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Will a Harvard Professor's New Technology Make College Lectures a Thing of the Past?

Thanks to Learning Catalytics, the "flipped classroom" and peer learning could revolutionize higher education.


Another sign that the college lecture might be dying: Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur is championing the "flipped classroom," a model where information traditionally transferred during lectures is learned on a student's own time, and classroom time is spent discussing and applying knowledge to real-world situations. To make it easy for professors to transition out of lecture mode, Mazur has developed Learning Catalytics, an interactive software that enables them to make the most of student interactions and maximize the retention of knowledge.

Mazur sold attendees at the recent Building Learning Communities conference on this new approach by first asking them to identify something they're good at, and then having them explain how they mastered it. After the crowd shared, Mazur pointed out that no one said they'd learned by listening to lectures. Similarly, Mazur said, college students don't learn by taking notes during a lecture and then regurgitating information. They need to be able to discuss concepts, apply them to problems and get real-time feedback. Mazur says Learning Catalytics enables this process to take place.

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Firewall, What Firewall? The Top Four Tech Hacks For Teachers

Districts block plenty of sites that are handy in the classroom. Here's how to get around those restrictions.


If you're a teacher, you've probably read about all the great ways Google+ can be used in the classroom, or how to use Twitter to engage shy students, and if you're a teacher working at a school that bans all those sites, you might feel a little frustrated. Some schools even ban educationally useful sites like National Geographic—after all, no district wants to get sued by an irate parent because their child saw nude pictures taken in a remote village halfway across the globe. But even if your school district bans sites that are educational, there are ways around those firewalls. Whether you're a techie or a novice, we've found four hacks that will get you online in a jiffy.

1) Buy your own VPN: A virtual private network runs on the internet but keeps all of your transmissions secure and away from prying eyes, like that of your district's IT administrator. My friend James teaches in Qatar, where sites that "could potentially show the Middle East in a bad light" or "go against Islam (any site that might have a woman in a bikini or something)" are blocked. To get around this, he says educators simply band together to buy a VPN. You can get a good VPN router on Craigslist or eBay for about $200. Just install it on a home computer, and then you and your colleagues can login remotely from your school site and access the resources you need for your students.

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The Last Typewriter Factory Closes. Good Riddance (UPDATED)

It's easy to be nostalgic—but moving on from typewriters was one of the best things to happen for students.

Godrej and Boyce, the last company in the world still manufacturing typewriters, is closing its one remaining plant in India. We've had typewriters in America since 1867, and although they haven't been in common use for decades, the closing of this plant is the end of an era. But should we be nostalgic about the death of the typewriter?

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