Author Archives: Alex Smith

My biggest fear this semester was that I would truly struggle to write a blog. I’ve attempted to do so before and failed. Miserably.  So I am very proud of what I have accomplished with my pseudonym in this class. I have come a long way from day one.

It wasn’t easy. There was many times where I had no idea what to write and everything that came out sounded bad and ridiculous. The best way I found to deal with my writer’s block – to walk away, take a break, and begin again when I was much less frustrated.

I learned to always think through my writing and to edit, edit, edit. The first words will never be the final words. Many of my blog posts were only posted after multiple drafts. And they could still use more edits. It is through these drafts that my voice began to develop, little by little.

I originally began writing about public education because I know it is a subject that really needs to be discussed, especially after hearing all the problems Sarah experienced as a new teacher in a new state. However, through my blog, I have discovered that it is not just good enough to discuss something; you must say something as well. I tried to do this and I think I partially succeeded. There are always changes that can be made.

Public education is still a subject that I am passionate about. And I will continue to develop my voice through writing after this class is over. I don’t think my voice is where I want it to be yet, but it will get there, in time. Because this class has shown me the best ways to expand my voice as writer in a more interactive world.

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Social Media Campaign

It seems like in some ways, pictures have become just as important as words. Take, for example, the social media campaign the TSA currently is conducting a new campaign through Instagram, to educate the public more on what they can and cannot bring on an airplane. Apparently, this still hasn’t been made clear, even after years of the policies being in place. People are still attempting to bring guns aboard airplanes. Through Instagram, the TSA is posting real items/weapons that have been confiscated at airports around the country. They feel that by showing these pictures, people will gain a better understanding of what is considered a weapon. The TSA already has made use of both Twitter and YouTube in their social media campaign. There are arguments that these campaigns aren’t effective in keeping air travel safer. I, however, think they are more effective than if they didn’t exist.

You really need to take a look at what’s important with today’s public in considering the campaign’s effectiveness – security. Security is one of the number one concerns of people today and the TSA is one of the biggest organizations concerned with the nation’s day-to-day security. And because of issues recently with the TSA, they have gone from being viewed as an agency charged with protecting us and our security to a group of unprofessional government workers. So in a way, these social media campaigns give the TSA a way to connect with their customers, a way to show that they are out protecting us everyday by way of their Instagram account. And if I didn’t know before what I can’t bring on a plane, these Instagram pictures definitely give me a good idea. And the more non-threats the TSA has to deal with, the more they can focus on the real security threats.

As far as my social media campaign is concerned, I would focus on creating a campaign for my InterAction program, mainly through the use of YouTube and Twitter. InterAction is a very visual program, so YouTube would be the best place to showcase demonstrations of the system in its different stages of production. Twitter would just be best to have as a way to keep the public informed during all stages of the process of bringing InterAction into schools, and as a way of gaining support for the program.

Testing

I propose that schools reduce the amount of tests students are required to take. The amount they must take right now is ridiculous. They spend half the school year preparing to take the tests and the other half actually taking the tests. The solution should be simple enough – just cut down how many exams the students must pass to graduate.  In Connecticut, students are required to take a series of state tests, called the CMTs, every other year from grades one through eight. Then, as students enter ninth grade, they have to start preparing to take the state-mandated CAPT in Reading, Writing, Math and Science that they must pass to graduate.  And if they don’t pass, they just continue taking the tests until they do.

Florida is similar. Students there must not only take the state-mandated FCATs to graduate, but for many courses they must pass end-of-course (EOC) exams as well.  Sarah spent most of the last semester of her class with students missing from her classes just to take these tests.  How can students be expected to learn if they are constantly missing lessons to take more tests. No wonder students are struggling in Sarah’s class.

I am not against testing.  Tests in schools are important general indicators of where students are and where they should be. It also lets a school see if a student is truly ready to graduate. However, there is such a thing as too much testing, especially when it begins to interfere with a student’s overall education.

I propose that there only be one series of tests that cover all general areas of education. This test should be standardized nationwide.  One series of tests for all 50 states. Because how can we be expected to compare education standards across states if there is no one standard to judge students by. These tests should be enough to determine if students have learned what they need to graduate high school and move on to the next stage of their life. Because if we continue to test the students too much, these students will stop learning and developing, instead becoming content just to regurgitate what they need to pass the tests.

InterAction, Interactive Learning Curriculum

Imagine you are student in class listening to the same lecture as last week. The information may be different, but it’s the same type of lesson, and you just aren’t interested enough to pay attention anymore. Your eyes begin to close the minute the teacher starts writing on the board and you begin to daydream.

