Good News

  • Apr 07, 2017

GTS Media Literacy

Your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE Networks are a Great Classroom Resource for Journalism and Media Studies.

 

IN RECENT MONTHS, there has been so much talk and debate about the trustworthiness of news coverage that I find myself wondering about the impact it may be having on students. It’s already too easy to become jaded about information in a world where everyone seems to be talking at the same time. Do young people know how to navigate their way through the commotion and take hold of what’s important? Do they even try?

As teachers, you undoubtedly have more insight on this than most of us, and I’m willing to bet that many of you are doing whatever you can to help students understand that information consumption is not a passive activity, but rather, an exercise of the mind which requires knowledge, discernment, and the ability to consider things in context.

I believe it’s essential to help students understand that when watching the news, or even just scanning social media, they are not merely being talked at, but talked to, and that being talked to gives them power in that they have the choice to either process the information or reject it. But deciding whether a piece of information is worth holding onto requires that they think it through—put it into context, consider the source, weigh the information against what they already know.

With regard to context, consider television news. How might coverage of a story vary from channel to channel? What angle do the news presenters pursue; what facts do they choose to emphasize; and what might that decision have to do with the makeup of their viewership, or where they’re located on the map? For example, Bloomberg Television, a financial news network, may emphasize the economic implications of a news story, whereas CNN and Fox News Channel look at it through a more political lens.

The same story on ESPN News would explore its implications for the sports world, whereas the British-flavored BBC America would be more likely to look at the facts in an international context.

Your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup features all these channels, along with many others that are either totally devoted to news and opinion, or feature specific news programs among their offerings. For example, there’s daily rural and agricultural news on RFD-TV; unvarnished coverage of current events on C-SPAN; and even Spanish-language news via Univision.

You could have your students do a comparative study of how different channels cover the same story, then host a discussion wherein they report their observations. Start by looking over all the services available to you in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel guide.

And to help us keep you informed about free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Reading Superheroes

  • Feb 13, 2017

GTS Comics

More and more educators are using comic books and graphic novels to encourage students to read, and the comics industry has stepped up to meet the challenge with educational storylines and free classroom resources. Want to get in on the action?

Read on!

 

I ONCE SAW a batch of old, black and white photographs online depicting kids from a bygone era reading comic books. The author of the post pointed out that it was heartwarming somehow to think that these long-ago children are today the parents and grandparents of kids who are still reading comics.

This point was brought back to me recently during a visit to my local comic shop. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and the store was crowded with parents and children browsing row upon row of colorful covers, making their selections and sharing their excitement for the stories and characters they’d be taking home.

Any way you look at this scenario, you see something positive—a tradition being passed down; shared experience; stoked imaginations; an enduring appreciation for stories. And the best part is, it’s all about reading.

It’s no secret that America is in the midst of a literacy crisis. According to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, the literacy skills of many students in grades 4 through 12 are “alarmingly low.” As educators you know this firsthand. But more importantly, you represent the front line of a national effort to turn things around.

And judging by my research, more and more of you are turning to comic books and graphic novels.

An internet search for “comic books in education” yields a far-ranging collection of articles that document how educators have seized upon young peoples’ interest in comics to get them reading. And to its credit, the comic book industry itself has stepped-up to meet this challenge, by emphasizing STEM, anti-bullying, and other relevant topics in a number of popular storylines.

Diamond Comic Distributors, the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books and graphic novels, has set-up a website called Diamond Bookshelf, which offers a collection of free resources for educators interested in exploring the possibilities of comics in the classroom. There are lesson plans (PreK-12), reviews, teacher testimonials, recommended reading lists, and much more.

Citing a study in the School Library Journal, Diamond Bookshelf reports that the presence of comics in a junior high school library resulted in a dramatic 82% increase in library traffic, and a 30% increase in circulation of non-comic books.

Intrigued by those numbers, I sought insight from an Ontario teacher-librarian I met on Twitter, and he told me a similarly encouraging story. “Our graphic novel section began 9 years ago and has grown from a basket, to a shelf, to a whole bookcase of titles,” says Mr. Pamayah, who goes by the Twitter handle @Mister_Library. “Our students have always been eager to have more. It has helped that authors and publishers now offer a wide selection of graphic novels. They have become a featured section with students asking for more, including sequels. I have also had to replace many because they are so well-used.

“Teachers will use specific titles that relate to curriculum on subject areas,” Mr. Pamayah continues. “Our teachers also use the graphic novels to highlight how that format is structured, and teach students how to make their own comic or paneled writing. This section is one of the most popular in our library with students.”

Apparently, we’ve come a long way from the days when reading comics in school earned you a trip to the principal’s office!

Have you had a similar experience? Are comic books and graphic novels being used in your school, or is this something you’ve been thinking about? We’d love to hear more success stories. Let us know on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

A Virtual Field Trip to Get Your Students Moving!

  • Jan 23, 2017

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The NFL and the American Heart Association, working together with Discovery Education, have teamed-up to host a fun, interactive, and free virtual field trip designed to promote physical activity and heart health.

If your goal as an educator is to teach young people about the benefits of exercise, you could hardly ask for better partners.

You can experience the Virtual Field Trip with your students by directly live streaming it to your classroom on January 31, 2017 at 1PM EDT/12:00 PM CT/10AM PDT. After that, it will be archived for viewing at your convenience. Please note: No special equipment is needed to view this event online. All you need is an internet-connected computer (and a way to share with students, i.e. projector and speakers).

During the presentation, Doctor Mercedes Carnethon of the American Heart Association will demonstrate the science behind the cardio and strength exercises that NFL players Whitney Mercilus and Christian Covington use stay fit and active. Students will also get an inside look at the Houston Texans’ practice facility and The Health Museum, and after that there will be some guided physical activity that can be done right in the classroom.

To register for this free event, visit the official NFL Play 60 Challenge website, where you’ll also find a helpful collection of standards-based classroom resources (for grades 6-8) available free for download.

To help us keep you informed about other free educational resources and programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Images: American Heart Association, Inc./NFL Enterprises LLC

Will One of Your Students Be Named Top Young Scientist?

  • Jan 03, 2017

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Parents and teachers, you are cordially invited to help inspire the next generation of scientists by encouraging your students to enter the 2017 Discovery Education/3M Young Scientist Challenge!

The annual competition, which is open to all students in grades 5-8, offers an opportunity for young innovators to address a need or solve a problem using their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills. They’ll be asked to present their findings in a short video, and if it makes the grade they could be named “America’s Top Young Scientist” for 2017. There’s also a grand prize of $25,000!

There are runner-up prizes and honorable mentions as well, but, win or lose, any student who goes through this process and sees a project through to completion will receive something far more valuable than a prize. They’ll receive affirmation that hard work and study yield measurable results.

And who knows? They may even come up with an idea that can change the world.

Registration is open until April 20, 2017. For more information, visit the official Challenge web site.

And to help us keep you informed about other free educational resources and programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

 

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Lessons from That Infamous Day in December

  • Nov 29, 2016

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Most of us hadn’t yet been born the day Japanese forces attacked a U.S. naval station in Hawaii, causing thousands of casualties and drawing the United States into World War II. And yet, even now, a full 75 years later, the words Pearl Harbor carry a weight and urgency usually reserved for things we’ve experienced ourselves. They rouse in us a sense of reverence, as well as loss, and they are yet another hard-earned reminder that history, for both the world and for the individual, can change in a single, unexpected moment.

And so it is with great respect that we approach what will be the 75th anniversary of that infamous day on December 7, 2016. No doubt, teachers will take the opportunity to offer insight and context. And to that end, our friends at the History channel have compiled an excellent collection of free educational materials comprising historic audio & video, lesson plans, and much more.

You’ll find these resources on the History website and at History Classroom.

To help us keep you informed about other free educational resources and programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

 

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Invite Your Students to Take the United States Citizenship Quiz

  • Nov 16, 2016

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If you’re a history or social studies teacher, you no doubt recognize the importance of incorporating  current events into your curricula whenever possible—as a way of illustrating a civics concept, perhaps, or to demonstrate how even long-ago events can have a direct impact on the present.

Our friends at History Classroom understand this, and over the years they have developed an impressive collection of study guides and classroom activities that can help you do these things effectively.

Take, for example, their Citizenship Quiz study guide.

With all the debate these days about citizenship, teachers have a perfect opportunity to help students consider not only the importance of this personal status, but the responsibilities that come along with it. On the History Classroom website you’ll find both the long and short versions of the actual quiz that aspiring Americans must pass in order to gain citizenship. Students can take this quiz for themselves, and then deepen their understanding by taking part in related classroom activities, which are outlined in the accompanying study guide.

The exercises touch on United States history, civics, and government, and are geared toward students in grades 5-12.

You’ll find both the quiz and the study guide on History Classroom’s website.

Check it out for yourself. And to help us keep you informed about other free educational resources and programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

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An Amazing Opportunity for Students

  • Nov 01, 2016

StudentCam2017-Logo2

Each year at this time, we’re excited to announce the start of C-SPAN’s StudentCam short documentary competition, a unique opportunity for young filmmakers (grades 6-12) to influence the national conversation with a 5 to 7-minute film on an issue of sociopolitical importance.

And as an added incentive, C-SPAN will award cash prizes to 150 winning students and 53 teacher advisors!

This year’s theme:

“Your Message to Washington”
What is the most urgent issue for the new president and Congress to address in 2017?

Students may begin submitting videos on November 1, 2016. The submission deadline for all videos is January 20, 2017.

As we like to say in this space, the two things every student has these days are 1) a camera, and 2) an opinion. Let’s help them discover the opportunities available to them when they use those things constructively.

“The kids loved it. For them it was about creating memorable and engaging learning experiences,” says StudentCam participant Karen Rehder of Farragut Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee. “We took the art of research and storytelling and applied them to 21st-century learning skills.”

In order to get a better idea of what’s expected, check out last year’s winning videos here. For additional information, visit C-SPAN’s StudentCam.

Good luck!

To receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Tips on Tools for Learning and Life

  • Oct 27, 2016

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We’re always on the lookout for useful learning tools to recommend, and this week we didn’t have to look far.

Our colleagues at AT&T have assembled an outstanding library of online resources for the 2016-17 school year, comprising everything from basic coding instruction and education technology to SAT preparation and a guide to the best apps for families.

It’s all part of Digital You, a website created in collaboration with Common Sense Media that’s designed to help all of us, especially young people, thrive safely in today’s digital environment.

Learn more in this engaging blog post from Andrea Brands, Director of Consumer Safety & Education for AT&T.

And to help us keep you informed about other free educational resources and programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Science for Life

  • Sep 21, 2016

Decoding Cancer

It’s entirely possible that the next big breakthrough in the fight against cancer will be made by someone who is currently sitting in a high-school classroom, enthralled by science and wondering what their role will be in the world of tomorrow.

Our friends at Discovery Education may well have been thinking that very thought when they teamed-up with a group of recognized experts and college educators to create Decoding Cancer, a set of standards-aligned classroom resources designed to facilitate meaningful discussion among students and teachers in grades 9 through 12.

The resources—which include interactive lessons and teacher guides; a section on careers; and (coming soon) a virtual lab!—are available free to any school or educator who’d like to use them in the classroom.

Joining Discovery in this effort are the Val Skinner Foundation, and the LIFE Center at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in collaboration with the Rutgers School of Public Health. The group’s mission statement describes Decoding Cancer as “an innovative and interactive high school biology and genetics education program featuring the BioCONECT (Biology of Cancer, Online Education Connecting Teens) curriculum,” adding that the program “enhances science literacy and increases cancer education and awareness among youth.”

Check it out for yourself. Visit the Decoding Cancer website today.

And to help us keep you informed about other free resources and educational programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Help Them All Become Good Digital Citizens

  • Sep 14, 2016

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The digital landscape holds a world of possibilities for students—in education, creativity, communication, and overall empowerment. But there are challenges, too, and it’s up to adults to ensure that kids have the necessary knowledge to safely and effectively navigate the environment.

As an educator, you are uniquely positioned to impart this knowledge. And if you’re ready to take on the challenge, you’ll have an ally.

Common Sense Media is a leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. They have pledged to “empower students with the skills they need to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly.”

One way they accomplish this is through the creation of K-12 educational resources—which are easily implemented in the classroom, and freely available.

In fact, if you join Common Sense Media in pledging to empower kids, they’ll give you a free Back-to-School Guide to help you get started!

To get your copy, just take the Digital Citizenship Pledge today.

And to help us keep you informed about other free resources and educational programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Images: Common Sense Media

C-SPAN Classroom Brings the Presidential Election to YOUR Classroom!

  • Aug 25, 2016

Print

The 2016 presidential election enters the home stretch this semester, which presents teachers with a great opportunity to transform current events into learning opportunities.

And our friends at C-SPAN are ready to help!

Just one of the many fine networks delivered to your school each month as part of the DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE program package, C-SPAN is an outstanding resource for unvarnished coverage of news and current events, and always at the forefront when it comes to marshaling the power of television for education. For the current election, they’ve assembled a variety of videos and classroom materials you can start downloading right now.

We invited C-SPAN representatives to tell you more about their C-SPAN Classroom initiative, and to outline what resources are available:

C-SPAN Classroom is a free membership service for social studies teachers with the mission to enhance the teaching of social studies through C-SPAN’s primary source programming and websites. This fall, as we head toward election day, C-SPAN Classroom continues to update the Campaign 2016 section of our website. These educational resources provide explanations of the various aspects of the election process for candidates vying to become the next President of the United States. Separated into 10 main areas, each topic is supplemented with related video clips, discussion questions, handouts, and culminating activities to engage your students in the election process.

Our most recent updates feature clips on candidates and the media, endorsements, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, vice president selection, and voter values.

You can access all of C-SPAN Classroom’s free educational resources, including the Campaign 2016 page on our website.

C-SPAN Classroom and the C-SPAN Networks are made possible by the support of DIRECTV.

 

NOTE: In order to help us keep you informed about other free resources and educational programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

STEM Can Take You Places!

  • Aug 15, 2016

space week

“The General Assembly declares 4 to 10 October World Space Week to celebrate each year at the international level the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition”

UN General Assembly resolution, 6 December 1999

And in the wake of that historic declaration have come nearly two decades of education and awareness of the importance of STEM-related study. After all, no one’s ever traveled to space without packing the four essential items: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

The folks behind this annual effort do a good job of delivering on the spirit of the original resolution, as evidenced by the growing number of live events being held each year, and the creation of free educational resources that allow teachers to bring World Space Week right into their classrooms.

Are you looking for a way to get students excited about the real-world application of STEM? It doesn’t get more exciting than space travel.

Learn more about this effort by visiting the official World Space Week website. And while you’re there, go to the Events banner and look for Educational Resources. You’ll be taken to a page that’s chock-full of K-12 lesson guides and links to other resources, as well as a list of live Space Week events happening across the country, and around the world.

There may be one happening near you!

To help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Improve Student Writing and Grammar with Quill

  • Aug 10, 2016

Quill

Developments in education technology are growing more exciting every year, and, for me, never more exciting than when the most cutting-edge technology is harnessed to help teachers hammer home the most fundamental aspects of education.

Like literacy, for example, and a digital platform called Quill that’s brilliantly using technology to strengthen core language skills.

Quill is a free, easy-to-use application designed to help students develop their writing, grammar, and proofreading proficiency. It’s currently being used by over 100,000 students and 4,000 teachers nationwide, and it’s making a real difference in classrooms. How do we know? We’ve heard it from teachers.

“I’ve seen tremendous improvement in the proficiency of my students and the quality of their writing,” says Daniel Scibienski of Princeton Public Schools. “At the beginning of the year, my students were able to write using the basic fundamentals of the English language. By the end, after using Quill, my students were able to correctly write essays with consistent tone throughout and even intentionally use parallel structure to their advantage.”

Teacher Randall L. Carswell of Charlotte, North Carolina has been equally impressed. “I appreciate the fact that students are required to slow down, check spelling, punctuation and the grammar lesson at hand in order to score “GREEN!” I am noticing a much better effort by my students in their other activities, whether it be writing or literature, they seem to pay closer attention leading to a stronger performance.”

So how does Quill work? After an easy set-up process teachers can assign any of over 150 language activities which are built to Common Core standards. Each of these activities takes about 10 minutes to complete, and upon completion the students receive instant feedback on their work. Moreover, teachers and administrators receive real-time data on student progress via an in-app dashboard, so everybody’s on the same page.

And did we mention that it’s free?

“All of our lessons are free and will continue to be free in the future,” says Tom Calabrese, Quill’s cofounder and creative director. “And we recently launched a premium service which allows educators the ability to gain even more in-depth student reporting. You can sign up for a 30-day trial.”

Check out the video below for more on Quill, and be sure to visit their official website.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Supporting Student Writing

  • Aug 04, 2016

aspire

Reading and writing are foundational to education, and today we’re both proud and happy to let you know about a student literacy project being undertaken by our colleagues at AT&T.

Through its signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire, AT&T is teaming-up with the non-profit tutoring and mentoring group 826 National to help students explore their potential as authors—seeing them through every aspect of the creation of their own books. And toward this end, in addition to a financial contribution, the company is making available the greatest resource there is: people. AT&T employees will volunteer as mentors to help students through the process.

Read all about it right here.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational opportunities and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Crafty Summer Ideas

  • Aug 02, 2016

crafts

Looking for ways to keep the kids busy and learning this season? Well, good news! PBS Parents’ Crafts for Kids website offers dozens of do-it-yourself creative projects.

From Cool Ice Towers (right) and cardboard Storybook Castles (below), to indoor gardens and outdoor toys, there’s something for every taste and skill level. And best of all, most of the projects call for items you probably have around the house.

Kids have a natural inclination to make things. For them, creativity is play—but purposeful play with an end goal in mind. And with all the attention lately on project-based learning, activities like crafting, especially with regard to younger kids, seem to take on new importance.

Visit Crafts for Kids today.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational opportunities and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

 

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Images: PBS

Winners Announced in the 2015-2016 TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

  • Aug 01, 2016

TeenDrive365

Back in December we told you about the TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, a great opportunity for students to think about the importance of safe driving while showing-off their filmmaking chops and vying for cash prizes.

Well, the results are in, and this year’s contest produced another great crop of films. You can watch the Grand Prize-winning entry below, and check out all the other finalists on the Challenge website.

And while you’re there, be sure to explore all the free safe-driving resources that are available for teachers, parents and teens.

The annual TeenDrive365 Video Challenge is brought to you by Toyota and our friends at Discovery Education.

To help us keep you informed about other great free educational opportunities and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Image and video: Discovery Education

A Great Opportunity for Student Filmmakers

  • Jun 23, 2016

CineSpace

Hey, students and teachers, are you looking for a cool way to kick-off your summer break? Why not make a film?

Following on the success of last year’s CineSpace short film competition, NASA and the Houston Cinema Arts Society are once again inviting filmmakers of all ages to vie for cash prizes by creating a movie of any genre that incorporates content from NASA’s library of historic images and video!

If you enter, you’ll be competing for $26,000 in prizes with cash awards going to the top three submissions as well as the two films that best demonstrate the themes “Benefits of Space to Humanity” and “Future Space Exploration.”

But you’ll have to act fast. Deadline for submission is July 31st.

This year’s contest, which is open to all professional and aspiring filmmakers, will be judged by acclaimed director Richard Linklater (School of Rock). Participants under the age of 18 will need the permission of a parent or guardian to enter.

Check out last year’s 1st Place winner below, then head over to CineSpace for more info.

Good luck, and here’s hoping it’s your film being featured here next time!

To help us keep you informed about other great free educational opportunities and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Image and video: NASA/Houston Cinema Arts Festival

A Great Way to Bring Current Events Into Your Classroom

  • May 11, 2016

eLECTION cONNECTION

This year’s presidential election has been unusual, to say the least, and no doubt it’s been a topic of conversation in your classrooms. And whether you and your students are studying current events or simply discussing them, there are available to you a host of channels and free resources that can help make any such engagement educational.

Today we bring you news of yet another terrific election resources from educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and our friends at HISTORY. HMH Election Connection is a free online resource billed as a “comprehensive, one-stop information hub for current and historical election coverage.” Geared toward students in grades 6 through 12, the site includes a wide range of materials, including daily news broadcasts, lesson plans, HISTORY videos, and readers.

There are also activities available, including guidelines for conducting a mock election, and one particularly interesting project designed to help students recognize propaganda.

Overall, HMH Election Connection is a solid resource with lots to offer the creative educator. Check out the website today. For additional election resources, visit HISTORY.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/HISTORY

NAVY STEM CLASSROOM RESOURCES

  • May 04, 2016

Navy STEM

With all the emphasis lately on STEM-related fields as viable career paths it’s worth noting that, with regard to preparing young people for the future, the United States military is among the most effective training grounds, turning out large numbers of disciplined, well-trained professionals each and every year.

With that in mind, we’re happy to report that Discovery Education has teamed-up with the United States Navy to offer Navy Stem, a collection of free, online-based interactive lesson plans specifically designed for grades 9 through 12. From the physics of flight to the engineering of future ships, it’s an engaging and valuable resource with an emphasis on careers.

Lesson plans are geared to Common Core Math, Next Generations Science, and ISTE Standards.

