Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Flipped Classroom

Numerous teachers are constantly looking for new ways to teach and engage their students in order to enhance their learning experience. One of the techniques that resulted from this search is a concept known as “the flipped classroom.” This concept came about when Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, chemistry teachers at Woodland Park High School at the time, were looking for a way to keep absent students up to date in class without having to reteach lessons. They decided to record their lessons, include annotations, and then post them online. This way, students who were absent in class on a particular day could see what they had missed online. Bergmann and Sams later noticed that even students who had attended class found the online material useful, and used this to discover a new way of teaching.

Several teachers around the world have since adopted the “flipped classroom” technique. While not all use an identical approach, the common principle is for students to learn what would previously have been taught in class at home through lesson videos the teacher creates. Then class time would be used to work through problems pertaining to the topic covered in the videos as well as concepts people had difficulty understanding. Students are able to work with the teacher or with their peers, creating a more active and engaging learning environment.

My experience with this form of learning came in the 10th grade when my chemistry teacher decided to test it out during the second semester. She, along with the other teachers in the chemistry department, created a work packet that had practice problems for all the topics we would cover that semester. Each night, we were assigned videos to watch and take notes on that her fellow teacher had created and uploaded to YouTube. These videos, similar to those found on Khan Academy, were of a black screen where the instructor would write down important points, formulas, or examples as she taught. The next day in class, the teacher would briefly go over any area there seemed to be general confusion in. Then each student would work on the section in their packet that correlated to the videos we had watched the night before, while asking each other or the teacher for help when needed.

I really enjoyed that semester of learning in the class. The “flipped classroom” method allowed me to have a deeper encoding of the material I was learning because it was almost like I was teaching myself the material. It did pose its challenges, such as when the lesson video was difficult to follow, but since I had access to the Internet while watching it, I was able to search the web for clarifications and take my own time until I understood. This method was not a success with all students, however. This is due to the fact that some students work better with the freedom and independence the flipped classroom offers, while some students are more successful under a more structured learning environment. It is also not appropriate for all subjects, suiting subjects like mathematics and science more. While the “flipped classroom” is not for everyone, there are students that can greatly benefit from it. If there can be a structured way to implement it into the learning environment of the students it is effective for, then their learning experience could be vastly improved.

Read more on the “flipped classroom” here:

To read more on the "flipped classroom" in our blog:

Monday, June 10, 2019

"Computers in the Classroom May Do More Harm Than Good-- If They Are Overused" by Tom Jacobs

New research finds that computers are most effective as teaching tools when used sparingly, and to teach kids at certain ages specific subjects.

Initiatives to provide every schoolchild with a laptop or tablet computer have, to date, been well-publicized failures. And perhaps they were bad ideas to begin with.
Computers can certainly be effective tools for teaching children of certain ages specific subjects. But a large new study suggests their presence in the classroom is far from universally positive.

"Students worldwide appear to perform best on tests when they report a low-to-moderate use of school computers," Helen Lee Bouygues, president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation, argues in a just-released report.
"When students report having access to classroom computers and using these devices on an infrequent basis, they show better performance," Bouygues writes. "But when students report using these devices every day, and for several hours during the school day, performance lowers dramatically."
The Reboot Foundation is a non-profit devoted to "cultivating a capacity for critical thinking." Its new report suggests that, while computers can sometimes help children grasp certain concepts, their overuse is highly worrisome.
Bouygues analyzed data from two sources: the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which provided math and reading scores for American fourth- and eighth-graders, and the Program for International Student Assessment, which provided data from 30 nations.
After taking into account various factors that could affect student achievement, including household income, teacher training on the use of computers in education, and (for the international students) the size of the nation's economy, she identified several disturbing trends.
"Across most countries, a low to moderate use of school technology was generally associated with better performance, relative to students reporting no computer use at all," Bouygues writes. "But students who reported a high use of school technology trailed behind peers who reported moderate use."
For instance, students in France who reported using the Internet at school for a few minutes to a half-hour every day scored 13 points higher on the PISA reading assessment than students who reported spending no time on the Internet at school. Meanwhile, French students who were online in school for more than 30 minutes per day consistently scored lower than their peers on that same test.
A similar pattern was found for American youngsters. "Fourth-grade students who reported using laptops or desktop computers in more than half or all of their classes scored 10 points higher than students who reported never using those devices in class," the report states.
But the overuse of computers seems to have produced diminishing, and finally counterproductive, results.
"We found evidence of a learning-technology 'ceiling effect' in some areas, with low to moderate usage showing a positive relationship, while high usage showed a negative relationship [with student achievement]," Bouygues writes. "The results regarding tablet use in fourth-grade classes were particularly worrisome. Fourth-grade students who reported using tablets in all or almost all classes scored 14 points lower on the reading exam than students who reported never using classroom tablets. This difference in scores is equivalent to a full grade level, or a year's worth of teaching."
These results do not prove causation, but they're certainly cautionary.
"While there's clear evidence that technology can improve learning outcomes," the report concludes, "our data suggests that technology may not always be used in a way that prompts richer forms of learning. Our findings indicate schools and teachers should be more careful about when—and how—education technology is employed in classrooms."
So by all means bring an apple for the teacher. But that Apple for the student should spend the bulk of the school day switched off.
Shared by Michele Straube
Article by Tom Jacobs


