7 Ways Technology is Improving Education

7 Ways Technology is Improving Education

Over the years, technology has shown the potential to improve various sectors in society—and education is one of them. Teaching and learning are becoming a more interactive practice than what was the case a few decades ago. The need for tech literate individuals has also encouraged many schools to incorporate technology into their curricula. Various schools are converting their classrooms into tech hubs.

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However, unless we are ready to appreciate and make use of technology in the classroom, its potential cannot be fully realized. Prudent measures should be put in place to ensure that education is sufficiently promoted by using technology. This article discusses the top seven ways technology is improving education today.

1. Enhanced teaching

There are concepts in class that are well taught through illustration rather than mere theory. For instance, explaining the effect temperature has on molecules can be a little ambiguous, but thanks to digital simulators, such concepts are well understood by the student. Teaching using models is an effective way of illustrating significant changes in processes while ensuring that the students remember the idea for a long time.

Teaching is never complete without assessment. With the help of technology, testing the level of students’ understanding of a learned concept is done in real time. The teacher can use this information to help weaker students and move to the next topic after being satisfied that all the students are on the same page.

2. Improved communication

Education is founded on the effectiveness of communication among students and teachers. This way, flow of knowledge is enhanced at every level. The classroom has been made into a community where teachers quickly post assignments, and the students can ask questions for verifications. Moreover, they can communicate with peers on different relevant matters.

There are sites that allow a student to learn a particular language with native speakers. This is done through video conferencing. Other platforms that enable students from different countries to exchange notes and ideas are also available on the net.

3. Use of interactive textbooks

Gone are the days when a textbook was only using texts and images to present information. Technology has introduced the use of digital and interactive books with audio and video capabilities for enhanced reading. Using videos and animations while studying has been proven to be one of the best methods of grasping a new concept. Technology has allowed highlighting various ideas, setting reminders, and making improvements to the information in textbooks. This enables students to understand everything better.

Students no longer have to carry big textbooks around in their quest for learning. A student can now have multiple digital books on one device and compare the notes with a simple tap. Convenience in learning is taken to a completely new level.

4. Advanced Research

The use of the cloud to store information has allowed web-based research to become more efficient. Unlike before when one would have to sort through massive piles of books to find the desired pages, technology comes with efficient searching tools. You will agree that a lot of time is saved with technology that is used in internalizing the new information and ideas learned.

The ability to compare research results by researchers worldwide has made it possible for enhanced results and quicker acquisition of solutions. This is one of the most obvious advantages of technology in students’ life.

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5. Students can learn at their pace

It is true that different students have different abilities to grasp a concept. While others are quick learners, some are significantly slow learners. This has made it difficult for slow learners to cope with their peers in class. This is something that technology has come to change.

Such students can now go over learned concepts at their convenience and have time to consult their teachers privately for a deeper understanding.

6. Learning is more fun

The use of new technology has made students enjoy their studying more than ever. Keeping a student engaged in learning is also crucial in improving the retention rate of new concepts learned. Laptops and tablets used in class make a seemingly boring subject more enjoyable. Where a subject is not entirely understood, a student can find a live streaming video online for better understanding and a different approach to an idea.

7. Examination has gone online

Taking tests has never been more convenient. Many people are choosing to take online courses at their convenience and later sit online exams with accreditation. These examinations seem to be the main thing of the future. Everything is done in real time. For teachers, recording the scores of students and grading them is now done at great convenience. Furthermore, a teacher can identify students’ weak spots and make the necessary improvements for a better personal approach.

Ranking of different students from different schools is also made easy with technology. Additionally, taking international examinations online is becoming more and more common.

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It will be improper to end this article without mentioning what technology has done for students with special needs. On different devices, such as the iPad, students with special needs such as the autism spectrum have been given a chance to learn with convenience. Powerful studying tools enable them to study like other students and have the same opportunities in the job market. Students from less advanced countries who have access to technology are also given a platform to display their talents.

It is only fair to say that technology has a lot to offer when integrated in education. The advantages of new technology in classrooms cannot be overrated. One thing is certain, though; teachers will always have control over educational process even with the use of the best technology.

About the Author:

Crystal Roman is a blogger and freelance writer for Edubirdie. Her lifestyle credo is “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

5 Tips for Taking Care of Business AND the Family During the Holidays

5 Tips for Taking Care of Business AND the Family During the Holidays

 

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The holiday season brings all kinds of extra responsibilities for business owners and other professionals. Most companies are taking stock of the last year while simultaneously preparing for the next, which often means jam-packed working days and even a few late nights. But being successful shouldn’t mean giving up all your time with loved ones — and it doesn’t have to! Here are a few tips for striking the balance between work and leisure this holiday season:

Outsource tasks that don’t require you personally

If you had endless time and no holidays to consider, you might be able to accomplish everything on your own. Unfortunately, time isn’t on your side during the holidays, so establish which duties you can afford to delegate and assign them accordingly. There are likely at least a handful of responsibilities that you usually perform but don’t necessarily require you to be the executor, plus you’ll want to save your energy and focus for more urgent issues. Find ways to assign personal tasks as well. For example, if you don’t have time to run home on your break, hire a dog walker. No time (or patience) to assemble the playhouse you bought for your kids? You can even hire an assembler!

