My Child Didn’t Like to Read

A few years ago, I was talking to my then 6-year-old son.  He was in the midst of first grade and learning how to read.  I was beyond excited for this stage in his life.  I had dreamt of having him sit on my lap to read one of our favorite books to me in that sweet innocent voice.  But in fact, this was not our reality at all.  My child did not enjoy reading.  He only practiced when forced, and complained about reading every single time.  It wasn’t only a struggle at home, but at school as well.  Even though he was learning and making progress, the love and curiosity of reading was sadly missing.

 

My entire job as an adult was teaching children.  Not only did I love teaching, but I felt it was my duty as a teacher to instill the love of learning and reading.  I was so passionate about teaching kids to read.  I loved showing them strategies to be successful and confident readers.  To enable them to independently escape into a book while learning new vocabulary and reading skills.  And in my very own home, I was struggling to help my own child.

 

Needless to say, I pulled out all the stops, and after some trials and failures, I was able to figure out how to have more successes than failures. Below are some of the reading strategies that helped my son slowly gain that love of reading.

 

Shared reading

Many kids look at a page of text and crumble.  They get overwhelmed with the amount of words and often give up or feel frustrated before they start.  I have found that taking the pressure off my child from reading all the words can be very encouraging.  We take turns reading, which not only motivates the kids to read longer, but the other reader is able to model fluency, syntax, and pronunciation of vocabulary.

 

Image heavy texts

From my own experience, my son starting getting excited about choosing his own texts when he started reading graphic novels.  These types of books, as well as books with a lot of great illustrations, lure the kids into the story.  The illustrations are also a great tool to help students who may struggle with reading, and gives them imagery for story context.

 

Choose texts based on their interests

This seems like an obvious one…but it makes a difference.  Kids will want to read about what they like.  If they love animals, try reading animal books.  If they love soccer, find some books about famous soccer players or a storyline that revolves around the sport.  The more they are intrigued about the subject matter, the better chance they will try to find out by reading it.

 

Use various forms of text

Sometimes, all kids need is a different format to read from.  I love eBooks to change things up.  I take advantage – when my son really wants to use the iPad, I have him read an eBook before he plays a game.  I love the eBooks and content on Genius Plaza, because there are so many different types of books that intrigue him.

 

We must remember that reading is a lifelong process.  All it takes is one book, one topic, one person to change the course of our child’s love for reading.  Being supportive and continuously providing engaging material are the most important things we can do to make our child’s reading career a successful one.

 


Rethinking Science Teaching and Learning

I am inclined to believe that science is not learned using textbooks, study guides, worksheets, or tests.  Rather, I think science is learned by thinking, processing information, constructing models, doing laboratory activities, and testing theories.  When I think of my science learning in elementary school, I remember reading about science in textbooks and completing numerous worksheets, or only having science class when my teacher had the time to teach it – it was often placed on the back burner, and I quickly became bored with it all.  I wanted to do science, not just read about it.

 

Do something different

During middle school, my science learning was similar, however, I was introduced to laboratory activities and I soon became hooked on the discovery portion of science learning!  I wanted to learn and discover more…  In high school, I fell in love with the sciences; however, I was disappointed with how I was learning it – copying notes from a chalkboard while the teacher was reciting what she wrote, memorizing standardized test content, or being told what I needed to think.  Hmm, I thought, where was the application of what I was learning?

I decided soon after to pursue a career in science teaching and learning, and made a promise to myself, my future children, and future students: I would teach it using an inquiry approach rather than a traditional one.  I wanted my children and students to learn how to do science, not merely read about it.  To teach science to them, rather than at them.  In recent years, data collected nationally and from state assessments has indicated a need to improve student performance in science, especially in the physical sciences and in performance-based learning tasks.

Involve your students

Throughout my teaching career as a high school science teacher, I supported and implemented an inquiry-based approach to my teaching, since it was the application component of science my kids appeared to struggle with.  When my students were active rather than passive in their science learning, they experienced many “Eureka!” moments: they learned to apply what was learned by participating in laboratory activities, made the connection to what they learned in lectures and class readings, as well as to the real world.  

