Topic: What is the purpose of education now and going forward?
This week’s #edchat was truly a test of one’s ability to read quickly and tap out Twitter replies even quicker. I think that’s because the topic was so broad that everyone wanted to weigh in instead of sitting back and commenting only every once in a while. I know that I saw a lot of new and unfamiliar names this week, suggesting that either a lot of people signed on for the first time in months or that there are generally many participants that don’t talk as much as they did this time around.
Either way, it’s fine by me! Honestly, I think as many people should participate in #edchat as possible. It might make for a more confusing and disorganized discussion than we had even this week, but as Tom Whitby pointed out to me, the real value of #edchat comes after – on the blogs, in the water-cooler conversations, and as the continued sense of motivation felt by those teachers that participate.
Sometimes we forget that the value of something goes deeper than the thing itself. I know that I was guilty of that this week. I was getting frustrated that this week’s #edchat didn’t seem as beneficial as the other ones in which I’ve participated. But I realized that that didn’t really matter. For one thing, value is subjective (meaning some may have thought this was the best #edchat ever), and for another, I was forgetting that the value of #edchat is as a conversation starter (not as the conversation itself).
Of course, there is still one thing that bothered me about this week’s #edchat, and that’s how quickly it changed into a discussion of why standardized testing is bad and how poverty affects what teachers can reasonably be expected to accomplish. Both of these issues are important, to be sure – and I can certainly understand how they would be hot-button issues for teachers in this day and age. But do we really need to talk about them every week? I don’t know. Perhaps we do.
Anyway, on to the main themes and the list of my favorite tweets. As I am viewing this week’s #edchat as the beginning (or perhaps a continuation) of the conversation, I am mostly going to focus on some of the excellent questions raised and ignore most of the (sometimes equally excellent) 140 character responses. So I highly encourage you to take some time and read through the archive of this week’s chat, once it’s up.
Main themes From the discussion:
My favorite tweets from the discussion:
weisburghm Goal of education for whom? For the students? Community? Parents? Future employers? Nation? World?
davidwees Who should decide the goals of education? Is it industry? Private interests? Educators? Parents? Students?
tonnet Is the purpose of education to just graduate professionals?
CrudBasher Perhaps rhetorical: If everyone has different idea of purpose of education, can one system fit all answers?
tomwhitby The goal of education is different from what it was 10 years ago. Problem is, most educators come from that era. It can be daunting.
weisburghm Is education FOR the students or TO the students?
MrTwyman5 Maybe another question should be what is NOT the purpose of education and to what extent does policy prevent that?
MertonTech Is education for the society or for the individual?
tomwhitby If we are creating life-long learners with great self esteem, is that a measurable commodity by graduation?
rliberni Do we really need schools?
cybraryman1 Learning takes place everywhere and at all times.
weisburghm As a parent, I wanted the education system to help my kids lead happy lives that help others.
To follow the complete discussion, look for the full archive here. They’re usually posted up by the end of the week.
Looking to discuss #edtech in depth? Check out the LinkedIn group: Edutech Trends, Visions, Passions.
New to #EdChat?
If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts:
If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.
What do you think? Leave a comment! We would love to hear from you.
We live in exciting times when it comes to educational technology. Not only has technology been getting better and better for many years (at a nearly exponential rate), it has also gotten significantly more affordable.
But with the rise of technology comes downsides too. For one thing, distractions abound, from smartphones to online social networks to television to videogames. People — especially young people — spend hours upon hours each and every day staring at screens and interacting with devices that even science fiction writers wouldn’t have predicted would exist 20 years ago.
And it’s starting to show. Student achievement is falling or remaining stagnant by all measures. Why is this? Is it because students themselves are less capable? Hopefully not. They certainly have all the necessary tools for success at their disposal. The resources possessed by the average school today are far and away better than those of a “good” school from many years ago.
So is it the fault of the parents? Again, hopefully not. They say many parents these days spend less time with their children because they’re working so much, but I think that’s a bit of a cop out. I don’t subscribe to the belief that society is getting worse. Maybe we’re just more aware of it thanks to how easily information spreads these days, but people have always been lazy, uncaring, and all manner of other bad things.
That must mean teachers are getting worse, right? Honestly, I think not. I had many wonderful teachers growing up, and I know many wonderful people who decided to devote their careers to teaching students. Blaming teachers for everything is basically scapegoating, and I don’t think that’s fair.
The source of the problem, I think, lies with the solution: technology. With each passing year, technology gets better and better and our lives are changed — sometimes drastically. Do you remember when you first learned about the internet or used your first smartphone? For me, these events were absolutely life-changing, and I say that without hyperbole.
