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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lexington violinist teaches kids to tell musical stories

"Anwell Tsai is an accomplished violin soloist who has performed with many regional symphonies, so he knows a thing or two about classical music." summarizes Cindy Atoji Keene, Globe Correspondent.

Anwell Tsai and his son, Alec, 6, played a Chinese spouting bowl. Alex helps Tsai test new techniques for his Playful Tunes music instruction program for children.  
Photo: Boston Globe

Tsai, founder of Lexington based Playful Tunes, wants to change the way people think about early childhood music programs by using real instruments, technology, and social awareness.

“A lot of times, the way kids are taught music is very technical so the fact that music can tell a story is lost to them,” said Tsai, who has gotten more than 1,500 preschoolers to try the violin. His goal: making “happy musical moments” for 100,000 kids.

Kids sitting on or throwing a violin — isn’t that a bit sacrilegious?
We’re trying to make instruments approachable. We call it an Instrument Zoo, a hands-on, experiential learning time. Instead of worrying about breaking the violin, we create an atmosphere of freedom. Kids discover by touching, listening, moving.

How do you use your background as a professional violinist to reach a new generation of potential musicians?
My background was entirely geared toward classical music performances until I was asked to create the first mandatory string program for a middle school in Louisville, Ky. This was the start of sharing my love of music – and this group of kids really responded. My biggest reward came when the school’s lacrosse team took out their violins and played after winning a league championship.

How do you use technology?
We use interactive white boards, projectors, recording software, motion detecting software, and old-fashioned lighted keyboards. We’ll tell kids they’re going to create the story of a car coming home through a rainstorm. The kids have to make all the sounds — an engine revving, tires going through gravel, wheels spinning on smooth roads, thunder and lightning.
Read more... 

Additional resources 
Photo: Playful Tunes

Your Ultimate All-In-One Program
We've Got You Covered With Musical Quests, Parent Resources,
Teacher Goodies,  And Your Very Own Director's Toolkit
Source: Boston Globe

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Chromebooks beat iPads as top education device

The iPad is losing ground to a cheaper, bare-bones laptop backed by Google, which in the third quarter became the best-selling device for higher education and K-12 schools nationwide, according to research firm IDC

Third-graders Alex Lu (left), Richie Ngo and Ray Chuang use a Chromebook computer to research Indian tribes at Marshall Pomeroy Elementary School in Milpitas. Chromebooks are becoming more popular for use in schools. 
Photo: SFGate

Chromebooks sold during the third quarter in the U.S. education market for laptops, desktops and tablets, beating 793,000 iPads, IDC said
The results come as schools are struggling to update classrooms and help students keep up with technology. Some are moving to what’s called a one-to-one system, in which every student receives a loaned device, causing tech companies and their partners to aggressively market to educators.

Schools are a key battleground for tech companies, because whatever grabs the education market will probably remain or become the dominant technology in the future, said Rob Enderle with advisory services firm Enderle Group. Students will become so accustomed to a certain operating system, the thinking goes, that they will continue to use that software in college and eventually in the workplace. 
And companies are willing to sacrifice profit and offer steep discounts to get students’ undivided attention.

“It's seed corn,“ Enderle said.

To win the market, companies are hosting sessions for educators where they can discuss technology, including one by Google this month at Thomas Russell Middle School in Milpitas.

The sessions aren’t just a boon for companies. Only 27 percent of teachers feel confident in their own digital literacy, and more than half believe their students have a more advanced understanding of tech in classrooms than they do, said Monica Woodley from analysis firm Economist Intelligence Unit. 

When it comes to preparing students for careers, just 40 percent of teachers feel that businesses are satisfied with the skills of students entering the job market, she added.

“We see a lot of room for improvement,” Woodley said.

Education market
When Chromebooks were released at the end of 2010, they weren’t envisioned entirely as an education product. But the education market — which includes K-12 schools and colleges — represented 75 percent of the laptop’s total U.S. sales in the third quarter, IDC said. The market accounted for 21 percent of total iPad sales in the quarter, it said.

“It’s just been a very solid fit with the needs of schools,” said Rajen Sheth, a director of product management at Google.

