4 assessment questions every educator should ask

New report offers guidance, insight on important assessment features

assessment-questionsAs many states begin to implement online assessments to gauge student learning under the Common Core State Standards, administrators are faced with a number of important considerations that accompany implementation.

A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) presents four important assessment questions that policy makers and educators should ask.

“College- and career-ready standards without high-quality assessments aligned to them to advance learning is like peanut butter without jelly,” said Bob Wise, AEE president and former governor of West Virginia. “Current tests are insufficient to measure these higher learning goals and fail to deliver the information that students, teachers, and parents need to ensure that students are on a trajectory to be ready for college and a career by the time they graduate from high school.”

(Next page: The four assessment questions that have important implications for teaching and learning)


Using online communities of practice for continuous improvement

Online CoPs enable like-minded educators to share ideas, questions, successes, and failures, while collaborating to find solutions

online-communitiesToday’s smart educator needs to become better connected to resources, tools, learning activities, and peers—both inside and outside school. The growth of online communities of practice (CoPs)—often a chief component in professional learning communities—reflects a continued commitment to working collaboratively with your peers toward improving student success.

You might be asking, what are communities of practice?

By definition, a community of practice is a collection of people who engage on an ongoing basis in a common endeavor, such as a bowling team, a book club, a friendship group, or a church congregation. Two crucial elements of CoPs are a shared experience over time and a commitment to shared understanding (Penelope Eckert, 2006). The progress of CoPs in education is reflected in the growing number of educators collaborating through online communities, most apparent via Google and other social media platforms.

(Next page: How effective are communities of practice?)


The secret of developing a technology-based classroom

The secret to a successful technology filled classroom is teaching your students to respect the device as a learning tool and not a toy

technology-classroomIntegrating learning and technology can be a tedious task in today’s school systems. We open a whole new world for research, learning, and innovation when we bring technology on a one-to-one basis into the classroom. However, there is a fear, as educators, that we will not be able to “control” our students when they have the freedom of the web.

School technology departments put limitations on devices to restrict student access to certain websites. This can also limit students’ uses of the device by blocking useful research or information teachers plan to use for activities. So, what is the answer to a successful technology filled classroom you ask?

The solution is simple: teach your students to respect the device as a learning tool and not a toy.

(Next page: Creating an engaging environment that is student-centered and group focused)


Ed-tech innovations curb cell phone cheating—and more

Here are six new ed-tech innovations you should know about


Here are six new ed-tech innovations you should know about.

Each week, I’ll highlight new ed-tech innovations that readers should be aware of. This week’s column includes a next-generation wireless infrastructure, more powerful voice recognition software, a blended learning curriculum to prepare students for college, and a device that could help prevent cell phone cheating on exams.

Control app use over your Wi-Fi network

On March 12, Aruba Networks unveiled a new Wi-Fi architecture that gives school leaders tremendous visibility and control of the apps their students are using on a wireless network.

Aruba’s latest Wi-Fi access points include what the company calls a Next-Generation Mobility Firewall that uses advanced deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to identify more than 1,500 applications being used on the network.

Using Aruba’s Wi-Fi network management software, school leaders can set very granular policies for which apps their students have access to, as well as where—and when—this access can occur. IT leaders can allow or deny access to certain apps for certain groups of students, or “throttle” service for certain types of apps in order to maximize their wireless bandwidth.

This ability could be extremely useful when schools roll out online Common Core testing next year, said Kezia Gollapudi, product marketing manager for Aruba’s K-12 business. For instance, if students are taking Common Core exams in one classroom, school leaders could set their wireless infrastructure to throttle video applications in adjacent classrooms during this time, to make sure the testing occurs uninterrupted.

IT leaders can control access to certain types of resources based on users’ roles—for instance, allowing access to social media sites for students in upper grades, while denying this for students in lower grades—or based on location (that is, by specific access points). What’s more, a feature called AirGroup allows teachers to control who has access to Apple TV devices without having to bother an IT administrator.

This degree of visibility and control over mobile apps has been available before in separate products, such as mobile device management software. But now, schools can enjoy these features directly within their wireless infrastructure from Aruba—making it a very cost-effective solution for schools, Gollapudi said.

