Forget Marble Notebooks: High Tech Is Coming To A K-12 Classroom Near You

Written by Dawn Papandrea , a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

All across the country, K-12 students are settling into the school year, which more than ever probably includes the sort of technology you’d expect to see in a corporate office or college classroom. From video and web conferencing to handheld devices for all students to online testing, the days of number two pencils and teachers writing notes on the blackboard could soon be a thing of the past.

Take a look at some technologies coming to (or already at!) a K-12 classroom near you…

Incorporating Technology Into Every Lesson

Remember when the big excitement at school was getting to watch a video, or if you’re really old, those slideshows that had accompanying records that beeped to prompt you to the next slide? We’ve come a long way when one considers that 52 percent of teachers say they use interactive whiteboards in their classes, and 40 percent have a class wiki or website, according to the Pew Report “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.”

Even when it comes to test preparation for the SAT, the days of flipping flashcards are over. One company, Benchprep, for example, uses an interactive gaming approach to appeal to high schoolers who are prepping for the college admissions exam.

Testing Online

Unless you’re living under a rock or in one of only 5 states that hasn’t adopted the Commor Core, you’re probably aware that by spring 2015, states must administer a mandatory online assessment to test student proficiency in math and English. Online testing means more students sitting at computers during the school day. As such, public schools are beefing up their IT offerings. In fact, says a CDW-G survey, 83 percent of public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities.

Paper and Pencil Is So Retro

Just as many have gotten used to using e-readers instead of hard copy books, the same may happen with school textbooks. In fact, 37 percent of teachers in a “Styles of Learning” survey by Enterasys Secure Networks said they planned to transition to digital textbooks within the next one to five years. At home, students are already getting used to making the switch to digital, as 31% of middle school students say they use tablets to complete homework assignments, according to a Verizon Foundation study.

The World Is Their Classroom

Thanks to video and web conferencing, some lucky students are able to watch presentations, experiments, and other learning events in real time from anywhere in the world. Think of it as the modern day field trip. For instance, some zoos, museums, ­libraries and other organizations have distance learning ­programs specifically designed for schools.

This technology is especially helpful for rural areas that are too far from cultural centers for students to frequent. One such school district in Oklahoma has been using mobile video conferencing with great success, according to an article in EdTech Magazine.

It’s just a matter of bringing video conferencing equipment into schools as companies like InterCall do to facilitate educator’s needs.

Online Courses

Beyond technology in the classroom, many K-12 students are taking courses right from their own homes via online learning. For example, Iowa Learning Online is currently serving 800 students, and has plans to expand and grow the program. Teachers broadcast to students via webcams or use technologies like Skype or Adobe Connect.

Technology in learning has come a long way in a short time, and will likely continue improving as it becomes more accessible and user friendly. Just imagine what the classroom will look like five years from now!

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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The Battle Between Book Binding and the eBook – Which is Most Suitable for the Classroom?

Written by Cheryl Luzet, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

The book is a familiar friend to many of us; a book can be a place where we can meet wonderful characters and immerse ourselves in their worlds, or it can be a teacher to educate us about our favourite subjects. The book has been around in one form or another for many centuries but the format we recognise today was probably born in India, where the craft of book binding was pioneered. The first books to benefit from the technological advances which enabled book binding were religious texts, and the binding process used to create them was subsequently taken into Persia, China and beyond by Buddhist monks around the first century BC. The techniques of book binding spread throughout the world thereafter, and though the processes have evolved over the centuries, the end result is similar and instantly recognisable to all of us.

But now the book which we know so well has a competitor: the eBook. This latest technological development certainly has convenience on its side; an eBook reader is light and portable and can hold several thousand books, something that could only be done with the help of a large truck in the case of traditional books! So is it likely to take over from its paper counterpart and, more particularly, how do the two match up in the classroom?

The eBook certainly has its advantages: it gives students the ability to search for particular words or sentences when they want to locate a particular quotation, and it allows them to view dictionary definitions of any words they need help with in an instant. On the downside, it is more difficult to read from the screen and limits the ability for children to share their books. And, given their natural curiosity, there’s a tendency for kids to get distracted by other apps and tools on the reading device, which could be a disruption to learning. Naturally, cost is another major consideration. A move towards eBooks would require significant investment in technology which may be prohibitive for schools; children could easily lose their reading devices, or the devices themselves may not prove robust enough to withstand the constant wear at the hands of pupils which use in the classroom would expose them to.

The bound book has been a mainstay of the classroom for generations. Its physical form makes it easy to flick through and read; its size and format make it convenient for students to share in the classroom if there aren’t enough copies to go round, and it certainly doesn’t cost anywhere near as much to replace if it is lost or damaged. When compared to the eBook, however, it does lose out from being self-contained and having no other inbuilt learning materials such as a dictionary. The result is that students are likely to have to carry several different text books, and could lose time and concentration when they have to switch between them to look up information.

