Computational Thinking, LiuLiShuo & Audiobooks

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Why Computer Science Education in K-12 Settings Is Becoming Increasingly Essential by Mehran Sahami, The Huffington Post, 14 Sep. 2016.

Is computer science for everybody? In this blog post, the author reminds us that in today’s world, computer science goes beyond programming for programmers. It is more and more part of our everyday lives. The author asserts, “This is the reason we don’t talk about teaching CS as just teaching ‘programming,’ but rather as a means for students to develop ‘computational thinking’ skills.”

Ex-Google Guy Builds English Teaching App That Adapts to Student by Selina Wang, Bloomberg Technology, 13 Sep. 2016.

Chinese parents spend quite a bit of money for English lessons for their children, then find out that their children don’t speak English very well. In steps LiuLiShuo, which means “speaking fluently,” an app which incorporates gaming and social media into English learning. While it has its critics, it also has 30 million (yes, million) users.

Audiobooks Can Support K-12 Readers in the Classroom by Kate Stoltzfus, Education Week, 19 Sep. 2016.

Audiobooks have been around for quite a while, and their usefulness for struggling readers has been supported by research. With the growth of digital media, audiobooks are becoming even more important as a tool for learners, especially students who have trouble reading. A study by the American Association of Schools Libraries in 2012, which focused on elementary students, found that “audiobooks improved students’ reading scores, increased students’ positive attitudes about their reading ability, and offered students more personal choice in what they read.”

NZ Education Minister Proposes Reform to Launch Schools Into the 21st Century

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

It was just a matter of time, and it’s now finally happening. The online revolution is breaching the walls of K-12 schools. New Zealand Education Minister Hekia Parata is behind an Education Amendment Bill, introduced in Parliament this week, that will make it possible for “school-aged children…to do all their learning online.”1

“The fact of the matter is,” says Parata, “young people now operate in a world where technology and being connected is a norm for them. We want to make sure our legislation going forward provides for those options.” She adds, “Because this is the 21st century we want to make sure New Zealand kids are digitally fluent and they can take advantage of technology.”

Parata and Sewell

Hekia Parata, New Zealand Education Minister, and Karen Sewell, Te Kura board of trustees chair.

Karen Sewell, Te Kura board of trustees chair, strongly supports the amendment. She says, “Students could choose to learn online or face-to-face, or a mix of both, and have access to a much broader range of subjects regardless of the size and type of school they’re attending.”

Needless to say, many in the traditional school establishment are alarmed and up in arms. Angela Roberts, Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president, says, “There are two wildly incorrect assumptions that underpin this idea. One is that online learning can substitute for face-to-face, and the other is that a more competitive market in education is going to lead to better results. Both of these fly in the face of all the evidence.”

The outcome of this bill is yet to be decided, but I’ll be watching its progress closely. At this point in time, whether it passes or not is not as significant as the fact that the process of online reform has begun at the national level in a noteworthy school system.

Vigorous opposition from the status quo is to be expected, but the world is changing rapidly and traditional classroom-based models are becoming increasingly difficult to justify for a school-age population that’s been immersed in technology from birth.

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1 All quotes in this post are from Jo Moir’s “Government Education Reform Focuses on School-aged Children Learning from Home,” Stuff, 23 Aug. 2016.

80 Percent of K-12 Schools Now Using Digital Content

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

A study by ASCD and Overdrive, Inc.,1 is being released today (1 April 2016). Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K–12 Classroom E-Learning is available for download here. Here are some of the highlights:

1. More than 80 percent of K-12 schools and districts are now using some form of digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks — in the classroom.

2. Of the 80 percent of respondents who report using digital content in their schools or districts, four out of 10 are using it as part of their curriculum.

3. Devices used for digital content: laptops (75 percent), tablets (62 percent), personal computers (49 percent), and smartphones (17 percent).

4. Contributors to this growth include recognized benefits such as the ability to deliver individualized instruction, allowing students to practice independently, and greater student attention/engagement.

5. As digital content continues to transform the classroom, the concept of a personalized, individualized model of schooling becomes more feasible, according to the report.

6. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place” (Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado).

7. The two issues cited most often were equity concerns about lack of Internet access at home and the fear of teachers not wanting to go digital, including teachers not comfortable or effective with digital learning.

8. Across the board, teachers most desire English/Language Arts (ELA) content in digital format (74 percent), followed by science (62 percent), math (61 percent) and social studies (56 percent).

9. Survey respondents report that digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.

10. This report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 administrators at the school or district level in the U.S.

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1 Overdrive, Inc., is a provider of eBook and audiobook platforms for schools.

English on the Internet, Game-based Learning, Kids’ Coding

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English is losing its status as the universal language of the Internet by Leanna Garfield at Tech Insider 1/3/16

Leanna Garfield makes the point that the presence of the English language on the Internet is dropping from about 80% in the mid-1990s to about 45% today. She proposes that translation tools and a greater web presence by other languages “could create a more democratic web in the future.”

Other interesting stats: “Chinese, the most widely spoken language, makes up just 2.1% of the internet. The world’s second most widely spoken language, Spanish, encompasses 4.8% of the web. Hindi, spoken by 260 million people, makes up less than 0.1% of the internet.”

Game-Based Learning Has Practical Applications for Nontraditional Students by Marguerite McNeal at EdSurge 1/20/16

McNeal reports on a study, “The Potential for Game-based Learning to Improve Outcomes for Nontraditional Students,” which focused on whether game-based learning helped nontraditional students improve outcomes. One finding of the study is that game-based learning is more effective when it is part of an integrated curriculum, not just as a stand-alone strategy.

