Trends towards scalable personalized learning with technology

Just when you thought you knew what the latest thing was in personalized learning, it changed.

personalized-learningFor the past few years, the innovation was around school models, with ideas ranging from classroom rotation to flex, with schools experimenting with different configurations around time, place and people (see Christensen Institute for more details).

This year we are seeing a dramatic shift from school models to district designs. District designs are different than individual school approaches and have the potential to scale. This also makes them more complicated, because within each district, each school may have different strengths and needs, and move at a different pace.

In order for a district design to work, it is important to focus first on equity for students, teachers, and schools. In our experience, there are three main components of a successful district strategy:

  • Districts recognize the uniqueness of their schools. It’s not about one school model, but instead about having multiple classroom models which provide options to different teachers and classroom needs;
  • The district deployment strategy is clearly articulated so that there is equity across the district schools;
  • Internal capacity is built around the implementation of technology to support personalized learning. Technology does not replacing teaching, and helping teachers integrate technology with instruction is a key component to success.

(Next page: How technology can make it more sustainable for teachers and students)


How to prepare for eRate funding year 2014

Here are several strategies to help you get the most out of the new eRate funding year


At this point, the name of the game is agility, Harrington says.

With eRate reform on the horizon, the stallion of change is still galloping from a considerable distance. That being said, for funding year 2014 you should prepare for things to stay the same—while also preparing for them to change.

Same program, different funding year … for now

With the release of the 2014 Eligible Services List on Oct. 22, the same goods and services as the previous funding year generally continue to qualify for funding. Minor modifications include updated eligibility criteria for lit and dark fiber services, as well as eMail services. One notable change, though, is the new language outlining web hosting eligibility. Now, communications features that are eligible for eRate support as part of a web hosting package are not permitted for funding as stand-alone services. Additionally, applicants are not allowed to request eRate funding for web hosting services from multiple providers. Rather, schools and libraries are limited to seeking support for a single provider for web hosting.

Funding forecast for 2014

The rollover catchall is a pattern that is not unfamiliar to eRate applicants. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission announced that $450 million from prior funding years would be used to help cover all eligible Priority One funding requests in funding year 2013. Before the rollover, funding requests for 2013 exceeded the FCC’s funding cap by approximately $350 million and would not have been funded regardless of eligibility.

The goal of increasing the $2.3 billion-a-year budget cap probably will not be realized by funding year 2014. While the lion’s share of eRate stakeholders are pushing for a budget increase to $5 billion or more, it is more realistic to expect a modest increase in funding from rollover funds generated from previous funding years and inflation adjustment. The forecast for funding year 2014 likely will continue to follow the pattern of the most recent funding years, with Priority One goods and services taking—well—priority, leaving all other requests for support lacking funds.

Navigating Priority Two funding—or lack thereof

Funding year 2014 will not see a change to the current “priority” system. While Priority One services will still be eligible for eRate assistance, the present system leaves little to no financial support for internal connections. The Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the agency that administers the eRate, has recommended the denial of 2013 Priority Two applications at the 89-percent discount threshold or below.

Without a change to the priority system, this model will remain for funding years to come. So, what should you do about this?


Floppy disks still used to store data at some U.S. government agencies

To most, the floppy disk symbol means save. But for some United States government agencies, it still means store, CBC News reports. According to a New York Times report, the Federal Register — the official journal of the U.S. government — receives some of its information for publication on the ubiquitous 3.5-inch device and its seemingly archaic successor, the CD-ROM. As it turns out, legal and security requirements are outdated at some government agencies, compelling the Federal Register to work like it’s 1995. Some agencies scan documents on to a computer and save them on antiquated floppy disks that are couriered to the register…

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The accountability moratorium is here

Many states across the nation are well underway with the challenging work of implementing the Common Core State Standards, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reports. But what does a thoughtful transition from existing to new standards look like? And what are the implications for accountability systems in the interim? This past August and September, the research team at Fordham interviewed officials and policy advocates in five states—Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York—to get a sense of how they are approaching accountability in the transition to the Common Core. We asked stakeholders about their plans for using student data during this transition period, and in particular what the “stakes” would be for schools, educators, and students. While we found nuances in each state, four patterns emerged across our small sample. The first is discussed in this post, with three to follow over the next few weeks…

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Teacher turnover in North Carolina significantly higher than previous year

