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What’s wrong with English education in Japan? Pull up a chair…

October 30, 2014

Am a bit too busy with work right now to do much blog research, but found this and think it’s worth posting. So many issues, lol! Now I’m thinking, “I should go to Japan! I can help fix this!” 🙂 Interesting and quick read for people who deal with language learning issues, ESL or other.

SoraNews24

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When you speak to foreign English educators in Japan, one thing becomes crystal clear: English education in Japan isn’t working. It’s just awful. While English classes are mandatory in Japanese schools, the percentage of students who emerge with actual English abilities are surprisingly low. Students in China, Korea and Japan are in an arms race to see who can produce students with the best English, and Japan seems to be trailing far behind in third place.

With the Olympic Games coming up in 2020, the Japanese government has proposed changes to increase the level of English ability in their students. Changes like starting introductory English classes in 3rd grade elementary school and making the subject compulsory from the 5th grade. Are these changes really going to help? We’ve gathered opinions from both foreign teachers and Japanese citizens about issues with the system and what might improve it.

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w00t! A New Curriculum for Creative Computing

October 1, 2014

ScratchEd Team Makes Good With Top-Notch Curriculum GuideScratch

Remember my infatuation back in early 2010 with Scratch, the open source programming language developed by Mitchel Resnick at MIT? And Apple’s upsetting decision to pull the Scratch reader from its app store, soon afterwards? I was worried, but things have been in good hands.

The ScratchEd team at HGSE has been hard at work, in collaboration with people at the Education Development Center’s Center for Children & Technology, and the MIT Media Lab, developing a comprehensive and inspiring curriculum guide for teaching creative computing and the Scratch language.

“The activities are designed to support familiarity and increasing fluency with computational creativity and computational thinking. In particular, the activities encourage exploration of key computational thinking concepts (sequence, loops, parallelism, events, conditionals, operators, data) and key computational thinking practices (experimenting and iterating, testing and debugging, reusing and remixing, abstracting and modularizing).”

It’s really excellent work. A very polished, easy to use, and well designed upgrade of the original version.

You can access the 150-page pdf guide here.

Synchronized Mobile Devices Make Magic

September 28, 2014

knock-knock-music-videoThis is just cool.

It’s Sunday night… This isn’t a “real” post but I just came across this and want to share it. I’m sure it’s viral all over the digiscape but I don’t care. This is very cool and has me thinking about the possibilities. http://www.wimp.com/phonesmagic/

A Brain Based Education: Yes, Please!

September 28, 2014

Brain Based LearningBrain Based Learning Strategies and the Reasons for Them

FROM FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION’S FEAWEB.COM (Eric Jensen): “Here’s a simple, but essential premise: the brain is intimately involved in, and connected with, everything educators and students do at school. Any disconnect is a recipe for frustration and potentially disaster. Brain-based education is best understood in three words: engagement, strategies and principles. You must engage your learners and do it with strategies that are based on real science.”

If this was Facebook, I’d post a “LOVE!” comment before I shared this find to every educator and educational developer I knew. I think the secret to people with a “gift” for teaching is that they know intrinsically what brain science shows us through research. And they care about it and act on it.

This is a very well done piece. As Jensen says, brain based education is “a no brainer” — the science behind it is strong and the results are compelling. But it’s still amazing how little of an average K-12 student’s day is likely to incorporate these guiding principles, mainly: Appreciate how vital movement and our range of senses are to learning — make time for playing, physical excursion, and different tactile experiences, every day and whenever possible; Be sensitive to the real impact emotions have on learning — create a safe environment, avoid random social groupings, and know that most behavior is not hardwired but learned (or reactive); Understand that every student’s brain is developing and changing — help students wire/rewire their brains for learning and living by teaching basic thinking, social, and coping skills on a continuing basis; Realize that most human brains are “atypical” when using common benchmarks to decide this, which means that almost all of us “learn differently” or develop differently — so make different the new normal, don’t fall victim to outdated labels that limit how you perceive your students; Teach in smaller chunks — the conventional standards on how much new stuff we can realistically hold onto or learn is outdated; Remember that memory is malleable and in flux when being accessed — mediate when students review content for assessment to make sure the new “content memories” they’re creating are the right ones. And others. His article is probably easier to get through than that last run-on list of mine. You can read it here.

Missouri Standards: Tough to Step Back from Common Core

September 25, 2014
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Missouri State Senator Tom Dempsy

Group Chosen to Rewrite Missouri State Standards in Gridlock

FROM EDUCATION NEWS: “A group of educators and parents chosen to rewrite education standards in Missouri cannot agree how to proceed. The group of 132 educators and parents met for the first time on Monday in Jefferson City, spending their time arguing over how involved the state education department should be and how best to rewrite the national standards…”

The lead in tell you what’s going on; the article will fill you in on the politics and issues facing the group. This is something to watch. You can read the article here.

As Texas Goes, So Goes the Nation?

September 23, 2014
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(Photo by Eric Gay/AP)

Man…

“The Texas State Board of Education is studying how textbook publishers responded to the state’s ideologically driven guidelines for teaching history. The results, say historians, are dire.”

I’d like to pass along an article that I found today by Edward Countryman, writing for The Daily Beast. It focuses, not on brain science or interesting new technological break throughs, but about educational content development. Or, more precisely, about the most recent effects of ideological politics on big-market K-12 content development. The author is sensitive to the issues publishers face as they work to secure sales and market share, but that doesn’t alter the reality of how ill-conceived standards lead what is being developed for these classrooms. You can read the article here:

And if you’re in the mood for candid reactions to what can be found in some of the submitted textbooks — from the questionable to the outright incorrect — try this blog article from the Houston Press.

Technology Really Works… As Long as the Learning Design Does, Too

September 13, 2014

Augmented Reality Technology Brings Learning to Life: A Study Looks at the Power of Technology to Recapture the Attention of Middle and High School Students

FROM HGSE’S USABLE KNOWLEDGE (Deborah Blagg): This brief  article summarizes some of Christopher Dede and Patrick O’Shea’s studies on using augmented reality (AR) for teaching adolescents. It’s old, now, but still worth the read, for general purposes. I can nit-pick Dede’s statement that “Most kids at this age tend to become disengaged from learning,” since, in my experience, it’s the classroom they can become disengaged from, not the learning… and a great teacher can keep students engaged and learning, regardless of the subject… but I appreciate his point that technology can help teachers teach greatly.

The AR implementation was interesting but my takeaway is that their work demonstrated the real need for good instructional and content design (curriculum development) to make the technology deliver on its potential. The original design had unintended outcomes. “Both Dede and O’Shea agreed that curriculum development — not technology — is the key to augmented reality’s potential as a teaching tool. ‘If you don’t design a sound curriculum, then it doesn’t matter how good the technology is,’ O’Shea said.”

Well, sure, but it’s nice to hear it said, anyway.

And I can’t help but wonder what Lowell Monke would have to say about this. 🙂

You can read the article here.