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Distance Learning Brings Work Up-Close

Commentary by: Nick Lum, Founder of BeeLine Reader

If you’ve ever been to an eye doctor, you’ve probably heard the mantra: every 20 minutes, you should spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. This advice is meant to help office workers combat visual fatigue or eyestrain that can set in if you spend all day doing ‘close work,’ like reading on a computer screen.

These days, it’s not just office workers who are experiencing and overdose of close work. In normal times, students switch between various focal distances (watching a teacher give a lecture, doing close work, working in groups, and socializing with friends). In the world of distance learning, all of these activities are now mediated by a screen—which means that students are spending far more time staring at a single plane that is just a foot or two in front of their faces. Not surprisingly, this lack of focal diversity is adversely affecting students and making it harder for them to do their work.

Close work can be especially taxing because it requires bringing your eyes together (‘converging’) and forming a triangular shape, as shown below. By comparison, looking into the distance allows you to relax your eyes into a parallel position, which is easier and more comfortable.

Reading is even more taxing than merely looking at fixed spot up close because reading involves constantly shifting the angles of your visual triangle and keeping your eyes perfectly ‘converged.

While it is certainly unfortunate that so many students are impacted by these challenges, the one upside is that they bring greater awareness to the need to make reading on screen less burdensome for students. Students with

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It All Counts

Commentary by: JoAnn Mitchell, CEO/Founder of Mission Achievement and Success Charter School, @MAS_charter

Our meetings with community partners and local leaders all have one thing in common. At the end of our presentation, we always get The Question: “So what’s your secret? What’s the magic piece that makes MAS Charter Schools so successful?”

Every time, the answer is as unsatisfying and anticlimactic as the last. “Well, it’s everything.”

It’s a question the whole education community asks, from state and federal lawmakers and district superintendents at the top to our newest teachers in the classroom. How do we aid kids in overcoming odds to read and do math on grade level, to graduate from the public school system to achieve success in the postsecondary and professional world?

At MAS, we’ve built our reputation on improving student outcomes. Despite high rates of poverty and English language learners, our students keep up with or outperform those in affluent Albuquerque or Santa Fe schools here in New Mexico. More than three-quarters of our students in kindergarten and first grade are already reading, where our state hovers at just 25 percent for students at the critical third-grade milestone. One hundred percent of our three classes of high school seniors have graduated–with acceptance to a postsecondary program or a branch of the military. New Mexico’s graduation rate was 74.9 percent in 2019, ten percentage points behind the national average.

So what’s the secret sauce? The whole model.

We teach teachers to grow into the excellent educators they all have the potential to be, through continuous professional development throughout the year. Our educators participate in 45 minutes of professional development every day, adding up to a minimum of 135 hours each year. Most traditional public schools only

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Previously Published on Forbes | March 13, 2020
By Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of CER

Every challenge is an opportunity, they say. I’ve been thinking about the impact of the coronavirus, and the kinds of tools and services that could be focused on ensuring that students don’t miss a beat in their learning. COVID-19 has brought home the reality  that education technology that delivers great content and engages students and teachers has never been more important. While many education systems have resisted changing their 150-year-old structure, necessity now compels them to do what declining student achievement could not. Thousands of entrepreneurs and innovations can help our students keep moving in their educational journey no matter where this virus disruption takes them. While we are all upset by this global problem, we can and we must overcome it. And fortunately the tools to do so are at hand.

Reinventing Education

In the field of education technology, most products and services on the market work to improve the educational experiences of students, instructors or managers. Far fewer are intended to ensure the educational experience can continue for each student on their own, in the event of choice — or necessity.

Higher education is the exception. University students have had access to advanced and interactive curricula online for at least a decade, though many institutions are still slow getting to the party. In reflecting on the current situation, Andrea Leone-Pizzighella, who manages English language instruction remotely in Italy for the University

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