For companies looking at digital training solutions, educational outcomes can have a big impact on the bottom line.
Compliance, sales, skills: business leaders can certainly enhance the value and performance of an organization through effective training. But, all too often, workplace training fails to result in lasting benefits.
For businesses, it’s essential that employees do not simply forget training immediately after it’s given.
To implement truly effective workplace training, we have a few suggestions:
There is a clear trend toward using meditation and mindfulness practices in schools, both for students and for professional development. The benefits include improved concentration, cognitive performance, and greater capacity for compassion, all of which are helpful during learning and teaching.
In "Evidence for Mindfulness: Impacts on the Wellbeing and Performance of School Staff," Emeritus Professor Katherine Weare of the Universities of Exeter and Southampton looks at peer-reviewed studies, showing substantial benefits, including
In the Holistic Me program at Coleman, “which focuses on prekindergarden through fifth-grade students,” administrators already noticed a difference in the first year. “Instead of the students fighting or lashing out,” says principal Carlillian Thompson in the video above, they started to use words to solve their problems.” None of the students in the program have received suspensions or detentions, and many have become leaders and high achievers.
Crooked Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis has a similar program:
It might sound strange, but in a fast-paced classroom, teachers at Crooked Creek say just having their students close their eyes and listen for a minute can help them improve their ability to focus. It’s part of the school’s efforts to incorporate the tenets of the growing academic field known as “educational neuroscience” into the classroom.
And at Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco:
In 2007 a meditation programme called Quiet Time was brought in to meet some of these challenges. “When I first heard about it I thought it probably wasn’t going to work,” says O’Driscoll. “We get thrown a new thing every couple of years so I didn’t put too much faith in it.” But in April, just a month after meditation began, teachers noticed changes in behaviour. “Students seemed happy,” says O’Driscoll. “They worked harder, paid more attention, were easier to teach and the number of fights fell dramatically.”
These are some compelling stories! For educators thinking of implementing meditation or mindfulness practices in their schools, here are a few links to check out:
Edutopia: Resources & Downloads for Meditation in Schools
Mindful Teachers: Mindfulness Activities and Teaching Resources
Mindful Schools: Resources to Introduce Mindfulness to Schools
To get us feeling like Indiana Jones going into the weekend, here are a couple of fantastic archaeology stories. Both describe intriguing discoveries, made all the more interesting by the people who found them.
First is this BBC story about Stuart Wilson, a 37-year-old from Wales who used his £32,000 life savings to buy a 4.6 acre field in Monmouthshire. Wilson "was convinced he had located the site of 13th Century Trellech - once Wales' largest city." It turns out he was right.
Now, 12 years later, he believes he has revealed the footprint of a bustling iron boom town from the 1200s - and he does not regret his decision.
Wilson essentially has taken a vow of poverty to excavate this lost city. Impressive dedication!
Looking now to Greece, Smithsonian Magazine gives us an update on the warrior grave that was found in Pylos last year, and sets the scene of the discovery:
The season had not started well. The archaeologists were part of a group of close to three dozen researchers digging near the ancient Palace of Nestor, on a hilltop near Pylos on the southwest coast of Greece. The palace was built in the Bronze Age by the Mycenaeans—the heroes described in Homer’s epic poems—and was first excavated in the 1930s. The dig’s leaders, Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, husband-and-wife archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, in Ohio, had hoped to excavate in a currant field just downslope from the palace, but Greek bureaucracy and a lawyers’ strike kept them from obtaining the necessary permits. So they settled, disappointed, on a neighboring olive grove. They cleared the land of weeds and snakes and selected a few spots to investigate, including three stones that appeared to form a corner. As the trench around the stones sank deeper, the researchers allowed themselves to grow eager: The shaft’s dimensions, two meters by one meter, suggested a grave, and Mycenaean burials are famous for their breathtakingly rich contents, able to reveal volumes about the culture that produced them. Still, there was no proof that this structure was even ancient, the archaeologists reminded themselves, and it might simply be a small cellar or shed.
The entire in-depth article is fascinating, so check it out!
Today we are going to look at fake news, and ways that educators can help students evaluate the credibility of published content.
First, it is worth noting the degree to which educated people can be duped by fake news. A recent Stanford Graduate School of Education study shows:
..a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet.... Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from.
