Our New Search Function

At Genius Plaza, we value the relationships we have with teachers, parents, administrators, and students.  We strive to constantly improve our offerings based on feedback we receive.  Our CEO likes to quote Epictetus, reminding us, “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”  We are very proud of our new search function, which reflects much of that feedback.

New Search Function

As our users know, at Genius Plaza we offer thousands of videos, eBooks, games, comprehension exercises, worksheets, and more in English and Spanish.  Users now can explore these by filtering subject – math, language arts, and science, and for grades Pre-K to 12th.  Users are also able to filter by creator – teacher, student, and parent – and by grade level. Click here to watch this video to learn more.

Genius Plaza search

Teacher Wish List

We reached out to teachers to see what content they needed.

  • We heard from one teacher who wanted content for her kindergarten focused on the letter B.  See what we shared with her here: Video, eBook, and exercise.
  • We heard from another teacher looking for Hispanic Heritage content.  Here are some of our STEAM Learning Champion resources, which can be used as non-fiction content, and for teaching character traits.  
  • We also heard from several teachers looking for place value content.  Here you can find some of the resources we shared.

 

Leaderboard Content

Each week, we are highlighting some of the resources requested on our leaderboard, sharing content created by teachers, students, and about our Champions.  Visit us each week to find new content. https://www.geniusplaza.com/en/leaderboard

 

Leaderboard

 

Join us as a Beta Tester

As I mentioned earlier, we want to learn from you!  If you are interested in becoming a beta tester, email me at monica@geniusplaza.com.

 


Celebrating Hispanic America

Hispanic Heritage Month began as a mere week in 1968. It was created by Rep. Edward R. Roybal of Los Angeles, California, who was the first Hispanic from California to be elected to Congress since 1879!  President Lyndon Johnson celebrated the first Hispanic Heritage Week on September 17, 1968.

Monthlong Celebration

The celebratory week was extended from September 15th through October 15th by Rep. Esteban E. Torres of Pico Rivera, California, and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.  The month honors the contributions of Hispanic Americans throughout the history of America.

September 15th was chosen in particular as it coincides with the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  A few other countries follow suit and celebrate their independence days shortly after, like Mexico on September 16th, Chile on September 18th, and Belize on September 21st.


The Integral Impact of Hispanics in America’s History

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the long and integral impact of Hispanic and Latino Americans in America’s history.  Here at Genius Plaza, we are strong believers that representation matters, and are so happy that many of our diverse Learning Champions have impacted the hundreds of thousands of children using our platform.  From Cuba to Colombia, many of our Learning Champions hail from all over Latin America, and their cultures drive our students’ inspiration!  Our children need to see themselves reflected in the world.  This creates a sense of belonging, and allows them to imagine something beyond what can be trying circumstances.  Taking time to talk about how Latinos have shaped the services, country, and everyday life the students live can do immeasurable good to a child’s motivation.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

During this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, we will share the stories of our Latino STEAM Learning Champions at www.geniusplaza.com/careers and across our social media platforms so we can inspire our next generation of Latino leaders in many fields.   José Matta at Johnson & Johnson, Carolina Huaranca Mendoza at Kapor Capital, and Don Francisco at NBC Universal are just a few of our Latino Champions!


Educating Through Stories

Stories stick with us, and they spread from person to person through the Internet, the news, and conversations in grocery store lines. I started reading books on my own in elementary school, and today I try to read a book a week. Stories fascinate me—this may be why I became an English major. Beyond their entertainment value, narratives can make education a process that involves not only facts but also compassion.

Experiencing the Book

When a person reads a story and connects with it, it can have an immediate physiological effect. While reading a powerful book or an intense movie, viewers’ brains will often release oxytocin, a neurochemical that makes us feel closeness and compassion with others.

As readers, we aren’t actually experiencing the events of a book, but we place ourselves in the position of the protagonist. We feel and experience things that we otherwise would not have the chance to.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one.” writes George R.R. Martin, whose A Song of Ice and Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones ) has enthralled millions.

Teaching Through Stories

Narrative is the foundation of communication, finding its way into journalism and advertising. Most of what we tell each other is storytelling, and we have a tendency to spread the stories we hear, telling them again and again.

 

 

By teaching through stories, students can learn while they experience new things. They can also attach emotions to this new knowledge, making it easier to recall this knowledge when they need it. Perhaps most importantly, stories offer a way to show students how knowledge can be applicable and dynamic in different situations.

Learning Champions

Genius Plaza brings stories to the classroom through our Learning Champions. These stories focus on individuals who are protagonists of their own educations and have pursued meaningful careers in a variety of fields. We aim to make education not only accessible, but also memorable and emotional.

 

 


Education-related News Updates and Resources September 1, 2017

Today’s news updates will focus on Hurricane Harvey as well as general education and EdTech news.

Hurricane Harvey

Yesterday in our blog we shared this Newsweek story about the impact of Hurricane Harvey. In fact, according to Education Week, more than one million students are impacted. The New York Times shared a great resource for teaching about Hurricane Harvey, which can be found here.

