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  • What Minecraft Teaches Us About Learning: 'Curiosity at the Core'

    by LearnEd

    A digital landscape

    Luis Oros
    Luis Oros, a Product Owner for Future Technologies at Pearson.

    Following the Lead of 100 Million People

    More than 100 million people are registered users of Minecraft, a massively popular game where players—many of which are children—build complex fantasy worlds with ... blocks.

    "It's the highest grossing game in history," says Luis Oros, a Product Owner for Future Technologies at Pearson. "Something is happening with this game and, from a learning perspective, we wanted to figure out what was going on."

    An Obsession Like Never Before

    "Time and time again," Luis says, "teachers and parents and technical directors at schools told us that kids were completely obsessed with Minecraft like no other application like it."

    A Pearson team tried to unpack why.

    future of learning

    "First, kids have ownership of the learning experience," Luis says.

    Players have full control over all design choices, from materials to colors to structures and everything else in between.

    "Second," Luis says, "the platform is modifiable."

    Players can change designs in so many ways, even starting over or building on top of existing structures.

    "This is in sharp contrast to a lot of learning products," Luis says. "where education games don't allow players the freedom to play outside the lines."

    A Roadblock to the Classroom

    Despite Minecraft's popularity with so many children, there is one major challenge to its full integration in to the classroom.

    "How does it align with traditional school curriculums?" Luis says. "What players are doing in the game—the ownership of play and the full freedom to design and explore—is a tough fit in classrooms where memorization and fact-learning is emphasized."

    Progressive Models of Learning

    "Much of this Minecraft learning points to what we imagine as the future of education," Luis says.

    "So many curriculums today are so focused on knowing facts or memorizing formulas," Luis says. "So much of that content is now so widely available in many ways—so we see a broader shift in the classroom away from the conveying of content to a curriculum grounded in thinking skills and problem solving."

    "This gets us back to the roots of teaching," Luis says.

    Luis sees a second shift in tomorrow's learning experience.


    "We see teachers becoming more mentors and coaches," he says. "The answers are everywhere so, in many ways, a teacher's job is to point young minds to the right kinds of questions."

    Luis has a more technical way of describing this evolving role of teachers:

    The role of an educator is to spark and nurture curiosity and then build stronger relationships with students to scaffold student ownership of learning.

    This kind of approach, Luis says, could lessen the need for massive end-of-the-year assessments and integrate more useful, personalized, real-time assessments in the classroom.

    "A gifted instructor, engaging with students, can use real-time feedback to direct the lesson," Luis says.

    "Current approaches to assessments don't really do that."

    How New Approaches to Learning Work

    "I hated school," Luis says.

    When attending Johns Hopkins University, studying neuroscience, and thinking he was headed for medical school, he was turned off by the "rigid memorization" of facts.

    rest of lives

    "I pivoted out of that and became so much more happier in the classroom," he says. "I realized there was so much more to learning."

    "The value of something like Minecraft is that curiosity is at its core," Luis says.

    "Through this kind of curiosity, we can teach kids the kinds of critical skills they'll need for the rest of their lives."

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  • Changes in Learning as Seen from a 'Quarterback' on the Front Lines

    by LearnEd

    Game strategy on a chalk board

    Where We've Come and Where We're Going

    "Traditionally, learning tools for schools were a hodgepodge trail mix of online solutions," says Tyler Higgins, a Portfolio Manager at Pearson.


    "Few of those solutions were integrated," he says, "and they weren't very user friendly."

    Tyler has a unique view of these solutions.

    At Pearson, he manages teams and projects tasked with building tomorrow's learning tools for higher education.

    "We're headed in a direction where these tools are far more integrated and far more useable, such as with Digital Direct Access to eTexts and courses," Tyler says.

    Large-Scale, Integrated Online Learning

    Consider what Tyler and his many colleagues accomplished at Texas Southmost College.

    "The school's president, Dr. Lily Tercero, wanted to transform their curriculum to help their community in new ways," Tyler says.

    More than a third of the area's residents live below the poverty line.

    BROWNSVILLE, TX - May 16, 2015 - John Fallon, Chief Executive Officer of Pearson addresses Texas Southmost College Spring Commencement Exercises. (Brad Doherty/AP Images for Pearson)
    LearnED covered the unique curriculum at Texas Southmost in a previous story: "Two Affordable Journeys to College and Career."

    "We worked with Texas Southmost to provide an integrated, digital, online learning experience that had not been available to most students prior to college," Tyler says.

