Top education trends in 2011, CA grant, iTunes U, 1,300 ed apps
With the schools on vacation, I thought I would share some of the stories that are making waves in the education world this winter.
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A new report from a research group at UCLA finds that colleges can project their graduation rates by analyzing the race, ethnicity, gender, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores of their freshman class. Sadly, the study also found that having divorced parents, having a demanding job in high school and being first to attend college make a student less likely to complete college. The good news is that colleges will use the data to better support these students. The bad news is that in theory they could also use it to decide against admitting candidates with these traits.
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I’ve mentioned the burgeoning popularity of free online coursework, particularly among residents of rural communities. I just read that a free online course at Stanford University on artificial intelligence, to be taught this fall by two leading experts from Silicon Valley, has attracted more than 58,000 students around the globe – a class nearly four times the size of Stanford’s entire student body. This sounds like the wave of the future to me … The course is one of three being offered experimentally by the Stanford computer science department to extend technology knowledge and skills beyond this elite campus to the entire world. The online students will not get Stanford grades or credit, but they will be ranked in comparison to the work of other online students and will receive a “statement of accomplishment.”
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Cornell (in partnership with the Israel Institute of Technology) recently won the bid to build a groundbreaking new campus in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg created a highly publicized competition to create this “game-changing” applied sciences and technology campus. Just days prior, Cornell announced a $350 million gift from an anonymous donor in support of the tech campus. The 11-acre campus will be located on Roosevelt Island and it comes with $100 million in infrastructure improvements from the city. The campus is expected to have an enrollment of 2,000 students, 300 faculty and 2 million-square-feet of state-of-the-art classroom and research space. The first students will start in temporary space this fall with phase one of the new campus expected to be completed in 2017.
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I’m not sure if it will have any impact on Sonoma but it was announced last week that California was one of nine states to collectively win $500 million in early childhood education grant money from the federal government. The goal is to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten. Thirty-five states applied for a chance to win between about $50 million to $100 million apiece in prize money. Almost half of all 3-year-olds and about a quarter of 4-year-olds nationwide do not attend preschool according to census figures. Kids who attend high-quality early education programs have been shown to do better in school, be less likely to spend time in prison later, and make more money as adults.
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I’ve written about this before but I’ve since gotten some tips from readers on other great colleges for students with learning disabilities. I’m just going to list them here, rather than describe their specific attributes, but the specifics are available on their websites. The list includes: Curry College in Boston; Dean College, 20 miles from Providence, R.I.; Landmark College in Vermont; Lynn University in Florida; Southern Illiniois University at Carbondale; the University of Arizona in Tuscon; the University of Denver; and the University of Indianapolis.
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iTunes University is an excellent way for a high school student to get an idea of what college courses might be like or for an adult to continue their education. It’s free and there is a wide array of subject matter to choose from. You can access it on your iPhone, iPad or iTouch, or by downloading iTunes on your computer.
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Holiday break might be a fun time to sit down as a family and talk about community service projects that you could all do together.
After you brainstorm the type of project that everyone would enjoy, there are a number of resources to help get you started. A good first stop is the volunteer binder at Sonoma High, but you can also check the following sites online for more ideas. The Network for Good (www.networkforgood.com) connects people to charities and has a search tool to see which welcome children or teens. Volunteer Match (www.volunteermatch.org) is a great resource to find organizations in the areas that need help. Doing Good Together (www.doinggoodtogether.org) specializes in family-focused ways parents and kids can volunteer together. If your children are all grown or away at school, it can be as simple as entering a benefit 5k run together over the holidays.
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The website edutopia (www.edutopia.com) recently summarized the top education ideas/trends of the year:
• Empowering teachers with a do-it-yourself culture, including the encouragement for them to try new ideas, borrow best practices.
• The potential of open-source (free) textbooks.
• Using educational video games as a learning tool.
• Using student data to inform classroom teaching with better understanding of student learning styles.
• Flipped classrooms – a new trend toward moving the lecturing in the classroom to home (via online lessons like Khan Academy) and bringing homework back into the classroom where students can be directed in the practice of their learning.
• Using Digital Badges to reward self-directed learning. Educators are re-remembering how much students like to compete and to be rewarded for their progress. In the most successful online educational games, students earn and win badges in their progress.
• One idea that I have seen employed here in Sonoma is teachers using a website to enhance and save classroom time. One local fifth grade classroom starts every day with the Brainpop video of the day (www.brainpop.com)
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Marc Tucker, author of “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems,” recently led a team of researchers in proposing five major ways to “save” the U.S. education system. His ideas, in brief, include:
• Making admission to teacher training more competitive.
• Raising teacher compensation significantly.
• Allowing larger class sizes.
• Replacing annual standardized testing with three federally required tests to gauge mastery at the end of elementary school, 10th grade and 12th grade.
• Spending more money on students who need more help getting to high standards.
These are hot topics and thought-provoking ideas that would be difficult to implement, but are certainly worth discussing.
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I have heard from a number of readers that they enjoy information about free apps relating to education. Behold www.appitic.com – a website that catalogs, in a logical and searchable way, 1,300-plus educational apps. Check it out!
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Finally, having now seen an entire (and quite lengthy) school board meeting, I came away with five major observations:
1. We have some smart and thoughtful people working hard on our children’s behalf.
2. Despite serious and dramatic budgets cuts being announced and debated, public attendance was minimal.
3. While some tough choices were being made, the tone among all in attendance including those whose lives would be most impacted, was thoughtful and civil.
4. These meetings are actually really interesting, as you get a window into how our schools are run – the good news, the bad news and what is coming down the pike.
5. Finally, Channel 27 is a godsend when braving the cold dark night is out of the question. The proceedings are even more palatable with your feet tucked under you on the sofa with a nice glass of wine! Meetings take place on the second Tuesday of the month.
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I have gotten some great ideas from readers for our “Catching Up With a Grad” column. Keep them coming to email@example.com.
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