Category : Education

Education

What you need to produce a successful school garden

Planting a successful school garden requires a lot more than just soil, seeds and water, say researchers who have come up with a planning tool that can help ensure school gardens thrive and endure.
A teacher or parent may be the driving force behind getting a garden started, but once the teacher leaves the school, or the parent’s child graduates, gardens can wither away unless they have been well integrated into the school community, the study team writes in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
School gardens have a host of health and educational benefits, from getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables to boosting academic achievement in science, math and reading, they write.
To better understand what it takes to help a garden thrive, Kate Gardner Burt of Lehman College in New York City and her colleagues looked at successful gardens at 21 local elementary and middle schools, and mapped out the characteristics of gardens that played an enduring role in the life of the school.
Based on these findings, Burt and colleagues defined a four-level process toward successful school garden integration. Dubbed the GREEN Tool, it’s the first evidence-based guide to planting and nurturing sustainable school gardens, the researchers say.
Among the common themes for success that emerged in the research, Burt noted in a telephone interview, was that schools that established a garden committee early on were able to cope with challenges more successfully.
“The other really important piece to integrating the garden that consistently came up in my discussions and interviews was the idea of professional development,” she added. “Many teachers who don’t have horticultural experience might be really intimidated to get into the garden.”
Professional development sessions that focused on the garden – even informal ones hosted by a garden coordinator at lunch or after school – can help motivate teachers and build their confidence, she added.
Having neighborhood partners and reliable funding for the garden were found to be important keys to sustainability. The planning of the physical garden space and planning for upkeep were also identified as critical components.
Connecting the garden to curriculum was another key step. Once teachers become more comfortable with the garden, they can begin to see the possibilities for teaching through planting and gardening, Burt said. “Using gardens as a mechanism to teach math, that opens teachers up to all kinds of grant possibilities and opportunities.”
In the surveys, for example, more than 95 percent of the schools used the garden for teaching science or nutrition classes. Another 76 percent used it to teach agriculture, 71 percent used the garden for English language arts, 67 percent used it for math, 62 percent for environmental science, history, health and home economics, and 57 percent of schools used the garden for art class.
Tying school gardens to academics can be another way to strengthen their roots, Burt said. “If students can learn any of the core academic subjects better by using the garden, then we can provide more compelling evidence for why gardening should be sustained in schools.”

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Education

The ten happiest words in the Norwegian language (and why you need them)

According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, Norway is the happiest country in the world. Norway ranked so highly due to a number of the traits that the citizens possess, such as caring, freedom, honesty and generosity. In short, the next time you meet a Norwegian you might say ‘Norge er it fint land’ – Norway is a wonderful country.
While the report may make you want to pack your bags right now and move over to this wonderful place, you may want to brush up on some of the local lingo before making the move, or get some of the Norwegian happiness just by learning a few words. Fortunately, the Norwegian expert from language learning app Babbel, has the perfect (and happiest) 10 words to get you started:
Happy – lykkelig, fornøyd or glad
While the first two words literally translate to ‘happy’, glad i deg actually doesn’t have an English equivalent, but roughly means ‘happy/glad in you’. The clever Norwegians came up with the phrase to differentiate between the different kinds of love, so you’d use this particular example when speaking to your friends.
Laugh – latter 
As we’ve established, Norwegians (and other Nordic countries, according to the World Happiness Report) are very happy. So it must come as no surprise that they regularly bryte ut i latter, meaning to literally ‘break out in laughter’.
Funny – morsom, gøy 
Literally translating to ‘funny’, morsom is typically used to describe someone or something is being funny or humorous, whereas moro and gøy are what Norwegians would use to describe ‘fun’.
Smile – smil, le
An easy one for English speakers to remember, the Norwegian for ‘smile’ is pretty much the same in both languages. To make matters even easier, le, translating to ‘laugh’ is just the final two letters of the English ‘smile’.
Cosy – kos(elig)
Most of us are already familiar with the Danish concept of hygge that has infiltrated the English-speaking world over the winter months. Kos or to kose seg is very similar and doesn’t have a direct English translation, but is used to describe a feeling of warmth and simple pleasure, from having a cup of coffee with friends, going for a walk or simply enjoying a book.
Great – kjempefin, flott
You can use either of the above words to say that something is ‘great’ in Norwegian. You can say that an outfit or a person is flott. Norwegians like to spread happy vibes around them, and use superlative words on a daily basis.
Wonderful – herlig
This word doesn’t just mean wonderful and can be used to describe such positive things as ‘delightful’, ‘glorious’ and ‘lovely’. For example, if you bump into a Norwegian and the day is particularly fine, you can say for en herlig dag which means ‘what a lovely day’.
Good – bra 
If you’ve ever seen any of the infamous ‘Nordic noir’ original series, such as The Bridge or The Killing, you will already know this word. Norwegians, just like the Swedes, use bra to describe something ‘good’ or being ‘well’ themselves.
Have fun – gøy
Norwegians like the feeling of kos, and have a good time. If you’re speaking to a Norwegian, make sure to tell them ha det gøy, which means ‘have fun’, ‘have a good time’.
Good luck – lykke til
And to finish off this brief lesson in Norwegian happy phrases, lykke til! If you are still determined to move to the happiest country in the world, hit up a language app like Babbel for a full course in Norwegian, which will get you fluent in no time.
 
