Category Archives: Education

How the internet has boosted education in emerging economies

One of the revolutionary aspects of the development of the internet has been in education. You may think of social media, the ability to search for jobs and houses, the easy access to worldwide news or the options for gaming as the main ways that the internet affects your life, but there are many other uses for the web.

The generally accepted ways of education for many decades has been through school, followed by college and/or university for those who wish to pursue further education. These are still the standard routes for many, especially in the developed world, but the growth of e-learning has opened up new vistas for millions who do not have access to the more traditional ways of following the educational path.

When you look more deeply into what the internet can offer in terms of online learning, you can start to understand why many of the great institutions now realise they can engage motivated and talented students through their online learning opportunities.

 

Democratisation of education

The internet is a great leveller. Despite its many problems, it has opened up education to people who might otherwise not have had the option to learn and pursue their dreams. Without a good education, it’s very hard to get a foot on a good career ladder. For many people, even in the developed world, the cost of going to college or university can be prohibitive. You either need rich parents or be prepared to take on massive loans that will dog you for many years after you graduate.

When you live in an emerging economy where access to education through school can be patchy or at times non-existent, you want opportunities outside of those traditional routes.

If, for example, you want to get a foot into the world of medicine, architecture or engineering, then a basic online course could set you on your way. Education is often thought of as for an elite, and universities such as Yale and Harvard may appear out of reach for most potential students. Yet these universities, along with hundreds of others globally, realise that there is an enormous amount of untapped potential and have put courses online to try to encourage students to engage. Free courses from these elite institutions are there to really boost educational standards in emerging economies.

 

Benefits of e-learning

You don’t necessarily need a degree to be successful in business, but you do need to know what you are doing. As an example, you can find information about Azmi Mikati on Bloomberg, an entrepreneur from the Middle East who has been a prime mover in developing trade links in the region and with Africa, as well as overseeing his M1 investment group, which has a global reach. The Middle East has impressive feats of engineering and architecture – think of Dubai and its towering buildings – and the opportunity to learn about these skills online can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The internet is now a key tool for opportunities to learn, and for those in emerging economies, it can make a major impact on life chances for the future.

How social media and video sharing have changed the way we learn new skills

Social networking communities are here to stay, and there is no question that today’s students are actively engaged in these online networks. This begs the question: what is the effect of social media and video sharing on the way we learn?

In the past, social media was an innovative way to stay in touch with friends and families and to make new connections. Today, the phenomenon of social media may very well be its evolution – from a simple network for purely social purposes to a tool that plays a huge role in our daily lives. Nowadays, we not only communicate but also shop, research, work, and learn through social media.

Social media is a tool that allows students and educators to share information and build a sense of community. Many major universities, including Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale, offer online courses, some even on YouTube. These classes often never meet in a physical lecture hall, but there is direct involvement by both the professors and students. Classes “meet” in Google Hangouts, chat rooms, and even use Twitter to engage in discussions.

 

Social media’s role in education

There is no question that social media has a place in education. Studies have shown that social networking has increased the quality and rate of collaboration for students and has helped improve the ability to work in groups. It also helps students learn skills they’ll need in the business world – building and maintaining connections is essential. But that’s not all – online learning has changed in recent years.

The internet is a vast arena of information, and one can learn a lot just by surfing in the comfort of their own home. It used to be that learning something online was a lot like going to your local library: a lot of simple online how-to articles and research documents were available for reading. However, learning online is now a truly multi-media experience, with online videos, tutorials, and step-by-step articles for just about every topic imaginable.

 

Keeping up with the trends

The world of social media is always changing, as is the world of education. Educators are always looking for new and improved methods of teaching students. Students are always looking for a better way to learn and find information.

Even outside of professional academia, social media enables people to connect with others who are interested in learning similar skills – and they can share their experiences, knowledge, and ideas to solve problems. For those interested in keeping up with the latest developments in online learning, it is helpful to look at a technology blog. Simply searching for digital media news allows you to stay on top of the latest trends in social media and how it affects education – and just about everything else.

