Archive for March, 2009
7 Best Flash Card Sites for Students

Cramberry

Cramberry is a really simple site that allows you to create flash cards to test yourself or share with friends.

Pros: Really simple and intuitive to use

Cons: You can’t view other user’s flash card sets unless they add you, but there is no way to interact with other users of the site. They say on the site that it will soon be possible to browse sets by users who choose to share.

Quizlet

Unlike Cramberry, Quizlet allows you to search and find flash card sets created by other users. A nice feature of this site is that it allows you to play games with the flash card sets. In “Space Race” you have to type in the corresponding definition or answer before the term crosses the screen. If you miss, the game prompts you to type in the answer to reinforce the correct response.

Pros: There are tons of pre-made flash card sets on a wide range of subjects. The games make studying fun.

Cons: The games don’t really work with long definitions

Flashcard Exchange

Flashcard Exchange allows to to create your own flash card sets or study already created sets. One of the useful features are flash cards with images or audio, though you have to pay a one-time fee to create image or audio flash cards. There is also a slide show option, which helps you familiarize yourself with your flash cards.

Pros: Nice slide show option. Lots of good user-generated sets.

Cons: You have to pay a one-time fee just to print out your flash cards. No way to rate public flash card sets.

Memorizable

Memorizable is not exactly a flash card site, but rather has interactive tables that you can set up to memorize a list of terms. It is also a wiki so anyone can contribute to the community of word tables.

Pros: Anyone can edit the site and build the library of word tables.

Cons: Anyone can edit the site and add inaccurate information.

Flashcard DB

Flashcard DB is a basic flash card site that is very intuitive. You can search their database of over 100,000 flashcards on a wide range of topics.

Pros: You can browse anyone’s flash cards. You can test yourself and see your score.

Cons: Anyone could create a bad set.

Cueflash

Cueflash is another wiki flashcard site which allows you to rate existing flash card sites.

Pros: Best user created flash card sets rise to the top due to the ranking system.

Cons: Wiki format unfortunately means some incomplete or bad sets.

gFlashPro

gFlashPro is a flash card application for your iPod Touch or iPhone and is free for the ad-supported version. It includes several useful features such as the ability to import data sets from your Google Documents account.

Pros: You can study flash cards on the iPod Touch or iPhone. You can download additional sets with a wifi connection. Includes multiple choice option.

Cons: You need an iPod Touch or iPhone.

Do you know of any other flash card sites worth mentioning? Tell us in the comments!

Image by Wesley Fryer

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Describes His Vision for Educational Reform

by Charles Sipe

Arne Duncan spoke to Education Week about education reform, how the stimulus will be used, and his vision for education under the Obama administration. He lays out his priorities in education reform such as preparing students for life success by increasing graduation rates and higher education rates, and describes important actions needed to improve education, such as raising standards, establishing comprehensive and ongoing assessments, and rewarding good teaching.

You can view the full-length interview video below.

3:30 mark

“This is a historically once in a lifetime opportunity..While we want to get money out fast, is is critically important that we want to be smart, and drive this reform agenda…Simply investing and maintaining the status quo is not going to get us to where we need to go as a country, we want to try to get dramatically better.”

Duncan wants to use this record stimulus to enable the dramatic change that he believes is essential in the education system. This would suggest some radical changes to current way things are done, in order to challenge the traditional way things have been done in the past. It is unclear what dramatic changes he plans, though he has hinted in the past that he favors extending the school year or school day.

3:50 mark

“We are looking for a commitment to a set of reforms..that many states are actually already pursuing and these are great ideas coming from states and this is a chance to take to scale what is working and push harder than we ever had..we’ve talked a lot about college ready, career ready, internationally benchmark standards, that we need to raise the bar. In far too many states because the bar has been lowered due to political pressure, I would argue that we have a race to the bottom.. and we want to literally reverse that and create a race to the top. We want to really encourage states to think very very hard about their standards. And ultimately where the bar is low, we are doing children and families a great disservice, and I would go as so far as saying we are lying to them when in a given state a child is told they are meeting standards…I think they are on track to be successful…and unfortunately in many many places if you are”meeting standards” since that bar has been driven so low, those children are at best, barely prepared to graduate from high school and totally, inadequately prepared to go to the competitive university level and graduate from that university.”

