Thursday, May 30, 2013

Google Glass in the Classroom

By Sean Scarpiello

In the past few weeks, Google unveiled the world to their newest innovation—Google Glass. Upon its introduction, I began thinking about how Google Glass could be used in the education field. Before Google Glass, the last innovative piece of technology to hit the market was Apple’s iPad and we have already seen just how successful it has been at improving education. While Google Glass is still being developed and has not been released for sale into the market just yet, we cannot say that it won't find itself in the classroom in the near future. Once the product becomes available to everyone and its cost drops significantly, there is strong potential for Google Glass to be used in the field of education.

If you haven’t heard of Google Glass, this new product looks like a pair of futuristic glasses with a single square glass just outside the normal frame of vision. Attached to the pair of glasses is a computer with a camera, recording device, and internet capabilities. On top of recording videos and taking pictures hands free, users can also look up information of the internet and translate foreign languages. This allows users to have the entire internet at their disposal without using their hands to search. Much like Apple’s Siri, users simply talk to Google Glass to carry out whatever function they need accomplished. As amazing as this device sounds, it is still very basic and currently doesn’t serve too much of an educational purpose. This, along with its $1,500 price tag, makes its future in the educational field sound far off. However, technology advances extremely quickly. When the iPad was first introduced, I never thought that it would be making its way into the hands of kindergarten students, so I am optimistic towards seeing Google Glass making its way into educational as well.

As of now, the current Google Glass would work well for students in that it allows students to record and take pictures of class material. Using a hands free device, students can record things such as full lectures, the process of completing math equations, and homework assignments. This puts students at an advantage because they can later go back and review a clear set of notes without having to carry around a backpack full of unorganized notebooks. Plus, students are able to control what they record, so students can customize their notes, making sure to focus on difficult class material in an in depth manner. Educators can use these same recording features to take a video of a difficult concept or take pictures of class announcements, then easily share them with the entire class. This improves communication between teachers and students. At any time or place a student can ask a question to the teacher who can easily and quickly respond to an individual student or the entire class.

For the future, we can expect to see the capabilities of Google Glass to expand well beyond what was recently unveiled. Students can go on field trips with their Google Glass and have historical facts pop up as they reach different points. Plus, there are sure to be other improved functions. Currently, the internet features appear to not work well in an educational setting. However, we can expect to see versions that are designed with students in mind and which include even more possibilities.

Overall, with the introduction of Google Glass to society, we can hope that within the upcoming years, Google Glass makes its way into the classrooms of America. While its current price tag and features may not be practical for the educational field as of now, we can expect to see its price drop and even more features crammed into Google Glass as technology quickly advances. When this product does come to fruition in the education field, we can expect to see huge changes in how students are educated and the benefits that will arise from Google Glass.

Google Glass:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Something NEW

More than 2,500 teenagers have already signed up for the International Gateway for Gifted Youth (IGGY) website, which combines challenging questions and puzzles with the opportunity to chat online with other gifted youngsters around the world.
The site is open to students aged between 13 and 18 who have been recommended by a teacher as having the potential to perform in the top five per cent of their peers, The Independent reported.
Three-quarters of those who have signed up so far are from the British Isles, although it has also been used by pupils in India, Singapore, South Africa, Hong Kong and Australia. Membership costs £120, but pupils from poorer backgrounds pay less.
IGGY, which was developed by academics at Warwick University, offers science and math quizzes and poses questions for debate such as: “Is it a problem that the average age of members of the House of Lords is 69?”
The site is also following an expedition by Arctic explorer Mark Wood and recently launched its own short story competition with a £2,000 prize.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Turning Homework into a Game

By Sean Scarpiello

For many young students, classes such as Math and English are boring because they are not very engaging to students. When I was in elementary school, teachers would hand out a worksheet with long division problems or grammatically incorrect sentences and expect us to complete these assignments for homework. While completing each question, homework quickly became dull and tedious. The boredom caused us to  ask ourselves questions such as “who cares about this?” and “when are we ever going to use this in life?” In retrospect, I can find many reasons why each subject learned was important and how we integrate each subject into everyday life. Therefore, we need to find ways that keep students interested in the fundamental in subjects such as math and grammar in school while showing them that they have practical uses in life. So, how can we do this?

