Education Update: 2/18/2015

STEM High School Bellevue Integrus Architecture Building Blended LearningEducation Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

Q&A: Blocks, Play, Screen Time And The Infant Mind

National Public Radio interviews Dr. Dimitri Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Christakis focuses on children, media and cognitive development, and how the last decade of increased television programming for younger audiences has affected developing minds. In this interview he discusses recent research showing that a child’s executive functions appear to suffer after watching fast paced shows, while “old school” block play and increased engagement with parents correlates to language development in children. (Interestingly, the study also found that fathers spend more time engaged with children than mothers do when playing with blocks.)

Teachers turn themselves into “detectives” to make blended learning work

The Hechinger Report looks at W.R. Thomas Middle School just outside of Miami Florida, to see an innovative method for teaching mathematics. Classes have three teachers for approximately 60 students. Many students work independently through online instruction while two teachers work with larger groups. The third teacher roams the class to help individuals or small groups. The teachers spend two class periods per day combing through student work, looking for areas that need improvement and planning upcoming lessons. This preparation time is vital to tailor class time to meet student needs. “‘When it is done correctly it is amazing… we can separate those students who did not do well and spend more time with them,'” said Grisel Mesa, a teacher at the middle school.

Second probe launched into state’s first charter school

First Place Scholars, Washington State’s first charter school, is the subject of a new investigation by the state commission governing charter schools, reports the Seattle Times. The commission is looking at the school for possible financial misconduct, as well as potentially neglecting to provide an adequate academic environment. First Place Scholars operated as a private school for homeless students for 25 years before getting state funding to operate as a publicly funded charter. The school was already placed on probation for not providing appropriate special education services and relaxed background checks for teachers. The state commission is now concerned that the charter will not have enough funds to stay open for the remainder of the school year. Since November, enrollment has dropped from around 100 to 80 students. If enrollment stays low, the school may have to repay some of the nearly $1 million the state has allocated to the charter.

Two Case Studies: How Connected Educators Can Transform Schools

Mindshift examines two models from Pittsburgh educators who are changing how technology works in the classroom. Kris Hupp, the 21st Century Teaching and Learning Coach for the Cornell School District, engages fellow enthusiastic educators to vet and test new technologies and bring them into classrooms within the district. Hupp’s ultimate goal is to improve student learning and has created an environment where teachers can experiment with new methods that involve technology.

Melissa Butler is a co-founder of the Children’s Innovation project, which brings technology into kindergarten classrooms to emphasize an empirical method to exploring the world. The project uses mechanical toys and encourages children to consider how they’re put together, what’sinside of them, and how they run. This type of inquiry, it is thought, will bleed into other academic areas, teaching students to simply be curious and search for answers. The program also encourages students to bring the lessons home with them, engaging children with their parents.

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