Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tagxedo - Visually Stunning Tag Clouds

I've made a couple of posts about the word cloud generator, Wordle, but here is another site that allows you to use your own images. Tagxedo is currently in beta for a limited time and you can use all the features in the product for now. After the beta period ends, certain advanced features -- for example, custom shapes, custom fonts, high-effort mode, and save-as-app -- will require premium subscription. The site states that the "future" free version will continue to offer a choice of over 30 themes, over 30 fonts, and 30 shapes to choose from.

Here is another cloud that I created:

And a few other's from Tagxedo's gallery:

I think you will like Tagxedo...check it out!

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Test Development by the National Center on Education and the Economy

I was reading an interesting article this morning in the Economist entitled "Too Narrow, Too Soon? America’s Misplaced Disdain for Vocational Education" The article is supportive of career and technology education, but I wanted to share a paragraph concerning a new test under development that will interest you:
In the meantime, a bold new programme is inching forward. The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a think-tank, is developing a test that students may take in their second year of high school. On passing, they could proceed to a community college or stay in high school to apply to a four-year university. Those who fail would take extra courses to help them pass. A pilot programme, supported by the Gates Foundation, will begin in eight states next year. Some parents are already outraged by the imagined spectre of tracking. Marc Tucker, who leads the NCEE, argues that a path to a community college might keep students engaged. Such a system would provide students with more opportunity, not less.
NCEE's website has the following statement concerning the test development if you would like to lend your expertise:
NCEE Seeks Board Examination Systems
NCEE has been selected as the project manager for a Race to the Top High School Course Assessment Grant application to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of the State Consortium on Board Examination Systems on June 23, 2010. In preparation for submitting the application, NCEE would like any organization that has developed Board Examination Systems for use at the high school level to submit information about those programs to NCEE so that we are aware of those programs and understand each offering. We are defining Board Examination Systems as instructional systems for use in high schools consisting of coherent programs of study that include: syllabi, instructional materials aligned with the syllabi, high quality examinations intended to measure the extent to which a student has mastered the syllabus, examination scoring services and professional development for teachers who will teach the courses. We are interested in programs of study that include, at a minimum, English, mathematics, science and history. In addition, we welcome any information from organizations that provide similar programs of study in STEM and Career/Technical Education fields.

The State Consortium on Board Examination Systems also plans to issue an RFQ to organizations that wish to be certified by SCOBES to offer Board Examination Systems to students in member states. If you wish to receive a notice of this RFQ or you wish to send us other information about your program(s), please send information to: National Center on Education and the Economy, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 5300, Washington, DC 20006 attn: BES RFQ or by email to Subject: BES RFQ

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Does "Generation Z" Mean for Education?

Generation Z is commonly defined as "people born between the mid 1990's and 2010." They are the first true internet generation and are also referred to as "Digital Natives."

How will this generation affect the way that we approach education? Are we willing to make changes?

I received a couple of interesting links from June Weis at SREB. The first is an article entitled, Kids Labeled Generation X Before They Grow Up, (UK Guardian 6/10/10) and the second link takes you to an easy-to-read, graphic-punctuated study published in June 2010 by Grail Research.

Here are some important points from the Grail Research:
Generation Z is ...
  • Well networked, more "virtually" present and more tolerant of diversity
  • Comfortable with and even dependent on technology
  • Materially satisfied, yet financially conservative
  • Well educated, informed, and environmentally conscious
  • More connected with their parents than previous generations
Marketing implications: Companies targeting Generation Z will want to...
  • Look to enhance their virtual world presence
  • Adopt technology-based marketing and sales channels (i.e. text messages, mobile internet, online networking, etc)
  • Focus on developing high value-for-money and "green" products and services
  • Aim to "catch them young."
I've often thought of education from more of a business point of view and we don't always market to or meet the needs of our customers...the students. We are often restrained by costs and policies that restrict the use of technology. Can we truly "afford" to continue with the same policies and technologies or will we "lose" even more students? We must adopt new technologies into our schools and lesson plans at a much faster pace as the following shows:
Years until radio reached 50 million users: 38 years
Years until TV reached 50 million users: 13 years
Years until the web reached 50 million users: 4 years
Years until iPod reached 50 million users: 3 years
Years until Facebook reached 50 million users: 2 years
Years until iPhone reached 1 million users: 3 days
"New technologies continue to emerge faster than ever and "innovation leaps" are becoming smaller, leading to a stronger "connection" between newer generations."
We can no longer wait. There are obvious risks associated with the use of technology, but there are also risks associated with NOT using technology. Generation Z spends more time online and has a preference for interactive media. Their social networks will influence their decisions and education MUST have a presence in their networks.

