Friday, November 6, 2015


The vast majority of states now require that teachers be evaluated, at least in part, on student test scores - up sharply from six years ago. And in many states, those performance reviews could lead to a pink slip.
The comprehensive state-by-state analysis released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows 42 states and the District of Columbia have policies on the books requiring that student growth and achievement be considered in evaluations for public school teachers. In 2009, only 15 states linked scores to teacher reviews.

In 28 states, teachers with "ineffective ratings are eligible for dismissal," said the report by the Washington-based think tank.

A majority of states adopted performance-based teacher evaluations as part of the Obama administration's Race to the Top initiative, which has awarded $4 billion in grant money to states that promised reforms such as linking test scores to teacher reviews and adopting higher academic standards such as Common Core.

Other states have been pushed to adopt reforms in exchange for administration waivers giving states a pass on some of the requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law. More than 40 states have received waivers since 2012.

"The bottom line of teaching is whether or not students are learning," said Sandi Jacobs, the council's senior vice president of state and district policy. "If you stand up in front of a classroom every day and deliver great lesson after great lesson but no one in the class is gaining anything, then something is off."
For 16 states, including Colorado and Connecticut, student growth is the key factor in teacher evaluations.

In Washington D.C., several hundred teachers have been fired since 2009 over poor performance reviews. Test scores made up 35 percent of evaluations for those teaching students in tested grades and subjects. But last year, the D.C. public school system suspended the practice of linking test scores to teacher evaluations while students adjust to new tests based on Common Core standards. The moratorium will be lifted next school year, according to the press secretary for schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
The council's Jacobs says no state considers student achievement as the sole criteria for judging teachers. Other measures, such as classroom observations and student surveys, are considered.

The emphasis on test scores has long been a contentious issue with teachers' unions and even parents who worry about over-testing.

"Student outcomes should be determined in a far more robust way than mainly using test scores, such as through student grades, projects, other student work and regular observations," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said Wednesday. "Rather than test-and-punish systems, we need teacher evaluations that will help support and improve teaching and learning."
Parents, too, have registered concern.

A recent Gallup Poll found 55 percent of those questioned opposed linking teacher evaluations to their students' test scores. Among those with children in public schools opposition was stronger, at 63 percent.
States bucking the national trend on linking student performance to teacher reviews were California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and Vermont. The report said those states have no formal state policy requiring teacher evaluations consider student achievement.

Alabama, New Hampshire and Texas have policies that exist on paper, in the form of waivers granted by the Education Department. But Jacobs says the council's research turned up little evidence those states are linking teacher ratings to student achievement.

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, says most states recognize that how students are doing in the classroom is a critical part of the teacher's role.

"There were many factors that led to this shift - federal policy, state policy, however, the most basic reason for this shift was to make sure students are at the center of these conversations with teachers," said Minnich.

According to the report, principals also are getting grades on student performance. The report said 18 states and Washington, D.C. use student growth as the key measure of how well their school chiefs are doing.

In three states, Georgia, New Jersey and Ohio, the weight of student growth in principal evaluations is usually larger than in teacher evaluations, said the report. In New Jersey, for example, the weight of student growth counts for 50 percent of principal ratings. For teachers, the range is 30-50 percent.

