Survey finds gap in ed-tech access between rich, poor students

Technology has become essential to middle school and high school learning, but according to teachers, a gap in access to the internet between the rich and poor is leading to troubling disparities in education, the Washington Post reports.

Students depend strongly on the web to find information and complete their assignments. The vast majority of teachers say they also rely on sites such as Wikipedia and social media to find teaching resources and materials, connect with other teachers, and interact with parents, according to a survey released Feb. 28 by the Pew Research Center.

The findings come as educators debate the role of technology in classrooms, which pose great advantages for students to research and find information. But even as many schools race to adopt tablets, eReaders, and cell phones for their course work, those technologies are more widely available to middle- and higher-income students and schools…

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Pearson launches ed-tech incubator for startups

Publishing giant Pearson has launched an incubator program for ed-tech startups, following in the footsteps of other educational companies like Kaplan, Mashable reports.

Pearson Catalyst, the new program, will match educational startups with Pearson brands and resources. The company’s vast amount of content will be available to help participants further develop their products to target and personalize online learning.

Sharing industry insight and connecting with new companies will allow Pearson to promote learning and take advantage of new ideas, says Diana Stepner, head of future technologies.

Participating startups will have the opportunity to meet with Pearson executives and product experts, as well as present to executives and technology leaders. Pearson isn’t seeking ownership of the companies but might become a customer of the startup in the future…

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First lady announces website to help kids exercise

Imagine students learning their ABCs while dancing, or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks: Some schools are using both methods of instruction, and First Lady Michelle Obama would like to see more of them use other creative ways to help students get their recommended hour of daily exercise, reports the Associated Press.

In Chicago on Feb. 28, the first lady was announcing a new partnership to help schools do just that. It starts with a website,, where school officials and others can sign up to get started.

Mrs. Obama said too many penny-pinched schools have either cut spending on physical education or eliminated it outright to put the money toward classroom instruction. But the first lady who starts most days with a workout—and other advocates of helping today’s largely sedentary kids move their bodies—say that’s a false choice, because studies show exercise helps youngsters focus and do well in school.

The effort is one of the newest parts of Mrs. Obama’s 3-year-old campaign against childhood obesity, known as “Let’s Move,” which she has spent the week promoting…

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Can you see how Google Glass will disrupt education?

Wearable technology will be challenging to manage if schools aren’t prepared, EdTech Magazine reports.

Google is close to bringing one of its latest projects, Google Glass, to market—which is a pair of eyeglasses connected to the internet. Google hopes to solve a problem that the influx of mobile devices has created: Users are constantly distracted by devices in their pockets. What if the gap between humans and technology could be eliminated? It’s an interesting concept, and one that other companies are sure to explore in the coming years.

What impact will wearable technology like Google Glass have on students? While we’re still a few years away from needing to deal with this issue, educators and IT departments should begin planning a strategy now.

What will you do the first time a student walks into your classroom wearing web-enabled eyeglasses? Are you OK with students taking videos or photos in your class, or using the glasses to receive information faster than other students? Smart phones were a disruption, but wearable technology is likely to be even more of a challenge to manage…

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How to prepare for Common Core testing—and why current teacher evaluation systems won’t help

To prepare for the rigor of Common Core testing, school districts must engage teachers in sustained, in-depth professional development.

To prepare for more rigorous assessments aligned with the Common Core standards, teachers will need more time and opportunities to collaborate with each other, education professor Linda Darling-Hammond told superintendents at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education Feb. 22.

But she also warned that using value-added models to rank and evaluate teachers—a practice that is spreading among school districts nationwide—has the potential to impede this work, thereby hindering students’ readiness for Common Core testing.

Darling-Hammond, who is a nationally recognized authority on school reform and teacher quality, is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University.

She told AASA conference attendees that the new Common Core assessments to be given in 45 states and the District of Columbia beginning in 2014 are more demanding than what students are used to, and they’ll require a commitment to intense professional development on the part of school systems to make sure teachers—and their students—are prepared.

Two multi-state consortia, the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, are developing next-generation assessments aligned with the Common Core standards, and students will take the tests online. To illustrate the level of rigor involved, Darling-Hammond cited a sample question from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

In the example, students are told to pretend they are the chief of staff for a congresswoman in their state. A power company is proposing to build a nuclear plant in the state, and the congresswoman wants to know how she should vote. Students are asked to search the web for information, find three arguments for and three against the use of nuclear power, evaluate these arguments, and then write a position statement either favoring or opposing the plan—using evidence to support their position.

