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  • How Pokémon and Augmented Reality Can Change the Future of Learning

    by LearnEd

    Boy looking at his tablet device and smiling

    The Game Heard 'Round The World

    Kristen DiCerbo talks about her relationship with the immensely popular Pokémon Go app this way: "I've played, but I'm not spending hours of my day in the game."

    "I'm low—a level 5," she says.

    Kristen, Vice President of Education Research at Pearson, works to integrate learning science research into digital learning products - and she's been given a lot to think about by Pokémon Go.

    Augmented Reality Benefits (Beyond Catching 'Em All)

    By now, you're probably familiar with virtual reality (VR) where people are immersed in a digital world. Augmented Reality (AR) is a little different.

    "It takes the real world and layers a digital experience on top of it," Kristen explains.

    Pokémon Go is one recent example of this kind of experience, but Kristen says the technology has been around for several years.

    In 2007, an AR program called "Environmental Detectives" was piloted at the University of Wisconsin. Student "detectives" worked together to identify the source of a fictitious toxic spill in the local watershed.

    The program used GPS to detect where students took each of their water samples, and allowed them to track and analyze the data within the program.

    "That was the first time I heard about this type of education technology," Kristen says.

    Apply Later on

    Today's "Transfer" Leads to Tomorrow's Job Success

    The general context of augmented reality—taking a skill you learned in one context and applying it to another—has a name. Psychologists call it "transfer of learning."

    "This kind of transfer doesn't happen automatically," Kristen explains.

    "Just because you can write an essay about something or pass a test on the subject doesn't mean you really know it," she says. "Processing skills in new situations is how you actually learn."

    And that's where augmented reality can truly augment what kids learn in the classroom.

    Games for Change

    JetPackKristen isn't the only educator interested in how augmented reality can change the future of learning.

    In June, she spoke at the 13th annual Games for Change festival in New York City.

    For two days, attendees listened to speeches and panels, attended workshops and networking events—all related to the creation and distribution of social impact games that are part of wide-ranging humanitarian and educational efforts.

    No Longer Part of the 5-Year Plan

    "For a while, VR and AR were stuck on the five-year outlook. They were always on the horizon, but they never got any closer," Kristen says.

    She's referring to the New Media Consortium's Horizon Report, an annual report designed to identify emerging technologies likely to impact learning, teaching, and education in general.

    Pokémon Go is focused on fun, but future iterations of AR could certainly be more learning-focused like "Environmental Detectives."

    While the digital divide presents a distinct challenge (there is still a significant percentage of the globe without reliable internet access), Kristen is hopeful for the future of AR.

    "Finally, it's not just out there in the far future with the jetpacks," she says.

    "Pokémon Go has finally gotten people to say, 'okay, let's think about how this fits in with what we're doing in the classroom.'"

    Training the Next Generation Workforce

    "We want students to learn things that they can apply later on, to their jobs and careers," Kristen says.

    "We always talk about getting learning out of the classroom and into the real world," Kristen says. "AR allows teachers do that with their students."

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  • Connecting Learners and Employers With Digital Badges, Sometimes in Unexpected Ways

    by LearnEd

    Photo of a brewing room

    Becoming a More Competitive Job Applicant

    The fall term at Madison Area Technical College begins later this month in Madison, Wisconsin.


    The school's curriculum—aimed at both high school graduates and working adults going back to school—touts "hands-on opportunities" to "put the lessons you learn in class to work right away."

    Just a year-and-a-half ago, Madison College debuted an unusual new course offering:

    A Craft Brewing Certificate Program.

    It covers the basics of brewing, teaches key scientific information and provides hands-on brewing experience and beer flavor evaluation under the supervision of an experienced brewer. ...

    You do not need to pursue a certificate to take any of these courses and you do not need to formally enter any program to earn this certificate. You will automatically earn the certificate if you complete these required courses with satisfactory grades within three years. Students must be over 21.

    Local brewery Ale Asylum helped develop the course.

