Saturday, March 30, 2013

A New Tablet Designed for Education

By Sean Scarpiello

Earlier this month, Amplify, a New York based education-based technology company, released a new tablet designed solely for educational purposes. The Amplify Tablet is currently available for sale to schools only. Amplify hopes to completely revolutionize education through their new tablet which makes teaching easier for educators and learning easier for students. The features of the new Amplify Tablet are built in for students and teachers, unlike other tablets which include entertainment and other utilities.

The Amplify Tablet’s most useful features aim to improve education by improving the communication that occurs between teachers and students. The first of these is the “Eyes on Teacher” function, which enable the teachers to send out messages to all of their students instantly. In addition to this, teachers are also able to poll students instantly to get their students ideas on certain class topics. By improving the communication that occurs during class, teachers can learn more about their students and can understand how their students feel about a particular subject or other class material. Furthermore, teachers can also hone in on individual students. Through the Amplify Tablet, teachers can send individual messages and ask questions instantly to students who may be struggling in class. By putting a greater focus on these students, teachers can tailor their lessons to help those who have a difficult time grasping tough concepts to ensure that no one falls behind. Beyond the benefits of added communication in class, there is even more that the Amplify Tablet offers.

The Amplify Tablets come pre-loaded with all the eBooks, lessons, applications, and simulations that students need all year. This allows students to complete their homework all through their tablet. Also, it cuts down on the expenses for schools. With eBooks, there are no costs for replacing beat up textbooks every few years and buying updated textbooks is easy and even less expensive. By including the needed lessons and simulations, Amplify Tablets allows learning to be fun and more visual for students, so they are less likely to become bored and lose interest in their lessons.

In addition all of the educational based material included on the tablets, tablets have 4G capabilities which let students connect to the WiFi in school or the 4G network when they are on the go. One of the last benefits of the Amplify Tablet is the price. Schools can buy a tablet for $299 for the WiFi only tablet or $349 for the 4G model. Also, there is a $99 annual charge for the materials bundle (including all of the lessons and eBooks for class) for the WiFi only model, and $179 annual charge for the 4G model. This means a school can have a high quality tablet utilizing today’s best technology in their students’ hands for a practical price.

Overall, the new Amplify Tablet will definitely work well to improve education. Since it was designed solely for teachers and students, it has everything that is needed for a full school year included. Its added benefits of improved communications, fully included class materials, and access to the internet gives schools the biggest bang for their buck. While it keeps students more involved in their class work, it remains a much more cost effective method of implementing technology in school when compared to other current methods.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Pros and Cons of a New $10,000 Bachelor's Degree Proposal

By Sean Scarpiello

A new piece of legislature in California is attempting to bring a full bachelor’s degree to students at a cost of $10,000. At first, many students and education professional may scoff at the goal. Although it is a lofty goal, the Californian government may be able to pull off this feat. While there are a lot of obstacles to overcome, this program would act as a huge benefit for all students and their parents. So what exactly are the pros and cons of executing such a program?

First off, to successfully carry this program out, California plans on making the program an “all hands on deck” effort. For such a program to exist, this is a deeply needed aspect of the $10,000 bachelor’s degree. For example, California officials have proposed new legislation which will put more emphasis on Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school. The credits earned in these classes can later be transferred to college credits, depending on how well the individual performed on the AP test at the end of the semester. Furthermore, the law aims at putting more emphasis on community college coursework. This is also important as it allows students to gain many credits at relatively low costs. Public colleges will able be mandated to accept up to 60 credits that students have accumulated at community colleges. This allows students to gain more credits needed to get a bachelor’s degree at a lower cost per credit as compared to more expensive public college credits. Each of these parts of the legislature sound as if they can be successfully executed.

On the other hand, there are some parts of the proposal which have the best intentions; however they appear to be impractical. The first of these aspects is the idea that textbooks are included in the $10,000 bachelor’s degree budget. This is extremely optimistic-- to the point where this is impractical. Textbooks of all types, whether they are eBook, rented, or other options, remain very expensive. To provide textbooks for their classes, students can easily spend $3,000 of their $10,000 budget on textbooks and related materials alone. This definitely holds true when books are needed for subjects like math and science where a lot of research and testing goes into writing the book. Also, the $10,000 budget goal is also extremely hopeful. College professors are extremely well educated and must study for years in undergraduate and graduate institutions, so they expect to be paid much more to instruct students. While this $10,000 goal may possibly be met studying for four years at a community college, this budget will deplete quickly once students enter public colleges. Currently, even many high schools struggle to spend less than $10,000 on instruction for a high school student.

Despite the amount of cons within this new legislature, it is not too far of a stretch. While it is difficult to keep costs down, it is not impossible. One of the main a components of this program to guarantee its success would be to educate students in high numbers. The high schools that are able to keep their instructional spending below $10,000 a student are ones that are educating students in bulk. This allows the schools to spend more money overall, but less per individual student. Another way to fix this problem would be to raise the $10,000 budget a bit. $10,000 can be used up quickly in education, so bumping up the goal budget to $15,000, or even $12,500, would act as a great way to keep the budget low while remaining a bit more realistic. Either way, I am a fan of this new program because regardless if it meets its ultimate goal, we can expect to see a huge cut in the amount of money being spent on a bachelor’s degree.