Check it out for yourself on the official Navy STEM website.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Image: Discovery Education

An Historic Development

  • Apr 26, 2016

Tubman

With the recent announcement that abolitionist Harriet Tubman (right) will replace President Andrew Jackson on the face of our $20 bill comes a great educational opportunity comprising history, social studies, civil rights, and government studies—a teachable moment that springs from a little slice of history that’s unfolding right before our eyes, and, more to the point, right before the eyes of our students.

With that in mind, our friends at History Classroom have made available a free, downloadable study guide entitled Redesigning Our Nation’s Currency, a handy overview of the history and process of American currency redesign. Also included are suggested classroom activities and links for further study.

If you decide to investigate this resource you’ll no doubt quickly determine that it was created back when the only bill under consideration for redesign was the 10. Now we’re doing three bills, but the study guide certainly holds up as a tool for educators seeking to help students of all ages navigate this important story.

See for yourself on History Classroom’s website.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

20 Front

Image credits:
Harriet Tubman: Ohio History Connection (OHC), dated circa 1887 by H.G. Smith, Studio Building, Boston.
$20 bill: Wikipedia; public domain

Making the World Just a Little Bit Smaller

  • Apr 18, 2016

NatGeoMundo

Earlier this year, we put out a call to adventure and high-school students answered—from the United States and Latin America, young people raised their hands for a chance to win an all-expense-paid National Geographic Student Expediton of their choice, courtesy of DIRECTV and Nat Geo Mundo Explorer.

And we have our winners!

Hailing from Alabama, Ecuador and Uruguay, our explorers will be spending this summer in such diverse places as Tanzania, Peru and Nepal, doing things like tutoring children, rebuilding homes that were damaged in an earthquake, and experiencing the wonders of Machu Picchu and Mount Kiliminjaro.

Congratulations to all!

Check out this blog post for more on our lucky winners and their big plans for summer. To learn more about National Geographic Student Expeditions, simply visit their official website.

And be sure to follow us on Twitter. We’ll keep you up-to-date on other great opportunities and free educational resources.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Image credit: National Geographic Student Expeditions

Educational Resources That Are On the Money

  • Apr 08, 2016

mymoney.gov

Would it surprise you to learn that, as of right now, only 20 states require that high school students study economics? And according to a report by CNBC, that’s actually 2 less than the number that required it in 2014.

It certainly surprised me, considering the important role that money plays in the quality of our lives, especially with regard to smart stewardship.

With that in mind, we’d like to call your attention to MyMoney.gov, a free resource from the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission established (as it says on the website) “to strengthen financial capability and increase access to financial services for all Americans.”

The site features a section devoted exclusively to teachers and educators, featuring curricula, lesson plans, tip sheets, guidance, and helpful tools for teaching financial capability. The topic range is wide, covering everything from savings and investment to taxes and student aid, and there are materials available for students PreK-12, much of it standards-aligned.

Check it out for yourself. Visit MyMoney.gov today.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

image credit: mymoney.gov

Your SCHOOL CHOICE Networks Bring a World of Learning and Life Experience to the Classroom

  • Mar 30, 2016

Scripps

Recently, I was looking over the DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup and it occurred to me all over again just what a wide variety of educational benefits there are to be drawn from the networks and programming being delivered to teachers and students all across the country each day.

There’s STEM-related programming; history and geography; education in fine arts, language, and nature; as well as news, economics, and much, much more.

And then there are the networks and programs that wonderfully demonstrate—and celebrate—the value of everyday life skills. From cooking and sewing to building and exploring, channels like HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, and DIY Network are a great way to teach students the real-world value of learning to do things.

These popular networks are essentially about living life—creating, innovating, beautifying, and discovering. Not to mention inspiring. For example:

  • The little chefs of Food Network’s Chopped Junior—ordinary children whose culinary skills can nonetheless impress a panel of world-class masters.
  • Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, who through a combination of building skills, artistic flair and love have built a wonderful life for themselves—not to mention some houses that are to die for!
  • Or how about Josh Gates of Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown, who makes a strong case for exploring the world less like a tourist and more like Indiana Jones.
  • And then there’s DIY, or, the Do It Yourself Network—a channel that’s wall-to-wall with projects that can bring out the builder and fixer-upper in all of us.

Explore for yourself what these channels have to offer, and think about ways that you might use them to inspire your students.

HGTV is channel 229 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup; Food Network is channel 231; Travel Channel 277; and DIY Network is channel 230.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Summer Learning for Teachers

  • Mar 30, 2016

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Teachers, have you got any plans for this summer? I sure hope so, because you deserve it. And as you make those plans you might want to consider spending some time between excursions connecting with other teachers, and being inspired, by taking advantage of Discovery Education in Action‘s free Webinar series—a great way to recharge your batteries and transform your teaching.

From Discovery’s catalogue: “Join us as we step into Discovery Educators’ classrooms from around globe. In this series you’ll hear practical tips and see strategies for integrating Discovery Education into your teaching. Listen, connect, and be inspired as our Community shares ways they are transforming teaching and learning.”

You’ll find more information about these Discovery Education in Action Webinars on the Discovery website, but in order to give you some idea of what’s available, here’s a breakdown:

  • May 31  STEM
  • June 21  Collaborative Projects
  • July 26  Top 10 Takeaways from DEN Summer Institute 2016 (DEN Summer Institute is a weeklong residential-style event, being held this July in Chicago, focused on professional learning, leadership, and networking. For info on attending, visit DEN online).
  • August 30  Back-to-School

There will also be a series of live Day of Discovery events held in various cities throughout the summer. Visit Discovery online for more information on those opportunities.

So, have a great summer! And to help us keep you informed about great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

C-SPAN Is Election Central for Students and Teachers!

  • Mar 23, 2016

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The race for the White House is on, and C-SPAN Classroom has earned our endorsement for once again providing teachers with the best, most educational lesson plans, activities, and materials—including a 2016 Electoral College Map poster (pictured, below) available free-of-charge for registered C-SPAN Classroom members!

This large, beautiful graphic, which will look great in your classroom, is designed to facilitate educational discussion on a variety of topics relating to the 2016 election, and is suited to a wide range of grade levels. How you use it is up to you, but if you’re looking for ideas there is a collection of lesson plans and activities available at C-SPAN Classroom as well.

Sign-up and request your poster today. Registration is also free.

But wait, there’s more!

C-SPAN Classroom has also put together a wonderful collection of resources (developed by teachers) that cover all aspects of the election process, from candidates and campaign ads to polling, campaign financing, and debate—each topic supplemented with related video clips, discussion questions, handouts, and culminating activities to reinforce students’ learning.

Check it out for yourself. These resources are all free-of-charge, and available right now on the C-SPAN Classroom website.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Educational Activities for Student Shutterbugs

  • Mar 22, 2016

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Of all the educational resources we write about in this blog, none is more unique than Ovation TV’s Arts Ed Toolkit, a well-curated collection of documentaries and series accompanied by free, downloadable lesson plans and activities.

I say unique not only because Ovation TV is really the only network of its kind—dedicated as much to arts advocacy as it is to being television’s premiere arts network—but because a big part of their mission is devoted to arts education, which, let’s face it, no longer receives the attention it deserves in most quarters.

And so with that in mind we are happy to once again bring your attention to Ovation TV’s Arts Ed Toolkit. Specifically, a unit they’re offering right now entitled The Art of: Photography.

Comprised of streaming video and downloadable lesson plans, the package explores the work of three world class photographers with an emphasis on what inspires their art. The accompanying lessons, aimed at students in grades 9 through 12, are well structured, and aligned with national standards. As always, the material is available to teachers free of charge.

You can learn more on the official Arts Ed Toolkit website.

And to learn about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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The Results Are In!

  • Mar 16, 2016

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“With the presidential campaign in the forefront of people’s minds, we wanted to hear from students across the country about the issues that matter to them,” says Craig McAndrew, C-SPAN’s Manager of Education Relations.

And hear they did! Nearly 6,000 student filmmakers (in grades 6-8) took part in this year’s C-SPAN StudentCam documentary competition, creating 2,887 films based on the theme: “Road to the White House: What’s the issue YOU want candidates to discuss during the 2016 presidential election?”

As it turned out, the top three issues chosen by students this cycle had to do with the economy, equality, and education, and the films they created by which to express themselves were stellar even for this competition, which has been bringing out the best in student filmmakers since 2006. In all, 150 students and 53 teachers were awarded prizes. But it was 10th-grade student Olivia Hurd of Jenks, Oklahoma (below), who scored the year’s top spot with her thoroughly engaging documentary about the national debt, Up to Our Necks.

We congratulate Olivia, along with all of this year’s winning teachers and students!

Learn more about the competition and watch all the winning entries on the official StudentCam website.

And to learn about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Space-Based STEM Education for the Scientists of Tomorrow

  • Mar 09, 2016

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Of all students, elementary-schoolers are probably the best equipped to respond to STEM education that is presented in the context of space exploration and adventure. I say that because younger kids are still firmly in-touch with their innate sense of wonder, and more importantly, still open enough to believe that if they dream big and work hard, they can achieve amazing things.

It’s their universe as much as it is ours, after all, and the good folks at NASA Education have come up with a cool new way to help them take hold of it—via a thoroughly engaging collection of science, technology, engineering, and math resources.

NASA Space Place is a free educational website for elementary students, their teachers, and their parents. Loaded with educational classroom activities, videos, experiments, and games, it’s a great place to learn, play, and grow. Teachers can use the materials they find on Space Place to build lesson plans that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. In addition, many of the classroom activities featured can easily be adapted to the high school classroom.

Explore NASA Space Place for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Grammar School

  • Mar 03, 2016

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“Avoid commas, that are unnecessary.”
                                                 —William Safire

If you get the joke, chances are you’ll see the value of No Nonsense Grammar, a series of downloadable videos and lesson plans available free of charge from PBS LearningMedia for Students.

The materials, which are aimed at elementary and middle-school students, are divided into five categories: Punctuation; Capitalization & Spelling; Verb Tense, Mood & Voice; Usage; and Sentence Structure. The videos are humorous and engaging (see screen grabs, below), and the accompanying materials—which include standards-based lesson plans, activities, and handouts—are well organized and easily digestible. All in all, it’s yet another fine educational offering from the good folks at PBS.

Check out the collection for yourself. Visit No Nonsese Grammar today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Introduce Your Students to a Top Young Scientist!

  • Feb 25, 2016

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Hannah Herbst was in the 7th grade, just beginning to realize her love for science and engineering, when a letter from her 9-year-old Ethiopian pen pal changed her life.

The younger girl described what it was like to live with no access to lights, a steady flow of fresh water, and other basic necessities, and Hannah was moved. As she said in a blog post, “I recognized that her situation was not unique and believed that I could use the skills I acquired to take action in an attempt to mitigate the global energy crisis.”

Inspired by a science teacher, Hannah set to work creating an energy probe prototype designed to offer a stable power source to developing countries via untapped energy from ocean currents—a brilliant accomplishment that won Hannah the title of America’s 2015 Top Young Scientist.

And seeing Hannah in action (video, below), you’ve got to believe she’s only getting started.

Do you think that meeting Hannah might change the lives of your students? Find out for yourself by signing-up for a free, live online event on Tuesday, March 8th at 1pm ET, wherein Hannah will share her unique invention, talk about her experiences in the challenge, and answer questions from students.

For more information, visit the Young Scientist Challenge website.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Cartoon Network Announces a Major Commitment to Computer Science for All

  • Feb 18, 2016

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According to the White House, more than 600,000 high-paying tech jobs across the United States went unfilled, and by 2018, 51 percent of all STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields. Moreover, computer science and data science are not only important for the tech sector, but for many industries, including transportation, healthcare, education, and financial services.

In other words, there is much to be done in regard to preparing our young people to thrive in an increasingly STEM-based future.

Recently, the White House announced a new presidential initiative called Computer Science for All, an effort to empower all American students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and be equipped with the computational thinking skills they need to be creators in the digital economy, not just consumers. The call has gone out to anyone and everyone who can make a difference, and to date, some 50 entities, both public and private, have committed to doing what they can.

Among them, our good friends at Cartoon Network, who have announced a $30 million commitment to engaging our kids in creative coding!

The network will collaborate with the Scratch Team at MIT’s Media Lab to create free coding tutorials which will be available to children on the Scratch platforma block-based programming language and online community where young people create their own interactive media projects at no cost (check out the video below, and share it with your students).

In addition, Cartoon Network will use its multi-platform reach to raise awareness of computer literacy and coding among kids.

“This generation of kids is incredibly creative and inventive, and we’re inspired by them every day,” said Christina Miller, president and general manager of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang. “Computer literacy and learning to code are vitally important skills that foster creativity and self-expression. With this long-term commitment, we will leverage our brands and platforms to drive awareness for coding and provide access to the necessary tools to kids everywhere. The result, we hope, is that we help inspire the next generation as much as they inspire us.”

Note: Cartoon Network East is channel 296 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup; Cartoon Network West is channel 297.

For more STEM news, and to find out about and other free educational resources, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

K-12 STEM Resources from PBS

  • Feb 11, 2016

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If you follow education topics on social media you have no doubt come across the word “makers” quite often of  late.

It’s a handy distillation of what amounts to a growing movement toward applied sciences. That is to say, people, especially young people, making stuff—or improving stuff, or figuring out new and better ways to do stuff. And at the center of it all you find STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), an important 21st-Century emphasis in education that recognizes both where we are headed, and just how much untapped potential there is available in our classrooms to get us there.

And this is all good news, of course. So good, in fact, that more and more entities and organizations are doing what they can to help.

Which brings us to PBS Learning Media and the Makers initiative, a web-based, one-stop shop of STEM and digital making resources that focus on the problem, technology, or process behind object creation. On the Makers website you’ll find something for every student K through 12, and it’s all available free of charge!

The material is multi-media, accompanied by standards-based lesson plans, and presented in 5 categories: Arts and Crafts, Design, Engineering, How To (DIY), and Robotics.

And in keeping with the idea that Makers is really all about students doing things themselves, the collection was designed and curated by a high school student working toward a career in technology. Nice touch.

Check it out for yourself. Visit Makers today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

He Named Me Malala DVD Giveaway Program!

  • Feb 02, 2016

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“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” — Malala Yousafzai

Like people all over the world, we’ve followed with admiration and excitement the ongoing story of Malala Yousafzai, who was just 15 years-old when she was targeted by for assassination by the Taliban for speaking out on girls’ education. Having survived that attempt on her life, Malala has since taken her campaign global, becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and winning millions of supporters along the way.

Her story was beautifully captured in the award-winning documentary He Named Me Malala, and now, the Students Stand #withMalala campaign—a collaboration between Participant Media and the Malala Fund—is providing free DVD copies of the film (and licensing fees) to teachers and educators who would like to bring Malala’s story into their schools and communities.

And in addition to the film there are supplementary learning resources available for download, including a curriculum guide and discussion guide created by Journeys Into Film, as well as a toolkit to help turn your students into activists.

So, would you like to stand #withMalala? Sign-up for your free DVD right here.

Note: To qualify for a free DVD and education license, screenings must be for educational purposes and admission may not be charged. If you have questions, please contact: Malalafieldtrip@participantmedia.com.

And to find out about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Apply Today for the C-SPAN 2016 Teacher Fellowship Program

  • Jan 25, 2016

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If you are a state certified middle or high school teacher (U.S. History, Civics, Government, or related curriculum) who uses C-SPAN resources in your classroom, you could find yourself in the nation’s capital this summer helping to shape education nationwide!

C-SPAN is seeking innovative educators for its 2016 Teacher Fellowship Program, which will take place over the course of four consecutive weeks this June-July at the network’s offices in Washing, DC.

Chosen Fellows will collaborate with the C-SPAN Education department to develop new teaching materials using the network’s vast library of resources, and participants will also be invited to brainstorm ideas with fellow teachers at a series of educator conferences.

And to seal the deal, each Fellow receives a stipend of $7,000 to cover housing, travel, and living expenses.

So, what are you doing this summer?

Registration is open until Friday, February 26, 2016. For more information visit C-SPAN Classroom.

And to find out about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Calling All Student Explorers!

  • Jan 12, 2016

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DIRECTV and NatGeo Mundo are sending four lucky high school students on the adventure of a lifetime this summer. Encourage eligible students to apply today for their chance to go on a National Geographic Student Expedition of their choice!

It’s a dream for adventure enthusiasts, but a dream that’s now well within reach thanks to National Geographic Student Expeditions, a unique travel program offering students the opportunity to get out into the field with NatGeo photographers, scientists, and writers.

Through the NatGeo Mundo Explorer program, four deserving high school students (two from the U.S. and two from Latin America) will experience one of these fabulous Expeditions this summer—with exciting destinations around the world to choose from!

Share the video below with your students and encourage them to apply today. They just might find themselves on the all-expense-paid adventure of a lifetime, courtesy of DIRECTV and NatGeo Mundo Explorer.

Applications will be accepted until March 1, 2016. For more information, and to apply, visit our program web site.

To find out about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

War Stories

  • Jan 08, 2016

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It’s nearly impossible for the uninitiated to fully appreciate what it’s like to be a soldier at war, and yet it’s really the duty of every American to at least try. After all, the personal sacrifices made by the members of our military, the harrowing experiences and losses endured by even those who return to us fully intact, are made on our behalf.

So with an eye toward understanding, we’re proud to help get the word out about History Channel’s Live to Tell, a new series that offers warriors who’ve served on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq the opportunity to share their personal experiences of war.

Relevant to current events, history and politics courses, the program is recommended for students in 10th grade and above.

Live to Tell premieres Sunday, January 10th at 10/9c on HISTORY (channel 269 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup). All episodes will also be available for streaming subsequent to airing.

You can watch the series trailer, below.

And for news about other great educational programs, bookmark this site and be sure to follow DIRECTV GOES TO SCHOOL on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Registration is now open for the 2016 Young Scientist Challenge!

  • Dec 22, 2015

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Parents and teachers, please help us inspire the next generation of scientists by encouraging your students to consider the 2016 3M/Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge.

The annual competition, which was founded in 1999, has introduced the world to a slew of promising young minds—kids who, because of participation in this contest, have learned that working hard to apply what they’ve learned really can set a boundless course for their lives.

The contest is open to all students in grades 5-8, and what they’d be vying for is the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” and a grand prize of $25,000!

Who knows? It may be your encouragement that changes a kid’s life forever.

Registration is open until 8:00 PM ET on April 20, 2016. For more information visit the official Challenge web site.

And to find out about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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A Writing Contest for Young Space Enthusiasts

  • Dec 18, 2015

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As I write this, the unmanned Cassini spacecraft is headed for Saturn en route to a scheduled close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus on December 19th—a mission that will garner invaluable geological data about a world far, far away.

Just think about that for a moment. Scientific exploration of alien worlds via technology that was science fiction not all that long ago.

It’s a stunning moment in human achievement, not to mention STEM advocacy, but moreover it’s a golden opportunity to ignite the imaginations of those very people who may one day take the exploration even further: your students. Which is why we bring you news today of the Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest.

NASA Education invites students in grades 5-12 to pen a 500-word essay on the Cassini Mission for a chance to win once-in-a-lifetime recognition and a very special opportunity for their fellow students!

The winning essays and their student authors will be featured on NASA’a web site. In addition, winning schools will be guaranteed participation in a teleconference or video conference with Cassini scientists!

The contest meets U.S. National English and Science Education Standards. Deadline for submission is Friday, February 26, 2016. For more information visit the official contest web site.

And to find out about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Note: Watch the video below for a compelling overview of the Cassini Mission.

Campaigns in Your Classroom

  • Dec 08, 2015

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With the commencement of the Iowa Caucuses on February 1 the presidential election season will be officially underway, and your students can have a front-row seat for the entire process with DIRECTV.

If your school is among the thousands across America who have raised their hands to receive complimentary programming via our  DIRECTV Goes to School initiative, you and your students already enjoy full access to some of the very best election coverage available on television—including shows and study resources prepared specifically for education.

For example, there’s C-SPAN (DIRECTV channel 350), the highly-respected source for exhaustive and unvarnished coverage of public affairs. Live coverage of daily politics is their mainstay, and it’s backed-up by a dedicated Road to the White House 2016 web site that’s heavy on study materials and completely free-of-charge for teachers and students.

C-SPAN’s sister network, C-SPAN2 (ch. 351), is another great resource for daily public affairs coverage, and it’s also included in our DIRECTV School Choice lineup.

Other news channels in your DIRECTV lineup include Bloomberg Television (ch. 353), CNN (ch. 202) and CNN en Español (ch. 419), Fox News Channel (ch. 360), HLN (Ch. 204), and MSNBC (ch. 356)—all of which will be covering the campaigns.

And of special note this election season is CNN Student News, a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program designed for viewing in middle and high school classrooms. Produced by the journalists at CNN, and anchored by Carl Azuz (students love this guy), this award-winning show is new and timely each morning on the CNN Student News web site.

All in all that’s a lot of presidential campaign coverage, and it’s coming your way every day via DIRECTV School Choice. You can record shows for use in the classroom; download lesson plans to incorporate into existing curricula; or even come up with special projects for extra credit. How you “elect” to use all this great material it is up to you.

So start exploring!