Chromebooks start at $199 — about $180 cheaper than the least expensive iPad Air. That helps in a market where budgets matter.

“We are seeing great demand of Chromebooks in education primarily because of its low price point,” said Rajani Singh, an IDC senior research analyst. “The education market is very, very price sensitive.”

Google doesn’t manufacture most Chromebooks used in schools — partners including Samsung, Dell and Hewlett-Packard do — but it provides the operating system. For every Chrome book sold to schools, Google charges a $30 fee so that schools can manage the devices.

“There is not a tremendous amount of revenue that comes directly to Google here,” Sheth said.

Sheth said that what separates Chromebooks from its competitors is its simplicity, low cost and its ties to the cloud. The laptop doesn’t have much memory, and instead relies on the Internet to connect students with their documents and apps. By having everything online, students who end up breaking or losing their Chromebook can easily go back to class with a different device and access their documents and apps, educators said. That’s different from devices like the iPad, in which students would need to manually back up their files.

Source: SFGate

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

"An intervention that uses music and games to help preschoolers learn self-regulation skills is helping prepare at-risk children for kindergarten, a new study from Oregon State University shows."

Photo: Megan McClelland

Self-regulation skills – the skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty – are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond, said OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally recognized expert in child development and a co-author of the new study.

“Most children do just fine in the transition to kindergarten, but 20 to 25 percent of them experience difficulties – t hose difficulties have a lot to do with self-regulation,” McClelland said. “Any intervention you can develop to make that transition easier can be beneficial.”

The results of the new study are notable because positive effects of an intervention, especially one that aims to improve self-regulation and academic achievement, can be difficult for researchers to find, said McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The intervention was most effective among children who are considered at highest risk for struggling in school – those from low-income backgrounds who are learning English as a second language. In addition to a positive effect on self-regulation, the intervention had a positive effect on math achievement for English language learners.

“The math gain was huge,” McClelland said. “English language learners who were randomly assigned to the intervention showed a one-year gain in six months. This was in spite of the fact that we had no math content in these games.”

That indicates that children were more likely to integrate the self-regulation skills they’ve learned into their everyday lives, McClelland said. It also supports previous research finding strong links between self-regulation and math skills.

The study was published recently in Early Childhood Research Quarterly.”  Lead author Sara A. Schmitt conducted the research as a doctoral student at OSU and now is an assistant professor at Purdue University. In addition to McClelland, the other authors of the study are Alan C. Acock of Oregon State and Shauna L. Tominey of Yale University.
Read more... 

Source: Oregon State University

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Teachers Should Introduce Word Problems to Students Sooner, Study Finds

Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor writes, "A new study finds that introducing word problems to students in the beginning of a math lesson would be more beneficial for students through middle school and college."

Photo: Education World

Word problems, according to an article on, “are often considered one of the most challenging tasks in a beginning algebra class, with students likely to stumble over the move from the clean, basic formula to applying it in a real context.”

“Early on, symbols are barriers to learning,” said Mitchell J. Nathan, an educational psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Even with no context, word problems provide powerful informal problem-solving strategies, and language itself provides an entry point to mathematical reasoning that is highly superior to the algebraic equation.”

Nathan, the article said, “is one of a group of researchers who want to rescue word problems from the back of the textbooks,” the article said. Nathan and his colleagues Martha W. Alibali, an educational psychology professor, Kenneth R. Koedinger, a professor of human-computer interaction and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and more are “developing an intervention called ‘Bridging Instruction to help students and teachers use word problems more flexibly.”

The group also conducted a similar study where "high school teachers predicted students would have more difficulty with math problems presented as stories or non-narrative word problems than with those presented as symbol equations."

Source: Education World

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Distance learning is now open to all thanks to the internet

"The web has made course materials accessible, contact with tutors easier, and created the opportunity to study at a prestigious university for free" according to

Distance learning is popular among international students  

Distance learning has come a long way since the early days of the Open University. The internet has made course materials more accessible and contact with tutors easier, and the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCS) created the opportunity to study at a prestigious university for free. 

The result is that most universities now offer courses online, and practically every subject imaginable, from archaeology to zoology, is available via distance learning. 