    When the program began, Kevin Appleton, continuing education craft brewing program director at Madison College, told The Capital Times:

    “If you’re a homebrewer and looking to bring up your game, this is perfect,” Appleton said. “We’re also looking for people who want to make a jump into the industry, to give them the skills and knowledge they need.”

    'What Are Your Skills Gaps?'

    "Madison Area Technical College approached local businesses and asked them 'What are your skill gaps and how can we help fill those gaps?'"says Pete Janzow who works on online badging program delivery with Pearson.

    "Local beer brewers said they needed more employees who understood their craft," he says.

    That conversation helped launch the Craft Brewing Certification class—a form of digital badge—that's offered to students as a possible "ticket to a future in brewing."

    "More and more companies are getting together by industry and talking about skills their employees need," Pete says. "And we're helping learners take advantage of the emerging badging programs to get better jobs."

    "In some industries, skill areas are moving faster than the businesses can handle," Pete says. "Old certification models can't keep up."

    Learning That Matters to Economies

    "In some industries, skill areas are moving faster than the businesses can handle," Pete says. "Old certification models can't keep up."

    "So digital badging programs that have now been around for a while are helping students learn these new skills," he says. "And these classes are producing educational opportunities and graduates that matter to local economies."


    Creating Badges That Mean Something

    Pete says digital badges in internet advertising, digital marketing, and cloud computing are also examples of "non-traditional" badges, created to keep up with fast-moving industries.

    "Things are evolving so quickly," Pete says. "And not only are we seeing learners take advantage of these badging programs, we're seeing more and more industries setting up consortiums to define standard skill sets."

    "Because anybody can create a digital badge credential and award it to whomever they choose," he says.

    "We're involved to make sure that these badges are resume-worthy," Pete says, "so they solve workplace problems."

    “We’re involved to make sure that these badges are resume-worthy,” Pete says, “so they solve workplace problems.”

    Capella University is now offering digital badges for students completing its National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security designated master's program.

    Students completing these degrees use them in roles that include information assurance and security, network defense, and digital forensic specializations.

    "Digital badges complement our master's in information assurance and security program," says Bill Dafnis who is Capella's dean of technology, "because they are secure, verifiable, and provide full context of the capabilities our students bring to an employer."

    Pete Janzow says it's the latest example of how an online badging program can "connect higher education and employability."

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  • A Teenager Graduates High School and Community College at the Same Time, and the Online Learning That Made It Possible

    by LearnEd

    Kate Croteau

    A Door Opens for a Non-Traditional Student

    Kate Croteau spent the month of May walking in two graduations, earning a high school diploma AND an associates degree from a community college.

    She has always been a non-traditional student.

    Kate was home-schooled in elementary school and switched to online charter schools for middle and high school.

    But it wasn't until a teacher from Ohio Connections Academy, an online charter school serving students in grades K-12 across Ohio, suggested she start taking college-level courses when her studies really took off.

    Finally Challenged

    "I was bored in freshman English," Kate says. "I wasn't being challenged and my high school teacher suggested a program called College Credit Plus."

    The program allows high school students to take college courses for credit that still count towards high school graduation.

    "Instead of English 10 in high school, I started taking English Composition 1 then 2 at North Central State College," she says.

    And Kate says the experience finally gave her the challenge that she wanted academically.

    Mixing High School with Community College

    It was a gradual process.

    She took all high school classes during her freshman year. Then a few college-level classes were mixed in her sophomore year.

    Pretty soon, she was taking all college-level courses—that also counted towards her high school diploma—in math, science, psychology, sociology, English, and other disciplines.

    "There was a huge difference between high school and college," Kate says. "And I loved the new, accelerated pace at North Central State."

    Her high school courses had all been online. Now she was taking some of her college courses IN physical classrooms on campus.

    Lauds and Honors

    "I've always done well in my classes," Kate says. "I took an economics course at North Central State, however, that went just whooooosh."

    "I was definitely under water that semester," she says.

    Kate still excelled academically.

