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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Interview with Dr Renato C Nicolai, Author of "The Nightmare That Is Public Education"

A retired teacher and principal with thirty-eight years of experience in public education, Renato C. Nicolai, Ed.D., taught 6th through 12th grade and was both an elementary and middle school principal. In education circles, he was known as Dr. Nicolai, which eventually was shortened to Dr. Nick, and has stuck ever since.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Dr. Nick. Obviously, the state of public education in the United States is of great concern to many people. To begin, will you tell us what you think is wrong with the public education system?
Dr. Nick: Wow! What an opportunity! Yes, I would be pleased to tell you what I think is wrong with the public education system. My thoughts aren't in any order of priority; I'm telling you about them as they come to mind.
What I think of first is what I wrote about as the main emphasis in my book. Teachers desperately need to improve the quality of their teaching, so, specifically, what's wrong is that too many teachers are either incompetent or mediocre instructors at best. Yes, if you had the opportunity to stand by my side in the hundreds of classrooms I've visited in my career, you would be both amazed and horrified at how much poor quality teaching there is in our public schools. If parents only knew how much more their children could be learning with instruction from superb teachers compared to what they are most likely learning now from incompetent teachers, they would be flabbergasted. That's how bad it really is. This indictment of teachers, however, is not a major problem at the elementary school, but is a serious and rampant problem for sure at the middle school, junior high school, and especially the high school level of education. Parents, you'll want to read about the eight essential qualities most teachers don't possess. I've listed and described them in the first chapter of my book.
Tenure is another critical problem. Once tenure is granted by a school district, an incompetent teacher is a teacher for life. It's extremely difficult to dismiss a teacher who has tenure. What's wrong with tenure is that it's achievable so soon in a teacher's career (after only three years in most cases), so final (once it's granted it's irrevocable), and so long lasting (the teacher keeps it for as long as he/she teaches). What happens is that some teachers work very hard during their first few years on the job, receive tenure, and then slack off in their performance because they know they can almost never lose their job. Instead of tenure, public education should promote a system of performance reviews that teachers are required to pass periodically in order to keep their teaching position for the next two or three years.
The way a teacher is evaluated is all wrong within the education system. It's basically a sham and a joke. Collective bargaining contracts and union involvement in teacher evaluations has watered down the process of teacher evaluations to the degree that practically nothing worthwhile results from the process. In my book, I have a chapter titled "What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You," and the concept of teacher evaluation is discussed in that chapter. If parents and the public at large knew how ineffective and unproductive teacher evaluations are, they would demand a more efficient system. The system as it exists in most school districts today is a tactful process of saying the right words, doing what's anticipated, and not ruffling anyone's feelings. What it should do is help teachers improve the quality of their teaching to the degree that they help students learn better, but it doesn't do that at all.
The public education system is rooted in the false notion that all teachers are qualified educators who can be trusted to make good decisions, follow school district rules and regulations, work together in a spirit of collegiality, promote the welfare of students as a priority, and, generally, do what is just, moral, and professional. What's wrong is that this description is simply not true; yet, school districts throughout the United States allow teachers the freedom to work unsupervised because they are assumed to be well-intentioned, professional persons who have the best interests of students at heart. Don't misunderstand me, please. Of course, there are many conscientious teachers who do work well with each other and do have the best interests of students at heart, but I believe that there are many more who take advantage of academic freedom, collegiality, and lack of supervision to do whatever they want within the four walls of their classrooms. This is actually a very serious problem that is covered up by the educational hierarchy.
Another very serious wrong is the way in which school districts manage the use of substitute teachers. Substitute teachers are rarely observed to determine their competence, frequently assigned to subject areas they have no qualifications to teach, and regularly subjected to unbelievable disrespect and insolence from students. When a substitute teacher is present in a middle school, junior high school, or high school classroom, little or no learning takes place. That class is a waste of instructional time, the students' time, and the substitute's time as well. The three most common activities that take place when a substitute takes over a regular teacher's class are the showing of videos or DVDs, the administration of tests, and the supervision of long, boring written or reading assignments left by the regular teacher. The lesson plans left by most regular teachers for substitute teachers to follow are generally a set of instructions on how to occupy the time students have in class. The entire substitute teacher system needs to be completely overhauled. Students must be taught to respect substitute teachers, to assist them with the lesson, and to be responsible for their own learning. Expectations that students will cooperate with substitute teachers, that regular teachers will conscientiously prepare quality lesson plans, that substitutes will teach, and that administrators will monitor substitutes are so miserably low, currently, that the education system simply accepts the status quo of chaos, lack of learning, and disgraceful substitute teacher academic and professional performance.
Tyler, the public education system in the United States is really in trouble. It's inundated with problems; there are many things wrong with it. I could have written about lack of student discipline, emphasis on sports over academics, permissiveness throughout the culture of public schools, reticence about the problems that exist, and much more. I believe that it has deteriorated so much over the last fifty years, that mediocrity and incompetence are the status quo. Parents don't even realize that the system is so bad. What they see and experience is what they think is how the system should be. They don't understand how much better it could be and how their children could be receiving a more superior educational experience.
Tyler: Dr. Nick, will you tell us a little bit about your background in education-where you taught and the subjects you taught, as well as your experience as a middle school principal. What personal experiences have led to your current viewpoints?
Dr. Nick: My first full time position in public schools was as a 9th and 11th grade teacher of English at El Camino High School in South San Francisco, California (a city separate from San Francisco). After teaching two years, my assignment changed to teaching English half the school day and counseling the other half. In my third year as a teacher at this school, I was elected president of the local teachers' union and the following year chairman of the School District Negotiating Council. In my fifth year, I was appointed Assistant Principal of Parkway Junior High School (7-9) in the same school district.
During the seven years I held this position as assistant principal, I enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Southern California, and from 1969-1972 I achieved a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration and Secondary Curriculum. My dissertation, which researched the administrative behavior of superintendents of schools, was the first dissertation sponsored by the newly formed Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).
