How Blockchain Can Encourage Learning

A version of this article first appeared at the Medium site of the Stanford GSE Office of Innovation and Technology.

Blockchain has gotten plenty of attention lately as a new mode of exchange, allowing experimental cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the sale of NFTs in ways that leave an unalterable, fully transparent public record that tracks the transfer and ownership of digital things.

And the technology may help address an age-old challenge in any classroom: motivation.

A group of blockchain projects called “learn-to-earn” (also sometimes called “earn-to-learn”) aims to incentivize learners to engage with educational content and, just as importantly, stick with it. Several startups are experimenting with encouraging users to watch tutorials or take quizzes in exchange for earning cryptocurrency. CoinMarketCap’s “learn crypto, earn crypto” program, for instance, has refined its program one step further, so that once a learner demonstrates they’ve mastered some material, rewards are directly deposited into the learner’s digital wallet.

Other emerging programs in the K12 space focus on the unique needs of hard-to-reach students. Consider Learning Coin, a project led by the World Bank that incentivizes students in rural communities to stay in school and improve academic performance. The program evaluates completion and consistency of student work, then releases digital funds accordingly.

While conventional cash transfer programs can be vulnerable to corruption and fail to scale due to inefficiencies, blockchain supports the World Bank’s program by ensuring transactions are recorded publicly on a transparent digital ledger. As a governance tool, these automated transfers also reduce administrative overhead and record-keeping, which can be challenging for education programs in remote locales.

Another platform, Mygrants, allows learners to access skills training and build new competencies while developing credit through digital cash transfers performed at a low cost by blockchain technologies. The training content is broken up into short, personalized learning “pills” based on personal goals. As students answer questions, they collect points and receive formative feedback to develop critical-thinking skills. Learners benchmark their progress against peers with similar goals, and they receive badges, points, and a digital payout at the end of the month if they reach their goals.

In SuperSkills!, an app developed by the LEGO Foundation and Learning Economy Foundation, users can redeem a gift after completing a learning quest

In the area of lifelong learning, the Learning Economy Foundation (LEF) aims to create a decentralized, blockchain-based network where skills and credentials are stored within a digital identity that follows the learner. Recently, LEF partnered with LEGO Foundation to create a gamified learning experience, called SuperSkills!, where elementary school students can select adventures and collect gifts as a result of learning core skills. Under the hood, the app uses the W3C’s Universal Wallet, a framework developed by MIT and LEF to store credentials within a blockchain-based identity. This identity is not locked down to one app or company, allowing learners to own their data and use it as they wish across their academic and professional lifetimes.

Ramping Up Is Hard to Do

As with any emerging technology, equity must be at the core. Early research indicates that blockchain adoption skews towards students with technical backgrounds and entrepreneurial mindsets.

However, there is encouraging data around access and utility for under-priveleged communities. “Play-to-earn” projects with well-designed user interfaces such as Axie Infinity have seen significant adoption among low-income groups, and currently supplement household incomes in the Philippines. Burgeoning projects with national governments may broaden opportunities for student credentials in Ethiopia, skill validation in the country of Georgia, and more distributed and inclusive communities via decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).

At the same time, these new learning pathways will likely face technical drawbacks. Accessibility with older systems and devices, like those commonly used in developing economies, will be problematic (although browser-based applications may offer a short-term solution). While blockchain’s interconnected and open nature is key to data ownership and exchange, individuals must be vigilant with data security to prevent hacking incidents.

Finally, as learn-to-earn projects and digital wallets mature, learner-centered design will become more crucial. As any teacher or parent knows, extrinsic rewards can only go so far; balancing extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation is crucial throughout a learning trajectory.

And while extrinsic motivation may get students in the door, teaching strategies like sense-making and project-based curricula have been shown to keep students authentically engaged in a task. A new community of technologists and educators will need to rise to the challenge to design a layered and adaptive system of rewards and strategies — a concept referred to by blockchain enthusiasts as “tokenomics.” To find success with learners, blockchain projects that reach into the classroom will be looking more to educators to co-architect incentives and journeys that meet the student where they are at personally, academically, and financially.

