Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ForClass: A New and Innovative Education Platform

By Sean Scarpiello

One of the newest technologies to keep an eye on in 2015 is a creative education platform called ForClass. Teachers and professors are already extremely busy and find it increasingly difficult to prepare for class. ForClass is a platform geared towards easing the difficulties in preparing for classes while engaging students.

ForClass  enables teachers to assign questions to students for homework. These questions may be a guided reading, pop quiz, or a list of key concepts. As students answer these questions, teachers get an understanding of how each question is answered. This enables teachers to structure their lecture on the areas were students struggled. Further, ForClass gives teachers the statistical breakdown of how each student did on the assignment. Therefore, teachers can see where individual students are having difficulties and offer them help. This provides an easier education for each student individually. Over the course of a semester, ForClass can track a student’s progress, thereby enabling teachers to determine each student’s reasoning in answering questions.

One of the most important benefits of ForClass is how simple it is for the user. Teachers are able to quickly and effortlessly post questions and assignments for students to complete. The class results of each question for each individual student show up in real time for the teacher, in a simple format. Plus, teachers have an archive of all of their students’ responses at their fingertips. Students have also described  ForClass as a straightforward platform that encourages them to become more engaged in class. Students can log on and view each assignment for each class and answer each question at their own pace. As ForClass is web-based, any student with a laptop, tablet, or even a smart phone with a wireless connection can complete their assignments from almost anywhere.

ForClass also affords the opportunity for teachers to use this innovative platform in a creative manner. Teachers can use ForClass to assign take home quizzes or post lecture questions to see which topics  confuse students. Plus, teachers can come up with their own creative ways to implement the software in their classrooms that fit their students needs best.

 Overall, ForClass has additional benefits by being a  low cost or in some cases a free program for teachers and students. Plus, it is easy to use for both teachers and students.In addition,  its ability to enable students to critically think and have fun with class instruction is a great benefit. Most of all, ForClass keeps students actively engaged in class material and also benefits teachers by having a clear understanding of their student’s grasp of the material. It is clear that ForClass is an excellent addition to any classroom as it is easy to implement into classrooms where students can utilize technology to improve the quality of their education.

Source: http://www.forclass.com/

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Effectiveness of Online Writing Labs (OWLs)

By Sean Scarpiello

As the year 2015 quickly approaches, one interesting educational technology tool to keep an eye is Online Writing Labs or OWLs. These writing tools are designed to engage high school and college students in improving their writing skills to fit what college professors are looking for in essays and reports. More importantly, OWLs focus on improving writing in general, an important skill to have in all careers, regardless of the exact field of study in college. Different colleges such as Purdue University and Excelsior College offer their versions of OWLs online at no cost to users.

As OWLs are an online based technology, they can be accessed 24/7 from any laptop, tablet, or other device from any place with an internet connection.
Within the OWLs offered by Excelsior College, there are 8 different modules for improving college level writing. There are modules that focus on the actual process of writing. These processes  help students think about how they should go about brainstorming, developing arguments, looking at opposing viewpoints, and more. From there, students can find modules that help lay the foundations of what to include in their introductions and main content. In a series of fun to read and interactive instructional pages, students can also learn how to write without plagiarizing, control their voice, develop concise yet effective thesis statements and more. Plus, these pages include tips on how to revise and edit their papers so students can easily understand what areas their professors are focusing on during the grading process. One study showed that, on average, students using OWLs raised their final grade in a course by 6.6 points. While this is great for students’ transcripts in the short term, the long term benefit is improved writing styles which they will inevitably take with them beyond their educational career.

In addition to OWLs pages of content for improving writing, Excelsior College’s OWL  includes modules on how to craft writing for different audiences. There is an essay module and a grammar module which guides students  on how to write in the type of rhetoric that professors look for while retaining the proper grammar and format in their college essays. Another module that is especially useful is the digital writing module which instructs students on how to write for readers in the 21st Century. This includes information on writing blogs, discussion boards, online journals, social media, and more. To help pull all of these skills together, there is an interactive game called Paper Capers, which helps students apply what they have learned in the OWL. The game is designed to teach students how to understand the writing process and apply their knowledge by answering questions and judging if aspects of writing, such as different thesis statements and research methods, are effective.

Overall, regardless of the field of study in college, writing is an important skill which will follow students for the rest of their lives. Therefore, OWLs are a great resource for students  as they contain a wealth of knowledge and interactive media for improving writing skills and style at no cost. Plus, the programs online format enables them to be accessible from anywhere with any device at anytime. OWLs will no doubt go on to improve the quality of education as more students can utilize technology towards improving their education.

Excelsior College's OWL: http://owl.excelsior.edu/