Broadband pilots could serve as models for other states

Arkansas, Virginia partner with EducationSuperHighway to design a roadmap for bringing broadband to every student


EducationSuperHighway’s analysis revealed a key opportunity to deliver broadband to every Arkansas school through fiber-optic connections.

Arkansas and Virginia have teamed up with the San Francisco-based nonprofit EducationSuperHighway to design a cost-effective plan for meeting President Obama’s goal of ensuring broadband access for every student.

EducationSuperHighway, whose mission is to “close the K-12 digital divide and open the door to new learning and teaching opportunities” in the nation’s schools, is surveying the available bandwidth in Arkansas and Virginia classrooms.

The group then will assess what broadband technologies are available in each state. Working with state and local education leaders and with service providers, EducationSuperHighway will form a plan for delivering high-speed internet to each state’s schools in the most efficient way possible.

If these pilot projects are successful, they could become models for other states to follow, said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway.

President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, announced last year, calls for 99 percent of American students to have broadband access in their classrooms by 2018. The initiative defines broadband as at least 100 kilobits per second of bandwidth for every student.

(Next page: How EducationSuperHighway is assessing these states’ needs—and what the organization has learned from its work in Arkansas)


Using flipped learning to boost engagement

Flipped learning, a growing instructional model, helps educators personalize instruction for students

flipped-learningSupporters of flipped learning have proven that the instructional model is more than just a fad. As it spreads to classrooms across the nation, educators are leveraging the flipped model to create a more personalized and engaging learning environment for their students.

During an ASCD webinar sponsored by Adobe Presenter, flipped learning leaders Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams discussed multiple ways that a flipped classroom can lead to increased student engagement and personalized learning.

“We believe that good teaching is good when it has good relationships in it,” Bergmann said. “Relationships matter. We believe good teaching happens in the context of good relationships with kids.”

Flipped learning supports this kind of relationship by giving teachers and students more face-to-face interaction. This occurs due to the instructional method’s structure, which shifts content delivery outside of the classroom in the form of teacher-created videos and makes room for “homework” in class, giving students and teachers a chance to discuss problems and explore concepts.

(Next page: Challenges–and solutions–around flipped learning)


4 tech tools that met a district’s top goals

Napa County Office of Education made ed-tech integration a top priority

tech-districtThe Napa County Office of Education (NCOE) is on a mission to use technology to prepare all students for academic and career success. We have implemented several initiatives that span from elementary school to high school, accommodating students at every stage of the K-12 lifecycle.

The following technology initiatives are making a difference in the lives of children in Napa County and helping us, as educators, better understand what our students need to succeed.

Early learning

NCOE teamed with NapaLearns, a local nonprofit organization, to make the research-based Footsteps2Brilliance app available for free to all Napa County preschool age children, their teachers and parents or guardians. The engaging e-books and learning games in Footsteps2Brilliance help ensure that all preschoolers enter Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten with a strong developmental foundation. While the children have fun learning letters, words and vocabulary, the program provides parents and teachers with immediate feedback on a child’s learning levels.

During the 2012-2013 school year, 560 kindergarten students learned literacy skills using iPads and personalized digital curriculum. The number of English Language Learners who performed at a six year old level grew by 35 percent, with 80 percent of them performing at that level in only five months. Most students were ready to enter first grade reading at their age level.

Student, parent, and teacher training

The current generation of students is known to be “Digital Natives,” while their teachers and parents are sometimes technology immigrants, needing to learn the digital language and culture. Recognizing the need for lifelong digital learning for all generations, we began offering training for students, parents and teachers in 2011. Since then, we’ve seen over 200 people take advantage of our range of training programs each year.

One example of this includes NCOE enlisting the support of AmeriCorps staff through its CalSERVES program to provide STEM tutors to its highest need elementary and middle school students. STEM tutors draw on best practices in the field to offer students highly engaging, challenging, and interactive activities.

NCOE also supports professional learning communities through a Teacher Dinner Series on Technology. All trainings are free to teachers and staff of Napa County Schools. NCOE is a well-known provider of parent education in Napa County. Recent parent workshops have included teen use of social media and training on digital bullying.

College and career readiness

At Napa County, we are building a robust college and career readiness system that will enable students to make sound decisions regarding their post-secondary goals.

NCOE launched the first countywide implementation of Naviance in October 2013. NCOE partnered with local school districts to fund this program for all middle and high school students in Napa County.

Prior to implementation, students had little exposure to career exploration, goal setting, and college planning tools. Students now have access to curriculum designed to help students define and navigate through their post-secondary journey. The curriculum helps guide students through a series of lessons covering topics like financial aid, building self-confidence, and goal setting. Students can also explore potential careers they otherwise would not consider (think Astrobiologist or Zen Master) through Roadtrip Nation’s video interview library housing hundreds of real-world examples.

Students have found the curriculum engaging and easy to navigate. Over 8,000 middle and high school students completed activities since implementation in October 2013. By 2015 we expect to be serving over 10,000 students in Napa County.

