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The Big Guide to STEM Volume 2

You’ve probably heard of STEM—you may even teach STEM in your classroom. The key to students’ success is not only to learn science, technology, engineering, and math, but also to understand how those disciplines apply to the world around them. Students need to develop the critical skills that will prepare them for beyond the classroom, enabling them to be tomorrow’s engineers and innovators.

TheBigGuidetoSTEM_v2-1To help you further your STEM efforts in the classroom, our new and improved STEM guide is now available! We’ve updated the stats, included new articles, refreshed our top ten lists, and added two new lists featuring robotics and coding as well as space. Plus, we dive into the many ways you can bring STEM learning into the classroom, how to engage students in STEM subjects to ensure they’re prepared for careers in these fields, and take a look at the STEM products that are changing the way we teach and students learn.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find in our new and improved STEM guide:

  • Articles: From branching out STEM concepts and creating STEM-focused lessons to why it’s critical to involve girls in STEM, our articles provide valuable insight into STEM learning.
  • Top 10 lists: Looking for the best STEM events, tech products, apps, and resources for teaching about space? We’ve got you covered! We’ve also included a list of available funding to help you bring STEM into your classroom even if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Infographic: We need a STEM workforce, and our STEM by the Numbers infographic shows just how important STEM learning is for today’s students.
  • Robotics: Interested in incorporating robotics in your lessons? Check out our top three considerations for bringing this popular activity to your classroom.
  • And more!

STEM occupations have grown 79% since 1990, so it’s imperative that we make STEM a priority for all students. Download our valuable Big Guide to STEM Volume 2 today to discover the many ways to incorporate STEM learning in the classroom!

The Gift of Classroom Read Alouds

Many of us probably remember wonderful days in our elementary classroom listening to stories read by our teacher. These stories, whether they were picture books in kindergarten or chapter books in fifth grade, were a major part of my upbringing in elementary school and one of my favorite times of the school day. I distinctly remember in fourth grade listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and being sorely disappointed when we watched the movie and the details had changed. I had such a vivid picture in my head of the characters and setting. Our entire class had the collective language of the story that we could talk about and discuss.

Sadly, some teachers see classroom read alouds as a waste of instructional time. And just like everything else in the classroom, if done poorly, these sessions can be very ineffective. So, while it is true that it can be a waste of instructional time, when done well, it is not a waste at all.

More often than not, I feel that classroom read alouds are well worth the investment of time. Everyone loves to be read to—even adults. Look at the popularity of audiobooks and sites like audible.com. These demonstrate that people of all ages love to listen to stories.

So, what makes a good read aloud effective instructional practice? And why should we encourage teachers to read books aloud to students? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Reading fluency is more than just reading quickly: Good readers are able to use timing, tone, inflection, and pausing to make the written word easy to listen to. Students do not come by these skills naturally—they have to learn and practice them. Teachers can model this so that when students read, they can transfer the ability to read with emotion and effect, both orally and when reading silently. In essence, hearing good reading helps students to become better readers themselves.
  • Comprehension questions can be embedded: As teachers read the story to the students, they can seamlessly work in comprehension skills. Things like making predictions and drawing inferences can be modeled for all of the students. It’s a great way for the teacher to show students how stories have clues that can help lead us to understand a theme or draw a conclusion.
  • Students are exposed to books they might not normally read: Read aloud books are typically rich in some way, shape, or form. They might be full of historical references, rich imagery, or silly humor. Often times, this will ignite an interest in an author or series that the student had never experienced before.
  • It gives students a break: This might not be the best reason to do it, but it does serve a purpose. Read alouds fit in well before or after recess and in the spots in the schedule that don’t allow for long periods of instruction. It gives students a way to relax and passively listen for a few minutes in a typically work-filled day.
  • It creates a shared love of literature: Most teachers read books aloud that they really love. To spend that much time with a book requires some commitment, so teachers are usually all-in with their selection. By reading something hilarious like the Junie B. Jones series or something emotional like Where the Red Fern Grows, teachers can share their love of the story with their students. The last two pages of To Kill a Mockingbird get me every time, but I loved reading them to my students every year.
  • Teachers can model a growth mindset: Even teachers make mistakes. As I read the books aloud to my high school students, I would make mistakes from time to time. This allowed me to model that I wasn’t perfect—mistakes are signs of growth, and we can roll through anything that might come up.

