The Great Recession became official in December 2007, and by its end, more than 8.8 million jobs had been lost — 2 million in the construction sector alone.

But times change, and after the massive battering, the industry is starting to bounce back. Construction spending is up, projects are more plentiful and optimism is starting to sneak its way in. But now, there’s another problem — a shortage of workers, because so many left the industry to find employment elsewhere.

To see how widespread the shortage of skilled labor is, SmartBrief and the Associated General Contractors of America conducted a poll. The findings were interesting. (read more…)

game based learningResearch is verifying what many teachers know: Well-designed digital games in the classroom increase student engagement, learning and retention. They improve students’ on-task time and even their social and emotional well-being. The benefits are especially significant when high-quality games are integrated into a curriculum over multiple lessons. So how can we put this knowledge to use as our new school year begins?

As a science teacher of students in grades seven to 12, I look for well-designed games to teach common core and the Next Generation Science Standards. Being well-designed means that the games are fun to play, teach important content through engaging game mechanics and are based on learning theory. The player should feel challenged to solve interesting and relevant problems with newly-gained understanding. There should be multiple ways to progress through the game and win. Frequent experimentation and failure — yes, failure! — in the game should be encouraged and result in a pleasant frustration that drives the player to try new strategies until challenges are mastered. (read more…)

duncan-100As teachers gear up for a new school year, I want to offer two thoughts. One is a message of celebration and thanks. The other is a response to a concern that has come up often in many conversations with teachers and families, and which deserves an answer.

First, the thanks. America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements in the last year — the highest high-school graduation rate in the nation’s history, and sharp cuts in dropout rates and increases in college enrollment, especially for groups that in the past have lagged significantly. For these achievements, we should celebrate America’s teachers, principals and students and their families. These achievements are also indications of deeper, more successful relationships with our students. All of us who’ve worked with young people know how much they yearn for adults to care about them and know them as individuals.

These achievements come at a time of nearly unprecedented change in American education — which entails enormously hard work by educators. (read more…)

Stock PhotoI tend to be one of those educational risk takers.

As a K-12 administrator, I loved nothing more than to visit classrooms where there was a buzz of student learning, where you could stand in the doorway for minutes before anyone even knew you were there, where a room was a hive of student activity, where the teacher was lost in the swirl of investigation and collaboration, where classroom management stemmed from an intensity of engagement rather than the enforcement of rules.

Not surprisingly, I am an unreserved proponent of blended learning.

Creating an environment that fosters collaboration, respect and passion — that thinks outside of the educational box — reaps so many rewards for student engagement and embraces the dynamic nature of education. We regularly challenge the teachers we work with to commit to reinventing their approaches with technology and to intellectually rejuvenate their spirit.

For years, we “early adopters” have been advocating the many advantages of blended learning — the predominant one being that it naturally allows for differentiated instruction. (read more…)

classroom 2How do we ensure that we have the best teachers in all of our schools? We’ve already taken the first step by acknowledging that our best teachers aren’t drawn to serve in our highest needs schools. We also know that these schools and teachers need significant additional support in order to begin to make a difference. We haven’t yet defined what the additional support must look like and what it will cost. To date, many band-aid solutions have been put into place. It is time to make a major commitment to enacting real change for our most needy children. We must also commit to developing excellence in each and every teacher.

This type of change happens at a grassroots level and must be tailored to local needs. This means that school districts, schools and teachers must be empowered and supported to create learning environments that will maximize learning, growth and development for each and every child in their care. (read more…)