Give yourself a break — literally

When work is chaotic, many businesspeople have trouble justifying a break. But giving your brain a little time to rest, even if it’s only 15 minutes, can actually make you more productive. Try to get up and get moving if you can, perhaps taking a walk outside or even through your office space. Do some stretches, practice meditation, or sneak in a few chapters of the book you’re reading. Breaks are especially important in the busy season, so don’t be afraid to take them!

Divide and conquer tasks

In addition to delegating entire assignments, see if there are any large projects you can effectively break up and divide amongst yourself and your co-workers. Utilize your people according to their strengths — some workers might be better with numbers, others may be stronger with creative skills, for instance — and consider making some responsibilities a group effort. In addition to breaking your project down into more manageable steps, you’ll be able to come together as a team and present work that was truly a group effort. (And don’t forget to say thanks!)

Focus on one area at a time

You’re only human and can only handle so many things at once. Don’t let your mind wander to “everything else” while you’re trying to complete a task. It’s not going to shorten your to-do list, nor will it make the task at hand any easier — in fact, it’ll only add to your stress and potentially distract you from giving your current project your entire focus. Concentrate on what’s in front of you and don’t get distracted with trying to multitask. Your work (and your family time) deserves your full attention.

Do something special with your loved ones

It could be date night with your spouse, taking your children to a holiday festival, treating your mother to the ballet, or catching a basketball game with your sibling. Even better if you can surprise someone! Go to events you’ve been looking forward to and participate in activities you genuinely enjoy. Your hard work deserves to be rewarded, and your loved ones will appreciate special time with you even amid your chaotic work schedule.

It’s certainly a busy season, but the holidays can still be the most wonderful time of the year for business owners. Keep these tips in mind, and don’t forget to show appreciation every step of the way. Thank your workers for their continued hard work and your family for their understanding — by the end, you’ll come out as a stronger team both in the office and at home!

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison. Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts.

Three tips that will give your Voki a whole new sound

Three tips that will give your Voki a whole new sound

Being flexible is always a good thing when dealing with the unexpected, but if you can wield the upper hand in your favor, then be sure to save yourself the frustration of unwanted circumstances—and results.

Just like there are tricks to every trade, there are tips to every tool, including Voki. One of our best kept quasi-secrets is how to regulate the speed, pitch, and pause of your avatar’s voice. We’ve all been there: you just added some great text, only to realize that your Voki spews it out too fast when you press play. Or there’s that break you want in between words, but your Voki seems to accelerate full speed ahead (sigh!). And then there’s the absence of emotion in the language itself. We may not be chasing highs and lows in life, but it’s pretty handy when it concerns our Voki’s pitch. Don’t fret—we’re pros at this.  Below is the scoop on how to manipulate your Voki’s voice:

To control the Voice Rate, insert the following formula to your text:

<prosody rate=“-12%”>Halloween is at the end of October.</prosody>

The lower the number in brackets, the FASTER the Voki will speak. The higher the number, the SLOWER it will speak. To gauge your pace, we recommend setting “-12%” as a benchmark for a steady speed.

To control the Voice Pitch, insert the following formula to your text:

<prosody pitch=“high”>Oh dear me!</prosody>she cried.<prosody pitch=“high”>The sky is falling. I must go and tell the king!</prosody>

The prosody code should sandwich the word(s) you want the pitch to apply to. Alternatively, to lower the pitch of your Voki, type in “low” in between the quotes (as seen with the high pitch configuration).

To add a pause to your text, simply add a comma where you’d like a break.

We hope this helps. Stay tuned for our next #TipTuesday!

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

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If there’s any time to get creative during the calendar year, it’s Halloween. Be it the costumes, the carving, or the confections, this spooky holiday is brimming with opportunity.

From Coraline to Frankenstein, and with the psychological thriller Girl on the Train hitting theaters this weekend, let’s just say there’s plenty of suspense brewing in some of our favorite books.

To be fair, not all of us think in the macabre mindset, but we can certainly all think in the imaginative one. This Halloween season, writing activities are the perfect outlet to tap into the creative voices of your students.

It’s the common rite-of-passage for critically acclaimed novels to be adapted for film. We can’t offer you a budget to get your story to the big screen, but we have something else in mind.