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Ed tech startup Class to acquire virtual classroom tool from Blackboard

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Dive Brief: 

  • Class Technologies, a startup that incorporates teaching and learning tools into Zoom, announced Thursday that it entered an agreement to acquire Blackboard Collaborate, a virtual classroom platform. 
  • The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in late June. However, one investor close to the transaction told TechCrunch that Blackboard Collaborate is being bought for $210 million. Upon closing, Blackboard Collaborate will be renamed Class Collaborate, and Class will bring over about 60 new employees. 
  • Class and Blackboard Collaborate will together serve more than 1,750 colleges, K-12 schools, and corporate learning and development teams. Anthology, which currently owns Blackboard Collaborate, says the transaction will allow the company to focus more resources on improving its flagship learning management system, Blackboard Learn Ultra. 

Dive Insight:

Class Technologies was created in 2020 with the mission to fill the urgent need for virtual learning tools during the pandemic. Rather than develop a platform from scratch, however, the company created software that adds teaching and learning tools to the existing Zoom platform. 

The startup has been popular with investors, raising $105 million in its latest public funding round in July 2021. 

Blackboard Collaborate, on the other hand, is a decade-plus-old virtual classroom tool. It is often sold as an add-on when institutions select Blackboard as their learning management system provider. 

Michael Chasen, the CEO and co-founder of Class, also helped launch Blackboard in 1997. He first approached Blackboard about the deal and sees the acquisition as a full-circle moment that will help Class aid virtual learning worldwide. 

Michael Chasen


The health crisis has permanently changed higher education, Chasen said. “Synchronous learning and online learning has become an even bigger component,” he said. 

Class will benefit from Blackboard Collaborate’s integration into the Blackboard learning management system, as well as its global customer base. Once employees transfer from Blackboard to Class, the startup will have more than 300 workers. 

The two companies will have close ties after the deal closes. Class will become Blackboard’s preferred virtual meeting partner. The company has similar partnerships with D2L and Open LMS, Chasen said.

The move comes after Anthology, a higher ed software and services company, acquired Blackboard in 2021. At the time, company leaders cast the deal as a way to offer a broader spectrum of services than its competitors. 

Jim Milton, Anthology’s chair and CEO, said in an emailed statement that selling Blackboard Collaborate will help connect data flowing through the companies’ software in order to aid institutions in improving their teaching and learning environments.

Both the virtual classroom and the learning management system are critical to support online and hybrid learning, and we are offering the best of both through this partnership,” Milton said. 

The deal to acquire Blackboard Collaborate is financed through equity and debt that Class raised from several investors, including SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Insight Partners, Salesforce Ventures, Arizona State University and Educational Testing Services. It is subject to regulatory approval.

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High-Achieving Black Students from Colorado Receive More than $2 Million in Sachs Foundation Scholarships Over the Past Year

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 19, 2022 — The Sachs Foundation, an organization that has provided college scholarships to Black Coloradans since 1931, announced today that it has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to talented Black students in the Centennial State over the past year. Sachs Foundation scholars are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees from universities and colleges in Colorado as well as top institutions from coast to coast, including Yale, Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Cornell and prestigious historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Howard University.

The foundation awarded 52 scholarships over the past year to exceptional Black students from all around Colorado, including Aurora, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Commerce City, Denver, Fountain, Gypsum, Lafayette, Lakewood, Lamar and Woodland Park. The students who received Sachs Foundation support this year are not only accomplished in academics but have already made a positive impact in their communities through their achievements in the arts, athletics and volunteer activities. More than half of the students are the first generation in their family to attend college.

