Bill Gates: I assume my phone’s not being tapped

In some fascinating comments about privacy and security, the Microsoft co-founder admits that he does use e-mail to send confidential messages. And he expects a level of security from his gadgets, CNET reports. “It’s not as if government surveillance is absolutely bad in all cases.”

Oh, that’s a relief. With all the revelations over the last months, I’d begun to wonder.

Thankfully, with these words (and others), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates tried to offer some reassurance to those thinking of moving to some distant private island as a form of escape.

Speaking to Jorge Ramos on Fusion TV, Gates said he believed it was possible to find a balance between security and privacy, though he didn’t offer what that magical formula might be…

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The defiant parents: Testing’s discontents

Anna Allanbrook, the principal of the Brooklyn New School, a public elementary school in Carroll Gardens, has long considered the period of standardized testing that arrives every spring to be a necessary, if unwelcome, phase of the school year, The New Yorker reports. Teachers and kids would spend limited time preparing for the tests. Children would gain familiarity with “bubbling in,” a skill not stressed in the school’s progressive, project-based curriculum. They would become accustomed to sitting quietly and working alone—a practice quite distinct from the collaboration that is typically encouraged in the school’s classrooms, where learners of differing abilities and strengths work side by side. (My son is a third grader at the school.) Come the test days, kids and teachers would get through them, and then, once the tests were over, they would get on with the real work of education…

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Will “disease-like” Facebook lose 80 percent of users by 2017?

There’s some non-peer-reviewed “research” (PDF) going around that claims Facebook will have lost 80 percent of its users in a few years’ time, based on the idea that you can draw a reasonable analogy between the social network’s trajectory and that of a contagious disease, Gigaom reports. For my own sanity, I would like to pretend I never read about this Princeton study, but there are a lot of articles out there taking it quite seriously — the most irksome headline I’ve encountered reads: “Facebook is an ‘infectious disease’ and will lose 80% of users by 2017, say researchers.” It should go without saying that this story is nonsense, but apparently it doesn’t, so please allow me…

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For your child’s sake, don’t hate on math

Admit it – given the choice between reading a book and solving some algebraic equations, you’d pick the book, according to this Teach for American blog post.  How about a technical journal vs. a fashion or sports magazine? At a dinner out with multiple parties that ends up dividing up the bill,  are you relieved when someone else offers to “do the math?” Have you admitted to not understanding the details of your stock portfolio, your income taxes, your mortgage refinance, or even your paycheck? And yet – you probably compare prices on groceries, cell phone plans, and airline tickets.  You regularly look for sales and discounts.  You can mentally inventory the contents of your refrigerator and estimate if you need to buy that extra pack of sliced cheese for lunches next week…

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The ten ‘Golden Rules’ of Google Apps for Education

Google Apps, and cloud solutions in general, are revolutionizing the way educators teach and students learn.

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Google Apps are revolutionizing how educators teach and students learn. Here are 10 ‘Golden Rules’ to consider when using them. (360b/Shutterstock.com)

Using the power of interactive, cloud-based technology, school administrators and teachers can connect with students in a meaningful way, enhancing the overall learning experience. That said, first approaching these platforms can be overwhelming.

For those of you embarking on the Google Apps journey, here are ten Golden Rules to consider:

1. Energize everyone in your school community with a compelling internal marketing plan. Help lead the charge to have everyone be a part of this exciting new technology. Get everyone on board.

2. Expand your knowledge by taking advantage of the training that Google offers. You cannot fully utilize the program if you’re not aware of what it can do. Check out the list of Google in Education Global Summits and see when sessions are going on near you.

3. Protect your data with a reliable third-party backup partner. Google is secure, but you never know when it will have an outage or when a student might accidently delete important data. You would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to safeguarding all the information you’ll be pouring into Google Apps.

4. Invite parents to participate through interactive components like Gmail, Calendar, Spreadsheet, and Sites. Make it easy for them to be part of their students’ educational experience.

5. Collaborate with other teachers in your school or district with Google Docs. Share lesson plans and notes from meetings quickly and easily.

(Next page: Rules 6-10)

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Connecting kids with today’s changing tech tools

It’s not about bells and whistles with these tech tools for kids; it’s about letting them become responsible for their own learning

kids-technology-toolsImproved learning is a concern for our nation. Our economic prosperity depends on it, as does our strength as a nation. To improve learning in the 21st century, schools—and the public—must realize that students need the appropriate learning tools for this age.

Technology tools alone will not do it. Schools need to thoughtfully integrate technology in support of teaching and learning at higher levels. Our aim must be improved learning. It is not devices because they are cool, and it is not technology for the sake of technology.

