Recent Sightings

Here are some of the articles and websites I posted this past month to del.icio.us:

  • EdWeek has a great site with background essays on many of the most important issues we have faced and are facing in education today. See for example their background essay on the A Nation at Risk report from the 80s.
  • Search, browse, and immediately access any free online course or learning resource here at the OER Commons. Related to this, John Seely Brown and others recently reviewed the open educational resources movement.
  • New Image and Video-Related Tools and Sites:
    • TeacherTube is basically YouTube for educators and educational content. So far the most popular videos are of a rapping math teacher.
    • Mojiti is a site that lets you annotate and edit videos from your browser. See this story for more information
      (via the How We Learn blog).
    • The makers of the popular bitorrent file sharing application Azureus have announced the Vuze site, which is essentially for sharing videos just like YouTube, except it uses P2P, for sharing higher quality and larger video files.
    • This article reviews various browser-based image editing tools.
  • Recent research-related articles (many are pdf links):
  • The Learning Sciences community has a new wiki of sorts called ENCORE where researchers can announce and describe each others’ work. There is not much there at the moment, although one interesting project listed there is Group Scribbles. Created by SRI, it is a tool that “subsumes the best features of whiteboard and student response system (SRS) applications and adds much more.” (via InqBlot)
  • Instacalc is a browser-based, shareable calculator that you can embed in a webpage or blog, for example.
  • People are figuring out more and more about the workings of Nintendo Wii’s Wiimote. Here is a demo of it being used to navigate 3D environments, taking advantage of ADXL330 accelerometer built-in to the controller.
  • A very interesting article from Wired explores unique sensory augmentation technologies, such as a belt which constantly vibrates in the direction of north. A person wore the belt for a good while and eventually it changed his perceptions of everyday things. Another device lets you perceive spatial patterns by stimulating your tongue.
  • Office 2.0 is a large listing of all the browser-based applications out there designed with productivity in mind.
  • Google Maps has has added a new feature called My Maps that lets you easily create your own custom map mashups.
  • Here are some recent public articles that have been critical of education or technology:
    • There was a lot of publicity about a report which the media cast as showing that putting kids in day-care causes behavior problems in school later on. Actually, as Slate magazine and others recognized, it only showed a 1% difference in ratings of behavior, and really it is only kids who had 4 years of day-care. Kids who only had 1 or 2 years of day-care showed no difference in behavior.
    • At the same time EdWeek published an article extolling the Cognitive Tutor software program from Carnegie Mellon, the government has released a report stating that it, along with some other popular software titles, have no significant effect on learning (here is the executive summary). The latter report, entitled “Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products” randomly assigned various reading and math education software to different classes, and after their first year of collecting data, they have found no significant advantages of using the software. The Cognitive Tutor program in particular showed some negative effects (via CNN).
      There are some limitations in the conclusions to be drawn from the education report, yet it should not be entirely dismissed. The teachers did have professional development training on how to use and apply the software. And they did find positive effects with smaller class sizes, and also when the software was used more frequently (rather than just a few minutes a day). Too often though we see promising educational interventions (software and non-software based) lose too much of their effectiveness when taken out of the researchers’ hands.
    • USA Today covers another report on the effectiveness of teachers, which has some very interesting conclusions, including:
      • Teachers spend too much time on basic reading and math skills and not enough on problem-solving, reasoning, science and social studies.
      • U.S. education focuses too much on teacher qualifications and not enough on teachers being engaging and supportive.
      • Fifth-graders spent 91.2% of class time in their seats listening to a teacher or working alone, and only 7% working in small groups.
      • In fifth grade, 62% of instructional time was in literacy or math; only 24% was devoted to social studies or science.
      • About one in seven (14%) kids had a consistently high-quality “instructional climate” all three years studied. Most classrooms had a fairly healthy “emotional climate,” but only 7% of students consistently had classrooms high in both. There was no difference between public and private schools.
      • Whether a teacher was highly qualified, had many years of experience or earned more mattered little.
      • Prior research has shown that highly skilled, engaging teachers can eliminate achievement gaps between rich and poor kids. Pianta says his new findings support that conclusion and suggest policymakers should focus more on how individual teachers can improve on these measures.
    • Lastly, one other report casts doubts on the effectiveness of the “Baby Einstein” and Mozart type products for very young children.
Posted in edtech, education, research, software
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