    Through Ohio Connections Academy, she was inducted into the National Honor Society.

    Kate was one of three salutatorians in her high school class.

    ("I loved those live induction ceremonies over the years," she says. "I realized I wasn't the world's only high school overachiever.")

    At North Central State, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. It's the nation's oldest academic honor society.

    She graduated with an associates degree in liberal arts of psychology.

    Still, Kate's flexible schedule also allowed for time to be active with the Girl Scouts, the 4H Club, guitar lessons—she writes lyrics when she can, and has been teaching herself piano for "the last couple of years."

    One of Kate's unfinished lyrics:

    I will not follow you around

    Not without a call

    I will not expose my wandering soul

    I will not pretend to be helpless

    Which one's the lie? I'd like you to take the best guess

    A prize if you're right

    A blank stare if you're either

    'Friends for Life'

    "When I started working as an English tutor at North Central State, I started making friends for life," Kate says.

    "We were a bunch of stressed-out college students who were sleep-deprived and broke," she says. "All this brought us together."

    Kate started to get involved with the deaf community in her community.

    She's partially deaf in one ear and has lost most of her hearing in the other.


    "I became really attached to the deaf community," Kate says. "And I love using American Sign Language."

    Kate was familiar with the challenges for hearing-impaired students in traditional classrooms:

    * she was given preferential seating in the front row of classrooms,

    * she needed transcripts for all audio and video files played in class,

    * and she often needed outlines before professors delivered traditional lectures so she could follow along and stay on top of words that were unfamiliar.

    Her experience has motivated her to help others.

    This fall, she'll begin classes at Kent State University to focus on speech pathology and audiology.

    The Next Academic Adventure

    Kate says she feels a bit of pressure to be such an academic super gal.

    "I couldn't have gotten this far without the support of my family," she says. "Because of the various accommodations I needed in class, we had to fight for things every so often."

    "I'm looking forward to being normal at Kent State," Kate says. "I'm looking forward to doing well academically, being active on campus, being a leader in the community—with normal expectations like normal people."

    And her next academic adventure begins in late August when she moves in to her Kent State dorm.

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  • Meet Michael and Nick: Microsoft Office National Champions

    by LearnEd

    Michael Kelly

    The Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship is a global competition that tests students’ skills in Microsoft Office Word, Excel® and PowerPoint®. Top students are invited to represent their countries at the World Championship in Orlando August 7-10. Below, we profile Michael Kelley and Nick O'Donnell, two of the top competitors who will represent the United States in the global championship next month. Follow the competition on social media via #MOSWC.

    The Proof is in the Certification

    Michael Kelly, a Nebraska native and recent Papillion-La Vista South High graduate, already knows how tough it is to get hired. To prove his skills, he’s achieved certification in all the Microsoft Office products, but he specializes in Excel. He’s so good, he was named the Microsoft Excel 2013 U.S. National Champion in June.

    “When you are coming into a job, they don’t know who you are. They don’t know your history. But, [certification] shows you work hard for it and it proves you’re good,” says Michael.

    Michael competed in Certiport's Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship event in Orlando, Florida, against 108 participants from around the country to be named the National Excel Champion. His hard work resulted in a cash prize at the competition, and a job offer in the real world.

    Offline Perks

    “My certification helped me get a job in my school district helping staff and students repair computers and complete their projects,” says Michael. He is certified through Pearson’s Certiport program.

    He put in a lot of hard work to get to become a champion.

    “I didn’t know all the intricacies of Excel. My teacher really pushed me to go through it all and go really deep,” says Michael. “It is boring when you start and it’ll take a while. But when you get to this level you feel unstoppable.”

    Beyond the extra push, Michael had a good time.

    “You’re in front of everyone. It’s so exciting. The championship was so high energy. I just had so much fun.”

    Looking Forward to What's Next

    Michael will represent the U.S. in the World Championship August 7-10 in Orlando, Florida. He'll will be competing against champions from 80 countries.

