Articles Tagged with Education

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Bartleby book of buttons Bartleby’s Book of Buttons may be the best educational iPad book available.

I don’t say this lightly. There are a lot of books on the iPad that my kids absolutely love. Certainly the Toy Story iPad games would come to my kids’ minds. But that is because the kids have an affection for Toy Story. On sheer quality, Bartleby’s Book of Buttons blows away Toy Story.

Okay, before I get carried away, let me fire out a quick negative. The book is short. You can get though it pretty quickly.

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George WashingtonHere’s a statistic that is hard to believe: 93% of eight graders cannot correctly identify the three branches of government. But these are the stats provided by the 2010 National Assessment of Education Program test. The apples do not far from the tree. Adults struggle too.

Surveys show that fewer than half of U.S. adults can name the three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial. But I suspect if you are reading this blog you already know that. I really believe that the key to teaching history in a meaningful way is to get the dates, geography and facts down. I know the modern approach is kids should be immersed in rich stories that history provides instead of getting bogged down in the dates and places. But the rich stories don’t matter much without context. If you understand what was going on in the world in 1775, Paul Revere’s ride becomes a lot more interesting.

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iPad
Nearly 300 Kindergarten students in Alburn, Maine are getting Apple iPad 2s this fall. School superintendent Tom Morrill calls the iPad what I have called it: a revolution in education.

This is just a plain good thing for these kids. But the Washington Post always feels compelled tomanufacture a debate in an effort to be fair. (“Wait, let’s hear the birthers side of the story, too.”)So we hear from one Maine mother who is concerned:

I understand you have to keep up with technology, but I think a 5-year-old is a little too young to understand.

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I have three kids in Pre-K. It is an article of faith to me that it is a good idea – at least for our kids – and I barely remember my wife and I spending a lot of time debating whether to send our kids to Pre-K. Like most of us, I’m always merrily looking for articles and data that support the wisdom of my thinking.

Today I have New Jersey to thank. New Jersey says it is forking out more than $11,000 a year per child in Pre-K and they are glad they are: the number of kids who repeat first grade has been cut in half in poor districts that offer two years of Pre-K.

Would you get the same data in suburbia? I don’t know but I suspect so. What kids really learn is who they are, how they fit in and how they are going to deal with different people and places. We can’t teach that to our kids at home.

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I had my kids working hard on word search puzzles. Why? Because I was terrible at them and I wanted my kids to be better. So we have spent an inordinate amount of time doing word search puzzles.

Last night my son found a “create your own word search” website which was actually pretty cool. Most interesting were the words he selected for his puzzle. When he got up to leave the computer, I put into Google the term I used in the title of this post: “Educational Value of Word Search Puzzles”. The result? A lot of teachers saying word search puzzles have no educational value and are largely useless.

I’m receptive to this argument if for no other reason; I’m terrible at word search puzzles. But I have a more moderate view than most of what I read. I think a part of the problem is that bad teachers favor word search puzzles because they eat time and are a substitute for teaching. So there could be a little confusing the messenger with the message problem. I do think that, like an ISpy game, they help young learners focus on detail. But, there is no doubt, I’m going to be using less word search puzzles in the future.

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bookworm
We stumbled onto Bookworm on the iPad and did not realize until much later it is a game that was played long before the iPad came out. I think it is a very productive game for children to play. If it is not, I have wasted at least 30 hours of my life. Even if it was not a good, education iPad app, we still would play it, just not as much. It is a deceptively addictive game.

Here’s the deal: The letter tiles on Bookworm, I finally figured out, are random. You take on adjacent tiles to make words. The letters to the word you made disappear and new ones arrive at the top to take their place on the grid. The Scrabble paradigm applies: the bigger the word and the more unusual the letters, the more the points for the word.

After a while, you start getting red tiles. If a red tile falls to the bottom, you lose. Making bigger words in Bookworm helps keep the red tiles off your back. If you don’t like your tile configuration, you can shake up the tiles and rescramble the words. But there is a cost: more red tiles to fight.

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A purpose of the Miller & Zois Kids Blog is to talk about harnessing the power of technology to improve our ability to educate our children. A recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank in Antigua & Barbuda underscores that technology alone won’t solve the problem.

In Antigua & Barbuda, the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology (sounds like something out of Orwell’s 1984, right?) began a “laptop for every child” initiative. So they went out and… got a lot of laptops. No meaningful benefits were demonstrated. Maybe there were benefits but the study didn’t find them.

What is the take home message? Is it that technology is not helping us educate our children? That is one take. As you might suspect, mine is different. I think we need to learn how to harness technology to better educate our children while at the same time figuring out new ways to limit the harmful effects, from teenage texting while driving right on down.

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acl3-150x150Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, is a radio show for kids and their parents. The show is on 93.9 in Northampton, Mass. (where we live) and 101.5 in Brattleboro, Vermontbut this is the Internet age, you can get the shows on-line and even pick up the station on an iPhone app. (Have I mentioned lately how bitter I am that I was not born 30 years later?)

Here is what I like about Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child:

  • What this blog is about, in part, is the idea of harnessing technology to improve the education of our children. There are so many crosswinds between educating our children and technology. Ultimately, technology is building up and tearing down our children. So we need to maximize the building up part the best that we can Spare the Rock does this. How many radio shows could you access – on demand no less – for kids just 10 years ago?
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shoes
Michele Miller, a school principal in Sacramento, is doing what can only be described as a very cool thing: she is selling her shoe collection to raise money to help bridge the gap for budget cuts that are being made at her school. Miller has created Shoes to the Rescue, a website that offers her 350 pairs of shoes for sale.

We have a lot of bad teachers and school administrators that we really have to get rid of to be successful. It is a big story and one on which we cannot afford to lose our focus. But what sadly gets lost in our educational problems is that the majority of people educating our children are absolutely amazing. Michele Miller is awesome but there are tons of quiet heroes everyday in classrooms in America and all over the world.

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Last week, I wrote about how Maryland was poised to crack down on for profit colleges. I did not realize the extent to which Kaplan Higher Education, which, in addition to the college and grad school prep classes I’m familiar with from back in the day, also has a little empire of for-profit college campuses that grab onto federal money.

Even more interesting is the fact that the real story of Kaplan’s crimes was written on Sunday by the Washington Post who owns Kaplan. It is like breaking the story that your dad is guilty of insider trading.

Most of the Washington Post’s profits come from Kaplan so the Post is definitely proving again that it puts journalistic integrity first.