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June 27, 2012

New NASA Game Lets Players Build and Launch a Virtual Rocket

With NASA's Rocket Science 101, a new game designed for computers and iPad users, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to launch a spacecraft.

NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP), based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, provides access to space for the studies of Earth and exploration of our solar system and the universe. Now, LSP is turning over the virtual selection, construction and launch of a mission to players who will decide the best rocket to assemble to launch a spacecraft. Rocket scientists in LSP do the same thing for real rockets and missions every day.

Players select their favorite NASA mission and choose from three skill levels for building a rocket to send the spacecraft into orbit. The Rocket Science 101 challenge provides players an opportunity to learn about NASA missions and the various components of the launch vehicles, including how rockets are configured and how they work together to successfully launch a spacecraft.

June 26, 2012

Scientists Find Learning Is Not 'Hard-Wired'

Neuroscience exploded into the education conversation more than 20 years ago, in step with the evolution of personal computers and the rise of the Internet, and policymakers hoped medical discoveries could likewise help doctors and teachers understand the "hard wiring" of the brain.

That conception of how the brain works, exacerbated by the difficulty in translating research from lab to classroom, spawned a generation of neuro-myths and snake-oil pitches—from programs to improve cross-hemisphere brain communication to teaching practices aimed at "auditory" or "visual" learners.

Immediate Rewards for Good Scores Can Boost Student Performance

Test performance can improve dramatically if students are offered rewards just before they are given standardized tests and if they receive the incentive immediately afterward, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

Educators have long debated the value of financial and other rewards as incentives, but a series of experiments in Chicago-area schools showed that with the right kind of rewards, students achievement improved by as much as six months beyond what would be expected.

The rewards apparently provide students with an incentive to take tests more seriously. One implication is that policymakers may underestimate students' ability in otherwise low-performing schools, according to the research team that conducted the experiments.

June 18, 2012

Why K-8 May Be a Better Approach

Knowing that middle schoolers, even eighth graders, are still the children who played tag at recess a mere three or four years before, is not infantilizing, but humanizing to the young adolescent. Middle schoolers are proud, of course, of their new status as almost teens, but the almost is what most defines them.

When educators are unaware of how developmentally close the middle schooler is to elementary schooler, we miss the opportunity to teach the whole person, both the child who is leaving childhood behind, as well as the young adult who is looking forward to the challenges of independence.

Keep Them Part of an Elementary School

Other than the critical early years of child development, there may be no more essential time in a child’s education than adolescence. All too often, however, these adolescent years are spent in poorly designed middle school settings, which increase the likelihood that students will succumb to peer pressure and fall off the academic track.

The question to consider, therefore, is “what approach and educational design are needed during these years to give students the environment and academic program they need to complete 8th grade poised for success in high school?

June 13, 2012

Studying Engineering Before They Can Spell It

Spurred by growing concerns that American students lack the skills to compete in a global economy, school districts nationwide are packing engineering lessons into already crowded schedules for even the youngest students, giving priority to a subject that was once left to after-school robotics clubs and summer camps, or else waited until college.

Supporters say that engineering reinforces math and science skills, promotes critical thinking and creativity, and teaches students not to be afraid of taking intellectual risks.