I would contend that education is at an extremely critical point in reaching our students. Marketing is a key to attracting our students (and their parents) on what we have to offer, but we must follow through by incorporating new technologies into our instruction. We can't afford to lag behind as we must do a better job of preparing our students for industry.

I hope you will take the time to read both of the articles and let us know your thoughts. J.T.
Grail Research
Kids Labeled Generation X Before They Grow Up (appears in the UK Guardian 6/10/10)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Social Networking Goes to School"

"Educators are integrating Facebook, Ning, and other sites into K-12 life despite concerns about privacy and behavior"

I was sent an article, "Social Networking Goes to School" written by Michelle R. Davis in Education Week that I wanted to share with you (Thanks Claire!). I think the article does a good job explaining some of the pros and cons that educators face when using social networking.

Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Second Life, Voice Thread, Skype, blogs, wikis, etc. there are many projects that you can create for students. You also have other options for the use of social media if you have policies that prevent its use with students. My first thoughts are that social media is a great communication tool for interacting with parents and other interested parties and it can also be used in a variety of ways for professional development.

As the article states,
Just a few years ago, social networking meant little more to educators than the headache of determining whether to penalize students for inappropriate activities captured on Facebook or MySpace. Now, teachers and students have a vast array of social-networking sites and tools—from Ning to VoiceThread and Second Life—to draw on for such serious uses as professional development and project collaboration. Educators who support using social networking for education say it has become so ubiquitous for students—who start using sites like Webkinz and Club Penguin when they are in elementary school—that it just makes sense to engage them this way.
Though teachers and students are now pushing learning beyond the borders of the classroom through social networking, that move also comes with hurdles, including the fact that many schools still block access to such sites within their walls. School officials must also confront the uncertainties and questions surrounding privacy issues, proper management, and cyber security when they open their doors to social-networking sites.
But it’s a world that some educators are realizing students feel at home in and is unlikely to disappear. A study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released early this year found that 73 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 now use social-networking websites, up from 55 percent in 2006.
(Click here to read the full article.)
Believe me when I say that I fully understand the obstacles you face where the use of social media is concerned, i.e. local policy, state law and federal laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which seeks to protect children’s privacy and bars most children under 13 from participating in many websites, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools to provide Internet filtering to prevent access by students to offensive content over the Internet, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student information.

But I also understand how technology continues to change our world and our students live in this world. They must be taught, not only how to safely and effectively use these tools, but how to use them in a creative manner. The world is now, more than ever, at your finger tips.
As I have stated before, I believe we have recently gone through the age of data collection and we are entering a new age of how to analyze and use the data that we have accumulated.  Our students must be prepared to observe and analyze the data, formulate a hypothesis, test their hypothesis, analyze data and draw a conclusion, and report the results (was the hypothesis correct?). I know, it's the scientific method, but it still applies to almost all that we do. I believe that it's very important to train our students to question and to think for themselves. Discovery is what makes life fun!
I hope you will read the article and let me know your thoughts on the use of social media and provide examples of how you have incorprated it into your instruction.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Vacation? Not for the CareerTech Testing Center!

I'm not saying we might not sneak away for a few days around here, but we will continue to make new posts all summer!

I encourage you to stop by throughout the summer months and see what is new in the world of testing and educational technology. Also check out the archives or search the labels (by topic) to find any posts that you might have missed since the blog's inception.

This is our 200th blog post and I just wanted to say THANK YOU to all of you for reading the blog this past academic year. I hope you found the posts were not only interesting, but useful! Please share the blog or any posts with anyone that you think might be interested and tell us how we could make the blog even better.

