Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Should Students Learn A Musical Instrument Or Play Educational Video Games?

Do you think that educational video games could improve your child's grades? Do you think that educational video games could teach your child "non-gaming" skills required to achieve success in life?
There is certainly a movement going on in the direction of implementing educational games into the classroom. For better or worse, it will be showing up to a classroom near you. I just don't want you to get excited just yet.
In this article I will discuss a study done by the DimensionU Gaming Suite, which is becoming a very popular educational video game that schools are beginning to implement in their classrooms. I will then draw a comparison to another "supplemental activity," which is learning a musical instrument in order to give you a perspective on how to improve your child's education.
DimensionM is the Math video game of a larger gaming suite called DimensionU that covers other subjects such as Science and Reading. Below you will a read the summary of the study that DimensionU posts on their website.
Case Study: Pender County Study (UNC Wilmington)
Conducted in 2008, this study looks at the effects of DimensionM in the setting of a rural middle school of roughly 500 students, where only 63.1 percent of students were either at or above grade level on state-mandated End-of-Course testing for math.
  • Mean scores increased from 46% on the pre-test to 63% on the post-test
  • Male and female students demonstrated equitable gains
Not bad. The results are certainly encouraging, though after reading the in-depth report, (which I downloaded off their website), I was not as excited as I was when looking at the summary above.
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover
My opinion is that the summary is very misleading. They make it sound like they did the study on 500 students. Look above again. Isn't that how you interpret the first sentence of the study? In actuality, they did the study on 34 students as it states in the full report. Is it me, or is that a big difference? I don't know about you, but I don't like being misled.
The truth is that out of 500 students in that particular middle school, only 63.1% of the students were at or above grade level in their end-of-year exams in Math. However, the gaming study was experimented on only 34 of the 500 students. In the full report, these 34 students were all below-average in Math.
Now, let's look at the first bullet point of the study above. I don't like the use of the word "mean." The word sounds too scientific and covers up the real meaning of the point. Instead of "mean scores," I would prefer "average scores" in this context. We're not looking at any complex data here. It's simply the average pre-test scores of the children before they began the "remediation course" or "gaming course" which I prefer to use.
It's also important to point out that the students who participated in the study were below-average students with failing grades in Math. So certainly, there would be plenty of room for improvement by having an hour of "supplemental" activities every week for 7 weeks as the full report states. The results were that the average pre-test score went from 46% which is clearly a failing grade, to a 63% which is also a failing grade, though greatly improved.
The second bullet point is true and backed up in the report. Both boys and girls improved equally on average.
So What Else Is Wrong About This Study?
There are still some "unknowns" about this study and educational video games in general. One is, (and the full report acknowledges), that we still don't know what the results would be of the games on standardized test scores. A second unanswered question is, How would the skills attained through educational gaming be useful in non-gaming situations? And thirdly, What are the cognitive processes used to employ these games and how can they be or could be applied to develop other academic and life skills?
I have one more big question about these games, since they claim to have an instructional component to them. DimensionM has an instructional section where students can go to in order to learn the material necessary to move on to the next level in the adventure. They must master the material to advance forward in the game.
I would like to know, if the game asks the exact same question in every level, so that the student can guess and use the process of elimination in order to move to the next level. If that's the case, what are the students actually learning? They would just be memorizing answers if this is the case. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer because there is no information regarding this issue in the full report.
Is This An Attack On Educational Video Games?
If you've read this far, you may infer that I'm attacking DimensionM and other educational video games.
I am not attacking educational video games in general. I am personally in favor of some supplemental activity to improve test scores. Clearly, scores can improve with the implementation of this game. What I am attacking, is the misleading studies that put this game and others in a more favorable light than they should be.
I would like to know if this game would improve the already above-average students' grades in Math. I would like to know if this game can only improve a failing students grades to barely passable levels, or can it make a good student "great." I'm thinking about how our students can compete with rest of the world and not just trying to help the below-average ones.
What is the difference between two students that take the same exact class with the same teacher and one fails and the other gets an A? Is it about the parents and the home environment, or something neurological or chemical? Can gaming solve all of these problems?
A New Interactive World
The full report also claims that most students are surrounded by 6 hours of interactive media everyday and are evolving into learning only with interactive media. I have a very hard time accepting this. Where is the child getting 6 hours of media from? At home? Well, the parents need to limit that time, moderate it, and control it ferociously.
I don't know of any geniuses or great minds throughout history that have developed their intellect by playing educational video games. The intelligence of mankind has not "evolved" with the advent of gaming.
An Ancient Interactive Tool For Learning
I get frustrated sometimes when I see the excitement when a new technology emerges that makes life just a little bit easier. Though I see the benefits and potential for educational video games, my view is that we already have an activity that we can use not only as an outside-of-the-classroom activity, but one that already has the scientific data and countless brilliant minds that have made use of it to their benefit.
I'm talking about learning a musical instrument, and learning how to play and read music. If you've ready my articles about Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, Albert Einstein and Steven Spielberg, then you know that music has an enormous impact on the development of an intelligent mind.
Below are three case studies and their summarized results found in three nationally recognized research organizations.
  • The Journal For Research In Music Education In 2007 Found That Elementary School Students In Top-Quality Music Programs Scored 22% Higher In English And 20% Higher In Mathematics Than Their Non-Musical Peers. June 2007; Dr. Christopher Johnson, Jenny Memmott

