Tuesday, January 29, 2013

CareerTech: Shrinking the Dropout Rate and Addressing the Needs of At-Risk Kids

I read the January 6th Boston Globe op-ed piece written by Alan Leventhal on the cost of dropouts and have followed the discussion since. The dropout issue isn't just an issue in Massachusetts, but it is a national issue that will cost the U.S. trillions of dollars as Leventhal points out:
The cost of a dropout over a lifetime has been estimated at up to $500,000 in lost wages, increased entitlements, and criminal justice spending. If the dropout rate can be reduced by one-half to 500,000 annually, savings will approach $250 billion over the lifetime of each graduating class. Over a 10-year period this would represent lifetime savings of almost $2.5 trillion. In the context of our budget challenges, this is real money.
On January 23rd, the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts-based public policy research group, published "The Incredible Shrinking Voc Tech Dropout Rate" in response to Leventhal's op-ed piece and stated the following:
There are many ways to come at this issue, but perhaps the most hopeful way is to look at the state’s voc-techs, which educate a higher percentage of at-risk students. Statewide, 17 percent of students are in special education, while the number is 24 percent at the voc-techs.

Previous blogs and research I have shared here have underscored how much academic performance has improved in the regional vocational-technical schools, which function autonomously outside the purview of a district superintendent. A quick primer on the issue can be gotten in Vocational-Technical Education in Massachusetts (October 2008); a few blogs (here, here, here, and here), and a Fall River Herald News op-ed in support of expanding vocational education.

Why is this the most hopeful way to look at the issue of dropouts? Because, as a report released yesterday notes, voc-tech schools — especially a subset of them — are hitting it out of the park increasing the graduation rate and lowering dropout rates.

The special education graduation rate for vocational technical schools, which stands at 82 percent, is nearly 20 percentage points higher than that of traditional district high schools.
It has been obvious, to those of us within the CareerTech system, that career and technical education has grown and progressed from those old stereotypical days, into a dynamic system that can quickly modify its instructional delivery system to meet the needs of their students, industry, and their respective states. The improved academic performance in CTE further demonstrates the wide-ranging course offerings and the improved ability to attract some of the brightest students.

CTE's approach to individualized education based upon rigorous standards and competency-based assessment is, in my opinion, the educational model that can best address the dropout issue and ever-growing skills gap (among other educational issues).

Another reason why I believe CTE is an appealing way for students to find success is because its foundation is built upon the 70+20+10 model for learning and development. This model focuses on CareerTech students who spend their class time "Doing" (real life, on the job-type experiences) with "Others" (instructors that have worked in industry) and have based these first two components upon "Study" (formal learning).

Career and technical education should no longer be an after-thought, but a very important part of any educational discussion.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Edcanvas: The One Place to Organize, Present, and Share Knowledge

I was reading Joyce Valenza's post on the Never Ending Search  this morning and learned about EdCanvas.

Edcanvas is a great tool for presentations, sharing information, or just saving information for future use.

The platform uses a canvas composed of visual grids (tiles) that allow you to simply organize materials or media such as videos, images, links, and text (your content, commentary and questions, or the work of others).

As Joyce states, "Built-in search tools make it easy to find relevant content from within the platform. Content may be easily dragged in from Google, Youtube and Flickr searches or from Dropbox, Google Drive, your own bookmarks, your recent searches or your desktop. Tiles are easily scootched around and users can continue to add rows to a canvas. Each tile displays with a media icon label."

I also wanted to let you know that an iPad app is in the works and please take a look at The Never Ending Search for additional information and uses for Edcanvas.

How to Create a Canvas on Edcanvas (video)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Create Free Infographics

Infographics or information graphics are a great way to visualize information, data, or knowledge. They are extremely popular because they present complex information quickly and clearly and are a great way to stress your most important facts.

I've found a short video by Linda Braun that showcases different websites that can help you create free infographics and she also provides some tips on using those sites.

Creating infographics | screencast tutorial from School Library Journal on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences and New Forms of Assessment

I wanted to share an interesting video by Harvard University professor Howard Gardner that I found on Edutopia:

Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds positions as Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero. Among numerous honors, Gardner received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship in 1981. He has received honorary degrees from twenty-nine colleges and universities, including institutions in Bulgaria, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea and Spain.

He is the author of twenty-eight books translated into thirty-two languages, and several hundred articles, Gardner is best known in educational circles for his theory of multiple intelligences, a critique of the notion that there exists but a single human intelligence that can be adequately assessed by standard psychometric instruments.

Also read: An Interview with the Father of Multiple Intelligences from Edutopia.

Friday, January 18, 2013

TagMyDoc: Share Your Documents with QR Codes

One of the best things about QR codes is that they allow you to place information on your phone or tablet without having to type in a long url which takes time and isn't always the easiest thing to do on a portable device. In other words, a QR code makes sharing quick and easy.

One of the bad things about portable devices is that, all too often, the only way to share handouts (from PDF's, Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft PowerPoint slides, OpenDocuments and images) from a meeting or a conference is still by email, but a free online service called TagMyDoc changes those parameters.

Tag My Doc allows you to assign and print a QR code on a document and the process is really simple. Just upload your document or image (see above options) and let TagMyDoc generate a QR code for it and then place it on your document. Print it out and then share it with others during your meeting, presentation, or conference.

The free version of the service allows you to store up to 1GB of documents on your TagMyDoc account, password protect your documents, and choose the placement of the QR code on your document.

Try TagMyDoc and see how simple it is and think of the ecological benefits of the service, i.e. not having to print or carry so many paper documents.

Watch the Introduction to TagMyDoc on Vimeo.

