Genius Plaza Innovates Educational Content through Virtual Reality

360° video is an impactful tool for storytelling, learning, and making connections. When wearing a virtual reality headset, the viewer becomes fully immersed within a real-time environment, gaining the ability to view their surroundings in their entirety. Currently, this technology is most prominently used in journalism and filmmaking, to show a fuller scope of experiences.

Virtual reality’s power rests in its inherently organic design; the medium uses the same spatial views we are accustomed to when viewing our world. This technology elevates learning and brings content to life. 360° video and virtual reality content allow educators an illustrious new tool to give context, build understanding, and entice students to engage with curricula.

“Genius Plaza believes that technology has a pivotal role to play in democratizing education,” says Ana Roca Castro, Founder & CEO, Genius Plaza. Through this emerging medium, the company has created and curated 360° virtual reality experiences, which transport students to the work locations of inspiring Learning Champions™. These original videos are nested in the company’s award-winning teaching platform, making Career Day any day on Genius Plaza. Educators and students can select from an array of STEAM professions to read eBooks, learn associated vocabulary, and immerse within the profession of their choice in English and Spanish.

Learning Champions™ are as diverse as the students in your classrooms, and share their personal and professional journeys on the Genius Plaza platform. Students can take an entire lesson around an individual Learning Champion™.  The company offers comprehensive lessons and virtual reality teaching content in both English and Spanish. 360° video and virtual reality lessons come with an associated eBook, printable worksheet, online assessment, and sit-down interview with each professional.

When students observe, for themselves, the day-to-day work and technological processes of various STEAM careers through our 360° virtual reality experiences, they make gains in their depth of knowledge on the plethora of options for their own futures, and educators see greater engagement and participation. This unique tour teaches learners a combination of spoken and simulated information, inside virtual learning experience.

Genius Plaza is leading the way with STEAM career content, bridging the gap of access to high profile professionals and specialized careers. Students will dream as far as their imaginations will allow. With 360° video and virtual reality career content their aspirations are primed for exploration, in full view.


Full STEAM Ahead with Genius Plaza!

“Genius lives in every zip code with access the only barrier,” says Ana Roca Castro, founder & CEO of Genius Plaza. As an engineer who has combined her passion for her field with education, she knows firsthand that for students to pursue STEAM careers, they need to see what opportunities exist, and by learning from the professionals that look like them.

Genius Plaza offers access to resources for career profiles from diverse professionals, including lesson plans, animations, video interviews, leveled eBooks in English and Spanish, vocabulary sets, assessment exercises, and a 360 degree virtual reality tour of the professional’s workspace.

Currently, there is a leaky school-to-STEAM career pipeline, especially within low-income households and communities of color. Technology allows the team at Genius Plaza and the schools with whom they work to connect students to worlds of possibility for themselves and their futures. Students can learn about career paths from a group of high-profile professionals. Some of these professionals include a groundbreaking woman engineer at NASA, and a Johnson & Johnson scientist working on cancer-fighting treatments, as well as doctors, software engineers, and venture capitalists. Students who can see themselves in these careers are more likely to major in a STEAM profession, and believe in their academic success.

The Genius Plaza model of searchable, multi-leveled eBooks in math and language arts has been applied to the STEAM career digital library. The latest technological advancements are combined with educator-made teaching materials, to teach students what being a STEAM professional looks like, and to learn how these individuals carved out their career. STEAM career Learning Champions™ take the time to share their professional stories and backgrounds with students.  In turn, aspirations can turn into attainable realities, harnessing the power of technology as a bridge between classrooms and workplaces around the world.

Genius Plaza provides schools and teachers with STEAM resources that are leveled and primed for blended learning. The award-winning platform works on all internet-enabled devices. Educators can explore careers with personal insights and individual stories. These lessons include the unique experiences, professional achievements, and adversity each professional overcame while pursuing their career goals. Students will not only see the diversity in the STEAM field, but understand in learning about each professional that people of all backgrounds and experiences are thriving in in-demand career paths.

Awareness is the first step to break any barrier.  Genius Plaza career portal allows students to explore a wide range of science, technology, engineering, arts, math, and other career fields. The ultimate goal is igniting the genius in all students.


The Power of Women Mentors

I remember my first day at my first internship when I was sixteen years old. The world felt big. The buildings were looming presences; I imagined them filled with all kinds of important people and with information swirling around inside them. I looked up to the women on the ⅘ express train downtown – with large chopped salads and larger tote bags – with the same sense of wonder that filled the faces of commuters who watched me retouch makeup at the tail end of a bumpy, hour-long commute.

