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Category Archives: Open Source Education
By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki
A recent blog at the National Education Association website reported on a study concerning how K12 teachers can be creative in the classroom, in the face of standardized curricula and testing.
The authors of the study assert that the current high-stakes testing model in American education can impede the development of creativity in students. Yet as they point out, “creativity has always been and will continue to be a driving force in moving society forward”.
Drs. Danaah Henriksen and Punya Mishra co-authored the study. They are both professors of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University. Their methodology involved lengthy interviews with eight recent winners or finalists for National Teacher of the Year awards.
Several themes were common across the group:
- An inter-disciplinary approach to subject matter
- The use of multiple learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic)
- Learning that relates to the real worldSeveral themes were common across the group:
- Having confidence to try new ideas in the classroom
- Creative teachers draw on their own creative abilities and interests (e.g. musical, artistic)
The study authors “recommend that teacher education programs devote more resources into interdisciplinary thinking and training.” And they add that introducing creativity does not need to involve “sweeping change”, that “more realistically it’s about an ongoing willingness to find the places to make small or interesting changes and watch these add up over time.”
Creative teaching is important for multiple reasons. One is that it provides more channels through which students can learn. Another is that it introduces children to the creative process, and helps them to become more creative themselves. And it allows teachers to remain more engaged with their students and the joy of teaching. Creative teaching is more rewarding for teachers.
Curriki applauds creativity in the classroom. We suggest you share ideas around enhancing classroom creativity with other educators by joining one or more Curriki groups. And we encourage you to look for ways to add cross-disciplinary and cross-learning content by taking advantage of some of the more than 62,000 free resource materials found at curriki.org.
The full study report can be found at: “We Teach Who We Are: Creativity in the Lives and Practices of Accomplished Teachers”.
By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki
With all the emphasis on STEM education many people have begun to wonder if there are any major or minor repercussions in focusing on STEM education. Thankfully that’s not as serious a problem for us here at Curriki because we provide tons of resources that are STEM related AND non-STEM related. If you didn’t know that, take a look at this list of our Top 10 Non-STEM resources. As always, these high quality resources are free to use, share and customize, so you definitely should take a look at them!
10) Unit 10: Turbulent DecadesThis collection contains resources specific to the post war era, covering topics such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and cultural movements of the 1960s.
Find it here
9) Differentiating Between Different Types of Conflict Collection
This lesson is part of a larger unit on the Great Depression. In this unit, students will be focusing on determining importance; summarizing; making predictions; recognizing plot structure; and identifying flashbacks, foreshadowing and setting. Wherever possible, mini-lesson texts relate to American life in the 1930s, and all students will be reading literature circle novels set during this time period in American history.
Find it here
8) The Crisis of Credit VISUALIZEDJonathan Jarvis created a video that clearly and simply details how the credit crisis of 2008 came about, what mistakes were made, how it was all interconnected, and how everyone was affected. The video is very concise, while also being thorough and easy to understand.
Find it here
7) Rob Lucas Grammar Collection
Always in our top 10 resources, this grammar collection is an extremely rich resource offering a complete unit on teaching grammar in a fun way. The content is correct, thorough and appropriate. Inclusion of a version of Mad Libs and a collaborative group project/presentation offers as much creativity for teaching grammar as possible. A humorous poem in worksheet form makes the lesson engaging and interesting. A scoring guide for the presentation makes the unit meaningful and understandable to students. The unit uses many various strategies to enhance the content.
Find it here
This WebQuest guides student teams to research and answer questions about their assigned African nation. It includes research about the economic growth of modern China to gain understanding of how developing countries might further expand economically.
Find it here
5) Tuck Everlasting Novel Study
This resource provides an excellent 25 day unit on the novel Tuck Everlasting. With an emphasis on questioning, particularly question-answer relationships, the novel study materials guide students to develop critical thinking skills. All materials like question cards, game instructions, graphic organizers, rubrics, templates for character development, vocabulary development, etc., are included in this thorough, comprehensive, highly usable resource.
Find it here
4) Traveling West in a Covered Wagon
The unit explores the reasons that led early Americans from their homes in the east to the west via the Oregon Trail. The students will discover that the emigrants headed west for various reasons, such as cheap land, jobs, and a better life. The unit simulates life on the Oregon Trail through a series of hands-on activities and inquiry. The students will travel back in time to the 1840s to travel west on the Oregon trail in a covered wagon. The students will return to 2009, with artifacts they collected on their journey. The artifacts will be created by the students throughout the unit. The students will display their artifacts at the end of the unit in an Oregon Trail Museum.
Find it here
3) The Kite Runner Unit
A unit of materials to support the teaching and reading of the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The unit includes a suggested reading schedule and unit plan. pre-reading assignments and worksheets, during reading questions, graphic organizers and lesson plans, and after reading assessments and writing extensions.
Find it here
2) Civic Duty vs Uninformed Voters
A lesson and Powerpoint in which students will evaluate the role the media and celebrities play into our ideas of civic engagement and voting while asking the question if duty outweighs the uninformed vote.
