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Friday, December 19, 2014

Thomas Edison State College seeks university status for 2015

Follow on Twitter as @JennaPizzi

"The Thomas Edison State College board of trustees has authorized the college to take the necessary steps to gain university status." summarizes Jenna Pizzi | Times of Trenton.

The Thomas Edison State College board of trustees has authorized the college to take the necessary steps to gain university status. A sign outside the construction area of the college's new Nursing Education Center next door to the administrative offices of Thomas Edison State College at Kuser Mansion on West State Street

The resolution approved by the board Dec. 12 requests approval from the state Secretary of Higher Education to change its name to Thomas Edison State University in 2015.

“So much has changed both in higher education and here at Thomas Edison State College since our school was established more than 40 years ago," TESC President George Pruitt said.

Pruitt said TESC has been considering making a formal application for several years. The institution, which offers college degrees for adults, already offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, which are required to obtain the designation. 

"We fit that bill now and that is why we thought we should have a name that reflected that," Pruitt said.

The college serves more than 21,000 students from all 50 states and internationally, through online and distance learning and on their Trenton campus, according to information provided by TESC. The institution also offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in more than 100 areas of study, including 10 master's degree programs and 12 graduate certificates. TESC has built a large nursing program, which will be housed in a new building that is being constructed on its campus in downtown Trenton.


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Research Shows Web-Based Tutoring Means Better Math Scores

"Online tutorials can make math easier and more fun." continues North American Precis Syndicate

Photo: North American Precis Syndicate

Ideally, all students would have access to one-on-one tutoring when they need it. In most cases, this ideal is neither feasible nor affordable, but advanced technology can give students a one-on-one experience through software- and Web-based learning tools.

“Technology has transformed the way students learn, especially when it comes to math. The emphasis has shifted from solving abstract problems to actively engaging in math through activities that increase understanding of concepts and apply math to the real world,” explained Dr. Steve Ritter. Software like Carnegie Learning’s Cognitive Tutor provides real-time feedback on how successful students are at solving problems targeted at particular mathematics topics and will not let students proceed to the next topic until they fully grasp each concept. Dr. Ritter notes that such “software programs recognize sticking points for students, the same as a personal tutor would, and provide problems and guidance until the student shows that he or she has mastered the skills being taught.” This process provides students with benefits similar to those achieved in one-on-one experiences, which are known to drive improved learning outcomes.

The success of this approach to learning was demonstrated in a major experimental study conducted by the RAND Corporation. The two-year study was conducted with over 18,000 students across seven states, explained Dr. Ritter, who is the chief product architect for Carnegie Learning, Inc., a publisher of research-based mathematics software and textbooks for middle and high school students. Comparing students taught using Carnegie Learning’s blended curriculum for Algebra I, which includes a combination of consumable textbooks and software, with those taught by traditional methods using only the textbooks that were already in use, students using the blended curriculum significantly outperformed students using traditional textbooks, nearly doubling the growth in knowledge of the textbook group.
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Carnegie Learning

Source: North American Precis Syndicate

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Higher ed graduates to competency-based degrees

"All-online bachelors programs at UofL, WKU help students and businesses by making marketable skills transparent" reports Debra Gibson Isaacs, correspondent for The Lane Report. 

Beginning next year, the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University launch the commonwealth’s first “competency-based,” fully online public postsecondary degree programs. UofL will offer a bachelor of science degree in healthcare management leadership and WKU a bachelor of science in advanced manufacturing.

Photo: The Lane Report

The degrees are considered a next step in online learning. Dropping conventional semester or intersession time boundaries, students earn class credit hours when they prove they’ve acquired designated skills rather than passing or failing time-limited instruction sessions.Traditional online courses and programs – those offered online by a professor teaching a group of students simultaneously – have proven successful. Since the first such courses were offered to state students in 1997, the sector has grown 10 percent a year. Sixty-five percent of commonwealth students graduating with four-year degrees in 2010-2011 (the latest figures available) had taken at least one online course, according to Allen Lind, vice president for innovation and eLearning for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Competency-based programs take the two most popular features of online learning – accessibility and flexibility – and extend them further. The ability to earn an entire degree, not just a few course hours, takes online learning yet another step.

