Women’s History Month Resources

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Women’s History Month is celebrated in March in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. This year, the theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment”. You can find more about the celebration of, and history behind, National Women’s History Month in the U.S. here.

There are plenty of related resources on Curriki, appropriate across all grade levels. Some of the exemplary resources are available here, and here, and here. The last of these includes a number of free Kindle e-books on women’s rights and other topics.

Can you name these accomplished women from history, who exhibited character, courage and commitment?

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Beyond the Classroom: Community-based Learning

An interview with Curriki CEO Kim Jones…

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Tell us about Curriki’s new discussion boards.

We’re very excited because our new Discussion forum unites people with similar interests so we all can have conversations with each other and become part of a larger, global community focused on learning.

We’re no longer limited by “classroom walls” – you can ask questions, share ideas and gain inspiration from like-minded individuals around the world. The beauty is that each person brings a unique perspective resulting in a much richer experience.

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We encourage you to try it out. You can host multiple discussion threads, where people can respond to each other’s comments, give comments a “thumbs up,” and share interesting and important ideas through social media/email.

What kinds of topics can we expect to see?

The possibilities are endless.  Curriki hosts more than 775 groups, from Teach for America Teachers and STEM, to interest-specific groups like Australia Education Group and Adama University, which is a technical college in Ethiopia experimenting with discussions. If you don’t see something that interests you, you can start your own group.

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Can anyone host discussions?

Yes.

How easy is it to start a discussion?

It’s as simple as a couple of clicks. Just go to the discussions tab in your group and any member can create a new topic for discussion or participate in a discussion that someone else has initiated.

Do you have to be part of a group to join a discussion?

 Yes, currently Discussions are available only within groups.

What other capabilities can we expect from Curriki in the future?

First, I want to make sure you’re aware of our recently announced Curriki Geometry, which incorporates a project-based learning approach and is designed for mobile devices. This latest mobile curriculum adds to the rich variety of content (more than 55,000 learning resources!) already on Curriki.

Our focus this year is to make it easier to find the resources you need and to continue to make Curriki more interactive to enrich the community aspect.

If you have ideas for Curriki, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at KimCEO (at) curriki.org. I appreciate your continued support and enthusiasm for Curriki!

BYOD in the Classroom

janetpic_preferredBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Most elementary and secondary students are using mobile devices in their studies, either in the classroom or at home, according to a study by Pearson. The study polled more than 2,300 American students in grades 4 through 12 (aged 8 to 18) and found that almost one-third of students already own a tablet and 43 percent own a smartphone.

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Pearson Student Mobile Study Device Survey 2013 Grades 4-12 Infographic 

In fact, the survey found that seven in ten students would like to use mobile devices more often in their classrooms. The rise of mobile devices in the classroom will be greatly aided by the ConnectED initiative’s planned E-Rate Reform in the U.S. which will help connect more students and provide faster access to Internet in schools, paving the way for digital learning resources.

Geometry Course Designed for Mobile Devices

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This week, Curriki announced the Curriki Geometry website  where usability and page design for its innovative Project Based Learning (PBL) geometry curriculum is optimized for mobile devices.

Available for free, students and teachers now have access to a geometry curriculum that is designed to meet the needs of students born in a global, interactive, digitally-connected world.

Curriki Geometry is a set of six Common Core Aligned projects delivered in a mobile-optimized web environment with access points for students and teachers.

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Teachers are provided with pacing guides, formative assessments, rubrics, guidance on managing a PBL project, tools to help teachers guide students as they learn to collaborate with each other, and reflection tools for both students and teachers.

Please share this new resource with friends and colleagues and let us know what you think!

School Funding: National Report Card

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

The 3rd Edition of Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card, was released on February 5th by the Education Law Center. A summary of the findings can be found at http://schoolfundingfairness.org. The full 49-page report can be downloaded for free at the site as well. The report evaluates all 50 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia with respect to funding level, distribution, state fiscal effort, and coverage.

The Great Recession, which began in late 2007, had severe impacts on state and local tax revenues in the United States, and on budgets for education. The federal government stepped in on a temporary basis and provided additional funding to states to aid them in maintaining their levels of funding for education. But by 2010 this program ended. Almost all the states cut back on their investment in K-12 education as the federal funding was pulled back.

“As this National Report Card shows, most states did not step up when the federal stimulus dried up. Instead, they cut education funding, eroding fairness in some states and further retreating from that goal in others,” said David Sciarra, Education Law Center Executive Director and NRC co-author. “These latest results show school finance in most states is decidedly unfair, a condition which deprives equal educational opportunity to millions of public school children across the nation.”

