Education of Women: A Global Overview

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

There is a wonderful infographic summarizing the status of education around the world for women. It was published by UNWomen at the beginning of this month. It is shown below, and you can find it at this URL:

http://visual.ly/education-and-training-women

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Here are some key points made in the infographic:

Adult literacy rates are 89% for men and 80% for women across the world. In developed countries the literacy rates are 99% for both sexes, while in developing countries, men’s rates are higher at 86% vs. 75% for women.

In the least developed, poorest countries, the gap is greater, with 2/3 of males literate, but just 1/2 of the female population.

Primary education has improved significantly over the past 25 years, with 90% of children of both genders having access to primary school. However only 23% of poor, rural girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete primary education, so challenges remain. At the lower secondary school level, 44% of countries do not yet have gender parity in access to education.

Why does education for girls matter? One reason is because it improves children’s health and decreases deaths during childbirth. It reduces violence experienced by women. And it contributes to the education of the next generation. If a mother has a higher level of education, then so do her children, statistically speaking.

Some of the barriers that girls face are poverty, distance to the nearest school, customs that promote education for boys to a greater extent than for girls, and child marriage. Find out more about these issues at beijing20.unwomen.org

Nearly 60,000 free and open educational resources are available at http://welcome.curriki.org to educators around the world. These can improve outcomes for girls, especially in developing countries with limited education budgets. Please encourage other educators to look at what Curriki has to offer.

Computers or Cursive? – What would You do?

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

In 2012 I wrote this:janetpic_preferred_cropped

“Cursive versus typing?  

Is cursive writing part of a 21st century skill set? With touch screens, cell phones and tablets, the future of cursive writing seems uncertain. So we used the polling game Wayin to ask our community:  “Should schools still teach cursive writing?” The votes were overwhelmingly in favor of continuing cursive, yet the opponents were much more vocal. While not a statistically valid poll, 83 percent said “Yes,” we should continue with cursive, while 17 percent answered “No.” “

Yes, cursive writing is “warm”, yet, many of those of us who are a bit older know that we can’t even ourselves read much of our own cursive writing. Pity the person we write to! To communicate warmth we now have other technology, like this :-) .

cursive

And in 2013, I wrote this:

“An article in Mashable asks the question: Has technology killed cursive writing? Is penmanship still important in an age where we can efficeintly tap everything out on a keyboard? According to the article, the nation’s Common Core State Standards took out the requirement for cursive instruction in K through 12 schools. However, it’s up to each individual state to decide whether cursive is important enough to teach its own students. Recently, North Carolina legislators approved a bill to require its students to learn cursive in elementary school, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. North Carolina joins states like California, Massachusetts and Georgia, which have already added a cursive writing requirement.”

But what if we reframe the question. Life, and school days, require tradeoffs. Suppose we pose it as:

Should the time that would otherwise be spent on learning cursive handwriting, be spent instead on an introduction to the underlying technology of computers and how to program them?

Cursive handwriting was originally in the curriculum to prepare students for a world that had no typewriters, and later, had typewriters, but no computers, or mobile devices. Today, the vast majority of students in the world have access to these. The value of touch typing on a computer is  much greater than the value of good cursive handwriting today.

We may bemoan the loss of horses and buggies as a dominant form of transportation, but the world changes around us whether we are ready or not. Most of the people at the time of that transition were glad to be free of the horse’s waste products on city streets.

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There is so much practical value in learning how to use computers and mobile devices – and in using computers and mobile devices for learning – that a modern life is almost unthinkable for most people without these tools. Learning to program a computer or device is a skill in very high demand, and should continue to be, into the foreseeable future.

According to this article at Business2community, jobs in Information Technology (IT) are growing at twice the national average rate of job growth. But very few students study computer science, even at the college and university level. Only 2% of STEM (Science, TEchnology and Mathematics) students get degrees in computer science.

But a full  60% of the available STEM jobs are in the IT field! By 2020 the gap will have grown to over 3 jobs per graduating computer science nerd (we use the nerd word with a positive connotation). These are well paid jobs with higher than average salaries.

So it would be very valuable for students, and for society, to provide them with exposure to the inner workings of computers, including programming, during the K-12 years.

That’s the tradeoff. Don’t say both, you have to choose. If posed as handwriting or computer technology/programming, which one should be more prominent in K-12 education?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment.

Do I HAVE to Read a Book?

