01 Nov

Comparing laptops to computers; what is best for your student?

Computers came into existence a long time ago. From the size of a football field, to a room, to a table and now to a lap; computer systems have also progressed as the World has moved forward. Being permitted only to influential offices when they were initially introduced and only being operated by a professional, now they have been given access to every human on earth. As a student, it becomes a tad tough to decide whether laptops are better or computers are more appropriate. Thereby, we shall see the pros and cons of various aspects of both, as to decide which one will serve the purpose better.

  1. Cost price: Due to the fact that desktop computers are larger and have more than one component attached to them that can vary per package, the prices are also in a wide array. However, the lowest price you must pay with the maximum number of gadgets is also pretty minimal and you can still attain a perfectly good setup. On the other hand, laptops do not have that much hassle attached to them, but to have the best package like speed, memory space, durability and sleekness you must pay a lot more. Thereby, judging by pricing, laptops can be heftier on the pocket of a student or an educational institution if they want the best one available in market.
  1. Handiness: Desktop computers not only have a monitor but also a processor that is quite heavy. To transport it from one place to another you need quite some time and effort. Furthermore, all the wires attached to a switchboard, to the monitor and the keyboard also need to be detached and carried along making it a very troublesome process. Howbeit, laptops have everything they need in their system so you can merely pick it up and put it in another place. As a student, that is the biggest advantage you can get because you can carry it wherever you want.
  1. Processor power: Since desktop computers have a larger sized processor, the power it harnesses is also proportional to its size. This means that more activities that involve heavy power can be done on the computer like gaming. Laptops have smaller sized and lesser powered systems, on which you cannot do very dynamic activities. In case of students, it depends on the type of study they have and how much work they need off the system. If the student is a graphic designing course, he must prefer a computer because they can install all his software easily. On the other hand, if they are fifth graders, a laptop will do just fine.
  1. Assembling: Arranging, setting and starting up a desktop computer is a cumbersome process owing to the large number of components involved. Thereby, it also takes up more area. To the contrary, laptops only need to be inserted with a battery the first time, and every time after you just need to click the power button to get it in use. So, for educational institutes that install them or students, laptops can save a lot of precious time, as well as space in the room. 
  1. Keyboards: In case of desktop computers, you need to purchase an additional keyboard, but there are so many options to choose from. There are different sizes, various types, numerous colors and eye-catching themes to your liking. In the case of laptops, the good part is that the keyboard is already installed so you need not buy an additional one, however you cannot customize it to your liking. Again, their ease to a student depends on the type of educational program he/she is in. If they need a larger keyboard with more features, then a computer would do. However, if his scope of studies does not require any fancy keyboards, a laptop is all he/she needs.
  1. Size of screen: In the case of screen size, both the subjects at hand are equal. Monitors, whether of the laptop or the desktop computer, come in all size ranges. You can pick the one you want. Both of them can also be connected to any external monitor like a television screen with a single cable so you need to worry about the size.
  1. Improvement: Everything changes after a while, new advancements and gadgets come into existence and you think about updating. Since the desktop computer has all externally attached components, you can change any one of them at any time as per your requirements. Diversely, the laptops and their components are not removable, meaning that you cannot upgrade them except for the hard-disk, memory and such. You can only purchase a brand new laptop. In this case, desktop computers have a clear advantage because as soon as a component wears out becomes out-dated you can change it.
  1. Repair: Same goes the case for repair. Since the components can easily come off, you can repair them, replace them and upgrade them with ease. However, laptops usually need to be sent to an expert to get it back into shape because you cannot repair it on your own, neither can you replace any component. Here, also desktop computers have a significant advantage.
  1. Fashion statement: Well, we cannot rule out the trends of the modern world can we? And that is laptops. While desktop computers still exist, they are now being considered obsolete, and laptops are readily taking their place more or less because of their portability and smoother designing. So if you want to follow the bandwagon effect, or simply to fit into your surroundings, a laptop will be a more probable choice.

In conclusion, whether you need a desktop computer for your student or a laptop, depends widely on the subject of the study, the requirements of the syllabus, the classroom ethics and the ease of the student. After assessing all these factors in light of the pros and cons mentioned above, the student plus the teacher can decide which of them is more suited.

