Want to engage students? Have them create apps

Student app development is on the rise, and ed-tech companies have tapped into this trend by launching programs that teach kids how to build their own apps


With mobile apps soaring in popularity, companies such as Crescerance and Treehouse have created programs that help teach kids how to build their own apps.

Each month, tens of thousands of mobile apps are added to the app stores for Apple iOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows 8—and a growing number of these are from K-12 students.

There’s an app from fifth-grader Danielle that teaches users how to create intricate Rainbow Loom designs, for instance—which had been downloaded more than 20,000 times as of press time.

There’s an app from a student named Kennedy that teaches visitors to France some basic words and phrases to know, as well as facts about France and where to visit. And there’s an app from a student named Ryan that offers fashion advice and lets users share photos of outfits they like with their friends.

With mobile apps soaring in popularity, companies such as Crescerance and Treehouse have created educational programs that help teach kids how to design and build their own apps.

These programs engage students by tapping into their powerful connection with smart devices—and they could help inspire the next generation of software developers as well.

From consumers to creators of technology

Kevin Reiman, superintendent of the Auburn Public Schools in Nebraska, said his district had worked with Crescerance—a Georgia-based company that develops customized apps for schools and other organizations—to create a mobile app for the district.

When Reiman learned that Crescerance was offering a new program to teach students how to develop apps, “this spoke to me,” he said.

Auburn is a small district of about 900 students in southeastern Nebraska. About half of its students live in poverty—but even among these students, “most of them have a smart phone,” Reiman said. “They might not have a computer at home, but they have a mobile device.”

(Next page: How Auburn students are learning app development—and how they have benefited as a result)


7 steps in a mobile learning rollout

Knowing what to do and where to start can help your mobile program succeed

mobile-stepsSuccessful mobile learning initiatives are more and more prevalent in districts across the nation.

And while the same initiative won’t necessarily work for two different districts, mobile learning best practices repeatedly prove that successful initiatives share a number of the same steps.

Here, we’ve outlined seven of those steps. These steps are broadly described, and successful mobile initiatives certainly require much more attention to detail, in-depth planning, and continued focus.

What steps do you believe are critical to mobile learning success? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Next page: 7 steps in a mobile learning initiative)


Three Ways Digital Badges are Used in Education

As schools progress to include online and on-campus courses and activities, digital badges are suited to meet the needs of emerging education models

gI_132393_MakingbadgesAs children, our accomplishments were recognized with trophies, plaques, a pat on the back or cloth badges sewn on to a Girl Scout or Boy Scout sash.

In high school and college, we received diplomas and began to fill up resumes and LinkedIn profiles with job qualifications and experience. But what if there was a way to help acknowledge educational experiences that happen outside of the classroom and recognize valuable skills such as leadership or collaboration?

To address this need, the trend of digital badges is rapidly catching on. But what will be its impact and potential on education?

(Next page:  Examining Digital Badge effectiveness)


3 new ed-tech startups you should know about it

From learning science and social studies through public radio to animated ed-tech video games and big data, these three startups will improve learning

ed-tech-startupsWe are living in a defining moment for ed-tech startups, despite concerns of being in a “bubble.” To be sure, in 2013, entrepreneurs raised more than half a million dollars, compared to more than $200 million in 2008.

Indeed, this is an exciting time for both ed-tech entrepreneurs and for educators and administrators.

It should be recalled that technology in and of itself should not replace traditional teaching and instruction. Technology, when used correctly, should be viewed as a powerful tool to enhance the learning experience.

Are you considering launching your own ed-tech startup? Watch this informational video here.

Below are three new ed-tech startups you should know about and might want to consider using to compliment and boost traditional lecturing.

(Next page: Three ed-tech startups making a difference)


How K-12 Schools Are Using Mobile Technology

Amplify200aMobile technology now has a significant presence in K-12. From class sets, to BYOD to 1:1 models, this report reveals the major trends for mobile technology in K-12, and how schools are adapting to the changing technology landscape.


5 resources to help principals excel

This free web-based toolkit is based on years of research about principals’ practices

Principal-GuideSchool principals juggle a multitude of responsibilities each day, as they attempt to balance building-level tasks with administrative and district-level duties.

Now, school leaders have access to a free online learning guide, based on research about principals’ best practices, to help them strengthen their skills and leadership.

Launched by Learning Forward, a professional learning association, the online learning guide pairs excerpts from the PBS documentary, The Principal Story, with educational leadership research from The Wallace Foundation.

(Next page: Five resources for principals)


5 ways Maya Angelou influenced education

Notable author, poet and educator left a beautiful mark on all those interested in becoming lifelong learners

maya-angelouWhen I heard about Maya Angelou’s passing today, I was getting a bad cavity filled—a dispassionate process framing an emotional response I wasn’t quite prepared for.

As an English major, I have taken a path in my life as a journalist, editor, and (hopefully) one-day novelist. My path has been spurred by collections of books and poems—the passions of life made tangible in structures and syntax, and the brave and humble authors who have made these experiences available to me.

One of my favorite books I read in my high school AP English class was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and not because I can necessarily relate to the experiences outlined in a book known to be one of Angelou’s autobiographies, but because of the foreign and vibrant world it exposed—a cultural and literary expedition brought about through a strong female protagonist who, believe it or not, wasn’t in love with a half-naked vampire.

And, like others who read a novel and can make heartfelt connections to completely foreign cultures, experiences, and characters, I am not naïve enough to believe Angelou’s works affected only me.

Angelou touched probably more lives than we’ll ever know, but I’d like to think she especially touched the lives of educators and students, who not only read her works, but were inspired by her desire to make known issues of race, identity, and literacy. Such an education is likely more valuable than the rote memorization of SAT words, simply because it’s the understanding of other cultures, other times, and other peoples…it’s an education in what makes us human.

In this article, I’d like to describe just a few ways Maya Angelou has influenced education.

(Next page: 5 ways Maya Angelou has touched educators and students)


Top state-by-state Twitter chats

Do you participate in your state’s ed or ed-tech Twitter chat?

Twitter-chatSocial media has unlimited uses in education, from helping students connect and collaborate to offering educators a place to share ideas, solve problems, and identify promising practices. Twitter chats are one way today’s educators connect from across the country, and subject- and state-specific chats help educators develop and grow their professional learning networks.

A number of states have Twitter chats that educators may find useful. Those chats may be about general education or might focus on specific education topics within the state.

Whatever the focus, though, educators can connect and chat with others in their state, or in states across the nation, for professional development and growth opportunities.

(Next page: The top state Twitter chats for educators)


Become a better writer with 10 writing platforms

Start by exploring the tools we list below and you will soon notice that developing academic writing skills is not that difficult after all

better-writer-writing-platformsWhen you take a look at the trends in the ed-tech world, you may get the impression that math is the most beloved subject.

You will have to look a little deeper to find platforms and apps aimed towards improving your writing skills. Don’t be disappointed though; there are still many tools you can rely on, and we will list the most effective choices that are currently available.

1. Essay Punch

Essay Punch is a tool that helps students to write their first short essays. Learning how to describe, inform, and persuade is made easy with the help of over 1000 prompts and nine writing topics included in this concept. Students get real-time feedback, which enables them to improve their writing skills quickly and effectively.

2. Criterion Online Writing Evaluation

This is an online instructional tool that students use to get assistance in planning, writing, and revising essays. With the help of Criterion, young students can get immediate feedback on their work, as well as suggestions on how to elevate their writing skills.

(Next page: Writing platforms 3-6)