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Practical Experience Versus Textbook Learning

I recently stumbled across an interesting article, "Take STEM lessons outside of the box with these 3 approaches", by Lauren Barack of Education Dive, which talked about a few ways educators have become more creative in teaching practical skills to middle and high school students. Before I delve into some of my views and experiences of learning by "experience", here is a summary of the three approaches given in the article.

The first example asks for fourth graders to work in groups of eight to build a vertical freestanding ring with Pringles. During the class, some students finished before other students and ended up going around the classrooms helping other students. By the end of the class, all students were able to finish the project in the end but all with different methods. According to a teacher, a key lesson that students learn from this is that there are multiple ways of solving a problem in STEM. 

In the second example, an elementary school in Georgia asked their students to build a replica of Berlin, Germany, with a focus on the Cold War Era which included the Berlin Wall. Students were asked to incorporate mathematics in this replica by finding the volume of buildings. This project reinforces the lessons the students learned from both mathematics and the Cold War era.

In the final example, a K-8 public school in Ontario started a rock curling competition and a halfpipe competition. Students in the rock curling competition coded robots to throw rocks at a target. Their main goal was to get the rock closest to the center of the target. In the halfpipe competition, students applied their engineering skills to build ramps for robots to launch.

In my opinion, all these examples are fabulous ways educators have revolutionized learning because students simply remember experiences much better than words in a book. In the future, they will remember the cool project they made a few years ago that included the Berlin Wall and be able to recall what happened during the Cold War. Another way these projects are great is because it demonstrates that innovative and effective learning absolutely does not have to be expensive. The two examples with the Pringles and the replica of Berlin were certainly low-budget projects.

In addition, these projects evoke practical skills and experiences students will eventually need one day for a job. Problem-solving skills or the ability to communicate effectively with other group members are required skills in many jobs. Like training any muscle for a sport, these things also requires constant practice to improve.

The sad truth is that many schools nowadays are too focused on test results and hound their students with textbook after textbook. Even though having the textbook knowledge to any subject is essential, not having the practical skills such as problem-solving, leads to the inability to apply the material to real-world usages. Instead of chasing for the best school ranks, schools should attempt to prepare their students to be the most effective workers in the labor force. To do this, schools need to make the three examples listed above to be a norm, where we don't need to be reporting on these "special cases" because every school does it frequently. With this, I encourage educators to take their classes to the next level with more hands-on experiences and less lecturing. Even though this will be more work, I am quite certain your students will reap the benefits of more effective learning while at the same time enjoy school better. Remember, interactive and effective does not mean expensive!

Link to the article:

Monday, May 20, 2019

Preparing for the GED Online

The General Educational Development (GED), also known as the Graduate Equivalency Degree, is a series of tests from which one can earn a high school equivalency diploma. It is an alternative to taking four years of high school classes and legally carries about the same weight as a high school diploma. The GED tests are comprised of four subject tests: Maths, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts, and people 16 years of age and above not currently enrolled in high school are eligible to take it with some eligibility regulations varying by location.

There are several resources available to prepare for the GED, including online courses. If it is difficult to attend scheduled classes in person due to other daily commitments such as a job, the online route can be the most convenient means of preparation. A great example of one of these resources is This website grants you access to classes, study materials, and tips for free. With digital materials or textbooks, you can study for the test at your own pace. It also provides information about the test itself and a means to schedule a test date. Additionally, there is a component of this site called GED live, if you would prefer a method that holds you more accountable. For $129, you can have a 90-day avenue to live online 60-90 minute GED classes taught by top-rated Kaplan instructors for all 4 subjects of the GED. These courses are recorded and available for review at any time, and you would have access to experts who can answer any additional questions you might have through email.