STELLA (Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis) is proving to be quite a reform method in science education, much like the Full Operation Science Systems (FOSS), a K-8 student-centered program that emphasizes student inquiry, thinking, and application.

Programs such as STELLA and FOSS are based upon the premise that if instructors are provided with well-developed teaching materials which promote student inquiry, and professional development that helps them learn how to effectively use the materials, they are more likely to implement hands-on science programs, so student achievement improves.  Both programs provide instructors with extensive professional development, and appealing, well-developed materials to help them use inquiry and laboratory approaches to teach science to improve student achievement.

Create a habit

Inquiry science learning is based on the following cognitive processes: observation, communication, comparison, organization, cause and effect relationships, inference, and application.  Inquiry during science learning is enriched by conceptual knowledge and supports a “habit of mind” philosophy.  Students need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate habits of mind skills which include curiosity, open-mindedness, and respect for evidence, persistence, and a sense of stewardship and care when they are engaged in science learning.

Students should be given time to explore, experiment, make observations, test ideas, construct physical and mathematical models, and be given the opportunity to think in different ways – all of which are components of the inquiry approach, where they are encouraged to be actively involved in their own learning.  Both the inquiry approach and the use of hands-on learning in science give instructors and students this opportunity.  Here’s hoping that these methodologies persevere well in the twenty-first century and beyond, so all kids learn to love the discipline as I did many moons ago as a kinesthetic, naturalistic, and logical-mathematical learner sitting in a boring, traditionally-centered science classroom.


Tips for Surviving Algebra 1

Okay folks, the time has come. Your child has entered high school, and that can be a terrifying time for everyone involved. Students these days have a lot to worry about in their first year of high school. Embarrassing mess-ups in gym class, puberty-induced acne scars, and worst of all, the dreaded “A” word. I am speaking, of course, about Algebra. It may have been a while since you’ve encountered this mathematical beast, but if you’re like a lot of parents, you can remember it just clearly enough to know that you hated it. You’ve known for a while now that your child would have to defeat this dragon, and the thought has filled you with dread. Never fear! I’m here to help. Here are my top 2x+4=18 tips for Surviving Algebra 1.

Attitude is Everything

As I said before, having a child in Algebra 1 class can be a horrifying experience for everyone involved. You child might get frustrated, or anxious, or some combination of the two, and that’s okay. Expressing these negative emotions is good for a child’s mental health. You, however, are different. You may very well experience these emotions as well, but I would encourage you not to express them too much in front of your child. It is very important at this time for you to model a positive attitude. When your child vents to you about their mathematical frustrations, listen to them enough to validate their feelings, but don’t commiserate. Instead, crack your knuckles and get to work. Find some answers, if you can. Figure out how to do the problem yourself, and show your child. Offer helpful advice, such as asking their teacher for help or starting a study group. Don’t let your child slide too far into a pit of despair. Instead, stay above it, and throw them a rope!

Build from the Ground Up

As a subject, math has a tendency to build upon itself. As with any building, a student’s understanding of math will crumble to the ground if it doesn’t have a solid foundation. As such, it is absolutely crucial that your child have a solid grasp of the basics before they try to tackle more complicated concepts. In Algebra 1, the list of “basics” contains only one item: equations. Most of what your child will do in Algebra 1 will revolve around the concept of equations. As such, to ensure your child’s success, it is extremely important to make sure they have a solid understanding of equations. It’s not enough to make sure they know how to solve an equation; they need to understand what that means. The solution to an equation can be seen as a point on a line, as a pair of numbers (x,y) for which a statement is true, or as an output associated with a given input (or vice-versa). Fortunately, most of this should have been covered in 8th grade. Sometimes, however, it can be swept under the rug. Encourage your child to dig deep for this fundamental understanding, and to explore the true meaning of equations.