Thanks to the ease and speed with which you can upload videos and pictures, as well as the expansiveness of social media, it has become an educational phenomenon, and one that shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

 

 

How the internet has opened up the world of education in finance

The development of the internet has created more options for people looking to enhance their career prospects through education and learning, and if you are pursuing or interested in a finance career, you will find no shortage of online learning resources to assist you.

Kuwait Real Estate Investment Consortium KSC is a good example of an international investment specialist offering career options for those interested in the world of finance. In considering online resources as a learning option, it is important that you identify upfront the type of skills employers will be looking for. At Kuwait Real Estate Investment Consortium, the Chairman/MD Fahad Al-Rajaan has a background in business administration, with a Bachelor of Arts in the subject from American University in Washington, DC. As such, he was able to bring to his career a strong grounding in business and management, allied with commercial awareness and analytical and logical skills. These are the type of skills employers in the financial world will be looking for, along with strong communication skills and – given the emergence of IT as a key workplace tool – good all-round IT capabilities.

When it comes to choosing an actual course online to help boost your finance career, two areas worth looking at are IT programming and maths.

IT is a core aspect of many finance functions, from retail banking to complex investment management. The marketing, communications and administrative sides of finance run on IT as well, and employers in the sector will require professionally trained IT staff to operate the hardware and software that they utilize for these functions. Leaving specific IT skills to one side, an IT course in a general sense will equip you with the type of logical skills to analyse problems under pressure, essential in the often fast-paced world of finance, where decisions have to be made in seconds.

Maths forms the basis for much of quantitative finance, equipping students with the skills necessary to develop and sustain a career in such areas as investment management, credit risk assessment and investment portfolio structuring. Finance has become increasingly complex with the advent of technology and detailed mathematical models, so having staff that can dig into the figures and spot what is really going on is essential for employers.

In accessing online learning resources, you are not simply going to be a solitary student sitting in a room staring at a computer screen. As online learning has evolved, the supports around it have evolved as well, and courses will typically offer strong networking opportunities for students, by way of forums and other interactive options. Online learning offers students the opportunity to broaden their horizons and learn alongside students from all over the world and with different types of background. You never know what opportunities might arise as a result.

To conclude, employers in the financial sector value staff that can act on their own initiative and possess both motivation and ambition. Undertaking an online learning course in your own time demonstrates all three qualities and is sure to impress on your CV.

Career paths from computer science: the world is at your feet

There are few industries that have remained unaffected by the development of computer science and technology. Wherever you turn, there are fields utilising the very latest software and hardware, and each new addition to the office requires a person of immense experience and passion to operate it. Could that be you? Computer science is such an integral part of the technology industry now and, being such a wide, adaptable field, needs new blood in every avenue – you are in the right field, students!

While the technology sector is perhaps the first industry that students and graduates may think of when it comes to choosing a computer science career, it is also well worth considering the opportunities that continue to arise in the engineering world; computer science is helping to revolutionise the engineering world and how it is viewed by other sectors, as well as creating opportunities and ideas that may not have existed before. Meggitt PLC, which is a global engineering group based in the UK, is one such company that recognises the importance of computer science in its world; Chairman of Meggitt, Sir Nigel Rudd, has numerous experiences under his belt, and understands the importance of expanding the world of engineering to keep it current and efficient. In fact, Meggitt is able to offer graduates a range of opportunities that will allow them to utilise their skills in computer science; have you got what it takes?

Careers that you may wish to consider could include, but are certainly not limited to, software and web developer, database and network administrator, systems support analyst, consultant or computer specialist, computer programmer, computer science teacher, network architect, research assistant, and IT security analyst. The world of computer science is constantly changing, with roles being added all the time. Can you afford to miss out on a career in such a varied and evolving industry?

 

We’ll leave you with a few handy hints for snagging that dream role…

Follow your passion; there are so many avenues of computer science to explore, and it is essential to choose with your heart as well as your head. While there are numerous opportunities available to those who already work in computer science, life is too short to invest all of your time and energy in an aspect of a job you’re not happy with.