I took my first internship in the Early Case Assessment Bureau (ECAB) with the District Attorney’s Office of Manhattan, and, throughout high school and college, seven internships followed. Until today, I did not realize that every single one of my direct supervisors – and often the department heads – were women.It matters. It’s important, and here are some of the reasons why:

Just like men, all women have different styles of working and different leadership qualities. All good leaders can manage, prioritize, praise, and empower you in their own way. But great leaders foster your curiosity, give you room to grow (and fail), and cheer-lead your accomplishments along the way.

I was able to see myself in their position in the future. When a supervisor mentors you, they take the time to tell their story, listen to yours, and help you along the path to imagining your next chapter. I felt understood by these powerful women. I was encouraged over coffees and lunches to bulldoze through life with my purpose front and center.

I learned from them how they didn’t just get respect, they oozed it. They demanded it in all kinds of subtle ways that only women know, because that was their true power: empathy. Not in the ‘we are all human’ kind of way, but through constantly scanning and assessing your external world for harm, for help, and for improvements, you inevitably forge a path. The woman leaders I was shown have these qualities through and through.

I noticed a pattern between all these different women. It didn’t matter that I did not end up on any of the same career paths as the women I worked for. It did matter immensely that they gave me their…

open, honest communication real constructive criticism when needed, specific praise on good work, clear objectives and expectations on project assignments.

a preview of the road aheadevery workplace culture has unique quirks, every industry has tried-and-true standards, which privileged insiders know. Mentors teach them.

a sense of ownership – in both short-term projects and in growing a fulfilling career. Mentors elevate your accomplishments, and make them known. Mentors take the time to recommend the books, courses, and people needed to build out a dual-pronged skills- and network-based experience.

Above all else, mentors give you their time. When an intern learned I was changing departments, she half-wondered, half-assessed, “So you won’t be able to mentor us anymore?”

I assured her, “I’ll always have time.”


The critical ‘A’ in STEAM

We at Genius Plaza believe in creating content to showcase diverse STEAM professionals, which have the ability to inspire the next generation to pursue careers of impact. We are proud to be a force within a large nation-wide momentum pushing forward k-12 STEAM education, but it is also imperative that we not lose sight of the ‘a’ in STEAM.

Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University said, “Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.” If we place value in the Arts as educators, we can uplift our students to achieve in all areas of study.

Relative to other subjects, Arts education funding and programming have felt the biggest cuts. However, the positive impact of arts education goes far beyond supplemental gains for students. Students benefit from Arts in myriad ways including:

Developing language: “The arts provide students with a multitude of options for expressing and communicating their ideas and students learn to think about problems from a broad range of perspectives.”

Critical thinking skills: Arts experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world.”

Enhancing visual learning:

Overall Academic boosts:

Watch this report on how to raise more creative students:

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How to Raise Creative Children

Three rules that might make your child a future Nobel Prize winner

Posted by The Atlantic on Thursday, May 18, 2017

 

For student achievement, academic development, and growing life skills, Arts education has shown itself to be an invaluable piece to our educational puzzle.Professionals in all fields benefit from the arts to gain critical thinking. Google Doodle celebrating Zaha Hadid exemplifies this. Study after study has concluded that for students, especially English Language Learners (ELLs), Arts has the power to connect students to their studies and motivate them. When we give value to the Arts, we enhance the learning and academic experience for all young learners.

 

Sources:

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~zuksw20h/classweb/importance.html

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/12/03/13greene.h34.html

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/

http://www.learningliftoff.com/10-reasons-arts-in-education-important-kids/#.WS8QpnTys_U

http://www.pcah.gov/sites/default/files/photos/PCAH%20Report%20Summary%20and%20Recommendations.pdf

 

We at Genius Plaza, believe in creating content to showcase diverse STEAM professionals, which have the ability inspire the next generation to pursue careers of impact. We are proud to be a force within a large nation-wide momentum pushing forward k-12 STEAM education, but it is also imperative that we not lose sight of the ‘A’ in STEAM.

Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University said, “Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.” If we place value in the Arts as educators, we can uplift our students to achieve in all areas of study.

Relative to other subjects, Arts education funding and programming have felt the biggest cuts. However, the positive impact of arts education goes far beyond supplemental gains for students. Students benefit from Arts in myriad ways including:

Developing language: “The arts provide students with a multitude of options for expressing and communicating their ideas and students learn to think about problems from a broad range of perspectives.”

Critical thinking skills: Arts experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world.”

Enhancing visual learning:

 

Overall Academic boosts:

 

Watch this report on how to raise more creative students:

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How to Raise Creative Children

Three rules that might make your child a future Nobel Prize winner

Posted by The Atlantic on Thursday, May 18, 2017

 

For student achievement, academic development, and growing life skills, Arts education has shown itself to be an invaluable piece to our educational puzzle. Study after study has concluded that for students, especially English Language Learners (ELLs), Arts has the power to connect students to their studies and motivate them. When we give value to the Arts, we enhance the learning and academic experience for all young learners.