The term competency-based is an important distinction. Under the traditional postsecondary approach, even online classes occur during a fixed time period, and students must learn as much as they can during that interval, typically 16 weeks (a semester). In competency-based programs, time is no longer relevant. There still are certain tasks students must learn, but they can take as long as needed to absorb them.

The new method requires change at every level.

“The U.S. Department of Education is spending a lot of time to adapt its rules and policies to make competency-based learning doable and fundable at the federal level,” Lind says.

Among those sure it is time well spent is Jeffrey Sun, J.D., Ph.D., professor of higher education at UofL.

“I believe this to be the new format of delivering courses in the future,” Sun said. “This is a real movement in higher education. It is not the way we normally deliver education. It is a new access point.”

Source: The Lane Report

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What MOOCs Teach Us

Photo: Daphne Koller
"Online education offers one effective way to close the skills gap." according to  Daphne Koller, cofounder and president of Coursera.

Three years ago, several of us at Stanford launched the first massive open online courses, or MOOCs. We wanted to make the teaching of the world’s great universities accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. The company we founded, Coursera, recently passed a milestone: 10 million enrolled learners. That makes it a good time to reflect on what we’ve learned.

One early prediction about MOOCs was that they would undermine or even replace the traditional college education—an idea we at Coursera never endorsed (see “What Are MOOCs Good For?”).

And it hasn’t happened—only 15 percent of our current learners are college age. The other 85 percent fall largely into two categories. The first are adults looking to expand their horizons. The second—nearly half of our learners—are working adults looking to build critical job skills for a better career. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. The world around us is changing rapidly, and many of the skills you need today—data science, mobile apps, digital marketing—didn’t even exist a decade ago.

How do we create an educational experience suited to this very different population? First, we can share our knowledge about learner interests with our university partners, who can experiment with new courses, new subject areas, and hands-on projects that align with problem-­solving in real-world settings.

Source: MIT Technology Review (blog)

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Hal Leonard PlayAlong has wealth of interactive sheet music

Follow on Twitter as @gtinari
George Tinari writes, "Hal Leonard PlayAlong is an interactive sheet music app that provides powerful tools for learning, playing and recording a wide variety of music."

Everything from Adele to Frank Sinatra to the Frozen soundtrack is available in the integrated Sheet Music Direct store. Plus, once you have your music ready, the app is ready to guide you along the music as you play and offer a multitude of customization options to help you perfect your sound. The app is free for iPad with in-app purchases.


First things first, if you have a Sheet Music Direct account, I recommend logging in or perhaps creating an account to stay organized and in sync. Otherwise, tap "Sign in as a guest" to jump into getting started. The app includes 15 demo songs and all together it's a pretty good selection to start, from oldies but goodies like "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen to "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban and of course, "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. Each demo comes with a handy audio preview as well.

Tap the song you want to learn to open the sheet music. The demos only include the first page of the song. The Record button is up at the top, but to the right there are a number of customization options to play around with. The first icon is for recording with sliders for the backing track and microphone, plus four others - reverb, delay time, delay length and delay amount - if you insert headphones.

Under Audio Settings, you have further sliders for the backing track, click track, speed and options for the count-in. There's also a slider for the pre-recorded instrument, which is cleverly dynamic for each song. For "A Thousand Years" it's the violin.

Song Settings has some basic options like note size on the display and transposition. Finally, the last two icons are for creating annotations anywhere on the page or going full screen with the sheet music and eliminating the toolbars.


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How to teach all students to think critically

Photo: Peter Ellerton
"All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills." reports Peter Ellerton, The University of Queensland.

Something to ponder – how to teach critical thinking.  
Brittany Randolph/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

The new course would be an elective next year and mandatory in 2016 with the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for education and students Shirley Alexander saying the aim is to give students some maths “critical thinking” skills.

