How Desktop Virtualization Can Save Schools Money and Improve Ed-Tech Access

As ed-tech leaders seek ways to support digital learning within tighter budgets, desktop virtualization has emerged as a compelling solution. This approach costs less than buying standard desktop computers and lets IT leaders more easily manage their fleet of computers across multiple settings—allowing schools to reduce their total cost of ownership while improving ed-tech access.

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Boosting Achievement Through Personalized Learning: What the Research Says

Using technology to deliver personalized instruction is critical if schools are to maximize student learning outcomes. This white paper reviews recent research that suggests schools that have embraced personalized, technology-supported learning strategies—often described as “1-to-1” learning programs—are outperforming their counterparts.

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Building the Case for Mobile Learning in Elementary Schools

Enabling true “anytime, anywhere” learning, mobile technologies have produced impressive gains in student achievement in grades K-6. Drawing on the insights of experts, this planning guide is designed to help ed-tech leaders build a business case and justify investments in new mobile learning programs for their elementary schools.

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How to improve the eRate

Rather than separate priorities for telecomm services and internal connections, the updated eRate program should have just one priority: connecting students.

The United States is credited with bringing forth some of the greatest technologies of our time—technologies that are being used today to raise the standard of education for people of all ages, in all circumstances, all around the globe. As a nation, we must take steps to ensure that students and teachers in the United States can benefit from these same resources.

Last month, President Obama announced the ConnectED initiative, a vision to bring high-speed internet access to 99 percent of our nation’s students within five years. This is a worthy and attainable goal.

A crucial component of the president’s vision is the need to update and reform the federal eRate funding program, which is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). eRate funding reform is desperately needed. The program was created to help our schools and libraries get online. And it has been a success: Today, 16 years after the inception of the eRate, most schools and libraries are online; but their computer networks—and their budgets—are straining to meet the demands placed on them.

Students are bringing electronic devices onto campuses like never before. Personalized learning systems that support and augment the work of classroom teachers are no longer ideas for the future. These tools, and others like them, are here now—and eRate funding is positioned to help provide the bandwidth and wireless LAN infrastructure necessary to leverage these tools to revolutionize the work taking place in every single classroom and library nationwide.

Yet, the eRate’s current framework bears the marks of the 1997 era in which it was launched. Back then, dial-up internet access was the norm, and the Wi-Fi Alliance was still two years from being born. (Yes, there was a day when we did not have Wi-Fi internet access.) In 1998, schools reported spending $15 per student in annual telecommunications and internet expenses. Today, that number is $50 per student and rising—an increase of 300 percent. Meanwhile, available eRate funding has increased a meager 6 percent.

Further compounding matters, a small percentage of “big spender” applicants want to consume the entire fund.

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Here’s help for teaching with digital apps

The sheer volume of new learning apps being created every day poses a key challenge for educators looking to teach with mobile devices, as many teachers say they don’t have time to find and evaluate the best apps for their classrooms. But a brand-new service could help.

Called Graphite (www.graphite.org), it’s a free online portal to help educators from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade find, use, and share the best digital apps, games, and websites for their students.

Created by Common Sense Media with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the service contains objective ratings of apps and other digital learning resources from professional reviewers, along with reviews from dozens of “Graphite Educators,” teachers who are hand-picked by Common Sense Media. The nonprofit children’s media group says its system is the first centralized source for unbiased reviews of the learning potential of apps developed for a variety of platforms.

Users can search for reviews of resources by subject, grade level, cost (free, “freemium,” or paid), and resource type (app, game, or website). An option at the top of the page, called “Top Picks,” reveals the best-reviewed resources on the site.

When you click on a review, it tells you the price, the grade levels the app is most appropriate for, setup time, platforms (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, or Nook HD), and subject areas—with a link to specific standards the app meets. There’s also a list of skills the app meets, too (such as “memorization, thinking critically”…), and the review indicates whether the resource includes a teacher dashboard and who the maker is.

For each review, users will see a “Graphite Rating” and a “Teacher Rating,” each based on a five-point scale. These ratings use a rubric with three dimensions: Engagement, Pedagogy, and Support. The maximum score within each dimension is five points as well.

Graphite launched in beta version with about 1,500 reviewed apps, and within three years, its database “will easily grow to 5,000 apps,” said Common Sense Media’s Mike Lorion. A full rollout is planned for the fall, and it will include a space for teachers to collect and share reviews of their favorite apps.

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A key priority for ed-tech leaders: Meeting Common Core needs

While school IT leaders voiced support the Common Core, they noted a number of concerns that could affect their ability to meet the standards’ ed-tech requirements.

School superintendents and curriculum directors aren’t the only K-12 administrators worried about the changes being ushered in with the Common Core standards: In a recent survey, 83 percent of ed-tech leaders said preparing for Common Core assessments is among their top three priorities—and 62 percent fear they won’t have enough IT infrastructure to support online testing.

The survey of 300 school IT professionals comes from CDW-G, which released the results of its poll on what ed-tech leaders think about the Common Core standards during the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio last week.

The Common Core State Standards, which all but five U.S. states have adopted, are designed to ensure that students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in college and the workforce. To that end, a critical element of the Common Core is technology that supports teaching, learning, and student assessment—and ed-tech leaders are feeling the pressure this entails.

(Next page: Key ed-tech challenges in preparing for the Common Core)

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