    On the Pearson side, it was the first time the company worked to integrate such a large volume of courses. The project was driven by a quick timeframe. And, dozens collaborated on the project for the first time.

    "The Pearson team found a new, collaborative way of working and integrating our products," Tyler says, "and helped Texas Southmost step into the new world of online learning."

    One Student's Story

    Texas Southmost's website tells the story of one student who has benefitted from this online learning experience.

    Alain Barrera graduated high school in 1991 but lacked a lot of family structure to give him advice about college and beyond.

    After getting laid off from a retail job—supporting a wife and two teenage children—he enrolled in Texas Southmost to pursue and associate degree in business administration.

    "(Alain) takes at least four courses per semester and has embraced TSC’s fully digital learning environment. He enjoys having the additional flexibility of using the tools that the college’s learning management system offers students, as well as its cost savings."

    'Clearing a Path to Success'

    "This kind of learning experience can happen when we bring our best," Tyler says.

    For Tyler and many of the other Pearson Project Managers, this means they have their Project Management Professional Certification.

    It means a high standard of quality is being passed on from the development of Pearson learning products all the way to their eventual use by students.

    "The project manager is often the face of a project," Tyler says, "but there are dozens and dozens of people behind the scenes—from subject matter experts to user experience designers—who deserve as much of the credit."

    As Tyler explains, "As a Project Manager, I'm like the quarterback on the front line of efforts to deliver innovations in learning."

    "And Project Managers love being a part of creative solutions to new problems in education that, in the end, bring better learning to the world."

    A recent photo of Pearson's North America Professional Services Project Management Office team.
    A recent photo of Pearson's North America Professional Services Project Management Office team.

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  • 3 Groups Graduating on the Same Day: First-in-Family Students, Active Duty Military, and Students with Children

    by LearnEd

    Overhead shot of a graduation ceremony

    Three Special Groups

    Earlier this month, Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc asked three special groups of graduates to stand up during commencement:

    Students who were the first in their family to graduate.

    Active duty military, reservists, and veterans.

    Graduates with children.

    The number of people you see standing up in this video is overwhelming.

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  • Why Education is as Important as Shelter, Food, and Water in Emergencies

    by LearnEd

    Young girl smiling

    Children play at Save the Children's "Rainbow Kindergarten" at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. It was the first pre-school at the camp, launched in December 2012. Each week, the pre-school is accessible to more than 1,000 Syrian children between the ages of three and five. (Photo: Hannah Maule-Ffinch/Save the Children)

    Improving Access to Education in Emergencies

    When thousands of people from government, civil society, affected communities, academia and the private sector gathered in Istanbul, Turkey recently for the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit, a pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place.

    "A pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place."

     A new fund to better coordinate and deliver education in emergencies was launched, called "Education Cannot Wait."

    "Education is typically at the periphery of emergency response efforts," says Gemma Terry a Community Manager for Social Innovation at Pearson.

    "Normally, education receives around 2-percent of humanitarian aid," she says. "Shelter, food, and water are always at the top—for good reason."

    "Now, more people are starting to see the importance of education in these conflict situations," Gemma says.

    A Lasting Impact

    Over 450 million children live in a country affected by conflict, according to recent figures from UNICEF.

    That's nearly a quarter of the world's school age children.

    From that number, 75 million children—aged between 3 to 18 years old—are in desperate need of educational support.

    The new education crisis fund Education Cannot Wait has already raised more than 80 million dollars from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, the European Commission, and others.

    UN education envoy Gordon Brown told reporters when the fund was announced:

    “This is a lost generation we must help urgently. We live in a world where refugee needs are not temporary, with many spending more than a decade out of country. ... For too long we have neglected the education of young people in conflict zones, at the cost of making youth the recruits for terrorist groups and their parents the most likely to leave and seek a better future for their children in Europe or America."

    "If children who have to leave their homes because of conflict are able to receive an education," Gemma Terry says, "the hope is that they're better equipped with the knowledge and skills to go back and rebuild their country."

    "Finally, people are seeing how important education is in conflict zones," she says. "Finally, it's a priority."

    Pearson is partnering with Save the Children for the ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership to increase educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and innovate new solutions to help improve the delivery of education in emergency and conflict-affected settings.  As part of this partnership, Pearson and Save the Children worked together on advocacy activities at the World Humanitarian Summit to raise awareness of the urgency around improving education for children affected by conflict. LearnED wrote about this partnership in an earlier story, "Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees." 


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