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Sixteen Ways the Environment Matters in STEM Education

Sixteen Ways the Environment Matters in STEM Education | Curious Minds |

How does environmental education factor into STEM?  According to a blog post on Educemic, environmental science jobs are growing fast -- faster than any other science jobs at the moment, in fact. Furthermore, 78% of companies highly value a candidate's environmental knowledge in the hiring process.  Clearly, environmental science education is a niche with a big future.  An infographic from the National Environmental Education Foundation puts it all into perspective:


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Intel Science Talent Search 2013 Semifinalists

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Congratulations to the semifinalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS)!  The nations's most prestigious pre-college science competition, Intel STS is a program of Society for Science & the Public (SSP).

"Together with Intel, we congratulate these exceptional students, look forward to watching their future progress, and commend the mentors, teachers, schools, parents, and communities that have contributed to theis success," said SSP President Elizabeth Marincola.


Eleven Massachusetts students made the semifinals, rising to the top 300 from a crowd of 1,700 entrants.  They are:


Dhroova Aiylam (16)
Massachusetts Academy of Math & Science, Worcester, MA

Giridhar M. Anand (17)
Newton North High School, Newtonville, MA

Surya Narayanaraju Bhupatiraju (17)
Lexington High School, Lexington, MA

Chattopadhyay, Aheli (17)
Foxborough High School, Foxborough, MA

Christina Chen (18)
Newton North High School, Newtonville, MA

Haejun Cho (18)
Milton Academy, Milton, MA

Rachel Herrup (18)
Commonwealth School, Boston, MA

Jacob Paul Smullin Johnson (17)
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, Acton, MA

Aaron J. Klein (17)
Brookline High School, Brookline, MA

Shohini Kundu (17)
Amherst Regional High School, Amherst, MA
Jennifer Ming Walsh (18)
The Winsor School, Boston, MA


The semifinalists will be whittled down to 40 finalists, who will be announced on January 23rd.  Finalists will compete for a top prize of $100,000 in March at the Intel Science Talent Institute held in Washington, DC.



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Longtime Science Fair Supporter Penny Noyce Appointed to MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patric has appointed Dr. Pendred "Penny" Noyce to Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.


"Dr. Noyce’s lifelong experience and commitment to education in Massachusetts makes her an excellent addition to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education," said Governor Patrick. "I am confident she will continue to be a great partner in our efforts to close the achievement gap and ensure that all of our students are prepared for success, and I thank her for her willingness to serve in this capacity."


A longtime supporter of the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) through the Noyce Foundation, which she helped establish, Dr. Noyce is a former doctor of internal medicine.  The daughter of Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit and co-founder of Intel, Dr. Noyce earned a degree in biochemistry at Harvard and a medical degree at Stanford.  With Barnas Monteith, Vice Chairman of the MSSEF board of directors, Dr. Noyce founded Tumblehome Learning, a company that provides tools for students to become inspired to learn more about the natural and man-made worlds around them. 


"I'm honored and excited to serve the children of Massachusetts in this new capacity,” Dr. Noyce said. “I hope to learn a great deal as well as to share what I've learned in twenty years of foundation work trying to improve public education, especially in math and science."

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Innovative Project in Worcester Turns STEM to STEAM

The Art of Science Learning, a new initiative made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation, promises to enhance STEM education in Worcester through the arts.  Led by the Ecotarium in partnership with individuals from numerous Worcester organizations, the project is one of three in the country benefiting from the $2.7 million NSF Art of Science Learning grant. The other two projects are in San Francicso and Chicago.

MSSEF board member Sandra Mayrand, director and founder of UMass Medical School's Regional Science Resource Center and director of the Central Massachusetts STEM Network serves on the advisory board.  “The collaboration of the Worcester art and science organizations, including the Medical School, greatly impressed the site reviewers,” said Mayrand. “A lot of people including representatives from government, business, education and the non-profit world quickly came together to present our case. It was obvious that we all had worked together many times.”

In recognition of her work on behalf of STEM education in the region, Mayrand received the 2012 Steve Mills Founders Award from the Worcester Education Development Foundation this month. She was cited for her leadership and her commitment to public education and the mission of the Foundation. She also received a key to city from the Worcester School Committee; the key was made by students at Worcester Technical High School.  She has won numerous awards for work in building partnerships that support students and teachers.

Mayrand sees big opportunities for graduate students afforded by the Art of Science Learning grant. “They are the next generation of educators,” she said. “Many of them are hungry for opportunities to teach.”


