Curriki … Thanks for Being a Teacher’s Best Friend

By Lani deGuia, Guest Blogger and Curriki Member

The holiday season and the end of 2016 is a perfect time for reflecting on all things we are thankful for. We are reminded of those who are there for us all year, whom we call best friends. For many teachers, students, homeschoolers, parents, and education professionals around the world, Curriki has been a best friend – a constant, valuable resource to lean on.

If you haven’t discovered it yet, I’d like to share how Curriki strives to be a teacher’s best friend!

Trustworthy Instructional Resources

Teacher and studentsCurriki hosts an open-source library of instructional resources that you can rely on. Curriculum units, lesson plans, worksheets, graphic organizers, videos, simulations, reference materials and more are plentiful. They cover grade levels K-12 and higher education. Subject areas span from the arts and core subjects like math, science, language arts, and social studies, to career and technical education and foreign languages. Educators from around the world are constantly uploading new resources to share, plus, many resources come from esteemed educational partners and sponsors such as Khan Academy, the National Constitution Center and Oracle Academy.

“Read Your Mind” Search Results

Best friends know what you are thinking and what you need. With Curriki, you can search by keyword, subject, grade level or instructional material type to get relevant resources you can use in the classroom or your homeschool.

Generously FREE Open Resources

Money is never an issue with your best friend. Curriki offers a library of over 83,000 instructional resources that are completely free. It is free to become a member and no charge to view, download, and share resources. The library of resources is constantly evolving.  In addition, Curriki has curated collections specifically designed to align with standards and high-need content areas.

Community Ready To Listen, Dialogue, Collaborate

In addition to a vast resource library, Curriki consists of a community of nearly 500,000 members from around the entire globe, sharing instructional materials with each other and collaborating in groups. You can connect with colleagues within your own schools, community or across the world.

Help Whenever You Need It

Curriki is quicker than a phone call away. Scrambling for a supplemental resource to help differentiate instruction or address a content need? Pull up Curriki on your phone, tablet, computer or anywhere you have internet access! Why reinvent the wheel when someone else is willing to share?

Keeps You Organized

We’ve all needed our best friend to keep our heads on straight. Curriki isn’t just a place where you can search for materials. — you can also save and organize resources in your own personal library and even share it with colleagues!

Encourages You to Help Others

By being a member of Curriki and sharing resources, you help global education for all. Many educators around the world don’t have the time and resources as you do. Likewise, you may benefit from the shared resources of others. The education profession is a juggling act. Curriki offers the chance to leverage the playing field and collaborate so we can maximize our time and accomplish all that we can for our students.

Join the Community

For more information on becoming a Curriki partner, please email Partners@curriki.org or visit Curriki.org.


LaniLani deGuia is a Norfolk, VA-based Educational Consultant with experience writing and developing curriculum and managing school technology.

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Oracle Academy Gives Training Scholarships to Teachers

Oracle Academy logoBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

We often take teachers and the work they do for our children for granted. But the fact is that teachers work hard and are under-compensated, and it’s important to recognize and appreciate their effort.

To that end, Oracle Academy launched a program this year to grant scholarships to first-time attendees of the annual Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) conference. It’s one of the world’s best professional development opportunities for CS teachers and would-be teachers, offering three days of useful learning that can be taken directly into the classroom.

But many teachers have no professional development funds to tap for events such as this, and must fund them from their own pockets. So this year, Oracle Academy launched a scholarship program — which gives teachers $1,000 each to offset conference registration, travel and hotel expenses.

TeacherCSTA received more than 300 applications for only 20 available scholarships.

Wage Gap for Teachers

The scholarships are so sought after and so appreciated because the teacher wage gap in the United States is growing. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that female teachers in 1960 earned 14.7% more than women in other comparable positions – but today teachers across all genders earn 17% less than others in comparable jobs.

According to the study, the average teacher’s weekly pay actually went down $30 (adjusted for inflation) between 1996 and 2015, and experienced teachers have suffered greater pay deterioration than new teachers.

So take a moment to stop and thank a teacher. They deserve it!


Kim JonesKim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki. Kim is active in driving policy initiatives and is regularly featured as an honorary speaker on the impact of technology in education at influential meetings around the world. Learn more at Curriki.org.

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Why Is It Important For Students to Learn to Code?

By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Sept2016-Why CodingDid you know that students with coding skills make 33% more than those who don’t? And 7 million job openings in 2015 were in occupations that value coding skills – a full 20% of “career track” jobs.

If you have ever wondered why computer science is so important, a recent study commissioned by Oracle Academy provides clear answers. The study, conducted by Burning Glass Technologies, a job market analytics research company, found that across industries, computer science skills translate to added value and earning power.

