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  • Everyone is invited to become a geo-educator

    Climate change and the environment are not considered by most people as one of the most pressing issues we face today. A study covering 33 countries found that only 4.7% considered climate change a top priority. In a US survey, Americans listed it as 14th on a list of 15 national problems.
    So National Geographic's Geo-Education Initiative is most timely. Calling the education as an essential preparation for an interconnected world, the initiative aims to provide young people with a fundamental understanding of how the human and natural worlds work at local, regional and global scales. As a first step towards this, National Geographic is establishing a community of geo-educators. Recognizing the fact that there already exist millions of educators who are working with youth towards this goal, the initiative provides the support of a community, and brings them together online and in person.
    Anyone who is passionate about helping youngsters understand our interconnected world is a geo-educator, and National Geographic invites them to join the group. Teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who would like to contribute to the movement with their passion, experience and ideas can help build the National Geographic’s Geo-Educator Community, and participate in in-person community events.

  • College students aim for the stars

    Some college competitions set students thinking laterally, and there are those that set them off vertically. Many space research and aeronautical organizations believe in the value that hands-on engineering challenges provide to students, and challenge them with competitions to come up with ideas, designs and models. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA conducts competitions for university students worldwide, to write algorithms to identify asteroids, construct unmanned aerial vehicles, launch high powered rockets, design space settlements. The Google Lunar X Prize offers $20 million to launch a spacecraft that can safely land and travel on the moon, and send images to earth. It is not just the premier space research agencies that seek to engage students in this way. Startup DIYROCKETS, a global space company that aims to lower the cost of space exploration asks for a 3D printed rocket engine for carrying nano-satellites into space.

    Students are invited to design, build and launch rockets, helicopters, supersonic jets, orbital vehicles, Mars rovers and more. Apart from the prize, honor, and possible future employment, these competitions help student acquire experience, for even failure is experience. It lets them make new friends, meet scientists and professionals, see exciting competitive environments, and have fun.

    Students are readily rising to the challenge. Stephen Palopoli, a freshman working on a Moon lander describes his work as a lot of ‘really, really cool chores.’ Michael Pearson, whose team won the first prize for designing a 3D printed rocket engine says, ‘Space is only about 100 km straight above us, so it's close!’

  • What really is a MOOC, explains the founder

    MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, has come to mean a course taken by a large number of people, learning for free on the internet. Stephen Downes, writer, educator, online learning specialist and one of the founders of MOOC explained each letter of the acronym in a recent talk.
    Massive does not refer to 1000, 10000 or a million people. Massive refers more to the design of the course, rather than the number of students enrolled in it. The MOOC has a design that can be scaled without changing the nature of learning.
    Open means it is free, anyone can enter a MOOC, and do what they want with it.
    The course is available Online, on the internet. So someone in Africa, Asia or Europe who wants to attend a class in America will be able to.
    Course is a short module, it has a beginning, an end, and revolves around a topic. It doesn't sound like a long-term commitment that a term such as, say, community implies, and a student can enroll with the 'happy knowledge' that it will eventually end!

  • Tuition-free colleges
    Vani Senthil

    You don't have to pay for learning in colleges like Jaaga and Black Mountain SOLE, you simply pay the boarding fees. These are emerging forms of colleges that utilize free online educational resources and provide physical spaces, the missing piece of the online education puzzle. Students take the free online courses under the constant guidance of teachers who help them be self-organized and motivated to complete the course. Young students need the physical presence of the peers for easy interaction, which is time-consuming in social media where they easily lose focus. Students are liberated from financial barriers and are free to explore their interests with like-minded peers. By socializing and working in study groups, students are likely to complete their courses with good grades. These innovative colleges guide students to become independent learners and be in charge of their own education. Student-centered learning environment is made affordable and anyone, not just the rich and elite, can have world class higher education.

  • The next Steve Jobs

    What happens when you put sincerity, creativity and courage together? A miracle. As witnessed in a poor neighborhood in Matamoros, Mexico. The Wired Magazine named a 12-year old girl, Paloma Bueno the next Steve Jobs. Paloma is the youngest of eight children, and her family survived by scavenging in the garbage dump next to which it lived. She attended a primary school in an area notorious for drug wars. Her father succumbed to cancer, her house did not have electricity, and she had everything going against her, yet she received the best score in math in the country. Everything, except the combination of sincerity, creativity and courage, in the form of her teacher, Sergio Correa.

    Correa was a young teacher who had been teaching the government-mandated curriculum, which he considered mind-numbingly boring. The entire school system was antiquated and ineffective, there was complete lack of student engagement and grades were poor. Wanting to do more for his students, he did research to find new teaching methods, and came across the work of Sugata Mitra, a professor in educational technology in the UK, who expounded minimally invasive education that allowed his students to user their curiosity and self-learning to teach themselves.

    Correa placed his 5th grade students in small groups, and sat with them. He allowed them to learn from each other as well as from him. He told them stories, he asked questions, not always or immediately answering them. He stood back, encouraging them to think, discuss, debate. Paloma always had the answers to all his questions, and was often teaching her friends. Seeing her talent in math, he asked her why she had not expressed interest in the subject in the past, to which she answered that no one had made it so interesting.

    In the national ENLACE exam, in which Paloma obtained the highest score in math, the entire class had shown great improvement. The previous year, 45% of the class had failed in math, but that year, only 7% had. 31% failed Spanish earlier, that had come down to 3.5%. The lowest scores in the class were higher than the national average. There were many reasons for this success – Correa’s faith in himself and the children, the innovative teaching method that was better suited to the way children learn, the self-organized learning environment, the freedom to think independently.