Note that people had trouble evaluating content credibility at all educational levels, including students at Stanford University. So we cannot place blame on lack of education. We can, however, use education to combat the trend toward an Orwellian "post-truth" world.
Incidentally, "post-truth" was named as 2016s word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, with the following definition: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
The dangers, of course, are most acute when it comes to the integrity of our political system, and at the intersection of public and corporate interest. This inability to judge truth from fiction has implications ranging from an individual to societal level. If "post-truth" is the word of the year, it is a sad commentary on the state of our public discourse. The word of the year should be a wake-up call to educators and concerned citizens everywhere, regardless of political affiliation..
Fortunately, many teachers are answering the call. For those interested in teaching about media awareness and critical thinking, here are a few resources for lesson plan development:
Michael Lynch, a philosopher who studies technological change, observed that the Internet is “both the world’s best fact-checker and the world’s best bias confirmer—often at the same time.” Never have we had so much information at our fingertips. Whether this bounty will make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it. At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.
Fake news is no longer a matter of the occasional hoax. There is growing evidence that fake news has the power to shape public opinion and even sway elections. As more Americans get their news online, it is increasingly vital that students know how to verify sources and spot fake news or images, which often appear indistinguishable from a reliable source. This lesson asks students to analyze the consequences of fake news and build the skills needed to question and verify what they view online.
Here's a video of a lecture by Dan Whaley, CEO of Hypothes.is. It's thought-provoking, so give it a watch:
EdSurge has a good recent article by Sal Khan on the intersection of mastery learning and technology. As Kahn defines the term, "Mastery learning is the idea that students should adequately comprehend a given concept before being expected to understand a more advanced one."
One goal of personalized and adaptive learning technologies is to provide reactive instruction, to the degree possible giving students the specialized attention that might be otherwise afforded by a tutor or teacher.
Now with software, we can begin to deliver on Benjamin Bloom’s dream: help teachers identify and meet the needs of each student so that all students can master important concepts. Too often, students struggle in calculus due to gaps in their algebra skills, or in algebra because they never fully mastered fractions. A tool like Khan Academy can provide students with unlimited practice and instructional support for each skill so they can be sure they’ve truly mastered a concept before moving on. And we offer teachers data on how their students are doing so they can identify gaps and provide tailored instruction. That way they can spend less time making differentiated worksheets for each student and more time interacting with and inspiring their students. After all, nothing beats getting more quality time with an incredible teacher.
Audrey Watters gives us a nice overview of the main players in adaptive technology in "What Should School Leaders Know About Adaptive Learning?" Her post is a couple of years old, but still looks relevant, including this definition of adaptive learning:
The term “adaptive” actually covers a number of characteristics in software (indeed, the term is applied quite liberally in marketing new tools). Traditionally, adaptive learning tools focus on the following components (PDF): “monitoring the activities of its users; interpreting these on the basis of domain-specific models; inferring user requirements and preferences out of the interpreted activities, appropriately representing these in associated models; and, finally, acting upon the available knowledge on its users and the subject matter at hand, to dynamically facilitate the learning process.”
Critics are often heard to complain that all of this investment in technology has yet to yield positive quantifiable results. For example, a June 2016 article by Blake Montgomery looks at a Harvard study of Dreambox Learning, and the broad initial statement is similar: "There is little evidence yet that educational software is actually helping students progress more rapidly." But from there things start to get much more positive. In particular:
1. Students who spent more time on the DreamBox software saw larger gains in achievement, and those who followed the company's lesson recommendations saw faster gains.DreamBox operates by engaging students in math lessons, gauging their progress then recommending other DreamBox lessons in order to, theoretically, optimize mastery. Following these suggestions, Harvard found, helps students more so than repeating previous lessons.
So perhaps we're starting to turn the corner with respect to achieving significant measurable results from EdTech.
Great short article this week by Blake Morgan at Forbes, "Why Education is the Best Marketing."
Training and educating customers is one of the best ways to build relationships and develop customer loyalty. It not only provides valuable information to your customers to show them how to use the product, but it also can show them more ways to use your products than they could have previously thought.
Educational marketing is an excellent way to provide value to customers and prospects, increasing the likelihood of reciprocation, and moving us away from a self-promoting style of selling.