(Next page: A low-cost entry into 802.11ac wireless access points; voice recognition software gets even more advanced; and a blended learning curriculum for college and career readiness)


7 intriguing facts about the brain

Celebrate Brain Awareness Week by, well, using your brain and learning something new

brain-awarenessWhen it comes to student learning, many stakeholders focus on important learning supports, such as classroom technology, reliable high-speed internet access in schools, and educators who use technology as a tool to increase student achievement. But there’s another important component that is sometimes overlooked–the human brain, and how learning impacts its structure and function.

During Brain Awareness Week (March 10-14), a number of organizations are shedding light on how brain research informs education theory and practice.

Following are important and intriguing facts about the brain to help you learn more about how brain research can fit into teaching and learning.

(Next page: Brain facts and tips)


Embrace the power of learning communities

Professional learning communities have limitless potential for today’s educators

learning-communitiesDuring my second year of teaching, I learned an invaluable lesson: learning communities have the power to enrich our professional and personal lives. I learned this lesson firsthand when I participated in a “critical friends” workshop sponsored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Initially, I was excited for this opportunity. I was also intimidated, and that intimidation grew when, during one of the sessions, I had to share a “sample of work.”

My sample, a 20-question science quiz, could be described as lousy when compared to the work of veteran teachers. My anxiety grew as my turn to share approached. I wanted to go hide in the corner.

(Next page: Learning communities’ power)


The iPad as a hammer: Moving from goals to tools

The challenge of integrating iPads into instruction is not learning apps; it’s imagining the innovative ways this tool can be used

iPad-learningEvery year, Kristen Wideen creates a project and invites other classes to join in. This year, her third-grade classroom is using the Book Creator app to create a global community book. Here is a video that her students made about the project.

What’s really amazing is that her students came up with the idea for this book, based on Kristen’s question, “What should we do?”

The path to students doing great things with iPads is understanding what the device is and what it isn’t.

(Next page: The iPad’s purpose as a learning tool)


What you should know about personalized education

As technology, innovation, and education continues to change rapidly, personalized eLearning should become part of the mainstream

personalized-educationWe’ve seen or heard about it all over the internet. Blogs and forums discussing the future of education. Learning gurus all over the world making predictions about social engagement, massive open online courses (MOOCs), informal learning, cloud-based technology, and much more.

The “personalization” approach is another eLearning trend that appears to be one of the most significant concepts in education today. What is behind this approach and why do education institutions strive to adapt it in the eLearning practice?

Personalized learning is a method of customizing the right type of learning for the right type of audience. A student is given a chance to engage in the eLearning process on his own, deciding what, when, and how to absorb information.

The push towards personalization is a natural phenomenon and is based on people’s individuality and desire to be the masters of their own lives. Personalized learning allows students to enjoy the educational process at their own pace, which is beneficial because people have different abilities, goals, needs, and approaches towards education.

The personalization concept is still new and there are many debates concerning its implementation. Despite advancements in technology and internet technology, the traditional education system prefers a “one-size-fits-all” model.

(Next page: Four traits of personalized eLearning)


Access free math tests for mobile devices

Timed math tests are compatible with all devices

Hooda-mathHooda Math has optimized its math timed tests to work on every device. The website recently released more than 50 free, non-Flash games that are also compatible with every mobile device.

Students and teachers can select a test with 25, 50, or 100 problems. Scoring is done automatically through the web app. The web app reports the percentage correct, lists incorrect answers, and tracks how long it takes them to complete the test. After a student completes his or her test, a report can be printed or emailed to a teacher or parent.

The free math timed tests are available for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed operations. More free testing tools are in the works, including games that will offer instant reports on common core state standards proficiency to assist teachers in recording learning data on their students

Hooda Math already has several reporting-enabled games available on its site, including Hooda’s Drive-Thru. Players man a virtual-drive thru window, using their math skills to calculate exact change for each driver. Each level has been designed to test proficiency on a specific Common Core State Standard in mathematical content.