MIT Develops inFORM, Blows Your Mind by Rendering Digital Stuff in 3D Physically


via Digital Trends

Think your mouse and keyboard are pretty rad input devices? How about your 27-inch monitor? They’re like chisels and spears compared to inFORM, something that the wizards at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just unveiled. inFORM can reproduce digital content physically in 3D, which allows you to interact with it. Simply put, this could be the future of PC interaction.Like something out of Back to the Future or TRON, the inFORM can also react to the world around it, as well as be used like an input device akin to a mouse or keyboard. The inFORM can be used for everything from physically rendering bar graphs and 3D models which you can touch like you would any other object. And forget Skype calls; the inFORM can create a physical version of someone who, for example, rings into a conference call from afar. The inFORM was developed by MIT PhD students Sean Follmer, Daniel Leithinger, and Professor Hiroshi Ishii, from MIT’s Tangible Media Group.The inFORM’s possible applications go way beyond making your conference calls a more futuristic experience though. Think of what being able to render objects in 3D can do for such fields like architecture, urban planning, engineering and the like. Follmer says that having the ability to render an object in 3D physically allows you to “better understand it.”“The traditional sort of interaction design and device design sort of assumes for a very static way of interacting and this [inFORM] device can change its physical form very quickly and that means that we need to come up with new ways that we interact with technology,” Follmer said.

Follmer also said that the inFORM was “quite expensive” to make. Just to give you an idea, the inFORM contains 900 small motors which control each pin on it. Every pin works to render objects in 3D, and each motor costs between $20 and $30. Also, considering that this is an MIT project, don’t expect this to be available at your local Best Buy or Amazon this holiday season.

Watch this video about inFORM below while we pick our jaws up off the floor.


10 Must-Watch Videos for Flipped Learning

via eSchool News

From STEM videos to history lessons, YouTube can be a one-stop shop for flipped learning

If must-implement educational trends were narrowed down to a small group, flipped learning would be among the top contenders. But flipped learning doesn’t have to consist of videos of a hand on a whiteboard, and it doesn’t have to discuss how to multiply fractions in monotone—after all, there’s a whole YouTube world out there.

Part of the fun of flipped learning is introducing brief questions on relevant curriculum topics that students can discuss or use to create projects during class. For instance, based on historical definitions, should Pluto be a planet? If some products in the U.S. are identified through numbers, could replication of those numbers be made illegal? In other words, could a number itself be illegal?

It’s these types of short videos, based in research and made for education (with interesting animations and vivid explanations), that can be a solid foundation for inquiry-based learning. They also can provide real-world examples of what’s being taught in schools.

Do you have a favorite video you show your students? Do you think flipped learning can help in inquiry-based or project-based learning? Let us know in the comment section below.

1. Life in a drop of water (Science): A drop of pond water viewed through a microscope; filmed and edited with a smart phone. Ask students to try and identify what they’re seeing in the drop.

2. What if the Death Star was real? (STEM): Using dimensions and design specs from the Star Wars website, imagine how the Death Star might impact Earth. A bit of fun with Professor Mike Merrifield from the University of Nottingham.

3. Illegal numbers (Civics/Math): Could some numbers be made illegal in the U.S.? This video features Dr. James Grime:

4. What if you were born in space? (Biology/Health): Delve into how gravity and other natural forces can affect the body once in space. Provides a look at current science research.

5. CrashCourse U.S. History Part 1 (History/World Culture): A very animated historian discusses the Native Americans who lived in what is now the U.S. prior to European contact. John Green also discusses early Spanish explorers, settlements, and what happened when they didn’t get along with the indigenous people. The story of their rocky relations has been called the Black Legend.

6. Vatican City explained (History/World Culture): Using drawings and historical photos, this historian simplifies world issues in a fun way, allowing for open discussion.

7. Super expensive metals (Science): Inside a Noble Metals factory, where even the dust on your shoes is too valuable to ignore! Make the Periodic Table of Elements come to life.

8. Grammaropolis noun song (English/Language Arts): Think of this as an updated Schoolhouse Rock.

9. Negative numbers introduction (Math): Khan Academy incorporates real world examples into a very basic math concept explanation.

10. Is Pluto a planet? (History/Science): Learn about how Pluto came to be called a planet based on historical definitions and scientific inventions, to its eventual fall from the planet category.

