Monday, December 30, 2013

ExitTicket: A New Technology to Keep Students Engaged in Class

By: Sean Scarpiello

In high school and college classes, many teachers utilize student response clickers to keep their students actively engaged in class. While these clickers work well at asking students interactive questions in class, a new technology called ExitTicket looks to be a revolutionary approach towards keeping students involved in their learning process. As keeping students thinking and answering questions in class is vital to their success, ExitTicket appears promising as a no or low-cost technology that can be easily integrated into any class. Further, ExitTicket may even be more beneficial than the student response clickers used frequently in classes today.

The biggest benefit of ExitTicket is that it works completely through the Internet. As a result, schools do not need to buy expensive sets of clickers. Instead, any student with a laptop, tablet, or even a smart phone with a Wi-Fi connection can participate in interactive quizzes during class. While not all students in high school will have a device with Internet access, all college students will likely have a tablet or laptop open to them for ExitTicket. This technology is also easy to use for students. At the beginning of class, teachers can give a single class code to enable all students to gain access to ExitTicket quizzes created by the teacher. Another benefit of ExitTicket’s web based design is that it enables students to visualize, on a projector screen, who has answered the teacher’s questions in class as well as how well the class is answering the questions as a whole.

For teachers, this technology is also extremely beneficial. Tests can be made very easily and designed to have their multiple-choice, true or false, or even free response questions. Plus, ExitTicket allows teachers to review how each individual student has fared on the quizzes. Therefore, teachers can create the quizzes as credit towards class participation, or even better use the entire class’s results as a teaching aid. For example, if a decent percentage of students answer a question incorrectly, the teacher can focus on the teaching this material to the class to ensure all students understand the material. Some teachers may even find novel uses for ExitTicket. For example, teachers can take class polls using a multiple-choice type question. Also, teachers can ask students individual questions they may have using a free response to question. Here, teachers can get a quick and clear view of how students feel about class or material.

When looking at the cost of ExitTicket, there are two main options teachers can choose. First, there is a version that is completely free to teachers. This plan allows teachers to create class quizzes with a maximum of 10 questions for up to eight classes of 60 students. The second plan varies in cost depending on each teacher’s needs. However, this plan includes a lot more features including an unlimited amount of classes with an unlimited number of students. Further, there are features which allow for collaboration and synchronization with other educational technologies. Both the no-cost and customizable plans include a Common Core Standards Library to help teachers stick to their curriculum. Last, teachers can individually manage their ExitTicket account so there is no need for the schools IT department to get involved, thereby keeping this technology simple for everyone

In all, ExitTicket looks to be an extremely beneficial technology to both students and teachers. While it is simple for everyone to use, it also allows students to utilize technologies that they had, instead of requiring an expensive set clickers. Most of all, ExitTicket keeps students actively engaged in the class material while also giving teachers a clear understanding of their student’s grasp of the material. ExitTicket is sure to be a successful as it brings a high quality education to students through the utilization of technology.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Educating Teachers in the Latest Technologies

By Sean Scarpiello

With all of the new technology being released into the market for education, it is easy to think that simply bringing these latest technologies into the classroom will make a difference. As a result, school districts often find that the technology that they spend thousands of dollars on do not return such a great bang for their buck. Therefore, some schools have become hesitant towards buying new technologies because they have fallen short of their high expectations in the classroom. While technology is extremely important in the classroom, it is vital that teachers are adequately trained to use the technologies being implemented in class.

In my experience, I have seen a lot of cutting edge technology which has consistently been proven to benefit students in different studies become a letdown in some of my own classrooms. During high school, my school district bought a handful of the newly released Promethean Smart Boards and I was fortunate enough to have one of these Smart Boards to use in class. Unfortunately, my teacher was not up to date with the new technology. As he had taught classes the same way for many years, he was more familiar with traditional forms of learning and had really avoided a lot of technology that was more advanced than Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. During class, my classmates and I tried guiding him through the instructions of how to use the Smart Board which was also an unfamiliar technology to us. Overall, we discovered that the Smart Board took too much of our valuable class time to figure out, so we resorted to returning to the technologies that we knew how to use effectively and efficiently.

In retrospect, it is obvious that had our teacher been trained in all of the uses of the Smart Board, the class would extract many more benefits from the Smart Board. In light of this, such technology placed our teacher in a difficult position because he had to address all of the needs of his students, grade homework and tests, follow the curriculum, and try to integrate this confusing technology into a short amount of class time. As there was little time in class already and the figuring out how to work the Smart Boards wasted this time, it was simply too difficult for the teacher. Therefore, the Smart Boards lost out to the other issues the teacher had to address.

However, if teachers were instructed through seminars or workshops that instruct teachers on how to use these new technologies efficiently and effectively in class, we would definitely see greater benefits in class from these technologies. Furthermore, while it may be expensive to send teachers to classes to be trained in these technologies, it is well worth it. If school districts allow for a decent percentage of their budget for new technologies to be directed towards the instruction of teachers to use these technologies, school districts can avoid experiences like the one I described above. These workshops can be scheduled to train teachers over summer breaks or additional days off during the school year and would count towards a teacher's professional development hours. Simply giving a teacher the latest cutting edge technology and asking them to implement it in class instantly is just too difficult because teachers have so many other things to address during the regular school week.

While it is often easy to spend money on the latest technology to bring it into the classroom, it is apparent that the implementation of this technology is only as good as the knowledge that the teacher has regarding such technology. Therefore, it would be wise for schools to spend more on training teachers and less on the actual technology. And while this may mean fewer classrooms are equipped with the latest and greatest technology, the classrooms that have these technologies are getting a lot of bang for their buck. This means students can receive a much higher quality of education through the efficient and effective implantation of technology in education.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Amplify's New Curriculum-Based Learning Technology

By Sean Scarpiello

As traditional textbooks are quickly becoming obsolete in the classroom, tablets are quickly becoming popular as a replacement to heavy and out of date textbooks. One company looking to greatly improve education through the utilization of tablets is Amplify. In an effort to bring a higher quality of education to more students, Amplify has developed curriculum-based programs for students which revolutionizes the way technology is implemented in education. As a result, teachers are better equipped to apply new technologies in class while students benefit from the use of more interactive and individualized forms of education.

When purchasing an Amplify package, schools receive their own set of Amplify tablets to give to each student in the classroom. These Android-based tablets are equipped with a number of educational applications. For example, the tablets include graphing calculators, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Movie Studio, YouTube, and many different Google applications such as Gmail and Google Earth. All of these applications allow for students to explore many different educational subjects on their tablets. But further, these tablets can also store full text books in the form of eBooks, as well as other interactive educational games and learning technologies. As a result, students can pack all of their textbooks, assignments, and other learning materials into just a single tablet that they can always carry around with them.

While all these educational resources packed into a single tablet are extremely beneficial to students, Amplify has just released on of its most revolutionary programs yet. In a new division called Amplify Learning, Amplify now offers programs for schools where it is possible to purchase tablets that have the entire course curriculum pre-downloaded. This means students can now learn by playing engaging games that meet the requirements of the challenging Common Core Standards that schools must meet. Consequently, teachers can now spend more time investigating and addressing the individual needs of students and less time trying to ensure the entire class meets these requirements. Software downloaded onto these tablets allows teachers to track the progress of each student, thereby enabling them to discover trends in the issues their students are facing and focus on problem areas in class.

One of the objectives of Amplify is to further individualize the education of students in the demanding fields of math and science. Therefore, by eliminating the use of broad and unclear textbooks in class and replacing them with more engaging technologies, students are less likely to give up on difficult material in these areas. Further, with the email capabilities of the Amplify tablets, students have an easy link for communicating directly with their teachers. Therefore, students can email their teachers with problems they are having which can be received and addressed immediately.

