Cool Tool | The Visual Edge

CREDIT The Visual Edge Sargy LetuchyCommon Core Standards pose many challenges, including quantity, rigor, and a lack of precise resources. The Visual Edge: Graphic Organizers for Standards Based Learning, Common Core 6-12 is designed based on the principle that visual learning is an effective, efficient way to tackle these challenges. It is an e-book of digital instructional tools carefully crafted for each English, History, and Science-grades 6-12 standard. Using it, teachers are able to ensure that a lesson, project, or assessment is precisely tailored to the standard(s) in order to maximize classroom time. They can visually model and have students perform the skills outlined for their grade level with each tool provided, as the graphic organizers maintain classroom attention on the particular standard(s) being taught. Each page has three sections: the standard(s) in full text, an explanation section that clarifies the standard and details how to use the digital instructional tool at the bottom of the page, and the majority of each page features the corresponding visual instructional tool representing that standard(s) (e.g., a graphic organizer or example guide). This cool tool is available in e-book on Google, in paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or by contacting the author.

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Getting Personal

The role of personalization in online learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason Wright

credit-solid-professorClassroom education has come a long way from one-room schoolhouses and chalkboards, largely due to evolving technology. This change is continuing to transform education with advances in technology being integrated into the classroom. Specifically, perspectives have shifted away from the “one size fits all approach” to education, where every student follows the same generic learning path. Instead, personalized learning has been established as a more effective way to help students reach their full potential.

Personalized learning not only improves a student’s ability to retain information, but also increases a student’s willingness to learn.

Personalized learning is a variety of learning experiences that are tailored to the distinct learning needs of individual students. Also called student-centered learning, teachers who prioritize individual learning needs see greater student engagement and increased retention.

Repetition and Long-Term Memory

Humans forget much of what we learn. One key to retaining information is repetition. However, which lessons need repeating is dependent on the student. There is a significant range in the amount of time it takes students to learn concepts. If students do not fully grasp introductory lessons (especially in subjects where advanced concepts build on fundamentals), then they will continue to fall further behind. By providing students with resources to review materials as many times as they need to, instructors can set them up for success throughout the semester and onto further years.

Each individual student must have the ability to go over the parts in lectures he forgets, at his own pace. With the advent of online instructional videos, students can independently watch (and rewatch) lessons, solidifying learning without slowing down the pace of the entire class. Being able to quickly access and repeat lessons that one has forgotten so that they can apply that skill to their task at hand supports a deeper learning that leads to long-term advances in skills.

Learning Styles

Most learners can be classified as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. Understanding students’ learning style allows teachers to maximize their full learning potential and helps students enjoy the learning process more. Traditional classrooms are heavily focused on auditory, with students listening to a teacher lecture. Many learning technologies and tools provide more options for visual and kinesthetic learners with video-based and interactive lessons.

Often referred to as the “flipped classroom model,” students in this model view video lectures and complete hands-on exercises and quizzes as homework, allowing educators to guide interactive projects during class time. The benefit of this model is the ability to demonstrate real-world applications and engage students with interactive projects.

On Demand Learning

Students learn best when they receive just the information they need, when they need it for any given project or activity. By delivering information when and where it is relevant in a consistent and concise format, educators can provide a custom learning experience that fits students’ schedules. In a traditional classroom setting, students receive information from their teachers during class, then go to do their homework hours (or even days) later. However, immediate application of the information improves retention. For this, digital learning tools are often available 24/7 so they can be used when and where the student is ready to learn.

The Benefits of Individual Tracking

From a teacher’s perspective, individual progress tracking is a scientifically-based practice used to assess student performance and course effectiveness. Real-time progress metrics such as video consumption rate, assignment completion, and test scores allow teachers to pinpoint which students are struggling, and in what specific topics, allowing them to easily identify the gaps in learning before the student gets left behind. On the other hand, if a student is flying through the course material, teachers can suggest additional opportunities to further a student’s mastery of the material. Overall, the use of progress monitoring results in a more efficient instructional path tailored to each student’s needs.

An Active Role

Personalized learning not only improves a student’s ability to retain information, but also increases a student’s willingness to learn. Research shows that when learning is tailored to individual success, students are more likely to take an active role in their learning. Immediate feedback motivates students and pushes them to improve. Meeting personal goals inspires students to envision the possibilities of a brighter future. To ensure more of these bright futures, educators must turn to personalized learning practices.

Personalized education results in better retention, higher performance, and improved engagement. Teachers should now look to technology to help them provide individualized learning to their students.

Jason Wright is the co-founder and head of content development at SolidProfessor, an online learning company focused on tools used in engineering design.