To celebrate the students’ excellence this year, the foundation sponsored a brunch for the 2022 Sachs Foundation Scholarship Program students and guests at the Penrose House in Colorado Springs. The guest speaker was Clint Smith, a journalist, educator, New York Times best-selling author, popular YouTube host, award-winning poet and staff writer at The Atlantic.   

Pikes Peak resident Henry Sachs created the foundation during the Great Depression, awarding the first Sachs Foundation scholarship to Dolphus Stroud, whose family’s friendship with Sachs gave him vivid insight into the toll discrimination takes on Black Coloradans’ educational and economic prospects. Since that time, the Sachs Foundation has provided financial and/or mentoring support to more than 3,000 talented Black students from Colorado. Over the years, Sachs Foundation scholarship recipients have achieved personal success and enriched their communities through distinguished careers in many professions, including the arts, medicine, science, engineering and public service.

“Society has changed since Henry Sachs’ time, but as statistics confirm year after year, Black Coloradans still face significant obstacles to academic and professional achievement, so our mission remains as relevant as ever,” said Ben Ralston, President, Sachs Foundation. “This year’s scholarship recipients are incredibly brilliant in the academic sense but also committed to their communities and eager to help others. We’re honored to provide them with the support they need to pursue their dreams.”

Last year, the Sachs Foundation celebrated 90 years of providing opportunities to Black students. The foundation makes applications available annually between January 1 and March 15 to Black residents of Colorado. Eligible students and their families are encouraged to apply. Scholarships are based on academic merit, financial need and character. Learn more at

About the Sachs Foundation

Founded by Pikes Peak resident Henry Sachs in 1931, the Sachs Foundation provides scholarship programs designed to help Black Coloradans overcome discrimination and reach their full academic potential. Over the decades, the Foundation has helped thousands of talented Black students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees at universities throughout the United States, dispersing millions in funding through its unique education equity approach. Learn more about the Sachs Foundation, student success stories and how to apply for scholarship grants at

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Use COVID-19 relief money to address mental health, Ed Dept urges colleges

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Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday urged colleges to use federal coronavirus relief money to help remedy student and employee mental health challenges, which it said have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  
  • The department published guidance outlining potential ways to use federal aid to address these issues, such as starting up crisis hotlines or suicide prevention programs. 
  • Institutions can also invest the funding into support for basic needs, such as food and housing. A lack of basic needs heavily contributes to poor mental health, the agency said. 

Dive Insight:

Congress earmarked about $76 billion in coronavirus relief for colleges across three spending packages. The most recent piece of legislation was President Joe Biden’s hallmark American Rescue Plan passed in March 2021, which set aside about $40 billion for colleges.

While colleges could use some of this funding to defray institutional costs related to the pandemic, they needed to apply a portion to directly help students.

The Education Department has touted wide-ranging potential uses for the money. In January, it also said it would send an extra $198 million in American Rescue Plan funding to community colleges and institutions in rural areas with high numbers of low-income students. 

How colleges spent the money has been the subject of keen interest — the federal government requires them to report this information quarterly and annually. 

Thursday’s announcement highlights opportunities for spending the funding that colleges may not have considered. 

It drew attention to mental health-related programs colleges have stood up with the federal aid. 

University of California, Riverside, added “24/7 crisis support” for staff who remained on campus during the pandemic. 

Sinclair Community College, in Ohio, hired a new social worker who worked with more than 380 students in fall 2021. 

And University of Texas at San Antonio expanded telehealth significantly, ensuring all-day online counseling for in-need students.  

“If there is one thing I’ve heard while speaking with college students throughout the nation, it’s been the need for greater mental health supports on campus,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “We must make sure our colleges and universities have the tools and resources to help students, faculty, and staff heal from the grief, trauma, and anxiety they endured amid the pandemic.”

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7 facts about the state of edtech in schools

School networks are getting faster and more modern, but school IT leaders and IT departments struggle to keep up with the demand for remote access and support, according to an annual CoSN survey.