In all, as textbooks are inevitably becoming obsolete in classrooms, the Amplify Learning tablet with its many capabilities is a revolution in education for both teachers and students. With the implementation of Amplify’s curriculum based learning capabilities, it is easier than ever for teachers to focus on bringing a more individualized education to each student. This especially holds true in the subjects of math and science where a personalized approach may make or break a student’s success in challenging and sometimes confusing classes. Overall, Amplify tablets are a prudent investment to make into education as its technological basis brings a high quality of education to many students at a reasonable cost.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Innovative Ways to Grade Students in Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs)

By Sean Scarpiello

As more online educational programs such as Coursera, Udacity, and others become available online, there are a lot more students enrolling in these Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs). And while education can easily be provided at much lower prices in MOOCs, some aspects of education still remain difficult, if complicated by moving education to online media. One aspect of education where this is seen is in the grading and evaluation of students. As the number of students in a class increases, it becomes more and more difficult for teachers to grade the tests, projects, and assignments of the class. And while the class size of many of these online classes offered by Coursera and Udacity reach well into the thousands, it becomes extremely difficult for professors to evaluate each student individually.

As a result, there have been many new and innovative ways teachers have designed work to be graded on a mass scale. For one, I have seen many tests designed in such a ways that goes beyond the typical multiple choice problems. In some of my online past assignments for classes, I have seen problems asking to organize statements into a sequence of events, analyze graphs, and even fill in the blank. Through these types of online questions, teachers enable multiple correct answers to account for different interpretations of data and wording used by students. Further, I have even seen some programs that allow students to build models or solve huge math equations all by breaking up the problem into individual steps that are graded individually. As a result, students can have instant results on their grade in a test or assignment.

But while these types of online grading techniques are easy to use for professors, the evaluation of student’s knowledge using these techniques is limited. While some students could simply fill out questions as they look up the answers online, other students may not be challenged enough with a test of matching, fill-in-the-blank, and multiple choice questions. Further, there are some subjects, such as in political science, English, and business courses where grades cannot be based off of tests but rather papers or projects. In these areas, MOOCs often struggle to find ways for professors to grade a class of 1,000 papers or projects. However, some MOOCs have come up with some innovative ways of assigning and grading these sorts of assignments.

Coursera has come up with the idea of allowing peers to grade each other’s work. After turning in an assignment, Coursera sends it out to a handful of other students who have also turned in the assignment for grading. Then, based on certain criteria, it is graded by other students in the class, and then their results are averaged to give students their grade on a project. So far, this technique has worked successfully because professors can still challenge their students with projects, but continue to grade their student efficiently. This serves as just one example how the grading and evaluation of students enrolled in MOOCs can be innovative and successful.

As MOOCs and other types of similar programs are developed, this sort of innovation needs to be implemented into other programs. Therefore, students are not forfeiting quality of education at the expense of difficulties in grading. In this case, MOOCs can continue to provide high quality education to more students at reduced cost through the utilization of technology.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

3-D Printing Made Easy by MakerBot Academy

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently, MakerBot and America Makes have joined forces to bring new 3-D printers to a handful of different public schools in a program called MakerBot Academy. Along with a 3-D printer, schools are given the plastic needed to print 3-D models and free access to the Thingiverse Community where students can download files for different models. But what exactly are 3-D printers, and what good can public school students do with this technology?

Until now, 3-D printers have been exclusive to industrial efforts and scientists in the fields of engineering, physics, and medicine. This is because 3-D printers allow scientists to slowly add layer upon layer of different media on to 3-dimensional models, sculptures, or tools. Using different plastic media, scientists can build, dissolve or create flexible objects and even build parts out of metal alloys. So far, 3-D printing has been used to make parts for industrial machinery, firearms, and even artificial hearts. With this is mind, 3-D printers appear to be pretty difficult, as it must take a lot of knowledge of different software to successfully design and create different 3-D objects to print.

While designing complex objects using 3-D printing software isn't easy, it is still possible for students to learn how to develop a basic understanding of designing simple models. Despite some difficulties, students do not need to be experts on the design software to print out 3-D objects. In fact, the free Thingiverse website offers more than 100,000 different objects that can be downloaded and printed easily be students. On this site, students can pick and choose to print out anything from LEGO block sets and puzzles to scaled models of buildings and art. Also, many people who are well versed in how to use 3-D printing software have posted the data necessary to print some creative objects with real word applications. For example, there are downloadable plans to print your own iPhone case, watch, bottles, and even a top for an aluminum soda can. With all of these cool objects and more, student can print out models for different classes. Models of DNA or the heart can be printed for science class, while models of jewelry or miniature sculptures can be made for art classes.

Further, schools could begin teaching students how to use the software. The goal of MakerBot Academy is to teach students how to use these technologies. 3-D printing really is the future so if students can begin to learn how to use this software early on, we can expect huge advancement in society utilizing 3-D printing. Students learning the software in high schools now may go on to develop intricate parts of tomorrow’s spacecrafts or transplant-able organs. Therefore, getting an early start on understanding the software is vital for success in the future.

In all, by donating 3-D printers to public schools as part of MakerBot Academy, MakerBot and America Makes are stimulating young minds to enter the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Also, 3-D printing allows students with all different types of interests to print 3-D models for a variety of classes. Best of all, MakerBot Academy is allowing students to learn this new software at low costs as they integrate more technology into the classroom.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

How Evernote is Revolutionizing Note-Taking

By Sean Scarpiello

As more and more educational apps are being put on the market today, none of them work quite like Evernote. This new educational based app is revolutionizing the way students are able to take notes in class. While this new app has fantastic applications outside of the classroom, Evernote truly shines in the classroom. The education app is available to students on all different devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops for Windows, Mac or Android. Currently, Evernote is a free app, but users can pay to receive more memory for their data.

Evernote is so perfect for classrooms because of its ability to keep students and teachers organized. While the app has many great utilities, the coolest function is Evernote’s ability to easily archive notes. For instance, if a student can takes a photo of their notes and uploads it to Evernote, the app will translate the written text as if it were typed into a computer. Later on, students can simply run searches in Evernote for specific key terms which Evernote will highlight for students. This allows students to easily find and review specific parts of their notes relating to certain topics. As these notes are available on their phone, tablet, or laptop, students will always have a full copy of their notes for classes handy. This same function of Evernote does not need to be limited to class notes. Students can even take pictures of textbook passages, figures, graphs, homework assignments, and even confusing math problems worked out on a blackboard. Evernote can then organize all of this data in an easily accessible way. Along with this, Evernote can allow students to save scanned data on their accounts. Essentially, students can scan a worksheet for class, complete it on any of their devices and then email to their teacher, all through Evernote. This allows students to not only easily complete and turn in their homework, but also save a copy for themselves if there is a problem that they have later on or when studying for a test.

Another great benefit of Evernote is its ability to make research easier. By adding a free Google Chrome extension to the Evernote app, students can save entire webpages or parts of articles and pictures. They are then able to add other information about the “web clipping” and store it where it can easily be accessed. Students can even save the URLs of a webpage so they can return to it later. Through this, any sort of research project can easily be done on phones or tablets, then later pulled up on the computer. In fact, by using a web browser such as Google or Bing, students can pull up their saved “web clippings” from their Evernote account while searching the internet for related topics. Then, once this data is saved, students can effortlessly share all of their research with classmates or teachers.

