Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nat Geo's Traveler's Guide to the Planets

National Geographic's Traveler's Guide to the Planets is a wonderful, fun, visually spectacular resource for students learning about our solar system and the planets. When you first arrive at the site, it has a stunning, exciting opening animation and then it gets to the main page.

The main page, seen above, has two panels. The left side panel allows you to select which planet you want to learn about (Pluto is still listed, Earth is not since we live there) and what you want to know about each planet. The site is set up as a true traveler's guide and includes info such as history, trivia, sites, advice, climate, and luggage. This is a great way to get students to learn about the planets in a new way.

I had a lot of fun going through the site and learned some new things about the planets. It is appropriate for grades 5-12 (and maybe even younger with some teacher help).

CSI: The Experience Web Adventures

CSI: The Experience Web Adventures is a great web site that teaches students about forensics and then gives them virtual cases to work on and apply their knowledge. It is supported by the National Science Foundation and partners Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, American Federation of Forensic Sciences, CBS, and Rice University Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning. Some pretty big names!

There are three different cases for students to solve ranging from beginner to intermediate to advanced. Each case has the student learning new topics and concepts in order to solve the case. The cases are very well written and designed and I had fun trying them out.

The site also has a reference section for help with the cases, topics and characters and the "fun stuff" section has an educators guide with lessons and activities, family guide and more to make the experience even better.

This is a great site and experience for any science student. It is definitely appropriate for grades 9-12 and I think 7-8 could do very well too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Heart EdTech Blog Swap - my post

My swap partner is Techie-Bytes. Check out my guest post there and then check out the rest of the blog for some great info and resources.

Blogs as Learning and Teaching Tools

Students Weigh In On Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Last year, I wrote about the advice a group of recent high school graduates gave to a group of pre-service teachers in the CT Alternate Route to Certification program. This past weekend, I spoke to this year's group of ARC candidates about urban school issues and educational technology and there was a group of high school seniors there to give some input on what they feel makes a good teacher.

It was a great discussion with the students giving information, advice and opinions and the ARC candidates asking questions and asking for the student's thoughts on different topics and issues.

The first comment made by a student was that students don't like, and will become unmotivated to do work, when a teacher doesn't have a plan, is unprepared, and "wings it" each day for lessons. The discussion moved on to homework and how it has to be meaningful, should not be too long (quality vs. quantity), should prepare students for tests, and should not be due the next day. Students have many different classes and activities and need multiple days to get homework done. They also said that they like it when a teacher posts the homework ahead of time so that they can start it early if need be. They also said it was important in math and science to have the answers or solutions available so that the students can check their homework and learn from their mistakes instead of getting frustrated.

Many students remarked that they have teachers who give out busy work for homework and classwork (like puzzles and way too many problems) and that this does nothing to help a student learn. They stated that they feel like the class was a waste if that was all they did.

An ARC candidate asked the students how they thought teachers should handle discipline issues in the classroom. The consensus was that teachers need to address students who are disturbing others, but should take them aside and not berate them in front of the whole class. It was mentioned though with some students that is the only way they listen. They stated that teachers should be nice, but serious, and not feed a student's anger or get into an argument with that student. It was interesting to hear this coming from students since this is a concept taught to teachers.

One student stated that they absolutely hate when teachers don't get work or tests graded and back to the students in a timely fashion. They said it's hard to know how you are doing in a class if you don't get any feedback. True That!

Most of the students agreed that the best teachers are enthusiastic and excited about what they teach, make it fun and interesting, use projects in class, and make their classroom a safe place to be. "If the teacher isn't excited about the material, why would we be?"

Projects were listed as something they all loved. The were able to apply what they learned to something and not just sit in class doing problems or writing a paper. They all agreed that they learned more through projects than just listening to a teacher talk or doing homework.

Technology was also discussed with the students wanting teachers to use technology to communicate with them, post resources, and make learning more fun. Facebook was brought up, but most students saw Facebook as a social thing, not necessarily for education. They did like when teachers use web sites and email though and want teachers to be accessible via email for help.

