Stretch student collaboration skills with Breakout EDU

There is a new platform for immersive learning games that’s taking classrooms across the world by storm. Based on the same principles as interactive Escape The Room digital games — which challenge players to use their surroundings to escape a prison-like scenario — Breakout EDU is a collaborative learning experience that enhances critical thinking and creativity while fostering a growth mindset in students.

There are two types of games available for teachers to run in their classrooms: the physical games (which are the main games) use the Breakout EDU box (or any box with a hasp that can be locked) with a set of locks, and the digital games which only need internet-connected devices.

Gameplay revolves around a Breakout EDU box that has been locked with multiple and different locks including directional locks, word locks, and number locks. After listening to a game scenario read by the teacher, students must work together to find and use clues to solve puzzles that reveal the various lock combinations before time expires (usually 45 minutes). Teachers can either purchase the Breakout EDU kit, which includes a plastic or wooden box and a set of locks, or the individual pieces of the kit can be ordered from Amazon directly. Either way, it takes about $100 to get started with the physical games; the digital games are free.…Read More

Encourage critical thinking by turning your class into a Socratic Seminar

With so much talk about the Common Core standards and truly increasing our student’s argumentative powers and critical thinking skills, some teachers are starting to think critically themselves about how best to engage students in thoughtful debate and discussion around texts they need to analyze anyway.

One method, called the Socratic seminar, challenges to students to formal discussions about a text based on open-ended questions. Throughout the exercise, students must alternately employ good listening, critical thinking, creativity, and rhetorical prowess.

The Socratic style of discourse lends itself quite well to establishing critical thinkers due to the fact that Socrates believed that enabling students to think for themselves was more important than filling their heads with knowledge. Even if you’re new to the concept, it’s easy to get started.…Read More

Stanford course prepares educators for the new school year

The ability to communicate effectively is increasingly recognized as an important skill for students entering the workforce. Two new initiatives that guide educators – the College and Career Readiness Standards and the Framework for 21st Century Learning – identify communication and collaboration as key elements of student learning. The standards particularly describe the importance of students understanding the reasoning of others and engaging in meaningful conversations using critical thinking.

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education has launched a short online course designed specifically to help educators create rich and meaningful opportunities for communication within the classroom. The course, Effective Conversation in the Classroom, launches this August with three online sessions. K-12 classroom instructors, instructional coaches, and educational administrators are invited to enroll.

Each session includes expert video screencasts, classroom video clips, readings and resources, and assignments that will help participants create a strong foundation of communication within the classroom. The course has been developed by Understanding Language/SCALE, a Stanford research and practice center focused on K-12 language and performance assessment. The teaching team consists of Stanford Professor Emeritus Kenji Hakuta, Senior Researcher Dr. Jeff Zwiers and Lecturer Dr. Sara Rutherford-Quach.…Read More

Girls outpace boys in tech and engineering problem solving

First-ever Nation’s Report Card for Technology and Engineering Literacy measures how eighth graders solve real-world problems using innovative scenario-based tasks on computers

White and black female students outperformed their male peers in technology and engineering literacy, according to the first-ever nationally representative assessment of technology and engineering literacy from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). But gaps remain as less than half scored at either the proficient or advanced level.

Forty-three percent of eighth-grade students performed at or above proficiency on questions related to skills in thinking through problems systematically, including using technology and engineering information built into each task to arrive at the best solution.

The assessment used scenario-based tasks on computers to measure the eighth-grade students’ understanding of the use and effects of technology in their lives. Students interacted with multimedia tasks using a variety of tools to solve practical problems.…Read More

Students see the future through robots

Robotics programs drive interest and teach critical thinking

Brittany Lopez held the remote with care, keeping her eyes on the small robot in front of her.

She moved her fingers gingerly to maneuver the machine — which looked more like a two-wheel, upright tractor than the humanoid version people often think of — over to a blue Lego piece. Soon the robot’s mechanical arm had picked up the Lego, which was supposed to represent a miniature solar panel, and placed it on top of a small structure.

“When you’re a kid and growing up, you play with Legos,” said Brittany, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Vista View Middle School in Fountain Valley. “This is basically like advanced Legos. It’s fun to play with the robots.”…Read More

13 apps that promote higher-order thinking standards

These mobile apps go way beyond games

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly common in schools because they cost so much less than computers—especially since so many students are willing to bring their own devices to school.