Keep up to date; whether you’re still learning or ready to graduate and search for your first computer science role, it is essential to stay on top of the latest news, programs, and ventures. Being as competitive as they are, the worlds of technology, engineering, and communication require those who are dedicated enough to follow every trend. Besides, isn’t it better to know exactly what you’re talking about?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions; the best way to get ahead in any career is to conduct research and know exactly what you want from your future. Asking questions is a great way of finding out more and garnering some brilliant advice, while familiarising yourself with your chosen aspect of computer science will ensure that you enter the world of work with a clear, confident head.

Whether you’re just starting a college or university course, are ready to graduate and earn your first job role, or re-thinking the choices you may have made in the past, using your computer science qualifications to further your career may be easier than you think. After all, computer science is so prevalent in numerous industries these days, you may be spoiled for choice. Remember, the world is at your feet. Go out and grab it.

What are the top three e-learning trends to look out for in 2015?

Mobile learning will explode in popularity

According to projections by Gartner, a total of 320 million tablet sales will be made in 2015, compared to 316 million PC sales. Thats going to put a lot of mobile technology in the hands of people who’ve never had the opportunity to access e-learning in this way before. Just as the concept of Video on Demand is changing the way we watch television, the idea of Learning on Demand (or Courses on Demand) is likely to lead to a seismic shift in the way learners access training and development materials online. A number of short course providers have sprung up in recent years and content tailored specifically to mobile learning (short, bite-size and interactive) is going to become increasingly available for every subject area or interest.

BYOD will become accepted in the workplace

The explosion in tablet and smartphone usage is rapidly changing working practices. The days when handheld devices, such as mobile phones, had to be kept out of sight in the workplace are surely behind us. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a concept that has been around for a couple of years but many businesses have been reluctant to embrace the concept, mainly for data security and IT support reasons. However, as more workers are getting their hands on the technology, organisations are beginning to see the potential for mobile devices to increase collaboration and productivity. As BYOD policies become formalised, expect to see staff encouraged to make use of their own technology whether working in the office or remotely.

e-learning for onboarding will become the norm

Inducting and training new employees is a challenge for businesses both small and large. With an increase in flexible working practices, such as part-time and remote workers, online training can play a key role in getting new staff up to speed quickly. Training can be delivered at a time to suit both the business and the new employee. It can be scalable and cost effective and, combined with principles such as BYOD mentioned above (e.g. allowing staff to access unfamiliar training on a device familiar to them) will shorten the learning curve for new employees and let them focus on their job from day one.

References:

Gartner projections on tablet sales: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/185937-in-2015-tablet-sales-will-finally-surpass-pcs-fulfilling-steve-jobs-post-pc-prophecy

http://www.virtual-college.co.uk/news/What-are-the-top-three-elearning-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2015-newsitems-172.aspx

Edmodo and Cambridge University Press Form Strategic Content and Technology Partnership

News from the http://www.elearningnews.net regarding Edmodo.

To encourage effective instruction and deeper student learning, Edmodo, the world’s most extensive e-learning platform for primary and secondary teachers and pupils, and Cambridge University Press, the publishing business of the University of Cambridge and the World’s oldest publisher, has announced a strategic partnership to bring premier educational content and technology to schools in the United Kingdom.

With changes to curriculum standards percolating across the globe, educators are being challenged to adapt while, at the same time, growing accustomed to a 21st century classroom environment. Through the partnership, teachers and pupils alike will benefit from a best-in-class solution that combines high-quality content and collaborative technology. A communication and resource-sharing platform designed for the classroom environment, Edmodo is used by more than 45 million educators, pupils and parents in over 190 countries. As the World’s oldest publisher, Cambridge University Press has a global reputation for creating high-quality, accessible, and inspirational learning resources. As partners, the Press will create and distribute standards-aligned content to educators via the Edmodo platform. The companies will work in partnership with teachers, departments and schools on implementation and product customisation.

