Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Students Should Know About Their Digital Footprints

I wanted to share an article that I read this morning in Edreach written by Don Goble. In "10 Things Your Students Should Know About Their Digital Footprints" the author contemplates some of the mistakes he made in puberty and how he, like me, is quite thankful that those events are not "Googleable."

However, this is not the same for our students and children so I thought this would be a great topic given all of the free time they will have during their Christmas break.

Click on the following link to discover "10 Things Your Students Should Know About Their Digital Footprints" and I agree that "it behooves us as educators to help our students shape and build a positive legacy."

Monday, December 17, 2012

MOOCs are for Everyone!

University of Miami Global Academy
MOOCs (massive open online courses) are great resources for independent, lifelong learners. They are all about open, participatory, distributed, networked learning. Although they don’t necessarily lead to official certifications, in most instances, a MOOC can reach tens of thousands of students of all ages and they also have the potential to equalize education across social class and they have no geographical boundary.

To demonstrate the growth and the potential of MOOCs, in the Fall of 2011 Stanford University offered an artificial intelligence course that attracted more than 160,000 students.  This was followed by the launch of higher education courses on the Coursera platform which now includes 33 universities and serves more than 2.8 million Courserians.  Harvard also joined the MOOC movement by launching edX which offerts free online courses from Harvard, MIT, University of Texas, Wellesley, Georgetown, and University of California at Berkeley.

With the growth of higher education in MOOCs, I began to wonder if there would be any movement in K-12 or CTE and I wanted to let you know that the University of Miami Global Academy–an online high school sponsored by UM’s Division of Continuing and International Education, has launched what may be the first free MOOC for high school students–a three-week test prep class designed to get students ready for the Collage Board’s SAT Subject Test in Biology.

The 3-week course schedule will cover the following topics:
  1. Cellular and Molecular Biology
  2. Ecology and Genetics
  3. Organismal Biology and Evolution & Diversity
Each week students will prepare by reading chapters from the review book Barron's SAT Subject Test: Biology E/M, participate in 2 live teaching sessions, and review suggested online resources after each session.

If you are unable to attend one of the live sessions, don't worry! They will all be recorded and available to you on the website to allow you to catch up or review particular material.

The course is taught by UMGA lead science instructor Jennifer Taylor, an experienced online instructor. It runs live via Skype and a CMS, allowing students to ask real-time questions. Sessions are recorded and available for review as archived videos on the website. The MOOC uses Barron’s SAT Subject Test: Biology E/M as an optional text, but students are encouraged to read recommended chapters prior to the live sessions.

The plan is to offer the course once a semester. And if it works, UMGA promises that more high school MOOCs will follow.

I believe many high school students are going to take advantage of this free test prep and I look forward to seeing how MOOCs will affect other educational areas in the future!

Watch the following video by Dave Cormier to gain a better understanding about MOOCs or click HERE to watch the video.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Do You Have a Teenage Zombie in Your House?

Is this your teenager?
Why is it that teenagers think they need to stay up late at night? Why do they think something will happen in the world that they will miss out on if they go to sleep? Isn't that why we have TiVo, the internet and even newspapers that will inform you about every global event that happens while you sleep?

Although I'm the proud father of two teenagers, I frequently wonder why they stopped valuing sleep somewhere around their ninth-grade years? Why do they think they are all grow-up if they can stay up until a ridiculous time?

I have to admit that my eldest son suddenly realized somewhere around his senior year of high school that he felt so much better when he got a full night of sleep and that school even seemed easier so I still have hope for my youngest son. I am currently worried though, since my kids are spaced four years apart and I have experienced about four consecutive years of this teenage behavior, that I am at risk for zombification as well.

I have tried to educate my kids on how your brain grows while sleeping during your formative years and how a lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain and poor academic performance, but honestly... how well can you reason with a teenager? With that being said and if you know me very well, as my kids do, I won't give up easily and I'll find numerous "independent" sources to back up my claims concerning the benefits of sleep. Given this fact, my youngest son has a new reading assignment brought to him by Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day entitled The Best Resources for Helping Teens Learn About the Importance of Sleep. Hopefully, an independent third-party will have more influence on my kids than someone that says those things just because I'm "Dad."