In 1974, I was selected Principal of Isaac Newton Graham Middle School (7-8) in Mountain View, California. You asked me to share my experience as a middle school principal, and I'm pleased to do so, but I want you to know that I could easily write another book about those experiences alone. So, I'll try to give you an encapsulated answer. I think I could best describe my experiences as a middle school principal as a continuing five year roller coaster ride because I never knew when my feelings, emotions, and experiences would be up or down. On the up side, I was thrilled to see many students learn to their potential as a result of the excellent teaching of some superb teachers. After all, helping young people learn is what education is all about. I also observed some outstanding teachers whose skills and methods motivated students to excel beyond their own personal expectations. That was extremely exciting. As the leader of a neighborhood school, I grew personally as an educator because I had the opportunity to influence curriculum, work for the educational benefits of students, and associate often with community leaders in various agencies (fire department, police department, recreation department, mayor's office, and so on). These experiences made me a better principal. On the down side, I learned quickly that many teachers should never have been allowed to enter a classroom to teach. They were not suited to interact with adolescents and teenagers; they didn't have the skills needed to help young minds understand concepts and ideas; they failed to devote themselves to learning how to teach expertly; they didn't know how to control and manage a class of thirty students. I also realized what some of the problems were that I had to deal with (incompetent teachers, low quality curriculum, collective bargaining contracts to name a few) but that I didn't have the power to bring about effective change. That was frustrating to no end. Finally, the lowest possible experience for me was to meet so-called teachers who had literally given up; that is, they had decided to go through the motions of teaching only. They were no longer eager to teach, didn't look forward to meeting their classes, and did as little as possible to meet their professional responsibilities. I left out so much that I feel my answer is inadequate. I can see the joy on the faces of students who won academic and sports awards, the enthusiasm of both staff and student body at our annual soft ball game, the annual parent club barbecue, and so much more.
I remained at Graham for five years and then moved on to an opportunity in southern California as the Administrative Director (Superintendent/Principal) of Chatsworth Hills Academy, a private school in Chatsworth, California. I preferred serving in public education, so I returned to Graham as a 7th grade core teacher, teaching English and social studies (world history). In October of my second year back from southern California, I was asked by three Santa Clara County superintendents to head up a "joint powers" school named The Institute of Computer Technology as an on-loan school administrator. Along with an on-loan administrator from IBM (Ken Butler), I helped this new educational enterprise get its feet off the ground. It was exciting work and I enjoyed hiring teachers, meeting technology experts at Apple and IBM, developing curriculum, outfitting a school with security systems, working with school superintendents, learning how to protect valuable hardware and software, and a lot more. After doing what I was hired to do, I returned to Graham, teaching English, social studies, and geography to 7th and 8th graders, including the 8th Grade Honors English program. I remained at Graham for the next twenty years and retired in 2001.
During my career, I've been a presenter at various conferences, in-service sessions, and conventions. My presentation topics were usually in the areas of teaching methods, literature-based instruction, discipline, and classroom management. I've also been a master teacher, chairman or member of numerous curriculum committees, and an adjunct professor in the teacher training program at National University.
My current viewpoints and attitudes toward public education developed throughout my career based upon my personal experiences as a teacher and principal, what I saw other educators do and heard them say, what I read, what I learned best helped young people reach their learning potential, what political reforms failed, and what I learned about how young minds gain knowledge. For instance, there was a time when I opposed vouchers; I'm adamantly in favor of them now. The more choices parents have in the education of their children, the better. I was a staunch supporter of tenure at the beginning of my career until I witnessed how many deficient teachers hide their incompetence under the protection of this law. Tenure should be abolished. I'm sure you get the idea. I hold the views, attitudes, and feelings that I do about education as a result of a life-long career in schools. You know, children aren't the only ones who learn while at school.
Tyler: You mention that many teachers are not competent? What is the reason for this, and why does the school system allow them to remain in the classroom?
Dr. Nick: Why are many teachers incompetent? Here are some reasons to contemplate:
Because they don't possess the personality needed to interact well with young people. If a person doesn't like kids, doesn't enjoy being with them all day long, doesn't look forward to teaching them, doesn't accept their immaturity and want to help them become more mature, can't stand constantly answering questions, can't accept individual differences (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc), can't cope with special needs (hyperactivity, behavior problems, and so on), then that person will never be a competent teacher.
Because they don't possess, exhibit, use, and treasure enthusiasm, and, so, they are truly boring to most of their students. Ask any kid at a middle school, junior high school, or high school in your community what they dislike the most about their teachers, and, I guarantee you the answer will overwhelmingly be that they are boring. And you know something, Tyler; the kids are right. Most teachers are insufferably boring in how they teach. Enthusiasm is a sine qua non for all competent teachers.
Because they don't know how to get concepts and ideas across clearly to their students. They don't possess the knowledge and skills needed to help students learn. They just don't know what to do and end up quite often being frustrated and saying something like, "Oh, those kids just can't learn this stuff." That's an expression equivalent to defeatism and incompetence. If the learning material is age appropriate and part of the accepted curriculum, of course a normal, healthy student can learn it. It isn't the student who is at fault; it's the teacher who doesn't have the competence to design lessons, activities, and programs to help students learn. The reason for this is that many teachers tell students but don't show and teach.
Because they can't manage and control student behavior. Teachers daily face challenging disciplinary and behavior problems. If a teacher can't effectively handle these problems, that teacher will never be a competent instructor-never! In this case, the incompetence is in not knowing what to do when a disciplinary or behavior problem presents itself because the teacher hasn't thought out a personal Educational Philosophy for Control of Student Behavior. Every teacher needs to do this to harmonize his/her personality with methods of discipline. I explain this in detail in my book.
Because many teachers don't manage classroom time efficiently. I devote an entire chapter to this topic: "Wasted Time - Inept Instruction (Euphemism: Teaching Mistakes). How can anyone consider a teacher competent when that teacher tries to teach over the noise of unruly students, doesn't know how to quell effectively unnecessary noise at the change of a classroom activity, and allows students to talk whenever they want. This inability to control noise leads to as much as 25% of each class period being wasted. Many teachers can't even control the time at the end of class when students get ready to leave and waste the ten or fifteen minutes left.
Because many teachers can't effectively control group learning. One of the most effective ways for students to learn is to interact with each other, allowing students to help each other learn in groups. Sometimes, students have just the right words and explanations to help a fellow student understand a lesson. However, most teachers don't control student groups effectively and so waste tremendous amounts of instructional time.
Because many teachers don't have high enough academic and behavioral expectations and standards. In other words, many teachers don't challenge their students enough academically and don't expect them to learn to the level of their potential. Teachers must project an attitude of high expectations to motivate their charges adequately. Most teachers don't even understand this concept and need to learn it themselves. Not putting it into effect in classrooms is indicative of ignorance and incompetence. In Chapter Three, I wrote a seven-page description of the most important strategies used by teachers who truly understand how to teach high academic and behavioral standards. Teachers, you've never seen anything come close to this practical list of how to teach standards.
Because some teachers don't have a sufficient knowledge of the subjects they teach. They don't! They are assigned to teach a subject they don't know adequately or they don't even like. Many teachers are teaching subjects and they don't have either a major in that field or a valid certificate to teach it.
There are other reasons as well, but the few I mentioned are really significant ones, aren't they? Now, what are the reasons for these incompetencies and why do school systems allow these incompetent teachers to remain in the classroom? Well, the first part of the question can be answered easily. Students learning how to teach are not being prepared adequately by schools of education. You know who should teach prospective teachers how to teach? Not education professors! No! Excellent, experienced, current and retired teachers who know what a classroom is all about and who have a love for kids and teaching in their hearts should teach candidates for teaching. Give me proven experts at teaching young people, a group of twenty teacher candidates for a year, and I know we could do a much better job of teaching them how to be good teachers than any school of education in the country.