In all, Evernote is an easy to use app that can keep even the most disorganized students in order. By utilizing its features that allow students to scan and store class notes, figures, websites, pictures, “web clippings,” and more, students can easily access all of their class material on any of their devices. This benefits students immensely as they can easily find the material that they are having trouble with in class and contact their teachers about these problems through this free app. Evernote’s share functions also allow students to share their work with classmates or turn in their assignments to their teachers instantly. Overall, Evernote is great because it is a no cost educational technology that helps students and teachers in and out of the classroom.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paper: One of Today's Educational Resources Becoming Obsolete

By Sean Scarpiello

When looking back onto the changes that have occurred in the last decade years in education, it is amazing to see how many of the educational tools used in classes just ten years ago have become completely obsolete. Just thinking back to my elementary education years, we had very basic computer programs like the pixelated Oregon Trail game and the creative software Kid Pix. If you told any student, teacher, or education professional back then that within the next ten to fifteen years that schools would distribute iPads, computers, and individual email addresses to each of their students, no one would believe you. Technology moves at an extremely rapid pace, and while the field of education often struggles to keep up with the latest gadgets, it makes me wonder about many of the today’s different educational resources that will be obsolete in the next fifteen years to come.

It is very difficult to predict what exactly will be outdated in education, simply because technology is moving so fast. However, one of today’s most common educational resources that has been used for decades in the classroom that I see becoming obsolete in the upcoming year is paper. With the today’s heavy integration of technology in education, many educational institutions already have the ability to go completely paperless. In fact, if my college wanted to go completely paperless in classes by tomorrow, it would really not be a problem at all. Reports can all be submitted via email or other online software, while tests and homework can be distributed and completed over the internet. My school even has the ability to send financial and billing information to all of its students and employees through web adviser software. This can even hold true in elementary level education too. Email addresses through companies such as Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, and others are essentially free to everyone. Therefore, essentially every student with a family computer and internet connection can “plug in” to class and complete coursework through technology. There are even schools that give their students their own email addresses for school. Less than four years ago, when I was in high school, we did not even have our own school based emails. Ten years ago, I hardly if ever sent out an email. Now, there are middle school students who send out multiple emails daily.

Looking beyond the idea that only worksheets, homework, and tests in schools will go paperless in the upcoming years, we can also expect textbooks to go paperless as well. Every day, companies are bringing digital memory to us at lower and lower costs. This, along with the increase in technology in education will inevitably lead us to a textbook free classroom. Students will eventually be able to simply log into their iPad or laptop and pull up thousands of pages of textbooks in the form of eBooks. In the long run, this will definitely save schools money, as they can purchase eBooks for lower prices and even rent eBooks for a limited amount of time at even lower costs. Further, schools will not have to pay to replace large sets of worn-out textbooks every few years.

While going paperless in the upcoming years in the field of education is just one of the many major changes we will see, there will definitely be a lot more of today’s educational resources simply becoming obsolete as technology advances. As these changes come about, I am sure that they will come with a lot of benefits for both schools and their students. Schools will be able to save money in many different areas, while students will receive a much more individualized and fun form of education through technology. Overall, this leads us to a field of education where more students can receive a higher quality of education at lower costs, all through the integration of technology.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck in AP Classes

By Sean Scarpiello

With the cost of college being so high today, many students are enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes during high school in hopes of saving money in college. When taking an AP class, students are essentially taking a college level class. Then, at the end of each AP class, students can take a test to determine if they can receive full college credit for the course. If a students do well enough on their AP test, skipping a class can allow them to take other classes to work towards a double major, or even shorten their college experience down to three years, saving them money altogether. Yet, while there are many financial benefits to this option, there also seem to be a few problems with this arrangement.

Many different colleges have different opinions on AP classes. Some schools have very strict policies on them, while others are very relaxed. Therefore, it is very important for students to look into these college policies when choosing a school. For example, at my college, if a student takes AP Biology 1 and 2 in high school and receives a 4 on the AP test, they can skip General Biology I in college. If a student scores a 5 on the AP test, they can skip both General Biology I and II. Other colleges have different polices and will allow students to skip classes with lower scores on the AP tests. And while this sounds like a great idea, there are even more specifics students should look into when choosing a school, AP classes, or even a graduate programs. Because while colleges have their own opinions on AP coursework, so do many other institutions.

Referring back to my example, if a student scores a 5 on the AP test, they can skip the two general biology classes and jump right into upper level biology classes. But does a student really want to do that? Many graduate and doctorate programs in the sciences require that students take the general science courses at a four-year college. Therefore, it would be a shame if a student chose to bypass these general biology courses early in their education, and then had to retake these courses later to get into a graduate degree program. Further, while AP courses technically are the equivalent of a college level class, they are not equal in a few ways. The biggest way in which they differ is that AP classes lack the lab component of many science classes, which, for science majors, is very important. A student who tests out of general science course with a lab may struggle through the lab components of their upper level classes. This is because they enter higher level courses without the ability to properly write abstracts, read scientific articles, and use proper lab techniques which are the fundamentals taught in first year science courses.

Even when taking non-science courses in college, high school classes such as AP Statistics, AP History, or AP English simply lack the college course layout. Sitting through a college class is much different than those in high school. College classes are generally shorter, require much more independent work outside of class, and students have much less one on one contact with their college professors than they do with their high school teachers. Therefore, I feel as if AP classes work well as a jumping off point for students when they get to college. This is because students learn all of the material of a college level class in high school, but when they take the same class in college, they can focus on the course’s structural differences and get used to what it takes to succeed in a real college class.

Another option that works well for students planning on taking AP classes for college credit is to take AP classes in subjects you do not want to major in during college. While it is still great for students to take AP classes in fields their interested in, AP credit works best for the students who can avoid certain types of classes altogether in college. A great example of this would be a political science or business major who took an AP science course in high school. Most colleges require just a few science distribution courses, so if the student can bypass courses they need to take for distribution through the use of AP credit, they have an upper hand. Plus, this political science or business major, who may never use this science again or in their career, can completely avoid having to take the difficult science course with expensive textbooks and long labs. With this option, they can completely cut their college experience short a year by finishing distribution and general education classes before they even arrive at college. Otherwise, these students can cut out these general requirements and pick up a double major or take classes they can greater benefit from during their four years at college.

Overall, while AP courses are fantastic, it is important to approach them strategically. By doing this, students can take the AP classes will most benefit them financially in college by allowing them to cut college short and save on tuition or for focusing on more important classes in their major. In fact, if high schools increased the numbers of AP courses offered, students can save a lot of money not just in tuition, but also textbooks, lab fees, and more. In all, AP classes are great for education as they provide it at a lower cost for many students across the United States.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Integration of iPads into K to 12 Classrooms

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently, I read an article about how Princeton Day School, a private school for students in Pre-Kindergarten to grade 12, has slowly begun integrating iPads into their classrooms. While the school has not gone completely digital, the program has seen much success in the grades that are based on the iPads. Therefore, the school plans on extending the program to further digitize even more classes in future. Compared to traditional classes, the program has many advantages for school administration, teachers and students.

In the long run, integrating iPads into every classroom will save schools a lot of money. While the initial cost of buying iPads for every student in the class is great, the school will be able to save money over the following years. This is because the cost of eBooks is much lower than traditional, heavy textbooks. Also, unlike regular textbooks, eBooks do not need to be replaced every few years because they do not become outdated or fall apart. Plus, iPads offer many applications, designed specifically for the classroom, at low or no cost. With these applications, students can learn through the use of interactive worksheets, challenging games, and other options that are much more stimulating than boring, black and white worksheets. Therefore, students will look forward to learning, as they want to gain more points in a computer based grammar game or solve a math puzzle on their iPad.

This technology also offers many advantages to teachers. iPads can be used to give daily updates to students, as well as make any changes to the course syllabi. The integration of iPads allows for students to work on their assignments anywhere and turn them into their teachers instantly. Applications available for teachers on these devices allow teachers to track where students are struggling, so they can address certain problem areas in the class material. This allows each student’s education to be further individualized to meet their needs and focus on the areas where they struggle which means students will further benefit from this technology.

