Digital interactive classroom history, civics resources

Flexible, free digital resources help students delve into history, journalism, and more

digital-SOTWThe Newseum Digital Classroom is a free, cross-disciplinary classroom resource featuring interactive timelines, archival videos and downloadable historic front pages through our lenses of historical connections, media literacy and civics. Comprehensive yet flexible lesson plans are designed for middle, high school and college teachers and students. Primary sources, interactives, videos and lesson plans bring history, journalism and the First Amendment to life for students.

Digital Classroom resources include:

  • Flexible, ready-to-teach lesson plans and handouts
  • Standards-aligned content, including Common Core
  • Integrated interactives that support media literacy, critical thinking skills and civic engagement
  • Hundreds of primary sources, including historic front pages, photographs and newsreels
  • Video lessons and viewing guides
  • Extension activity ideas
  • Opportunities for students to submit their work

6 ways to leverage social media in school

Social media connects countless educators each day—here’s how to take advantage of it

social-mediaThough some educators are hesitant to embrace it, social media has taken education by storm. All it takes is one look online to see the proof: educators have formed professional learning networks with fellow educators they may or may not know in person, students are connecting with one another constantly, and the list goes on.

Social media can be a valuable classroom tool, but it is one that must be used carefully. It’s probably not a good idea for teachers and students to become friends on Facebook or Instagram, and it isn’t smart to tweet a message that mentions how much you really, really don’t want to deal with students on Monday.

But with that said, social media has a ton of potential for students, teachers, administrators, and parents. When used wisely, it can have great impact.

(Next page: 6 ways social media can be used in school)


Dude, you’re getting a tablet! Now what?

Tablet deployment failures stem from no relevance to curriculum; no strategic plan; no readiness plan; and no user advocacy

tablet-education-learningYou’ve heard this story…

A generous individual or group donates a number of tablets to a school with the aim of helping students get on board with the latest technology that will help prepare them for the future workforce.

It’s a worthwhile goal, but one that can lead to challenges. It can be costly and problematic for unprepared districts to scale up technology programs, and more importantly, it is a lost opportunity to create a better learning opportunity for students and instructors.

What happens in the above scenario is the devices are brought on without a strategy. In such a situation, the critical thing to first ask is, “What do I want these devices to do, and how does that impact better student outcomes or instructor effectiveness?”

Such a decision shouldn’t be made solely by an IT department, instructional technology head, or superintendent, but rather by a collective group of stakeholders. Likely this includes all of those groups, but also should include both instructors and students.

Some of the more successful school districts have done precisely that. It starts by working with the end in mind. Yet simply asking what you want the technology to do likely requires some outside perspective. There’s an old adage: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

This is where an outside consultant can be a part of the preliminary planning or think tanks, and can even facilitate the discussion. At the end of the day, you’ll find you’re not having a discussion about tablets; you’re having a discussion about a new learning platform, enabled by technology.

In a planning session or think tank, I’d recommend some of the following:

(Next page: Tablet deployment tips 1-4)


How to create scalable solutions to address the STEM crisis

We must respond by creating and supporting scalable STEM programs that produce results

STEM-scalable-solutionsTransforming STEM education and, as a result, the U.S. workforce, will require more than homegrown or one-off localized programs. This is a national challenge that requires scalable and sustainable solutions.

We must focus on high-quality, integrated, activity-, project-, and problem-based programs that work, and then take those programs to scale. All children deserve a quality education that will help them develop the skills they’ll need to be successful in the global economy.

So the question is: what is necessary to create scalable, sustainable organizations?

Scalability is a complex issue–one that can’t be answered with a simple step-by-step list. To be scalable, an organization must first be sustainable, generating operating revenue that helps reduce the philanthropic support gap.

Dependence upon philanthropic support makes an organization vulnerable, challenging it to raise more capital to expand, or even sustain, operations. Taking an organization to scale requires leadership, a clear vision dedicated to innovation and continuous improvement, and alignment of resources that allows an organization to stay accountable to and focused on its mission.