Along the lines of help, they stated that teachers need to be available after school for help, especially the day before a test. Students have to have access to teachers for help as much as possible.

Mutual respect was also a big topic. Students wanted to see teachers interested in their students as people, trusting their students to do the right thing, and talk to the students with respect. Teachers need to make students feel comfortable in asking for help in class.

It was a great discussion and I was pleased to see that what the students want in a teacher is what we try to teach teachers to do.

A note: these students were all high level, self-motivated students, but I think that their advice is good for all levels of classes.

Thanks to the 2009-2010 ARC Class, Science Methods Instructor Glenn Couture, and special thanks for their time and insight, high school seniors Emily Lavins, Kenzie Bess, Nick Quadrini, Andy Rumore, Will Marr, Dom Kruszewski, Matthew Lee, Jason Parraga, and Anthony Lato.

(Photo coming)

I Heart EdTech Blog Swap

Here is a post from my "I heart EdTech Blog Swap":

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening….

By K. Evans

Ok, so it is a line from the 1970’s Rock Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yep…that dates me! As I was deciding on my topic, the terms: 21st Century Education, 21st Century Schools, 21st Century Learner, etc began to bounce around my head, as these are buzz words which are circulating in our district.

So what about the 21st Century Learner? Schools? Education? Classroom? What’s the buzz?

The technological revolution is upon us and has opened the door to a wealth of information which has the capabilities to enhance the educational structure we offer to our students. The need to change both the role of the educator and meet the demands of the future is imperative. The majority of educators are modifying their teaching approach by facilitating learning, instead of simply dispensing knowledge.

With this said, I believe, Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills for Careers, College and Citizenship for the 21st Century”, exemplifies exactly what is necessary for the coming century.

· Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

o Buzz Words: Reason, analyze, make judgments, solve, make decisions

· Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence

o Buzz Words: Engage, part of a team, work with others, contribute, collaborate

· Agility and Adaptability

o Buzz Words: Flexibility, accept feedback effectively – positive or negative, compromise, change

· Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

o Buzz Words: Self-directed learner, commitment, time management, lifelong learner

· Effective Oral and Written Communication

o Buzz Words: Articulate clearly/effectively, listen, utilize various/numerous medias and technologies, diversity

· Accessing and Analyzing Information

o Buzz Words: Critical thinking, evaluate, validity of information, process

· Curiosity and Imagination

o Buzz Words: The whys, utilizing various perspectives, generating new ideas

I came across this quote: “If we teach today the way we were taught yesterday… we aren't preparing students for today or tomorrow.” As you know, our students are entering the classroom with a wealth of pre-exposed knowledge to technology and are aware of what the internet has to offer.

The role of technology in the 21st century is both indispensable and crucial. It offers a vast array of learning opportunities to both the educator and student. As educators, it is essential for us to evolve with this generation and with the evolution of technology into our daily lives. Two great videos to view (if you have not already) are:

· A Vision of K-12 Student Today: This project was created to inspire teachers to use technology in engaging ways to help students develop higher level thinking skills. Equally important, it serves to motivate district level leaders to provide teachers with the tools and training to do so.

· Learning to Change Changing to Learn: Learning to Change Changing to Learn Advancing K-12 Technology Leadership, Consortium for School Networking (COSN) Video.

To read more about the 21st century learner, please visit the following site - edorigami. Andrew Churches has created a very informative and insightful wiki about the 21 century learner.


K. L. Evans

Friday, April 23, 2010

Web 2.0 List Of Web 2.0 Application Links

Web 2.0 List of Web 2.0 Application Links is great collection of Web 2.0 applications, listed by topic/type. Types include audio, blogging, bookmarking, calendar, collaboration, knowledge, multimedia, news and many more.

The site is plain white with the links and a very short description making it very easy to scan. You can also search for applications on the site.