Most people would say that these kids are lazy and just don’t want to learn, instead of considering why they are falling asleep in the first place. What if their brains are just under stimulated, making retaining any information difficult and tiring. Even an interesting subject becomes boring.

So what can we do? The answer: ­­­­­­­­­­InterAction, a new type of interactive learning for the classroom.

Remember the educational computer games you may have played at school as a child, like the popular Oregon Trail, where you pretended to try and take the long trek West for a new life?

InterAction will take these games to the next level by bringing them into classroom instruction. Students will be able to insert themselves into the material they are learning about.

Imagine being a part of the Boston Tea Party and protesting against the British imposition of taxes on your town. Or using your math and graphing skills in “real-life” situations.

Some students can’t learn by reading a book, listening to a lecture or writing an essay. ­­­InterAction will allow these students to become active with the subject matter and give them a more personal perspective, allowing them to connect to and develop an overall deeper understanding of the material.

Ask most kids and they can tell you exactly what they did while playing video games, but can barely remember what they learned in school that day. It is time to make learning the same kind of interactive experience as these games so students can find more enjoyment with learning.

InterAction is intended for students in grades K-12, as different lessons can be developed for students at different levels,

The technology would involve use of full-body motion control for students to interact with the material, technology currently use for high-end video games like the Xbox Kinect system.

My plan has two aspects. The first involves the actual design of the lessons. I want to get university students in the areas of game design and computer science to volunteer to create the first versions of the interactive lessons. It would give college students an innovation challenge to work on while lessening the cost in developing the InterAction system.

The second aspect involves finding a way to make this technology cost-effective for every type of school by creating collaborations between big technology companies like Microsoft and Intel. Many of these companies already have standing initiatives to bring more technology into the classroom. The companies could help incorporate much more technology into schools through their involvement in this project.

Funding would also be found through the submission of government grants through the Department of Education and other sources.

I also want to work with current education and technology organizations to bring InterAction into schools. The Organization for Educational Technology & Curriculum (OETC) would be great to work with, as they help develop learning and education by bringing better technology into schools.

The same goes for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), another association that wants to bring teachers and administrators together to improve the use of technology in education.

A beta version of InterAction can possibly come out in one to two years. Ten different types of schools will be chosen to test the lessons, incorporating them into a few different curriculums to see how they work with current teaching styles.

The project will involve a lot of work and collaboration between different groups and organizations.  But if we can bring a new type of learning to the current educational system, it will all be worth it.

Proposal

Remember the educational games, like the Oregon Trail, that you used to play in school when you were younger? Games like these were always very popular with students. The problem with these games was that they were only used for entertainment purpose during free time and recess.  We need to take the games a step further and truly incorporate them into the curriculum. This initiative will bring games into the classroom through interactive lessons as a way to make learning more interesting for the students. These new games will have a much higher level of interactivity than previous games.  Students will be able to put themselves into the material they are learning about; they can be a part of the Boston Tea Party or use their math skills in “real-life” situations. Not all students can learn just by reading a book or listening to a teacher’s lecture–many are much more visual and kinesthetic learners. These new types of interactive lessons will allow students to get a more personal perspective on the subject; and when students connect more to the material, they learn better.

The interactive lessons are intended for students in grades K-12.  It may be possible to get university students in the areas of game design and computer science to volunteer to create the first versions of these games. Potential funding may also come from a collaboration between educational and technology organizations, especially ones aimed toward increasing the use of technology in the classroom. The beta versions of the games could possibly come out in one to two years. The games would need to be tested in a few different types of schools, possibly used as supplemental to the current styles of teaching to judge their effectiveness in the classroom.

Elevator Pitches

1. App that connects users to resources on any subject

These days, more options than ever are available to everyone to learn about anything they want, when and wherever they want, even without the classroom.  And there are many new apps out there that facilitate this learning.  However, there are no apps that encompass every subject possible, that allow users to only use one resource to connect them to millions of resources.  This is what my app, ReSourceful, would do; it would allow users to search for any subject they wated and be directed to the best place to find credible information on the subject, in books, on websites, newspaper articles, blogs.  It essentially would be an encyclopedia of resources.

2. Bringing educational games to a new level

We all have played educational games sometime in or life, most likely in school when we were younger.  I remember recesses spent playing Oregon Trail when I was in elementary school.  My new educational games would go a step further.  Instead of the games being used mostly for educational entertainment, the games would be the lessons.  The games would have a much higher level of interactivity, with students able to put themselves into the historical events they mostly read about before.  Students also could use their math skills in “real-life” situations that can’t necessarily be recreated inside the classroom. Students would be more interested in learning when they can get a more personal perspective on the subject.