March 2009 Archives

Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University

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There are many eye-catching headlines these days about the state of education in America--most of them delivering bad news. Our new president has identified education as a top issue, warning that we must invest in education to ensure our competitive future. One can easily lose heart and despair. To help off-set that feeling, I suggest you visit the website of the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. The site does a great job of describing CTY's mission. For me, CTY is evidence that our future political, scientific, and business leaders are receiving great training and instruction from the best and brightest. 

At Thinkwell, we are fortunate to have worked with CTYOnline for several years. Like most content providers, we are confident that our products are filled with great potential--all we need are highly motivated students and great teachers. We are thrilled to partner with both of these components at CTY. We get great and fervent feedback from both students and teachers--and I think our product continues to improve. CTY is not a place for the complacent. I have been lucky enough to visit CTY several times and I always come away impressed and a little intimidated. I once visited with one of the mentors in her office before a long session of teaching calculus. She was so excited to share her knowledge and help the students that it was as if the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament were about to start. I know that she both informed and empowered those students that day. 

In life, we judge people by many standards. One standard that is important to me is the company a person keeps--friends are a reflection of a person. In that case, I am thrilled that we keep company with the Center for Talented Youth.

The Value of Online Education

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Recently, Edweek published a blog post discussing the cost effectiveness of online education. Interestingly, the post did not seem to actually reach a conclusion; it opened the dialogue and suggested that research was continuing in this area. It did indicate that online education has promise in lowering costs, as one would expect. Having one effective teacher using better tools to reach many more students ought to lower costs.    

But I think they missed the greater issue: the efficacy of online education. With the proper curriculum, well-designed software, and excellent teachers, online education can supplement offline, analog teaching. There's no question that in-person teaching has its place; few methods can surpass one-on-one instruction, but coupling online education with offline standard courses results in significant increases in material retention, test scores, and overall student enthusiasm. 

Bundle those positive effects with the relatively low cost of online education, and you have a truly remarkable value on your hands!

The University of California

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This week marks the anniversary of the signing of the Organic Act by Governor Henry Haight in California in 1868, which created the University of California. The first campus in Oakland opened shortly thereafter but was moved to a new location in Berkeley in 1873. The first years were filled with danger--there was much discussion of what role it should fill. In 1878, the California Second Constitutional Convention seriously discussed shutting down the school and founding a school that was dedicated to practical matters, dismissing most of the arts and classics as superfluous! Fortunately, the new constitution established the University as an independent public institution with the power to define largely its own destiny.  

There were still many questions to answer. Should they teach literature? Should the medical school be folded into the main campus? What role should the faculty play in decision-making? The questions were endless as the school developed. 

Fortunately, the leaders of the state and the school provided a lot of good answers to all the questions that arose in the coming decades. Various schools were added as the need arose; the Southern Branch was added in 1919 and became UCLA in 1927. Today there are more than 220,000 students in the system. The University of California Berkeley would become a great institution of learning and the University of California System would become the model for others to follow. 

Let us celebrate the foresight of the leaders of California 140 years ago.

A Better Shade of Green

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Many companies are quick to point out when they "go green," and everyone can get behind the idea of minimizing negative impacts to the environment For some companies, going green is heavy on the marketing but light on the environmental impact. For example, the housing industry has plenty to say about green building materials, but in the end, the act of building a house still uses a great deal of natural resources. Perhaps the most infamous example of riding the green bandwagon is the coal industry's use of the term "clean coal." 

Perhaps Thinkwell has been remiss in not promoting the fact that we are a green company in the not-so-green industry of publishing. Thinkwell replaces tree-eating textbooks, many with greater than 1,000 pages, with a paperless alternative. And unlike so many other alternatives we incorporate into our daily lives under the heading of "doing good," this one has no down side. Students consistently report that Thinkwell is more effective than a textbook. It's no surprise that students prefer videos to textbooks. Instead of feeling like they have made a sacrifice, students are delighted with not having to carry around a heavy textbook that they didn't want to read in the first place. 

Student support for traditional textbooks is at an all-time low. Just add concern for the environment to the list of reasons why.

Thinkwell at TCCTA 2009

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This year, the Texas Community College Teacher's Association's (TCCTA) 62nd Annual Convention was held from February 19--21 in Thinkwell's hometown of Austin, Texas. The TCCTA's convention draws community college instructors from around Texas for camaraderie, learning, and the exchanging of ideas. Sam Webber and I were at the Thinkwell booth, where we displayed all of the titles that Thinkwell publishes. 

It was so good to see so many of our customers and hear their thoughts on how things are going with their students who use Thinkwell. We saw Tammy Calhoun from Hill College, Byron Howell from Tyler Junior College, Denise Brown from Collin County Community College, and Joe Whitson from St. Phillips College, just to name a few. 

