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Jul-15th-2017

The Future of Classroom Education

Smart-ClassWhat does the future of learning has in store for us? What the future classrooms would be like? Most of us in the field of educational technology are often inundated with these types of questions.

Education technology is growing by leaps and bounds. Backed by robust advancements and years of innovation, the answers to the above mentioned questions are not entirely unknown. They have been hiding under our noses for quite some time. We were just ignorant enough to not acknowledge them.

While augmented reality, cloud computing and 3D printing are paving the way for the future of education, we are yet to experience how these might influence the way we educate our students. There are, however, certain existing tools and technologies that can be exploited for a better classroom experience.

Carefully assess the needs of your classroom and choose from the following tools to make learning a better experience for your students:

1. Duolingo: Duolingo is an amazing piece of technology that gamifies the language learning process. It is one of the best language learning applications out in the market and its biggest advantage is that it comes free of cost. With Duolingo, you don’t have to struggle to get your students to pay attention to their chosen language out of the classroom. It is a convenient supplement for off-class education, perfect for practice and homework.

2. Google Docs: Google Docs allows for real-time collaboration and is an enriching experience for group projects. With its ceaseless archiving, teachers get to see who actually contributes to the project being worked upon. From presentations to analytical assignments, Google Docs is one thing your students will thank you for.

3. StayFocused: In this connected world where we reside, it’s pretty common to see work and pleasure twine. In the face of such distractions, Stay Focused helps students stay connected to the internet while blocking certain distractions and notifications from cropping up for periods you can decide. Such tools not only prevent the students from deviating to unimportant distractions but also help them learn the importance of staying focused.

4. Prezi: Prezi is a presentation tool that allows for the creation of highly intriguing, dynamic and interactive presentations. It helps them learn the art of effective communication which will subsequently help them stand in good stead in college and professional career. It will further teach them to successfully use good designs to their advantages.

What the future holds is still not known. What’s known is the fact that education in the future would no longer be confined to schools and classes. Implementing the available technology would impart our students with wisdom to see education as a critical part of their development rather than a chore.

Jul-8th-2017

Student Motivation: What Is Wrong With Education!

image-20150515-25422-14pcstcWorking as an educator for the past 30 years, as a teacher, counselor and school psychologist a major interest of mine has always been student motivation. I have had the opportunity to have worked with students from the pre-Kindergarten to twelfth grade level in school systems in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. I have been in inner city, poverty-stricken districts and affluent districts. Which means I have seen students with significant social-economic disadvantages succeed, and ones that had “everything” going for them fail.

Personally, I fit into the first category. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old, my mother was a waitress that never finished High School and my stepfather who raised me (after age 7) never went to High School. My older brother quit school in the 10th grade. No one in my family attended college so I had very little family influence to pursue any academic goals. I remember as a child my stepfather telling me to get “C’s” in school. “C’s are good,” he would say. Perhaps, because he never even achieved that when he was in school. Of course, this was when I was repeating the first grade so he was trying to get me to do better at the time. I muddled through elementary school and do not believe I started to get any career interests until Middle School. There I began taking an interest in science. It was exciting times in science and technology in the late 60’s with the moon landing, Star Trek on TV, and Jacques Cousteau exploring the ocean and I was caught up in it.

However, I still had no clue on what it would take to succeed at something in life. Fortunately, High School sports changed that. I had a freshman football coach that didn’t accept excuses, and gradually it began to sink in that if you were to get anywhere in life you had to apply effort. I also started to get the idea that if other kids could go to college and have a good career, why couldn’t I? I was just as good as them. I began applying effort to my academics as well and did go to a four-year college after high school pursuing my interest in science.

As a teacher I was always very aware of how my background related to many of my students. With the students that struggled in school, the ones that had behavior issues and applied little effort to their academics, my first question to them was always, “What do you want to do after high school?” Unfortunately, most of these students had little idea of what they wanted to do. They had no realistic career ambition. Sure a lot of students up to 9th or 10th grade would say they want to be in professional sports for a career, but again few had any idea of what that would require. They were clueless to the fact that most professional athletes are recruited out of good colleges and that passing their classes is a requirement in high school in order to be on a school team.