    Michael Kelly's Victory at Certiport's Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship from Pearson Learning News on Vimeo.

    A Renaissance Man Ready to Take on the World

    Nick O’Donnell is a recent graduate from Belgrade High School in Montana. He’s a great student, an eagle scout, and known around his high school as the “tech dude,” but he has something special on his resume that makes him stand out.

    Nick is the U.S. Champion in Microsoft Word 2013. In June, he competed against 108 other students at Certiport's 2016 Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship event in Orlando to prove his skills.

    “When my name was called, my mom screamed beyond loud. Everyone heard it,” says Nick. “I’m kind of in shock.”

    What He'll Do With His Winnings

    As the first place winner, he received a $3,000 cash prize. He plans on using his winnings to buy a car and help with college costs. In the fall, he’ll attend Montana State University for a degree in computer science and a minor in business administration.

    The Road to Greatness

    Nick says that his internship at First Security Bank was a result of his certification through Pearson’s Certiport. He put in a lot of work to get to this level.

    “I mess around with the programs to learn them,” says Nick. He studied a lot of books about Microsoft Office, and his career and tech teacher, Ms. Francis, worked with him to take practice certification tests.

    The Final Hurdle

    In August, he’s going back to Orlando for the World Championships, where the stakes are even higher. To win the World Championship title, he’ll have to compete against students from 80 countries.


    Top Notch Prizes for the Champions

    What do world champions win, besides bragging rights? The top three finishers at the competition win cash and other prizes:

    Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 1.32.10 PM
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  • The day my life changed

    by Gwen Hodgson

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    In amongst the day to days of life as usual, we all have the odd date that gets hardwired into our memory banks. The days when something out of the ordinary happened, a bolt that breaks up the trudge of routine and stands-up screaming “you’ll never forget me!”. Life changing, hopefully life making, sometimes life breaking - the days that come to define us.

    Mine is April 4, 2006. A little over nine years ago, but as fresh as yesterday. I will never forget it. The day I took Jaq, my beautiful two year old boy, to the doctor.

    Jaq had always been a ‘challenging’ baby. Not in the way that all babies thunder in to shake up your life. He was certainly that - but more too. Something I couldn’t put my finger on at the time; just something that didn’t feel quite right. He would sometimes be totally engrossed in an activity, then seem suddenly detached as if there was nothing but empty space around him. Sometimes he would scream uncontrollably for hours on end, but shudder away from any attempts to comfort him. Other times, he would cling to me as if fearing he would fall off the edge of a cliff if he let go.

    April 4 2006 was the day I learned Jaq has autism. I had found myself in the office of a developmental and behavioral doctor. A few weeks earlier, at Jaq’s two year check up, the pediatrician had explained that Jaq didn’t seem to be meeting the milestones like a typical child, and we should look into why that might be.

    I remember feeling totally overwhelmed by the news. I had almost no understanding of autism; wasn’t that something very serious? And no idea why Jaq had it, or what to do to deal with it. And I felt guilty. Had I done something wrong? Had I not protected him from something? Was this all my fault?

    In today’s world of hyper information at your fingers, it seems odd to recall that when I went looking for answers, they were hard to find. Today there’s a huge autism ‘family’ that stretches right around the world - parents, carers, teachers, doctors, psychologists…. and autistic people, all pulling together to better understand autism. In the last decade we’ve learned so much about autism. People are properly diagnosed, and early. We might be shocked by the numbers - it’s estimated that 1-2 people in every 1,000 worldwide have some sort of autism; but it’s a sign of progress that we know this. And we’re learning all the time what therapies work, and how to modify teaching and learning practices to suit individual needs.

    But back on April 4 2006, I knew none of this. Slowly I learned. I learned about the science of it all - how autism isn’t one thing, but a spectrum with a myriad of moving parts. How everyone’s autism is unique to them - in the same way we’re all made up of shades of intelligence, ambition, shyness, humour, so too is it impossible to bucket autism into a neat single lump. I learned what worked for Jaq -  the vacuum cleaner running next to his bouncy seat; or his big brother doing a funny ‘Sponge Bob’ dance. I have no idea why those things worked, but they did.