Answering the second part of the question leaves me with a heavy heart. The reason is that most school districts don't effectively monitor and evaluate the progress, competence, and teaching skills of new teachers. The procedures to do this are woefully inadequate and rarely result in new teachers being dismissed if they are incompetent. Teachers new to the profession learn more about teaching from their own personal experiences the first three years on the job and from other, experienced teachers than they do from any program presented by the school district they work for. School districts don't really know if a new teacher is mediocre or, worse yet, incompetent so they grant tenure because they need a body in the classroom. There is a tremendous shortage of teachers throughout our country today. Once tenure is granted, it is virtually impossible to dismiss a teacher on the basis of incompetence.
(Due to space constraints a portion of this review was omitted -- please see Reader Views website for the entire interview.)
Dr. Nick: Parents must be involved in their children's education from preschool right through high school and, perhaps, even into college. The tendency is for parents to step back from involvement when their teenagers start high school. This is a serious mistake. Parental involvement is critical during high school because the high schooler is under tremendous pressure from peers mainly to experiment in many different areas: drugs, alcohol, sex, ideology, cults, etc. That involvement should take the form of proactive participation, diligent observation, and ardent questioning. I recommend that parents do the following to ensure that their children receive a quality education:
Parents must communicate regularly in person, over the phone, and via e-mail with the teacher throughout the school year about every aspect of their child's learning by asking questions and seeking information about these and other important aspects of schooling:
math skills
language arts skills (reading, spelling, grammar, writing)
listening skills
participation and cooperation
Parents must frequently monitor the progress of their child's learning at home and act as the most important teacher in their child's life.
Parents should observe their child's teacher(s) to assess the teacher's quality of instruction. My book is filled with tips for parents to do just that. It also contains lists of questions for parents to ask and what to look for in a classroom to determine if a classroom's physical environment is organized as a valuable learning tool.
Parents should participate in the life of the school, if possible:
join the PTA or parent club and participate in its activities and governance
volunteer as an aide at school
offer to assist the teacher with paperwork
Parents must attend school functions: Back-to-School Night, Open House, music programs, special events, sports contests, fund raisers.
Parents must meet with the teacher at parent conferences and ask questions about their child's educational progress.
Parents should introduce themselves to the principal and other persons in key positions at the school to know who they are and to make sure these school personnel know who the parents are.
Parents should communicate their ideas and opinions to their elected school board members, and, on occasion, attend a school board meeting.
Parents must be sure their child is equipped to do the best possible work at school by providing:
necessary school supplies
a nutritious and balanced diet
enough sleep and rest
a positive attitude toward school and teachers
a distraction-free place for homework
Tyler: Does the concern over public education have a place outside the school system? What about people who do not have children? Why should they care about things like millage elections, or want to pay more taxes, or support the school system?
Dr. Nick: Yes, concern over public education does have a place outside the school system. Most people who don't have children, are retired and have no contact with children, or whose children are now adults pay taxes and generally want a school system that produces an educated person. These people are automatically invested in the public school system as a result of their taxpayer status and expect to receive good value for their tax money. I know I do because 62% of my annual property taxes (nearly $3,800) goes to public schools in the community where I live.
Tyler: Students often do not value the education they receive until years later. As a former college English professor, I taught many lazy students, and I was constantly in dismay that so many of them were even admitted to college when they could not write a complete sentence. I frequently wondered what they had done for thirteen years in the public schools? Do you think the college system is in any way responsible for the decline of public education in the elementary and high schools? Should entrance requirements into colleges be raised?
Dr. Nick: I don't blame our college system in any way at all for the decline of public education in the elementary and high schools. State colleges and universities, community colleges, private and religious colleges and universities-all provide opportunities for students who are qualified to pursue them. It's the responsibility of the elementary and secondary schools to prepare students to take advantage of those opportunities and meet those qualifications. I do think these colleges and universities should regularly evaluate their entrance requirements, as I'm sure they do, to ensure that they maintain high standards of academic expectations.
These colleges and universities have a responsibility to graduate well-educated and highly competent young people. Watering down the entrance requirements to fill classrooms would be a disgrace and morally reprehensible. Not all high school students should be expected to attend a four-year college, although that's what many high school counselors and administrators tell them is possible. I do blame some schools of education, however, for the poorly prepared teachers they seem to turn out by the thousands each year. School of education reforms in recent years in teacher training programs, curriculum standards, course content, and subject matter proficiency have not produced quality teachers. If they had, our elementary and secondary school students would be exceptionally successful learners and you would not have asked this question. After all, teachers are supposed to help students learn to their capacity.
Tyler: Dr. Nick, how long do you think the public school system has been declining? Do you believe it has affected the American job force and economy?
Dr. Nick: The American public school system has been declining over the last fifty to sixty years. All you have to do is look at the statistics to see that the reforms attempted during the past half century have not resulted in significant changes in learning, test scores, and student achievement. In fact, in most curricular areas, there has been little or no change at all, and in math and English there has been decline.
Perhaps your readers would be interested in an excellent article published in the September 2007 edition of Harper's magazine. It's titled "Schoolhouse Crock (Fifty years of blaming America's educational system for our stupidity) and presents an excellent analysis of educational reform over the past fifty years.
This decline continues to affect the American job force, businesses, and our national economy as well. Many businesses and corporations have instituted their own systems of internal education to train their work force properly to do the work expected of them because they can't rely on the public schools.
Tyler: The ones who suffer the most in this situation are the children, yet as children, students are unlikely to know what they are not learning and how it will be detrimental for them. Furthermore, they may be too intimidated by teachers to complain when they are given more free time or fruitless assignments or actual lessons. What if anything, can students do to improve the quality of their own education?
Dr. Nick: At the elementary school, middle school, and junior high school levels of education, there is probably very little if anything the young people who attend these schools can do to improve the quality of their own education. They are too young, inexperienced, and immature. At the high school, however, some students are mature and serious enough about their own schooling to do something. I might add, though, that there are most likely very few who would actually challenge the powers that be (teachers, principals, superintendents, boards of education) for a variety of reasons. The two most significant ones, in my opinion, would be peer pressure and fear of retribution or retaliation on the part of teachers or administrators. Nonetheless, here are some actions mature, serious, intelligent, concerned high school students could do:
Go to your principal and complain about the poor quality teaching you're experiencing. Nothing will happen the first time, so go a second and third time. Bring other concerned students with you.
Be polite but assertive, telling your principal that you have a right to quality instruction but aren't receiving it. Clearly state your areas of complaint: too much classroom noise, inadequate instruction, lack of teacher interest, and so on.
Make an appointment with the superintendent to voice your concerns. Present a plan of how your grievances can be redressed. Bring other concerned students with you. Request permission to speak at a board meeting and present your complaints to these elected officials