While mobile devices, tablets in particular, have been commonly used to reinforce math and reading skills through the use of games, they can also be used to promote the development of higher level skills and knowledge included in the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S): creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; and critical thinking and problem solving. Here are a handful of high-quality apps that reinforce these skills and promote others.

Writing skills

Students who resist typical writing instruction with pencil and paper may blossom as authors when given the opportunity to compose electronically on computers and tablets. Some that struggle with the fine motor skills necessary for producing legible print are liberated by the ability to type. Although pressing letters on a flat screen without being able to feel them may be awkward for an adult accustomed to typing on a keyboard, students that learn to type on these devices when they’re young are likely to be as skilled on them as they are on a traditional keyboard.…Read More

Is it time to redesign your curriculum for the 21st century learner?

A new framework advocates for carefully curating what students learn. Is it time to rethink your curriculum?

It’s not a stretch to say that today’s educational paradigm is preoccupied with the “how” of learning. Educators are grappling — either by choice or decree — with how to incorporate digital devices, new learning standards, and more collaboration and critical thinking into the already-packed school day. With so much to do, who has time to take a fine-toothed comb through the curriculum or debate whether students still need to know the date of the Battle of Hastings?

But maybe it’s exactly the right time, according to Charles Fadel, the founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign and a visiting practitioner at Harvard’s Graduate School for Education. Fadel has previously written about 21st century skills and recently turned his attention to the “what” of learning as co-author of a new book, Four-Dimensional Education,” which is less of a teach this, not that manual and more of a framework for exploring the modern competencies students will need in a world where job titles and career choices are changing faster than schools can keep up. Recently, Fadel spoke with us about his framework, the appeal of inter-disciplinary subjects, and whether it’s time to retire the old Capitals of the World quiz once and for all.

What is a 21st century curriculum? What needs to change?…Read More

Why we all need time to tinker with tech

Tinkering rolls personalized learning and critical thinking into one powerful package

Picture this: a grandparent working on a car in the garage or a kid figuring out the inner workings of a clock. A group of students with screwdrivers in hand taking apart old desktop computers to learn about circuits. Or a parent encouraging their child to invent contraptions for feeding pets or taking apart everyday objects such as old clocks and doorknobs to figure out how things work.

Tinkering in the modern context is a process of trying something to figure out what works or doesn’t to find your way to the best solution, often going through many iterations, or changes, along the way. Tinkering is more a philosophy than a single practice and thus can be applied to many forms of learning for all learners.

In a blog post discussing their work, authors Hunter Maats and Katie O’Brien discuss the science behind making mistakes and becoming experts. Experts are not made by practice alone, instead they deliberately tinker to determine which strategies are working or not working, and strategically develop areas that need improvement.…Read More

These 6 questions determine if you’re technology rich, innovation poor

Think your school is innovative with tech? Answer these 6 questions and prepare to reassess

innovation-questionsAt the start of a webinar I recently conducted for school leaders, I asked attendees if they felt they were leading an innovative school as a result of the implementation of technology. More than 90 percent responded that they were. At the end of the webinar, when polled again, only one leader claimed to be leading an innovative school.

The complete reversal was due to a presentation on the six questions that you will read about in this article—a list of questions that were developed to help clarify for educators the unique added value of a digital learning environment, and whether their assignments were making the best use of this environment.

Want to test your own level of innovation? If you answer no to all six questions when evaluating the design of assignments and student work, then chances are that technology is not really being applied in the most innovative ways. The questions we ask to evaluate implementation and define innovation are critical.…Read More

How the ‘four Cs’ fit with the Common Core

The ‘four Cs’ are an integral part of the Common Core standards; here are free resources for helping to teach these important skills

four-cs
Connecting students is a great opportunity to teach digital literacy and citizenship.

The 21st-century skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, often referred to as the “four Cs,” are an integral part of the Common Core standards.

Fortunately, there are an abundance of free resources and digital tools that empower teachers to lead by example and integrate these “four Cs” in meaningful and effective ways.

Communication…Read More