Praise Hard Work

Students, schools, and teachers these days spend too much time worrying about grades. A grade is meant to be an objective measure of a student’s understanding, and yet it has come to mean so much more. It can mean the difference between attending a good college and not, and for that reason they are important. But grades have taken on an even deeper psychological meaning for our kids: children have come to understand that they get praised when they get a good grade, and reprimanded when they get a bad grade. See the problem there? What was meant to be a litmus test to indicate the presence or lack of a problem in understanding has instead become a crystal ball for kids to see their disciplinary future. Kids get so anxious over their grades that they have trouble sleeping or studying, which adversely affects, among other things, their grades! There’s an easy solution: forget the grades. When your child comes home with an A, praise not the A itself, but the hard work your child did to earn that A. When your child comes home with a B, praise their work, and encourage them to strive for perfection. When your child comes home with a D, don’t yell at them; instead, figure out why. A D is not a reason for punishment, it is an indication that something is wrong with your child’s understanding of the material. Help your child figure out where they went wrong, so they don’t make the same mistakes again.

Practice Makes Perfect

Surviving Algebra - practice makes perfect

The phrase may be overused to the point of cliché, but it still rings true: practice really does breed perfection. If your child doesn’t instantly understand a concept, they need to practice until they do. Equations in particular should be practiced to the point of near-nausea. However, be careful here. If a child doesn’t have a good understanding of a concept, and they practice that concept, then there is a good chance they’ll practice that concept incorrectly, and thus gain an incorrect understanding. As such, you need to make sure your child is practicing correctly before you turn them loose on a boatload of practice problems. If you’re not sure how to do a certain kind of problem, find a tutor or ask your child’s teacher for some sample problems with detailed solutions. If you choose the latter, make sure you’re polite with that request. Teachers love when parents get involved, but hate when they appear to insist that their child’s needs be placed before all others.

Learn to answer “the question”

There is one question that every student has asked at some point in their lives. It’s a question math teachers have come to dread. The question is simply, “When am I ever going to use this?” When your child asks this question, take it as a warning sign. It means they’re questioning the validity of a concept, or even math in general, and it can be a sign that they’re beginning the processes of giving up. There are two things you should avoid doing: 1) Not answering the question, and 2) Answering with something like “you need to know this math so that you can learn other math.” If this question goes unchallenged, the student will almost certainly give up. If a child is told that this math is only a gateway for harder math, then there’s a chance their frustration will build until it reaches a boiling point, at which time there’s no hope they’ll ever learn to enjoy math. Instead, learn to give a satisfactory answer. Come up with a way to use whatever math it is that they’re asking about. If you can’t think of anything, tell them you’re not sure, but you’ll figure it out and tell them later. If you do that though, then it’s on you to actually follow through on that. You can again turn to help from their teacher. Teachers have lots of experience answering that question, and they’ll probably be willing and able to help you out.

Use Math in Real Life

Surviving Algebra - Real Life

This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Pay attention to the math that your child is learning, and whenever possible, ask them to use it to help you solve real problems. Going on a vacation? Ask them to help you calculate the cost. Buying supplies for a party? Ask them to help you find the best deals. Comparing health insurance plans? Paying your taxes? Got a career that involves math in some way? You get the idea. By asking your child for help with your real-world math problems, you accomplish three things: 1) You forever vanquish that “when am I ever going to use this” question 2) You expose them to real-world issues now so they’re more prepared when they have to enter the real world on their own, and 3) By asking for their help, you help them feel like a valued part of your family’s problem-solving process. It is particularly easy to find real-world uses for equations and inequalities; once you get used to looking for them, you’ll see them everywhere! Remember, nothing simulates the real world like the real world itself!

Engage

If you did your math right in the introduction to this post, then you already know this is the last tip, so it makes sense that this tip really ties it all together. Engage in your child’s learning whenever possible! Algebra is a difficult topic to tackle alone; your child will have a much better chance of success if they have someone struggling alongside them. Fearlessly engage whenever possible! Do your best to learn the math with them. Model good study habits by finding answers rather than giving up. Get them to use it in the real world as much as possible. Use the internet to find real-world uses for whatever they’re learning. If they struggle with things you can’t explain, (politely) ask their teacher for help. Encourage them to make study groups, invite the study group to your house, and make/order some kind of tasty snack. See what I mean? Really get in therebecome an active participant in your child’s learning, and you and your child can survive Algebra 1 together.