Click Here to find 30+ resources for helping teenagers learn about the importance of sleep.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Impact of a Bilingual Home on Brain Development and Learning

I wanted to share a very interesting Edutopia article written by Judy Willis MD entitled "Neuroscience and the Bilingual Brain." Below is a brief summary and a link to the article:
A selective attentive focus and the ability to block out distraction are seminal executive functions that are minimally developed in youngsters. These functions gradually become stronger throughout the years of prefrontal cortex maturation, which last into the twenties. It is with regard to these executive functions that research about the "bilingual brain" is particularly exciting. A selective attentive focus and the ability to block out distraction are seminal executive functions that are minimally developed in youngsters. These functions gradually become stronger throughout the years of prefrontal cortex maturation, which last into the twenties. It is with regard to these executive functions that research about the "bilingual brain" is particularly exciting. Read More
I will agree that the research raises some important questions:
  1. The implications raise considerations of what other early exposures and in-school experiences can be designed to promote these executive function activations in all children?
  2. What other planned learning activities can be so engaging as to promote the activation and strengthening of young children's developing networks of attentive focus?
  3. Should second language instruction begin earlier in elementary school?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 Helpful Ideas for Testing

I thought I would share my thoughts on twelve testing issues in honor of 12/12/12 (and in honor of end-of-semester final exams):
  1. Create a successful testing environment
  2. Follow the recommended time for administering tests
  3. Establish rapport with examinees
  4. Limit test anxiety
  5. Provide test security and eliminate cheating
  6. Understanding the numbers I, II, III, IV
  7. Interpreting test scores
  8. Analyze individual tests scores across all levels - instructor, district, and state
  9. Provide positive reinforcement and build upon an examinee’s relative strengths
  10. Remediate an examinee’s relative weaknesses
  11. Implement improvements across all levels
  12. Read and learn “The Secret of Writing Multiple Choice Test Items”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

24 Questions That Test Your Mental Flexibility and Creativity

Here is a "fun" way to test your mental flexibility and creativity (not your intelligence or mathematical ability) that was published in the May/June 1981 issue of GAMES and called the Equation Analysis Test.

Now, onto the test and let's see how you fare (the answers are below and no peeking!)

The Answers

a. 26 = L. of the A. Letters of the Alphabet
b. 7 = W. of the A.W. Wonders of the Ancient World
c. 1,001 = A.N. Arabian Nights
d. 12 = S. of the Z. Signs of the zodiac
e. 54 = C. in a D. (with the J.) Cards in a deck (with the jokers)
f. 9 = P. in the S.S. Planets in the solar system*
g. 88 = P.K. Piano keys
h. 13 = S. on the A.F. Stripes on the American flag
i. 32 = D.F. at which W.F. Degrees Fahrenheit at which water freezes
j. 18 = H. on a G.C. Holes on a golf course
k. 90 = D. in a R.A. Degrees in a right angle
l. 200 = D. for P.G. in M. Dollars for passing “Go” in Monopoly
m. 8 = S. on a S.S. Sides on a stop sign
n. 3 = B.M. (S.H.T.R.!) Blind mice (See how they run!)
o. 4 = Q. in a G. Quarts in a gallon
p. 24 = H. in a D. Hours in a day
q. 1 = W. on a U. Wheel on a unicycle
r. 5 = D. in a Z.C. Digits in a ZIP code
s. 57 = H. V. Heinz varieties
t. 11 = P. on a F.T. Players on a football team
u. 1,000 = W. that a P. is W. Words that a picture is worth
v. 29 = D. in F. in a L.Y. Days in February in a leap year
w. 64 = S. on a C. Squares on a chessboard (or checkerboard)
x. 40 = D. and N. of the G.F. Days and nights of the Great Flood
*Note that today, question f would be recast as 8 = P. in the S.S. since Pluto is now officially considered a dwarf planet.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Free Gift: The Secret of Writing Multiple Choice Test Items

One of the things we have learned over the years at the CareerTech Testing Center is that Subject Matter Experts are definitely experts in their field, but many aren't aware of how to design an effective test question. Therefore, we created one of our most popular posts, "The Secret of Writing Multiple-Choice Test Items." (This post led to the creation of the FREE GUIDE that you can can access below.

