Meet Kristen Blomstrom, Student Ambassador at Curriki

Curriki Student Ambassador Kristen Blomstrom

Curriki Student Ambassador Kristen Blomstrom

In this interview, Kristen Blomstrom shares ways that fellow students can use Curriki for homework help, to study for a test or just learn something new. She is a junior at Carroll Senior high school in Southlake, Texas.

What is Curriki?

Curriki is a free website with resources in all different subjects that are credible and useful for all ages. It’s a great website for parents, teachers and students.

Do you use Curriki in your studies?

I’ve used Curriki since I was a freshman. I use mostly the Sal Khan math resources (e.g., Algebra or Calculus) and some sciences (e.g., Physics or Biology) too. I learn best visually, so these videos are good for me and they help me gain a better understanding of the topic – especially when I’m not grasping the topic from the teacher’s explanation.

What do you do as a Curriki Student Ambassador?

I demonstrate Curriki at different schools so more people can benefit from the thousands of high-quality learning resources, all available for free! I recently talked to a 5th grade class of gifted students at a public elementary school nearby. They attend a very progressive school where all students have their own iPads and they’re using open educational resources (OERs). Since the class was working on a project on the American Revolution, I showed them how to type in a topic, filter a search, and find the resources they need – whether a document, PowerPoint presentation, video, map, or something else.

What do you like most about Curriki?

I like that it’s free, and has very reputable content. It’s not random stuff – which is what the internet offers. Plus, there’s the Curriki Review System, so I know I’m getting top-quality resources.

If I’m a student, how can Curriki help me?

Curriki is great for homework help, studying for a test or just learning something new. Curriki can help you expand education and really, truly grasp certain concepts. I always want to learn something new, and it’s a really great place to do that. I’m a big reader and into the Classics, and we read Shakespeare freshman year. I enjoyed it so much that I used Curriki to find additional resources so I could learn more about Shakespeare.

What are your favorite Curriki resources?

I use the Sal Khan videos a lot, they’re probably my favorite – especially the math videos.

What advice do you have for students who are just getting started using Curriki?

Start with the tutorial videos on Basics for Using Curriki. And connect with Curriki via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or the weekly blog to find out about new resources, activities and ideas.

About Kristen Blomstrom
Kristen Blomstrom is the President of the Student Ambassador Program at Curriki. Since 2012, Kristen has brought a student’s perspective to the Curriki team through reviewing content and sharing Curriki with social media such as Twitter and Facebook. In addition, she speaks to teachers and students around the country about integrating Curriki into the classroom. Kristen frequently collaborates with the Executive Team to bring resources of the highest to students across the globe. Kristen is currently a junior at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas. She has received numerous academic and service awards throughout her high school career. Kristen is also a top-ranked equestrian and competes in events across the country.
 

studenthow to Become a Curriki Student Ambassador

Curriki Student Ambassadors are creative and resourceful individuals who are passionate about learning and want to spread the word. At this time, new participants are being accepted into the program. Find out more here. You can earn volunteer hours, gain valuable marketing and leadership experience, and proudly show your commitment by being featured on our website and more.

 

How Should Teachers Be Evaluated?

blackboard

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?

Coding

janetpintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer

 

 

Programming, or coding, or writing code, is an important and well-paid skill today. There is a shortage of good programmers. But most students approach computers or mobile devices as consumers. They use computers or devices to play games, or as social media platforms. And they also use computers to search for information, as part of the learning process, which is all to the good. In some cases they are users of interactive games that promote learning.

But all of these use cases are students being consumers of code, and not creators of, producers of, code. Photo by popofatticus via Flickr Creative CommonsProducing is harder than consuming – coding is more difficult than using an app. Yet our modern economy is increasingly reliant on coding and computer science technology more generally.

This blog on the topic at the New York Times is actually entitled “When Kids Would Rather Play Computer Games Than Code Them”. Here’s another article from the New York Times on the topic of learning to code.

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These articles note that coding instruction is trending. In the U.S. there are over 20,000 teachers involved in teaching how to code, according to code.org. The organization states: “Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.”  And they believe all kids can learn to code. Code.org helps train high school teachers to instruct coding. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) have contributed $10 million to Code.org in support of their mission.

Public school systems in Chicago and New York City are building the capability to offer more coding instruction to their student populations. Chicago is looking to make the ability to code a graduation requirement within the next 5 years.

The challenge is getting students over the initial learning hump and frustration around creating code that doesn’t work the first time it’s used. Coding requires persistence, and the ability to think logically. One must eliminate every mistake found in the first version of the code, through testing, modification and iteration. Persistence and logical thinking are great skills and attitudes for students to learn and are important life skills more broadly than just around coding.

Scratch is a simple programming language freely available from M.I.T. The site provides small code blocks that can be tied together to help create stories, games and animation. It is designed for children from age 8 and up, and is used in more than 150 different countries.

And here’s a unit on Curriki for game design in a science classroom, using the Scratch language. Check it out!