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Worcester Wins Share of $2.6 Million "Art of Science Learning" Grant

Worcester Wins Share of $2.6 Million "Art of Science Learning" Grant | Curious Minds |

Worcester, MA joins San Diego and Chicago in sharing a $2,654,895 grant from the National Science Foundation titled, "Integrating Informal STEM and Arts-Based Learning to Foster Innovation."  In Worcester, the Phase 2 grant will be hosted by the EcoTarium. Cross-disciplinary innovation teams composed of STEM professionals, artists, educators, business leaders, and students will learn arts-based techniques for working with ideas and applying them to STEM challenges.  EcoTarium is New England's leading science and nature center, an indoor-outdoor venue dedicated to inspiring a passion for science and nature in visitors of all ages.

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Education Secretary to Visit Marlborough's STEM Program

Marlborough High School will welcome a VIP tomorrow, when Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville will pay a visit.  The high school's STEM Early College High School integrates project-based learning experiences and personalized portfolio assessment with community involvement and internships in STEM-related careers. Funded in part with Race to the Top money, the program supports closing achievement gaps, and has received praise from Gov. Deval Patrick.

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Sally Ride's Legacy: Advancing STEM Education in Middle School

Sally Ride's Legacy: Advancing STEM Education in Middle School | Curious Minds |

Broadcom Foundation Executive Director Paula Golden received a "high-five" voicemail from astronaut and STEM champion Sally Ride just weeks before Ride's untimely death from pancreatic cancer: "Paula, this is Sally Ride. I clipped an article you wrote about the importance of motivating kids to study math and science in middle school and called to let you know that the Broadcom Foundation is on target with support for training teachers in STEM project-based learning."

As Golden points out in a blog post on Huff Post Impact, Ride's most significant legacy may well be the results of her effort to empower middle school teachers to inspire kid to pursue STEM studies -- and eventually, careers -- through Ride's "Train the Trainer" program.  "Sharing STEM knowledge and inspiration has never been more essential," Golden writes. "According to the National Academies, among wealthy nations, the United States ranked 23rd in science and 31st in math in standardized tests. We now know from study after study that the effect of a quality teacher on a child's life is monumental."

Broadcom does its part to advance science education among students in this important age group through its national science fair competition, the Broadcom MASTERS.  By supporting teachers and honoring excellence among students, Broadcom honors and advances the mission championed by the great Sally Ride.



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To Strengthen Science, Bring Back Grammar

Randolph-Macon College English Professor Thomas Peyser makes an interesting case for the importance of STEM students having a strong foundation in grammar in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  "...we can be confident that the abandonment of instruction in grammar is robbing us not just of future writers but of future scientists, physicians and engineers as well," he writes.


With more and more emphasis on STEM education and less and less on grammar, the gap seems to be widening dangerously.  Scientists use words, sentences, and paragraphs to communicate, just as writers do.  Furthermore, STEM studies require students to distill complex sentences for comprehension.  Without an ample grasp on the fundamentals of grammar, students find themself at a disadvantage on both the expressive and receptive sides of the communication equation.


One of the key benefits of science fairs is the opportunity they provide for multi-disciplinary learning. A student's skills as writer, designer, and speaker all come in to play during the science fair process -- excellent practice for real-world science.  "Engineers and scientists must be competent readers, writers and speakers of syntactically complex sentences," Peyser points out. "That is why the English classroom is an important stop on the road to the lab, the clinic and the drafting table. Good grammar isn't rocket science, but students can't become rocket scientists without it."


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"Extreme" Science Fair Project Set to Hit the Market... and the Slopes

"Extreme" Science Fair Project Set to Hit the Market... and the Slopes | Curious Minds |

There's plenty of room in the fast-moving world of extreme sports for science.  Ben Gulak proved it.  As a teenager, the now-23-year-old had a big ambition: Winning the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  His senior project, the Uno, was a part Segway, part motorcycle vehicle that he developed as an environmentally friendly transportation option for consumers in Asia.  Although regulatory issues thwarted that vision, the chairman of Intel at the time, Craig Barrett noticed Ben's project, which won the "most marketable" award.  From there, Ben launched his won engineering design company, called BPG Werks, to develop a similar, even cheaper-to-produce concept -- the DTV Shredder.  Geared toward extreme-sports fans, he tough-looking all-terrain vehicle borrows elements from the Segway, motorcycle, and skateboard.   “I really like the idea of bringing something new into the world, to an industry that’s been stagnant for a long time,” Ben said.  With about 4,000 pre-sold to date, Ben anticipates that he'll ship in November and will have 10,000 sold by the December holidays.