The State of EdTech District Leadership 2022 survey provides a high-level sense of what school district leaders think of the state of technology in education. The 2022 K-12 IT Leadership Survey is CoSN’s ninth annual survey and was made possible by the Ed-Fi Alliance and CDW-G, conducted in partnership with MCH DataK12 Insight and AASA.

“There are no lack of challenges facing our nation’s schools today, but the annual CoSN IT survey also shines a light on several areas where we can be encouraged; increased connectivity, more devices, increased awareness of security and the outsized impact that IT leaders are having on their school districts’ planning processes,” said Troy Wheeler, president of the Ed-Fi Alliance.

“We’ve made strides in all these areas, and especially in the increase in awareness and action around data interoperability. When there is a district-wide data strategy, instructional leaders and IT leaders alike can accurately see trends over time and can better support educators and students with their own data. We’ll continue to support these efforts with our partners at CoSN.”

Key findings from the report include:

1. Though cybersecurity is the number one priority for IT leaders, risks are underestimated. For example, only 8% consider their district to be at high risk for a ransomware attack. Yet we know districts are a prime target for cyber criminals, according to CISA.

2. With 84% of districts implementing 1:1 strategies with school-owned devices, BYOD initiatives have largely been abandoned. And 1:1 strategies are happening at all grade levels, including at the elementary level.

3. Providing support for home access strains the resources of school district IT departments. More than half of districts are understaffed in their ability to provide remote support to students and families.

4. School networks are modernizing – only 19% report the relatively slow speeds of 100Mbps or less. Eight in ten report taking steps to advance data interoperability in their district, however, most are still in the early phases. SSO (Single Sign-On) is the most implemented interoperability initiative with 80% of districts having fully or partially implemented it.

5. There is a considerable salary gap between those working in towns/rural districts and those working suburban/urban districts for current IT district leadership.

6. Over the next 5 years 31% of current IT leaders plan to retire, including 12% who said they are retiring earlier because of the pandemic. This will be a major challenge for school systems everywhere.

7. IT leaders are still overwhelmingly white (85%) and predominately male (64%).

Laura Ascione
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How graduate programs can cater to Gen Z students

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Dive Brief:

  • Generation Z students approach graduate programs differently than their generational predecessors, and colleges need to specialize their recruitment tactics to engage them, according to a new survey from LaneTerralever, a marketing firm specializing in higher education.
  • Members of Gen Z, who are 25 and younger, indicate they chose a college quickly, with 47% saying the process took 3 months or less. That’s compared to 35% of those surveyed across generational lines.
  • Some 41% of Gen Z said they are primarily motivated to return to college for career advancement. Only 22% said their top priority was raising their earning potential, the lowest of all generations surveyed.

Dive Insight:

While undergraduate enrollment declined 6.6% from fall 2019 to fall 2021, graduate program enrollment rose 3.2% over the same period, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data. Programs like medicine, law and business saw an uptick in popularity, according to the LaneTerralever survey.

The survey found 49% of people across generations had an increased interest in pursuing grad school as a result of the pandemic. But Gen Z’s priorities differ, both in what and how they want to study.

Of 920 survey respondents who considered enrolling in a post-graduate program in the past 18 months, 80% preferred either an all-online courseload or a mixed model of instruction. 

Gen Z responses tell a different story. 

About 45% of Gen Z still want in-person instruction full time, compared to 11% of millennials, those aged 26 to 40, and 12% of Gen X, those aged 41 to 55. Gen Z is likely motivated to be in the classroom after spending their most recent education experiences remotely, according to Lauren Hillery, vice president of brand strategy at LaneTerralever.

“Gen Z has a bit of a sour taste in their mouth from that unexpected loss,” Hillery said. “They might want some of those more traditional experiences that they missed out on, either in undergrad or in high school.”

Programs in medicine and health, business, and the social and behavioral sciences were the most popular among Gen Z respondents, in that order. Business ranked the top choice for both millennial and Gen X respondents. Medical and health programs didn’t make Gen X’s top three.