04 Oct

What are the benefits of Tablets vs. Laptops for Schools?

Education has taken a giant leap forward, with digital tools in common use in classrooms. Students today may not even know what a blackboard is. If they do, they may consider it something like a dinosaur. But when it comes to tablets and laptops in the classroom, students are giving an astounding affirmative vote, but they are showing a definite preference according to most studies. The digital divide will be hard to cross later if teachers are not using at least these two tools in the classroom. There are some who favor the tablet, and others who use the laptop as the go-to tool.

One source, Techcrunch, writes that kids today are at home using their tablets more than the laptop for accessing the internet, playing games and watching videos. The article about the subject reports that tablet use is rising across the board, and that is has become the device that children feel that they must have. Their source is a research company by the name of Ofcom. Teachers can capitalize off this tablet obsession by making tablets a common tool in the classroom. And they can use them in the same ways that kids use them at home, by spinning things a little differently.

In order to get the necessary curriculum into the classroom through tablet use, teachers can make or use existing videos that help with content enrichment, exposure and even tests. The teacher can also use tablets for playing learning games. A teacher can create learning stations with such games, or activities that reinforce learning. There is a flood of games on the internet that help students to grasp and master content. For Math alone, you will see learning sites like Mr. Mussbaum, coolmathgames.com and many others. Mussbaum and some others specify that their games are for tablet users, although they may be configured for laptops as well. Some of the games are arcade style, while others are delivered in other forms.

Tachertube.com, watchknowlearn.com and many other sites have an explosion of educational videos that cover content ranging from the solar system to various cultures around the world and the animal kingdom. As one site indicated, namely edudemic, teachers can expose students to new content knowledge, supplement the learning that’s taking place in the classroom and inspire them through educational videos. There is even a YouTube channel specifically dedicated to education.

The same article, which explored the use of laptops, has dropped 68% while tablet use has grown from 15%-42% since 2012. It’s important to mention that the article credited the drop of smartphone ownership as part of the reason why the tablet holds more appeal than the laptop.

One master teacher, who indicates that they were trained to use laptops for teaching, reported that she found that students preferred tablets over laptops. She cited a few reasons for the preference, as follows: the tablet is smaller and lightweight, the tablet is easier to store and they have faster start-up times. She said she finds tablets great for creating content. Narrated screencast and digital storytelling are two high potential learning platforms geared toward creating content that seem easier for students to navigate with tablets versus laptops.

This same teacher, who is also an educational technologist, pointed out that she likes laptops for the older students because they can learn trouble-shooting through the devices. She felt that students need a basic grasp of computers, and that laptops can give them that experience.

Online curriculum and apps seem to be here to stay. Both have changed the landscape of the teaching and learning experience. Both are accessible through laptops and tablets.

Joseph Morris, Director of Market Intelligence for the Center for Digital Education, reports that classrooms are continuing to evolve with new technology.

On the center’s website, it indicates that a new Horizon Report came out in September 2016 to show where classrooms are needing to go in order to optimize use of learning technology in the near future.

Samantha A. Becker, the NMC Horizon Project senior director was quoted as stating, “We believe it’s important to set a precedent that technology that’s not in service of promoting better teaching and learning practices is just a set of devices.” She is also researcher and lead writer of the series of Horizon reports.

One article stayed away from the tablet versus laptop argument, and instead focused on the fact that educators needed to look at the features and conveniences that they want a device to offer. That being said, it seems that the decision is a matter of who is making the important decision, and what their goals and anticipated lessons will involve

10 Aug

The Technology Hurdles of SBAC Testing in the Classroom

Even giant leaps forward in technology, education and other fields comes with some setbacks or deficiencies. Often they can be worked out over time. The SBAC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one nifty example. This test gives students who are exposed to it a leg up on the question stems which are aligned with their grade level. It’s available for students in grades 3-8, and high school for the core subjects. Questioning stems refers to the way the questions might be worded and the kinds of questions that would be presented. Even the advance exposure of the SBAC brings some glitches. Clearing the hurdles is possible, but they do exist. Here are a few:

On Screen Reading

There’s a certain amount of eye strain involved in reading content on screen. Called Computer Vision Syndrome, the American Optometric Association suggests that 70% of Americans suffer from this malady. The problem presents itself as stress on the eyes. For children it may include a negative impact on their normal vision and development. The brain is said to not respond the same way to characters on the computer that they do characters on paper. Pixels and points on the screen all converge to make the images, but there is not always the fluidity people expect. There are all kinds of recommendations for writers and others who are on the computer a lot. The idea is to give the eye muscles a break. Looking away periodically is one of them. Wearing computer eyeglasses is another. For testing, students are conditioned to stay on task for the duration, so they may need retraining in order to even grasp the idea of taking short seconds long eye breaks. In addition, not all students who are prepared to take the SBAC test can go out and get an eye exam and glasses for onscreen reading.

The same difficult dynamic applies to those who take the SBAC test, as it is an online test. Students used to paper test may be some of the most difficult ones of all to struggle with taking a test where they have to constantly look at the screen.

Pause Feature

Students taking the test can put their computer on pause for up to twenty minutes. If they return and resume the test in 20 minutes or under they can return to the same section when they are done with their break. They can even go back and work on (modify, change, review) answers in that same section. If the student keeps the test on pause for longer than 20 minutes, they may not be able to do any further work on the page they were working on before the pause.

Taking Audio and Video Notes

If students are not used to taking notes from audio and video, this test may present them with some frustrations. Without the value of prior experience at note-taking from audio and video, students will often have problems keeping up with the speed of delivery of audio and video content. Students may also struggle with organizing the notes as they watch or listen to content if this balancing act is not familiar to them. The best solution for them is pre-test experience with shorthand note-taking, note-taking technology or experience organizing notes efficiently through a program like Cornell Notes (from AVID). When it comes to note-taking in general, practice makes perfect. It is more so true with taking video and audio notes.

18 Feb

Arkansas Dismantles the Core

Arkansas has been one of the oldest adopters of Common Core, bringing it into the state July 12, 2010. Taking this involvement a step further, they are also one of the governing members of PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, a collection of states that works to write yearly assessments based on the Core standards. While there has been a growing amount of recent controversy, this southern state has performed the most peaceful coup as they work to find standards that fit their own state.

 

Initial Controversy

Starting in 2010, the state has been slowly transforming its standards to those aligned with the Common Core, having now fully implemented all changes. However, not all individuals were happy about this toward the final stages of implementation. In 2014, legislation was filed trying to block funding for the Core. This failed to get very far.

Then, during Asa Hutchinson’s run for governor in 2014, he stated that, if elected, he would found a task force faced with the responsibility to study they Core’s standards and make recommendations based on what they found. He was indeed elected and, in early 2015, founded a team comprised of 16 people. It actually proved to be a successful venture.

Following this, a bill was proposed in 2015 that would remove Arkansas from PARCC. This failed and the state ran its first statewide PARCC exam that same year. Yet this bill didn’t remain quiet. Instead of giving up completely, it was toned down, merely asking that the committee’s decisions be considered going forward. Interestingly enough, the committee called for the state to not administer PARCC tests but ACT tests instead.

 

Slow Dismantling

As it stands, Arkansas is now fully set on going after the ACT assessments, citing the four hour test as being much better for college preparation determination than the eight hour PARCC. In addition, the committee found that the ACT is also aligned strongly with Common Core standards, making it an ideal replacement.

The overhaul didn’t stop there, though. In fact, the Department of Education decided to appoint their own team of educators to review the standards and make recommendations due by July 1 of this year. These new standards will then drop the Common Core moniker and become one that belongs to the state itself as requested by the governor.

In Arkansas, it would seem that protests against the Core are not loud and boisterous like in other states. Instead, opponents have slowly but surely worked their way into positions of power and have been dismantling it from the inside. First to go was the assessment. Next is the Core itself. However, this hasn’t been bad because the changes have been easy to adapt to. With the Core in place now and only recommendations being made in the future, this upheaval has proven to be healthier for the state’s educational system.