The first stage of the partnership will focus on delivering a tailored solution to schools in England as part of a progressive rollout. Cambridge’s brand new content for the reformed linear GCSEs will be exclusively integrated with Edmodo’s formative assessment tool, Snapshot. Built directly into the Edmodo platform, Snapshot allows teachers to easily gauge, on a regular basis, student performance on educational standards. The GCSE content will cover the core subjects of Mathematics, English Language, English Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Combined Science & Computing.

“Our mission is to connect learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential, and through this partnership, we’re making the highest caliber content accessible to our users to further their learning experience,” said Vibhu Mittal, Chief Executive Officer of Edmodo. “We are very excited to work with Cambridge on establishing a new quality standard for educational offerings in the British schools market.”

“The new UK schools curriculum will see a significant increase in the use of digital learning in UK classrooms so the appetite for high-quality resources and accessible digital tools will continue to grow,” said Peter Phillips, Chief Executive of Cambridge University Press. “Edmodo’s platform is already used in hundreds of thousands of schools around the world and, by working together in partnership, we look forward to providing compelling digital learning experiences to millions of students here in the UK.”

http://www.elearningnews.net/view_news.php?news_id=2111

Five ways mobile technology is transforming education

Mobile technology in education
Technology has been making inroads into education for decades. But the mobile revolution is changing education in more fundamental ways than just providing a new gadget that delivers information. Mobile devices, particularly tablets, are changing the way we learn and think about learning.

Last year, a Pew Research Center-Harvard University study found that one in four teenagers in the US owns a tablet computer. According to the US Department of Education, almost every classroom has at least one computer, and Internet connectivity is also available in more than 90% of classrooms.

Here are five ways mobile technology is transforming education:

1. Tablets change how we perceive computing

Students of all ages generally find learning on a tablet more personal and accessible than being chained to a desktop. They also respond well to animation-driven apps, which make lessons more interactive and entertaining than linear modules delivered on a desktop.

iPad Air in education
Education apps for iPad
As computers have become more portable, so has education.

2. Education is gamified

Many people who grew up in the digital age were first introduced to computing via video games. In an effort to make learning more fun and engaging, educators have introduced elements of games into their curriculum.

Chromebook in education
Education
This caused a shift in the way people learn, with active emotional engagement replacing dry periods of concentration. Learning becomes less an abstract, theoretical exercise and more of an emotional and highly engaging activity. The result is higher motivation levels.

3. Real-time feedback

In the pre-digital age, students turned in their work and took tests and waited for teachers to grade their assignments and exams. Today, students expect feedback in real time. Research shows student performance significantly improves when feedback is given immediately.

Real-time feedback in the learning process is a clear benefit to students as they can immediately apply the lessons learned.

4. Communication becomes truncated

One danger posed by the rise of digital communication platforms like Twitter (with its 140-character limit) and other social media hubs is that some students are losing the ability to articulate ideas in longer form. Additionally, they have fewer opportunities to engage in face-to-face communication.

Twitter
Twitter
For that reason, it’s important for educators to make sure students have the opportunity to participate in collaborative activities and face-to-face meetings.

5. Hands-on learning

Learning used to be more about concepts being conveyed in an abstract manner using textbooks. Mobile technology makes the learning process more interactive and engaging.

Google Glass
Google Glass
Technologies such as the augmented reality Google Glass, digital and interactive paper, and animated learning through apps are changing the way education is becoming personalized. Today, forward-thinking learning centers avoid video lectures in favor of two-way interactions in which tutors walk students through problem solving and demonstrate new concept using tablets.

These technology-driven trends are fundamentally transforming the way students learn. Instead of requiring students to read a lesson in a book or complete a linear module via desktop, tablets are enabling them access to engaging, interactive lessons.

As technology continues to disrupt learning, it’s important for educators to make sure students don’t become too isolated and that they have opportunities to converse and collaborate. Innovations like tablet-based tutoring can enable two-way conversations and increase collaboration, giving students the best of both worlds in a changing education environment.

http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/five-ways-mobile-technology-is-transforming-education-1282557

Ipads in the Classroom

IPads in the Classroom – Yay or Nay?

