Category Archives: Curriki News

How Should Teachers Be Evaluated?

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

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Are teacher evaluations useful, or even necessary? Do some methods affect “good” teachers in a bad way, and perhaps reward “bad” teachers in a good way? For example, some teachers in Florida are evaluated on student test scores in subjects they do not even teach, which could mean that an Art or PE teacher would have his/her value or rating based on their students’ English and math scores!
Every state is figuring out how to conduct evaluations to ensure learning. Clearly, there’s no single, best answer.

Most evaluations today are based on test scores and classroom observations. The problem with student test scores is that teachers with students at higher achievement levels tend to fare better. Yet despite all the furor over test score gains, a report from The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution found only 22 percent of teachers are evaluated on test score gains. On the other hand, all teachers are evaluated based on classroom observation and that “nearly all the opportunities for improvement to teacher evaluation systems are in the area of classroom observations rather than in test score gains.”

Then again, what decides a teacher’s effectiveness? While teachers must be experts in their subject area, they must also be able to share that knowledge in an interesting, memorable and engaging way. But how do we factor in other qualities that make for an effective teacher like patience, empathy, and commitment?

We need to continue to assess the way we currently evaluate teachers and figure out how and where improvements can be made. Do you have an innovative idea to share in this area?

How are Schools Using 3D Printers?

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

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Are you experimenting with 3D printers in your classroom? While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it’s only become commercially viable (read: affordable) in the last few years. For those unfamiliar with 3D printers, they are a form of manufacturing that takes three-dimensional image files and “prints” them into physical objects using a variety of materials, typically plastic.

 

Christine Mytko

Christine Mytko

A handy resource for teachers and students is Teacher Christine Mytko’s blog Tales of a 3D Printer, which takes a look at the “fascinating potential of 3D printing and the process of getting there.” She has many useful resources listed on her site including:

 

Teen Crime Solvers Use 3D Scanning and Printing 

There are so many ways to use 3D printers in the classroom! For example, a middle school in Richmond County Schools, North Carolina, is giving students hands-on experience in forensic science with their 3D Academy, which is equipped with an HDI Advance R1X 3D scanner from LMI, Geomagics software, 3D Max, and Cube X and Cube 3D printers from 3D Systems.

Students scanned evidence found at the “crime scene,” including a body, as well as finger, hand and shoe prints. The fingerprint was transformed into a virtual block in Cubify Sculpt and 3D printed using their Cube 3D printer. Read the whole story here.

According to this list from EduTECH, 3D printing can be used to demonstrate principles in subjects such as:

  1. Math – 3D print those equations.
  2. Art – 3D print necklaces and sculptures.
  3. Business and Economics – sell the 3D prints!
  4. History – compare 3D Printing to the production line and other manufacturing techniques.
  5. Biology – 3D print cells structures and viruses.
  6. Chemistry – 3D print molecules and proteins.
  7. Show how proteins and catalysts work by physically piecing the models together.
  8. Technology Studies – sit the printer next to the lathes and the welders – another way to make items.
  9. Computing Studies – how 3D Software works.
  10. Drama – Quick, we need some 3D Printed Masks!
  11. Home Economics – 3D Printing food is a form of Molecular Gastronomy.

How are you using 3D printer technology? We’d love to hear your ideas – please share below!

Technology Helping To Personalize Student Learning Experiences

SU13StudentsReportCoverBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Students learn in many different ways, whether they’re a visual learner preferring pictures and shapes, or an auditory learner preferring sounds and rhythms. Oftentimes, we use a mix of learning styles and techniques to process information.

Unfortunately, traditional textbooks simply can’t meet students’ diverse learning styles, since every student has unique interests, attention spans, and needs. So how do we ensure the success of every student? The key to a personalized learning experience is technology.

A recent study from Speak Up published this month explored how K-12 students are using digital tools and resources to enhance their schoolwork activities.

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Infographic- The New Digital Learning Playbook: Mobile Learning

Key findings from this year’s report entitled The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations include:

  • Girls outpace boys in use of many digital tools for learning, particularly the socially based tools like texting and collaborating online.
  • 29 percent of high school boys say that they are very interested in a job or career in a STEM field, but only 19 percent of girls say the same.
  • Students continue to report less regular interaction with traditional social networking sites like Facebook, while 44 percent of students in grades 6-12 report using social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Nearly one-third of high school students reported using Twitter.
  • One-quarter of students in grades 3-5 and nearly one-third of students in grades 6-12 say that they are using a mobile device provided by their school to support schoolwork.
  • In four years, the percent of middle school students taking tests online increased from 32 percent to 47 percent.
  • High school students reported a mean average of 14 hours per week using technology for writing.
  • Only one-third of middle school students say that for schoolwork reading, they prefer to read digital materials rather than printed materials; more than half, however, say online textbooks would be an essential component of their “ultimate school.”
  • Digital equity, including to student access to the Internet outside of school, is a growing concern among district technology leaders with 46 percent saying it is one of the most challenging issues they face today (compared to just 19 percent in 2010).

With the right access to different kinds of educational resources that fit different learning styles, we can allow children to learn at their own pace using various learning methods that meet their individual needs. We have an opportunity to customize education for students everywhere and to provide the education they need to shape their futures.