Kids’ Video Games: Source of Fun, Pain, and Profit

Video game companies are smart. They want the gamer to play longer, make more in-game purchases, get frustrated, learn to cope and persevere, and share their experiences with others through competition or collaboration. A game designer must have a versatile skill set: Part artist, part designer, part psychologist, part storyteller, part rewarder, part punisher, and part salesperson. One of the downsides to this immersive model of game design is its addictive nature. Gamers must find a balance! This article from Michelle DeWolf on MindShift examines Austin, a digital native similar to many others; hooked on video games and the incredible lengths game developers go to in order to keep players like Austin coming back for more. ”

via MindShift

Austin Newman, 10, of Menlo Park, Calif., is not allowed to play video games during the school week. His mother, Michelle DeWolf, said she had to take that step to keep her son focused on his homework during the week.

Max Kelmon, 13, has his own little version of a man cave in Palo Alto, Calif. Behind the family kitchen in a converted garage, he has an Xbox, a big-screen TV, headphones and a microphone. There’s an old couch covered in a sheet. And that couch where he parks himself, surrounded by boxes and Christmas lights, is one of Max’s favorite places on the planet.

From that couch, he connects to friends all over the globe — and he spends hours, pretty much every day, honing his skills in Call of Duty.

The first commercially successfully video game, Pong, invaded Americans’ living rooms 38 years ago. Since then, the industry has evolved from a simple bouncing ball in the Atari original to games with astounding graphics and sound, most of them connected to the Internet.

That means that kids like Max can play with people spread across the globe. It also means that gaming companies can analyze how gamers play — each and every decision they make.

So when kids sit down with a game, they are actually sitting across a screen from adults who are studying them — and, in some cases, trying to influence their behavior in powerful ways.

Researchers in game companies tweak games to get players to stay on longer, or to encourage them to spend money on digital goods. They study gamers’ reactions. It’s become a science.

And parents like Max’s mom, Vanessa Kelmon, often feel outgunned.

“I hate it. I really do,” she says. “He could play Xbox for 12 straight hours. [He has] friends in Mexico City and friends in England.”

Vanessa says Max is addicted to video games. “When I took it away, he started to cry,” she says. “My God, I am offering you to go play tennis or go play golf … and I am making you shut this down, and you’re crying about it.”

Tracking Clicks And Purchases

In millions of families, video games are a source of intense love and intense hate because they can be so incredibly compelling. You might not believe that if you don’t play them, but you can get lost in a great game. They make you feel good.

And it’s no accident, says Ramin Shokrizade, the game economist for Wargaming America.

“The technology for this has gotten quite sophisticated,” says Shokrizade, who began his career in neuroscience and behavioral economics. “At this point, every major gaming company worldwide either has in place a fully developed business intelligence unit, or they’re in the process of building one.”

Researchers in game companies tweak games to get players to stay on longer, or to encourage them to spend money on digital goods. They study gamers’ reactions. It’s become a science.

Today’s game design is dominated by research, he says. As we play games, game developers are tracking every click, running tests and analyzing data.

They are trying to find out: What can they tweak to make us play just a bit longer? What would make the game more fun? What can get us to spend some money inside a game and buy something?

So as millions of people play, designers introduce little changes and get answers to all of these questions in real time. And games evolve.

For example, most games today sell virtual goods right inside the game — like a new gun in Call of Duty or a cow in FarmVille. Shokrizade’s job is to get people to buy them.

One of the tricks of the trade is something developers at Zynga — which created FarmVille — used to call “fun pain” or “the pinch.” The idea is to make gamers uncomfortable, frustrate them, take away their powers, crush their forts — and then, at the last second, offer them a way out for a price.

John Davison, who works at video game company Red Robot Labs, says free-to-play smartphone games like Candy Crush Saga and Puzzle & Dragons have become brilliant at using these tests to figure out how to get people to spend money.

And the research is working. Davison says those games are making millions of dollars — every day.

Kids Who Cash In

When adults play games, they consent to share that personal information about how they play. But Shokrizade worries about the millions of kids who play. “If it’s a child, how do you even get consent for something like that?” he says.

Many of the people spending cash are kids, including Davison’s children. Game consoles sell gift cards at convenience stores that allow kids to make purchases on video games, even if they don’t have a credit card.

Davison’s kids started playing Clash of Clans this year. In the game, developed by Supercell, you get to run your own little Viking village and team up with friends. To protect your clan, you can spend money on forts and weapons.

