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Silvia Marinova

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How about a VIRTUAL classroom?

What do you imagine as the perfect classroom?
Me and my students were wondering ...
Is it big and full of light?
Is it in the middle of the jungle?
Are there many books in it?
Is there music in it?
What about a VIRTUAL classroom where you study in a virtual environment as if in a video game? Can we learn more from the virtual world than we actually think? Please, share some ideas and opinions ...
Waiting for your replies: Radina, Iliana and Silvia Marinova (teacher) from Sofia, Bulgaria.

Topics: education school
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Closing Statement from Silvia Marinova

Thank you all for answering our question! It's been a pleasure answering and reading all the suggestions. :) We learned a lot as well. So you guys were very helpful and gave us some great insights!
A classroom has to be most of all effective and fun for both teachers and students. :)
Have a great time and enjoy the lifetime learning.

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    Jan 30 2013: In my undergraduate degree, I remember taking a unit that was based entirely online. Our class interacted with each other, and with our lecturer, through a program called Second Life. Within Second Life, we were able to attend lectures, go on excursions, speak with each other, complete group assignments, and even hang out with each other.
    A virtual classroom is the perfect way to connect with people from around the globe. Real education is not confined by boundaries, and within a virtual environment we are able to take inquiry learning to the next level. It is a way to inspire students to think creatively, to build networks, and to find their own niche in the world.
    The perfect classroom? Be it physical or virtual, in a jungle or a room surrounded by books; for me, it is simply one that inspires students, and gives them the tools to become active global citizens.
  • Jan 27 2013: The perfect classroom? It is the place where we ask new questions and we get new answers; the place where we try a new experiment and we get a new outcome. That place can be anywhere in the world. We can learn new things wherever we are and no matter how much money we have.
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      Jan 28 2013: Well said! Silvia

      This is maybe the best answer here! You're right! But learning can be more easy if we have better classrooms >..<
      Radina
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    . . 100+

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    Jan 25 2013: Dear Silvia Marinova (teacher), Radina, Iliana from Sofia, Bulgaria; Greetings to you!

    We are standing at the dawn of (no actually morning has already risen on) virtual teaching and I can think of huge applications of virtual teaching. Just last night I watched a TED talk on teaching one of the toughest subjects(surgery) in a virtual manner. As you know we can now learn many subjects by ourselves, like languages, etc. virtually. And of course, one can go to a coffee shop here and find, at any one time, thirty young adults sitting alone at their lab tops, without ever meeting or learning anything about each other. So we have wonderfully caffeinated virtual classrooms ;-)

    I think schools have a much more critical role than teaching subject matter. And that is 'socializing' students through education. (for example as shown by John Hunter in his talk listed below)

    This is a desperate need growing by the same reason and rapidity at which, the world is being isolated by digital / virtual technology.The improvement would be when we teach children how to interact with each other (as of kindergarten and first grade through high school graduation) and how to combine their abilities and collaborate with their diverse talents to create a win:win society.

    Instead of simply passing on the win:lose one we inherited: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/manufactured-landscapes/

    You already have posted my favorite classroom: http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hardy_my_green_school_dream.html

    And this is the best teaching I have ever seen: http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game.html
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      Jan 30 2013: That's right! Virtual classrooms make learning more easy, but the real ones help us to be more social. So, umm... is there a way to combine both?
      Radina

      I totally share your view on "wonderfully caffeinated classrooms". I practise that myself when I write my poems or come back home trying to find something to occupy my mind. :) But I really find it much more fullfilling to communicate face to face and experience the person that way. I try to socialize my students all the time but I gotta tell you that it's no piece of cake and there's always the personal example that you have to show! :) As usual wonderful to hear from you, Juliette!
      Silvia
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    Jan 25 2013: The perfect classroom to me is one that is molded to the students it houses. The class size is like...5 kids to every 1 teacher. The building itself is just there for mailing purposes, because there are field trips constantly. Exploring and watching education happen in context, in the real world....and pizza....I don't know why...but...pizza

    I've basically described an episode of The Magic School Bus

    As for a virtual classroom. I've always imagined that if we went into an educational system where we were only in front of a computer screen watching lessons from our homes, it would cut down on the sense of community in education. Interestingly enough the world has changed so much that online IS a community now. The virtual classroom is already doing incredible things. The Center for Disease Control here in Atlanta used World of Warcraft to learn how viruses spread. We're opening up our minds.

