Flickr:Kreative Eye- Dean McKoy
What if student learning wasn’t based on age, but on proficiency? That might happen soon in Oregon’s public schools if Senate Bill 909 unfolds as planned.
Oregon governor John Kitzhaber ushered a group of education bills through the legislature in June. One of them, SB 909, created the 15-member Oregon Education Investment Board not only to control the finances of all state-run schools, but also to make sure there are ways for Oregon’s kids to progress at a rhythm that works with their academic needs. In other words, students matriculate based on the state’s revamped academic standards, not time spent in the classroom.
According to an article in the Oregonian, Kitzhaber wants the board to “shift the focus of education from what he calls ‘seat time’ to learning.” Students will, the article reports, “advance based on what they know and can do rather than on how much time they spend in school.”
Suggesting that students should be able to advance at their own pace is not a new idea. In 2008, for instance, the Oregon Education Roundtable published “Taking Promising High School Practices to Scale,” which included a pretty comprehensive comparison of traditional and proficiency-based education. This concept (self-paced, personalized learning) is also a huge selling point for many online schools. But it’s a rare move for a state legislature to overhaul its public education system with this philosophy in mind.
There are brick-and-mortar schools out there that employ this kind of system already. Some high schools in Rhode Island have a proficiency-based diploma system, and Northwest Academy, a private college-preparatory school in Portland, is designed in the same way that its founder, a former dance teacher, would have organized her dance classes – by placing each student at grade level based on their “accomplishments, current knowledge, and demonstrable skill,” not by age. Continue reading
At the end of each month, we review some of our favorite educational apps that have been released or updated over the last 30 days. (Read all of our Educational Apps series.) Below you’ll find a mixture of iOS, Android, and Web-based apps.
- MOTION MATH ZOOM We’ve covered the educational apps built by Motion Math before here on MindShift. The startup’s first app is a fun, interactive game that teaches fractions. The company’s latest app is called Motion Math Zoom (iTunes) and continues to teach the concept of the number line, but this time addressing how decimals and place values work. (Free, iOS)
- HISTORYPIN. HistoryPin had its official launch earlier this summer, but August brought about the release of its iPhone app. The site and the app let you view the history of a particular location, by taking historical photos and pinning them, as the name suggests, to Google Maps. You can also contribute their own photos — both present-day and family heritage photos — to the site. (Free, Web/iOS/Android)
- WINKEN, BLINKEN, AND NOD. Based on the well-known poem by 19th-century writer Eugene Fields, the Winken, Blinken and Nod app (iTunes) provides wonderful animations to go along with the nursery rhyme about the fishing journey into the sky. The interesting feature here is the app’s use of voice recognition. The words of the poem light up as the app reacts to someone reading the story aloud, encouraging early readers to read along, not just interact with the touchscreen, with the story. ($1.99, iOS) Continue reading
Having seen the creative designs of all three company environments, I can say first-hand there’s lots of wisdom in the article.
In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world. To that end, Melbourne educator Jenny Luca made a commitment to help her students start blogging and to create ePortfolios. Here are six reasons why, at her school, these skills are now a high priority.
By Jenny Luca
- CREATING POSITIVE DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS. Kids need to start establishing a positive digital impression of themselves. Without question, it will be the norm for these students to be Googled when they begin to look for jobs — even if it’s part time. As young as they are, they need to cultivate their personal brand, and they can do this by posting about what they’re involved in at school, learning in their classrooms, or other co-curricular activities they enjoy. We want our students to understand that they can control the message about themselves on the Web, and that they can point prospective employers, colleagues or university admissions officers.
“As of August 6 my blog has had 533 visits worldwide. Amazing or what? WOW.”
- COMMUNICATING WITH DIGITAL TOOLS. We want our students to have a handle on how to use digital tools to communicate, and not just through networks like Facebook. Plenty of our students are Facebook users, but there is a higher order skill set required to maintain consistent posts on a blog. We’ve taught our students how to set up categories, add widgets, use the HTML editor to embed code, and how to tell the difference between a legitimate comment and a spammer. As our world moves ever closer towards the Internet as the main vehicle for communication, we feel that we are helping our students understand the language they will need to navigate this new territory.
- TRANSPARENCY FOR PARENTS AND FAMILY. Our curriculum is becoming more transparent to parents. As our students write more about what they’re learning, we now have a means for their parents to feel more connected to what happens at school. Where once a child would write for an audience of one – the teacher – now they are writing for a potentially Continue reading
Just in time for back-to-school, Beloit College has released its annual “Mindset List,” listing some of the cultural experiences and expectations of the would-be Class of 2015. The 18-year-olds that comprise this year’s incoming freshmen were born in 1993 — the year that Mosaic introduced its popular Web browser and that The New Yorker published Paul Steiner’s infamous “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog.”
This incoming class literally grew up with the Internet. They are “the first generation to grow up taking the word ‘online’ for granted and for whom crossing the digital divide has redefined research, original sources and access to information,” according to the college.
Beloit College has published its Mindset List every August since 1998, when the school’s then-Public Affairs Director (now Emeritus) Ron Nief and Professor of English Tom McBride began to mark the historical and cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of the school’s new freshmen. The list remains a fascinating way for instructors — as for the general public — to think about the worldviews of their students.
This year’s list has also prompted librarian Doug Johnson to update his Mindset List for Librarians Entering the Field in 2011” — a list that includes the end of typewritten library card catalogs and mimeograph machines, tools that new librarians and teachers entering the profession this year will never know. Continue reading
We talk a lot about social networks and education, but Facebook dominates most of that conversation. Edmodo is upping its ante with new additions that integrate social learning in interesting new ways.