Technology’s role in student success

The NCOE mission to use technology to prepare all students for academic and career success is well underway. A strong academic foundation is being laid in preschool, followed by tutoring for elementary and middle school, capped by access to college and career planning tools in high school. Footsteps2Brilliance, after-school STEM tutoring and Naviance have been shown to engage students and strengthen academic achievement. Classroom visitors have said that you can hear a pin drop when students are using Footsteps2Brilliance or Naviance!

It’s also important to keep parents in mind when thinking about student success. With access to workshops, parents have tools and resources to work with their students. Teachers have also benefited from technology workshops designed to provide them with tools to integrate technology into their classrooms.

A united vision, strong partnerships and a collaborative spirit have made the Napa County initiatives a reality, proving that by working together with community partners and educational organizations, we can bring innovative projects to life.

Tammie Holloway is Director of College & Career Readiness in the Napa County Office of Education.


One-stop privacy shop just in time for the new school year

A new site offers a one-stop-shop for privacy concerns and information

Privacy-resourceAs schools increasingly rely on data to improve education, and as teachers increasingly rely on technology in the classroom to improve the learning experience, privacy concerns are being raised about the collection and use of student data. With ‘back to school’ now in full-swing, and to address both the promise and challenges surrounding privacy and data in education, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) today unveiled a one-stop shop resource website providing parents, school officials, policymakers, and service providers easy access to the laws, standards and guidelines that are essential to understanding student privacy issues and navigating a responsible path to managing student data with trust, integrity, and transparency.

More than at any other time in the evolution of education, data-driven innovations and use of emerging technologies – such as online textbooks, apps, tablets and mobile devices, and internet-based learning – are bringing advances and critical improvements in teaching and learning, with profound implications.

At the same time, the increased use of vendors and data is matched by the need for heightened responsibility to manage and safeguard student data and implement policies that benefit education and minimize risk. Concerns are being raised about how student data is collected and used in a next-stage learning ecosystem buzzing with social media, mobile devices, central databases, student records, Big Data, and an array of vendors and software.

The new, resource-rich FERPA|SHERPA website – named after the core federal law that governs education privacy – seeks to address these opportunities and concerns. The unique site hosts a comprehensive, digital dashboard of quality education privacy-related offerings for four distinct audiences: parents, service providers, schools, and policymakers.

To ensure parents have a voice in the ongoing privacy debate, the site will also host a blog written by parent privacy advocate Olga Garcia-Kaplan, a Brooklyn, NY public school parent of three children.

Some of the assets available at FERPA|SHERPA include:
• Vendor quick tips – for app and software developers
• Overview and explanation of relevant federal laws and policies on student data – such as FERPA, COPPA, PPRA, ESRA and CIPA
• Policy papers about education privacy
• Clearinghouse of education websites and resources for parents and school administrators
• Topical blog that brings a parent’s perspective to the many facets of privacy issues related to learning and education
• Ongoing expertise provided by FPF staff, partners, and other stakeholders to help shape and guide understanding of data privacy and responsible use

“Getting privacy right in student education requires a partnership of trust between families, teachers and schools, technology companies and education officials,” said Jules Polonetsky, executive director, FPF. “Any weak link in this chain of responsibility could undermine education and risk student data. With FERPA|SHERPA, we are making sure that the laws and best practices are easy to find.”

“Since our creation, Edmodo has been focused on safeguarding user privacy, and we’re excited to partner with FPF on this effort to provide schools, teachers, and parents with great resources about student privacy issues,” said Aden Fine, chief privacy officer of Edmodo. “Education is critical to addressing questions about privacy, and we think the FERPA|SHERPA website will really help the public better understand these complicated issues.”

“Parents have to sort through a tremendous amount of information issued about student data privacy to learn how and why data compiled pertaining to their children may be used. As a parent, the FERPA|SHERPA site is an invaluable resource for obtaining timely, accurate and impartial information necessary to understand this evolving landscape,” said Olga Garcia-Kaplan, parent and advocate for student data privacy.

“Educational leaders, service providers, parents and policy makers increasingly need accurate and reliable information on privacy issues. For too long, it has been a real challenge to find that information. The Future of PrivacyForum’s new FERPA|SHERPA is a great starting place to find what you need,” said Keith Krueger, CEO, Consortium for School Networking.

“Protecting student data and privacy involves navigating myriad regulations, policies, and practices,” said Marsali Hancock, CEO & President, iKeepSafe. “iKeepSafe has worked with schools, parents, students, and industry to promote safe and effective use of technology, and we are thrilled that FERPA|SHERPA is providing these stakeholders with additional resources on important laws and best practices to protect student data.”

The FERPA|SHERPA website initiative – which began in the fall of 2013 – is the first of many offerings generated by the FPF on education privacy, which began as the FPF invested its privacy expertise and leveraged staff talent in education issues and subsequently developed a comprehensive education privacy campaign with wide stakeholder engagement – including parents, teachers, school administrators, trade associations, and leading education and technology companies in the private sector.

