Preparing Students for the Race against Machines

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

There was a wonderful article by Christopher Sims in the Wall Street Journal on September 28th, titled “How Humans Can Win Race against Machines“.

The first premise is that educational progress has stagnated, as reflected in the reading and math scores of American K-12 students and the growing skills gap between the best jobs and workers who are able to fill them.

The second premise of the article is that automation and machine intelligence are pervading business in a wide variety of areas, not just robotics in manufacturing, but analytical and intelligent software in manufacturing, product development, customer service, finance, marketing – really across the full range of business processes.

And the third premise is that the application of software and yes, automation, in the education field is lagging. We’re not talking robot teachers here, but machine-assisted learning. The basic teaching paradigm of a teacher giving a lecture to a class is a century old, and the industrial age educational model is older than that.


Humans need to out-learn the automatons, or more pointedly, need to be able to develop them and to control them. This means more education in software – understanding how it works, knowing how to write it. In fact one could claim that software coding skills and developing the understanding of the logic behind software and of how complex software systems work are as important as language and mathematical skills for students in the 21st century.

Now we know that schools are changing in response. Blended learning and flipped classroom models are increasingly being adopted. Digital learning is all the rage. But the basic K-12 educational model is still quite 20th century, while the revolutions of big data, cloud, social and mobile technologies are sweeping the world outside the classroom.

The WSJ article quoted the chief executive of Knewton, Jose Ferreira, who stated “The idea that everyone gets the same textbook is a ludicrously archaic idea”. His company provides adaptive learning software that determines which lessons and problems are appropriate to provide to a given student at a given time.

We at Curriki certainly agree with Mr. Ferreira’s observation about uniform textbooks, while we also agree on the need for minimum core standards. But let’s hold no child back, let’s develop each child to her/his full potential and let’s customize education wherever possible. Software can help do this.

The learning of the basics can be assisted with software, freeing students and teachers for more group project-based learning and for individual coaching and mentoring. After all, we now have the Internet providing access to enormous repositories of knowledge and a wide diversity of learning materials. We must take advantage of this.

Mr. Ferreira goes on to say, “In the future, everybody is going to have materials – textbooks, games, whatever – in a materials portfolio that updates in real time…”

The future is here today – at least in part. At Curriki there are over 70,000 resources in a freely and globally available library, with powerful search capabilities, and the portfolio increases every day. It’s a digital library where you can check out resources, and you never to have to return them. But if you contribute more, you will be aiding learning outcomes around the world. With your support, this portfolio will continue to grow rapidly and update at an ever-faster pace.

New Academic Resources to Help Students Develop Computer Science Skills


By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki Photo of Janet Pinto


Did you know that Oracle Academy (Oracle’s philanthropic educational arm) develops a wide-range of computer science education resources and makes them freely available to secondary schools, technical and vocational schools, and colleges?

Well, here’s some great news! Oracle Academy just unveiled an exciting lineup of computer science education offering, including new Java and database coursework, designed for faculty and students in computer science. These global resources are designed to inspire the next generation of creative thinkers and visionaries.

Today’s students need computer science classes as part of their educational pathways.

Oracle Academy offers a wide range of classroom courses, self-study instruction, workshops and resources – at no cost to individuals or schools. Learn more about this announcement and join Oracle Academy today.


10 Most Popular STEM Resources

Top 10 STEM

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki Photo of Janet Pinto

Find out what the most popular STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Curriki resources are by checking out this top 10 list. Remember, all of these resources are free and you can customize them to fit your needs.  For more Curated Collections, visit Curriki.

  1. Evolution of Earth – 6-week high school unit where students learn about the evolution of earth, its formation, features, and changes over time.  earth

2. FHSST Chemistry textbook – contains a total of 23 chapters to be used in grades 10 through 12.

3. Getting Started With Java Using Alice – students with little or no programming experience can learn basic Java programming concepts to create animated stories, movies and games.


4. Algebra 1 – this collection consists of an entire Algebra I course of videos created by Salman Khan for the Khan Academy.

5. Math Lessons, Activities, and Problems – organized by subject (trigonometry, algebra, calculus, statistics, and more) for grades 6-12.

6. Curriki Geometry – this course offers six complete projects; all the projects are designed in a project-based learning (PBL) format.

7. Coordinate Graphing – a fun game that helps with coordinate points in the four different quadrants.

8. Systems of the Human Body – includes worksheets on the systems of the human body.

human anatomy2.jpg

9. Chemistry, Grades 10-12, Matter and Materials – this resource is part of the FHSST Chemistry collection and contains 10 chapters.