31 Dec

Illinois Changes its attitude about Common Core

A weird amalgamation of liberalism in its city of Chicago and conservatism out in every other area, Illinois has taken the more liberal route in regards to education. Following the reveal of the Common Core, the state voted to adopt the standards on June 24, 2010. In addition, it became and has remained an active member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC), the group tasked with developing the new standardized test for the Core. That being said, the state is slowly becoming more two-sided in light of the PARCC test scores that released in 2015.

 

Growing Pains

Like most states, Illinois saw an extreme drop in readiness for college as determined by these test scores. Across every district, scores were low, prompting educators to send home letters of explanation so as to shield the children from any parental punishment. That being said, it’s the conservative districts that took the scores in stride, logically drawing the conclusion that a new test was bound to be lower since both teachers and students had never taken anything like it before.

 

Growing Resentment

While the non-Chicago areas are continuing to work to improve, it’s the big city that’s harboring a growing break between the Core and everyone else. From educators to parents, the PARCC test has been vilified as ruining the already struggling school system. Educators see it as an evil that is turning away both prospective and current teachers. Parents encouraged students to protest the exam, leading to certain schools reporting a 54% no-show rate. Unlike other states, educators are fully supportive of the parents doing this, even in light of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel shaming them for siding with the parents.

While it might seem like a great stand against a perceived evil, the fight to force the students to take the test is embroiled in a much more complex issue of funding and poor performing schools. In reality, it was only the higher performing schools with the wealthier parents that supported such a boycott of the PARCC. Such skip rates did not happen in the poorer districts. In addition, the state needs to maintain a 95% participation rate in order to continue to receive funding for these lower-performing and often underfunded schools – schools that have no bearing on the costly private institutes that are causing such a fuss.

In the end, the PARCC results have done nothing to prove or dismantle any theories so much as entrench individuals further in their current beliefs. Parents that believed the Core to be an evil now have found justification. Educators that knew lower test scores were coming are further convinced that this change is for the better, they just need more time. Though the Core will no doubt remain a staple of the state’s education system, what happens to the PARCC remains to be seen.

03 Dec

Wyoming keeps pushing for Common Core Success

Ever since the predominantly red state of Wyoming adopted the Common Core standards in June of 2012, it has actually proven to be one of the few Republican states that has found the Core to be a benefit rather than a deterrent. In fact, the state, despite its opponents, actually likes the changes these implementations have wrought over the past three years it has been put into practice.

 

Republican Concern

It really is no surprise that Republicans have shown a strong distaste for the Core. Believed to be a plan by the government to implement federal control of state-run education systems, it’s been a scary prospect for many. However, despite this criticism, the educational and political leaders of the state are doing what they can to take good criticisms and apply them to the current standards so as to make the state’s standards better, something all parents want for their children.

 

The Happy Medium

In order to calm the caustic voice, Wyoming has instigated a review of Common Core scheduled to happen once every five years (with the next slated for 2017). This guarantees that the new standards are being held accountable for doing what they promised to do – prepare children of all backgrounds for successful careers in college and beyond. In addition, the new superintendent worked pragmatically to find such a balance rather than dismissing the Core simply because of her political leanings. To further push her in this direction, it was cited that if the Core were dropped, Wyoming would have to start from scratch for educational standards, an expensive move that would be costly to taxpayers and children alike.

As far as the teachers are concerned, they almost all see the Core as a drastic improvement over previous standards. However, they are frustrated with the continual changes the state keeps applying. These educators are begging for at least three years of steady standards so that they can figure them out before being asked to alter them.

 

Future Implications

Though there are still a few years needed before the state can truly tell if the Core is leading to better grades, there has been an interesting change of thought. Up until now, the ACT has been the standardized tests students have had to take in 11th grade to determine their readiness for college. Every since Common Core came in, this has drastically shifted with teachers saying their new standards only match 70% of those required by the test itself. In fact, these last years’ scores actually fell. To the educators, it’s a clear mismatch because students are being tested with a test that in no way aligns with the current curriculum. In short, it’s unfair and forces the teachers to balance two different sets of standards. While this won’t cause the death of Common Core in Wyoming, it could very well spell the end of required ACT testing.