As students eventually graduate to work in the real world, they too will need to integrate to the technology that we use in hospitals, small businesses, banks, laboratories, and in many other occupational fields. Therefore, being exposed to technology early on in their education means that they can pick up and learn to integrate into the systems used in the workplace extremely easily. Last year, when I had the opportunity to use an iPad in my Organic Chemistry class, we had the ability to use an annotation function on our iPads to write out lab reports simply by speaking into a microphone which typed up the report for us. This technology is not dissimilar to the annotation tools doctors, nurses, and many other employees use daily in the workforce. Further, there are other applications which allow students to surpass today’s employees in many other areas in technology. Many students now are learning to make movies and animations to present in class as a project. In the real world, many of today’s employees will struggle to try and create this type of media. Therefore, those who can build an animation or movie to use in a work presentation can excel in the workplace.

Overall, while the initial price tag of iPads as a learning technology in schools may seem expensive, schools will save in the long term. Beyond the savings on eBooks and education applications, teachers and students will benefit from these technologies in many ways. In all, these sorts of programs where schools are digitizing their classrooms with iPads are sure to improve the experience of learning for many students while remaining at a low cost for schools.


Monday, September 30, 2013

How We Can Improve Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs)

By Sean Scarpiello

After reviewing some recently published news articles on the success of Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs), I was a bit shocked to see that there were not many fans of this technology in the academic community. Last year, many colleges made agreements with companies such as Udacity and began to give academic credit to students upon completion of many courses taken through MOOCs. However, many colleges and universities found that their students did not do well in these types of classes. In fact, one school had prematurely ended a MOOC pilot program after only two semesters with the program in place. This is because they found that half of the students who pass traditional classes ended up failing a MOOC class. So, is it that we need to go back to the drawing board and redesign MOOCs, or do we need to do something else to fix this problem?

When looking into the first MOOCs that existed, Sebastian Thurun’s Artificial Intelligence MOOC, we see that overall, a huge amount people, around 160,000 students, took the course. Of these 160,000 students, only 23,000 passed the class. This is not a very good number considering less than 15% of students graduated the course. However, it is important to remember that not one student paid for their spot in the class. Furthermore, it is difficult to estimate how many students really “took” the class by actively completing assignments, taking tests, and watching the lectures. Overall, we must consider that since students were not paying out of pocket for the MOOC they were enrolled in, we cannot expect them to have taken the course seriously. When looking back at how traditional types of classes have a much higher success rate than the MOOCs, it is important to remember that there is a price tag placed on each class. Personally, I make every attempt to attend each one of my college level classes, because when I break down the number of hours of class time over the cost of tuition, each class costs about $40 to $60, which is a lot of money that many students will not want to waste. Beyond this, MOOCs place students in a difficult position. MOOCs rely on students to take the initiative to sit down and complete classwork. In traditional schooling and in a lot of college classrooms, professors, teachers, and teaching assistants hound students for work on strict due dates. Therefore, if students want to save the money that comes along with MOOCs, they are really going to need to take some of their own initiative to sit down and work on classwork. Otherwise, it would probably be better for students who struggle at focusing to go ahead and pay to sit through formal classes.

In light of this, I do not think that MOOCs are 100% perfect and faultless in these cases. The colleges offering trial programs with MOOCs must have still had reasons to cancel these technology based classrooms. MOOCs are often criticized for being very heavy on the memorization and regurgitation of topics. This often means that many students do not learn much because they simply memorize the material for the test, and then later forget about it. Additionally, MOOCs lack collaboration and application of class material. This is a difficult task for MOOCs to include into their curriculum due to the online nature of MOOCs. However, professors teaching MOOCs could easily include pages of extra practice problems where students can apply the materials they are learning in class. The last major criticism of MOOCs is that they allow for little feedback. This can definitely hold true, but again there is an easy fix for this problem. The instructors of MOOCs could work with program designers to include question-answer modules with the professor or teaching assistant, as well as include open forum where classmates can discuss their individual issues in the class. Here, students will be able to voice their concerns with their professors and classmates, and the professor can then act to clarify certain areas in the material and answer questions that many students are asking.

In all, while there has been a lot of criticism coming from the academic community on MOOCs, it is important to remember a few things. MOOCs will take some time to get used to and many students will need to change their study habits or otherwise pay to take traditional types of classes. Also, MOOC designers can do their part by making the MOOCs as similar to traditional classrooms as possible by including places for interaction to occur among classmates and professors. MOOCs have the potential to completely revolutionize the field of education by bringing education to the masses through technology at low costs. Therefore, it is important to not give up on MOOCs until we change the way we think about them and change their designs to become more individualized and student friendly.


Friday, September 20, 2013

The Benefits of Sapling Learning Technologies in Science Class

By Sean Scarpiello

Earlier this year, when I was buying my books for college, I had noticed that on my required textbook list I would need to also purchase a “Sapling Pass” for my Biochemistry class. Unaware what this “Sapling Pass” was, I saw that it was required for the course, so I went ahead and paid $30 for it. During the first few days of Biochemistry, my professor brought up that this “Sapling Pass” is required and that we all need to buy one of these “Sapling Passes” to log on to our class’s Sapling page online. After receiving my books for the semester, I found my “Sapling Pass” as a small card with a code on it. I followed the teacher’s directions by going online and entering the code to gain access to our Biochemistry’s Sapling site, and I was amazed.

Sapling Learning is an online education program designed for high school and higher education level classes. I have only seen my Biochemistry site in detail, but there are also options available for other science classes such as Analytical Chemistry, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and more. On this site, my professor assigns weekly homework assignments where we log on to the Sapling Learning site, enter our usernames and passwords, and then simply click on a module to go to the problem set. These problem sets are unlike many other types of assignments available online. In these modules, we are required to mix certain chemicals, run titrations, analyze graphs, and evaluate data. Plus, there are even interactive problems where we must make up the proper molecule using the Sapling Learning software. These problem sets are extremely interactive for students and also challenge students to apply multiple concepts at once. Students can receive instant feedback and even tips while answering questions. Teachers may optionally choose to give students second or third guesses on graded assignments right after they receive tips on what they did wrong. This program goes beyond simply quizzing and grading students by further challenging students and forcing them to learn the proper mindset and problem solving strategies for science.

The program is also fantastic from the teacher's perspective. The program comes pre-loaded with a lot of different types of questions that teachers can choose to assign to students. Plus, the program tracks everything their students do on the site. This includes times their students are logged on, the amount of time spent on different problems, and which questions were answered correctly and incorrectly. Teachers can look up class statistics to see what percentage of students answered questions correctly and incorrectly. My professor looked at this data for a past problem set and reviewed certain material in class because the majority of us got specific problems wrong. Teachers also have the ability to change up the questions in such a way that every student gets slightly different answers. My professor does this so she can keep track of everyone individually and no pairs of students could work together, thereby masking the weakness of one of the partners. Beyond this, teachers can assign ungraded questions, as well as put time limits and due dates for assignments on the program.

Sapling Learning programs are great in that they can be done easily on the computer with any internet connection. This means homework can be completed anywhere at any time through the internet. One other benefit to Sapling is that it comes at a low $30 price for students. Furthermore, the site offers an eBook of the professors chosen textbook for 30 days completely free. The program also gives students the option of buying the eBook through the Sapling site to use on problems sets and for studying.