Consider the skills that are being tested here: internet literacy (the ability to find information online and evaluate its credibility), writing, and critical thinking, for starters.

To prepare for the rigor of these exams, school districts must engage teachers in sustained, in-depth professional development, Darling-Hammond said. She said research suggests the right kind of professional development can increase student performance by up to 20 percent—but “drive-by, one-off workshops” have been shown to have no effect on achievement.

(Next page: What high-quality professional development looks like)


What to consider when flipping the K-12 classroom

Flipped learning is not without its challenges–most notably, access to devices and the internet.

Flipping the classroom is one of the top trends in school reform, with more and more teachers trying the approach in an attempt to boost student engagement and achievement.

The concept is simple: Teachers create or find online short videos that explain a lesson or concept, and students watch the videos at home. Students then come to class the next day prepared to complete “homework” during class time.

Supporters say the flipped classroom model works because students aren’t struggling to finish assignments at home without the help of a teacher should problems or confusion arise. Teachers are able to spend less time lecturing and more time helping students.

Start off slow—one or two things at a time,” advised Gwynn Loftin, an educator with Highland Park Independent School District in Texas, during a Texas Computer Education Association 2013 conference session. “You are going to have bumps and bruises along the way, but it is so very much worth it.”

For more coverage of TCEA 2013, see:

New ed-tech products abound at TCEA 2013

How one school district deployed 10,000 iPads in five weeks

Tips for using Pinterest in the classroom

Even the most pro-flipping educators may experience some discomfort with the process. “The teacher’s role changes; you’re not the center of attention anymore, and for some of us that’s hard to get used to. You become a player on the side,” Loftin said.

Loftin’s district has flipped lessons about the planets, poetry, and social studies, using a website or tool such as Moodle or Edmodo to house videos, blogs, and assignments; and video creation tools or video sites such as YouTube, Brain Pop, Khan Academy, or LearnZillion.

On the other hand, flipping the classroom presents challenges for students who might not have access to internet-enabled devices, or the internet itself, at home, and who therefore encounter obstacles when they try to watch their teacher’s video.

(Next page: How one district overcomes access obstacles)


Win a playground for your school

Two grand prize winners will receive a $30,000 grant and a new playground from Playworld Systems. One of the grand prize winners will be chosen from a special drawing for Title I Schools. Three second prize winners will receive a $5,000 grant.


New report shows how to cultivate great principals

An effective school requires an effective leader, but great principals rarely just happen, says the Wallace Foundation: They are cultivated. Now, a new report from the foundation offers advice on how to do this.

Cultivating the Principals Urban Schools Need” draws on a decade of Wallace Foundation research and work in school leadership to show how urban school districts can play a major role in ensuring they have principals who can boost teaching and learning in troubled schools.

Key actions include establishing selective hiring procedures and providing mentoring to novice leaders, says the 37-page report, which is available as a PDF.


Why even art teachers have a problem with standardized testing

Gray is the color between black and white and it can be created in many ways. There is cool gray and there is warm gray. There are light grays and dark grays. The question is, how do I make the right gray? Do I add one percent black to white or 99 percent white to black? Asks a contributor. As an art teacher, I can give my students a written test to see if they remember the formula, or I can give them a paintbrush and paint. Standardized tests are supposed to be more acceptable than non-standardized tests. They are created to gather data about answers to predetermined questions in order to determine the students’ performance and intelligence. In art education, it is not so simple to measure the creative process, performance and aesthetic responses in student learning. I am not concerned about the percent of colors my students use to make gray. I am concerned whether or not they understand the technique and can demonstrate it correctly…

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Michelle Obama links movement to better test scores

First lady Michelle Obama, in an interview with SiriusXM host B. Smith being aired to mark the third anniversary of her “Let’s Move” campaign, said that allowing students to get up and move around helps them concentrate better and get better test scores, the Washington Post reports. Here are some quotes from the interview on “The B. Smith and ‘Thank You Dan’ Show” on SiriusXM Urban View, channel 128, first aired Tuesday and again Wednesday…

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