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Today STEM Connector held a town hall titled ‘The state of education technology.’ Much of what was discussed was on personalized and adaptive learning, data mining and individualization for how and what students learn, and the use of technology to organize the classroom around modalities of learning and instruction. Two of the presenters, David Liu, from Knewton (http://www.knewton.com/about/) and Joel Rose, from Teach to One (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-students-test-teach-to-one-learning-system/2012/10/14/9f945470-149b-11e2-be82-c3411b7680a9_story.html) talked about their companies in this line of business. These programs, however, have high price tag. I would like to look at data on how effective these programs are for retention, closing achievement gaps, assisting with learning progressions, and metacognition. For instance, program evaluation; Teach to One is pretty new.

One thing that is pretty cool and I want you to check out is ‘iLabCentral.org Real Labs. Real Learning’ Kemi Jona, Northwestern University, described this amazing resource at this town hall. These are lab simulations on steroids? No, no they are even better because you are ‘interacting’ with real equipment. There is one that uses an ICP, oh memories. I am definitely going to use these when I get back. There is an iLab library organized by grade level. There are not that many for the middle school level, but you will see that adapting many other ones is not that far fetch. Best of all, it’s a free open-source platform.

The following narrative is from their website http://ilabcentral.org/about.php

·         ‘Gives science teachers and learners in traditional and online high schools, museums, and informal science education programs the ability to experience the excitement and authenticity of using high-end equipment to investigate the world in the same way that scientists do

·         Provides new research and learning opportunities for students, allowing them to share and discuss procedures and results

  • Prepares teachers to integrate iLABs in a range of science courses (including AP courses), encouraging them to go beyond the current paradigm of cookbook science labs with outdated or inappropriate equipment
  • Allows access by students and other audiences around the world who might not otherwise have the resources to purchase and operate costly or delicate lab equipment.’

 
 
With most of the Fellows last Tuesday I attended an annual program at the National Academies arranged for us to learn about all their work and different boards’ projects. It was organized by Dr. Jay Labov, Senior Advisor for Education and Communication (NAS & NRC), who brought together twelve presenters from NAS.  Presenter Dr. Ana Ferraras, Senior Program Officer at the NRC’s Board on International Scientific Organizations, talked to us about her work in China and alluded to the report on ‘the teacher development continuum in the US and in China.’ In China teachers have more time for self-reflection and interaction with colleagues. Chinese teachers view their American counterparts as not having first-hand experience on the educational theories they implement in the classroom. Desks in Chinese classrooms are arranged in straight rows, the traditional lecture orientation. Teachers have between 40-50 students in a classroom and it is the teachers not the students who move between rooms. Chinese teachers have fewer classes than do U.S. counterparts, two or three per day. This gives Chinese teachers time to grade homework within the school working hours while comparing notes with other teachers. Chinese teachers may have up to an hour and half for lunch, compared to the thirty minutes or so we get in the United States. A contributor to the report commented that teaching in the United States take after a production model, with inputs and outputs to liken it to a production efficiency mentality. This tends to results in a disconnected workforce, a horizontal model of teaching in which not much trust is placed in teachers. Education in China seems to stress more importance to the implementation of the curriculum whereas in United States the focus tends to be on designing and redesigning. This was one the presentations that stuck with me. It made me think that professional development opportunities in the United States are thought as something that happens outside the classroom and given by specialists or so-called experts. In China, PD seems to be a continuous process in which teachers themselves are given time to reflect on their teaching and exchange feedback between them on a daily basis.

 
 
 

NASA Viz

11/10/2012

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No, no isn’t England; it is where we met with some teachers from Maryvale Preparatory School in Baltimore, Maryland. It reminded me of Cambridge University St. John’s College. It is known as the Castle modeled after the Warwick Castle in Great Britain. The Gothic arched windows are astounding. It is part of a beautiful campus. As part of NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio, Eleni and I are working with the school to see how NASA Viz apps can be adapted for use in the classroom. All the students at the school have iPads. Check the apps out for yourself at http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/nasaviz/index.html they have incredible stories and videos based on real data. The stories are grouped according to topics such as Earth Sciences, Planets and Moons, Heliophysics and the Universe. One of my favorites is called ‘Shields Up’ which is part of the ‘dynamic earth: exploring earth's climate engine’ movie and if you’re looking at the water cycle check out ‘Up, Up and Away.’ There are over 200 stories and two brand new stories are released every week.


 
 

Superstorm Sandy blew over and Goddard Space Flight Center and Greenbelt, Maryland, where the center is located fared pretty well compared to other areas such as New York and New Jersey. On Monday and Tuesday Goddard was on code red and only emergency personnel were allowed. The lights in my apartment flickered throughout Monday evening but I never lost power. The stores on Sunday were almost out of water, but I was able to buy a gallon and three one liter bottles. In my jog on Tuesday I saw lots of leaves accumulated on the ground and branches scattered throughout.  We dodged a colossal monster; we've finally got to go back to work yesterday.