Turn education into play: learning through games

From an early age, today’s generation of children develop a keen interest in computer games. By the time they are in full time education, they are often very competent in playing consoles and online games. As a result of this, schools are beginning to channel this interest in computer games into new engaging methods of learning. This involves using educational online games through which children can interact with other pupils using a new exciting medium which increases their interest in learning.

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There are wealth of free educational online games which offer new engaging ways to captivate children’s interest in learning. They offer an interactive medium through which students can improve their technical and media literacy. These skills could be invaluable throughout their adult lives as more of our modern society continues to revolve around technology. These games provide a fun way to develop problem solving strategies and try out intuitive ideas, skills which will significantly increase their employability prospects in the future.

Teachers can also thrive from these new educational opportunities. These games offer teachers a medium through which they can more aptly communicate with their pupils. As Jason Ohler states, educational games allow teachers to communicate with students by ‘speaking their own language with their tools’.
Additionally, these games enable teachers to easily assess the progress of each child. The actions and decisions each child makes during the games allow the teacher to diagnose and assess the progress of their learning from afar, without the child feeling like they are under scrutiny. Educational games are rising in popularity as a learning mechanism, with tutoring companies such as Maths Doctor offering online tutoring services alongside educational games, even providing a free mobile app game allowing children to learn on the move.

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Educational studies have shown that not all students learn in the same way. Some require learning by doing, others from reading a textbook, or by talking through problems with others. Educational games harness all of these alternate styles of learning through a variety of different challenges, ensuring each child is able to achieve their full potential. Each child is engaged throughout the learning process in a way which is specifically tailored to them. Naturally in a large classroom there will be some children who solve a problem faster than others. By using education online games each child can work at their own pace. If they need to take more time on a particular question they can, ensuring that by the time they progress to the next stage they have a full understanding of the topic, rather than simply rushing so as to keep up with the pace of the classroom. Moreover, if a child solves a problem quickly, they are free to proceed to the next stage, rather than waiting for others and thus losing interest in the subject. As a result children are able to develop more positive attitudes towards learning.

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There is an increased focus within schools on how to apply what a child is learning to real world situations, to show them that what they are learning will benefit their adult careers. Educational games provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a child’s ability to apply academic theories to real world problems. The student could be taught the theory of a principle by a teacher and then proceed to solve an applied problem via the medium of an online game. Moreover, because the medium chosen would be a computer game, children will be more likely to volunteer to solve problems and thus further their education.

Ultimately, as technology becomes more integral to our daily lives, these educational online games offer an invaluable experience for children to develop technological skills from an early age. They also provide an exciting opportunity for children to discover an interest in learning through a medium which was previously unavailable to them.

Author bio
This article was written by George Campbell, a freelance writer from Birmingham, England, UK. George has been a teacher for four years and he loves writing about education but he is versatile and also writes across a variety of other topics. You can connect with George on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

Startups 101: Starting Small, Thinking Big

A word cloud made from 14 startup founders' definitions of "startup" - read them all here
A word cloud made from 14 startup founders' definitions of "startup" - read them all here

A word cloud made from 14 startup founders’ definitions of “startup” – read them all here

What is a Startup?

Although the term “startup” has become so ubiquitous it’s bandied about without a hyphen (shocking), few people we’ve asked seem to agree on what a startup is. The popularized fairytale of startups begins with “Once upon a time in a garage…” and ends with “They made millions of dollars and lived happily ever after.” Few startups grow to Google or Facebook level proportions, but one thing is very clear from even the fairytale version of reality: startups are defined by their ability to grow rapidly: in team size, user base, and (optimally) profit.

By definition, startups are starting something, and usually, we think of startups as starting something new, or at least providing a unique spin on an existing product or service. Startups are typically fairly small; most startups have a team of 5 or more people, and run off of roughly $1 million in funding, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

Angels and VCs and Bootstrapping… Oh my!

Whenever the founders of a startup decide they have an idea they want to create, they have to consider where they’ll be working, who they’ll be working with, and what they’ll need to make their vision a reality. All of these questions really boil down to: where is the money coming from? Startups have three options:

(1) Bootstrapping: “Bootstrapping” simply indicates that the founders are funding the company themselves. The reality of this is that founders have harassed their family and friends enough to provide some initial funds, or that the founders have left a relatively high-paying and stable job to give everything they’ve got to make their idea a success.

(2) Angels: Angel investors are individual investors or a small group of investors that can provide initial funding to startups in exchange for some equity. Since angels are usually only accountable to themselves, they often invest in startups they personally feel connected to, whether because of the problem the startup is trying to solve is something they also feel strongly about or because they know the people involved in the startup on a more personal level. Angel investors are often entrepreneurs themselves or have played a role in other startups previously.

(3) Venture Capitalist (VCs): VCs are institutional investors that manage clients’ assets and invest them in early stage startups in exchange for some equity. They can typically afford to invest more than angel investors, but contrary to popular belief, only 1-2% of startups are VC-funded. VCs have to think big-picture and are generally more interested in startups addressing large scale problems. Find out more about more in this nifty video.

VCs and angels play an important role outside of simply financing early stage startups; they also provide valuable advice and direction to the company. As you might imagine, having too many VCs and angels taking an active role in the direction of the company might not always yield the best results, but generally because of their experience and network, they are valuable resource for startups to gain a stronger foothold in their industry.

Startup Life

Part of the reason why reconciling what qualifies a company as a “startup” is so difficult is because boiling down a “startup” into its number of employees or how many years it’s been around would be oversimplifying what it means to be a “startup.” Walking into a startup office—whether it’s in the snazzy office space in a high rise or a somewhat dingy but very cozy basement—you’re hit with this wave of optimism and energy. Everyone’s working hard on something incredibly complex, and what’s more impressive: everyone is loving it.  The undercurrent in all startups is their passion and enthusiasm for their new product or service. We’re excited to share interviews with startup junkies and entrepreneurs and share a closer look at the fascinating world of startups. To make sure you don’t miss a post — sign-up for email updates!

 

How to Use MOOCs to Support Your Grad School Experience

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By the time my muscle contraction test arrived, I had already forgotten which part did what. I knew the information, but we had covered so much other material that I needed a quick overview to reorient myself. I turned to Youtube’s Crash Course, looking for Hank Green to help me out. In about 12 minutes, I had completely refreshed the concept and dusted off the details.

MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course, referring to anything from the tutorial style videos on Khan Academy to certificate-for-completion courses offered through Coursera. MOOCs have grown over the last several years to offer material on any subject you can imagine, as in depth or as casual as you could want. In my first semester of graduate school, I’ve found several uses for them.

Student Uses:

- Preparation. For my cardio section of physiology, I prepared for lectures by first watching these videos. I was able to understand lecture material far quicker because I had been exposed to the material already. Using the right MOOC will drastically reduce study time and enable you to engage the lectures when they happen. You have limited access to your professor, so being prepared gives you greater benefit.

- Clarification and Review. As I mentioned above, Crashcourse has helped me refresh some key concepts before reviewing detailed material. In renal physiology, I couldn’t get my head around the flow through the nephrons. I found these tutorials easy to understand and quick enough to leave enough time to study everything else. MOOCs that are more formally organized also have forums, wikis, and other means of interaction that can prove invaluable when professors aren’t available for questions.

- Distraction. If you’re in grad school, you’ve been immersed into your studies in a different and deeper way than in undergrad. You need a brain break. You need something to talk about with friends and family who don’t understand what you’re studying. I love history, so when I need a break, I’ll watch Yale’s history lectures. I don’t have to worry about learning or testing, it’s just fun to use a different part of my brain and learn about something outside of medicine. And I can have a conversation with people apart from my learning.

- Continuing Education. Many MOOCs offer a certificate of completion that requires some testing to receive. This is a great way to show an employer that you’ve invested time and attention to stay current in your area. Accessing that material on your time makes learning while working possible. Once you are out of grad school, chances are that you will need to do this on a regular basis and having a certificate to show you’ve done your work is worth the investment.

Teacher Uses:

- Remedial Use. Many graduate programs could provide remedial education and training without having to develop new curriculum on their own. This allows your program to be more flexible by addressing any idiosyncrasies in your students’ background without making others repeat material they already know.

- Required Reading. Instead of handing out articles to read, or having book after book assigned only to be skimmed through, give your students a list of MOOCs that cover the information. Give them more options than they need and let them pick a few. In the time before starting a course, give them access to a survey MOOC to prepare them for more focused classroom time.

- Peer Instruction. Divide several areas of knowledge between students and have them complete a corresponding MOOC. Then they can present either in groups or individually to teach everyone else and show mastery over an area. Or have students prepare presentations on competing ideas and have a class debate. Covering material outside of the classroom enhances your face to face time.

As more MOOCs become available, the landscape of our education transforms into a hybrid space combining classrooms, computers, living rooms, and offices. Finding ways to make education more efficient and effective means adapting to these new innovations and utilizing MOOCs to supplement your grad school experience.

Written by Ryan English and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of GradSchools.com. If you’d like to learn more about continuing your education online, find out here.

5 Ways to Make Sure You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

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1. Make it Measurable

It’s great to create larger, general goals like “I will get in shape” or “I will read more,” but it will be easier to figure out whether you’re meeting your goals if you create a game plan for it and know how to measure your progress. What would being “in shape” mean? Does that mean being able to bench or squat a certain amount? Or does that mean meeting a specific weight measurement? How much reading would qualify as “more”? Define what “success” looks like and then work on the metrics for it.

2. Keep it Visible

We tend to make New Year’s resolutions to accomplish harder tasks –things we already have trouble staying motivated to do or things we constantly forget.  Set up reminders for yourself to make good on your goals. This could mean putting a post-it note on your mirror as a reminder to see while you brush your teeth, setting a phone alert that recurs each day/week/month, or even changing your desktop background to some motivating image. Seeing the hints and mini pep talks everywhere will help you keep up with your resolution.

3. Have Fun

The actions you take to accomplish your goals should be enjoyable in and of themselves as well. If your goal is to eat healthier, don’t just suffer through “rabbit food” without enjoying it. Take the opportunity to look up healthier recipes for the foods you already love, substitute healthier ingredients and make the change gradual rather than immediate.

4. Find a Buddy

It’s hard to be the only one working toward a goal, so why not partner-up with a friend to achieve a common goal? Don’t just fly solo if your goal is to “read more,” why not start a book club and help your friends expand their reading horizons as well. Get your buddies to train for a marathon with you to get in shape. Join a meetup for developers or graphic designers so you have a network of mentors to support you as you lean new skills. You’ll not only make faster progress, you’ll also feel more motivated!

5. Make it Public

Research shows that making public commitments to achieving your goal will help you actually achieve it, especially if it’s a long-term goal. Don’t be afraid to share your resolution with the world. Having friends and family asking about your progress can be really motivating. Who knows, your public commitments can even help you accomplish your goals — consider the power of saying that you’ll find your dream job and then hearing about a new job opening as a result! To that end, we’ve created a gallery of New Year’s Resolutions to help you share yours! Check out the samples below and click here or follow the link on our homepage to find yours!

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