Despite the complexity, a few key elements must exist for a program to transform STEM education and the STEM workforce: 1) engaging and effective curriculum; 2) high-quality training for teachers, school leaders and organizational staff; 3) infrastructure to support growth; and 4) engaged partners.

Curriculum matters. We must provide students with curriculum that is engaging and relevant. Students inevitably ask, “Why do we have to learn this?” We fail them if our best answer is “because it’s on the test.” And we must get to them early. The sooner students can be introduced to the hands-on, practical application of these subjects, the more likely they are to develop interest in STEM.

(Next page: Scaling the STEM crisis with Project Lead The Way)


15 OER tools for educators

Educators will find this list of OER tools useful as they explore and expand OER use

OER Tools (215x142)As educators and students clamor for relevant and engaging digital content, many are turning to open educational resources (OER)–educational materials that are free to use under a special license.

These materials can be organized into content repositories that make it easy for others to locate and use them. In fact, several states are doing just that, as they make efforts to curate and catalog OER into large content repositories available to educators, students, and parents.

On the following page, you’ll find OER tools, reports, and information, as well as resources where you can search for materials that suit your specific needs. Each resource features a short description taken from information provided online.

(Next page: 15 OER tools)


Shutterfly launches new education service

The Photo Story Classroom service from Shutterfly allows students to build high-quality photo books using iPads


Teachers in the pilot schools used the Photo Story app to have students demonstrate their understanding, or for personal self-expression.

Shutterfly, the popular online service that enables users to create photo books, cards, and stationery and share these with their friends and family, has launched a new service geared toward schools using iPads.

Shutterfly’s online tool is Flash-based, so last year the company created a native app for using its service on iPads. Called Photo Story, the app takes advantage of the iPad’s touch-screen capabilities; users can draw on or annotate photos using their finger, and they can also record audio to create digital stories.

The Photo Story app from Shutterfly has been downloaded more than 750,000 times—and now the company is making a push into the education market as well.

This past spring, Shutterfly tested its Photo Story app in some 40 classrooms, said Lara Hoyem, senior director of photo books for the company.

When asked if using Photo Story with their students was valuable, all but one of the participating teachers said yes. Teachers said the app helped engage their students, improved their writing and tech skills, and gave them a voice and a broader audience for their published work.

“We discovered it was relevant for all grades and all subjects, and not just for ELA classrooms or for elementary schools,” she said.

(Next page: More details about Photo Story for the classroom—including examples of how it can be used)


New mobile devices for schools shown at ISTE

New devices from Samsung, Panasonic, CDI, and HP were among those on display at the nation’s largest ed-tech trade show


Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 for Education is compatible with the Samsung School service, which enables teachers to manage the devices from their classroom.

School leaders now have more choices than ever when rolling out mobile devices for learning, and several of the latest devices for schools were on display at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference earlier this month.

Apple’s iPad already has a significant presence in schools, and Google Chromebooks are on the rise as well. At ISTE 2014, many companies demonstrated new devices running on Google’s Android operating system and Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro.

For instance, Samsung showed its Galaxy Tab 4 for Education, a 10-inch Android tablet designed specifically for schools.

The Galaxy Tab 4 comes with a “backpack-ready” protective case, and its screen is made of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass, said Jen Langhan, director of mobility product marketing for Samsung Education.

What’s more, users can have two application windows open at once—but maybe the Galaxy Tab 4’s biggest selling point is that it’s compatible with the Samsung School initiative, which includes software that allows teachers to manage Samsung mobile devices in their classrooms.

With Samsung School, teachers can share their screen with the class, monitor students’ screens, and freeze or control students’ devices. They can also create a customized Lesson Toolbar for instantly launching an app on all student devices, sending a resource or URL, or initiating a group activity.

Group collaboration features within Samsung School enable students to contribute simultaneously on a shared screen, or merge individual assignments into one to submit seamless group projects.

The Galaxy Tab 4 retails for $369, with volume discounts available. It ships as a “blank slate” for schools to fill with apps from the Google Play for Education store, Langhan said—but other tablet makers have opted for a different approach, creating devices that come bundled with educational software for added value.