N.J. releases PARCC scores needed for graduation

About half of the New Jersey students who took the state's annual algebra II and geometry exams last year did not score high enough to use their scores toward state graduation requirements, according to state data.
The state Department of Education on Wednesday released its updated graduation requirements for the New Jersey classes of 2016-2019, revealing the scores students will need on the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams.
While the majority of high school juniors scored high enough in English, only 53 percent of students from all grade levels met the target score in algebra II and 44 percent in geometry.
To use PARCC to meet graduation requirements, students will need to hit a target score on only one PARCC English and math test administered to high school students, regardless of what year they take the exam. So a student who does not meet the benchmark on the algebra II test could earn a high enough score the following year on the geometry exam.
In math, students can fulfill graduation requirements with a 750 or better on the algebra I exam or a 725 or higher on either the Algebra II or geometry exams.
For English, the state will accept a score of 750 or above on the ninth or tenth grade test and a score of 725 or better on the 11th grade exam.
A 750 is the equivalent of scoring four on PARCC's five-point scoring scale, the threshold for meeting grade-level expectations. A 725 is the same as scoring a three, a classification for students who are considering to be approaching grade-level expectations.
New Jersey will allow students to meet graduation requirements with scores that are below grade-level expectations on the higher-level tests because it's former high school exit exam was based primarily on what students learned in eighth or ninth grade, said Bari Erlichson, assistant state education commissioner.
The English test for 11th grade and math exams for algebra II and geometry are much more difficult than the test New Jersey used in past years, she said.
"In this transition, we are really working hard to not raise expectations for the diploma higher than where they have been," Erlichson said.
Prior to the introduction of PARCC, New Jersey used an exam called the High School Proficiency Assesment (HSPA) as a graduation requirement, and all students took the test in eleventh grade.
Students who couldn't pass HSPA would take an alternative test or demonstrate their abilities through a portfolio appeal process, Erlichson said.
For the next four years, students can meet graduation requirements through PARCC or a variety of other tests, including the SAT and ACT, as well as the portfolio process.
New Jersey has not yet determined graduation requirements for the Class of 2020.
School districts will receive students' PARCC scores later this month and mail the results to students, according to the state.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Blended Learning Advantages And Disadvantages In Corporate Training

Does blended learning really offer the best of both worlds? More importantly, is it the right approach for your corporate training strategy? In this article, I'll help you answer these key questions by exploring the benefits and drawbacks of blended learning on-the-job
Every learning strategy has its pros and cons. The question that all eLearning professionals must ask is whether the good outweigh the bad? This also rings true for blended learning in the workplace. Will combining learning technology with face-to-face instruction and/or self-paced learning benefit your learners? Are the risks worth the rewards? Let's take a closer look at theadvantages and disadvantages of blended training.

4 Blended Learning Advantages

  1. Provides personalized training experiences.Face-to-face instruction and technology working hand in hand offers employees a customized training experience with personalized feedback. If they are struggling with a particular training topic, they can access supplemental resources online or get the help they need from their instructor. They are also able to utilize specific multimedia activities that cater to their performance goals. For example, if they would like to develop their customer service skills, they can log into the training platform and participate in a customer-based scenario or simulation. If they need to learn more about a particular product and its features, they are able to access the product demo and tutorial instantly. Instead of sitting through an hour-long training course to get the information they require, they can just pick-and-choose which elements will improve their performance and skill sets.
  2. Offers 24/7 access to training resources.Blended learning training removes time and location limitations. If the employee is at home and would like to spend a moment brushing up on product specs, they can do so. If they are on the sales floor and need to learn how to carry out a return, they can simply access the tutorial via any of the terminals. Corporate learners no longer have to wait for a scheduled training to address their concerns and questions, as the online training resources are always there to help. If you create an online forum, they can also benefit from the experience of their co-workers and get answers to questions when the instructor is not available.
  3. Track employee performance and skill development.Blended learning also makes data tracking more quick and convenient. Instead of grading exams, use an online assessment with a build-in grading rubric, which also offers the added bonus of immediate feedback. Virtually every training exercise and activity can be tracked to gauge employee progress and skill set development, from the choices they make in a branching scenario to their level of participation in an online discussion. Organizations also gain the opportunity to figure out which activities are effective and which need to be modified in order to meet performance goals and objectives.
  4. Reduction in training costs.
    The benefit that brings many organizations to a blended learning strategyis the cost savings. Employees who are doing their job instead of sitting in a training room are improving the company’s bottom line as opposed to utilizing precious resources. This is due to the fact that blended learning can make the training process more effective, but does not require as much time or money as traditional training. No instructors need to be present, in some cases, and there is no training space to rent. In addition, the training courses can be updated and expanded in a fraction of the time, as there are no printed materials to worry about.