A young boy sits sad and lonely

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Why aren’t kids reading more today? Are they too busy with their electronic gadgets and games? National Reading Day (Friday, January 23) is an annual event which encourages reading by younger children and is celebrated in thousands of schools all around the United States.

Brenda St. John Brown, author of Swimming to Tokyo,  writes engaging stories that she hopes will inspire young adults to read! She recently wrote a great post with some practical tips and advice on getting reluctant readers to read. Definitely worth checking out!

Here are some ideas to encourage reading (we’ve included books for all age groups here):

  • Great book suggestions for all ages, interests, and genders from StorySnoops
StorySnoops allows you to search by age, gender and interests.

StorySnoops allows you to search by age, gender and interests.

Good Reads 2015

Good Reads 2015

So many books, so little time! If you have a book suggestion, please share it with our community.

Curriki’s Most Popular Teaching Resources in 2014

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki janetpic_preferred_cropped

Here is a list of the most popular Curriki resources and collections in 2014. A few of these keep popping up on our top lists (timeless appeal), so it’s worth a quick read. (If you do, your job will be much easier and you’ll save hours on prep and research!)

Drum roll, please…

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Most downloaded resource in 2014: The Art of Triangles TE and SE from Curriki Geometry

Most Popular collection: English 10 Full Course Contributed by Sarah Lornston

Hottest eTextbook: Mathematics etextbook by Free High School Science Texts

 

Top STEM Resources

Top STEM resource: Math Simulations Collection

Best Science Video Collection: AP Chemistry Video Collection

Top Computer Science Resource: Oracle Academy’s Getting Started with Java Using Alice

Special Collection Selection: One Million Lights Solar Energy Curriculum- High School

Most Interactive Resources for AHA Moments: The Concord Consortium Interactives

Top Science Resource: Open Source CA Textbook – Earth Science Grades 9-10

Top Mathematics Resource: Curriki Geometry Project Based Learning

 

Top English Language Arts and Social Sciences Resources

Top Social Studies Resource: High School American History Curated Collections

Top English Language Arts Game: Word Search Games and other Fun English Language Activities

Top Literature Study Unit: Tuck Everlasting Novel Study contributed by Holly Mercado and consistently ranked in our Top 10 resources!

 

TOP Health, Art and World Languages Resources

Top Health Resource: Fitness for Life contributed by Kathy Furka

Top Art resource: New Media for Social Commentary contributed by Adam Kenner

Top World Languages Resource: Spanish Verbs with Spelling Changes Worksheet

Bonus

Newest Collection: Our Lives, Our Words: Improving Student Writing through Digital Photography – First Grade Projects

This is a handy list that everyone can benefit from – teachers, students, parents, educators, or anyone who’s interested in learning. Please pass this on to your friends and colleagues.  Thank you!

Practical Tips for Parents of Reluctant Readers

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This week, we’re pleased to feature a guest blog from Young Adult Author Brenda St. John Brown, who recently published the popular novel Swimming to Tokyo. Read her advice to parents of Reluctant Readers (RR) and please let us know what you think!

Author Brenda St. John Brown

Author Brenda St. John Brown

Dear Parents of Reluctant Readers:

The last thing on the planet you want to do is sit here and have someone tell you how important reading is and how you need to get your kid to put down that iPod and crack open a book. You know they’re supposed to be reading, but between fights over homework, wrangling them into bed on time so they don’t fall asleep (for long) during class, and your Blackberry pinging like a slot machine, it’s one fight you just can’t find the energy for.

The very last thing you need right now is for someone to tell you your kid needs to read. You know that. After all, that’s why you’re here.

There’s a lot of parental guilt tied up in our kids’ success in school — even though they’re the ones actually in school. We as parents live a life full of should’s and ensuring your kid is a good reader is right there on the list next to buying organic milk. You want to do it. You believe it’s important in the long run. But it’s not always possible.

However, there’s a long list of what is possible when it comes to enticing a reluctant reader to actually read. Below is a laundry list of suggestions. Feel free to mix darks and lights. When in doubt wash everything in cold.