    To sides of the coin, I guess
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      Jan 28 2013: PIZZA!! This would be the best!! Pizza in clasrooms woo!. Your view of the best classroom is the best. Really. Very cool!
      Radina
  • Jan 25 2013: Yes I agree about needing good teachers that have a good understanding of subjects. My experience is that teachers fulfill two roles: First, a teacher should be providing correct content and the progression of learning of a subject (e.g., algebra comes before trigonometry, and then precalculus, then calculus). Second, a teacher should also be turning the subject that might ordinarily seem mundane to a student into a fun and artistic activity. If you only do the first, students will not care or try. If you only do the second, there can be a lot of frustrating extra work simply to find what content a student needs to learn before understanding a topic.

    This appears what the green school is working on, maybe with some additional environmental/social responsibility.
    So to maybe refine my answer to your original question. I think a classroom should be a philosophical change in perspective. That is, the world should be the classroom and everything in it can be something interesting to learn about. One could merely have a concrete room, barren of any books, computers, etc., but you then talk about the structural integrity of the room, surface area, volume, why this room was built using concrete and if that would happen if it was built today...etc...
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      Jan 28 2013: I really like your view of things! I also try to incorporate art in my classroom but sometimes I'm pressed by time limits and stuff. Anyway, it's what makes the classes fun for teachers, too (since we do that mundane routine every day). Silvia
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    Jan 31 2013: Silvia,
    To answer your question, I don't know if we can learn more but we can learn in virtual worlds. I am a part of an immersive virtual world and there are many colleges and universities that use them for immersive learning and others projects. One such project is virtual model of "The Alamo", a famous Texas landmark which is at the virtual campus of the University of Texas Arlington. You can read about the history of the real Alamo here. http://www.history.com/topics/alamo
    NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory also have virtual displays of rockets, the Hubble Telescope and the Mars Rover at their simulation, as well as meeting spaces where people gather virtually for presentations.
    The most common form of learning that takes place in virtual class room is language learning.
    If you would like me to send your class some picture of these places from inside the virtual world please feel free to contact me via my TED profile email. See my profile page and find the link of the top right.
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    Jan 30 2013: My idea of a perfect classroom is one in which :
    1.the classroom environment is least restrictive,
    2. there is an immediate feedback for every student,
    3. Teacher guides and students are encouraged to find their own own answers,
    4. there is freedom to do mistakes and
    5. Punishment/ Reprimands should be the last option. If given they should be immediate, reasonable and followed by suggestion to correct the actions.
    Virtual labs and virtual learning can supplement classroom learning but should not be implemented in isolation. Teachers can suggest immediate feedbacks, track interest level and attention spans, motivate and inspire, can talk to parents about students inactivity, can serve as a model for the student and make the classroom learning environment more lively. Virtual classrooms are a bit too mechanical. The settings that classroom environment provides can't be replicated at the virtual level.
  • Jan 25 2013: It's fantastic, but I was kind of thinking of the opposite.
    How about a class room without any visual aids...?

    Power point and Youtube videos are pretty useful in terms of teaching students.
    But I think they also make students keep relying on them.

    Sometimes it's good for teachers to have 'deficient' moment with their students.
    It helps the students improve their imagination and ultimately, their creativity and the ability to think critically. Besides, students aren’t the only one who benefit from this ‘deficient’ moment. Teachers also get to develop their teaching skills. They get a chance to think about the way to teach their students more efficiently and creatively.

    I love the word, 'despite' :)
    “Despite the fact that we didn't have proper materials for our class…”
    I want to end that sentence with more fruitful outcomes as a teacher :P

    Liz
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      Jan 30 2013: Are you a teacher as well, Liz? Well, I think every now and then a student and the pedagogs benefit from a class without visual aids. But sometimes I find it real hard in this age of increasing distractions to keep the attention of my students. But once in a while I try to practise it as well. BTW I'd love to have lesson in the warmer seasons in a park or just outside in a garden ... What do you think about that?
      SIlvia
      • Jan 30 2013: I think it'd be wonderful.....
        Although I've been hoping that my students and I have lessons in a park or someplace open, it's been almost impossible for us to study outside.

        You may be surprised to know that Korean education system has been real tough...
        Most of the teachers here try hard to make students disciplined as to learning a subject.

        Believe me, Korean students are good at acing all sorts of tests—including SAT, TOEFL, International Mathematics Olympiad, etc.

        That's because they are trained to analyze all the problems in each question and simplify and organize complex concepts.

        There surely are pros and cons, btw.


