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MOOCs and Angry Birds Top WSJ's Special Report on Education

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The Wall Street Journal has a special section on education in Wednesday's editions. After the paper promoted the section on Tuesday, I thought my copy was missing the special report. But it was tucked inside the Personal Journal section, and the eight-page Journal Report is actually packed with a dozen stories on K-12 and higher education.

The lead story is "An Early Report Card on MOOCs," or massive open online courses. Geoffrey A. Fowler reports that the online learning option has "great potential, but [is] still in need of remedial work."

One problem, he reports, is that "staring at a screen makes some students feel isolated and disengaged, which can lead to poor performance or dropping out altogether."

"Nonetheless, you can learn anything online—if you put your mind to it," Fowler writes.

The lead K-12 story, "Today's Lesson: Calculate the Acceleration of an Angry Bird," is about teachers using video games in the classroom.

"Though it's still a budding movement, scores of teachers nationwide are using games such as 'Angry Birds,' 'Minecraft,' 'SimCity,' and 'World of Warcraft' to teach math, science, writing, teamwork, and even compassion," reports Stephanie Banchero, the Journal's national education reporter. "The movement is driven by a generation of young teachers who grew up with computer games, a national push for innovative teaching methods in K-12 classrooms, and a need to reach children whose obsession with video games sometimes desensitizes them to the traditional, slower-paced classroom lectures."

Banchero writes that one teacher researched the physics behind "Angry Birds" and created lessons in which students study the birds' arc through the air, their descent and collision in terms of Newton's law of motion, force, mass, speed, and velocity.

A video report accompanying the story on WSJ.com by Journal senior video producer Jason Bellini is breezy but thin.

Other stories in the special report examine college costs, what college may look like in 2023, and what the NewSchools Venture Fund is up to. There is also that staple of Wall Street Journal special reports, a quiz.

The good news is that most of the special report articles appeared to be freely accessible on the WSJ.com Web site, where most of the paper's content is behind a pay wall.

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