Gen Z’s increased interest in the health sciences shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Nick Dan-Bergman, director of marketing at LaneTerralever.

“They just went through a global pandemic during a big transitional point in their lives,” Dan-Bergman said. “It makes sense that it impacted them in a way that could shape their career path.”

Only about one-third of American employees report feeling engaged at work, according to Gallup research. This lack of employee buy-in leaves room for professional change, according to Dan-Bergman.

Prospective students overall expected promptness from their potential educators. More than 60% expect an academic institution to respond to an inquiry the same day. Only 64% of students say colleges’ communications have met their expectations.

Creating more ways for Gen Z members to compare programs and costs themselves will help hold their attention, according to Hillery.

“They want to come to the table informed, with information they found,” Hillery said. “They want to meet an enrollment adviser armed with questions, rather than just passively receiving information and crossing their fingers.”

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Student well-being is critical–here’s how to support it

Student well-being has a direct impact on student motivation, engagement, and learning. In short, their social and emotional well-being has a long-term impact. It is absolutely critical that educators learn to support student well-being.

Skills such as self-awareness and self-management are also critical for effective collaboration and learning. And when school leaders support overall student and educator well-being, creates a foundation for equitable education environments.

During an eSchool News webinar featuring edtech educators and district mental health experts, attendees will learn how to:

  • Develop and enable a more inclusively designed classroom
  • Use actionable insights to prioritize student well-being
  • Provide each student the tools and support they need
Laura Ascione
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School networks are getting faster and more modern, but school IT departments struggle to keep up with the demand for remote access and support, according to an annual CoSN survey.

The past two years of pandemic-related stresses and uncertainty have left educators exhausted, even as school districts are returning to a sense of normalcy.

Recently, a co-worker of mine shared a story from when he was in high school. During one chemistry class his teacher happened to light a small fire within a dish and began stirring in different compounds.

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Student well-being has a direct impact on student motivation, engagement, and learning. In short, their social and emotional well-being has a long-term impact. It is absolutely critical that educators learn to support student well-being.

PISA, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics, and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. Its league table of results suggests which of the 90 participating countries have been able to improve their education system and student performance.

Access to diverse texts positively impacts children as readers and as people. Having access to diverse texts helps children expand their vocabularies, deepens their understanding of language, provides opportunities for problem-solving, provides critical affirming experiences to students’ lives, and presents opportunities for students to learn about people with different lived experiences.

We’re racing against a ticking clock to resolve the teacher shortage for our students’ futures as the number of unfilled positions at schools and districts hits record levels.

Despite students saying that STEM courses are their favorite subject areas and that they aspire to go to college, Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds continue to be excluded from crucial learning opportunities available through AP STEM courses.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide students with relevant tools and skills that set them up for success in life and their careers, including those not typically part of traditional academic programs.

Web filtering is undoubtedly an essential when it comes to school cybersecurity. However, when the service is not set up correctly or a number of blocked categories is way too high, it starts to annoy both staff, and kids.

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Unlike boomers, millennials didn’t find good jobs until their 30s. Here’s what it means for colleges and employers.

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Young adults are facing lengthier and more complicated pathways to quality jobs as postsecondary education has grown more valuable in the labor market — and those pathways aren’t equal for those of different races and genders.

That’s the top takeaway from two new reports released Thursday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Most of the oldest millennials didn’t settle into good jobs until their early 30s, the reports found. In contrast, older members of the baby boomer generation mostly found good jobs by their mid-20s.

As they aged, the share of millennials with good jobs started to outpace that of boomers when they were the same age, according to the reports. But the longer transition period can still mean consequences for the younger generation, like not being able to pay off student loans, buy a house or chase new dreams.

“Even though young adults, especially if they’re on the bachelor’s pathway, can catch up to where the previous generation was, that delay has real consequences for what they’re able to do with their lives,” said Kathryn Peltier Campbell, associate director of editorial policy at the Georgetown CEW and one of the authors of the reports.