  • The American Chemical Society Found That Nearly 100% Of Past Winners In The Prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition (High School Students) In Science, Math, And Technology Played One Or More Musical Instruments. The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No.1, Feb. 2005

  • In A National Report By The College Board Documented That Students Of Music Continue To Outperform Their Non-Arts Peers On The SAT. In 2006, Students Of Music Performance/Music Coursework Scored 57 Points Higher On The Verbal And 43 Points Higher On The Math Parts Of The SAT. The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2006
The Differences Between Learning Music & Educational Video Games
If you read the summaries above, you may be thinking, "well, you just gave us the summary of the results just like DimensionM did and you didn't go into the full in-depth report." That's true. And that's why I listed my sources at the end of each study for you to read yourself. I encourage you to read the studies and see for yourself. However, I don't know of too many people who would refute the cognitive benefits of music education. If anything, there are many people that are unaware of the benefits.
Below you will see two lists: one that summarizes just some of the scientific data found on the affects of studying music, and the other that summarizes the data found in the DimensionM study above.
Students Of All Grades/Abilities Involved In Music Education
  • 22% Higher Test Scores in English
  • 20% Higher Test Scores in Math
  • Nearly 100% of winners in Science Competitions
  • Score 57 points higher on Verbal SAT
  • Score 43 points higher on Math SAT
Below-Average Students Involved With DimensionM Educational Video Games
  • No Data found for Test Scores in English
  • 17% Higher Test Scores in Math
  • No Data found for winners in Science Competitions
  • No Data found for affects on SAT scores
Am I Being Unfair?
I will admit that I was a little unfair towards the DimensionM study because I compared several studies of music against one study of an educational video game. But, there are other case studies done by this gaming suite that provide similarly overly-hyped results. And all of the gaming suite studies were done on only below-average students while the music case studies were done on students of NOT just below-average students, but of all averages high and low.
I would also add that the music case studies were done by independent organizations that had no product that they were trying to sell. There was no special interest. On the other hand, the gaming studies using DimensionM were done by the same company trying to market its own product. Certainly, the facts would be sugar-coated. There's no other way to see it.
Parents & Teachers: The One Thing You Should Take Away From This Article
Clearly, I have basically weakened the merits of DimensionU, one of the leading educational video games in the market. If this game or another is available to your child as a supplemental activity to help raise poor test scores, I would do it. Yes, I said to do it. It can't hurt as long as it remains "supplemental."
I would highly recommend that you try to get your child started in learning a musical instrument as soon as possible. The reason is because it takes time to develop the cognitive skills that come from learning music that will then translate to good grades and academic enthusiasm. The sooner the better.
Also, the benefits of learning music are more scientifically conclusive than educational games. I would not get too excited or fixated on the idea that video games can improve your child's test scores in Math. Games have a long way to go before they can compete with music.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