Surviving Algebra


Our Search Toolbar

Search Toolbar

Last week we unveiled our new search toolbar, and we have received great feedback. The search toolbar is now also available on our homepage, and as you can see, you can apply filters to search thousands of resources by resource type (eBook, video, vocabulary set, etc.), language, grade, creator, and subject.

Here is a video to help show how the toolbar works:

Search Toolbar

Once you click “Search,” you will see your search results, as well as a “Share Search Results” button. When you click that button, you will see the URL has been copied, allowing you to share that URL with others.

Finding the Content You Need

Now teachers will be able to find supplemental content to help them achieve their goals. You can find math, language arts, and science content for grades PreK to 12th, in English and Spanish.

 

The search toolbar is very user-friendly.  For example, when I searched for ninth grade math content in English, here is what I would find: https://www.geniusplaza.com/bank?rtf=&lf=1&cf=3&gf=16

 

Tell Us What You Think!

We will continue to find ways to optimize the platform, and invite you to share feedback via chat, or email me at monica@geniusplaza.com.


A Letter for Christopher – Teaching My 3rd Grader About Kindness

 

As parents, we want the very best for our kids. However, as the world becomes more connected, desensitized, and seemingly more harsh, my aspirations list for my kids becomes shorter and increasingly simplified. As my son started third grade, I wanted to remind him what’s really important and what things our family values and deems successful. I also wanted to remind him we are always in his corner.

Teaching my 3rd Grader About Kindness

Dear Christopher,

You are about to start 3rd grade. I can’t believe how fast you are growing and how proud you make me. The word looks a bit different now than when I was in school, but so many things remain the same. I know you will face similar situations. There will be times when you will be nervous, uncomfortable, and scared and that’s okay. In these moments is when we are being molded into the person we are growing up to be. Sometimes we will have success and other times we will be a big failure. Both of these outcomes make us grow. These are never wasted moments.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade.There was this boy in our class. He was different than everyone else. He looked differently, dressed differently, and he talked differently. Everyone, including me, pretended for a long time that he wasn’t there. He didn’t come from where we did. He didn’t talk like we did. As silly as it sounds, I think we all felt that if we talked to him, we would become “different” just like he was. I knew he was sad. I wished that he would do something so that he would be included and popular. But instead, I watched him get teased and bullied. I stood by and did nothing, all the while waiting for someone to step in and do something. I still think about that kid today. I wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by people who pretended you weren’t there. Or worse, knew you were there but made you wish you weren’t. I was a bully. I may not have teased him or said cruel words, but I stood by and did nothing and that is being a bully, too.

As you enter a new school year, I want you to do something for me. I want you to start noticing your surroundings. I want you to pretend you are a classmate who is looking at you. How do they see you? Is Christopher the kid who always says “hello” to all his classmates, or does he go straight to his seat without a word? Does he help a friend if they drop something on the floor, or does he just walk on by? Does Christopher invite a kid to play if he notices he is by himself on the playground, or does he ignore him completely? Is Christopher a bully?

Every year as you get older, the kids and adults that surround you are going to be different than you. They are going to talk differently, dress differently, their families may look different than yours, they may have different beliefs than yours. Maybe these kids will be bullied. Sometimes people are scared of what they don’t understand, and rather than try to find out, they are mean and try to make others feel alone. Many times those that feel alone lose their voice. They don’t know how to stand up for themselves, and feel scared to defend themselves and their differences. Be their voice when they lose theirs, because sometimes another voice helping them is all they need to realize they don’t need to change, and are perfect the way they are. Differences are not a threat to you, but quite the opposite. How awesome is it to be surrounded by so many new experiences and so much diversity…the amount you can learn from each other is far greater than if you were surrounded with others who are just like you. Ask questions, listen to their stories, and be respectful of their differences.