Overall, Sapling Learning is a fantastic program for high school and college level science classes. It makes the student’s role in learning more interactive, while allowing teachers to be more efficient and more aware of individual problems in class. Finally, the program is also available at a low cost while integrating technology into the learning process of student.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How DreamBox is Revolutionizing Elementary Math Class

By Sean Scarpiello

As education is quickly being taken over by different technologies, it is often easy for teachers to hand students a computer or tablet and assign work. This holds especially true in subjects such as math, where students who complete more problems and get more experience achieve more. These days, there are many different interactive games and software for students, which are fantastic when it comes to making math fun. However, while some students excel with this type of independent learning, others have a difficult time with these assignments. When designing technology for the classroom, many program designers forget that every student is different in the ways in which they think and learn. Therefore, while some students are zipping through their math assignments on their tablets, others may be struggling. A program called DreamBox, aims at eliminating this sort of one-size-fits-all math education while offering a more individualized instruction for students.

For many teachers, one big problem in math class is keeping students who are advanced in math challenged, while setting a pace in which slower students can still keep up. DreamBox is an online learning program where students can log on and complete a set of interactive math assignments at their own pace, whether that be fast or slow. With this program, teachers can keep an eye on each student individually by tracking the amount of questions answered correctly and monitoring the amount of time each student spends on each question. The program also utilizes adaptive learning, which challenges students at whatever level they are at. The feedback that DreamBox gives teachers goes a long way in diagnosing students’ problem areas. Teachers can then give more private and individualized instruction for students who may be struggling. DreamBox helps teachers solve one of the biggest problems when teaching math, while challenging students at all levels.

DreamBox is also designed to be used by students anywhere. For schools that subscribe to DreamBox’s service, students and teachers have 24 hour access to over 1,000 lessons. This allows teachers to the ability to assign DreamBox assignments in class, directly after material is taught, or as homework to reinforce what was taught in class. All students need to do their homework is their family computer or tablet with an internet connection. Beyond this, DreamBox is also affordable at $25 per student per year, or $7,000 for an unlimited amount of students per year. Since DreamBox offers lessons based on the curricula of each grade in elementary school, an elementary school with a large number of students can get a lot of bang for their buck. This especially holds true because the program does not require outside textbooks for students.

Overall, DreamBox is quickly revolutionizing the way elementary math education is being taught. By providing a highly individualized and challenging math instruction, teachers can keep an eye on each of their students. This further allows teachers to give special instruction to those who are struggling, while keeping the more advanced students stimulated. This also allows teachers to recognize trends among the class so they can review topics that many in the class are struggling with. In all, DreamBox does a fantastic job at utilizing technology to bring a highly individualized elementary math education to students at low costs.


Monday, September 2, 2013

"This is THE place to go to find out about 
Take a look and leave me a Comment." 

- KJ

Friday, August 30, 2013

EdWeb: A Massive Open Online Classroom Geared Towards Teachers

By Sean Scarpiello

As Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs) are quickly becoming popular in the field of education, we are beginning to see many benefits for students. However, with all of this innovative technology being geared towards students, it is easy to forget about the teachers who continue to fill classrooms across the world. A new educational venture called EdWeb is aimed at solving this problem. EdWeb is a Princeton based professional and social network designed specifically for educators of all types. Overall, the network has a lot to offer educators which help to improve education, all for no cost.

To access EdWeb, teachers simply need to visit the EdWeb site (see below) and register for free. This then opens educators up to a variety of different webinars which are held almost every day. These webinars are offered at no cost and allow teachers from all over the world to communicate and collaborate on different ideas. Some webinar topics are open discussions on topics such as gaming education and technology driven education, while others have topics based on reviving students from the summer slide and tips for improving overall math performance. In whichever topic educators choose to attend, they are sure to leave the webinar with some great ideas. Beyond this, teachers have the ability to collaborate with other teachers from all over the world. Here, teachers can learn about different teaching styles and techniques used elsewhere to test on their class. This then allows teachers to pick and choose different ways to teach a class so that they can perfect their teaching methods to best fit their students. By taking an all-encompassing view of EdWeb, we can see that it is essentially a MOOC aimed at teaching and improving educators.

In addition to the free webinars, EdWeb also allows educators to set up individual groups for discussion. These communities of teachers allow for discussion in a wide variety of different topics. Some teachers set up communities with schools or districts to communicate, while other communities are based on innovative educational ideas. These type of communities are based off of topics such as teaching autistic students, online gaming education, exploring eBooks, technology in the classroom, and even more. Again, teachers have the opportunity to share their ideas and opinions with fellow educators so students everywhere can benefit. This again acts like a MOOC in that teachers are learning about the pros and cons of different techniques, as well as collaborating with teachers who have years of experience. Such an idea will be rapidly successful as teachers can pool their years of experience together and hone their craft, all through EdWeb.

Overall, EdWeb is a fantastic innovation because while we head in the direction of MOOCs, teachers still fill our classrooms. Therefore, EdWeb acts as a free MOOC just for teachers to learn. In the long run, I am sure we will be able to see the amount of success the teachers who utilize EdWeb will have in their classrooms. Through online collaboration, teachers will be able to get new ideas to bring into the classroom and share with their students. Ultimately, we can all benefit from this technology driven idea which improves education for students across the world, all at no cost.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Communication 101

Like many who are involved in the field of education, I'm always looking for ways to make things more efficient and effective, and the number one thing I come back to that needs improvement, no matter what subject matter or field, is communication.

We often take for granted our ability to communicate with others, and can easily assume that because we can speak, write, and read, we've effectively learned what we need to in order to communicate. However, interactions that take place even in daily life can easily grow confusing or frustrating if you don't have effective communication skills. Thanks to phones and the internet, our communication skills are becoming more and more dependent on our ability to clearly type what's in our head, including the tone we want to convey with our message. This leaves a fair amount of room for errors when the message is interpreted by the reader(s) though, unless you are an adept communicator.

In order to help clear up communication issues across the board, I'll be posting some Communication 101 to help encourage clear and effective communication.

Today's Communication 101 has to do with how to handle conflict or disagreements, and takes a look at human psychology to offer some advice that you can easily apply when in a situation of conflict:

Humans, by nature, want to protect our egos. We want to believe that the way we act and live is right, and we are so invested in the protection of our SELF that our gut reaction when we are confronted is immediate denial. This has nothing to do with overall intelligence: when someone challenges your lifestyle, your interactions with others, your opinions, etc… you are going to immediately want to prove them wrong - after all, who wants to believe that they have been doing the wrong thing? And the funny thing is, that it probably won’t matter what facts, figures or statistics they throw out at you - it will all be perceived as an attack which you need to ward off, and your marvelous brain will help you think of a billion reasons why they are wrong and you are right.

This applies to everyone.

Think about this next time you want to change someone’s mind. Think about how you can present your case not as an attack, but as valuable information that might improve their life, and the lives of those around them. And next time someone confronts you, see if you can’t catch yourself throwing up your auto-defense and stop to consider what they’re trying to tell you.

Try using “I” statements to determine the difference between what you FEEL and what the facts are. It is okay to acknowledge that the things someone has said have made you upset. Remember that it is easier to put up your defenses or go on the attack if you feel emotionally compromised. Know when to take a break from an upsetting encounter so you can digest your emotions rather than letting your emotions rule your reactions.

Avoid "you," statements, and do not assume that you know how the other person feels or what they are thinking. In fact, you might even want to be forward and ASK how they feel or what they are thinking. Ask them to elaborate on points you may not be clear on, or to explain why or how they have come to that conclusion. Try to ensure that you have a full understanding of their perspective before you proceed. Do not dismiss anything they say - you wouldn't like it if someone dismissed something you said.

Be respectful, open-minded, and considerate. The golden rule most definitely applies - only speak to others the way which you would want to be spoken to.

For more information on why your brain works to protect your ego and sense of self, I recommend "A Mind of It's Own," by Cordelia Fine.

For high school level lesson plans on conflict resolution, I recommend this fantastic resource by the West Virginia Department of Education.

