This week, in Education news: Edutopia blogger offers tech tips for back-to-school night; EdWeek reports, fewer teachers leverage social media in classrooms; also from EdWeek, report shows classroom assignments fail to hit the mark; a new video series teaches coding, for free; our EdTech blogger shares research tools for tablets; and some perspective from UNICEF in the Middle East.
Edutopia blogger August Deshais has some great ideas about how to liven up curriculum or back-to-school nights with some help from technology. Rather than have parents just tour self-portraits around the room, add a QR code, which parents can scan and then watch their children describe their hopes and dreams via video (with privacy settings in place). You can also set up communications for the year by collecting phone numbers and setting up apps like Remind or Class Messenger to keep parents in the loop on class trips, events or important deadlines. And if your voice gets sore from repeating yourself, prepare a Google Slide presentation, where parents can find answers on a FAQ page. What parent wouldn’t like that?
EdWeek reports that a survey found fewer teachers using social media. While 78 percent of teachers surveyed use social media for personal use, a growing number are reluctant to use it in the classroom. The vast majority, 82 percent, cited concerns about conflicts with parents or students. A smaller majority said students’ social media use outside of school made it difficult to get them focused in group settings. It raises questions about how students are going to learn media literacy and online safety if these technologies don’t have a presence in the classroom.
EdWeek also shares that a new report found that individual classroom assignments fail to meet the common-core criteria for literacy. It determined that the tasks are over-scaffolded, and only a small fraction actually required students to cite evidence from the text, a key common-core requirement. Writing tasks required too little writing. In all, only 2 percent of assignments met the reviewers’ criteria for motivation and engagement.
Via eSchool News, CodeNow, a nonprofit focused on teaching coding to underserved high school students, has launched #CodeHow, a series of tutorials available for free on YouTube. These short concept videos explain key programming and computer science concepts, including variables, arrays, if/else statements and more. CodeNow offers other programs, like CodeNow-in-a-Box, and CodeNow Workshops — all definitely worth checking out.
Our EdTech blogger Monica Burns collected some great resources for student researchers on the go. Sites and apps including Pocket, Channel One, iAnnotate among others make it easy for students on tablets to find sources, save them in one place and take notes for use later on.
In world news, from the BBC, UNICEF reports that the devastating wars in the Middle East are driving children out of school — and into danger. In such countries as Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, political violence has closed almost 9,000 schools. More than 13.7 children — about 40% of school-age children in those countries — are out of school. Many students enter work or become combatants at a young age, while teachers have been abandoning their posts in fear. UNICEF is calling for an end to the wars, and Peter Salama, regional director for UNICEF in those regions, says that $300 million is needed to improve access to education for these children. This news certainly puts back-to-school anxieties in perspective.
That is really something that I would want to use one day.