Digital storytelling enhances K-12 classrooms

Digital storytelling uses various types of media to illustrate academic concepts in an engaging way for today’s students

digital-storytellingWith initiatives like the Common Core emphasizing creative thinking, many teachers are looking at unique ways to deliver information. Bernard Robin, Ph.D., saw that an age-old technique could be the perfect tool to combine human knowledge and experience.

“Everybody likes a good story, and it’s a very interesting and appealing way to transfer information from one person to another,” said Robin, associate professor of learning, design, and technology at the University of Houston. “It made sense to bring together all the tools we have access to in order to gain understanding and facilitate classroom discussions.”

Digital storytelling uses various types of media to tell stories or illustrate academic concepts in a way that is engaging and stimulating for today’s students. The concept has been around since the late 1980s, but several programs have recently started to use digital storytelling in the classroom to illustrate concepts and create cultural connections.

Robin’s website provides examples, information, and advice on using digital storytelling to teach all subject areas from music to math.

“My hope is that educators will see this website, look at the tutorials, follow the links, and do it themselves,” said Robin.

He said teachers shouldn’t worry if they don’t know everything about technology. Instead, they should empower students to be able to use media resources to demonstrate their knowledge.

“Young people today are very technologically and media savvy, and they respond well to things on the screen and to creating things to show understanding and knowledge,” said Robin.

(Next page: Digital storytelling in practice)


Education Department tries to ease testing worries

Education Sec. Duncan: States can delay the use of high-stakes exams in their teacher evaluation systems

education-testingEducation Secretary Arne Duncan on Aug. 21 said that states can apply for extra time before they use student test scores to judge teachers’ performance.

Duncan’s decision is an acknowledgement of the concerns by teachers’ unions and others that it’s too early to make teacher personnel decisions based on how well students do on new assessments developed under the Common Core standards that will be used in much of the country this school year.

The move affects the more than 40 states and the District of Columbia that have a waiver around stringent parts of the No Left Behind education law. One condition the Obama administration put on obtaining a waiver was the development of a meaningful teacher evaluation system.

“The bottom line is that educators deserve strong support as our schools make vital, and urgently needed, changes,” Duncan said.

(Next page: More information about Duncan’s announcement—and its implications for schools)


Meet the eSchool News Advisory Board

AdvisoryBoardIt’s no secret that educators love to share. They share their path to success, and they’re also not afraid to talk about bumps in the road during ed-tech pilots or implementations.

Because today’s school leaders value connectivity and collaboration, we decided to follow suit and gather together a group of influential educators who are willing to share their thoughts, perspectives, and experiences when it comes to education technology.

The editors of eSchool News are pleased to announce the members of our newly revamped eSchool News Advisory Board. As Advisory Board members, these education leaders and ed-tech advocates offer expert guidance and feedback to help eSchool News bring our readers the best in news, innovation, and resources.

Here are the eSchool News Advisory Board members; click to read each member’s bio.

Dr. Sheryl Abshire
Dr. Karen Billings
Dr. Dan Frazier
Lucy Gray
Ian Jukes
Patrick Larkin
Shannon McClintock Miller

Dr. Sheryl Abshire

AbshireSheryl Abshire is Chief Technology Officer in the Calcasieu Parish School System in Lake Charles, La. As a leader in technology integration, she serves as a catalyst to initiate the integration of technology into all curriculum areas throughout her school district, the state, and internationally.

Sheryl has a B.S. Early Childhood Education, M.Ed. Elementary Education, Educational Specialist School Administration/Supervision & a Ph.D. University of New Orleans in Educational Leadership & Administration.

As an accomplished grant writer she regularly conducts institutes to fund innovative technology programs throughout the nation. A 41-year veteran educator, she has worked as a school principal, K-5 teacher, library/media specialist, classroom teacher, assistant professor at Lamar University, and as an adjunct professor at McNeese State University & Louisiana Tech University.

She has been involved in diverse staff development programs throughout the nation, involving restructuring schools through the infusion of technology and curriculum enhancements. As a 1991 NEA/NFIE Christa McAuliffe Fellow, 1990 Louisiana Technology Teacher of the Year, 1992 National Teacher Hall of Fame Inductee, 1998 Louisiana Computer Using Educator of the Year, 1999 McNeese State University Distinguished Alumnus, 2002 National Christa McAuliffe Award winner and the 2008 University of New Orleans Outstanding Doctoral Student in Educational Leadership, she is a nationally recognized consultant/speaker.

In 2010 she was appointed by the FCC to the USAC board representing the nation’s schools and libraries on eRate matters. In May of 2009, ISTE awarded Dr. Abshire the first Public Policy Advocate of the Year Award for her work promoting educational technology. Sheryl is on the ISTE Standards and Accreditation Committee and serves on numerous national, state, and district committees focusing on the role of technology and curriculum integration in changing educational practice.

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Dr. Karen Billings

billingsDr. Karen Billings is Vice President of the Education Division at the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), where she drives strategic direction, programs, and initiatives for the 180 company members focused on providing technology products and services to the K-12 and postsecondary markets. Dr. Billings has 45 years of experience within education technology, including 12 years in K-12 and postsecondary classrooms, as well as positions in management, product development, marketing, and sales.

Within the industry, she held executive-level positions at bigchalk Inc. and MediaSeek Technologies. Earlier in her career, she held positions at Microsoft Corporation, Claris Corporation, Logo Computer Systems, Inc. and Houghton-Mifflin Company.

Her teaching experience includes both public and private institutions and both face-to face and online courses. She has authored four books and numerous articles for education journals, and is a frequent speaker at education conferences. She received her Doctorate at Columbia University Teachers College, where she specialized in the uses and evaluation of technology in education. She was given a lifetime membership in the International Society for Technology in Education.