The reports identified three major barriers for young people seeking quality jobs: rising postsecondary education costs, limited access to high quality work-based learning, and inadequate counseling and career-navigation services. They said these barriers are exacerbated by discrimination.

“Young people today have more equal access to opportunity compared to previous generations, but their chances of succeeding in the American economy are far from equitable,” said one of the reports, which focused on how racial and gender bias block access to good jobs.

The Georgetown CEW has long studied the way higher education affects students’ career outcomes. Within the last eight months, it has published reports comparing earnings for college attendees versus high school graduates, highlighting colleges that offer low-income students high returns on investment, and showing how substantially additional levels of education boost lifetime earnings.

In short, the center has found that more education generally means more earnings. But a student’s occupation, field of study, college choice and program matter.

Thursday’s reports stand out because they show that layers of interconnected factors like family background and degree choice affect life outcomes. Those elements interact to limit opportunity among the current generation of young workers in ways that are different from the experiences of previous generations, Campbell said.

“There’s a feedback loop,” Campbell said. “It’s this cascading impact that the system has on what opportunities the system has for young people based on their race, class and gender.”

The reports lay out concerns about the current dynamic.

“The education gap affecting the likelihood of having a good job is calcifying socioeconomic divides between college haves and have-nots, limiting upward mobility, and feeding into class resentments,” an executive summary of the reports said.

Today’s workers take more time to secure good jobs

The reports define a good job as allowing someone to be economically self-sufficient. Nationally, that means paying at least $35,000 for workers under 45 years old and at least $45,000 for those who are older.

That can vary based on geography because of different costs of living. The median good job in the country pays $57,000 for workers aged 25 to 35.

Today’s good jobs require employees with more education and work experience than did those of the past, the reports said. This means young adults need stronger resumes to launch their careers, and it takes more time for them to secure good jobs.

The reports compare two birth cohorts: baby boomers born from 1946 to 1950, and millennials born from 1981 to 1985. Nearly 50% of the boomers in the labor force had good jobs when they were 25 years old. Less than 45% of millennials could say the same.

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Are Aspiring Elementary Teachers Learning Enough Math?

Experts agree: Elementary teachers need to have a strong foundation in math. But teacher-preparation programs don’t always dedicate much time to elementary math coursework.

That’s starting to change, according to a National Council on Teacher Quality review of more than 1,100 teacher-prep programs that was released this week. Undergraduate programs that prepare aspiring elementary teachers now require an average of 19 percent more time for elementary math coursework than they did in 2014.

But the Washington-based think tank notes that there’s still a long way to go. NCTQ recommends that programs spend a minimum of 45 instructional hours on math pedagogy and 105 instructional hours on math content. But on average, undergraduate teacher-prep programs dedicate 49 hours to elementary math pedagogy and 85 hours to elementary math content.

About a fifth of undergraduate programs earned an ‘F’ grade in NCTQ’s review for providing less than 60 percent of the recommended mathematics coursework. And graduate programs fared even worse: 85 percent of those programs earned an ‘F’ and just 2 percent earned an ‘A’ or an ‘A+.’

“We need to recognize that teaching math at the elementary level is a complex enterprise,” said Heather Peske, NCTQ’s president. “We often fall into a trap thinking that everyone who has graduated from high school has the knowledge they need to teach elementary math. And that’s not true.”

Peske said elementary math teachers need to understand how mathematics standards relate to and build off each other. They need to have a deep conceptual understanding of the subject, and know how to teach it effectively to young learners.

Yet many elementary teachers indicate on surveys that they aren’t confident in their own math skills. Research shows that teachers unintentionally transmit their own attitudes about math to their students, and that when elementary teachers are anxious about math, their students learn less math across the school year.

“If we’re not comfortable with our own knowledge in teaching something, we might not spend as much time on it with students,” said Amanda Jansen, a professor of mathematics education at the University of Delaware who was not involved in the NCTQ report.

