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Tech changes teaching game

Tech changes teaching game

Blended-learning approach fuels student success in the classroom and beyond.

Math. Or, rather, math!!! For generations the concepts of math have struck terror in those not gifted with the “math gene.” 

But what if we were exposed to math in ways that included visual concepts, fit every type of learner and transcended language barriers? That would be a game-changer, wouldn’t it?

It is indeed. Technology is being incorporated into traditional education, including the instruction of math, as never before, with remarkable results. The approach, called “blended learning”, integrates technology with traditional methods to take skill development and comprehension to unprecedented levels. 
From digital game programs to online tutorials that can address any subject, students and teachers are finding support and resources from programs such as Irvine-based MIND Research Institute’s ST Math and the international phenomenon, Kahn Academy

Kahn Academy is a nonprofit education website created by MIT and Harvard Business School graduate Salman Kahn. It that promises “completely free, forever” learning on a vast range of subjects, including mathematics and macroeconomics. 

To date, the academy’s YouTube tutorials have delivered more than 260 million lessons. Teachers can use the online lessons in what has been called a “flipped classroom” approach.  Students are instructed to watch the video in advance of the class so that classroom time can be focused on group discussion, a process that helps reinforce and give a deeper understanding of a concept. 

The MIND Research Institute is an Orange County-based education-oriented nonprofit that incorporates technology in the classroom in the blended learning approach. 

Created in 1998 by a team of UC Irvine scientists, MIND continues to develop programs that are founded in neuroscience and, among other things, develop problem-solving skills and a love of learning in children, regardless of language or learning challenges. 

“It doesn’t replace educators. But (it) gives them tools to achieve greater understanding and higher test scores,” says Ted Smith, chairman and chief executive of MIND Research Institute. 

The institute’s flagship program, ST Math (with “ST” standing for “spatial-temporal”), has multiple levels of difficulty. Students work their way through and, if they get stuck, the software alerts the teacher so he or she can intervene.  The beauty of this program is that it is presented in a game format, so the students have fun as they’re mastering new concepts.

“Students learn to persist,” Smith says. “They are not allowed to jump levels until they solve each level and then move forward. It’s extremely effective.” 

“When we started introducing this in Orange County, Santa Ana schools were at about the 35th percentile,” Smith says. “By 2011, they were at 67, which is the state average. This has helped eliminate the socioeconomic education gap, since the programs transcend language and work for all types of learners.”

To date, 21,000 teachers around the world have used the software, teaching more than a half-million kids. In Orange County, it’s been incorporated in 200 schools, used by 5,000 teachers reaching 93,000 students. 

To learn more about organizations that support the advancement of technology in the classroom, visit ConnectOC’s Nonprofit Central at www.ocnonprofitcentral.org.

Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at shoss@oc-cf.org

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