10. Geometry Bingo – a bingo game involving visuals to help students learn and identify key vocabulary for geometry at the 5bingoth and 6th grade levels.

Know a fellow STEM fan?  Please pass this valuable list on to him/her.

Ed-Tech: for Better or Worse?

Photo of Janet PintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

A recent survey by McGraw-Hill Education on digital learning indicates that 91% of K-12 parents want their children to have access to a more personalized digital learning experience.

And yet a recent OECD study has found that ed-tech may have negative effects as well as positive ones upon learning success. The report Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection examines the relationship between computer access, usage and performance on PISA assessments in reading and mathematics. Moderate usage of computers at school was observed to lead to somewhat better learning outcomes, but over-reliance on computers actually caused performance to worsen.

In a press release announcing the report, the OECD noted “that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performance in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science”. About 72% of 15-year old students reported using a computer at school in 2012, although 96% of the students in OECD countries have a computer at home.

Increasingly reading is becoming a digital experience. Reading performance is also connected to web-browsing behavior. Are the right links being clicked in order to get to the desired information as efficiently as possible? Are students getting lost in Cyberspace?

“Why are students in some countries/economies – notably Australia, Canada, Hong Kong-China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and the United States, among others – far better at reading digital texts than students in other countries/economies who score similarly in the print reading test? Because, as the OECD finds, they know how to navigate their way through and across digital texts.”

You can examine the study’s results by country in the table here. It provides a tabulation of PISA math performance by country in comparison with student in-school computer usage, digital reading skills, and Internet usage outside of school.

OECD digital literacy

The report’s essential conclusion is that “all students first need to be equipped with basic literacy and numeracy skills”.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

Curriki would add that students need to learn how to use technology not simply as consumers (e.g. learning exercises, drills and test-taking) but as producers as well. Students should be learning how to program and develop applications, and learning how to use computer technology for creative purposes, whether in the arts, the sciences, or social sciences. Students who are able to employ technology in a productive manner will be more fulfilled and better prepared to contribute to our 21st century world.

At Curriki we believe that Open Educational Resources are an important component to providing a more personalized digital learning experience to students. Click here to see why.

USA’s Grade in STEM?

Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki. By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

We are all aware that STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) jobs are among the best jobs available in our technologically   advanced society. STEM education at some level, a basic understanding of STEM topics, is now necessary just to be part of modern society.

Recently the Washington Post hosted a meeting on the state of STEM education for K-12 in the U.S. Attendees represented universities, corporations, public schools, scientific societies and the federal government.

When the Washington Post’s Nick Anderson asked an expert panel what grade the U.S. should get for results in K-12 STEM education, the responses varied from A to F.

A deputy secretary from the Department of Education, John King, stated “In some places we should get an A, and in some places we should get a D.”

Students in the best school districts are performing well and the best of them are winning awards in science, math and technology competitions and entering into the world’s best universities. But he noted that many schools “don’t even offer Algebra 2”, including many schools with predominantly African-American students.

The Department of Education’s “First in the World” grant program is supporting an increase in the enrollment of minority and economically disadvantaged students in STEM majors in college. The Department is pushing for increased funding.

The chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools said it’s too early for a grade, that their effort to enhance STEM education is too recent.

In the D.C. public schools they have a Cornerstones initiative to get more high-quality cross-curricular lessons, including STEM, in use in their classrooms. Lessons are now more oriented toward inquiry and hands-on learning methodologies. The D.C. schools are shifting more to content expertise.

“Anchored by high-impact content-specific instructional models, such as close reading, inquiry-based math, … novel study and research projects, Cornerstones tasks will lead to a variety of meaningful student work products such as essays, oral presentations, musical pieces or art products.” – Cornerstones initiative web site

Curriki very much supports this kind of approach, and we hope that the D.C. public school  system will take advantage of the tens of thousands of STEM resources freely available at These include full standards-compliant and project-based learning-oriented courses in algebra, geometry, and calculus.

As we know the biggest challenge for many students is mathematics, which underpins everything in STEM fields. If a student can master the math, then many avenues in STEM open up to him or her.

Curriki is here to support better student outcomes in STEM and in other fields, in the U.S., and around the globe through open educational resources, freely and widely available.

5 Facts Everyone Should Know About Open Educational Resources


By Janet Pinto, Curriki Chief Academic Officer Photo of Janet Pinto

Open educational resources (OERs) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes. They are freely available to anyone over the web.

Fact #1: Digital technologies like OERs allow you to personalize the learning experience so that students can learn at their own pace and have instant access to the latest information. For example, you can download and share thousands of K-12 OERs on Curriki and modify them for your individual teaching/learning purposes.