    And I’ve also learned that, despite the conversations around autism being largely rooted in medical terms, we shouldn’t see it as condition to be cured. Sure, there are things that people with autism can do to improve their lives - but isn’t that the same for everyone? Don’t we all want to be a bit more determined, a bit cleverer, more confident, better to cope with what life throws at us? Aren’t we all striving to be better versions of us; and happier!

    As Jaq’s grown older, we’ve used clinical assessments to inform the best therapeutic and educational interventions. These have been absolutely crucial for Jaq. Like any education of a child done well, it’s given him the start in life he needs. Jaq’s ten years old now. He’s in a mainstream school, and is considered ‘high-functioning’. That’s the official take. I consider him as my gorgeous little man - always trying his best, sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong, but always making progress.

    If Jaq had been born years earlier, odds are he wouldn’t be any of those things. Education may have brushed him to one side, classing him as unable, lazy, troublesome. And that is the power of education. That when it makes progress, so do people.

    April 4 2006 - a life making day.


    Get in touch with Gwen on twitter - @HRGwen

    Learn more about Pearson’s work in this area.  

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  • The state of parenting

    by Stacy Skelly

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    I am proud to be “mom” to two adorable little boys — a three-year-old and a seven-month old. Becoming a mom has really changed me for the better. As anyone who is one will know, being a parent isn't always easy. In fact, it's often quite hard. It is a challenge like no other, but so are the rewards. I wouldn't change it for the world.

    It’s so true that parents really are our children’s first and most important teachers. Every day I’m amazed by how quickly my boys are learning and growing. They will be attending school soon, and when they do I hope those first steps at home will have set them on a good foot in their academic lives... and continue to do so as they find their way into work and adulthood. The nuts and bolts of what they'll need to know for life might be taught in the classroom, but equally important will be the behaviors we will try to keep encouraging at home - ambition, resilience, determination, and kindness.

    We are 40,000 strong at Pearson, and many of those 40,000 people are parents. So when, as a company, we say 'we’re putting the learner at the center of everything we do' it's not just a throw-away line or a bullet point on a strategic document -- it's a personal commitment that many of us first made not as employees, but as parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents, in our own home, to our own kids. It’s not a promise articulated in terms of 'learner at the center,' but rather "I'm going to love you and never give up on you." It's a promise that each of us takes beyond our own families, around the corners of the kids in our neighborhood, and across state and national borders. It's a promise we make to all children, wherever they may be: education has the power to make your life better.

    That's why I’m excited to share the findings from a new NBC News National Survey of American Parents, which is shedding light on the current state of parenting in the U.S. Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, the research paints a new portrait of the American family, and really encourages us to think about the crucial link between a strong family and a strong education.

    A few of my favorite poll highlights are:

    • 75% of America’s parents give high marks to the education their children are receiving

    • 79% of parents reported having dinner with their families most days of the week

    • Two-thirds of parents say their children's overall academic performance is excellent (39%) or very good (25%)

    • A little more than half (53 percent) of parents are satisfied with their level of involvement in their child’s education, but almost as many parents (47 percent) wish they could do more.

    You can learn more about the findings at and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #StateofParenting.


    Stacy works in our North American team. Connect with her on Twitter on @StacySkel


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  • Together, to get every child learning

    by Amanda Gardiner

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    As a parent, I know how central education is to the ‘growing up’ experience. New friends, new perspectives, life lessons – these are what I hear about every day when my kids come home from school.

    A classroom provides a safe, supportive space where a child can learn about the world, interact with peers, and feel a bit of normality. It’s a place where it’s okay to ‘dream big’ and a bright future seems possible. But every day, millions of children miss out on the opportunity to attend school and to learn those skills. Half of all out-of-school children live in countries affected by conflict.

