Kidblog provides a safe, and free, online forum for student writing

Designed by classroom educators, Kidblog is a free website that gives students their own blog. Students can publish posts and participate in academic discussions within a secure classroom blogging community, while teachers maintain complete control over student blogs and user accounts.

With Kidblog, students’ blogs are private by default—viewable only by classmates and the teacher. Teachers can choose to make posts public, while still moderating all content. Teachers also can add password-protected parent and guest accounts to the community at their discretion, while comment privacy settings allow teachers to block unsolicited comments from outside sources. Kidblog is fully COPPA-compliant and does not require any personal information from students.

“All 141 fifth graders at my school have Kidblog accounts,” says Carol Edwards, an instructional technology specialist in Round Rock, Texas. “The students are blogging about the books they are reading. They are writing for an authentic audience of their peers, and their writing skills are improving. They are learning digital citizenship and the basics of social media use in a protected environment, too.”

Edwards adds: “Teachers are happy about being able to evaluate student writing easily, without the need to lug home piles of writing journals. [But] the best thing about Kidblog is that students are motivated to write more often and to improve the quality of their writing. The students love interacting with their peers, their classroom teachers, and other adults on campus.”

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BlackBerry CEO: Tablets will be dead in five years

Forget the death of the PC: BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins thinks tablets are on their way out as users shift to doing more through their smartphones, the Washington Post reports. In comments at a Milken Institute conference, Heins said smartphones will become users’ main source of computing power in the next five years. People will simply plug whatever display, keyboard or other accessory they need to do their work into a smartphone. For many workers, a smartphone will be the only device they need, he said…

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Bringing neuroscience into school

Imagine walking into a classroom where it looks as if the children are playing ‘hide-and-seek’. But actually, this is a revolutionary way of having a reading lesson, EuroNews reports. A group of French pre-schoolers are learning how to read with their fingers. In addition to their ears and eyes, they use their sense of touch. This new method shakes up conventions, but is definitely helping children to learn better, because at this age touching is one of their most developed senses and comes naturally. French neuroscientist Edouard Gentaz is a well-known expert in young children’s brains. He says reading has to be acquired in three dimensions…

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Original iPhone nears obsolete status

Even at its 2007 launch, the original Apple iPhone was not a cutting-edge product, InformationWeek reports. Sure, it ushered in a new era of smartphone design and touch-based user interfaces, but the hardware offered mediocre specs in several key areas. At the time, wireless network operators around the world were about midway through deploying their 3G networks. In the U.S., AT&T was just getting its HSUPA network, which offered speeds up to 1.8 Mbps, in place…

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Editorial: Make the Common Core standards work before making them count

The fact that the changes are being made nationwide without anything close to adequate preparation is a failure of leadership, Weingarten says.

[Editor’s note: This is an edited version of remarks made by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, at the Association for a Better New York on April 30.]

Our obligation as a nation, and my obligation as an educator, is to help children achieve their potential, participate in our democracy, and propel our economy forward. In today’s world, that means our students must be prepared to compete—not on the basis of their test-taking skills, but on their ability to solve problems, analyze and apply knowledge, and work with others.

So, what if I told you there is a way to transform the very DNA of teaching and learning to move away from rote memorization and endless test-prep, and toward problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork—things I know many of you have been advocating for years? And what if I told you there is a way to do that not a generation from now, but for students today, who will be the employees you’ll hire tomorrow?

In these are the potential to do that.

(Next page: More of Weingarten’s speech)

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Ten keys to a successful school iPad program

If you’re using iPads, utilize their unique assets. Look for ways to take advantage of their mobility, built-in camera, microphone, video, and so on.

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. If we are to develop our students’ sense of curiosity, we must be mindful to carve out time to allow our students to inquire and explore.”—Albert Einstein

It seems that every school is considering purchasing iPads these days, and Apple has reported that iPad sales to schools are currently outpacing MacBook sales by a very large margin. However, the rush to purchase iPads often precedes the careful planning and preparation that are so crucial to their success as educational tools.

It’s important for educators to understand that technology alone—no matter how full of potential it may be—is not the answer. Instead, iPads need to be integrated into the 21st-century classroom using a holistic approach. Teachers and administrators should identify the skills and abilities young people will need to succeed in our rapidly changing world and use technology to help students acquire them.

(Next page: What to do first)

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Obama’s big second-term education problem

President Obama has a big problem in his second term in terms of education policy: his first term, the Washington Post reports. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, pushed hard in their first term to have a major impact on changing public schools with a larger-than-ever federal role in school policy issues that affected every single classroom in the country. And they did, with rare bipartisan support. They borrowed tactics from the corporate world, setting up the competitive Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for federal funds by promising to implement specific reforms. Those included new accountability systems that linked teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores, new standards that became known as the Common Core initiative, and an expansion of charter schools…

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Samsung reveals 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3

Samsung revealed the Galaxy Tab 3, a 7-inch tablet, a slim mobile device which may be able to directly compete with the smaller tablet ranges offered by rivals Apple, Amazon, and Google, CNET reports. The South Korean electronics maker’s latest tablet offering sports a 1024×600 pixel screen — although perhaps underwhelming at today’s standards — but is able to support full 1080p HD playback. The Galaxy Tab 3 is powered by a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor, and is available with either 8GB or 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM…

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