There are other good reasons to read books and stories aloud to students in the classroom. Pure enjoyment should be reason enough to kick back and read a great book, but it is also a great practice educationally for a number of reasons. Hopefully, our students have wonderful memories of being read to just as I did when I was a student.

Want to connect with fellow educators to discuss topics like this, find engaging lesson plans, and share your ideas? Consider joining MimioConnect™, our interactive teaching community.

Five Emerging Trends in EdTech

As we inch closer to 2020, we can look back at the significant strides and innovations in educational technology and the ways EdTech has redefined traditional education in the first two decades of the 21st century. Technology has become an integral part of the everyday learning process, with students, teachers, parents, and administrators all using important devices and software each day to increase efficiency and improve learning outcomes.

After so much growth in the EdTech industry and the creation of a surplus of EdTech products, it’s hard to imagine how much room the industry still has to grow. Yet new educational technology solutions are being discovered every day to help educators and students improve the learning process and achieve success. These emerging trends are the EdTech solutions of the future and will have a bold impact on the industry in the next decade.

Here are five emerging EdTech trends you should watch for this year:

  1. Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

The first educational stride in the alternate reality trend came with the affordability and accessibility of Google Cardboard, which allowed students to convert their personal devices into virtual reality (VR) simulators. This enables students to visually experience valuable learning opportunities—such as observing a surgery or exploring a historic monument—as if they are actually there. Augmented reality (AR) is currently a hot topic in the EdTech space, with many innovative resources popping up on the market for students and teachers to take advantage of all of its possibilities. AR is technology that digitally places interactive elements in the real world, simulating objects that are right in front of students, typically through the camera of a smartphone or other handheld personal device. Finally, mixed reality (MR) has begun to make its debut in the classroom, enabling students to experience a virtual environment that is superimposed on the physical environment. MR shows great potential for the educational technology market, with predicted global growth of 90% until 2021.

  1. On-Demand Education and Independent Learning

Students—particularly those in high school—have begun taking greater ownership of their education, becoming more independent as learners. In the classroom, this has resulted in an increase in blended learning models, allowing students to complete online work in their own time. Additionally, teachers have had to rethink their lesson plans in order to engage Generation Z students, who rank video lessons as their preferred learning tool over learning apps and printed books. Greater student autonomy has also led to an increasing population of students who choose to attend online or blended learning schools, along with a greater social acceptance of these alternative learning paths.

  1. Digital Security and Student Data Privacy

Student safety is always going to be a top priority in schools, and many new EdTech solutions have emerged to support schools’ missions to keep students safe. From fingerprint and facial recognition software to digital student safety monitoring services, schools are striving for ultimate digital security to protect students and faculty both in and out of the classroom.

Student data privacy is also a top concern for schools, especially amid countless cybersecurity breaches and ransomware attacks on schools within the first half of 2019. Districts and administrators are searching for new ways to protect sensitive student data from being breached in a hack—especially their personally identifiable information such as name, address, and birth date. An ever-growing collection of resources to support student data privacy have also emerged, such as the Education Privacy Resource Center, FERPA|Sherpa.

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the use of computer programming to imitate human thought and decision-making by analyzing data, solving and anticipating problems, and learning and adapting to different tasks through another computing process known as machine learning. Other than being a complicated concept to grasp, AI has critical uses in the education space, including personalizing learning for every student, analyzing and interpreting student data, and improving teacher efficiency. Machine learning—an aspect of AI that is also seen in learning analytics—also has an important place in the future of EdTech, particularly in its ability to decrease teacher time spent doing administrative tasks, predict future student outcomes, and develop personalized learning plans for students.

  1. Robotics and Programming

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects are the foundation of the future careers of today’s K-12 students. With careers in STEM fields on the rise faster than the average growth for non-STEM jobs in the US, students will have to step up to higher-level technical careers in order to feed the growing market. With this in mind, it’s important that students are learning the STEM skills necessary today to be successful in college and future careers, including fundamental coding and programming skills and their functional connection with robotics. Many innovative products and software have been designed to aid teachers in supporting students’ programming and robotics journeys, such as the Mimio MyBot educational robotics system, which offers a digital programming interface along with physical robotics and engineering elements.

