Think big: How to jumpstart tech use in low-income schools

The challenges of rural schools are many of the same (though not all) that low-income public schools face across the country: inadequate access to technology and broadband, tight budgets, and educators who have not been trained in using technology in meaningful ways, Mind/Shift reports. But these hurdles did not deter Daisy Dyer Duerr, Prek-12 Principal of St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, Arkansas. “Every child deserves an amazing education no matter who they are, no matter where they come from,” said Duerr, who was recently named National Digital Principal. She’s been working hard to bring new devices and related pedagogy around technology use to teachers. “If you don’t have relationships you can have every bit of tech in the world and it won’t matter,” Duerr said…

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How can we maximize the potential of learning apps?

Let’s dive directly into the world of educational apps. Our survey suggests that the majority — one might even say, the vast majority — of educational apps encourage pursuit of the goals and means of traditional education by digital means, Mind/Shift reports. They constitute convenient, neat, sometimes even seductive pathways to accomplish what were already goals in an earlier era: mastering concepts, learning arithmetical operations, identifying geographical locations or historical figures or key biological or chemical or physical processes. We could dub them “digital textbooks” or “lectures” or “pre-programmed educational conversations.” Decades ago, major behaviorist B. F. Skinner called for teaching machines that would automate the traditional classroom, allow students to proceed at their own rate, provide positive feedback on correct answers, and either repeat a missed item or present that item via another pathway…

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Steve Hargadon: Escaping the Education Matrix

“We tell a story about the power of learning that is very different from what we practice in traditional models of school,” says Steve Hargadon, education technology entrepreneur, event organizer, and host of the long-running Future of Education podcast series, Mind/Shift reports. If we really want children to grow up to become self-reliant and reach their full potential, “we would be doing something very different in schools. We live in a state of cognitive dissonance.” His comments are informed by a recent cross-country tour facilitating community discussions on education, as well as more than 400 interviews he’s logged with a broad spectrum of education practitioners, analysts, and innovators…

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The importance of low-stakes student feedback

Assessment is both a cornerstone of measuring learning and a point of contention between educators and policymakers, Mind/Shift reports. Most educators agree that learning must be evaluated to track student progress, but many also resent that high stakes testing determines public school funding, teacher salaries and children’s futures. While many educators want to see more authentic forms of assessment become the standard in public education, decades of policies and practices reinforce the current system. “When we innovate in schools, we need to do so with care,” said Bernard Bull, assistant vice president of academics and education professor at Concordia University, in a Global Education Conference presentation. Bull calls assessment one of the “load bearing” walls in education, a long-standing practice and belief system that can’t be removed or changed easily. Any innovations to assessment must be done carefully, and whatever replaces the current system must be well thought out…

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How can developers make meaningful learning games for classrooms?

Though many educators are excited about game-based learning, the movement is still very much in a state of transition, Mind/Shift reports. Commercial game developers have quickly discovered it’s easier and quicker to develop mobile apps aimed at parent consumers than it is to create an easy-to-use yet robust product to make a meaningful impact on classroom learning. Meanwhile, the education sector is focusing on how to use assessments with games, because although test scores certainly don’t paint the whole picture, they remain the main data point for administrators and policymakers assessing schools and teachers. As game developers look at a complicated education marketplace studded with persistent challenges, a few guidelines have begun to emerge to help make it easier for teachers to use and see value in educational games…

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Age of distraction: Why it’s crucial for students to learn to focus

Digital classroom tools like computers, tablets and smartphones offer exciting opportunities to deepen learning through creativity, collaboration and connection, but those very devices can also be distracting to students, Mind/Shift reports. Similarly, parents complain that when students are required to complete homework assignments online, it’s a challenge for students to remain on task. The ubiquity of digital technology in all realms of life isn’t going away, but if students don’t learn how to concentrate and shut out distractions, research shows they’ll have a much harder time succeeding in almost every area. “The real message is because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention,” said Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and other books about social and emotional learning on KQED’s Forum program…

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In the rush to buy new tech for Common Core, what happens to the big picture?

Who’s ready for the Common Core? Many schools and districts are re-assessing what they need to do, and how much they will need to spend, to comply with the new standards, Mind/Shift reports. A recent report put out by the Pioneer Institute estimates that “cost of transition” to the Common Core for school districts will be approximately $16 billion over seven years. One of the biggest expenses appears to be the technology required for Common Core-aligned testing. Both of the approved assessments, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC), are computer-adaptive and need to be taken on digital devices…

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Dan Pink: How teachers can sell love of learning to students

In his new book To Sell is Human, author Daniel Pink reports that education is one of the fastest growing job categories in the country, Mind/Shift reports. And with this growth comes the opportunity to change the way educators envision their roles and their classrooms. Guided by findings in educational research and neuroscience, the emphasis on cognitive skills like computation and memorization is evolving to include less tangible, non-cognitive skills, like collaboration and improvisation. Jobs in education, Pink said in a recent interview, are all about moving other people, changing their behavior, like getting kids to pay attention in class; getting teens to understand they need to look at their future and to therefore study harder. At the center of all this persuasion is selling: educators are sellers of ideas…

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Beyond Minecraft: Games that inspire building and exploration

The success and popularity of Minecraft in and out of classrooms is no surprise, Mind/Shift reports. It’s one of the best examples of the potential of learning with games because it embraces exploration, discovery, creation, collaboration, and problem-solving while allowing teachers to shepherd play toward any subject area. But Minecraft is not the only game of this kind. Take a look at some of these…

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