And to learn about some of the other great benefits of DIRECTV School Choice, just bookmark this site for regular updates, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Calling All High School Filmmakers

  • Dec 03, 2015

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We received some exciting news today about the 2015-2016 TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, brought to you by Toyota and our friends at Discovery Education. Students in grades 9-12 (age 13+) are invited to create a short video on safe driving for the chance to win one of 9 generous cash prizes (and do something really important in the process).

The top prize winner will receive $15,000 and a chance to re-shoot their video with a professional Discovery crew!

The deadline for entries is 3/7/16. Please help us spread the word.

You can watch last year’s top prize-winning video below, and for more information visit the official TeenDrive365 web site.

And to find out about other great opportunities, as well as free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Inspiration Station

  • Nov 24, 2015

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It’s a sad fact that in schools where space or funding are an issue, arts education suffers. Fortunately, though, there’s always plenty of room for arts ed on Ovation TV’s web site, and money’s not an issue because it’s always free of charge!

From music and theater to fine art and design, Ovation’s Arts Ed Toolkit offers free, curated content for your high school classroom. Each unit is comprised of a streaming video presentation culled from the network’s high-quality library of series and documentaries, and accompanied by a downloadable lesson plan supporting National Core Arts Standards.

Featured resources available right now include The Art Of: Photography; Raiders of the Lost Art: Leonardo da Vinci, a lesson in art history built around the theft of the Mona Lisa, and a look at music and songwriting with recording artist Sheryl Crow.

And that’s really just the beginning of what’s available. Check out the Arts Ed Toolkit and see for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: Ovation TV is channel 274 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Watch and Learn

  • Nov 18, 2015

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Currently airing on National Geographic Channel, Breakthrough is a landmark series of six documentary films that explore new realms of scientific research in a variety of fields. And as a gift to educators, the series is accompanied by a web-based learning module that allows you to bring that cutting-edge science into K-12 classrooms!

With an eye toward the future, especially as it concerns passionate innovation and the evolving relationship between people and technology, each hour-long episode of Breakthrough is directed by a well-known Hollywood personality who approaches the material as a passion project:

Episode 1: Fighting Pandemics (Peter Berg)
Episode 2: More Than Human (Paul Giamatti)
Episode 3: Decoding the Brain (Brett Ratner)
Episode 4: The Age of Aging (Ron Howard)
Episode 5: Energy on the Edge (Akiva Goldsman)
Episode 6: Water Apocalypse (Angela Bassett)

Says Angela Bassett, whose Water Apocalypse deals with efforts to ensure that people everywhere have access to clean drinking water, “I would most like this film to be an impetus for inspiring young, creative minds, and even mature minds, to come up with innovative ideas that help solve our water problem. First, we have to think about it. We have to be concerned about it. We have to know that there is a problem.”

For more on the series, watch the trailer below. And for ideas on how to bring this important material to life in your classroom, be sure to check out Breakthrough‘s Innovation Lab, an online interactive education hub that offers engaging ways for K-12 students to learn more about the topics covered.

Breakthrough airs Sunday nights at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT on National Geographic Channel (DIRECTV channel 276).
Complete episodes are also archived for viewing on the Breakthrough web site.

To find out about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Great Opportunity for Student Writers

  • Nov 12, 2015

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Teachers, do you have any talented young writers in your classroom? It’s possible. And wouldn’t you just love to be perhaps the first person in their lives to tell them they’ve got a gift?

If so, we’d encourage you to check out Scholastic’s annual Kids Are Authors competition, a wonderful opportunity for young writers and artists to pursue their crafts together on a serious level and possibly even get published!

The contest is open to all students grades K-8 in the United States, including its territories and possessions, and the deadline for submission is March 15th, 2016. There are two categories, Fiction and Non-Fiction, and the two grand-prize-winning illustrated books (21-29 pages) will be published by Scholastic and sold at Book Fairs throughout the country.

By the way, according to Scholastic this will be the final year for the competition, so now’s your chance!

For more information visit the official Kids Are Authors web site.

And to find out about other great free educational resources and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Adventures in Math

  • Nov 05, 2015

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If you’re looking for a fun, engaging way to frame mathematics for primary students, look no further than Cyberchase, an Emmy Award-winning  educational series from PBS.

Geared to children ages 8-12 (grades 3-5), Cyberchase depicts a colorfully animated fantasy world wherein young heroes (and their cyberpal, Digit) must protect cyberspace from a hilariously villainous troublemaker named Hacker. Less a battle of good against evil than a match between mischief and intellect, each episode finds the kids using math concepts to thwart Hacker’s latest scheme. It’s all in good fun, and very funny, especially scenes involving Hacker’s somewhat less capable henchmen, Buzz and Delete.

Each episode concludes with a live-action segment entitled “For Real,” wherein young people use math to figure out solutions to everyday problems.

The show’s stated philosophy includes a mission statement comprising four basic goals: To foster enthusiasm for math in the critical years when too many children decide they do not like or are not good at the subject; to model math reasoning and help children improve their problem-solving skills; to demonstrate the usefulness of math; and to inspire all children to approach math with confidence and a “can-do” attitude.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Cyberchase has been found via independent researchers to have a very positive impact on young math students. You can download and review those studies here.

There’s also an extensive Teacher’s Guide available for free on the PBS Kids GO! web site, chock full of activities and lesson plans which coincide with specific episodes.

Cyberchase airs weekday mornings on PBS (check local listings).
NOTE: Episodes may be recorded and archived for classroom use for up to one year.

To learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Good News

  • Oct 28, 2015

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“We are all journalists now.”

Chances are you’ve run across that statement somewhere. More and more people are saying it, because it’s true. The line has been blurred. No longer do the professionals have a monopoly on published information. Whether you’re blogging or tweeting or posting things on Facebook, you are functioning—for all practical purposes—as a journalist.

But the question is: Are you a “responsible” journalist? Is the information you are publishing true, or propaganda, or (heaven forbid) an outright lie?

It’s an important question when you consider that we are all, each of us, now living in a virtual sea of information, and information is the stuff people use to make decisions. Decisions that have consequences. Information is a powerful thing.

I believe this point is especially relevant for young people, most of whom haven’t yet compiled enough savvy to recognize that not everything they read is accurate, or even true. Moreover, young people are digital natives, more likely than any other group to both publish and receive information exclusively via the internet.

For this reason alone, I believe that media literacy and a core understanding of journalistic principles are essential to modern education. And to that end, I bring you news of a new trio of resources from PBS Learning Media designed to foster media literacy and responsible citizen journalism in students grades 9 through 12.

Presented as learning modules comprising standards-based classroom exercises and support materials for teachers, the available topics are:

Writing and Reporting/Collaborative Research
A primer on news writing and reporting.

Current Events Awareness/Media Literacy
Consuming news with a critical eye.

Persuasive Writing: Take a Stand
How to state ideas clearly and back them up with proof.

These lessons and more come your way free of charge as part of an exciting new educational effort from the Emmy-winning PBS news magazine series, NOW. We highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Follow the Money

  • Oct 22, 2015

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According to the Council for Economic Education, only 43% of American 12th grade students tested at or above proficient on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) economics assessment, and U.S. teenagers fall somewhere around the middle of the pack globally when it comes to financial literacy.

It doesn’t take an economist to point out that such numbers will only trend downward if uninterrupted, as acknowledged even by the White House last spring when President Obama officially proclaimed April, 2015 to be National Financial Capability Month.

Since then, financial literacy has become more and more a subject of national conversation, and if your school would like to have a voice in this conversation we know a good place for you to begin.

Econ Essentials is a free, web-based interactive resource from Discovery Education and the CME Group designed to help students in grades 9 through 12 gain a solid understanding of economic principles. Currently there are two core learning modules available on the site—both aligned with high school economics standards—as well as a more advanced section exploring investment concepts such as futures, hedging, and speculation.

It’s all very practical, even challenging, and a welcome real-world approach to what many students might otherwise view as dry material.

See for yourself. Check out Econ Essentials today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Explore a New World of Learning

  • Oct 16, 2015

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Mars is everywhere these days, figuratively speaking. From breathtaking imagery captured by the Curiosity Rover, and growing excitement over possible evidence for Martian water, to NASA’s recent announcement of 3-part plan to put people on Mars within two decades, it’s safe to say that the red planet is having a moment.

Heck, it’s even co-starring in a hit movie with Matt Damon!

All this excitement presents teachers with a golden opportunity—a chance to present real-world  STEM application to young people who are watching scientific history play out before their eyes. Luckily, our friends at NASA Education are ready to help educators make the most of this opportunity with an exhaustive online collection of Mars-related STEM resources they call the Mars Survival Kit.

Well organized and easy to navigate, the site offers standards-based classroom projects and lesson plans for students in kindergarten through high school. And it’s all free of charge.

Check out the Mars Survival Kit for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Celebrate National Energy Star Day with a Live Virtual Event in Your Classroom!

  • Oct 06, 2015

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DIRECTV has partnered with Discovery Education to bring you and your students a live virtual discussion on the global importance of energy efficiency with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The event will come your way LIVE from Washington, DC on October 27th at 1pm EST, and is recommended for students in grades 6 through 8.

There will be downloadable classroom activities available to prepare your class for the discussion, and your students may even submit questions for Administrator McCarthy in advance!

Virtual field trips and events like this are a fun and easy way enhance your students’ educational experience. There’s no cost to participate, and the technical requirements are minimal—all you need is an internet-connected computer and a way to share with students (for example, a projector and speakers).

To learn more, and to register your class, visit the event’s official web site.

And to find out about other great free educational resources and programs, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Courting History

  • Oct 05, 2015

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For many years now, the good folks at C-SPAN have been providing viewers with a steady stream of public affairs-oriented programming that is dependably unvarnished, deeply informational, and always of great use to educators. And this fall, the winning streak continues with the premiere of Landmark Cases.

Produced in cooperation with the National Constitution Center, Landmark Cases is a 12-part documentary series that delves deep into some of the Court’s most significant and frequently cited decisions, from 1803 (Marbury v. Madison) to 1973 (Roe v. Wade).

Each 90-minute episode will air live on C-SPAN and C-SPAN3, Monday nights at 9pm ET beginning October 5th, 2015, and will subsequently be archived for further viewing online. Check out the series  trailer, below, and be sure to visit the Landmark Cases web site.

And to find out about other great educational shows and resources, simply bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Teachers, Show Off Your STEM Lesson Flow and You Might Be a Winner!

  • Sep 30, 2015

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There’s a $2,000 Amazon gift card awaiting the educator who creates the best STEM Lesson Flow aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a wonderful opportunity from our friends at Common Sense Graphite and the Carnegie Foundation.

Even STEAM approaches integrating art are encouraged!

But whether STEM or STEAM, you’ll have to act fast. The deadline for submission is Oct. 19, 2015 at midnight PST.

Ready to take the #STEMchallenge? Visit Common Sense Graphite today.

And to find out about other great opportunities, as well as free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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An Egg-cellent Opportunity for Learning

  • Sep 24, 2015

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Note: If you missed this LIVE virtual field trip, you’ll be happy to know it’s been archived online along with all related classroom materials. You’ll find it here.

Virtual field trips are a growing trend these days, offering tech-savvy teachers a hassle-free way to show students the world outside their classrooms. In fact, so popular are these on-screen excursions that more and more organizations have been stepping-up to make them available, often at no cost.

For example, on October 15th, 2015, Discovery Education and the Good Egg Project will present a LIVE virtual field trip to Creighton Brothers Farms in Warsaw, Indiana for an on-site lesson in nutrition, sustainability, and the farm-to-table process, as well as the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, and the importance of high-quality animal husbandry.

The technical requirements for this trip are simple, and there are downloadable lesson plans and teacher guides available for grades K-8!

To learn more, and to register your class, visit The Good Egg Project Education Station.

And to find out about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Share Your Passion for Math and Science and You Could Win a College Education!

  • Sep 17, 2015

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The Breakthrough Junior Challenge—presented by the Breakthrough Prize and Khan Academy—invites students 13 through 18 to submit a 10-minute video that illustrates a challenging concept or theory of mathematics, life sciences, or physics in an engaging, illuminating, and creative way. Make the best video and you’ll win a $250,000 post-secondary scholarship! Seriously.

That’s an amazing prize, and an amazing opportunity. And there are also prizes available for participating teachers and schools.

The deadline for submission is October 7, 2015—so get busy!

To learn more, check out the video below. Then visit the Breakthrough Junior Challenge.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

FREE Field Trips to See He Named Me Malala!

  • Sep 09, 2015

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In collaboration with Participant Media and Fox Searchlight, the Malala Fund is offering middle and high school students and teachers in select cities across America free field trips to October screenings of the new documentary, He Named Me Malala.

These complimentary trips can even include transportation to and from the movie theater, along with insurance and other services related to your trip. But funding is first come, first served while funds last, so act fast!

The film, which is rated PG-13, tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, who was just 15 years-old when she was targeted by for assassination by the Taliban for speaking out on girls’ education. Having survived that attempt on her life, Malala has since gone on to take her campaign global, becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and winning millions of supporters along the way.

You can watch the trailer for He Named Me Malala below.

NOTE: Curriculum and discussion guides will be available to all participating teachers to facilitate post-screening lessons back in the classroom.

To register for the field trip, visit Students Stand with Malala.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Space Station STEM Ed

  • Sep 03, 2015

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One does not have to be a rocket scientist in order to recognize that space travel is probably the greatest commercial there is for STEM. I mean, talk about an education taking you places!

But what really sells the point is the fact that it is nearly impossible to discuss any aspect of space travel without at least touching on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics involved—real-world application of STEM principles by ordinary people who once sat in classrooms just like yours.

And are not so ordinary anymore.

That’s the kind of big-picture thinking that can inspire students, and, fortunately, NASA Education is in the business of thinking big.

Which brings us to STEM on Station, NASA Education’s out-of-this-world educational web site celebrating the year-long mission to the International Space Station. Informative, timely, and easy to use, the site is packed with free learning resources, including a large collection of STEM-based lesson plans for grades K-12.

As with space itself, there is lots to discover. So visit STEM on Station today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

This Semester, Organize a Book Drive!

  • Aug 27, 2015

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Everybody loves a good book drive. Why? Lots of reasons.

For one thing, deep down inside, people like to share. People also like books, and chances are they have a few volumes lying around that would be of much more use in someone’s hands than they are on a shelf collecting dust. Moreover, the people who will eventually receive and dive-into those generously-donated books are usually the sort who truly value them.

So it’s a win-win.

An that’s not even taking into account the good will generated by the effort, or the feeling of accomplishment enjoyed by the folks who organized the book drive in the first place.

And that’s where you come in—teacher, student, administrator, parent, librarian, or just plain interested. You’re the one who is going to seek out willing partners and get this thing rolling. But first, you’re going to pay a visit to the official web site of United We Serve, where you’ll find a terrific toolkit that will help you mount the best book drive ever.

And once you do, please be sure to tell us all about it on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Introducing Digital You

  • Aug 19, 2015

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Editor’s note: In late July, AT&T and DIRECTV closed a landmark deal to combine companies. DIRECTV is now part of the AT&T family.

Ask any parent what their primary concern is as they watch kids venture out to explore new horizons—whether it’s crossing the street, or enjoying their first smart phone—and chances are you’ll hear the word “safety.”

Safety is paramount, and the more our lives are lived online the more important it becomes to learn safe practices.

Enter AT&T’s comprehensive new educational program, Digital You.

Launched this summer, Digital You is a free online resource for Internet users of all ages and levels of experience created in collaboration with Common Sense. At DigitalYou.att.com you’ll find a robust collection of tools, tips, apps, guidance and community education events that is well put-together and really quite easy to navigate—whether you are a newcomer to the digital environment, or a veteran just looking for smarter, safer ways to do things.

Educators and parents alike will be particularly interested in Digital Compass, the fun, interactive game developed by Common Sense that teaches 6th through 9th graders about the real-world impact of their online decisions. You can play for free online or download the free Digital Compass app for IOS or Android, and reference this handy Educator Guide for lessons in digital literacy & citizenship. Digital Compass is available for complimentary use thanks to AT&T.

Learn more by visiting Digital You today.

And to stay abreast of other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Meet DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner Gabe Wooley — a City Year Tutor and Mentor With the Heart of a Teacher

  • Aug 06, 2015

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Our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners are an impressive group of young people. Beyond the passion for public service that led them to become AmeriCorps Members—devoting a year of their lives to service as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities—what stands out so clearly among them is a recognition of their responsibility to help kids learn the important skills and lessons that they themselves have learned.

This week, we’d like you to meet 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner Gabe Woolley (right).


Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a Corps Member.

I’m 20 years old, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I graduated from Broken Arrow high school in 2013, then began working full time for 2 years before working at a summer camp last summer. I ended up loving it so much that I knew I wanted my next job to be something with children. I heard about City Year Tulsa from a friend at church & decided to apply. I joined 2014-2015 City Year Tulsa team and I loved it!

Where did you serve?

I served my first year in City Year at Sequoyah Elementary School with the 4th grade. I worked with an awesome teacher and some amazing students.

What math concept or unit was the most challenging for your students at Sequoyah to grasp, and how did you overcome it?

Several of my students struggled with remembering the steps for math problems. Specifically, multiplication. They would often miss one or two steps and their answers would come out wrong, so I would constantly remind them of the missing steps and walk them through problems using the “Think Aloud” method, which involves doing a problem while talking about each step, and why I was doing it. Then I would have them walk me through one of their problems using the “Think Aloud” method, as if I were then the student.

Was there ever a classic “A-ha” moment when you could just sort of see the lights go on as your students grasped a concept?

I don’t think I had one huge “A-ha” moment, but I had little ones every day—each time a student grasped something that they didn’t get before. It would make me smile every time. So I guess their “A-ha” moments were also my “A-ha” moments, seeing them slowly come to believe in their own capability.

Have math concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject? Was there a teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Growing up, math was always my weakness. My hardest class and my lowest grade. I actually almost failed 4th grade because of my low math grade. By the time I got to high school my math grades slowly started to improve. I still never liked math growing up. I did have two very creative and positive math teachers my freshman year of high school. I would say they were the best math teachers I ever had. They’re really the only ones I remember.

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other Corps Members who work with struggling students?

Keep patience and love for each student and their potential. It will keep you motivated and rewarded. Every student can get to the same place. Some just need a little extra patience and love.

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

The way things are going shows me more and more each day the importance of STEM subjects. Expanding you’re knowledge of them will only take you further in this world.

 And what about your future? What are your plans?

I plan to serve one more year with City Year and with my students while taking college classes at Tulsa Community College for a Spanish Degree. I am also considering pursuing a degree in Elementary Education.

Fantastic. Best of luck, Gabe!

NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Spread the Word About the C-SPAN StudentCam 2016 Short Documentary Competition!

  • Jul 30, 2015

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Back-to-school season brings with it the arrival of C-SPAN’s annual StudentCam short documentary competition—a fabulous opportunity for any civic-minded student (grades 6-12) with a camera and a point of view to influence the national conversation and vie for cash prizes.

Participating schools and teacher advisers are eligible for cash prizes as well!

This year’s theme:

“Road to the White House”
What’s the issue YOU most want candidates to discuss during the 2016 presidential campaign?

The contest launches officially on September 9th, and students may begin uploading their documentaries on November 2nd. The final deadline for submissions is January 20th, 2016.

Pictured above (left to right) are Anna Gilligan, Michael Lozovoy and Katie Demos, 2015′s Grand Prize-winning team of 8th graders from Lexington, Kentucky.

Imagine your own students celebrating such an accomplishment!

But win or lose, participation in the contest is an exercise in intellectual growth. Just ask Clifton Raphael, a StudentCam Teacher Advisor at Oklahoma’s Jennks High School. “StudentCam forces my students to exercise a different set of creative muscles,” says Raphael, “and it’s work that helps them in their other classes as well, whenever they have to use critical thinking and organizational skills.”

For more information, visit C-SPAN’s StudentCam.

And to stay abreast of other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Enter to Win Cool Contests for Earth Science Week 2015!

  • Jul 27, 2015

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In celebration of Earth Science Week 2015, teachers and students K-12 are invited to take part in essay, photography and visual arts competitions, courtesy of the American Geosciences Institute.

A big thank you to our friends at NASA Education for making us aware of these opportunities to explore science through art, and maybe win a prize!

The deadline for submission to all three contests is October 16, 2015:

PHOTOGRAPHY
Open to: All educators and students
Theme: “Earth Systems Interacting”
Photographs should show at least one Earth system affecting another Earth system in your community. Pictured (right) is last year’s winning photo, from Eva Jasinski, depicting the influence of Earth systems upon one another and the theme “Connections in My Community”.
Official contest site

VISUAL ARTS
Open to: Students K-5
Theme: “Picturing Earth Systems”
Submit an original 2-D visual arts project that shows how land, water, air and living things affect each other.
Official contest site

ESSAY
Open to: Students grades 6-9
Theme: “Earth System Visualization Today”
In 300 words or less, explain one way that geoscientists’ use of cutting-edge visualization is advancing Earth science today.
Official contest site

Now get busy!

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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The Civil War Restored

  • Jul 23, 2015

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UPDATE: If you missed the recent broadcast of Ken Burns’ The Civil War, the entire series is still available for streaming via PBS Video! Learn more.