3 Blended Learning Disadvantages

  1. Ineffective use of learning technology tools can waste resources.If training facilitators and employees are unaware of how to use the learning technology provided, you probably won’t get the results you’re looking for. Also, if you utilize learning technology tools that are less reliable or do not offer the necessary features, then it may end up wasting resources instead of improving ROI. This is why it’s crucial to find the right tools before you implement your blended learning program in the workplace. Determine which devices and software are going to meet your needs, as well as which fit into your overall training budget.
  2. Learners must have basic technology knowledge or a willingness to learn.
    In virtually all blended learning environments you will encounter at least one learner who is hesitant about change. There are also those who may not be familiar with technology and have a steep learning curve ahead of them. To alleviate this issue, you should have support on hand to teach new learners and motivate those who may be more reluctant. It’s also important to cultivate a blended learning community that stresses the value of technology in training, as well as the real world benefits it can offer. Set up workshops that employees can attend in order to learn as much as possible about the new training program, and be introduced to the features of the devices they’ll be using on a regular basis.
  3. High technology set up and maintenance costs.Purchasing the learning technology for your blended learning program, such as devices and infrastructure setup, can be costly. This is especially true if you have a larger workforce or several departments. However, bear in mind that these are just short term expenses, and that you are most likely saving money in the long run. Even if you have to pay a nominal monthly maintenance fee, you are still receiving the many benefits that a blended learning strategy has to offer.
Hopefully this article has offered the insight you need to make your final decision? Are you going to go the route of blended learning, or should you take an alternative path? Blended learning can offer a wide range of benefits, but is it the ideal choice for your performance goals and learner needs?
Still undecided about whether blended learning is the right solution for yourcorporate training? Read the article Tips To Use Blended Learning In Corporate Training to explore how to use blended learning in corporate training in order to create an immersive and engaging blended learning experience for your learners.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Where the Current 2016 Presidential Hopefuls Stand on Education

As more presidential hopefuls begin to announce intentions to run for the 2016 presidential election, find out where each one currently stands on education and Common Core standards.

The Democrats

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Some of the major issues with education Clinton would like to address with her potential presidency would be teacher pay, putting behavioral skill-training into the nation-wide curriculum, and investing in universal preschool.

Clinton wants to increase funding to special education, a promise she said the federal government made but hasn't fulfilled since streamlining students with disabilities into regular classrooms. She wants an investment into education research to avoid jumping from "fad to fad" and she wants to see more energy and funding dedicated to improving the education of children from low-income families.

Clinton is poised to have the endorsement of the National Education Association, despite some dissent on whether to endorse her or Sanders.

"Last month, the NEA in New Hampshire also endorsed Clinton. But support for a Clinton endorsement within NEA’s rank and file isn’t widespread. Vermont’s NEA chapter endorsed Sanders in June. NEA chapters in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nebraska urged the national council to wait before acting," according to

On the Common Core: She supports it, and has called the argument surrounding it "unfortunate" during a round-table discussion on education in Iowa earlier this year. Clinton, answering a question from a Common Core-supporter, said Iowa is generally in favor of the standards because it has adopted a solid structure for implementation.

"So Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time, and you see the value of it. You understand why that helps you organize your whole education system," she said.

Bernie Sanders

Similarly to Clinton, Sanders hopes to address low teacher pay and early education in his presidency. He called the notion of beginning education when children reach four or five years old "archaic."

On the subject of standardized testing, in 2001, Sanders voted against the final No Child Left Behind Act that has now become an infamous piece of legislation that educators and policymakers a like are desperate to replace. More recently, thought, during the Senate's re-write of the act, Sanders voted in favor of a measure called the Murphy amendment, which would have supported keeping some parts of the federal mandates behind NCLB, such as punishing schools considered to be failing based on test scores.

Sanders is passionate about decreasing the cost of higher education and resolving student debt.

On the Common Core: Sanders has remained relatively mum on how he feels about the Common Core, but in 2011 voted in favor of an act set to overhaul No Child Left Behind and give more flexibility to the state and local governments in regard to education as Senator in Vermont.

Curiously, however, in March of this year, he voted against an anti-Common Core amendment that would allow states to opt-out of educational standards without penalty, therefore making his stance unclear.