But while a qualification from a British university may enhance your CV – or just provide a rewarding experience – prospective students still need to think carefully about their choice, to ensure they get not just value for money, but value for their time. 

Despite the arrival into the market of almost all UK higher education institutions, the Open University (OU) remains the biggest provider of distance learning, as well as being one of the world's largest universities. 
The OU has students in 130 countries, with 12,000 based outside the UK of whom just over 40 per cent are expatriates, according to Steve Hill, chief executive of OU Worldwide. 

Its most popular courses among international students include the international MBA and bachelor's degrees in psychology, computing and IT, business studies and material sciences. 

He says the university provides support specifically for international students, including an international website and a dedicated call centre. 

"We try to give our international students a true international experience, rather than feeling they have just been bolted on to a UK university course," Hill says. 

All course materials are available online and the majority of students need only an entry-level laptop, he adds. Some science courses may need more equipment. Each course also makes clear its assessment requirements. Students may have to travel to an assessment centre to take an exam, for example. 


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Distance Learning Through Video Conferencing

"Video conferencing is one of the newest ways campuses across the world are turning to deliver classes and distance learning." continues Uloop News.

Photo: Uloop News

Distance learning has been around for quite a while now and thanks to the internet, it has been made almost a standard of every university that has a web page.

Distance learning removes physical and geographical barriers to learning but at the same time, there has been something missing in the recreation of classes and the feel of the distance learning experience.

There are some notable producers of distance learning packages, among them Blue Jeans for Education, which takes the classroom back to the student. As a means of delivering lessons to a distributed user base, it is very effective and does its job most efficiently.

There are a number of reasons why someone would consider using video conferencing for their distance learning course. Some of these are:

Freedom of Location
Living in a place that is far from the geographical location of your campus can be quite hard.

This can be exacerbated by the times at which lectures for distance learning are being delivered.

In order to ensure that you can catch a lecture live as it’s being done, video conferencing for distance learning allows you to see the delivery of these lectures in full detail and high definition anywhere you can get a connection for your device.

Because the requirements are usually device independent, it doesn’t matter what type of device you’re going to use to connect to the lecture. This means that you can be doing anything you want during the day while at the same time attending class live. These lectures are also usually recorded so they can be viewed at a later time, or snippets uploaded to the class in order to present a point.

The recorded video also allows for freedom of location because once you have a connection that allows you access to the internet, you can get these videos to stream or download as you see fit. Then you can learn at your own pace.

Faculty-Student Meetings
Sometimes, faculty needs to meet with a specific class on a one-by-one basis or needs to deliver a statement to the class before a particular event happens. When this situation arises, it is much easier to perform these face to face meetings over video conferencing than to schedule each student separately.

In creating a video conferencing precedent for this, the lecturer and the university demonstrate their willingness to embrace modern technology in carrying out their duties.

It also makes it a lot easier for students to attend these meetings because they have a standardized time that is communicated to them for the meeting and they don’t have to actually go anywhere, simply turn their computer or other device on and join the video conference. It removes the problem of students being late to the meeting or missing the appointment.

Real time streaming makes it seem as though the student is right there, and doesn’t take away anything from the physical meeting while being a lot easier to manage the schedule of meetings to be had.
Read more... 

Source: Uloop News

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EdX Joins ConnectED To Deliver MOOCs for Free Teacher Training and AP Prep

"MOOC nonprofit edX has signed on for ConnectED, the White House's program to connect "99 percent" of America's students to broadband and high-speed wireless in schools and libraries and improve the skills of teachers through the use of technology." according to Dian Schaffhauser.

One of edX's AP Statistics prep courses

The announcement came during remarks made by President Obama during a ConnectED event that draw superintendents from districts all over the country, which took place this week in Washington, D.C.

EdX delivers open, online massive courses developed by MIT, Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley and other institutions. EdX partner universities and colleges will offer professional development courses to teachers and advanced placement exam preparation courses to students. Both programs will also incorporate free "verified" certificates; courses will be open for registration through edX over the next year.