A Kids’ Coding Expert Says We’re Making Computer Class Way Too Boring by Anya Kamenetz at nprED 12/11/15

Schools in the UK and Australia want to expand kids’ use of computers to go beyond fun and games in the classroom. Michael Resnick, head of Lifelong Kindergarten Group, associated with MIT’s Media Lab, says that “Coding is not just a set of technical skills. It’s a new way of expressing yourself. It’s similar to learning to write — a way for kids to organize, express and share ideas. But instead of putting words into sentences, now they can create animated stories.” He cautions, however, that what schools are doing is too simplistic to the point of being boring. “Many popular apps for teaching programming are structured more like games, with a simple set of instructions to reach a predefined outcome.”

Creating Community: Part 3 – Hard Conversations in an Online Classroom – ‘Heart of Darkness’

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

Thinking about Heart of Darkness

The questions we were left with at the end of the Othello discussion included one that came up again later in the course. I asked, how do we know what we do not know — or how do we know we have a cultural bias/perspective in order to shed it? We usually don’t, except for our relationship to others and their perspectives — when we can say, Oh, right, I missed that. And I rarely hear students say, Oh, sorry, I was thinking like a white person or thinking like a patriarch. So we need to know the context in order to think intelligently about our own constructed world-views, don’t we?

Herrera Kelly Bumatay McDaniel

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, Tim Fraser-Bumatay, and Judith McDaniel.

Along with the Conrad story, we were reading an article by a professor who advocated banning it as a racist text. Ryan found this account amusing. “While he cites the fact that Heart of Darkness is racist and offensive and because of that he no longer sees the value in teaching it, what resonates from this piece is actually his point that proves the opposite. He describes how marked up his book is and explains how each time he read the novel as a student he found new things to underline. The time, the place, the teacher, and the lens changed, and as each did he was able to look at the novel in a new way and gain a different piece of valuable insight into it’s meaning….”

“For me,” Ryan continued, “this is the true test of a novel’s worth. The reason we reread things in the first place is because we always notice more the second time around. Once we generally understand the plot of a story we can focus on other elements and find deeper meaning, and Heart of Darkness seems to be one of those stories where those deeper meanings are fluid and can change with the times. While it may be true that Conrad was a racist, I don’t think that’s enough to invalidate this text.”  Continue reading

Creating Community: Part 2 – Hard Conversations in an Online Classroom – ‘Othello’

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

The four of us are all teachers in face-to-face classrooms, and we have all needed to have difficult conversations about race with our students in those classes. Some teachers would maintain that it is “better” to have these conversations in person in order to monitor how the students are doing and ease them over the rough spots.

All of us have also been part of an online classroom in which we needed to have those conversations about race and ethnicity as we discussed Shakespeare’s Othello and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Is one format — online or in-person — better than the other? While our response won’t be definitive, we can say that our online discussion did succeed in creating an “immediate and vital community of learning” as we insisted in Part 1 of this series. And for each of us, the learning in this class carried over to the face-to-face classes we teach.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay McDaniel

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, Tim Fraser-Bumatay, and Judith McDaniel.

Thinking about Othello

In addition to reading Shakespeare’s play, I assigned several critical articles that discussed race in the play. Kim Hall’s “Beauty and the Beast of Whiteness” and James Aubrey’s “Race and the Spectacle of the Monstrous in ‘Othello’” seemed to be the most provocative.

The issue of beauty, virtue, and monstrosity

The discussion prompt for the question about Othello asked whether Hall’s portrait of “beauty and the beast of whiteness” gave the reader a path into considering Othello as an Elizabethan might have seen him. Tim’s immediate response was “[Yes,] an in-depth look at style would tread upon the contextual setting of the play’s conception, for if one were to question why Shakespeare chooses words such as ‘beast,’ ‘horse,’ and ‘ram’ to describe Othello, it would inevitably lead to 17th century cultural opinions of Africans.”

Alongside that view of course is the parallel portrait of Othello as the most noble and honorable man in the Duke’s court. When Shakespeare introduces the “Moor” himself, he presents “an intriguing character who breaks from the stigma; he is calm, courteous, and even noble.”  Continue reading

To Belong

Glen Luecke Sp16c 80By Glen Luecke
Student at Kapi’olani Community College
University of Hawai’i

Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I realize I’m comfortable with who I am and, more importantly, where I came from. I didn’t always feel this way. At the age of nine, to quote C.K. Williams, “Weightfully upon me was the world.” I had just started to accept that my father, who had left a few years prior, was not coming back. My mother, burdened with the task of raising four kids, did her best to provide for us. School had become my sanctuary, the one constant that I grew to love.

Over the previous four years I had built up a cadre of trusted friends, and, when needed, I discovered that I could pick up a book and be transported to places that I knew I would never see in person. That changed in 1974 when, in the fourth grade, I was accepted to attend the school on the hill. Not knowing how I would fit in with the privileged few, I tried my best to remain invisible, pretending to belong.

Kam Kapalama

I screwed up. I knew it the moment I heard the crack and felt the snap in my pocket. I kept my anger in check and remained seated, not wanting to draw attention. I slowly lifted my white shirt away from my waist, hoping no one would notice my movement. The dark blue dot stared back at me and began to spread on my khaki pants. A wave of shame started in my gut and slowly crept toward my chest. I reached into my pocket and with two fingers gingerly extracted the broken pen. The tip had snapped and was barely attached by a sliver of sharp plastic. Thick blue ink coated the barrel. I ripped out a piece of folder paper to hide the evidence. The stain on my khakis had grown to the size of a quarter.  Continue reading