  • Start when they’re young and establish a reading routine. Before bed, after school, during breakfast – set time aside every day to encourage the habit of reading.
  • Let them see YOU reading. A book, magazine, newspaper, Kindle. Something other than your Blackberry/iPhone.
  • You barely have time to think, let alone read? Flip through a magazine in line for the check out at the grocery store. Look something up online related to the place you were supposed to be 10 minutes ago.
  • Or better yet…get your Reluctant Reader (RR) to do it. Whether it’s getting directions, confirming appropriate attire, opening times, etc., looking things up online requires reading. And a little bit of internet savvy, which never hurt anyone.
  • However, before you send RR off to explore the wilds of the internet, please please please make sure you have parental controls set up! There’s a lot of weird stuff out there.
  • Of course, RR is probably WAY more internet savvy than you, so those parental controls may not be bulletproof, but they will deter. And you still can make RR’s love for his device work for you. Get Grandma to engage in a competitive round of Words With Friends. Introduce RR to Buzzfeed. (Or don’t. But those quizzes ARE fun.)
  • Does RR have a passion? Football? Makeup? Fashion? Minecraft? I’d bet there’s a blog or ten devoted to her interests. Do some web searching, yourself, when you’re stuck on a boring conference call and send her some links to read. Chances are, she’ll then find 20 better ones.
  • Not keen on more screen time? Consider feeding RR’s passion with actual print. Sports scores are reported in newspapers daily. Magazines abound on every subject from cooking to cameras and they have shiny pictures. (Even my RR husband will read a car or a gadget magazine.)
  • Graphic novels and comics count, too! For the RR, the key is finding the right thing to engage them. It may not be a book in a traditional sense, but graphic novels and comics have a story and can often provide an entry point to move on to different types of reading. Series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries and Middle School are all at a higher reading level than you might think and are great gateway books if RR likes graphic novels.
  • And if/when RR is ready to move on, consider the library. It almost sounds old fashioned in this day of Amazon next-day delivery, but libraries are special — and I’m not just saying that because *I* love them. For the “cost” of a library card (FREE), kids have access to a huge variety of books — for FREE — and there’s the added benefit that RR will inevitably see another kid there picking a book, talking about a book, enjoying a book. Reading is a solitary activity, but enjoying books doesn’t have to be. And nowhere embodies book love like a library.
  • When RR chooses a book from those hallowed shelves (or from Amazon — because let’s face it, not everyone can get to the library and that direct-to-your-doorstep delivery IS pretty special), your gentle guidance is helpful. NOTHING discourages RR more than opening a book and thinking, “This is work. This is hard.” Jumping right into Lord of the Rings, for example, may put RR off forever. Likewise, something too easy can be discouraging in a different way. RR declares a book “boring” and all books are boring because, well, they’re books.
  • Guidance, however, is not to be confused with discouraging your RR if he seems dead set on a book. He’s picked Lord of the Rings and won’t be persuaded otherwise? Fabulous. It means he’s MOTIVATED to read it and you can help to facilitate his success. Suggest you take turns reading aloud for the first few chapters until he’s into the plot. Read the same book (or at least several well-reasoned reviews) so you can ask questions. Ask him to keep you company and read while you cook dinner, or keep him company while he gains an extra 15 minutes to read before bed. (This may only work up until a certain age. Your teenager may have mixed emotions about you snuggling up and keeping him company while he reads in bed? More to the point, you may not actually WANT to go in your teenager’s room. In which case…the kitchen it is!)
  • Encourage RR to get at least one more book, too – especially if you’re borrowing for FREE from the library. That way she has another book that piqued her interest enough to actually carry out of the building with her.
  • Both books turn out to be duds? Keep trying! You didn’t give up the first time RR spit out her peas, did you? You kept offering them and offering them and eventually she swallowed them. Reading isn’t quite the same, but for some it’s an acquired taste and it means lots of helpings of lots of different kinds of books.
  • And whatever you do, don’t label your RR a non-reader. Kids live up to the labels we place on them and it only takes a couple of times overhearing a parent say, “Oh, RR just isn’t a reader.” before he starts to embrace it.

Even if you do all of the above, there’s no guarantee at the end of the day, that your RR will love reading. But she might. Or she might at least complain a little less about it and let you move on to more important arguments. Like what exactly is under her bed anyway? And are you really leaving the house in that?

Curriki Resources on Follett’s One Search

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Ensure your students have access to essential online resources and support your goal of improving information literacy with Curriki partner, Follett. Check out Destiny Library Manager, which includes One Search. Curriki resources are free to all Destiny users.

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Did you know? Follett’s One Search, a complimentary service for users of Follett’s Destiny Library Manager, organizes more than 750 free and subscription-based learning databases for schools, allowing students to quickly access the full range of library resources in a single, timesaving search. Curriki is in there – and it’s free!