These topics are just a few of the big trends that will become the EdTech solutions of the future, changing the educational technology space for years to come. What trends do you expect to emerge and have a significant impact on EdTech in the future? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to our Educator blog to receive the latest news and trends!

English Discoveries en la Universidad Hispanoamericana

En la Universidad Hispanoamericana utilizan nuestra herramienta en línea, English Discoveries, para que los estudiantes avancen y aprendan el idioma inglés.

Esta herramienta es una solución integral para el aprendizaje del idioma inglés basada en tecnología, que atiende las necesidades pedagógicas, administrativas y tecnológicas de las instituciones académicas y ministerios de educación. Al ofrecer distintos modelos de implementación, tanto de aprendizaje mixto como de aprendizaje a distancia, esta solución “llave en mano” incorpora enfoques pedagógicos y metodologías de aprendizaje probas en el campo, en combinación con tecnologías de aprendizaje interactivas de punta, lo que crea un ambiente ideal para el éxito del estudiante.

Para más información: [email protected] 4055-0800

Cubetto Case Study | Victoria’s Story

Five-year-old T enjoys programming Cubetto and watching the effect of his actions. He especially enjoys using Cubetto on one of the beautiful World Maps (playmats). Ru (age 2) is very young so mostly likes trying to get puzzle bits in the holes in any random order or position, pressing the button and frequently turning the robot over to watch the wheels move in responseto the pressing of the button.

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A Summer Reading List From Your Friendly Librarian

If you’re like me, you ended the school year with summer goals: work-related tasks, household chores, educational books to read, and so on. You may have been assigned a book by your administrator, or perhaps you’re taking a class that requires intensive reading. As an English major, lifelong reader, and elementary teacher-librarian, I believe in the power of stories. And as much as I enjoy reading books that help me become a better teacher, I also like to read positive and inspirational stories about students and teachers.

So, put down your educational texts for a moment and read a few wonderful stories about teachers who have made a difference or students who come to value the power of education. Here are a few that I enjoyed:

  1. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (a YA book): This book is one of my all-time favorites. Run to the bookstore right now and buy a copy because you’ll want to read this again and again. The Wednesday Wars is historical fiction, set in the Vietnam War era; the book is sweet, funny, and makes you think. Holling Hoodhood is a student in Mrs. Baker’s middle school English class. On Wednesday afternoons, all of the kids but Holling leave to go to religious classes at their temples and churches—Holling is a Presbyterian and does not have to go. First, Mrs. Baker puts him to work cleaning erasers and running errands. Eventually, she begins having Holling read and discuss the works of Shakespeare. Throughout the story, Holling is sure that Mrs. Baker is the most strict, hard-nosed teacher ever—until he gets to know her. The two develop a strong appreciation for one another, and in the end, Mrs. Baker learns as much from Holling as he learns from her.
  2. Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell (a middle grade book): Sahara Special is about a girl, Sahara, who is struggling personally. Her father has left and she is repeating the fifth grade because she has stopped doing her coursework. In fact, she was previously put into a special program and her classmates started calling her Sahara Special. But no one knows that Sahara reads and writes constantly at home and wants to be a writer someday. When Sahara repeats the fifth grade, she gets a new teacher, Miss Poitier, who changes how Sahara feels about herself and school. (Note: If you like this book, read the memoir on teaching by Esme Raji Codell titled Educating Esme. It’s another great read!)
  3. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (a middle grade book): Amal is a girl in Pakistan who loves going to school. She loves to read, and her deepest wish is to someday become a teacher. However, times are tough in her small village as well as in her family. She goes to the market alone one afternoon and makes a huge mistake—a mistake that forces her into indentured servitude. The rest of the book focuses on her journey to work her way back home to her books, friends, and school. In a time when we Americans take our education for granted, this book helps show us the true value of schools and teachers.
  4. Matilda by Roald Dahl (a middle grade book): I was a huge Roald Dahl fan as a kid, but I didn’t read this gem until I was an adult. Matilda is a brilliant little girl, reading like crazy and doing difficult math problems at a young age. However, her parents could not care less about her. She is enrolled in a horrible school where the principal is out to get her. Things seem pretty grim for Matilda until she meets Miss Honey, a teacher who is the exact opposite of the vile Headmistress Trunchbull. In the end, Matilda’s resilience and her connection to Miss Honey make all the difference.
  5. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (a middle grade and up series of books): If you haven’t gotten on the Harry Potter bandwagon yet, then let me twist your arm. This is possibly the best series out there in children’s literature. Rowling’s series, mostly taking place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, captures rich and complex relationships between teachers and students. The three main characters—Harry, Ron, and Hermione—learn, grow, and change together thanks to amazing professors like McGonagall, Lupin, and more. Even the cynical Professor Snape has an important role to play in these books. In addition to the theme of school, these books provide fantasy, adventure, mystery, and a focus on friendship and persistence.
  6. Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco (a picture book): Each year, I read this book to my third-grade library students. And each year, though I’ve read this book many times to my own kids as well as to students, I tear up when I reach the end. Tricia moves to Michigan to live with her father. She has always had trouble in school, and she wants a fresh start. When Tricia learns that she’s been placed in Mrs. Peterson’s class, otherwise known as “The Junkyard,” she is heartbroken. Mrs. Peterson, however, will not let the kids suffer because they are different; instead, she teaches them to see their own gifts and talents, and to show these talents to the world. Even if you don’t teach younger students, check this book out. It will inspire you to be a kind, encouraging, and thoughtful teacher. (If you like this book, you’ll also like Thank You, Mr. Falker, another great read by Polacco.)