Fact #2: OERs can improve education by allowing costs to be shifted away from expensive, proprietary resources (e.g., textbooks) to open, shareable ones. OERs can ease the budget burdens of buying textbooks or subscriptions by shifting to online content services.

Fact #3: Despite the many advantages of OERs, nearly two-thirds of faculty in U.S. higher education are unaware of OERs according to a study from Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson. How do we increase awareness of these high-quality, free learning resources? (Hint: share this post.)

Fact #4: MIT started a global OER movement by launching OpenCourseWare in 2002. OCW covers an extensive range of topics, primarily in science and engineering. These are free and open materials that span across the complete MIT curriculum. Today, they offer materials from 2260 courses, with more than 175 million visitors.

The MIT Collection on Curriki contains 49 relevant topics in Calculus, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Most of the material is selected to support the College Board Advanced Placement Program offering college-level examinations to high school students.

Fact #5: Curriki is the largest global K-12 learning community, with 10+ million users worldwide, where you can find more than 74,000 free learning assets, ranging from lesson plans, videos, and worksheets to multimedia activities and courses.

All of the OERs have been created and contributed by educators, curriculum designers, curriculum partners, and school districts. They are “mashable,” which means that teachers can select resources (e.g., lesson plans, videos, animations, photos, etc.), tweak them, or combine them with other resources to generate their own custom teaching tools. And many OERs have already been mapped to standards.

Please share this with a friend, parent or colleague and encourage them to sign up (free) today!

Top 10 Most Popular Curriki Learning OERs




By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Janet Pinto - Curriki CAO/CMO


Here is a list of this year’s most popular resources and collections to date. Many of these collections keep popping up on our Top 10 lists, so it’s worth your time to review them.


“Curriki has helped me out because I can get ideas and lesson plans. I can use the lesson plan as is or I can modify it to suit my classes.”

– Teacher Judy S. from Manhasset, New York


  1. Julius Caesar Unit: This unit covers the entire play for an English 10 class and includes study guides, pre-reading activities and quizzes.
  2. Curriki Geometry:  This course offers six complete projects. All the projects are designed in a project-based learning (PBL) format. alicefull
  3. Gettng Started with Java Using Alice – Full Course from The Oracle Academy: This workshop engages students with little or no programming experience to learn basic Java programming concepts. Participants use Carnegie Mellon’s Alice platform to do something fun – create animated stories, movies and games.
  4. Free High School Science Texts, Chemistry: This FHSST (Free High School Science Texts) Chemistry textbook contains a total of 23 chapters to be used in grades 10 through 12.
  5. Tuck Everlasting Novel Study Unit: Consistently ranked in our Top 10 resources, Tuck Everlasting Novel Study is a great resource, an excellent 25 day unit on the novel Tuck Everlasting. tuck
  6. bingoGeometry Bingo for Grades 5-6: This is a bingo game involving visuals to help students learn and identify key vocabulary for geometry at the 5th and 6th grade levels.
  7. Unit for The Kite Runner: The unit includes a suggested reading schedule and unit plan, pre-reading assignments and worksheets, during-reading questions, graphic organizers and lesson plans, and after-reading assessments and writing extensions.
  8. Study Guide Questions for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: This resource includes questions for each chapter in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
  9. Lessons, Activities, & Problems from Math for America: Designed for grades 6-12, this is a collection of lessons, activities, and problems organized by subject by Math for America. fractions
  10. English 10 Antigone Unit: This is a collection of materials for teaching Sophocles’ play Antigone to a 10th grade English class and includes activities, study guides, projects, quizzes, tests, and answer keys.

These are just a small sampling of the thousands of peer-reviewed teaching resources available on Curriki. Join today and get free access to Curriki favorites and more. Please pass this along to a friend or colleague.

Flipped Classroom: Trending Topic

Janet Pinto - Curriki CAO/CMO By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

 The flipped classroom has been a trending topic for the last several years, as illustrated below from Google Trends (search term “flipped classroom”).


So to support your efforts in the new school year, here are 10 resource sets that can help you flip your science classroom. And the large majority of these have video  resources! All are free, open educational resources. They span from biology to chemistry to physics and astronomy.


Science Video Collection


Science! With the Amoeba Sisters Videos

AP Biology Videos


Interactive Chemistry Simulations

AP Chemistry Videos


Why Do Ice Cubes Crack in Drinks? Video

How Far Can Legolas See? Video

How Modern Light Bulbs Work Video

Physics of Sailing is sponsored by the Oracle Foundation (Includes videos and simulations) is a project-based learning resource

Astronomy / Cosmology

A Polarizing Discovery About the Big Bang Theory Video

Check these out, you are sure to find something of interest. And if not, there are over 70,000 additional free resources at on our recently enhanced website. Search is now easier and faster than ever!