The report — Beyond Point and Click: The Expanding Demand for Coding Skills — analyzes the market and highlights the magnitude of employer demand for coding skills and the range of opportunities that learning to code can open for students.
Data was culled from 26 million U.S. online job postings collected in 2015 and analyzed to determine the specific jobs and skills that employers are seeking.

Oracle Academy logoKey findings include:

  • Coding skills are in high demand, and not just for programmers, but across five major job categories:
    • Information Technology (IT) workers
    • Data Analysts
    • Artists and Designers
    • Engineers
    • Scientists
  • Coding jobs pay $22,000 per year more than jobs that don’t — $84,000 vs. $62,000 annually.
  • Coding skills pave the way for progression to high-income positions. Half of jobs in the top income quartile (more than $57,000 per year) are in occupations that require coding skills from applicants.
  • Coding jobs are growing faster than the job market, led by programming jobs, 50% faster than the market overall.

Read the full report.

Curriki’s partner Oracle Academy advances computer science education globally to drive knowledge, innovation, skills development, and diversity in technology fields. Learn more at academy.oracle.com.


Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki.Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki. Kim is active in driving policy initiatives and is regularly featured as an honorary speaker on the impact of technology in education at influential meetings around the world.

Planning for Great PBL in Middle School

ThomMarkhamBy Thom Markham, CEO of PBL Global

 

At all grade levels, some educators still equate project based learning with ‘doing projects,’ ‘hands on’ learning, or ‘activities.’ This can be particularly true in middle schools, where projects have long been seen as thematic investigations or broad, interdisciplinary learning experiences that emphasize the ‘doing’ over the ‘knowing.’

But as PBL has become a far more evolved method of instruction, it’s not only possible, but also necessary in an era of more focused accountability, to power up projects for middle schoolers. How do you do that, and what are some guidelines that can help teachers create higher quality projects? Here’s a list of ten important ‘do’s,’ as well as a few things to avoid:

  1. Use Best Practices for Project Design. Planning a project is much different from writing a lesson plan. Rather, teachers design a project using specific design principles and proven, field-tested methods. Taken as a whole, this methodology allows teachers to conceive and implement a coherent problem-solving experience that brings out the best work in students, challenges students with authentic learning, and addresses key standards in the curriculum.

A don’t: Great methods help middle school teachers can avoid low-level projects that simply turn students loose on a problem or question, put them in groups, and have them do an exhibition or PowerPoint at the end of two weeks—a version of PBL that does not meet the criteria for ‘high quality.’ Try not to settle for this ‘project’ version of PBL.

  1. Start with a Challenge. For students of all ages, a meaningful challenge is at the core of great PBL. This means that projects start with a powerful idea, an authentic issue, or a vital concept. The challenge must then be defined so that it aligns with the objectives of the course, but not be so narrow that it doesn’t demand innovation and insight.

A don’t: Generally, if projects originate from a laundry list of standards, they lack a big idea to power the project. There must be a reason to learn beyond covering the curriculum. Begin with the challenge and then incorporate the appropriate standards into the project.

  1. Turn the Challenge into a Driving Question that Invites Deeper Learning. The challenge must be captured in an assessable driving question that clearly states a problem to be solved or a question to be answered. The trick here is to uncover your true intention for the project. What is the deep understanding that you want students to demonstrate at the end of the project? This process can take time. For example, a typical question such as ‘How can we prevent climate change?’ encourages in-the-box thinking and a laundry list of suggestions drawn from the internet. That’s more coverage. Instead, ‘How can we, as 7th graders facing severe climate issues in adulthood, use data to effectively lobby our community about the dangers of climate change?’ forces students to grapple with core, authentic issues around the topic of climate change: Who do we believe? Why? How do we educate ourselves? How do we change attitudes?

A don’t: Be careful of broad driving questions that can’t be answered in the space of one project. Conscious of this, a 6th grade team shifted their question on a China project from ‘How Has Ancient China influenced modern China’ to the much more realistic ‘How can we use our knowledge of Ancient China to educate our community about global citizenship?’

  1. Plan Backwards. Once the Driving Question is drafted, start thinking about the final product and public performances that students will deliver at the end of the project. Once that is determined, PBL mimics the ‘plan backwards’ approach recommended by many educators. Given that PBL focuses on problem solving, innovation, and ‘fuzzy’ goals, it is imperative that your day-to-day design includes both the knowledge acquisition as well as the process of learning and close attention to how your student teams will collaborate intellectually.

A don’t. PBL teachers sometimes feel that direct instruction or traditional lessons are not part of PBL. But often these are necessary for conveying key information. Don’t neglect these tools in your project design if they are appropriate.

  1. Get the Student Teams Right. Think of yourself as more of a coach than a teacher. Your job is to put together a game plan for high performance, meaning your student teams need to perform at a high level. To do this, let go of the notion of ‘groups’ and move to the language of teamwork. Allow plenty of time for preparation, drafting, and refinement of products, presentations, and skills. Allow plenty of time with middle schoolers to organize, support, and confer with the teams. Use teamwork rubrics, contracts, and norms to guide performance and offer opportunities for assessment.

