Sunday, October 30, 2011

Watch the amount of screen time given to youngsters

This article highlights the debate around the amount of time youngsters spend in front of a screens, such as tablets and computers.  This is based on research done by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The article starts:

Parents increasingly rely on tablet computers, such as iPads, to educate and entertain children but experts warn an overload could stunt a baby's brain development. 

To read the article in full, click here. 

Hindi introduced in a New Zealand school

This article highlights the change in the make up of New Zealand schools, with the introduction of languages, such as Mandarin and Hindi.  However, French remains the language that is the most popular being taught in New Zealand secondary schools.  The article starts:

A community movement to have Hindi taught in schools has highlighted the changing voice of Kiwis. 

Auckland's Papatoetoe High School announced this month it would become the first school in the country to offer Hindi as part of the curriculum. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A view on compulsary iPads in one New Zealand school

Here's an article that highlights parents' views who feel they are being bullied into having to purchase iPads for their Year 9 children in one New Zealand school.  One question that a parent asks is 'why iPads?'.  The article starts:

'A parent of a pupil at Orewa College says Christmas will have to be cancelled in her household if the school continues to push forward with plans to make expensive tablet devices compulsory for junior pupils'. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teachers cheating on student tests

This is an interesting article that highlights the risks of high stakes testing, ranking schools and performance pay.  The article starts:

'More than 150 teachers and administrators from 44 public schools across Atlanta were caught changing answers on standardized tests used to judge student performance and rank schools, according to a state report'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to learn Te Reo Maori online

This is such a great resource for learning Maori it needs to be shared.  Check out Toku Reo the best online language learning programme that I have come across for any language; and best of all, it's free!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Schools with no computers

At one end of the scale we have, as highlighted in my last post, the likes of Steve Jobs wanting to have textbooks on iPads.  At the other end we have schools that have no computers whatsoever.  Both provide compelling arguments to support their cases.

To read about schools that have no computers, check out this enlightening article from today's New York Times.

Steve Jobs' plans for school textbooks

This article from The New York Times brings to light Steve Jobs' plans for school tectbooks.  I think a lot of us were suspecting this anyway.

Hints of Apple Plans in Jobs Book

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson will be published on Monday. Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s former chief executive, was notoriously secretive about the company’s plans when he was running the company. But in a new biography, the late Apple executive offered a couple of tantalizing clues about technologies and businesses the company was exploring.

Mr. Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson says in the book that Mr. Jobs viewed textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. His idea, according to Mr. Isaacson, was to hire textbook writers to create digital versions of their books for the iPad.

He held meetings with major publishers about partnering with Apple, the book says. If textbooks were given away free on iPads he thought the publishers could get around the state certification of textbooks. Mr. Isaacson said Mr. Jobs believed that states would struggle with a weak economy for at least a decade. “We can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money,” he told Mr. Isaacson.

In one other hint about the company’s plans, Mr. Isaacson describes the board meeting in August when Mr. Jobs resigned as chief executive officer, during which Scott Forstall and Phil Schiller, two Apple executives, joined the group to show off prototypes of future products. According to Mr. Isaacson, Mr. Jobs peppered the executives with questions about the data capacity of fourth-generation cellular networks, known as 4G, and what features should be in future phones. Apple hasn’t yet released an iPhone for 4G networks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tribute to Steve Jobs

The following is taken from the You Tube description of the Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.  The video is this blog's tribute to Steve Jobs, who has done so much to develop tools and applications to support learning achievement for students.

'Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks -- including death itself -- at the university's 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005.'

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exercise and Learning

Several of my posts have been on the benefits of exercise on learning.  If you are still not convinced, check out this interview with Dr. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Google Tanslate - what a great app, but there is more to conversing in a new language than using a mobile app!

When I had my first go with the Google Translate for Android app I started to question the necessity of learning a second language.  After all, if translation is done for your with a free and easily accessible app for a mobile device, why bother going through the effort and process of actually learning French, Spanish, Mandarin or German, etc?

The fact is, there are many benefits to learning a second language, with this article pointing out several that go beyond simply knowing the language.  Take the time to check it out, then go to one of the countless quality websites that will have you on your way to conversing in the basics of, for example, French in no time at all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best family and kids websites of 2011

Check out these five family and kids websites, chosen by Time Magazine as the best education websites of 2011:

Cafe Mom
According to CafeMom, the "Cafe" in its name stands for conversation, advice, friendship and entertainment. That may be a backronym, but it's also a good summary of the site's appeal. Most of what goes on here focuses on the conversation, advice and friendship part: moms helping moms using features such as a Q&A service and thousands of discussion groups on everything from money and finances to religion and spirituality. There's also a splash of entertainment, in the form of a celebrity gossip blog called The Stir, and some casual games.

Dear Photograph
Some of the Web's best sites consist of variations on one simple idea. In the case of Dear Photograph, that idea is taking a snapshot — usually one featuring one or more people and dating from the film-photography era — and holding it up against the original setting so that past and present blend into a new work of art. The images contributed by the site's readers are wonderfully evocative. Looking at the family photos of strangers was never so transfixing.

If you've never heard of Poptropica, chances are you're a grownup. An inventive megasite for kids with a wholesome and slightly educational bent, it features quests, games and puzzles set on 20 themed islands, including Shrink Ray Island, Wild West Island and ones based on the Wimpy Kid and Peanuts franchises. As many as 10 million kids explore Poptropica each month, but the site also aims to please parents. The chat feature, for instance, doesn't permit free-form conversation. Instead, members can select questions to ask one another from a collection of family-friendly choices.