Although appealing to convenience, be cautious of offers to take the actual GED online. There is currently no accredited way to take this examination online, and any certificate you receive from doing so is not legitimate. You can complete all your preparation for the GED tests online, but the exam must be taken at a certified testing centre.

You can find official GED centres here:

Contribution by Chizbel Oham

Friday, May 10, 2019

Edmodo-Educator's Social Media

Often, teachers need help as well when it comes to finding educational material for their students and recently, I stumbled across an interesting free online educational tool called Edmodo that could potentially help with this. It's quite innovative because it meshes a classroom with social media for teachers. What Edmodo does that is special is that it connects educators with an easy to use social media platform. For example, if an English teacher was looking for material about Shakespeare, he/she could simply post a question regarding suggestions/advice needed.

Since Edmodo is already well-established among educators, there is a chance that similar questions may have already been previously asked and teachers are allowed to search through the questions of past posts and use useful feedback.

In addition to the feedback from other educators, there is also a dedicated "resources" tab in the search tool.

A scenario in which Edmodo can be very useful is if a teacher is new to the position and looking for resources, or is starting a new class within a school. For example, if an educator wanted to start a meteorology course then he/she would need to find completely new resources. In addition, meteorology isn't quite as prevalent as a common course such as algebra I and resources may be more scarce. Since a few high schools do offer such a course for their students, Edmodo can bring educators around the country that have also started a meteorology class together and allow easier sharing of resources nationally.

Edmodo is a fabulous example of how social media can bring people of all types together. More specifically, Edmodo brings the teaching community together and allows easier sharing of advice, experiences, and resources. Since Edmodo itself is simply a website, the teachers within the site are the most essential part of improving it. As a result, I encourage educators to put their hat in the ring and improve the learning experience of students nationally by sharing the valuable resources they have created.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Why We Should Be Investing in "Longitudinal Developmental Studies"

A good question to start off today's post would be:

Assuming a child cannot have both, is it better to have advanced math skills at an early stage, or high executive functioning skills? Can a child that is behind in academics but has better functioning skills catch up to his/her peers?

These are all questions that longitudinal developmental studies aim to answer. In an NYU Institute of Human Development and Social Change post emphasizing the importance of investing in long-term studies for learning, it claimed that like any other studies, such as medications, there must be both a short-term study and a long-term study. In the past, many studies on development were strictly short-term and only examined the benefits such as immediate test scores. The problem with these studies is that it fails to analyze long-term drawbacks. However, if we go back to our original questions, a study found that even if a student scores lower on a math exam, as long as they have high executive functioning skills, they are likely to catch up to their peers in the future.  

This study demonstrates the importance of long-term studies because if only short-term studies are made, then educators may promote activities that are not beneficial to a child's development in the long run. A good analogy that was made in the NYU Human Development post was that medications must also be examined both short-term and long-term. Even if a medication heals a person of the disease quickly, that person must be continually examined to see if there are side-effects long-term. If there are side effects, doctors must take note of the trend and alert future patients before treatment. This is the same with developmental methods. 

Fortunately, many families nowadays are willing to take part in long-term studies that allow researchers to visit their homes and take notes on how the child is developing over a period of a decade. Even though these families receive very little personal benefit, they are willing to partake in these studies because their help could be of benefit to kids in the future.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Online High School as an Alternative

The previous year, I experienced education in a completely different way than I had before when I completed my senior year of high school through an online school. Prior to this, I had always attended school regularly, like most other children, and had never even considered virtual school as an option. However, after being out of school for almost two years due to familial circumstances and having only 12th grade left to complete, online high school became the ideal path for me. The idea of attending a new high school at that point was not appealing to me, as it would have meant me integrating into my fourth high school in total as well as having to wait until the following fall semester to start college. I was eager for a fresh start and needed the flexibility a regular high school could not provide, so I decided to enroll in an online school called Laurel Springs School.

Online high school is a form of education in which students can take classes online to earn their high school diploma. These schools can either be private, public, charter, or university-affiliated. The school I attended, similar to most other virtual institutions, gave me the freedom to progress through my schoolwork at the pace that worked best for me, as long as the school year did not exceed 10 months. I had access to help from my teachers, be it through a phone call, email, or video call. There was a wide array of clubs offered, which involved cyber meetings, and a physical education requirement. With just a few steps from my bed to my family study room, I had all the resources I needed to receive a high school education.

