"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

Archive for the tag “education”

Best Note Taking: Sketchnote On The iPad

Lecture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Enough with the cramming and the hand-cramping, it’s time to upgrade your note taking with skectchnoting. And if that isn’t futuristic enough for you, try it out on you iPad.

What is sketchnoting?

Sketchnoting is visual note taking. It is becoming more and more popular as a way to capture, understand, and retain content. With sketchnoting you are taking an idea and asking yourself how you can represent that idea visually. The sketcher turns the speaker’s words into symbols, objects, arrows, dividers, bubbles, boxes, colors, and typography.

Why sketchnote?

Your drawings become visual mnemonics. Those who turn their words into drawings, making use of visual thinking, improve recall my 29 percent. Sketchnoting forces you to pay attention. And by making connections between concepts and making the material meaningful to you, you increase your retention of that content. Sketchnoting allows you to ditch the age-old linear note taking and layout your information in a format that flows logically and easily for you.

Another great reason for skechnoting: sketchnotes are more creative and visually appealing than standard note taking. By the end of the lecture you will have a work of art and an interesting study guide for later review!

Upgrading the upgrade: Sketchnoting on the iPad.

If you aren’t fond of dealing with papers, the iPad makes an excellent sketch notebook. You will need a sketch app for iPad.

Apps I recommend for sketchnoting: GoodNotes and Sketchbook Pro.

With Sketchbook Pro you might want to get an iPad stylus (using your fingers may produce undesirable results!).

GoodNotes has some nice features that assist in sketchnoting. What I like about this app is that you can move information/text/illustrations around as you please (no wasting time erasing!). You can also choose what kind of paper you want to use depending on your needs (lined, graphed, plain, or music).

Remember: To get the most out of sketchnoting you’ve got to make your drawings meaningful. If you give your drawings some spunk and personality, the more useful your sketchnotes will be for you.

Happy sketching!



Students and Parents: Education Can’t Change Without You

Much of the talk about education reform has focused on teachers and what they can do to help kids be successful in school. A lot is expected from teachers. They are expected to present material that is engaging, plan hands-on classroom activities, would have conversations with their students, keep up to date on the latest teaching techniques and resources, connect emotionally with their students, and provide encouragement and support. If that lengthy sentence had you feeling exhausted, think of how teachers must feel. Indeed, teachers are in the hot seat when it comes to education reform. But what many people have failed to recognize is that education reform does not rely solely on teachers. In fact, change can only come about with the combined effort of teachers, students, and parents.

What can students do to help? Take initiative and bring your student voice. Speak out and get involved in the talk, the decisions. Education is for the students, and any changes that are made will impact you. Communicate what you want your education to be like. What works/doesn’t work in the classroom for you? What changes can be made to help you succeed? Without your voice you’re like a crying infant, and policymakers are like the mother who is trying to guess what her baby needs. Policymakers are not the ones going to school everyday; you are the expert on schooling.

Parents. Become actively involved in your child’s education and show your support. Communicate with your child’s teacher and know what your child is doing at school. Try to understand your child’s passions, interests, and struggles. Do what you can at home to help them succeed in school. You’re afterschool pick-up conversation shouldn’t just be, ‘did you have fun in school today?’ ‘yep.’ I encourage you to dig deeper. Too many parents drop off their kid at school and make their child’s education the school’s responsibility; it’s passive almost, but it certainly shouldn’t be this way. If you and your child are investing this much time and energy in education, it doesn’t make sense to go through the motions.

If students can voice their opinions and if parents can follow through, I think we’ll be able to connect some pieces of this education reform puzzle.

What are the other missing pieces?

iPad and iPhone Games For Toddlers: Harmful or Helpful?

We’ve all heard that too much TV for your child is a bad thing. But how many of us have stopped to think why this is so? Our child looks fine, happy; there seems to be no negative effect.

Is your child bored but you have to make dinner? Easy, Sesame Street is on. Need to get ready for work? Barney what would I do without you?

But even what seems to be the most educational, mind-stimulating TV shows and videos can be potentially harmful to toddlers. According to the AAP, these educational programs benefit children over the age of two years, but, because children under age two are at a different stage of cognitive development, they do not benefit. Most children under the age of two do not understand the information presented to them from these shows or pay attention to them. Studies have found that these TV shows and videos have a short-term effect on language skill development for children under 2. Children who watch more TV are more likely to exhibit language delays.

