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.

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.

MOOCs: A Step in the Right Direction

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The concept of ‘massively open online courses’ (MOOCs) have slowly but steadily taken the academic world by storm. While the idea has only been around for two years, many institutions of higher learning are keen to adapt this new mode of teaching. While some have quite a bit of qualm over the concept, the fact remains that a healthy discussion regarding the modern educational system has been initiated. In this article, we’ll discuss the current status of MOOCs worldwide.

Limitless potential
While the economy translates to unfavorable tuition fees and mounting student loans, it might be able to enhance the value proposition of a university degree. Through free courses, individuals are given the chance to learn and acquire possible degrees through credits that provide more worth with little to no restriction brought about by finances.

In recent news, American student loans skyrocketed to about $1 trillion mainly due to inflated rates by higher institutions. This can be traced back to either the general state of the American economy and the cuts implemented by the government across the educational sector. The problem does not stop there: only 50% of students who brave the lofty tuition of university education get a hold of a diploma and a bachelor’s degree.

MOOCs will be able to flip the dire situation, but only if the conditions are aligned perfectly. Colleges and universities should be able to recognize that offering courses online will save them funds, and in turn will allow them leeway to lower the expensive matriculation schemes. MOOC providers should continue to invest in technologies that will allow online courses to have a more precise grading scheme – a necessary step towards universal credit granting.

Smartphones and education

MOOCs play a vital role as a sort of test run on the future of learning in the digital era. New high-end top tier gadgets like Apple’s premiere smartphone, the iPhone 5S, lends itself to this endeavor. Innovative features are pushed down the pipeline constantly, such as better security (such as the Touch ID, a fingerprint scanning feature on latest iPhones as mentioned in O2′s page), more reader friendly screens, better and faster internet connectivity – all these are driving the online learning trend forward into new heights.

One benefit that is often overlooked is the fact that many people from remote and developing nations are using MOOCs and mobile technology as a substitute or supplement to the current learning options. For MOOCs to become a true force of change on a global scale, companies in the technology sector should create ventures that are aimed for this specific purpose. Jonathan Nalder, in his piece on Edutechdebate.org, noted that “for learners in remote locations or developing countries the promise of increased access to the keys of education must of course also be considered in light of the reality of the internet access needed to make much of it possible.”

A break in tradition

Last year, a program initiated by the Southern New Hampshire University called College for America was officially approved to grant degrees upon students depending on their proven and tested knowledge. This means that even if someone gathers all the knowledge he needs through other sources aside such as non-credited courses from MOOCs, then he or she will be granted a degree.

This triggered the United States Department of Higher Education to invite universities to create similar programs. If successful, students will no longer be required to carry on their shoulders the financial mountain of tertiary education. In effect, brick-and-mortar universities will have no choice but to compete through lowering their costs.

With all the benefits that could possibly change the education system for the better, the success of MOOCs ultimately depends on the quality of its courses and the eagerness of the government and tech titans to contribute to learning.

Reese Jones is a graduate student and a freelance writer for Techie Doodlers. She has successfully finished numerous courses on Coursera and edX to supplement her tech management master’s degree. Contact her via Twitter or add her on Google+.

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EdTech Goes Retro

LDTlogosOn August 2, Stanford’s Learning Design & Technology (LDT) Expo showcased a diverse array of creative projects addressing a gamut of problems in education, proving that innovations in education aren’t limited to solving problems in a specific field, demographic, or country. Although the expected screens, tablets, and computers crowded the demo floor, a surprising number of the LDT projects involved more whimsical and charming tangible objects: railroad cars, wooden forts, and even tea sets.

Add an edtech expo, you’d expect most projects to focus on the K12 demographic, but Maketea actually targeted an older demographic, specifically, couples. It is essentially a date night kit comprised of a set of teaware, tea leaves, and a downloadable app that walks a couple through an intimate tea ceremony with reflection questions to help them better understand each other. It was a unique way to ground discussion in an experience that was a bit unexpected for a learning design and technology expo, but definitely not far from many other projects that seemed to use technology as a facilitator rather than the main interactive educational element.

Tink teaches kids programming concepts with colorful, tangible elements. Tink had various elements that could be programmed and coordinated with an iPad to take certain actions depending on the environment or stimulus nearby, perhaps playing a song when your mom came into the room, etc. The minds behind Tink also created Dr. Wagon, a tangible way to learn programming with wooden railroad cars labeled with programming language to help kids visualize the changes that they were implementing with their code — a crafty sensor in the main wagon sensed the changes and order of the rail cars and would react accordingly. When I asked Tink’s co-founder Alfredo Sandes about the rationale behind Tink, he mentioned that he’s found that research shows tangible objects tend to stimulate kids more than visual stimulants. Another STEM skill-building project was DesignDuo, a kit of projects that daughters and dads can build together. The project includes the parts and directions to configure mini lamps and even decorate their creations with paint, proving that engineering and science are collaborative and creative. Worlds, another project designed to introduce kids to programming, leveraged kids interest in gaming, in your world, you control your characters by typing in the correct code.

One of the LDT favorites Hüga Forts engaged kids in collaborative problem-solving with simple wooden panes and connecting cogs. Each wooden square could be decorated or filled with alternative embellishments: a tic-tac-toe board, mini blinds, translucent sheets of painted paper, among many others. Because of the unique design of the cogs, the wooden squares could be connected together to form a variety of shapes and especially fun forts!

When I think of these projects–and so many more from the Expo–I can’t help but think that we live in exciting times for education. Not only are there so many new topics to learn about, but so many different ways to begin and continue learning. Which of the projects interested you the most? We’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s cooking in edtech!

Reflecting on the Future of Higher Education & MOOCs

At Accredible, we value the pursuit of knowledge – no matter what path (or lack thereof!) it may take. Last week, we had the privilege of joining a conversation about the future of higher education hosted by the Silicon Vikings, featuring stellar panelists Mitchell Stevens (Stanford Graduate School of Education professor, director of SCANCOR), Michael Horn (Executive Director of Education at Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation), Claudia L’Amareaux (Future of Learning strategist), Keith Devlin (Stanford professor and director of H-STAR Institute at Stanford University), and Ben Nelson(CEO of the Minerva Project). The voices were united in advocating for the need to evolve education beyond the traditional factory formula in a digital age –an age where education isn’t confined within the walls of a classroom or even the borders of a country.

Ben Nelson commented that the idea that the education revolution is simply the ability to pause and rewind a lecture is ridiculous. He predicts that MOOCs will evolve beyond this repackaged 1-to-many approach and become truly adaptive learning platforms responsive to individual learning speeds and styles. This is a common belief; Mitchell Stevens elaborated that even the base concept of measuring or quantifying learning in higher ed is a “heretical notion.” Indeed what does it truly mean to “know” something? How can we truly differentiate between labels like  “A” or “B” or “intermediate” vs. “advanced”? The idea that learning can be measured and uniformly quantified is hindering learning itself.

Michael Horn views the changes in education through the lens of the Clayton Christensen model of disruptive innovation, where MOOCs are transforming the existing system of education. If one considers that the education system as a “bundle” of courses, prestige, identity designed to signal to employers and the world at large what you know and are capable of, MOOCs and other new developments in education are challenging the institution and “unbundling” the packages by providing an alternative means to gain what used to be exclusive (e.g. only through traditional university) knowledge which would then qualify them for jobs that would have been previously inaccessible. Horn continues on to say that, rather than using university brands or subjective numbers to assess a person’s qualifications for a job, employers should be looking at demonstrated skill and knowledge. We’re really taking such notions to heart at Accredible as we aim to provide the ideal platform to create this “higher resolution image” of a person, empowering people to use their learning to get employment.

With the rapid disintegration of pre-packaged post-secondary education, the issue arises: how can we evolve our own perceptions of learning and what it means to be “educated”? That’s our challenge we take to heart (and mind!); we’re excited to see our Accredible users push the boundaries of what qualifies for “skilled” in today’s workforce, proving their value and worth beyond bullet points on a resume or CV. Because if the direction of education now is proving anything, it’s proving that the old ways of identifying ourselves and signaling our strengths to others need to keep pace with the numerous changes in the way people choose to learn and build on their knowledge.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of education: Where do you think it’s headed and how will it affect traditional schooling and employment?

Make All Your Education Count: Redesigning the CV

With all the amazing innovations and developments within academia and edtech at the moment, one content area that seems to have been left behind a little is the common CV.

Education has evolved dramatically over the last fifty years yet things like CVs and certificates haven’t changed for hundreds of years. They are (at best) shiny pieces of paper with a name, grade and institution printed on them.

CVs tend to contain very pigeon-hole style of content such as ‘education’, ‘work’ and ‘interests’ which ultimately only create a very low resolution image of a person and one that is liable to deception.

For example, if you get a B in Computer Science does that mean you were generally ‘average’, or are you an exceptional programmer with a weakness in some other part of the syllabus that isn’t relevant to the job at hand? 

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Here at Accredible, we’ve been working hard to improve the way that credentials and certificates are generated across MOOCs, university courses also as wider learning by using peer-review and
reputational networks to determine and maintain quality.

By re-imagining the idea of the certificate to be more than just a statement, we can create a living portfolio of evidence that shows you have certain knowledge or skills. You can also get a much ‘higher resolution’ image of who a student is, what they can do and a list of evidence proving that.

And this is where we feel there’s a parallel between our work on credentials and CVs: rather than simply listing your achievements, we feel that you should be able to provide evidence to back up your claims, be they across your education, work or skills.

Below is an example of one of our MOOC slates giving examples about how this approach could be similarly used to demonstrate your personal capabilities on a CV:

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Unlike your traditional certificate or CV, you can create as many Slates as you like, each with a different course or program you studied to help build up a more rounded vision of your education.

Of course there’s also a direct benefit to your prospective employer as well as it gives them a much better chance to understand who you really are and why you really are perfect for their role. With greater transparency, comes better hiring decisions and a much lower risk of hiring the wrong candidate!

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the future of CVs and how developments in the EdTech space are changing the way we list our achievements. Is there still a place for CVs and if so in what sort of context? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Do you want brand-new CV of 21st century? Sign up at https://www.accredible.com 

Need inspiration or don’t know where to begin? Here’s some amazing slates to help you. https://www.accredible.com/gallery