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Digital Learning to Change the Face of Education? Study of Oxford University Proves app EasyPeasy actually Works

The research was jointly funded by Sutton Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn foundation

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A Child Using Tablet, VOA

November 19, 2016: A study at the Oxford University proves that the app to become a better parent actually works. The study was conducted with 144 families, with kids from age 2 to 6, from Bournemouth who used the software EasyPeasy that includes games designed to encourage child development.

The success of the test suggests that schools and local authorities should encourage parents switch to digital education to improve school readiness among children.

According to the professor of Educational Psychology at the Oxford University, Kathy Sylva, “Although there are many parenting programs, there is still limited evidence that they are effective at improving children’s learning or their capacity to make a strong start at school.”

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According to the Guardian, In Yummy Strawberries, one of the tasks from the app, both parents and child would hold a strawberry in a hand while watching the game’s explanation for one minute before eating it. The task was to ask the child to distract themselves from eating the strawberry.

A previous study, known as “marshmallow experiment”, suggested that children who resisted the treat kept in front of them showed more signs of positive personality traits.

The results on EasyPeasy are promising and suggest that we can affect the personality of a child through educating their parents.

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The parents involved in the study reported significant improvements in their child’s behavior. The children were becoming more independent in making decisions and unrelenting in completing more difficult tasks.

The research’s findings supported the experience of parents. The statistics of the study were significant despite the small sample size.

Although the results from the study were moderately successful, the low delivery cost of the app, £35 per child, makes it cost effective and can be easily expanded.

The study stated, “The low cost, digital nature of the intervention provides an innovative route forward for providing parenting support and preschool learning to families of any background.”

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The Guardian stated that the research was jointly funded by the Sutton Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn foundation. The EasyPeasy app originated from a competition in 2014 by the Guys and St. Thomas’s charity and the Design Council.

According to the founder of Sutton trust, Sir Peter Lampl, to improve social mobility in the society, it is important to decrease the gap between the richest and poorest students. We need to break the cycle of disadvantage and tackle this difference.

Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53

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Scientists Trace The Origin of ‘Zero’ to Ancient Indian Manuscript

Scientists have relied on carbon dating technology to determine the world’s oldest recorded derivation of the zero that is now used by people world over

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zero
Scientists have now traced the origin of zero to the Bakhshali manuscripts that date from the 3rd or the 4th century. Pixabay

Oxford, September 16, 2017 : The eminent Indian mathematician Brahmagupta has been credited globally for writing the first-ever text that described zero as a number in 628 AD. According to Professor Marcus Du Sautoy of the University of Oxford, the creation of zero has to be credited as the “greatest breakthrough” in mathematics. But carbon dating of an ancient text has pushed the story of zero’s origin back by 500 years!

Scientists have now traced the origin of zero to the Bakhshali manuscripts that date from the 3rd or the 4th century- over 500 years older than previously thought, which makes it the world’s oldest recorded derivation of the zero that is now used by people world over.

The new search results stemming from the manuscript assert an earlier reference to the symbol of zero that is considerably older than the previously known inscription on a temple in Gwalior, India dating the ninth-century.

We present six astounding facts about the symbol ‘0’,

  1. The Bakhshali script is a fragmentary text, inscribed on 70 leaves of the bark of the birch tree and contains material from three different periods- 224-383 AD, 680-779 AD and 885-993 AD. This also raises critical questions about how the text was clubbed together as a single document.
  2. The ancient text was named after the village it was found buried in. The Bakhshali manuscript was first found in 1881 in a village near Peshawar (present-day Pakistan) called Bakshali. The text was discovered by a local farmer, and was later acquired by the indologist Rudolf Hoernle who later submitted it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
  3. Translations of the Bakhshali manuscript, which was originally written in a form of Sanskrit, reveal that the text was guidance manual for merchants practicing their trade along the Silk Road. The transcript includes multiple practical arithmetic exercises and a proto-type of algebra.
  4. The zero is nowhere used as a ‘number’ having its own value in the Bakhshali manuscript but merely as a placeholder in the system of numeration. This can be better understood by examining the position of ‘0’ in ‘205’ which does not indicate tens. Here, absence of a value, in other words the answer to a problem which is zero is left blank as a way to distinguish 1 from 10 and 100.
  5. Multiple ancient civilizations had evolved an independent placeholder that held no independent value –
  • about 5,000 years ago, the Babylonians made use of a double wedge to denote absence
  • Mayans incorporated a shell to indicate ‘nothing’ in their ancient calendar system