It’s free to download — but because of these virtual goods, it’s one of the highest-grossing apps in Apple’s store.

Davison’s two boys loved it. “They were clearly getting a lot of enjoyment out of it,” he says. “But it did get to the point where my wife and I were like, ‘Do you really want to be spending everything on this?’ ”

And this is coming from a man who has devoted his life to video games.

“I was trying to sort of total up in my head how much the kids had spent on this game,” he says. “But there was also a degree of admiration for the team at Supercell, that they had managed to get under my 10-year-old’s skin to this degree.”

Apple recently settled a class-action lawsuit about kids making in-app purchases like this without their parents’ permission, and the European Union is considering new regulations on games.

Some regulations are taking place on a smaller scale. In Menlo Park, Calif., Michelle DeWolf banned her 10-year-old son, Austin Newman, from playing games during the school week.

Originally, she gave him 30 minutes a day, but that didn’t work.

“He couldn’t think about doing his homework. He couldn’t think about walking the dog or helping in any other way, because he couldn’t get his mind off the idea that he had 30 minutes coming,” she says.

“Once he knew there was nothing, he didn’t think about it during the week, and he almost — maybe I’m not objective — but he almost seemed relieved.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


Understanding by Design: Essential Questions

“Educator and writer Dana Huff manages an informative and thoughtful blog called, and this post she featured a while back about understanding the essence of what creates a truly effective essential question is timeless and powerful. If you were ever unclear about how to craft a perfect EQ, read on through Dana’s wonderful article below and you’ll understand how it’s done right. Huff also gives a generous nod to one of the best books out there on the subject, which is Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.”


As I read the chapter “Essential Questions: Doorways to Understanding” in Understanding by Design, I realized that many educators I know have an erroneous understanding of what essential questions are and how to use them.  For instance, I can remember the middle school principal I worked with encouraging me to post essential questions on my board.  I didn’t know what they were, and he explained them as what you want the students to get out of the lesson, that is the objectives, posed in question form.  So my initial forays into composing essential questions looked something like “How do we use semicolons?”  Where is the opportunity for intense inquiry in that?

Wiggins and McTighe define essential questions as “questions that are not answerable with finality in a brief sentence… Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions — including thoughtful student questions — not just pat answers” (106).  In order to think in terms of questions, “[i]nstead of thinking of content as something to be covered, consider knowledge and skill as the means of addressing questions central to understanding key issues in your subject” (107).  The value of framing a course or unit in terms of essential questions is invaluable:

The most vital discipline-bound questions open up thinking and possibilities for everyone — novices and experts alike.  They signal that inquiry and open-mindedness are central to expertise, that we must always be learners…  [Essential questions] are those that encourage, hint at, even demand transfer beyond the particular topic in which we first encounter them.  They should therefore recur over the years to promote conceptual connections and curriculum coherence. (108)

The key misunderstandings my former principal had regarding essential questions (which became my own after he imparted them to me) are as follows:

  • Essential questions are simply lesson objectives reworded in an interrogative format.
  • Essential questions are posted on the board and changed each day to reflect the goals of the lesson.
  • Essential questions will be answered that day (week, unit, year, etc.).

However, according to Wiggins and McTighe, essential questions actually have one or more of the following meanings:

  • Essential questions are “important questions that recur throughout all our lives.”  They are “broad in scope and timeless by nature.”
  • Essential questions  refer to “core ideas and inquiries within a discipline.”  They “point to the core of big ideas in a subject and to the frontiers of technical knowledge.  They are historically important and alive in the field.”
  • Essential questions help “students effectively inquire and make sense of important but complicated ideas, knowledge, and know-how — a bridge to findings that experts may believe are settled but learners do not yet grasp or see as valuable.”
  • Essential questions “will most engage a specific and diverse set of learners.”  They “hook and hold the attention of your students.” (108-109)

The first meaning really resonated with me.  All of us have some line of inquiry, some essential questions, that we haven’t answered yet.  For example, one of mine might be “What teaching methods and practices will most engage my students and enable them to leave my class, as our school’s mission statement promises, a ‘knowledgeable, thinking, responsible, Jewish adult’?”  In posing essential questions of this type, we teach our student that “education is not just about learning ‘the answer’ but about learning how to learn” (108).  In our culture, we often nail politicians for “waffling” when they change their minds about something.  If we were really teaching our students how to think, as adults they might realize that “we are likely to change our minds in response to reflection and experience concerning such questions as we go through life, and changes of mind are not only expected but beneficial” (108).