Find it here
1) Analyzing Media Perception of Congressional Power
A lesson that looks at the powers of Congress, as defined by the constitution, and how the media perceives what powers Congress has. This will be done through viewing media, such as online articles, videos, and political cartoons. We will compare and contrast the perception and what the constitution says. It also includes alternative suggestions to the “official” lesson.
Find it here
If you have a favorite Curriki resource about Humanities, Language, Arts, or other Non-STEM Resources, please let us know by leaving a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki
Almost a year ago, we did a post that was very popular about tips and tricks to help teachers equip their classrooms. We’ve brought several of those tips back in this updated list and broadened the scope beyond just free resources. All to give you several options for supplying your classroom on a tight budget!
Teachers, here are a few ideas to help you out:
- First of all, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a wish list and ask the parents of your students for supplies. But don’t forget to also ask local bookstores, or craft and office supply stores for discounts or freebies. Many companies can write donations off as a tax break. Tell them a little about your school and your students and how you plan to use the resource. You may get a donation or at least a discount. A nice gesture would be to send a thank you note to the business with a picture of the item in use. Or post to your social media page and thank the business publicly.
- Check out eBay and your local Craigslist. There’s a lot of great stuff listed on eBay. On eBay, try to bid on “lot” offers for children’s books, teaching supplies, and craft supplies, instead of bidding on individual items. On Craigslist, look under the For Sale section using the keywords “teacher” and/or “classroom.”
- Find your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is a network with millions of members that are all about reusing each other’s items. Put up a “Wanted” post explaining that you are a teacher and listing what you need.
- Use Book Clubs! Clubs like Scholastic Book Club offer free books after you’ve accumulated bonus points.
- Shop around for Back-to-School discounts at the Office Depot and Target in your area. Sometimes managers will allow you to go over the sale limit for coupons because you are a teacher. Other stores frequently put school supplies on clearance when the supplies reach a certain level.
- Register your classroom at Adopt a Classroom. Individuals can go to this site and search for a teacher they know, a school they have a connection with, or a subject they’re passionate about and fund it. 100% of their tax-deductible donation goes to the classroom. A similar site is DonorsChoose, where public school teachers can post classroom project requests online. When a project reaches its funding goal, they ship the materials to your school.
- If you’re at a low-income school, you may qualify for free school supplies from Kids in Need Foundation, which maintains a national network of Resource Centers where teachers can get free supplies for their students who are in need.
- Love shopping? Here is a list of 80 stores(from Office Depot and the Apple Store, to museums and clothing stores) from Gift Card Granny that offer discounts to teachers. And you can find other teacher discounts on the Teacher Discounts Pinterest board.
- NEA publishes a monthly list of 10 FREE Things, which includes “the best websites to find printables, your favorite books, instructional videos for you and your students, lesson plans, and other FREE stuff for your classroom.”
- And finally, if you’re looking for free, high-quality teaching resources, make sure to check Curriki often as we’re continually adding new resources.
If you know of other free resources, would you please share?
By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki
Yesterday morning, I read an interesting article in Wired (www.wired.com) about AltSchool (http://www.wired.com/2015/05/altschool/), an experimental school in San Francisco founded by a former Google exec that is using technology to enhance and personalize education with a focus on student-centered learning.
Many educators were taught that environment is hugely influential when it comes to student learning. If the atmosphere is not conducive to exploration, students tend to not learn as well. Natural lighting, colorful activities, open spaces, and a flexible teaching method all contribute towards a healthy learning environment and AltSchool seems to have nailed this.
The school is built around the concept of personalizing education, something I wish I had when I went to school. By using a digital platform for students called My.AltSchool and the Montessori Method of teaching, AltSchool is providing a personalized experience for every student, while teachers get instant feedback that allow them to custom-teach to each student. AltSchool uses what they call “The Playlist,” which incorporates “a set of weekly learning experiences and exercises that help students meet their specific personalized learning plan goals.”
AltSchool also incorporates a feedback loop where a product development team works hand-in-hand with the teachers (and by extension the students) to develop apps that have practical usage, such as a recommendation engine for teachers, similar to the ones used by Amazon and Netflix. It takes into account everything that My.Altschool knows about a student and comes up with recommended activities. The eventual goal is to roll out these applications to other schools (public, private, charter) across the country.
Not all children are alike. Not all children learn the same way. AltSchool’s philosophy is very similar to Curriki’s in that we’re both driving transformation from the “assembly line factory model” of education into a new model where the emphasis is on personalization, understanding and critical thinking skills.
Some may fault AltSchool’s for-profit business model or claim this is yet another well-meaning attempt to reform public education. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!
If you’d like to learn more about AltSchool check out their website www.altschool.com
Excel is one of the most useful tools out there, but some find it complex. Here are some simple tricks to help students excel at using this handy spreadsheet tool. If you don’t have Excel, find out if you and your students are eligible to download it free as part of the Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit— click here to see if you are eligible.
1. Never lose sight of row headers by freezing panes
Freezing Panes is one of the most useful tricks in Excel—with this you can always view your labels for different rows and columns, no matter how much you scroll.