This is a great resource for anyone who is looking for new apps to try or needs an app for a specific task.

DocsPal - Free online file Converter and Viewer

DocsPal is a free online file converter. You simply upload your file, select the original file format and what you want it converted to, and click convert. The link to the converted file will appear on the screen. You can also have the link sent to you via email.

I converted an Excel spreadsheet with graphs to PDF format in about 15 seconds.

It is still in Beta and only supports about 30 file formats, but more are being worked on.

This is great for educators who use one type of software or operating system at school and different ones at home or have students using different systems.

Board800 - web based Interactive Whiteboard

Board800 is a free, web based interactive white board that can be used by multiple users at the same time.

It is very easy to use and you can save your session. Tools include shapes, free drawing, and text. Your session can be saved as an image for later retrieval, archiving, or to embed in a document or web site.

This would be great for distance meetings, distance learning, tutoring, homework help, and much more.

You can also purchase a server version to host yourself for a fee.

Science Books Online

Science Books Online is exactly what it's name says. It is a listing of different, free, online science books.

The list is sorted by topic: astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, math, medicine, etc. and there is a recently added section on the main page so you can see what's new.

There are free e-books, textbooks, lecture notes and other science documents. The texts are either available online or for downloading. I have used quite a few of the physics ones in my classes. They are very well written and designed.

This is a great resource for schools to either supplement their current textbooks, or maybe even replace the traditional, expensive, paper textbook with a free electronic one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaching with Technology

Teaching with Technology is a great resource for teachers. It has a list of different technology resources for educators. The resources are grouped in tables by category. Categories include Tools for: Creating, editing, and sharing; Communicating and networking; Managing time, tasks, and information, and Making it all work.

Many of the resources I've covered here in this blog, but there are a lot of other great resources listed. Everything from documents to presentations to videos to Skype to Twitter to Google Calendar to Remember the Milk to firewalls and anti-virus.

This is definitely a site to check out and bookmark.

101+ Web Resources for Students

101+ Web Resources for Students is a great listing of different sites for students. The sites are organized by topics such as Almanacs, Encyclopedias, and Style Manuals.

It is a good site to share with your students as a starting point for them when doing research or needing help.

It was posted in 2008, but the sites are still good and there are some more sites listed in the comments.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Professional Development Resource

The Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook is a great resource for teachers and administrators. It is published twice annually, for free, and contains a huge amount of resources.

Each issue includes articles, news, tips, ideas, research, resources, a calendar of professional development activities and more, all about professional development and continuing education. The back of the sourcebook is a type of yellow pages (even though they are white) with a directory of products, services, resources, and more related to professional development and continuing education. The directory is organized by type, topic, and subject area.

The Fall/Winter 2009 issue just arrived last week and is focused on online professional development and the use of Web 2.0 and social networking for professional development. Past issues have dealt with ways to do professional development with no budget, as well as making professional development more interesting and timely for educators.

Back issues are also available online.

It is from the publisher of Education Week, which also publishes Teacher Magazine and Digital Directions. All three are also great resources for educators.

You can apply for a free subscription to the Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook HERE.

I also wrote another article about Professional Development and resources.

UPDATE: The new issue (Spring/Summer 2010) just hit my mailbox today. It has some great new articles and ideas and of course the huge list of resources and providers.

This issue focuses on Response to Intervention topics, but also has much more in it.

It is not available online yet, but eventually will be on their site.

The site has back issues online, as well as a ton of articles and resources, ranging from assessment and discipline, to PBL and PLN's, to administration and ELL/EFL. This is definitely a site to add to your favorites.

Aviary Falcon - online image markup

Aviary has introduced Falcon, a web based image editing tool. With Falcon, you can capture images and web pages from your browser and crop, resize, and mark them up. Mark up options include text, shapes, colors, and more.

The best part about this is that it is web based so there is no software to install. I found it easy to use and very fast and responsive. This is a great alternative to desktop based image editors, especially for schools, as students can use it from home also.