In an article from 2013, Joe Pulizzi points out, "...the more we educate them or entertain them, the more they don’t mind being sold to." He goes on to provide 17 examples of companies that are using education in their marketing strategy, with educational games, white papers, podcasts, webinars, and online magazines.
It is easy to assume that your target audience understands your product, or your range of services, better than they actually do. Education-based marketing allows us to fill in the knowledge gaps, which can also be an important component of a customer success strategy.
As you build a repository of educational marketing content, it can be repurposed, and used regularly. A blog post can later become a white paper, which can be turned into a webinar.
Please feel free to get in touch with us to discuss education-based marketing strategies for your business!
Findings from a series of studies suggest that standardized exams and raising academic standards have not been very effective in motivating students. A report released by the National Research Council shows that almost 40% of students are chronically disengaged from their studies.
This is a troubling statistic, and one that is mirrored in the opinions of teachers and administrators.
According to Education Week Research Center, “While educators identified student engagement and motivation as the most important drivers of student achievement, only four in 10 of them say that the majority of students at their schools are highly engaged and motivated. Most feel that too little attention is given to promoting engagement among their students.”
Alongside these discouraging statistics, we have a wealth of evidence to tell us what does motivate students:
Adapting the learning environment can also make a big difference. For instance, a range of studies have demonstrated the positive effect that school gardens can have on STEM learning.
If we look specifically at student engagement, the various studies provide the following insights:
The real-world application of a garden to practice math, language arts, science, and all other subjects gives students a reason to learn. Garden-based activities have the potential to engage students in a variety of ways, allowing students to incorporate their own interests and experiences into the class. The hands-on aspect of the school garden is essential in encouraging positive attitudes towards learning.
These are some compelling statistics! Here is a situation, the garden, where over 90% of students feel engaged with learning, and find it enjoyable.
Of course, we can't always provide education in the garden, as much as we might like to! But we can consider what is working here, and how we can create similar experiences in the classroom.
In Washington D.C. and Texas, REAL School Gardens is working to bring gardens to low income schools. The organization's executive director, Jeanne McCarty, notes that gardens have been helpful not only for STEM learning, but also for language learning and descriptive writing. McCarty reports that standardized test scores have gone up 12-15 percent in schools where gardens have been installed.
There has been external evaluation to verify the impact:
A three-year, external evaluation of the REAL School Gardens program, conducted by PEER Associates, Inc., found 94 percent of teachers said their students were more engaged as a result of the gardens program. Additionally, 90 percent said the program made them better prepared to help students succeed.
Again we see statistics showing over 90 percent positive results. It looks like school gardens get an "A" in the subject of student engagement!
I really enjoyed this article by Tom Vander Ark, Innovation Happens at Boundaries,
In science, it’s often the space between disciplines that yields important developments. For example:
It's this last bullet point that is one of the most exciting features of e-learning technology, the potential for learning systems to naturally adapt over time to the needs of learners.
This appears to be a significant new development in the use of educational technology. MIT is looking at ways that MOOCs can improve program accessibility for capable students.
That’s the argument by officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which on Wednesday announced a plan to create what it calls an "inverted admissions" process, starting with a pilot project within a master’s program in supply-chain management.
This situation provides an interesting reflection of the big changes that are occurring in higher education. An elite, traditionally exclusive university is looking for ways to broaden reach and become more inclusive. Meanwhile, the article goes on to discuss the growing role of micro-credentials.
George Siemens, the academic who offered one of the very first MOOCs and who coined the term, which stands for massive open online courses, applauded MIT’s admissions experiment. "We’re just starting to see the impact in education of the Internet on the legacy structure of higher education," he said. "This reflects an accessibility mind shift," he added.
"Generally old media don't die. They just have to grow old gracefully. Guess what, we still have stone masons. They haven't been the primary purveyors of the written word for a while now of course, but they still have a role because you wouldn't want a TV screen on your headstone."
This week The Guardian ran a wonderful article about Neil Gaiman giving this year's Douglas Adams memorial lecture, which is held annually to benefit Save the Rhino International.