Miriam Plieninger is Director of Didactics and part of the Management Team at Babbel, the app for web, iOS and Android which makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.

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Education

Why mathematics classes need a makeover

Today’s mathematics curriculum is teaching students to expect – and excel at – paint-by-numbers classwork. A result of measuring schools by success and statistics, rather than by a wider view of the approach and skills they are delivering.
This can have the effect of robbing kids of a skill more important than ‘merely’ solving mathematics problems: formulating them.
In this video, filmed at TEDxNYED, Dan Meyer shows classroom-tested math exercises that prompt students to stop and think. And thereby learn and understand.
Ted Talks on education are two-a-penny, but this one is certainly worth a look:
 
 

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Education

Blackstone in talks to acquire Ascend Learning

Private equity firm Blackstone Group is in advanced talks to acquire Ascend Learning LLC, a privately held U.S. maker of educational software, for more than $2 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
The deal would underscore the appetite of buyout firms for companies in the educational software sector, at a time when corporate America and schools are using more digital tools to enhance learning and reduce some of their operational costs.
Blackstone has prevailed in an auction for Ascend Learning, and is now negotiating terms with its majority owner, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners LLC, the sources said last week.
A deal could be announced within days, the sources added, cautioning that it was still possible that negotiations would end without a deal.
The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Blackstone and Providence Equity declined to comment. Ascend Learning did not respond to a request for comment.
The transaction would be the latest private equity deal in the educational software sector. In 2015, private equity firms TPG Capital LP and Leonard Green & Partners LP acquired Ellucian Company LP, a U.S. provider of software to universities and colleges, for $3.5 billion, including debt.
Based in Burlington, Massachusetts, Ascend Learning offers software programs for testing and certifications in various industries, from nursing to sports medicine. The majority of its revenue comes from the healthcare and public safety sectors.
Providence Equity also owns Blackboard Inc, a U.S. software company that provides learning tools for high school and university classrooms.
It explored a sale of Blackboard in 2015, but then ultimately decided to put it on hold. The private equity firm sold scuba certifier Professional Association of Diving Instructors earlier this year.
Based in New York, Blackstone is the world’s largest alternative asset manager, with more than $360 billion in assets under management.

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Education

Canadian course that teaches nail care and dinner party chat comes under fire

A Canadian school course that teaches girls about dinner party etiquette, polite conversation and nail care has come under fire from critics for being a throwback to the 1950s stereotype of women as ornamental objects.
Launched last month by a school in rural Alberta, the optional “Women Studies” course is aimed at helping 11-to-15-year-old girls to “navigate adolescence with their self-image and self-esteem intact”, school authorities said.
The lesson plan includes a field trip for students to learn how to plan recipes, table settings and music for a dinner party. Students will also learn nail care and application and how to choose the most flattering hairstyles and clothing.
“In this age of social media, girls are being frequently compared to others and exposed to messages about how they aren’t good enough unless they dress and behave a certain way,” said Michelle Savoie, a teacher at Eleanor Hall School who designed the course.
“The goal is to improve the way they see themselves and other women around them,” she said in a statement, adding that she wanted to teach girls to be “confident, strong and independent”.
However, the course has sparked a backlash that has prompted school officials to say they would review the course.
One critic, University of Alberta Professor Christina Stasia, said the course promoted sexist, outdated stereotypes.
“It doesn’t really equip girls with anything to navigate the barriers they will be encountering as they grow up,” she was quoted as saying by local media.
A 2015 U.N. report raised concerns about persisting inequalities between women and men in Canada.
The country fell to 35th place in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 global gender gap index – which measures disparities between men and women in economics, education, health and political empowerment – from 19th place two years earlier.
Commenting on the school’s Facebook page, one woman wrote: “I’m just wondering, are you teaching boys about how to dress for their body shape and what hairstyle suits them best?”
Alberta’s education minister David Eggen said he wanted school officials to immediately revamp the course.
“We informed them that all problematic or offensive components must be changed. They have assured me they will make appropriate changes,” Eggen was quoted as saying by local media.