        Trying to keep a balance between "training" and "teaching", I've been attempting to make a change in educating them.

        We do use a lot of materials and visual aids thanks to—or should I say, because of?—technology.
        Students love visual aids, right? :)
        But one thing I love about teaching students with no visual aids is once they realize how important it is to focus on what they learn about, they don’t even get distracted.

        They even find it exciting to solve complicated questions.


        I don’t know, Silvia…
        Many pursue making students get high scores on every exam.
        However, I kind of disagree with them.
        Even if my students don’t get to ace all the tests, I aspire to teach them how fun and awesome it is to learn.
        When some of my colleagues tell me I’m being a little unrealistic, then I tell them to take a long term view. Learning should be fun and encouraged no matter what in a way that it helps students realize the value of it.
        Once they get sick and tired of memorizing and solving all those difficult questions, they often get so stressed-out and give up.

        That would be the last thing I want to see.
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    Jan 23 2013: When it is a matter of learning it can be any one or more of the list you and students thought about.....
    e.g. In ancient India , many teachers used to live in jungle and learners also stay with teacher. In limited way in sub continent still to learn classical music in few cases learners have to stay the maestro they want to learn from in his/her home ......Rabidranath Tagore the Noble winner poet of my laguage , with his prize money established an University named Shantiniketon..where class rooms are in field under tree..

    Think of Lyceum of Aristotle in Athens.....
    With development of IT and communication network , Virtual Classroom is a reality now I feel....Khan Academy or Coursera are example of such....what do you think?
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      Jan 30 2013: Great examples you have pointed out, Salim. :) Haven't been here in a while but I'm trying to get back on the track. As for all those amazing school - you're right - they were pretty amazing! Now in Bulgaria we even try to educate people online which hasn't been done successfully so far but I hope we will work it out in the future. As for me practice makes perfect! ;) Sooo I would say that learning from a human who knows more on the subjest matter is much better than anything else ... FYI I'm reading a book now from Elif Shafak about women writers and motherhood called Black Milk ... it's very exciting. Slow paced reader I am but I enjoy every word and I think we can learn a lot from anyone with more experience than us.
      http://www.elifshafak.com/kitaplar/black_milk.asp
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        Jan 30 2013: Hi Silvia, great to hear from you ....I am not that regular here these days as well.
        Yeap...learning from thru sharing is one of the best.....
        Thanks for sharing the link...will check...
        My reading strategy is...if I like something scan through quickly and then go for the 2nd round in a slow pace to have deep dive....you seems deep dive from the begining....sounds good :)
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    Jan 22 2013: I think a virtual classroom reinforces the notion of cooperation and collaboration and allowing students to take on responsibility in the classroom outside of just their grades.
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      Jan 25 2013: I think you might be on to something here ... We should explore this notion! Silvia

      You're a right mortal.
      radina
  • Jan 31 2013: i think it would be really helpful for education, we might be exposed to more knowledge. However i think virtual is virtual and there is a big difference between what you can achieve in a real environment and a virtual classroom. So there is a limit and boundary between the two worth thinking about.
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    Jan 30 2013: A virtual classroom should be a big classroom with light, books, good seating arrangement, well designed shelf for books and should encourage cooperative and collaborative learning
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    Jan 30 2013: Yes,I think so too.That's a main way to walk into a happy life and a happy mind.
    You do it wholeheartedly,so you'll enjoy it fully,especially the process.(Though,there is not fruits,sometimes)

    Frankey
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    Jan 28 2013: Hi Silvia
    I have a very high respect for teacher.
    I guess you're a attentively teacher and you love your teaching career.

    It's a pity that in our country we can't link the website.
    Thank you for your recommendation,yet.
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      Jan 30 2013: Thank you, Frankey. I do try my best! And I really enjoy what I do ... So I guess that's the key to being happy? What do you think?
      Silvia
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    Jan 27 2013: You are ingenious,and a virtual classroom must be wondering.However,I have some other ideas.

    The class is,definitely, exiting to almost every student to be or being there studying during a long time.
    After a long time,yet,those students will be tire about it.
    You can see it from ourselves.We're interested in everything around us when a little boy and lost interests when an adult.

    What if this long time(may be a half year or a year or more) is end to them?
    You may find another better classroom(may be harder and harder), while what should you do after that?

    Our life around us is ,actually,more extraordinarily good than we see them.
    We are so busy(either for ourselves or other reasons) to lost our original dream and our favorite things.
    As a result boring things wrapped us tightly,in fact,the same saying,we wrapped us with worse feelings.
    We refused fantastic things when we know that or not,reluctantly or not ,for making money and power.