The flexible schedule in online schools is its greatest virtue. I was able to cut down the amount of time I spent completing my senior year of high school and begin college a semester earlier than I would have otherwise. Students can also progress at a slower rate if necessary for a better understanding of the subject material. Certainly, it is not all about the speed with which one is able to finish school, but rather the quality of the education. For this reason, it is crucial to enroll in an accredited and reputable school. Another benefit of online schooling is the extra layer of convenience it provides. Whether you are traveling for sporting commitments or your family is relocating to another country, you can take your education along with you rather than putting it on hold or changing schools. It is also a more comfortable form of learning for those who do not function at their best in social environments, and those that get distracted by peers and the school setting.

While there are many positives that can be identified about online schooling, there are areas of added difficulty. This form of education would most likely not be suitable for those who thrive and function through physical interaction. While you can meet people and befriend them through clubs and video calls, it might not be as fulfilling. Additionally, there is no doubt that it is easier to communicate your confusion and questions to teachers in person, and having the degree of separation that comes with online high schools could create some difficulty. Finally, there is a certain level of responsibility necessary for the freedom virtual schooling brings. With no requirement to physically attend classes, it can be easy for one to fall behind in or fail to do their coursework.

Online schooling is definitely not for everyone, but it is certainly a worthwhile alternative for those interested. I feel as though I had a deeper understanding of class material than I had ever had before due to the fact that I was essentially teaching myself the course material through the resources provided by the school. While it is mostly used nowadays for people in special circumstances, such as students with an illness that inhibits them from attending a school or those pursuing professional athletics or the arts, I believe in the years to come it will start to become a form of education people are more aware and informed about. As we steer towards a more technologically-dependent world, online schooling might one day become the more popular form of learning.

You can explore an online school here:

Contribution by Chizbel Oham

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Experiences as a Learning Assistant

Being a learning assistant for a chemistry class at Penn State has given me multiple interesting perspectives on learning. As a college student, you only experience learning from a first-person perspective, but when you start helping other people learn, that's when you get to observe how everyone's methods of learning are different. At first, you may be tempted to point out to others that their learning methods are less efficient, but it is also important to remember learning methods are habits and are difficult to change.

Just a few things about the learning assistant position I'm currently partaking in. 
  1. We are volunteers
  2. We earn class credits 
  3. We have to go to all the lectures/recitations for the class
  4. We are required to take a pedagogy class
  5. We do it because we enjoy the satisfaction of being able to help another student
My observations-

One thing that really stuck out to me as a learning assistant is that many students ask, "Is there a formula to this problem?". What this question effectively means is that the student does not understand the problem at hand. Rather than focusing on the key concepts of the problem, they are resorting to using a formula to solve their problems (The easy way out).

The problems with this: 
  1. Learning is supposed to be hard! It ain't a worthy accomplishment if it wasn't a challenge in the first place!
  2. Problems on an exam may require the use of multiple formulas and the understanding of how to link these relationships together.
  3. There is no need to learn the material if anyone can just plug and chug numbers into a formula.
  4. Problem-solving skills are not developed (This is necessary for real-world applications).
Students that are often asking these questions usually are the students that score the lowest on exams. The reason for this is because college-level exams seek understanding, not memorization. The formulas are used for maybe 15% of the questions and the rest are conceptual questions which require the student to link relationships together qualitatively.

Causes of this-

I believe that the cause of the learning deficit is because high schools fail to teach students how to study effectively. Quizzes and tests given in high schools often allow students to plug-and-chug numbers into a calculator to get an answer and doesn't help students develop their problem-solving skills. This is what causes college freshmen to usually have lower grades than other years, even when the classes are often the easiest. Sometimes, it's a little too late for students. 

What we can do-

As educators, what we can do is have a better awareness of testing students for understanding. This problem is the root cause of academic failures. For example, when a student asks for a formula, we should ask them a question in response such as, "What are you trying to find in the problem?". This should be proceeded by, "What are you given?". These questions should help initiate the student's critical and analytical thinking, which will, in the long run, help them understand the material better.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Helping You Write That Research Paper- Finding scholarly sources

Almost every student starting in high school has to write essays or papers. However, as a student climbs in terms of education (HS to Undergrad to Post-grad), the level of writing required quickly escalates. For example, high school students are often taught to summarize and repeat information that is given to them. While this is a good start in terms of learning how to write, it isn't productive because it does not further the argument and the rhetorical audience is simply being fed the same thing over and over again. In college, however, students are now taught to undertake research, synthesize the information, then complete an analysis, all in the name of furthering the discussion. 