It just so happens that Voki is well equipped to participate in the Halloween writing process with you. Voki avatars do the job in adding animation to your ideas—not to mention social media can get them visibility.

As for characters, Voki has all your usual spooky suspects: Dracula, Frankenstein, skeleton, witch, zombie, bat, jack-o-lantern. But if you steer clear of the haunted path, then we have over 200 characters too choose from that can meet your imagination’s needs.

Teachers can prompt their students to write about anything pertaining to Halloween, but we recommend something that gets them thinking in the spirit of the holiday, something out of the ordinary.

Students can write their essay, and then create a Voki avatar(s) to narrate it. Using Voki Presenter, they can upload images, backgrounds, and links to create scenes and settings for their stories. There’s choice in how you want the story to be told. You can upload audio, type in text and have one of the Voki automated voices recite for you, or record your own voice.

We know: this is starting to sound more and more like a movie, and the students more and more like screenwriters, producers and directors.

It’s Halloween—what better time to think box office big?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

 

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Today, October 5th , is World Teachers Day (WTD).

What exactly is WTD?  In 1994, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed WTD a global event.  The day was chosen to commemorate the special intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO in Paris concerning the Status of Teachers in 1966.

WTD has historically served as a day devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the lives of educators around the world.  The day also provides global citizens a special opportunity to address the issues pertaining to teachers across the world.

This year’s WTD marks the 50th anniversary of the original 1966 conference. It is also the first WTD to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.

In honor of this year’s WTD theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status,” the team here at Voki would like to take an opportunity to bring awareness to one important issue affecting the teaching community worldwide; namely, the concept of teacher retention and induction.

According to a 2003 study by Ingersoll & Perda, between 40% and 50% of new teachers are estimated to leave within the first five years of entry into teaching.

What’s more is that according to UNESCO, by 2030, an estimated 3.2 million more teachers will be required to achieve universal primary education and 5.1 million more in order to achieve universal lower secondary education.

This revolving door policy is often the result of insufficient resources, support and guidance for teachers as they begin their journey as an educator.

The process of acclimating teachers with their new job is known as “Induction” and the process has grown in recent years from relative obscurity to an important ideology within educational reform.

WTD encourages spreading awareness. We would like to have this piece initiate a dialogue and raise awareness. Please be sure to comment, share, like and or tweet this article with the hashtag #WorldTeachersDay to do your part in building a brighter future where education is a right not just a privilege…

About Voki:

Voki is free educational software that allows teachers to create awesome, customizable speaking avatars to better enhance learning and student engagement. Teachers record their voice and an animated talking avatar is exported.  A Voki can be used for debates, presentations, lessons, speeches, language studies and much, much more. Our character library includes cartoons, pets, historical figures, and cultural figures, just to name a few.

Our basic product is completely FREE because we believe all teachers deserve a chance to enhance their classroom no matter what their budget is. Voki is used in thousands of classes around the globe and is supported in over thirty languages.

Voki is truly a global tool made for educators by educators. Try it out for free today at www.voki.com.

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About the Author:

Michael Cassidy is the Product Manager of Voki. He is a digital marketer by background but also dedicates his time as an educator, philanthropist, coach, mentor and anti- bullying crusader. His book “The Skinny on Bullying, the Legend of Gretchen” is used around the world to help teach young students how to cope with bullying in a digital age.

External Resources:

Beginning Teacher Induction: What the Data Tell Us: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/kappan_ingersoll.h31.html

World Teacher Day (Official Site):

https://www.worldteachersday.org/map/

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

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This summer, we asked our Voki community to submit their stories on how Voki has changed their classroom experience. We’d like to share with you the story of Sheila Slawiak, our featured teacher winner, who transformed her students’ attitude, engagement level, and integrity in their work using Voki.

Last school year during Q4 I tried out Voki for the first time.  I teach inner city struggling urban middle school students at a Level 4 school and before Voki, no project impressed them!  Then I found Voki and tried it!  To my surprise, all of my students loved it (from special ed to honors); I had 100% student engagement; and I had a student focused class!  It was a huge WOW! For me and for my students.  Even my most  highly risk students produced their product using my project requirements.  Never did I hear, “this is too  much work!”

I do have to admit, I used a lesson plan from the Voki blog as an idea.  Our school requires monthly written essays that show “citing of evidence”.  I took the idea of writing a persuasive essay about the importance of healthy snacks.  I gave my students a text set of 3 articles regarding the pros and cons of healthy snacks so they could synthesize their essay.  I also told them that their audience were 5th graders so they could feel important sharing what they have learned about healthy snacks.