One way that would keep students extremely interested in their work would be turning work into a game. Essentially, educators could make class assignments into video games that keep student’s minds busy. These games allow for students to complete assignments on a brightly colored computer screen with interesting characters and educational goals, rather than having students stare at a black and white worksheet with only numbers and math equations. Within these games, there can be many different platforms for learning. One such platform could be a journey type of game where students must navigate different levels while answering questions on class material. These types of games could be much like the classic Mario type of game, except answering math questions can unlock doors to move the student through different levels. These sorts of games would be great because students will want to move onto the next level, gain different achievements, and score higher than their friends. Therefore, even students who are not extremely interested in what is being taught will still persist through the game so they can gain points and see what lies ahead. On the other hand, if these same students who lack enthusiasm for a subject are simply given a boring worksheet of problems to complete, they will lose interest entirely and miss any incentive to complete the worksheet correctly.

These sorts of journey games can also be used to teach history as well. Students could play as characters such as George Washington during the Revolutionary War or Lewis and Clark as they traveled across America. This then allows students to not only focus on the history behind these events, but also focus on subjects like geography and even math or science. Students can learn to calculate the number of years from today that the Declaration of Independence was signed by following George Washington’s journey, or they can learn all the states and their capitals by following Lewis and Clark’s journey. On top of this, students will see that no subject exists on its own in the real world, as there is much overlap. Student can then begin to use these ideas during their daily lives as they unknowingly learn that math problems come in other forms than on tedious worksheets.

One last way journey games can help students is by building up their problem solving skills. By affording students the opportunity to learn through real world applications of problems, students will feel accomplished after solving a problem that really exists. For example, a typical long division question may ask how many times does the number 20 go into 320? On the other hand, a word problem presented in a journey type game for students could be phrased like this: If George Washington has 320 troops and there are 20 troops in one squadron, how many squadrons does George Washington have? Here, we can see that the same question is being asked, but students are presented with the challenge of identifying the numerator from the denominator, while applying math concepts to real problems. This allows students to find meaning in their answers, instead of just calculating numbers which haven't been assigned qualitative values. .

In all, we can see that by utilizing a journey-based video game in schools, students can have homework assignments that are much more interactive, interesting, and fun to complete than the traditional worksheet. These platforms for learning also allow students to see overlap among different subjects in class while developing their problem solving skills in real world applications. If educators could implement this type of learning into homework assignments, students would be more engaged in the material and look forward to going home to get to the next level on his computer based homework assignment.

Sean Scarpiello

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Future of Online Education

For anyone, anywhere, anytime

Explore free courses from edX universities

  • Making STEM Education Fun!

    As a dedicated learner, I'm always looking for ways to tie my passion for continuing my education with my interests. I've found that the points where interest and education meet can be found in multiple mediums and forms, from books to educational lectures (online and off) to interactive demonstrations. However, it's often hard to find the time to sit down and take in a long period of learning, especially in a world where it's easy to be interrupted by phone calls, emails, text messages and all other forms of modern living. 

    Thus, enter my new favorite fast-learning approach: the educational comic. 

    One of my long-time favorites is XKCD. Featured below is one of their typical one-page comics:

    Advertised as "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language," XKCD is written by Randall Monroe, a CNU graduate  with a degree in physics who worked on robots for NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. He has become well-known for his simplistic stick-figure style comics, and combining humor with STEM and other educational subjects. As someone whose background is more arts than science related, I really enjoy the way he visualizes his topics as well as the humor he inserts into them, and he answers a lot of questions that I sometimes find myself pondering (such as the above). 

    His webcomics are not always self-explanatory though, and sometimes refers to STEM material I have never learned - thus prompting me to run to google and quickly find out what a "planck length," is or recall how to use functions (something I haven't thought about since I took the SATs). It's refreshing when I remember information that I haven't used in a while, but it's also a great prompt to learn new things! 

    XKCD may not be exclusively educational humor - occasionally  Monroe inserts a comic about romantic relationships, surviving cancer, or the occasional prank. But Monroe is dedicated to education and this shows clearly in his side-project, a related blog called, "What If," where he answers hypothetical physics questions such as, "How High Can a Human Throw Something?" and "How hard would a puck have to be shot to be able to knock the goalie himself backwards into the net?" 

    Monroe's creations are not the only educational illustrations on the internet, either. Science Cartoons Plus features the work of S. Harold on far more subjects than just science. The Doghouse Diaries gives you information on everything from cuttlefish to nutrition. There are lots of webcomics in this day and age that cater to STEM-themed humor, and teachers could easily use such comics as prompts to help prime students for the rest of that day's lesson. Of course, it would be up to teachers to evaluate comics to find what is most relevant to the material they're teaching.