 

Sources: 
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~zuksw20h/classweb/importance.html
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/12/03/13greene.h34.html
http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/
http://www.learningliftoff.com/10-reasons-arts-in-education-important-kids/#.WS8QpnTys_U
http://www.pcah.gov/sites/default/files/photos/PCAH%20Report%20Summary%20and%20Recommendations.pdf

 


Genius Plaza Increases Access and Delivers Culturally Relevant, Personalized Learning


An interview with Ana Roca Castro, Founder and CEO of Genius Plaza

Q: Tell us about Genius Plaza.
A: Genius Plaza is an education technology social enterprise delivering culturally relevant, personalized learning content, working to democratize education as we work to ignite the genius in every child. We know that genius lives in every zip code with access the only barrier, which is why we want students from all backgrounds to relate to the content, including the stories, the characters, and the experiences. The default for educational resources offers character diversity of about 2%. We at Genius Plaza cham
pion in the richness of diversity and experiences in classrooms around the country, with more than 90% of our eBooks and lessons featuring diverse protagonists.

Diverse STEAM Career profiles for every reading level

What kinds of services and educational products does Genius Plaza offer?
A: Genius Plaza’s educational platform offers access to thousands of multi-level, culturally relevant teaching resources. Working across all devices, and with math and language arts mobile apps, learning has no boundaries. Educators can personalize the reading level for each student, and in both English and Spanish. Our products offer co-creation, where educators and students customize the questions within our games, exercises, and eBooks, allowing students to become protagonists of their own learning journey. Re-teaching tools include five authoring opportunities: videos, eBooks, exercises, vocabulary sets, and worksheets.  Some of our free apps include: eBook Plaza, Hangman Plaza, and Mad Minute Plaza.

How can teachers and parents use Genius Plaza to focus on whole child education and personalized learning?
A: Our Learning Bank of resources allows you to instantly find hundreds of books in English and Spanish, and related assessments for each individual student. It can often take a teacher hours to differentiate lessons for a class on different levels. We believe that lesson planning for the various levels in one classroom should be as easy as planning for one child.

How does the Genius Plaza platform method work?
A: When a district, school, teacher, or parent sign up for Genius Plaza, they have access to our resources for a calendar year. Students choose a career goal and an avatar reflecting a motivation for their academic success. We incorporate a learning, reflection, re-teaching, and peer review process built into our platform. With this method, we can ensure that a child not only absorbs important information, but also critically thinks about a lesson, becoming the protagonist of their learning by co-creating and through peer review. At each step of the way, we offer culturally relevant touch points in songs or lessons from our STEAM Career Champions.

How do educators with English Language Learners (ELL) /Multiple Language Learners (MLL) use Genius Plaza?

A: Genius Plaza works to combine modern advances in technology to bring the best tools for innovating ELL/MLL instruction in math and language arts. We believe that the proven benefits of differentiating learning should be easily accessible to ELL/MLL educators. Genius Plaza helps bridge the gap by showing educators metrics and resources at the right level for each student in both English and Spanish. A newcomer can be properly challenged in their native language and contextualized before embarking on the English version of an eBook at the right level for the language.


SXSWEdu: Teaching, Technology and Closing the Diversity Gap

South by Southwest is a conference that has grown every year since its beginning in the 80’s. Today, there is a dedicated division for education. Before all things technology, film, and music fill the rooms, halls and surrounding streets of downtown Austin, the teachers get their chance to play. Genius Plaza had the opportunity to sponsor and also visit the conference, which was held in early March.

Even though the technology division of the conference does not start until the education sessions are over, I noticed quite a bit of spillover. Technology is making its way into education more than ever and in more ways than ever. From what I witnessed, there’s six letters that lead the charge: VR, AR, and MR.  

Each kind of technology is growing and can have a place in a forward-thinking classroom. VR (virtual reality) puts the student in a world where the the real world does not exist (at least they don’t see any of the real world). This can be done with Google Cardboard or any other VR viewer that you can put a smartphone into. AR (augmented reality) involves laying virtual elements over the real world (think Pokemon Go). This can be done with a smart phone and dedicated app. MR (mixed reality) is where I started getting confused a bit. I learned that the main difference with MR as compared to other similar experiences is that there is a physical element that interacts with the digital world. It was interesting to see the ways educators suggested and demonstrated using these technologies in the classroom. A main takeaway for me was that these technologies can not only send students to places otherwise impossible, but they can also be very powerful in preparing or building excitement for real world learning experiences. For example, students can virtually visit Ellis Island from their classroom and build excitement and interest for an upcoming field trip.


