Quote: Childhood and favorite books

I recently heard Margery Mayer give a speech while accepting the Corporate Award from the Education Commission of the States on behalf of Scholastic and she shared with us one of her favorite quotes from Marcel Proust.  It is a beautiful quote and I couldn't agree with it more!

Margery, Scholastic Education President, also reminded us that while we each read every day, it has become so normal that we forget what a complex task it is.  We ask our youngest children to achieve a skill that took millennia to become the norm, and when it happens it is a form of miracle.  Further, she pointed out that for many of our children that miracle takes an extra push - "a mighty push from caring adults" - an important thought to keep in mind, especially during the summer.

As gaming matures, educational games must be fun to create real change

The 10th Annual Games for Change Festival took place in New York this week, bringing together game designers and researchers with educators, non-profits, documentarians, and others interested in using games to implement social change. 

For me, the biggest takeaway of this year’s conference is that gaming is quickly being accepted as a meaningful, mature medium of communication, on par with video, television or text in its ability to communicate complex ideas. Although this philosophy is basically the foundation of the Games for Change movement (and the “Serious Games” movement that preceded it), its increasingly widespread acceptance is surprisingly bittersweet. 

Why? 

Because mature media landscapes create crowded marketplaces. Just as “serious” or “educational” documentary films or television shows often have trouble getting funded and distributed because they are overshadowed by their entertainment-only counterparts, “serious” or “educational” games are often lost behind the flashiest new entertainment games. Unfortunately, this often holds true even inside the “educational” sections of the Apple or Android stores. 

When parents, teachers and children expect seamless, high-quality digital game experiences, serious and educational game designers have to start increasing their investments to compete; and lots of designers will get left behind. 

Gaming in Schools 

The good news is that games are becoming incorporated into the modern school environment, and research is starting to show their efficacy. 

Conference speaker Jessica Millstone of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center published an encouraging study last year about how quickly teachers are accepting and adopting games in their classrooms, and Stacey Childress, Deputy Director of Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a brand new SRI meta-analysis on games and learning claiming that STEM games and simulations are 12% more effective than more traditional teaching methodsj. 

Educators understand that using good games with proven pedagogy in schools—and on student computers and cell phones—is the wave of the future. Games may very well be the new textbooks, according to some conference attendees.

Gaming professor Ian Bogost gave perhaps the most intriguing talk of the conference—admitting outright that some of his own work in “serious games” has failed to reach its intended audience or have its intended effect. According to Bogost, we may be moving past the point where claiming that a social or educational program that includes games is an automatic source of intrigue or additional grant money. As gaming matures, there will be additional scrutiny about what makes a good game, one that the intended audience actually want to play. 

Think of it this way—the vintage school readers of the first half of the 20th century used simple “stories” to help children practice reading; but these stories were often didactic, moralistic or facile. A hundred years on, every successful children’s author understands how to blend educational content with entertainment elements to create vibrant, relevant and engaging children’s literature to create an entirely new generation of readers. 

As gaming matures, it’s up to all of us to move educational gaming forward by integrating the most engaging elements of entertainment games into core pedagogy that is proven to work. Scholastic is ahead of the game (so to speak) on this—but to be sure, this new generation of educational games will come from publishers and independent developers alike—and if they’re fun, people will find them.

New themed-based K-6 collections—and a contest!

With the Common Core State Standards requiring students to dive deep into rigorous texts and focus on nonfiction to build knowledge, educators have been telling us they need theme-based collections of books built around the topics they most commonly teach. Voila! Text Setscollections of nonfiction books for grades K-6 built around science- and social studies-based themes.

Each Text Sets collection exposes students to six different nonfiction titles built around the same theme – from plants to geography to ancient civilization and more. Text Sets helps students build critical domain-specific knowledge needed to tackle complex, grade-level reading.

Although the program is already being used across the country, from New York to Hawaii, we thought it would be fun to give a Text Sets collection to one lucky reader. We also want to get more feedback from you: What sorts of themes would you like to see in future text sets?

For a chance to win, add a new comment below with your feedback and ideas for future sets!

Will ‘wearable tech’ be useful in education?

Will Google Glass be a game-changer in education?

I had the opportunity to be part of a conversation with science teacher (and Google Glass Explorer) Andrew Vanden Heuvel during yesterday’s Hack Education event before the start of ISTE. Vanden Heuvel, one of the winners of Google’s #ifIhadglass contest, has been the lucky owner of a Google Glass (the much-hyped device that almost nobody has seen in the wild) for a couple of months and has already built some interesting things. Check out his cool new STEMbite videos recorded from Glass.

Yes, it was cool to see the device up close and personal, but it was also interesting to think and talk about what uses it might have for learning and for education and what privacy concerns might arise.

Think of Google Glass as a smartphone that you wear like a pair of glasses. It has a small screen that sits just above and to the right of your right eye, has a camera, responds to voice command, and, in theory, could do almost anything a smartphone can do but without the need to use your hands.

Would Glass be useful to a teacher? Or if every student in a classroom had one?

You could envision students working on a project or building something while wearing Glass, then flipping on the video camera on the device to record the process. Then submitting that to the teacher for feedback. Or jumping into a Google Hangout with classmates and a teacher to collaborate and share ideas. Couldn’t that give a teacher even more insight into how each individual student works and thinks through a problem?

Imagine an educator visiting Gettysburg and giving a live, interactive tour to his social studies students back in the classroom. Or a student working on a chemistry experiment, and consulting notes or online instructions through Glass. All of this you can do to some extent with a smartphone or tablet, but it might be easier with a wearable device. Right?

There are also privacy concerns being raised about Glass, with officials from several countries worried about the possibility of “ubiquitous surveillance,” and asking for more information about what will happen to data gathered from the devices. Google has said it won’t allow facial recognition onto the device, for one thing. There is a lot to think about and consider.

Wearable tech is coming. Will it be a game-changer?

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