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Game Development Gets a Boost With New Education Program

AMD recently announced a $10,000 grant through its foundation to the Institute for Play, which is currently working on developing a "social impact game community" on the Gamestar Mechanic software development platform. The Gamestar Mechanic platform is a partnership between the Institute for Play and E-Line media aimed at improving the game development skills of young people. Beyond the development skills, the organization believes it provides computer literacy and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century. AMD's Changing the Game features competitions and other initiatives to encourage interaction between young people interested in development.
Programs, such as the Gamestar Mechanic, are crucial to encouraging young people to develop an interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields that are important in advancing industry in the United States. Since, unlike school, developers are not graded on their work, they can learn about the field and nurture their interest in a low pressure environment. Part of the program also allows for collaboration, so more experienced developers on the platform can provide feedback to more novice participants.
"The Game Alley program and competition are specifically tailored to create successful gaming experiences for youth and to help them engage their peers on important social issues, two key objectives of the AMD Changing the Game initiative," said Allyson Peerman, president of the AMD Foundation. "The program is an excellent example of 'stealth learning' in that players will absorb STEM and critical thinking skills while having fun."
As the software development industry continues to evolve around agile development and other new processes, new generations of developers will become an invaluable aspect of the industry. Targeting young people now with game development opportunities will enable the industry to make an impact on their lives and direct them toward educational programs and careers in software development.
"The AMD Foundation has been a real pioneer in empowering youth through game design," E-Line President Alan Gershenfeld, who was formerly Chairman of Games for Change and senior vice president at Activision Studios, said. "We are very pleased to support their mission of harnessing the power of computer and video games to engage youth in the critical issues that will affect their lives in the 21st century."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Get Out of Your Rut and Do Something New!

As I am a dancing teacher full time, I am lucky enough to get all the school holidays off. Now with the Soccer World Cup taking place in South Africa, the holidays have been extended to five weeks. To keep myself productive and not throw any of the precious time away, I have decided to set myself a new goal. If you keep on the same road day in and day out, you get into a rut, so it is good to get out of your rut and challenge yourself to do something new.
It hit me last night. My five week break will be used partly to complete my outstanding admin work and prepare for our annual concert, as well as build my own website from scratch. Okay, so I have been going with the blogging for about a year now with five blog sites up and running, which I still enjoy, but I think I need to challenge myself and learn some new skills by learning to set up and host my own website.
I have been wanting to do this for quite some time, but felt that I never had enough extra time to set aside each day to do this. As they say there is no better time than the present to learn a new skill, so now that I have the opportunity, I am going to grab it with both hands.
I realize that this is going to be a bit of a challenge for me, being a not so technically brained computer whiz, but imagine the great feeling when I get it right and launch a brand new website into cyberspace. That is what life is about - setting yourself goals, and working through all the challenges until you achieve what you set out to do. The personal rewards are well worth the effort.
First things first - I need to educate myself. I have purchased a few do it yourself e-books, as well as invested in Mark Joyners online affiliate course, so hopefully I am going in fully prepared for what lies ahead. My goal is to have my website up and running by the 10th of July 2010. I have decided to write yet another blog, but this time I will tell all you other people out there what it is like to launch your own website. Starting tomorrow, I will post whenever I do something that leads me closer to my goal. I would love to have comments and feedback from anybody who has been in the same boat.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

America's Mothers Gain Access to Huge Grants and Scholarships From Obama's New Education Program

During this time of financial crisis, American moms have a pleasant relief. It is nothing but about scholarship money. The President Barack Obama has taken care of the educational need of the American moms. The President's new stimulus package provides plenty of scholarship money to eligible American moms to complete their degree education. The grant money called Pell Grants is expected to increase the career ambitions of moms for better paying jobs.
The Obama's scholarship for moms is provided to all eligible applicants based on the application called Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). From the information given by the applicants; a standard formula is created to select the eligible moms. An Expected Family Contribution Number (EFC) is created and this will be the deciding factor for the award of grant.
The applicants for Pell Grants must be US citizens or other eligible non US citizens. Also they should have completed high school or equivalent education and be eligible for undergraduate studies. The Pell Grants are usually available to undergraduate studies in general or professional disciplines.The study may be either regular day, part time or an online course.
Usually the Pell Grant is given to the students by providing it to the school account or paid directly to the student. The schools must inform the student about the disbursement of grant and give the grant once in a semester or at least twice in a year.
In the United States, almost all schools and universities participate in the federal Pell Grant program. The guidance offices in these schools and colleges provide necessary help in filling the FAFSA application. The students are expected to produce the documents in respect of their income, family status and work history to be considered for the award of the grant.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Obama's New Educational Grants Allow All Mothers to Go Back to School

