Archive for March, 2012

What Can We Learn From Singapore’s Educational System?

In an increasingly globalized world, it becomes more and more imperative that our students are able to compete with the world’s students.  The future of our nation depends on it in no small way.  In an effort to improve our own school systems, researchers are searching the world for systems that work well – in hopes of imitating what others are doing right here at home.

What did we find in Singapore?

1) Teaching is a highly respected and well compensated profession.

Here in the United States, teachers are so under-compensated that they can barely pay their bills on their salaries and must therefore add second and even third jobs to their already strenuous schedules.  Additionally, teaching as a profession is not given the respect it’s due.

2) Teachers in Singapore are given plenty of access to experienced mentors early in their careers and to continuing education later on.

Here in the United States, teachers brand new out of school are placed in classrooms and expected to sink or swim.  There is little guidance from their more experienced peers.  Not enough emphasis is put on continuing professional teacher development.

3) In Singapore, the use of technology in schools is highly emphasized as a way to engage and excite students.

Technology infused Future Schools give students the chance to do what they do best while at school while at the same time streamlining parts of the teacher’s job, like taking questions from students and answering them in an organized way (via a real-time Facebook chat page for one particularly innovative classroom).

Do we do a lot right in the United States?  Without a doubt.  However, if we want to continue to lead in an increasingly competitive and globalized world, we have to train our students to excel.

For the full story and to watch an inspiring video that gives an inside view of Singapore’s best classrooms , visit Edutopia’s website here. 



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Help Your Student Discipline Himself …By Feeding Him Sugar?

Self-discipline is the key to much of the success we experience in life.  Getting an A in that challenging class, training for and finishing that marathon, losing those stubborn 10 pounds – all take acts of willpower.  Sometimes we just don’t want to sit down and study, or hop on the treadmill for that long weekend run.  Sometimes we really want that cake.

Because of the importance of willpower in our lives, researchers have tirelessly sought to answer the question: “What is it that causes some individuals to be more motivated and disciplined than others?”

What’s Sugar Got to do With It?

The answer, surprisingly, seems to lie in our body’s ability to metabolize sugar and carbohydrates.  Using a sugary mouth rinse between mentally demanding exercises seems to significantly affect subjects’ ability to discipline themselves to exert continued mental effort.  Don’t take my word for it – click here to read the following article from the Association for Psychological Science. 

Maybe next time your child asks for ice cream, you’ll think twice before saying no.   Maybe, just maybe, it’ll help him get into Harvard.


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TEDEducation – New YouTube Channel Brings Together Top Educators & Animators With Stunning Results

What is TEDEd?

Many people are familiar with the annual TED conference, whose speakers are among the most groundbreaking and inspirational in the world.

Recently TED announced a new initiative aimed at bringing together top educators and animators from around the globe to record 10 minute lessons that will be available to all on YouTube.  Educators can choose relevant clips and show them in class or assign them for homework.

 What’s on TEDEd?

TEDEd is in its infancy.  As of this post, there are only 12 lessons on TEDEducation’s YouTube channel.  Their subjects range from sea exploration – using images of fantastic sea creatures discovered at unfathomable depths – to electrical communication between brain cells – using an anesthetized cockroach’s amputated limb.  The videos immediately grab, fascinate, and inspire you – and for most students, this is just what is needed to ignite a lifelong love for learning.

Why Use TEDEd?

The question I’m most commonly asked by my students is this:  “Why do I need to know this?”  To this question I rarely have a good answer.  But these videos, with their real life demonstrations, provide the answer – and therefore the motivation – that students need to work hard in school.

If you’re an educator or a parent, do yourself a favor and check out these videos.  But beware – I’ve watched two videos, and am now considering two new careers – one in marine biology, the other in neuroscience.

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Online Learning Giant K12 Faces a Major Lawsuit – Investors Allege that Bottom Line is More Important than Student Success

More and more students are turning to online classes and home school in lieu of traditional schooling, and the online learning industry is exploding as a result.  Much profit stands to be made by investors in such businesses.

However, as parents and teachers with high stakes in our students’ academic success, we have to wonder – how effective are these online learning companies compared to traditional school?  For the amount of money parents are shelling out to the providers of such services, we deserve to know if they are getting the job done.

It is exactly this issue that is at the heart of a major lawsuit against online learning giant K12.  K12 faces allegations that it is dropping standards for students and falsely advertising success rates with one goal in mind – a larger profit.  By advertising itself as more effective than it actually is, investors allege, it’s recruiting students under false pretenses.

K12 intends to “vigorously defend itself”, and I, for one, eagerly await the outcome to the question – is our faith in the integrity of online learning companies misplaced?

Read the full article here.

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