    For that, we have ability to discover exiting life if we run slowly,and to enjoy fancy life.Jogging is OK.
    So,our now classroom is also exiting,which should not be removed too fast.We can achive a lot of positive results from "ordinary" classroom.
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      Jan 28 2013: I believe so, too ... Life is our best teacher and we often forget about that. I hope that more people will learn to enjoy and make the most of it. Ordinry classrooms can be great as well. :) Something on the thought of Wrapped: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNKf8jsOok4

      Silvia
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        Jan 28 2013: Sorry,I forget to reply on your below.
  • Jan 23 2013: for me it's not so small as to be cramped but not s large that students in the back are dissociated. it is well-lit but with frosted windows to reduce glare and block distractions, and curtains for when i want to use the projector and big screen. it doesn't need to be anywhere in particular because excursions are always an option. there are few books (because anyone can write a book, that doesn't make what they have to say any more correct or meaningful), mostly dictionaries, but access to more current references.

    i don't think a virtual classroom is a good idea. firstly because by removing the human element we lose important social lessons - we can't see what is actually behind those typed smiley faces! also someone would have to create the virtual classroom, and that person wouldn't know your students so it would probably be generic rather than suited to them. there are some cases where a virtual tour would be a great experience, such as when an actual visit to some place or time is impossible, but i'd classify those as excursions, not a classroom.
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      Jan 25 2013: I see! Well, you have a good point here. And that's precisely why I think human teachers will always be a useful part of society. Have you watched "Detachment" with Adrien Brody? Great film on the subject matter. Silvia

      "we can't see what is actually behind those typed smiley faces" , haha, this is so true! You're pretty right.
      Radina
  • Jan 23 2013: It's never been the classroom. It's the culture of the people and resources for me to learn. In other words, I can learn just about anything, but applying complex math to real problems, doing metal fabrication, or designing/modeling takes resources. So I would say that I just need a good community with a few resources.
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      Jan 25 2013: The culture is something missing here in Bulgaria a lot. SO peers who will encourage visiting the theatre rather than the cinema and attending art exhibitions are kinda cool. :) Resources are infinite I think. SIlvia

      I don't think you need only a good communty and resources. You always need someone that knows everything about.. I mean, like a teacher. Someone that you can be sure is right.
      Radina
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    Jan 23 2013: When Second Life was popular I used it to create a virtual classroom where students had avatars and were able to enter class lectures. The biggest issue was the type of computer the student had (or sometimes if they even had a computer) and it ended up being more frustrating then it was worth. I think a classroom that allows students interaction via webchats or livestreams with other students is excellent and have done that many times.
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      Jan 25 2013: Sounds like you did a great job, I love the idea of students having avatars. :) Silvia

      This is a great idea ^^ Avatars are cool.
      Radina
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    Jan 22 2013: A perfect classroom is a classroom that all of the students love to be there.

    and for the virtual classroom, with today technologies like Kinect and Skype, setting up a virtual classroom isn't that hard ! We all have the resources for that.
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      Jan 23 2013: Yes, you are pretty right, I think.
      iliana

      ILIANA-SAN IS PRETTY RIGHT BECAUSE YOU'RE RIGHT TOO!! *Q*
      Radina
  • Jan 21 2013: Hmmm !
    Well, what seems interesting to me in a virtual classroom is one thing : basically we learn from our environment we learn all the time, any kind of things big or tiny, maybe good or bad ; but what if we could control this environment ?
    You could make a quest out of a math exercise (possibly). Some games with really infinite creative possiblilityes can already be used for such purposes, I'm talking about minecraft. (open environment you can build "anything" with
    This is very abstract but the concept is to be able to control and guide the students through the virtual environment that surrounds them.
    I think there is something to be done with this.
    Bye !
    (frustrated sudent)
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      Jan 23 2013: You're a wise mortal *o* If we could control the envionment, it would be very cool and easy to learn new thins.. I mean, we will learn what we want to... it's hard to explaiin!! Well, you're right. ^-^
      Radina
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    Jan 21 2013: Silvia, I did a quick review on Bulgaria. Only 0.25% of the GDP (50.806 Billion) is spent on science and technology which has caused many leading in the field to leave the country. That Bulgaria is the "silicone Vally" of the EU countries is the good news. I could not find any specific information on education or education spending. It would be good info but I do not believe that more money equates better education or a better student. It does equate to the educational "toys" the system can purchase and staffing.