So what makes writing college-level papers harder?

A common challenge with college-level papers is finding sources, especially scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. Scholarly sources are extremely important to a paper's effectiveness because they demonstrate the highest level of credibility. The rhetorical audience will more likely to find a paper with sources that are written/reviewed by people that specialize in that field to be convincing.

The challenge with finding scholarly sources.

The challenge with finding scholarly sources is that a simple Google search usually do not suffice. Google is more likely to find sources such as news or magazine articles, which may be credible, but not to the degree of a published or peer-reviewed source. In order to find scholarly sources, specific sites aimed towards peer-reviewed sources must be utilized.

My go-to websites for finding scholarly sources:

Examples of scholarly-source search tools that are completely free and can be used anywhere if you do not have access to a college campus.

Examples of scholarly-source search tools that you can use on a college campus. Many colleges have their own tool and an easy Google search will find you your college's resource. These are some of the best tools, as they are provided by tuition dollars. Some of these sources do not allow you to view the full article when you are not on their respective campuses. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Media Literacy

Apple, one of America’s leading tech companies has just announced a new program to promote media literacy programs. In the time of “fake news’, people need to become more educated on which media they chose to retain information about the world around them. Apple recognizes this and has now teamed up with nonprofits in Europe and Asia to launch this new program that educates users about the news for free. The teams that are collaborating with Apple on this new task are the New Literacy Project, Common Sense Stateside and Osservatorio Permanente Giovani from Italy.
Apple believes that through their influence they can educate people on how they digest news through the widespread appeal of their products. Millions of Americans have access to these products such as the iPhone and the company realizes that they have the potential to be very influential learning tools. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said, “News literacy is vital to sustaining a free press and thriving democracy, and we are proud to be collaborating with organizations on the front lines of this effort,” After extensively studying news cycles in college, it is nice to see that highly influential companies such as Apple are learning to correct a widespread problem such as news misinformation. The company’s new endeavor will be looked upon favorably by the media where other tech giants such as Facebook have been repeatedly condemned for having not done enough to correct this issue. Those who are interested in becoming more educated on this topic will have access to this program for free but through Apple products. Doing this allows the public to take partial initiative and not have to pay extraneous costs that could turn people away. This all draws back to Apple’s responsibility to create widespread consumer awareness that is accessible to all. It is not yet reported on how Apple will exactly go about pushing out their new initiative, but they have made their stance clear. Apple believes they have a responsibility to the greater good by better educating those who are ignorant about media literacy. While concerns about how partisan the program could be are valid, it seems like they have teamed up with the appropriate organizations to springboard this new idea. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and with Apple understanding the lack of ways people can educate themselves on the news, they, in turn, will do their part in enacting this education. Original Article: Contribution by Dale Desantis

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Free Textbooks!

College students nowadays spend hundreds of dollars buying textbooks before a course. Students buy these expensive textbooks because either it's required for a course or they need it for reference. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution around this because if a book is required, then simply a student must buy it in order to complete the assignments in a class. On the other hand, if you are perhaps a self-learning student, there is a good list of free textbooks online at your discretion. 

Click here for the link to 200 Free Textbooks:

Above is an example of a free calculus III textbook. The interface may not be the prettiest, but if it means saving you $120 on a textbook, then it could be worth it. 

The development of the computer age was great for many reasons, including information/knowledge opening up to anyone regardless of economic status, as long as there is access to a computer. Unfortunately, too much information is now open to the world, and the distinction between false and true information has become blurred. I can guarantee that the textbooks on this site are "useful and insightful" knowledge, however, they are not accredited for a student trying to earn a degree. Sites with free texbooks shows how easy it is to find information in the technology world, but these cheap alternate methods usually don't lead to a degree.

Have fun diggin' through free textbooks!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Open Educational Resources Commons

Recently, I came across a very interesting search engine. Usually, when search engines come to the mind of people, they think of Google. However, search engines like Google simply search through a large portion of the web. On the other hand, some companies actually build search engines that delve into more specific fields, where only specific results related to a specific topic are found. The Open Educational Resources Commons is like that search engine that only searches of online educational tools! The best part about this search is that it searches through open-sourced resources where anyone can use for free, as long as it is for educational purposes.