It is free and you can save your files to your free account or download them.

UPDATE - There is also an Aviary extension available for Firefox and Chrome. One click and you are off and screen capturing, editing, etc.

Own a smartphone? Here's were you can find some great info and help.

The Smartphone Experts network is a network of web sites about each of the different types of smart phones. The sites have news articles, reviews, tips, discussions, and more about each one.

If you have a smartphone, you should check out the site for your phone and subscribe to the feeds. The tips, tricks, and info that I have learned is great. You can also find solutions to issues or problems you may have.

Android Central - for Google Android phones, like the T-Mobile G1, Droid, HTC and more. - for Blackberry phones

Nokia Experts - for Nokia phones

The iPhone Blog - for Apple iPhones

Precentral - for the Palm Pre, Pre+, Pixi and Pixi+

Treocentral - for Palm Treo's and Centro's

WM Experts - for phones running Windows Mobile, like the Palm Treo Pro and HTC phones.

These sites are great resources for smartphone owners.

Microsoft Research Worldwide Telescope

WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interestingplaces in the sky.
A web-based version of WorldWide Telescope is also available. This version enables seamless, guided explorations of the universe from within a web browser on PC and Intel Mac OS X by using the power of Microsoft Silverlight 3.0.

Note: The web-based version will ask for more local storage (about 40MB), but that shouldn't be a problem for anyone.

You can just explore the skies by location, constellations, planets, stars, and more. You can select from digitized skies, ultra-violet, and more. You can even look at earth!

There are also guided tours available. These were set up by astronomers and researchers and are very well designed and informative. The guided tours include galaxies, planets, stars, Apollo missions, Mars missions, and much more.

The earth at night view is great to use to show students where the most lighted areas are. The United States and Europe are the brightest areas at night (Japan is pretty bright too).

I had way too much fun playing with this today. I think that this would be a great resource for science classes to show our solar system and galaxy.

50 Free Collaboration Tools That Are Awesome for Education

This site has a list of 50 free collaboration tools that can help with distance education, group projects, homework collaboration, or working with other schools. The tools allow for group papers, file sharing, communications, and much more. The resources are listed by topic for easy searching.

Some of my favorites: Google Docs, Zoho, Skype,, Blogger, and Twitter.

I already use some of these, but I found some really good new ones too.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Study Tips and Notetaking Resources

All of these sites have great tips and resources for studying, taking notes, doing homework, and succeeding in school.

You'll definitely want to share these with your students.

Developing Study Skills - BYU
Great resource for students on how to develop effective study skills for high school and college success. Hosted by Brigham Young University.

High School Study Skills resource
This site is designed to be a self-help tool to assist students in making the most of their high school years. The collection of pages in this site will help you assess your current skills, acquire new ones, and apply what you learn to study more effectively, in less time, for greater understanding and better grades. Use the links in the menu bar to work through the site from beginning to end, or click on a link below to focus on a specific skill area.

Notetaking 1

This is a page on Sweet Briar College, VA, Academic Resource Center. It is in outline form, and is a very good resource to use for a quick review of note taking skills. It is simple, easy to read, and easy to implement. It gives basic guidelines, how to abbreviate, and how to set up your notes.

Notetaking 2
This is on Dartmouth University’s web site. It has a lot of good information on note taking, and includes a guide to using the Cornell Note Taking System.

Notetaking 3
This is from the University of Exeter in the UK. I really like this site because it not only gives a short tutorial on how to take notes, but it has fill in the blank forms students can use to improve their note taking skills. The entire note taking section can be downloaded as a single PDF file for offline use.

Notetaking 4
The University of South Wales, AU, has another great resource for note taking. Their site is simple, easy to read, and gives instructions on what to do before, during, and after a lecture to make sure you take good notes. They also have tips on abbreviating and using pictures and concept maps.

Notely is the new tool for students of all ages looking for help to get better grades.

