Pivotal innovators in education understand that the key to making education more effective is by increasing students’ engagement.
Older teaching methods of distributing didactic materials to a group of students banded together then expecting them to respond to rote reading and question/response exercises are being replaced by new strategies.
The following education pioneers have developed technology-based services and devices that attract and sustain students’ attention, making learning exciting rather than mechanical.
1. Khan Academy
Khan Academy, created by Salman Khan, is a free service that uses short videos, practice exercises, and an assessment system all housed in the academy website. The aim of the academy is to have students “master” concepts at their own pace. Khan concepts are “mastered” when a student completes 10 problems in a row flawlessly. Khan narrates each of the videos as a hand draws shapes and figures on the screen.
Each student is given “badges” for watching a complete suite of videos and for correctly answering questions. These incentives make the learning process visually and intellectually engrossing. The site keeps track of one’s progress and suggests new problems to tackle. The Academy, which grew out of Khan’s effort to tutor his young cousin Nadia in math, now offers lessons in physics, chemistry, computer coding, and much more. As Khan says, his goal is a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
There is also a robust Q&A forum that acts as a resource for unanswered questions. In addition, Codecademy tracks students giving them points as they move forward and badges for hitting milestones. Once a course is complete the site offers the opportunity to apply one’s newly acquired skills to actual web projects or to developing apps.
Amplify, based in Brooklyn, is Rupert Murdoch’s foray into the K-12 education industry. It is headed by a unique blend of professional expertise. On the institutional side, Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City public school system, acts as CEO, while the technological side is headed up by president Larry Berger, formerly of Wireless Generation. Amplify is built to work on tablet that guides and shapes a personalized education plan for each child. The key innovation is in the tablet’s content: ingenious games that pursue educational goals in English, Language Arts, and STEM. Examples include: "Mukashi, Mukashi," a syntax and storytelling game; "Tomes," a DIY adventure game featuring characters from classic literature and emphasizing vocabulary; and Food Web, an arcade style game that reveals the relations between plants and animals in an ecosystem. These games extend learning time by enticing students to voluntarily work outside of the classroom, when the school day is over.
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