    Politics, as usual, play a big part in the process. The article I reviewed stated a high corruption rate and a wide split in the many parties.

    Regarding the surface facts I think the Bulgaria has done a great job by placing 46th in Math and Science and 48th in reading.

    Here is the big problem ... in my opinion. Kids are very smart and with modern technology are very aware of the events that will have great impact on them and their future. They know that many of the recognized scientists and technicians have departed ... that political corruption exists ... that Bulgaria has a low GDP and that the EU and surrounding countries are in political and financial distress. With all of that in their minds it is hard to motivate them by painting a rosey job market future.

    I like the idea that you take the students outside to apply the terms in a real world environment in your ESL classes. I still see the key is not the memorization of facts but the application of the subject to a real world environment. We still see the goal is to answer the question by selecting "B" as the right answer. We need a question as in the PISA sample for Math. Here is a science or math problem ... solve it and show your work and a proof set.

    Education is a journey not a goal ... help the students to enjoy the trip.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jan 25 2013: "Education is a journey not a goal ... help the students to enjoy the trip."

      I'll try to do my best about that! Silvia
  • Jan 21 2013: A virtual classroom is an online learning
    environment. The environment can be web-
    based and accessed through a portal or software- based and require a downloadable executable file. Just like in a real-world classroom, a student in a virtual classroom participates in synchronous instruction, which means that the teacher and
    students are logged into the virtual learning
    environment at the same time. Many schools and businesses have rolled out
    virtual classrooms to provide synchonrous distance education. Virtual classroom software applications often employ multiple synchronous
    technologies, such as web conferencing, video conferencing, livestreaming, and web-based VoIP to provide remote students with the ability to
    collaborate in real time. To enhance the
    educational process, applications may also
    provide students with asynchronous communication tools, such as message boards and chat capabilities
  • Jan 21 2013: I think that the answer to this question is reliant on more information. There are different techniques of teaching, some place emphasis on research, others on the gruesome dry task of memory and dry redundancy. Dry redundant material might be better off in a disguised World of Warcraft game, while research would most definitely thrive in the middle of a Jungle or wildlife park. I don't think classrooms online is healthy, having to travel to and from school, talking to peers and teachers, even the bus driver gives the student social aspects they need in living healthy daily.
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      Jan 23 2013: Ohhh, people, understand that those real travelings will still exist!! Just the learning will be more exciting and the students like me will like it ^^ There will be school trips~
      Radina
  • Jan 19 2013: I don't think that virtual classroom will supply your students the social skills they need for the rest of their lives. But this is very creative and has a lot of adventagas
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      Jan 21 2013: Well, I imagined the classroom like... the students to see each-other and talk to each-other. And do you think that talking about Justin Bieber in class is social?
      Radina

      I think that Radi is right, because I imagined the classroom like that!
      iliana

      I imagine the classroom more like this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmOvYzSeaQ
      but ... I also see it as a website with various teaching material and online live chat, so I guess that will make it a bit more socialble.
      Silvia
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    Jan 19 2013: Fritzie, As you say, I am very interested. This report answers some questions but also begs other questions. I will re-read this article many times .. and then begin to accumulate data. 1) What is the criteria used to select test takers .. certainly here were millions who qualified how were the final test takers selected. 2) We have pinned our revision on Economically Disadvantaged ( will be ED hereafter) the term ED appears to be those who attend a school where more than half eat a free meal. Question: How many other countries offer a free meal to their students? If so what was the percentage of those schools students participating? 3) We now know that 40% of test takers came from ED schools .. how many of the students who took the test were actually ED students .. the report says they attended the ED schools not that they were ED themselves. 4) How did this happen as this is a well regulated test .. Are the test takers selected at the local, state, or federal level? 5) The "also found" section of the report is very interesting .. the ED US students have been excelling on the PISA tests and the non-ED students have been dropping.

    And finally .. I see only the US scores being examined. Has the same magnifying glass been held to all other countries?

    As extensive studies have been made that relate nutrition and sleep to the learning curve I would think that free meals would be an advantage not given to all of the other countries students.

    Arne Duncan immediately ordered his long time desire, Common Core Curriculum based on these test scores. Is it possible that this provided the federal government a convient means to further regulate US education. That is not the charter of the Sec of Education by the Constitution or mission statement. This is done by holding funding hostage.

    I these are first observations. I never accept anything at face value. Darn learnin.

    Thanks for providing me with the information. I appreciate you.

    Bob.