Archive for April, 2012

New IPad Apps Worth Noting

As the popularity of Apple technology soars, more educators are taking note and using it in the classroom.  The IPad, specifically, has been receiving much attention as a great tool for motivating and engaging students, as well as easing teachers’ jobs.  Some pilot schools have even issued IPads to all students to asses the impact of technology integration on school performance.

The best education apps, according to technology writer Derek Walter, are the following:


The whiteboard app allows teachers to record their lessons and upload them so that the student can access them again at the student’s convenience.  No more “Can you show me that problem again?”  Just rewind and the whiteboard app does it for you.

Class Dojo:

This app assigns each student a little monster icon that appears on the Ipad screen.  Teachers can motivate students to good behavior by adding or subtracting points from their on-screen personas.  Students love this app because of their familiarity with such virtual representations of themselves.

Star Walk:

Great for astronomy teachers, but also anyone wanting to inspire awe at the immensity of the universe:  this app, when the Ipad is pointed at the night sky, details the galaxies, nebulae and constellations in that region of the sky.  A great, interactive teaching tool.


Technology is here to stay, and the smartest of educators are changing with the times by integrating it into their classrooms.  As teachers and as parents, we’d all be very well-advised to leverage our students’ fascination with anything technological to inspire in them a love of learning.  It’s a fantastic opportunity – don’t miss it!







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What leads to higher attendance, lower drop-out rates, and more students applying to college?

High schools in California are merging traditional college prep high school coursework with hands on vocational opportunities, and initial studies on such pilot programs show very promising results.  Attendance at these schools is higher, drop out rates are lower, and more of the graduates from such vocational schools are applying to college.  Most encouragingly, twice as many at-risk students are completing core classes in these schools as compared to traditional high schools.

What is it about these schools that is grabbing – and keeping – students’ attention?

When asked what they most want out of education, most students respond that they want more real world applications for what they are learning.  Sure they can memorize a tedious equation, but when they know why they are doing so, the memorization becomes much less tedious.

 Vocational schools give students the opportunity to put their hard earned knowledge to good use.  In the medical magnet they get hands-on use of real medical equipment that lets them measure their peers’ vital stats.  In green energy classes, students get to make their own bio-diesel.  In engineering classes they can design and build a bicycle-driven ambulance which might have very real – and very important – applications in third world countries that lack access to cars.

It’s hard to motivate people.  As a tutor, I find that it’s easy to teach those that come motivated, but nearly impossible to help those that don’t.  These vocational schools help boost students’ motivation, so it would do us all good if this trend toward making schooling more real-world relevant catches on in a big way.  Watch here. 

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Does your student have ADHD, or is his teacher just incredibly boring? One neurologist speaks up.

ADHD diagnoses are on the rise.  But one notable neurologist-turned-teacher wonders: Is it the children, or is it their teachers who are to blame?

In a fascinating interview on the education website Judy Willis shares her experiences as a sought-after neurologist for children diagnosed with ADHD. In a society in which such diagnoses are on the rise, her interview is particularly relevant – and her conclusions startling.

What did Willis Hypothesize About the Surge in ADHD Diagnoses?

Willis’ extensive knowledge of the brain led her to wonder if it wasn’t some dysfunction in the children that was causing their boredom and apathy in school, but rather something that their teachers were – or were not – doing. Our brains are designed to filter our world through lenses designed to take note of only novel parts of the environment. Teachers who fail to change up their classrooms or techniques, therefore, run the risk of sending their students into a boredom-induced type of brain stress that makes learning impossible.

How did Willis Test Her Hypothesis?

Willis went back to school – and became a teacher.  She’s spent the last several years teaching students using a variety of techniques designed to pique and maintain their interest.  She provides consistent and immediate feedback.  She creates a safe environment by dispelling a student’s fear of answering questions in front of their peers using a variety of inventive methods.  In short, she runs a very nontraditional classroom – with wonderful results.

If you’re an educator, do yourself a favor and watch this interview.   You might just learn some tips to help you spice things up in your classroom.


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