Education Update: 6/10/15

Integrus Architecture

Could Storytelling Be the Secret Sauce to STEM Education?

At NYC Nest+M, a K-12 public school for gifted and talented students in New York City, Lev Fruchter, a computer science teacher , uses literature to inject project-based learning methods into his math classes. Fruchter uses stories to teach math, science and engineering ideas to students who may think these subjects are unapproachable or too difficult.  By using this combination, “students are reading and interpreting literature, writing creatively, interpreting a math problem in multiple ways, showing solutions in various ways, using functions and factoring.” Fructher has found this approach has given students who struggled in the past, new tools for solving difficult tasks. From these experiences, Fruchter created a curriculum around computer programming through literature called, StoryCode, which provides teachers with online resources and sample lessons.

Out of the Books in Kindergarten, and Into the Sandbox

Kindergarten classrooms in America have increased their academic rigor and focus on test scores as a result of the Federal “No Child Left Behind” law and the recent adoption of Common Core standards. However, some states, such as Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington, are putting the focus on play back into the classroom and training teachers to incorporate play with academic activities. A recent University of Virginia study found kindergarten teachers reporting a drastic decrease in play, art and music in the classroom, while lessons in writing, spelling and math increased. These findings were prevalent in all demographics but significantly higher in lower income schools. “People think if you do one thing you can’t do the other,” said Nell Duke, a professor of education at the University of Michigan. “It really is a false dichotomy.” Educators though, believe that play is a “valuable activity” and can incorporate “sophisticated academic concepts.”

A New Brain Study Sheds Light on How Best to Teach Reading

Stanford researcher, Bruce McCandliss, and his colleagues have found what they are calling the “footprint of instruction” in the electrical brain wave patterns of young adults. The study found that the subjects showed more left brain activity when they recalled words learned phonetically as opposed to nonverbal memorization. “We’re looking at how attention during learning changes the outcome of learning — what brain circuits are reacting when you see this stimulus in the future,” McCandliss said. Subjects of the study, when recalling words learned by sounding them out, used more efficient brain circuitry. “They also used those pathways to teach themselves words that were unfamiliar, but could be decoded – a key step toward becoming an independent reader.” Education 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

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