Monday, June 30, 2014

Education Technology for Teachers

By Sean Scarpiello

Frequently, when education professionals discuss technologies for improving the classroom, they focus on computers and software that can be given to students. Tablets, online-based learning platforms, and other instructional technologies certainly improve the quality of education, but technology in education does not need to stop there. Putting the latest technologies in the hands of teachers will definitely enrich the quality of education for both students and teachers. In fact, many of these technologies are already available, yet are often underutilized.

One of the cheapest and most effective ways to improve education by having teachers utilize technology is through the use of fulfilling continuing education requirements (or professional hours) with online classes. Teachers can easily enroll in online classes or massive open online classrooms (MOOCs). In addition to being available at low cost, these classes are convenient to take as teachers can complete their coursework over the summer months or whenever it is best for them. In my experience, only one of my high school teachers was enrolled in classes during my semester in his AP Biology class. Often times in class, he would introduce some of the class material he was learning. Plus, he found that he was actively thinking as a student, making him describe unfamiliar concepts to our class more clearly. Further, all of my science professors in college were continuing their own research studies, keeping them up to date on the latest science which they would discuss in class. On the other hand, the high school teachers and some college professors that were not actively learning often had classes that seemed dry or out of date.

In addition to online courses or other technologies to keep instructors’ minds sharp, teachers could also benefit by implementing technologies that improve the communication link between teachers and parents. This holds true especially in grade schools. It has been proven that students whose parents are more actively involved in their education are more likely to succeed. Therefore, if teachers and parents have a clear link to discuss their children’s progress, it will be easier to keep parents involved in the educational process. There are low cost and even free software solutions that teachers can obtain to send out group or individual messages to parents. Additionally, there are even online bulletin boards available where teachers can post updates, upcoming events, homework assignments and more. Parents can then easily check these messages and ask their children about what is going on in school.

Additionally, there is a lot of different software available to help make organizing class data easier for teachers. While Excel and even hard copies of grades in notebooks are commonly utilized by teachers, there are better options available. Some of this software even track the progress of individual students and can help analyze trends seen over time. Other software even tracks student homework completion, student contact information, attendance, and more. There are many different programs with different functions on the market available for teachers at reasonable costs. By investing in these technologies, teachers can be sure to get years of use out of them. Plus, they can spend less time organizing class information and more time on their lesson plan, reaching out to parents, and other strategies to improve class.

Overall, there are many different technologies that are easily attainable for teachers at low or no cost. While we often focus too much on getting the latest technology in the students’ hands, it would further benefit class to have teachers utilizing the best technologies available. With this in mind, by having teachers use simple, low-cost technologies in class, we can expect students to benefit from an improved quality of education.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Socrative: A No Cost Class Polling Program

By Sean Scarpiello

In the past, teachers and students have described that class polling programs, such as Turning Point Technologies and others, have improved instruction in the classroom. Normally with these programs, students pick up their own remote before class which they use throughout the lecture. Teachers are then able to ask a number of different questions, and get their students’ feedback on different topics during lectures. While many teachers use these programs to ensure everyone in class understands key points, other teachers give tests and quizzes based on this technology where they get instant results. Socrative is a new type of software that enables teachers to use all of these same benefits from other polling programs, but without many of the downsides to these older methods.

When using conventional polling programs, students or teachers are often required to buy their own remote for marking responses in class. These systems do not run through the internet, so it is often difficult to keep track of class trends and the individual answers for each student in class. Socrative on the other hand does not have these issues. Teachers can get Socrative for no cost on its website and students can download the app for free on their tablet, smart phone, or other device. If students do not have their own portable device, they can easily access all of their class’ Socrative content online by logging into the website using any computer or laptop. Once teachers set up a class with the names of their students, they can post assignments and quizzes all through Socrative. Students can then log on during class when questions are posed in a PowerPoint, during lecture, or even a post-class questionnaire format.

Then, with the Socrative system, teachers are able to track the real time responses of the class as well as track the progress and success of each student in the class. Teachers are even given more flexibility with Socrative as they can make up their own questions or share questions with other teachers. Further, teachers can design a number of different question types such as multiple choice, true/false, or free response. One other benefit that teachers can expect from Socrative is that teachers can design questions to be incorporated into normal class instruction, part of a graded quiz, or turned into a game. No matter how the teachers decide to present the questions for students, they can be sure to easily track their class’ progress. Plus, pictures and other forms of media may be integrated into the questions, so students can evaluate and analyze visuals or tables of data to apply their knowledge and answer thought provoking questions. One last addition to Socrative is the Exit Ticket functions. With this, teachers can ask students to provide a short answer as to how they felt class went each day, what they learned, or what students found interesting during class discussion.

In comparison to other polling software, Socrative appears to be extremely beneficial to teachers and students. While teachers can get the same proven results seen with other polling programs, Socrative has additional benefits and comes at no added cost to students and teachers who have access to the internet. Plus, it is easy to use for both teachers and students and enables students to critically think and have fun with class instruction. In all, it is clear that Socrative is an excellent addition to any classroom as it is free and easy to implement into class where students can utilize technology to improve the quality of their education.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

EverFi: An Online Education Company Teaching Practical Knowledge

By Sean Scarpiello

Upon graduating from high school and college students often feel intimidated and uniformed on many of the day to day duties of a normal adult. For example, many students graduate without knowing about their credit score, paying loans, or doing their own taxes. To help combat this problem, the online based education company EverFi aims at teaching students many of the financial responsibilities needed as an adult. Further, EverFi has also begun offering classes in technology and STEM education. These online courses are designed to not only teach students information relevant to being fiscally responsible, but also to challenge students to think critically.

First, EverFi’s financial classes have a lot to offer to students in grades 4 and up. The online based content in their Vault Program teaches 4th through 6th graders about topics in investing, credit/debit, and money management. Further, their program designed for 9th through 12th graders focus on the taxes, mortgages, 401Ks, credit cards, and other practical information for students about to graduate from high school. This is important as many of us graduate high school and even college without any of this knowledge which is key to being a thriving member of society. These courses are offered in an online format so students can access coursework from any place that has an internet connection. The format of EverFi is also designed to engage students and force them to think critically about their coursework. This is beneficial in and of itself as it helps students to not only memorize a list of financial and business terms but to apply this knowledge and use it to evaluate other data.

EverFi also offers classes in the field of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education. Their Ignition Program is designed to stimulate interest in STEM related fields for middle school students. This is done by introducing careers in technology, multimedia, and online research. EverFi’s Radius Program is designed for high school students to further develop an interest in STEM fields by teaching students topics such as binary code, Boolean logic, decryption, and coding. These programs are again designed to challenge students to think critically about their coursework. In addition to being presented in an online format, both the financial and STEM programs are available at low costs to students, teachers, and schools.

Overall, EverFi is a fantastic educational technology as it offers courses which teach practical and useful information to students. It is available in an online format and at low costs to schools. Recently, Pharrell Williams, a musician and producer, is using his charity, From One Hand to AnOTHER, to partner up with Everfi to enroll even more students in classes this summer. In all, EverFi will be successful as it brings relevant and useful education to students through the application of technology and at a low cost.