Related post:
Is 2011 the Year of the QR Code?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

25 Leading Thoughts from Tom Vander Ark

I've had the good fortune to meet and listen to Tom Vander Ark a couple of years ago and I have followed much of his educational commentary since. He is an advocate of personal digital learning and blended learning (online learning combined with on-site learning) and he has previously served as President of the X PRIZE Foundation and was the Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Currently, Vander Ark is the founder of GettingSmart.com and author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.

The staff at GettingSmart.com has collected a list entitled, 25 Leading Thoughts from Tom Vander Ark that I wanted to share with you. The topics are categorized under the headings "Trends, Issues, Ideas, Lessons and Promise" and I hope you will take a few minutes to read a least a few of his thoughts. You might agree or disagree with his viewpoints, but he is evoking discussion of how technology affects education and how he would conduct education in the future and discussion, to me, is always a good thing.

Again, here is the link to 25 Leading Thoughts from Tom Vander Ark and I've also included a video below from one of Vander Ark's previous presentations that I thought you would enjoy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sir Ken Robinson: Principles of Alternative Education are... Just Good Education

In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson made an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. This video has been viewed more than 14 million times.

In early January 2012, Robinson addressed how population growth and technology are fueling huge changes in education. He argues that the principles of “alternative” education are those that should be applied to mainstream education. He states, that "the principles of alternative education are designed to re-engage young people with education." Please watch the video below to see Robinson's comments on how the principles of alternative education should be moved to the center of education.

To watch the video on YouTube click HERE.

Related post:
Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Practice Tests - A Highly Recommended Learning Technique

Research results find that learning techniques like highlighting, rereading material, summarization, and using mnemonic devices are actually ineffective learning techniques.

In contrast to these familiar practices, distributed practice (spreading study sessions out over time) and practice testing produced highly effective results.

In a report entitled, "Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology" published by the Association for Psychological Science, the authors, led by Kent State University professor John Dunlosky, closely examine 10 learning tactics and rate each from high to moderate to low utility on the basis of the evidence they’ve amassed.

Click HERE to read the report's conclusions.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Transformative Power of Classical Music and Leadership

I have featured several TED videos on the blog, but I think this may be my personal favorite. In this video, Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, is funny and energetic as he discusses classical music and why everyone should love it as much as he does. As you continue watching, his message goes much deeper when he begins to discuss the qualities of a leader.

He discusses how a conductor doesn't make a sound while leading the orchestra, but it took him 20+ years of conducting to realize that the role of a conductor is to provide leadership and that "leadership is the ability to make other people powerful." Leadership is to "awaken the possibility in other people." In other words, as a leader, you must look and determine "how many shining eyes are around you?"

Zander has many quotable moments, but I hope you will take twenty minutes to watch this video and reflect on his message. It also makes me wonder why people give up on so many goals in their life, but maybe the answer lies not with them, but on the "leaders" around them. In other words, "Who am I being that my children's (or employee's) eyes aren't shining?" And what is a successful leader according to Zander? It all depends on how many shining eyes are around you.

You can also watch the video by clicking HERE.

Zander also asks you to choose your words carefully as you should never try to say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing that you would ever say to someone.

Again, I hope you will spend twenty minutes to watch this video and think about how you are a leader in your home, workplace, and/or community. As Zander demonstrates, none of us are tone deaf and all of us are leaders. Now go watch the video...

Monday, January 7, 2013

10 Reasons Why Assessments Make the World a Better Place

Here is a list of ten reasons why John Kleeman, founder of Questionmark, believes assessment makes a difference to the world. I'll agree with Mr. Kleeman when he states, "These are reasons that make me proud to work in the assessment industry."
  1. Assessments give equality of opportunity. Open public examinations let people from any parentage or origin show merit. Since their invention in Imperial China, exams have become a powerful way to give equality of opportunity to all.
  2. Assessments make the world safer. Medical professionals, aircraft pilots, air traffic controllers, power station workers, and even anyone who drives a car, has to pass an exam. There are still tragedies, but we are all safer than we would be without assessments.
  3. Assessments are the best way to measure knowledge, skills and attitudes. Maybe one day, brain scanners will read our minds, but until that day, assessments are the best way of quantifying what goes on inside our heads. As the scientist Lord Kelvin famously said: “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.
  4. Assessments are the cornerstone of learning. Assessments give learners and instructors signposts and directions to learn better, and are needed for effective and efficient learning. See Questionmark’s white paper Assessments through the Learning Process (free with registration) for more on assessments and learning.
  5. Assessments reduce forgetting. Machines remember things forever, but people forget. As I have shared in this blog, taking a quiz or test gives recall practice, which helps retain information for the future, and reduces forgetting.
  6. Assessments are one of the few ways to be sure people really understand. If you need to be certain people understand something – business rules, legal policies your organization has to comply with or other critical information – a well-crafted assessment can check not just that people think they get it but that they really do.
  7. Assessments give objective data. By using results from surveys and other assessments, we can avoid subjective “gut” decisions, and gather objective information to make sound data-driven decisions, which use resources wisely.
  8. Assessments define standards. By requiring a certification or entrance exam or other assessment criteria, we define standards for what people need to learn and do, and if these standards are strong, they encourage good behaviour.
  9. Passing an assessment makes people feel good about themselves. It’s a great feeling to pass an exam and to know that you have demonstrated your competence and capability. Fair, valid and reliable assessments contribute to happiness.
  10. Online assessments give access for all. Last but not least (as this was the key reason I decided to devote my working life to assessments), the ability to take surveys, quizzes, tests and exams at a distance gives access to education, work and development opportunities to all. We empower those who are geographically remote or too poor to travel, as well as disabled people and those with family commitments.
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