In framing essential questions, we must first as what our intent is.  If we don’t know “why we pose it,how we intend students to tackle it, and what we expect for learning activities and assessments,” we don’t really know really know what we want (110).

In the absence of well-designed and deliberate inquiry as a follow-up to our asking the question, even essential-sounding questions end up merely rhetorical.  Conversely, questions that sound rather mundane in isolation might become increasingly paradoxical, and the design makes clear that digging deeper is mandatory. (111)

Wiggins and McTighe argue against using a certain format for framing essential questions, and they note that many times we think of fairly straightforward “yes/no, either/or, and who/what/when questions” as inappropriate for deeper inquiry (111).  But what about “Is The Catcher in the Rye a comedy or a tragedy?” (111).  On the surface, it’s question with a one-word answer, but if we think about it, we realize that the novel has elements of both, and asking such a question can probe students’ understanding of the novel as well as the ideas of comedy and tragedy in literature and, indeed, even in life.

Essential questions may be framed as either “overarching questions” that are “valuable for framing courses and programs of study… around the truly big ideas” and “topical questions” that “lead to specific topical understandings within a unit” (114).  Wiggins and McTighe suggest created “related sets” of overarching and topical questions (114).  For  example, the overarching question “How do authors use different story elements to establish mood?” can be paired with “How does John Updike use setting to establish mood?” and “How does Ernest Hemingway use language to establish a mood?” (115).

In addition, essential questions should be few in number — “two to five per unit” (121).  The authors argue against composing too many questions, as “prioritiz[ing] content” enables students to “focus on a few key questions” (121).

The authors have a great list of tips for using essential questions on p. 121, but one idea jumped out in me.  “Help students to personalize the questions.  Have them share examples, personal stories, and hunches.  Encourage them to bring in clippings and artifacts to help make the questions come alive” (121).  I have, at points in the past, asked for volunteers to contribute to a Grammar Wall of Shame — a section of wall in my classroom devoted to grammar, usage, and mechanical errors we found in print.  Some students liked the idea so much that they were constantly on the lookout for mistakes.  They brought in signs their peers had posted, articles in the newspaper, and even photocopied textbook and novel pages.  I could fill a wall with Philippa Gregory’s comma splices alone!  It occurred to me as I read that I could somehow frame this activity into the kind of essential question described.  A Grammar Wall would enable students to bring in their own examples, and thus personalize and share examples, of their own brushes with poor grammar, which might lead to a topical understanding of why good grammar is important (and not just so cheeky English teachers and student will refrain from mocking you).

This chapter ends with a bang in terms of thought provoking ideas.  “Our students need a curriculum that treats them more like potential performers than sideline observers” (122).  Students describe school or classes as something to get through.  No wonder!  They  aren’t really often asked to participate in it, to use what they know or think about what they’re learning beyond regurgitating for a test!  I want my class to be a class that students will say is challenging and makes them think about things in new ways.  One quibble I have always had with and the similar is that one of their criteria for a good teacher is an easy class.  In what way do we learn anything, and therefore by extension can we say a teacher is good if we are only after an easy class, which really means an easy A?  Is that all we care about?  That grade?  Well, yes, it can be.  We have all been frustrated, I’m sure, at one time or another by hearing “Is this going to be on the test? Is this what you want?  How long does the paper have to be?” (122).  What we need to do, then, is step back and see whether we have created a class based on “an unending stream of leading questions” (122).

We sometimes send students the message that getting through the content is more important than their own questions.  We have trained students that not to know something and be curious about it is risky:

The learners’ own questions often do not seem important to them.  ‘I know this sounds stupid…’ is often the preface to a wonderful question.  Why the self-deprecation?  It is not merely developmental or a function of shyness.  An unending dose of straightforward coverage and the sense that school is about ‘right answers’ can easily make it seem as if the experts do not have questions, only the foolish and ignorant do. (122)