When we talk about technology tools for kids, some people get confused and think we simply want the devices for their bells and whistles. Some think their primary purpose is to motivate modern kids. Still others think that we mean to replace teachers with computers. None of these are true.

We are talking about technology tools for kids because these tools facilitate a new and better type of learning in this age where students become responsible for their own learning. Instead of sitting passively and acquiring the knowledge that is provided to them by the teachers, the students become active learners in the classroom, researching answers, solving problems, and analyzing global issues.

Teachers in these classrooms must assume new roles as well. They must move from the provider of knowledge to the guide who assists students with their own individual learning.

(Next page: Technology skills can be used to leverage higher salaries)

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Seven instructional strategies for the Common Core

Adopting these strategies will help you integrate the Common Core standards into teaching

common coreAs significant numbers of educators, parents, and politicians push back on the Common Core Standards now that implementation has begun, many teachers are left to navigate the shift with little or no direction about how to change their teaching practice to accommodate the new standards.

Implementation challenges range from a lack of professional development and curriculum materials aligned with the Common Core, to inadequate technology infrastructure and changing assessment practices.

There is general agreement as to the intention of the Common Core Standards—to make our students more college and career ready—but many teachers and administrators argue that the implementation has been rushed, with little regard for practicalities. Leaving others to respond to the social and political implications of new standards, teachers are grappling with the practical realities of adjusting both the content they teach and the way they teach it, with minimal guidance.

For instance, in the new math standards, the scope of content has narrowed and deepened so that students achieve stronger mastery of critical mathematical concepts. New ELA standards emphasize the need for students to read progressively more complex nonfiction and informational text as they rise through the grades.

Also, responsibility for ensuring that students achieve reading proficiency now applies to all teachers across the curriculum, not just ELA teachers. This first-ever shift toward national, benchmarked standards is a massive change, and it is clear that many districts were insufficiently prepared.

Major curriculum publishers already have developed and continue to develop comprehensive professional development materials to help teachers transition to the Common Core. Some districts have minimal resources and have developed their own materials. Others are scrambling to provide support to their teachers. Some districts find themselves in a time lag between intention to purchase and authorization to purchase Common Core-related curriculum and professional development. Even though the new standards are national, implementation is up to the districts. This helps explain the inconsistency of implementation.

Underpinning the standards is a general goal of having students take more responsibility for their own learning. As teachers personalize and individualize their instruction, the Common Core requirements are aimed at empowering students to become lifelong learners—curating and creating interesting content for themselves rather than merely consuming curriculum content. The learning outcomes are based on applications of skill mastery, rather than rote memorization of content. For example, learning how to research, synthesize, and present information is a reusable skill, as opposed to memorizing important historical figures and dates.

It’s clear that the new standards require an adjustment to teachers’ instructional practices. Here are some recommended strategies to help teachers at every grade level successfully transition to a new teaching model:

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New Common Core resource aids students with special needs

Free Common Core resource for educators emphasizes that special needs students can’t be left behind

common core-students-special needsOne of the best non-profits for the advancement of education technology has developed a new, free Common Core website for educators that offers customizable resources to improve teaching and learning for struggling students and those with disabilities.

The website’s–PowerUp WHAT WORKS–materials focus on four key areas, including evidence-based practices, Common Core State Standards, technology in schools and classrooms, and personalization of learning through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction. Read more about the four key areas.

“In schools across the country, administrators and teachers are concerned about students’ ability to successfully meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), especially struggling students and those with disabilities,” said the website. “Although the CCSS mention the value and potential benefit of technology for students with disabilities, there are few places to turn to for reliable information, curated resources, guidance, and support.”

(Next page: Resources available on PowerUp)

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Why Eton, Britain’s 574-year-old high school, is embracing ed-tech

What does a nearly six-century-old private school that charges $54,000 a year in tuition do when confronted with start-ups with bright ideas about how education should work? If you’re Eton College, alma mater to much of the British establishment including the serving prime minister and the mayor of London, you work with them, The Atlantic reports. Along with Oxford University’s Said Business School, Eton College—a high school for boys between the ages of 13 and 18—has partnered with Emerge Venture Lab, a London-based accelerator, to support educational technology, or “edetch,” start-ups. The first cohort of six start-ups will start the program in London with a party on Jan. 17. Eton will not provide financial support or take equity (though it does not rule that out), but its teachers will help guide the start-ups in the program and may also try the new products with their students. “It’s quite easy for the technology to dominate and the way we’re interested in getting involved is to make sure there is a pedagogical influence as well,” Eton’s Serena Hedley-Dent told Quartz…
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