Two Telling Infographs on American Education

At Citelighter, we focus on making research and writing more efficient for anyone interested in learning. And the most basic and crucial component of learning, of course, is reading.

Linked here is a startling recent infographic on the state of reading in our schools among elementary school students—it shows just how important it is to academic and life success. Below is one element of it:

A more elaborate set of infographics was released recently by the United States Census Bureau, highlighting the strong link between school enrollment, attendance, and college success. Definitely worth checking out below:


Surprises About Learning

Students learn material in dramatically different ways, a point highlighted recently in an interesting Edudemic article, “30 Surprising (And Controversial) Ways Students Learn.”

One striking examples is video games, which have earned the ire of many parents, politicians, and pundits for their often violent content. But as the article notes, citing a psychology study, games can offer a host of psychological benefits, acting as “a safe alternative for the release of pent-up emotion” , a new medium for children to socialize, and a virtual playground that allows room for experimentation and adventure.

Another assertion around learning that bucks conventional expectations is that “practical” lab work in science may not help students. A review of how labs are often constructed illustrates that many of them “are designed so that students follow a ‘recipe’ or list of directions that don’t exercise critical thinking skills.”

What unorthodox methods of learning have you witnessed or tried out in the classroom, and what conventional methods have you encountered that seem ineffective?

Learning Outside of Technology

Although we’re fully immersed in the technological space, sometimes it’s useful to step away from the screen and take a look at some insightful in-person teaching methodologies, both for their inherent value and for their potential application in a technology-oriented way.

Two really valuable pieces addressing teaching methods appeared in Edutopia recently, one on student collaboration and the other on believing in students.

Though the posts pertain to two sharply different topics, what’s noteworthy is what they share in common: a core belief that students learn best when they are held accountable in a context that encourages learning and taking on challenges, not meeting static criteria or random metrics.

Since it’s so easy to fall into a metric-heavy mindset on the technology side of education,  it’s important to ask what kind of measures we can cultivate through technology that focus on rewarding the act of learning, not merely making learning more efficient or economical.

Remembering Our Teachers

As we approach year’s close, we all tend to reflect on the events of the past twelve months, and on the defining events of our lives more broadly. It is impossible during this period of reflection not to recall, and mourn, the innocent lives taken just earlier this month in Newtown, Connecticut.

As we recognize the tremendous loss, however, we also salute the heroism and bravery of those teachers who acted selflessly to try to protect their students, by rushing them out of harm’s way, barricading them behind closed doors and closets, and even by trying to confront the killer.

Those acts of valor prompted a couple of us at Citelighter to think of the teachers who were important to us during the formative years in our own lives, in ways large and small.

Sheraz, our VP of Outreach, remembered how his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Hand, influenced him in the simplest way: “Mrs. Hand was the sweetest lady. I would have difficulty with the number five – my ‘fives’ always turned out looking like the letter ‘S’. She would spend time with me personally and helped me turn my ‘S’ into a ‘5’. I think of her every time I write the number five.”

I have similar memories of numerous teachers. Mrs. Lennartz, my third-grade teacher, always offered a calm and reassuring presence to an anxiety-prone child such as myself. Mrs. Goldstein, my fifth-grade enrichment teacher, taught me the value of good writing and encouraged me to use my imagination, which I explored amply in creating an exuberant 13-page fantasy story at the time.

Every day at Citelighter, the team works with teachers, both former and current, to create  inspiring solutions and projects aimed at improving education. A huge part of the reason we continue to do so is the awe and respect they inspire, in ourselves and others, in ways big and small.

A Model for Integrating Technology in the Classroom?

In light of the terrible school shooting that occurred today in Newton, Connecticut, I want to convey on behalf of the entire Citelighter team our sincerest condolences to the victims and their families, and to all the students and teachers who endured this awful attack.

There are some good resources here and here on how to address the issue with children and how to cope, and we’ll be sure to speak to this issue further next week.

For today, however, we turn to some specifics on integrating technology in the classroom. So many exciting tools abound for teachers and students to experiment with, but without a concrete framework as a guide, it seems like it’s a dizzying problem to figure out how to apply them properly in a classroom context.

The Arizona K-12 Center at Northern Arizona University seems to have a solution. It’s developed a handy PDF-friendly chart, or “Technology Integration Matrix”, as seen here. The great thing about the matrix is that the cells include some lesson plans along with short videos of the lessons themselves, detailing to teachers how the model is intended to work.

The creators have dubbed the matrix “a living document” that will be continually updated with new less on plans and videos. As its creators explain, the point is to “assist  “assist schools and districts in evaluating the level of technology integration in classrooms and to provide teachers with models of how technology can be integrated throughout instruction in meaningful ways.”

What value do you see to this kind of framework—as either an educator or a student—and has your own school developed a similar kind of tool to guide along its technological adoption?

Citelighter PR Director