We must conclude then that, as is usually the case when technology vies with traditional media, there is a place for both. We may one day see a move to 100% eBook usage in the classroom but we would need to get the devices in place first and thoroughly stress test them in that environment. For the present, the printed book is a convenient classroom companion which lets teachers supervise more easily, so it’s likely it will not lose its place just yet.

Guest blog by Binding Store www.bindingstore.co.uk/ who sell business solutions for a wide variety of binding and printing finishing needs.

6 Practical Ways to Improve Your Grades

Written by Ruth Dunn, a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Although grades are not the major focus of our academic environment, they are important to some of our learners and families.  The below tips not only could impact a student’s grades, but also impact participation and engagement (which are important to our entire community).  Never bad skills to practice?!

6 Practical Ways to Improve Your Grades
Getting good grades is a wonderful investment in your future, as high marks set you up for scholarships that help pay for college. You may even be offered a free ride for a great school if your grades are high enough. Here are some tips provided by Shoreline Learning to help you improve your grades.

Get Organized

Write all of your assignments down in a planner as soon as they are given to you. It’s best to list them on the day they due. Refer to your list at least once per week so you don’t forget a project that isn’t due for several weeks. Using a different colour ink for each subject is a great way to organize your assignments. This makes it easy to see which books you need to bring home at the end of each school day. Just turning in your homework on time goes a long way toward improving your grades.

Take Notes

It is easy to get distracted when you’re sitting in class listening to a long lecture, but listening and understanding everything your teacher says is much better for your learning and development. Taking notes forces you to focus on what’s being said. It also gives you something to refer back to when you’re completing a homework assignment or studying for a test.

Read Ahead

Another way to help you focus during a long lecture in class is to read the material before the teacher talks about it. Write down any questions that you have while you are reading the chapter so you can ask the teacher about them later. Understanding the material is key if you want to do well on tests and get good grades on your report cards.

Study With A Group

Studying with a group will help you remember the material and bond with your classmates at the same time. Spend a few hours quizzing each other about everything you learned in class. It’s easier to remember the information you need to know during a test if you have repeated it out loud.

Sit in Front

Sitting in the front of the classroom is helpful for several reasons. One is that it’s easy to get distracted by what’s going on in front of you, so sitting in the front row minimizes distractions. Another reason to sit in the front is because it’s easier for you to see everything the teacher is doing if it’s happening right in front of you.

Talk to Your Teachers

If you find yourself struggling with a class, it’s smart to sit down with the teacher and make a plan to improve your grade. They may offer you extra credit assignments or give you the name of a student who would be willing to tutor you. Teachers are much more willing to work with students who talk to them about improving their grades than those who ignore a worsening grade and aren’t actively working to improve it.

Inventing Kindergarten – Kickstarter Project

Written by Scott Bultman a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Below may be something of interest to some of our readers, either because of the resource and/or because many of us talked about using kickstarter for a project.  After exploring the quick description below and the link – you might be interested in helping Norman out.

Inventing Kindergarten

Norman Brosterman’s Inventing Kindergarten (Abrams, 1997) tells the story of the first system for educating young children by the inventor of Kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel. The book shows the origins of Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia, and see how this early design education method contributed to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Eames, and the Bauhaus. Brosterman’s popular book has been out-of-print for almost decade (but cited in over 200+ other works) and he’s working to bring it back.  

Visit the kickstarter site specific to Inventing Kindergarten at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1335652536/inventing-kindergarten

About the Author:  Scott Bultman is the owner of Red Hen, LLC and Froebel USA.  He is also the managing partner of Kaleidograph Design, LLC. 

Learning Problems Are Not Permanent Disabilities

Written by Ang Lloyd a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

According to Nichcy.org, about one million children (between the ages of 6-21) in the US have some type of learning difficulty. It’s therefore not uncommon for teachers to encounter children in their class who struggle with learning, whether the difficulties have to do with reading, writing, making calculations, listening, or attention. Dealing with learning difficulties in a classroom environment can be challenging, but it’s certainly not an impossible task. If you’re a teacher, here are three tips to keep in mind for your next lesson plan.

1)Identify the learning style – Everyone has their preferred way of learning, whether there’s a disability present or not. According to HelpGuide.org, there are generally three types of learning styles, namely visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Most learners will have an over-riding primary learning style, which will be based on sights (reading, diagrams, colour graphs and pictures), sounds (classroom discussions, spoken directions, music and languages), or movement (hands-on activities such as sport, field trips, and dance). Once the learning style is matched to the student, studying can be made a lot easier, as they’ll benefit more from the learning process.

2)Accommodate learning styles – These are small changes that can be made in lesson plans and instructions. This is particularly useful in a “normal” classroom environment, where most of the learners don’t have learning problems. You can accommodate students with learning difficulties by adjusting how instructions are presented, how students are expected to respond, and time limits. For example, teachers can break down assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks, and they can allocate more time for tests and quizzes.