I know you may not think it is ‘cool’ to do all these things. But I will tell you what is cool…a kid who is kind to everyone. Your dad and I don’t care if you are the smartest kid, the best athlete, the class clown, but we most certainly care that you are ALWAYS KIND. This is non-negotiable. If I had to choose between you getting a 100% on your math test or inviting a classmate to play because he was playing alone, I would choose being kind to the classmate EVERY SINGLE TIME. I promise if you focus on being kind, you will be successful.

I will continue to ask you “how did you help someone today?” when you come home from school. I will call you when you are an adult and ask you this as well, so don’t ever break the habit. In this world, we need each other and we belong to each other. Your heart grows bigger and stronger when you choose kindness and compassion over hatred and ignorance.

My beautiful son. I know you will do great things, and all great things starts with kindness.

I love you.

Love,

Mom

 


The “T” Word – Technology

We all know that today’s classroom looks very different than it did 50 years ago.  It looks different than it did five years ago.  Technology is not only changing the face of our society and how we live, but it is changing the way in which we teach, learn, and value education.  However, classrooms all over the country and world are facing new challenges.  I am not talking about the obvious challenges, because we know teachers face huge challenges every day.  I am talking about the less obvious challenges.  The challenges that are often viewed as “gifts” or “teaching tools.”  The “T” word: technology.  Technology tools are supposed to make teaching easier and more accessible, but are often viewed as obstacles.  But why?

Schools all over the world are in need of money.  Budgets, funding, grants…all schools need it, all schools want it, and they want as much as possible.  We work hard for money because this money is most likely the key to getting the very things our kids need to succeed.  No school wants to deprive their students and teachers, no matter the zip code.  Then, we get our money.  Hooray! (Usually not as much as we want, BUT hey, it’s something.)  Then, what happens when we get our money?  The most common answer for many schools is TECHNOLOGY.   Schools are desperate to get their hands on the latest and greatest programs, computers, tablets, professional development, etc.

This seems like a dreamy scenario, but for many it is a scary, untraveled road.  A road that many teachers don’t want to go down.  It is new, it’s a bit terrifying, and it is, more importantly, time-consuming.  Let’s face it, time is a luxury teachers do not have.  Most of us don’t have it, but teachers barely have time for a bathroom break, let alone create a whole new curriculum integrating technology WHILE learning the technology themselves.  Before we teach, we must learn.  But what happens when we get new Chromebooks or tablets that we have never used before?  I will tell you what happens, a teacher says, “So you are telling me that I have to learn how to use this, teach the kids how to learn how to use it, and then use it for my lessons??  AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!”

No one is denying that it is hard.  It is different, and for many veteran teachers, it is a whole new ballgame.  However, I urge anyone who has received the extraordinary gift of new technology (because it is a gift) not to turn your back on it.  Be an advocate.  Be brave and don’t give in to what is easy versus what is the best for your students.  Because I promise you, you are not doing any favors by depriving kids of learning through new technologies.  You are also not doing yourself any favors by not learning the technology yourself.  If you are asking how to integrate new technology or are “asking for a friend,” there are a few things that can help.

START SMALL

We all need to start somewhere.  Start at the beginning.  Day 1: Learn how to turn computer on and log in.  Day 2: Read an eBook together.  Day 3: Check out one page on the internet, literally.  Soon you will be assigning students homework ONLINE.  I am not kidding; this is so doable with minimal effort.  The rest will come.  If you start with too much, it will most likely become overwhelming, and you may give up before you start.

SEEK OUT THE TECHNOLOGY GURU IN YOUR BUILDING

Every school has one.  While they may not all have the same skill sets, there is always one teacher (sometimes more) that gets it.  It comes easy, they have fresh ideas, and believe me, they want to share.  Bribe them with cookies and amazon gift cards if you have to.  The best part about working in a school is that you have several people doing the same thing as you.  They have trialed, they have errored.  They have faced similar challenges; they may have it figured out.  They may need you to figure it out.  You all need each other.  Use each other.

