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? 
Chatfield Kent - On FBook posted:
“The teachers are helping us educate our children. And they are doing great!”

GREAT Student,GREAT Parent,
A Great post to start the day. Thanks CK!