However, the Bakhshali manuscript featured the first ‘dot’ symbol that eventually transformed into the ‘0’ symbol with the hollow centre that is used today.

  1. The Bakhshali script was the first to explore the possibility to use zero as a number- this was later described in a text called Brahmasphutasiddhanta, which had been written and compiled in 626 AD by the great Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta.

The development of zero dramatically changed the field of mathematics, supplementing an implausible range of further work, including the notion of infinity, calculus, digital technology and also some of the larger questions of cosmology about the beginning of the Universe and how its existence might disappear in future.

ALSO READ India Invented Principles of Calculus 250 Years Before Newton. Indian Scholars from a Kerala School Did it

According to a report by The Guardian, the head of the Bodleian Library, Richard Ovenden was quoted as saying that these astounding research results highlight the rich and ancient scientific tradition of South Asia and also draw attention to the Western bias that often left the contributions of these scholars overlooked and ignored.


 

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Poverty has Remarkable Influence on the Behavior of Children: Study

Poverty makes way for frustration and anger in children behavior

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Impact of poverty on children behavior
Poverty affects children's behavior. Pixabay
  • Children in poor household fail to respond appropriately to everyday situations
  • Effective parenting is important for mental and emotional stability of children
  • A study including 250 homeless parents and their children suggested, that children who are exposed to high family adversity may happen to respond well to parenting interventions

New Delhi, July 21, 2017: Social relationships and its complex web which children experience with either their parents, teachers or peers in school and friends or other family members- exerts an influence on the child’s behavior which is quite powerful. Researchers feel that in children, the process of transformation begins as they start developing core relationships with parents or primary caregivers in their lives, which eventually, shapes children’s personality.

Better relationships, or relationships that are stronger and more secure, tend to help children understand and deal with issues, which further help in the stabilization of their behavior and development of social skills that they could carry with them for life. Children who are acquainted with such relationships, grow up to be healthier mentally and are able to respond appropriately to everyday situations. This way, children’s mental health depends hugely on their social relationships.

Effective Parenting is the key to a Child's positive behavior. Click To Tweet

However, children in poor households do not share the privilege. They, generally, fail to learn how to respond properly to situations and often end up with bad grades in school. Naturally, children with unstable emotional regulation are more vulnerable to experience frustration, anger and other destructive emotions that serve as an obstacle in their way to good performance, or completion of tasks.

ALSO READ: India Houses more than 30 Percent of Extremely Poor Children: Here is Why Poverty is the Deadliest Disease of all!

Social exclusion seems to be another consequence of their disruptive behavior, this behavior being the primary impact of poverty. A child’s behavior needs to be paid attention to and no wonder, effective parenting is the ultimate key.

A study including 245 homeless parents and their children, aged 4 to 6 years was conducted and the findings suggested that children who are exposed to high family adversity may happen to respond well to parenting interventions, whereas children in extreme poverty may benefit from interventions targeting disruptive behavior and enhancing teacher-child relationships.

“These results emphasize the importance of high-quality parenting for social-emotional development, but also its potential limits. Severe poverty may overwhelm the benefits of strong parenting for children’s behavior, suggesting that interventions promoting child resilience need to reduce poverty-related risk in addition to building protective factors in the family,” said lead author Madelyn Labella.

The study states that the children experiencing poverty suffer greater behavioral problems, but, significantly, it is also a reminder for parents about the importance and need of good parenting skills.

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel. Twitter @goel_samiksha


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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)