There you have it: a list of fabulous fiction books that will guide your teaching as much as any nonfiction texts you’ll pick up this summer. I will leave you with this quote from The Wednesday Wars—and like this quote, the list of books above will give you inspiration, entertainment, and comfort. Enjoy!

 “And it really doesn’t matter if we’re under our desks with our hands over our heads or not, does it?

No, said Mrs. Baker. It doesn’t really matter.

So, why are we practicing?

She thought for a minute. Because it gives comfort, she said. People like to think that if they’re prepared then nothing bad can really happen. And perhaps we practice because we feel as if there’s nothing else we can do because sometimes it feels as if life is governed by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Gary D. Schmidt

Want to keep the learning going all summer long with education tips, news, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to the Educator blog today!

Guiding Teachers Through Standards-Based Grading (Part One)

If you are a teacher, school, or district implementing standards-based grading, you might be finding how many decisions there are to make in the process. From the wording and scale to assessing and the parent report, there are many, many details to consider. I have found that even for some schools that have been using SBG for years, these considerations might be worth thinking about. For me, grading and grades demonstrate a philosophy about what school and learning is all about. The way we grade students can change the way students and teachers see learning, therefore it is essential to really think through all the ins and outs of a grading system.

This article will cover some of the questions that our team answered as we were working through the process. As our school has moved through this process, we have learned a few tidbits of information that we thought would be helpful to share with others. We would not claim that we have found the perfect method, but we have found one that will work for us.

The Importance of Collaboration

One of the reasons this is so important is because teachers are not always in agreement for how to grade an assignment or how their gradebook will display the importance of that assignment. Strong professional learning communities have probably discussed this, but in many schools, there is a wide variety of grading practices from one teacher to the next. Some teachers weight tests more than projects and others weight daily work more than anything else. This is why having a collaborative process to make decisions about how standards-based grades will be calculated is vitally important.

Whether the process is just starting in your school or has been in place for a number of years, here are a few questions that should stimulate discussion among professional learning communities:

What scale will be used?
Our team decided early on that we would use a numeric scale. For some schools, letters like “M” for mastery work better. We felt like that was an extra step when using our gradebook system to calculate the grades. We provide a key to parents for what each number on the scale equates to. Our scale is a 1–4: A score of 4 means a student is working above standard or at a more complex/deeper level on the standard, a 3 is the target and indicates mastery of the standard, a 2 is progressing toward mastery, and a 1 is lack of progress toward mastery. We felt like this gave students and parents the best information about where the student stands on a specific standard. We considered leaving off the 4 because it can be hard to define. In the end, we didn’t want students to be limited to just “mastering” the standards, but for work to go above and beyond. There are rationales for many different types of scales—the power in the scale comes from a collective understanding and agreement of what learning looks like for different standards. This consensus is key to implementing standards-based grading in a school.