It’s not to say that I could never live in a world without those things (not that I would choose to!), but that the amount of work these inventions save me each and every day is astounding. The list of random things I no longer have to do thanks to new technology could fill a book, and I am truly grateful for it. These advancements allow me to focus my life on other, more useful and satisfying pursuits.
But a change of focus necessitates a reevaluation of what we teach our children. We can no longer waste time teaching kids things that they will simply not need once they get out of school. A couple examples: I never write in cursive, but I do use my phone to send important emails and texts regularly. I don’t remember how to use a library card catalog system, but I can find nearly anything on the internet. I almost never do complex mental math, but I can use a scientific calculator quite well.
In some cases, I was introduced to these things in school. I learned how to type in elementary school, I was introduced to the internet for research, and I had to buy a TI-83 for math class. But I only received a cursory education about each.
I perfected my typing skills by using instant messaging programs and playing online videogames. I figured out how to find (and analyze) truly useful online information when I began work as a research associate at a public policy institute. And I had to teach myself how to program my TI-83 to do my work for me so that I would never have to do a complicated formula again.
These skills that I list are some of the most useful skills that I posses, and they were not adequately honed by a school system that is stuck teaching skills from the past. Education needs to be dynamic, now more so than ever. The best way to do that is to harness the awesome power of educational technology. Only then will we be able to churn out students ready to succeed in the modern world.
If you are a teacher, librarian, or media specialist and are looking to increase the use of educational technology at your school for free, check out The Back to School Giveaway. You can enter simply by leaving a comment on the page, and there is $150,000 worth in premium edtech content available to winners, contributed by six different companies.
If you’re not an educator but know one that might be interested in entering, please feel free to spread the word. We are accepting entries until the end of this month.
guest written by Shahar Link of Mindspire Tutoring & Test Prep
Many people believe that the basic ingredients of success on challenging tests like the SAT or ACT are 1) talent at math or language, 2) how much you learned in school, and 3) how smart you are in general. Both students and tutors can have this belief. It is, however, wrong.
Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, calls such a belief a “fixed mindset,” which essentially means that a person is stuck thinking that he or she is more or less born with talents for some things and not for others, and it is not really possible to get smarter at doing things that you’re “just not good at.” On the other hand, there is another attitude, a “growth mindset,” which is the idea that if one works hard at something, and really tries to get better and smarter, then one can become highly skilled at virtually anything.
Dweck, a psychologist who has researched the psychology of learning at Stanford University for many years, shows convincingly that people with fixed mindsets don’t get smarter, while those with growth mindsets do. Growth-mindset individuals show much greater adaptability to challenging circumstances, are better equipped to navigate both failure and success, and learn more quickly. Obviously, these are crucial elements in test preparation.
Other researchers have recently come to similar conclusions. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, writes on his blog: “If you distilled all the new science about talent development into two words of advice, they would be ‘practice better.’ That’s it. Practice. Better.” In other words, genes, “potential,” etc. have nothing to do with it.
Students and tutors who simply assume that there is some innate potential limit to what they can accomplish as they prepare for a test are setting themselves up for failure. Having worked in the test prep business for almost 15 years, I know that there are a lot of people who have the fixed mindset, and what they do is teach the “facts” and then hope students “get it.” The truth is, anyone can “get it” if they put in serious effort, don’t get hampered by failure, stay motivated, and have the right coaching. And tutors can do a lot to make that happen.
Anyone can acquire a “growth mindset” at any age. It’s about a new way of thinking about the meaning of failure — that failure actually means you are learning, because you are pushing against your limits. Once you realize that, you begin to: a) change the way you think, b) challenge yourself more, and c) work harder. Those are the real key ingredients for success on standardized tests.
It is a privilege to be able to provide this lesson to my students, because it is about so much more than test preparation – it is about how to succeed in life.
Carol Dweck’s book elaborates in much further detail how this all works in the brain, and shows the results of hundreds of studies, as well as how teachers, parents, coaches, and even spouses can apply these findings to get better at everything they do, and help others do so as well. Clearly, one’s mindset is a foundational element of success on standardized tests, and if you are working to get a high score, or help others do so, I strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with Dweck’s research. It will certainly improve your results on tests, but more importantly, make you a more fulfilled person in general. And that’s the goal of this whole business really, isn’t it?
About the author: Shahar Link is the founder of Mindspire Tutoring & Test Prep, a tutoring company built on the idea that anyone can get better at anything if they set their mind to it.
by John J. Walters
Writing news update posts is always a little bit of a challenge. Actually, writing a post for the TestSoup blog at all is a bit of a challenge for me this time around. I’m a bit rusty, if you must know. Our guest posts have been so successful that I haven’t written a single post for our blog since we got back from co-hosting EdTech Karaoke at ISTE 11, and that feels like it was ages ago. But every once in a while, I need to poke my head in the door and make sure everything is humming along as it should.