Hurricane Harvey

We also have been inspired by schools and others coming together to support Harvey victims. This story from Missouri and this Facebook group we previously mentioned talk about helping to  adopt classrooms and helping impacted teachers.

As we shared yesterday as well, some of our colleagues are supporting Save The Children. Learn more here.

EdTech News

Today we also want to share additional updates. Here is a link to a story focused on the top five EdTech trends.

EdTech News

Another topic we continue to hear about is student privacy. Read more here.

Thank you for reading our blog! This month our most-read blog post was the letter to kindergarten parents, followed by the post on reteaching. We invite you to read both if you have not.

 


Don’t Miss the Great American Eclipse!

Great American Eclipse

#SolarEclipse2017

A total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States on Monday, August 21st. It begins around 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., depending on where in the country you are. The total eclipse will only be viewable from within the “path of totality,” but most parts of the U.S. will be able to see a partial eclipse.

During a Total Eclipse, Several Things Happen at Once

When you’re in the direct path of a total eclipse, several things happen at once. The moon completely covers the sun, and the air temperature drops about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The horizon becomes vibrant with the colors of the sunset, and the sky fills with stars. Depending where in the world you are, crickets may start chirping and birds may become suddenly louder or quieter. Bugs and mosquitos may emerge, and spiders may destroy their webs. Humans will look to the sky and watch this spectacular and rare event through the index-card-sized screens of their phones instead of with their eyes. Because the moon’s shadow moves at about 2,000 miles per hour, most solar eclipses only last for two or three minutes.

Valuable Moments for Scientists

Scientists

The rarity of total solar eclipses makes them valuable moments for scientists. We still don’t know much about the effect eclipses have on animals, insects, and plants. Scientists encourage people to observe the area they will be viewing an eclipse from. What animals might be in that area? Are there any slow moving creatures like ants or spiders that would be easy to observe? Though most people may not be able to conduct research with the same level of standards and methods as scientists, an eclipse is a chance for anyone to make discoveries and observations.

If you will be within a few hours of the path of totality, you should make the trip! Not only is it such a spectacular event that some people become “eclipse chasers” and fly all over the world to witness the phenomenon, but it’s also incredibly rare that it will happen to pass through where you live. On average, any point on Earth will experience a total eclipse once every 375 years, and no one can afford to wait that long.

Viewing The Great American Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

If you plan on observing an eclipse, make sure to use proper viewing glasses, which your local library may offer for free! They are thousands of times darker than sunglasses, so unless you plan on wearing 2,000 pairs of sunglasses at once, wearing multiple pairs of shades will provide no protection. Be careful, and avoid permanent damage to your eyes! If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can make a pinhole viewer with a cardboard box, paper, and aluminum foil. To do this, make a small rectangular hole in one side of the box. Tape aluminum foil over the hole, and poke a small hole in the foil with a pin. Tape the piece of paper on the inside of the box opposite from the hole, and hold your mini-projector up so that the sun’s light passes through the pinhole and projects its image onto the paper! The only time it is ever safe to look directly at an eclipse without glasses is during the few minutes of a total obstruction.

Watching the Great American Eclipse

Few astrological events are as dramatic or observable as eclipses, and anyone who has seen one will urge others to make the trip to the path of a totality. You can find out how close you will be to the path of totality on nasa.gov. Just make sure you use genuine eclipse glasses or a pinhole viewer! Don’t miss out on this rare and beautiful event that will have everyone looking to the sky.


Empowering Students to Teach

Informal and Formal Assessments

As a teacher, I am always looking for fun and creative ways to conduct informal and formal assessments. When conducting informal assessments, I am checking to see if my students understand the topic, and can analyze and evaluate what they have learned. The most common informal assessments I use are exit tickets. Exit tickets are a great tool, providing me with insight on what my students know and do not know. But every now and then, I like to switch up the informal assessment methods to bring some excitement and creativity to the classroom.

 

Boosting Students’ Participation

Using technology in my classroom really seems to boost my students’ participation and motivation to learn. This is why I love working with teachers to use Genius Plaza, an education technology platform. Genius Plaza provides teachers, students, and parents with relatable content in math, ELA, and science. But that’s not all – the best part is the platform allows students to be protagonists of their own learning, giving them the option to create their own eBook, video, game, and/or exercise. Through the use of these resources, students can teach us what they have learned from a lesson.

re-teaching

Re-teaching

The option to create any of these resources is truly a game-changer. As we all know, our students are each different, and a method that caters to one may not cater to another. The re-teaching options motivate my students to create content using a resource that best fits their learning needs and personality. Here is one of my students re-teaching – via a video – what they learned after reading and watching a Genius Plaza lesson on venture capitalist Brian Dixon.

I was truly surprised and ecstatic to see that one of our Genius students could create a video like this one! It was evident that he planned out what he wanted to record, drafted a script, recorded the video, and reviewed and revised the script and video. To my delight, I noticed he was not only able to reflect on what he learned, but he provided us with further insight on the topic.  The information was not in the lesson, and discussed the benefits of the career in his community.

