Sunday, August 30, 2009

Do Cell Phones Fry the Brain?

According to Australian researchers, cell phones make children more impulsive and quicker but not better thinkers. However, use of the phones does not fry the brain. To read more about the study, check out Dennis Baron's blog post on The Web of Language: Cell Phones Make Kids Faster, Not Smarter. Let us know your thoughts after reading the blog post. (image 1: Baron's blog; image 2:

Students Speak Up

Back in April, I posted a Blog "What Students Want." Now, listen to a video to learn more. In it, students speak out to President Obama, telling him how they believe schools should be reconfigured. Watch the short video, and post your comments.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are Computers Killing Literarcy Skills?

A major study out of Stanford University suggests the reverse. In fact, computers are helping to build literarcy skill, especially writing skills. Lunsford traced students' writing skills and habits over time. Read a synopsis of the study in an article from Wired magazine: Clive Thompson's on New Literacy. Also, check out this article that appeared in Intelligent Life: We Are All Writers Now. Post your responses.

Friday, August 28, 2009

American History Websites

If you teach American history topics, check out this page from Education World for Sites to See, and post your responses to what you find online.

Reading for Points

Have you heard of the Accelerated Reader program in which students earn points for books they read? Books like the Harry Potter ones receive more points than many classics. The Potter books receive anywhere from 35 to 40 points while Hamlet earns 10 points and Sense and Sensibility garners 30 points. Accelerated Reader is a computerized management program intended to motivate students to read. Students earn a specific number of points for books read outside of school once they complete an online multiple-choice quiz to test their comprehension.

Apparently, the program is used in 75,000 schools nationwide, according to a New York Times article (August 27, 2009). The article notes that program “helps teachers track student reading through computerized comprehension tests and awards students points for books they read based on length and difficulty, as measured by a scientifically researched readability rating.” The site offers
125,000 quizzes on literature.

In your estimation, is a computerized program that assesses students’ reading comprehension and awards points a valuable contribution to education and the promotion of literacy skills?

Access the
New York Times article for more information:
Illustration by Ahl & Company

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Digital Media Replace Standard Textbooks

Two months ago, on May 30, I posted a blog about California schools going green and phasing out textbooks. Now the trend has gone national, and it is not just a matter of textbooks losing their value, but the technology invigorating the curriculum in ways that textbooks simply cannot. In Vail, Arizona, at the Empire High School, students go online to access lessons, complete homework, and listen to teacher podcasts. In the same district, at Cinega High, students retrieve via the Web English, history, and science lessons.

Check out
Beyond Textbooks to learn how teachers share online lessons, post PowerPoints presentations and videos, and share links to Internet resources. With students wired 24/7, the push for online technologies in educational arena is natural. Students are regularly using social networking sites, iPods, blogs, wikis, and a host of other interactive tools. Rather than buck the trend, teachers need to embrace technology's promise. Although not all students have access to smartphones and iPods, grants and government sources will with time put mobile technologies into the hands of those who cannot purchase these soon-to-be basic instructional supplies.

In California, where adoption of a textbook is traditionally statewide affair, Pearson publishers has submitted four options for its flexbooks, online supplements to textbooks. In a August 8, 2009 New York Times article, reporter Tamar Levin wrote educators believe "it will not be long before [textbooks] are replaced by digital versions—or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from a wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos, and projects on the web.”

How soon do you believe textbooks will be antiquated? Are you ready for a shift to digital, interactive learning environments in lieu of flat-page textbooks? What advantages do you envision in interactive technologies supplanting standard textbooks?

Photo credit: Heidi Schumann for The New York Times with caption: "In California, high school interns try out digital "flexbooks" created by the CK-12 Foundation." Information in this post taken from Tamar Levin's article "As Classroom Go Digital, Textbooks May Become History." Second photo from the Beyond Textbooks site.