- If the pane you wish to freeze is the first row, simply go to View → Freeze Panes → select ‘Freeze Top Row.”
- If it is not the top row, simply click on the cell below the pane you wish to freeze (if you want to freeze row 3 and up, select a cell in row 4), go to View → Freeze Panes → Freeze Panes.
2. Give your students the ability to keep track of their assessment through Self-Grade Computation
Simply click New, then search for “GPA Tracker” in templates —the GPA Tracker template allows students to input their own grades for different types of assignments in each class to get an idea of how they are doing. If your students are on tablets, here’s a tutorial on how to track GPA in Excel for iPad.
3. Move back and forth between spreadsheets quickly without clicking anything.
If you are working with multiple spreadsheets and need to move between them, press Ctrl+Tab to move back and forth between two spreadsheets, and Ctrl+Shift+Tab to move to the previous spreadsheet.
4. Use Flash Fill to make formatting tasks a breeze
Let’s say you have a row of numbers, for example “5554443333”, and you want to change the format to a phone number such as “(555) 444-3333.” Instead of manually typing it out, Flash Fill can do this for you automatically by detecting patterns in your formatting, and works best when your data has some consistency. Works as well with formatting names, dates, and postal codes.
5. Use Excel Survey to collect information directly into an organized spreadsheet
Need to collect data from others and not have it be scattered when you receive it? Excel Survey (found in Excel Online) allows you to create a survey quickly and easily, then compiles the information in real time as it comes in. Great for group projects and surveys.
6. Move entire columns of data easily and quickly
Simply highlight the column you want to move and put your cursor over the border—it will change into a crossed arrow icon, allowing you to drag to move the column freely.
7. Select all with one click
Ever wonder what that little triangle is at the top left corner of your spreadsheet? You can click on it and quickly select all the cells with open simple click.
8. Ctrl + Arrow to move to different corners of the spreadsheet
Working with a particularly long and extensive set of data? No need to scroll—simply press “ctrl” + the arrow key in the direction you want to go. For example, “Ctrl+ →” will take you to the rightmost point of your data, and “ctrl+ ↓” will take you to the bottom line of the data.
9. Transpose Data in Rows to Data in Columns, and Vice Versa, with two clicks
Sometimes you realize the data you had displayed horizontally would make more sense displayed vertically. Instead of copying and pasting everything one by one, copy and paste all the data you’d like copied, then click Home→Paste→Transpose Icon, and the data will display in the new format.
10. Find out the average, count, and sum without any formulas or clicks
Did you know that if you select a set of numbers, the average, count, and sum automatically display without you doing anything? Excellent.
11. Combine two chart types by creating a combo chart and adding a second axis
What happens when you have two different types of data you want to show in a single chart? Excel makes it easy. Simply select the data you’d like for your chart, press the insert tab and click recommended charts, then click all charts tab and select the combo category. If the two sets of data have different scales, simply check the “secondary axis” box for the scale you’d like to add and click ok. Find out more in this in-depth tutorial.
By Curriki CEO Kim Jones
I just participated in the sold-out New Economy Summit (NES) here in Tokyo. What a fantastic event! World renowned innovators who are leading the global economy gathered here and included Prime Minister Abe, CEOs from Lyft, Evernote, Houzz, Dropbox and Airbnb, as well as leaders from Kyoto University, U.S. Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Larry Ellison of Oracle, George Roberts of KKR, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, and of course the host, CEO and Founder of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani. Not to mention many entrepreneurs and the classical composer Yoshiki!
Earlier this week, we had a full house for the education panel I spoke on with nearly 2,000 people in attendance! The topic was Innovation in Educational Fields: The Change in School Education Scenes – What We Need Now and was moderated by Yuki Naito (President & CEO, Drecom Co., Ltd. / Executive Member, Japan Association of New Economy).
NES 2015 Education Panel Speakers. (From top, clockwise: Kim Jones, Chairman and CEO, Curriki; Pille Parikas, Managing Director, eKool; Shihoko Urushi, Principal, Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin; Yuki Naito, President & CEO, Drecom Co., Ltd. / Executive Member, Japan Association of New Economy.)
I did a short TED-style presentation, and answered many excellent questions from both the moderator (who spoke Japanese with simultaneous translation) and the audience. The Japanese school, Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin, on our panel is quite interesting. As you may know, Japan is a very conservative country and has been traditionally slow to adopt new ways of doing things. But that is changing with the influence of companies like Rakuten and SoftBank, whose CEOs are the most successful and well-known entrepreneurs in Japan. Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin is an all-girls, private school that gives every student a tablet and the majority of work is done online. This prestigious private school is led by Principal Shihoko Urushi and is among several educational institutions at the forefront of reforming education and moving education into the digital world. Of course, any change will take time, but at least things are starting to move.
There were two big takeaways for me from NES 2015. First, we are all part of a sharing economy. And secondly, Japan is becoming the new “hot spot” for entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The environment is quickly changing to make Japan much more welcoming and productive for starting new businesses! This is a big plus for our recently-launched Curriki Japan, which offers free learning resources to students, teachers and educators. I encourage you to check it out.