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Harry Potter Wands Teach Math and Coding

Seventh-grade students at one Pennsylvania middle-school are using Harry Potter wands to learn coding and complete puzzles on a tablet. Students use their math skills to program the wands to perform "spells" such as create fireworks on the screen. Parents can buy the same wand on Amazon for about $70.

Google Expands College Search Function

Google has expanded its year-old college search function to include data on not just four-year colleges, but also two-year programs and institutions as well as certificate programs. The search provides data including graduation rates and tuition as well as location and potential areas of study. Google’s focus on only four-year colleges in the first iteration of its search feature had been criticized as a “blind spot.”

Tech Tools For Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in Youth Programs

Is your child’s school looking for a different and meaningful way to use technology, but also build empathy and a sense of community spirit as well? A report entitled “Reclaiming Digital Futures” aims to help community-based and school organizations incorporate digital tools into their programs that help nurture social and emotional learning skills. Tools, including esports programs and digital maker projects, are good ways to teach collaboration, relationship-building and empathy, says Rafi Santo, a researcher for the report reviewed in Edutopia. Also referenced are some practical case studies on the topic.

Useful Chrome Extensions for School

Does your child use Chrome as their browser for school? In a recent article from Edutopia, special education teacher Kathryn Nieves shares a list of 10 free extensions for Google Chrome browsers that her students use most often at school. The list includes extensions such as Noisli, which provides customizable mixes of ambient sounds to aid concentration, and AlphaText, which lets users customize their browsers for accessibility. Others on the list are VoiceIn Voice Typing, which provides speech-to-text functions for dictating notes, and Dualless which gives the capability to split the screen so you can work in two tabs simultaneously. Nieves suggests trying these extensions out in the summer before the school year starts and schedules get hectic.

How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform What It Means To Be Human

Are you curious about artificial intelligence (AI)? It is likely to become a big part of our children’s lives. Once artificial intelligence becomes virtually universal, human interactions, work and even morality will look different, says Alex Bates in an article from CIO. He even goes so far as to say “..we might not even have to speak anymore, instead exchanging thoughts and precepts with other humans or AI agents directly, using via neurotechnology like brain-computer interfaces.”

 

Digital Tools for Annotations

Many people feel that one of the advantages of using physical books over digital is the ability to make notes in margins, whether it be study notes in a textbook, recipe modifications in a cook book, or highlighting favorite lines in a novel. Now there are tools to make relevant comments or ask questions digitally in textbooks and non-fiction and fiction books for students, and even include web annotations of relevant resources, writes educator Matthew Farber on the Edutopia site. In his blog post, he shares several such resources that he believes help foster reading comprehension. Look for examples of specific resources and how they are used in the post and pass the information on to your school.

Infographic: Facebook’s Guide to Best Practices for Video

Do you or your kids create videos to share on Facebook? Maybe to help a nonprofit or school page, or even for your own business? If so, you may want to take a look at some new tips Facebook posted, including an infographic providing ideas for getting your videos noticed. Some of their recommendations include considering shorter lengths for teasers, ads or polls and long-form content for developing narratives or livestreaming. They also suggest tips such as hooking mobile audiences with vertical formats and close-up shots and provide ways to ensure content shows up in search engines, all useful advice if you are trying to increase views!

What Happens at School to the Data Collected on Students?

Are you curious at all about what happens to the data collected about your children at school? Leadership coach Andrew Knips says in a recent article of Edutopia online that two things schools should factor in is students' culture and identity. In his blog post, he shares six strategies to help support more equitable data analysis, including steps schools should take to address implicit bias not only about culture and identity, but gender and disabilities as well. This is a very interesting take on how to use data to make our schools more equitable.

Questions Raised About ‘Personalized Learning’

T.H.E. Journal has reviewed a recent report from the National Education Policy Center about the expansion of Personalized Learning in classrooms around the country. This practice of implementing a digital curriculum that students work through (typically on their own) has been pushed by education-technology vendors and philanthropies, among others. The report questions the efficacy of these initiatives, recommending schools establish independent entities that can supervise the programs to ensure students are actually mastering the material they are studying and that their data is being kept private. Is your district involved in the personalized learning movement?

 

Traditional Schools Still Shown to Outperform Digital Schools

EdSurge reports enrollment in virtual schools continues to grow, but research by the nonprofit National Education Policy Center has reported that these types of programs may be less effective than traditional schools. Michael Barbour, who teaches instructional design at Touro University California, says students in brick-and-mortar schools tend to outperform those in online and blended learning (a combination of online and traditional learning) programs. He finds this biggest issue to be a reliance by online instruction on evaluation by multiple choice questions that don’t promote analysis or deeper learning.

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