Want to Learn to Code? There’s a Board Game for That.

Raj Sidhu had one of the most coveted design jobs in New York City — and then he left it all to play board games.

The 23-year-old’s first project, Code Monkey Island, (click here for a short video) teaches kids the logic of computer programming through the playful dynamic of monkeys competing over bananas. The game teaches you all of the logic of basic programming under the guise of the game: Instead of dice, it’s governed by cards that work in tandem to impact how many spaces (if any) you may move per turn.

Raj has taken faith in his idea and run with it. After quitting his job at Quirky, an invention company, he put his full energy into creating board games, seeking funding in the playground where ideas and amateur venture capitalists roam: Kickstarter.

After a chaotic month of donations and lack thereof, some last-minute publicity allowed Code Monkey Island to meet its stretch goal and then some.

After a chaotic month of donations and lack thereof, some last-minute publicity allowed Code Monkey Island to meet its stretch goal and then some. Raj spoke with Mashable about life after Kickstarter; funding is always an encouraging step, but many of Raj’s contemporaries have fallen prey to the pitfalls of perk fulfillment, lack of preparation and failure to find the right industry support.

Raj said that he was able to learn a great deal about board game creation and marketing almost entirely from online forums. He mapped out a game plan and struck a deal with a manufacturer, and now, he’s on track to ship out the first wave of the game later this summer to Kickstarter backers.

“This has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my.life,” Raj says. “I couldn’t imagine not doing this again.” You can preorder his game, which is for both kids and adults, here.

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

Words and distinctions matter

This delightful article describes, explains and illustrates just how important – and delightful – appreciating distinctions can be. Here are the 10 ideas discussed in the article:

  • Proof
  • Theory
  • Quantum Uncertainty and Quantum Weirdness
  • Learned versus Innate
  • Natural
  • Gene
  • Statistically Significant
  • Survival of the Fittest
  • Geologic Timescales
  • Organic

And … I have a small personal quibble with #3 – Quantum Uncertainty and Quantum Weirdness.

Ok, so it’s true that, “Just because the universe is not deterministic doesn’t mean that you are the one controlling it.” 

But, and here’s my minor quibble, Quantum Entanglement argues that I, in some way, affect that which I observe; the observer and the observed are “entangled.” There are many of “us” observing and acting all the time, throwing us into the domains of Chaos Theory and Complex Adaptive Systems, and they demonstrably have the capacity to create self-organizing, “emergent” (not seen before, novel or surprising) behaviors and systems – which in turn observe and interact with its/their surrounding environment … to infinitum.

If quantum (sub-atomic) particles (quarks, leptons, mesons, muons …) somehow created a complex adaptive system called “Tom” typing these words – and the computer I’m typing on – and the internet that transmits this blog – is pretty strong evidence to me of that emergent behavior I mentioned above.

And I find my participation with and interaction within all this very cool.

You can read the complete article here.

Evidence that you can’t lure entrepreneurs with tax cuts

Mission: Graduate, ABC Community School Partnership, and Early Childhood Accountability Partnership (ECAP) are putting us on the right track to growth, both short- and long-term.

150 executives surveyed by Endeavor Insight, a research firm that examines how entrepreneurs contribute to job creation and long-term economic growth, said a skilled workforce and high quality of life were the main reasons why they founded their companies where they did; taxes weren’t a significant factor.  This suggests that states that cut taxes and then address the revenue loss by letting their schools, parks, roads, and public safety deteriorate will become less attractive to the kinds of people who found high-growth companies.  (Hat tip to urbanologist Richard Florida for calling attention to the study.)

Rock on Mission: GraduateABC Community School Partnership, and Early Childhood Accountability Partnership (ECAP)!

You can read the entire article here.

Work Wonders Project – marrying technology and collaboration in education

May 27, 2014

Microsoft has today announced the Work Wonders Project, a video series that explores the power of technology and collaboration powered by Office 365. You’ll be able to watch two very bright minds as they work together to achieve positive results in a YouTube series that launches June 2.

The challenge is on: “Pencils of Promise” founder Adam Braun believes schools are the future, and education reformer Sugata Mitra thinks they’re obsolete. But the two are joining together in The Work Wonders Project to collaborate on ways to revolutionize education, including using Office 365 to do it.

Braun, whose nonprofit program has built 200 “pencil of promise” schools in Laos, Guatemala and Ghana, will work with Mitra, a ted prize winner and a professor of educational technology, who will bring his cloud-based, elementary education approach to Braun’s schools in Ghana

Very neat 3 minute video overview:  

.http://www.microsoft.com/office/workwonders/

Tom

U.S. Schools Chief Calls California Ruling ‘A Mandate’ to Fix Tenure, Firing Laws

A California judge ruled as unconstitutional Tuesday the state’s teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws, saying they keep bad teachers in the classroom and force out promising good ones.

Poor and minority students are especially hurt by the laws because “grossly ineffective teachers” more often work in their schools, Los Angeles County Judge Rolf M. Treu said.