 

26 Nov

Oregon’s Common Core Continues Movement

It’s been five years since Oregon adopted the Common Core standards and only this year took their first standardized test based on this new set of grade graduation requirements. As far as the state is concerned, though, it has given nothing but support and continues to provide this support as its teachers have adapted and pushed forward with this more rigorous set of learning standards.

 

Common Core Positivity

As a state not embroiled in Common Core fighting, Oregon news on the subject remains as unbiased as possible, doing its best to portray the adoption in a more positive light. When searching for news, Oregon is one of the few states to not have a “Parents Against Common Core” website populate one of the first results. It’s a shocking difference to anyone that has actually spent time reading about this issue.

 

State Exam Negativity

Though teachers and parents are accepting of the Core, it’s the state exams that have recently proven to be a problem. Known as PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the standardized test has been created by representatives from each state to test students to the Core standards. Unfortunately, the implementation of this new test has led to some rather upsetting growing pains.

According to a survey released November 2015, many in Oregon’s teachers union are very concerned about this new test. Interestingly enough, though, it’s not about their students’ abilities to succeed. Instead, it’s more about the lost instructional time. One of the main examples used in this expression of concern revolved around “Raoul”, a Spanish-speaking student that had trouble reading but loved his wood shop class. Because of the testing, his time spent woodworking was severely decreased, so much so that during one testing phase, he simply clicked random answers to be done with the test while choking back tears.

However, this didn’t stop the testing from proceeding as planned. On top of the time sink, this year’s testing results have also shown just how many students aren’t at a college-ready level. In fact, only two-thirds of the state’s students read well enough for higher education while less than half have the math skills required. The state found that the usual low-income/high-income discrepancies are still there, with the economically struggling having the hardest time.

Not all hope is lost, though. In one school, teachers were able to virtually destroy this disparity, equipping over 80% of its lower income students with the education needed to achieve success in college. According to the teachers there, it’s all about showing the students how they can use what they’re learning in real life. If citations lead to a bigger allowance, kids will listen.

14 Nov

Common Core in Texas

We all know that it’s important for our children to be adequately educated so they can compete in the world job market once they’re adults. The Common Core Standards are a set of educational guidelines established by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) along with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). These guidelines define the specific knowledge a student needs to acquire in order to graduate or be promoted to the next grade. Although it is completely voluntary, these universal standards have already been implemented in many states to ensure that students all over the country are on the same educational track and ready for employment or college once high school graduation comes around. While a number of states have already adopted the Common Core Standards, there are indeed some states that have decided not to follow these recommended educational guidelines. Along with Nebraska, Virginia and Alaska, the state of Texas also rejected the adoption of Common Core.

 

In May of 2013 the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 462, which prohibits any public school district in the state from adopting the Common Core Standards. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of rejecting the standards with a total of 140 voting for the bill, 2 “Nays” and 2 non-votes. The new law later went into effect on September 1, 2013 and the decision not to adopt the Common Core Standards in Texas has left many of the state’s educators, parents and politicians at odds. This may be because there are many people who seem to be misinformed about the facts.

 

Some Texas legislators have expressed that they believe the standards are intentionally set low to accommodate students nationwide, while others don’t want Texas students to get left behind. There are also teacher organizations that have united to display their dissatisfaction with the possibility of having to teach according to standards set by the federal government and not locally. Contrary to what some may believe, the Common Core Standards are not a curriculum at all and they are not overseen or governed by the federal government. The implementation of these standards is actually left up to the governors who are supposed to work together with the CCSSO and NGA to ensure every student is provided with a quality education. The Common Core Standards also do not specify what and how a teacher teaches, as they are only a set of benchmarks and educational goals a child needs to reach each year.

 

There are quite a few reasons why so many Texan leaders, such as Governor Greg Abbott, do not want to implement the Common Core Standards in school districts throughout the state. The issue is still a hot topic that has been debated by many educators, school board members, politicians and parents. If you want to learn the truth about the Common Core Standards, it’s recommended you conduct your own research. With just a quick search, you’ll realize that there is plenty of factual information available online which is based on studies and statistics.

