Saturday, June 30, 2012

CINCH Learning

By Sean Scarpiello

This past week at the International Society of Technology in Education conference in San Diego California, McGraw Hill Education unveiled one of their newest and most innovative programs called CINCH Learning. This program is designed to teach students from K to12 math and science through a projector screen or computer. Also, CINCH Learning is cloud based, so students can access it from any laptop, tablet, or other device with an internet connection. So far, CINCH Learning sounds like a great piece of technology for any class room, but it has even more benefits to improve math and science education.

First, the CINCH Learning comes with hundreds of lessons for each grade level. The lessons are designed to meet each state’s curriculum requirements. The program also works alongside the textbooks in class, so teachers can use the program to teach an entire lesson, review lessons before tests, or even use the available lessons as enrichment. In addition, CINCH Learning comes with features like videos, tutoring, animations, labs, assessments, and problems. These extras are great because teachers can assign homework through the program. Assigning work would not only be simple for teachers and students, but fun for the students if the teacher assigns an educational video for students to watch.

This kind of program also allows teachers to spend less time planning lessons and more time focusing on individual students. CINCH Learning prides itself on being fully customizable. This lets teachers pick and choose exactly what kinds of work to assign and put on tests. It also gives teachers the ability to focus in on certain students having difficulty with the work so educators can hone in on each student’s weak areas. The program also allows students to easily ask questions to their teachers. Teachers can then gauge what problems to spend more time on in class and during reviews for tests.

CINCH Learning makes learning simpler and less time consuming for both the teacher and the student. Therefore, teachers can make sure that each minute spent in class is used effectively and efficiently. If students and teachers can identify weakness outside the classroom, schools can guarantee that time spent in the classroom is productive and valuable. This program also makes learning fun, so students can be interactive during their learning process instead of being discouraged or bored by reading thick textbooks.

Overall, this new digital program looks to be a great way to make learning easier for both teachers and students. This allows learning to be fun for students, while being efficient and effective for teachers. By keeping education interactive using technology, teachers can judge which concepts need to be reviewed in more detail and which students struggle with the material in class. CINCH Learning will definitely make an impact on students in all grades as schools across the country being to invest in the program.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Backpack TV: A New Educational Video Site

By Sean Scarpiello

Backpack TV is an up and coming website which is trying to build off of the success of other educational websites such as Khan Academy and Just Math Tutoring. The goal of the site is to quickly bring educational videos to students in various academic subjects. Backpack TV mentions that their goal is not to completely teach a full course from beginning to end, but rather to help students study by offering videos for review of complex topics. So how exactly does Backpack TV hold up against its popular and highly successful counterparts?

First things first, I looked at some of the videos that Backpack TV had to offer. The site has hundreds of videos and the content of the videos were also very clear, relevant, and reliable. In fact, the site contained videos from teachers and websites I have used in class and recommended to others in the past. All of the videos on the site looked as if they could be accessed somewhere else online and there were no videos that belonged solely to Backpack TV. I feel that this is great because not only can students come to Backpack TV for help, but they can also use the site to help them find more educational videos. The site also provided a list of teachers that are in each video. This allows individual students to look at videos from several different teachers in a subject and then pick which specific teacher is the clearest or most helpful for the individual.

Although the content of the videos on Backpack TV is spectacular, I did find some weaknesses with the site. The main flaw was that the videos were difficult to access. The videos were grouped into subjects clearly, but after clicking on a subject, there was little or no organization of each of the different videos. For example, after clicking on the calculus subheading, I was brought to a “gallery” of videos which were not organized in any specific manner. The “list” option was not helpful either, as I was scrolling through lists of videos randomly chopped up into hundreds of different pages. Sites such as Khan Academy and Just Math Tutoring are successful because they are extremely easy to navigate. If I am looking for a video on find the slope of a tangent line, I can easily find it at Khan Academy or Just Math Tutoring, without having to search through several pages of material. If the entire list of Calculus videos were found on a single webpage and organized by specific headings and subheadings, Backpack TV would be much more effective as an educational video site.