This year, we hosted a private event to talk about one issue impacting technology, and in which education is crucial to close the gap of diversity.  Our CEO, Ana Roca Castro, hosted a Q&A with Freada Kapor Klein to learn more about the work she is doing with the Level Playing Field Institute.

We were also able to showcase a bit of our technology. Michelle Emerzian, our Chief Academic Officer, lead a panel about STEAM careers and technology.

She also announced the official launch of our new app “Sammie Seal.” Freada also joined this session and spoke about how companies like Genius Plaza will be critical in addressing the pipeline issues.

Watch our video recap:


The contributions of bilingual educators at NABE

“I am a kindergarten bilingual educator.  Spanish being my first language, I think it is very important that students get that equal opportunity to learn both languages.” – Amparo Garza, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

“Being a bilingual teacher, for me, is about building bridges between two cultures.” – Sergio Ramos, Austin ISD

This week, we once again had the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of bilingual educators at the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) in Dallas, Texas.  We also recognized five bilingual education leaders selected by their communities and peers as the best of the best. Amparo Garza and Sergio Ramos received the most votes as outstanding bilingual educators — and we could not be prouder.

¡Felicidades Amparo y Sergio!

Their passion, commitment, and energy speaks to what we saw from the more than 2,000 attendees who share in our mission.  We want to congratulate NABE for hosting a successful conference with dozens of interesting panels and sessions.  We are proud to be a part of the NABE family and look forward to continuing to work together.

Watch us reveal our top five Outstanding Bilingual Teacher Awards in this Facebook Live.

All winners receive one year of Genius Plaza teaching resources.

Additionally, second and third places receive a premium virtual reality headset.

First place receives a Kindle and sponsorship to CABE, the annual conference of the California Association for Bilingual Education.

Thank you for voting!

Here are some of our favorite NABE 2017 tweets:

 

¡Hasta la próxima!

 


Why We Recognize Bilingual Educators

A recent tweet from @DavidGeurin about the five habits of effective teachers speaks to why we do what we do at @GeniusPlaza – because we have the privilege of working with teachers that bring these five habits to life each and every day:

 

Habits_that_lead to_learning

That is why we want to celebrate the educators, administrators, and others who live by these habits and epitomize our mission of igniting the genius in every child. Today, we are launching a new series to celebrate the “best of the best” in education, and our inaugural list will celebrate bilingual educators.
Earlier this year, we opened  a call for nominations for our first list, recognizing the best bilingual educators. Today, we want to share our list of finalists, and we want your help in selecting the top five based on this list!  Voting ends at 5:00 pm ET Thursday.!We will announce the top five based on this list – we invite you to vote here:

 


Celebrating Mother Language Day

Today the world observes Mother Language Day 

This year’s celebration is devoted to education. At Genius Plaza we celebrate diversity in languages, background and experiences and join today’s celebration for Mother Language Day. We will continue to focus on our mission of igniting the genius in every child with culturally relevant, personalized learning. Watch our video to commemorate the day:

Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Teacher Tweets:

  

Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Global Tweets:


Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Education Tweets:


TCEA17: The Rising Wave of EdTech

This year we sponsored the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Conference in Austin Texas, and we could not be prouder. This five-day conference included professional development, presentations, workshops, and an Expo, where we at Genius Plaza demonstrated our culturally relevant, personalized learning teaching platform. We received a very warm welcome and met 300+ educators who were diligently seeking better ways to implement digital based learning in their classrooms. Most importantly, they inspired us! The enthusiasm for technology-based education was well represented with a range of educator specialties in attendance. Attendees learned how school technology leaders are innovating their classrooms from the more than 900 presentations. We spoke with:  
  • Technology Coordinators
  • District Administrators
  • Librarians
  • Media Specialist
  • Instructional and Curriculum Leaders
At our booth, no educator left without a tech tool or free resource trial! We believe that to democratize education, we must lead the way and provide the tools and resources for every classroom to succeed. Watch the clip below with highlights from this year’s conference: Technology has the power to innovate, and disrupt, every industry. We at Genius Plaza are firm believers that the next generation will take tech tools into a brand-new workforce. Schools are evolving  to reflect the 21st Century jobs our students will join and TCEA was a great event in which we met many who share our vision. Technology in the classroom is shifting from prior notions these tools are "distractions" or "extras." Genius Plaza is devoted to building educational resources that work for our community of educators, while elevating the teaching and learning experience. We invite you to join our community on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,LinkedIn or fill out the form below to receive our free newsletter. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; }
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