Physics Resources for the Flipped Classroom

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

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Physics is not only interesting, but also helps us to understand how things work – whether it’s understanding kinetic energy in a looping roller coaster, or why your singing voice sounds so much better in the shower.

At Curriki, we have thousands of resources for teaching and learning physics. Here are a few of our favorites that can be used as part of the Flipped Classroom:

Coaster Creator
rollercoasterLearn the physics of roller coasters with this free, online game that allows students to explore kinetic and potential energy. Per Curriki Member Anna, “This is a great visual aid for students to understand potential and kinetic energy. In addition, it is engaging students to create a roller coaster on their own in order to experiment on what factors affect the change in energy.”

Full Physics Course from Sal Khan
You’ll find about 100 straightforward 10 – 15 minute tutorial videos comprised of simple graphics and personable narration, covering all topics in a complete high school or college course in Physics.

Physics Videos from STEMbite
stembiteThese short video clips are created by online science and math teacher, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, from Michigan, USA. Using Google Glass he makes  bite-sized videos highlighting the science in our everyday lives. The extensive Physics collection features such engaging topics as the physics involved in tennis, playrooms, and even singing in the shower!

The Physics of Sailing
sailingInspired by the America’s World Cup, Curriki just announced a new project-based learning (PBL) course that will be available shortly called The Physics of Sailing. Thanks to a grant from Oracle Corporation, the project will be developed by Curriki’s PBL team with contributions from sailing experts from Oracle Team USA.

Do us a favor please and share this with someone who’s interested in physics.

Curriki Annual Survey for 2014

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Last month, Curriki completed our annual global survey of the 400,000 strong Curriki member community and of our followers on Twitter and Facebook. We have a very diverse set of users, from dozens of countries around the world. Nearly 4000 of you responded to the survey, and we thank you for your time. The largest number of responses came from the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan and South Africa, but many countries were represented.

We asked about age and gender. Almost half of the respondents are between the ages of 35 and 54, and the remainder are equally divided between those who are age 55 and above and those who are younger than 35. Regarding gender, 5/8 of the respondents are female and 3/8 are male.

Role

Role

This first pie chart shows the distribution of responses to the question: What is your role? Teachers, educators, administrators, parents, students and other categories were represented. Just over half of the respondents are teachers. After teachers, educators, students and parents were the most represented roles.

Affiliation

Affiliation

We also asked about affiliation. This second pie chart shows the responses to that question, indicating nearly half of the members who replied are working in public school districts. The next most populated categories are those at private schools and home schoolers.

Primary Reason to use Curriki

Primary Reason to use Curriki

The third chart (a bar chart) shows the responses to the question: What is the primary reason you visit the Curriki site? Some respondents provided more than one reason, so the total exceeded 100%. The top 3 are:

  1. Find resources for students to use
  2. Find teaching resources (e.g. lesson plans)
  3. As a source of new ideas

Other major reasons were to find resources for their own children, to connect with others in the education community and to contribute resources to Curriki.

We also asked about usage of Curriki groups (there are almost 800 groups at present). One out of 8 respondents participates in one or more of these groups. If you are not a group member, you may want to check these out – there is sure to be one of interest to you. Or you could start your own group around your favorite topic!

Thanks again to all those who participated in the survey!

 

Introducing Curriki Japan: Open Educational Resources

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By Kim Jones, Curriki CEO

KimJonesimageI recently returned from a trip to Waseda University in Japan, where we proudly launched Curriki Japan, the first of Curriki’s international affiliates!  We are thrilled to announce that many of the same high-quality teaching and learning resources found on Curriki have been translated into Japanese by the all-volunteer Curriki Japan team and are now available to Japanese educators, parents and students for free.

 

The Curriki Japan team will also develop new Japanese content, including materials about Japanese history and culture that educators outside of Japan may use in their classrooms. At this time, there are 200+ resources that have been translated, with new resources being added each month.

 

wasedaHeld at the prestigious Waseda University, the Curriki Japan event was attended by over 300 educators, parents, students, and interested citizens, as well as leaders from Waseda University and Curriki.  Waseda University developed the affiliate program in Japan to fill the gap between those who have access to high-quality education and those who have lesser opportunity by making digital Open Educational Resources (OER) available for free on the web.

 

By leveraging the power of technology, Curriki Japan is giving all students the same opportunity to access world-class learning materials for free, according to Professor Emeritus Muraoka of the School of Engineering and Science at Waseda University.

 

L-R: Professor Kakei, Dean of Open Education at Waseda University; Professor Muraoka, School of Engineering and Science at Waseda University; Kim Jones, Curriki CEO; Hasegawa-san

L-R: Professor Katsuhiko Kakehi, Dean of Open Education Center, Waseda University; Professor Emeritus Yoichi Muraoka, Waseda University; Kim Jones, Curriki CEO; Susumu Hasegawa, Director, Curriki Japan and Member of the Board, JTP

Curriki continues to be an inspiring global community where educators, parents and students can collaborate, create, learn, and connect with others. Would you please share this news with friends, relatives or colleagues who live in Japan or speak Japanese?