Creating systemic change? There is no app for that

The rise of educational apps has impacted classrooms across the nation, but there’s one major change that apps can’t implement

apps-K12Today, most schools realize the critical nature of technology in preparing our students for college, careers, and citizenship; however, only 10 years ago, when I served as technology director for an Intermediate Unit in upstate Pennsylvania, the conversation on educational technologies centered largely on the question of “Should we?” Now, I find that in my conversations with school leaders across the country, our conversations focus on “How?”

This shift, driven in part by a host of social, political, economic, and technical forces, has made it easier than ever to introduce technology into the classroom environment. The ease with which we can apply technology to academic challenges has created an unprecedented time in education that I call the “There is an App for That Era.”

In this era, there seems to be an endless supply of apps. Want to improve your spelling? There is an app for that. Want to practice multiplication tables. There is an app for that. Want to create online flash cards? There is an app for that.

(Next page: What an app can’t fix)


Five inspiring teachers we met this year

For over 90 years Scholastic has valued the importance of teachers and their positive impact on their students, Scholastic blogs. To continue celebrating and supporting teachers we wanted to highlight five great educators we have had the pleasure of meeting and working with this year…

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How London’s failing schools became the best in the world

In what must rank as a remarkable turnaround by anyone’s standards, failing schools once judged to be some of the worst in the UK have been hailed as among the best in the world, Forbes reports. Now a study into this success story has identified some of the key elements behind the transformation, in what could prove to be a model for large-scale urban school renewal across the developed world. Just 15 years ago, schools in the London borough of Tower Hamlets were in the doldrums. While the local council boasted the landmark site of the Tower of London, from which it took its name, it also had some of the worst performing schools in the UK…

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Chancellor at University of California to become chief at Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has tapped Susan Desmond-Hellmann, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, as the next chief executive of the giant charitable organization, The New York Times reports. Ms. Desmond-Hellmann — the foundation’s first chief executive from outside Microsoft, the technology company co-founded by Bill Gates — will succeed Jeff Raikes, who announced the end of his five-year stint in September. Ms. Desmond-Hellmann is scheduled to start in May…

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Five basic — but misinterpreted — keys to creating a cool classroom culture

If the school you work in or your child goes to doesn’t help teachers maintain what many authors and experts have identified as the five aspects of classroom culture, you are dead meat, the Washington Post reports. They are Discipline, Engagement, Control, Influence, and Management (D.E.C.I.M.) Often misinterpreted, these five principles are the keys to a successful school and its classrooms. Not only is it necessary to accurately define these principles; it is even more necessary to use them naturally. The order these are presented is not relevant. They are like the five fingers on a hand. Each does its own thing, but together they make a powerful fist…

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Research-based games help make learning fun again

VINCI Education taps the power of games to help students learn

educational-gamesYoung children are naturally curious, and one of the main ways they learn is through play. Yet, when they arrive at school, too often this sense of play is lost.

Aiming to recapture this sense of play and make learning more fun and engaging for students, a growing number of schools are turning to digital games to help teach core curriculum. That’s the thinking behind VINCI Education as well.

The company’s school-based solution, ClassVINCI, includes Android-based tablets designed specifically for young children, as well as animated learning games grounded in cognitive science; non-digital learning objects such as toys and books; a learning management system to track students’ progress and mastery of skills; and professional development for educators.

Using games for learning raises a number of key questions, such as: What does research say about gaming’s potential as an educational strategy? What best practices exist to help educators incorporate gaming into their classrooms successfully? How can schools ensure that games have real educational value, and are not just entertainment?

In an interview with eSchool News, early childhood education expert Sarah Cowan addressed these questions. She noted that, just because a learning solution is “fun,” doesn’t mean it’s not pedagogically sound or academically rigorous.

eSN: What was your role in helping to create the VINCI curriculum?

Sarah: I was hired to write the play guides. I have 17 years of teaching experience, including 11 years as an administrator. I work with an amazing, creative team of people; my role is to make sure the curriculum is educationally sound, developmentally appropriate, and meets the Common Core standards.

eSN: What was the thinking behind using games? How can these play a key role in the education of young children?

Sarah: The reality is, kids are exposed to technology at a very young age. Games are fun; kids love to play games, and we want to make them educationally appropriate. In a game-based environment, we can provide children with educational experiences in which they’re learning but don’t even realize it, because they’re having so much fun.

eSN: Can you describe some of these games in particular, and what skills children are learning as they play?


Are these 8 trends the future of K-12?

Here are eight ways the future of education could change

future-K12In a recent blog I wrote for Wired, I discussed Jack Uldrich’s book, Jumping the Curve. Essentially, it suggests that the best entrepreneurs, innovators, and visionaries are those who see the intersection of two curves on a paradigm chart, and set up a solution based on the new curve, rather than the old.

As such, I’ve done my best over the years to blog about those “jumping off points” for eLearning each December, specific to the New Year. Some of those predictions have been spot on, such as MOOC-fever in 2009, while others have not, such as confidence based testing in 2007 (I still think we missed the mark by not pushing this concept). But overall I’ve done pretty well looking ahead. As 2014 arrives, the time has come to look at more paradigm curves.

In an attempt to illuminate the possible future, here are 8 trends that I believe will hit their stride, really get (meaningfully) started, or otherwise dot the education landscape.

(Next page: Eight trends that will impact the future of education)


Teaching isn’t rocket science. It’s harder.

One of the biggest misconceptions about teaching is that it is a single job, writes Ryan Fuller for Slate. Teaching is actually two jobs. The first job is the one that teachers are familiar with; people who have not taught can pretend it doesn’t exist. The tasks involved in this first job include lesson planning, grading, calling parents, writing emails, filling out paperwork, going to meetings, attending training, tutoring, and occasionally sponsoring a club or coaching a sport. The time allotted to teachers for this work is usually one hour per workday. But these tasks alone could easily fill a traditional 40-hour work week…

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