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Mapping The Future Of Education Technology

Mapping The Future Of Education Technology | Curious Minds |

What will education look like a decade or so from now?  The demands of a changing society are predicted to alter the job landscape drastically for today's grade school students: a projected 65% of them will work in jobs that don't yet exist.  It only makes sense, then that education will have to evolve to prepare students for that future.  Check out this infographic that illustrates the move from a classroom-centered learning environment to a new set of virtual environments. 


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Nine Massachusetts Students Make Broadcom MASTERS 2012 Semifinals

Nine Massachusetts Students Make Broadcom MASTERS 2012 Semifinals | Curious Minds |

The Broadcom MASTERS® (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars), a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the national science, technology, engineering and math competition for U.S. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders that inspires and encourages the nation’s young scientists, engineers and innovators. This year's list of semifinalists includes the following nine young stars from Massachusetts:

Dayle Kwang-Liang Wang (Grade 8)
Massachusetts Region V Science Fair (USMA01)
Dover Dover-Sherborn Regional Middle School
Gusty Discoveries

Evan Leon Tilley (Grade 6)
Massachusetts Region III Science Fair (USMA03) Acushnet
St. Francis Xavier School
Salt Water Desalination

Ethan Wyatt Messier (Grade 6)
Swansea New England Christian Academy
Wave to the Future: The Utilization of Marine Waves Using Wave Buoys to Generate Electricity

Katherine Miranda (Grade 7)
Massachusetts Region II Science Fair (USMA05) Grafton
Grafton Home School
Nuclear Energy: How Can We Make It Safer?

Kumaran V.K. Ratnam (Grade 7)
Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair (USMA50) Acton
R.J. Grey Junior High School
A Study of Macular Degeneration and a Design of an Ultrasonic Guiding Device to Aide the Patients

Schools Daniel Lu (Grade 8)
Carlisle Carlisle Public
Psychoacoustics: The Perception of Volume

Emily Anna Lane (Grade 7)
Douglas Elementary School
Peel Power

David Anthony Bau (Grade 8)
Lincoln Lincoln Public Schools

Fan Liu (Grade 8)
Quincy Central Middle School
Fly Why? Will Irradiation Produce Mutations on Drosophila melanogaster?

Congratulations to them all!

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‘Mohawk Guy’ on STEM Education

‘Mohawk Guy’ on STEM Education | Curious Minds |

NASA's "Mohawk Guy" Bobak Ferdowski -- a flight director for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission -- has been the subject of some unexpected curiosity, himself. With his hair-raising style and winning personality, Ferdowski seems to be taking his new-found fame in style. The Washington Post's Haley Crum had the opportunity to ask Ferdowski reader-submitted questions. Here's his response to an inquiry about STEM education and his possible role in motivating the next generation of scientists.

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How Obama’s New Initiative Will Affect STEM Education

At the National Urban League Conference in New Orleans last month, President Obama announced an initiative geared toward improving the education of African-American students. The goal of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans is to close the achievement gap between black and white students -- a goal that is particularly significant withing the STEM education realm. The initiative should have an impact on STEM education for African-American students in several ways, not the least of which is exposing them to the sciences, math, and engineering at a younger age. For more ways in which President Obama's initiative promises to brighten the STEM education outlook for African Americans, read this post in Black Enterprise.

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Merging Arts and Science Education

Integrating the arts into STEM education can have powerful effects on student performance. According to the National Endowment for the Arts in its 2012 report, "The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth," "Eighth graders who had high levels of arts engagement from kindergarten through elementary school showed higher test scores in science and writing than did students who had lower levels of arts engagement over the same period." Wolf Trap's Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts in Vienna, Virginia, is going full STEAM ahead with a full slate of programs designed to infuse art into the curriculum. Wolf Trap's senior director of education, Akua Kouyate, is leading the organization's charge into the classroom. "If we think historically about how that has always been a part of learning, why would we stop it?" she said. "Why would we deny our children that which will allow them to really contribute significantly in the future?"


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A Million More STEM Grads Needed Over Next Decade, White House Says

A Million More STEM Grads Needed Over Next Decade, White House Says | Curious Minds |

We already knew that the demand for STEM graduates was on the rise to meet the demands of a changing economy, but recently the White House put a big number on how critical the demand really is.

Last week, the Obama Administration designated the effort to increase the number of undergrads with degrees in STEM fields as a Cross-Agency Priority goal.  According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, this means that the effort is, "one of a limited number of such articulated goals designed to focus cross-agency coordination and encourage sharing of best practices among agencies with complementary missions."