For more information on conflict resolution and other Communication 101, stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Scholly: The Educational App that Reduces Costs

By Sean Scarpiello

Currently, higher education costs are becoming more and more expensive, thereby causing students and their parents to be extremely frugal with their money. While many students are seeking out larger in-state universities with lower costs, others are searching for different scholarships. Many four year colleges offer scholarships, but for the most part, these scholarships do not cover all of the costs associated with higher education. To combat this, students and parents spend hours online searching for and applying to a number of different scholarships. Recently, however, there has been a new app that helps students and parents avoid the intense hunt for scholarships and reduce the stress that comes with it.

The app is called Scholly and is available in the App Store and on Google Play for 99 cents. The app works by collecting a student’s personal information in areas such as race, GPA, major, and more. Then, the app filters these factors through a database and gives students a list of scholarships that the student qualifies for. Many students would be surprised that there are a lot of scholarships available which often go undiscovered. This app is fantastic for today’s incoming college freshmen, as there is a huge number of scholarships being offered to this demographic. Scholly works especially well for this demographic of students often struggle to find few scholarships in which they qualify amid the sea of scholarships online. For students at any point in their undergraduate career, Scholly can save thousands of dollars if students simply pay the 99 cents, enter their demographic information, and apply to the list of scholarships in which they qualify.

In fact, even high school seniors looking into colleges could benefit from Scholly. By looking into available scholarships in high school, students may open themselves up to choosing to attend schools that they may prefer, but are pricier. Plus, there are some scholarships that offer money for excelling in all sorts of different areas and doing almost anything, regardless of race, class, or GPA. One such scholarship that I have heard of was a $1,000 scholarship for college given to a couple that attends their high school senior prom in a dress and tuxedo made entirely out of duct tape. High school students who can prove that they spent their prom in duct tape simply receive a check in the mail to use towards college. On top of this odd scholarship, there are a lot more available. There are even some types of scholarships that run on a lottery system. One scholarship I applied for was a one where $1,000 are given out at random each week to whoever has their name chosen at random. While it is possible that you may never win the scholarship, there is no cost to enter your name into the drawing. Therefore, students have nothing to lose. Scholly connects students to these types of scholarships too, so if students want to reduce their costs, they can easily do so.

Overall, while it may seem that the 99 cent investment on “just another app” may be a waste of money, Scholly can pay off big time for many students. While there are a lot of different scholarships available online, many students don’t have the time to search through all of them looking for the few that they qualify for. Scholly, on the other hand, makes this job simple and available at your fingertips instantly. In all, Scholly will definitely succeed in reducing the cost of education for many students, all through its innovative use of technology.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How LearnFlow is Addressing the Problems of the Education Field

By Sean Scarpiello

I recently received an email from one of the co-founders of LearnFlow discussing some of the problems that they see in the field of education and how LearnFlow is working to end these problems. The issue that LearnFlow has addressed and is working towards fixing is the lack of practical working skills among many graduates. This does not only mean that students who graduate high school are lacking the skills necessary to succeed in the working world, but also many college and graduate level students. While these types of problems continue to exist in the field of education, there are few measures done to rectify this problem, so I am happy to see that start-ups such as LearnFlow are in place to help.

To address this problem further, I myself have seen these issues exist within the education field. As my friends and I prepare to graduate college and enter the working world, not one of us has any real marketable skills. While we know how to critically think, write papers, and pass exams, working for a company requires few of these academic skills on a daily basis. Instead, my peers and I may enter jobs and struggle during our first few months of working to figure out how to succeed in our positions. Even in the stereotypical jobs of working in an office or in a cubical, there are many tasks that college and graduate level students are unfamiliar with. For example, simple tasks such as developing business contracts, negotiating techniques, and organizing business functions are new to many graduates. For many high school graduates who directly enter the workforce, this can be difficult as well. For this reason, I respect and support many of the students who enter technical schools after high school. While entering a technical school to train to be a plumber, mechanic, electrician, or chef often comes with a negative stigma, technical students who have been working in the real world have much more practical experience and skills than fresh college graduates. Beyond this, they can still do well for themselves financially as society will always need to have these occupations filled.

In light of all of this, the start-up LearnFlow is aiming at eliminating this problem which is largely unaddressed in the field of education. After a quick visit to LearnFlow’s website, it is clear that LearnFlow offers students many different types of programs to correct these issues. For example, there are programs for MBA candidates, engineering projects, and industrial and technology workshops. There are even programs directed towards educational institutions that instruct colleges how to teach their students in ways in which their students are more likely to succeed in their careers. Plus, there are lessons that guide students through certification programs. This type of instruction can definitely help out students looking to work in fields such as healthcare or social work where there is a complicated certification track to complete before beginning to work.

Overall, I am happy to see that there are people who are addressing the problem of inexperienced and unprepared graduates entering the workforce. By working to rectify these problems, I believe that there will be many more graduates who will be more apt to succeed in their jobs. Whether this is for students working in an office with a computer or telephone all day, or students training to become EMTs, nurses, or technicians in a hospital, the success of these workers will mean success for us all, so I feel LearnFlow will be extremely beneficial to many graduates.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

From Today's Wall Street Journal


Kim Ki-hoon earns
$4 million a year

in South Korea, where he is known as a 

rock-star teacher —
a combination of words not typically heard in the rest of the world.
Mr. Kim has been teaching for over 20 years, all of them in the country's private, after-school tutoring academies,
known as hagwons.
Unlike most teachers across the globe,
he is paid according to the demand for his skills—and he is in high demand.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Benefits of Hybrid Programs

By Sean Scarpiello

To many education professionals, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) appear to be overbearing as they make their way into the education spotlight. For those who do not know, MOOCs are essentially online classes taught by university professors and taken by thousands of students from all over the world. While there remains some apprehension around MOOCs, many critics further put down MOOCs due to fact that these courses are 100% online. For both students and teachers, this can be a bit scary as well. Students fear that they will not receive individualized attention and must complete all of the assignments on their own without any help or guidance. Teachers feel that students are missing out on the social and collaborative aspects of learning if MOOCs take over education. In light of all of this, many education professionals are coming up with a middle ground between traditional classes and MOOCs called hybrid programs.

From what I have read about hybrid programs, they sound great. While the majority of the class is taught online from any place with an internet connection, students still have the option of meeting up with other students and teachers during their classes. This student-student or student-teacher interaction can either take place at a formal location, such as a college campus, or take place online in a sort of open chat room set up like Skype or an online video conference. While designing courses for the future of education, it is often easy to forget about many of the latent functions of traditional education. The main objective of any school is to get students to learn material in a textbook. However, while learning in a traditional classroom, students are also learning how to discuss these course topics with others, communicate, collaborate, and debate with each other. These sorts of hidden objectives of traditional education would easy become lost in MOOCs. Fortunately, hybrid programs still afford student the opportunities to learn these skills which are essential in the workforce.

Beyond these latent objectives, hybrid programs also maintain the benefits that make MOOCs so appealing. Online course work significantly reduces the cost of education for students and teachers. By being in a class full of thousands of other students, institutions can decrease the amount they charge per student. For example, if a school $50,000 to offer a class, then 50 students would pay $1,000 each for the class. However, being in the same $50,000 class with 10,000 other students means that the school can charge each student $5 to take the class. Therefore, both the students and schools benefit from these retained aspects of MOOCs in hybrid programs. Plus, all coursework for students would be available online for much lower costs than traditional classes. For students, eBooks and other online resources are already significantly cheaper than buying heavy and bulky textbooks. Since hybrid program support this technology for many students, students can get more bang for their buck.