What happens with students who are using a modified curriculum?
This was a trickier question for us, so we explored what other schools had used to mark this. Some schools used a separate report card for students on different curriculum. In the end, we feel that because students will be expected to know third grade standards on the third grade state assessment, we have to give them exposure to those standards. Therefore, all third graders have the same grade card. What we did add was language in our scale stating that a student who receives a 2 is progressing toward mastery or is at mastery with assistance (this could be a from a para or special education teacher). We thought this would be the most accurate way to indicate where the student was performing on each skill.

What numbers will be entered in the gradebook?
Most student information systems are able to calculate grades in any way a teacher wants them to be computed. It is an option to enter traditional percentages in a gradebook and have them calculated to a 1, 2, 3, or 4. Because we were focused on changing the mindset of learning for both teachers and students, we decided that all grades would be entered as the scale score in the gradebook. For example, at the end of a test, the teacher would enter a 1, 2, 3, or 4 for the standard depending on how the student did. We created some guidelines for what questions needed to be answered correctly for a student to score a 4 on an assignment. This will be a continual process of revision and discussion, but it is a launch point for the type of change in thinking that we were looking for.

These are just a few of the questions to consider. Be sure to look for more coming soon in the second part of our Guiding Teachers Through Standards-Based Grading series. Want to learn more about how to better assess your students? Check out our collection of assessment resources, blogs, and tech.

Supporting Transitioning Teachers

In some areas of the country, qualified teachers are harder and harder to come by for certain content areas. Some states and districts have had to use creative means to find teachers. One of these avenues is using transition to teaching programs in order to find teachers. In these programs, individuals usually have a degree in a content area, such as science or math, but lack the credentials or experience necessary for teaching.

As with most things, there is an upside to these teachers as well as some drawbacks. It does allow your school to think outside the box to fill positions, which is a major advantage. At the same time, it is good to consider what the possible potholes will be of hiring one of these teachers.

Here are some general characteristics that we usually see with these teachers that can be huge advantages:

Work experience: Most of these teachers have already had jobs and are searching for a second career. This means that these people, all of whom have degrees, will have worked in some sort of professional setting. This outside point of view is good for schools, and it helps to have new teachers who know how to operate as professionals.

Team experience: Because of the work experience, most transitioning teachers have experience working in teams of adults. These professional teams are much different than the undergrad teams of pre-service teachers who I worked with in college. We were all between 21 and 24, so there was not a high level of maturity. In contrast to this, the transitioning teacher has most likely worked with adults of all levels of experience and age. This diverse experience is an advantage in schools.

Content knowledge: This is probably the number one reason to consider transition to teaching teachers—the content knowledge and work in their field is vital for our students. Teachers can tell students, “You will need to know this someday,” to make information relevant, but transitioning teachers can actually say, “I used this every day in my former job.” This carries so much more weight and credibility.

The drive to achieve: I believe all teachers who are starting out are really planning to work hard to succeed. The added layer of incentive for transitioning teachers comes from their desire to work in a field that probably requires a second degree and might include a pay cut. This takes real dedication and these teachers are not going to want to fail.

Here are some general supports that we need to consider for teachers trained using transition to teaching programs:

Experience with kids: This one is kind of a wild card because many individuals who transition to teaching have a ton of experience with kids—it’s probably what led them to the profession in the first place. But (and this is a big but!) working with kids in a youth group or coaching them in baseball is much different than teaching. Professionalism with students will be an area of focus with transitioning teachers to ensure that they are able to manage the relationship side of the job.

Classroom management: This one probably isn’t really fair because all new teachers need support with this. But sometimes we see an older adult transitioning into the classroom and assume some of those tools are already in place. To help support new teachers to succeed, we must not make that assumption and ensure that we have mentoring tools in place for them.

Instructional tools: Again, all newer teachers probably need this support, but it is particularly true of those transitioning to teaching. The reason for this is that the methods of coursework that traditional teachers learn happen before they start teaching. This is not the case for transitioning teachers. They will learn it as they go, so schools, teams, and admins need to be ready to support them from the get-go.

Learning school rules: It might seem weird to those outside of schools, but there are many unwritten rules for how schools operate. A transitioning teacher might be removed from the classroom by 10 or 20 years. Because of this, some of the common sense factors that most teachers already know will need to be taught.

Every teacher is different and each will have his or her own strengths and areas for growth. By considering what these teachers might need as a whole, it can help us to prepare to support their success early on in their career.

Looking for additional insights and tips for educators? Join MimioConnect™, Boxlight’s interactive teaching community.

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