I have learned that the key to student motivation is a career goal. A case I witness that exemplified this was a student I had in middle and high school. “Julie” was a severely behaviorally disoriented student up through the eighth grade. She would be noncompliant with teacher requests, would be augmentative all the time and swear at teachers and staff in most of her interactions. However, in the 9th grade a light went off within her. She decided she wanted to be a veterinarian and started to take school seriously. Her behavior problems disappeared and she went from a D-F student in a special education class to an A-B student in a mainstream class, all because she now had a goal in life!

Unfortunately, many students learn this much later in life. They are ten years out of high school, perhaps not having a high school diploma and they can’t stand their hourly paid position in a fast food restaurant or retail store. The most common statement I have heard from “drop-out” alumni is, “I wish I had done better in school.” Or, “I wish I had taken school seriously.” I have never heard, “I am proud that I failed in school.”

So, what is wrong with education? We are not motivating our students or providing them with enough realistic career choices.

Not every student is going to go to a four-year college, or, should. The majority of four-year college graduates today do not find work in their majors and have huge college debts to pay upon graduation. I obviously believe in education, as I became a teacher and psychologist, however, my experience in inner city schools has taught me that 90 percent of the students do not go to or finish a four-year degree. Yet, 90 percent of the high school curriculum and emphasis is on going to a four-year college! This creates a huge educational disconnect among many students that increases behavior problems and lack of student motivation. Sure, if we continually work on student’s self-esteem issues and expose them to a number of professional career role-models that could increase the likelihood of them attending a four-year college. But, again that will not work for the majority of inner city children as they have too much negative peer and family pressures around them.

I believe education needs to be about offering choices to students based on where they are. Students do need to have realistic career options after high school. For the students that find learning difficult, that can be identified before middle school, more emphasis should be placed on vocational options. Middle and high school programs should offer vocational career exposure in addition to their mainstream academics. Career education needs to be emphasized at all grade levels (Kindergarten on up) letting students know what it takes and the difference in being (for example) a carpenter, builder, architect or engineer. Most of our public high schools are failing because they are not meeting student’s needs. Public high schools, particularly in urban districts, need to be vocational centers, teaching students real-world skills that can lead them to careers that will give them higher standards of living. I have three brothers that never went to college. One is a carpenter, one is a plumber, and one is a police officer, all have as good a standard of living as I do with my B.S., two masters and PH.D degrees.

Depending upon the school district, high schools should still offer college prep programs, for that top ten to twenty percent that are headed in that direction. However, I believe the charter schools are more equipped to get their students ready for four-year college programs. They require parent involvement and continued student performance in order to be in the school. In charter schools students have to pass their classes, be in class and not be behavior problems, or they are asked to leave. This is why charter schools will always outperform public schools. I realize there are always exceptions, I’m aware of some outstanding high schools across the country, however, they often adopt a charter school mentality in order to succeed.

Teachers at all levels need to continually talk about career options and what it takes to achieve them. I have had countless high school students over the years that had no idea that you had to go to college to be certain profession, or what it takes to get into a four-year college. Often they find out in their senior year and it’s too late. I have a nephew, who has an above average IQ that refused to do homework in high school. His grades reflected that decision. Reality hit him the end of his senior year when he couldn’t get into the college he wanted.

Teachers can have a huge impact on student motivation in so many ways! They of course, can be excellent role-models in education, teach and inspire students in career education, but they can, and often provide students with a positive and caring adult in their student’s life. When a teacher conveys the attitude that they care about their students and where they are going in life they can help a student become motivated to succeed. In my crisis intervention trainings with school staff I always ended with my favorite quote:

“Students don’t care how much you know; until they know how much you care!”

My second career interest in life was in psychology because of my 11th grade psychology teacher. In many ways a positive and caring teacher can have more impact on a student’s success than a parent.
What is wrong with education? In this country is our public educational system meeting the needs of the majority of the students? Or, is it letting 80 percent of our students down by not motivating them to pursue some form of postsecondary education and training because of antiquated notions that all students need to go to a four-year college? In order to make education viable today it needs to motivate students and help them get a career that they are interested in and suited for. This is how we can motivate our children and create a skilled workforce at all levels. This is how we motivate students and change education!

