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  • An Innovative Charter School, Blended Learning, and a Community Celebrates

    by LearnEd

    Shots of kids in class

    "Successful Beyond Anybody's Dreams"

    University of Maryland President Wallace Loh was asked recently about an innovative school in College Park, Maryland where some of the university's education students are involved in their own learning classes:

    "It's a great opportunity for our students who want to work with kids or go into education, and I think the whole unversity learns from the blended education model," Loh said. "I think it's successful beyond anybody's dreams."

    (His comments appeared in The Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent school newspaper.)

    President Loh serves on the board of directors of College Park Academy, a public charter school in Maryland's Prince George's County. The school uses blended learning to prepare its students for college and beyond.

    Higher Than Average Test Scores

    The Diamondback also reports this claim from College Park Academy's principal Bernadette Ortiz-Brewster:

    During the 2014-15 academic year, the eighth grade students enrolled at the academy scored a higher average on the eighth grade science Maryland School Assessment than the county, state, and surrounding districts.

    From the Twitter feed of @CPAPrincipal with the caption: "HOW DOES RIVER EROSION WORK, the thrilling new science non-fiction coming soon to a 7th grade classroom near you!"
    From the Twitter feed of @CPAPrincipal with the caption: "HOW DOES RIVER EROSION WORK, the thrilling new science non-fiction coming soon to a 7th grade classroom near you!"

    More Options for Teachers

    Joshua Young teaches language arts at College Park Academy and chairs the department. He says the blended learning approach gives him the flexibility to be a better teacher—and improve student outcomes.

    "With the technology and the online curriculum that our kids have," he says, "it's wonderful that they are able to work outside of the classroom and at their own pace."

    "Students are doing rote memorization, taking notes, or reading outside of the classroom," Joshua says, "and then when they come into the classroom, they're doing more extended projects or discussions."

    Online Curriculum

    The school uses Pearson's Connections Learning curriculum.

    Herbert Williams who teaches science, says the curriculum gives teachers time to create deeper, more innovative lessons.

    "Everything is on the computer, including lessons, quick checks, and unit tests," he says. "With more teaching prep time, I can review lessons and develop an activity to reinforce them."

    A Community Partnership

    College Park Academy is created through an alliance between the City of College Park, the University of Maryland, and Prince George's  County Public Schools.

    College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn told The Diamondback:

    "This school is a great opportunity for the families and their kids living in the area," he said. "One of our greatest challenges in College Park is making sure that people of the city have access to quality education for their kids."

    A Growing Waiting List

    The mayor's claims ring true.

    College Park Academy had a waitlist of 500 students for the 2014-2015 academic year.

    This past fall, that waitlist had grown to 1,200.

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  • Automated Scoring: 5 Things to Know, and a History Lesson

    by LearnEd

    Kids looking at a laptop together

    A Problem with the Yellow Pages

    Karen Lochbaum earned her Ph.D. in computer science at Harvard University. At the time, she was at the forefront of new research about using computers to interpret language—but she didn't want to follow many of her peers into academia.

    "I wanted to write software and make stuff," she says.

    Karen stayed true to those aspirations, turning her talent as an up-and-coming software developer into work with Pearson. Today, she is Vice President of Technology Services at Pearson Knowledge Technologies.

    online search

    Karen worked for a time at Bell Laboratories during her academic studies.

    They were working with something called Latent Semantic Analysis. It was an early form of online search technology, applied to the dense information in thousands of pages of yellow pages. Telephone companies wanted their customers to have a better, easier, faster experience than they were having thumbing through those thousands of pages.

    "Before this kind of technology," Karen says, "you had to know that 'doctors' were listed in the 'physician' section, or 'drugstores' were listed as 'pharmacies.'"

    "Latent Semantic Analysis helped us develop ways for computers to learn about words and recognize other words and phrases that mean the same thing," Karen says.

    Fueling Everyday Technology

    Today, the same technology helps companies like Google perform internet searches. Other companies like Amazon use it to create algorithms that suggest books based on what customers previously purchased.

    It's also the technology used today for automated scoring. Developed through decades of research by cognitive and language scientists, automated scoring technology is used to provide consistent, accurate, and timely feedback on online tests or writing assignments. It can be used for both formative (used to gauge student learning during a lesson) and summative (used at the end of a year or course to assess how much content students learned overall) tests.

    Better Scoring, More Teaching

    "It's not just that we can take student essays and score them in a couple of seconds," Karen says. "It's all about consistency."

    "Computers apply the same standards to every essay every time," Karen says. "The process gives students immediate, detailed feedback—and it allows teachers to do more teaching."

    today searchWhile trained human scorers may be able to cross reference student essays with a handful of standard essays called "anchor sets," computers can reference thousands of essays.

    "And human scorers are always performing spot checks to see if the automated process is producing what's expected," Karen says.

