5 apps for today’s administrators

During eSN’s Administrator and Policy Week, we’re compiling resources that can help you manage your responsibilities

administrator-apps Leading a school or a school district is, understandably, an important and critical job. Today’s school administrators must keep up to date with learning trends, instructional strategies, technology initiatives, and everything in between.

The following five apps–all free–might help busy administrators manage their workload, identify and organize priorities, and make their days a little less hectic.

Do you have a favorite app that isn’t listed here? Let us know by leaving a message in the comments section below.

(Next page: Five free apps for administrators)


App of the Week: 1,500 math tutorials

virtual-nerdName: Virtual Nerd Mobile Math App

What is it? Virtual Nerd Mobile Math is a free math app from Pearson that provides on-the-go access to a video library of more than 1,500 math tutorials. The interactive tutorials, aligned to the Common Core and other rigorous standards, review fundamental math concepts for middle and high school students.

Best for: Middle and high school students

Price: Free

Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later; compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

Features: Organized by topic and standard, Virtual Nerd Mobile Math makes it easy to navigate and find the video on the concept a student needs to practice. Virtual Nerd’s on-screen instructors provide clear and approachable explanations; students and teachers can mark “favorite” videos so that they can instantly return to them in the future.

In addition, schools using Pearson’s Common Core math programs, Pearson High School Mathematics Common Core ©2015, Pearson Integrated High School Mathematics Common Core © 2014, and digits ©2015, can search the app by the program’s table of contents.

Link: iTunes; an Android app is expected by fall of 2014.


How to get STEM students to ‘poke the universe’ again

Schools, corporations attempt to spur interest in STEM through project-based learning

poke-STEMSteve Woodhead, manager of global social investment for Chevron, said the energy corporation is trying to address a big problem in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“For 200 years people relied on farming, and so they knew how to farm,” Woodhead said to eSchool News during the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference last week.Now, people rely on technology, but so few seem to know anything about it.”

Chevron’s not the only major company attempting to address the so-called “STEM gap”–the idea that schools are not producing enough STEM-proficient students to fill the 2.1 million jobs that will exist in the sector by 2020. Also sponsoring the event were companies such as Shell, Boeing, and Chevy, which had parked two of its cars on either side of the main convention stage.

And a common plan among the sponsors, speakers, and panelists to close that gap is to toss out old-fashioned lectures, and replace them with project-based learning.

“You can’t just attract kids to STEM,” Woodhead said. “There has to be something for them when they get there. It’s not just about teachers emptying their brains into classrooms.”

(Next page: Why do students lose interest in STEM?)


May: 4 education grants you don’t want to miss

School grants offer much-needed financial help for schools

may-grantsSchool funding difficulties show no sign of abating, and school budgets are stretched to the limit. Many educators and administrators rely on school grants to fund important projects and opportunities for students.

Each month, eSchool News compiles a list of the most current education grants expiring soon—from a focus on cultural traditions to prizes for deserving educators. You don’t want to miss out on these May school funding opportunities for teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

(Next page: May’s funding opportunities)


Why is comedian Louis C.K. so angry with Common Core?

In a fit of rage, comedian Louis C.K. tweets to his 3.3 million followers why he is upset with Common Core State Standards


Comedian Louis C.K. Credit: Wikipedia

Louis C.K., a successful comic with a hit show on FX called Louie, created a viral explosion after venting his frustration on Twitter with practices surrounding the Common Core–a set of academic standards in English and math that outline student learning goals.

In a series of rants, the comedian complained not so much that his third graders’ homework was difficult, but that it was very confusing.

Anna Merlan has more on this writing in the Village Voice.

Apparently, Louis is not alone. Other agitated parents published copies of their children’s homework online, denouncing Common Core assignments as incoherent.

eSchool News has more on the Common Core controversy here.

These words have been retweeted over 7,300 times since Monday: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!”

Do you think these types of criticisms against Common Core standards are legitimate or is this issue being exploited and overblown? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and by following me on Twitter @Michael_eSM.


Five Things to Look for in a Peripheral Keyboard

Gov4200x264For schools and districts wanting to get the most out of tablets, the addition of peripheral keyboards can make a big difference. They give tablets as much typing functionality as traditional desktops while preserving the mobility factor, and can significantly enhance the learning experience. Let Logitech, through GovConnection help. Here are five things to look for in a peripheral keyboard.


The latest push for competency-based learning

As personalized learning becomes more in-demand, more educators advocate for competency education

competency-basedStudent-centered learning is at the forefront of many education reforms today, as stakeholders realize that personalizing learning is key to student success. And competency-based learning–the idea that students advance based on concept mastery and not time- or grade-level restraints–is a key part of student-centered learning.

Supporters maintain that education’s design as it is today, which centers around time and curriculum, doesn’t support students the way they need to be supported in order to prepare for a competitive global economy. Critics wonder if all student groups are well-served by the model, and have said there can be too much testing.

“Competency-based education is really foundational for true student-centered learning and personalized learning,” said Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), speaking during an April 28 web briefing.

(Next page: What does competency-based learning look like?)


What education needs now: A national repository of educational materials

A brave new world of education requires the transition to digital resources

educational-learning-technologyFor this to happen we need to build a National Repository of Educational Materials (NREM), an online library of lessons in a range of subject areas with pre-assessments, instructional content and media, practice tasks, quizzes, and mastery tests.

The current high-stakes testing in narrow subject areas is costing us billions of dollars that should be put to better use.

Could we build NREM? There is a precedent. The federal government funded the National Genome Project at a time when technological advances made gene-sequencing possible, but the work was fragmented; competition in the field was rampant.

Yet, the entire human genome was sequenced in a single effort, a coordinated database for all scientists to access worldwide. This made possible exponential progress in science because the common good prevailed.

(Next page: Interactive materials available for all students)


Office 365 enhances smooth transition to a Bring Your Own Laptop program

Peter West, director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia, shares tips for a smooth transition to a Bring Your Own Laptop program

bring-your-own-laptopOverview: Experience in a real-life scenario in a K-12 school at the beginning of 2014 demonstrated that an integrated Microsoft environment that leverages cloud based solutions can help an organization to roll out a Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL) program, complete with the installation of key software, with few problems, in a very short period of time–a day or two.

While it requires planning and development of resources, the final solution is robust and effective. In this example, students experienced few problems, teachers were happy as all students had key software required for learning, and the IT department was “underwhelmed,” instead of being overwhelmed.

The Process

Part of a successful (BYOL) program requires that students have access to software at reasonable prices. An Office suite is an essential part of this software program.

Microsoft makes this easy for educational organizations by providing the Office suite for Windows and Apple laptops at no cost as part of their Student Advantage program, to supplement their Office 365 (O365) cloud suite. This suite incorporates Outlook/Exchange in the cloud, Office Web Apps, Sharepoint in the Cloud (including OneDrive Pro) and more.