Are Multiplayer Games the Future of Education?

gamification_wordle1Melanie Plenda at The Atlantic Education recently described a new trend in American education that shows promise to attract strong student attention and help engage long term memory: Gamification.

The idea of turning learning into games that students play is not new, but some of the research surrounding it is, as is the idea of completely integrating the game model into the entire makeup of the class. One of the biggest proponents of gamification is Lee Sheldon, an associate professor at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute’ Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences Program. When he began as a professor at RPI, he taught in the traditional lecture fashion.

“I got bored very quickly with myself,” he says. “If I was getting bored, you can imagine how the students were feeling. I thought, ‘Well, you dummy, you’re a game designer. Why don’t you make the entire class into a game?’ So I did that and things went really well.”

Another proponent of the gamification model is Joey Lee, a research assistant professor of Technology and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He says, “The goal is to change the student’s mindset to a mastery orientation­—to promote motivation, engagement, active learning­—and to cultivate 21st century skills like collaboration, problem solving, creativity and systems thinking. Learning looks very different today, so we need to move away from the Industrial Revolution one-size-fits-all model that still plagues much of education.”

Most gamified classrooms, although at this point there is much diversity within gamification, function under a system where students gain experience points (xp), which translate into grades but are more favorable at showing student progress. Another common feature is group problem solving.

Overall, one of the great benefits of the gamification model, if it is done well, is that the “incentives” or “rewards” are built into the system. In other words, what students get for success on one element of the game or one project is the chance to move forward into a new, more challenging aspect of the game, which is also of course the academic content of the class. This way, the real reward is learning, not just badges for completing tasks.

See the article in The Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/07/are-multiplayer-games-the-future-of-education/374235/

Following is a link to a more scholarly article about gamification (simply click on where it says “view raw”): https://github.com/papers-we-love/papers-we-love/blob/master/gamification/gamification-in-education-what-how-why-bother.pdf

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Writing about Research Concepts in Everyday Language

IES_NCESMaking complex research concepts easily accessible to policymakers and practitioners can be challenging for researchers who have been trained to write for an academic audience. This is especially an important issue for school and district leaders who want to keep their staff abreast of key new developments in the field without intimidating or losing the interest of those staff members.

This new brief, “Going Public: Writing About Research in Everyday Language”, describes three techniques for writing more plainly about study design, measurement, and data analysis. The brief calls for:

1.    Making concepts simpler. The brief shows how to use simple language to convey research concepts while ensuring they convey the same meaning.

2.    Writing for the general reader. The brief calls for attention to what the reader really needs to know. Clarity about key messages can lead to simpler and more direct writing.

3.    Writing to reduce misinterpretation. Writers can minimize the likelihood that readers will misinterpret research concepts by considering the possible areas of confusion and addressing them directly.

The brief includes a glossary that shows how to apply these approaches to writing about commonly used concepts in impact research, such as regression analysis and effect size.

For more information and the link to the full pdf of the report, please visit:
http://ies.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=REL2014051

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July Issue Brief: Teacher Preparation

In Case You Missed It!Politicians, pundits, and the American public are seeking evidence of the quality of teacher preparation. But how can we tell if a teacher preparation program is effective?

In this month’s issue brief, we have assembled perspectives on accountability for teacher preparation programs and the role of the federal government related to this issue.

What is the proper role of the federal government related to promoting excellence in teacher preparation? Which accountability methods for teacher preparation programs promote desired outcomes? Please respond to our call for commentary. We’d love to hear from you!

To check out this month’s newsletter and access resources on teacher preparation, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/1qfPXqq

To ensure you do not miss future issues, we encourage you to subscribe to the monthly newsletter by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/byje6b9

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How Schools Work and How to Work with Schools

Screen-Shot-2014-04-14-at-5.11.36-PM-231x300Across the country, millions of children attend public school every year. Their parents likely went to public school too, as do the vast majority of Americans. But attending public school, or even working in education, isn’t the same as knowing how public schools—and our nation’s education system—actually work.

How Schools Work and How to Work with Schools (May 2014) demystifies public education for policymakers, government officials, community members, business leaders, and others interested in partnering with schools to improve the health, safety, and well-being of all students and ensure they are successful in their academic pursuits. Inside, you’ll find:

  • Explanation of public education governance at the federal, state, local, and school levels and how national organizations influence education policymaking.
  • Ways to meaningfully and positively engage with the education sector, including examples of successful school-community partnerships and best practices.
  • Guiding principles for working with schools and practical steps for more successful collaboration with them.
  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions about public education. For example: What is Title I and how does it support low-income students? And, how are public schools funded?
  • Reliable data sources and resources for additional information on crossover issues in education, from school crime and safety, to school nutrition and health policies and practices.
  • A glossary of common education terms, acronyms, and important federal education programs.

