7 engaging resources for the Hour of Code

It’s that time of year again—nestled between Thanksgiving and winter break is Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code, offering super-cool activities to keep restless students engaged in programming challenges.

This year, educators are focusing on all the things that make computer science education important and necessary for today’s students—namely, how programming builds skills like critical thinking and problem solving that help students in daily life, the fact that these students will have STEM-focused careers (including some that don’t yet exist), and the need to fill programming jobs that sit empty due to a lack of highly qualified workers.

Computer science drives innovation throughout our economy, according to stats on Code.org, but it remains marginalized in the K-12 education system. Just 15 states have adopted policies to give all high school students access to computer science courses, and of those 15, only 6 states give all K-12 students access to computer science courses.…Read More

Why we love our SEL tools

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an increasingly important part of the curriculum in many schools—and for good reason. SEL helps students develop key skills they’ll use to navigate personal and academic relationships as they move through school, including critical thinking, problem solving, and empathy.

When students learn self-management and social awareness, they’re automatically set up for more success, academically, personally, and professionally. SEL skills stay with students for life.

But because SEL isn’t a formal part of many districts’ curriculum, identifying the right SEL tools can be time-consuming.…Read More

5 TED-Ed Lessons to help you teach critical-thinking skills

We all know that critical thinking is a very important skill, but how do you teach students to go beyond the obvious response and use reason?

In a new study from MindEdge Learning, more than half of the college students and recent graduates said they were very confident in their critical-thinking skills; however, 52 percent of them could not pass a basic, nine-question test of their digital literacy and critical-thinking skills. Perhaps more troubling, the amount of respondents who answered eight or nine questions correctly dropped from 24 percent last year to 19 percent this year.

For teachers looking for new ways to improve critical-thinking skills, here are the five most-popular TED-Ed Lessons on the topic.…Read More

New partnership to promote the 16 Habits of Mind

ASCD, in partnership with Wonder Media, presents a series of animations based on the renowned 16 Habits of Mind developed by Dr. Art Costa and Bena Kallick of the Global Institute for Habits of Mind. This groundbreaking collaboration offers a unique tool that empowers students in kindergarten through 2nd grade with creative and critical thinking skills for success in school and life.

The Habits of Mind Animations offer educators a revolutionary new tool in alignment with college- and career- ready standards to help students learn how to persist, how to manage their impulsivity, how to listen with understanding and empathy, how to strive for accuracy, and 12 other essential life skills.

Research shows that young children form strong emotional relationships with animated characters, and using these characters to model behaviors helps break down barriers to students’ understanding of difficult-to-teach concepts.…Read More

15 of the best apps to engage students outside the classroom

Learning shouldn’t stop when students leave for summer vacation. Rather, this extended break from the classroom is the perfect time to introduce kids to a variety of mobile apps that can continuously promote creativity and critical thinking. From kindergarten to grade 12, the vast assortment of digital offerings can meet any student’s interests, all while providing valuable lessons that will appropriately challenge each user. Here are a few great options for rainy days, road trips or any time in between.

Grades K-5: (in no particular order)

Osmo introduces children to hands-on play through the iPad. With its offerings, like Newton, Masterpiece and Coding, kids use physical manipulation to navigate a variety of digital activities. Once they master one skill, they can move on to more challenging options.…Read More

NEA Student Achievement Grants

The NEA Foundation gives NEA members grants to improve the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools in any subject area(s). The proposed work should engage students in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students’ habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection. Deadlines for applications are due February 1, June 1, and October 15 each year.

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Kick off your Hour of Code with Minecraft’s help

Just in time for Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code, Microsoft Corp. and Code.org have unveiled the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a coding tutorial for students and educators.

The Hour of Code is an annual global campaign held during Computer Science Education Week, which this year runs Dec. 5–11.

The new web-based tutorial, available for free at http://code.org/minecraft, helps novice coders to create and share their own simple “Minecraft” game, and is designed to empower anyone to begin learning the problem-solving and critical thinking skills required in today’s tech-fueled world.…Read More

Using politics to teach critical thinking

As high school social studies teachers in a swing state, election season is some of the most fertile ground for learning, and this past cycle—with all its splashy and expensive political ads—proved no exception.

Our students are all in their mid teens, which means in the next presidential election, they will be eligible voters. With so much information (and misinformation) swirling around our students, it was imperative for us to teach them how to think critically about the political process in an unbiased, nonpartisan way, giving them the power to sift through the reams of information we’re inundated with on a daily basis and decide what to trust and what to be skeptical about—and how to go about making those determinations.

Tools to Teach with Politics…Read More

Our research shows that when students work on projects, they learn more

Educators often talk about 21st-century skills and the benefits of incorporating communication, creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking into lessons. These are skills students rarely learn straight out of a textbook. The best way to teach them, we’ve found, is by making these skills a relevant part of their active lives.

If that sounds daunting, rest assured, it doesn’t always have to be. One way we have taught these skills is through project-based learning (PBL), where students apply what they’ve learned during a hands-on project that is relevant to the real world — and their lives.

To that end, a new report developed by MIDA Learning Technologies, which we researchers worked on, shows that students engaged in PBL understand concepts more deeply than those receiving traditional instruction, resulting in improved problem solving skills. Past research reviewed in the report also suggests that PBL students perform better on a wide range of assessments including standardized testing. The full report includes quantitative and qualitative evaluations of students’ problem-solving abilities after implementation of a pre-built, project-based STEM curriculum in science class.…Read More

How to sharpen students’ critical thinking skills online

With smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, students have 24/7 access to news, information, and opinions—not all of which are well-informed or well-intentioned. In truth, we are flooded with a constant stream of information online, from legitimate news and facts to websites and social media posts taking sides in intense political debates.

In an age when students get the majority of their information from the internet, how can we make sure they know that not everything they find online is reputable? How can we help students become critical thinkers and smart consumers of information who also have empathy for others?

Monitoring students’ internet access in school won’t help them once they leave the classroom. Instead, they need the skills to evaluate online information for themselves. At a time when anyone with a basic understanding of search engine optimization can have his or her personal website appear atop the results of a Google search, students must be able to discern opinion and bias from fact.…Read More