Notely has all the tools a student could need, schedule, calendar, note-taking, homework planner and more.

Notely is a collection of online tools designed to help all you crazy busy students out there to organise your hectic lives. Whether you're in University, College or High School Notely has the tools to help you get organised and achieve better grades.

Homework HELP!
site contains over 780 great links to sites that will help you with your homework.

Study Curve
This is an online study community where you can get help on projects and homework and network with other students and mentors.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Microsoft Announces Office Plug-In for Moodle

Info I received about Microsoft announcing an Add-in for Moodle:

As teachers look to simplify and reduce the time spent on planning and administrative tasks in order to spend more time teaching, truly integrated solutions are few and far between. Two of the most widely-used technologies in classrooms today are Microsoft Office and the learning management system, Moodle. However, using these solutions together in an integrated fashion has typically required teachers to go through a significant number of steps to perform basic tasks.

Today, we are announcing the Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle . This new add-in provides teachers with an easy, time-saving solution for finding, opening and saving Office documents housed in Moodle, and allows documents stored in Moodle to be opened from Office without multiple and sometimes complicated steps. For example, teachers will have “Open to Moodle” and “Save to Moodle” as options directly from their Office menu button. The Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle is free and available for download today at

A handful of K-12 schools and universities have already had the opportunity to experiment with the new add-in. Elisabeth Kraus, Associate Director for Curriculum of Extended Education at Northwest University, shared her thoughts with us:

“We’re always having to move quickly to get things done and even when every class is different – different syllabus, different curriculum and different student needs to name a few. Any quick and easy technology like the simplicity of this add-in are helpful, and especially when it requires little to no training.”

The Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle is the latest innovation from Microsoft’s Education incubation group called Education Labs. Education Labs was formed in July 2009 to quickly create prototypes of new tools and applications to showcase how Microsoft technologies can meet the needs of teachers and students in the classroom. The Office Add-in for Moodle is one of several free tools created by Education Labs to help teachers use technology to meet students’ needs and become even more efficient in their classrooms.

We have two video demos of the Office Add-in for Moodle available here; there is one that provides an overview of the tool, and another that shows the “before add-in”/”after add-in” experience. News about the Office Add-in for Moodle is also featured on the Microsoft Blog.
Also released today is a white paper that guides IT administrators on how to set up SharePoint Server as the file system for Moodle. IT pros can save the day by recovering accidentally deleted files or restore previous versions of overwritten files. It also allows for a great search feature, so a teacher can use SharePoint search to search for files across all of their Moodles. To download the white paper, click here.

This could prove very useful to Moodle users who also use Microsoft products.

(I am not compensated by Microsoft in any way for this post.)

TodaysMeet - back channel hosting

TodaysMeet is a free service that allows you to create a back channel for your meeting, class, or presentation. You name it, create the hash tag (for Twitter) and select how long you want it to be kept before being deleted, and you are all set.

It is simple to set up and use.

Back channels are a way for students, meeting participants, or the audience in a presentation to post comments, questions, and discussions during the class, meeting, or presentation. They are becoming more and more popular. They can also be used to gather information and data from an audience. - Online Whiteboard Collaboration is a free service that allows you to create online sketches and share them with other people, in real time.

You can also save your sketch as an image. The sketch tools include text, colors, lines, curves, shapes, and more.

It is completely online and runs in any browser without the need for plugins.

You can also import images and Google maps images.

This would be great for teachers to use with their students, or for student groups to use while at home for collaboration.

one word. so little time.

One word is a simple, free site. It will display one word and give you 60 seconds to write about it.

This is a great resource for helping students write and communicate their thoughts. Simple and easy.

The site also has a blog and podcast.

HP Learning center - free classes

HP's (Hewlett Packard) Learning Center offers free, 24 hour available, online classes on software and technology.

Courses include: Photoshop, digital photography, Microsoft Office, website design, small business tips and technology, PC basics, maintenance, and security, graphic arts, and more.