 

Free Re-Teaching Resources

Genius Plaza re-teaching resources are a fantastic way to incorporate technology in your classroom, while engaging your students in a creative way. I invite you to visit us at www.Geniusplaza.com

 

I would love to hear from you, feel free to contact me at Paola@geniusplaza.com


The Importance of the Arts in STEAM

During a recent conversation with an executive from a tech firm, he asked why we were focused on “STEAM” rather than “STEM.” Genius Plaza has long been a champion for the arts – the “A” in STEAM. That is why this recent post by Jennifer Brown caught my attention. She points to a recent piece by Tom Perrault titled “Digital Companies Need More Liberal Arts Majors,” in which the author states, “There will be a limit to how far computers can replace human capabilities, at least in the near long term.”

AI

The Arts as a Focus in 2017

 

This year there seems to be many more thought pieces and articles on this topic. Earlier this summer, in the piece titled “People Like Condi Rice and Albert Einstein Show Why We Need the Arts”, Tim Kaine points to a paper by Dr. Robert Root Bernstein from 2008 which found that, “Nobel Laureates in sciences are twenty-two times more likely than the average scientist to sing, dance, act, or perform in some way; seven times more likely to be a visual artist; and twelve times more likely to write poetry and literature.”

Albert Einstein

 

Additionally, this week in Education Drive, there was a feature about how Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland is incorporating the arts into their STEM efforts. Bravo!

 

Preparing the Future Generation of Geniuses

Arts STEAM

 

At Genius Plaza, this is music to our ears. You see, for our founder and CEO, Ana Roca Castro, focusing on STEAM has never been a question. We are thrilled to see the private and public sector increase focus on the “A” as we prepare the future generation of geniuses. Be on the lookout for updates from us on the “A” in STEAM.

 


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.


¿Quiénes trabajan en Genius Plaza?

Somos un equipo de gente diversa, entusiasta y apasionada por la democratización y mejora de la calidad de la educación, especialmente de los más desfavorecidos.

A través del uso de la tecnología queremos llegar a cada rincón del mundo, para brindar una educación de calidad.

Somos un equipo multicultural, por ende entendemos la necesidad de aprender un segundo idioma y queremos hacer que su experiencia en la plataforma deje huella en su vida.  Cada uno de los que formamos el equipo de Genius Plaza tiene un papel importante para poder brindar una educación de una manera divertida y con calidad.

Nuestros maestros y maestras calificadas se encargan de elaborar el contenido de nuestra plataforma. Nuestro equipo creativo se encarga de la producción de videos y la telenovela. Nuestro equipo de desarrollo se encarga del desarrollo de la interfaz de la plataforma, como también del desarrollo de videojuegos.

Para nosotros es muy gratificante saber que el trabajo que hacemos día día, tiene frutos, escuchar y leer historias de cómo nuestra plataforma ha ayudados a niños y padres a mejorar en ciertas áreas es nuestra mayor recompense.


Weekly Education News Update!

The Tennessean discussed the need for diversity among teachers in schools, whether it be more teachers of color, or increasing the number of teachers from rural settings.  It has been proven through research that diverse teachers have a positive effect on student’s educational experience.  Having a diverse staff allows more students to be able to relate to their educators.  “In the spirit of giving every student the best education possible, we should aim to have that diversity reflected in our staff as well.”

More recently, the main goal for teachers is to make their lessons interactive and captivating.  For instance, in a Forbes article, virtual reality is stated to be one of the six transformative technology trends occurring in education.  Virtual reality “enhances teacher instruction while simultaneously creating immersive lessons that are fun and engaging for the student.”  Many schools are now offering technology devices such as iPads or laptops to entire classrooms.  This concept is revolutionary for education, especially for schools with a high rate of students who come from low-income families.

Another increasingly popular technology trend in education discussed in Forbes is blended learning.  Blended learning “gives more responsibility to the student, as it involves less direct instruction from the teacher and more discovery-based methods of learning.”  As teachers incorporate blended learning into their classrooms, students can go at their own learning pace.  Another transformative technology trend mentioned in Forbes is increased use of educational gaming in classrooms, in an effort to make lessons more fun for students.  These games are created to provide immediate feedback; students are motivated to keep playing the games while gaining knowledge and skills.

This past week, The Strait Times examined how bilingual kids can pick up another language easier than a monolingual child.  A study was conducted with monolingual and bilingual toddlers to see if they were able to notice the differences in the change of wording stated aloud to them.  “The findings supported the theory that exposing children to two languages at the same time has cognitive benefits.”  A child is able to learn a language quicker from birth to around three years old.  Knowing this, Genius Plaza’s newly launched Pre-K program is a perfect way to help parents teach their young children Spanish or English. There are many videos, lessons, and educational games available on Genius Pre-K, a great place to start immersing your son or daughter in English or Spanish.

Black Enterprise covered the new Oakland Startup Network initiative. In this piece, Lili Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact said, “The goal is to bring in a lot of the other ecosystem players in Oakland that are focused on increasing the number of underrepresented entrepreneurs.”

This week, we also learned on Medium about the “skyrocketing” growth of girls taking the AP Computer Science exam. According to this piece, “The growth among female students has been incredible, increasing participation in AP CS exams by 135% since 2016. Not to be outdone, underrepresented minorities have increased participation by nearly 170% over last year!”