The OER Commons website provides resources for both authors and those seeking for useful resources. For those who are seeking to expand their audience or to simply help other educators, they can upload lessons or modules onto the website free of charge. 

For educators who are seeking resources for their classes, the search engine provides a plethora of lessons from science topics to social studies! 

An example:

Let's say you were a high school teacher and you've been swamped with meetings the last three weeks! You don't have enough time to create class material for tomorrow's lesson about Kinetic Molecular Theory because you also have 50 exams to grade at the same time. The OER Commons can be a lifesaver because here you can find class materials that are open for your use!

When you click on the "view resource" button, it links you to a Google Drive with files for worksheets and directions. Everything is pretty much prepared! Click here to check out how it works!

Sometimes, preparations for a class is too time-consuming or you simply need an idea or comparison by looking at an example to create your own resources. The OER Commons should serve as your number 1 stop for looking at resources because it is free to use and covers a wide variety of subjects.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

YouTube's Educational Advantage

Every year, more and more people are getting access to an education due to the creation of various different platforms. These learning channels such as Khan Academy have helped millions of students and knowledge seekers figure out everything from remembering how to factor to the proper ways to practice accounting. However, one major player in social media, in particular, is using more resources than ever to expand an opportunity inaccessible learning. The branding question, YouTube, has already been competitive in this realm, but with new funding being directed, they are trying to become the world leaders.

Growing up, whenever I had a question about anything- from how to change a light bulb to remembering the presidents in order, I would find an answer on YouTube. YouTube is a tremendous learning tool for students of the twenty-first century because you can find a litany of different sources that have expertise in their field. This sector of YouTube has gone unchecked for years but with the recent success of other educational apps and websites, YouTube plans to throw their hat in the ring. It has been announced recently that YouTube is investing twenty million dollars to broaden its education system. This could be game-changing for those seeking to expand their learning on a budget because of YouTube

As YouTube has evolved it has become more user-friendly in that it offers more accredited content. This includes the new YouTube kids' platform that offers educational videos that are meant to foster a fun exciting space for kids to learn. The platform is very user-friendly as it can be controlled by parents and it can be allocated to the age or education level of the student. Rather than tackle more scholarly topics, the website's plan is to curate videos that are geared toward adolescent interests.

Arguably the most important facet of YouTube's new educational endeavors is that they are free for all. In a world with so much information, there are plenty of different avenues that one can go do down to seek expertise at little cost. What inhibits YouTube's continued success in the educational realm is the ease of accessibility. YouTube success in the future for their educational endeavors will be their ability to maintain a cache of quality videos while continually expanding through a great start on their educational platform.

Examples of YouTube's Educational Value (Suggested by Jennifer Caswell):

Learning Sign Language:

Changing a Tire:

By Dale DeSantis

Image result for youtube log]

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Does Play-based learning actually work?

Something I've noticed in my college experience is that sometimes, schoolwork can make students feel miserable. However, I have yet to decide on whether if that's actually a bad thing or not. Is schoolwork meant to be difficult, but rewarding at the end of the experience, or is it supposed to be fun? Can it be fun and also rewarding at the end of the experience? An article I recently found on T74 advocated for more "play-based" learning within elementary schools and I personally have some reservations for their ideas, but at the same time, I believe that their suggestions are for the correct motives.

The main purpose of the T74 article was to advocate for more, "...guided play and a playful learning approach in elementary schools", because, "’s playtime that prepares students for classes like math and reading, Hirsh-Pasek said: Learning how to play teaches collaboration and community building, which aids language development through listening and talking". They even included research results such as the below:

  1. Academic experience is the traditional worksheets and lecturing styles of learning. Graph shows worse results in 3rd/4th grade.
  2. Child-initiated experiences include guided-play and playful learning. Graph shows improved results in 3rd/4th grade.
Even though the logic and results in this article "add up", I still have my reservations. If educators make learning more "play-based", would there be an abrupt transition in older academic years? By this, would "play-based" learning be so ingrained in students that they would only expect work to be "fun" when in reality, work is difficult? In order to eliminate this transition, educators would have to make education "play-based" through all of high-school and maybe even college! Even then, students would realize that sometimes jobs are stressful and tedious. 