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Education Health

Researchers answer the key swimmer’s question: How much urine is in a swimming pool?

Canadian researchers studying urine levels in swimming pools have discovered just how high the levels are, and the results are not pretty.

Researchers at the University of Alberta developed a test to measure the amount of urine and took more than 250 samples from 31 pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities.

The results showed one 830,000-liter (220,000-gallon) pool, which is about one-third of an Olympic-sized pool, had 75 liters of urine while another smaller pool had 30 liters.

Humans introduce “a variety of chemicals” into recreational waters through bodily fluids, and the separate news of an overnight water color change in the 2016 Rio Olympic pools highlight the need to monitor water quality, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

Although urine itself is sterile, its presence in swimming pools is a public health concern because urine can mix with pool chemicals to harm swimmers’ health, according to the study.

Researchers measured for the substance acesulfame-K (ACE), an artificial sweetener that passes through the body completely and is “an ideal urinary marker,” according to the study.

It found concentrations of ACE in the pools and tubs, which were not named, that were up to 570-fold greater than in normal tap water. Researchers then used the ACE concentration of the two pools over three weeks to estimate their levels of urine, according to the study.

The Alberta Health provincial department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Education Health

Researchers answer the key swimmer's question: How much urine is in a swimming pool?

Canadian researchers studying urine levels in swimming pools have discovered just how high the levels are, and the results are not pretty.
Researchers at the University of Alberta developed a test to measure the amount of urine and took more than 250 samples from 31 pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities.
The results showed one 830,000-liter (220,000-gallon) pool, which is about one-third of an Olympic-sized pool, had 75 liters of urine while another smaller pool had 30 liters.
Humans introduce “a variety of chemicals” into recreational waters through bodily fluids, and the separate news of an overnight water color change in the 2016 Rio Olympic pools highlight the need to monitor water quality, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
Although urine itself is sterile, its presence in swimming pools is a public health concern because urine can mix with pool chemicals to harm swimmers’ health, according to the study.
Researchers measured for the substance acesulfame-K (ACE), an artificial sweetener that passes through the body completely and is “an ideal urinary marker,” according to the study.
It found concentrations of ACE in the pools and tubs, which were not named, that were up to 570-fold greater than in normal tap water. Researchers then used the ACE concentration of the two pools over three weeks to estimate their levels of urine, according to the study.
The Alberta Health provincial department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Education Work

How Google forms can help with parental engagement

My district (heck I think the whole state) requires that teachers keep a record of each and every time I contact a parent or a parent contacts me. In the past I did this in a notebook but there would be a time when I didn’t have the notebook on me or when I forgot it at home and sometimes – the notebook sprouted some legs and went to hide somewhere in my desk

Now being a Google school I have devised a much better way to keep track of this. My first thought was I just make a spreadsheet and enter everything into the spreadsheet. The problem with that is that sometimes, I need to write a lot and the cell height or width may make it a pain to see what I’m typing. Then it dawned on me – why not make a Google Form and just enter the info there! I can even make a link at the bottom to submit a new form if I have multiple entries to add at one time.

See also: An administrator’s guide to Google Forms

The form

OK, here is what my form looks like in all its illustrious glory.

Yep! There it is in all its glory. As you can see I have fields for this information

  • Student’s last name (required)
  • Student’s first name (required)
  • Contact type (required)
  • Parent’s name (required)
  • Phone number (optional)
  • Reason for call (required)
  • Result of the call (required)

I should have put Reason for contact but I’ll fix that up for next year.

Now, here is the great part. Every time I fill out this form, Google automatically throws that data into a spreadsheet for me. It even adds in a timestamp (down to the second). So if I want to know how many times I called Johnny’s parents, I can easily go and find that info. Great. Check out the image below to see what it looks like. I have blurred out important information.

spreadsheet_234323423

It might look a little crazy at first. Remember it is a record and a spreadsheet. I can sort by any column and I can of course search by hitting ctrl + F or command + F and typing in a student’s name.

See also: 5 new Google Forms features worth trying out

It has also been a handy bit of evidence when I need to get and administrator involved. They usually want to know if I have made a contact with someone at home. This here is my proof and tends to help build a case for more support from the counselor and administration.

Overall this works for me, I can access it from any computer/device with Interwebs and sharing it with colleagues is pretty easy as well. I like it! What do you use to keep track of your record of contacting a child’s home?

More from Tony here.

Also you should check out his ITBabble podcast.