    Correa had the courage to stray from the government-approved curriculum, the creativity to experiment with new methods, and the sincerity to want to do more for his students. Against all odds, he created one potential Steve Jobs, while giving hope to many underprivileged students and teachers everywhere.

  • An Online Medical School to Train Doctors

    A global virtual medical school is an exciting development that is possible with the emerging education technology. Pre-medical, medical and health professional curricula that excel the best in the world can be made available to everybody.
    Healthcare education has become a core area for Khan Academy, driven by consumer demand. The Khan Academy has partnered with colleges of nursing to create free, peer-developed, and expert-reviewed online resources to help nurses prepare for exams and professional practice. This could be just the beginning. Google is collaborating with edX to develop an open source learning platform and expand its availability to individuals and institutions around the world. MOOC courses on biology and medicine are available. There is to be global access to supercomputing resources and international genetics and electronic health record databases for new curriculum development, research and teaching. Databases are being designed to include some environmental and cultural variables relevant to human health.
    The virtual medical school could be used to train doctors, nurses and other health practitioners. Additionally, it could of use to academic researchers and public health officials. These are subjects with growing demand and good job opportunities. They are also professions that will receive support from governments and other donors.
    It is true that advanced medical training requires internships, guided experience through mentors and established institutions. There are many challenges that online education and MOOCs pose. However, the collective benefits of a global virtual university imparting medical education will allow the international community to help build the foundation, share the costs in investments and contribute to many areas of each nation's future.

  • Learn, to love thy neighbor

    Higher levels of education among people go along with greater prevalence of pro-democracy attitudes in the country. Research for the UNESCO Education for All initiative finds that one of the reasons for this is more educated people are more tolerant of diversity, an essential ingredient of a democratic state. People in thirty countries from six world regions were asked whom they would not like to have as neighbors, and their response analyzed to gauge their level of tolerance. Respondents could choose to avoid people of a different race, religion, language or sexuality. Though the magnitude of the impact of education varied across regions, overall, the trend was uniform - the higher the educational attainment, the lower the chances of reporting intolerance towards people of other groups.

    Educated people are also more likely to participate in processes that deepen the roots of democracy. Education also gives them a better understanding of the characteristics of democracy, and therefore greater appreciation of it.

    Education and democratisation: tolerance of diversity, political engagement, and understanding of democracy; Yekaterina Chzhen, 2013; Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/4, Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all

  • Education for All by 2015
    • To expand and improve early childhood care,
    • provide complete, free, good quality education to all children,
    • meet the learning needs of all youth,
    • improve adult literacy levels by 50%,
    • achieve gender equality in education,
    • and improve the quality of education, by 2015.

    That was the goal that 164 countries committed themselves to achieve, during the World Education Forum in 2000.
    Over 1,100 participants - prime ministers, policy makers, academics, teachers, heads of international organizations and NGOs - gathered in Dakar, Senegal, and agreed on these educational goals. Every year, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO, aims to inform, influence and sustain genuine commitment towards Education for All. The report is the prime instrument to assess global progress towards achieving these goals. Each edition focuses on a particular theme, and is targeted at all those engaged in promoting the right to quality education. The reports are available on the UNESCO website.

  • 6 challenges to the adoption of education technology

    The NMC Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Edition has identified six challenges that impede the adoption of technology in higher education.

    1. There is low digital fluency among the faculty. The necessary technical training and support is missing in teacher education. This in turn limits the students' use of and benefit from digital media.
    2. Teaching is generally rated lower than research. A university's prestige and ranking are often determined by the amount of research carried out. This shifts the focus of the university from the teaching staff to its researchers. The teachers are underrated and underpaid in comparison. The effort and will to implement effective pedagogies are therefore lacking.
    3. MOOC and its offshoots pose an unprecendeted competition to the traditional models of higher education. But these new models need to handle the issues of completion rate, employability, student support and interaction before they can offer an alternative to the brick-and-mortar institutions.
    4. Many organizational structures promote conformity rather than experimentation. Some traditional institutions are not adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practise. They rarely reward innovation and improvements in teaching and learning.
    5. Governments across the globe realize the importance of higher education, and propose to increase the national enrollment rates, but expanding the infrastructure to cope with the increased intake will tax the already thinly stretched resources in most countries.
    6. Though not all, some parts of the university are at risk of being overtaken by new models of learning. As some technical fields develop faster than universities can update their syllabi, free online content meet a need that institutions of higher education are unable to address.
  • How life on earth changed on April 22, 1993

    There was no international peace treaty signed on the date. No country witnessed any dramatic political change. Fortunately, there was no natural or man-made disaster. And no, it was not the finals of the world cup in any sport. A group of students at the University of Illinois released a piece of computer code. They had designed the first web browser that could display images along with text. Till then, the world wide web had been mostly text. There were some images, audio and video, but these were special multimedia data that were hidden behind links. You had to click on a link, and the picture would open in a new window. But the new browser with the graphical interface, Mosaic, changed the rather plain 'document' layout of the web and transformed into a visually exciting 'magazine'. Mosaic 1.0 was the first browser to become popular among the general public.

    The significance of the date was highlighted by Cathy Davidson, while listing the ways to change the paradigm of higher education. History and future of higher education is the focus of the Coursera MOOC by Cathy Davidson, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University. The revolution in internet communication that has its origins in the 1960s and took off thirty years later, gave us, for the first time in history, the ability to have an idea, and communicate it to anybody, anywhere in the world. Professor Davidson insists that even after 20 years, we have not really transformed education to take into account how dramatically our responsibilities, possibilities and challenges are in this digital age.