Monthly Archives: August 2013

Students Use Zombie Science to Learn About Disease

Exclusive: Zombie apocalypse? Students use ‘zombie science’ to learn about disease spread
  • zombie_istock.jpg

A zombie apocalypse: Is it medically possible? Scenarios depicting large-scale attacks of the undead have been playing out on the big screen for years.

And this fall, they’ll hit classrooms too.

Students around the country can now immerse themselves in “zombie pandemics” in order to learn about how diseases spread and affect the body. It’s all part of the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Behind Hollywood Program, which teachers and students can download for free online to use at home or in the classroom.

The series was created by Texas Instruments (TI) and The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and seeks to inspire student’s interest in math and science careers.  The STEM program will include installments on everything from forensics to zombies and superheroes.

“STEM jobs are now the fastest growing opportunities for young people,” Melendy Lovett, president of Texas Instruments Education Technology told “So it’s really important to (us) to be part of building a strong pipeline of STEM capable students, and that’s what drives our focus, getting more students interested and excited about STEM and achieving at high levels in science and math.”

While zombies are not a real life concern, the elements explored in the program closely echo real life scenarios of disease spread, thanks to the expert advice of Dr. Steven Schlozman, a professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the book The Zombie Autopsies.

“If you…get rid of (the) rising from the dead, (zombies) will map more comfortably than most folks would like onto real neurobiological explanations and phenomenon,” Schlozman told “Then you can play that tongue-in-cheek morbid game of how would that happen.”

So how exactly would a zombie apocalypse begin? First, mankind would need to be hit by a virus capable of simultaneously attacking multiple regions of the brain, Schlozman said.

Students will learn that zombies – with their awkward, unbalanced gaits, lack of problem-solving skills, insatiable hunger and high levels of aggression – would likely have contracted a virus attacking the cerebellum, basal ganglia, amygdala, hypothalamus and frontal lobe regions of the brain.

Through this hypothetical scenario, students will learn various facts about the brain – for example, that the hypothalamus is the region of the brain affecting satiety and that zombie-like aggression could be triggered by a virus attacking the amygdala, which controls our fight-or-flight mechanism, according to Schlozman.

Figuring out how a zombie disease would attack the body isn’t all that students will be tasked with doing. They’ll also join the “Zombie Virus Inoculation Task Force” to figure out how they could control and contain the outbreak – just as if they were employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The graphs of a zombie outbreak would look like those of H1N1 or any other disease making its way from outbreak to pandemic,” Schlozman said. “In this country, the CDC, or internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO), would sit down the epidemiologists, scientists, public health experts and physicians and say, ‘What are the distinguishing characteristics of this disease? What’s happening? What else does this look like?’”

Students are required to calculate the rate of disease spread and assess how to control the disease – such as by creating a vaccine. As part of this activity, teachers are encouraged to educate students about real diseases that have been controlled through inoculations.

“It’s easier (for students) to contemplate a zombie disease spread than (the spread) of some horrific (disease) like Ebola,” Schlozman said. “So one of the reasons they’ve used zombies is it’s less scary than the real thing, and now we have this curriculum where we learn about disease spread, spread through biting, airborne (toxins), imagining what if the city is this big, or that big.  Then we combine that with the biology.”

In the case of a zombie outbreak, Schlozman says the CDC would come up with appropriate triage measures and decontamination procedures. Then, scientists around the world would quickly begin developing a vaccine to treat the rapidly spreading virus.

“These are lessons we learned with SARS, H1N1 and security measures we’ve learned through the threat of bioterrorism,” Schlozman noted.

By the end of the program, Schlozman and Lovett hope that students will emerge with a better understanding of how math and science can help contain the spread of diseases – and that some students will start to contemplate careers in which they could join the real-life fight to contain contagious diseases.


“In this, it’s like they were working in the CDC, exploring, problem solving like a…scientist in the real world,” Lovett said.


The program will be available to students and teachers online starting today at The program is primarily aimed towards middle school and high school students.

Read more:

If Common Core Works…

5 ways Common Core could impact higher ed

Aug. 22, 2013


If new Common Core standards are successful, high schools will turn out graduates ready to succeed in college or in a career. That’s because the Common Core initiative aims to give students across the country a shared foundation in basic skills. The unified standards in math and English are meant to provide clear expectations and to take the place of a hodge-podge of state-by-state standards.

Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core and will fully implement it by the 2014-15 school year. If the standards succeed — and it could take years for the results to shake out — how might these new standards affect higher education?

Here are five possibilities:

1. Less need for remedial courses at colleges and universities

Right now, colleges find themselves offering remedial education to as many asone-third of their students. Common Core takes direct aim at that figure. If the new standards succeed, students would arrive better prepared and fewer students would need remedial English and math classes at the college level.