This September, on the 25th anniversary of its original broadcast, Ken Burns’ landmark documentary series The Civil War will return to PBS—only this time, for the first time—in glorious high definition, accompanied by free, standards-based lesson plans and classroom activities for grades 5-12.

What’s more, educators are invited to record the 5-part series and archive it for classroom use for up to one year from broadcast.

Twenty-five years ago, The Civil War captured America’s attention like no other television documentary had in decades. Scholarly, yet as riveting as a well-crafted drama, it attracted nearly 40 million viewers and made a brand of documentarian Ken Burns (Baseball; The War; The National Parks: America’s Best Idea).

“When The Civil War first appeared on PBS in the fall of 1990, no one—myself included—was at all prepared for the overwhelming national response that followed,” says Burns (pictured below [r.], with the late historian and author Shelby Foote, one of the The Civil War‘s commentators). “The film was then, as it is now, a timely reminder of the frightful cost our ancestors paid to make this nation a truly United States. It is a chronicle of making permanent that which was promised, but not delivered, in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

While the educational value of a film like this is self-evident, PBS has gone the extra mile by creating a variety of free lesson plans, activities, and other resources, including ideas from teachers who’ve used the program in their classrooms.

“The series can’t replace the teacher or the classroom, but in conjunction with what you as the teacher do, it can make the era come alive in a way never before possible,” says Burns.

The Civil War in high-definition will air over the course of five nights, September 7-11, on PBS (check local listings).

For more information and educational resources visit the official Civil War web site, and look for the “classroom” tab.

And to find out about other great educational shows and resources, simply bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Better Living Through STEM

  • Jul 16, 2015

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Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is a national competition inviting teachers and students, grades 6-12, to put Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to work solving problems in their local communities.

And solve they have:

-Devising a plan for water conservation in California.

-Creating adaptive equipment to enhance the lives of wheelchair-bound fellow students.

-Developing “vertical produce gardens” that make the most of limited space in an urban environment.

And that’s just the most recent contest!

These projects are typical of the good work that’s been brought about by Samsung Solve for Tomorrow since its inception in 2010: STEM-based solutions to everyday problems, engineered by students with an eye toward a better future.

Which is why DIRECTV is a proud partner and sponsor. Recently, participating teacher Chris Oonk and the student members of his engineering club received the DIRECTV Math Makes-it-Work Awarda $25,000 cash grant toward further development of their submitted project, an app designed to give motorists early warning of flood conditions in the low-lying coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina.

You can read all about Chris and his students here.

After that, you can make your own contribution to a better future by spreading the word about Samsung Solve for Tomorrow. Application for entry into the next round of competition begins in September!

For more news about education events and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner Olu Akinrimisi — a City Year Tutor and Mentor — Believes That Hard Work and Relationships Have Been His Keys to Success

  • Jul 10, 2015

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One thing all of our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners have in common—aside from the fact that they’re all really good at math—is a passion for public service. That’s why they became AmeriCorps Members, devoting a year of their lives to service as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

Each year, we profile these outstanding young adults because they are role models for us all, recognizing their responsibility to help others and share the important skills and lessons they’ve learned in life.

This week, we’d like you to meet 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner Olu Akinrimisi (right).


Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a Corps Member.

Well, I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised Long Beach, California. My parents moved to states as an act of selflessness. They sacrificed their passions to make sure their children had opportunity to achieve greatness. Moreover, I attended the University of California, San Diego, and from my experience there I was truly able to see the effect service can have on a community. After graduation, I wanted to make a large impact on under-served communities, and serving as a Corps Member was my opportunity.

Where did you serve, and what were some of the highlights and notable challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor at this school?

I served at Lee Mathson Institute of Technology in San Jose, California. The school had about 400 students, from grades 6 to 8. Lee Mathson is predominantly Latino/Latina, with very few Blacks and Asians. Serving for the Lee Mathson community was challenging. The students were faced with many obstacles such as drugs, sex, violence, discrimination, finance, and I can go on. All of these factors were a hindrance to their learning process and it was hard for me to not blame this unjust world for making my student fall behind.

What math concept or unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp, and how did you overcome this?

The most challenging topic was adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers. This is a topic a lot of the middle school students were suppose know before coming into middle school, however a lot of the students I tutored had no clue. I always took it back to the basics of simply adding and subtracting positive integers. Then I would relate it to money, because they loved money. I even made games where they had to use monopoly cash to invest and borrow. Relating math to reality really helped the students have a better grasp of the material.

Do you have a favorite classroom anecdote from your time with City Year?

One of my students had always been labeled as the troubled child, so teachers never really gave the student any academic attention. During our first math session the student refused to work and said, “I’m stupid, I can’t do this.” For the next five sessions or so we did nothing related to math and just worked on our relationship and getting to know each other. Once we got back into math the student trusted me and their skills improved.

Have math concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject? Was there a teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Math has always been a subject that I was fond of. During grade school I always achieved in math. However once I started high school, I noticed my natural talent for math wasn’t there anymore. That was when I really had to rely on hard work and effort. My 10th grade math teacher made sure to always challenge me even as I struggled. From that point I learned that struggling was good and it only meant that I was learning. From then on math only got harder, but stuck with the idea of hard work and was able to do well in it.

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other Corps Members that work with struggling students?

I believe it is critical to establish a connection with students, get to know them and let them get to know you. Then, work your way into tackling their struggle with math. Also, try to make the learning interactive and real-life based, because the students are more likely to retain the new information being learned.

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

I believe learning STEM subject is very important, not only to all students but especially for boy and girls of color. In STEM, people of color are a minority, due to many reasons such as social status, lack of educational resources, social environment, and etc. Furthermore, with our world moving toward high-tech it is important to get people into those fields, which means getting more students into college, which also means doing well in subjects such as math. Math is important because it is a critical building block into the world STEM.

 And what about your future? What are your plans?

I will be starting my first year of medical school at the University of California, San Diego. Also, I am in the PRIME-HEq program, which is an inclusive group that will be trained to identify the health disparities within communities in California. Finally, as a physician I want to specialize in pediatrics and work in under-served communities.

Outstanding. Thanks, Olu!

NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Meet Tiana Hill — Tutor, Mentor, Role Model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner

  • Jul 02, 2015

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Beginning this week, we’re proud to introduce you to our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners.

Each of these young people has spent 12 months as an AmeriCorps Member, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities. We think you’ll agree that their enthusiasm for teaching and public service is refreshing.

Our first interview is with Tiana Hill (right).

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you came to join City Year as a Corps Member.

I am from Chicago, Illinois, and I graduated from Miami University with a degree in Family Studies. I joined City Year because I want to be a positive role model to students who come from a similar background as me. I wanted to show them that where you come from doesn’t have to determine your future. Being a mentor and helping youth is my passion, and City Year gave me the opportunity to do that. I really love City Year’s mission and I wanted to be a part of it. Someday, I want to start my own community center back in Chicago and felt that City Year would give me experience and ideas that would help me make my dream come true.

And what about the school where you served? What were the highlights and challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor there?

I served at Broadmoor Middle School in Baton Rouge, which serves about 500 6-8th grade students. The school is majority low-income students—95% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Working with the students in the 7th grade was so amazing. Not only did I make an impact on them, but they made an impact on me. At first it was a challenge getting the students to focus on school. Sometimes, the students seemed not to be as invested in learning as they should be. Finding creative ways to get the kids engaged, however, was one of the highlights of my service—I got the opportunity to get to know them and used what they like to get them engaged. They loved to have a competition with one another, and especially against me. After discovering this I came up with games and activities that made them excited about learning even when we are not playing a game.

Briefly describe your history with math, have the concepts always come easily to you or did you struggle with the subject? Did you have a great math teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Math has always been my favorite subject. In school math was the subject that I was always great at. I have had amazing math teachers throughout my years in school. Because math came easily to me, my high school math teacher, Mr. E, always went the extra mile to give me work that challenged me—even college level math. He is still one of my mentors today.

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp and how did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?

My students struggled with algebraic expressions and working with fractions. I created interactive lessons and used manipulatives, such as color-coded cards representing positive and negative integers, so that students knew to add and subtract more easily. This was the way my students learned best. They were very active and learned from hands-on learning.

Please share your favorite math-related anecdote from your time with City Year. For example, was there one student that really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment, did you use a creative method to get a group of students excited about math?

One of my favorite moments this year was when my student, who struggled with the English language, answered a question during the “boys against girls math battle”. Her face lit up and she yelled out the answer. She was very quiet and had problems in her classes because she had just come from Vietnam and didn’t understand what we were saying. I started working with her one-on-one using Google Translate and other translation sites. After a while she started to pick up on the concepts. That day was the first time she answered a question without any help. Everyone in the class cheered her on and the look on her face was priceless. You could tell that she was very proud of herself.

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

Learn what your students are interested in and use that when planning lessons. Connect the math problems to something that they can relate to.

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

STEM is very important for our students and their future because we use this in our everyday lives. As this world changes our children will have to know these valuable skills to survive and keep up with the world.

Lastly, what about your future? What are your plans?

I plan on getting my Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management and Criminal Justice. I want to open up a Community Center that would provide extracurricular and tutoring for kids in low-income neighborhoods for free. I also plan on working with kids in the juvenile justice system.

 

NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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3M and Discovery Education announce finalists in the the 2015 Young Scientist Challenge

  • Jun 26, 2015

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We continue to be impressed with the caliber of kids making names for themselves in the Discovery Education/3M Young Scientist Challenge. The annual contest, open to students grades 5-8, launched in 1999 and has introduced the world to a slew of promising young minds.

And as I’ve stated before in this space, what impresses me most about these kidsbeyond the confidence, intelligence and applied knowledge they displayis how nearly all of them seem to have been moved to action by a desire to solve some real-world problem.

For example, among this year’s top-10 projects are efforts to:

-help senior citizens safely navigate stairs

-help reduce stress among those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and among their caregivers as well

-help people suffering with allergies

-help reduce the number of auto accidents caused by substance abuse

Help. Help. Help. What a marvelous approach to employing one’s gifts.

And they’re all still just kids.

Each of the finalists will spend the summer being mentored by a 3M scientist. In October, they’ll travel to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota to compete for the grand prize of $25,000 and the title America’s Top Young Scientist.

But you can meet them now by visiting the official Challenge web site.

And for more news about education events and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Summer Learning is Fun with WordGirl!

  • Jun 18, 2015

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There’s a lot to be said for a superhero that not only fights crime with the aid of a monkey sidekick, but also helps kids build their reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.

That hero is WordGirl, and she’s out to take summer learning to a whole new level.

PBS Kids invites students K-3 to spend some fun time building their word power this summer with new episodes of WordGirl every Wednesday and Friday (check local PBS listings), accompanied by a free, downloadable Super Summer Fun Book filled with educational activities.

It’s also a great activity for families, one that will enhance a child’s education and help combat summer learning loss.

Check out the video playlist below for a sample of WordGirl’s word power.

And to stay abreast of other great educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

DIRECTV Brings Fun and Learning to a Denver Charter School

  • Jun 12, 2015

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DIRECTV and FOX visited Denver’s University Prep Elementary School (U Prep) during the last week of their 2014-2015 school year to host a live-action version of the hit TV show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”. Our guest blogger Steve Demedis (below), who works in DIRECTV’s Communications department, was in attendance, and came away asking himself the same question.

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I am smarter than a fifth grader.

And I’ve been certain of this since the mid-90s. But as I stood in the back of the gymnasium at University Preparatory School (U Prep) in Denver, Colorado, a spectator at the DIRECTV-sponsored Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader event, my confidence began to waiver. I started to question the education I had received at Plum Point Elementary all those years ago.

What is a trapezoid? How many sides does a heptagon have? Which number is both a factor of 36 and a multiple of 3?

But what truly crushed my self-esteem was the eager enthusiasm, and dare I say swagger, with which the students – or “scholars” as they are called at U Prep – tackled these questions.

In the event, which DIRECTV hosted in partnership with FOX, third and fourth graders took turns taking the podium to answer math questions. They received points for correct answers and had a “panel” of classmates to turn to should they require assistance.

It was all meant to celebrate the school’s success with ST Math, a blended learning software program that was implemented at U Prep thanks to a 2014 grant from DIRECTV.

And this was a celebration. From the moment the students filed into the gymnasium-turned-gameshow-set, there was an energy in the room unlike anything I remembered from my days in elementary school. The kids spontaneously danced to the pop music mashups blaring through booming speakers (yes, U Prep is cooler than your elementary school). They clapped and chanted responses to the school’s energetic principal. And when math questions were posed to the audience, scholars nearly dislocated their arms, wildly thrusting their hands in the air in the hope that they would be called upon.

“This is a great example of how we are supporting STEM education in our local schools, and celebrating the successes of the students at the end of a long school year,” said Ron Hyland, a VP of Customer Care at DIRECTV who shared some remarks to start the event and is most certainly smarter than a fifth grader. “It’s incredible to see the engagement and energy of the students. They are proud to show what they’ve learned and eager to support each other.”

Ron hits on what was probably the most impressive thing I saw at the event. After the first contestant and eventual champion, fourth-grader Nakina Johnson, answered all five questions correctly, the next scholar found himself in the unfortunate position of being the first to answer incorrectly. The disappointment on his face at the sound of the buzzer was quickly washed away by the cheers and clapping of his peers, who picked him up with their unwavering support. He answered the next four questions correctly.

The kids who competed and cheered, along with their teachers, deserve the credit for what I experienced at this event. But I couldn’t help but take pride in being a small part of it as an employee of a company whose Corporate Citizenship mission is to foster K-12 education.

The impact we are having on young people, naturally, has greater meaning when you see it in person. But it really hits home, when you see Billy Milton Jr., a team leader at the Denver Customer Care Center, in attendance.

Billy’s daughter Shayla, a third grader at U Prep, had been selected as a panelist to help the contestant from her class answer questions. Billy was there to watch.

“It’s amazing to see. I knew this is a great school, but I didn’t know that DIRECTV was a part of that,” said Billy. “I love that the company recognizes the work this school is doing and promotes it.”

University Prep is a tuition-free public charter school that focuses on college the second a child walks through its doors. It is one of three schools in the Denver metro area we sponsor through the ST Math grant.

“Having a corporate sponsor in DIRECTV is critical to our mission of preparing each of our students to go on to college. It’s not an easy thing to do, but DIRECTV believes in that mission and understands that seeing it to reality takes a real investment of time, money, and resources,” said the school’s headmaster David Singer. “What they do to enhance the education we provide our students is incredible.”

Kudos to the Corporate Citizenship team at DIRECTV for creating an incredible event. I left U Prep on Tuesday afternoon impressed by the scholars and teachers, proud of DIRECTV’s work to improve our local community, and eternally thankful that my paycheck doesn’t hinge on my being able to do fifth grade math.

Just for fun, take a shot at the following math problem from the event, and prove to yourself that you’re smarter than a 5th grader:

There are 100 students in the school. On Valentine’s Day, each student gives every other student one card. How many cards are exchanged in total?

—Steve Demedis

NOTE: For more news and information about free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 

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Study The Strain

  • Jun 05, 2015

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There’s a clever conceit behind the popular FX series The Strain, which is adapted from a trio of best-selling books by film director Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It’s the idea of taking all the age-old trappings of vampire fiction—the blood lust, the bites, the aversion to sunlight, et cetera—and looking at them through a very modern, scientific lens.

Thus, the scourge of vampirism becomes a parasite-based pandemic. Count Dracula becomes Count Ebola.

It makes for riveting television, and reading. And now, thanks to a little creative adaptation, it also makes for a college-level course of study.

Just in time for The Strain‘s season-2 premiere, FX and UC Irvine present Fight or Die: The Science Behind FX’s The Strain, a free online course in virus and parasite biology, cyber security, and epidemiological modelling, beginning June 22 and running through October 1.

For more information, and to enroll in the course, visit the official web site.

And to receive information about other great educational opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Meet a Teacher Who Proves that Math-Makes-it-Work

  • May 28, 2015

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Chris Oonk, 27, had been teaching engineering at Ashley Ridge High School in Charleston, South Carolina for less than a year when he and the students in his engineering club decided to enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest, which is dedicated to encouraging students to solve local problems using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

And solve they did, developing an early warning system designed to help drivers navigate their way around flooded streets in their coastal city (watch the project video, below). The project has earned Oonk and his students a number of honors, including the DIRECTV Math Makes-it-Work prize, which includes $25,000 toward further development of their technology. They hope to have an app for the early warning system next year.

Chris was kind enough to share a little about himself with us, along with some of what he’s learned along the way to winning the prize:

Chris Oonk: I’m originally from Rochester, NY and attended Clarkson University where I majored in Mechanical Engineering. During my junior year of school I started tutoring others in math and discovered my passion for teaching. After I finished my undergraduate degree I went on to get a Master’s degree in Mathematics Education. This is my first year teaching at Ashley Ridge High School and third overall. I consider myself truly lucky to be working with such a great group of faculty, staff, and students.

When I arrived at the school, I immediately noticed a passion for engineering in many of my students and an unmet need for a club/extracurricular activity to allow that passion to flourish. I started an engineering club that was made up of students from various grade levels and backgrounds. We began looking for a project that would pique the interest of the students and allow us to work toward the betterment of our community.

The engineering classes offered at Ashley Ridge are part of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, and I receive weekly email blasts from PLTW regarding news, events, project opportunities, etc. It was here that I first noticed the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, and the students jumped at the opportunity to participate.

How did you arrive at the decision to take-on the challenge of flood warning?

I moved down to Charleston this past August after teaching in Columbia, SC the previous two years. It didn’t take me long to realize that flooding was a serious issue for this coastal city. Two weeks after I moved I found myself driving through a flooded area with no idea of how to navigate around it. Looking down a couple of the streets, I saw water more than half way up the tires of the cars unfortunate enough to be parked there.

It was from this experience that the students and I decided that developing a system capable of detecting where flooding would occur, warning motorists, and then safely rerouting them would be an invaluable tool. As a large tourist destination, there are also a number of drivers that are unfamiliar with the flooding issues that Charleston faces. It was for this reason we determined that the rerouting feature would be an integral part of our system.

Once that decision was made, what were the group dynamics, i.e., distribution of work and responsibility? And what role did you play as teacher throughout this process?

The students divided themselves into three main groups: Construction, Programming, and Website/Phone Applications. Since it was a small group there was some overlap between responsibilities. As a teacher, I tried to serve as a guide and give them as much autonomy as possible. With an open-ended problem such as this, there is no one correct answer, so I was able to give them the freedom to explore different possibilities.

Any interesting anecdotes from this journey? Was there an “a-ha!” moment for the students?

One thing I learned for team projects going forward is to always have snacks on hand. There’s a pretty strong correlation between food and productivity. I could also probably write a book on the different uses of duct tape.

The students were very innovative when it came to dealing with our financial constraints. We had our original design, we looked at our budget, and then we basically had to replace every component with a cheaper one. When it came to simulating rainfall or waterproofing our sensor, I was amazed at their ingenuity and the solutions that they developed.

 How has your experience with these students affected you, and also them?

One of the great things about this project is that it is a completely different dynamic from the general classroom environment. As a team we all were able to share in the triumphs, laughs, and learning that occur when a close knit group spends countless hours working together on a project. We all shared in the frustrations and setbacks, but learned how to overcome them to keep moving forward. Being able to observe this team of students from different backgrounds come together to accomplish great things and also form lasting friendships was a truly eye-opening and rewarding experience.

I believe this project allowed students to grow both academically and individually. The team played off of each others’ strengths and weaknesses well, and each one was always willing to help a fellow student with any problems they were having. Students also adapted to different roles and responsibilities very well, since so many of them were used to having the lead role on group projects.

And what about the flood-warning project, where does it stand now, and what is its future?

Currently we are working on optimizing our device and improving our website and phone app. Our hope is to get our design to a point where it is practical, cost-efficient, and able to be implemented in downtown Charleston. Beyond that we hope to share our design in other areas facing similar issues with flooding. We owe a big debt of gratitude to DIRECTV and the Math Makes it Work prize, because none of this would be possible without their support.

 DIRECTV is a big believer in STEM learning, especially with regard to math as a basis for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

Looking ahead, knowledge of STEM principles will be invaluable for today’s students regardless of what endeavors they pursue. The global marketplace is becoming more and more technologically driven, yet the type of organized thinking and problem-solving found in STEM areas seem to be receiving less emphasis than ever before. The shortage of students interested in these areas stems from a variety of issues, from a lack of awareness of STEM careers and few opportunities to work on real-world problems and social stigmas (such as only male “nerds” or “geeks” are interested in math).

I believe students need to be encouraged and challenged in the STEM areas at an early age and given opportunities to work on projects that are meaningful to them. I am truly thankful that DIRECTV and Samsung recognize the importance of STEM and have given the opportunity of a lifetime to my students. It is through projects such as this that students will develop an understanding and appreciation of STEM and be able to “Solve for Tomorrow.”

 

For more inspiring teacher stories, as well as news and information about free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Kid-friendly Entertainment in a Kid-friendly APP

  • May 22, 2015

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This week, DIRECTV announced the launch of its new DIRECTV Kids APP, which will deliver hundreds of kid-friendly movies and programs to DIRECTV customers’ iPhones or iPads from channels they already subscribe to, at no extra charge.