In all, while this program sounds great on paper and has high expectations, it is still attainable. There are several pros and cons to the new piece of legislature in California. If law makers and education professionals can attack these problems in the correct ways, we can definitely see a huge change in the amount being paid for a bachelor’s degree. In the very least, we can hope to see the rising level of college tuition begin to drop and become more reasonable for students.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Benefits of iTunes U

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently, Apple announced that their iTunes U had passed 1 billion downloads. Despite this milestone, there are still many people who are simply unaware of all of the information available to them on iTunes U. The goal of this program is to allow teachers and all types of students, young and old, to more easily access educational resources. These resources can be in any form, such as audio files, digital eBooks, and more. As such a perfect medium for helping to distribute educational resources, it has not reached many of the teachers and students who could really use it. So how exactly could more people utilize this amazing resource?

First, teachers and professors could begin to assign homework assignments around some of the free resources available on iTunes U. One example of this would be for students to download lectures or podcasts from the site, then listen to these audio files. Class assignments and even tests could address certain topics brought up in these resources. Also, students can listen to the opinions expressed in these resources and respond to them with opinions of their own. This will allow students to develop skills in listening to other's ideas, then formulating and expressing their own ideas on certain topics and issues. In addition to this, students will also have a good time listening to different podcasts, all while learning at the same time. Plus, these podcasts and lectures can be listened to wherever students go. Therefore, students can be learning as they're working out at the gym or in their cars commuting to work or school.

In addition to these available audio files, students and teachers can utilize the ability to post and download testing material. This allows teachers to assign online quizzes to be downloaded and completed for credit in class. If teachers do not want to use the posted test material online for class credit, students can even use it for their own purposes. For example, students can quiz themselves using iTunes U when studying for tests. This will give students a better understanding of the material. Plus, students may even end up learning more as they check their answers to the online test questions and learn new material provided by other education professionals who posted the tests.

iTunes U is also available to use for students as young as kindergarten and up. Therefore, even grade school teachers can pass the benefits of this program on to their class. Teachers can download and share videos and lab demos with their classes. This allows students and teachers to utilize all of the free benefits of iTunes U, while actively learning and interacting with the material they are studying in class. Teachers could even assign videos to watch at home, so class time is better utilized and homework isn't boring.

While iTunes U is widely unknown by many of the people who could benefit from it, the recent 1 billion download milestone is step in the right direction. We can hope to see more of the podcasts, lectures, videos, lab demos, and more available to students online in the classrooms of America. This will allow for more comprehensive studying and interesting homework assignments for students at all ages. Hopefully, we can see Apple hitting their next 2 billion download mark with iTunes U much quicker than their first 1 billion download milestone.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

There is NOTHING we can do to help other than Encouraging our children to read.
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Activities to Encourage Your Young Reader

Posted on by Erin | in Nannies
By Erin McNeill
Reading is a skill that your child will master at some point. Every child learns at a different pace and in different ways, however, so be patient with the process. In the meantime, here are some tips to encourage healthy reading habits in your child.
Visit the library – The library is a magical place for children! Help your child register for her own library card so that she can check out books independently. This independence will allow her to choose the books she’d like to read and help her become responsible for taking care of those treasures. Encourage her to look for books she is interested in, show her where to ask for help if she can’t find something and allow her to make her own choices.
Read to and with your child daily – About 30 minutes of reading per day is what is recommended to encourage healthy reading habits in your child. Start at a young age by reading to your child and then gradually transition to him reading out loud to you. The reading doesn’t have to be done all at once, but can be broken up into smaller, more manageable slices of time.
Role model at home – Children who see the adults around them engaging in reading are more likely to follow your example.
Write short notes to your child – Put them in lunch boxes, backpacks or leave them on the counter for your child to read. You can write about anything; tell her that you love her, leave her a small fact to read or even write down her chores for her!
Ask open-ended questions about the story that you are reading – Asking your child open-ended questions will encourage him to think about what is going to happen next in the story and to put together what has already happened. Ask him how he’d have the story end or to predict what he thinks will happen next in the story. Once you read more of the story, look back on your discussion and compare his thoughts to the actual story line.
Use context to check vocabulary words – Throughout your life you use context to check the meaning of words you don’t know, so encourage your child to do the same. It’s an essential life skill.
Practice writing skills – Reading and writing go hand in hand because you learn one while you are learning the other! Have your child practice sounding out words while she is writing, encourage her to create her own story with illustrations and have her write letters to people in your family (and have others write back to her!).
Let them pick the books that they read – Giving your child ownership of the books he chooses will mean that he is more involved in the reading process from the beginning. Encourage him to read the classics as well, but let him pick out what he is interested in reading.
Make reading fun – While you are reading together have her act out stories, recreate them or illustrate them how she thinks it should be done!
Play reading related games – Choose games that require reading to play together. Games that involve word play (Scrabble or Boggle), games with cards that you read (Fluxx or Pictionary) or games that require you to read spaces (Life or Monopoly) all encourage children to read independently while playing.
It’s important to remain patient and calm during the learning to read process with a young child, help him when he needs help, but stand back and allow him to navigate the words on his own as much as possible. Eventually the day will come that you are sitting side by side on the sofa, each reading your own books, and all that effort and hard work will pay off.