A good education is a foundation towards a good career. A graduation can help you reach heights that just passing high school will not. It is a known fact that every mother has a great influence toward the child's education. So if you need to ensure every child gets proper education and completes minimum graduation it is imperative that the mother herself should know the importance of being a graduate.
United States as a large population of mothers working in dead end jobs as they never completed their education. Taking care of their families provides the mothers with very less opportunity to think about themselves. The fact some of them overlook about getting a graduation is in the long run it will help them in getting better jobs to provide much better living for their children. It might take time and effort to study now but the returns in the long run are definitely worth the trouble.
If you are a mother and you are wondering even after having time and determination to put the effort to get a graduation certification how to manage the financial aspect of the tutoring Obama is providing a solution to the expenditure for the venture you are about to undertake. The scholarship for single mothers is a grant that allows mothers to avail grant money to complete their graduation.
To avail the grant fill up a "FAFSA" form and submit to the college you want to join. On approval you will be informed through the college or a "SAR" report will be sent to you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Take Advantage of a New Education - Online College Degree

Many people face midlife crises and lose their perspectives in life. This is true in many cases especially in case of women. While men are busy with a career and are able to take all the changes in their stride, women face a lot many issues, which are, inter related.
Many women leave their education mid way and dedicate their energies and focus on raising their families and looking after them. This in fact becomes a full time job. They lose track of the outside world, their own identity as an individual and the years pass by without realizing. In many other cases, women juggle with small time or part time jobs besides looking after home and family.
There comes a time when children grow up and leave home to pursue their dreams. Suddenly the empty nest syndrome is felt and this is when it hits women badly. By this time they would be near menopausal age, which worsens the situation. Hormonal imbalances coupled with emotional crises and other health induced psychological disturbances can create havoc with their psyche.
Counseling coupled with changing ones lifestyle and habits will put them back on the road to recovery. This is the time for all such women to re look at their own life and pick up from where they had left off. This is one good opportunity to continue with music lessons or with education.
Does it seem unrealistic when we talk about continuing education? You might wonder how can women in their 40s or something can go to a regular college. Well, we have the solution for this problem. online college degree can be the ideal solution in such cases.
An online college degree does not call for students to attend regular daytime or evening colleges. There are no classes. You can be connected to the college with the Internet and online you can down load all course materials and notes or lectures. You can also seek assistance and guidance from faculty, which is available to you online, and help you with your studies.
Who ever said that online college degree admits people below a certain age only? This is a misconception amongst people. Online college degree is open to one and all regardless of your age and your location or gender. As long as you satisfy and meet the entry criteria of having completed high school education, you can seek admission through online college degree.
Need more justification to start the process? Online college degree courses enable you to study and complete the course at your own pace and from the comfortable environment of your home. You can choose your own schedule and timing for your studies. In fact this can bring about a welcome change in your life to be able to devote two to three hours to studies, which becomes a part of your self-discipline. Such an activity will help you feel rejuvenated and perk up your energies too.
Being able to get creatively engaged, learning something new but at your own pace, completing an exam and getting you degree can give you tremendous satisfaction and boos your ego.
Surely when you do your online college degree, you will find your perspectives in life changing. It can equip you to start of a new chapter in your life.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting Back Into Education

Going back in to education is not as daunting or as hard as if once used to be. It is increasing popular now to find many people going back to finish existing courses or to start a fresh in a new and exciting career.
Schools, colleges and universities have so many different open, part-time and full time courses for people wishing to go back and start again. Start by ordering a new course guide or look online on their websites to see what they have to offer both in courses and in funding and financial support. A lot of the college ect offer apprentices or evening courses so you can still fit in around your existing job or career. A lot now offer nursery and crèche services too, which is really helping people get back on track.
Some courses that are run by the community are free so ask around and do not be afraid to ring up and ask questions. A lot of the back to education interviews are very informal and are not there to test your ability but to really see what it is you want to achieve and if this is the right path that you should take.
Some higher education courses at university will allow adult learners over the age of 21 to enter the course training without the entry requirements after a more formal interview has been arranged, you may have to study along your degree a extra assignment but that will be discussed and is not always the case so do not let that put you off.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Raising Children - Learning Through Montessori's 'New Education' Method