2. Higher student retention rates from students more prepared for the rigors of college-level classes

Just over half of students at four-year colleges complete degrees within six years. At two-year colleges, only 29% of students finish within three years. Why? Cost is certainly one reason, but another is the inability to handle college-level coursework. With a successful Common Core program, students would be more prepared and more likely to finish their degrees.

3. Colleges could set higher bars for admission (though other factors may work against this)

A student body more prepared for high-level academic work could mean that some colleges and universities raise the bar for admission, although other factors — such as an improving economy where people are more likely to enter the workforce than college — may work against this trend.

4. More dual-enrollment programs between high schools and colleges could crop up

With some signs pointing to early degree programs on the rise across the U.S., more such programs could emerge as standards for high school students grow more closely aligned with college-level work. Also, if students meet the goals set by Common Core standards in 11th grade, they may drive up demand for dual-enrollment programs that offer them a head-start on college. (The National Center for Postsecondary Education addresses this possibility on Page 35 of its report.)

5. Teacher colleges would need to prepare teachers for new standards

Looking at the puzzle from the other end of the process means focusing not just on students entering college, but on college students preparing to teach the next generation of college students. Data from the National Council on Teacher Quality suggest most programs are not up to the task of training teachers in Common Core subjects. Education majors would need to have the background to successfully teach students in order to make the most of the new standards.


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Smarter Balance online assessments are going to function for students with special needs.

Here are a few links and explanations:

Practice Tests and information on browser compatibilities

Practice Test Enhancements (Starting August 15, 2013)

  • Special forms for math (Spanish glossary, Braille, and text-to-speech for grades 4, 5, 6, and 8)
  • Special forms for English language arts (Braille and text-to-speech for grades 3, 5, 6, and 8)
  • Math performance tasks, including performance tasks for special forms (Spanish glossary, Braille, and text-to-speech)
  • Additional items to the ELA forms
  • New scoring guides (and updated guides) available at
  • Practice Test for use with Internet Explorer (IE) 10; support from IE 9 is expected at a later date


Help Desk Now Available for Smarter Balanced Practice Tests






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How teachers can use the Adult Learning Theory and Principles to help students

Become familiar with Adult Learning Theory and the six principles of adult learning

Adult Learning Theory

Part of being an effective educator involves understanding how adults learn best (Lieb,1991). Andragogy (adult learning) is a theory that holds a set of assumptions about how adults learn. Andragogy emphasises the value of the process of learning. It uses approaches to learning that are problem-based and collaborative rather than didactic, and also emphasises more equality between the teacher and learner.
Andragogy as a study of adult learning originated in Europe in 1950’s and was then pioneered as a theory and model of adult learning from the 1970’s by Malcolm Knowles an American practitioner and theorist of adult education, who defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Zmeyov 1998; Fidishun 2000).

What do you mean by ‘adult learning principles’?

Knowles identified the six principles of adult learning outlined below.

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

How can I use adult learning principles to facilitate student learning on placement

Good question!! Here we will discuss some ways to facilitate learning by applying Knowles’ Adult Learning Principles:

1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
Adult learners resist learning when they feel others are imposing information, ideas or actions on them (Fidishun, 2000).
Your role is to facilitate a students’ movement toward more self-directed and responsible learning as well as to foster the student’s internal motivation to learn.
As clinical educator you can :
Set up a graded learning program that moves from more to less structure, from less to more responsibility and from more to less direct supervision, at an appropriate pace that is challenging yet not overloading for the student.
Develop rapport with the student to optimise your approachability and encourage asking of questions and exploration of concepts.
Show interest in the student’s thoughts and opinions. Actively and carefully listen to any questions asked.
Lead the student toward inquiry before supplying them with too many facts.
Provide regular constructive and specific feedback (both positive and negative),
Review goals and acknowledge goal completion
Encourage use of resources such as library, journals, internet and other department resources.
Set projects or tasks for the student that reflect their interests and which they must complete and “tick off” over the course of the placement. For example: to provide an in-service on topic of choice; to present a case-study based on one of their clients; to design a client educational handout; or to lead a client group activity session.
Acknowledge the preferred learning style of the student. A questionnaire is provided below that will assist your student to identify their preferred learning style and to discuss this with you.
2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
Adults like to be given opportunity to use their existing foundation of knowledge and experience gained from life experience, and apply it to their new learning experiences. As a clinical educator you can:
Find out about your student – their interests and past experiences (personal, work and study related)
Assist them to draw on those experiences when problem-solving, reflecting and applying clinical reasoning processes.
Facilitate reflective learning opportunities which Fidishun (2000) suggests can also assist the student to examine existing biases or habits based on life experiences and “move them toward a new understanding of information presented” (p4).
3. Adults are goal oriented
Adult students become ready to learn when “they experience a need to learn it in order to cope more satisfyingly with real-life tasks or problems” (Knowles,1980 p 44, as cited in Fidishun, 2000). Your role is to facilitate a student’s readiness for problem-based learning and increase the student’s awareness of the need for the knowledge or skill presented. As educator, you can:
Provide meaningful learning experiences that are clearly linked to personal, client and fieldwork goals as well as assessment and future life goals.
Provide real case-studies (through client contact and reporting) as a basis from which to learn about the theory, OT methods, functional issues implications of relevance.
Ask questions that motivate reflection, inquiry and further research.
4. Adults are relevancy oriented
Adult learners want to know the relevance of what they are learning to what they want to achieve. One way to help students to see the value of their observations and practical experiences throughout their placement, is to:
Ask the student to do some reflection on for example, what they expect to learn prior to the experience, on what they learnt after the experience, and how they might apply what they learnt in the future, or how it will help them to meet their learning goals.
Provide some choice of fieldwork project by providing two or more options, so that learning is more likely to reflect the student’s interests.
“Students really benefit from regular ‘teaching sessions’ – time spent going through assessments such as how to do a kitchen assessment, and having in-services presented on specific topics – such as Cognition or Perception” ” I find they understand more about a topic when it is directly relevant to the work context. This is invaluable as it ties theory to practice.” S. Bartholomai, OT clinical educator, Ipswich Hospital (personal communication, May 31, 2007)
5. Adults are practical
Through practical fieldwork experiences, interacting with real clients and their real life situations, students move from classroom and textbook mode to hands-on problem solving where they can recognise first hand how what they are learning applies to life and the work context. As a clinical educator you can:
Clearly explain your clinical reasoning when making choices about assessments, interventions and when prioritising client’s clinical needs.
Be explicit about how what the student is learning is useful and applicable to the job and client group you are working with.
Promote active participation by allowing students to try things rather than observe. Provide plenty of practice opportunity in assessment, interviewing, and intervention processes with ample repetition in order to promote development of skill, confidence and competence.
“I like to encourage students to select and use a clinical model, such as Chapparo and Rankin’s OPM, to apply to practice. It helps students to identify what performance components (e.g. endurance, tone, organisational skills) they want to assess for example, in a dressing task. This helps to reinforce why OTs do things, and how the link to occupation differs from other disciplines.” (S. Bartholomai, personal communication, May 31, 2007)
6. Adult learners like to be respected
Respect can be demonstrated to your student by:
Taking interest
Acknowledging the wealth of experiences that the student brings to the placement;
Regarding them as a colleague who is equal in life experience
Encouraging expression of ideas, reasoning and feedback at every opportunity.
It is important to keep in mind that the student is still developing occupational therapy clinical practice skills. However, with the theory and principles of adult learning in mind, you can facilitate the learning approach of the student to move from novice to more sophisticated learning methods. This facilitates greater integration of knowledge, information and experience; the student learns to distinguish what is important when assessing and working with clients; how to prioritise client needs, goals and caseload; when rules can be put aside and how/when the approach to occupational therapy practice and professional communication emerges from strict modelling of behaviour into a unique therapeutic and professional expression of self.
(Fidishun, 2000; Lieb,1991)

Want to know more?

Please take a moment to read the Reference Document 3.1: Basic Principles of Adult Learning which the QOTFC (2005) have applied to the role of clinical educator with students in clinical settings.
If you would like to know more about Adult Learning, you can access a very useful and thought-provoking resource called the Self-paced Adult Learning Module for Allied Health Professonals – CDrom (Allen, 2005) from the clinical education administrator, The University of Queensland ph: 07 3365 2792.

Learning Styles

Acknowledge the preferred learning style of your student

We have explored the general principles that apply to how adults learn. Bearing these principles in mind, we can also appreciate that as individuals, we all have different preferences on how we approach new learning. For instance, some people are active learners. They like to be constantly challenged, can think on their feet and enjoy the challenge of being thrown in the deep end, learning best ‘on the job’ through practical exposure, trial and error and direct experience. Other people are more reflective learners, they need time to plan, prepare, research and to have time to reflect on their learning before being confronted with a new challenge. They may like to be thoroughly briefed before proceeding. Some people are theoretical learners, and are stimulated by abstract ideas and concepts. They like to consider numerous viewpoints and theories and to analyse situations before selecting options and approaches to a task. They learn through observation, discussion, analysis, and enjoy logical and sophisticated reasoning. Whilst others are pragmatic learners, they enjoy learning from qualified demonstration, and need to see the practical advantage of all that they are doing. They need to know that what they are doing works and is realistic (Sample, 1999).

