Educational DS Games – Which One is Right For Your Child?

There are many educational games for the Nintendo DS. From subject-specific games to all-in-one generalized teachers, from IQ-testing to barely-educational, Nintendo’s catalog of educational DS games is a sprawling list. How does a parent make heads or tails of such a wide variety? How can a parent choose a learning game to fit a child’s needs?Well, we’re here to help.First thing’s first with educational DS games:Who’s it for?Some educational DS games are made for the younger crowd, 2nd grade and under. Some are aimed at the middle-school set. Yet more, usually created for the high schoolers or even university-level crowd, can hardly be called games in the traditional sense.Decide which of your talented, happy children will be the beneficiary of your educational DS game purchase. If he’s a young buck, you’ll need to move towards the more colorful, easy learning games. These games often have famous characters like Spongebob or Mickey Mouse plastered all over the boxes – a sure-fire way to help the younger crowd engage with the educational game.The middle crowd is often the most difficult for which to buy a learning game. They’re smart – there’s no tricking them with cartoon characters. Assuredly, they’ve played video games before, so the bare fact of being handed a Nintendo DS won’t be enough for them to be satisfied with playing some dorky educational DS game. Unless you’re blessed with a child who “takes” to learning like every parent dreams, the trick with the upper-grade school level and middle-school kids is to find a game that’s entertaining enough for the child to look past the fact that he’s learning.Finally, with the older crowd – there’s no trick. They’ll likely get their own educational DS games, or know to ask you for a specific game, making the whole search much easier for you. With them, it’s often unnecessary to mask the learning in the form of “edutainment,” so “game”-makers focus on packing in as much learning material as possible. There are, of course, exceptions.Educational DS games Part Deux – what do you want to teach?There are ESL-teachers, basic arithmetic learners, vocab-busters, and IQ-testers, amongst many, many others.What are you trying to do? Reinforce a skill? Teach the basics of a subject in which they’re falling behind? Instill a life-long love of learning and educational gaming?Much of what you end up buying will be dependent on what your intent is. Some games are fairly limited in scope – they promise to teach the rudiments of spelling, perhaps. Some will “stick to what they know,” and do it well; for instance, there are a number of game makers who sell an entire line of educational DS games that teach one subject, and one subject only. Some games go even further, teaching a specific subject to a specific grade or age-level. And finally, there are the more generalized games, which usually offer a greater and wider variety of games, and are geared to last longer than a typical DS game’s entertainment life.Educational DS games Part Three – how much are you willing to work?Here’s the hard-look-in-the-mirror part.Educational DS games are often a hard sell. Put a word like “learning” or “mathematics” in the title, and you kid’s gut instinct will likely be to either cringe or smile and let it sit at the back of the closet, unplayed, forgotten.The truth is, for ages 5-15 or so, you might have to show them how an educational DS game can be bearable. Even: fun. So, what kind of game can you stand to play? What kind of game will your kid put up with? Think about it: if you don’t enjoy adding columns of numbers, your kid likely won’t, either.So: can you afford to sit down and play a few rounds of “math” with your child? Can you bear it? A child will play a game as dry-sounding as “Vocab for 5th graders” if you’re there to make it fun. If you don’t have the time or patience to invest, you’re best finding a game that trends towards edutainment, or a generalized learning game.And finally: how to choose an educational DS game for your kidTake part one – your child’s age. Take part two – what they’d need to learn. Then, part three – your level of investment. Finally, take a look at on-line reviews, see what other parents have to say.For busy parents with kids of all ages, the best type of educational DS game is one of the generalized IQ-testers and learners. The “think” games, the “Brain” games; the ones that track a kid’s IQ (or branded-equivalent) seem to last longest with children of all ages – the competitive nature inherent in an IQ-tracking game seems to stimulate and drive children, teens, and young adults to keep playing.For parents with enough time to guide and cajole their kids into playing an educational DS game, games aimed at particular age groups, teaching particular subjects, are often the best idea. The targeted learning approach, when coupled with a parent’s coaxing, usually show stronger results within the subject the educational DS game teaches than the generalized games. However, note that these improvements are limited to the subject the software teaches in the case of these specified teaching games, whereas with the generalized software, smaller improvements are generally seen across the board.