Maria Montessori believed that in order for the world to become a more peaceful and more civilized society for people to live in, the new generations must be taught to live in harmony and their hidden potential must be developed to the fullest. She believed that the only way to do it was through education. However, there was a need for the old educational system to be reformed as it was too teacher-centered, so it would not be able to maximize the potential in each child. The traditional system also did not prepare the child for life in society as the activities did not teach the child to work in collaboration with others, neither did it teach the child important skills such as concentration, responsibility and perseverance. She felt that the teacher's job should be that of an observer; alert to the needs of the child and ready to react appropriately as "any form of education must be based on the personality of man". (Absorbent Mind, Chapter 1, p. 8) As such, there arises a 'new education' system which proves to be effective all around the world even till today.
In addition to imparting knowledge to the children, Montessori felt that their physical and social development should also be taken into considerations. It is important that the teacher observe the children to find out what they need and thereby providing them with their needs. In other words, the teacher or parent should understand the learning style of the child and thereby pitching the lessons according to the child's needs. She also believed that it should be part of education that a child is taught to be caring and compassionate towards others, but he must first be showered with care and concern himself. Thus, it is just as important to care about the hygiene and welfare of the child.
In this new education, Montessori described the importance of providing a child-centered and conducive learning environment. She stressed that there are differences between the learning objectives and methodologies between a child and an adult, thus they should not be taught in the same way or even use the same furniture. An adult is concerned with the end result of the task at hand; therefore, he tends to rush in order to finish the job quickly. He would not repeat the same task numerous times in order to perfect it.
On the other hand, a child differs from an adult in that he is still developing and constantly learning, thus he needs to interact with his environment to absorb information for his own development. He has what Montessori describes as an absorbent mind. A child will be able to absorb the specific skills that he needs to learn through repeated activities. He needs to make use of his environment and carry out repeated work to develop his personality, habits and physical being, so he will do a task numerous times in order to perfect it. Montessori believed that each child is a different individual, so he will have his own sensitive periods to absorb different skills perfectly. This new education allows each child to set his own pace for learning as he is free to select the materials that he wishes to work on. Multi-sensory materials are used in these classrooms for the children's hands-on activities and they get to progress from the simple to abstract concepts without any pressure from the teacher. The child is led to experience a sense of accomplishment as he discovers the skills on his own.
During each sensitive period, a different skill is learned and after the skill is perfected, the child will naturally drop the activity and proceed on to something else. With the traditional education system, the child is forced to perform the task that the teacher has assigned. He would then be deprived of the freedom to learn or perfect the skill that he desired to during that sensitive period. Therefore, Montessori believed that it is more important for the teacher in the new education system to "discover the potentialities of each of the students and of offering him means and motives which could awaken his latent energies so that he might continue to use, expand, and coordinate them through proper exercise". (Discovery of the Child, Chapter 2, p. 33) She believed that it is more important for the teacher to be an observer in the classroom and that the teacher should prepare the lessons and materials to suit the learning ability of the individual child. In this way, the child's self-confidence is built up as the teacher is neither demoralizing nor judgmental. Similarly, if the parents are willing to assist the child by teaching him through the use of a method most suited to his learning style instead of forcing him, the child will be able to excel in every way. Parents must believe that every child is capable of learning.
In Montessori's new education, she showed that it is important that "a school allows a child's activities to freely develop". (Discovery of the Child, Chapter 1, p. 9) However, this would be difficult with the use of the rigid furniture in the traditional classroom. Besides restricting the students' movements as they were not allowed to move about to change the materials that they would like to work on or to move the furniture around independently, Montessori felt that these furniture also hindered the proper development of the children's spinal cord because the children were forced to remain in the same position at the desk for hours. Instead, she advocated the use of child size furniture and floor mats in the Montessori classroom. Such furniture are not so intimidating and the children can have the freedom to move around independently when they need to.
Since the child will not be forced to carry out activities against his wishes, Montessori described this new education to be a system whereby the children will learn spontaneously. She had tested out this system in many Montessori schools and even up till today, children in Montessori classrooms enjoy carrying out their activities in an orderly, prepared and tranquil environment. Under this new education, the child learns to work quietly and with full concentration as he focuses on the task at hand. He will not be distracted by others around him nor will he give up easily as he will be able to correct his own mistakes through the use of the specially prepared materials. This is an important skill to develop as many children in the elementary schools are still not able to concentrate and they lack perseverance skills too. She believed that developing the child's spontaneous interest in learning will develop his personality such as kindness, warmth and perseverance which is necessary for peace and civilization in the society.
Montessori believed that this new education must start from birth in order for its effect to be obvious as the child, no matter how young, is capable of learning and he will absorb what he sees or hears from the environment around him. She believed that through the use of appropriate materials at the suitable timing, a child will be able to learn very easily. As such, the job of the teacher as an observer is very important. Montessori had proven the success of this new education, which probably accounts for its popularity all around the world.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Educational Digital Learning Tools Will Sense Student Boredom and Other Emotions

Well, it's been a long time since I was in school, but I can tell you one thing I was bored out of my mind in elementary school, junior high, high school, and it wasn't until college that I really felt challenged, probably because I was taking 33 credits in one semester. In fact, I can remember telling some of my classmates that I believe that our school system was nothing more than a prison for kids, and later I likened it to a day care center for working couples' children - I kind of still believe that. Okay so, let's talk about this for a moment. Specifically, I would like to address the issue of student boredom.
Now then, as the class sizes get bigger, our education system will rely more on computerized teaching to tackle the challenges and economies of scale. It will also help the budget which is burdened by legacy costs, top heaviness, and over regulation from the federal level, things like NCLB for instance. What about the future of education, digital learning tools, and our new social networking in information age?
There was a cool little article recently in SpaceDaily entitled; "New computers respond to students' emotions, boredom," written by Staff Writers at Notre Dame and published on March 07, 2012. The piece stated:
"Emotion-sensing computer software that models and responds to students' cognitive and emotional states - including frustration and boredom - has been developed by University of Notre Dame and colleagues from the University of Memphis and MIT."
Neurologists have discovered that just before a human makes a mistake, their brain wave has a little flicker, and interestingly enough, many videogame companies now have brainwaves they can induce into the player for emotions such as fear, contentment, love, and anger. This makes the game seem more real, tapping into the emotional component of the human brain. Since emotions such as boredom or frustration is rather easy for artificial intelligence, we have a delightful opportunity at hand.
In fact, many help-lines in larger corporations now read the voice of the person calling in needing help, and it can tell if they are frustrated, angry, and then decide what to do about it. You see, these types of similar tools for education make a lot of sense. Students that are enjoying their subject matter will learn better, and isn't that the goal of teaching. Putting kids in large classrooms and making them do rote memorization is cruel and unusual, and it's time we stopped creating schools which were nothing more than a prison for kids. Please consider all this and think on.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Plush Stuffed Toys As an Educational Tool