Designed for children ages 5-10,the app puts a world of curated content at your child’s fingertips. And for parents, there are helpful program ratings and reviews provided by the non-profit child advocacy group Common Sense Media, so you’ll always know everything you need to know about what your kids are watching.

“As our kids become more and more connected through powerful devices like tablets and computers, navigating through the rough terrain of the digital landscape for parents can be an incredibly daunting task,” says Tony Goncalves, senior vice president, Digital Entertainment Products Group, DIRECTV. “The DIRECTV Kids App was designed to take the worry away from watching TV and give kids a simple and safe viewing environment without the need for complicated parental control set up on multiple devices.”

Learn more about the app and download yours today by visiting DIRECTV.

And to stay abreast of other great fun and educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

NOTE: The DIRECTV Kids APP is not available to subscribers who receive DIRECTV through the SCHOOL CHOICE program.

 

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Free Online Film Course from Ball State University and Turner Classic Movies!

  • May 21, 2015

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Want to spend some time becoming an expert in classic cinema this summer?

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Ball State University have partnered to bring you Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir, a free online study of the hard-boiled Hollywood crime drama set to run concurrently with TCM’s “Summer of Darkness” programming event, airing 24 hours of films noir every Friday in June and July.

The course is open to movie lovers of all ages, and will be taught by Richard L. Edwards, Ph.D., Executive Director of Ball State’s iLearn Research and a recognized film noir expert. “As an educator I am excited to coordinate Ball State’s learning opportunities with TCM’s programming efforts to present students with a rare opportunity to engage with the material and genre,” Edwards says. “With ‘Summer of Darkness,’ we can bring together a worldwide community of film noir students, to investigate and discuss these great films in depth.”

Turner Classic Movies is DIRECTV channel 256.

For more information, or to enroll, visit the Investigating Film Noir web site.

And to receive information about other great educational opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Where to Watch the Finals of the 2015 National Geographic Bee

  • May 15, 2015

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And then there were ten—ten finalists, that is, culled from the more than fifty who proudly represented their states, territories or Department of Defense schools in the nation’s premiere geography competition. And now it’s time to crown a champion.

Looking for something fun and educational to watch on TV this week? Tune-in as the 10 finalists assemble in Washington, DC for the last round of the 2015 National Geographic Bee, moderated by journalist Soledad O’Brien.

It premieres tonight, May 15, at 8pm on National Geographic Channel (DIRECTV channel 276), and will be repeated Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD.

The program is also being carried by PBS. Check local listings.

The annual NatGeo Bee is open to students in grades 4-8. Do you know any young people who have what it takes to enter next year’s competition? Check out the early bird registration process.

And to find out about other great educational shows and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

The Forgotten Battle

  • May 07, 2015

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Would it come as a surprise to you to learn that the United States and Japan fought a land battle in North America during World War II?

Since you’re most likely a history teacher, probably not. But you can safely assume that most people these days have no idea that land war in the Pacific Theatre included Alaska’s remote volcanic islands.

Exactly 72 years ago, in May of 1943, U.S. and Japanese forces fought for over two weeks for control of the Island of Attu, which the Japanese believed could be used as a staging point for a U.S. invasion of their homeland.

This Monday, May 11, at 6AM/5C, History Channel Classroom presents Save Our History: Alaska’s Bloodiest Battle, a documentary that chronicles this mostly overlooked chapter of WWII history in reverent detail. The program may be recorded and archived for classroom use for up to one year from air date, and teachers are invited to download a free study guide prepared for students in grades 6-12.

History Channel is DIRECTV channel 269.

For more background on the battle visit History’s dedicated web site, and click here for the free study guide.

And to find out about other great educational shows and resources, simply bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Let’s Inspire the Next Generation to TEACH with a Free Online Screening of The Road to TEACH

  • Apr 30, 2015

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The TEACH campaign needs your help inspiring the next generation to teach. How do we create the awareness that passionate, innovative students should consider the profession of teaching, that teaching is the 21st century job?

Participant Media’s TEACH campaign is offering a free online screening of The Road to TEACH beginning Teacher Appreciation Day (May 5) and lasting through the end of the school year. Produced in partnership with Roadtrip Nation last summer, the documentary follows three college students (below), all aspiring teachers, through the world of education as they contemplate their futures and begin to understand the vast opportunities, personal rewards, and vital need for passionate young people to reach.

Click here to watch The Road to TEACH.

After that, please consider pledging your passion and expertise to support great teaching, and help students who might have the calling find their way into the profession.

Both pledges will enable you to receive useful information about the TEACH campaign, it’s alliances, and opportunities to support and/or become a teacher.

What else can you as an educator do to promote your profession?

TEACH campaign and Roadtrip Nation invite you to Share Your Road, an exciting opportunity to talk about your own personal journey into the classroom and inspire the next generation to follow in your footsteps. The uploaded interviews become part of Roadtrip Nation’s interactive career development curriculum, currently in 7,000 high schools across the country. So Share Your Road today!

And to receive more information about educational events and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

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Take Your Class On a Virtual Field Trip with President Obama, This Thursday!

  • Apr 28, 2015

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Teachers, we’re thrilled to share with you the opportunity for you and your class to participate in Read to Discover A World of Infinite Possibilities, a unique Virtual Field Trip that Discovery Education is hosting in collaboration with the White House and President Obama, this Thursday, April 30th at 10:40am.

Broadcast LIVE from Washington, D.C., President Obama will connect with thousands of students nationwide to highlight the importance of reading and expanding digital literacy. It should be an incredible event, as the President shares his own love of reading and thoughts about how digital content and technology open up a world of learning.

This virtual field trip is the latest event in Discovery Education’s “Of the People: Live from the White House” Virtual Field Trip series, which transports students behind the scenes to learn about the people, places and issues that shape our world. 

Register your class today. It’s free!

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This Summer, Turn That Tablet Into a Teaching Machine

  • Apr 28, 2015

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However your kids spend their precious free time this summer—whether indoors, outdoors, away from home or in their own backyard—it’s safe to assume that a good deal of that time will be spent looking at screens. The little screens we all carry around in our hands, I mean.

But rather than lament what would have seemed like bizarre behavior during our adventure-filled summers back in the day, the smart folks at Common Sense Media have taken the proactive step of compiling a handy guide to apps and websites that can turn your child’s smartphone, tablet or other device into educational tools to enhance whatever activities they do get up to.

The guide offers something for every kid, age 2 through 17, broken into various categories taking-in science, nature, tech, art, geography and more. There are even apps for learning to code! That’s free time well spent.

So, do you want to help your kids learn while having fun this summer? Well, there’s an app for that! Actually, there are dozens, and Common Sense Media wants to tell you about the best of them.

Check out their Summer Learning Guide for yourself.

And to stay abreast of other great educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

25 Years of Exploration and Wonder

  • Apr 23, 2015

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It was 25 years ago today that the Hubble Space Telescope took off for orbit as a passenger aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, carrying with it our hopes and dreams for an unprecedented view of the cosmos.

And the results, as they say, speak for themselves (below).

NASA is celebrating the silver anniversary of this momentous achievement and inviting teachers to do the same via a resource-packed web platform called HubbleSite, which includes a large collection of STEM-based, K-12 classroom materials, free eBooks, high-quality printable posters and much, much more.

Visit HubbleSite today.

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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DIRECTV and Teach for America Celebrate Their Exciting New Education Partnership at MATHx

  • Apr 16, 2015

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On April 7, DIRECTV and the nonprofit Teach for America announced the launch of an exciting new partnership designed to expand access to excellent math instruction in high-need communities.

The announcement was made at the Santee Education Complex in Los Angeles during an event dubbed MATHx, where hundreds of students, teachers and representatives of various STEM-based organizations enjoyed a program of energizing talks and interactive demonstrations (pictured, below).

As part of the new partnership, Teach for America, one of the largest and most diverse providers of STEM teachers in the country, will receive $250,000 from DIRECTV in support of its national efforts to recruit, train, and support math educators, with its Los Angeles, Oklahoma, and Colorado regions receiving dedicated funding. Oklahoma and Colorado will also be the next states to host MATHx events.

“DIRECTV is excited to partner with Teach for America to create math opportunities for students across the country,” says Mike White (pictured, above, third from right), chairman, president and CEO of DIRECTV, and also a featured speaker at MATHx. “As a technology company, math is at the heart of everything we do and it is essential to our nation’s ability to thrive in the future. By supporting Teach for America’s national math efforts and bringing together leading voices in math education across three cities, we hope to shine a light on this important subject and inspire the next generation of students to be passionate math learners.”

The education nonprofit will receive $250,000 from DIRECTV to support its national efforts to recruit, train, and support math educators across the country, with its Los Angeles, Oklahoma, and Colorado regions receiving dedicated funding. The partnership reflects the organizations’ joint commitment to ensuring all students cultivate the math skills needed to be successful in college and beyond – in a world which is increasingly digital and defined by math innovation. – See more at: http://3blmedia.com/News/DIRECTV-and-Teach-America-Host-MATHx-Los-Angeles-Announce-Partnership-Expand-Access-Excellent#sthash.L9GRPUEq.dpuf
expand access to excellent math instruction to students in high-need communities, and develop resources that will inspire students to love math. – See more at: http://3blmedia.com/News/DIRECTV-and-Teach-America-Host-MATHx-Los-Angeles-Announce-Partnership-Expand-Access-Excellent#sthash.L9GRPUEq.dpuf
expand access to excellent math instruction to students in high-need communities, and develop resources that will inspire students to love math. – See more at: http://3blmedia.com/News/DIRECTV-and-Teach-America-Host-MATHx-Los-Angeles-Announce-Partnership-Expand-Access-Excellent#sthash.L9GRPUEq.dpuf
expand access to excellent math instruction to students in high-need communities, and develop resources that will inspire students to love math. – See more at: http://3blmedia.com/News/DIRECTV-and-Teach-America-Host-MATHx-Los-Angeles-Announce-Partnership-Expand-Access-Excellent#sthash.L9GRPUEq.dpuf

To receive more information about this exciting new initiative, as well as news about other great educational events and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

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Math Rocks!

  • Apr 10, 2015

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In case you haven’t noticed, math is trending these days, as millions of young people suddenly realize that math is not simply an obstacle to overcome in school, but the language of the universe, a vehicle for human advancement, or, as English philosopher and Franciscan friar Roger Bacon long ago observed, “the door and the key to the sciences.”

In an increasingly technological world, math is also an increasingly marketable career skill.

I bring this up because we find ourselves in the middle of National Mathematics Awareness Month, which is celebrated every April thanks to the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, and since we here at DIRECTV are enthusiastic supporters of STEM education in all its forms, we’ll be bringing you news and information about math-related classroom resources throughout the month and beyond.

Today we call your attention to PBS LearningMedia and the resources they’ve curated specifically for National Mathematics Awareness Month—a collection of engaging and well-produced videos covering everything from prime numbers and algorithms to cyber codes and math in nature. These materials are freely available for teachers and students in grades 3-12.

You find it all here.

In order to give you some idea of just how much fun these videos are, I recommend you check out the sample below, wherein the late, great song man Rob Morsberger musically brainstorms prime numbers with a group of mathematicians.

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

STEM Education Takes Flight With NASA eClips Videos

  • Apr 03, 2015

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Since its inception, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been a valued resource for teachers, sharing its vaunted expertise in math, science, engineering and other subjects via quality educational materials distributed free-of-charge.

This month, we’d like to call your attention to NASA eClips, an extensive collection of short videos exploring timely applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, topics.

The videos are engaging, well-produced, and divided into K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 categories. All are accompanied by downloadable lesson guides aligned to national standards for science, math, and technology. There’s even a “Teacher Toolbox” to help you put it all to work.

Check out the sample video below. For the rest visit NASA eClips online.

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Challenge, Triumph, and Ovation

  • Mar 27, 2015

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Bravo to Ovation TV!

Television’s only 24/7 all-arts-all-the-time network appreciates the unique role it plays on the cultural landscape, and proves it consistently with a diverse lineup of curated programming covering all aspects of creative expression.

Which is why the channel also occupies an important place on our DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup (ch. 274).

Case in point, Ovation’s “Arts Ed Toolkit”, a series of themed packages prepared specifically for students and teachers, comprising streaming video and standards-based lesson plans free for download.

Currently available is a real gem entitled NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage, a documentary that chronicles the ambitious global tour of Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes’ production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. From the formation of the theatrical company to the stresses of travel and performance—with all the requisite drama, both on-stage and off—the film offers students a candid glimpse into the rigorous theatrical process, backed-up by lesson plans designed to Core and other theatre arts standards for grades 9-12.

A highly-recommended resource for the high-school theatrical community.

To access the materials visit Ovation TV, then scroll down to the bottom for the EDUCATORS tab and start your free account.

And to find out about other great educational shows and resources, simply bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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The 2015 White House Science Fair

  • Mar 20, 2015

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Student engineers and scientists from across America will gather in Washington, DC on Monday, March 23 to demonstrate the power of STEM education at the 2015 White House Science Fair, hosted by President Barack Obama.

As the event is all about students and their outstanding achievements, it amounts to a golden opportunity for educators seeking ways to inspire. Watch it with your class via live video feed at whitehouse.gov/science-fair.

Note: Though no start time has been announced as of this writing, simply follow #whsciencefair on Facebook or Twitter for the latest information.

This year’s Fair will place special emphasis on girls and women in STEM, and feature an appearance by 2014 Young Scientist Challenge winner Sahil Doshi. On display will be dozens of projects, designs and experiments showing the promise of America’s next generation of innovators.

All in all, it’s a concentration of inspiration for any student considering a future in the applied sciences—a showcase for talent that’s sorely needed.

President Obama made the point at last year’s event. “As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners. Because superstar biologists and engineers and rocket scientists and robot-builders… they’re what’s going to transform our society. They’re the folks who are going to come up with cures for diseases and new sources of energy, and help us build healthier, more successful societies.

To receive information about other great educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Geography as biography

  • Mar 12, 2015

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National Geographic Channel’s upcoming series, The Big Picture with Kal Penn, is a bit difficult to describe. But in the spirit of the show I’ll take a shot at it using visualization: Imagine a map, let’s say, a map of the United States—a relatively simple picture, to be sure, yet one that contains enough visual information to yield countless stories.

But now imagine another version of that map, one which includes the more than three hundred million people who actually inhabit the land—along with all the systems, movements and endeavors that make-up their lives.

The data contained in that mental picture is mind-boggling. And it is being collected—all day, every day.

Which is where The Big Picture with Kal Penn comes in. Through number-crunching, data analysis and innovative visualization, the show takes those raw statistics and transforms them into compelling, sometimes even surprising, human stories.

Stories told by popular actor and former White House Associate Director, Kal Penn (right).

“I’m excited to be the viewer’s gateway to cartography and statistics,” says Penn, who also serves as one of the show’s producers. “National Geographic has a legacy of transporting people to amazing places, and with The Big Picture we’re going to establish connections made through statistics and data, and reveal how the bigger picture affects the real world, throughout history, across societies and into our hearts and brains.”

Adds Nat Geo TV CEO Courteney Monroe, “We’re stripping down the layers of the world to discover hidden connections that will enhance our audience’s views of what’s really happening, not only in the world at large, but in their small world.”

The Big Picture with Kal Penn premieres March 30 on National Geographic Television (DIRECTV channel 276). The show’s official web site offers a  good selection of interactive maps and “geo-tours” drawn from the series, designed to help educators put The Big Picture to work in their classrooms.

Nat Geo TV  has long been a go-to resource for educational television, and The Big Picture is just one of the outstanding new shows they’ve got lined-up for spring. To stay abreast of what’s coming, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Revving up for STEM

  • Mar 06, 2015

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In September of 2010 the White House helped launch Change the Equation, a non-profit organization dedicated to rallying the business community around STEM education in America. Since then many companies have answered the call, and as a result, the next generation of teachers, techs, engineers and science professionals enjoys a wide variety of free educational resources that didn’t exist previously.

Which brings us to the welcome arrival of NASCAR Acceleration Nation, a new on-line, STEM-based learning platform that’s as much fun as it is educational. Focusing on the aerodynamic principles of Drag, Downforce and Drafting—what NASCAR calls the Three D’s of Speed—downloadable lesson plans are designed for students in grades 5-7, and conform to state and Next Generation Science standards.

On the fun side, the NASCAR Acceleration Nation Experience will bring the platform to life for children and families at racetracks.

“NASCAR Acceleration Nation is about bringing kids closer to our sport in an entertaining and educational way,” says Brent Dewar, Chief Operating Officer, NASCAR. “When you look at the speed and design of our race cars and their performance on the track, NASCAR represents a unique platform to teach math and science. Our goal is to make learning these subjects fun for kids.”

Adds Ann Amstuz-Hayes, SVP Scholastic National Partnerships, “Kids are always inspired by real-life events around them. This program is a great example of how the science behind a sport and can be brought to life for students in way that is both educational, relevant and fun.”

Check out NASCAR Acceleration Nation for yourself.

And to receive information about other great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Our guest blogger, Connie Goshgarian, has some great advice for aspiring engineers

  • Feb 27, 2015

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I have known that I wanted to be an engineer as far back as I remember. I love the challenge of solving problems and I have always been very passionate about space. I remember watching the first Apollo moon landing as a child thinking “I want to be involved in that”! I followed that passion through school working on experiments that flew on the space shuttle and into my first job out of college working on satellites.

For someone interested in engineering, there are so many options to learn today. The internet provides opportunities not just to read, but to actually do projects and to find help. You can look up information on each of the different fields of engineering. In addition, math and science teachers are often willing to put in extra effort to help an interested student. I had several such mentors growing up. Participating in things like state math contests, National Science Foundation programs and other technical functions can help increase your knowledge and also allow you to build a network of peers and mentors with similar interests. The critical thing to keep in mind is to follow your passion. If you want to do something, you will find a way, and people willing to help. Enthusiasm is contagious.

At DIRECTV, the thing I enjoy most is the opportunity to come up with innovative solutions to challenging tasks. The culture encourages collaboration with excellent colleagues which makes it a lot of fun. Rather than having a favorite specific project, I feel the most reward when a new project comes in and the foundation we designed before allows that project to be easily developed. It is easy to design a solution to a specific task. It is much more challenging to design frameworks that support multiple projects, many of which you never imagined during the original design.

The ability to think abstractly and design solutions that fit evolving needs is one of the marks of a great engineer. Another critical characteristic is the ability to work with and lead teams. Ideas play off each other. If you have a group of smart people that want to work together, amazing things happen.

And engineers can give back to their communities by helping the next generations who come behind them. This can be done in a number of ways. You can act as a mentor to neighbors or acquaintances or through a formal school program.

DIRECTV offers an intern program for college students during the summer. We put a lot of thought into the projects the students will be assigned and also to the mentor for each student. We tried to guide the students not only on how to come up with good designs but also on how to work with teams, sell their ideas, and build networks. In addition, many of the leadership programs at DIRECTV have a team building component that focuses on giving back to the community. Some examples include renovating schools that focus on STEM education and building bicycles as rewards for students who have excelled in their classwork.

 —Connie Goshgarian, VP, Engineering

To keep abreast of educational resources, programming, and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Celebrate National Engineers Week 2015!

  • Feb 23, 2015

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It’s National Engineers Week (Feb. 22-28), and if you’ll indulge me for just a few moments I’d like to invite you to kick-off the celebration by doing one simple thing: Wherever you happen to be right now, take a quick look around and consider how much of what you see represents the work of various types of engineers. Whether it’s the digital device upon which you’re reading this, or the textiles on your back; the desk at which you’re sitting or the building in which you’re housed; the snack you’re enjoying or the eyeglasses that help you read, every manufactured thing with which we interact each day represents the work of people—people who applied science, technology and mathematics to the task of invention, or, problem-solving.

And the world needs more. Which is why the National Society of Professional Engineers started Engineers Week way back in 1951—not only as a way to celebrate the role of  engineering in our daily lives, but, more importantly, to inspire the next generation of engineers.

National Engineers Week is coordinated by DiscoverE, a coalition of 100+ stakeholders in industry, government, associations, and academe whose stated mission is “To sustain and grow a dynamic engineering profession through outreach, education, celebration, and volunteerism.”

Of particular interest to us here at DIRECTV GOES TO SCHOOL is DiscoverE’s call to engineer volunteers for engagement in K-12 education. The group’s web site is chock-full of free resources designed to help educators, counselors and parents inspire students to consider the possibilities of a career in applied sciences.

Check it out for yourself. And keep abreast of the week’s events at #eweek2015.

In the coming days, we’ll introduce you to one of our own engineers here at DIRECTV.

To receive information about other great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Selling presidents since 1952

  • Feb 19, 2015

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“Advertising agencies have tried openly to sell presidents since 1952,” wrote Joe McGinniss in his seminal 1969 book, The Selling of the President 1968.

And the fact that his observation seems almost quaint in today’s media-saturated political culture suggests that we’ve failed to heed the warning.

Today, more than ever, presidential candidates aren’t so much presented to us as they are sold to us like products—packaged, branded, and target-marketed to various consumer groups. It’s hardly an ideal way to choose leaders, but how many of us, especially young people, ever stop to think about that, much less factor it into our voting?