Three courses I found interesting where "Technology and your elementary school/middle school/high school student"

I took a look at the one for high school students and it provides parents with information about technology that their high school student may be using and ways to keep them safe online.

Many of the courses are great for teachers and students.

WiZiQ Free Online Teaching and E-Learning with Web Conferencing

WiZiQ is a site that provides free hosting for online classes and learning.

Teachers can create free virtual classrooms, create and share online tests and content, and teach live with Moodle.

This would be a great resource to keep resources online for students, create distance learning courses, or provide a learning system for homebound students.

PBS Parents: Your Resource for Parenting Tips & Parenting Advice

PBS Parents is a great site for teachers to use with their own students and to share with parents of younger students.

The site contains information and resources on early childhood development, fun and games, education and your child, and much more.

There are games and activities to help young children learn and develop properly.

The education section has tips on finding appropriate books for different ages and gives parents (and teachers for that matter) tips on helping children learn math and science. Some of the science activities are really well designed and can be done at home. The science concept is related to everyday things, like cooking, and can stimulate their interest in science.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How do we motivate students?

How do we motivate students? I know I don't know how to motivate all students. I try to tell them why learning is important, how an education can make them a better person (and more money) and how important it is to do your best in any endeavor.

Some students are self-motivated. They want to do well. They compete with others to do well in school. They like the feeling they get when they do well. Some are motivated by their parents and a history of being pushed to do their best.

What about the rest? I know some unmotivated students can actually get motivated when they finally do well on something. They get a taste of success and want to get more and more of it. Some students do things to avoid a punishment. That only works for so long.

Then there are the students who aren't motivated because they don't see the point in education. Their parents aren't educated and they do ok in the student's eyes. Or, they see their friends working at the local store and think that is a great job (Stop and Shop is a coveted job by my students). The other issues we have to fight is students who see the guys selling drugs and making lots of money, and I've had students tell me why should they worry about school when their mom doesn't work but gets a check every month. There are a lot of things that affect how these students feel about education.

In Connecticut, we have the CAPT test as our standardized test for 10th graders. One of the data points that the State and Feds look at is the percentage of the 10th grade class that takes all sections of the test. Many schools use prizes to motivate students to come every day to take the test. But this only works to get them there. What motivates students to do their best?

In a previous article, I talked about forcing students to learn and how maybe we should look at more alternative programs for students who aren't interested in academics or college, but would rather do a trade, or learn better in different ways. I wonder what we can do to help motivate students who don't see the point in school or aren't into academics at all.

We can use technology to give students access to new things and see new things to motivate them to do well and be successful so that they can go see these things for real. We can use technology to create alternative programs and online classes to help struggling students achieve success which will hopefully get them motivated to try to succeed all the time. We can use technology to make learning more fun and interactive and get these students to like learning.

Rewards are good in some cases. Giving students free time, a pass on homework, time on a computer, etc. can get them to do some things and motivate them in some ways. But how long can rewards motivate students?

We can show students data about how much more money they can make being educated. How much more of the world is opened up to them. But that won't motivate them all.

We can show them what happens to drug dealers and how welfare is not the answer. But some of them won't care.

Some ideas for motivating students (by getting them more interested in learning)
1. Be enthusiastic and positive about what you teach. Create a positive learning environment for them.
2. Let students have some of the fun and let them discover things on their own instead of telling them it all up front.
3. Use visual aids, movies, examples, props, demonstrations and more
4. Take a field trip and make it real
5. Show them how great it feels to succeed and do well (they will want that feeling again)
6. Give them praise for doing well (they will crave it more and more). Frequent, early praise show them that they can do well.
7. Care about students and their lives. Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing. Talk to them about why they didn't do the work and what might be bothering them.
8. Reward them with different things. But, start slowing down on the rewards and increasing the praise as time goes on. Sometimes the praise and attention of an adult is a reward for many students.
9. Create tasks and work that students can complete and succeed in doing (not too easy, not too hard). Give them the skills and resources they need to succeed.
10. Help your students find personal meaning and value in the material that you are teaching.
11. Make your students feel valued and special by acknowledging their contributions to the class.