See also: 5 Ways School Administrators Can Use Google Apps

 

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Education Work

Changing mindsets over learning coding

‘It’s boring’, he groaned, glancing sideways beseechingly. ’Do I have to do it. Why do I need to learn to code?’  Part of the year 6 gifted and talented class, this student punched keys, slammed the laptop shut, yanked it open again. His friend offered to help. Desolately he turned back to the coding lessons.

I continue cruising the classroom stepping over lanky legs harbouring slumped socks, dodging flailing arms. ‘It’s really easy – it’s like the games we play. I’m trying to trip it up,’ one boy tells me as I watch the psychedelic coloured spinning shape. It reminds me of a rapidly created multi-coloured elastic band ball. He’s chuckling with glee. I am amazed.

This was my first coding class as a supply teacher. Was I naive to expect the students to enjoy this lesson? It involved laptops – the one tool students struggle to resist. It involved games – the one topic guaranteed to engage all the class. Why are students here no longer motivated to master each level? Or survive a challenge? All of them had been part of the continual clatter to set up a class Minecraft server couched as an educational activity, pitched as a collaborative learning experience.  Minecraft is the end product – my son’s observation jolts. Coding is the syntax you use to express the creative logic needed to create that end product.

See also: How to integrate coding into the classroom

It is clear on one level this lesson is no different to any other lesson. I could work out where and how each student was learning on Bloom’s Taxonomy. My gleeful student was creating. But his peer was still trying to remember what he had to do.  What can I do to scaffold him? I cannot code. Not yet.

Technology is a tool we increasingly use. It can be applied to any field. There seems little doubt that these students should be exposed to even the basics of how technology is programmed. At a rudimentary level, such experience may help them understand their increasingly online lives.

Right now, some of this class are raiding the lesson sequence, most are working through methodically, a few have stalled after the initial levels or activities. At a raw level I want more of the glee than the dejection. I doubt it is as simple as changing the program – that would be like changing the textbook and blindly believing your students will subsequently not only understand but be able to apply that formula! Just because the lesson involves beloved tool laptop, we cannot assume the students will persevere and experience authentic learning.

‘I’m not doing it. My dad said I don’t need to learn. I can employ someone who can.’ I stare at him. Thunderstruck. This student was a cheerful, contributing class member who regularly exhibited a positive growth mindset across his subjects. Is this evidence of the ability to recognise when and what to delegate? Sure. That’s a life skill. But his outburst is inconsistent with his seemingly normal class attitude. Furthermore, what has happened to his problem solving strategies? The logical reasoning I have observed during his maths lessons, and his writing?

This school is in transition. There are lunchtime and after school clubs for the passionate and curious students. And those parked by working parents adamant their children need to learn how to code. But coding lessons are increasingly included at the class level too. Hence transition. Hence this lesson.

There are many coding programs schools access – Tynker, Scratch, Grok Learning, E.A.K to name a few. My limited experience thus far with these programs is that the students have to solve problems, develop reasoning skills. Such skill development coupled with cooperating with peers is part of most students’ journey through school. Exploring how to create the logic, then coding it combines lateral and algorithmic thinking. What beautiful synergy.  

I am a supply teacher. One of the fun parts is I move around a few schools.  I can plan a lesson for one class then reflect on what I have learnt to improve and change the lesson plan with a fair chance I can run the lesson again in another class or school within a few weeks. I don’t have to wait the 12 months of a classroom teacher. I merely grab an opportunity when the classroom teacher hasn’t had a chance to set a lesson, or says those rare words – do what you like!

.So what did I do with the coding? Today’s school doesn’t have a laptop per student in the classroom. We sing along with that old favourite Hokey Pokey. Why? Familiar to this year 4 class, and the song is a series of instructions. Perfect for small groups to write an algorithm. We decide our mindset is to create an algorithm for recently arrived dinosaur aliens. Yes it was challenging. Each group has to cooperate. How would they instruct each step? How best could I challenge their assumptions?

‘We can say repeat!’, one girl’s face lit up. ‘Oh – we’ve said turn 360 degrees for the turn around,’ another student chimed in. ‘But how do we say put your left hand in? The aliens may not have hands,’ He was frustrated.

‘We’re ready,’ two groups volunteer. Each group passes their carefully worded algorithms to the next group. Silence. Then a low hum fills the classroom as each group works through the instructions. Now the real test commences. Could they follow the algorithm? Could they resist drawing on prior knowledge; algorithms learnt as they mastered walking for movement?

I have this class again. We spend some of the morning working on changing our mindsets: exploring how they perceive their learning, then challenging and changing the words to be more friendly. To accept and work with ‘not yet’. The class construct a wall display. After lunch in small groups they create an algorithm to instruct a robot to move.