Learning styles can be influenced by past experiences, education, work and the learning situation. It is important to recognise that they are not fixed but may be adapted according to context and what is being learned. Nevertheless most people still favour one style of learning.

Very early on, I get [the students] to figure out their learning style by giving them examples and then we negotiate what approach will work best for them.

” J.Copley, OT clinical educator, multiple-mentoring model (personal communication, May 24, 2007)There are various classifications of learning styles that you may like to become more familiar with.

Here are some useful resources and references

The Manual of Learning Styles, by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (1992).
Provides an introduction to learning styles with advice on how to administer and interpret the The Learning Styles Questionnaire.

Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI): Self-scoring and interpretation booklet. A statistically reliable and valid, 12-item questionnaire and workbook, developed by David A. Kolb (1976).

VARK (Visual, Aural, Read/write, Kinaesthetic). A guide to learning styles by Nick Fleming (1992) Website.

Index of Learning Styles.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) by (1993). These resources provide useful exercises in helping you and the student to identify preferred learning styles, as well as your preferred approach to teaching. You can then discuss and negotiate with the student learning strategies that will compliment their learning style and your teaching style, as well as the expectations of the placement and the setting.

One of my past students was very ‘hands-on’ ie the activist, and so thoroughly enjoyed being thrown in the deep end and was prepared to make a few mistakes [in order] to learn. I perceived early on that she learnt best through ‘doing’ and not so much from observing or reading“. N. Flynn, OT clinical educator, Mater Private Hospital 2007 (personal communication, June,6,2007).

Then you have the ‘information gatherer’ student, who gathers piles and piles of information, but has difficulty applying this information to practice. It is about enabling that student to turn the ‘pile’ into a program and to use the information to tune their clinical reasoning” K.Adam, OT clinical educator, workplace rehabilitation practice (personal communication, May,10, 2007).

Conflict can occur when the supervisor has an ‘activist’ style to teaching, whilst the student has a ‘theorist’ style to learning” OT clinical educator, PA Hospital (personal communication, May,25, 2007)

Flexibility and adaptability is the key to learning. There may be times when you need to adjust your teaching style to accommodate student needs, as in turn the student will need to accommodate your teaching style and the expectations of the context and situation in which they are learning.

It is important to recognise that you can’t always cater to the learning styles of each student, but you can try to accommodate them as much as is reasonable. For instance, if a student likes demonstration and practice prior to implementing an interview or assessment then, rather than you providing that demonstration all the time, you could encourage them to practice sometimes with the other students first. You can try to meet them in the middle ground” S.Bartholomai, OT clinical educator, Ipswich hospital (personal communication, May 31, 2007)

Difference of Approach

Here is a possible example of two different student learning approaches to delivering a staff in-service and suggestions on how teaching approaches could be modified to accommodate differences in learning style:

Active Learner : May write brief notes to self as prompts and then elaborate more spontaneously through active thinking on spot during in-service. May use immediate verbal and non-verbal feedback to adapt and modify performance behaviour during course of in-service – learning on the spot. May reflect on learning and performance through direct discussion immediately following in-service (with or without note-taking).

Possible teaching approach : Ask student to talk through their plan and rationale prior to action. Direct student to relevant and important resources, information or protocols to ensure attention is given to essential level of preparation. Allow plenty of active hands-on learning and regularly ask student to explain reasoning, background knowledge as it is happening. Encourage immediate reflection and feedback.

Reflective Learner : May make efforts to feel thoroughly prepared, in order to boost confidence and to accept goal as achievable. May prepare for in-service by collecting and reading large amounts of relevant (or sometimes broadly relevant) information relating to topic to gain a comprehensive understanding of the theme; and will prepare for delivery of in-service through memorising, rehearsing information delivery and preparing extensive or detailed notes (may be word for word) for reference during in-service delivery (may or may not be used “in-action”). May have prepared plan B for aspects of in-service discussions, and considered responses to possible questions. Will appreciate time to reflect on performance and outcomes afterwards, and may prefer to take some notes prior to discussing with supervisor.Possible teaching approach : Allow student time to plan, consult and research information relevant to task – within reason. Monitor student’s interpretation of information gathered to ensure that relevance and prioritisation of important information is effectively distinguished from less relevant – assists student to avoid overwhelming themselves with too much information. Encourage time for quiet reflection prior to providing feedback or joint reflection session.
(Sample, 1999)

Key points

Adults have preferred learning styles

  • Know your own style
  • Be aware of other learning styles
  • Acknowledge the preferred learning style of your student

This will assist to

  • Identify areas in need of improvement
  • Design strategies for enhanced learning

(Fitzgerald, 2007, March)


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