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Separate cooperative and basic skills education

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Cooperative learning first gained traction as an instructional method in the 1970s and was widely implemented in K-12 classrooms by the 1990s. It is based on the premise that collaborative participation creates an enhanced learning experience. Proponents of this teaching strategy site improved student communication, heightened oral skill development, more advanced learning, and enhanced student responsibility.

Cooperative learning, however, is not without challenges. One of the biggest obstacles to effective cooperative learning is a negative group dynamic. Conflicts between individuals can reduce a group’s ability to work together and problems are magnified when members are too immature to adequately resolve conflicts. To make matters more challenging, personality mismatches can stall learning even when no overt conflicts are present. In addition, assertive students often move into leadership roles even when they are not best suited to direct a project.

Beyond personality issues, cooperative learning can also result in uneven workloads. When this type of learning is working efficiently, students support and inspire one another. Everyone has a similar workload and everyone learns. In many instances, however, more advanced students take over projects rather than spending extra time to help struggling students. In addition, unmotivated students often rely on more conscientious team members to complete required work. The result is not only an uneven workload but also uneven learning that leaves struggling students behind, permits lazy students to slide by, and allows more advanced students to stagnate.

Also, student evaluations for group assignments are challenging. It is often impossible to evaluate group members individually. This can result in all group members receiving the same grade regardless of how much they participated and contributed. In addition to artificially high or low marks, it is difficult to determine gaps in student understanding. This proficiency issue is particularly problematic in subjects like math, science, grammar, and writing where learning is cumulative.

It is not that the skills associated with cooperative learning are not important, but that the academic classroom may not be the best place to teach these skills. Instead of compromising basic learning in science, language arts, math, history, and foreign language we should consider using electives for collaborative activities. In addition, we should give students credit for sports, theater, makerspace (cooperative technical and art gatherings), and other group activities that occur after school hours. This approach would provide kids with an opportunity to build both basic educational and soft skills that are critical for success later in life.

Sleep Well, Learn Well

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

While there may be some debate about the “wealthy” claim, recent research suggests Franklin was correct about the “healthy and wise” assertions.

Lack of sleep can lead to problems like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. In addition, researchers now believe that the quantity and quality of sleep impacts memory and learning. It is well known that a sleep-deprived person cannot focus well and therefore cannot absorb and process information efficiently. The new finding is that information must be consolidated into a memory during sleep.

Scientists break learning and memory into three basic components: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition is the introduction of new information into the brain. Consolidation is the process of making a memory stable and recall is the ability to access the information later. Acquisition and recall occur during waking hours and memory consolidation takes place during periods of sleep.

Although we do not know for sure how sleep makes consolidation possible, researchers believe that the brainwaves of different types that occur during sleep are what form lasting memories.

Since consolidation is imperative for memory, one of the most important things a parent can do for his/her child is make sure he/she gets adequate sleep.

Here are a few things that can be done to increase the odds your child is getting adequate sleep:

  •    Reduce screen time – Some research suggests that the light emitted from electronic devices increases     alertness  and keeps children from sleeping well. Establish a device free period before bed.
  •    Offer the right food – Whole foods that combine protein and complex carbohydrates are the best before bed snacks.
  •    Encourage exercise – At least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week improves sleep.
  •    Control the environment – Consistent temperature and a clean environment support high quality sleep.
  •    Unplug electronic devices – Electrical fields given off by appliances (TVs, cellphones, etc.) can interfere with melatonin secretion. Even if devices are off they emit electrical fields, so it is best to unplug them.
  •    Eliminate light – Light can affect immune system function and sleep, so it is best to reduce light in the bedroom.
  •    Establish a routine – Establish a pre-bed routine so your child is in bed on time.

Perhaps a few extra hours of sleep each night is a better way to ensure amazing childhood memories than a camera.

 

Get rid of the education bureaucracy and kids’ hearts will sing

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing. – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

Steve Jobs made highly technical machines user-friendly and beautiful by blending mathematics, science, and art. More importantly, he started a wave of innovation that made products that were once only accessible to scientists and engineers readily available to the general public.

During this period of innovation, the education sector was stuck in a time warp. Most primary and secondary students today are educated in about the same way that they were in the 1980s.

Counselors continue to place students into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), humanities, and trade tracks rather than encourage a broad education. Teaching credentials are still more important than an amazing understanding of the subject and schools are still accredited by personnel from other schools rather than by the market. Also, the majority of U.S. students attend schools run by the government.