[You might want to read this post discussing this topic]

The ruling was hailed by the nation’s top education chief as bringing to California – and possibly the nation – an opportunity to build “a new framework for the teaching profession.” The decision represented “a mandate” to fix a broken teaching system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

The court ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and the teachers union, the plaintiffs said.

Read full article here

PARCC States Successfully Wrap Up Field Test

PARCC States Successfully Wrap Up Field Test 

Washington, D.C. – More than one million students completed field tests last Friday, after nine weeks during which students participated in a trial run of the new tests developed by member states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.  The tests are being developed in English language arts/ literacy and mathematics for grades 3-8 and high school.

“The completion of the PARCC field testing marks a key milestone in our development of an innovative assessment system aligned to the state-developed Common Core standards,” said Mitchell Chester, the Massachusetts education commissioner, who also chairs the PARCC governing board. “Overall, students had a very positive experience with the items and the new, online format. We’ll now use the feedback from students and educators to refine the test for next year’s operational testing.”

The goal of the field test was to “try out the nearly 10,000 test items developed by teachers, college and university faculty and others from the PARCC states,” according to Laura Slover, chief executive officer for PARCC, Inc., the non-profit managing the project for the states. She noted that at least 30 sets of eyes had seen each test item before it made it to the field test. Even now, she said, testing experts will review the results of the tests to make sure each item is valid. Some may be discarded or require revision based on the field testing.

The field test was also an opportunity for students and schools to test out their own technology and the test platform, learn about the test administration procedures, and provide feedback.

Student survey results revealed they generally like the online format of the test, and many found the test questions more engaging than their previous standardized tests. Test administrators also were positive, though they noted that the instructions for administrators were too long and could be clearer, something Slover said staff and state members would be working to address. Slover said additional detail from the surveys will be released in coming weeks. “We are compiling a list of lessons learned that we will share with states and the public this summer,” Slover said.

The tests, which will be given starting next school year, are part of a larger assessment system, which includes other voluntary components: interim assessments to measure whether students are on track, diagnostic assessments that allow teachers to check in on student performance throughout the year and adjust instruction to meet student needs, formative tasks, speaking and listening assessments, and professional learning resources for teachers.

Education chiefs from the participating states say the field test has been vitally important to developing the assessment system, and useful for schools as they prepare for next year.

“As we close the PARCC field tests in the District of Columbia, we look forward to going into the new school year knowing that our teachers and students have had a positive initial experience with our upcoming next-generation assessment,” said District of Columbia State Superintendent Jesús Aguirre. “The field test of this assessment, aligned with our common-core state standards, has provided great insight that will inform the work of creating an absolutely high-quality assessment that will support our efforts of ensuring that all of our students are ready for college, career, and life.  As a member of the PARCC consortium, DC has contributed greatly to the development of this assessment and we are thrilled to see it successfully complete this phase of its development.”

“A survey of Louisiana students validates our state’s strategy to use the online PARCC assessments,” said Louisiana State Superintendent John White.  “With nearly 80 percent of the students surveyed indicating they use a computer or tablet nearly every day, it only makes sense that we test them the same way.”

“We are moving ahead on an assessment system of unprecedented quality and breadth,” said New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera. “States are going to be sharing an assessment next year, allowing us to compare results and learn from each other. Making sure our students are learning these critical skills is at the core of all our efforts and with the field test complete we’ve moved forward in a way no single state has done before. ” 

The preliminary breakdown of the roughly 790,000 computer-based tests completed by state is: Arizona, 69,236; Arkansas, 37,194; Colorado, 25,248; District of Columbia, 6,561; Illinois, 111,380; Louisiana, 39,938; Maryland, 73,220; Massachusetts, 69,980; Mississippi, 50,687; New Jersey, 100,616; New Mexico, 11,997; New York, 15,905; Ohio, 112,527; Rhode Island, 16,375; Tennessee, 44,768. In addition, just over 10,000 students in Hillsborough County, Florida, completed field tests and roughly 170,000 students took the performance-based portion of the test on paper and an estimated 100,000 or more took the end-of-year portion of the test on paper. Final state by state totals will not be available for several weeks, as the paper-based tests must be returned and processed.

The field tests will not yield scores for students or schools – rather they are used to determine if the questions function as intended. In addition, test developers and the state experts who oversee the work will review research studies this fall, which include a comparison of paper- vs. computer-based assessments; differences in student performance and behavior between tablets, desktops and laptops; whether the text-to-speech accommodation works as intended; and several other studies.

Work will begin soon on preparing for the spring 2015 test and on developing additional test items for future years, as the PARCC states plan to release 40 percent of test items each year.

Learn more about PARCC

How Charter Schools and Testing Regimes Have Helped Re-Segregate Our Schools – The Daily Beast

Worth a read and a thought.

How Charter Schools and Testing Regimes Have Helped Re-Segregate Our Schools – The Daily Beast

Sure, it’s mostly the courts, but as we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, charter schools and testing regimes are reinforcing segregation.

Tom