The world of education is constantly evolving, and most agree that the onset of new, interactive technology opens up exciting, new doors in learning what we never could have imagined before.  But how much is too much?  What is the best way to incorporate modern devices, such as laptops and iPads, into traditional educational methods?  To what extent should younger learners be exposed to technology in the classroom, and how is the very notion of the “classroom” evolving?

IPads more than ever are becoming a favorite go-to teaching aid in classrooms, with many schools starting to provide students with their own iPads.  The advantages are clear: the devices’ interactive nature and direct means of accessing teaching resources and learning games online can be a way of sugarcoating learning, hopefully getting students to retain information more if they learn it in an enjoyable fashion.  The drawbacks are equally evident: iPads are costly and, some say, superfluous.  They impede on classroom interaction, and can be viewed as a crutch in both the teaching and learning processes.  They can be used as just another medium for wasting time (take the incident in the Los Angeles school district, where iPads were dispersed to students with all non-academic websites blocked, and within days every single student had hacked their way through the firewall).

In fact, tablets have been shown to significantly improve classroom learning and knowledge retention, especially when it comes to explaining scientific or mathematical concepts that are too complex or abstract to show with traditional textbooks or chalkboards.  Using iPads to communicate ideas about the to-scale size of the solar system, molecules, and timelines has been shown to activate neurocognitive synapses in a unique way from book-learning.  Thanks to thousands of imaginative (many of them free) apps available to use, projects, games, and presentations in art, music, languages, social studies, and more are easier than ever.  And with many students, the scrolling, swiping, and tapping finger motions used to access information on an iPad can make learning a more interactive and stimulating experience.

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) combined with the use of tablets and laptops can expand the classroom in a more encompassing way, allowing the classroom and students’ outside lives to mesh.  Far from replacing the human approach to learning, VLEs allow students and teachers to contact each other directly with questions and feedback, as well as access a wider educational community.  With subjects that are based around communication, such as learning foreign languages, VLEs can give options for exchanges and conversation with students in far-off locations.  Providing a plethora of forums, academic links, and webpages to view tests, classroom content, and other useful resources, VLEs give students a greater individual control over their learning.  It also makes remote learning easier, allowing students who may be traveling or working to attend class with their peers.

More standard VLEs, such as Blackboard which has been used in most colleges and secondary schools for the past decade, offer opportunities to attend classes online, while others provide online student activity centers where users can cooperate on different projects and games.  More cutting edge VLEs such as Moodle, Frog, and Kaleidos offer more opportunities for customization, in an attempt to rival the big social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  The more creative a teacher is, the more enjoyable they can make their virtual classroom, with options to customize their homepage and embed links to newspapers, videos, and podcasts.  And while doling out iPads and conducting classes online can be intimidating to educators, it is increasingly important for educators to keep up with the times and present learning in a way that’s accessible to the tech-savvy younger generation.

Anna Snyder represents Ivy Trainers, a tutoring service specializing in the college admissions process and school-specific studies. Contact our team today to find a tutor in every field, for every learning need!

How Twitter and Facebook Can Boost Learning

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can actually make students smarter, contrary to the criticisms leveled against them by many educators. Twitter and Facebook can boost learning if instructors use them properly and monitor their students’ use in coursework.

Some educators have been wary of social networks since their inception, concerned that students would use the networks in class, both as an update to the age-old practice of passing notes and as a tool with which to cheat on assignments and tests. The immediate reaction was to ban social network access during class. Some more creative instructors, however, saw a potential for actually enhancing their students’ learning, and they encouraged the students to participate. And it turns out that they were on to something: participating on the social networks can actually enhance education.

Why some educators love to hate social media

Beyond the potential for cheating, Twitter and Facebook have often been criticized by educators and others who are concerned with the future of literacy and critical thinking in our culture. Some think they are time-wasters for most students and are eroding students’ ability to write, spell, and think.