This passage made me recall a question I asked in my Descriptive Astronomy class.  I was so embarrassed by my lack of understanding about this issue that I waited to ask the question after class, and I prefaced it with the “This might be a stupid question” caveat.  My professor assured me that it definitely wasn’t, which emboldened me a bit.  You see, when you look up in the sky, all you see are stars.  It didn’t occur to me that the stars you see — all of them — are all in the Milky Way galaxy.  I had failed somewhere along the line to understand that stars are all located inside galaxies, unless, as Dr. Magnani explained, galaxies collide and a star gets knocked out of the galaxy.  All of a sudden the universe seemed both a whole lot smaller — these stars were all my neighbors — and a whole lot larger — these stars I could see were just my neighbors; a seemingly infinite reach beyond lay other galaxies and stars I couldn’t even see.  Obviously it really blew my mind if I am still thinking about it over 15 years later!  Is it any wonder I thought that with ideas like that to occupy me, maybe I should change my major?  That’s what I want to do with kids.  I want them to be so intrigued by their learning that they think it’s worthwhile and interesting even after they leave my class, even years later.

To constantly put before learners a curriculum framed by essential questions is to leave a lasting impression about not only the nature of knowledge but also the importance and power of their intellectual freedom. (123)

Essential questions “keep us focused on inquiry as opposed to just answers” (124).

At the very end of the chapter, the authors return to Bob the health teacher, who is designing a unit on diet.  His observations were mine, so I’ll leave you with them:

As I reflect on my own education, I can’t recall ever being in a course in which the content was explicitly framed around important, thought-provoking questions.  Some of my teachers and professors asked thought-provoking questions during class, but these unit (and essential) questions are different.  I see how they might provide a focus for all the work and knowledge mastery, if done right.  I now feel a bit cheated because I’m beginning to realize the power of these overarching questions for pointing to the bigger ideas within a subject or topic. (125)

The thought that struck me as I finished the chapter is that students learn in spite of school too often, and not because of school.

Work Cited: Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Expanded 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2005.

8 Educational (and Fun) iOS Games for Teens

via Mashable

There’s a reason you learned more from Bill Nye than your actual science teacher. Mr. Nye made learning fun.

If your middle/high school student is struggling to grasp some concepts in school, there’s an app for that. Bonus points: if it’s part of our list, it’s a fun one.

The App Store is filled with productivity and educational apps to help your student achieve straight As. But sometimes a good game can provide the extracurricular support a student needs to truly understand a difficult lesson. We’ve selected a game for eight school subjects to give your student’s educational performance a boost.

Don’t see your problem subject here? We certainly haven’t exhausted the supply of educational games. Search the App Store for a game suited to your child’s age level, subject matter or gaming style. And share your favorite educational game in the comments section below.


1. Chemistry - Space Chem

This addictive, design-based puzzle game is loosely based on the principles of chemistry and chemical bonding.



2. English - Psychobabble

There are a million word scramble and Scrabble-like games in the App Store that — don’t get us wrong — we love dearly. But Psychobabble offers something a little different. Build your vocabulary and quicken your brain with this word association game.

Image: Ultralingua, Inc.



3. History - WWII: History Challenge

This quiz game is good for history students and trivia buffs alike. Test your knowledge of important battles, generals, statesmen and weapons of WWII. The faster you answer, the more points you earn.

WWII not your thing? Try one of the other history games by this developer.

Image: Maple Leaf Soft, Inc.



4. Social Studies - Presidents vs. Aliens

Learn presidential facts, quotes and historical events as ammo against an oncoming alien invasion. Unlocking more presidents also unlocks bonus games: Heads of State and Executive Order. We’re still waiting for the Bill Pullman update, though.

Image: Dan Russell-Pinson



5. Physics - Simple Physics

Using realistic physics principles, players design and build bridges and other structures as strongly and cheaply as possible. Test your designs by adding strain with your fingers, or tap the screen for an explosion to commit “ultimate annihilation.”

Image: Jundroo, LLC



6. Algebra - DragonBox Algebra 12+

Expanding on DragonBox Algebra 5+, this game teaches students more advanced concepts in mathematics and algebra. Instant feedback makes for effective lessons as students explore and learn at their own pace.

Image: WeWantToKnow AS



7. Foreign Language - Duolingo

This simple language app gamifies foreign language education by awarding points for every level you finish. It only gives you three wrong answers before you have to restart the level. You’ll breeze through lessons without even realizing how much you’re learning.

Image: Duolingo



8. Biology - Spore Origins

Build and perfect your own organisms, unlocking and adding different traits to ensure their survival. Play in Evolution or Survival mode, explore your surroundings in the primordial ooze and avoid larger creatures to stay alive.