Usually, plush stuffed toys are made to entertain kids and adults alike. Custom plush toys have been willing characters in make-believe tea parties and even for war games for young girls and boys. It's because they are entertaining. There's no doubt about that. Even the custom plush toys made nowadays are designed in such a way that they'll be fun and entertaining. You can't blame a toy inventor for doing that. There's a big demand for entertaining toys and it's very easy to do them. All you need to do is team up with a great plush toy manufacturer and you'll soon have them.
But nowadays, more and more people are realizing the potential of custom plush toys to do something better. They're now realizing that plush stuffed toys can be used to educate as well. If you're asking how something that was supposed to be fun can become educational, think of how effective an educational tool can be if they're fun. The problem with a lot of educational tools is they're boring. Kids just want to have fun especially if they don't understand yet the value of learning. So it just shows that teaching them while they're playing works. You capture their attention with colorful and fun toys and you use them to educate the kids.
But for them to be more effective, you can't just use any plush stuffed toys. You can talk to your plush toy manufacturer and tell them that you plan on making them as educational toys. But before you do, it would be a good idea if you can come up with a design for the custom plush toys first. It may sound hard to come up with a design to make something that was designed for entertainment and turn it into an educational toy. But really, it's very easy.
First, you need to determine the age group that you're targeting. If you want to target kids below 3 years old, then it would be very easy. You just need to come up with colorful custom plush toys to help stimulate the brain using colors. As you go with higher age ranges, the plush stuffed toys become more "complex". You can make five designs for the vowels. You can make a design of an apple and have the letter 'A' on it. You can then make a design of an elephant and put E on it. If you want to target older kids, you can design something that is more for social education. For example, you can make a batch patterned after a dolphin if your community has a "Save the Ocean" campaign. It can help educate the older kids about the importance of preserving the ocean.
This gives you a whole new market to work with. It shows proof that the industry of custom plush toys is huge and there is still a big demand. So if you're looking to join in, you don't have to worry about competing in a saturated market. All you need to do is to specify a target market for your plush stuffed toys. A good example is those looking for educational tools. You just need to team up with a reliable plush toy manufacturer to make it happen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Leapster Explorer - The All New Educational Device From LeapFrog

LeapFrog is doing its best to maintain competition with the handheld devices like the iPhone, iPad Touch and the Nintendo DS with the announcement of the Leapster Explorer, its next generation educational gaming-device.
The explorer has features like a 3.2 inch sharper touch screen with a resolution of 230x420 pixels and a meliorated processing power which allows it to run Flash-based games, 3D graphics and videos. The Explorer was launched on July 12th with 18 Leaplet Learning-Apps and 12 games at a price of $69.99. The Apps are cognate to some small and simple educational games that are found in the Apple App stores. The two-pack Learning Apps cost $14.99 while the cartridges of games cost $24.99. The launch titles are inclusive of Disney Fairies, Wolverine and X-Men, Ben 10, Dora the Explorer, Disney Princesses, Toy Story 3 and The Penguins of Madagascar.
As stated by the San Francisco Chronicle, Explorer is also being billed by LeapFrog as an eBook reader and claims that children can read them in the Tag library. It also has a $24.95 camera accessory that is available and has the potential of unlocking new experiences of gaming like the visual scavenger-hunts.
LeapFrog has made a move with a price tag of $69.99 which is relatively affordable. This should be able to appeal parents who are on a budget. With the help of Explorer, kids will be able to learn school-skills, life skills, creativity and much more. The learning experiences encourage them to discover new stuff ever day as there are unlimited ways to learn while playing from ebooks, games, videos and more.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our Search For New Educational Ideas Continues!

The options for schooling are numerous and in 2010 we explored several of them. I hope that 2011 continues to offer new and innovative ideas for development of the Intellectual Path.
During 2010, I explored several known options for schooling including home schooling, magnet schools, charters schools and online schools. Each of these has evolved out of a concern that our nations educational system is failing. Costs are rising, almost out of control, and performance by our students is either lagging behind the world, or at best, matching it. But our nation needs leadership in the educational sector and keeping the status quo just isn't good enough.
The four primary alternatives previously explored in 2010 have some things in common from which we can perhaps learn something. Whether it's a home school, a charter school, or magnet school, we find that smaller class sizes matter, and do benefit student performance. We also find with these three alternatives that less bureaucracy and less requirements to meet onerous bureaucratic rules and regulations benefits the students. Where teachers and administrators are held to more direct performance standards, they live up to them! We did see that in many cases, the use of technology can leverage the student's experience, and the case of undergraduate programs, may provide a much less costly alternative to community colleges or universities.
In all cases, we find that the importance of school to the students support group is important. Where students have a strong family around them that is supportive of life-long learning, they tend to be more intellectually curious and generally better students. Tied to this, we did also discuss the importance of a nation generally sharing a set of values and morals. We discussed the 1963 Supreme Court decision that eliminated prayer from our public schools, and accelerated a movement toward our nation looking inward to solve its' problems, not upwards!
Perhaps the most uniform finding in 2010 is that the problems with our nation's schools are complicated, mostly because of the size and diversity in the system. The current public school system attempts to be all things to all people catering to all religions, all scholastic aptitudes, and all other general qualities of the student body. Perhaps this is a situation that is at the root of the problem. Like so many other institutions that get unwieldy and unmanageable as they get big (the federal government comes to mind, or General Motors), the public school system may just be so big that it cannot effectively perform its task. Perhaps as we move forward continuing to look for better solutions, we'll find that just as private businesses change to accommodate customer demand, schools will have to as well. And perhaps that change will include more specialized schools, either in academic concentrations, or even in the trades.
I think also that we'll continue to see a growth in the home school movement. As I've discussed in earlier articles, this is not purely a religious issue, but rather is a method of parents taking direct responsibility for the education of their children. By definition, you have involved parents, and the systems, structures and resources to successfully home school a child are growing and evolving rapidly.
I am aware that the issues facing education of a child are complex, and as the father of six, I'm intimately aware of the issues parents face. I do believe though that we can find solutions to these problems, but to do so, as with so many other things, we need to think truly outside of the box and not be chained to ideas of the past that, although we can learn from them, are holding us back from embracing new and innovative ideas

