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.