Twitter in particular has been criticized on literacy grounds because its strict 140-character limit per “tweet” (including spaces between words) encourages the use of Internet shorthand and “txtspk” (e.g., “UR” instead of “you are”) and sentence fragments. The fear among some educators is that between tweeting and texting, technology has given rise to a new generation that will be at a loss to write or read a coherent, properly spelled sentence.

Facebook has also been criticized as a time-waster and even, in some well-publicized cases, a bullying tool. It has also become a surefire conduit for rumors, ridiculous memes and urban legends, some of which were debunked back in the pre-Internet age, but nevertheless found new life via email and, more recently, through social media. Consequently some have complained that Facebook encourages laziness and discourages critical thinking and research skills.
While there is some validity to all of these concerns – including the concerns about cheating – none of these are adequate reasons to vilify Twitter or Facebook. Instead, the teacher can use them as tools to boost the learning process. Even some of the perceived disadvantages of Twitter and Facebook can be turned into advantages.


The tweet heard ‘round the world…

Twitter wasn’t even on most people’s radar until the 2008 incident involving student James Karl Buck’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment at a public protest in Egypt. En route to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a one-word Tweet to his friends and contacts: “Arrested.” Within seconds, his fellow U.S. Twitter users and blogger friends in Egypt learned of his arrest, and the news almost immediately went viral. As the news spread, pressure from sources all over the world mounted for Egyptian officials, and Buck was ultimately released. At that point, he tweeted another one-word message, “Free,” which also went viral. And the world recognized the power of social networking.

Indeed, there is power in social networking, and there’s no denying that tweeting can be an effective means of communication and a way to update crucial information in the shortest, most direct way possible. Twitter has become a medium in and of itself, but its greater usefulness lies in the ability of the “tweeter” to link to other media. News media, for instance, now routinely use tweets to link to longer articles and videos, and that in fact is where Twitter becomes truly useful; it can link the reader to more substantial information. And this, ideally, is how Twitter can become valuable in the classroom: as a portal to information about the world.
What about the literacy argument? While some accuse Twitter of “dumbing down” the language and interfering with the ability to read, write and think, there are equally powerful – and eloquently literate – voices defending Twitter. A few years ago, best-selling Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood declared that Twitter actually boosts literacy. Atwood noted that a lot of dedicated Twitter users are also avid readers, and added, “People have to actually be able to read and write to use the Internet, so it’s a great literacy driver if kids are given the tools and the incentive to learn the skills that allow them to access it.”
Moreover, one has to have at least rudimentary reading and writing skills to tweet, and tweeting (as well as texting) are less passive experiences than talking on the phone or watching TV.
http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/literary-legend-margaret-atwood-thinks-twitter-boosts-literacy_b16428

Other experts also believe that social media such as Twitter can be used to enhance reading and writing. One of these experts is Rey Junco, of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. http://www.opb.org/news/article/npr-can-twitter-boost-literacy/

Facebook, like Twitter, is a two-edged sword
Many of the arguments in favor of Twitter can also be used about Facebook: It can enhance reading and writing, and can be a portal to educational content. Of course a cursory look at random Facebook postings will reveal that freedom from the 140-character limit does not automatically make the poster witty, eloquent, or even particularly literate. That said, Facebook can be a powerful tool to convey legitimate information – whether an update on coursework or a link to a news story, opinion piece or white paper that is relevant to the work.

Even what is arguably one of Facebook’s weaknesses – its common use as a conduit for rumors and nonsense – can be transformed into a strength if teachers use examples as teaching tools to encourage critical thinking and research skills.

The greatest strength of social media is that they allow people not only to engage in the “public conversation” but also to connect with the world in a way that will actually expand their outlook and open their minds. Educators can and should take advantage of these tools, while guiding students in the responsible use of social media in the context of coursework.

Author Byline:

“This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes about free background check for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id:GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.”

 

Undertaking some action research

Teachers undertaking some area of action research, maybe as part of a course or CPD session, can further develop their skills

According to Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

by Richard Sagor, Action research can be defined as

“A succinct definition of action research appears in the workshop materials we use at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education. That definition states that action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.”