Sounds like a great topic for classroom study, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, the bright folks at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image have put together an online exhibition entitled The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012, an exhaustive archive of campaign commercials accompanied by free, common core standards-based lesson plans in English Language Arts and Social Studies.

It’s all you’ll need to launch your own eye-opening study in media literacy and critical thinking.

Check it out for yourself. Visit The Living Room Candidate today.

And to receive more information about great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Make better happen by becoming a City Year Americorps Member

  • Feb 12, 2015

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Each year, while most of us simply lament student performance and the general state of education in America, nearly 3,ooo young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are stepping-up to #makebetterhappen by pledging 11 months of service to City Year, an organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling.

And take it from us, City Year Corps members are  making better happen—giving kids the one-on-one attention they need and helping to increase graduation rates across the country. Over the past seven months or so we’ve introduced you to a few of these outstanding young people, winners of our new Math Achievement Award, and the one thing they all exhibit is a strong desire to see every child get the education they deserve.

Check out the video below for a sample of what makes City Year volunteers so special. And if you think you’ve got what it takes to make better happen, apply to become a Corps Member today (applications for 2015-2016 are open until Monday, February 15!).

The potential benefits for both you and the students you serve will be immeasurable.

To receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Antiques Roadshow honors Black History Month

  • Feb 06, 2015

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“Objects are what matter. Only they carry the evidence that throughout the centuries something really happened among human beings.” Claude Levi-Strauss

Isn’t that really the grand allure of PBS’s most highly-rated series, Antiques Roadshow ? Beyond the obvious thrill of seeing someone find out that they’re dusty old attic discovery is worth a bundle, it’s in learning the history of said object that we all get to walk away from the show a little richer.

And history is set to come alive in a very special way this coming Monday as Antiques Roadshow honors Black History Month with a special episode, Celebrating Black Americana. Highlights include the intriguing 1885 oil painting Dancing for Eels; an 1821 U.S. citizenship certificate for George Barker, a free man of color; an African-American beauty book written by Madam C.J. Walker, the first American female millionaire; and a trip with host Mark L. Walberg and appraiser Leila Dunbar to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Check out the preview, below.

Antiques Roadshow: Celebrating Black Americana airs Monday, February 9, 2015 at  9/8C. For helpful suggestions on how to use Antiques Roadshow in your classroom (grades 7-12), visit PBS LearningMedia.

And for more information on fun, educational shows like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Turn the page with Discovery Education Techbooks

  • Jan 29, 2015

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Early in 2012, the Obama administration called for an e-textbook in every student’s hand by 2017, citing cost, efficiency and the advantage of real-time student progress data as incentives.

But judging from what I’ve been reading, the transition from paper to pixels may take a bit longer. After all, bound books work. Always have. And who’s got time for (more) change, anyway?

Wherever you stand on the issue, you have to admit the transition seems inevitable. Let’s face it, your students are digital natives. And with the President himself now pushing for e-textbooks… well.

Why not learn more about this emerging medium? Check out Discovery Education Techbooks, an award-winning series of K-12 digital textbooks from a company with an exemplary educational track record.  Currently covering math, science and social studies, Techbooks can be used on any digital device or platform, and promise to substantially lower district costs. They even include ongoing professional development for teachers.

Check out the video below, and learn more on the company’s web site.

And to receive information about other great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

NOTE: Discovery is channel 278 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Math Techbook Classroom Experience from Discovery Education on Vimeo.

FREE student admissions to see Selma!

  • Jan 22, 2015

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In an unprecedented opportunity brought about by African-American business leaders, middle and high-school students in select cities across the country will have an opportunity to see the Academy Award-nominated movie Selma absolutely free of charge!

But only while supplies last, so spread the word!

Selma tells the story of Martin Luther King’s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the epic culmination of his ultimately successful campaign to secure equal voting rights for all Americans.

“It’s important that the civil rights struggle depicted in Selma reach as many young people as possible so that the enduring lessons of the civil rights movement can be harnessed to inspire them to transform their lives and communities,” says T. Warren Jackson, Senior Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer, DIRECTV, who organized the efforts in Los Angeles.

The film offers a great point of departure for classroom discussion and further study, so teachers and students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.

You’ll find all the details here.

And to receive information about other great opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Help foster the leaders of tomorrow

  • Jan 16, 2015

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Kids are getting up to some really interesting things these days.

Take Sarah Dewitz of Orlando, Florida, for example. At just 15-years-old she runs a charity organization that has thus far collected and distributed half a million books to children and families from low-income neighborhoods (see video, below).

Or Nicholas Cobb, who began collecting toiletries for the needy at the age of 7 and later, as an Eagle Scout project, created a non-profit organization that raises money to purchase coats for homeless families.

Amazing young people doing amazing things, and now their stories are available to inspire everyone thanks to  TeenNick’s Halo Effect.

Each month, the Halo Effect initiative honors a teen who’s making an impact in their community and, moreover, drawing others to their cause. Check it out for yourself, and if you know a teenager who fits the bill you might want to consider nominating them for honor.

In any case, please spread the word about TeenNick’s Halo Effect. You never know who you might inspire.

And to receive information about other great opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

NOTE: TeenNick is channel 303 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Outrageous Acts of Science!

  • Jan 09, 2015

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There are thousands of videos on the internet that depict people falling—falling off of bikes, into ponds, out of chairs, onto other people, or surprised pets—and these videos demonstrate a scientific principle: the Law of Gravity.

Who would have guessed that spending hours on the internet watching people fall off of things might actually count as scientific study. Well, it’s all in how you look at it. People challenge the law of gravity and they lose. Every time. And if they fall spectacularly and their video goes viral, they do it again. Only harder this time.

Which suggests a conversation about yet another area of science, psychology.

Seriously, though, someone smarter than me considered this phenomenon and had the bright idea to create a television show called Outrageous Acts of Science, which turns kooky internet videos into lessons in applied science (watch a sample, below).

Airing on the Science Channel (DIRECTV channel 284), Outrageous Acts of Science is highly entertaining as a clearinghouse for the web’s best do-it-yourself mayhem. But what really makes it unique is the expert analysis of the scientific principles behind something like, say, the infamous tongue-to-frozen-lamppost dare, proving that it is scientifically possible to be serious while not taking oneself too seriously.

Check it out for yourself. Maybe even incorporate an epIsiode into your curriculum. If nothing else, your students will think you’re cool.

Outrageous Acts of Science is rated TV14, and airs Saturday nights at 10/9C. Be sure to visit the show’s official web site.

And for more information on fun, educational shows like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

PBS is looking for America’s most innovative educators!

  • Jan 08, 2015

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Long, long ago, the chalkboard arrived as an innovative new tool for classroom instruction. Undoubtedly some teachers balked. Others, however, saw the potential benefits a board offered their students and became the first to learn how not to screech chalk, and always clap erasers outside the window.

If you’re one of those teachers who’s still embracing what’s new in education technology, the good folks at PBS would like to invite you to apply to the 2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Program, a yearlong professional development opportunity designed to “reward, foster and grow a community of 100 tech-savvy educators making an impact in their classrooms.”

Application to the program is easy, and selected teachers will enjoy a host of benefits including access to exclusive virtual trainings and resources, as well as a shot at a three day, all-expense paid trip to Philadelphia to participate in the PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Summit and the prestigious ISTE Conference in late June, 2015.

The deadline for application is February 11, 2015, so get started!

PBS LearningMedia is the destination for free PreK-12 digital classroom content. While you’re on the site, be sure to check out all the great educational resources available —100k+ digital resources, in fact, covering all subjects, from 205 trusted media partners and aligned to national and Common Core State Standards.

And to receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Seriously cool history

  • Dec 31, 2014

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History is discovery, as they say, and you’ll be amazed by how much there is to learn about things you already know in the engaging documentary series 10 Things You Didn’t Know About.

Airing on the History channel’s sister network H2 (channel 271 on your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel package), the show is hosted by punk rock icon Henry Rollins (right), a challenging intellectual and longtime advocate for staying informed. His basic premise, and thus the guiding principle of the show, seems to be that there’s always more to the story than just the official story, and episodes on everything from the Gold Rush and the American Revolution to the ongoing Tesla/Edison debate make the case.

“If you want to go anywhere, you have to know where you are. In order to do that, you have to know where ‘you’ have been,” says Rollins. “Americans should really dig into their history. What some might think is new isn’t at all.”

The series is recommended for high-school history, social studies, and current events courses. History’s free Spring 2015 Idea Book includes a classroom guide designed to help you incorporate this and other shows into your curricula. NOTE: Topics vary widely, so teachers may want to preview individual episodes for educational application.

For airdates, check HS’s schedule. If you’d like to watch the show right now, full episodes available for viewing on the show’s official web site.

The series is also available for purchase from the History Shop.

For more information on great educational shows like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

There is still time to enter the second annual White House Student Film Festival!

  • Dec 23, 2014

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As I’ve said before, two things every student has these days are 1) a camera, and 2) an opinion—or at least a point of view. So it’s no surprise that more and more education-friendly entities (including C-SPAN and CNN Student News), are inviting students to make films.

Chief among those advocates now is none other than President Barack Obama, who has extended an engaging challenge of his own by way of the annual White House Student Film Festival.

The competition is open to all U.S. students grades K-12, who may submit a video up to 3 minutes in length, fiction or documentary, based on this year’s theme, “The Impact of Giving Back.”

“Tell a story about paying it forward, about community service, or what making a difference looks like in your eyes and through your lens,” say the contest’s official rules.

The deadline for submissions is January 20, 2015, so spread the word!

For more information watch the video below, then visit the official White House web site.

And to keep abreast of great educational opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Manufacture your future!

  • Dec 19, 2014

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My fondest memory from primary school involves getting an “A” on a story I’d written for fifth-grade English class. Moreover, it was the little note my teacher placed next to the grade that said “You are a writer!”.

Fortunately, I believed her. And I’ve been writing ever since.

There is no substitute for the influence a teacher can have upon a young person trying to figure out who they are, and what they can do. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you about Manufacture Your Future, a great new online initiative from Discovery Education and the Alcoa Foundation designed to help educators, school counselors and families cultivate the manufacturing leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

It’s a free, STEM-based resource that includes standards-based lesson plans for grades 6-12, a virtual field trip to an Alcoa manufacturing plant, career guides and discussion starters. I especially like the career guides, which can be useful in helping a young person understand how their skills and affinities have application in the “real” world.

I’m quite sure that my fifth-grade English teacher would approve.

Check it out for yourself. Visit the official Manufacturing Your Future web site.

And to receive more information about great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Help find the 2015 History Teacher of the Year!

  • Dec 12, 2014

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You know that passionate history teacher who’s got an uncanny knack for making the past feel like the present?

Of course you do. And it’s time everyone else knew them as well.

The challenge: Help HISTORY channel and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History find 2015′s History Teacher of the Year!

Any full-time educator (K-12 ) who teaches American history is eligible, but it’ll be your job to nominate them! Students, parents, colleagues, principals or other administrators familiar with the teacher’s work are invited to open the nomination process. There are cash prizes for State Winners, and a big prize package for the National Winner that includes an award ceremony in their honor in New York City.

Winners will be selected for the creative ways they bring history alive in the classroom and in their community.

Pictured above is 2013 New York History Teacher of the Year Angel Brea, of P.S. 257 in Brooklyn. Doesn’t he look happy?

Make your favorite history teacher happy, too. The deadline for nominations is February 1, 2015, and once a teacher is nominated they’ll be contacted with instructions and have until March 15, 2015 to submit supporting materials.

For more details visit the official competition web site.

And to receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Reliving That Most Infamous Day

  • Dec 05, 2014

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Sunday, December 7, will mark the 73rd anniversary of what then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the “date which will live in infamy”, and History channel is greeting the occasion with an encore presentation of the documentary Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After.

Drawn largely from resources within the FDR Library, the film offers a rare and  intimate look inside the White House during the first 24 hours following Japan’s catastrophic surprise  attack on a U.S. Naval base in Hawaii, which resulted in over three thousand American casualties and thrust America into a war that would shift the course of global geopolitical history.

The documentary is recommended for middle and high-school History, Global Studies, and Politics courses, as well as lectures on World War II. And there are free lesson plans available for download.

The 2-hour special Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After, rated TVPG, airs Sunday, December 7 at 10am/9c on the History channel (DIRECTV channel 269). Lesson plans for middle and high-school students are available free.

The film is also available for purchase from the History Shop.

For more information on great educational shows, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Meet the ODD SQUAD, solving math problems one hilarious adventure at a time

  • Nov 25, 2014

Image: ODD SQUAD (C) 2014 The Fred Rogers Company

We always knew math could be fun, and now, PBS KIDS proves it with ODD SQUAD, a wildly engaging new educational series for kids 5-8.

Produced by The Fred Rogers Company (yes, that Mr. Rogers), ODD SQUAD is a weekday series that follows the adventures of Otto (Filip Geljo) and Olivia (Dalila Bela), agents in a government organization tasked with investigating bizarre phenomena in their town. And as luck (and smart writing) would have it, each case is ultimately solved by working out a math problem.

Oh, and did I mention the dinosaurs? Check out the video below for a sample of what’s to come.

“Research shows that kids perform better when exposed early to math concepts, and ODD SQUAD introduces these topics in a fun and engaging way,” says Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS. “We are excited to bring a new math show to the PBS KIDS line-up, particularly at a time when STEM education is proving to be so important.”

ODD SQUAD premieres November 26 on PBS Kids (check local listings). For more information, resources and interactive content, visit the show’s official web site.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter for the latest information on great educational shows like ODD SQUAD.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Image: ODD SQUAD (C) 2014 The Fred Rogers Company

Your next stop, The Twilight Zone!

  • Nov 21, 2014

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When The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, a favorable review in the New York Times pointed out that the series’ pilot episode, Where Is Everybody?, easily distinguished itself from the field of then popular half-hour dramas, concluding that “Mr. Serling should not have much trouble in making his mark.”

He was talking about writer Rod Serling (pictured, right), and nearly 55 years later it’s clear the reviewer was on to something.

With its well-crafted stories and timeless themes, The Twilight Zone (or TZ as it’s known by fans) was an instant hit with critics and remains one of only a handful of early television series winning new fans today, embraced by the digital generation on the Syfy channel and widening Serling’s mark on our popular conscience.

And that’s where you teachers come in. How would you like to put some of this magic to work in your classroom, say, in an English or Creative Writing course?

Each week, as part of an ongoing educational initiative, the Syfy channel airs one commercial-free episode of The Twilight Zone that you are invited to record and retain for educational purposes. How you use it is up to you, but as a writer I would say there’s no better example of tight, imaginative storytelling with a major emphasis on plot, character and irony.

Why not build a library of TZ episodes that you can come back to again and again?

As Mr. Serling might have said, your educational possibilities are limited only to “the dimension of imagination.”

The Twilight Zone airs commercial-free for classroom use every Sunday night/Monday morning at 5:30 AM ET on Syfy (DIRECTV channel 244). It is recommended for middle and high school students, and episodes may be recorded and kept in perpetuity for classroom use.

Upcoming episodes include:

Long Distance Call (Nov. 23) A boy (Bill Mumy) believes that a toy telephone allows him to communicate with his late grandmother.

A Hundred Years Over the Rim (Nov. 30) A pioneer (Cliff Robertson) in search of medicine for his dying son unwittingly travels far into the future.

The Rip Van Winkle Caper (Dec. 7) Four thieves steal a shipment of gold and escape the law by placing themselves in suspended animation with the idea of waking-up 100 years later as free, rich men. Simon Oakland (Psycho) stars.

The Silence (Dec. 14) One man’s verbosity and another man’s intolerance for it lead to a bizarre wager, which will ultimately reveal much about both. With Liam Sullivan and Franchot Tone.

Shadow Play (Dec. 21) A condemned man (Dennis Weaver) claims he’s in the midst of a recurring bad dream, and people are starting to believe him.

The Mind and The Matter (Dec. 28) A confirmed misanthrope (Shelley Berman) who wishes everybody was more like him receives a shocking reality check.

To keep abreast of future episodes, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

DIRECTV honors Teacher Stories winner Joan Colalillo

  • Nov 13, 2014

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For some time now, we’ve been telling you about DIRECTV’s ongoing engagement with the social action platform TakePart, specifically, their brilliant “Teacher Stories” initiative whereby students were invited to spotlight a teacher who’s had an impact on their lives.

More than 850 teachers have been honored, and last month, of that number, five teachers were selected by DIRECTV as winners for their outstanding achievements in math. Each received free DIRECTV service for a year, and there were also cash prizes for schools as well as sponsorship of a math project and/or a math-related field trip through DonorsChoose.org.

We were so intrigued by the praise heaped upon these winning teachers that we decided to learn more.

Meet Joan Colalillo (right), 1st-grade math teacher at Penny Road Elementary in Cary, North Carolina. She’s also taught 3rd and 4th grade and has an infectious enthusiasm for what she does.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you want to become a teacher?

When I was younger I was told by my parents that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college, so I entered the business world instead. I worked for a while in corporate America in administrative/marketing areas, even in NYC. However, I began to realize that my passion wasn’t there – it was rooted in my childhood dreams of being a teacher. So, I began going to school at night and worked during the day while raising a family, too. It was a long road but it is a story that I can share with my students about perseverance.

What have been the highlights of your career and maybe some of the biggest challenges?

Once I graduated, I decided that I could, in fact, realize my dreams, so I continued on to finish my Masters of Education degree, with a Reading Specialist certification. Then, I decided to tackle National Boards and passed! I became a National Board Certified teacher last year in Early Middle Childhood literacy. This past year, I surpassed even my own aspirations and was chosen to be a part of NC Governor’s Teacher Network, writing lesson plans for our teachers across the state, while continuing to work full time.

I am now in my 7th year of teaching and I am back in first grade. I love every minute with my “lovebugs” and they know it! Being named Teacher of Year at my previous school was another highlight, however being nominated by parents for this award is just confirmation of the hard work I do every single day to go above and beyond for my students and their families.

My biggest challenge is always finding enough money personally to do all the many fun and engaging things I want to do for them.

 Why do you love to teach math, and why do you think students need a solid foundation in the subject?

I love teaching math because it is so hands-on and really engages all learners. So many students struggling in, say, reading, can find success in math because it is so much more concrete. They can use manipulatives and become tactile learners to problem-solve and be critical thinkers. That is not as easy to do in other subject areas.

I love the confidence, excitement and joy that math success brings to my students. I love to see them get creative in the ways they approach a problem.

When my 3rd and 4th graders didn’t have a solid foundation in number sense and fluency, it truly impacted the curriculum that I needed to teach them and it was very difficult to fill in the gaps for students who missed that earlier foundation years before. Now, back in first grade, I hold high expectations for my students, knowing full well just how important my job is for their future success. It is a responsibility I hold with high regard as I do my job day in and day out.

Tell us about some of the ways in which you’ve engaged your students; how you’ve helped them reach that all-important “A-ha!” moment when they truly grasp a concept.  

I find fun and engaging ways to teach. My philosophy is that learning can be fun. Yes, it’s work, but I want my students to not only learn something for a day or week—I want them to retain it. One way I like to do that is with songs.

For example, students often mix up area and perimeter. But through a fun rap song I found online, my students were able to get up, get dancing and remember that fun song in their heads. I could literally see some of them in their seats bouncing to the rhythm as we took an assessment and they sang the song in their heads!

Then there are the times when students would realize that they were using multiple content areas – like, “WOW, Mrs. C, I just used reading in math!” Or, when we used live worms to investigate how worms react to light, and then we measured the distance the worms traveled on their desks. We had studied how to measure accurately for a while, and then I made them use it. It’s so much more powerful.

With first-graders, it comes in the forms of teaching addends and sums; and helping struggling students to identify the unknown.

After a multitude of math games and fun ways to teach addition and subtraction, something still wasn’t clicking for some students. That’s when I realized I could also use my balance/scale to really emphasize how the “=” sign meant that everything before the equal sign and everything after had to be the same value. We used counters and cubes and realized that we could find the sum by making sure our scale was in balance. Their eyes glistened a little as that spark of recognition hit! I was like, finally, they’ve got it! What a rewarding moment after weeks of work.

Being a math teacher is an effort in dedication, and constantly trying to find a variety of tools and strategies that students can use to help them be problem solvers. It’s games, interactive Smartboard lessons, manipulatives, songs, dancing, physical act-outs (like people ten frames) and so much more!

What have you learned that other teachers might find useful?

No matter what the grade level the most important thing you can do for your students is build relationships with them. If you get to know them, their likes and their dislikes, show how much you love and care for them, they will try ten-times harder to reach your expectations. Whether it’s math, reading or science, I challenge students to “raise the bar” at every turn. I encourage them to continue their learning at home and reward that extra work back at school. I already have around nine first-grade students that complete extra homework on their own almost nightly. Not because I ask them to . . . but because I have tried to inspire that love of learning inside them and they know just how proud I am of them.

Games and creative ways to get your material across are just a daily part of my teaching, making everything authentic and real to their world is even more effective. But nothing provides more of punch than the relationship I work on every single day with my students. None leave at the end of the day without a hug and an “I love you!” It could be the only time some of them hear it or get a hug that day. You just never know!

Do you have a favorite resource or website that you use for lesson planning or professional development?