Here’s the real challenge, though. How do you make the fact that we’ve updated our GRE flashcard content to be in sync with the August 1, 2011 General Test revisions into a fun and interesting blog post? How do you make people care about the fact that we completely revamped our materials in under three weeks time? Is there a way to dress that up and make it appeal to the masses?
I don’t know. I just… Don’t. Know.
What I do know is this: they’ve been talking about updating the GRE — the standardized exam that all applicants to grad schools must take — since 2006. But they didn’t do anything about it until this year. They say that now the test is more in line with the skill sets that are important for success in modern graduate programs. And I’m sure it is.
Changes to a test like this cannot be made lightly. Maybe that’s why they spent so long talking about it before they made their move. Fortunately, TestSoup isn’t constrained by multiple layers of bureaucracy. When we see a test that needs quality, up-to-date study content, we move. It’s what we do, and we make no apologies for it. Should we?
It all goes back to the vision of our founder, Brian Reese. You see, back in the day (and by that, we mean almost two whole years ago), Brian was studying for the GMAT, and he was spending a lot of money on test prep materials. Some were worth the cash, but the vast majority of them weren’t. So he started making his own flashcards, and after a very short while he saw the scores on his practice tests going up.
Fast forward to last year and Brian had assembled test prep experts to help him produce flashcards for several other standardized tests. Of course, creating relevant content was important then, and we’re not going to stop now. What kind of players would we be if we bailed on the game as soon as things got interesting? I mean — could we still call ourselves “players?”
You may not care about the GRE. I understand that. But if test prep is in your future (and I would love to see a future that doesn’t involve some amount of studying) then you should know that TestSoup plans to continue staying relevant and up-to-date. That’s a promise that extends to every one of our tests.
(Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love the SAT)
guest written by Barbara Bellisi of the CollegeBound Network
I don’t consider myself old, but since I have taken the SAT almost half a lifetime ago (gulp!), I like to consider myself wise — at least when it comes to standardized testing. Combine that wisdom with a few years’ teaching experience and I discovered that — voila! — I was a natural SAT tutor.
During my training, I had to take a practice SAT. Wow! Either the test got easier or I got a whole lot smarter. OK, so maybe I didn’t have the stress that you college-bounders have when I was filling out those little circles — after all, my college degree is already framed and hanging nicely on a wall — but I can still understand the pressure of a ticking clock and a dull #2 pencil.
Those algebraic equations won’t solve themselves, and someone’s got to fill in the blank with the correct vocabulary word, right? That’s why you’ve got to add a little dose of humor to your test-taking strategy. That’s right, future valedictorians and NMSQT finalists — I’m telling YOU that it’s OK to look at the PSAT, the SAT, the ACT, and any other hellish acronym directly in the face and give it a big LOL.
Need some help in finding the funny? Then put down the prep books and chew on some of these test-taking tips instead of that dirty pencil eraser:
1 – Hone your concentration skills.
There are two major problems with any standardized test: 1) It is long, and 2) It is boring. Practice concentrating at home by working on one assignment at a time instead of skipping around between subjects. Too tired? Then veg out in front of the TV for a half an hour, but no flipping around the channels. Bonus points if you can watch C-SPAN for a full 20 minutes without falling asleep.
2 – Make some noise.
Do you need complete silence when doing your homework? Break yourself out of that silly habit, because you have a better chance of getting a perfect score on the SAT than you do of getting a quiet testing room. There will always be a student who sniffles throughout the entire test, and there will always be a proctor who doesn’t know how to whisper. And, if you’re (un)lucky like I was, you might be able to hear the football team in all its grunting glory practice right outside your window. Woo hoo!
3 – Perfect your circle-filling ability.
Learn to fill in those answer circles with no more than three swipes of your #2 pencil. Any more and you’re just wasting precious time — time that is better spent erasing those circles once you’ve realized you skipped a row on your answer sheet.
4 – Don’t get too wrapped up in the reading comprehension.
Yes, every once in a while, a really interesting passage will appear on a standardized test. But this is the SAT, not a leisurely Sunday morning with the newspaper. Standardized tests are not written for your personal enjoyment; get through those reading sections, answer the questions, and be done with it.
And some tips for the day of the test:
Don’t mess with breakfast. I don’t care if butterflies are playing Marco Polo in your stomach. Scarf down a granola bar before you sit for the test. Otherwise, the audible growls coming from your stomach later will cause you to lose focus.