This is a worthwhile goal, but what about critical thinking in general?

Most tertiary institutions have listed among their graduate attributes the ability to think critically. This seems a desirable outcome, but what exactly does it mean to think critically and how do you get students to do it?

The problem is that critical thinking is the Cheshire Cat of educational curricula – it is hinted at in all disciplines but appears fully formed in none. As soon as you push to see it in focus, it slips away.

If you ask curriculum designers exactly how critical thinking skills are developed, the answers are often vague and unhelpful for those wanting to teach it.

This is partly because of a lack of clarity about the term itself and because there are some who believe that critical thinking cannot be taught in isolation, that it can only be developed in a discipline context – after all, you have think critically about something.

So what should any mandatory first year course in critical thinking look like? There is no single answer to that, but let me suggest a structure with four key areas:
  1. argumentation
  2. logic
  3. psychology
  4. the nature of science.
I will then explain that these four areas are bound together by a common language of thinking and a set of critical thinking values.
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Peter lectures at the University of Queensland in critical thinking.

Source: The Conversation AU

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ASU statistician tapped to help strengthen forensic science

Photo: Connie Borror
"Connie Borror, a professor of statistics in Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, has been selected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to serve on a group whose goal is to strengthen the field of forensic science through the identification and development of standards and guidelines." according to ASU News.
New College is the core college on ASU’s West campus.

Borror teaches statistics courses for New College’s School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, which offers bachelor's degrees in both statistics and forensics. She was appointed to the NIST-administered Organization of Scientific Area Committees and will serve on the Subcommittee on Toxicology.

This subcommittee will focus on standards and guidelines related to examination of body fluids or tissues for the presence and quantity of substances such as drugs or poisons in ante- or post-mortem casework. Evidence examples include those substances and metabolites following ingestion, and might include physiological specimens such as blood, urine, hair, teeth, bone, spinal fluid, and organ and muscle tissue.

“A 2009 report by a committee of the National Research Council pointed out the need for improved standards for forensic science and improved analysis of forensic data,” said Roger Berger, director of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. “Statisticians like Dr. Borror can provide valuable assistance in both of these areas. I am sure Connie’s input will be invaluable to this toxicology group.”

Only 402 individuals were selected as members of NIST’s forensic science standards committees, and I’m so proud that Dr. Borror is one of those experts,” said Kimberly Kobojek, faculty director of New College’s forensics degree program. “Her expertise in statistics will be invaluable to the toxicology subcommittee. It is of great value to ASU and the forensics program to have such a representative on the ground-floor of the work that NIST is doing with the forensic sciences. Dr. Borror’s appointment further attests to the national recognition that ASU’s New College and the forensics program are receiving.”

Borror was chosen as one of fewer than 25 statisticians among the members in all of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees subcommittees, which include forensic science practitioners and administrators, researchers, professional association representatives and industry representatives. Statisticians have a vital role to play in elevating forensic standards, she said.
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Dr. Connie M. Borror 

Source: Arizona State University

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Local view: US adults need math competence

Photo: William Krossner
According to William Krossner, Retired university professor with 50 years of experience in teaching and/or working in the field of statistics. "Quickly — if you see a newspaper ad saying, “Buy one, get one 50 percent off,” what is the single-item percent discount from the list price?"

Doing stuff like this is the second step up on the ladder of mathematics ability. It is math competence, the ability to use whatever math you need, correctly, both in daily life and in your job. Obviously, different jobs need vastly different amounts.


Most of us have gone from kindergarten through grade 12, at least. In each grade we were taught some math, starting with counting. Then we learned how to add and subtract, then how to memorize multiplication tables, then how to do long division, and so on through quadratic equations and solving 90-degree triangle problems with sines and cosines. There’s one seemingly endless trek of techniques to learn — with drills, homework problems and quizzes — and the answers are either right or wrong.

It’s no wonder studies consistently show American adults fear and hate math more than any other school subject, by a factor of two to one. There are various names for this condition of dislike: “math phobia,” “math anxiety” and “innumeracy,” among them.