Photo by popofatticus via Flickr Creative Commons

The major findings of this 3rd Edition of the National Report Card include:

  • There are significant disparities in funding, with per pupil expenditure ranging from less than $7000 to over $17,000, depending on the state.
  • Most states do not have progressive funding distribution patterns in response to the needs of high poverty districts. And in 5 states, the poorest districts have funding at least 20% lower than other districts.
  • States with the greatest commitment to education direct over 4.5% of their economic productivity to schools. The least committed states devote 2.5% or less.
  • Some states have relatively large numbers of children not in public schools. The report expresses a concern about the effects of this on support for adequate levels of funding for public education in such states.

Curriki helps to eliminate the Education Divide. Curriki originated from the idea that technology can play a crucial role in breaking down the barriers of the Education Divide – the gap between those  who have access to high-quality education and those who do not. Curriki helps bridge this divide by providing over 50,000 free and open resources to teachers who need them most. Learn more at http://www.curriki.org/welcome/about-curriki/faq/.

DIgital Learning Day is February 5th

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Digital Learning Day is next Wednesday, February 5th. The goal of Digital Learning Day is to give every child the opportunity “to learn in a robust digital environment everyday”.


A virtual conference and live webcasts will be held from 11 AM to 4 PM EST, and hosted from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Here’s where you can register. The conference will highlight effective use of digital learning, with topics including:

  • Lesson plans, games
  • Live chats with experts
  • Interactive polls of the audience
  • Informational videos on demand
  • Virtual trade show

The event will include leaders from government, education leadership and corporations active in the field of education, plus executives from major education organizations. And an exciting “Power Panel” will be moderated by Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour.

There are hundreds of organizations and corporations involved with Digital Learning Day. Major corporate partners include AT&T, Intel, McGraw-Hill and Microsoft, among others. The national core partners are listed here. There are new partnerships with the NEA and the National PTA.

Each of the 50 states in the U.S. is also hosting its own statewide event.

Here’s one teacher’s experience with digital learning and flipping his classroom during the past year. He’s had great results even though his class has a large number of students new to the U.S.

You can learn all about Digital Learning Day here. Don’t miss the video highlights for this year’s event and from the 2012 and 2013 events, found here.

When is the Best Time to Test?

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki janetpic_preferred_cropped

In the U.S. it seems that testing requirements in public school systems only increase, never decrease, due to mandates such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. The educational-industrial complex promoting standardized testing loves this.

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Standardized testing is done primarily after learning, and thus it is a style of testing to determine if learning has occurred.

This type of testing happens with a significant time lag, on time scales of weeks or months after the learning happens.

Standardized tests do not enhance cognitive abilities, according to this article from the Huffington Post.

A large testing industry has grown up around this type of after-learning evaluation. But is this the best way to test? To what degree does it improve learning? Or is it really just an evaluation methodology for sorting students while in school, and toward college or future career alternatives?

Testing inside the Learning Loop

Wouldn’t it be better to “test inside the loop”, while learning is happening? This provides the opportunity to accelerate learning and to quickly identify shortcomings. Learning becomes more individualized since testing which is intrinsic to the learning process allows for quick review, adjustments and corrections. It also facilitates the coaching role that teachers increasingly are assuming with flipped learning and project-based learning methods.

Quizzing during learning helps students focus. See this article discussing experimental results, from a cognitive psychologist at Harvard University:

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/testing-students-during-video-lectures-improves-learning/

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Now we are talking about time scales of minutes, hours, or the next day. Feedback is immediate, students see how they are doing right away. And they can re-read the specific areas that cause them trouble, and ask clarifying questions. On the other hand, as soon as they have the content sufficiently mastered they can move to the next lesson right away.

That’s what coaching is, in any case. It’s about real-time checking and feedback within the learning process. And it’s already established that individualized coaching can provide a two standard deviation boost in performance. Every teacher does this with his or her students, checking for understanding, but in traditional classroom environments, the feedback is limited. Many students choose to not respond in a group setting  when they don’t understand something.

There are over 54,000 resources freely available on Curriki which can be used to support more individualized learning and project-based learning (PBL). Here’s a video about PBL, which generally employs testing embedded within the learning process. In this case testing is used to enhance learning itself, not simply measure what was learned afterwards!

Images: Wellcome Library, London, CC-BY 2.0 license

Cool Careers in Science: Meet Dr. Becky Carlyle

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

If you’re a student studying the sciences, you may not know what you want to be “when you grow up.” Behind the Scientist provides an engaging, personal look at several working scientists and reveals “how real scientists looked when they were kids.” Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Becky Carlyle on what it’s like to be a scientist, as well as learning more about her passion for running, orienteering racing and adventure!

Describe your current job.