As Obama noted in his remarks to the group, "EdX has already offered its advanced placement level courses for free. Now it's making the certification for those courses free as well. If you're a student who has mastered the material but can't afford the certification that proves [it], edX will provide it. They're offering more than a dozen training courses to teachers nationwide for free."

The teacher certificates will be issued for one year to all U.S. teachers who pass one of the teacher training courses. That will be extended for an additional four years for Title I teachers and others in high-need districts. Classes will train teachers on the use of technology in the classroom, teaching in a blended environment, and learning theory and leadership.

Those classes will be available from Boston University, Davidson College, Teachers College at Columbia University and six other universities.
Read more... 

Source: T.H.E. Journal

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MOOCs at UNC benefit students, professors alike

"More than 230,000 students from more than 180 countries have enrolled in massive open online classes, known as MOOCs, offered by UNC since July 2013." reports Katie Kilmartin

People across the globe continue to take advantage of world-class professors by enrolling in the classes, but UNC professors teaching the massive classes have also benefited.

After teaching MOOCs as large as 40,000 students, economics professor Buck Goldstein, said he learned how to facilitate and communicate with his large lectures better. 
“Probably the biggest lesson of this semester has been that we can use techniques from the MOOC to make on campus class better,” he said.

In Goldstein’s MOOC, “What’s Your Big Idea?” students communicated and discussed the material through 900 forums online. Goldstein said he plans to use forums in his Introduction to Entrepreneurship course with about 320 students enrolled to foster communication and to help students help each other.

Rob Bruce, director of the Friday Center, said MOOCs are an educational experiment and give professors the ability to reach students across the world.

“The primary reason we became involved is to see what we can learn and also to see how these courses, when we create them, can be used in a face-to-face classroom as well,” he said.

Since the inception of MOOCs at UNC, 7 courses have been offered through Coursera. Each course, free and available to anyone, lasts about six weeks with prerecorded lectures, forums for participation and quizzes.

A majority of people enrolled in MOOCs live outside of the U.S.

The hope for these massive courses were to make world-class teachers and educational institutions accessible to people across the world, law professor Donald Hornstein said.

Source: The Daily Tar Heel

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Are MOOCs the future of education?

Fareed speaks with Stuart Butler, a Brookings scholar, who's written extensively on massive open online courses, or so-called MOOCs, and Anant Agarwal, who runs edX, a MOOC outfit founded by two bricks and mortar institutions.
Stuart, explain first the kind of crisis in what you've called the business model for higher education.
Well, it certainly is a crisis that they’re facing. First of all, the costs of traditional education have been going up and the indebtedness associated with it. Now student tuition debt in the United States exceeds credit card debt. Secondly...

And it's $1 trillion, right?
Butler: Yes, exactly. Secondly, you're seeing different kinds of information coming forward so that people can actually evaluate the success of going to one college or another, whether it actually pays off.

And then the third thing, which you referred to, is that you're seeing new kinds of technologies that, first of all, appeal to students who are not part of the regular market, but now that technology is being developed, such as through edX and through others, such that it is really beginning to break open the existing traditional market. So there's an existential threat to the very business model that, quite honestly, has been lasting for almost 2,000 years.

Source: CNN (blog)

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Faculty: Here’s what we really do with technology

"The recently released 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey offers unique insight into faculty feelings on online courses and teaching practices" summarizes

Photo: eCampus News 

These findings are among some of the most interesting insights provided by the 2013-2014 HERI Undergraduate Teaching Faculty Survey, which is based on responses from over 16,000 full-time undergraduate teaching faculty members at 269 four-year colleges and universities.

In addition to new questions for faculty about their perceptions of campus climate and their sexual orientation and gender identity, the study also focused on assessing experiences with academic advising and the commitment of teachers to the spiritual development of students. Also, the study featured a module that was specifically aimed at teachers in STEM fields.

Overall, the results represent an expansive view of the current relationship between teaching and technology. Though faculty seem willing to embrace change to some degree and use new technology to enhance their existing practices, they are less keen on relying on fully online formats.

But just how stark are the actual statistics?

Additional resources 

Read the full report. (PDF)

The above report summarizes the highlights of a national survey of college and university faculty conducted by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) during the 2013.
For more information on the survey, read the full report.

Source: eCampus News 

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