Thursday, July 1, 2010

Schools Save Thousands When Purchasing Digital

In the Social Studies classroom, wall maps are officially an item of the past.  If a teacher possesses a projector, it has now become more cost effective and student effective to purchase and maintain digital maps than it is wall maps. Schools across the nation are moving towards digital, interactive maps, and for good reason.  No longer are the maps just one size, and no longer are there concerns of durability, detail, or accuracy of information.  Without the cost of shipping or the need to buy a whole new map at full price 3-6 years afterward, schools are saving thousands when purchasing digital.

The emergence of digital maps have now allowed teachers to draw diagrams, create labels, zoom in, or contrast and compare two different maps on the same screen.  Their collection of maps could be a simple 5, or could expand to a vast 30 or more that are all accessible at the convenience of a mouse click.  The information available to a student through a digital map is hundreds of times the amount of information that was available on a simple wall-map or free browser-based map.  Within the last 5 years, Geography has become an intriguing and interactive environment, allowing students to explore the world and make connections as they never have before.

To find out how The Exploration Company is helping with this transition in helping schools save and helping students get better grades, be sure to check out our product blog to learn how to begin your collection of digital maps.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Education Revolution Part 3: Online Learning Is Here to Stay

Although the Education Revolution post was initially intended as a 2 part post, seen here and here, respectively, I recently attended a phenomenal webinar hosted by Aventa Learning (@aventalearning) that just blew the doors off of what I wrote and opened the discussion back up to some incredible facts and points that are rising in the education and edtech world.  Now, this post isn't necessarily an endorsement for Aventa Learning specifically, but credit must be given where credit is due from an information standpoint, and I will speak more so from the perspective that online learning is here to stay, and it's companies like Aventa that are blazing the trail.  What's more, Forbes can serve as a well-spoken appetizer to the topic at hand, "Education as we know it is finished."

In a study by Aventa Learning, a survey was conducted to 500 public school students and 326 Aventa students in late May 2010 on teens and online learning.  The implications from the the study will make any edtech revolutionaries so excited they'll dance in their seats like a 3rd grader who's got to hit the can:  Not only is online learning for secondary education here to stay, it's here to grow tremendously. 

Whether brick and mortar environment or online, students must still experience a challenge or will feel disconnected.  So why change from the brick and mortar environment?  Because:

-42% of students experience boredom
-55% of students say bullying is a problem
-48% of students are distracted by other kids
-88% of students want more electives, online classes and flexible schedules
-18% (that's it?) of students get help and attention they need from teachers
-50% of students prefer to engage and learn with their senses - to 'see' and 'do' rather than just listen.
-Furthermore, in a poll conducted on a few hundred attendees in the webinar, 54% of teachers say they see boredom in their classrooms everyday.

In the past you had to listen to your instructor.  They were, after all, one of the only credible sources of information you could depend on.  Now--as Aventa noted--being the digital natives they are, students are very discriminatory on where they spend their time and attention.  Information is acquired through multiple avenues, and the instructors who realize this the quickest will be the first to gain their students' attention back, else the students will be "at best asleep and at worst disruptive."

As explained by webinar hosts Gregg Levin, VP Schools and Solutions at Aventa, and Dr. Cathy Mincberg, Chief Academic Officer at KC Distance Learning, "Today students don't tolerate not being in control.  We don't meet students where they are, hence the increase in dropouts.  Students want to be in control."  How can  they do that?  Introducing an online setting, fully functional and credit transferable for the student looking to get ahead or to catch up.  Let's look at the presented facts:

-72% of online students spend three or more hours on homework per week vs. 56% of students in traditional schools.
-78% of online students have more interest in attending a 4-year college after graduation vs. 67% of students in traditional schools.
-58% of students feel they get the help they need in online classrooms vs 40% of students in traditional schools (Without the need of feeling embarrassed because of asking for help)
-Allows a 1:1 relationship between teachers and students instead of a 30:1 relationship in traditional schools.
-Teachers can track student success easier, record data, and tweak their performance if they know what areas they need to help their student(s) improve upon.
-A school's funding may see a lift in its burden.  After all, if a school doesn't have enough students to pay a new teacher for an AP class, maybe they simply need a proctor or a teacher that would allow them to take the online course during a brick and mortar course of the school's (aka 'hybrid course').  The school can even offer courses that provide an extension for students who need more review to catch up, or allow students to advance on their own if they are gifted.

Finally, No Child Left Behind could actually be satisfied with something as exciting as this last note.  As the main portion of the bell curve is attended to through normal classes, the outliers can be assisted with a program catered to their needs and desired attention.  After all, online learning is anything but dangerously anti-social and nonproductive.  A student in fact cannot 'blend' in, but can instead be catered to and interacted with on a more intimate level.  This allows for teachers to be more strategic at talking to students and their parents about homework and/or grade issues without marginalizing anyone in class.

As Levin and Mincberg noted, "Online learning has emerged because of the need for something different in the world of education."  The evidence is becoming clearer: It's time to give online learning a very serious look.  For more information, white papers are available at

Thank you Aventa Learning for the information and image!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Future of Reading: Text 2.0

Had to share this.  This article simply astonished me -- half in giddy delight, the other half in an anxious, scared-of-Big Brother way that I usually feel when technology makes significant advances.  Considering the concern that folks had about e-commerce back in 1999, I realized my anxiety was normal and would eventually subside to the inner child that loves to play with new gadgets.

Imagine if you are doing a report for a school paper and simply skimming through an online document fairly quickly to search for keywords, when all of a sudden the computer does the work for you, fading away unimportant filler and bolding the key terms that you need.  Or imagine that you are learning a different language and that as you read your assignment that is posted in Spanish, you become stuck at trying to decipher a certain word.  The computer notices this and, in a little popup window, offers a quick translated word for you to see before you move on to the rest of the sentence.  This is just the beginning.  This is Text 2.0.

Illustrations, definitions, sounds: this brings it all to the table.  Elementary school and learning to read may never be the same.  Special education could be helped tremendously with this aid.  College Literature and Herman Melville's allegories will be missed no more with automatic footnotes that it provides as you cross over a difficult pronoun or location.  As it follows your eyes with the computer's camera, it even knows when you look away and welcomes you back with a bookmark of where you were.

This is in its early stages still, but apparently, according to the article large companies such as Apple are showing interest in the technology.  That type of funding could make this concept become a household name in the next ten years.

The video in the article is rather interesting, showing a few instances of Text 2.0 in action.  Be sure to take a view and begin imagining how this could help you with your classroom!