Overall, while many educators fear MOOCs, it is nice to have hybrid programs as another option. These hybrid programs are perfect because they keep the benefits of both MOOCs and traditional courses. They can even offer a good transition for today’s students and educators from the side of traditional schooling to MOOCs. Most of all, they are great because they offer a quality education to a large group of students at a low cost while utilizing technology.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Using Technology to Avoid the Summer Slump

By Sean Scarpiello

Within the past few years, there have been many studies looking at how summer vacation impacts learning. In each of these studies, students who practiced their math and grammar skills a little each day during the summer go on to do better in school. With all of this in mind, it is important to remember that this responsibility falls on parents. Elementary school students will not have the motivation to put an hour of each summer day towards worksheets. As a parent, it is already difficult to get children to do even a little bit of school work after they have had a school year full of it. However, with the dawn of technology, this task is becoming easier and easier.

When I was younger, my mother assigned a few pages of math to do each weekday during my summer break. Although I hated it back then, and she hated fighting with me over the work, it was for the better. Back then, the internet was in its initial stages of development, so we had to go out and buy a workbook of math problems designed for whichever grade in school I had just completed. These days, there are tons of websites that offer free worksheets for teachers, students, and parents. Now, with technologies such as iPads, laptops, and others, parents can simply pull up these worksheets and open them up in apps, and assign the work to their children. This makes the parent’s job easier, by simply logging onto the internet and finding a few worksheets. Also, the work isn’t as bad for students, as they will have a fun time using a stylus or their finger to solve math problems on a tablet or computer screen.

In addition to this, parents could even substitute formal worksheets of math problems with some of the new interactive education technologies. With programs such as LeapFrog or, parents can assign an hour of games such as Math Baseball and more. This gets students to more willingly practice math and grammar by giving them a fun and purposeful way to learn. Plus, students can try to beat their own score and challenge themselves. They are much less likely to do this with black and white worksheets that feel monotonous and tedious to complete.

Many schools also assign required summer reading books. Studies have as shown that these books are beneficial to students. However, not all schools assign them, so it is often up to parent to assign readings. It can be easy to assign or extend a child’s summer reading using technology. eBooks are available at reduced costs online and can be easily accessible to anyone with an iPad, Kindle, or other tablet or laptop. Plus, many children’s books come with fully illustrated pages. Some eBooks even come with interactive parts of stories where students can become even more actively involved with the characters and plot.

In all, while many education professionals agree that continued education during the summer months is beneficial, it is important for parents to supplement their children’s education during this time. With all of the resources available at low or no cost online, parents can easily find and check worksheets for their children to complete in math and grammar. Also, students are also benefiting from the technology, as their assignments do not have to be limited to tedious math worksheets. Instead, they can now have vivid and interactive assignments at their fingertips, allowing them to enjoy completing summer assignments.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Canvas: An Easy-to-Use, Online, Learning Technology

By Sean Scarpiello

All education professionals will agree that communication is the key to success in school. This not only means the communication between the teachers and students must be strong, but for younger students, the parent to teacher communication should be strong too. Canvas, a new online learning tool, aims at making strong connections between everyone in the educational process easy. This online program allows teachers to post assignments, tests, and updates for class. Also, it allows for easy and simple communication between teachers, students, and parents. While there are a handful of other programs similar to Canvas, you may ask what makes Canvas so special?

First, one of the largest benefits Canvas has is its design. Canvas has been specially designed to be used on devices other than laptops or computers. Its online layout makes the programs extremely easy to use on a tablet or smart phone. This design allows teachers and students to easily interact wherever or wherever needed. Many websites and educational tools have not yet been designed with tablet and smart phone users in mind. Therefore, sending emails, writing in textboxes, and checking updates can be extremely confusing, difficult, and time consuming due to a typical website’s layout. Canvas also allows students and teachers to access and add text, video, audio, and other types of media to the site easily. This data can easily be shared with other students as well as the teacher. With this strengthened communication, the teacher can address any individual problems students may have personally, plus students can privately and effectively ask the teacher questions whenever they arise.

One of the next benefits of Canvas is it parental co-enrollment capabilities. While education professionals throw a lot of money into expensive technologies each year, a child’s education is can considerably improve if parents are included in the educational process. With Canvas, the link connecting teachers and parents is easily and effectively made. This allows teachers to give daily updates to parents, notify parents of any problems, and give information to parents about future assignments. This makes it effortless for parents to understand what is going on in school and ask about homework and tests that need to be completed.

Some of the last huge benefits of Canvas are all of its applications aimed at making the teacher’s job easier. Canvas has a large program on it where teachers can track grades and class progress. Teachers can review how individual students are doing, as well as the class as a whole. Also, the SpeedGrader function allows teachers to easily grade assignments from tablets and other devices. There is also a calendar function where teachers can organize their lesson plan. Additionally, Canvas helps teachers with state regulated guidelines for education. Here, teachers can easily checkup, report, and understand each state’s required curriculum for each course and grade level.

Overall, Canvas excels as a technology for both K-12 and higher education because of its ease of use on all devices, integration of parents, and many benefits to the class instructor. With all of these benefits, teachers students, and parents can all communicate easily and effectively. By strengthening the communication amongst everyone in the learning process, we can guarantee that students receive a better and well-balanced education.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Importance of Training Teachers in Technology

By Sean Scarpiello

In education news, we are constantly hearing about schools which have purchased entire classes of new laptops or iPads for students. While it is great to supply students with these technologies, it is important to look beyond simply throwing educational money at technology. While these technologies can greatly impact the course of learning for students, these technologies are often expensive, so schools should want to get the most bang for their buck. To do this, schools should not only spend money on the technology, but also spend money on training teachers to use this technology to their full capacity. In my experience, I have seen both the good and the bad when it comes to technology being implemented in schools.

In a college level ecology class, I had a professor who brought in a class polling technology where each student was given a small remote and asked to answer or “vote” on a various answers for multiple choice questions which were made in a PowerPoint format. After polling the class, the program brings up a PowerPoint slide with the percentages of the classes answers or “votes.” While this technology would work great in a political science or psychology class, it would be interesting to see how my professor would implement this technology in a natural science class. On a daily basis, each student would pick up a remote for the lecture in the front of class. Some days, there would be a few class polled questions, while other days had a lot. This alone helped the professor in that students were actively paying attention in case there was a question on the next slide. Beyond this, the professor was able to ask questions in an innovative manner. While some questions asked the class to directly recall information, the large majority of the questions asked the class to analyze a graph or evaluate a set of data to reach a conclusion. Often times, we would copy or make special notes about these types of questions, because while the same exact question would not appear on a later exam, students were able to get an idea on the types of questions and thinking that would be on the exam. In the professor’s eyes, he found this technology just as beneficial to himself as to his students. He could get an idea of the class’ understanding of the material and see what areas could be reviewed before the exam. For the professor, this technology took some extra time and effort to learn how to implement it into his PowerPoint lectures, but overall he was innovative and successful in improving the course for his students.

In light of this example of how technology can be used creatively in class, I saw how technology can be largely under-utilized in a high school anatomy class. During the beginning of this course, my teacher had been given a Smart Board to use in class. This technology allows teachers to pull up documents on a projector and students can interact with the document using special pens. For this anatomy class, students could benefit from the Smart Board by pulling up an image of the heart or a EKG diagram and then use the special stylus to label the anatomical parts or important points of a diagram or graph. While these types of functions, as well as many others, were available on the Smart Board, they were largely under-utilized because the teacher was not trained in using the Smart Board and its software. While this was frustrating for the teacher, I felt bad as a student because the school had recently spent a lot of money on these Smart Boards which we were unable to fully utilize.