What else can we do to motivate students?

Please share your ideas!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Great Educational Ideas from Colleges and the Boy Scouts

cross posted at Tech&Learning Magazine

I went to college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, WPI, and majored in Aerospace Engineering. I worked for 10 years as an engineer before becoming a physics teacher. WPI has a unique curriculum, called the WPI Plan, consisting of 4 quarters instead of 2 semesters, 3 large projects, and course curriculum that are mainly project based. Each undergraduate has to complete a Humanities Sufficiency Project, and Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) and a Major Qualifying Project (MQP). The Sufficiency is a 3 credit project and course sequence in the humanities which ensures that all WPI graduates are well rounded. The IQP is a 9 credit project done in the junior year which relates science and technology to society and the MQP is a 9 credit project done in the senior year similar to a Master's thesis. The project based curriculum helps students learn content and develop problem solving, communications, and teamwork skills. It also helps develop ethics and responsibility in the students. I found that my WPI education has prepared me for my career as an engineer, as well as an educator, and served me well in many capacities.

This is the type of plan I try to use with my Physics students. I try to do as many labs, projects, and activities as I can because I know how well that works. The students are more engaged and tend to learn and remember concepts better. Project based learning is been proven to be a great way to educate students. In fact, WPI has done research on this topic. My IQP was on the quality of technical education in the US and we found that the students who did best in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors and careers were the ones who had a good background in high school, including collaborative projects. Other research at WPI has shown the same thing. Many educators and educational institutions also have shown that project based learning is a very effective way to teach and learn STEM topics.

WPI's Mechanical Engineering Department also has a great classroom called the Discovery Classroom. It is a lecture-style room with large tables for the students. It has multimedia capabilities, laptops for the students to use, and a room off to the side which contains equipment for demonstrations. This took a plain lecture hall and turned it into an interactive learning room.

WPI also has some great programs for incoming freshmen to introduce them to the school and STEM topics and help prepare them for the rest of college. High Schools would do well to have similar programs that would help freshmen obtain the skills necessary to be successful in high school.

Other colleges have similar programs that emphasize group projects, the interaction of technology and society and a base in the humanities. High schools have also been moving more and more towards project based learning because it has been proven to work.

K-12 education should take notice of some of the great and innovative things that colleges are doing and adapt them to their own schools. Many colleges have K-12 outreach programs and schools should take advantage of these.

I am also an Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. I learned a lot in the Boy Scouts besides certain skills in camping, hiking, and the like. I learned how to work as a team, how to be a leader, and how to plan things. In Boy Scouts, the adults are advisors and the scouts do the planning and running of events, training, and campouts. As an Assistant Scoutmaster, I worked with a group of 5 boys who planned and carried out a Camporee for over 500 scouts. The Boy Scouts aren't afraid to let the boys take charge and lead. The adults will step in when necessary, but the boys learn a lot by their mistakes too. The older, more experienced scouts help teach the younger, newer scouts. Discipline is also handled by older scouts and things run very smoothly.

I think schools should do more to let students make decisions and run things. Let the students come up with ideas for lessons, projects, programs and more. Let them lead these projects and have the teachers advise them. The students will learn valuable skills and feel what it is like to take charge of a situation. Have students teach and tutor other students. Have upperclassmen be mentors to the underclassmen.

Some schools already do these things, but others would do well to look outside for ideas for new and innovative programs. Colleges, youth groups, the military, and even business and industry have plenty of great programs and ideas for doing things. Many of them can be brought into K-12 education and can be used to improve student engagement, achievement, and skills building. We have a large number of problems in schools now, and educators have to be creative in coming up with ways to address them. Look to these other organizations for ideas and help. We don't have to do it on our own.

Please share your ideas of things from outside education that could be used inside education.

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