Martin O'Malley

The former Baltimore mayor and two-term Maryland governor also supports investing in early education. His ultimate dream for education is "A day when every high school student in Maryland graduates with a modern technical skill and a year of college credit already earned," which he said at State of the State in Annapolis, M.D., January 2014.

On the Common Core: O'Malley agrees with the Common Core. According to USA Today, O'Malley spent time drafting ways to best transition into the standards in his time in Maryland office.

Lincoln Chafee

Former senator and governor of Rhode Island, Chafee views investment into education funding a big issue and priority which he took on in Rhode Island and would like to expand nationally.

On the Common Core: Chafee is in favor of both Common Core standards and heavy involvement of the federal government in regulating education standards.

"He has not announced a specific stance on the state-initiated Common Core standards, but Chafee supported President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative which was a move toward the Common Core," said PBS. org.

Jim Webb

Former Senator James Webb has three intentions for education: he wants to level the playing field by starting young learners early in pre-school education, he wants to fix the statistic that 25 percent of Americans do not graduate high school, and he wants to help eliminate student debt.

On the Common Core: Webb is against the Common Core. He has voted in favor of laws that prohibit the Common Core.

Robby Wells

On the Common Core: Wells is against the Common Core.

Joe Biden

Though Joe Biden has not formerly announced himself as a candidate, many anticipate that Biden will declare a presidential run soon. When it comes to education, Biden supports small class sizes and performance-based pay for teachers, a hot topic in education right now. In general, Biden supports better teacher pay to ensure better results in education reform.

Though Biden did indeed vote for No Child Left Behind, he recently said he regretted his vote and is on board to help lead the rewrite. He has consistently voted against school vouchers.

On the Common Core: He is in support of national education standards, which he began voting for in 1994. On the Common Core specifically, he has remained relatively mum on his stance.

The Republicans

Jeb Bush

Bush was former governor of Florida and claims much of his time in office was dedicated to improving Florida's education system. One of his biggest endeavors included increasing school choice by way of vouchers and charter schools. Bush supports Common Core standards but wants minimal influence of the federal government in public schools.

On the Common Core: Bush is perhaps the loudest voice in the race right now over support for Common Core standards. He supports using tests to measure student progress, too.

"[M]y dad would say it’s like–it’s an 'eat your broccoli' moment, where you actually–testing is part of life ... Measuring is not a bad thing. Now, if you have a whole system that’s organized around teaching to the test rather than teaching to standards, that’s where the problem exists. It’s not the test itself.

Though he called the name "Common Core" poisonous, he says he fully support a set of higher standards at a state and local level that pushes students to perform better academically. Despite backlash from his party, Bush says he refuses to walk away from something he knows works.

Scott Walker

Update: Dropped out of the race in September 2015.

On education, Walker is a big proponent of school voucher programs. As governor of Wisconsin, he most recently expanded the state's voucher program to allow for public school funding to pay for public school, including religious schools. He also expanded the number of authorizers on privately-run charter schools exempt to oversight from local school boards. Further, he made significant funding cuts to higher education this year, with $250 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin. He also eliminated the only program in the state set to further desegregation in public schools.

Recently, 35 Wisconsin principals sent a letter to Walker urging him to "stop hurting our schools." The principals accused Walker of being responsible of policies and budget cuts that directly impacted each's school negatively.

On the Common Core: Walker is against the Common Core. Like most of the Republican contenders besides Bush, Walker does not want the federal government to have control over how schools are funding, but rather wants that decision to come from local and state governments.

Said The Washington Post,

This is confusing since Common Core per se does not affect how and where money is coming from. It is Race to the Top that affords states money if they can show either through Common Core or other standards that they are setting high expectations for students. Wisconsin under Walker has been successful in collecting early education Race to the Top funds, and he has spoken favorably about use of the funds to further his education reforms.

Ted Cruz

Cruz is totally in favor of school choice and believes in children having many options for how to pursue education. As a result, he's very vocal about his support of homeschooling and charter schools.

On the Common Core: Cruz is against the Common Core and is in favor of totally repealing the standards.He voted against the standards in both 2013 and 2014

Rand Paul

Rand Paul is extreme on his views for the future of education. He would like to work on dissolving the Department of Education as a means to give total power back and funding to state and local governments when it comes to running public education. He wants more "innovation at the local level," and is therefore also a firm supporter of school choice.