Friday, June 8, 2012

New World - New Work - New Education

This was the title of one of my very recent speech at a local business school, where I literally went mad, shouting and screaming at professors and teachers to help them realize what we all are doing to the future of our students!
I am a corporate trainer and have nothing to do with the educational systems and models. However, my pain is obvious and apparent, and so thought of sharing it with you people... I can only wish that I am taken positively, and even if this is not the case, I personally won't mind much.
This article has to do nothing with any of my deliberate research - it is very spontaneous, blunt and "as I thought" kind of stuff.
To make things look more professional, I have included several quotes to help you realize my pain.
We are living in the world that was never so unpredictable, materialistic, fast-paced and crazily growing. Everything is changing, and changing with immense pace. What is true today will be an obsolete literature tomorrow.
The bad news is that Education system in Pakistan is as good as the democratic or the religious state of this very country - Confused, Haphazard and typically ad-hoc. The good news is that this system is not that good in any other part of world, so as we can consider them the bench mark. US, UK, Germany, France, India, Singapore and all others... we all are sailing in one direction.
The first and the greatest flow in educational models is the judgmental approach... the approach which tells student how good or bad they are. The misery is that most students take it very seriously. Shame on us as teacher and facilitators to do such a crime. If the creator never did it for humans, how dare can we do it to our fellow-beings.
Another concern, that has been disturbing my mind is the amazing "irrelevance". What is taught at schools - Primary, Secondary, Higher Secondary, Colleges, Universities... what so ever - it has to do little or mostly nothing with the real world. Educational syllabus is structured, predictable and provides an outline - Real world is insanely unpredictable, least structured and has no boundaries. How, by any means, can we prepare the youth of today for the challenges of tomorrow with such a syllabus. Food for thought: How many schools include Reader's Digest as the part of their syllabus... A teacher asked me why to do so - I screamed, "Why Not!"... At least it has a connection to what the child sees outside your "Prison look-alike" schools. Think about it as well... University students having laptops with a Wi-Fi connection, where they search the taught topic, come up with the most recent literature available, and discuss it further. It may sound odd to many, but you know what - it will be a hell to many of us around [so called teachers], because than we know - they [our students] will beat the living hell out of us!
I have been reading and listening about ever increasing tuition fees of schools at all levels. Honestly, I don't mind it, as I know, it's just the beginning. Educational and Healthcare cost will further rise by many folds in near future... my complain is only that by charging such a hefty amount, what's the use if these schools are producing nothing but clones... In my opinion, if a school system can't ignite the spark in the kid to be him / her self - the school system should be immediately adjourned. Today, when I recall my best teachers, it is true for them that "They made me fall in love. They helped me figure out who I was."
Our toughest "learning achievement"-mastering our native language-does not require schools, or even competent parents. It does require a desperate need-to-know. Great teachers are great learners, not imparters-of-knowledge. Great teachers ask great questions-that launch kid's lifelong quest of discovering more. The world is not about "right" & "wrong" answers; it is about the pursuit of increasingly sophisticated questions-but the misery is that we increasingly reward answers, and penalty is the very fate of questioning individual. Shame Shame! Please note... The Three Most Important Letters ... WHY?
Richard Paul, Director, Center for Critical Thinking says, "We need to shift the focus of learning from simply teaching students to have the 'right answer,' to teaching them the process by which educated people pursue right answers."
Now consider what Jordan Ayan had to say in his book, AHA!... "My wife and I went to a [kindergarten] parent-teacher conference and were informed that our budding refrigerator artist, Christopher, would be receiving a grade of Unsatisfactory in art. We were shocked. How could any child-let alone our child-receive a poor grade in art at such a young age? His teacher informed us that he had refused to color within the lines, which was a state requirement for demonstrating 'grade-level motor skills.' "
Schools are busy participating in the massive suppression of creative genius... If you are reading this article, and belong to any senior level position with your school - try this, and you'll testify my words (not 99 but 100%)... Go and ask, "How many artists are there in the room? Would you please raise your hands. FIRST GRADE: In mass the children jump from their seats, arms waving. Every child is an artist. SECOND GRADE: About half the kids raised their hands, shoulder high, no higher. The hands are still. THIRD GRADE: At best, 10 kids out of 30 would raise a hand, tentatively, self-consciously. By the time you'll reached SIXTH GRADE, no more than one or two kids will raise their hands, and then ever so slightly, betraying a fear of being identified by the group as a 'closet artist.'
Now if this happens to you, come and meet me - as I will personally congratulate you for participating in this mass 'creativity destruction campaign'.
For what I had to say, and what I have to say about the school system, a substantial amount of testimony exists from highly regarded scientists like [Nobel laureate] Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, and many others, that scientific discovery is negatively related to the procedures of school science classes.
One last word - "Learning is never divorced from feelings." Children learn what makes sense to them; they learn through the sense of things they want to understand.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cyber-Kids - The New Education

Computer software, as we know it today, was first used in the early 1940s. Built in 1943, the Type 19 Synthetic Radar Trainer was a flight simulator manufactured to mimic on-board instrument data for pilots in training. This program would lay the basis for educational curriculum across the United States. The Type 19 was not only the introduction of applicable computer software, it was the precursor to the educational uses of computer programs and software worldwide.
The first educational curriculum fashioned for schools was the product of a joint collaboration between IBM and Stanford University. Although nominal programming languages, like BASIC and LOGO, were being taught to doctoral level students as early as 1963, the 1967 release of IBM's project was a failure. Its prohibitive cost of $10,000 was insurmountable for the school districts of the time.
The personal computer made its debut in 1975 with the launching of the Altair 8800. This computer changed the opinion of educational software entirely by making the dream of computing without a massive mainframe a reality. The introduction of a computer costing approximately $2000, meant schools districts could begin to incorporate computers and educational software into select schools. The subsequent release of the Commodore PET and the Apple II further fueled the demand for computer-based education in schools.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the majority of educational software programs were developed for the Apple II platform. The inclusion of superior graphics and sound quality, however, spurred a phenomenal demand for fun and appealing learning games. Additionally, the ascendance of the Internet in the mid 1990s opened the market to a larger amount of learning program manufacturers. Whether you owned a PC or a Macintosh, it was easy to be bewildered by the sheer volume of available educational games.
The prevalence of educational software has resulted in its inclusion in virtually every grade level of learning. This software is often geared towards making education fun. Popular characters, vivid colors, and captivating soundtracks have revolutionized these learning games. The mixture of education and fun is what makes educational software so popular. Learning simple arithmetic is now a magical quest or a ride through the cosmos, while reading and writing comprehension are used to decode sacred scrolls that zap attacking goblins. This model of learning has made learning software a seemingly permanent facet of contemporary education.