We believe that these "secrets" can help any instructor or test developer, at ANY level of instruction, develop more effective test instruments. We hope you take a look and remember... It's FREE!
(Download free copy from Yudu link below)

Click to launch the full edition in a new window
Digital Publishing with YUDU

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The 200 Best Apps for Special Education

Here is a great resource from Edudemic that states "if you are a special education teacher or are simply looking for an innovative way to reach a student... this is for you." I think it has a lot of useful apps and it narrows down the search when shopping through the app store.

Take a look at this Scribd document by Eric Sailers:
iPhone, iPad and iPod touch Apps for (Special) Education

Friday, December 7, 2012

Could Competency-Based Learning Save the Common Core?

Michael Horn
I read "Could Competency-Based Learning Save the Common Core?" written by Michael Horn (co-author of "Disrupting Class" and advocate of transforming education through digital learning) yesterday and I wanted to provide a brief summary and a few comments.

In the article Horn discusses how nervous educators are concerning Common Core assessments and whether states will stick with the Common Core state standards once the tests become available. He compares the U.S. educational system to Detroit's Big Three auto plants and how this represents America's factory-modeled public educational system against the way Toyota sets up their employee training. To briefly summarize, during "training at the Big Three plants, the time is fixed, but the result of training was variable and predictable. The "exam" came at the end of training. At Toyota, the training was variable, but the assessment was interdependently woven into content delivery and the result was fixed."

Horn believes the Toyota example illustrates how a competency-based educational learning system would work. More specifically, Horn states his thoughts concerning the development of assessments in a competency-based model (below are a few statements that I have selected):
"Of course, if there were instead systems of assessments in a competency-based learning system built for students to take an assessment on-demand when they were ready to demonstrate mastery on specific competencies, we would see a different picture develop with assessments that left no doubt that they were different. Perhaps there could be short assessments to verify basic objective mastery around a particular concept followed by rich capstone-like projects that could measure several competencies and be reviewed on an on-demand basis by an outside party, similar in some respects to how Western Governors University manages its assessments, for example (and yes, Western Governors’ assessments are designed by psychometricians).

The assessments could also presumably be more bite-sized and not interrupt learning in school for several days."...
...The learning objectives and assessments would be far more transparent to students and their parents, and they would understand why they had not passed a certain concept, as they could receive immediate feedback to inform what they would learn next—and understand the importance of true mastery. In many cases, students could move back down to an earlier concept from a previous “grade” that they might not have mastered if that made the most sense for them to move ahead ultimately and realize success, thereby avoiding the “Swiss Cheese” problem that is too prevalent in education today and that competency-based learning, such as that used in Toyota’s training, solves...
...Common Core creates a huge opportunity for innovation and personalization and the implementation of a competency-based learning system. It’s an opportunity we shouldn’t waste.

I hope you will read this article in it's entirety by clicking HERE as there is much more detail to his thoughts than what I am providing. Like I have said before, my problem with many summative assessments is that we do not address the remediation of individual weaknesses and the identification of strengths with each student (The transparency of objectives and results is also of great concern to me).

Career and technical education (CTE) has been long-time proponents of competency-based education which as I mentioned in a previous post leads to student engagement which is paramount to any student's success. CareerTech is frequently looked down upon by many educators outside of CTE, but I have always thought that our competency-based model of education should have been adopted by K-12 a long time ago. Furthermore, any of our assessments, even our summative assessments, uses skills standards that are broken down into a series of duties and tasks that provide remediation for students, instructors, school, and state-wide level (a much more transparent assessment system). I believe that CTE offers a competency-based educational model that should be reviewed by all educators and CTE needs to do a better job of sharing their educational story and take a leadership role in the competency-based educational discussion.

I hope you will read Horn's article and share your thoughts!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Study: Tech Classes Correlate with Better Achievement

I found a great article on eSchool News written by Laura Devaney that I wanted to share with you. I think it demonstrates how career and technical education (CTE) has evolved from the industrial era "vocational education" into a more robust training that integrates academic, employability, and technical skills that are in demand in today's marketplace. Please read the following excerpt:
High school students in Florida who took at least one technology course and industry certification exam had higher attendance rates and GPAs, on average, than students with similar backgrounds who did not take such a course, a new study finds (“Student Performance in Career and Technical Education,” conducted by Grunwald Associates with support from Adobe.)