It appears there is a correlation between TV viewing and delays in language development in young children, but is TV turning our kids’ brains to mush? Research suggests that it’s what TV is replacing that is the problem. When young children are planted in front of the TV for hours at a time, they aren’t interacting with their parent. When the TV is on, the parent and child aren’t talking or playing, which is crucial to children’s development at this age.

But while some parents have taken the advice and limited their children’s viewing time, there is another crime in the making: iPhones and iPads.

I work in retail, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t see a flustered parent at check out who handles their child’s whining, or emotional outbursts by handing over their iPhone to them. It’s like a high-tech pacifier.

So the question I have is: are iPhones and iPads for toddlers just as bad for them as as TV? Indeed the two are different. However, apps like Peek-a-Zoo or Elmo Loves ABCs are more interactive and engaging than TV shows or videos, which can be considered a more passive experience.

But TV and smart devices do have something in common; they both take away from engaging activity between parent and child, and along with it, the benefits children under two gain from the interaction.

What is your opinion on toddlers using iPhones and iPads?



STEM Intervention: Passion, Education…And Chemical X

If you aren’t in the loop on our nation’s latest STEM dilemma, let’s get you caught up so you can carry on with the sequel.

By 2018, America will need to fill 1.2 million jobs in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). But this demand will surpass our supply; simply not enough college graduates will be qualified to fill these positions. Our nation’s high school students are lagging behind other countries in necessary skills for theses fields, ranking 25th out of 31 countries in math performance. Interest in STEM fields is low; in fact, only 233,000 out of 3.6 billion end up pursuing a STEM degree in college.

Many propose that we go about this problem by inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM fields. About two years ago Al Gore hosted on a global online town hall “Math, Science and the Future of Our Nation,” hoping to build excitement and spark student interest in STEM related careers. Others, including myself, have proposed that we inspire by increasing hands-on, interactive learning experiences in the classroom to boost STEM popularity.

But from my own personal experiences through schooling, and as I read more and more about the topic, I’ve come to realize that there is a relationship between one’s passion and one’s belief in their capabilities. An example shall we? I love to run; it is my passion. And hey, I just so happen to have a talent for it. Coincidence? Perhaps. But there’s no doubt that many people enjoy doing things they are good at (we like to feel good about ourselves don’t we?) and many people tend shy away from things they are not good at.

Keeping this point in mind, as we try to solve the STEM dilemma I think it’s important that we instill not just passion, but arm students with the necessary skills and confidence. I have a passion for art, but I never pursued the field because, to be honest, I did not think I had the skills or the talent; I was afraid of failure. I believe this is what we need to prevent if we want kids to pursue STEM degrees and careers. We need to let kids know that it’s okay to fail and make mistakes, and our educational system needs to reflect that attitude.

How can we do this? I don’t think we need to abandon our whole grading system; we just need to make some minor tweaks. After getting a poor grade on a math test, a hard-working student may feel defeated, fostering a negative attitude toward math, leading them to shy away from pursuing the field. But what if teachers intervened by reaching out to the students (more than they already are) who are having a hard time in math in science? By offering encouragement, tips, advice, and tools and resource to access from home, perhaps we can avoid the “I hate math” attitude.

Sometimes all students need is a little faith, trust and pixie dust.

Prep Your iPad for College: Best Apps for College Students

I have a sad story to tell you. Last year I was awarded an iPad for my good grades but I’ve been so busy (and somewhat technologically challenged) that I still haven’t explored the wonders of the iPad beyond Safari, Mail, and iBooks. Oh yeah and I still haven’t invested in a case for it. I hope you aren’t too appalled to read on further because I do have some useful information coming your way. Today I decided it’s time to crack down. This iPad is awesome and it’s time the iPad and I got to know each other. How can the iPad be useful for me for college this year? What are the best apps for productivity? This morning I sought out answers to these questions; here is a list I compiled of the best apps for college students:

  1. Graphing calculator HD: You backpack just got lighter. You can even graph up to four functions at a time! Stunning, colorful graphs all for cheaper, beats the TI-83 any day.
  2. Noteability: Has a lot of features packed into one app. While in class you can take handwritten notes or type, record the lecture, and annotate PDF documents. It even has common word-processing tools like spell checker, textbox, and styling features.
  3. iAnnotate: In college PDF files from your professors are constantly thrown at you. This app lets you highlight, underline, take notes, and organize your documents. You can open up several documents at once on different tabs, making it easy to jump back and forth between documents.
  4. iThoughts: For the web-making prone students. If you make concept maps while you study, this is the app for you. Looks pretty too.
  5. Amazon Student: An easy way to browse, purchase, and trade textbooks.
  6. Instapaper Pro: Save articles to your iPad as you surf the web. If you leave Internet connection those articles will still be there for you to read. This is a great app because even if you are on campus with Wi-Fi, it isn’t always reliable or it can be slow.
  7. Evernote: You can take quick notes, save sites from the Internet, make to-do lists, record lectures for review later, and copy and paste information from sites.
  8. Flash my Brain: Turns your notes into flash cards for studying.
  9. Dropbox: Drop your files into the box and you can access them from any of your devices. Thank goodness for this, it’s not practical or particularly smart to carry all your devices on you at once.
  10. Print n Share Pro: Lets you view PDF and Microsoft office documents and print them to all kinds of printers. Great for those days when you have a mini heart attack because you forgot to bring your assignment from home.
  11. Pages for iPad:  A word processor.  Allows you to take lecture notes and save them as a Word document or PDF.
  12. Mathematical formulas: Stuck on a math homework problem? The right formula to help solve it might be in here; gives examples too.
  13. Textbooks: Download a textbook onto your iPad. Don’t lug that thing around like a caveman!
  14. iStudiez Pro: An organizer/task manager geared for college students. Lets you keep track of your assignments, projects, due dates.

Any other useful apps for college students out there that you’d like to share?

21 Sesame Street: My Undercover Elementary School Assignment

Brief: More than just cookies are being stolen on Sesame Street, creativity is too.

I woke up one morning to a Twister game sitting at the foot of the stairs. ‘”What is this doing here?” I say to my Ma. “It’s game day at your brother’s school, the second to last day of school,” she said. My seven-year-old brother over hears her; he frolics down the stairs saying, “Yeah it’s game day today!”

I decided to join in on this game day. I thought it would be a good thing for me to see where my little brother spends his weekdays, to let him show me his desk, and to meet his teacher. I knew my visit would excite him too. I suppose I wanted to show him that I was involved and supportive of that part of his life.

I hadn’t approached this campus in some time. I used to come here to pick up my little brother from school every now and then, but now I approached the campus with a critical eye. I suddenly had the opportunity to step out of the role of the student and take on the role of the observer. I was curious. How has elementary school changed since I left? Has it changed at all?

After a few post-recess classroom activities and a few (defeated) Connect Four games later, I was able to answer this question.

Elementary school has not changed very much since my time. One thing I noticed is that everything is still structured, if not more. The schedule for the school day is up on the white board, there is no time for tangents or off-topic comments, and your butt must be glued to the carpet—always.

A recent article, 3 Ideas to Prevent Schools from Killing Creativity, Curiosity, and Critical Thinking, brought me back to my first grade classroom experience. One thing this article nailed: these kids are fidgety. You can see it in their eyes, down to their tippy toes; they are in a constant struggle to maintain self-control. You can see that they are antsy to standup, to move around, to talk out of turn, to share, and to engage with their classmates. This is wonderful news!

It’s great that we have children who are eager to learn, share, and to connect with others. It’s understandable though why there is structure—the classroom is innately a jungle and without rules and reminders the monkeys will run wild. But can’t we let them run wild a little bit? Instead of silencing this writhing energy for 8 hours a day, can’t we “transfer” it somewhere else?

This is where the article brought in some interesting points. Though there are activities like recess, art, music, and P.E. class that are meant to give kids a break from classroom lessons, I feel like there is still a lot of structure and rules that essentially take away children’s autonomy. I have no recollection of choosing my own instrument to play in music class, but instead, being handed a recorder and told to play it. And I doubt I would have ever chosen juggling for a P.E. class activity, let alone be graded on it (yes graded!).