From these examples, it is clear to see that technology can be of little value if the instructor is unable to adequately operate the technology. School districts can avoid these types of inefficiencies by accounting for instructor training to accompany new technology in their budgets. While this may seem like a waste of money, it is just as important, if not more, then the actual technology. There are many teachers who have taught for decades using the same paper and pencil format. Up until the last few years, technology has been quickly making its way into more and more classrooms, so this change can be huge change for many of teachers. Therefore, many teachers need to go above and beyond to learn how to use the technology to a point where they can not only get by for themselves, but also be able to teach others to use the technology. I have talked to a teacher who is not as “plugged in” to the latest technology. He said that his students taught him how to use the new iPads that were given to his class. If schools would have a series of courses for teachers to attend to be able to learn how to successfully operate the newly implemented technology, we can expect classes to have lesson plans that are much more innovative and stimulating for students while providing the most bang for the educational buck.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What do you do...?

Where was the mother? 
Out earning a living. 
Where was the Father? 
That is anybodies guess.

One of my 7th Grade 
team teachers got mad one day because there were 
few assignments turned in. 

 She had to leave the room, and when she went back, 
she asked the students to 
take their work home and 
get it signed. 

 A student raised his hand and 
said he 
would not see a parent that night. 

 When asked, 
10 of the 17 students 
would not see a parent before morning. 
Of those 10, 
7 were not sure when they would see a parent before the weekend.

  Some of them were the 
oldest child in the family and 
had to go home, 
cook food for other children and 
see to their homework and 
other needs. 

 We had 4 of these classes, while other students were in algebra, pre-algebra, band and honor choir. 34 or 35 kids, no parent. 
I didn't, 
know what to do. . . 

Friday, June 21, 2013

How Games Develop Creativity

By Sean Scarpiello

With the rise of technology in the past few decades, it is hard to look back and imagine a life without computers. While we use computers and technology a lot in the workplace, technology has also found its way into entertainment and leisure time - especially in the lives of young children. The majority of children have some form of video game console, whether that is a Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, or others. And while many adults complain that video games are ruining our children’s social lives and physical fitness-which it may- there are some benefits that children can derive from certain video games.

While not all video games are beneficial to a child’s learning, there are a few that help develop a student’s creativity. Of course, a lot of the racing and battle-based games would not work well at developing minds, but a few genres of video games extensively develop creative ideas. One type of game that I grew up with were tycoon games. By playing games such as Roller Coaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, and others, students can learn about many different subjects that hold true in real life. For example, in the game Roller Coaster Tycoon, the player starts with a blank map and a budget. With this budget, the player must create and maintain their own amusement park. To do this, the player will learn about business by seeing how money works and how influencing customers with advertising and changing prices can alter a business. Also, the player must create their own rollercoasters, which is harder than one might think. These games are based off of the laws of physics, so the player then begins to learn about G forces, the law of gravity, and other real world physics. Therefore, if a player creates a roller coaster with G forces that would harm the park visitors, the game informs them of this allowing the player to correct their mistakes. On top of learning about business and physics, players have fun by bring their own ideas to life. While all of this goes on, players look to make more and more creative parks. This creativity developed at a young age can pay off by encouraging new creative ideas in the workplace.

In addition to the tycoon-based games, there is a genre of games called sandbox games. These games also offer the player an open world where they can explore and create. As a child, many of us would play with LEGOs, K-NEX, or some other forms of building blocks. However, games like MineCraft and Blockscape, players can play with their own version of LEGOs or K-NEX, but do this on a computer with an unlimited amount of blocks. Players can do this in their own 3D world which is also designed around real world physics. In fact, the game MineCraft has its own wiring and circuit system which mimics the types of batteries, resistors, and capacitors that are being taught in college level physics and used in our daily lives every day. These sorts of online versions of LEGOs or K-NEX allow players to build everything from a farm or coal mine to a skyscraper or a rocket ship. These games also allow for multiple players to interact and build creative new things together.

In light of all of these ideas on video games, it would be interesting to implement these games outside of simple recreation. If teachers assigned homework based off of these games, students would be eager to learn and have fun doing it. For example, a business teacher could assign their students certain goals that their amusement park should reach. Also, an engineering teacher could tell each student to design their own bridge or tower. Later on, the student could bring in their assignment and share what they did to their classmates. This will also give students an incentive to create the coolest amusement park or build the most interesting bridge. On top of this, students are having fun while they learn many of the basic principles that govern our world today.

While many people scoff at the idea of video games, there are some types of video games that actually boost creativity by allowing students to bring their own ideas to life. While many of these games would not replace class time, they would make fun and creative homework assignments or class projects. By helping students cultivate their creativity using these low cost technologies, we could see a boost in the number of innovative ideas in fields like medicine, engineering, physics, art, and government when these students enter the work force.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Iversity: Germany's Take on Massive Online Classes (MOOCs)

By Sean Scarpiello

As Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) have been greeted with much success, much like Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity and other Ivy League online programs, MOOCs are popping up outside of the United States. Recently, Iversity was started by Marcus Riecke in an attempt to bring education to more people by the integration of technology. Riecke aims to bring classes online to save money and resources by allowing thousands, not hundreds, of students to attend a single lecture. Looking at statistics surrounding Udacity’s success, 23,000 students completed Udacity’s first online course. As more MOOCs are beginning to take off, we can expect to see Iversity to be very successful as Germany’s first MOOC.

One of the reasons why MOOCs are becoming so popular is because of many of the logistics surrounding the typical college. On top of a the many resources needed for education, colleges must also possess and maintain a campus, library, lecture halls, dormitories, and other types of support for students and educators. However, MOOCs allow colleges to focus only on education, not all of the services that people need to live and learn on a campus. Also, by moving classes to an online forum, colleges do not need to squeeze students into lecture halls. Essentially, classes can hold an unlimited capacity of students. This allows a lot of flexibility for students. For instance, students can take one class or a full schedule of classes from anywhere in the world. Students are also able to go to lectures, complete assignments, and take exams when it is convenient for them. Therefore, students can complete a full degree program in as much time as they can handle.

Most importantly, it lowers costs for students. To enroll in a MOOC, all students need is a computer with an internet connection and someplace to work. This means students can stay at home to take classes, or go to libraries or internet cafes. Students do not need to buy any heavy textbooks and find an expensive dorm or apartment near their college to learn. In addition to this, students do not need to pay the expensive tuitions that colleges require. This is possible by looking at simple economics. If 100 students are required to pay $7,000 to take a class in a current college, the entire class will pay $700,000. However, opening this class to 1000 students, or even more students, allows each person to pay $700 to achieve the same cost. With MOOCs, the professor needs to perform the same amount of work if 10 students are taking the class or 10,000 students. Therefore, colleges will be looking to open their MOOCs to as many students as possible.

With all of these benefits in mind, we still need to look at some of the cons of MOOCs. While moving classes out of lecture halls and online removes a lot of problems, it also creates some new ones. For example, tests and assignments will become more difficult to grade because it is hard to ensure students are not cheating. This also brings the validity of an online degree into question. If students can work on assignments and tests together while using resources available on the internet, many colleges are tentative to give these students a full degree from their institution. In addition to this, students are also missing out on many of the latent benefits of college. These include things such as social and negotiating skills, as well as networking opportunities and real world experience. This is especially true when looking at science or language classes where students typically have labs in which they apply what they learned in class. Again, this causes colleges to doubt if the education from MOOCs is of a high quality. Looking into a language class, colleges can argue that students do not have a firm basis in the language if students have not spoken it and listened to it from native speakers and their peers.

Overall, Iversity looks to be a fantastic new idea for students in Germany. As education professionals have seen the overnight success of Udacity and other MOOCs in the United States, we can expect to see a huge success in Germany. This success will come as convenience and financial benefits for both colleges and students. By reducing the amount of service and support for students, colleges can lower their tuition costs and pass on these benefits to students. Plus, by having an unlimited number of students in a single class, we can bring a quality education to even more students, all through the integration of technology.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

There should be SOME Way we can get Every Student in America a PC. 

Any ideas?
How about -
out of the Defense Budget?
Or Education?