I am a Post Doctoral Researcher in Molecular Psychiatry at Yale University.  There are lots of different levels that you can study the brain – mine involves looking at how conditions inside the body (such as getting old) and outside the body (drug taking and stress) affect the molecules that are produced by your major brain cells – the neurons.  I study how the brain adapts to these conditions, and what might happen when these changes don’t go according to plan. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current job?

Probably teaching of some kind, while spending the summers orienteering racing throughout Europe.  Orienteering is a kind of crazy sport where you race a route through the forest with the help of a map and compass, I’ve done it since I was born, pretty much!

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

Running an almost elite marathon (3:15:26) and qualifying for an A Final at the orienteering World Cup.  I feel like the accomplishments of my career are yet to come, they don’t yet match up to that unique sporting high!

Becky (3rd from right) at the Genève Marathon.

What is the single most important issue in the world of science today?

This is a really difficult question.  Can I have two answers?  The biggest global issue for me is not just acceptance of Climate Change, but getting everyone to realize that unless we voluntarily change the way we live and run our societies now, then Climate Change will do that for us.  The first option is likely to be the better one for the human race.  

If I’m talking as a scientist wanting a career in science, then government investment in research is the most important issue.  Millions have been spent on training people exactly like me, but there are very few places that now have the money to support bright new ideas and people into the next stage of their careers.  At the end of the day, this all comes down to education – if you can convince people that what you do is vital, interesting and beneficial, then you’re halfway there.  I don’t think scientists as a whole do this particularly well at the moment, although awareness of our responsibility to the public is growing.

Only about 1/4 of STEM jobs in the U.S. are filled by women. Why don’t more girls pursue STEM careers?

If we’re talking biology, which is the only field I really know about, then it’s not a case of lack of interest.  Even at my level of career, women outnumber men in my field.  But once you get to the next stage, that’s where the attrition starts.  It’s a combination of many things – lack of job security, lack of alternative options outside the traditional tenure track, balancing a family with work.  I’m lucky that right here in our department we have some excellent female role models – highly accomplished scientists with a rich family life and a wonderful sense of humor.  There is no doubt that walking past these women in the corridor and sharing small snippets of information with them about your life inspires you to keep working hard to get to the next stage.  If you’re interested in who they are, you can look for Marina Picciotto, Jane Taylor and Amy Arnsten.  

What can we do to encourage students to pursue STEM?

Make our teaching as accessible and interesting as possible.  Lots of real-world applications, problems to solve, and group work to make people realize that it takes a whole bunch of people with different skills to tackle a scientific problem.  We need positive role models, but most of all, we need to really value STEM careers within our society by improving working conditions, academic pay in the early years, and job opportunities.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a city called Bradford in the North of England.  In the Victorian Era it was a bustling town at the center of the wool trade; these days it has a lot of poverty and some deep racial tensions.

Favorite subject in high school and why?

physicsProbably chemistry.  I loved the mechanisms and the processes we learned about, and how apparently complex systems could be broken down into really neat, simple concepts.  I also had two incredible teachers, which helped a lot!

When you were growing up, when did you realize you wanted to be a scientist? What inspired you?

It took me a long time to realize I wanted to be a scientist.   As a strong student with plenty of good grades and not too many definite ideas, my school pushed me down the Medical Doctor route.  After three years of Medical School at Oxford, with plenty of exposure to the basic science behind many of our medical principles, I realized that I liked the science and the molecules more than being a clinician.  Luckily the structure in the U.K. is flexible enough that I graduated with a B.A. in Medical Sciences, not too much debt, and then moved on to a PhD program.  It was quite a shock at first, but definitely where I wanted to be!

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If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

The old chestnut – flying would be super cool.

Favorite band?

Too many to mention!  The National and Death Cab for Cutie are long standing favorites, but I am hooked on Wild Beasts and Mum right now.  I’m a bit of a music snob when it comes down to it, and I miss the U.K. Music scene.

What’s the first website you check every day?

Attackpoint  – a social network for orienteers and adventure racers.  It helps me keep in touch with my sporty friends from around the world.

What one piece of advice would you give to young, aspiring scientists?

 Make plenty of friends.  Unlike the common perception of scientists as geeky loners, scientists are interesting people with lots of opinions.  You’ll meet people from every culture, and from most countries in the world.  And the best science is almost always done by collaboration.  It’s amazing how something you mention in an offhand way, that your friend comments on during a lunch break can turn out to be something really important.

If you’re a young person (or not so young) who fancies a career in science, you can ask questions of Behind the Scientist (use option on the right) or email behindthescientist@gmail.com directly.

Don’t forget that Curriki offers thousands of high-quality science, and math learning resources for you to use, customize and share – all for free!