Education Professional Development A PD 360 Case Study – Manassas City Public Schools, VA

DISTRICT PROFILEManassas City Public Schools (MCPS) is located in Manassas City, Virginia, “a small community that provides big opportunities to its residents.” As a district of 6,866 students in ten schools, its size is also a plus and allows the staff to get to know the children as individuals and develop personal education plans to make sure that those individual needs are met. The district benefits from all the advantages a smaller city offers and feels a true sense of community with a collaborative bond between home and school that works to ensure the success of every student.Manassas City Public Schools embraces its mission to educate and develop productive, responsible, and contributing citizens of local and global communities. It is a school system that enjoys diversity as a challenging and balanced learning experience. The dedicated and highly qualified staff is equipped with ample resources and vital partnerships with family, community, business, and government.MCPS is very proud of its outstanding instructional staff…
• 18 National Board Certified Teachers
• 100% Highly Qualified Teachers (per No Child Left Behind requirements)
• 52.3% Licensed staff with post-graduate degreesDISTRICT FOCUSEven with an extraordinary teaching staff, MCPS has an ongoing desire to continually better its professional development (PD) in order to provide excellent student education. This means giving its teachers the most comprehensive PD available.Dr. Michaelene Meyer, MCPS Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, wanted to hike up the quality as well as streamline the PD process. She looked for a job-embedded resource that teachers could access immediately when they needed it and experience immediate success.SOLUTIONDr. Meyer had been a dedicated user of School Improvement Network’s The Video Journal of Education video products for many years. When she was introduced to PD 360, also from School Improvement Network, she knew she had found a high-quality answer for MCPS.ABOUT PD 360PD 360 is the leading on-demand professional learning resource for educators with over 700,000 subscribers. Teachers, administrators, professional learning communities, coaches, etc., have access to over 1,400 indexed and searchable video segments that present real, best-practice classroom examples. Each segment includes content from respected educational experts such as Michael Fullan, Rick DuFour, Doug Reeves, Rick Stiggins, and many others. PD 360 can be used to create a structured learning experience for an individual teacher, professional learning community, or entire school. It bridges the gap between training and classroom implementation with job-embedded follow-up, tracking, and reflection tools. PD 360 also gives educators access to an online community of teaching professionals that allows interaction and collaboration either within a district or across the United States and around the world. See a demonstration at pd360.com.DRIVING USAGE AND IMPLEMENTATIONOne year into its use, Dr. Meyer has already put many applications of PD 360 into place, such as:• A Three-Year Implementation Plan for Targeted Goals and ActionsGOAL ACTIONFirst YearAll Educators Registered on PD 360
Required to Watch Two Segments &
Answer Reflection QuestionsSecond YearEnglish Language Learners – A District Wide Approach
Everyone Watch and Complete Whole ELL Program & Use in PLC’s, Forums, & Faculty MeetingsThird YearImplementation and Targeted Goals
Principals Make Building Level Plan to Align with District Plan• English Language Learners
MCPS is having great success with its ELL training framework. During the coming school year, MCPS will be using PD 360 for an all-inclusive district wide approach to its 38% ELL population. PD 360 ELL segments will be used in faculty meetings, PLC’s, and forums to educate and start discussions on strategies and accommodations that actively involve ELL students in learning.• New Teacher Training
MCPS has re-vamped its entire beginning teaching program with the use of PD 360 integrated into seminars, with follow-up guides for the PLC meetings they hold between seminars. Because Dr. Meyer feels it is important to train new teachers to use PD 360, they are immediately introduced to it as a teaching resource. When there is an issue in their classrooms, they can be directed to segments of programs such as Classroom Management, Differentiated Instruction, and many more. PD 360 is also a good base for helping new teachers understand implementation of the district and school goals.• Teachers Who Struggle
Principals were trained and are now helping teachers who struggle by suggesting specific PD 360 segments that show what best classroom practices look like in needed areas. Each teacher’s usage as well as their answers to Reflection and Follow-Up Questions can be tracked by the administration to follow growth.• Walk Throughs
Getting principals into the classrooms has a huge impact on teacher training. As principals do classroom walk-throughs, they can email specific PD 360 segment links that are relevant to the instructional needs of the teachers while providing easy and effective, job-embedded follow-up. Being able to quickly provide instant remediation on many issues has been beneficial to both principals and teachers alike.• Group Trainings
PD 360 makes it easy to personalize group training. The digitized Facilitator Guides that accompany video programs provide assistance as district facilitators prepare training sessions. Video segments are shared with a group of teachers and PD 360’s automated reflection questions are assigned to help teachers implement new strategies. The trainer can read teachers’ answers and provide suggestions and feedback.Each department chair asked to be trained in PD 360 and have begun using segments to help share information in department meetings.• Professional Learning Communities