Jun-17th-2017

Online Statistics Tools for Students

landingStatistical tools are necessary regarding the analysis of the data collected either for some research or if they are the students of statistics. In both, the cases applying the tools is quite difficult as lengthy processes and calculations are required to be applied before the final output obtained. For easing out the process of the student’s various companies have launched software and tools that used for making the calculation process quick and easy. Apart from easing the process of calculation these tools help the students to zero down the error rate and produce accurate results based on the input provided. Here is the list of few most popular software that would change the opinion of the students about the tough calculations involved in statistics.

SPSS

Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) is a software that has been launched by the IBM. This data is useful for the students as it allows them to do data entry and create various tables along with graphs to analyse the data thoroughly. This software is much applicable to the social sciences and buzz world, where the data to be managed, is move and calculations are lengthy. It can be easily installed on a computer running any version of Windows as well as for desktops having an open source operating system. The data is entered through the worksheet, and the various options are present to work on the data. For example, under the data option, you will have a list that includes multiple formats of searching, sorting and arranging it. Also, there is a choice of graphs that allows the user to plot graphs of different types depending upon the requirement of data. It is a Graphical User Interface (GUI), and no written commands are required. The only selection has to be made.

Stata

Stata is statistical analysis software developed in 1982 by StataCorp LP. Apart from data analysis, the software embeds a broad range of services like data management, plotting graphs, provides exact case-control statistics and various tests along with their predictions. This a list of the main features of Stata. There is much more to the software which in turn allows the quick processing of the data. Just one click and the data entered in the worksheet gets converted into a graph or a chart depending upon the requirement of the calculation. The software is available for almost all versions of various operating systems and thus is considered to be flexible. Varying versions of the software is available for ever-changing needs of the users. For example, some might use Stata/SE for large data sets while some of the users might be interested in using it for multiprocessor computers called Stata/MP. Thus, students can buy the version depending on their needs and data analysis.

MS Excel

Microsoft Excel is a program that contains spreadsheets allowing the users to enter numerical values and formulae for calculations. This software is marked as highly useful for statistical calculations. It includes a list of methods and thus allows the users to just select the row and formula. There might be some methods that are no included in the list, but they can be appended manually by the user. Here is an additional feature which makes it all the more suitable for the users. It contains a list of different graphs that can be included in the calculation process making it easy for the user to display the results. In addition to the basic designs, there are a lot of new types of graphs included in the list. The pages are called spreadsheets and are in a tabular format. The users can work simultaneously on different sheets, and the collection of sheets is known as a work book. The users have to install the entire package of Microsoft Office for Excel to work properly. It is mainly available for Windows users.

Minitab 17

Here is one of the leading statistical software which was established in the year 1972. It is one of the most widely used software because all the great companies and colleges are using it. As per a survey, almost 90% of the total business firms and approximately 4000 colleges and universities are using this software for analysing their statistical data. This software is the highest version of the Minitab launched initially. This software is useful for even those who do not have any experience of the statistics. The software includes two main analyses namely, Design of Experiments and Multiple Regression. Apart from these new features, the users get access to the regular analysis methods like capability analysis hypothesis chart and control charts. Minitab 17 has gained acceptance around the globe, and for the same reason, the company has launched the product in various regional languages like French, English, German, Spanish and Chinese. The prompt customer support system is the backbone of the success story of Minitab 17.

R software

R is a termed as an open source programming language along with being software. It is specially designed for the statistical analysis of data along with providing graphical interpretations that are supported by R foundations only. It was developed with the motive of providing free availability of statistical analysis tool. It is an open source language and software that means it can be used to develop statistical tools along with providing them itself. It is mainly a command based software and less of GUI that makes it a bit tough to use. Thus, it is less popular these days as long codes are required to execute the statistical analysis and consumes time. However, for those who have a passion for programming in statistics, R acts as a blessing in disguise. It is possible for them to play with numbers and figures.

Thus, all these tools have their unique features in form to produce the best results for any of the statistical data entered by the user. Some are command based while others have GUI, but the main motto is to get unified and accurate result in any situation.

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