To my surprise, they were so involved with all the activities in order to produce a talking persuasive avatar.  For the first time, there were no moans or groans inundating the lab, or piercing eyes staring at me. For the first time, I was able to facilitate peer reviews where each student really took an interest in their partners’ work.  For the first time, each student wanted to present their findings. For the first time, each student either scored a 3 or a 4 on my rubric vs. 0-3s. And for the first time, I was rated with high evaluative scores from my principals!  We all won and I attribute these wins to Voki!  Next school year, I’ll invite parents!

Thank you Voki for being so imaginative and for not ever settling!

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Sheila is an Instructional Technology Teacher for grades 6-8. She is passionate about teaching educational technology to both her students and colleagues. Shelia has expressed this sentiment on teaching: “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you can encourage all students (no matter what their challenges are in learning) to express their thoughts by utilizing audio applications like Voki that allow students to imagine greatness!”

Voki…On A Roll!

Voki…On A Roll!

One of my favorite things to do as an educator is to mix the digital and the analog for students. I see this as a necessary challenge. In a high-tech world, sometimes students miss out on the many benefits and social interactions that can come from non-screen activities, such as board games. On the other hand, we have so many amazing tech tools today that allow students to interact and express themselves, as well as collaborate and share with the world. I propose that mixing the two can be a powerful combination.

That is why this school year, I’m going to try…

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The Ultimate MatchUp!

I first heard about Rory’s Story Cubes when we received a set as a family gift for Christmas. They’re simple…you roll all 9 dice, then use them to tell an imaginative story. However, you can use them in endless creative ways like having each person take one die and tell their part of the story (collaborative storytelling) in turn! Each roll reveals new and exciting turns in the story. After having met Rory in person, and utilizing The Creativity Hub’s other game in my schools (The Extraordinaires), I see the company’s vision and potential of using these analog games to engage and drive deeper learning.

I first heard about Voki through a graduate course taught by John Smith (@theipodteacher on Twitter). Immediately, I saw the power and potential of Voki in the classroom. As a STEM teacher, I am always on the lookout for tech tools that hook students and allow them to have voice and choice in their learning. Specifically in giving students a voice (different from their own), Voki makes sharing in front of peers easier because an individually-created avatar does the talking for them. Voki’s characters are unique and engaging, as well as funny and strange. Students adapt right away to the easy-to-use platform and are busy creating their characters from the start.

Primary Voki Moments in the Classroom

My first attempt using Voki with students was to have the first graders create characters that could share a welcome message for the next year’s first graders. We brainstormed ideas of advice they could give their peers about what it’s like to be in first grade and then they wrote several sentences down on paper. Afterward, we spent an entire class period (45 minutes) exploring how to make and create Voki characters…just for fun. The time for students to simply “play” with the site was so valuable. The next class period, since they had had some experience, we logged in with our official Voki student accounts. This way, projects could be worked on and saved for later. The students then began creating their Voki avatars and using the typing feature to give their Voki a voice.

Once their Voki was complete, they had to “present” it to me by hitting the play button. They were instructed that if I gave them a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I would show them if I could understand what their Voki was saying or if something needed improving. If you’ve never played around with Voki before (What are you waiting for?! http://www.voki.com/site/create), you need to know that sometimes you have to spell words phonetically. This can take a bit of problem solving and manipulating of the text on the student’s part. Honestly, I love this part about Voki. Your students are so engaged that they actually WANT to make their Voki say things correctly and so they will sometimes persist and show resilience until their Voki is perfect!

When students finished their “final draft” of their avatars, they submitted them to me for review and I then embedded their Vokis on a class webpage for the following year’s first graders to receive some Voki advice! Here is a sampling of what they created:

http://pburgstem.weebly.com/mrs-straws-class.html

Spinning Stories with Voki

So, I want to use Voki again this school year. I also want to utilize Rory’s Story Cubes to have students make creative stories. The plan is to have each student roll the cubes and a picture be taken of the dice for that student to reference. (See pic below)

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Then, the students will use their creative writing prowess to spin a tale for their Voki to tell later. In the example picture above, a student might tell a story about a paratrooper turtle on a mission in Ancient Egypt. Or, their story might begin, “Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved to read…”. The students will use their unique dice roll to write a brief story. Then, they will create a unique Voki character to tell the tale and share it with the world! I may use the Voki Presentation feature to show a picture of students’ dice rolls as well as their Voki character telling the story as seen in the example below:

Story Cube + Voki Example

Another extension would be to partner with a class in the school or across the world and have students pair up with the same dice roll but create two very different stories they could share with each other. To finish it all off, make each presentation a page in a student-created iBook so the world can download!

Happy Storytelling!

Jason Hubbard

jason_hubbardJason Hubbard is a K-5 STEM educator in Perrysburg, Ohio. There, he trains around 1200 students at two elementary schools in the martial arts of creativity, innovation, and edtech. Jason received degrees from The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and also teaches a graduate course through Communicate Institute at Walsh University. Jason is a husband to one amazing wife and six incredible children.