For more information, and to download the full report, please visit:

http://www.nasbe.org/project/center-for-safe-and-healthy-schools/how-schools-work/

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Teacher Prep Review 2014 Report from NCTQ

teacher prep report 2014Teacher Prep Review 2014 is the second edition of NCTQ‘s annual assessment of the nation’s 2,400 teacher prep programs. The Review uncovers early evidence that teacher prep programs are beginning to make changes. It arrives at a time of heightened, unprecedented activity across the nation to improve teacher preparation.

Here are a few of the positive highlights:

 

  • NCTQ’s top performers include Miami University of Ohio, Arizona State University, CUNY-Hunter and Western Governors University, an online program.
  • NCTQ apologizes in the report for not always acting “with sufficient sensitivity” as it pursued information on programs, and the new report attempts to ease some of the tension by pointing out areas of agreement between the NCTQ and most colleges of education, but it’s unclear whether that will placate critics.
  • Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut have boosted standards, making it tougher to get into training programs or get a license.
  • The release of the report is timely, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently resurrecting an effort to regulate teacher training programs across the country.

According to the findings, hundreds of universities have abysmal teacher training programs, and alternative certification programs are even worse. Too many programs are enrolling weak students and aren’t instructing them on the basics, like maintaining discipline or using research-based strategies to teach reading.

As in the past, not everyone, especially many of the programs ranked by NCTQ, is happy with the report. Most of the backlash surrounds the method by which NCTQ collects information; in other words, NCTQ does not always work with programs nor does it obtain complete information on syllabi and program standards before publishing its reports.

To read the full report, or see state by state breakdowns, please visit http://www.nctq.org/teacherPrep/review2014.do

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Shooting Bottle Rockets at the Moon: Overcoming the Legacy of Incremental Education Reform

Brown Center on Education Policy | Brookings InstitutionThomas Kane, of the Harvard School of Education and writing for the Brookings Institution, has recently penned an important article describing an aggressive plan for helping American students catch up with their international peers over the next 10 years. Kane produces calculations that reveal that incremental reforms are unlikely to be aggressive enough to allow American students to catch up. He instead proposes a combination of four reforms that, together, are likely strong enough in effect size to provide real solutions, not empty promises, to improving American education:

  1. Making better personnel decisions at tenure time
  2. Providing feedback to allow teachers to improve their practice
  3. Integrating more rigorous standards and assessments
  4. Offering a more personalized learning environment

On the first, while recognizing that methods of evaluating teacher success based on value-added measures comes with its own set of problems, Kane also believes that using data to “not retain” the lowest performing teachers is essential to progress.

Second, citing evidence from an interesting study in Cincinnati schools, Kane urges an increased effort to provide feedback to teachers based on classroom observations.

Third, Kane references the successes of Massachusetts and Washington D.C. at sustaining improved student achievement. He argues that their success sets them apart from other states because they have sustained success through use of effective testing.

Overall, these three reforms, Kane argues, should be pursued because their efficacy can be clearly proven through vetted data. The fourth one, he admits, is more tenuous, but he still believes shows a good chance for success.

On the fourth, Kane cites efforts in Houston to implement certain tactics employed by charter schools, such as new school leadership, selective retention of teaching staff based on prior evaluations (including value-added), providing better feedback to teachers, a longer school day and year, intensive tutoring, and data-driven instruction in public schools. What Kane calls “a more personalized learning environment” is in many ways another way to talk about bringing effective practices from charter schools into public schools.

According to Kane, a combination of these four reforms will provide documentable progress in the next ten years that will allow the US to reach the upper echelon of global student achievement.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brown-center-chalkboard/posts/2014/05/29-incremental-education-reform-kane

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New Language for Accreditation Standards Signals Successful Compromise

caepThe Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) has been working with representatives of teachers unions and other contributing parties to finalize new accreditation standards for teacher preparation, and these include a focus on student-achievement growth. While CAEP’s new standards still have to be approved by the accreditor’s board later this summer, the positive feedback thus far from representatives of the major teachers unions signals a successful compromise over teacher preparation which will in fact mean that new teachers’ progress will be tracked in connection with the program that trained them.

This is a significant shift for the field of education, and it could allow for significant improvements to preparation programs, which will have much more data about what works and what doesn’t. This could also be a hallmark that sets the teaching profession apart from others. Which other field tracks the success of members of that field in connection with their program of preparation/certification?

The final language, which caused significant back and forth about the role of value-added measures, sets the expectation that programs incorporate data if states provide it. It reads:

“The provider documents that program completers contribute to an expected level of student-learning growth. Multiple measures shall include all available growth measures (including value-added measures, student-growth percentiles, and student learning objectives) required by the state for its teachers and available education preparation programs, other state-supported P-12 impact measures, and any other measures employed by the provider.”