Initially, at least, the CAP goal to increase STEM graduates will focus on five "areas of opportunity":

improving STEM teaching and attracting students to STEM courses;

offering meaningful opportunities for students to engage in STEM research early in their college careers;

improving mathematics preparation so that students enter college with adequate math skill to tackle science classes;

support women and minorities in STEM education;

identifying and supporting educational innovation.



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PASCO STEM Educator Awards

PASCO and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have teamed up to celebrate STEM educators who have created and are using effective STEM curriculum in the classroom. 


A total of five 2013 PASCO STEM Educator Awards will be given to teachers exhibiting excellent in STEM education.  One elementary school educator and two teachers from middle and high schools will receive a prize worth approximately $4,500.


Consisting of experts selected by NSTA, the judging panel will be looking for entries that implement innovative inquiry-based, technology-infused STEM programs.  The best entries will be those that address a real-world application or problem, challenging students to use STEM skills to solve it.


To apply, fill out the application and send it in by November 30th, 2012.  Good luck!

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What Engineering Education Means for K-12

What Engineering Education Means for K-12 | Curious Minds |

It's the "E" in STEM, but what is engineering education, really, at the K-12 level?  A series of discussions on The Opportunity Equation blog tackles that subject thoughtfully through conversations with engineering experts and educators.

Recently, Christine M. Cunningham, the Founder and Director of Engineering is Elementary (EiE) -- a program of Boston's Museum of Science -- weighed in on the work that her organization does to engage students of diverse backgrounds and interests in the wonderful world of engineering. After seven years of research and testing, EiE has evolved into a 20-unit engineering curriculum for elementary schools.  The program also focuses on professional development through a "train the trainer" model.  Now used in all 50 states by more than 20,000 teachers, the program has reached upwards of 1.7 million students, Cunningham estimates. "The design and inquiry-based approach enables teachers to engage in truly open-ended instruction and learning where there is no single correct answer," she said. "Our results suggest that integrating engineering concepts and challenges at the elementary level can help to educate the next generation of innovators, designers, and problems solvers."



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Sixteen Ways the Environment Matters in STEM Education

Sixteen Ways the Environment Matters in STEM Education | Curious Minds |

How does environmental education factor into STEM?  According to a blog post on Educemic, environmental science jobs are growing fast -- faster than any other science jobs at the moment, in fact. Furthermore, 78% of companies highly value a candidate's environmental knowledge in the hiring process.  Clearly, environmental science education is a niche with a big future.  An infographic from the National Environmental Education Foundation puts it all into perspective:


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Obama and Romney Tackle 14 Science Question

Obama and Romney Tackle 14 Science Question | Curious Minds |

Scientific American and (which refers to itself as "an independent citizens' initiative asking candidates for office to discuss the top science questions facing America) posed 14 questions about science and education to President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Their responses will be analyzed and graded in the November issue of Scientific American, available next month.

In the meantime, you can read what the candidates had to say on such subjects as education, climate change, biosecurity, and innovation on Scientific American online

Are the candidates qualified to respond to such questions? "Obama and Romney spend a lot of time talking about the economy, yet neither is an economist.... They should be able to discuss science and how it impacts people and society, even though neither is a scientist, said Science Debate co-founder Shawn Otto. "They should be able to talk about education, even though neither holds a teaching license."

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STEM Toy Fuels Young Imaginations

STEM Toy Fuels Young Imaginations | Curious Minds |

On a recent post in her blog, Shaping Youth founder Amy Jussel shares her impressions of a couple of STEM-centric toys showcased at the Maker Faire.  Specifically, Little Bits grabbed -- and held -- the interest of young kids.

Little Bits (dubbed "LEGOs for the iPad generation") enables children to create working circuits without soldering, programming, or wiring.  Using the components and buildables, including dimmer, buzzer, light sensor, etc), kids can create almost anything they can imagine. 

"We now live in a world that is full of lights and sounds and things reacting to each other, and screens, and we don’t understand the guts of it," said Little Bits founder Ayah Bdeir. "It’s very important for us to go back to basics, to see, and to say that the magic of electricity is something that is everywhere that’s around us—it’s beautiful and we have to contribute to it and we have to be creative with it."


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Former Miss Massachusetts Champions Science Education

With a unique resume that features a doctorate in biochemistry as well as a beauty pageant title, Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle is poised to go big with her mission to make a difference in STEM education.  The MIT graduate, who received her PhD from the Boston University School of Medicine, founded the non-profit organization Science from Scientists in 2002.  The organization aims to gets students in grades 4-8 excited about math, science and technology.  "It's important for children to understand that science isn't this one area; it's the material that your car's made out of, it's the chair you're sitting in, it's your iPhone," Ebbel Angle said. "Science is in everything." 