Image: Electronic Arts

Six New Changes in Children’s Media Habits

“The digital generation have an incredible appetite for media. Laura Devaney at eSchool News identifies six important statistics from a Common Sense Media report. Although television remains the most common platform for children’s educational content, mobile device usage has skyrocketed in recent years. What will this mean for schools and their students? ”


via eSchool News

Children’s mobile media use has skyrocketed, report shows

Children’s use of mobile devices and mobile apps has jumped dramatically in the past two years, doubling and tripling in some cases, according to results from a large national Common Sense Media report.

In 2011, 8 percent of families with children ages 0-8 owned an iPad or similar tablet device. In 2013, 40 percent of those families had an iPad or similar device. According to “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013,” smart phone ownership has grown from 41 percent of families in 2011 to 63 percent of families today.

Two years ago, roughly half (52 percent) of all children up to age 8 had access to a new mobile media device such as a tablet or smart phone. Now, 75 percent of children have this access.

The report also reveals a marked increase in children who use mobile devices every day–from 8 percent in 2011 to 17 percent today. The amount of time children spend using these devices has tripled, jumping from 5 minutes a day among all children in 2011 to 15 minutes in 2013.

The authors note that along with expanded access comes greater use. Almost two times the number of children ages 0-8 have used a mobile device (72 percent) as compared to 2011′s results (38 percent).

Here are six key findings in the report:

1. Children’s access to mobile media devices is much greater today than two years ago. In 2011, only 8 percent of families with children ages 0-8 owned a tablet device. In 2013, 40 percent of families reported owning a tablet.

2. Roughly twice as many children use mobile media today than in 2011. The amount of time using the devices has increased, which is a reflection of wider access to devices. Today, 72 percent of children ages 0-8 have used a mobile device.

3. “Traditional” screen media use, such as television and video games, has decreased by more than 30 minutes per day. Overall, children ages 0-8 spend 1 hour and 55 minutes on “screen time” a day, compared to 2 hours and 16 minutes in 2011.

4. Children still spend most of their media time watching television, but viewing habits have changed. Fifty-eight percent of children watch TV at least once a day. Half of children’s daily screen time (1 hour and 55 minutes each day) is spent watching TV on a TV set, but this viewing includes watching pre-recorded, downloaded or streamed, or on-demand programs.

5. Poor and minority children have more access to mobile devices and apps than they did two years ago, but a large access gap still remains.Access to high-speed internet has remained about the same, with 42 percent of low-income families having access in 2011 and 46 percent having access in 2013. But access to smart phones is increasing–27 percent of lower-income families reported owning a smart phone in 2011, and in 2013, that figure has jumped to 51 percent. Tablet ownership, which sat around 2 percent in 2011, jumped to 20 percent of lower-income families. In 2011 just 22 percent of lower-income children had ever used a mobile device, and today, 65 percent of lower-income children have. But gaps still remain: though 20 percent of lower-income children own a tablet, 63 percent of higher-income children do. Thirty-five percent of lower-income parents have downloaded educational apps for their children, compared with 75 percent of higher-income parents.

6. Television is the most common platform for children’s educational content. Though many children access educational materials on mobile devices, television continues to top the list. Sixty-one percent of children ages 0-8 “often or sometimes” watch educational TV shows. When it comes to children ages 5-8, 59 percent “often or sometimes” watch educational TV, 48 percent “often or sometimes” use educational computer games, and 44 percent “often or sometimes” use educational games or apps on mobile devices. Fifty-four percent of higher-income children “often or sometimes” use educational content on mobile devices, but only 28 percent of lower-income children do the same.

The authors note that “the change in screen media use from 2011 to 2013 is a result of children spending less time using ‘traditional’ screen media” such as watching television and DVDs, but “on the other hand, children are averaging more time consuming media on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets in 2013 than they did two years ago.”

The report is the second in a series of national surveys on children’s media use. Researchers used the same methods used with the first report in order to document how children’s media behaviors have changed.

Brain-Imaging with Entertainment

“Neuroimaging, or brain imaging, is the concept of actually putting a visual map on the structure and function of the brain. This advance in brain research has given us huge strides forward in our understanding of the human brain. Researchers in Australia are now working with the world’s first machine for brain imaging studies that features its own in-house entertainment. Read about the work they are doing with it in the following Stuff article by Nicky Phillips.”



Jane CorlessBOXED IN: Jane Corless, who has a cochlear implant, being scanned by the new machine. (NICK MOIR/Fairfax)
Brain imaging may have transformed scientist’s understanding of our most complex organ – but try getting a three-year-old to lie still, cocooned inside a machine, for 45 minutes while an image is being taken.

An Australian university is now in possession of the world’s first child-friendly brain-imaging device, which can keep kids occupied by displaying a movie or a game.

Researchers will use the custom-built machine to study brain development during early childhood.

One of the first studies to be performed will image the brains of children with cochlear implants to understand how the brain processes information from the hearing devices.

“We know early intervention yields the best cognitive outcomes for children because brain plasticity is optimal in the first few years of life,” said Stephen Crain, the director of ARC centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders at Macquarie University, where the unit will be housed.

“Using the new system, we plan to investigate how the brain is able to achieve so much more during this period using the same information,” he said.

The machine, called a cochlear implant MEG, or magnetoencephalography, processes brain function by measuring magnetic fields outside the head.

“When we process information like language, neurons are firing [inside the brain], and whenever neurons are firing they create tiny electric currents,” he said.

Surrounding these electric currents are magnetic fields, which travels through the blood, tissue and skull and can be measured by the imaging machine.

“The child can lie in the machine and watch a movie or play a video game,” Professor Crain said.

One of the most common brain imaging techniques, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – which measures blood flow in neurons – requires a patient to lie in a noisy tunnel for 45 minutes with their head cocooned in a helmet.

“You don’t want to put your kid in there unless it’s necessary, such as suspecting they have a tumour or for pre-surgical mapping,” Professor Crain said.

As well as studying people with cochlear implants, the machine will also allow scientists to study language development in children.

Previously, this has been a difficult study area for linguists because young children struggle to perform language tasks that scientists use to measure language comprehension in adults.

Now researchers can watch how children’s brain respond to those tasks without them needing the verbal skills to respond.

Another benefits of the MEG is it could measure brain activity on a millisecond by millisecond response time, Professor Crain said.

“So it’s very accurate,” he said.

Report: NSA Broke into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

The Information Age has its own share of dangers and risks that come with us leaving our digital footprints. It’s sometimes unnerving to think that all of our collected information is available so easily and in only a few key domains where it is conglomerated and stored. How do you feel when you read the following article from the NZ Herald? What thoughts come into your mind, both about your own personal responsibility to yourself as a digital citizen, and the responsibilities of others, especially organizations of power and influence?”


via The New Zealand Herald

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, indicates that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters. In the last 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back more than 180 million new records ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, to content such as text, audio and video, the Post reported Wednesday on its website.

The latest revelations were met with outrage from Google, and triggered legal questions, including whether the NSA may be violating federal wiretap laws.”

Although there’s a diminished standard of legal protection for interception that occurs overseas, the fact that it was directed apparently to Google’s cloud and Yahoo’s cloud, and that there was no legal order as best we can tell to permit the interception, there is a good argument to make that the NSA has engaged in unlawful surveillance,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center. The reference to ‘clouds’ refers to sites where the companies collect data.

The new details about the NSA’s access to Yahoo and Google data centers around the world come at a time when Congress is reconsidering the government’s collection practices and authority, and as European governments are responding angrily to revelations that the NSA collected data on millions of communications in their countries. Details about the government’s programs have been trickling out since Snowden shared documents with the Post and Guardian newspaper in June.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the Google and Yahoo data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ.

In the last 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back more than 180 million new records ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, to content such as text, audio and video …

The Post said NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.The NSA has a separate data-gathering program, called PRISM, which uses a court order to compel Yahoo, Google and other Internet companies to provide certain data. It allows the NSA to reach into the companies’ data streams and grab emails, video chats, pictures and more. U.S. officials have said the program is narrowly focused on foreign targets, and technology companies say they turn over information only if required by court order.In an interview with Bloomberg News Wednesday, NSA Director Gen.

Keith Alexander was asked if the NSA has infiltrated Yahoo and Google databases, as detailed in the Post story.”Not to my knowledge,” said Alexander. “We are not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s servers and take data. We’d have to go through a court process for doing that.”It was not clear, however, whether Alexander had any immediate knowledge of the latest disclosure in the Post report. Instead, he appeared to speak more about the PRISM program and its legal parameters.

In a separate statement, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said NSA has “multiple authorities” to accomplish its mission, and she said “the assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true.”The GCHQ had no comment on the matter.The Post said the NSA was breaking into data centers worldwide. The NSA has far looser restrictions on what it can collect outside the United States on foreigners.David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer said the company has “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping.””We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems,” said Drummond. “We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform.”Google, which is known for its data security, noted that it has been trying to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links.

Yahoo spokeswoman Sarah Meron said there are strict controls in place to protect the security of the company’s data centers. “We have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency,” she said, adding that it is too early to speculate on whether legal action would be taken.

The MUSCULAR project documents state that this collection from Yahoo and Google has led to key intelligence leads, the Post said.Congress members and international leaders have become increasingly angry about the NSA’s data collection, as more information about the programs leak out.Alexander told lawmakers that the U.S. did not collect European records, and instead the U.S. was given data by NATO partners as part of a program to protect military interests.

More broadly, Alexander on Wednesday defended the overall NSA effort to monitor communications. And he said that as Congress considers proposals to scale back the data collection or provide more transparency to some of the programs, it’s his job to lay out the resulting terrorism risks.”I’m concerned that we give information out that impacts our ability to stop terrorist attacks. That’s what most of these programs are aimed to do,” Alexander said. “I believe if you look at this and you go back through everything, none of this shows that NSA is doing something illegal or that it’s not been asked to do.”Pointing to thousands of terror attacks around the world, he said the U.S. has been spared much of that violence because of such programs.

“It’s because you have great people in the military and the intelligence community doing everything they can with law enforcement to protect this country,” he said. “But they need tools to do it. If we take away the tools, we increase the risk.”

Associated Press writers Mike Liedtke in San Francisco and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.

Can The Blended Classroom Help Instill ‘Grit’?

Can The Blended Classroom Help Instill  ‘Grit’? first appeared on Navigator by Compass Learning on April 24, 2014.

By: Kurt Bauer

There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about ‘grit’ and its place in the classroom. ‘Grit’ has more or less officially entered the lexicon of edu-speak. ‘Grit’ has been equated to perseverance or resilience, or both. As defined by psychologists, grit is “an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal . . . coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve” that goal. For decades, these same psychologists, along with educators and others, have debated whether grit is an inherited trait or a quality that can be introduced and fostered. Putting aside the nature-versus-nurture contentiousness for a moment, let’s assume that this attribute, combining desire with stick-to-itiveness, is both worthwhile and teachable.

The idea that grit is a good thing for a student to possess is pretty hard to argue with. Plenty of studies suggest that students who set high goals and don’t become discouraged by setbacks are statistically more likely to achieve academic success than classmates who cannot articulate a goal or find it difficult to overcome failure, almost regardless of comparative levels of intelligence. The idea of grit generally appeals to our common sense as well. So how does one go about instilling grit in one’s students—or encouraging and developing the trait in students who appear to possess it?

In a traditional classroom, an educator could encourage risk-taking and create an environment that students might recognize as supportive by instituting risk-free homework grading policies; that is, credit is given for completion of practice tasks, with no final grade penalty for making mistakes. Alternately, one could give opportunities to regain score points lost to wrong answers on practice assignments, homework, or assessments by reworking missed problems or questions, encouraging students to keep trying. But if these well-worn models are at least theoretically workable, how much better might a blended learning environment be for instilling grit?

In a blended setting, where teacher-directed instruction is combined with digitally-delivered content, practice, and assessment, customizable and adaptive digital instruction systems contribute the multiple advantages of easy, student-controlled review, repetition, and reinforcement of content, student performance tracking, and mapping learning paths that precisely address student learning gaps based on results. This automation frees the teacher to serve as a coach and mentor, to encourage students to keep trying, and to use the precise data generated by the digital tools to focus his individualized efforts with each student.

But all educators are aware that simply creating, or attempting to create, a learning environment that encourages risk-taking and grants a ‘license to fail,’ seldom suddenly or magically motivates unmotivated students. Michael Horn argues that digital delivery of a mastery-oriented curriculum mitigates the gloom of failure, though, and turns the periodic, repeated discouragement of falling short into a daily, incremental opportunity for encouragement and motivation. When the student immersed in such a blended environment has the opportunity the very same day to circle back onto an analogous but not repetitive learning path and prove herself on another assessment, the looming boogeyman of test anxiety doesn’t have the chance to be quite as scary.

And what’s more likely to put grit into students—trying, learning from mistakes, trying again, and succeeding, every day, or dreading the unit test lurking out there in the murky distance?

Seems like the blended model is worth a try.