In accordance with the article, I think we should allow kids a greater voice in what they want to do in school. We should give them time in the school day to do activities that they are passionate or curious about. This isn’t a recess or some pointless free time, it’s a time where kids can exercise their creative minds with the encouragement and support of their teachers. Giving children this opportunity will help reboot their minds for better focus and concentration on other classroom activities that require attention, patience, and structure. Also as a result, you will help create a group of children who feel empowered and confident to pursue their passions and ideas. We want to generate students who challenge the what, the how and the why—essentially leaders, not followers.

What do you think about the current structure of elementary school? Does it need to be changed? If so, what changes do you think should be made? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Reforming Education In America: Finland Teaches Its Kids and America Too

I think it’s great that America is getting off its high horse and reaching out to other countries for guidance on how to improve its education system. In a bigger picture, I think that communication and collaboration is key to positive social change. One thing I’ve learned through academics and athletics is that it’s okay to ask for help, in fact, it’s a pretty dang good idea. Look to your role models and do what they do—this is how you can learn and improve! After taking the article into consideration, this is what I highly suggest America does to improve its education system.

Students in Finland are consistently performing well, making Finland one of the leading nations in education.

I just read an intriguing, eye-opening article on Finland’s educational system. The article, What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, was very informative and offered some great insights on what our nation can learn from Finland’s education system, and how we can apply their nation’s values to help improve our own education system.

From reading the article I learned a very inspiring and impressive piece of information about Finland. For one, Finland reformed its education system with the focus on achieving equity—giving every child, no matter where they live, their family’s income, or their background, equal opportunity for education.

Does this seem quite the opposite of America’s education system? It is. We have private versus public schools and universities. It looks as if America has a “mini war” within it, where institutions with money, power, and prestige strive to be better, achieve more wealth, and strive to outdo its competitors. These schools want to be known for producing the most special, standout students. Given this approach America is currently taking, it’s no wonder our students are falling behind in academic achievement—only a select amount of students have the best education available to them!

In agreement with the article, I think America needs to veer away from this competitive attitude and have schools cooperate with one another. America has a goal: achieve academic excellence so we can compete globally. But this goal cannot be reached if everyone is looking out for their own self-interests. We need to grow up, lend each other a helping hand, and sacrifice for the good of the group. Perhaps academic achievement isn’t something we can directly obtain, but merely a by-product of fundamental changes to our education system. If we can establish a policy on equity, I think all the pieces will fall into place for us.

Do you think it’s possible to establish a policy on equity here in America?


Education in America: Neglecting Physical Education Contributes to Childhood Obesity

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased threefold since 1980. The recommended amount of physical activity for children and adolescents is 60 minutes daily. High school students, however, meet far below this recommendation. One-third of these students do not exercise on a regular basis.

Thanks to Jackie Manetzke photography

The New York Times article Despite Obesity Concerns, Gym Classes Are Cut, claims that there are schools in America that lack physical education classes, PE teachers, even facilities such as gyms and playgrounds. Without such facilities, one elementary school teacher in California arranged students to exercise at an off-campus playground one day a week. Even she admits that they sometimes cancel the program if it rains.

The information that this article disclosed was disturbing to me. It is astonishing that physical activity for children and adolescents has gone so low on the priority list for education in America. I am in agreement with the article when it says that schools have increasingly become aware of the importance and benefits of physical education classes. However, with budget cuts, lack of resources, facilities, teachers, and the heavy emphasis on getting kids to meet standard on national assessments, I can understand how making sure children meet the daily-recommended amount of exercise is difficult.

I think that if money and facilities are not available, schools should make use of the resources they do have. Here are some proposed ideas:

Get volunteering college athletes to come to schools and share their knowledge on living a healthy lifestyle. Have athletes share the sport that they love, lead activities, and teach basic stretching and strength exercises. From this, students will not only learn from volunteers with expertise, but may become inspired. College athletes are role models for children, and I think this is one way we can instill motivation in children to get active.

Many schools find it difficult to make time for physical education classes due to the pressure of preparing students for standardized tests. If physical activity cannot be squeezed into the school day, perhaps schools can form groups and clubs to meet before or after school. Yes, yes I’ve heard of afterschool athletics, but what if we expanded on this idea?