Something else I noticed which was flawed with Backpack TV was a Backpack TV Plus option which will be available in the future. This option would cost viewers $4.99 a month to view the same videos without advertisements. Unless this Plus option has much more bonus material or contains videos that are not available elsewhere for free, I think the Plus option would be a mistake. No one is going to pay to have access to videos they can find elsewhere without commercials. Even if the Plus option does have a lot of extra material, students will avoid spending money by simply finding other sites which offer educational videos at no cost.

Overall, Backpack TV has a fantastic collection of education videos available at no cost. However, the site can be improved drastically if the hundreds of videos were organized into an order which would allow users to navigate through lists of videos easier.


Monday, June 18, 2012

More about Teacher Evaluation -
From the TN Report -

Did you know, for example, that “many teachers are not yet convinced of the benefits of the evaluation system”? Well, duh.

It’s a jargon-laden mess to read.
Take this sentence:
“A near-term focus for this work will be
to review and
revise the
where appropriate
to align with and
reinforce the
Common Core State Standards to
create a coherent and
integrated set of expectations
for teaching and learning.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Traditional Textbooks versus eBooks

By Sean Scarpiello

I was recently emailed a link to the article “10 Reasons Why Students aren’t Using eBooks,” and before I read this article, I decided to make my own list of why students simply aren’t buying eBooks. There are a handful of different reasons why students shy away from using these newer and often times cheaper alternatives to textbooks. Regardless of some of the obvious advantages to eBooks, I also found there are just as many disadvantages to eBooks.

First off, one of the main reasons I myself do not buy eBooks is because they are all computerized and integrate technology. This technology is not a bad thing, but I do not feel comfortable when we rely completely on technology. If, the device breaks or runs out batteries at an inconvenient time or place, the student is in trouble. College students already rely on technology too much, and to rely on a device which carries all of their textbooks and coursework is just too risky. Another aspect of the device which carries all of these eBooks is that students are reading their text for classes on a computer screen. Whenever I work on a computer too long or read too much off of a computer, I feel like my eyes are fried. Reading off of a computer screen also seems to make students tired and uninterested in the material. For me personally, I feel as if I do not grasp the material as well if I read my textbooks on a computer or other device. This is mostly because I do not feel comfortable studying on a computer.

This leads me to my next point that today’s college students are simply not accustomed to having their textbooks in digital form. Today’s college students all had the traditional paper textbooks and simply have become very accustomed to this form. On the other hand, I think that students that are being raised on iPads and laptops in elementary school will be more likely to buy eBooks as they go to college. College students these days have always used regular textbooks and do not want to change their habits. Plus, many students highlight, take notes, and scribble in their textbooks, so they know what is important and what their professor emphasizes in class. This cannot be done with eBooks. Thus students will shy away from this technology.

Another factor which plays into the textbooks versus eBooks debate is cost. College tuition is already very expensive. Once parents and students buy laptops, school supplies, and all the other necessities for college, there is no money left for a device to hold these eBooks. For some majors, regular textbooks alone can cost $800. If these sorts of students were to buy an iPad, they would spend $800 before having a single textbook. Also, once the student has the iPad or other device to hold the eBooks, they need to make sure they have enough memory to hold all of these textbooks. I can’t imagine that a 16 or 32GB iPad can hold more than a full year textbooks. Some eBooks are huge and take up a lot of space on a device. This limits college students.

Ultimately, it is easy to see that there are several reasons why college students are shying away from eBooks. I feel that in the future, as technology and students advance, we will see a change in this trend. For now though, I think college students are going to stick with what they know best – traditional textbooks. The article “10 Reasons Why Students aren’t Using eBooks,” (see link below) supports many of my ideas, plus incorporates some new ideas.