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Technology

Minecraft Adds Educational Edition

minecraft educational edition

Microsoft announced on November 1, 2016, that Minecraft educational edition is now available for purchase. It is the learning focused version.

The new educational app allows teachers to change the variables for the world and offer up items to students. They can also communicate with students and transport them virtually from a central interface.

Minecraft: Education Edition is no longer free, but will instead cost $5 per user. Volume pricing will be available for larger institutions.

In addition to the software, Microsoft offers a dedicated website for educators at education.minecraft.net. Teachers can find tutorials, starter plans and message each other.



Learning Computer Code is Becoming Essential for Business Success

According to The New York Times, most foreign languages go in and out of fashion, but one language that is going to become increasingly valuable to know is computer code.

OK, so it’s not a spoken language, but learning to “speak” computer code is a great skill to have. The number of night classes and online classes that teach this language has been growing quickly as more and more people want to learn how to design websites, as well as iPhone apps. It also has many real-life applications for future employees, such as allowing you to customize a blog for your company, a skill which employers might find very appealing.

“Inasmuch as you need to know how to read English, you need to have some understanding of the code that builds the web,” said Sarah Henry, an investment manager. “It is fundamental to the way the world is organized and the way people think about things these days.”

Some colleges are also getting on board and offering classes that cater to this new field of interest. Stanford University offers two computer science classes that are free and offered online. So far, more than 100,000 people have tried out the classes.

Another way that you can learn computer coding is through Codeacademy, a new company that offers interactive lessons to help people learn how to write code. More than 1,000,000 people – including the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg – have signed up for the program since it started last summer.

Why the sudden interest in this field? I think that Peter Harsha, the director of government affairs at the Computing Research Association, said it best:

“To be successful in the modern world, regardless of your occupation, requires a fluency in computers. It is more than knowing how to use Word or Excel but how to use a computer to solve problems.”



Libraries Swap Stacks of Books for Robotic Retrieval Programs

girls in a libraryWhat do you expect to see when you enter a library on an university campus? Besides dozens of students cramming information into their brains in the hours before an exam, I expect to see thousands upon thousands of books. However, as part of its overhaul of its library, San Francisco State University is going against the norm and has hidden away 75 percent of its books in favor of digitizing its collection.

This school is not alone. In fact, many schools are digitizing their libraries in an effort to make it easier for students to find the volumes they are looking for. At San Francisco State University, the old library was a “rabbits’ warren,” according to the librarian, Deborah Masters. Now, after its “facelift,” the library has put an emphasis on open spaces, more computer and technology available for students’ use, and areas where students can study in groups or grab a coffee in the new cafe.

Some books will remain on display where students can access them on their own. These books will be the ones that are in highest demand, were published recently, or are recommended by a specific department. If a student wants to reach one of the many other books that are not currently on display, he can enter his query in a search engine, which will then cue a robot in another building to retrieve the book and delver it to the student in the library. This entire process is expected to take less than 10 minutes.

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Technology in the Classroom Might Not Be the Answer

typingFor almost 100 years, people have been predicting the end of the use of textbooks in public schools. The cause for the decline of textbook use is often due to some new technology that will forever change classrooms.

For example, in 1913, Thomas Edison was a nay-sayer concerning the future of textbook use.

“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools,” he said. “Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years.”

Edison was talking about replacing textbooks with videos to teach students. Sure, we do use videos today in our classrooms, but textbooks are still the main source of information in most cases.

So, should we be surprised that many education leaders, such as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, are now pushing for the use of laptops and digital books in the classroom? Using history as our source, the answer is no.

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More Students Today are Cheating, Thanks to Technology and the Internet

person typing on black keyboardCheating today is a lot easier than it was a decade ago. It’s not because Little Sally is much more likely to show Little Timmy her homework assignment before school today than she would have been in the past. Nor is it because school districts feel pressured to attain high standardized test scores and let their students cheat in order to do so – although this has happened. Instead, the main reason that it is much easier for today’s students to cheat is sitting right in front of you right now: the Internet and technology.

Studies confirm this increasing trend in the number of cheaters: 80 to 85 percent of students have cheated at least once by the time they graduate high school. Until they reach the second grade, most of this cheating does occur in the traditional ways, but once they reach third grade, many are turning to the Internet to cheat. Internet plagiarism is on the rise, as is cheating with a cell phone. Students can text each other answers during a test, look up the answers to a problem on their smartphones, or take a picture of an exam and send it to a friend who has not taken the test yet.

So what are concerned parents to do about this problem? How can they keep their kids from becoming cheaters? The answer might be to start combating the issue while children are still young.

