives. In fifth grade (I believe I read TKAM
somewhat further along), these new points of view were truly revelatory. What would I do, how would I feel, if I were to slip my feet into the characters' shoes? It was at that time that I realized literature's power to change me.
Perhaps it is more about who children are when they read so-called classics, rather than any single characteristic such books possess. Maybe it's all about the young mind's interaction and response, rather than an author's intent. One thing's for sure: the classics will continue to impact students so long as they're taught.
What do you think? What makes a classic? What books changed the way you looked at the world? What modern books will eventually become classics in their own right? Be heard in the comments section below!
16. September 2011 16:25
It's no secret that the modern economy demands workers that are increasingly skilled, particularly in advanced, specific skills like mathematics and engineering. Another obvious fact is the poor condition of the American economy. Combine the two, however, and a surprising and troubling situation emerges. Despite high unemployment rates, the aforementioned advanced jobs are available. The problem is filling these positions with capable, appropriately educated workers. America is not producing viable candidates, and companies are forced to hire more capable candidates from other countries. Why does this gap exist? Could it be that our education system is to blame?
A recent article appearing on Education Next compares the performance of U.S. students and other countries in the areas of mathematics and reading proficiency. The results are not encouraging. The comparisons are based upon two assessment organizations that are generally considered as "report cards" of American and global students. These are the National Assessment of Educational Progress (America) and the Program for International Student Assessment (global). For a full breakdown and explanation of the comparisons and results, check out the full article. It's absolutely worth a read.
The broad findings of the comparisons are this: U.S. students are consistently performing well below students from several countries around the globe in both mathematics and reading. The gap is much more pronounced in mathematics, which is without a doubt the skill more applicable to today's economy (and likely the future's).
Perhaps most stunning is the fact that only one U.S. state - Massachusetts - has above a 50 percent proficiency rating in either subject. Many states, in fact, score far below that mark. This means that the vast majority of our students are not proficient in either mathematics or reading. Statistics such as these reinforce the increasingly obvious fact that America, once the undisputed leader in global education, is steadily losing ground to parts of the rest of the world.
The pivotal question is, of course, what will we do about it? I ask you - what can be done? What should be done? Sound off in the comments section below.