 

05 Nov

Maryland’s Common Core Scores are set to Rise in Future Years

Back on July 22, 2010, Maryland joined on as one of the first states to allow for the eventual implementation of the Common Core. While it has met with resistance similar to that seen all over the country, it has nevertheless remained firm in its stance of adoption, strategically silencing any opponents that arise. That being said, the recently released PARCC scores (a statewide test that aligns its questions to Common Core standards) are ushering in a new wave of fear.

Protest

Most states agreed to adopt the Core back in 2010. During this time, states held open houses, inviting all parents, teachers and other education community members to weigh in on the whys and hows of implementation. Three years later, those that didn’t heed the call began rallying against the new curriculum with many fearing it to be some sort of twisted Federal plot to influence the children. Though scary, these opponents failed to realize that the Core was and remains fully adaptable to the needs of each and every school. It doesn’t tell teachers what to teach and how to teach it. It gives them a set of standards students should reach by the time they graduate each grade level. This alone has allowed Maryland to maintain its firm, supportive stance of the Core.

Scores

Just because the state supports the Core doesn’t mean it hasn’t made concessions to protect its teachers and students from unjust penalties. In 2013, for instance, Maryland voted to delay teacher evaluations based off of Common Core tests until 2016-2017. The sole reason for this was because of the simple fact that the teachers needed more time to learn how to teach these new assessments, a move that is allowing each educator time to feel out the best way to approach teaching the standards.

In the end, this proved to be a smart move. In October of this year, the first PARCC test scores were released, revealing that less than half of the state’s students passed 10th grade Algebra I, Algebra II and English. However, instead of a tumultuous uproar from the community decrying the test and the Core as terrible things, most have found the facts sobering. While all understand it takes a few years for test score on new exams to improve, the more challenging curriculum has laid bare the fact that students aren’t ready for higher education. But instead of tossing out PARCC in favor on an easier test to bloat scores like Ohio has done, Maryland is taking this setback as a challenge. Once the nation’s leader in terms of education, they see now that there are major flaws that must be fixed if the children are to succeed in an ever increasingly competitive and globally connected world.

29 Oct

Common Core in the US

Educational reforms have long been a sore point in the United States. As each state is responsible for its own academic standards, many become defensive when the federal government tries to implement any form of change. While solidarity has led to some incredible programs in certain states, it has also led to equally as poor educational pursuits in others. Because of this, the US has seen a decline in its academic standing when compared with other first world nations, prompting the creation of the Common Core.

The Common Core

It must be stated outright that the Common Core has never been a federally mandated program. Instead, it is a set of standards for grades K-12 developed by leading educators from across the country. Its purpose is to get school systems up to par with global competitors so that America’s graduates have a shot at being accepted into good colleges and landing even better jobs.

Another important distinction that needs to be pointed out is that it’s not a specific program. It is merely general objectives students should be able to achieve by the time they graduate from one grade to the next. For example, where fifth graders will need to understand non-fiction, 8th graders will need to be able to analyze it critically. In addition, teachers and school systems are the ones to decide how these objectives are taught, allowing the states total control over this perceived federal take over.

Nothing New

When the Core was finalized, Washington tied to it the chance to receive funding for education, prompting many states to agree to Core adoption blindly. Not four years later when campaign bids started up and the standards were supposed to have been implemented did states begin speaking out against it. While some states, like Montana, have had no trouble whatsoever implementing the shift, other states, like Mississippi, are doing what they can to repeal the Core in favor of a state-sanctioned set of rules.

Oddly enough, the Core is anything but new in regards to the American education system. All states have created their own set of standards and implemented those. Like the core, these standards clearly define exactly what students should be able to do by the time they reach the end of that grade. This is all the Core is. The only difference is that the Core would then put every state on the same page, giving students equal opportunities to succeed no matter where they live.

Why, then, is it so hated?

The answer is never simple. From uneducated parents rallying behind favorite politicians to politicians flip-flopping because of upcoming elections, the entire thing has shifted away from the good it would do for the children to the emotionally charged knee-jerk reactions of the parents. For the wide majority of the states, educators fully support Common Core, but their support seems to fall on deaf ears.