(Next page: A new ed-tech device from Panasonic; low-cost devices from CDI; and more)


3 ways internet filtering inhibits learning

New report examines filtering issues and offers 4 recommendations

internet-filteringGrowing up in the digital age means that students have an infinite amount of information available through the internet, but it also means learning reasonable and safe behavior while online.

Federal regulations such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools and libraries that receive federal funds to install filtering software in an attempt to keep users from accessing online content deemed harmful for obscene, have in recent years been the subject of heated debates between those advocating for unfiltered internet access in schools and libraries and those who prefer a more secure learning style for younger students.

Filtering also raises issues for adults using public and school libraries. Many school libraries open up to the community after regular school hours, but filtering software aimed at young students may keep adults from accessing valid websites they need for research or personal information.

“This overreach stems from misinterpretations of the law, different perceptions of how to filter, and limitations of internet filtering software. The net result is over-filtering that blocks access to legitimate educational resources while often failing to block the images proscribed by the law,” according to Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later.

(Next page: Three ways filtering inhibits learning)


FCC takes key step toward modernizing eRate

Voting along party lines, the FCC approves more funding for Wi-Fi connectivity—but doesn’t raise the funding cap


The FCC’s vote marks an ‘important early victory’ for students, CoSN said.

In a split decision along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to move ahead with a plan to modernize the eRate by increasing the amount of money available for high-speed internet access in schools.

The agency on July 11 approved a proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to retool the eRate to focus on expanding Wi-Fi connectivity within schools, without raising the program’s annual funding cap—which currently stands at $2.4 billion and is adjusted each year for inflation.

Under the new plan, the FCC will make available $2 billion in additional eRate funding over the next two years through “improved financial practices” that will free up excess funding reserves. This additional money will be designated for Wi-Fi equipment and distributed using a modified discount matrix of up to 85 percent, with a cap on requests.

For the following three years after that, the eRate will target $1 billion each year for Wi-Fi requests, while continuing to support the broadband connections that bring internet access into each building. To do this, the eRate will phase out support for non-broadband services, such as pagers and cell phones.

All told, the plan will mean $5 billion in funding targeted toward expanding Wi-Fi connectivity inside the nation’s schools and libraries over the next five years.

“While [the] eRate over its 18-year life has succeeded in connecting virtually all schools and libraries to the internet, it is not currently geared for today’s world of interactive, individualized digital learning,” the FCC said in a statement.

“By continuing to support broadband connectivity to the building while significantly expanding support for robust Wi-Fi networks within classrooms and libraries, [these] reforms can deliver the benefits of customized learning to students over tablets and laptops.”

(Next page: Other eRate changes—and reaction to the new FCC plan)


How to graduate globally competitive students

Microsoft executive Cameron Evans discusses the skills that students will need to succeed in the future—and how schools can teach these skills


Here are four skills students will need to be globally competitive.

According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, the United States now ranks fifth in the world in terms of national competitiveness, behind Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, and Germany.

With that statistic in mind, are the educational opportunities we’re providing for our students going to help the U.S. compete as a nation—and are these opportunities going to help students themselves be competitive in a global, information-based economy?

These questions were the focus of a recent eSchool News webinar sponsored by Microsoft. During the webinar, Cameron Evans, chief technology officer for Microsoft Education, identified four key skills that students will need if they want to succeed in the new global economy.

These skills will never become obsolete, he said, because they can’t be automated or replaced by machines.

• Creativity and intuitive design.

“We have computers that can solve problems,” Evans said. “What we don’t have are computers that can innovate.”

In a world with so many choices for everything from what type of ketchup to buy to where to eat a steak, “design matters,” he added—it’s how to make new products or ideas stand out.

• Narrative building and story telling.

“Our ability to tell stories is as old as humanity itself,” Evans said.

Whether it’s telling stories with data, or being able to defend a position or persuade someone, “this is a skill set that all companies need … Storytelling is a constant skill across the board.”

(Next page: Two more essential skills—and how a new initiative is helping to foster them)