A don’t: Don’t start projects too early in the year, or until students are settled and ready to work in teams. This might mean some pre-project training in listening and collaboration is necessary before actually starting the project.

  1. Grade Skills as Well as Content. The key to high quality PBL assessment is to view content as one of several outcomes that will help middle school students be prepared for high school and beyond. Use traditional assessment instruments, but include performance rubrics for teamwork and presentation. A project rubric that combines skills, strengths, and content acquisition works very well for middle school projects.

A don’t: Don’t neglect to grade the skills as part of the final project grade.

  1. Help Middle Schoolers on Work Ethic and Personal Strengths. Including outcomes in the project such as work ethic, self-management skills, and strengths such as empathy and perseverance in projects is particularly helpful for middle school students, who may be still working on their emotional balance and commitment to learning. These skills and strengths can easily be part of the project rubric—and part of the grade.

A don’t: Nagging on study skills or constantly reminding students of their responsibilities doesn’t really work. Don’t nag; instead use a well-defined rubric that tells students the exact behaviors expected, with a grade to back it up. Many PBL schools, for example, allot 10% of a project grade to work ethic.

  1. End with Mastery. PBL is a non-linear process that begins with divergent thinking, enters a period of emergent problem solving, and ends with converging ideas and products. A good PBL teacher manages the work flow through the chaos of the project, but also closes the project by giving students every opportunity and support necessary to experience a sense of mastery and accomplishment. This includes sufficient time to practice presentations, as well as reviewing drafts of products before they go public.

A don’t: Schools go at a fast pace, and the next unit comes up quickly. Don’t rush a project to completion just to start the next unit on time.

  1. Reflect on the Project. Teaching students to reflect on their own work is always a good thing—and is an essential skill these days in the work world. In PBL, this can be elevated to an intentional exercise at the end of the project through a formal reflection. Was the Driving Question answered? Was the investigation sufficient? Were skills mastered? What questions were raised? The project debrief improves future projects, as well as teaching students the cycle of quality improvement. This is a terrific habit of mind for middle school students.

A don’t: Don’t plan for or assume the project is completed on the day of the exhibitions. Instead, see the reflection as the final day of the project, and the culminating activity that ‘closes’ the project.

  1. Use a Critical Friends Protocol before the Project Launch. When the plan is complete, share it with colleagues to make sure it will work for your students. The project plan will benefit enormously from collegial input prior to starting the project in the classroom. PBL has many ‘moving parts,’ and help from other teachers is essential. Is the project too easy, or too complex for middle school students, or have you created the ‘Goldilocks’ plan?

A don’t: Don’t settle for just ‘discussing’ your project with colleagues. That won’t be nearly as helpful as using the Critical Friends Protocol, which is designed specifically to encourage good listening and feedback. If you need a copy of the protocol, download PBL Tools at www.thommarkham.com.

 

How can we sum this up? PBL promises more engaging school work and a shift in the culture of learning that should be visible in the form of more satisfied, higher performing, and more innovative students. But it does require a systematic approach that fully engages middle school students, offers a potent blend of skills and intellectual challenge, and prompts or awakens a deeper curiosity about life.

Here are some specific Project Based Learning resources in mathematics and physics available at Curriki.

 

Thom Markham, CEO of PBL Global, offers world class online PBL training for teachers and schools. A speaker, writer, psychologist, and internationally respected consultant in inquiry based education, 21st century skills, project based learning, and innovation, Thom is the author of the best-selling Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for innovation and inquiry for K-12 educators and Redefining Smart: Awakening Student’s Power to Reimagine Their World, as well as the co-author of the Project Based Learning Handbook, published by the Buck Institute for Education. Visit www.introtopbl.com for online PBL, or go to www.thommarkham.com for more on onsite workshops. Email thom@thommarkham.com or follow @thommarkham.

 

 

 

New Academic Resources to Help Students Develop Computer Science Skills

collegestudents

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki Photo of Janet Pinto

 

Did you know that Oracle Academy (Oracle’s philanthropic educational arm) develops a wide-range of computer science education resources and makes them freely available to secondary schools, technical and vocational schools, and colleges?

Well, here’s some great news! Oracle Academy just unveiled an exciting lineup of computer science education offering, including new Java and database coursework, designed for faculty and students in computer science. These global resources are designed to inspire the next generation of creative thinkers and visionaries.

Today’s students need computer science classes as part of their educational pathways.

Oracle Academy offers a wide range of classroom courses, self-study instruction, workshops and resources – at no cost to individuals or schools. Learn more about this announcement and join Oracle Academy today.

oracleacademy