For the tablet generation, a lesson in digital citizenship

Parents pack into a gym at Cahuilla Desert Academy, a middle school in the southern California city of Thermal, NPR reports. The near triple-digit daytime heat of the Coachella Valley, southeast of Palm Springs, has given way to a cool evening. It’s iPad information night. Before addressing the crowd, Principal Encarnacion Becerra talks up the district’s ambitious new iPads-for-all initiative with the fervor of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. “It’s truly a revolution, what’s happening,” he says. “Technology has finally caught up to where truly you hold the Internet in the palm of your hands. The power of the mobile devices that exist now — we have to have to leverage that capacity and to evolve as educators to address those needs.”

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App of the week: Big Bird’s Words

bigbirdappName: Big Bird’s Words

What is it? The educational team at Sesame Street created Big Bird’s Words especially for young learners, to help build and expand vocabulary. The app’s goal is to get kids excited about learning to recognize and read written text, as they use Big Bird’s scope to look for a special group of high-interest, themed words. Big Bird’s word-o-scope recognizes all kinds of printed words in the real-world environment, using a phone’s own camera and new augmented-reality tech.

Best for: Young students

Price: $0.99

Rated: 4+

Requirements: Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad Wi-Fi (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi (4th generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (4th generation), iPad mini Wi-Fi, iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Air, iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini with Retina display, iPad mini with Retina display Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPod touch (4th generation), and iPod touch (5th generation). This app is optimized for iPhone 5. [Andriod] Requires Android 2.3 and up


• Eye-Spy game lets kids build the word list. Customize the experience – kids choose which word to load in the scope
• Word-o-Scope uses your phone’s own camera to read words
• Big Bird reads hundreds of food words as kids find them
• Free email-able word labels (with game ideas) ensure goal words are handy





How PISA results will impact U.S. schools

International PISA test results can help guide U.S. schools, experts say

PISA-rankingsMuch debate has focused on the role of international rankings and assessments in U.S. education. Experts say U.S. education leaders can use data about top performing countries to inform U.S. education practice.

One such test is the PISA, an international study launched in 1997 that assesses 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science every three years in an effort to evaluate worldwide education systems. PISA results will be made public on International PISA Day, which takes place on Dec. 3.

The test reveals the “importance of deeper learning skills such as critical thinking and problem solving,” said Robert Rothman, a senior fellow with the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) during a PISA preview webinar on Nov. 21.

(Next page: What’s important about the PISA, and how to interpret results)


Federal program links students to career learning

Grant program will help engage students in STEM careers

career-STEM-coursesPresident Obama on Nov. 19 unveiled a new grant program designed to help U.S. students understand and develop the skills they will need to be successful in college and the workforce.

The Youth CareerConnect Grants program, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Labor Department, will use $100 million in funding to help school districts, institutions of higher education, and other partners bring evidence-based high school models to scale.

Experts say that many high school students fail to develop skills that help them relate their classroom education to what they learn in college, during apprenticeships or technical education, or in careers.

(Connect on Twitter with the hashtag #eSNSTEMNext page: What will the program focus on?)


Science says: Here’s how to reach every student brain

Expert gives educators tips on how to get every student brain to learn

brain-learning By now, most educators know that classroom practices such as differentiating instruction, critical thinking, and making the environment less stressful for students are critical to a 21st-century education. But…why does it work? One education and brain expert says it all comes down to chemicals and neurons.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong, the senior director for statewide K-12 professional development at the University of Virginia and a former elementary school principal and assistant superintendent of curriculum, said she became a “brain junkie” in the 1980s and never looked back.

Armstrong, author of Teaching Smarter With the Brain in Focus: Practical Ways to Apply the Latest Brain Research to Deepen Comprehension, Improve Memory, and Motivate Students to Achieve, discussed with educators how students learn at the chemical level, and why certain classroom practices succeed when others fail.

“In lots of classrooms around the country, practice doesn’t always work, no matter how much a teacher might have planned. There are also many struggling learners out there who may seem like they just don’t fit into the ‘school’ category,” she said. “But if we look at neuroscience research, and understand how the brain learns and how, in general, it likes to learn, we can fix some of those learning gap problems.”

(Next page: Good and bad stress)


Do SAT tutors add up?: One parent’s journey

I’m going to start with a disclaimer: I’m one of those crazy parents who paid more than $150 per hour–or rather per fifty minute session– to help my child with the SAT test, Forbes reports. The fact feels humiliating, like the memory of tossing your wedding ring into a poker game. By some standards, I got off easy. It may seem like an urban legend but there are SAT tutors in New York city who charge more than a thousand dollars per session. Stratospherically priced test prep is the brainchild of Arun Alagappan, Harvard law grad, founder of Advantage Testing and the hero or despoiler of the pre-college landscape, depending on your point of view. Rates at Advantage range from $225 to $775 per fifty minutes, with the Kafkaesque stipulation that sessions run a minimum of 100 minutes…

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F.C.C. Chairman calls for transforming the technology used by phone systems

Americans could soon be one step closer to getting that videophone they were promised in the 1960s, The New York Times reports. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday that the agency would begin “a diverse set of experiments” next year that would begin to move the nation’s telephone system from its century-old network of circuits, switches and copper wires to one that transmits phone calls in a manner similar to that used for internet data. The internet-based systems allow more information to be transmitted at one time, making possible the addition of video to phone calls, as employed by services like Skype and Vonage. While consumers can already use those services, most of the legacy telephone networks still use analog technology, employing an out-of-date system of physical switches that is expensive to keep operating…

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Can educational innovations go to national scale?

In conversations about evidence-based reform, I often hear the objection that “we don’t really know how to take proven innovations to scale” or that “in order for schools or districts to adopt innovations, they must have a central role in creating and disseminating them locally,” the Huffington Post reports. These assumptions turn out to be false. There are in fact many instances in which programs not developed by the educators using them have been widely and enthusiastically adopted by schools all over the U.S….

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30 apps perfect for BYOD classrooms

BYOD classrooms can address a number of issues, Edudemic reports. It can solve the problem of not having enough (or any) devices for your classroom. It can enable students to do web-based work when they might not have otherwise been able to. It can allow them to do work on the same device at home and at school. But it doesn’t come without issue. One of the issues that we’ve heard about from many teachers is that since students come in with different devices that run on different platforms, finding apps and tools that work across a wide array of devices is a necessary evil…

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Online platform connects college prospects with mentors

The transition from high school to college can be a culture shock for students. That’s even more so for international students.


Many students struggle with the transition from high school to college.

An online mentoring platform is aiming to help students get a more accurate picture of the place they’ll call home before they even step foot on campus.

The platform, called Fresh Mentors, pairs college-bound teenagers with high-achieving students at their dream schools. It was created and launched about a year ago by two recent Stanford University graduates.

“It gives you access to network of students who can provide info to any question,” Natasha Jain, co-founder of Fresh Mentor, said. “Finances, housing, meal plans. It’s having a buddy at the college who can answer your questions.”

Jain said the idea for the platform came from her own confusion upon arriving at college.

Brochures and advisers had prepared her for some of the tangible, easily advertised aspects of college, but she still felt like she was drowning in the new experience.

Read the rest of this story on eCampus News.