    Our new partnership with Save the Children, Every Child Learning, aims to improve access to quality education for children who have been affected or displaced by conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies - starting with a pilot in Jordan, which has experienced one of the worst refugee crises in history as a result of war in neighboring Syria.

    It's a project that'll take us out of our comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. We don’t typically operate in places where disaster and conflict is a daily reality, yet it is exactly in the places where education has been abandoned that we have the potential to help.

    That potential isn't about the traditional philanthropic model in which businesses make a donation to a charity and observe project activity from the sidelines.  Rather, it's about being active participants in assessing needs, identifying gaps, and co-creating solutions for the difficult challenge of providing reliable learning opportunities to vulnerable and displaced children.

    Every Child Learning combines Pearson’s expertise in delivering educational products and services at scale with Save the Children’s experience running education programmes in some of the world’s most challenging environments. Together, we’re aiming to create much more than a stopgap intervention – the long-term ambition is to develop new models and ways of working that leverage the core competencies of the private sector and improve the quality of education in emergency and post-conflict settings.

    Ultimately, Every Child Learning is about building innovative learning solutions that can be adapted and scaled in similar contexts around the world, creating Shared Value. What we learn in the context of our pilot initiative in Jordan, we’ll seek to apply elsewhere, so that we help to ensure the cost of conflict isn't counted in empty classrooms and lost generations.

    You can find out more information at


    Amanda leads our work with organisations and people that share our vision that education can build a better world. Connect with her on Twitter - @Amanda_Gardiner

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  • Making Assessments Count

    by Jon Twing

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    I was recently asked why Pearson was so eager to sign up to support and develop the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, in the US, and other assessment systems aligned to higher academic standards. It's a fair question, and one that many teachers, parents, and others are likely asking as well. Why is Pearson so vested in this work? Why does Pearson agree to take on the scope of work, tight timelines, long hours, and political concerns wrapped around the delivery of successful high-quality assessments?

    Quite simply, because it’s the right thing to do. Pearson has always supported the move by US states to adopt higher standards and assessments like PARCC that can measure student progress toward those standards. (We do, of course, get paid for this work, but our goal is bigger than that.)

    It is the right thing to do for education and the future of our school-aged children. The evidence is overwhelming – too many young people leave secondary school underprepared for college or a career. Too many of these students enroll in university, accumulate upwards of $40,000 in student loan debt (not counting the spending of savings, of time, and family sacrifice), only to fall behind, become frustrated, and ultimately drop out because they are not ready.

    These students then enter the job market riddled with debt, and yet are no better prepared than when they first left high school. This one phenomenon alone, to quote the previous Chairman of the Tennessee State Board of Education, demands "truth in advertising," so that students know how well prepared (or unprepared) they are for success. This is where new, higher standards and new assessment systems come in.

    More than five years ago, an effort led by the states emerged to develop a common set of new, rigorous academic standards aligned to the skills and competencies that higher education campuses and employers require of high school graduates in our 21st century global economy. The standards include obvious things, like doing well in Algebra II and English III, and the less obvious things – which employers value tremendously – like being able to think and read critically, solve novel problems and read comparatively. Today, thanks to this collaborative effort, teachers in 43 states plus the District of Columbia are implementing those higher standards, called the Common Core State Standards, in their classrooms.

    In turn, the need for states to get more accurate measures of such meaningful aspects of education is why Pearson supported the development of new assessments, including PARCC.

    We can all agree and disagree on various aspects of both the new standards and assessments that measure those standards. But the fact is that both the Common Core and PARCC are meant to improve the college and career readiness of students. So, while you engage in discussions about what is good and what is bad about education in America, don't forget to focus on the most important aspect – namely, how can you help get our children ready for success in their future? A future that is unlike anything we have encountered in the past – full of technology, billions and billions of bits of information, and jobs that have not yet been created but require mastery of a new set of 21st Century skills and competencies.

    I think Common Core and PARCC are a great start.


    Jon leads our development and implementation  of global assessment solutions. Connect with him on Twitter - @JonSTwing 




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