Have a wonderful summer and try to find at least a week of fun and relaxation!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MUST READ BLOG POSTS: Are you an Instructional Designer or an Interactivity Designer?

I found the following post on one of my favorite blogs, Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day. I highly recommend that you read it and the two blog posts that Jane links to. The posts provide an excellent discussion on instructional design and the effects of memory on learning. You should also look at the comments at the end of each blog post.
There have been two important blog posts today that are must-reads in my opinion - both of which contain references to the work of Dr Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory.
The first is by Charles Jennings - ID - Instructional design or interactivity design in an interconnected world . Charles starts his post in a very powerful way:
Instructional design is not only seen as a core competency for learning and development/training specialists, but it’s a huge industry, too. Most learning vendors tout their ‘expertise in instructional design’ as a key reason as to why we should engage them to produce learning content. If we do so, then almost invariably their approach is around developing content in an ‘instructionally-sound way’ to produce a set of ‘learning interventions’.
I have a real problem with this approach and the thinking behind it.

It simply isn’t appropriate for the needs of the 21st century knowledge industry, and is arguable even more inappropriate for those whose work is carried out with their hands rather than with their minds.
Charles then goes on to explain that the mindset should be about process-based learning and not event-based learning, and how "the vast majority of structured learning is content-rich and interaction-poor."
Charles also reminds us that "knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve learned it", and states that "Dr Ebbinghaus’ experiment revealed we suffer an exponential ‘forgetting curve’ and that about 50% of context-free information is lost in the first hour after acquisition if there is no opportunity to reinforce it with practice".
But this all leads to the main point that Charles makes ...
"We need designers who understand that learning comes from experience, practice, conversations and reflection, and are prepared to move away from massaging content into what they see as good instructional design. Designers need to get off the content bus and start thinking about, using, designing and exploiting learning environments full of experiences and interactivity."
Donald Clark in his posting,10 techniques to massively increase retention, picks up on "the ‘forgetting curve’ by Ebbinghaus" and states that it is
"a fundamental truth in memory theory, totally ignored by most educators and trainers. Most fixed ’courses’ or ‘lectures’ take no notice of the phenomenon, condemning much of their effort to the world of lost memories".
Donald then provides 10 tips and strategies to enable spaced practice.

These are two powerful blog postings that every learning professional should read and digest.
Now ask yourself, are you an Instructional Designer or an Interactivity Designer?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Are Your Colleagues Reading on Digital Learning Environments?

Digital Learning Environments is a site that provides tools and technologies for an effective classroom. This web site and the accompanying live events looks like a great resource for digital learning. DLE is provided by HP and Intel and hosted by Tech & Learning, NewBay Media.

The Top Ten Most Popular Stories on DLE:

The Latest DLE Blogs to Check Out:
Check out DLE's resource page for links to useful information here.

Thanks to June Weis at SREB for sharing this site!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Children "more likely to own a mobile phone than a book"

"Children as young as seven are more likely to own a mobile phone than a book, figures show, fuelling fears over a decline in reading."

I wanted to share an article I found this morning by by Graeme Paton in The Telegraph. It discusses a report by the National Literacy Trust that surveyed more than 17,000 schoolchildren aged seven to 16.

The findings come amid continuing concerns over the effect of modern technology on young people. Some of the key results are:
  • 85.5 per cent of pupils had their own mobile phone, compared with 72.6 per cent who had their own books.
  • Among children in Key Stage 2 – aged seven to 11 – 79.1 per cent had a mobile compared with 72.7 per cent who had access to books.
  • Almost nine-in-10 pupils now have a mobile compared with fewer than three-quarters who have their own books in the home.
  • Some 80 per cent of children with better than expected reading skills had their own books, compared with just 58 per cent who were below the level expected for their age group.
  • The study suggests a link between regular access to books outside school and high test scores.
Read the full article here.

I have long believed that many in society are alliterate and this keeps us from modeling a love of reading to our children and our students. My question is, should we then redefine how we deliver instruction? Should it all be developed for hand-helds or would traditional methods still be best? Should it be delivered in combination?  J.T.
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