Across the country, large shares of students struggle in math. In 2019, just 41 percent of 4th graders demonstrated proficiency in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. And the pandemic and resulting school closures appear to have disrupted math learning even further, especially for Black and Hispanic students—creating a new sense of urgency to better prepare teachers, Peske said.

Undergraduate programs are spending more time on math

To conduct the review, NCTQ and external analysts read through course catalogs to determine the required coursework for each teacher-prep program in the sample and then evaluated syllabi and course descriptions. (All course descriptions and 20 percent of syllabi were independently evaluated by two analysts.)

NCTQ shared preliminary scores with all of the programs multiple times and gave them a chance to submit additional information for consideration—170 institutions took them up on the offer, Peske said.

NCTQ has recommended since 2014 that teacher-prep programs dedicate four courses to mathematics—three in elementary math content and one in math pedagogy. Since that initial report, programs have added an average of 1.5 credit hours of elementary math to their graduation requirements.

Peske attributes the change both to NCTQ’s attention on the issue and an “increased awareness on the part of teacher-prep programs, as well as the districts who receive these teachers on the importance of math content … as well as math pedagogy,” she said.

After all, experts say the specialized coursework is key for prospective teachers. “When a future math teacher takes a math class for teachers, they experience the pedagogy modeled for them that they may not have experienced as a student,” Jansen said. “These courses make a big difference in their identities as teachers and their math knowledge.”

At the University of Delaware, Jansen teaches elementary math classes for aspiring teachers that are designed to explicitly unpack math thinking. Students might be asked to share their thinking in class, compare their problem-solving strategy to a classmate’s and discuss the connections, or draw a diagram to show mathematical relationships.

Recently, one aspiring elementary teacher told her, “Before I took these classes, I was not as excited about teaching math, and now I can’t wait to give my students the experiences we’re having in these classes.”

But the NCTQ report warns that many programs may not be making optimal use of their instructional time. Undergraduate programs are dedicating an average of 49 instructional hours to algebraic thinking and numbers and operations; 24 hours to geometry and measurement; and 13 hours to data analysis and probability.

NCTQ urges undergraduate teacher-prep programs to spend more time on numbers and operations and algebraic thinking—at least 65 hours—since those topic areas help students understand the number system, relationships among numbers, and how operations relate to one another.

The picture at the graduate level is ‘bleak’

While the report did find progress at the undergraduate level, “the picture is much more bleak at the graduate level,” Peske said. The graduate programs in NCTQ’s review spent an average of 14 hours on math content and 38 hours on math pedagogy.

That’s because graduate programs are typically much shorter in length than undergraduate programs, Peske said. They only have one or two years to prepare teachers, and there are many other competing priorities for instructional time.

Peske recommends that graduate programs require candidates to take a content knowledge test during the admissions process, so they can validate that applicants have mathematical knowledge. Yet among the nearly 300 programs in the NCTQ study sample, only 16 programs employed the use of such a test.

While many teacher licensing exams have been found to have disproportionate rates of failure among Black and Hispanic candidates, Peske said programs don’t have to use the scores to deny candidates admission. Instead, she said, programs can use the data to shore up instruction in subjects that candidates are struggling in.

See how programs compare by state

Wyoming’s teacher-prep programs topped the list in terms of math content taught to elementary teacher candidates with 146 instructional hours.

“There is little doubt that our students are best served when their teacher is confident in the subject of math as well as adequately prepared to teach math,” said Chad Auer, the state’s deputy superintendent of public instruction, in an emailed response. “Here in Wyoming, our teacher preparation programs have thoughtfully emphasized math preparation in undergraduate teacher-prep programs. In my view, our K-12 students are the direct beneficiaries of this emphasis.”

Meanwhile, Florida’s teacher-prep programs ranked last in the country in terms of the math content provided, with just 40 hours.