Arrange groups to walk or bike to school (rain or shine!) or make a twist on show-and-tell, letting kids share their favorite sport or physical activity. Making physical activity fun, interesting, social, and a routine part of children’s lives is one way we can get children excited about exercise.

How else can schools help children to meet the daily-recommended amount of exercise? How can we help schools accomplish this?

What To Bring To College: Eleven Must-Haves

Ah yes college prepping is in the air. You’re making your list and checking it twice. While on your shopping adventures, don’t forget to snag these things for college.

1. Protection—That’s right, someone had to say it. Even if you don’t think you’ll be doing some hanky-panky, you might. So be prepared!

2.  For the Caffeine addict: 4-cup coffee-maker and traveler’s mug—Tired + cold weather = yearn for coffee. Save yourself a ton of money by making your own. Set it on auto and wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee!

3.  Earplugs—In a perfect world, everyone would sleep at night and be awake during the day, but college is far from this. Just like we come is all shapes and sizes, we call have different routines of wake and sleep, and some don’t even have routines! Whether you’re trying to get some silent study or peaceful slumber, these will help.

4.  Professional outfit—You never know what opportunities may come your way. Interviews, presentations, and banquets are all occasions where a nice outfit will help make a good impression.

5.  Hand-held vacuum—Two words. Crumbs everywhere.

6.  Sleep mask—Your roommate cramming for a test = light on all night

7.  Clothes drying rack—Dryers in the dorms are lazy. They dry your clothes part way, and then assume you can handle the rest. Hold up your end of the deal by not stuffing your partially dried clothes in your drawers—mold is no one’s friend.

8.  Nyquil– Use wisely my friend.

9.  Comfort book or movie—For those days that you feel homesick.

10. Paper plates/bowls/plastic utensils (especially spoons)—I don’t know why, but spoons are always the first to go. Don’t get desperate to the point of reusing a dirty spoon; stash some disposable utensils for those busy, hectic days.

11. ID card holder—And no this does not include your jean pocket; you will lose it I guarantee! Save yourself some trouble and invest in this. IDs are used to access pretty much everything on campus, so you’ll need it often. Getting a holder that attaches to your keys is a plus. 99.9% of students find their card just after they’ve paid a nonrefundable fee to replace it.

Did I miss anything?

Chinese Students Take The Biggest Test of Their Lives

From what I’ve heard, the life of Chinese high school students is intense. But if I’ve learned one thing from college, it’s to not passively accept everything you’ve heard. After getting an inside look at the gaokao, China’s national college entrance examination, I realized there was a glimmer of truth to the rumors I had heard.

After watching the video I said to myself, “Wow I thought I was in a pressure cooker.” I knew that education was highly valued in China, but I had no idea how significant of a role it played in shaping the day-to-day lives and futures of students and their families. From the video, to my surprise, I learned that one student’s parents rented an apartment next to his school so he could have more time to study. The video featured a young student who studied 13 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a year! That doesn’t even seem possible!

The gaokao is not your average exam. The test lasts a long, grueling two to three days. And the score? The test essentially determines one’s future (no pressure). Their scores determine which colleges they get into (if any), which determines their career, and how they will later be able to support their family.

Considering the heavy emphasis on this college entrance exam, its no wonder the test instigates fear, anxiety, and post-test nightmares. As if the pressure they place on themselves isn’t enough, students also feel pressure from their parents and teachers. Their last year of high school is dedicated to studying for the gaokao, eating and sleeping—nothing more.

Although the Chinese education system may be producing highly intelligent citizens, I believe it is a very unhealthy way to meet such goals in education. Being a college student myself, I know the feeling of studying for days on end, locked up in my room with my nose in a textbook, and surrounded by pages and pages of notes. For me, it’s an unpleasant feeling to study for such long periods of time. And feeling unhappy is not good for one psychologically!

As I’ve made my way through college I’ve learned that balancing my study time, my social life, and allowing time for myself is a skill. I didn’t realize it as a freshman, but it is possible to not make studying the only thing you do and still get good grades. In fact, getting outside, taking breaks, and enjoying time with friends can make one a happier person by reducing stress and making studying all the more tolerable.

Do you think the Chinese education system is harmful or helpful? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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