In my opinion, "play" is an important concept at younger ages, however, we should guide children to both playing and working hard. We should let them know that playing is an important component to learning social skills and gaining valuable collaboration skills while working hard is a requirement for success. The emphasis should be on creating a good balance.

Feel free to express your opinions in the comments section below!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Student-Centered Learning vs. Teacher-Centered Learning

We have all been in the position of not understanding something even after someone explains it. This is completely normal because the human brain is like a muscle. We must train it like any other muscle in order to strengthen it. Could a baseball pitcher be "told" how to pitch? Or does he/she have to practice? This similar principle applies to learning in school as well. 

Recently, I have been taking a science pedagogy class and some of the things we talked about were quite relevant to this blog. An interesting article speaks on why, "Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too". The issue today is that with an ever-growing student population, classes sizes are growing and student-centered learning is diminishing. College campuses often have lectures with over 300 students and with this kind of class size, it is a logistical challenge to create an active learning environment. Unfortunately, the reality is that many professors simply give lectures and talk about things they find interesting themselves because asking the class to participate is difficult. This is teacher-centered learning because the things that are occurring within the learning environment are being catered to what makes the teacher's life easier. This is rather unfortunate because a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation". The good news is that in recent years, teachers have been trying to find innovative ways to create a more active learning environment even with 300+ students in a classroom. 

The most recent methods teachers have used to create an active learning environment in large lecture settings is the use of clickers. The teacher simply puts up a multiple choice question on a large screen and students answer using their personal clickers. From these clickers, teachers can see the results of the class as a whole and also the results of individual students. Some of these clicker questions are often graded and are given sporadically throughout the duration of the class. With the aspect of points being earned throughout the class, students are much more engaged. 

Another tool teachers could use is Kahoot. It is similar to clickers and is usually presented as a multiple-choice question on a big screen. The primary benefit to this method is that it is more fun and also given a competitive aspect. An in-depth post regarding Kahoot from January 2016 on our blog can be found here.

All in all, creating an active learning environment is the key to creating a successful learning environment. The use of Clickers or kahoot are simply examples of innovative ways teachers have used technology to create student-centered learning even when the class size is 300+. Lastly, innovation does not stop at these two tools, so I encourage you to test new tools and share back with us here what you have found effective!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Affinity Photo Workbook

Quite a while back I discovered an offer to beta test a new photo editing app for the Macintosh that had the potential to be high quality and less expensive replacement for Photoshop.

Photo from  

I applied and beta tested Affinity shortly after working with the app through the beta period and started using the Golden Master and through the updates, I deleted Photoshop.
Then came Affinity Designer(I own that as well) and deleted Illustrator.
Now, I have never looked back.
At the moment, there is a Photo Workbook to get you started and to help you become a master of the app.
Well worth the price.

Contribution by Bill Martin

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Code Academy

What is a skill that is valuable for all STEM majors in 2019? Coding. Getting every bit of coding skill/experience is important in convincing your next interviewee to hire you. Nowadays, there are many different languages for coding, however, they all have similar basic skills. In universities, computer languages such as Matlab and C++ are being taught because schools realize that their students will benefit tremendously from these skills. However, education at universities nowadays is costly and is not affordable for everyone. 

My goal in this blog is to help you, the reader, to find cheap (or even free!) online education resources, that could perhaps model a college experience. Codeacademy is an excellent online resource for coding. You even get a free trial for the first 7 days!

In my opinion, the user interface is quite friendly and very suitable for a beginner. 

What makes Codeacademy such a great resource is because it provides hands-on experience alongside instruction. Coding is like learning any skill in life. It takes time and it takes practice. Would a skater be able to learn moves by only watching others? Would a basketball player be able to make free throws by just being told how to shoot a ball? They must first practice by doing, and this is the type of learning Codeacademy promotes.

Using the next bars on the bottom of the page, Codeacademy provides you with additional tasks to code. In addition to this, there are also many different courses that Codeacademy provides. Since I have a very limited skillset in coding, I was put in the most basic coding lesson. However, when you first sign-up for Codeacademy, they will provide you with a short questionnaire regarding your coding skills, then proceed to place you in the most suitable lessons. 

In addition to the lessons Codeacademy provides, there is also a community in which can provide specific support and learning. Overall, this is a fabulous low-cost resource for acquiring a skill that is simply too valuable nowadays.