In an email, Cassie Palelis, a Florida education department spokesperson, said some of the math instruction in teacher-prep programs may be embedded in courses with general names, like “instructional strategies”—which may not have shown up in NCTQ’s review. She added that teacher-prep programs are reviewed by the state to make sure they “appropriately address” numbers and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and measurement, conceptual understanding, problem-solving, and fluency.

Finally, Palelis noted, all teacher-candidates must pass a certification exam before completing their teacher-prep program, which covers mathematics.

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Smart Move or Stupidest Idea Ever?

Will students really use Wi-Fi on school buses to do their homework?

A flurry of reaction on Facebook to an FCC proposal that would provide funding for Wi-Fi on school buses suggests there are big potential benefits and drawbacks to the idea.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal on May 11 that would allow the use of federal E-rate funding for Wi-Fi in school buses. The proposal would clarify that the use of Wi-Fi, or similar access-point technologies, on school buses “serves an educational purpose” and is therefore eligible for E-Rate funding.

Proponents of the proposal believe that buses can be learning spaces for students and putting Wi-Fi on buses can help close the homework gap that exists between students who have reliable Wi-Fi at home and those who don’t.

Some Facebook users were supportive of the proposal, saying it would provide opportunities for students to get their work done.

“I always did my homework on the bus, either on the way home or on the way to sporting events as a player…it was an efficient use of time. Of course, back in those days it was all on paper. Why shouldn’t kids now have the same opportunities? Sure, there will be kids who use it to do other activities online, like gaming, etc., but not everyone is going to use the time wisely no matter what. Why not give students the opportunity?” – Nancy D.

“Have you ever not been able to afford WiFi? Do you live in an area without WiFi? Do you know what it’s like to take your kid to McDonalds for hours just for the WiFi? I’m not saying that kids will always use it wisely, but I am saying that people whose children do not have the same advantages appreciate the opportunity for their child to get their work done.” – Tanya A.

Many others, however, criticized the plan, saying students will use the Wi-Fi for non-academic purposes, such as watching YouTube or TikTok or playing games. Some people pointed out that schools can restrict access to certain sites, but others said kids know how to get around those.

“School purposes? LOL Maybe, and that is a big maybe, 2 in 10 students will use it for that purpose. Most will be using it to play games or watch videos.” – Mary R.

“Here’s how it will really go down. The kids will use the wifi to watch YouTube and TikTok. Technology in education has made students dumber.” – Joseph M.

Some people also expressed concerns about who would oversee what students are using school bus Wi-Fi for, saying that bus drivers already have enough to monitor.

“Who pray tell will monitor the student devices to ensure they are being used for school purposes? Money would be better spent by hiring an aide for every bus so that drivers aren’t simultaneously getting kids home and managing their behaviors.” – Jessica K.

“How about we make sure we have enough buses and drivers 1st? There is a bus at our school that has over 50 kids on it! They are in there like a bunch of sardines!” – Kelly B.

Supporters say that this proposal will be beneficial to students in rural areas, those who have really long commutes, and those who commute to school-sponsored activities because they will be able to do something productive while on the bus.

School buses equipped with Wi-Fi could also be used as mobile hotspots for areas that don’t have access to broadband or have limited connectivity. For example, the Coachella Unified School District in California implemented a program that put Wi-Fi on school buses to provide mobile hotspots for students in the high-poverty district.

Consortium for School Networking CEO Keith Krueger said the proposal would be used for “filtered, safe-school access” to the internet.

“School districts work pretty hard at making sure that if you’re coming through the school network, it’s filtered,” he said. “Now what students do on their own devices on their own networks, that’s not what the E-Rate pays for. The E-Rate pays for filtered [access].”

And because the internet is filtered, there would be no need for bus drivers to monitor what students are using the Wi-Fi for, Krueger pointed out. Some school districts that have already equipped buses with Wi-Fi have seen that it decreased the number of bus discipline referrals and made the ride quieter.

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