PD 360 supports PLC’s and gives them a solid resource to study. PLC’s watch a PD 360 video segment and discuss how to apply the practices in their classrooms. The accompanying digitized Facilitator Guides provide group activities, discussion questions, lesson plans, and graphic organizers.• Teacher Certification
Dr. Meyer is working on and is excited to put into action a program for teacher certification wherein PD 360 time viewed and Reflection Questions answered will be tracked and applied as credit.• Interactive Learning Communities
Through Interactive Learning Communities, teachers present each other with implementation ideas, participate in discussion forums, upload lesson plans, and share web links to helpful resources. Learning Communities can be created as public or private domains in which teachers and administrators can share best practices, learn from one another, and eliminate classroom isolation regardless of location.BENEFITSMCPS has found PD 360 to have many advantages that directly benefit it and Dr. Meyer looks forward to discovering many more.• Cost Effective
PD 360 has been very cost-effective for MCPS. Costing much less than traditional professional development, it can be purchased with a variety of funding sources available to districts and schools, including Title I, II, III, IV, V, VII, state funds, foundation funds, federal and state grant monies, math funds, reading funds, technology funds, etc. For example, MCPS has been able to pay for PD 360 with Title II funds.• Elementary and Secondary Programs
Dr. Meyer was delighted to find a PD resource that offered both Elementary-Focused and Secondary-Centered programs. This provides instruction that is geared to each teacher’s classroom level.• Great Educator Response
Teacher response to PD 360 has been excellent. As they are introduced to it, educators generally start using the easy search ability feature of the PD 360 website to research more topics.• User Capacity
With one price, educators have unlimited access to PD 360 and can view segments and programs as many times as they wish and as often as they need.• Accessible
Because PD 360 is an online and on-demand solution, teachers in the system can access it anytime and anywhere they have the Internet. They can log on at home as well as at work, encouraging teacher education on their own time schedule.• State Approval
The Virginia Department of Education is very familiar with School Improvement Network’s PD 360 and has been supportive and favorable of its use in districts.• Large Library of Content
MCPS’s educators can immediately find the help they need in the 1,400 fully indexed, video learning segments that address the most pertinent topics and have easy search ability. In addition, PD 360 continues to add more programs that are up-to-date and applicable.• Job Embedded
Professional development should not be identical for each teacher but should be responsive to a teacher’s day-to-day practices in school and student needs. As questions and situations arise in classrooms, teachers can instantly find answers in PD 360 to improve teaching and give support when needed instead of waiting for district workshops. The wide variety of content in PD 360 ensures that teachers of every experience level can find individualized help when they need it.”Teachers can no longer use the excuse that there is no relevancy or significance for them in our professional development program. A large variety of options is the beauty of PD 360 and there is relevance for everyone.”
Dr. Michaelene Meyer
Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Manassas City Public Schools, Virginia• Relevant Topics
New, quality content is continually being added to the up-to-date PD 360 library providing a resource that helps teachers continue to grow professionally. PD 360 has programs dealing with nearly every educational initiative of the past two decades.• Research Based and Best Practices
PD 360 programs are always research-based and classroom-proven, dealing with nearly every educational initiative of the past two decades. Each program shows real classrooms from around the country using the best teaching methods.• A Common Voice
PD 360 encourages consistency in a common language and practice. The Focus Objectives support a more efficient, focused commonality with all educators in the district.• Individual Accountability
Teachers are empowered to take control of their own growth by having everything they need to improve their teaching in one place. Administrators can ensure that PD happens consistently with PD 360’s integrated tracking, reporting, and follow-up.• Easy-to-Use Search Features
With hundreds of fully indexed and searchable learning segments, teachers and administrators can easily find the answers they require. PD 360 has everything MCPS teachers need to immediately improve their teaching and implement the best classroom practices.• Real Classroom Examples
Dr. Meyer has been pleased with the wide variety of real classrooms from across the country that are shown in every PD 360 program so that teachers can actually see how to implement best practices in their own classroom management.”New teachers and teachers who are struggling often can’t visualize themselves putting best practices into action. PD 360 is a link for bringing in visual professional development, which starts meaningful conversations such as “What does this practice mean to us?” and “How can we implement it in our classrooms?”