This time, the algorithms are more complex. More detailed. Far more creative. Most of these students are experiencing deeper learning on how to write an algorithm. They have visualised the problem, and are exploring spatial reasoning. They are breaking the instructions into segments, and creating patterns.

Again there is frustration, even fury at the challenge.  They swap algorithms. And we all watch each group be the robot. ‘That’s not what I meant; oh yes! ….I could follow your instructions; Yours were confusing. This is better than doing the Hokey Pokey… ’

But I’m still pondering about the other class. How can I scaffold particular students to get to the deeper learning of, and for, technology via coding programs?  Students take more control when they engage in higher order thinking and apply what they have learnt during coding. Less of the passive, more of the active interactive engagement with their use on end products.

See also: The difference between fixed and growth mindsets

What can I learn from this year 4 class? I hand out post-it notes, and ask them to write down how they felt now. Now they have tested their algorithm. ‘I felt very annoyed. Very annoyed; I felt like it was quite hard to program a robot but when you get the hang of it it gets easier; I felt like I was learning more and more each time I was reading the instruction to make me move.’

There are no short cuts. Was that what my year 6 student struggled with? School lessons build on prior knowledge. All the coding programs start at an introductory level.

You work through at your rate. But if you run from challenges, or tell yourself you cannot do something because it is too difficult then you don’t dream about where you can fly.      

I walk up to the mindset wall after school. These students were brutally honest with themselves and most had had the courage to share with their classmates.

‘I  can’t do this’ became ‘I can’t do this but maybe I can try another way’; ‘Sometimes I try’ became ‘If you all try it will get easier over time.’

I’m going to try changing mindsets on my next classes.

 

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Education Health

The Five Effects Of Music You Didn’t Know About

Many of us will have regularly experienced the effects of music – from comforting us when we are sad, to getting us through a workout and even making us sing along and dance around the house. While these effects are so familiar that they seem obvious, music affects the mind and body in many other ways – piano learning platform Skoove, looked into the scientifically proven effects of music below.

Power Through
The vast majority of us listen to music as we exercise – whether it’s doing cardio or lifting weights at the gym, as music helps us power through. Numerous research has been conducted into this, from as early as 1911, when it was found that cyclists cycled faster when listening to music. The reason for this energising effect is simple – music ‘drowns’ the fatigue signal, distracting our brain from feelings of tiredness. However, it was found that this is mostly true for low to moderate exercise, with high intensity still being as exhausting, even if you are listening to music.

Unleash Creativity
Just as music helps us when we exercise, it can also have a beneficial effect as we try and come up with creative ideas and solutions. However, don’t turn it up too high – research by Oxford University found that moderate background noise is the best for boosting creativity. The reason for why music can boost our creativity is because as we struggle to concentrate on the music and on our thinking, our brains start to think in abstract ways, unleashing creative thinking in the process.

Immunity Booster
Researchers at Sussex University in the UK and the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that listening to even 50 minutes of uplifting music could give your immunity a boost. Firstly, uplifting music increased the levels of antibodies, which help to fight disease. Secondly, music reduced the levels of cortisol – a stress hormone that compromises the immunity. The same research also found that playing a percussion instrument along with the music also gave the immunity a boost.

Memory and IQ
As we listen to music, numerous parts of our brain become engaged, such as auditory, limbic and motor, which has a positive effect on our cognitive skills. Listening to music has been linked to improving literacy, mathematical skills and even emotional intelligence. The effects are even more pronounced in musicians, or those learning to play a musical instrument – Harvard Medical School research found that musicians had more nerve connectors between the left and right sides of the brain, thus engaging and stimulating all areas of the brain. Additionally, the ‘Mozart effect’ found that listening to baroque music, improved our learning and ability to retain new information.

Happiness
We have all, at one time or another, experienced a change in mood as we listen to music. Researchers at the University of Missouri confirmed the idea that music improves our mood, however, it does depend on the type of music that you listen to. Upbeat music could work to improve the mood and boost happiness levels, while melancholy music could mimic the feelings of grief. While slow-rhythmed music could make us feel like we are grieving, it also inspired relief, as most people will compare the music to an empathetic friend, who understands and sympathises with their emotions of sadness.

See also: Seven reasons why you should learn a musical instrument

Skoove is an entertaining and individualised way to learn the piano from your computer. Traditionally, learning the piano can seem daunting for novices: learning sheet music, as well as buying and housing a piano. Skoove works across leading web browsers and offers a set of intuitive and responsive courses in contemporary and classical music. Simply sign up, connect your keyboard to your laptop and get playing, while Skoove guides you through from beginner to Bach and the Beatles.

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