 

HAVE YOU MET MY BEST FRIEND, GOOGLE?

Seriously…Google it.  Remember when I said that teachers want to share the knowledge?  The best educators do it on the internet.  They are so tech-savvy that they share their tech-savviness using technology.  They have done it, they know what works.  They have received the gift of technology in the classroom and they have figured it out.  They have spent the time learning and integrating the tools so you can spend half the time they did and just read about all the work they did without doing it all yourself.  And often they speak in laymen’s terms, using step-by-step instructions.  They are teachers.  They get it.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT/LEARNING PROGRAMS THAT COMPANIES MAY OFFER FOR TECHNOLOGY

Here at Genius Plaza, nothing makes us happier than when teachers and students use our platform.  But like I said before, learning something new is always time-consuming.  We are begging you…please let us help.  PLEASE.  We offer (included in price) 4 professional development programs to teach teachers how to use the platform and how to most effectively implement it in your classrooms.  We want to help.  We want to show you how to use the tools and create the amazing lessons that you have always dreamed about.  When searching for new technology to use in your school or classroom, don’t overlook this vital piece.  It’s like finding treasure buried in the sand.

New things are hard.  Whether you are a child or an adult, there is always a learning curve with everything.  Don’t underestimate your students.  They are growing up in a world where they not only want technology, they need technology in order to be a successful, and be a contributing member of our ever-changing society.  Let’s give our students the tools they need to succeed, rather than denying the natural order of progression.  Ask for help.  Doing it alone is not an option.  Be patient and optimistic, and the end result will be worth it, I promise.


Weekly Education News Update!

This past week, EdSurge discussed the lack of female leadership and diversity on corporate boards, specifically among startup technology companies. “If, as a company, your goal is to make an impact in education, then you need representation in your leadership that can relate to the population you are trying to impact.”

The goal is not just to add a diverse group of leaders to your board because you think it’s the right thing to do, but there has to be real support and accountability on both ends for people trying to improve the pipeline and those coming through it.” The key is to promote diversity from the very beginning, making it easier to maintain a diverse work culture once the company starts growing and more people are hired.

US News reported earlier this week that students in Madison, Wisconsin were asking the Madison School District to hire more teachers of color. Many students from this school district used signs, speeches, and poetry to get their message across, the message being they wanted teachers who could relate to their experiences and connect with their identities.” Research shows that having diverse teachers can help students of all backgrounds and students of color to graduate.”

There was a recent discussion on KPCC Radio about an all-girls science camp and the power this one week of camp had on these middle school students. This camp specifically exposes underprivileged girls to fun science experiences with more one-on-one interactions.  For instance, the girls were taught how to make different types of makeup and perfumes, and learned that perfume chemists are one of the highest paid chemists in the science business.

One of the middle school girls at the camp stated, “The boys, they like being the leaders, but here, girls [have to] be the leaders and they’re telling us the girls are powerful to do whatever they want.” On the last day of camp, it seemed the efforts to sell these girls on science, math, technology, and engineering careers had worked. “How many of you think you might be a scientist?” one of the adult camp leaders asked. Almost all of the girls’ hands shot up.

Recently on Edscoop, it was reported that more educators are becoming more confident about the use of technology in the classroom. Edscoop examined a survey that consisted of more than 1,200 K-12 teachers and administrators. It was discovered that 65 percent of these educators are confident in their ability to use technology in the classroom, which is a seven percent increase from 2016.

This report came from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), which also “revealed that 98 percent of respondents use some form of educational technology to aid their work.” Technology continues to increase its impact on K-12 classrooms, so making the technology process for educators more straightforward is key to the proper use of technology in the classroom.


Learning Summer Victory Challenge!

Last week we launched our Summer Victory Challenge, because we know a lesson a day will keep students ahead of the game.  The goal is for students to have fun while making sure they do not fall behind.  If you have not gotten started yet, here is a tutorial created by a user that you may find helpful: Tutorial on how to create account.

