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  • A Virtual Option to Wrangle Busy Parents for Teacher Conferences

    by LearnEd

    Man holding an tablet device

    Parents are Essential ... and Busy

    In the 1980s, Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla set out to compile the findings of 35 academic studies that considered whether parent involvement in learning helps students improve. Their groundbreaking work laid out what is now more or less a fact: getting parents involved leads to significant, measurable benefits for children, families, and schools.

    "The form of parent involvement does not seem to be critical," Anne and Nancy write in the first edition of their work, "The Evidence Grows." "So long as it is reasonably well-planned, comprehensive and long-lasting."

    It's a tall order in 2015, especially for single parents or parents working hourly jobs. A poll last year found that nearly half of parents who want to be more involved in their child's education are "too busy" to increase what they're already doing.

    graphic parents

    Virtual Parent Conferences

    Learning research scientist Dr. Rob Kadel is working with his colleagues on one way that could help busy parents.

    Not all parents are able to take advantage of parent-teacher conferences. It's a major time commitment to take off work, travel to school, and wait in line. The process could easily take an hour-and-a-half.

    "Can we improve parent attendance if we offer a virtual option?" Rob asks. "The convenience factor could make a big difference."

    Rolling Out the Idea

    This fall, two school districts will be testing a virtual, video conference option for parents, using Apple's Facetime, a Google Hangout, or Microsoft's Skype. An hour-and-a-half challenge for working parents suddenly becomes a 15-minute work break.

    "Parent involvement in learning is so crucial," Rob says. "We're not only helping parents who feel left by the wayside because of complicated life circumstances. We're also finding great ways to collaborate over learning by means of technology, in ways outside of the classroom."

    We'll have updates in this space once Rob and his team dig through the results from their work. Until then, we leave you with these tips to make the most out of a parent-teacher conference from Pearsons' partners at the NBC Parent Toolkit.

    Parent Conference Tip

    Download a list of questions to ask during a parent-teacher conference here.


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  • School Year Resolutions: 10 Inspiring Parent Pledges To Help Their Kids Learn

    by LearnEd

    A lady smiling into the camera

    In a perfect world, each day you'd have time to engage deeply in your children's education. But, when you have a billion things on your to-do list, 24 hours doesn't seem like nearly enough time to fit in work, family, school, and extracurricular activities.

    You're not alone. Nearly half of parents (47%) say they wish they had more time to engage with their children, according to a recent Pearson poll conducted with NBC. After all, parents are their children’s’ first and most important teachers. So, how can parents boost their grades in this department?

    Thousands of parents, educators, grandparents (and celebrities, too) contributed ideas to the School Year Resolution program, powered by Pearson and NBC.

    Whether you're a parent, a grandparent, another family member or even a teacher, now is a great time to think about ways you can support the students in your life.
    Whether you're a parent, a grandparent, another family member or even a teacher, now is a great time to think about ways you can support the students in your life.

    What resolutions topped the charts?

    Here are some of the most popular resolutions from our friends at the Parent Toolkit:

    1. “My school year’s resolution is to read a book to Vale every single day. Even though she’s only one, and usually she just eats the book, I know it’s good to read to her, and I want to do it every single day.” –Savannah Guthrie, host of the Today Show

    2. “To get my family together for at least a half hour each day so we can all read together.” –Al Roker, host and weatherman of the Today Show

    3. "My school year’s resolution is to help my kids embrace their curiosity.” –Matt Lauer, host of the Today Show

    4. “This school year, I resolve to play more with my two kids” –Erica Hill, co-anchor of the weekend Today Show

    5. “My school year’s resolution is to root on my nieces and nephew and help them face their fears. I want them to think big, be bold, and want them to know that their aunt is there to root them on no matter what.” –Tamron Hall, NBC News national correspondent

    6. ”I’ll continue to encourage and foster my kids’ love of storytelling and writing” –Willie Geist, co-anchor of Today’s Take

    7. I will be more patient helping my kids with their homework, even if it’s sixth grade math!” –Natalie Morales, Today Show news anchor

    8. To help foster my daughter Mila’s lifelong love of learning as she starts preschool” –Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show special correspondent

    9. “My resolution is for Harper to not only learn the alphabet, but to get a good physical education as well” –Jenna Wolfe, NBC News national correspondent

    10. “When parents get involved in their kids' education, kids performance in school improves. That's why Barack and I try to talk to our girls as much as we can about what they're learning, so we can support them through any challenges they might face."–First Lady Michelle Obama

    The First Lady shares her special school year resolution

    First Lady Michelle Obama from Parent Toolkit on Vimeo.

    You can post your resolution, share your favorite celebrity resolutions, or explore others on social media using the hashtag #SchoolYrResolution.

    Coming soon: more school year resolutions from parents, educators, and community advocates around the topics of academics, social and emotional development, and health and wellness.

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  • Debunking the Mozart Effect: How to Tell Good Science from Science Myth

    by LearnEd

    Sheet music

    In 1993, the journal Nature published research about how listening to classical music improved performance on spatial tasks. Soon, claims about the "Mozart Effect" grew. It was thought that listening to Mozart made babies smarter, or raised their IQ. The Governor of Georgia even made classical music available to all newborns in the state.

    Brain Science Pull

    It's an example of how good brain science can be be misinterpreted, and it's the reason Pearson learning PhD Liane Wardlow considers herself to be a bit of a myth buster.

    Parents and teachers are already so committed to innovative ideas that can make learning better, but it's easy to fall for research claims that just don't hold up. "Resources are scarce," says Liane. "Instructional interventions that are based upon misinterpretations or over-interpretations of brain science take time away from things that do work."

    So, Liane and her colleagues are working to debunk what they call "neuromyths"—the off-base brain science that has been popularized in learning. If they're successful, only innovative ideas about good brain science can take root.

    According to Liane, these are the top five myths she says are not supported by science:

    Myths Box

    Liane encourages parents and teachers to be cautious about brain research and latest study findings, and offers these tips when considering research with appealing claims:

    Science Claims Box


    We'll be delving into these neuromyths and many others over the course of this blog series.



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  • How An iPad Game With Robots Teaches Kids the Art of Persuasion

    by LearnEd

    Illustration of geometry


    A screen shot of “Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy."
    A screen shot of “Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy."


    A Collaboration Problem

    Future colonists on Mars are having a collaboration problem as they wrestle with important questions about their future.

    This not-so-fictional scenario plays out in the iPad game "Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy." Players in grades 6 through 8 help colonists resolve disagreements by piecing together well-crafted arguments ... while learning the art of persuasion along the way.

    Learners play the game with characters called Argubots. As disagreements pop up, Argubots are directed to pick up different bits of evidence that support a particular point of view. Opposing views face off in "duels" between Argubots. Winning the duel depends on how you've equipped your Argubot.

    And no matter whether you win or lose, every twist and turn in the process cultivates a player's critical thinking—which is useful life skill.

    "Persuasive abilities apply to real life," says Pearson research expert Kristen DiCerbo who is part of a team with Glasslab and NASA that developed the game. "You want to be able to build an argument, whether you're asking someone for a refund or taking a stand in politics."

    Fewer Barriers Between Learning and Assessment

    Turns out, games are particularly useful for this kind of learning. First, they're engaging for young learners. And second, each new level of the game fits in nicely with the stages of how complex concepts are learned. As players advance through the game, their skills get better. Higher levels introduce more sophisticated persuasive challenges.

    "The game is also breaking down the barriers between learning and assessment," says Kristen. "As students are engaged in the digital environment, we can capture data and understand what they can and cannot do without stopping for a test."

    Will this change the classroom of the future? "I don't know," says Kristen.

    "I don't see computers taking over all the decisions in a classroom," she says. "Teachers will always have that role. We're just trying to find the balance."


    iPad Game "Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy"
    Argubots square off in useful discourse with observations and evidence.


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  • Two Affordable Journeys to College and Career

    by LearnEd

    Lecture Hall with students

    Student debt nationwide is slowly approaching a whopping $1.5 trillion. Tackling that imposing number has become an issue on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, as both Republican and Democratic candidates have proposed plans to make college more affordable. Two schools have gone one step further: they're already providing better access to higher education for students looking to improve their lives.

    Two Schools Box

    Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, Texas

    "We are excited and ready to help you begin your journey to a bright and successful future!" These words are part of the welcome message to incoming students at Texas Southmost College from the school's President, Lily Tercero.

    Many of TSC's students come from the nearby community of Brownsville, Texas, where more than a third of residents live below the poverty line. Until recently, large numbers of the city's high school graduates never applied to college.

    President Tercero and her administration have taken on these traditional barriers to learning and rebuilt the school's curriculum, re-working all kinds of learning for all kinds of learners. This includes a plan to put its curriculum online. Marti Flores, vice president of instruction at Texas Southmost, says, "Many students balance work and family responsibilities with their educational goals, so having affordable and easily accessible web-based digital learning materials would facilitate learning."

    Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey

    Students are balancing many challenges outside the classroom while attending New Jersey's Ocean County College. To help, the school has set an ambitious goal to reach by next year: triple enrollment to 21,000 students, by offering a wide range of professional and general degree programs—fully online.

    The online curriculum is cheaper for students, saving them hundreds of dollars in textbook costs. It's also the right move for all Ocean City learners with aspirations beyond college, says president Jon H. Larson, whether they're earning a four-year degree or preparing for a career.

    Texas Southmost is now two years in to full digital delivery. The platform is not just making college more affordable, it's also "meeting the needs of the 21st century." That's according to Angelica M. Fuentes, who is a dean at TSC. She adds, "I really do think TSC's digital learning platform supports what our students need, especially by preparing them for the jobs that they will be going into when they graduate."

    Last spring, Pearson CEO John Fallon spoke to the 2015 graduates at TSC.

    "Your success opens up new opportunities," John told them. "Not just for your generation, but for generation after generation to come."


    Pearson has been working with both Texas Southmost College and Ocean County College to deliver their online curriculums. We've written more about both partnerships, with TSC and OCC.

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