3 Exhibitions for Education and Learning in Europe

Europe, which is known for the emphasis it places on the development of the education sector, hosts several exhibitions related to learning and education. The following are three popular education fairs and exhibitions held in key cities of Europe.
1. International Education Fair, France - The World Educate Business Association (WEBA) organises the International Education Fair, one of the most prominent exhibitions for training and education in France. This education exhibition aims to provide a platform for people seeking and offering services related to education and training. A wide range of colleges, universities, institutions, computer schools,, business schools, career guidance centre's, hotel management institutes, schools of fine arts and student publications participate in this exhibition and reach out to people seeking fresh educational opportunities. The trade show, which is held in Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, is ideal for students hunting for special courses, academic programs, or training.
2. The Language Show, England - The Language Show, which is held in the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London, England, is the Britain's premier education and training consumer exhibition for learners and teachers of languages and for all those who are interested in the study of languages. The exhibition displays several learning methodologies such as evening classes, distance education, CDs, software, self-study programs, tapes, TV and video courses, overseas property and multimedia courses. The event presents a great opportunity for language learners and teachers to get motivated learn new things and meet new people.
3. ABCD Italian Education Show - The ABCD Italian Education Show is meant exclusively for those in the education sector such as school executives, teachers, trainers, students and educators. The event showcases the best educational services and products such as school hardware, e-learning, traditional teaching methodologies and books. The event has already completed seven successful editions.
4. Access MBA Series - The MBA series is an exhibition which travels top a number of major cities throughout the year and includes shows in the likes of Dubai, Paris and Riyadh. Many of the worlds top MBA programmes and schools are represented.
5. Education and Careers Expo - This Hong Kong show which takes place annually is a key show for those interested in education in the Asian region. Taking place in the HK Exhibition and Conference Centre, this show attracts many key Hong Kong companies in addition to several companies worldwide including from the U.S and from across Europe.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ideal Gifts For Babies - Educational Toys

With so many baby gifts that are available to choose from, it can be a bit tough to select an appropriate item for a baby. Usually, baby gifts are given during a baby shower, and mostly given are practical items that parents would need for their upcoming child. One of the most popular are clothes, however, tend to have a short life span, as the child will eventually outgrow them. Choosing ideal baby gifts is important in a sense that they can help develop the child's mind. This is where educational toys are often the right choice.
A good choice of baby toy can last for a long period of time, as well as can also help develop the mental growth of the baby. There are so many toys to choose from, but they are not made the same. Those that are educational or development, when extendedly used will give a massive advantage to the little one. They have a vital role in the child's cognitive development as well as to enrich the child's logical, social and problem solving skills. Another best thing about educational toys are they are relatively inexpensive, which means that people on tight can definitely avail them.
There are various types of educational baby toys to choose from. People can choose a specific type they want. For example, if there are some indications that the child is showing creativity at an early age, it would be ideal to buy him/her toys that can help cultivate such skill. This can also be applied to a child who is showing an ability when it comes to logical thinking. These signs can be very evident at an early age of the child, so why not support his/her skills and/or talent and give developmental toys that can give a great help?
Choosing the right educational toy for the baby may also involve looking at the attributes of both parents. For example, if the mom and dad both have good ratings when it comes to academics, then it might be that their child inherits that edge, therefore it would be a smart idea to a developmental toy that can help develop the logic and problem solving skill of the child. On the other hand, if the parents are some what artistic, choose art-related toys for their baby.
Aside from toys, there are also other innovative baby items that make developmental tools to enrich the child. They could be convertible baby apparel like clothes or jackets that can transform into a toy, pillow, or etc. These types of baby items can make great gifts for baby showers, as they are not only practical to use, but also work to help develop the child's mind.
Some of the most popular educational toys for children include personalized baby books, board games, musical instruments, and toys that generate moves and sound. These baby gifts can be purchased online at reasonable prices, and most of them can be personalized with a child's name, monograms, or etc., making them personalized baby gifts for baby showers, christening, or baby's 1st birthday.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Educational Software - Fun and Easy Way to Learning