 

Early Childhood Education Pays for Itself

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki 

The US is lagging behind other developed countries in Early Childhood Education. Many children enter school (Kindergarten and then primary school) unprepared and they tend to fall further and further behind during their many years of education. Early childhood education leads to improvements in students’ cognition and social and emotional maturity, and provides long-term positive results and cost benefits to society at large. 

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Childcare and PreK (before kindergarten) education provide many such benefits according to earlychildhood.nyc.org:

Cognitively:

  •  Improves school performance
  •  Raises math and language abilities
  •  Sharpens thinking/attention skills
  •  Reduces special education placement
  •  Lowers school drop out rates

Socially and emotionally:

  •  Improves and strengthen interactions with peers
  •  Decreases problem behaviors
  •  Encourages more exploratory behavior
  •  Helps adjustment to the demands of formal schooling

Long-term positive results and cost savings of Early Childhood Education:

  •  Increases lifelong earning potential
  •  Achieves better academic outcomes
  •  Lowers rates of teen pregnancy and incarceration”

Here are some sites where you can investigate the benefits of, and issues around, Early Childhood Education:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/early-childhood

http://www.earlychildhoodnyc.org/resources/aboutECE_whyImportant.cfm

And we have some excellent PreK resources on Curriki, including:

Shapes and Colors Science Kit -

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_cabocesmst/ShapesandColorsScienceKit?bc=

Meet a Puppeteer -

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Nobiah/MeetaPuppeteer

Improving Learning -

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Folwell/50littleThingsTeachersParentsandOthersCanDotoImproveLearning

Reading List for PreK - 

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_briansharky22/PreK-KReadingList

Math Games -

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Group_3rdGradeMathGames/MathGameTime

But we need more! If you have open educational resources suitable for PreK, please contribute these at:  

http://www.curriki.org/welcome/resources-curricula/contribute-content/publish-resources/

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!

Cinco de Mayo Resources

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May, on Monday this year) is perhaps a bigger holiday in certain parts of the United States than it is in Mexico. This is despite it being a celebration of a victory by the Mexican Army over French troops in 1862 at Peubla, Mexico. The observance in the U.S. is a celebration of Mexican-American culture among the large community in the U.S. of people with a Mexican heritage.

BattleofPuebla2

In Mexico it is observed primarily in the state of Puebla and is known as the Day of the Battle of Peubla (in Spanish: El Día de la Batalla de Puebla).

Cinco de Mayo is not just about a national fiesta. It is an important springboard for learning about Mexican history and culture. We currently have a number of featured Social Science resources on Curriki for this year’s observance.

Cinco_de_Mayo,_1901_poster

For Elementary School: Cinco De Mayo Vocabulary Worksheet

Contributed by: Curriki’s Thematic Collections - This worksheet includes vocabulary related to Cinco de Mayo.

For Middle School: Mexico Geo-Political Map

Contributed by: Marshall Cavendish

For High School: The African Influence in Mexico

Contributed by: Brenda Faye - This curriculum unit is based on experiences as a participant in a Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad. The unit explores the African presence in Mexico from a historical and cultural perspective.

You can also find additional Cinco de Mayo resources on Curriki hereWe hope you find some of these resources useful in your classrooms.

PBL and Robotics

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Project-based learning (PBL) is becoming increasingly well-regarded and important in education. We learn more by doing, by active engagement, than we do through passive memorization. Engagement reinforces learning and long-term memory acquisition. PBL can provide, according to Wikipedia, “greater depth of understanding of concepts, [a] broader knowledge base, improved communication and interpersonal/social skills, enhanced leadership skills, increased creativity, and improved writing skills.” 

Here are two related video resources on Curriki. The first is a four minute overview of PBL and its benefits. And the second is a particular PBL activity for mathematics.

In the real world, whether someone works in private industry or in a government organization, the work often revolves around projects of one sort or another. So PBL is a great way to introduce students to skills they will need in the future. These include:

  • Recruiting team members
  • Teamwork
  • Finding sources for advice
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Decision making
  • Planning
  • Breaking down problems into component tasks
  • Sequencing tasks
  • Researching required information and alternatives
  • Trying, failing, and trying again (persistence!)
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Measuring success
  • Iterating to reach desired quality
  • Presentation of results

One great area to look at for PBL is Robotics. Here’s an article from Science Friday that talks about the benefits high school students experienced working on a robotics challenge, including the teamwork they developed and the friendships that ensued.

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Photo courtesy of The Bot Side

And here is a resource for a high school level robotics project on Curriki. The project involves building a robotic machine to sort M&Ms, Jelly Beans, or Lego Bricks by color. This is a fun, two to three week project that involves engineering, physics, science, math, writing, and programming. Students will acquire a solid grasp of the programming language RobotC. You need familiarity with solving problems with robotic devices designed and built from Lego kits. The resource includes a video providing inspiration and a glimpse at other students’ solutions to the color sorting problem.

There are many resources on Curriki that could be part of PBL activities. We encourage you to search on www.curriki.org/welcome with “PBL” and “project-based learning”.