Ebbel Angle's newest project puts her in the spotlight once again, as the star of the "Dr. Erika Show," which can be seen via Comcast On Demand or online.  In mock talk-show style, "Dr. Erika" helps students saddled with failed science fair projects, helping them figure out where they've gon wrong and how to salvage them. A veteran of numerous science projects herself, Ebbel Angle knows first-hand the importance of innovative thinking.  "To be able to think like a scientist or to be able to ask the right types of inquisitive questions, that just helps you; that's a life skill," she said.



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Turning Classrooms into Idea Factories

Turning Classrooms into Idea Factories | Curious Minds |

All signs point to the fact that the ability to innovate and create are skills that today's students need for future success. Teachers who make their classrooms "idea factories" for their students, rather than focusing solely on textbook-based instruction, have the right idea. By coming up with their own ideas and executing them in the classroom, students get grounded in the kind of thinking and experimentation that is the foundation for innovation.


A new book, Bringing Innovation to School: Empoweringn Students to Thrive in a Changing World, makes useful suggestions for turning classrooms into spaces where innovation can thrive.  Among them, the book advises teachers to welcome authentic questions, build empathy, and amplify worthy ideas.


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Intel Inspires the Next Generation of Thinkers

Intel Inspires the Next Generation of Thinkers | Curious Minds |

On Wired's Geekmom blog, Rebecca Angel recapped her interview with Carlos Contreras, Intel's Education Director, about the state of STEM education in the US.  Pointing out that American students have a long way to go when it comes to matching their international peers' performance on tests that require creative, complex thinking, Contreras feels that parents have a role to play in engaging young children in the kinds of activities that foster a spirit of inquiry. "Whatever the passion of the parent is, there is science behind it, whether it’s cooking or whatever hobby they are into," he said. "There is science there, and get your kids to experiment." 

Encouraging students to explore science and work to find the solutions to the questions they have can be invaluable.  Mentoring programs, like Project Engage in Massachusetts -- which arose out of a multi-faceted collaboration of professionals  including representatives from Intel, MSSEF the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, and two public school districts -- can be instrumental in lighting the spark that could lead to a great STEM career.

Click here to read the entire interview with Carlos Contreras.

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In ChemLab Boot Camp, Online Video Meets STEM Education

In an interesting collision of pop culture and science, MIT unveiled a new reality video series this week called "ChemLab Boot Camp."  The series follows MIT freshmen as they progress through the four-week-long Introductory Lab Techniques course. It's geek entertainment with a mission.  According to MIT Professor John Essigmann, "We hope to show the human side of our field and to inspire young people to want to become the next generation of chemists."  The show, which premieres officially in September, promises to give viewers a front-row seat on hands-on learning at its finest.  It also has the potential to deliver a little drama: Students who succeed in the class have a guaranteed job in a MIT research lab.  Stay tuned...!

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Awards Available for Innovations in Game-Based Learning

Awards Available for Innovations in Game-Based Learning | Curious Minds |

As games gain popularity among students as an education delivery method, the Department of Education has jumped on board with awards that focus on game-based learning education technology products.  The Institute of Education Sciences -- the research arm of the Department of Education -- announced a new round of awards, many of which focus on game-based learning products.  Phase I awards provide support to the tune of up to $150K for prototype development.  Phase II awards will kick in next year in amounts reaching $900K over two years. 

Education gaming experts say that well-designed games are motivating for students and by presenting discovery-based tasks, encourage critical thinking skills.  One project currently in the funding cycle is Game-enhanced Interactive Life Science -- a suite of five life-science games.  Their purpose is to boost understanding  of the scientific inquiry process among middle school students and students with disabilities.

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Why Should Techies Care About Education Theory?

Why Should Techies Care About Education Theory? | Curious Minds |

It's an age-old question: What's the best way to teach? These days the question is a has a new dimension: What's the best way to use technology to teach?"

A recent article in "Hack Education" tackles that latter question by asking readers to take a look back at the contributions of five of the 20th century's most influential educational theorists: John Dewey (pictured here), Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, B.F. Skinner, and Paolo Freire. In several-paragraphs summaries of the philosophies of each thinker, article author Audrey Watters puts the philosophers' influences into current-day perpective by identifying who in tech each has influenced (in Dewey's case, the Maker Movement). It's an interesting and thought-provoking piece worth a look.

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