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Cool Tool | Lexia RAPID Assessment K-2

CREDIT Lexia RAPID AssessmentRecently expanded to grades K-2, Lexia RAPID Assessment helps K-12 educators prepare all students for reading success. Designed to measure the skills most predictive of reading success, RAPID adaptively assesses student performance in critical reading and language skills, while minimizing time spent on testing. RAPID recognizes the crucial role of academic language in reading comprehension, placing unique emphasis on academic language skills in both assessment tasks and instructional resources to support student success across the curriculum. In grades K-2, RAPID includes a developmentally appropriate combination of student-led and teacher-led tasks to promote student engagement and authentic responses. In just 20 minutes per K-2 student, RAPID predicts the likelihood of end-of-year reading success and identifies instructional needs. RAPID’s immediate scoring, reports and instructional resources help educators quickly connect data to instruction. Learn more.

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The Rain in Spain

Surveying the edtech ecosystem in a seat of Latin influence. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Raúl Otaolea

reyjuancarlosworkshopWhat’s happening with education and technology in Spain? The implementation of Computer Sciences in Spain is not as advanced as many of us would like. Recently, a consortium made up of Google, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), and Everis published a report on the matter. According to the report, one of the main hurdles they present for implementing Computer Science in public schools is an identity crisis. It seems that the educational community doesn’t fully grasp the differences between programming, computational thinking, and design vs. digital system development. Moreover, it’s common to also confuse Computer Science with digital literacy and digital competence.

We have a public education sector that is behind the times thanks to 30 years of political stalemate—yet a huge desire to change this reality.

Politics in Spain has also not helped, the Spanish educational system has undergone many reforms in the last 30 years, a result of the lack of understanding between the two main political parties who have dominated the political scene until now. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons for the delay in implementing more computer science in public education. As a result, individual initiatives come mostly from teachers in the public sector who are trying to introduce concepts and tools that make learning computer science and 21st-century skills into the curriculum.

Key initiatives

Despite attempts in the public realm, private initiatives have proven the most dynamic for introducing Computer Science and STEM subjects to students of all ages. In the summer of 2016, for example, across Spain there was a boom in summer camp technology classes, where students learned robotics and programming. These extracurricular classes and workshops are becoming more common as a complement to public education.

One non-profit initiatives we are involved with is CoderDojo, a global network of volunteers who offer free programming classes. Currently, there are 14 Dojos in Spain that offer classes in Java, HTML5, Scratch, or WiMi5. This initiative peaks the interest of many young students to explore science and technology fields further, learning concepts that are not currently taught in public schools.

On the public side, the most ambitious initiative was launched before the 2008 crisis that hit Spain. Escuela 2.0 aimed to give students the tools and digital content to make learning computer science subjects easier. During this time, a great deal of interactive content was created to be shared on platforms like Procomún or Agrega, which is still active. 

The pace of technological change

As technology rapidly advances, another large problem is that the content and teaching material created by previous administrations is falling behind today’s current formats. Most of the interactive content was created with Flash, an obsolete technology that is being phased out by leading technology firms like Google, it simply doesn’t work on tablets or mobiles. The problem is not exclusive to the education, but many industries that work with interactive content on the web, including video games.

One solution to this problem widely known in the technology world is using the HTML5 standard, which allows content that is interactive and rich in audiovisual media, like video games, to be created and viewed on any device.

However, as with any technological shift, there are a number of questions and uncertainties. One of these is the lack of publishing tools that allow interactive content to be created, both for entertainment and educational purposes, in an easy way.

Educational video games and Spanish startups go global

So what are we left with? In Spain, we have, on the one hand, a public education sector that is behind the times thanks to 30 years of political stalemate—yet a huge desire to change this reality, as shown by both public and private sector initiatives, along with teachers who are trying to introduce STEM into classrooms. And on the other hand, we have a profound technological shift in the way educational content is being created and consumed that is creating lots of uncertainty in the educational sector.

It is in this context that WiMi5 has found a niche, empowering teachers and students to create, imagine, and learn. The ability to generate educational content has shifted from the government and politicians, to teachers and students, turning them into independent protagonists in their own education, separate from the ideological and political winds that are blowing at any given moment.

Our startup allows users to create interactive video games and content without having to write a single line of code. It’s a tool that was conceived to democratize the production of interactive web content. Anyone with minimal knowledge of dealing with images and interactive creation can develop content for free. We’ve brought together over 20,000 registered video game developers and one of the most interesting and proactive sectors we have seen has been education.

There are examples from all over the world. In Bogota, Colombia, classes in WiMi5 have been taught at ViveLabs. In Northern Spain, workshops at BiscayTik have been given to teach STEM via video games to adolescents. In Hong Kong at the German Swiss International School, Professor Shuting Liu has used WiMi5 to teach programming to her students, aged 8-10s.