More teachers left their posts last year—significantly more than the previous year, according to a report released yesterday, NC Policy Watch reports. The report released by the Department of Public Instruction found that last year’s teacher turnover rate in North Carolina saw a significant increase—and the highest rate over the last five years. Between March 2012 and March 2013, approximately 13,616 teachers left their districts, at a rate of 14.33 percent. In 2011-12, that rate was 12.13 percent. Teachers who left their districts did so for a variety of reasons, including retirement, to teach elsewhere, family relocation, or dissatisfaction with teaching, among other categories…

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The 10 largest ed-tech funding rounds of 2013

According to market research firm CB Insights, venture capital investments in edtech companies during the first 6 months of 2013 ($481M) was down 26% from 2012 ($650M), EdSurge reports. But it sees no signs of an edtech bubble, but rather “an early part of Ed Tech’s maturation…with the majority deals still in early/seed stages.” Still, there were some notable big deals. In CB Insight’s recent roundup of the 10 largest edtech rounds in 2013, Laureate Education ($150M), ($103M), and Open English ($65M) take the top three spots. Coursera is a close fourth with $63M B round (after a belated $20M addition in November). There’s still three weeks left in the year and Christmas is coming—will someone else make the list?

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Are teachers being set up for failure? You decide

New report says teachers not taught proven methods of classroom management

teacher-classroom-managementTeacher preparation programs are leaving teachers to fend for themselves and to discover their own path to classroom management instead of relying on “proven” strategies based on research, according to a new report. And this philosophy, says one group, that will lead to classroom inefficiency at best and lack of student achievement at worst.

The report, “Training Our Future Teachers: Classroom Management,” was conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a research and policy group often criticized by teacher colleges as “methodologically flawed” and “ideologically based.” NCTQ is a Gates-funded initiative that is part of the “corporate school reform” movement, and it advocates for tougher teacher evaluation practices and methods.

In its new report, NCTQ argues that while teacher preparation programs do heavily emphasize classroom instruction, classroom management skills based off of “proven” techniques are often left out of formal instruction and don’t require evaluation.

Because of this lack of focus on management skills, even “the most brilliantly crafted lesson can fall on deaf ears—or, worse, be upended by disruptive behavior,” according to NCTQ.

(Next page: “Proven” techniques?)


ED launches new financial aid toolkit

Online resource intended as a ‘one-stop shop’ for financial aid information

121113sotwThe U.S. Education Department (ED) has opened a new website aimed at guidance counselors and other advisers who help students choose and pay for college.

The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at, is intended to be a “one-stop shop” that consolidates financial aid resources into a searchable online database, making it easy for educators and administrators to find the information they need to support their students.

“By equipping counselors and mentors with financial aid information, we can help to ensure current and potential students are getting the assistance they need to successfully navigate the process of planning and paying for a postsecondary education,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement.

“This toolkit builds on the administration’s ongoing efforts to improve college access and affordability, and it is an important step toward meeting the president’s 2020 goal of having the most college graduates in the world.”

The searchable online database provides access to resources covering the entire financial aid lifecycle, from applying for financial aid to repaying student loans. It includes documents such as financial aid night materials, presentations, brochures, videos, and sample tweets and Facebook posts. The toolkit also offers professional development information, such as training opportunities and resources for self-instruction.

The launch of the new website builds on ED’s efforts to improve college access and affordability. These include ending student loan subsidies for banks and private financial institutions, shifting billions of dollars in savings back to students; keeping student loan interest rates from doubling this year; and capping loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly income for many borrowers, the Obama administration said.

More information about the administration’s efforts to improve college access and affordability can be found at


10 computer science education resources and facts

Computer Science Education Week is full of resources to get you and your students computing and coding

computer-scienceTo celebrate Computer Science Education Week and to make sure you’re ready to educate students and peers about why computer science is such an essential part of U.S. education and the economy, we’ve compiled a list of 10 useful resources and facts about computer science education.

Are you participating in Computer Science Education Week? Follow the hashtag #CSEW to keep up with events, and let us know your plans.

1. Daisy the Dinosaur is a free app that uses a drag-and-drop format to teach children the basics of computer programming. Students animate Daisy and make her dance across the screen. They also have the option to download a kit to program their own computer game.

2. Cargo-Bot is a puzzle game that teaches students to use computer programming skills as they instruct a robot to move crates.

3. Using MIT App Inventor, students can learn how to build apps with simple steps. The site includes a library with references and troubleshooting, a forum for chatting and asking questions, tutorials for different kinds of apps, and more.

4. Hackety Hack teaches users about the basics of computer science education from the absolute ground up.

(Next page: Six more comp sci resources)