Practitioners who engage in action research inevitably find it to be an empowering experience. Action research has this positive effect for many reasons. Obviously, the most important is that action research is always relevant to the participants. Relevance is guaranteed because the focus of each research project is determined by the researchers, who are also the primary consumers of the findings.

Perhaps even more important is the fact that action research helps educators be more effective at what they care most about—their teaching and the development of their students. Seeing students grow is probably the greatest joy educators can experience. When teachers have convincing evidence that their work has made a real difference in their students’ lives, the countless hours and endless efforts of teaching seem worthwhile.

The Action Research Process

Educational action research can be engaged in by a single teacher, by a group of colleagues who share an interest in a common problem, or by the entire faculty of a school. Whatever the scenario, action research always involves the same seven-step process. These seven steps, which become an endless cycle for the inquiring teacher, are the following:

  1. Selecting a focus
  2. Clarifying theories
  3. Identifying research questions
  4. Collecting data
  5. Analyzing data
  6. Reporting results
  7. Taking informed action

Step 1—Selecting a Focus

The action research process begins with serious reflection directed toward identifying a topic or topics worthy of a busy teacher’s time. Considering the incredible demands on today’s classroom teachers, no activity is worth doing unless it promises to make the central part of a teacher’s work more successful and satisfying. Thus, selecting a focus, the first step in the process, is vitally important. Selecting a focus begins with the teacher researcher or the team of action researchers asking:

What element(s) of our practice or what aspect of student learning do we wish to investigate?

Step 2—Clarifying Theories

The second step involves identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus. For example, if teachers are concerned about increasing responsible classroom behavior, it will be helpful for them to begin by clarifying which approach—using punishments and rewards, allowing students to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, or some other strategy—they feel will work best in helping students acquire responsible classroom behavior habits.

Step 3—Identifying Research Questions

Once a focus area has been selected and the researcher’s perspectives and beliefs about that focus have been clarified, the next step is to generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.

Step 4—Collecting Data

Professional educators always want their instructional decisions to be based on the best possible data. Action researchers can accomplish this by making sure that the data used to justify their actions are valid(meaning the information represents what the researchers say it does) and reliable (meaning the researchers are confident about the accuracy of their data). Lastly, before data are used to make teaching decisions, teachers must be confident that the lessons drawn from the data align with any unique characteristics of their classroom or school.

To ensure reasonable validity and reliability, action researchers should avoid relying on any single source of data. Most teacher researchers use a process called triangulation to enhance the validity and reliability of their findings. Basically, triangulation means using multiple independent sources of data to answer one’s questions. Triangulation is like studying an object located inside a box by viewing it through various windows cut into the sides of the box. Observing a phenomenon through multiple “windows” can help a single researcher compare and contrast what is being seen through a variety of lenses.

When planning instruction, teachers want the techniques they choose to be appropriate for the unique qualities of their students. All teachers have had the experience of implementing a “research-proven” strategy only to have it fail with their students. The desire of teachers to use approaches that “fit” their particular students is not dissimilar to a doctor’s concern that the specific medicine being prescribed be the correct one for the individual patient. The ability of the action research process to satisfy an educator’s need for “fit” may be its most powerful attribute. Because the data being collected come from the very students and teachers who are engaged with the treatment, the relevance of the findings is assured.

For the harried and overworked teacher, “data collection” can appear to be the most intimidating aspect of the entire seven-step action research process. The question I am repeatedly asked, “Where will I find the time and expertise to develop valid and reliable instruments for data collection?”, gives voice to a realistic fear regarding time management. Fortunately, classrooms and schools are, by their nature, data-rich environments. Each day a child is in class, he or she is producing or not producing work, is interacting productively with classmates or experiencing difficulties in social situations, and is completing assignments proficiently or poorly. Teachers not only see these events transpiring before their eyes, they generally record these events in their grade books. The key to managing triangulated data collection is, first, to be effective and efficient in collecting the material that is already swirling around the classroom, and, second, to identify other sources of data that might be effectively surfaced with tests, classroom discussions, or questionnaires.