Yet the U.S., with its technologically advanced society, desperately needs more people to go into what are called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is so true that most states, at the urging of the federal government, have set up mandatory standards (“common core”) and yearly tests to see how well their public-school students are doing. In Minnesota, these are called the MCAs, or Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

The latest equivalent international scores place U.S. students in 35th place from the top, down a few rungs from results three years ago.

For how well Duluth students are doing, I looked at an Aug. 26 story in the News Tribune, which included a table of MCA scores for both 2013 and 2014 for schools in Independent School District 709, our Duluth district. At the high school level, which is closest to adulthood, 56 percent of students at East were “proficient” in math in grade 11. Despite that figure, which may seem low, I do not think it is because East students are stupid, that their math teachers are lazy or unmotivated, or that their parents are indifferent to how their children perform in school. It is due to a variety of other causes that should be researched.

Source: Duluth News Tribune  

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Building strong foundations for children’s futures

Photo: Pam Payne
"Foundations of any building need careful planning, developing, and creating. Safe and strong foundations ensure the stability and integrity of any building for a lifetime. These planning skills are also essential for building safe and strong academic foundations in children." summarizes Pam Payne, Teacher at Gibbs Pre-Kindergarten Center in Huntsville.

At Gibbs Pre-K, foundational training begins with the social and emotional skills that all children need to be successful in school and life. When children can control their impulses and behaviors, they are better prepared for listening and learning.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to know and manage one’s feelings and emotions. Social Intelligence is the ability to manage oneself in group settings. Both intelligences are interdependent. Children learn about themselves by watching and interacting with others. Our ability to relate to others comes from the application of what we have learned from those early interactions to a broader world which usually includes children’s first experiences at school.

Because the social and emotional needs of children are foundational to academic successes, appropriate curriculum and classroom activities are essential for achieving these goals. Gibbs Pre-K uses an excellent social emotional curriculum, Conscious Discipline. Conscious Discipline uses the School Family model. It builds on the success of the family model for children who already have a balanced family life, and provides a sense of safety and belonging for children who lack the experience of successful relationships at home.


Source: Huntsville Item

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'Education opportunities should exist whatever your age'

Photo: Amy King
"Access to adult education is limited in this country; people need to shout about the opportunities it can bring to mature learners," says Amy King.

"Access to adult education is one of the key issues affecting our country"

I have dreamed of becoming a scientist ever since I was child, and though I’m now well on my way to achieving that dream, it certainly hasn’t been easy. I have experienced nearly every avenue of education possible and have found that learning as an adult has been the most successful route in my pursuit of a science career. 

I have had a turbulent education. I suffer from a chronic health condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and have undergone many intensive and painful surgeries. As a result, I spent three years out of conventional education, being home-schooled.

I was rarely supported by my schools at that time and was told I wouldn’t amount to anything due to ill health. I was discouraged to pursue a career in science, being told “pure science wasn’t for girls”. 

Nevertheless, I worked exceptionally hard and despite being predicted low GCSE results, I achieved three As and seven Bs.

Studying A-levels at school wasn’t any better – even one of my tutors said I would never pass my exams and should give up. This was one of the lowest points in my education as I didn’t realise there was any other viable educational route.

However, after much contemplation and research, I left conventional schooling and continued my studies as an adult. I enrolled on an A-level maths course at a local adult education college; where I achieved an A grade. I then went on to study A-level biology, chemistry and physics at Bromley College, where I was one of the oldest students in my class. 

I passed my exams with AAB grades and was accepted as a mature student at University of Greenwich to pursue a science career. I’m now studying for a Master's in chemistry.

Adult learning is incredibly important to me and has completely changed my life; from being a young girl who no one thought would achieve anything, I became something I wanted to be: a scientist. Adult education also gave me an outlet to focus on something other than my health and helped me cope with the pressures of the illness.

Access to adult education is one of the key issues affecting our country. With continuing loss of funding for 18-24+ education, it’s becoming more difficult for young disabled people, like me, to access education when they’re older and able to study. 
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