What if Facebook felt less like a daily diary and more like an autobiography? It might resemble Proust, a new site that lets you record and share a lifetime's worth of memories. Proust prompts you with questions such as "How did you break the news of your engagement to your parents and parents-to-be?" and "What was your first boss like?" You respond with words, photos and videos, and choose whether they're private or public. Little by little, you reconstruct the story of your life — and if your family and friends do the same, you might learn new things about people you thought you knew well.

The daily articles at the National Center for Family Literacy's Wonderopolis are allegedly educational and supposedly aimed at kids. Don't let that fool you. They're just plain interesting, and make for addictive reading even for those of us who are, in theory, all grown up. For example, "How Does an Eraser Work?" doesn't just explain how erasers work — did you know they usually contain vegetable oil? — but also reveals how people removed pencil marks before Englishman Edward Naime invented the eraser in 1770. (They used rolled-up pieces of bread.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Best education websites of 2011

Check out these five education websites, chosen by Time Magazine as the best education websites of 2011:

With Freerice, you can do good by having fun. Answer one of the multiple-choice questions correctly — on topics such as English vocabulary, geography or chemistry — and the site's sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme. It doesn't sound like a major act of charity — but so many people answer so many questions that the site is responsible for the donation of hundreds of millions of grains of rice every month. That's enough to make a major difference for tens of thousands of hungry people in Haiti and other countries that need help.

Khan Academy
In 2004, Salman Khan started tutoring his cousin over the Internet. In 2006, he began uploading educational videos to YouTube. And in 2009, he quit his day job as a hedge-fund manager to concentrate on Khan Academy, a sort of one-man university. Today the site offers his free lessons in thousands of highly visual 10-minute chunks. Math and science dominate, and students are the primary audience, but Khan is adding additional topics and welcomes adult learners. It's a remarkable undertaking — and with funding from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it has a bright future.
Who says that Ivy League educations are too pricey for anyone but the privileged few? Like Harvard, Princeton and other schools, Yale is making some of its lectures available in Web-based form for free. Open Yale Courses is a particularly rich resource, featuring 35 full-blown courses complete with downloadable classes in video and audio form. Fill up your phone or MP3 player with a course on art history or organic chemistry and you can learn from some of the finest teachers on the planet while you're at the gym or stuck in traffic.
Smarthistory focuses on art history, from cave paintings to Warhol. And while the site calls itself a textbook, it's not the text — or even the illustrations — that make it special. It's the growing library of videos that feature spirited, unscripted conversations among historians about notable works. You can start in ancient times and work your way forward or browse the collection by artist, theme or medium. In 2010, the site's proprietors made their engaging creation available in portable form, with an iPhone app called Rome: A First Look.
Stephen Schutz, the founder of greeting-card company Blue Mountain Arts, had trouble learning to read when he was a kid. So when he grew up and became a success, he used part of his wealth to co-found Starfall, a free site that uses phonics to teach reading to children from preschool to second grade. Starfall starts by introducing the alphabet, then follows with copious quantities of animated nursery rhymes, storybooks, comics and other materials. It's simple and straightforward, and not overly slick — and kids just love it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Does class size matter?

New Zealand secondary school teachers are looking to make class size an election issue through their union, the PPTA.  This is an interesting issue, as John Hattie has done research that, in his findings, place little emphasis on class size as a contributor to student learning.

My feelings are that John Hattie is only right if teaching is seen as a lecture, in which the teacher stands at the front of the class, with little personal interaction with individual students.  However, teaching is more than that; teaching is about building personal relationships with each and every student, finding out what makes them tick.

There is also that fact that the more students there are, the more out of class work that is required.  There is a big difference between writing 32 reports compared to 24 students, or marking books, reading essays, checking homework, and so much more.

So well done to the PPTA.  Good luck with this issue; hopefully it will lead to smaller classes and increased learning outcomes for students.

To read the article from the New Zealand Herald re the issue of class size, click here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Students riot in France to hinder their learning!

I read this article in the New Zealand Herald with considerable interest.  There are two viewpoints to take; one, the students; and two, the administrators.  Both have, from their own perspectives, valid points of view.

In regards to the students, it's easy to see their concerns.  They are having a week of their holidays taken away from them.  I am sure that this would be something that students from around the world wouldn't like.

In regards to the administrators, their point is even more valid in terms of teaching and learning.  This article from the Globe highlights the impact of overly long summer breaks on student learning and achievement, as you can read in the following paragraph: 

'A shorter summer break – of six weeks instead of nine – would be easier to plan for, and also help alleviate the effect of vacation on students’ learning. Many students forget math facts and spelling over the summer, and children from poor families also lose reading skills. An Ontario study found that children from low-income families who had only one month off in the summer did better in math and needed less time for review'.

Perhaps a compromise could be to have the same total number of holidays, but readjust the year calendar to remove those breaks that are too long in duration.  This way no one loses; the students get their holidays, while not being away from school for so long that content is forgotten.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Genius in All of Us - a great book!

I really enjoyed the book The Genius in All of Us.  It is extremely empowering, and fully supports my belief in the idea of the huge potential we all have, regardless of ethnicity, where we come from or genetics.  The message of the book it that we don't really know what our true limits are. 

Doing a Google search on the book unearthed this presentation by the author, David Shenk.  Check it out, it's well worth a watch.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why kids should be doodling at school

This Ted video explains the virtues of doodling, a practice that can, apparently, improve our creativity and comprehension.  It's great to see that such a simple, common occurrence can produce such wonderful results.  Convinced?  Perhaps you will be after seeing this: