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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:

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  • A Former Elementary Teacher in Rural Spain Helping to Innovate the Way Children Learn and Parents Stay Involved

    by LearnEd

    A sunflower
    Extremadura Map2

    A New Way to Improve Learning

    "When I was in school, we weren't using computers or learning how to find useful information online," says Cristobal Garcia who's working with local students and teachers—even parents—who now have that opportunity.

    Cristobal is a trainer for Pearson's eScholarium collaborative education platform in a rural region of Spain called Extremadura.

    He used to be an elementary teacher.

    Extremadura is one of the poorest regions in Spain. Its economy is largely based on agriculture.

    "But most everyone has access to the internet," Cristobal says. "At home, in libraries, at school—and we're taking advantage of this resource to improve our learning and teaching."

    Captura de pantalla (106)

    A Government Initiative, Embraced by the Community

    working together

    Three years ago, Extremadura's regional government wanted to take its educational system one step closer to a digital future—to be a pioneer in the use of digital content in the classroom in Spain and throughout Europe.

    Pearson was selected to lead two other companies—BlinkLearning and Common MS—to create and roll out what became eScholarium.

    "Through this platform, everyone is now part of teaching," Cristobal says. "Teachers, students, families, textbook publishers—everyone is now working together in a collaborative way."

    Cristobal says teachers embrace the platform because they're now able to review textbooks and keep better tabs on students work so they can apply new teaching approaches.

    "They're also creating their own classroom content," he says, "and sharing it with colleagues in the region through the platform."

    "For the students in an era of technology, they're now learning how to use that technology properly," Cristobal says. "And use this technology learning to help their education."

    "And parents can track homework lessons and scheduled tests," he says.

    More Than 100 Schools and Growing

    Over the last three years, Cristobal says, the platform has been integrated in to 106 centers—from primary schools to secondary schools to music schools to language schools to schools for adult learners.

    This includes nearly 4,000 teachers, nearly 53,000 families, almost 28,000 students, 32 publishers, and 25 bookshops.

    It's offered in both Spanish and English, with hopes to add other languages h in the future.

    "It was difficult for everybody to learn this platform at first," Cristobal says. "But now it's working better for all of us."


    Digital Collaboration

    "Regional officials have been so pleased with the response to eScholarium that they want to roll it out to even more schools," Cristobal says.

    "We also want to push this platform to a phone app, because that's where these kids are going," he says.

    "We're innovating a whole new way of teaching in these communities," Cristobal says. "And we're helping everyone involved—teachers, students, families, and textbook publishers—keep in touch along the way."

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  • Tests on Computers Versus Tests on Tablets: Do Students Perform Differently?

    by LearnEd

    Shots of computer booths

     Schools are moving from paper to online tests. Researchers are considering the effects of using tablets or computers on large-scale assessment performance.

    Laurie Davis, Ph.D., has been studying how students take tests on different devices for Pearson since 2012. Her research shows that students perform best when they use technology with which they are familiar.


    “When kids are comfortable and confident with the device, they do better," Laurie says. “Using an unfamiliar device gets in the way of kids answering questions and could result in less accurate results.”

    A Better Study: Devices Assigned Randomly

    Laurie recently conducted a statewide study where students were randomly assigned to use a tablet or computer to see if there was a difference in test scores.

    964 high school students from five school districts in Virginia were given online tests in reading, science, and math.

    About half of them took the 80-minute test on a desktop or a laptop, and about half of the students took the test on a tablet.

    Laurie and her fellow researchers found that there was no significant difference in scores across subjects, gender, and ethnicity.

    "Results indicated no significant differences between tablets and computers for math and science at any point in the score point range or for any student subgroup."

    Boys did slightly better on reading questions when they used a tablet.

    There isn't enough data to explain why this happened. Laurie says it might be because boys perhaps find reading on a tablet more engaging than on a computer.

    Finding the Right Device for Each Student

    Laurie suggests this 3-step process to determine whether a student is comfortable with a particular device for testing:

    1. Ask the teacher if the student is able to use the device comfortably.
    2. Ask the student if they are comfortable with the device.
    3. Practice on the device and verify the student is comfortable using it when responding to test tutorials or practice questions.

    Developing a 'Halo Functionality'

    There are obvious differences between a student's use of a computer versus a student's use of a tablet.

    For example, on a tablet, students use their finger to interact directly with the screen to select or move objects and position the cursor. They use a mouse to accomplish these same tasks on a computer.

    Usability studies show using a finger is far less precise than a mouse—and it can be frustrating to students.

    So, Pearson developed a “halo” functionality for graphing questions on tablets. It helps students see the points or lines they are graphing without it being blocked by their finger.

    Halo Image

    The research shows that with the added halo, there is no difference in usability on a tablet versus a computer.

    Standardization or Personalization?

    Test makers are always looking for the fairest tests. In recent years, this has meant more standardization.

    New technology—with tweaks like the halo functionality on tablets, not computers—means more personalization may be in the offing.

    Laurie Davis says: “It can be fair to personalize the technology used to take the test so students can perform the best they can."

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  • Summer Break: Expert Advice for Parents on Managing Behavior at Home

    by LearnEd

    Kids outdoors


    Earlier this spring, we wrote about how Adam Bauserman helps teachers tackle three common classroom behavior problems. In this follow-up piece, we’ll address behavior issues that arise at home during summer break, and provide Adam's tips for parents striving for smooth sailing over the summer.


    School's Out for Summer

    Summer vacation. For kids, it’s the best time of the year. For parents, it’s often the most stressful. Without the schedule and structure of the classroom, behavior problems in children can flare up during the summer months.

    Adam Bauserman, known as “Dr. Behave,” has a background in education. He’s taught kids of all ages, from elementary school through college. Today, he is an implementation specialist at Pearson, where he helps teachers tackle common classroom behaviors.


    Different Places, Same Struggles

    Not surprisingly, behavior challenges teachers tackle during the school year are the same ones parents see during the summer. As a father to a son with Autism, Dr. Behave has tips for parents hoping to prevent summer break from turning into summer breakdown. He’s hosting a webinar on the subject this Wednesday, July 20. Click here to register.

    In advance, he’s sharing his best advice for parents on dealing with three major behavior problems: disrespect and reactive behavior, blurting out and interrupting, and lack of motivation. The tips are listed below.

    Dr Behave Final

      The Three "C"s

    “These behaviors are human – they happen,” Adam says. “The key is not to belabor a conflict or its resolution.”

    “Be clear, be concise, and be complete. Use only words kids understand, make your point quickly, and then move on.”

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  • How to Make the Most of National Moon Day

    by LearnEd

    Man on the moon

    An Annual Celebration

    This Wednesday, July 20, is National Moon Day. It commemorates the day when man first walked on the moon in 1969. Millions watched live as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down in Apollo 11, planted the American flag, and proudly called the occasion “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

    National Holiday Potential

    As James J. Mullaney, former curator of Exhibits and Astronomy at Pittsburgh’s Buhl Planetarium says, “If there’s a Columbus Day on the calendar, there certainly should be a Moon Day!” Until it becomes a national holiday, here’s how you and your loved ones can plan the perfect Moon Day outing:


    Moon Day

    Picture-Taking Tips from A NASA Photographer

    Joel Kowsky is a photographer and photo editor for NASA. While many of us don't have access to high-tech dSLR cameras like Joel, his tips can be applied to your cell phone photos too:

    The moon is much brighter than it seems.

    • -To capture it properly, use a telephoto lens (200mm or longer) and set your camera to manual mode. Though not necessary, a tripod can be helpful here. Start with an aperture of f/8 and adjust your shutter speed to ISO as needed. Your camera's autofocus should be enough, but you may need to fine-tune it with your finger. There's no hard and fast rule for exposure, so experiment until you're happy with the results.

    Take pictures just as it begins to rise (especially just before or after sunset).

    • -This way, you can often catch a bit of a colored glow. However, it can be a little more difficult to capture a sharp picture as you’re shooting through more atmosphere, and there will be some distortion. To capture the clearest and sharpest images, wait until the moon's a bit higher in the sky.

    Don't be deterred if it's cloudy.

    • -Clouds, backlit by the moon, can make for a dramatic photo.

    Make use of online resources.

    • -There are several online tools that can be used to help plan for observing and photographing the moon and other celestial objects. The U.S. Naval Observatory website is a great resource for the moonrise and moonset times in your area.

    Share your photos on social media.

    • -Don't forget to show off your masterpieces on social media using #MoonDay.

     Indoor Astronomy Fun

    If you can’t get outside on Moon Day, here are ten places you can still celebrate astronomy (with a little A/C!):

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