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According to the Follett website:

“One Search displays research results as a skilled researcher would, while reinforcing information literacy skills. Students, teachers and curriculum directors spend less time searching, giving them more time to spend thinking critically and more quality time in the library. 

With One Search, you’ll:

  • Have continuous access to websites, search engines and subscription databases.
  • Quickly locate and view resources in just one search.
  • Give students the confidence to conduct self-directed searches and develop greater information literacy skills.
  • Maximize online database investment by supporting increased usage.

One Search supports many of the most common K-12 online subscription databases, such as EBSCO, World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, Gale, Proquest and others.”

And of course it includes all of the over 58,000 Curriki resources, which are freely available!

Encouraging Teens to Read: An Interview with YA Author Brenda St. John Brown

swimmingtotokyo

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

I had a great chat with Young Adult Author Brenda St. John Brown, whose popular novels are about teens and twenty-somethings. One thing she’s really good at is enticing reluctant readers to actually read!

Author Brenda St. John Brown

Author Brenda St. John Brown

Her latest book, Swimming to Tokyo, is a New Adult Contemporary set in the tangled streets of Tokyo, in which a girl and a guy find each other and learn that love, letting go, and language lessons make for an unforgettable summer.

Why are you drawn to writing Young Adult novels?

The awkwardness! And the roller coaster of excitement/angst, excitement/angst. First love/young love is especially prone to this and it’s so fun to write without having to relive it, myself. I also love how intense everything is at this stage of life — even friendships. As a writer, it forces me to stay on top of the story and really hone in on the characters. Otherwise, I end up writing on a tangent about the dog down the street and barely realize I lost my audience two chapters ago.

How can we inspire children to read more?

This is tricky because you have to inspire them without them actually realizing what you’re doing! Let them see YOU enjoying reading. Encourage them to talk about what they’re reading. Literature circles are terrific for this and sparks fly when kids are in a group talking about a book in common. Encourage their passion through print, but also realize that quality reading isn’t always on paper. There’s a lot of great stuff online, too!

Advice to parents to encourage a love of reading?

Start while they’re young! Set aside reading time every day. And don’t be afraid to investigate further if they’re struggling with reading. They may need extra help and that’s okay. It’s better to get it and set them up for success than wait and realize when they’re older and they’ve already decided they hate reading.

What is Swimming to Tokyo about, and what inspired you to write it?

Swimming to Tokyo is a contemporary romance aimed at older teens and early twenty-somethings. The story focuses on Zosia and Finn and it’s about two people who find each other — and themselves — as they explore the temples and the tangled streets of Tokyo.

I was initially inspired to write it after looking at my own photo album from Japan. I lived in Tokyo for a couple of years and it was an amazing experience I was able to revisit through my writing.

Who is the book’s most memorable character?

Lots of readers say they really like Babci, Zosia’s grandmother, and she’s definitely a favorite character of mine. Finn also gets a lot of “book boyfriend” nods. He’s good-looking and more than a little bit damaged, but readers are drawn to him because for all of that he’s not a jerk!

What do you hope readers will learn or remember?

Zosia and Finn both have difficult things to overcome in their pasts. I hope people read the story and think about how their own pasts influence their present and realize they can move beyond the “before” they’ve let define them to create a truer version of themselves. That sounds preachier than it comes across in Swimming to Tokyo, but that was consciously in my mind as I was writing it. Finn has a line in the story: “Honesty is easy. It’s trust that’s hard.”, which is probably my favorite line in the whole book because it is the journey he’s on. In a way, it’s the journey we’re all on.

What was the last book you read?

I read at least two books per week, so whatever I say now will inevitably be out of date by the time this hits the web. Three books I’ve read recently that I recommend 1000% are:

  • THE INFINITE SEA by Rick Yancey
  • WONDER by RJ Palacio
  • THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Robyn Schneider

What are some of your favorite books from childhood?

I loved THE SECRET GARDEN and THE LITTLE PRINCESS. The Judy Blume books were a big hit with me and I’m pretty sure I read A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN at least 10 times.

Preference: eBooks or “real” books?

I love the instant gratification of eBooks and the ease of taking my Kindle everywhere, but I’m also a huge fan of libraries. I think eBooks probably win, but just barely.

Name your favorite guilty pleasure.

I don’t know if Doritos are considered a guilty pleasure, but if so…I could live on them, I swear! If Doritos don’t count…I’d say the TV show Nashville. I love my weekly fix of that show!

Check out more books by this author and pass along word to a young adult you know!