Teach for America is Making a Difference

Kim Jones is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Curriki. By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

 Teach for America is now a quarter-century old. Each year it fields around 5000 new teachers in disadvantaged urban and rural areas within the U.S. The  number of applicants each year is in the range of 40,000 to 50,000.

 Its mission?


“Our mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.” – Teach For America website


Teachers in the Teach For America program are “full-fledged faculty members” in their schools, receiving a regular salary and benefits plus a small stipend for credentialing courses, further education, or payments toward student loans.

Teach for America has an excellent track record. Independent studies in various geographies have indicated:

  • 1.3 months of reading gains in elementary schools (Mathematica study)
  • 2.6 months of gains in secondary school level math instruction (Mathematica study)
  • 3 months of math instruction gains (Calder Center and American Institutes for Research study)
  • 1-2 extra months of gains in English and Math (Harvard Strategic Data Project)
  • Teach for America teachers are the most effective pool of new teachers in North Carolina and Tennessee
  • A very high percentage of principals are satisfied with the TeachForAmerica experience in their schools

We encourage recent college graduates, college seniors and professionals to consider making a difference. Consider applying to Teach For America!

And if you get selected, you can search at Curriki for supplementary K-12 materials. Our site hosts nearly 75,000 open educational resources, all free.

To learn more go to:

9 Amazing Tools for Teaching Essay Writing

Student writing

By Curriki Guest Blogger Robert Morris

Photo of Robert Morris

Robert Morris

Essay writing skills are necessary for high GPA in high school, college and graduate school admissions, successful graduation, and growth in any profession. For most students, academic writing is the most difficult aspect of their studies. One of the reasons for that is improper introduction to the art of essay writing, which is supposed to be done at early age.
When children learn to read and write, it’s the perfect time for their teachers and parents to encourage them to put their imagination and creativity to use. The following tools make the process of essay writing more attractive for young students.

  1. Rhyme Zone
    This comprehensive search engine enables its students to find rhymes, definitions, and synonyms of different words. During the early stages of the development of essay writing skills, it’s important to help children understand the complexity and beauty of vocabulary. This tool will support you on that mission.
  2. Word Search Maker
    This tool enables children to learn and remember new words easier. You can make custom word search worksheets and ask the students to implement those terms in a short essay. Word Search Maker enables you to customize the font style, size, shape, and word placement, so the worksheets will be quite inspiring.
  3. Painless Grammar Challenge
    If you want your students to write better essays, you have to make grammar less overwhelming. This iOS app asks the players to choose the correct sentence among four offered options. If they achieve a high score, they will get to play a game and proceed to a new level. The game is a nice way to impose grammar practice in class without frightening your students.
  4. Free Classic AudioBooks
    Before your students can write great essays, they need to get inspired by masterful writers. At this website, you can find classic stories in an audio format. After you enable them to listen to the story in class, you can ask them to write about their impressions.
  5. Bartleby
    This is one of the most reliable online sources of literature, verse, and reference materials. You can use it to inspire your students with great quotes that can serve as prompts for their essay projects. You can search by title, subject, or author, so you’ll easily find a proper starter.
  6. Grammar Jammers
    This is another app that makes grammar less scary than ever. It comes in three editions available for different levels of students: primary, elementary, and middle school. First, the app will provide songs, animations, and rhymes that help children develop grammar skills. Then, they can take a quiz to see what they have learned.
  7. CanTeach
    When you cannot think of an appealing topic for the next essay assignment, visit this website and you’ll solve the problem within minutes. You can also suggest the list of topics and enable your students to pick the one that inspires them to write.
  8. Free Rice
    This website enables your students to develop two qualities: vocabulary skills and humanity. The founders of Free Rice donate 10 grains through the World Food Programme for each correct answer the visitors choose. The questions of this vocabulary game may be a bit complicated for young students, but your students will still learn new words even if they don’t find the right answers.
  9. Orangoo
    Recommend your students to run the content they write via this spell-check tool. The autocorrect function of the word processor they use may not locate all misspelled words. Orangoo will facilitate the editing process.

When young learners are making their first steps towards essay writing, it’s important to put the right tools to action. Now that you have the needed list, you can boost their inspiration and productiveness.

Robert Morris is an essay writer at NinjaEssays. NinjaEssays is a paper writing service that enables its students to collaborate with professional writers. These experts can help you to bring essay writing closer to your students/children. NinjaEssays’s blog features awesome articles and infographics that inspire students to write more. Follow NinjaEssays on Google+, Reddit and Facebook!