Regulations and peer review accreditations may have been necessary in the middle of the 20th Century. However, the same regulations and accrediting bodies that protected our kids then are forcing schools to operate in ways that are inconsistent with 21st Century realities. In short, this means kids are wasting years of their lives on things that no longer matter.

For education to keep pace with the times, there must be a complete paradigm shift. Instead of regulating and delaying change, we need to encourage the education sector to innovate.

To make sure new ideas make it into the education system we need to encourage more private schooling options. Then we need to urge these schools to try radical concepts and provide concrete information on what students are learning. Finally, we need to make sure all students have access to these innovative schools.

The easiest way to make all this happen is to issue education vouchers that can be used at any school and require schools to publish third party test results each year.

With this type of competition, all schools should become better. When the schools become better, our kids will be better prepared. When our kids are better prepared, the country will be more vibrant. When the country is more vibrant, the economy will be better. When the economy is stronger, everyone will be better off.

It is time to get rid of the bureaucracy and allow our schools to innovate so our kids’ hearts can sing.

 

Online schooling wave of the future or failed experiment?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

“You have probably heard the claim, “If you choose to educate your child online, he/she will be a social misfit.” To analyze this assertion, it is important to understand online education.

There are two basic types of online education: real-time and self-paced. In real-time online courses, students attend class on a computer. Classes are held at specified times and students participate in discussions during class periods. Each real-time online class is slightly different, because students participate in the instruction.

Self-paced courses are prepared in advance. Students progress through the material at their own pace. There is no real-time class interaction. Proficiency is sometimes tested with quizzes or tests that are integrated into the learning material. In this case, students must pass a quiz/test before they move on to future lessons. In other cases, students are required to go to proctored test centers to take exams.

In general, self-paced courses work well for material that requires little discussion. Real-time classes are more effective when most of the student learning occurs during classroom dialog.

Online education is appealing, because there is less wasted time. There is no need to drive to a physical location, worry about disruptions that occur in physical classrooms, or waste time dressing for school. In addition, students and parents have the ability to work school around other things in their lives.

Self-paced instruction is more cost effective than traditional classroom teaching, because lectures are prepared in advance and are used many times. In addition, this type of course delivery can be of higher quality than traditional classroom instruction, because the best teachers can present the content and there are no interruptions.

Some students find self-paced online instruction challenging, because they can procrastinate to the point that it is nearly impossible to learn the material. As a result, there is a reasonable argument that self-paced instruction is only appropriate for highly motivated and disciplined university and high school students.

Also, it is possible for students to succeed in an online environment without learning how to interact with others. As a result, it is imperative that online students have other avenues for developing social, leadership, and team skills.

Online education is not for everyone, but is an attractive alternative for motivated, self-disciplined students who have a strong social network and opportunities to build leadership skills and learn how to work on a team outside of school.

 

Time management critical for success

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

“Learning to read, write, solve mathematics problems, apply scientific principles to real world situations, and speak a foreign language are not the only skills children need to acquire before they leave home.” ~Confucius

Many experts argue that time management abilities are equally important. Academically gifted people cannot survive in modern society if they are not able to deliver a high quality product, on time.

Most K-12 schools are struggling to teach time management skills, because parents are constantly pressuring them about grades. Many teachers are under so much pressure to issue high marks that they create extra opportunities for students to improve their final course grade.

Although “second chances” give the parents what they want, they have the unintended consequence of teaching kids that planning is irrelevant because there are always other opportunities to change the result.

When young people get to college and/or enter the workforce “second chances” are rare. Most college professors do not offer extra papers or problem sets at the end of the semester and employers take a dim view of late arrivals, shoddy work, and missed deadlines.

Since it has become impossible for most K-12 teachers to teach time management, parents must handle the task at home.

As a first step, kids need to learn how to plan ahead. There are many free computer-based scheduling applications that help in this area. Kids generally find it easy to enter homework day by day, but often need coaching on how to break future activities, like preparing for a test that is two weeks away, into daily tasks.

Then children need to learn how to make productive use of time. For example, it takes “forever” to finish math homework when kids chat online between problems. Learning to stay off social media during homework time can go a long way to improving efficiency.

Sleep is also important for time management. It takes less time to learn material and complete homework tasks when the brain is rested, so it is important to make sure your kids get enough sleep each night.

Multi-taking is not efficient. Teach your childred to finish one task before they begins another one.

Procrastination never pays. If something is due today, make sure it is finished. Otherwise, the next day will be overwhelming.

Prioritize homework first. This prevents late nights and productivity problems.

Learning to manage time is challenging. Start teaching your child early and reward progress often!