On the Common Core: Paul is against the Common Core.

"It’s a hodgepodge of educational theories, bureaucratic group-think, massive data collection and pure secular statist propaganda. Worse yet, Common Core is being pushed on both sides of the aisle, including two high-profile members of my own party that may have eyes on the White House," he said.

Marco Rubio

Rubio, like Paul, has also gone on the record saying he would consider eliminating the Department of Education. Paul is also an opponent of local governments controlling education. Also, controversially, Rubio has said he believes evolution should be questioned in the science classroom—and that the possibility that creationism exists should be taught alongside it.

On the Common Core: Rubio is against the Common Core.

"...if you create some sort of national standard, even as a suggestion, it will turn into a mandate the federal government will force on our students and our local school boards and you’re going to end up with a national school board," he said.

Ben Carson

Carson wants to implement major change to the state of public school education by increasing school choice and giving more power to local control.

On the Common Core: Carson is against the Common Core. If elected, he would like to begin over-turning the influence of the standards, favoring—like his fellow Republican hopefuls—school choice and local control.

Carly Fiorina

Fiorina has expressed support of No Child Left Behind and the high standards that it outlined, but is also in favor of local control over federal involvement.

During The 74's Education Summit, Fiorina said one of her biggest issues with education is the lack of music, art, history and philosophy education. She wants the American people to understand that education is about more than preparing students for a career but is also about "feeding their soul."

She also expressed her support for school choice and voucher programs and hopes it will become a bipartisan issue.

When it comes to technology, Fiorina is in support of innovation and technology use but warns against it being used a silver bullet and not a tool. She believes the most important tool in the classroom is the teacher.

On the Common Core: Fiorina is against the Common Core. She has called the standards oppressive and says they limit parent's choice. She also supports school choice.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee has called Obama's efforts in public education "lost at sea." He wants to restore power to local and state governments and emphasize school choice. He has said education is a family—not a federal—affair.

On the Common Core: Huckabee is against the Common Core.

"I ...oppose Common Core and believe we should abolish the federal department of education. We must kill Common Core and restore common sense," he said on his site.

Rick Santorum

Though he voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, he has since spoken out about federally-monitored education and is now a big opponent of the Department of Education. Santorum believes homeschooling is a good option for many children.

On the Common Core: Santorum is against the Common Core.

"We all know that our country’s public education system isn’t working, and we all want to improve opportunities for our children, but more government intervention is not the answer. Instead, parents, teachers, school districts, and local communities should be making the important decisions about education," he said. Eliminating these standards, he believes, is a step in fixing public education.

George Pataki

Pataki would like to see rigorous academic standards that vary state by state and are not controlled by the federal government. Pataki claims he is a significant force behind the massive presence of successful charter schools in New York, and would like to take on making this a national trend.

On the Common Core: Pataki is against the Common Core. This is not to say he would not favor some form of standards in education, but wants it to be controlled by state governments, as he also wants for standardized testing.

Lindsey Graham

A big focus of his views on education include promoting homeschooling, prayer in schools, and school choice. He, too, wants local control of education.

On the Common Core: Graham is against the Common Core. He believes the Obama administration's emphasis on the standards has taken education control from parents, teachers and the like.

Rick Perry

Update: Dropped out of the race in September 2015.

Rick Perry has many goals when it comes to improving education. Perry believes in standardized testing to determine student ability, and believes that increasing testing helps low-income children.

He has called for a stronger emphasis on STEM subjects. He has spoken out against teacher unions; on the subject of teachers, he wants stronger mentorship programs and incentives to keep teachers wanting to teach. He wants both evolution and creationism taught in science classrooms.

On the Common Core: Perry is against the Common Core. As governor of Texas, he oftentimes rejected federal funding because he felt standards in Texas public education were higher than Common Core standards.

"'...the Texas Legislature, the Texas School Boards, the Texas teachers, we collectively know best how to educate our children rather than some bureaucrat in Washington,'” Perry said, according to

Donald Trump

The billionaire, who would experience his first time in elected office if nominated president, would like to see the Department of Education cut down and he is a big supporter of local control of education.