In addition, the FPF today released an education privacy whitepaper that has been published in a special issue of the International Review of Information Ethics, “The Digital Future of Education.” The piece – “The Ethics of Student Privacy: Building Trust for Ed Tech” – is authored by Polonetsky and Omer Tene, Vice President, Research & Education, IAPP, and analyzes the opportunities and challenges of data-driven education technologies and how key stakeholders should address them.


Effectiveness of teacher preparation under scrutiny

NCTQ’s rankings of teacher preparation programs have generated much debate

teacher-evaluation-effectivenessI honestly can’t remember a single lesson that really stuck out to me in Ms. Leslie’s first grade class. In fact, I barely remember sitting down at my desk for anything school related.

What I do remember is that something about her teaching inspired me to write incessantly that summer, which led to years of amateur writing and eventually studying journalism.

Years later, I can tell she was a great teacher. But what would today’s systems of teacher evaluation say about her performance?

Current attempts to measure teacher quality have resulted in controversy, and a ranking of teacher preparation programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality is one example. The organization’s 2014 Teacher Prep Review, released in June, evaluated and ranked more than 1,000 teacher preparation programs and has garnered mixed reviews.

(Next page: What critics say about NCTQ’s rankings—and how the organization responds)


eRate changes prompt new voice options for schools

New rules would eliminate eRate discounts on voice-related services within the next five years


The phase-out will happen more quickly for some schools than others.

[Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles examining the new eRate rules and how they will affect schools.]

If the Federal Communications Commission has its way, the eRate no longer will support voice services within the next five years, including plain old telephone service, toll-free service, and even voice over IP (VoIP).

This change could have a dramatic effect on school district budgets—and it likely will force school business and IT leaders to reexamine their options for voice-related services.

The eRate offers discounts ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications services, internet access, and internal connections (such as routers, switches, and Wi-Fi equipment) to eligible schools and libraries. Now indexed to inflation, the program will supply more than $2.4 billion in discounts this year.

The FCC’s new eRate rules set aside $5 billion in funding over the next five years for the internal connections needed to extend broadband access within schools and libraries. To make this money available for internal broadband connections, however, the FCC has made significant changes to the kinds of services that are eligible for eRate support.

For instance, voice mail, paging services, and directory assistance no longer will be eligible for eRate discounts beginning next year. What’s more, funding for all voice-related telecommunications services will be phased out altogether over the next five years.

With the eRate currently supplying more than $800 million in discounts on voice-related services each year, that’s a significant amount of funding that schools stand to lose.

This phase-out will happen more quickly for some schools than others.

(Next page: How the phase-out will occur—and what it means for schools)


eSN’s TED Talks round-ups, all in one place

Need a TED Talk for inspiration? We’ve got months of them.

TED-TalksWith just a click, today’s educators have access to a nearly infinite amount of information, from classroom strategies to district management tips, and everything in between.

Educators often say they learn best from their peers and colleagues. Some of the world’s top education experts are available instantly online, through outlets such as TED Talks, YouTube, and more.

Each month, eSchool News compiles a handful of TED Talks that focus on education, innovative practices, and inspiring thoughts.

We’ve collected those monthly features here for you to browse at your convenience. Each month, we’ll add our latest TED Talks feature to this page so that you don’t miss out on these great resources.

April: 5 must-watch TED Talks
Why MOOCs still matter, teaching kids to code, using video in education–it’s all here in this month’s TED Talks feature.

May: 6 inspiring TED Talks
In this month’s round-up: science fairs for all kids, boosting creativity in schools, what we do and don’t know about autism, and more.

June: 5 TED Talks to support innovation
How grit plays a role in education, global classrooms, educational innovation in the slums–don’t miss this month’s round-up.

July: 5 TED Talks that delve into education
This month’s TED Talks include how to fix failing schools, rules to spark learning, using data in schools, and more.

August: 6 intriguing TED Talks for the new school year
Lunch ladies are heroes, becoming a “now-ist,” Google’s next steps, the human brain’s mysteries, and more, all in this month’s round-up.

September: 11 TED Talks about science and the brain
Science teaching, college science success, the potential that brain research holds for education and society, and more in this month’s TED Talks round-up.

October: 7 TED Talks about gaming’s potential
These talks focus on using gaming to engage students, explain challenging concepts, and how to use gaming to reward the brain.


6 intriguing TED Talks for the new school year

These TED Talks highlight promising and inspiring concepts

TED-AugustEvery educator needs some inspiration now and then, and these days, such inspiration can be found online in just a few seconds.

The internet brings inspiring and motivational speakers and experts to anyone with a connection and an internet-ready device.

TED Talks are some of today’s most popular examples of the internet’s power to expand learning opportunities to all.

Each month, we’ll bring you a handful of inspiring TED Talks. Some will focus specifically on education; others will highlight innovative practices that have long-lasting impact. But all will inspire and motivate educators and students alike.

Did you miss our most recent TED Talks features? You can find them here:

(Next page: 6 intriguing TED Talks)