Researchers: Math needs a more visual approach

Stanford University researchers aim to dispel the belief that students should not use their fingers to learn mathematics

Taking a more visual approach to math instruction at the K-12 and higher-ed levels could dramatically change brain development as it relates to future math success, according to a new paper from Stanford researchers.

SEEING AS UNDERSTANDING: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning,” supports the use of visual mathematics and developing “finger discrimination” in students because it could result in higher math achievement.

According to co-authors Stanford University mathematics researcher Dr. Jo Boaler and brain researcher Dr. Lang Chen, the human brain can visualize a representation of the fingers during math problems. This provides an opportunity for further research and pedagogical development.…Read More

Stanford to issue new medical students iPads

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that incoming medical students at Stanford University will have fewer textbooks to carry this fall after the university distributes iPads to its 91 first-year students during orientation later this month as part of a trial program. The move by the university represents a growing interest by academic institutions to incorporate the Apple devices into the classroom and provide tech-savvy students with more modern tools. Stanford medical school officials said the pilot program is designed to improve the students’ learning experiences because the device’s portability and search capabilities will redefine the “old-fashioned” teaching practices in use by many medical programs…

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Stanford doctoral student seeks peace through technology

Stanford officials and volunteers collected about 100 accounts from children in the West Bank.
Stanford officials and volunteers collected about 100 accounts from children in the West Bank.

The stories are harrowing, but Elizabeth Buckner hopes sharing accounts of the tension among Palestinians and Israelis with the help of mobile devices will offer perspective to children from both sides and promote understanding in the volatile region.

Buckner, a doctoral student at Stanford University’s School of Education, heads a group of volunteers who collect everyday stories from children who detail their experiences in disputed areas, road checkpoints, and border regions between Israel and Palestine.

The kids’ stories will be recorded and downloaded onto mobile devices that will be distributed at schools in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Buckner said the children’s stories—which range from details of family gatherings and sporting events to close calls with Israeli soldiers—soon will be available as a free iPhone application.…Read More

Study explores the future of digital libraries

As more libraries move their collections online, some faculty are concerned about their ability to find and read digitized texts.
As more libraries move their collections online, some faculty are concerned about their ability to find and read digitized texts.

Reluctant faculty members, challenges in scanning old texts with foreign characters, and conflicting ideas about whether information should be commodified or made free on the internet have been barriers to educators and librarians who advocate for digital libraries, according to research conducted by digital media experts from Rice University and the University of Michigan.

Their report, “The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship,” was released June 2 by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library and Information Resources, a nonprofit group that advocates for greater access to information. The research examines the “wistfulness” for the days of print libraries that has slowed the creation of digitized book collections, among other topics.

Many in higher education have argued for more comprehensive web-based libraries like Google’s much-publicized Book Search, which has come under scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department.…Read More

Stanford prepares for a “bookless library”

One chapter is closing—and another is opening—as Stanford University moves toward the creation of its first “bookless library,” a smaller but more efficient and largely electronic library that can accommodate the vast, expanding, and interrelated literature of Physics, Computer Science, and Engineering, reports the San Jose Mercury News. “The role of this new library is less to do with shelving and checking out books, and much more about research and discovery,” said Andrew Herkovic, director of communications and development at Stanford Libraries. Libraries are the very heart of the research university—but the accumulation of information online is shifting their sense of identity. For 40 years, the metal shelves of the modest Physics and Engineering libraries were magnets to thousands of students and faculty, including Nobel Prize winners Douglas Osheroff, Robert Laughlin, and Steven Chu, who now directs the U.S. Department of Energy. The future library will offer a stark contrast. It’s only half the size of the current Engineering Library but saves its space for people, not things. It features soft seating, “brainstorm islands,” a digital bulletin board, and group event space. There are few shelves, and it will feature a self-checkout system. It is developing a completely electronic reference desk, and there will be four Kindle 2 eReaders on site. Its online journal search tool, called xSearch, can scan 28 online databases, a grant directory, and more than 12,000 scientific journals. Several factors are driving the shift. For one thing, Stanford is running out of room, restricted by an agreement with Santa Clara County that limits how much it can grow. Adding to its pressures is the steady flow of books. Stanford buys 100,000 volumes a year — or 273 every single day. “Most of the libraries on campus are approaching saturation,” Herkovic said. “For every book that comes in, we’ve got to find another book to send off…”

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