He is against teacher unions, calling them "monopolies."

On the Common Core: Trump is against the Common Core. He has publicly criticized hopeful Jeb Bush's support of the standards.

Bobby Jindal

​Jindal has said he believes that "public education is a fundamental pillar of American democracy, but he has been criticized as Governor of Louisiana for controversial intended budget cuts that would cut off funding to the states higher education.

On the Common Core:Jindal is against the Common Core. He believes that Common Core standards are shroud in secrecy from parents and teachers, and that the more they learn the more they dislike. He is fully against the federal government being involved in local education. At one point, however,Jindal was in favor of implementing the standards and actually had to fight his own superintendent to try to halt their execution. He, as a result, has been labeled a flip-flopper on the subject.

John Kasich

​The Ohio Gov. John Kasich does not support teacher unions, a controversial component of his stance on education. He is also a big supporter of school choice and signed into law in 2011 Ohio's voucher program EdChoice that is annually increasing by the thousands.

He is a proponent of expanding and funding early education to help low-income and impoverished families and to level the opportunity playing field.

Kasich said during The 74's Education Summit a little about his state's third grade reading guarantee, a good example of his stance on education. As governor, he made a controversial decision to ensure that students who cannot read at the third grade level do not go onto fourth grade. He says his initiative offers support beginning in pre-k to help students read by third grade and that the results, despite initial opposition, have been overwhelmingly positive.

He also said during the Summitt that he is a proponent of mentoring kids of all ages, all incomes, and all cultures.

On the Common Core: Kasich supports the Common Core. A minority in the 2016 election's Republican primary, Kasich said earlier this year, "That is not something that Barack Obama is putting together. … It's local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards. I cannot figure out what's wrong with that," according to

Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has declared it his mission to take on one of the most aggressive efforts to turn-around the state's under-performing urban schools, which has thus far been labeled as unsuccessful. It has been said to cause problems for parents and also have no impact on increasing test scores.

Most recently, he came under fire from New Jersey's largest teacher union, which is now calling for his resignation. Its call for resignation comes after Christie said the New Jersey Education Association deserves a punch in the face.

The exchange happened as such:

"During your first term as governor, you were fond of saying that you can treat bullies in one of two ways — quote — 'You can either sidle up to them or you can punch them in the face.' You said, 'I like to punch them in the face.' At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?" [moderator] Tapper asked.

Christie responded: "Oh, the national teachers' union."

On the Common Core: Christie is against the Common Core. He wasn't always, however, and his change of heart has been deemed flip-flopping. He supported the adoption of the standards but now wants New Jersey to part ways, but has so far made no attempts to get rid of state exams tied to the standards, making his true position unclear.

Is there anything else you'd like to know about these candidates? Let us know.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Unleashing the Power of Positivity in Your School

Editor's note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University.
A positive community of educators within a school has a powerful effect on the students who learn there. Individually, teachers contribute to that positive environment by exhibiting and modeling an optimistic outlook and can-do attitude. An understanding of the role that emotions play in learning can lay the foundation for positive and productive interactions with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. As neuroscientist Richard Davidson explains in his book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, "Emotion works with cognition in an integrated and seamless way to enable us to navigate the world of relationships, work, and spiritual growth."

Enhancing Your Practical Optimism

In a previous post, we explored the benefits of teaching students to adopt an attitude of practical optimism as they learn. This outlook is also key for educators in our professional practice. The concept of practical optimismcombines the commitment to plan and execute the steps needed to achieve one's goals with a positive outlook that success is possible. A variety of strategies may useful in enhancing your practical optimism, in sharing this approach with colleagues, and in encouraging students to persist in the sometimes hard work required for learning.

Stay focused on the "upside."

This is possible when you commit to actions and emotions that are useful and positive. A negative attitude is neither. Attend to the completion of tasks that help solve problems and move you closer to accomplishing your goals. Celebrate each small achievement along the way. And especially when your emotional batteries need recharging, choose to spend time with people, in places, and in activities that make you feel happy, refreshed, and rejuvenated.

Express gratitude.

Saying thank you is not just good manners but also offers a path to better emotional health and stronger collegial relationships. Professors at the University of California - Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center share a growing body of research that expressing sincere gratitude:
  • Lessens feelings of social isolation
  • Increases joy and optimism
  • Enhances acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Improves physical health
Consciously recognizing all of the people and interactions that you appreciate and expressing those feelings can boost your mood and pass that positivity along to others.

Regularly commit small acts of kindness.

Lending a hand to an overworked colleague, paying a specific and heartfelt compliment, bringing vegetables from your garden to share -- all of these are examples of charitable actions that spread the wealth of positivity. Acts of kindness lift the recipients' spirits and have the boomerang effect of enhancing your own feelings of well-being and positivity. In a study where participants were asked to reflect on their feelings after engaging in acts of kindness, many people reported feeling happier and more content.

Be mindful of your emotional state.

Researchers recently enrolled thousands of participants in a study via their cellphones and checked in with them at random moments about their thoughts and feelings. The surprising conclusion of the study was that when people allow their minds to wander, they tend to drift toward worries and negative thoughts. To avoid that pessimistic default, notice when you are feeling gloomy and consciously redirect your thoughts into more positive territory. Instead of cycling through everything that might go wrong, stay focused on what you love about teaching and what you can do to improve the learning environment in your school and classroom.

Give your brain and body a positive workout.

A brisk walk over the lunch hour and a regular exercise routine before and/or after the school day can relieve stress and provide health benefits and a refreshing endorphin boost.

Infuse positive feelings into your surroundings.

Arrange your classroom to take advantage of a pleasant view. Make sure that you get outside regularly for some fresh air. Avoid joining negative conversations about your school, administrators, colleagues, students, or parents.

A Deliberate Effort

These kinds of everyday activities can improve your outlook about yourself and your abilities, which can help motivate you and fuel continued progress toward the attainment of your personal and professional goals.
Incorporate these strategies into your routine for one week, and then reflect on what changes you notice in your outlook, attitude, and interactions with others. In our own experience of employing these ideas, we find that we enjoy more positive emotions and a higher sense of purpose and productivity. Much like developing the skills and knowledge that you need to advance as a teacher, becoming more optimistic entails deliberate effort. And as with maintaining other competencies, sustaining a positive outlook may require a practical maintenance routine of being mindful about the good things in life, in you, in your work, and in students, colleagues, and administrators

Friday, September 25, 2015

Accelerated Learning for Accelerated Times

Constant distraction is the bane of the digital age. Most of us are now connected 24/7, the Internet is just a click away for the good and for the worse. Especially education, or better the way we acquire and retain information, is shaped by mobile devices that can come up with answers and relevant information when and where we need it.
Another factor is the fast pace of the technology space in general. Not only does it incessantly throw new gadgets and matching applications at consumers, but it also demands workers with skills in the latest programming language, social media product or design software.

This environment seems to call for education solutions that drastically cut down the time spent to learn a skill in order to make sure that employers can access a pool of employees with the latest set of skills needed.

What can one learn in 30 days?
One Month started as One Month Rails, an online coding course that promised to teach anyone the popular coding language Ruby on Rails in one month to an extent where the learner would be able to launch a fully functional web application at the end of the course.

The course became hugely successful, according to the founders Mattan Griffel and Chris Castiglione it is still one of the best-selling programming courses of all time.

With a fresh round of seed investment One Month is now extending its courses into other verticals, implementing its accelerated learning philosophy.

“We think that when it comes to learning a new skill, the first 30 days are the most important to determine whether someone is going to quit or not.” states Mattan Griffel.

Micro-Learning and Micro-MOOCs
Coursmos, another edtech startup that announced new seed investment this week, aims to condense educational content even more. With micro-learning topics are chopped into 3 minute lessons with a maximum of seven lessons forming a micro-course.

Of course, there is only so much you can teach in 21 minutes but Coursmos aims to link multiple micro-courses together, forming knowledge clouds. As the lessons tend to be around a video, Coursmos could be described as a media enhanced encyclopedia.

When I look something up on Wikipedia, I tend to spend more time on the site reading related articles. The same could work for Coursmos as learners look up a certain subject and then get deeper into the subject, or a related topic, through the interlinked courses.

Stackable Credentials
On the other end of the scale of accelerated learning one can find nanodegrees. I already touched upon them in last week’s article about the partnership between AT&T and Udacity.

Nanodegrees aims to teach a certain topic up to a credential within six to twelve months. Again, the product clearly caters to the needs of employers in the tech space. Those nanodegrees cover a very defined subject but also aim to be “stackable” meaning that the learner will be able to combine different nanodegrees in order to advance in her career.

Risk and Advantages
The advantages for employers and employees are clear. Accelerated learning will not only cut down on the time commitment but also cost to acquire a new skill. The One Month courses are priced at $99 which is a very compelling offer based on the premise that learners will be able to create a working product after 30 days. Nanodegrees are priced at $200 per month, again a good value as Udacity also hopes to get its learners into paid work after completion.

To my mind the biggest risk in this way of learning is that people are more and more trained out of retaining knowledge in their memory. Internet connected technology and accelerated learning might lead to a mindset of outsourcing when it comes to learning.

People might think they don’t need to remember information and also don’t need to cross reference in their minds anymore as Google Now or Siri do a much better job which I think is a rather chilling development

By Kirsten Winkler

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Dragon Professional: $300 New, $99 Upgrades

Nuance announced a new version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking this morning – and it’s no longer called Dragon NaturallySpeaking!

The Dragon voice-to-text program is now called Dragon Professional.

The new program is available for both Windows and Mac computers. Nuance also revealed a new version of Dragon for Mac.

Dragon Professional will also work on both IOS and Android mobile devices

There are two versions of Dragon Professional, Individual and Group. The Group version allows groups of Dragon users to save shared customizations and lets administrators track how employees use Dragon.

During this morning’s announcement, Nuance demonstrated a new feature that can transcribe a voice from an audio file from any speaker, no ‘training’ required.

They also showed off a new cloud feature that allows users to save customized vocalizations and shortcuts to a cloud that can be shared amongst a user’s devices. They call this new item Dragon Anywhere. It will be available through a monthly or annual subscription.

The full retail price of Dragon Professional, Individual, is $300. It’s available for pre-ordering through Nuance and will be available for downloading on August 31.

Dragon for Mac 5 is $200, is also available for pre-ordering, and will be available sometime in September.

The price and availability of Dragon Professional Group is customized for each organization.

Nuance did not say if current users of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 will receive any discounts for upgrading to Dragon Professional.

Though the price of Dragon Professional, Individual, is pretty darn steep for bloggers, I expect we’ll see it on sale fairly often and discounted at various resellers, similar to the way that Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been discounted.

***** *update* *******

According to an email being sent to  registered Nuance customers, registered customers may upgrade from Dragon NaturallySpeaking to Dragon Professional, Individual, for $99.

A new Chief Nursing Officer at ONC

National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, MD, announced this week that Rebecca Freeman, RN, will join the agency to spearhead its nursing outreach and help shape its clinical informatics activities.

Working in ONC's Office of Clinical Quality and Safety, Freeman will lead initiatives focused on health IT enabled nursing practice and research. As a liaison offering support to providers, vendors and healthcare agencies, she'll help her fellow RNs keep up with the fast-changing field of nursing informatics..

Prior to joining ONC, Freeman was assistant vice president and Epic national nurse champion at the Hospital Corporation of America. There, she led the planning and coordination of enterprise-wide Epic deployment, working to ensure the technology's alignment with HCA's safety, compliance, efficiency and care improvement goals.

Before HCA, she was chief nursing information officer and manager of the nursing informatics program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She's also an executive nurse fellow at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In addition to a degree in nursing from the Medical University of South Carolina, Freeman also holds a BS in psychology and philosophy from the College of Charleston and a PhD from the Medical University of South Carolina.

"Rebecca's experience in implementing and using health IT systems – and her background in philosophy – make her a perfect complement to the team here at ONC," said DeSalvo in an email to department staff