3)Encourage blogging – Remember when your English teacher asked you to keep a journal? Blogging; a form of social media – works on the same principle; it”s just in a digital format. According to LDOnline.org, blogging can benefit students with learning disabilities in a variety of ways. For example, teachers can post assignments and notes on their blogs. Not only does this help the whole class, but it’s also useful for students with attention or listening problems. A class blog can also aid classroom discussions by giving students time to think before answering. Keeping a blog also encourages and improves writing, along with reading and language skills.

If the right approach is taken, students with learning disabilities can succeed in a classroom environment. If you’re a teacher, remember to accommodate students by making minor changes to your lessons, identify their style of learning, and either have a class blog, or encourage them to keep their own. If you’re not familiar with teaching students with learning difficulties, it can also be helpful to do an online course, which will equip you with the necessary skills and know-how.

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Ang Lloyd writes for Now Learning, an education portal that promotes a variety of classroom-based and online courses in Australia, including education and social media courses.

How to Handle Dyslexia

Written by Sharon Simmons, a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

Dyslexia can cause various learning difficulties because it is a language based learning disability. The symptoms of this disability is a range of learning difficulties. This condition that can affect any person of any age, gender or ethnicity. Most of the time the problems of word recognition is what comes as the very first sign of this condition. The brains of those who suffer from this condition see the words differently than a non-dyslexic person. When an individual found to be having difficulties of reading fluently, writing, misspelling the chances are high that person is having a dyslexic condition. During the childhood sometimes these conditions are not recognized. Then further studies such as handling grammar becomes even harder since they have difficulty of understanding words. Performing mathematical calculations is another common difficulty for dyslexic students.

The dyslexic people often find it difficult to have a clear conversation with the others. As they have problems of handling the language what they say might mean very little or even be taken as gibberish. Often the children who have this condition gets misunderstood as lazy or dumb. This is a really sad situation since they are practically getting punished for a condition they are born with. Also it can affect their personality when they are labelled like this. How much they try they will not be able to improve themselves as it is beyond their personal control. When they grow up this seeps in their thinking and they find themselves to be unsuccessful individuals and that may lead to many other psychological conditions as well.

So it is really important to have them consulted with a qualified professional. If a child is identified with this condition at a very early stage a considerable change can be made to the way the he/she learns and can be trained to learn the way they understand. Sometimes when they read the context does not get to their heads but if they hear the same context they will perfectly understand. So it is mainly a way of understanding their capabilities of grasping and processing information on a personal level. Since it is a neurobiological disorder the way each person react to sound and sight may be unique to each person. Hence the way you treat one dyslexic child may be totally different to the way another child with the same condition will react.

After all adults with dyslexia who happened to get the right guidance can blossom into professional individuals. There are so many engineering, architecture,design and medical professionals who had struggled with their primary education before they got the appropriate attention for their dyslexia. Though it is said that some of those professionals still have difficulty with time management and organization.

Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition. But proper diagnosis and dedication from the family members and friends can help these individuals to learn any subject just like the others and achieve high school or even university education.

About the author:  This is a guest article by Sharon Simmons from Paddington. Sharon is working as a freelance content writer. Currently Sharon is writing some interesting articles about internships in Madrid. Have a look on her Tweets@SharonSimmons90″.

Literacy in the Visual Learner

Written by David Morgan, a Clonlara School guest blogger affiliated with Easyread.com (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

Statistics from governments around the world show that 20% of children reach age 11 and are not able to pass a reading test. Many children are still not grasping the phonics they were taught as 5 year olds.

Why?

Everyone has different learning styles. Our learning style is part of what makes us unique individuals, and we should learn to embrace our natural tendencies. Some of us are visually-oriented, others kinaesthetic, others auditory…We all naturally use the areas of the brain that work best for us. The more we use those areas, the more they develop, to the detriment of other areas.

However, there is one learning style which can complicate the processing of written text.

Children with exceptional visual-spatial capacities seem to be at risk when it comes to learning how to read, though in the first few years this risk may be well hidden. These children may or may not exhibit any problems with reading until the age of 7 or 8 because they will usually succeed in early literacy tasks. They do well at the start of their formal education because they are easily able to learn the alphabet and simple words through sight-memorization. This method appeals to their brain’s highly engaged visual capacity and learning style.

But they are using a technique that will eventually fail them.

As the text gets more complex they can no longer reliably use their sight memory or the context as a trigger clue and so they begin to guess very wildly. English is one of the world’s more complicated languages with a huge vocabulary, and every word cannot be memorized. These children read inaccurately, skip words, flip words and have low spelling ability.

Instead of recommending that these children just “do more reading” in order to fix the problem, teaching programs should play to the strengths of these visually engaged children.

These children need some kind of memory hook which is visually engaging that prompts them with the correct letter sound when they are stuck. Instead of resorting to guessing, the child is then empowered to decode words. In this way, children are weaned off their habit of jumping to a guess rather than scanning each word to match the letter patterns with the sound patterns.

David Morgan is Managing Director of Morgan Learning Solutions and creator of the Easyread System. Easyread employs imaginative synthetic phonics to teach struggling learners how to read and spell. The program specializes in helping kids with dyslexia, highly visual learning styles or auditory processing disorder. Visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/easyreadsystem.