The entire lecture is absolutely worth watching. But The Guardian article focused on a particularly enlightening section:
“We were talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was something which resembled an iPad, long before it appeared. And I said when something like that happens, it’s going to be the death of the book. Douglas said no. Books are sharks,” Gaiman told a packed audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London.“I must have looked baffled because he he looked very pleased with himself. And he carried on with his metaphor. Books are sharks … because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”Adams told Gaiman: “‘Look at a book. A book is the right size to be a book. They’re solar-powered. If you drop them, they keep on being a book. You can find your place in microseconds. Books are really good at being books and no matter what happens books will survive.’ And he was right,” said Gaiman.“Ebooks are much better at being two or more books and a newspaper, at the same time. Ebooks are great at being bookshelves, which is why they are great on trains. It’s also why the encyclopaedia proved not to be a shark, but to be a plesiosaur.”And stories, said Gaiman, “aren’t books. Books are simply one of the many storage mechanisms in which stories can be kept. People are one of the other storage mechanisms for stories. And stories, like life forms, change.”
Great writers are often able to get to the heart of things in ways that can be deceptively simple on the surface, but reveal layers of meaning as you dig deeper.
On the first level, Adams gives us such an eloquent and entertaining way to think about publishing media, a simple framework for meditating on the various ways to store and deliver "stories". He boils it down to this: what are these technologies (print book, iPad, smartphone) good at doing?
Of course, we need to think about what technologies are good at doing now, actually and potentially, and also what technologies will be good at doing in the future.
This focus can sometimes be lost when we examine and draw conclusions about what is actually happening. For instance, The Washington Post recently ran an article by Michael S. Rosenwald entitled "Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right." The article asserts that Millenial students have a strong preference for print books over e-books for both pleasure and learning.
As I read Rosenwald's article, something bothered me about it, and I've been trying to sort through exactly where I think it misses the point.
Rosenwald provides familiar anecdotes about students who appreciate the sensory experience of print books.
“I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”
He also suggests e-textbooks are inferior in terms of holding a student's attention, and delves into "the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital." I came away unconvinced.
On March 2, Joe Wikert responded with a more discerning article, "Why Johnny Doesn't Like E-Textbooks", discussing points that he thinks Rosenwald missed. First, he says, Millenials are not really "digital natives". They grew up reading and studying print books. Wikert asks, "What makes anyone think a student will magically shift from print to digital when they get to college?"
Moreover, Wikert says that publishers are not yet providing students with strong incentives to go digital, whether in terms of price or user experience. Discounts for digital versions are minuscule, and the products themselves are problematic.
"If they want to read their e-textbook most students are stuck reading it on their clunky laptop. The phone experience is awful for larger format, fixed-layout textbooks and probably not that effective for reflowable ones."And Wikert thinks the most important point is this:
Which brings us back to Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams. When we look at the popularity or relative effectiveness of e-publishing or e-learning, context is important. If we mislabel Millenials as "digital natives" with respect to books, and draw conclusions on that basis, our analysis will suffer.
Beyond understanding consumers, we need to take a realistic look at technological capabilities (i.e., what a given technology is good at doing), and what is the nature of the actual products that are delivering content.
As new technologies are adopted, of course we will hear stories about how something didn't work, and how people prefer the familiar tool that they already know how to use. A print book's user interface requires that the user simply know how to read. Digital products, on the other hand, come with a wide range of user interfaces, some of which work better than others.
Frankly, right now many e-publishing and e-learning products are not very compelling. Some are fantastic, but there is just a tremendous amount of variability in functional quality.
When we return our focus back to what electronic devices are good at doing (for instance, delivering a multi-sensory, interactive experience), it allows us to do a better job of predicting the future, and developing an effective digital strategy for our content.
Part of that is understanding we are early in the evolution of a publishing revolution. Current results are occurring in an environment of rapid change, and technological improvement.
Perhaps adoption of e-textbooks has been slower than some have expected. But across the board, the evolution will happen naturally over time. As the industry matures, user interfaces will converge in terms of methodology, and interactivity will become less expensive and easier to implement. Hardware will advance and adapt itself to the requirements of e-publishing and e-learning.
Which takes us back to the last part of Gaiman's anecdote: "stories, like life forms, change". For publishers, the key is re-imagining our stories to take advantage of the new tools that are here today, and those emerging tomorrow.