Layer your clothing. Some people get the chills when they get nervous. Other people have hot flashes. All bets are off for what will happen to you on the day of the test, so prepare for anything by wearing several layers. If you need to remove a piece of clothing, do so quickly and quietly — this is the SAT, not a Vegas show.
Don’t make plans for after the test. Instead, go home and crash on your bed, the couch, or in your little brother or sister’s wading pool. Stay there for a while. You’ve earned it.
guest written by Eric Clark of Quincy Tutoring
In my role as Assistant Director of Academic Services at Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) in Quincy MA, part of my responsibility is proctoring the Accuplacer. Quite often, people call asking several different questions because they don’t understand why the assessment is being used, or what it is used for. Below I will address three common Accuplacer questions, after reading you should have a good understanding of the Accuplacer.
What is the Accuplacer?
The Accuplacer is a college placement test that is one of many assessments in the College Board family. The Accuplacer is a comprehensive assessment tool, which consists of six content strands (for content breakdown click here). Does that sound intimidating? Don’t be afraid, it is not very common that all six strands are used. It is up to the discretion of the institution as to which test strands are used to assess incoming students. At ENC, for example, we have opted to use the Reading Comprehension, Arithmetic, Elementary Algebra, and the Written Test. Each test has a developmental course attached to it, and if a student fails to meet the minimum benchmark, the student is automatically enrolled in that course. If you didn’t do well the first time, you can potentially retake the test in 30 days.
Why do I need to take the Accuplacer?
Want the honest answer? The college/university wants to assess your academic skill set. They may want to do this for several different reasons.
SAT scores are the most common reason students need to complete the Accuplacer. If any of your individual SAT scores failed meet the institutional standard, you will be required to take the Accuplacer (or equivalent test). The results of the placement test will identify the appropriate classes for the student to enroll.
Secondly, some schools do not require SAT, and the Accuplacer is a great way to identify appropriate classes for the student to take. Each institution wants to make sure they are not placing students in classes that are above their current academic ability. In the past, I have worked with many students that have earned their bachelors and were required to complete the Accuplacer when they were applying to a specialized program, like nursing. Please don’t be discouraged! Each program wants to assess your foundational knowledge. This isn’t a knock on your knowledge or the institution where you earned your undergraduate degree.
How can I prepare for the Accuplacer?
The initial answer would be tutoring, or small group instruction. Tutoring is a terrific way to learning the content if the student needs a professional to deliver the content in a way that is easy to comprehend. Not every student needs tutoring, and TestSoup is a great supplement to the online practice tests. TestSoup has a terrific battery of study materials that can be used on almost any electronic device. I would recommend tying the student material for yourself.
[Editor's Note: To try out our ACCUPLACER system, see our test page here.]
About the author: Eric Clark is the founder and CEO of Quincy Tutoring, an online tutor network. Quincy Tutoring also offers affordable standardized test prep, and fully endorses TestSoup’s flashcard system. Follow Eric on Twitter and Facebook.
From a very young age it is so important to have a goal in mind whether it is athletically, academically, or socially. Goals are what you get places in life. Without goals, we would not have motivation.
Here are a few ways to draw your personal, educational roadmap:
1. Select an ultimate destination. For example, Harvard Business School.
2. Learn everything you can about the destination like:
3. Using step two, find directions.
4. Repeat step 1-3 but this time as it applies to College. Extra Tips:
5. Arrive at your destination and share your experience with others!
College is no easy transition…for anyone! New place, new people, new opportunities! The key: never let the door close…always OPEN it!
Now that you know how to tackle your anxiety and manage your time, you can certainly MASTER your first year of college. Here are a few tips to guide you to the top (academically, professionally, and socially):
1.Check your email! The first week of school is PRIME time for clubs and activities to solicit you to join them! Actually READ your email! You never know if you only read the subject line! *Personal example: First week of school, I checked my email and found out about SIFE(Students in Free Enterprise) which soon granted me the opportunity I have today working with TestSoup!
2. Read your school’s newspaper/magazine. Even if you only scan the top story headlines, at least you will know what is going on around campus. If you have mastered planning, it is likely that your friends will look to you for plans and or advice around school. You can be the one who is the responsible source for information.
3. Form relationships with your professors up-front. Make it a point to attend their office hours to introduce yourself and do not be shy: ASK QUESTIONS! Professors are passionate about learning and even more passionate about students who crave the same educational success they do. Students can also help professors and educators improve their teaching style and influence the way they approach topics.
