What’s Kickin’ Blog

Fran Kick, M.A. Educational Psychology, CSP

Printed Bubble Sheets and GradeCam

While it might be fun to fantasize about every student toting a laptop or iPad to and from school, the future of printed bubble sheets in many schools is safe and secure with GradeCam. CSO and Co-Founder Rich Porter shared GradeCam at Launch Education & Kids Conference.

While optical mark readers (OMR) have certainly been around for quite some time in education, they require special pre-printed forms ($) and specialized scanners ($$). Both of which are costly for schools and have limited integration with various third-party classroom or school-wide gradebook software. What CEO and Co-Founder Rob Porter did with his patented technology is eliminate the need to purchase forms or specialized scanners. Teachers can design and print answer sheets on plain paper using any printer, scan the student answer sheets with any web cam, document or laptop camera, and with a click of a button, student scores are entered immediately into any electronic gradebook.

While the GradeCam team understands that “learning is driven by what teachers and pupils do in classrooms” NOT by standardized state assessments; teachers, schools and entire districts can link questions to state standards generating standards-based reports to monitor student progress. Their technology aims to save teachers and students time, reduce assessment stress, and help improve the quality of day-to-day instruction. They turn Scantron®-like bubble answer sheets into giant QR codes for grading kids in class. Faster, easier, cheaper.

NOTE: “Scantron” is a federally-registered trademark related to computer software used for scoring tests, survey and data collection, etc. No affiliation is implied with GradeCam. However, many times the term “scantron” is generically used to refer to any scannable bubble-sheet in education. Scantron, headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota, has more than 1,100 employees located across six U.S. facilities. Scantron also has a world presence through more than 100 distributors in 70 countries. Reportedly, 15 different Ministries of Education around the world use Scantron scanning solutions for their national assessment programs. Well, at least until they convert to GradeCam.

FYI: Scantron is a subsidiary of Harland Clarke Holdings Corp., which is wholly owned by M & F Worldwide Corp. (NYSE: MFW).

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A leadership lesson from the Pope: Less Bling

The newly-elected pontiff demonstrated an understated, humbler papal presence, which might serve as an interesting leadership lesson from the Pope perhaps resonating even beyond the religious world. Pope Francis will wear an iron crucifix rather than a gold one. The crucifix contains the image of Jesus as the “good shepherd” carrying a sheep over his shoulders and the flock following behind him. He also insisted on wearing a silver Ring of the Fisherman, rather than the traditional solid-gold ring made of 35 grams of pure gold. The release read as follows:

VATICAN CITY – “Pope Francis has eschewed tradition and chosen a silver Fisherman’s Ring rather than a gold one – and one designed decades ago rather than created specifically for him, the Vatican said.”

The Vatican also unveiled both the coat of arms and the motto Pope Francis will use, which remain the same as the ones he used serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires. The Latin motto beneath the crest reads “miserando atque eligendo” – which refers to a Biblical passage illustrating Jesus Christ’s “mercy” in choosing Matthew (who was a tax collector) as one of his disciples.

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

— St. Francis of Assisi, 1182–1226
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How the Teen Brain (and Your Brain) Learns Best

While this video is about the teen brain and how it works, it has application to many stages of life. The lessons of this video actually apply to everyone. Created by What Kids Can Do (WKCD) a national nonprofit that strives to reach the broadest audience possible with two primary messages: (1) the power of what young people can accomplish when given both the opportunity and support they need and (2) what youth can contribute when we take their voices and ideas seriously.

If you were to add a ninth condition for learning, what would it be?

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I Don’t Want to Play Pretend Government Either

University of Maryland, Baltimore County Student Government Association President, Kaylesh Ramu, shared some insightful words at the “Shaping Our Future” launch event in Washington DC on September 4th, 2012. Too bad she wasn’t asked to speak at the recent political infomercials conventions. Her message about “co-creating our communities” is refreshing compared to the bipolar extreme partisan back-and-forth rhetoric that currently permeates what passes for leadership in our country.

Our student government went from a couple of elected officers to an organization that reaches out and has this philosophy that all 10,000 undergraduates at UMBC are our student government.

Kaylesh Ramu, SGA President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Kaylesh might be just one example of the kind of Millennial Generation post-partisan political leadership we need to improve the political dialogue and decision-making capability of our citizens, our communities, and our country. “We the people” (not just the people in Washington, not just the people in the state capital, on the county commission, in city hall, on the local school board or in student council) we are our government.

FYI, “Shaping Our Future” is a year-long national dialogue on the future of higher education. Through this initiative, students, faculty, administrators, employers, and members of the general public will engage and reflect on how colleges and universities might help our country tackle some of its most vexing problems. Engaging people in serious deliberation about higher education – and ultimately all of education – demands community-based conversations vs. just campus-based conversations. If you’d like to open up the dialogue in your community, check out how you can hold a forum on this issue in your community free of charge thanks to the Kettering Foundation, National Issues Forums and the American Commonwealth Partnership.

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Inspired by a true story is still fiction – right?

In a truly postmodern twist, movie screenings for the film Won’t Back Down, during both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, are creating some buzz in advance of the film’s September 28, 2012 release. That’s great for ticket sales. The movie is described as being “much like the documentary Waiting for Superman.” Except this film is a fictionalized account “inspired by a true story.” Still it has sparked strong reactions from union leaders, activists and teachers.

Isn’t it ironic that fiction is sparking such strong reactions, when our current reality should be more than enough to inspire “we the people” to individually as well as collectively improve our schools and our communities by reclaiming public education? Perhaps some good will come out of all this (besides more movie tickets being sold). Anything that sparks or inspires people to start their own kitchen-table conversations, back-yard, neighbor-to-neighbor, authentic real-world deliberation…

Oh, wait. I forgot. These are political infomercials conventions.

We bear a lot of responsibility for this. We were focused – as unions are – on fairness and not as much on quality.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
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Culture of Distraction Demands More Slow Tech?

Matt Mullenweg, one of Business Week’s 25 Most Influential People on the Web, shared an insightful essay on the Culture of Distraction. Referencing a recent Joe Kraus presentation, Paul Graham’s Acceleration of Addictiveness, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Huxley’s Brave New World as well as Orwell’s 1984, Matt politely yet poignantly shares his concern: Is Silicon Valley creating products that are so engaging that they’re also incredibly distracting, to the detriment of creativity and productivity?

Ironically, Matt used the essay to also announce his company’s new comment push notification feature for iOS app-enabled devices such as iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Hmmm? Now, while some might consider this a paradoxical juxtaposition – the ultimate of postmodern marketing – he still makes some insightful and important points to consider.

Microsoft’s commercial humorously makes the point that we just might need a phone to save us from our phones.

As paradoxically juxtaposed to Apple, who would have us stop the world to reflect on life–using an iPhone of course.

Slow-tech to save us from high-tech? Yin and yang might be the key to balancing what we do and how we do it. Kickin’ back a bit every now and then, so we can keep KICKin’ IT IN!

I believe that the biggest gift we can impart on our kids is the ability to be mindful – to pay attention to the things and to the people that are actually around them. In 10 years, that’s going to feel VERY VERY different than the norm.

—Joe Kraus, Partner at Google Ventures
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What All Teachers Should Learn from Jazz Band

A professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University shares what all teachers should learn from jazz-band teachers in his article for Psychology Today.

Unlike traditional education, where the goal is to meet minimum standards on state-mandated tests, jazz band directors make very clear their high expectations that everybody in each band class should become as proficient as they can. The whole point of their teaching is mastery and excellence.

—Dr. William Klemm, Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University
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