Thursday, February 20, 2014

Knewton's Adaptive Learning Platform

By: Sean Scarpiello

As technology continues to move into the classroom, it can be easy for students to feel as if they are not receiving an individualized education. When completing traditional types of homework assignments, teachers are able to review the thought processes of students, but now technology has made it difficult for teachers to understand their students’ thought processes. While technology can track a student’s progress, teachers often struggle with interpreting each student’s reasoning in answering questions because computers can only show teachers what questions were answered correctly and incorrectly. However, a company called Knewton has designed a plan based on adaptive learning.

In adaptive learning technologies such as Knewton, learning platforms track the progress of each individual student as they complete different assignments. Knewton’s learning platform studies the logic and reasoning that each student uses in formulating their answers. Using this data, Knewton develops a profile for each student, then begins to note where students excel and where their weaknesses lie. Knewton then integrates questions into students’ assignments that are meant to challenge yet improve students’ weaknesses. For example, if a student is struggling at word problems in physics, Knewton challenges students with questions that focus on improving critical reading skills. As a result, students can better understand how to interpret these word problems leading to their success.

So far, Knewton has been extremely successful in building a learning platform used by students at all levels. Knewton excels in subjects such as math, chemistry, biology, physics, finance, sociology, and more. In addition, Knewton’s learning platform has been used in a number of colleges and they have most recently teamed up with Pearson to reach out to even more students. In fact, the Knewton and Pearson partnership is currently being implemented at Arizona State University at a cost of $100 per student. This may seem a lot; however, this $100 fee replaces the costs of a textbook which is not needed in the program. This is a huge benefit for both companies as they can reach a massive number of students through technology that builds highly individualized education for each student.

Adaptive learning technologies such as Knewton will definitely benefit students as they bring highly individualized education to a large number of students through the use of technology that students already own. Further, Knewton’s and Pearson’s recent partnership empowers students even more as they learn the latest class material on one of the most innovative education technologies on the market today at a reasonable cost.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Bringing Social Media into Education

By: Sean Scarpiello

These days, it seems as if everybody has a Facebook – especially students. As social media becomes a greater part of our lives, we can also make social media a greater part of our education. Many educators are finding new and innovative ways to implement social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more into education. As a result, students are beginning to learn unfamiliar material in an interesting way.

One example of this implementation of social media into education that I have experienced personally has been in a college level toxicology class. In the beginning of the semester, our professor had our entire class join a closed Facebook group where we had to find and post news articles pertaining to toxicology. After posting, our professor was able to track who read each article and we would later discuss these articles in class. I found this extremely interesting way to learn new material. While this not only had us to post articles to the group pertaining to toxicology, it also causes us to learn about topics we normally would not come across. Plus, I found myself becoming more vigilant to news I came across which related to class material.

While it is obvious that a program such as this would clearly benefit science students, science is not the only subject where new advances are being made each day. A psychology, sociology, and political science class could definitely benefit from such a program. This holds especially true for political science classes where students can read articles on political views and stances that they normally would not come across. These types of social media based homework assignments later spur debate and feed conversations in class. Also, students can read about the different interests of their classmates and explore new and unfamiliar areas in classes such as psychology or sociology

Social media based homework assignments do not solely need to be based off of Facebook. In fact, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and others may be just as, if not more, effective. For example, Pinterest is a site where users can share pictures of things they like. While it is most often used for sharing pictures of clothes and jewelry by girls, there are some pretty cool pages on science, math, geography, politics, psychology, and many more. Plus, educators can create their own Pinterest for students or come up with other interesting and innovative ways of getting students to learn through these types of social media. Teachers could even "tweet" homework assignments or class updates through a class Twitter

In all, social media websites are quickly becoming a large part of our lives. Therefore, it would not be difficult to make use of these websites in class. Just about all students have a number of different social media sites that they use daily and are completely free to use. So, educators who can come up with innovative ideas to incorporate social media in class will face little difficulty in implementing these ideas. Further, making use of social media in the classroom will benefit students because it is a no cost method of bringing a higher quality education to more students through the use of technology.

Sunday, February 9, 2014