5 ways games make kids smarter

Games are challenging but they’re also fun. That’s a formula worth emulating

games-studentsNinety seven percent of kids spend an average of ten hours a week playing video games. It’s hard work, but they keep coming back. They often fail at whatever they are trying to do, but they persist until they learn the strategies, concepts, and skills to achieve their goals. Then they set new ones and come back for more. Games lend themselves easily to collaboration, and kids often compete with each other. Playing games gives them immediate and long term feedback. And the games track what they do, where they fail, where they succeed, and what they learn.

Isn’t that the way we want education to work? So what is it about games that makes kids try harder and learn more?

1) Games are an optimal learning environment.

In their chapter Flow in Schools Revisited in the “Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools,” Chernoff and Chikzentmihalyi (don’t ask me how to pronounce it or spell it from memory) point out that enjoyment and interest in school are good predictors of student success. They propose that an ideal learning environment, just like a game,

  • presents challenging and relevant activities that allow students to feel confident and in control
  • promotes both concentration and enjoyment
  • is intrinsically satisfying in the short term while building a foundation of skills and interests
  • involves both intellect and feeling
  • requires effort and yet feels like play

Next page: Why games make us want to persist

[image: Dikiiy / Shutterstock.com]


App of the Week: Build your own inventions

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? Kids can either create their own inventions or build inventions to accomplish a given task. In Create mode, kids can add a user name, create their own inventions, and share them with friends. In the other mode, kids are provided with a set of tools and helpers called “Inventioneers” that have special powers like the ability to blow, burn, or freeze objects. Kids must arrange the tools and helpers to create an invention that will accomplish a specific task.

Price: $3

Grades: 3-8

Pros: Kids are seriously challenged to design, test, and redesign in a fun and playful setting.

Cons: If kids struggle, they may give up without access to hints.

Bottom line: A fun, engaging way to boost critical-thinking and problem-solving skills while learning about important science and engineering practices.


Rural district turns to online speech therapy

Economically disadvantaged district, facing recruiting difficulties, found online therapy resources

online-therapyAlthough districts are required to provide students in need with special education and related services such as speech therapy, many face obstacles in doing so.

One such school district, Lone Pine Unified (LPUSD), an economically disadvantaged district near the California-Nevada border, found it hard to recruit and retain speech-language pathologists (SLPs) because of its location.

To overcome this challenge, LPUSD chose to use online speech therapy through PresenceLearning and is seeing great success.

Next page: What district administrators think of the online therapy services


13 Common Core facts for parents

As Common Core implementation continues in adopting states, parents say they often feel uninformed

common-coreBy now, many parents have heard of the Common Core State Standards. But that doesn’t mean they understand why states are adopting the Common Core, what the Common Core will do for students, and how the standards are different from previous state standards.

During an edWeb webinar on how parents can learn about the Common Core, Anne O’Brien, deputy director of the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of education organizations that focuses on improving student learning, offered a look at Common Core background and dispelled a number of myths surrounding the standards.

One of LFA’s current priorities is communication around the Common Core, O’Brien said, due to a lot of misinformation and myths.

“There’s a lot going on in the popular media around the Common Core and what it’s doing to change education,” she said. But media coverage doesn’t always outline what parents should know about the Common Core. Public opinion polls show that most parents trust teachers and principals, and parents tend to feel better about their children’s education after asking educators for answers.

Next page: 13 things parents should know about the Common Core


Digital badges find their niche

A community effort is making badges practical in one city

digital-badgesThis summer, as schools let out, thousands of Pittsburgh students streamed into digital media programs, drop-in maker spaces, and paid internships across the city. As they shuffle back to school, or even enter into the workforce, many will be adding shiny new digital badges to their online portfolios as a record of their hard work.

The opportunity comes courtesy of Pittsburgh City of Learning, which is working with major community partners to provide more than a hundred different, mostly free, summer programs to about 5,000 learners. And digital badges play a big part.

“I think what’s really exciting is that as we all know there’s kind of this lack of meaningful ways of showcasing what students have learned, particularly in out-of-school time,” said Cathy Lewis Long, the executive director of the Sprout Fund, the nonprofit anchoring Pittsburgh City of Learning. “We see badges as a great tool for recognizing student achievement and in terms of the competencies that a student has, not just how they performed on a test.”

Currently, the organization is working on three major programs: A county-run summer youth employment program, called Learn and Earn; the mixed academic and digital literacy program, Summer Dreamers Academy, led by Pittsburgh Public Schools; and a summer reading program for students in grades 6-12 organized by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Next page: Badges are a community effort


Science resource targets K-5 STEM gap, NGSS

New curriculum is built for the Next Generation Science Standards

inspire-STEMA new science resource launching this month is intended to engage K-5 students in problem-based science learning. The curriculum also integrates literacy with science and engineering teaching practices.

Inspire Science, from McGraw-Hill Education, is a new core elementary science curriculum for K-5 students designed specifically to address the requirements of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The program aims to help teachers improve student results in STEM by motivating students to become curious, creative problem solvers.

Next page: How the program blends science and engineering with problem-based challenges


Skyward, Certica launch formative assessment solution

Partnership aims to help educators access more than 80,000 item bank resources for assessment

formative-assessmentSkyward, a K-12 school administrative software provider, and Certica Solutions, a provider of K-12 data management and education content solutions, have formed a partnership to support the creation and sharing of online assessments through Skyward’s Test Bank Management Solution.

At the center of this platform is Certica’s Formative Assessment Item Bank (FAIB), which features over 80,000 items, including more than 50,000 Common Core-aligned Math and English Language Arts selections.

The items in the FAIB can be used by teachers and district staff to help students practice for the next generation assessments. In addition to the Common Core, the items are aligned to state standards and can be used to meet districts’ established curriculum goals.

Next page: Key benefits from the partnership


Ed-tech accelerator will focus on STEM development

New program will accelerate technology development to address gaps in K-12 education

technology-fundNewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm, has launched NewSchools Ignite, an education technology accelerator that will support entrepreneurs tackling the most pressing gaps in K-12 education technology.

NewSchools Ignite’s first initiative, the Science Learning Challenge, is now open to companies and nonprofits building technologies that support students’ development of science and engineering skills.

It will distribute up to $1.5 million in grants to up to 15 challenge winners building digital tools that enhance science learning. Individual grants will range from $50,000-$150,000, depending on product stage.

Next page: How the team will partner with researchers and science educators


Leadership coaching could help teachers boost student achievement

Study shows that mentoring and leadership coaching are helping teachers increase student achievement in some subjects

teachers-mentorGiving teachers two years of formal PD and training sessions with a leadership coach could result in higher student achievement in certain curriculum areas, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The program, which also includes a mentoring component in which teachers receiving the program’s services mentor other teachers, has shown early signs of success.

The fellowship program created by Leading Educators, a national nonprofit based in New Orleans, is showing promising results on student achievement in math and social studies, according to a preliminary evaluation of the effort.

Next page: Why the report’s authors say this program is unique