    Scores Today, Complex Feedback Tomorrow

    Karen and her colleagues have plans to make the automated process even more beneficial to learning.

    "We don't just want to score essays and point out grammar errors or spelling mistakes," she says. "We want this system to give students more detailed feedback in the future. How can they improve the way they organize their thoughts on the page? What content was left out of an essay?"

    When used in the classroom setting, there are many benefits to explore. "With automated scoring, kids receive instant feedback and can practice their writing a whole lot more," Karen says.

    "And teachers can focus on teaching."

    Automated Scoring, An Overview

    more teachingEducators, students and parents have asked for quicker results of student performance on standardized testing to help inform teaching and learning. Automated scoring, which is based on and used in combination with human scoring, can help us deliver on that goal.

    So, what exactly is it? Automated scoring uses a computer to score open-ended test questions like essays. Experts train a computer – pulling on human inputs -- to create a learning algorithm that can score an assessment as accurately as human scorers.

    As this technology may be new to many, we understand that there may be some uncertainty about automated scoring. That’s why we’ve put together a list of five things you should know about automated scoring when used for assessments:


    5 Things Automated Scoring FINAL.2
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  • 10 Games You Can Play During Spring Break

    by LearnEd

    Illustration of the letters A and B

    Are We There Yet?

    It’s an age-old question that kids and adults alike ask while traveling for their Spring Break destinations.

    Before technology, creative, self-entertaining games were the best way to keep the family entertained.

    With a car that speaks to you and has every gadget imaginable to keep your family and friends glued to a screen, it may be difficult to find ways to have fun without a remote control in your hands.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 2.47.08 PM

    We're Here to Help with Games!

    To celebrate 36 Days of Type, a yearly campaign on Instagram that calls the world's creative, designer minds to develop unique letterings every day for 36 days (26 letters, A-Z and ten single digit numerals, 0-9) ...

    ... (here's our contribution on Instagram to the campaign) ...

    ... we at Pearson decided to play a little game: I’m Going on a Picnic.

    Here are 9 more games that are sure to have your family and friends of all ages laughing and using their brainpower.

    • I’m Going On a Picnic (Or a Trip)
    • I Spy
    • The Alphabet Game
    • Twenty Questions
    • License Plate States
    • Telephone
    • Spelling Bee
    • Telling a Story, Word by Word
    • Rock, Paper, Scissors
    • Sound Effects, Please

    For more games to play, check out

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  • How Diversity Leads to More Innovative Learning in the Classroom

    by LearnEd

    Close-up of an award

    Diversity and The Best Ideas

    diverse learners

    Pearson was recognized last night as one of the country's most inclusive places to work—for the third year in a row.

    Pearson achieved a perfect score in the Corporate Equality Index, a benchmark survey of LGBT community inclusivity conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

    "You can't change the lives of diverse learners until you learn diverse needs," says Kendra Thomas, who is Pearson's Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion.

    "We want Pearson to be as inclusive as possible in order to attract the best possible talent," she says. "You can't innovate the best ideas, the best solutions, or provide the best services if you're not hiring the best people."

    "Pearson was the only education and learning company recognized by last night's ceremony," Kendra says. "We're not just leading our peers in the field, we're also innovating learning in the best ways for students and outcomes at all levels."

    In the Classroom and Beyond

    "It's important for children to be able to see themselves in the characters of the books they're reading," says Jennifer Rosenthal, a Community Manager at Pearson, Diversity & Inclusion Advocate, and former English teacher.

    "If they're not identifying with materials in the classroom," she says, "they're not getting a quality learning experience."

    Jennifer says the need for classroom diversity is also important for a child's future.

    "We learn from each other," she says. "These kids will one day join a competitive, global, diverse marketplace and it's really important that they are exposed to many forms of diversity as early as possible."

    Improving Outcomes in the Absence of Fear

    "Ultimately," Jennifer says, "it improves student outcomes."

    Jennifer attended last night's award ceremony in New York to receive the award on Pearson's behalf.

    "One of the speakers said: 'No student should have to worry about being bullied on the way to the bathroom in the same way they worry about a pop quiz,'" Jennifer recalls.

    "Learning companies have to stand up now to make sure that doesn't happen," she says. "Hopefully, it starts to trickle down in to all parts of education."

    Developing an App

    Pearson’s Diversity and Inclusion team is already working on the next step of that process.

    "We're working on an app for students based on our commitment to inclusion," says Kendra Thomas.

    Jennifer Rosenthal accepts Pearson's recognition from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as one of the country's most inclusive places to work.
    Jennifer Rosenthal accepts Pearson's recognition from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as one of the country's most inclusive places to work.

    "With one swipe," she says, "we hope to give them access to a compilation of suicide prevention and other hotlines when they have serious needs."

    Jennifer says: "We can't forget that we're dealing with students lives—and their futures."



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