As you can see in the tutorial, each student takes a diagnostic test to help define their competency.  Once they take this test, they will receive daily lessons based on their given level.  The student will take a test every week on different topics to help them excel.

The following is information on the amount of time students should spend studying each day based on their competency level.

So how do we make it fun?  Here are some tips on things students can do on Genius Plaza.  They can win rewards and be entered into weekly raffles!

 

We are available to chat every day from 9 to 5 EST to help you and your family.  Keep an eye on our blog as we continue to share tips and information to make this a great summer!

 


BookExpo America 2017

I recently spent a day with some of my Genius Plaza teammates at BookExpo America (BEA) –the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. The 2017 edition took place over three days at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

As someone with one foot in the door of the children’s book publishing industry, this was a great opportunity for me to see publishing friends, meet new ones, attend book signings, and gather as many free books and posters as possible.

But of course, our main focus was to represent Genius Plaza and share our message to “ignite the genius in every child” with the Expo’s 100,000+ attendees.

The Genius Plaza platform contains many options for learning, such as videos, games, animations, and worksheets. Since we were at a book expo, our focus was to highlight our eBooks, which are written by the professional educators on our content team with visual aids provided by our illustrators and graphic designers. Our team at BEA17 did a great job discussing our eBook collection, and explaining the eBook co-creation options that allow our users to write and add visuals to their own digital stories.

A few fortunate BEA attendees won full-year subscriptions to our entire eBook catalog by spinning our Genius Plaza prize wheel. The result of the spin could earn the spinner an instant prize (very cool Genius Plaza pens or Genius Plaza phone/device holders) or a raffle ticket for a chance at one of our bigger prizes – the full-year eBook subscriptions, virtual reality goggles, or a Kindle Fire preloaded with the Genius Plaza platform.

We all feel that our time spent at BEA17 was a real success. Attendees’ reactions to our platform were extremely positive, and we interacted with hundreds of interested and potential customers. We’re already planning for and looking forward to sharing our message again at BookExpo America 2018.


Google I/O 2017: VR comes into focus in the classroom

This year, on behalf of Genius Plaza, I had the opportunity to attend Google I/O, an annual conference held in California, where Google shares their latest technology and advancements. This year proved no different, with advances in machine learning, Android and – more importantly for Genius Plaza – virtual reality. Google showed various technologies, including stand alone VR headsets and new ways of rendering incredibly lifelike scenes on high-end devices and common web browsers alike. Today I want to highlight three new developments we are excited about and hope to bring to a classroom near you!

Seurat Seurat!

Seurat is a new program that takes HD film quality 3D scenes and quickly allows them to be played on all kinds of mobile hardware. Google partnered with IMXLAB at Lucasfilm to showcase the technology; they took a high fidelity digital set from Rouge One, which was thousands of hours in the making, and compressed the assets from the set to run in real time on a headset.

 

Click to see a cool example

Exceeding Expeditions

Expeditions  is Google’s virtual reality app built for education. Expeditions AR allows teachers to set up descriptions and points of interest in VR to experience places around the world. With Expeditions AR, students can gather around the Statue of David, a strand of DNA, or even a Category 5 hurricane without leaving the classroom. Teachers guide their students using virtual reality viewers. This program was quite successful, and Google revealed they are opening up the app to developers to create experiences. At Genius Plaza, we are looking forward to testing Expeditions  to help students co-create content and share their local wonders with the world!

Click above to see why we’re so excited about Expeditions

 

Great Geniuses Think Alike

Google has been thinking a lot about VR experiences and how they work best, specifically in the classroom. The team at Google highlighted three themes of great VR experiences: immersive, interactive, and social. This mirrors 1:1 Genius Plaza’s approach to educating our students. By having our students watch content that is culturally relevant, share what they learn with each other, and reflect on the experience, we have created a cycle that encourages an immersive love of learning.

Google’s team has given us all great tools to push education forward. This quote by Seymour Papert shared by the Google team is a great reminder to keep our eye on the real goal: tapping into the genius that lives in every child.