On Friday morning, I gave a presentation of Thinkwell's Chemistry materials to a group of Chemistry instructors (my thanks to Larry Wiginton from Clarendon College for inviting me to speak). There was a lot of excitement about how Thinkwell is helping to improve student performance in General Chemistry classes. In particular, it was great to hear from Byron Howell about how he's used Thinkwell to make his students more successful. 

A little more about that: Professor Howell brought Thinkwell in at the mid-semester mark and gave it to students who were failing. By the end of the semester, 27 of those 43 students passed instead of dropping or failing. In fact, Professor Howell found that all of these previously failing students who went through 20 or more of the Thinkwell lessons made a C or higher. Amazing!

This year's meeting was a big success, and it was a pleasure to speak with so many new folks about Thinkwell and to see them get excited about the possibilities that these course materials offer.

The Digital Divide

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Nearly every week, I get to set foot on a new campus with the mission to spread the word about how Thinkwell can help teachers and students. Above all, one thing consistently strikes me:

The digital divide ain't what you think.

The digital divide that frustrates students the most is not the one between rich and poor or the one between ethnic groups. Unfortunately, differences do exist between these groups. But as used computers rival the cost of a tank of gas, these differences are shrinking. The digital divide that is far more frustrating for students is the one that exists between them and their instructors.

There currently exists a condition in which many instructors come from a generation that has learned to navigate the world without a heavy reliance on electronic devices. This generation of instructors is slowly retiring, but the frustration remains. Students believe they are being short-changed when an instructor is not tech-friendly.

Years ago, teenagers across America knew that record labels were doomed, long before the CEOs found out. Students will always be attracted to things that work better for them, and a lot of instructors will be left behind. I believe this core issue is hiding behind terms like "student success," "retention," and "student satisfaction." These are concerns that students will eventually solve for themselves, one way or another.
We're excited to sponsor's Wednesday Winners giveaway this week. Go to ChoosyHomeschooler's blog to sign up for an opportunity to win a FREE Math or Science course from Thinkwell! The contest ends today, so hurry over now!

While you're there, check out the full-product demos for 5 Thinkwell courses. There's also a coupon code there that will let you take $25 off of the price of ANY Thinkwell Homeschool or Independent Study course. 

Did you use Thinkwell's College Algebra to get through that tough math course, but your Biology professor doesn't use Thinkwell? Here's a great chance to pick up Thinkwell's Biology at a discount and make sure you soar through Biology just as easily as you got through Algebra, and with the high grades to show it!

Do you find that your homeschool student isn't as excited about Algebra or Calculus as you'd like? Let Professor Edward Burger get in there and show them just how fun and easy it can be!

Need an effective AP prep course to make sure you succeed on the AP Exam so you can place out of Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, or Government & Politics and save those precious tuition dollars? We've got some fantastic AP Prep courses and now you can get them for $25 off!

Head on over to ChoosyHomeschooler's blog and take a look at all of the special offers.

10 Years

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Hello, fans. Scout Dog here with another update coming to you firsthand from the Chief Canine Officer's desk. 

As you know, we recently celebrated our CEO Carl Tyson as he reached a ten-year anniversary here with us at Thinkwell. Now, when I think of "anniversary" I think of a party! And that means lots of great food and friends. So in true Thinkwell fashion, that's what we did. 

We hosted a surprise BBQ for Carl and all of his Thinkwell Employees last week in our Studio and toasted him for all of the incredible work he has done for the company.


You know, when I think about it, that's 70 dog years! Wow. Well, congratulations, Carl. Here's to another 10 years! Arf! 

Until next time, 

For questions, comments, and of course treat-delivery, email Scout at:

TAKS Success with TRACK

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Here in Texas, the state requires students to demonstrate their mastery of math, science, social studies, reading, and writing skills by taking the Texas Assessment of Skills and Knowledge--better known as TAKS. These are high-stakes tests that measure progress and have impact on both individuals and schools. You can get a complete rundown on TAKS at the Texas Education Agency's website. 

As part of the program to assist students, the University of Texas TeleCampus and the Institute for Public School Initiatives developed a comprehensive online program called TAKS Readiness and Core Knowledge (TRACK). TRACK was designed to help students address problem areas and improve their performance. 

The developers searched widely for quality content to provide this essential service, and we were tickled when they chose to include Thinkwell's math, social science, and science materials. The program has been going for almost six years and more than 350,000 students have used TRACK to improve their scores. It's impossible to know how many have succeeded because of TRACK--and Thinkwell--but we know of one school in Austin that had 100% of their students pass TAKS by using only TRACK! 

All of us at Thinkwell are thrilled to be part of this successful program.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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