Just what this means is unclear, but the researchers who conducted the study surmise that students who take technology classes preparing them with real-world skills might be more engaged in school.
I believe "engagement" is paramount to anyone's success and CTE truly answers the "WHY are we having to learn this?" question that so many students seem to have have. Certification is the other key component to this research study as it also demonstrates to the student why they are learning certain concepts, no matter how abstract, because they are now learning to meet industry standards in a career field that they have interest in. Certification bridges the gap between learning and the workplace and I believe this is why CTE engages students and I also believe that many people fail to understand this key component that exists in career and technical education.

Please click HERE to read the article (you will have to register to read all of it or you can click on the actual study shown above).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Do Certification Exams Give Business Benefit?

John Kleeman
 I saw an interesting post on Questionmark's blog by John Kleeman that I wanted to share with you:
Increasing numbers of technology vendors run certification programmes to help customers, employees and partners demonstrate competence in using or advising on the vendor’s technology. This is common in IT, in medical equipment, in the automotive industry and in many other high-tech industries.

Certification is an area where all stakeholders seem to be “winners”:
  • Vendors who set up certification programmes gain by being able to define the skill sets and knowledge that people deploying their technology need and encouraging stakeholders to develop the knowledge and skills and so deploy the technology more successfully for customers.
  • Participants benefit from certification as a way to learn and develop skills and demonstrate their competence, and it often helps in their career path.
  • Customers and users of the technology benefit from more effective deployment by being able to ensure the skills of experts deploying the technology and being more likely to get a successful implementation.
  • Employers of test-takers gain from their employees being more capable.
But how real is the benefit? How can you know if a well-designed and well-implemented certification programme will lead to improved performance?

There is some powerful evidence about this from an IDC study a few years back as reported on by Network World. This study looked at the benefit of certifications within IT network administration – surveying more than 1,000 IT managers. You can see some of the results in the chart below. For instance on average, unscheduled network downtime was about 20% lower at organizations with more certified IT staff.

This study related to one particular field of IT, but it seems likely that in any technical field, providing you follow good practice in developing your certification programme, similar results should apply. Therefore certification is likely to provide material business benefits.
I believe Kleeman's most important point is when he discusses the importance of certification on vendors, participants, customers, and employers. Measuring a construct is certainly complex, but what it boils down to is ensuring that the construct is being measuring in a valid way and then reporting/communicating that process to stakeholders (this is where the "value" of an assessment is added to all stakeholders).

The CareerTech Testing Center's competency assessments are used to help all stakeholders become "winners" and they have been providing value to students, instructors, and industry for over twenty-five years. Our assessments are used to evaluate student performance and the results reports communicate competency assessment scores to students and provide a breakdown of assessment results by duty area from within the skills standards. The results breakdown shows how well the student has mastered skills needed to perform major job functions and identifies areas of job responsibility that may require additional instruction and/or training.

Group analysis of student results also provides feedback to instructors seeking to improve the effectiveness of career and technology training. Performance patterns in individual duties indicate opportunities to evaluate training methods and customize instruction.

Please contact us at 800-522-5810 ext. 403 to find out more about our assessments and services.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers

I just watched an interesting TED video concerning Conrad Wolfram's thoughts on mathematics education (Wolfram runs the worldwide arm of Wolfram Research, the mathematical lab behind the cutting-edge knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha).

I believe his thoughts are especially important to career and technical education (CTE) as he poses the question, "What is math?" Wolfram believes there is a four-part answer to this question:
  1. Posing the right question
  2. Real world math formulation
  3. Computation
  4. Math formulation real world, verification
Wolfram believes the third step should be done, in most instances, by computer, but we spend 80% of math education on this third step when computers can do it better and with fewer errors. His reasoning is that we should stop teaching calculating and start teaching math and education should focus more on the other three steps. He continues to state that math is greater than just calculating and calculating is simply the machinery of math. As you noticed, "real world" application is important to his definition and that is what CTE does so well with math education.

Please watch the video below or by clicking HERE and listen to Wolfram's thoughts on why math has never been more important in human history and why we must change the way we educate our students.

For what its worth, I agree with what he is saying in many instances, but a part of me still believes you must know the theory behind the computation or am I still missing something?

Please read our previous post on Wolfram Alpha: Wolfram Alpha - A Computational Knowledge Engine

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