Dr. Michaelene Meyer
Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Manassas City Public Schools, Virginia• Tracking Features
Administrators can oversee PD usage with PD 360’s integrated tracking, reporting, and follow-up and will know which areas need extra reinforcement. The logs they are providing are really terrific in terms of how the videos are encouraging discussion and learning.• Real Experts
Over 120 respected education experts are available at each MCPS teacher’s fingertips whenever needed. Educators no longer have to wait to attend conferences, or pay the high costs associated with them, to learn from acclaimed authorities.CONCLUSIONDr. Meyer is insuring that Manassas City Public Schools, the small district in the small town, will continue to enjoy big benefits from PD 360, the most all-inclusive and effective teacher professional development obtainable.”We have more to learn on how to utilize the benefits of the program, but one step at a time.”
Dr. Michaelene Meyer
Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Manassas City Public Schools, Virginia

Is There Still A Shortage of Special Education Teachers?

Today, I am a Special Education teacher. However, I can still remember when I was young and back in graduate school matriculated in the social studies teaching program. Since I wanted to be a History teacher, not a Special Education teacher, it’s kind of funny that all these years later I am teaching Special Education. How did this happen? Well, the same way it happened for some others too I guess… I had friends who were Special Education teachers and also a few who were enrolled in Special Education teacher-preparation programs who talked me into giving it a try. They told me that Special Education is where the real need was. Basically, they told me that this is where a guy like me could do the most good.Well, more than two decades later not much has changed. There is still a huge need for Special Education teachers here in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Special Education is among the most high-need fields in schools that service low-income students. The U.S. Department of Education also states that there is a Special Education teacher shortage in 49 out of our 50 states.In addition, today there are more instances of students with multiple disabilities at a younger age. The National Education Association (NEA) says that there has been a 30% increase in Special Education students since 2006. Finally, throw in the high turn-over rate of teachers in such a demanding field and one can easily see that our country has a problem, and that problem is only going to get bigger.So, why can’t we get enough Special Education teachers? Well, according to National Public Radio (NPR) our country is having this shortage because of the extremely long hours they have to put in and the crushing paperwork that they are expected to complete on top of their everyday teaching. I say we’re also having this shortage because being a Special Education teacher isn’t for everyone. Only a few people can handle the day-in and day-out uncertainties of the job, and the ever-changing roles they have to play. Not only do they have to take an enormous amount of time to learn the academic side of multiple subjects or scholarly disciplines, which could take five to ten years to fully learn, but they also have to learn about all the different factors that could impact academic performance, and learn the law too, as well as do many administration duties.In a word, it’s overwhelming. Just considering the disabilities side alone, a Special Education teacher has to be able to accurately identify and treat needs that could be based on learning deficiencies or even different styles, as well as the mental, emotional, and even social deficiencies too. Furthermore, Special Education teachers also have to know what to do with the other side of the spectrum too with the gifted students.Basically, not only do they need immense people skills in dealing with all kinds of students and adults, but they also have to love the unpredictability of the field, and must be a believer in possibilities, as well as possess the highest form of intelligence, which is called empathy. Not sympathy here, but empathy. There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Special Education teachers need all of these mentioned skills and more in order to just survive the day, let alone an entire career in these education trenches.So, what can we do about this shortage? Well, some school districts have been creatively working with their local universities and creating special programs where teacher candidates can work full-time as teachers for two years to get teaching experience while they go to school at night to get their degree. Some school districts have offered signing bonuses, stipends and tuition reimbursement in their efforts to attract more teachers. These are good ideas. However, these kind of initiatives are not being done enough. Some school districts are offering young teachers mentors to support their efforts and offer guidance in an attempt to cut down on the attrition rate. Again, this is another good idea, but not enough districts are doing this either.I personally feel that one of the toughest things about being in this field is the lack of respect for what these unsung heroes do on a daily basis. The lack of respect is causing low teacher morale and driving a lot more teachers out of the education field than I think most of us are willing to admit. And this low teacher morale and lack of respect for our country’s teachers is something that is avoidable, and something that we can fix if we want to do it bad enough. Finally, just to get an outsider’s perspective, I asked my wife what she thought could be one of the solutions to the Special Education teacher shortage problem and she said, “More pay!”