    However, it's becoming more and more apparent that people love to learn, especially when the material is paired with humor. Regular webcomics such as The Oatmeal, which doesn't normally cover education-related topics, have been changing to produce educational webcomics such as this one on the Mantis Shrimp. Oatmeal creator, Matthew Inman is also famed for his enthusiastically-named and fastest-growing Indigogo campaign to save the Tesla Tower and help fund its reconstruction into a Tesla Museum! Harnessing the power of The Oatmeal's large fan-base, the campaign ended with a stunning $1.4 million in funding!

    Educational webcomics are a great way to spread a little knowledge paired with a little humor in easily-digestible packages that can be viewed and enjoyed on a daily basis. Whether implemented in classrooms, or left for the individual to pursue in spare time, the rising themes of jokes and humor surrounding STEM subjects is quickly emerging to the forefront, and becoming more available, accessible and popular on the internet every day. I highly recommend them for students, teachers, and individuals to view, learn from, and enjoy!

    Friday, May 10, 2013

    The STEM Mindset

    By Sean Scarpiello

    Recently in the American Education system, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding STEM. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. But why are the fields of STEM important and how can these areas be taught effectively in schools? Most students shy away from these areas of study because they are difficult or boring; however, with proper instruction, students can achieve success in these fields while having fun.

    First, the fields of STEM are important because they teach students how to think. Classes in English, political science, and business only teach the rules of these fields. However, STEM teaches the rules of each field and more importantly how to apply them. This is important because after formal education, student need to apply everything that they have learned during their past years of education. In many fields, the application of education starts at the first job. For students of STEM subjects, these applications have been going on for years in school. Actively applying the knowledge learned in class to real problems cultivates a special mindset which allows STEM students to succeed in any field, even outside of the fields surrounding science. In fact, physics and mathematics majors have the highest average scores on the LSAT which is taken by students hoping to become lawyers. So while these students are not actively learning about politics and the law in class, they instead learn how to think and apply concepts, and they gain an edge on all students.

    With this in mind, many think that it is difficult for students to be actively engaged in class by applying concepts they are learning. In reality, it is not that difficult. Teachers can instill this scientific mindset into students by simply rewording questions on tests. For example, in a biology class, teachers do not ask the question “What is the function of a certain protein?” Teachers know that such a question is easy because students can simply regurgitate the answer from their notes. However, teachers get students to apply knowledge by rewording the same question as “What would be the effects on the cell or body if a certain protein were to fail or lose its function?” Here, these same general question is being asked, but student must first process this question and begin to build an answer that goes beyond repeating whatever is written down in their notebook. In reality, these types of questions can be written in all different subjects in schools. For example, in an English class, students should not be asked to locate an incorrectly used comma in a sentence, but to rather write their own sentences demonstrating how to correctly and incorrectly use a comma.

    One other way to instill the scientific mindset into students is by questioning students in ways which interest them. This is extremely simple as schools have a portal to these resources sitting on their desktops. By using computers and the internet, teachers and student can learn about new and interesting things in a way that encourages students to continue questioning their world. One example from my experience was a physics professor who tried keeping students intellectually involved in work, while also involving their interests. To do this, my professor would ask test questions on interesting topics, even though we were learning basic principles. For example, on a physics test, instead of asking a question about a cannon shooting a ball at a certain velocity, he would ask us to calculate the G forces acting on a supersonic jet pilot or the gravity being applied to Darth Vader on a planet from Star Wars. Through this, students began thinking about physics outside of the classroom when they saw an airplane fly by or if they were watching an action movie. This idea becomes even easier when teachers and education professionals target these ideas at young students. If teachers can interest students in physics of jets or the biology of dinosaurs at a young age, students will remain in the STEM fields, despite the extra work which accompanies it. Plus, with computers at their fingertips, they will be able to log on and find even more interesting topics and question those areas too.

    In all, while fields such as business, political science, English, and others are extremely important, many of them fail to provide students with effective ways to think. The fields of STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, encourage students to apply their knowledge wherever they go. Plus, they are easy to teach in ways which utilize technology, acting as fantastic learning tools for everyone’s innately scientific mind.

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    I support Teachers - 
    Without them YOU could NOT Read this.