Humor as an Instructional Tool

Students ranked “sense of humor/ability to laugh” as the third highest motivating factor in the classroom. Research finds that humor in the classroom can be used a tool to facilitate retention of information, increase the speed of learning, improve problem solving, relieve stress, reduce test anxiety and increase student perception of teacher credibility. Sara Given, a music teacher shares her background as a young musician and comedian. And what she learned from comedy that crosses over into her classroom instruction practice.

Student Designs Architectural Material that Reacts to Rain

A water-reacting architectural surface, a laminate made from fabric, film and veneer, has been engineered by a student designer in London. During a walk on a rainy day Chao Chen noticed that pinecones close their outer shells when wet. He took this concept to create a building material that would react to the weather. When the veneer takes in water the fibers expand perpendicular to the grain, elongating and curving the materials just like the shell of a pine cone. With this materials Chen is developing a water-reacting shelter for parks or public spaces, that stay open on sunny days and form total shelter when it reacts to rain.  Check out a video of the materials here.

Practices Surrounding Calculating High School Graduation Rates

The current reported record high of 81% graduation rate has come under much scrutiny because of varying practices surrounding graduation school-to-school state-to-state. Some students are mislabeled or are moved off the books. Districts with this issue are beginning to investigate what systems the schools are using to collect this data. In some states the path to a diploma gets easier each time a student appeals failing grads. It’s not all bad though. Some districts and schools have drastically increased student support, improved academics and school culture to achieve these record gradation rates.

Student Data Privacy

The FPF (Future of Privacy Forum) held its second Student Privacy Boot Camp for ed-tech start-ups and small businesses. The forum on student data privacy was set up to better understand complex and expansive legal requirements and best practices for handling student-data-privacy. The current laws on student privacy are almost 20 years old and not easily understood within the context of present day ed-tech. At the state level student data privacy laws are unique, expanding and sometimes conflicting state-to-state.

Personalizing Blended Learning Benefits Student Learning and Engagement.

Leadership is important in blended learning. The critical role in-person teachers and mentors, not just monitors, play on students and the learning environment is paramount. As is the important role collecting data plays in responding to students learning needs for personalization. Schools must remain persistence while adapting and navigating the successful implementation of blended learning models. When the focus is on student attainment, persistence and engagement through personalized learning, we see improvement in performance and engagement. It’s important to acknowledge students don’t learn in the same way or time.

Writing for the Digital Age

We live in an age of 140 characters or less. Clear and concise communication is essential, because we live in a information saturated world. Attention spans are short. Reading more words than necessary can become an information sleuth’s worst burden. Here’s a list of words to help writers communicate their message more succinctly. The top words that most writers can usually cut out or substitute include; that, went, honestly, absolutely, very, really, amazing, always, never, literally, just, maybe, stuff, things and irregardless to name a few.

The Equity of Opportunity at School is a Civil Right

Common Core Standards and STEM movements, though a masterfully planned frameworks, fail to specifically address and focus on concerns of decreasing existing inequities and reengaging disconnected youth. Student and learning supports have long been marginalized in school improvement policy and practice.  This requires a specific focus on equity in school systems and districts. Current plans need to be transformed rather than just tweaked.

Zack Kopplin and Creationism in Public Schools

Zack Kopplin is a judicious young man who began speaking out against The Louisiana Science Education Act, a law that allows the teaching of Creationism in Louisiana public schools, like his, as part of his senior project. He is now a history major at Rice University and the biggest troll of his father’s friend and current Governor Bobby Jindal. Jindal, a Brown Biology major, passed rather than vetoing a popular Louisiana law to teach Creationism in public schools. The law allows biology classrooms to teach a critique of evolution with creationism and intelligent design as an alternative to science. As a family friend Zack is suspicious because Jindal’s own children are learning evolution in school. If Jindal truly opposed evolution he wouldn’t allow them to learn about it in place of Creationism.
Zack sites The Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank, as being a major force in attempts to implement Creationist laws. They started by trying to get creationism written into No Child Left Behind Act. Now with the advocacy of 78 Nobel Laureates, Zack plans to repeal this law that undermines science and instead teaches religious doctrine in public schools within a fundamentally secular country catering to the education needs of students with various belief systems, the diversity of which should be celebrated and respected
Watch an interview with Zack Kopplin here. He has appeared on Hardball, NPR, and Real Time With Bill Maher (alongside Bernie Sanders). Calling out Jindal as a anti-science hypocrite because he passed legislature that is a “back-door invitation to teach creationism.”

Drawing as a Professional Skill and Tool

Drawing is both a sophisticated means of thinking and communicating and an activity for all. Drawing is a central and pivotal for many artists and designers as a tool for creative exploration and informs visual discovery. Fundamentally, it enables the visualization and development of ideas and perceptions. Images transcend the barriers of language, enhancing communications in an increasingly globalized world. Drawing skills are required for those entering the creative industries like animation, architecture, design, fine art, fashion, film, theater, performance and communication industries. They are also used in a wide range of professions as a means to develop, document, explore, explain, interrogate and plan within the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, sports and others. Drawing is a useful tool across the spectrum of STEM subjects uniting all areas.

USA Majority-Minority Country by 2044

While graduation rates have been observed at an all time high minority students still lag behind. The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority country by 2044. Latino students are the fastest growing student population, projected to account for 30% of all students by 2044. 86.6% is the average for white identified students, where as, latino identified students are only at a 75.2% graduation rate. Of the six states that collectively educate more than 70% of Hispanic/Latino students only three have graduation rates above the national average. To ensure the best possible future, we need to respond to the needs of all types of students and prevent them from falling behind. Our future depends on it.

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