4. Always be ahead of the game (sometimes even the professor!) Never wait until the last minute to complete an assignment! Always do it as far in advance as possible, this way if any confusion arises, you can clarify it! You may also save the rest of the class (and maybe the professor) from making the same mistake you did (ie. Typo or unclear directions).
5. Do not be shy as a freshman, or any college student with inexperience. In college, drive matters more than age. Just because you are a freshman, it does not mean you cannot be a leader. Go the extra mile and put yourself out there. If something interests you and you feel passionate enough about it, go for it! *Personal example: September of my freshman year, I became Project Manager overseeing 5 teams (20 total people) working on 5 of Wasabi Ventures, LLC startup companies (TestSoup included!). It was great experience and led me to become co-President of SIFE for the upcoming academic year.
6. Participate! In class, especially in a bigger school, make sure the professor and classmates know your name! A name to a face is very important now and down the road. Participation also demonstrates confidence. A student with confidence is one to admire.
7. Communication is KEY: with friends, professors, advisors, etc. Socially, keep in contact with friends and develop relationships. Relationships and your own support system are very helpful in college when discussing goals, personal lives, and during stressful exam times! Academically, keep in touch with your most talented and influential professors-you never know when you will need a reference or a friendly face to chat. In terms of advisors, especially if you hold a leadership position of any sort, retain contact and always encourage new ideas and never stop developing new ideas. Most of all, don’t forget about your forever-supportive family at home
8. Back to Planning is Proactive: PLAN AHEAD! Bring an umbrella, always have your graphing calculator, and highlighters are MUST! Most importantly, combine your Time Management skills with these new skills and prepare for ALL EXAMS/Quizzes/Papers AHEAD of TIME! For example, by Junior year (if not sooner) start planning for Graduate School. Create a favorites folder in your web browser for top B-Schools, Med Schools, or one of your choosing. In accordance, plan for your admissions by seeking references, editors/critiques for résumés, and admissions essays. Last but certainly not least, prepare for ENTRANCE EXAMS such as GMAT, GRE, or even AF PDG in advance! Your best resource is for this kind of test prep is TestSoup. TestSoup provides AFFORDABLE, FAST, and ACCESSABLE test prep with its web and mobile based flashcards: BlackBerry ready(iPhone and Android coming soon!) Check it out! Try 25 Free today! www.testsoup.com
1. In order to manage your time effectively (and to reduce stress), invest in a 15-minute or hourly planner. This will enable you to set a rigid study schedule for months ahead of time! I know it seems intimidating at first, but trust me it will change the way you live your daily life (for the better!)
2. Establish a routine (this goes along with the idea of the planner); get up around the same time everyday and get to bed around the same time. When scheduling your study time, try to make it around the same time each day, for the same amount of time.
3. Post-Its are my best friend. I believe they are a necessity to life. Post-It flags come in very handy when studying for big standardized tests such as the GMAT. You should flag* the pages, questions, and/or topics that you need to review and write tips, tricks and notes you thought of while studying. This way you do not waste time figuring out what you already discovered! *Make your life even easier…utilize TestSoup’s flag for review feature on their web and mobile based flashcard system!
4. Stay focused. If your planner says to study for 3 hours; study, and study ONLY. That means turn off and displace your cell phone, and disable your facebook. Isolate yourself from all distractions and keep it that way until you are done! That also means no snack breaks…come prepared to “preparation site” with a bottle of water and eat a healthy snack/meal beforehand!
5. Keep “tabs” on where you left off in your previous day’s studying. The best way to keep track would be to create a comprehensive study guide and check it off with the date completed when you feel confident enough. The topics that continue to trouble you, circle and review them until you master them. It is important to outline the main ideas of each topic and record equations on a formula sheet so as you are doing your final review, you can quickly go over everything and dive deeper into the areas that do not jog your memory as quickly.
One of the most common mistakes made by many standardized test-takers is that they fail to pace themselves on test day. Standardized tests are timed tests so you must pace yourself! Here are two simple tips to help you beat the clock:
1. Practice Like You Play. Get into the habit of simulating the actual test environment. This means no food, no drink, no paper and pencil (if your test is computerized), etc. Find out where the test center is and scope it out. We are creatures of habit so get comfortable and KNOW the routine.
2. Study With Flashcards. One of the biggest regrets of many test-takers is that they failed to study with flashcards from day 1. Get into the habit of reviewing flashcards at least two-three times per week. Because your test is timed, don’t waste time pondering a formula, vocabulary word, idiom, etc. This is the beauty behind TestSoup. Our system is designed to give you the MOST important core concepts, test strategies, and test hacks to help you ace your test. For GMAT test-takers, this is critical to maximizing your score.