Honestly, my favorite resource right now is Teacherspayteachers. Teachers that are in the field every day teaching their standards are the best sources for great material. I can often find great ideas on that site, as well as other wonderful teachers sharing their ideas on Pinterest!

I always LOVE a great idea!

Right now our school is implementing Model Drawing through Singapore Math, as well as stressing number bonds, ten frames and compensation to solve and compute. I’ve attended training with my principal, Mary Bohr, who is insightful and research-minded when she brings ideas the staff. I was invited to attend that conference, and the model drawing strategy for problem solving is eye opening. I only wish I had learned this way when I was in school. I highly recommend anyone looking into model drawing to take a workshop. You’ll be glad you did. It’s extremely effective for students that need that Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract representation in math.

Our kids deserve to be top in the world in math, too!

 

Be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

National Geographic Channel tells the epic Story of Food

  • Nov 03, 2014

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As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. And as put forth in the upcoming National Geographic TV series EAT: The Story of Food, our adventurous appetites have driven “nearly everything we’ve ever done” as a species.

It’s an interesting take on human history backed-up colorfully and with educational impact in Nat Geo’s six-hour miniseries, set to premiere in November.

Just in time for Thanksgiving.

The series arrives as part of the National Geographic Society’s recently-announced multi-year commitment to exploring issues relating to food security and how we create sustainable food systems—an educational initiative spread across various platforms including television, live eventsapps, interactive web-based tools and National Geographic magazine.

It’s a virtual banquet of educational resources, so to speak, and one we’d encourage you and your students to sample. The TV series will take-in science, history, health education, timely issues of sustainability, cultural studies and lots, lots more. For a full episodic breakdown, visit the official Story of Food web site, where you’ll also find a link to supporting materials and suggested activities for K-12 educators.

Hope that’s whet your appetite. Now dig in!

EAT: The Story of Food airs in three parts, November 21-23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, on the National Geographic Channel (DIRECTV channel 276).

Want more information on great educational shows like this? Just bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

The 2015 C-SPAN StudentCam documentary competition is on!

  • Nov 03, 2014

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For some time now we’ve been telling you about the C-SPAN StudentCam short documentary competition—a great opportunity for civic-minded students (grades 6-12) to influence the national conversation and vie for cash prizes. Participating schools and teacher advisers are eligible for cash prizes as well.

The competition invites middle and high-school students to create 5 to 7-minute film on an issue of sociopolitical importance.

This year’s theme:

“The Three Branches and You”
Tell a story that demonstrates how a policy, law or action by either the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branch has affected you or your community.

Cash prizes totaling $100,000 will be awarded to 150 winning student filmmakers and 53 teacher advisers. The submission deadline for all videos is January 20, 2015.

Let’s face it, the two things every student has these days are 1) a video camera, and 2) an opinion. Make this a year your students will never forget by showing them the doors that can open when they use those things constructively.

Listen to what this participating teacher adviser had to say:

“All of my StudentCam participants walk a little taller, (and) they exude a poise and self-confidence that the other eighth graders (who did not participate), don’t.”  —Karen Rehder, Farragut Middle School, Knoxville, TN

And this, from a proud mom:

“This is the sort of thing that he’ll remember his whole life, of course, and it’s life-changing. You can be sure that you’ve had a formidable impact on this young man, in part because of the honor of the award, but in larger part because he experienced what it’s like to make a difference in something important.”  —Sharon Webb, Mother of 2010 StudentCam winner Matthew Shimura, Honolulu, HI

For more information, visit C-SPAN StudentCam.

And if you need more inspiration, check out 2012′s First Prize-winning film from Leo Pfeifer, a then 8th-grader from Seattle, Washington (below).

To receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

 

 

Notches, Panhandles and Jogs

  • Oct 31, 2014

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“Borders are stories, and the stories are great.” 
from How the States Got Their Shapes

As a little kid growing-up in New York City, I had one of those colorful wooden puzzle maps that depicted the unique characteristics of all 50 United States. Beyond fostering a fledgling desire to visit those wonderful places where buffalo roamed, or mighty locomotives thundered past desert cactus, it challenged me to recognize states by their shapes. Texas, California and Florida were easy. Once I ventured inland, though, things grew complicated.

It would be years before I’d learn that borders actually existed in the world outside my puzzle, and decades before I’d come to fully understand the various and sundry ways these lines have snaked and shifted before settling into what we now recognize as home.

In fact, it wasn’t until I watched History Channel’s How the States Got Their Shapes that I learned Las Vegas was once in Arizona!

Based on a book by playwright and screenwriter Mark Stein, this engaging and fact-filled documentary series explores how war, politics, commerce, social revolution and even natural disasters literally shaped our nation. Hosted by National Public Radio’s Brian Unger (pictured, above), the program is an ideal complement to history, geography, and social studies curricula.

It’s not a wooden puzzle, but it’ll have to do.

History Channel’s accompanying classroom guide includes pre-viewing activities, curriculum links, discussion questions and extended activities, along with a vocabulary section and lists of recommended books and web sites. These resources are available to educators free of charge.

The program may be recorded for use in the classroom, and may also be viewed online.

Upcoming airings of How the States Got Their Shapes include:

“Mouthing Off”
The diversity of America’s state borders is matched only by the diversity of our regional accents. This episode explores the history and social impact of sounding different across the United States.
Nov. 24 at 6am/5c on History Channel Classroom (ch. 269).

“Forces of Nature”
A look at how massive geological events helped shape the land that would become America. Did you know that an asteroid created the border for three states?
Dec. 29 at 6am/5c on History Channel Classroom (ch. 269).

For more educational fun, challenge students to test their knowledge with History Channel’s interactive “Place the State” game.

And to receive more information about great educational programming like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Got any budding journalists in your classroom? Tell them how to submit a report to CNN Student News.

  • Oct 24, 2014

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That’s right. All they’ll need is a camera and a good story.

They might even end up on TV!

CNN’s popular iReport project invites students age 13 and older to file a news report, share their opinions, or just give a shout out to a favorite teacher. Videos can be uploaded for immediate viewing, and the best ones may even be selected to appear on CNN Student News (streaming weekdays on CNNStudentNews.com, and also available as a podcast).

It’s a great way for any young person interested in a journalism career to get some valuable experience. Not to mention exposure. A featured report on CNN Student News would look mighty impressive on a college admissions essay. So spread the word!

Check out the video below for details, and for more information visit CNN iReport.

And to receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Start planning now for a science fair this spring!

  • Oct 19, 2014

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As anyone who’s ever taken part in a school science fair knows, science is never more engaging or rewarding than it is when you’re doing it yourself. It begins with a simple question. The comes experimentation. And finally, the all-important presentation. Then all of a sudden… youout of everyone in your schoolbecome the recognized expert on that particular subject.

And you begin to wonder if they make lab coats for children. (Note: They do.)

All this to say that if you’re school is not currently planning a science fair, it should be. You should be. I have to presume that if you were drawn-in by the title of this post you’re at least thinking about it. Let me be the first to say you’re on to something.

At DIRECTV we’re big supporters of STEM education, and frankly we can think of no better way than personal, hands-on experience to get a child thinking about the possibility of a career in a STEM-related field. Preparing a project for a science fair is self-directed learning, which is empowering for kids. And by employing scientific methods to reach demonstrable conclusions, under your supportive tutelage, they’ll recognize that their efforts are worthy of respect.

So where do you begin? I’d recommend you pay a visit to Discovery Education’s Science Fair Central, a free, easy-to-navigate resource for K-12 educators containing everything you’ll need. Check it out. And if you do decide to go ahead and have that science fair, please let us know how it goes.

You can always stay in-touch with us via Twitter. And please be sure to bookmark this page.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Great teachers. Great stories.

  • Oct 15, 2014

Teacher Stories Winners

Not long ago we told you that, as part of its continuing in its commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, DIRECTV had joined forces with the social action platform TakePart to recognize the contributions of outstanding math teachers.

TakePart had the right idea—that the best way to find great teachers is to ask those who know their work best, their students.

And boy did they find some great teachers. More than 850 in all!  You can read about them on the official Teacher Stories web site.

Out of this number, five math teachers were selected as winners in the Math Award category (below), and will receive free DIRECTV for a year. There were also cash prizes for schools as well as sponsorship of a math project and/or a math-related field trip through DonorsChoose.org.

You can read more about the contest at TakePart.com.

And to receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Congratulations to all our winning teachers and schools! DIRECTV is proud to help tell the world about what you do.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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The 50th anniversary of freedom for many Americans offers a vital learning opportunity for us all.

  • Oct 03, 2014

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“Determine that a thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.” —Abraham Lincoln

It was just 50 years ago that President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, a huge milestone in the fight for freedom that began with the signing of the Declaration of Independence way back in 1776.

And of the myriad reasons this event was momentous—chief among them the fact that for the first time in their history African-Americans would enjoy the full rights of citizenship—it was an opportunity for modern America to become embroiled in an issue directly connected to the nation’s founding.

This anniversary holds special importance in America’s classrooms, and in recognition of that, History Channel has devoted an entire edition of its popular Idea Book for Educators (below) to the topic.

Created as a companion to the Library of Congress exhibition The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom, the 19-page book is chock full of ideas on teaching from primary sources, and it’s available for download free of charge.

To get your copy, visit History Channel Classroom.

And to receive more information about free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and stay in-touch with us via Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Student and teachers — got any innovative, STEM-based ideas for solving problems in your community?

  • Sep 26, 2014

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“This competition changed the entire culture of our urban school.”

 Julie Hasfjord, STEM Instructional Leader, Bailey STEM Magnet Middle Prep, Nashville, TN

 

In a nutshell, Samsung’s annual Solve For Tomorrow competition is about teachers and students working together to apply STEM principles to the task of solving problems in their communities.

And a survey of some of last year’s winners is impressive, to say the least:

At Washington state’s East Valley High School, students concerned about high electricity usage during the summer months employed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to design an energy efficient cooling system.

At Philadelphia’s Academy at Palumbo, surveys and crime data were used to created algorithms that determined the safest routes for children to travel to and from school.

Real problems. Real solutions. All the product of students and their teachers.

AT DIRECTV we’re enthusiastic supporters of STEM education and always on the lookout for practical, innovative approaches to getting students engaged. And so we’re pleased to be able to partner with Samsung on this exciting endeavor. In fact, we created the Math Makes-it-Work Award to challenge students and teachers to make math a fundamental part of their contest entries. DIRECTV will award the winning school a $25,000 cash grant to expand upon their submitted project. In addition, the teacher(s) of the winning classroom will receive our In-Kind Teacher prize, which includes a free year of DIRECTV programming to enjoy at home.

See the graphic below for contest details, and be sure to visit the Solve For Tomorrow web site.

The deadline for this year’s competition is October 31st.

For more news about exciting opportunities like this, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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First-year teachers receive a big helping hand from Discovery Education.

  • Sep 13, 2014

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When we think of leadership as a vocation we most likely think of elected officials, military figures, team captains or corporate executives. But there’s no better example of professional leadership than a teacher—tasked each day with shepherding a roomful of diverse personalities (and their myriad issues) into some strange new area of knowledge. And not simply to lead them there, but to ensure that it becomes so woven into their thought process that it becomes a solid building block in what will eventually be the structure of their formal education.

And insofar as each student will eventually take this education out into the world, the teacher-as-leader—from K through 12 and beyond—is helping to build not only a person, but a society.

And a world! No pressure.

So with that in mind, our hearts and hands go out today to the person most likely to become a bit woozy at the very thought of all this: the rookie teacher. Now just weeks into their first semester in front of a class, the enormity of it all is beginning to sink in…

These are people in my charge. Just kids, for crying out loud! What if I make a mistake and ruin them for life? You’re telling me I’d be ruining the world, too? Yikes!

Relax. You’ve been trained for this. And for what it’s worth, the fact that you take hold of this responsibility with trembling hands only proves that you are a leader worthy of the title.

So enter that classroom with confidence. Find a mentor if you can. And while you look be sure to check out Discovery Education’s web site New Teacher Survival Central, a terrific free resource designed to help you make it through your first year. Quite frankly, there’s plenty of good info available on the site for more experienced teachers as well—from lesson plans and teacher blogs to helpful videos and opportunities for professional development.

There’s even a whole section on classroom management. Bet you’ve been thinking about that lately.

But seriously, enjoy your rookie year. And on behalf of the world, we thank you for your service.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: Discovery Channel is channel 278 in your DIRECTV School Choice programming package.

Constitution Day in the classroom with C-SPAN

  • Sep 05, 2014

1856 depiction of the 1787 Constitutional Convention by Junius Brutus Stearns

I must admit that it came as a surprise to me today to learn that a federal law passed in 2004 requires all schools that receive federal funding to teach about the Constitution every September 17, the anniversary of its adoption in 1787, as part of what’s officially recognized as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

Which makes sense in an American classroom, of course. But nevertheless when word of the new law got around in 2005 it was met with some surprise by educators. As one social studies teacher told the Washington Post, “We already have one of those. It’s called our curriculum.”

Now, if you’re a history or social studies teacher in a federally-funded school this is probably old news. But in case you’re late to the dance, like me, don’t panic. September 17th is approaching fast but you’ll be happy to know that C-SPAN Classroom has got you covered with a free, well-crafted lesson plan that you can easily incorporate into your curriculum. It’s designed for one 90-minute or two 45-minute classes, and built around the central question “How is the U.S. Constitution different from other countries’ Constitutions?”.

You’ll find the lesson plan here.

Happy Constitution Day and Citizenship Day!

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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(painting, top: 1856 depiction of the 1787 Constitutional Convention by Junius Brutus Stearns)

Meet Paiab Pasha Thao — tutor, mentor, role model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner.

  • Aug 29, 2014

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Not long ago we introduced you to a group of very special young people, the winners of DIRECTV’s first-ever Math Achievement Awards. Each of them had spent twelve months as City Year Corps Members, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

What really got our attention was the outstanding impact these folks had as math tutors. So we decided to take a closer look.

With that, we give you the next in our series of profiles, Paiab Pasha Thao (right).

 

Congratulations on your award! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a City Year Corps Member.

I am from Madison, Wisconsin. I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison and am majoring in Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Education Policy Studies. I am currently taking a break from school while I start my second year of service with City Year.

I serve with City Year because it is my mission to always be connected to education. Though my service, I want to be a part of building and embodying a school culture that values community, equality, safety, and excellence. In addition, I serve because I want others to see education as an art and an outlet of expression. Lastly, I serve to ensure that all people receive the education they are entitled to. City Year gives me this unique opportunity.

 

What can you tell us about the school where you served, and any particular challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor?

I served at John Muir Middle School in South Los Angeles. The school is a little over 1,200 students from sixth to eighth grade. The ethnic background is about 20% Black and 80% Latino. Some challenges I faced as a tutor and mentor at Muir was mainly a culture shock, not only for me but for my students. I come from a different culture than many of our students. However, it was through building key relationships and partnerships with teachers that really allowed me to bridge the gap I had with my students.

 

What about your history with math? Have the concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject? Did you have a great math teacher or mentor that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

When I was younger, math was a subject that I got fairly easily. I remember being in 3rd grade and doing 5th grade math. However, as I moved towards calculus I struggled with my math skills. I do know, however, that with perseverance and the help of my math teachers and my brother I was able to make it through all of my math classes. For me, when I look at math I know there is always a way I can track how I got my answer and check for accuracy, and that is something I like to pass onto my students as well.

 

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp, and how did you overcome that?

Many of my students were multiple grade levels behind in math. Therefore, many of the skills that were challenging to them were foundational skills such as multiplication and division. However, as the year progressed, we worked more on equations and combining like terms. For many of my students, understanding the steps of solving one and or two step equations was providing them differentiated support. We color coded like terms as well as the steps we took when solving the equations. My students were able to better understand concepts through both tangible concepts and visuals.

 

Please share your favorite math-related anecdote from your time at John Muir Middle School. Was there one student that really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment?

My favorite math moment was when I saw a student of mine teach another student in the class a concept we had recently gone over in an individual session. It solidified that he knew the concept and was confident enough in his understanding to share it with a classmate. We worked really hard with multiple ways to understand distributive properties. In the beginning we color coded different coefficients and eventually used candy to represent coefficients. When showing the student different ways to grasp the concept of like terms as well as distribution, I noticed he had an “a-ha” moment.

 

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

 I would encourage all teachers, mentors and City Year Corps members to engage with their students and utilize the different strategies of looking at a math problem. I used my personal experiences to help me approach my students, and I believe everyone has the potential to tap into how a student learns math best by providing differentiated support.

 

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

 As a student, I rarely remember STEM being a strong focus. Therefore, as I continued to high school and college, I focused less on STEM because the efforts weren’t there. I believe STEM is especially important because as with our other core subjects, our skills in STEM will continue with us outside of school.

 

Lastly, what about your future? What are your plans?

After my senior Corps year, I plan to go back to the University of Wisconsin Madison to complete my undergraduate degree in Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Education Policy Studies. In addition, I plan to apply to graduate school at UCLA. Ultimately I would like to be a principal.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: For more information about City Year, please visit their web site.

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Introducing Kayla Webb — tutor, mentor, role model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner.

  • Aug 15, 2014

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Not long ago we introduced you to a group of very special young people, the winners of DIRECTV’s first-ever Math Achievement Awards. Each of them had spent twelve months as City Year Corps Members, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

What really got our attention was the outstanding impact these folks had as math tutors. So we decided to take a closer look.

With that, we give you Kayla Webb (right).

 

Kayla, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to become a City Year Corps Member.

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. My parents emphasized the importance of education early and often in our household. I remember my younger brother and I playing those JumpStart educational computer games before playing video games. My mother is a high school English teacher so I was blessed with an incredible in-home asset. After high school, I attended Washington University in St. Louis where I studied Psychology and Children’s Studies. During my senior year I decided to forgo my original plan of applying to graduate school immediately after undergraduate and applied to City Year instead. This decision came after realizing how influential my mentors had been in my academic success and wanting to be that mentor for others. I was blessed with different teachers, professors, and coaches throughout my academic career that not only showed interest in me as a student, but as a person. I feel compelled to invest in our youth in the same way my elders invested in me.

 

What can you tell us about the school where you served?

I was very fortunate to serve in UCLA-Community School during the 2013-2014 school year. UCLA-CS is housed in the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools located in Koreatown. My classroom was a blended class comprised of 4th and 5th grade students. The culture and community of the school were extremely welcoming and proved to be a great atmosphere in which students could learn.

 

What were the highlights and notable challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools?

I found the students to be overwhelmingly receptive of my support, much to my delight. I was able to connect with my students on a personal level despite being an outsider in their community. I was welcomed and embraced with open arms and the relationships I developed with students and staff impacted me just as much, if not more, than my students.

 

What’s your history with math? Have the concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject? Did you have a great math teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Math is a subject that has always made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t struggle with any concepts until I reached Calculus my senior year of high school. Fortunately, my math teacher, Mr. Spitz, was excellent and he taught my classmates and me a valuable lesson: it’s about the process, not just getting the right answer. Until this point, math was a simple input/output process. He encouraged us to struggle through concepts and processes with the focus on understanding the mechanics instead of a correct final product. He took the sting out of “failure” and cultivated a sense of growing and developing in our skills.

 

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp?

My class spent a great deal of time with fractions and decimals. I noticed that some of my students were struggling with the concept of how many parts make up a whole and tended to group by 10s regardless of the denominator of the fraction (e.g. 10/5 = 1 whole as opposed to 5/5).

 

How did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?

Once I noticed this, I developed a visual representation of wholes and parts of wholes: fraction pizzas! I explained to my students that the denominator of a fraction determined how many slices the pizza should have and the numerator determined how many slices had been eaten. With a dry erase marker, students were able to divide the pizza into the appropriate amount of slices and visually see that 10 slices didn’t always make up a whole pizza.

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Please share your favorite math-related anecdote from your time with City Year. For example, was there one student that really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment? Did you use a creative method to get them there?

A few of my students were struggling with place values especially when working with decimals and knowing how to correctly name these numbers. For example, if the number 35.67 were written on the board, students would say “thirty-five ‘point/dot sixty-seven” instead of “thirty-five and sixty-seven hundredths.” My partner teacher and I developed a dice game to give students more practice with place values and naming them correctly. Students played head-to-head and each began with __ __ . __ on a dry erase board. Each student took turns rolling a die and placing the number they rolled in a blank space of their choice. When placing the number in the blank space they had to name it as well, so that if a student rolled a 6, depending on which space they chose, they either had to say “6 tens”, “6 ones”, or “6 tenths.” The student with the greatest overall number at the end of three rolls was deemed the winner. Once they mastered this version of the game, I began adding spaces and moving the decimal point within the number to increase the difficulty. My students really enjoyed this game and even wanted to make it into a tournament! It was great to see them having fun and mastering a concept at the same time.

 

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

My advice is to emphasize that there are multiple ways to arrive at a correct solution and encourage students to come up with a strategy that works best for them. One thing my partner teacher really emphasized was the sharing of strategies among the students, and students teaching each other different ways to solve the same problem. I found that this increases their problem solving skills and understanding of the concepts.