For more information, please visit:
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2013/06/accreditor_clears_value_added_.html

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The Rise of Networks: How Decentralized Management Is Improving Schools

NYnetworks-report-coverMaureen Kelleher at the Center For American Progress has written an interesting piece describing how several urban school districts have experimented with different school networks. The preliminary findings suggest that other urban school districts should be willing to let their schools create networks of common interests to help those schools that need it most.

School districts across the country are shifting away from their traditional management paradigm-a central office that directs its schools through uniform mandates and policies-toward a new vision where district leaders support autonomous schools while holding them accountable for student performance. School-district leaders recognize that greater school autonomy requires rethinking their models of management and support. During a pilot program in New York City, an initial cohort of 26 schools organized itself into four networks of schools that worked together to solve common problems. Today, New York City’s public schools are affiliated in networks based on a common interest: a similar type of school; a common instructional approach; or a similar target population.

This report describes the current state of school networks in New York City and outlines the successes and challenges the city has faced in implementing school networks. It also explores how networks have been implemented in other cities-Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; and Denver, Colorado-to show how the school-network concept has been adapted to a variety of local contexts.

Here are some key preliminary findings:

  • Networks can deliver district supports more effectively than traditional central-office departments. Organizing district support by cross-functional teams responsive to a small group of schools builds greater trust between school leaders and their district and helps district-level staff better understand the needs of the schools they serve. Network teams can serve as a single point of contact between principals and district leaders, which gives principals more time to focus on teachers and instruction.
  • Networks can open the door to collaborative problem solving among groups of schools, leading to improved student outcomes. New York City educational leaders report that a handful of high-performing school networks used cross-school collaboration to make significant strides in school improvement during the 2011-12 school year. However, New York City’s networks have had varying degrees of success fostering such collaboration across their schools. In Chicago, an externally managed, voluntary network of high schools has improved graduation and college entrance rates for students. Other cities have made less effort to use school networks as a tool for cross-school collaboration.
  • Outsourcing can enhance networks, but locale is key. In cities such as New York, where robust educational nonprofit sectors exist, external partners can lead networks of schools in instructional improvement. However, New York City’s experience with outside networks indicates that external partners still need district liaisons to solve problems with operations. In cities with a weaker base of educational nonprofits, district staff must continue to lead both operational troubleshooting and instructional improvement.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2014/05/27/90377/the-rise-of-networks/

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New GTL Resources on Teacher and Leader Preparation

gtl-logoThe Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (at AIR) has a few new briefs out which are certainly worth the precious time of state education agencies.

First is Preparing Teachers for the Common Core: Aligning Preparation Program Curricula

Hear directly from state chiefs about how they support teacher preparation programs in transitioning curricula and clinical experiences to prepare new teachers for the Common Core State Standards, including:

  • Aligning teaching and licensure standards.
  • Supporting faculty through professional development.
  • Integrating program approval, accountability requirements, and state teacher licensure assessments.

Second is Improving School Leader Preparation: Collaborative Models for Measuring Effectiveness

Learn how states currently measure the effectiveness of school leader preparation programs. Also, explore new, collaborative models for continuous program improvement and accountability. The brief includes:

  • State of the state: What measures do most states say they collect, and how do they use the data?
  • Testing the waters: What new accountability models are states piloting?
  • Charting a course: What are some strategies for establishing a collaborative model?

Keep an eye out for future Ask the Team Briefs at http://www.gtlcenter.org/

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Marc Tucker on “Separate But Equal” in American schools today

segregationOn the Top Performers blog of Education Week, Marc Tucker has written a compelling post which challenges American complacency on the new “separate but equal.” Despite Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, various statistics show that American schools are as segregated as they ever were before that monumental court decision.

And of course, this sad fact is not due to the overt racism that characterized the United States for its early history, when schools literally would not admit minority students. Now, housing segregation, a result of both lingering racism and well as classicism issues, is the cause of school segregation.

Tucker calls out school leaders and citizens concerned about education for throwing their hands up in the air and essentially saying, “Well, we can’t do anything about housing segregation; we are schools.”

Tucker, leader of the National Center on Education and the Economy, believes otherwise. If American school systems and citizens would be willing to take on the task of reforming the way that schools are funded, then poor areas would no longer continue to have to have poor schools.

Many states and districts already have some methods in place to shift some funds, largely from property taxes, from richer to poorer schools; however, these methods are incredibly diverse and often difficult to pinpoint and even harder to change. Not only that, but many richer areas use other means to provide funding for their already well-performing schools—means that can circumvent property tax rules related to funding schools. This blog discussed this issue here: http://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/private-funds-and-public-schools-in-california/

For more information about Tucker’s clarion call to action on American school segregation, please visit: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2014/06/american_schools_back_to_separate_but_equal.html

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