Personal stories about teachers and students taking computer education into their own hands have been one of the most rewarding results of our journey thus far. For example, there is the story of Patricia Zurita, a 15-year-old from Quito, Ecuador. She learned to use WiMi5 on her own, and created a video game that she presented in a contest held by the Latin American Society of Science and Technology. The project was among the finalists, and the young woman presented her game at the 2016 Genius Olympiad in New York.

Little by little, we are seeing initiatives driven by the private sector that are helping Spain recover the use of technology in the classroom. Some of this innovation effect is not limited to just Spain but crosses its borders. As an influential country in the Spanish-speaking world, there is still much more to do, and we see a huge potential to develop this market and support the educational technology sector so that it’s not left behind.

Raúl Otaolea is the cofounder and CEO of WiMi5, a Spanish startup that has developed an online tool to create web-based video games. Previously, he created two other video game companies, and he has also been the CTO of the leading online games portal in Spain and Latin America, between 2000 and 2005. He has ample experience in creating technology for video games and is a renowned professional in the Spanish video game industry. Raúl is also the founder of the Bilbao CoderDojo, one of the first CoderDojo centers in Spain. Since 2013, Raúl has been teaching young people technologies like WiMi5, Scratch, Java, and HTML5, for free.

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World-Changing Power

Through evolution comes challenges.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jazz Gandhum

credit-e-careersThe definition of education is “the process of teaching or learning” – and ever since the dawn of time, education has been central to the evolution of man.

People always ask me, “why don’t you develop a course that teaches this, or teaches that because there would be a huge demand for it?” I always respond by making them understand that there is no such thing as “small-time” in this field.

We have now entered an education world unlike no other. The truth is, nobody knows how we will really learn in 20 or 50 years from now, but the race is on to understand how education will evolve and continue to depend on technology as a vehicle for delivery.

In edtech, we need to remember that learners are there ready and waiting through technology – the skill lies in how we market and engage with them.

With this evolution comes a number of challenges that we within the edtech sector have and will continue to face – with the most prominent being: the evolving digital landscape, the value of mass education and the growing skills gap.

Evolving Digital Landscape

With the evolving digital landscape comes a whole host of challenges: From ensuring we remain agile and dynamic, incorporating the latest technologies into the world of education, so we can continue to engage with a mass audience – to persuading larger corporations and educational institutions to invest in different types of technology, so that they can improve the accessibility of educational opportunities and pathways for their students.

Interestingly, my company recently undertook some research to assess the value placed on adult or continuous learning. A key statistic revealed that only 8.5 percent of individuals closest to school leaving age [18-24] advised they preferred classroom based learning, with the majority confirming they felt most engaged through e-learning via technological devices.

This in itself confirms just how engaged individuals are with technology, and how this now plays such a vital role in our day-to-day lives. In edtech, we need to remember that learners are there ready and waiting through technology – the skill lies in how we market and engage with them.

Education to the Masses

Although its lessened over the years, a stigma still surrounds the concept of ‘mass production’ – suggesting that the quality isn’t as high or as carefully constructed as individual or ‘bespoke’ products or services.

Yet, in education excellent course content is excellent course content – no matter how many times it is read through or produced. Providing education to the masses through e-learning does not compromise a learning experience, but rather helps hundreds and thousands of individuals learn something new, useful and meaningful that could help them improve their skillset, start a new job role and even develop a new business. Getting individuals and learners to understand and engage with this concept is vital.

Education is not devalued through technology, instead it is only through technology that education is more accessible and affordable, with learners able to engage with course content at a convenient time or place to suit – whether on a computer during working hours or during their own time via a mobile device.

EdTech and Career Development

With the introduction and evolution of digital platforms, has come the requirement for individuals to upskill and take on new responsibilities. In most cases, these individuals will often learn on the job, without any official training and development and the expectation to adapt and evolve with technology.

For many this is possible, but for some they require more help and assistance – which is where edtech comes into a world of its own – offering individuals all the time they need to understand something new through an accessible platform that they are readily engaged with. The issue? Ensuring employers understand that one size does not fit all – and that e-learning can open the door to new opportunities that can not only fill the skill gap, but can also help build the capabilities of an existing workforce.

I believe technology and certain types of education must go hand in hand to ensure future human evolution. We now live in a world where there are more smart phone subscriptions than people, where the average attention span when searching a new website is 30 seconds, and where there is a constant hunger for pursuing the next best thing.

For edtech providers, this world presents real opportunity: to reach a readily engaged mass audience, to help others learn something new, and, most importantly, the opportunity to change the lives of those who would otherwise struggle to access some form of higher education.


“Technology in the hands of teachers has the power to change the world.”

The World Literacy Foundation

Jazz Gandhum is CEO and Managing Director of e-Careers Limited, a UK-based edtech firm combining technology, education, and marketing to deliver affordable and accessible e-learning courses to some 7,000 students worldwide on a monthly basis.

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