Educational software is very common nowadays that it can be found in almost every school and every house with a computer. Why? You ask, because teachers and parent use educational software as another way of teaching children basic things in life. They learn English, Math, Science and other subjects through their computer. But they do they just read or listen to what they see on the computer screen? No, they have fun while learning their lesson, so this is like hitting two birds with one stone.
The mixture of fun and learning is a big plus when you want your children to be knowledgeable and it is the main idea for the development of the many types of educational software. It is software where children can appreciate the different subjects that are also taught in school. They see Math in a fun way when they solve a calculation and they either win a prize or something happens that is totally cool and they would want to see it again so they solve for another.
When they learn science they see the cooler side of it rather than the dull, there are games that help you learn the different combinations of color to make other colors or you learn the different part of a plan by going inside the plant itself. History was always a challenge to learn but with these educational games for the computer you can actually go back in time, what better way to learn history that going to the place itself.
The most popular educational games are those with famous cartoon characters and TV shows like Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, Arthur and man more. The children get exited when they see their favorite character on screen helping them so this will really pump them up and truly pay attention to the lessons. This makes it fun for children because it feeds their imagination. Who does not want to see a dinosaur or run around in a trunk of a tree at the size of an ant?
But this technology is not limited to children and even some adults use these programs to either learn the cultures of other places or to enhance ones self. The most common is when adults use it to learn other language, there programs that teach you how to speak proper English, Korean, Japanese or Filipino. Others use it to enhance their skills like when they play typing games, find the correct answer or question games. Today the most popular educational games are those about memorization and observation, parent want their children to have good memories and also develop a sharp eye and mind.
Now that these learning programs are now becoming rampant, is this good or bad? The good news is children are eager to learn because they have fun doing it and the bad news is they are starting to become dependent and find normal classes boring. This should not be the case and it is the teachers obligation to also make their classes fun, we should not allow machines to be the only things that can teach our kids. If educational software can do it, so can teachers.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Educational Plush Toys for Kids

Child-care professionals are one in telling parents that educational toys are very important if they want to take care of their kids' mental growth. Of course as a parent, you want to take care of that development because you know that it's very important if you want your kid to reach his full potential. However, it's a huge challenge if you don't know what you're doing. You can't expect your little toddler to sit down and listen to you talk about "boring" things. This is why child-care experts advise parents to use educational toys. This way, you'll instantly grab the attention of your kids.
You just have to make sure that you're going to buy fun toys. Fortunately, there are a lot of available fun toys like stuffed toys. However, they're not really educational compared to popular educational toys like building blocks and the likes. Of course, stuffed toys do a great job of helping kids with their emotional development and in a way, physical development as well. Those two together with mental development are the three basic things that you have to ensure if you want your kid to reach his full potential.
Wouldn't it be awesome if someone can come up with educational plush toys? Think about it. If someone can do that, then the emotional, physical and mental developments of kids are taken care of. Now, wouldn't it be more awesome if that person is you?
Yes, you could be the one who'll release these toys. Sure, there are already a few educational plush toys in the market right now but the demands greatly outweigh the supplies right now. This is especially true since there's a huge demand for educational toys. So right now, the industry is looking for new players. All you need to do is come up with a great idea for it. You can take a look at the present educational toys and get inspiration from them. For example, take a look at the Kushies Zolo Boa Stacking Rings. It's like the usual stacking rings that are very popular with kids. But the manufacturer thought that it would be better to make the material plush. This way, it's softer and it's more comfortable to hold and kids would be more encouraged to hold and squeeze them.
Squeezing them also opens up a new possibility for learning. These educational plush toys emit animal sounds when squeezed and that's a good way of introducing your kid to animal sounds. At the very least, it's a good way to teach your kid "cause and effect". Soon enough, he'll find out that squeezing the soft and fun toys will make them emit entertaining sounds!
Obviously, this toy is perfect for the auditory development of kids. But since it's fun to look at, it will also help take care of the visual development of kids. You can keep that in mind when you're trying to come up with ideas for educational toys. You have to know that you already have a huge advantage going for you since stuffed toys are already fun to look at. All you need to do now is turn them into better educational plush toys by inserting features that can help develop kids in more ways than one.