Friday, December 30, 2011

Punahou School's Success with Technology

By Sean Scarpiello

In 1998, Punahou School in Hawaii ran a pilot to see just how well technology can improve education. The original pilot program was a success and today Punahou School is implementing all of Apple’s products. Currently, Punahou School is renowned for its success in bringing technology into the classroom. As more and more schools begin to introduce their students to new technology, they should try to emulate what Punahou School has done. Punahou School serves as a great example as to how technology should be incorporated into education.

First, it is important to recognize that the teachers at Punahou go through a lot of training to make sure that they know how to use all of Apple’s products. Teachers go to many different workshops to ensure that they can answer any questions students may have about the technology. Most importantly, the teachers are well versed in Apple’s products because they want to ensure that they are getting the most out of every piece of technology. This is important because many schools do not realize that buying the technology is not enough. If teachers and students cannot get the most out of the technology, there is really no use for it. If teachers cannot extract all of the products’ features, it is a waste of the school’s funds. The situation is analogous to buying the latest sports car on the market. Yes it is fast and will go around a track the quickest, but if no one can figure out how to drive a manual transmission, there is really no point in owning it.

Another key aspect about technology in education Punahou focuses on is the future of the students with technology. Class is not based on the blackboard in Punahou, but rather on computers. Teachers ask the students questions and students go and find the answers using their resources. Students then present their findings to the class as a podcast, movie, photo book, and more. This is great because students are learning how to use new and developing technologies every day. In the future, these students will need to learn how to use more technology and the skills they learn at Punahou will make learning on more complex computers easier.

One last aspect that Punahou has excelled in is allowing students to learn individually. When they learn on their own, students figure out what works and what does not through experience. Learning through experience is always more meaningful. It also helps students work things out on their own and without the help of others. This is a very important skill to have as an adult in the workforce. Yet as these students learn on their own, Punahou makes sure that students are not isolated through the use of too much technology. Many children today are becoming isolated from people through technology. Texting, emailing, and social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are supposed to help with socializing. However, too many of today’s youth are isolated by restricting themselves to these innovative technologies. Punahou allows students to work collaboratively on projects and present these projects to their peers. This allows students to learn on their own, but still be able to talk to others about their work and give details about what they have accomplished.

Overall, Punahou School has done a fantastic job incorporating technology into education. Other schools that are in their initial stages of bringing technology to students can use Punahou as an excellent example.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A New Software That Personalizes Math Class

By Sean Scarpiello

In an attempt to help students learn math with ease, Salman Khan has come up with innovative software which personalizes math lessons for each individual students. In fact, Khan has made about 2,700 videos to teach math. All of these programs are available online for free. This upcoming semester, many schools are testing Khan’s new software in math classes. The highly personalized software is bound to teach student more efficiently. Already, a test run of his program was implemented on students who were falling behind in their expected math levels. The program helped a great deal with these students and they caught up quickly. Now, how will this new software fare at teaching students new math concepts and problems?

Math is one of the most difficult subjects to teach because everyone learns it at a different pace. This in mind, the math software was designed to take advantage of students’ weakness and hone in on those problems. If one student is having trouble with long division, but excels in exponents, the program is designed to give the student tips on what they are doing wrong. Also, less time will be spent on exponent problems and more time will be focused on long division. By recognizing the weaknesses of each individual student, the program increases the efficiency of learning in schools.

In a typical math class, some students will do well in some subjects, but struggle in others. This is difficult for teachers because many students have their own weaknesses. In traditional teaching methods, students who struggle in the areas where the majority of class excels are often overlooked. With this program, those students struggle with simpler concepts do not fall behind from the rest of the class because the teacher doesn’t recognize their difficulties.

In fact, the program incorporates a way for teachers to oversee their students’ progress. This allows them to see where the individual students in the class have weaknesses. Therefore, if a large group of students still do not understand the material after learning it through the program, the teacher can instruct the students personally. This aspect allows the teacher to not become useless in class. In certain math subjects, teachers are more effective in teaching than a computer. Therefore, teachers are not simply letting the computer program take over the math class, but teachers monitor the learning and can take action if there is a problem. By allowing teachers to look at where students are struggling, they diagnose individual problems in the class. Teachers are then able to see where stragglers in the class are having difficulty and teachers can react before these stragglers fall behind.

In the future, there will probably much more of this type of learning in classes. This individualized learning ensures that no students can fall behind in their studies. If this type of program can be made for a subject as difficult and as complex as math, there can definitely be other subjects, such as history, science, and English where this program would succeed as well. As the software is being implemented in schools soon, teachers will probably find some small problems to work out. This will eventually lead to newer editions of these types of learning software in the future, but for now this personalized software looks promising.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Questioning the Accuracy of Standardized Tests

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently in education news, Rick Roach, a school board member for Orange County Florida’s District 3, took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The FCAT is given to students in 10th grade and students are required to do well on it to receive a diploma. Rick Roach, a highly educated and successful education professional, took a math section of the test, as well as a four part reading section. In the math section, he answered 10 of 60 questions correctly and on the reading section scored a “D.” If he were to be taking this test as a student, he would not receive a diploma and he described how this test would affect his future in education as a student. A lot of faith is being put into this standardized test, but results show that there are either problems with students taking the test or problems with the material on the test.

Some people may argue that Roach is too far out of school to remember the sort of information tested on 10th grade students. It is true that a lot of the material taught in high school is not used on a daily basis by people in their occupations, especially math. To address math as an issue, the level of math tested on a standardized test should not be too high. The SAT, a test widely used by colleges across America, does not exceed a level of math beyond simple pre-calculus. Therefore, the standardized tests that are being given to students should not either. Judging by the Roach’s failing result on the math section of the FCAT, it is hard to believe that the test assesses algebra and simple equations. If an educator is doing this poorly on a test, students are also expected to struggle. Therefore, the math section of the FCAT definitely needs some revision.

Another problem posed by Roach is the difficulty of the reading section. A professional in education with two Masters Degrees scored a “D” on the FCAT. This raises more problems than the math section. Unlike complex math, a lot of jobs require reading on a daily basis and this is no exception for a past teacher and counselor. It is perplexing that such a well-educated individual would score so poorly on reading. This is without a doubt a huge problem with the test. The reading section also needs to be redone to improve the test's results.

One way to revise this test is to look at how other tests are designed. For example, the SAT is intricately designed so that an average student scores around a 500 on a single section. The aim of the test is to get a bell curve of results. This means there is a small percentage of students that do very poorly and very well, and the majority of students fall somewhere in the middle. Also with the SAT, each question is designed and tested to make sure that it will return appropriate results. When it comes to the FCAT, there should also be an idea of how students should test. The aim of the assessment like a state run standardized test should be designed to weed out the good students from the bad ones. There should not be students with grade point averages of 3.0 or higher struggling on these tests, like on the FCAT. This would not necessarily mean a bell curve of results, but perhaps the opposite. Students should either definitely pass the test, or struggle with it. This would allow educators to better gauge what needs to be fixed.

The FCAT has a lot of trust being placed on it and it ends up giving a poor representation of the students’ intelligence. Since the test determines a lot of the students’ futures, it needs to be revised and taken more seriously in its design. A student's intelligence is judged by the strength of their test-taking abilities and if tests are poorly designed, we are learning very little.