I think raising standards is good, and necessary to help students compete in an increasing competitive international environment, but this could also make it tougher for students to graduate from high school and end up reducing the number of high school graduates.

“Secondly we need great assessments…in that when children take a test in 10th or 11th grade, frankly there shouldn’t be any surprises there. We should know in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grade what students strengths and weaknesses are. We should get real time data to parents, to the students themselves, to teachers to say these are strengths, these are weaknesses, this is what they are doing well, this is what we need to do collectively to improve. So being able to track students throughout their educational career is very very important. Data systems are at the heart of this reform effort, that we have to know where the data tells us. And where we can’t track students…how can you begin to know if they’re improving or not. We need comprehensive data systems that do 3 things, track students throughout their educational trajectory, second track students back to teachers…track teachers back to their schools of education.”

This makes a lot of sense but to measure how students are progressing through their educational career, doesn’t that mean more standardized testing will be required in order to gather that data? In Washington State, there has been tremendous criticism and backlash against the increased standardized testing, with many believing it forces teachers to conform to the test. I think measuring progress will be a major challenge for this reform effort.

“Third…great teaching matters, talent matters tremendously in this work. And we want to encourage states to think very very differently about that. How do we recognize and reward the best and brightest. We have literally hundreds of thousands of teachers around the country who go way beyond the call of duty…and are making a phenomenal difference in students lives in some of the toughest communities…we have not done enough to incent that, to reward it, to shine a spotlight on it and we have to do that..there have been many disincentives to take on the toughest …and we want to reverse that…we have areas where we have national shortages…science, foreign language…I think we should be thinking about paying those students more…instead of having the marketplace inform us of where are strengths are, where our weaknesses are, where we have real shortages. Do we want to have these shortages 10 years from now or do we want to fix it. A little money on the table would absolutely help in rewarding excellence, paying more where we have areas of critical need.”

I agree with this point the most, because I think that recruiting and retaining the best talent will be the key to educational improvement. In order to reach the goals of dramatic improvement, I think there needs to be a dramatic shift in how teachers are recruited and rewarded, specifically a strong increase in pay to attract a larger pool of talented individuals. I don’t think the current pay scale is in line with the importance of the position in society and until that is fixed, there will not be enough talent to solve the problems in our schools. I think that a possible solution that Secretary Duncan may be overlooking is a volunteer force. President Obama has called for citizens to volunteer, and there are few areas that need volunteer help more than schools. How can Duncan leverage an energized citizenry to help improve schools?


Education Week Interview with Education Secretary Arne Duncan from Education Week on Vimeo.

What do you think? Are you encouraged by the rhetoric from the Secretary of Education? Do you agree with what he thinks is most important in the reform effort?

Image by Obama-Biden Transition Project

Tandem Mentioned by Microsoft

Tandem was recently mentioned on Get to the Point, a Microsoft Office SharePoint blog:

Personally, one of my favorite features that was added to the district portal and individual school home pages is the Tandem online calendar. This is a district-wide calendar that allows parents to track school events for their kids, even if they attend different schools within the district. A great feature is the ability to register on the site and customize the settings for the calendar so that only schools and events I am interested in tracking will show up in a personalized view of the calendar. Each school Web site automatically shows a filtered view of the main calendar, displaying only events my boys are involved in and taking place at their individual schools. An added bonus is that I can subscribe to an RSS feed for the calendar. Any event changes for the school(s) will automatically show up in my RSS feed reader.

Thanks for the compliments Chris… it has been really great to work with the team at Lake Washington. Laurie is fantastic. We hope the rest of the parents and staff love it as much as you do. Your sentiments echo what we hear from all of the school districts across more than 40 states that are using Tandem to help manage their district, run their schools and engage their communities. More to come from Intand, just around the corner… stay tuned!

Bryan Otis
President / Co – Founder Intand.com

The Best Education Books of 2008-2009

Here are the top books in education for 2008-2009 based on reader reviews and the thought-provoking or intriguing topics.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality by Charles Murray

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn

The Obama Education Plan: An Education Week Guide by Education Week

Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott

Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America by Jay Mathews

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them by Ross W Greene

Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham

The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time by Stephen R. Covey

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

For more good reads check out Top Education Books of 2007 by the American School Board Journal

Any books that you think should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!

Photo by zsita