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Can Technology Stimulate Mental Development in Young Children?

A guest post by Dr. Eugene Emmer, medical entrepreneur and author Imagine Learning now publishes monthly guest posts in order to stimulate conversations about K12 education across the country. Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author and may not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Imagine Learning.   As a physiologist and parent, I have long been interested in the impact of early childhood education on the child's developing brain. Over the years, an increasing number of scientists have devoted lab research to brain development and function. Their findings are not only fascinating, they also show how important proper stimulation is for the developing brain. For example, years ago I read an intriguing study that demonstrated a marked increase in hippocampal neurons in adult mice living in an enriched environment. Basically, the study showed that young rats raised in a stimulating environment had better-developed brains than rats raised in unstimulating environments. During this study, scientists raised two groups of rats. One group lived in an enriched environment that included toys, tunnels, wheels, and so on; the other group was raised in an empty cage with only food. Scientists showed that the rats raised in the enriched environment developed more hippocampal neurons than the rats raised in an empty cage. The stimulating environment had developed each rat's young brain much the same way that lifting weights develops muscle.
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How to Choose an Engaging, Effective Digital Math Program

Let’s face it—not many kids are interested in reciting their multiplication tables or practicing addition when they’ve got video games to play, TV to watch, and technology to explore. Unfortunately, too many parents and educators automatically assume that video games are mere time wasters, as mentioned in our earlier discussion about game-based learning. Of course, sorting out the effective math games from the mediocre ones can be a challenge. Not every game is equal when it comes to producing lasting learning. So, what to do?
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The Truth About Game-Based Learning Software

Math-fact gamification Ask a typical educator about game-based learning and video games in school, and expect at least some skeptical responses. Many educators and parents worry about gaming as an educational tool. Research on the educational worth of video games has been mixed, and some educators point out the fact that most data come from short-term studies. While research on educational software is still young, increasing evidence points to positive outcomes for today’s students—despite the prevalence of headlines linking video games to bad behavior or lukewarm learning outcomes. According to James Gee, an education professor at Arizona State University, blaming all video games for poor results is like blaming all food for the existence of obese people.1
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Imagine Learning Español v2.2 Has Arrived

On December 15, 2015, Imagine Learning Español launched its fall update! Customers already familiar with our Español product can still enjoy all of the beautiful illustrations and interactive features they value most. Children who are learning to read in Spanish will be delighted by a wider array of activities, books, and new concepts to explore.
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10 fun ways to use video creation in the classroom

Why not celebrate Digital Learning Day by instigating a video creation project in your classroom? Students enjoy working on video projects—they inspire creativity, allow for teamwork, and produce a final product the students can be proud of. Incorporating video projects in the classroom is one way to provide a rich blended learning experience for students. Divide students into groups to make a movie of a book they have read, retelling the elements of a plot. Or, ask students to create a video project about their favorite character or chapter instead of writing a book report. Create a song or rap video to help students remember math strategies, spelling words, or grammar rules. Turn student-written poems into artistically visual videos. Play charades by asking students to create a 30-second video. They can act out vocabulary words and have the rest of the class guess which word they represent. Design a movie about the history of your school or community. Have the children act it out. Produce a news segment of a special event, such as a guest speaker, a school 5K fun run, a beautification project, or a fund raiser. Ask students to highlight themselves in a one-minute get-to-know-you video. Invent a music video, using a song the students are learning in music class. Build a short documentary to explain a science project. Video is great to show time-lapse changes for experiments. Allow students to re-teach a unit using video. Students can create props and visuals to summarize what they learned about a given topic.   Useful Video Apps Many students now have access to iPods, phones, and tablets which are equipped with great, portable cameras for taking video. The following movie-making apps are useful, inexpensive (most are under $2), and can take your student-created videos to the next level: ScriptWrite, iMovie, Game Your Video, Action Movie FX, Time Lapse Camera HD, Movie Looks HD, Avid Studio, SloPro, FiLMiC Pro, TiltShift Video, and Scrolling Credits. Helpful Online Tools Masher is a fun, free, tool for creating video mash-ups. Masher offers large collection of video clips, music, and effects from their gallery. You can also add your own images, video clips, and music clips through the Masher uploader. Masher allows you to insert text throughout your video. Using Masher is simple: just drag elements from the media gallery into the timeline editor. From there, you can arrange the sequence of elements, and when you are ready, you can publish and share your production. Animoto is great for quickly making simple videos by using still images, music, and text. If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto. Animoto's free service limits you to 30-second videos. By applying for an educational account, you can create longer videos. Stupeflix is a service that allows users to create video montages using their favorite images and audio clips. Stupeflix allows users to drag and drop their images into a desired sequence. You will want to upload your own audio clips as Stupeflix offers only one default soundtrack. But an advantage of Stupeflix is that it allows you to use more than one audio clip within the same video. Photo Peach is a new service that allows you to easily create an audio slideshow, with captions, from images in your Flickr, Picassa, or Facebook account. You can also use images saved on your local hard drive to create a slideshow. Adding captions is easy: simply type the text into the caption box. Also, changing the order of images is a simple drag and drop procedure. Xtra Normal is a unique service that enables students to create animated, narrated movies just by typing the dialogue then dragging and dropping characters and set elements into the movies. There are free and paid plans for using Xtra Normal, but the standard plan should be more than adequate for most academic uses. If your class uses these ideas or resources for making video, we would love to hear about it. What ideas do you have about incorporating video in the classroom?
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