“You want to get good behavioral habits established while moral reasoning is developing and deepening,” said Thomas Lickona, Ph.D. and author of Raising Good Children and Character Matters – How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgement, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues. “There’s research to suggest that even young children are more sophisticated and morally observant than we might give them credit for.”

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Students Turn to Webcams to Learn to Play an Instrument

young woman playing an instrument For many people, learning a new skill is a great New Year’s Resolution. You could sign up for expensive private lessons, take classes at your school, or do what Dr. John McClure did and take lessons from someone who lives on the other side of the country.

McClure, who lives in Minnesota, was learning how to play the bagpipes from a friend and was really enjoying his new-found hobby. However, when his friend moved away, McClure had to find an alternative way to continue learning. So he turned to Jori Chisholm – a bagpipe player who won first-place at the 2010 Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, and who currently lives in Seattle – to help him continue improving. So how does McClure receive his lessons? Does he fly across the country every week in order to take the lessons? Of course not. The two men use Skype in order to connect and practice; sometimes they even have a lesson when McClure, a pathologist, is at work.

“I’ve been on call, waiting for a specimen from the O.R., and I’ll do a lesson with Jori,” McClure said. He uses a practice chanter, which is basically a bagpipe without a bag, in order to keep the lessons quiet and hospital-friendly.

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Elementary Students Use iPads to Create School Blog

tablet computerThe first grade students at Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, Indiana, are a little bit different from other elementary school students their age across the country. They do not look any different, nor are they learning from a different curriculum. However, they do have a blog.

Last August, the Indiana Department of Education gave a $200,000 grant to the school, allowing students in kindergarten through fifth grade to have their own iPads. The teachers also received their own iPads.

“It has been a wonderful experience, for the students and for me, ” said Stefanie Onieal, a first-grade teacher who was also one of the authors of the grant.

So what can you find on the blog that these students have created. Among many other things, you can find students’ recent letters to Santa (which they wrote on their iPads), photos of nouns found in their classrooms (the pictures were taken on the iPads), and a fire safety public service announcement (which, of course, was created on the iPads).The blog is viewable for parents at any time, which helps them stay up to date on what their children are learning in school.

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40 Percent of Students Majoring in STEM Subjects Change Majors

blue printsIn an effort to encourage students to enjoy science, President Obama held the first White House Science Fair last fall in the State Dining Room. During this event, he tested and played with various projects that students had made. This was just one way that President Obama has been trying to increase the USA’s international competitiveness in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) industries.

For years, politicians and educators have been trying to think of ways to increase the level of interest that their students have in science. This is even more important today than it has been in the past, as Americans are competing with people from other countries for jobs in the international marketplace.

Sadly, it seems like most Americans are still losing interest in this fields shortly after their days of science fairs end. Why? According to David E. Goldberg, an emeritus engineering professor, it is because when they get to college, they face “the math-science death march.”

Recent studies show that 40 percent of college students who plan to pursue a major in the engineering or science fields change their majors or do not earn a degree at all. If you include pre-med students in this figure, the percentage jumps up to 60 percent. This is twice as much as the attrition rate of all other majors combined.

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The Waldorf Schools Reject Technology in Favor of Hands-On Teaching Methods

student writing with a pen on lined paperWhat do the chief technology officer of eBay and important employees of various other Silicon Valley companies such as Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Yahoo have in common? The first answer would probably be that they are all technology-gurus. The second answer is that they all send their children to a school that uses pens, knitting needles, and mud as learning supplies but bans computers from school grounds.

Wait a second, doesn’t that seem counter-intuitive for these children to not be using computers in their classrooms? They live in Silicon Valley, their parents make a living by working with computers, and the world is becoming more and more reliant on computers. However, at Waldorf School of the Peninsula,  the ideology is that computers don’t mix well with schools.

There are 160 Waldorf schools in the USA that follow the philosophy that children should learn through physical activity and hands-on tasks. They also believe that computers are bad for children who are learning because the machines limit creative thinking, human interaction, movement, and attention spans.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, a parent of two children who attend Waldorf schools. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

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Common Application Goes Mobile to Make It More Convenient for Students

The Common Application LogoFor many high school seniors, applying to several schools used to seem like quite a daunting feat because of the numerous different essay questions that each school asked. Luckily, a Common Application was created as a way to cut down the amount of time and effort involved in applying to various schools.

In the past year, there were some technical issues that made the Common Application somewhat difficult, and at times even more stressful than traditional applications. However, it now seems that these bugs have been worked out and a mobile version is available for students to access via their smartphones.

The new mobile site allows high school seniors to use their phones to check on the status of their applications, payment, and any other materials that might be required. Currently, 456 colleges are accepting the Common Application, but most of these schools also require addition application materials.

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