 

DIRECTV is committed to supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

The problem solving and technical skills one acquires through exposure to STEM subjects can be applied to all aspects of life and learning. With the increasingly competitive job market and global economy, it’s important that our students are prepared for success in today’s society. The way in which math concepts build upon one another emphasizes the importance of refining practices and scaffolded learning. We should all strive to be life-long learners, and these skills help to build that foundation in our students.

 

And what about your future? What are your plans?

I am currently still serving with City Year as a Team Leader at Santee Education Complex. I plan to apply to the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Southern California. Serving others brings me so much joy and dedicating my life to advocating for and uplifting others only seems natural.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: For more information about City Year, please visit their web site.

 

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Dora the Explorer helps kids get ready for kindergarten!

  • Aug 07, 2014

Dora Beyond

Kindergarten may be cute, but it represents a huge step for a child. And as most parents will tell you it’s a huge step for them as well, because a youngster who’s ready for formal education is a youngster who’s ready to succeed.

With that in mind, the good folks at Nick Jr. have come up with Beyond the Backpack, a free web site designed to help parents and caregivers properly prepare their children for kindergarten. Designed as a complement to the network’s curriculum-based preschool programming, the site is loaded with activities and resources covering everything from literacy, health, and social skills to early STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) concepts.

And with Dora the Explorer as your child’s guide, could it be anything less than fun?

Check out Beyond the Backpack today. And to get even more benefit out of  the program, visit their informative Facebook page.

Nick Jr. is a commercial-free, educational preschool network from Nickelodeon. You’ll find it on channel 301 of your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Tell the world about your favorite math teacher and you just might win them a prize!

  • Jul 29, 2014

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Continuing in its commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, DIRECTV recently joined forces with the social action platform TakePart to recognize the contributions of outstanding math teachers. And what better way to find these folks than through those who know their work best, their students.

Thus, any student age 13 or older is invited to tell the world about their favorite math instructor through TakePart’s Teacher Stories contest. Tell them a story about a great math teacher and that person might win free DIRECTV for a year! In addition, your school could win up to $5,000 from DIRECTV Goes to School to spend on math projects and/or a math-related field trip through DonorsChoose.org.

The contest closes on September 19. For more details, visit the Teacher Stories campaign on TakePart.com.

And tell your story!

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Meet Myeshia Bobo — tutor, mentor, role model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner.

  • Jul 25, 2014

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Not long ago we introduced you to a group of very special young people, the winners of DIRECTV’s first-ever Math Achievement Awards. Each of them had spent twelve months as City Year Corps Members, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

What really got our attention was the outstanding impact these folks had as math tutors. So we decided to take a closer look.

Our first interview is with Myeshia Bobo (right).

 

Myeshia, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to become a City Year Corps Member.

I was born and raised in Carson, California. I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara which I graduated from in June 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Feminist Studies. (Go Gauchos!) From an early age I’ve always had a passion for helping others and knew that my purpose in life is to be a blessing to others the way God has blessed me. In college, I began to develop a keen interest in talking with my peers regarding health and wellness issues. This further manifested into my first leadership position within the education field as an Instructional Assistant for UCSB’s Health & Wellness class. That wonderful experience fueled my desire to become a catalyst for change through education and led me directly to City Year. I knew that City Year would offer me the opportunity to shape a group of youth into thoughtful scholars, but I had no idea the profound transformations they would spark in my own life.

 

What can you tell us about the school where you served?

During my year of service I had the immense privilege of serving at 116th Street Elementary School in the wonderful community of Watts. It was a great honor to work alongside such wonderful educators and staff! Although many of our students come from broken families and poverty stricken households, the 116th community served as a second family for most of our students. The school provided them a positive outlet to nurture their talents and explore their interests.

 

What were the highlights and notable challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor at 116th Street Elementary?

The opportunity to work with the brilliant students at 116th was a life-changing experience filled with many victories, as well as, many challenges. The challenges I faced throughout the year I believe helped me grow as an individual as well as my students; I can honestly say we grew together. One challenge I faced throughout my service was displaying empathy towards my students. Although I was doing my best to develop positive relationships with them, there still seemed to be some disconnect. During a moment of reflection one day, I was reminded of the quote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” For the rest of the year, this was my mantra. The trust that developed from this shift in mindset propelled my relationships with students into a space of comfort and acceptance, thus enabling these students to make outstanding academic progress.

My service at 116th helped me realize that the serving inner city youth is not a challenge in itself; the challenge comes from opening your mind to understand a lifestyle different, yet just as meaningful, as your own, and continuing to hold fast to the City Year value of “belief in the power of young people.”

 

What’s your history with math? Have the concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject?

I developed a love for math at an early age. When I was in elementary school I would create math problems for myself at home and sometimes even pretend I was teaching a math lesson to my imaginary students on my toy chalkboard. I shared these stories with many of my students and after much laughter and shrieks of, “Ms. Myeshia, you were a nerd?” my students began to realize that maybe it’s not a bad thing to practice skills they learn at school outside of the few pages of homework the teacher assigns.

 

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp?

During my small group math interventions, I discovered that my students struggled with two digit multiplication. My students had difficulty understanding which digits to multiply first, when to carry digits, etc.

 

How did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?

I tried various teaching models such as: the square model, partial products, and the bow tie method. While these methods worked for some students, they didn’t stick with my math students so I created an interactive card game called “Multiplication Boom” that my students could play to help them practice two-digit multiplication. My students loved it! The game presented the content in a visual and auditory manner which added in their retention while also maintaining their interest throughout.

 

Was there one student who really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment?

One of my favorite memories from my service year was during a place value and rounding lesson I conducted with four of my students. I gave each student a name tag to wear around their neck with a place value written on it (e.g. hundreds). Students were then instructed to put themselves in proper place value order (i.e. thousands, hundreds, tens ones). Once they were in order each student was a given a card with a value ranging from 0-9. I then asked questions such as, “Person in the hundreds place, if I’m rounding this number to the nearest hundred will your value increase or stay the same? Why?” I continued doing this for about 3 sessions when one of my students came up to me and said, “Ms. Myeshia, rounding is easy now. I just have to pretend that I’m you asking the questions and there are imaginary people holding up the numbers.” I chuckled a bit; then I told her that I was glad she felt more comfortable with rounding and that she had a cool strategy for remembering how to round.

 

Did you have a great math teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

I can’t recall one particular teacher or mentor that influenced my love for math, but I had several wonderful teachers that made math fun and applicable to my life which is what I tried to do for my students. I know that not every student will love math the way I do, but the opportunity to help them rethink the way they see the subject was a challenge I encouraged and welcomed.

 

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

I would advise other educators to seek multiple ways to teach a certain concept and be flexible in your approach. If a student doesn’t understand a specific method you taught it doesn’t mean you failed to teach it properly. It just means that you have to get creative, use other resources, and seek best practices from other educators. Some of my best lesson plans came from conversations with other Corps Members where we problem solved and shared ideas with one another. I would also tell them to be conscious of their attitude and enthusiasm towards the subject because students often model their attitudes and beliefs off of those of teachers and parents.

 

DIRECTV is committed to supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

I believe that STEM subjects are incredibly important in securing a stable future for today’s youth. It is imperative that students obtain elementary knowledge of these subjects at minimum, in order to stay abreast of technological and societal advancements. Math is especially important because many day to day transactions require the use of math skills and without these skills you are left with a disadvantage that can stifle your opportunities for growth. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions are the wave of the future. Our students must catch the wave to soak in the warmth of its victories.

 

And what about your future? What are your plans?

I am currently attending the University of Southern California pursuing a Masters of Arts in Social Work. Once I have obtained my degree, I plan to continue working in the non-profit sector in woman’s rights advocacy or education. I believe that my purpose in life is to use my privilege to secure rights for adverse populations, and I will live out this purpose with dedication and humility.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: For more information about City Year, please visit their web site.

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C-SPAN has announced the theme for its StudentCam 2015 documentary competition!

  • Jul 17, 2014

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In a recent blog post  we told you about C-SPAN StudentCam, an annual documentary competition that invites middle and high-school students to create 5 to 7-minute films on an issue of sociopolitical importance.

Now it’s time to start gearing-up for the 2015 competition!

Announced recently by C-SPAN, here’s the theme:

“The Three Branches and You”
Tell a story that demonstrates how a policy, law or action by either the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branch has affected you or your community.

Cash prizes totaling $100,000 will be awarded to 150 winning student filmmakers and 53 teacher advisors, and the submission deadline for all videos is January 20, 2015.

Want to make this fall semester one your students will never forget? Listen to what the father of one previous winner had to say.

“I really just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for providing this opportunity. Our education system is focused on students achieving minimum standards, so it’s great when someone like C-SPAN comes along and encourages students to achieve their maximum potential.” Ed Shimp, father of StudentCam 2013 1st Prize winner Alan Shimp

And this, from a StudentCam teacher advisor.

“The kids loved it,” said Seann Goodman of Colorado’s Basalt High School. “For them it was about creating memorable and engaging learning experiences. We took the art of research and storytelling and applied them to 21st Century learning skills.”

For more information, visit C-SPAN StudentCam.

And if you need more inspiration, check out 2012′s First Prize-winning film from Leo Pfeifer, a then 8th-grader from Seattle, Washington (below).  —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

3M and Discovery Education announce finalists in the the 2014 Young Scientist Challenge

  • Jul 10, 2014

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When’s the last time you heard a 13 year-old kid say something like “I hope to be a computational bio-scientist” and then go on to explain something called protein glycation with a big smile on her face?

Or how about an 11 year-old who says “I would like to be an architect. I spend a lot of time drafting the ideas of houses of the future that will be interesting for people to live in.”

13, and 11. And they’re serious.

The former is Mythri Ambatipudi, an eighth-grader from California; and the latter is Nikita Rafikov, a sixth-grader from Georgia; and they’re just two of the ten impressive finalists in this year’s Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

The annual contest, open to students grades 5-8, launched in 1999 and has introduced the world to a slew of promising young minds. And what most impresses me about these kidsbeyond the confidence, intelligence and applied knowledge on displayis how nearly all of them seem to have been moved to action by a desire to solve some real-world problem. Take, for example, last year’s winner, Peyton Robertson. At age 11, the South Florida resident saw the need for a better sandbag to combat weather-related flooding. He got right to work, and to make a long story short, he went on to make not only a better sandbag, but national headlines.

At age 11.

This year’s finalists are spending the summer being mentored by 3M scientists. In October, they’ll travel to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota to compete for the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.

So, teachers and parents, if you’re looking for a way to inspire your own budding scientists, you can start by introducing them to these ten inspiring young people. Then encourage them to take part in 2015′s Young Scientist Challenge. The call for entries opens in January.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

DIRECTV partners with City Year to honor outstanding math mentors

  • Jul 03, 2014

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DIRECTV’s commitment to K-12 schools and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education recently yielded a few proud smiles when the company honored a handful of young people who’ve dedicated a year of their lives to helping at-risk high school students make strides in math.

The five honoreesfour in Los Angeles and one in Denverwere recognized upon “graduation” from twelve months of service with City Year, a volunteer organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling. The students were honored with DIRECTV’s  first Math Achievement Awards, selected for both the  grade average and standardized math assessment scores of the students they served. All five received prize packages that included certificates of recognition and a year of free DIRECTV.

“At DIRECTV, we believe that math is the foundation for all STEM learning,” said Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship. “We were thrilled to recognize these City Year Corps Members for their inspiring dedication to student achievement in math.”

Here are their names, along with the schools at which they served:

In Los Angeles: Myeisha Bobo, 116th Elementary School; Paiab Thao, Muir Middle School; Joshua De Bets, Hollenbeck Middle School; and Kayla Webb, UCLA Community School.

In Denver: Michelle Ramirez, CMS Community School.

Over the coming months, be sure to check this space for interviews with each of the winners. They’re an inspiring bunch, eager to share their experiences and explain how they were able to convince struggling students that they could indeed do the math.

And for more information on becoming involved with City Year, visit their web site.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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(l. to r.) City Year Los Angeles Executive Director Mary Jane Stevenson; Myeshia Bobo; Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship; Paiab Thao; Joshua De Bets; and Kayla Webb. Not pictured here is Michelle Ramirez, who was honored at a ceremony in Denver, Colorado.

Find out what happened on This Day in History

  • Jun 27, 2014

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We’re always on the lookout for cool new educational resources to recommend, and thanks to the folks at our DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE networks we never seem to run out of options. Right now we’d like to call your attention to This Day in History, an outstanding multi-media site from History Channel (ch. 269) that goes well beyond the trivia its name suggests to deliver in-depth feature articles, videos and more.

You can use it as a basis for homework assignments; to spur conversation at the beginning of each class; or even just for your own edification. The service is free to all, and limited only to the extent of your creativity.

So, on this day in history, check out This Day in History.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Invite a Discovery Education expert speaker to your school!

  • Jun 19, 2014

Shanika Hope, PhD, Vice President of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment for Discovery Education, and one of the organization's featured speakers.

Part of Discovery Education’s stated mission is “to identify, encourage, and promote the most effective use of technology in classrooms and schools.” And to that end, they’ve assembled the Discovery Education Speakers Bureau, a collection of experts in the world of Web 2.0 who are available for live seminars and workshops in your school or district.

Speakers on the Discovery roster include Shanika Hope, PhD (pictured, right), Vice President of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment for Discovery Education; Kathy Schrock, renowned “educational technologist”; Steve Dembo, a pioneer in the field of educational social networking; popular education blogger and digital learning consultant Dean Shareski; and Cindy Moss, Director of Global STEM Initiatives for Discovery Education.

The topics covered by these experts are varied, but the bottom line is clear: 21st Century students are different, in the way they think, learn and engage, largely because they’ve come of age amid informational technology that would have been considered science fiction only a generation ago.

You recognize the challenge, and so does Discovery Education. Check out the Speakers Bureau today.

Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Turn your science classroom into a forensics lab!

  • Jun 12, 2014

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It’s a safe bet that many of your middle and high-school students have grown-up watching at least one of TV’s CSI shows, drawn by a heady mix of thrills, cool heroes and cutting-edge science.

But not just science—applied science. Techniques as tactics. Chemistry that yields confessions. Trace evidence that uncovers truth.

Heavy, right? That’s why kids like it.

Recognizing this, the folks at truTV—one of your DIRECTV School Choice channels (ch. 246)—have partnered with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association to bring you Forensics in the Classroom, a series of free, standards-based units that allow you and your students to put key scientific concepts to work solving cases.

Report your results and you might even win a $1,000 grant!

Check it out, and spread the word. Start planning today to open a case next fall. Visit Forensics in the Classroom.

Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Make 2015 the year your school wins big in the C-SPAN StudentCam documentary competition!

  • Jun 05, 2014

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Are there any budding journalists or filmmakers in your classroom? Be sure to let them know that next month C-SPAN will announce  the 2015 theme for its annual StudentCam short documentary competition—a great opportunity for civic-minded students (grades 6-12) to influence the national conversation and vie for cash prizes.

Participating schools and teachers are eligible for cash prizes as well.

Let’s face it, the two things every student has these days are 1) a video camera, and 2) an opinion. Why not show them the doors that can open when they use those things constructively?

Check out these testimonials from StudentCam Teacher-Advisers:

“All of my StudentCam participants walk a little taller, (and) they exude a poise and self-confidence that the other eighth graders (who did not participate), don’t.”  —Karen Rehder, Farragut Middle School, Knoxville, TN

“I’ve had parents calling me to thank me for doing this and telling me that their children learned so much. I’ve seen myself the learning that goes on with this project; not only on subject matter but on technology and cooperative skills. This is one project I am not letting go!” —Laura De Sabatino, Sawgrass Springs Middle School, Coral Springs, FL

And this, from a proud mom:

“This is the sort of thing that he’ll remember his whole life, of course, and it’s life-changing. You can be sure that you’ve had a formidable impact on this young man, in part because of the honor of the award, but in larger part because he experienced what it’s like to make a difference in something important.”  —Sharon Webb, Mother of 2010 StudentCam winner Matthew Shimura, Honolulu, HI

Remember, the process begins in July when C-SPAN announces the theme for 2015′s competition. The deadline for submissions is January 20, 2015.

Check out the video below for a look at this year’s winners.

And for more information visit C-SPAN StudenCam.

Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Check out the Spring catalog of professional development courses from PBS TeacherLine

  • May 30, 2014

PBS Teachers Brain

You’ve invested a lot of yourself in your students this year, so if you’ve got a little extra free time this summer why not use it to make an investment in yourself?

The Spring 2014 course catalog from PBS TeacherLine offers a wide variety of online development opportunities for educators PreK-12, in both facilitated and self-paced formats. Whatever subject you teach, they’ve got you covered.

And new to the catalog this semester is a series of courses entitled Teaching & Learning in the Digital Age, offering practical instruction on building a dynamic 21st century classroom.

If you’re new to online professional development, there’s even a 2-hour orientation course you can take for free.

To learn more, visit PBS TeacherLine.

See what I did there?

Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

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WebMATH, from Discovery Education, is a free virtual tutor for your students

  • May 23, 2014

WebMATH

You won’t always be there when a student needs help with equations. But thanks to a terrific online resource called WebMATH, you can be sure that good tutoring is never more than a few clicks away.

Brought to you by our friends at Discovery Education, WebMATH is a lot more than just a calculator; it’s a self-help system that teaches mathematics the way you do, step by step. For example, when a student enters an equation they’ll not only be provided with an answer, but also a breakdown of how and why the numbers work out as they do—whether it’s a calculus equation or simple subtraction. WebMATHh takes in K-8 math, geometry, trigonometry and much more.

You might consider recommending WebMATH to struggling students who need a head start on next semester’s course demands.

Check it out for yourself. You’ll be impressed. Visit WebMATH today.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Connect with a NASA Educator Resource Center near you!

  • May 13, 2014

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NASA TV (ch. 346) is one of the highlights of your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE packagea 24-hour-a-day channel delivering timely, educational programming related to science and aerospace technology.

But that’s just the beginning. In order to really take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, plan a visit to your local NASA Educator Resource Center. There’s one in every state, offering free K-12 lesson plans in science, mathematics, technology, and geography, all aligned with national standards and appropriate state frameworks.

Connect with your local Center today and you’ll be kept in the loop on teacher workshops and other special events conducted on-site.

Can’t make the trip? Then you’ll be glad to know that most of NASA’s great resources are also available online.

Visit the NASA Education web site for details.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

 

Teachers review educational materials at a NASA Educator Resource Center workshop.

Teachers review educational materials at a NASA Educator Resource Center workshop.

 Photos courtesy of NASA

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week by watching the inspiring documentary TEACH and submitting Teacher Stories on TakePart.com

  • May 06, 2014

TEACH

“Their well-being, their future, really depend on how well I prepare them for the next level. “

Matt Johnson, a teacher at Denver, Colorado’s McGlone Elementary

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a teacher, and I’m willing to bet that the quote above resonates with you. Because like the teacher who said it, you have a profound grasp on the role you play in shaping lives. And every day, you carry that sense of mission and responsibility into the classroom.

Do you ever wish that more people recognized that? I do, and that’s why I’m recommending that you do two things:

1) Tell every student and former student you know about a cool new contest called Teacher Stories (info below).

2) Host a community screening of the groundbreaking documentary TEACH, from Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth; Waiting For Superman).

Watch the “TEACH” trailer.

Hosted by Queen Latifah, the film follows four dedicated public school teachers over the course of  the 2013 school year as they navigate challenges, talk about their experiences and demonstrate the kind of tenacity and creativity it takes to make education work, sometimes in-spite of the circumstances.  It’s a rare, intimate look inside the reality of what you actually do every day, and as calling cards go you couldn’t ask for better.

The film’s creators want to help you host a screening of TEACH at your school. Why not take this opportunity to gather staff, parents, community leaders and others for an evening of helpful discussion and healthy relationship-building? There’s even a free discussion guide that will help you start the dialogue. As I said, you’ve embraced the mission. Here’s a good way to help the community embrace it as well.

For information on hosting a screening at your school, visit the official TEACH web site.

And while you’re there, be sure to check out Teacher Stories, a contest open to anyone 13 years or older who’d like to do a little bragging about a teacher who made a difference in their lives. Every eligible story submitted will go toward raising a $50,000 donation to U.S. public schools, and your entry might even win a direct cash prize for your school.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Spark Discussions With CNN Student News

  • Apr 19, 2014

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CNN Student News is a ten-minute daily news program designed for middle and high school classes. A Daily Curriculum and other teacher resources are provided with each video.

DIRECTV Inspires Students to Fall in Love with Math

  • Apr 18, 2014

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To further our commitment to K-12 schools and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, DIRECTV kicked off 2013 by investing more than $200,000 in the Partnership for L.A. Schools to further the implementation of ST Math, an online math learning program. The Partnership for L.A. Schools Math Challenge, sponsored by DIRECTV, launched on Digital Learning Day (Feb. 6, 2013) in conjunction with the national campaign to shine a spotlight on effective use of technology in the classroom.
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We Support DonorsChoose.org

  • Apr 18, 2014

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We engaged our Facebook community to support K-12 classrooms across the U.S.

Free Classroom Resources From Discovery Education

  • Apr 17, 2014

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Foster deeper engagement and opportunities for students to take charge of their own learning with high quality, engaging, relevant tools designed for today’s busy teachers and parents.