Are texting and tweeting making our students bad writers?

Common Sense Media reports that The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project surveyed middle and high school teachers about the impact of digital tools on student writing. While some 78 percent of the 2,462 teachers surveyed said tools such as the internet, social media, and cell phones “encourage student creativity and personal expression,” others expressed concern that such tools are also having undesirable effects on students’ formal writing. Ninety-six percent of the advanced placement and National Writing Project teachers surveyed agreed that digital technologies “allow students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience.” An additional 79 percent also said that these tools “encourage greater collaboration among students,” which, teachers said, is ultimately beneficial…

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Apps that know what you want, before you do

In Hollywood, there are umbrella holders. Outside corner offices, there are people who know exactly how much cream to pour in the boss’s coffee. In British castles, royals have their valets, The New York Times reports.  And then there is Silicon Valley, where mind-reading personal assistants come in the form of a cell phone app. A range of start-ups and big companies like Google are working on what is known as predictive search — new tools that act as robotic personal assistants, anticipating what you need before you ask for it…

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Does research support flipped learning?

Though quantitative and rigorous qualitative data on flipped learning is limited, a recent literature review based on teacher reports, course completion rates, and supported methodology research indicates that flipped learning is more than just a fad for bored teachers and students—it’s improving student achievement in classrooms across the country.

With interest continuing to grow around flipped learning (for example, in January 2012, about 2,500 educators were members of the Flipped Learning Network [FLN] Ning; by March 2013, more than 12,000 educators were participants), researchers at George Mason University with the support of Pearson undertook a review of research relevant to what’s quickly becoming the trendiest model of learning.

(Next page: Learning methods behind Flipped Learning)


PARCC releases additional guidance on ELL, special education students

A new manual and online brochures explain accessibility features of the assessment system.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two assessment consortia developing next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, has released a manual detailing how students with disabilities and English language learners will be accommodated in the computer-based assessment.

Diane August, member of the PARCC Technical Working Group, said that by assessing on computer devices, PARCC states will now have the opportunity to provide student with tools they frequently use in the classroom and daily life. “Many features that were once considered accommodations are now available for all students through the online delivery platform and the commitment to universal design principles,” said August.

The majority of the proposed accommodations policies are currently in use across PARCC states. What is different from many current state accommodations manuals, however, is that the manual includes not only proposed participation and accommodations policies for students with disabilities and English learners, but also information about tools that will be provided through PARCC’s computer-based assessment delivery system for all students.

(Next page: Reaction to the manual)


STEMPREP project empowers teen scientists

Dressed in lab coats and peering intently into microscopes, the teenage scientists are already gaining critical skills—skills that camp sponsors hope will one day translate into science, technology and medical careers, reports.  It’s called the STEMPREP Project. “We empower them,” says STEMPREP Project Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Charles Knibb.  “We tell them: ‘listen, you can do this this’.  And we show them how.” The STEMPREP project started in Philadelphia in 1990, at Temple University with the goal of increasing minority representation in STEM fields:  Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine…

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School choice: Part of the solution to our broken education system

One of the most important things we do as a society is educate our kids, The Huffington Post reports. Opportunity in education is the gateway to opportunity everywhere else — in our economy, in our society and in our democracy. All children, no matter who they are or where they live, deserve an equal chance to develop their skills and intellect. But today in America, too many kids don’t get that chance. We have a system in which politicians and bureaucrats have too much control, parents have too little, and students’ needs get lost in the shuffle. Big Government, even at its best, is inherently inefficient, and too easily distracted from core missions by special interests…

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Moving schooling forward: Next-Gen Grants possess promise

I’ve written a few times (here and here, for example) about the great work that the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) is doing to help schools push the design envelope on what’s possible for students, reports. Last week the group announced its latest set of grants—$6.6 million all told to 38 grant recipients working to personalize learning for students spanning grades 6 through 12. The grants were divided into two categories this time around. Eight schools received launch grants to support their opening this fall, and, in a smart new category of grants, 30 schools intending to launch programs in the fall of 2014 received funds to help them in their planning process…

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App of the week: MayaNumbers

Name: MayaNumbers

What is it? A math game that challenges players to translate numbers using the Maya math system before time runs out. Call upon the ancient civilization’s revolutionary numeral symbols—shell, dot, and line—to translate randomly generated numbers and see how high you can get your score. Base 20 has never been so much fun!

Best for: Middle school students

Price: FREE

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Rated: 4+


•Tutorial stage teaches Maya numeral system in three steps
•Timer challenges players to race against the clock
•Count as high as 7,999 in base-twenty–it’s harder than you think!
•High-resolution visuals capture a beautifully inspired Mayan motif



13 inexpensive ed-tech tools for writing

With these simple online writing tools and apps, students get to practice writing informally in settings that won’t be too daunting.

Being able to write clearly is an essential skill for all students. With these simple online writing tools and apps, students get to practice writing informally in settings that won’t be too daunting.

This information comes from Common Sense Media and its new Graphite service, a free collection of teacher-written reviews of websites, apps, and digital games for the classroom. To join the Graphite community, got to


Primary Pad

Grade range: K-3

What is it? Makes peer editing a breeze with adequate teacher modeling.

Pros: Encourages critical thinking and collaboration among young learners.

Cons: Might be challenging as a learning tool for kids who struggle with writing or accessing text.

Bottom line: This valuable tool offers a fun and interactive way for kids to collaborate and practice writing.




Grade range: K-5

What is it? Writer, actor, director: Kids play all parts in this riveting storytelling tool.

Pros: Kids can learn the process of effective storytelling and create impressive animated cartoons.

Cons: With no way to lock in the voice-over, kids might need to repeat narratives several times.

Bottom line: A fantastic digital storytelling tool that empowers kids to organize ideas, transforming them into entertaining animated cartoons.