Step 5—Analyzing Data

Although data analysis often brings to mind the use of complex statistical calculations, this is rarely the case for the action researcher. A number of relatively user-friendly procedures can help a practitioner identify the trends and patterns in action research data. During this portion of the seven-step process, teacher researchers will methodically sort, sift, rank, and examine their data to answer two generic questions:

  • What is the story told by these data?
  • Why did the story play itself out this way?

By answering these two questions, the teacher researcher can acquire a better understanding of the phenomenon under investigation and as a result can end up producing grounded theory regarding what might be done to improve the situation.

Step 6—Reporting Results

It is often said that teaching is a lonely endeavor. It is doubly sad that so many teachers are left alone in their classrooms to reinvent the wheel on a daily basis. The loneliness of teaching is unfortunate not only because of its inefficiency, but also because when dealing with complex problems the wisdom of several minds is inevitably better than one.

The sad history of teacher isolation may explain why the very act of reporting on their action research has proven so powerful for both the researchers and their colleagues. The reporting of action research most often occurs in informal settings that are far less intimidating than the venues where scholarly research has traditionally been shared. Faculty meetings, brown bag lunch seminars, and teacher conferences are among the most common venues for sharing action research with peers. However, each year more and more teacher researchers are writing up their work for publication or to help fulfill requirements in graduate programs. Regardless of which venue or technique educators select for reporting on research, the simple knowledge that they are making a contribution to a collective knowledge base regarding teaching and learning frequently proves to be among the most rewarding aspects of this work.

Step 7—Taking Informed Action

Taking informed action, or “action planning,” the last step in the action research process, is very familiar to most teachers. When teachers write lesson plans or develop academic programs, they are engaged in the action planning process. What makes action planning particularly satisfying for the teacher researcher is that with each piece of data uncovered (about teaching or student learning) the educator will feel greater confidence in the wisdom of the next steps. Although all teaching can be classified as trial and error, action researchers find that the research process liberates them from continuously repeating their past mistakes. More important, with each refinement of practice, action researchers gain valid and reliable data on their developing virtuosity.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

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iPad Be Nimble, iPad Be Quick

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One of the most challenging lessons for schools to learn in implementing iPads is that the iPad is not a laptop. The conversation can sometimes get bogged down around the device, trapping schools in these definitions as they lose sight of the central reasons to use technology:

  • To enhance teaching and learning
  • To differentiate instruction
  • To personalize the learning experience
  • To solve authentic problems where technology must be used to solve those problems

This is not an easy lesson. It requires a paradigm shift in teaching and learning.

iPads vs. Laptops

It’s worth noting the different features of laptops and iPads and to see the benefit of both devices.

While the laptop is heavy, takes a long time to boot up, and is often used as a word processing tool with typing and keyboarding being paramount, it’s also a powerful device for computer programming and accessing Adobe Flash-based simulations, particularly in the sciences. And the laptop is not bound by the app store. Many adults often prefer using a laptop over an iPad. And many students feel the same way. The laptop is often the default go-to device, full of power and possibility.

The shift to iPads over laptops does not have to be a zero sum game. The ideal setting, being adopted by many schools, is moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs to allow for flexibility and for students to work on their own devices. And BYOD also shifts the conversation away from the device and toward the learning experience. In other words, based on the learning experience, which device will best allow students to achieve the learning objectives? It might be a laptop or a tablet — or even a smartphone.

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Students: bring your own technology to uni

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Asking students to use their own tech in lectures could save money, but will it damage attention spans?

A few years ago, if a student got their phone out in a lecture, this was quite a clear sign that they were no longer paying attention. But today, using a phone or tablet in the lecture hall is actually encouraged by universities, many of which are asking students to use their own technology to access learning resources.

As the discussion by many establishments to investigate BYOD continues, The Guardian discusses http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/apr/11/students-bring-tech-device-uni