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Dr. Daniel Frazier

Dr.DL.FrazierDr. Dan Frazier is currently Superintendent of Education for Litchfield Public Schools in Litchfield, Minnesota. He began his career as a superintendent in 1997. Dr. Frazier was recognized by eSchool News and its sponsors as an eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendent in 2012.

Dr. Frazier is an experienced school administrator, serving 13 years as a public school superintendent in Iowa and two years overseas prior to his arrival in Litchfield. A former secondary English teacher, Frazier also has experience as an activities director, assistant principal, and middle school principal.

Frazier earned his bachelor degree from Morningside College in Sioux City. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska, a specialist degree from Drake University in Des Moines, and his doctorate on campus from the University of Nebraska.

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Lucy Gray

LucyGrayCurrently an education consultant advising a variety of organizations, Lucy Gray previously taught elementary grade levels in Chicago Public Schools and middle school computer science at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She also has worked at the University of Chicago’s
Urban Education Institute and the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.

In 2007, Lucy founded the Global Education Collaborative, a network for educators interested in Collaboration, which expanded into the Global Education Conference. In her consulting life, she has led CoSN’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative, developed strategic plans and content for companies, provided professional development coaching to school districts, and presented at many conferences.

Lucy also has received the distinctions of Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Teacher, and recently was appointed an Education Fast Forward fellow. For further information and resources, please check out her website at

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Ian Jukes

JukesIan Jukes is the founder and Executive Director of the InfoSavvy Group, an international educational leadership consulting firm. He has been a teacher, administrator, writer, international consultant, university instructor, and keynote speaker. He has worked with clients in more than 75 countries and made more than 10,000 presentations.

His most recent books are: Teaching the Digital Generation, Living on the Future Edge, Understanding the Digital Generation and Literacy Is Not Enough.

Outside of education, he also works with government, the banking, medical and insurance industries, as well as with organizations and communities that have lost their market or economic base and wish to explore possibilities for preferred economic futures.

But first and foremost, Ian is a passionate educational evangelist. From the beginning, Ian’s focus has been on the compelling need to restructure our educational institutions so that they become relevant to the current and future needs of the digital generation – and to prepare them for their future and not just our past. Ian can be reached at

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Patrick Larkin

LarkinPatrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning for Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts. Prior to this, Patrick served 15 years as a building level administrator at the high school level. In 2012, he was selected as one of three national Digital Principal Award winners by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

As a high school principal, Patrick led his school in the transition to a one-to-one environment for the 2011-2012 school year as Burlington High School became one of the first schools in the nation to distribute iPads to all staff and students. Apple has a profile of Burlington High School on its Education page. He is active in presenting to colleagues on the benefits of educational technology for administrators, teachers, and students. In addition, he is an avid blogger and a proponent of social media to better engage teachers, students, and parents in the education process.

You can find Patrick’s blog at or follow him on Twitter at @patrickmlarkin.

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Shannon McClintock Miller

ShannonMMShannon is a teacher librarian and technology integration specialist. She encourages young people and educators to have a voice while learning, creating, collaborating, and connecting to others globally.

She is an educational consultant for Mackin Educational Resources, Director of School and Library Strategy for In This Together Media and Executive Director of Library & Educational Services for Biblionasium.

She speaks and consults in Iowa and around the country on education, librarianship, technology, social media, and making a difference in education and the lives of others.

Shannon is the author of the award winning The Library Voice blog and enjoys writing for various blogs, journals and other forums.

Shannon is a member of ALA, AASL, IASL, ILA, ISTE, SIGMS, ASCD, Children’s Literature Network and Board of Directors, Iowa Student Learning Institute.

Shannon serves on AASL Best Websites committee and STEM Task Force; advisory boards for Library Journal, Horn Book, and School Library Journal; School Library Monthly; Rosen Digital Library, StarWalk Kids board of advisers; EasyBib advisory board; BiblioNasium advisory board; eSchool Media advisory board; and Gale K12 Customer advisory board. She is a FableVision Ambassador, Social Media WRADvocate for LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day and on the Board of Advisers for In This Together Media. She is part of the Bammy Awards Council of Peers. She has served as advocacy chair for IASL and Iowa Center for the Book Advisory Council.

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Students: We need coding skills

Learning to code and using coding skills appear to be some of students’ top goals

code-codingA new report reveals that 59 percent of students who do not know how to code would like to learn, while just 23 percent of students actually know how to code.

The survey from surveyed 1,000 student members, ranging from K-12 to graduate school, to learn more about students’ computer programming skills.

Sixty-one percent of students said they believe coding skills will give them a competitive advantage in the job hunt.

According to, students have created more than 2 billion lines of code, and 40.5 million students have tried the “Hour of Code,” a movement that encourages every student to explore coding and computer programming for at least an hour.

Computer science fields, including coding and computer programming, are some of the fastest-growing field. States are recognizing this, and in an effort to attract and sustain student interest in computer science, many are introducing legislation that would count Advanced Placement computer science courses toward graduation requirements.’s efforts appear to be paying off. According to the site, computer science was the fastest-growing Advanced Placement course in 2014.

Just 23 percent of all students surveyed said they know at least one coding or computer programming language, and when only high school students’ responses are examined, that number drops to 20 percent.

Of students who do not know how to code, 59 percent said they want to learn how but have not had the chance. Thirty percent said they’re not interested in learning, and 8 percent said they tried to code but thought it was too hard.

When it comes to the 23 percent of students who do know how to code, 54 percent learned in school, and 30 percent taught themselves.

But students seem to agree that coding skills are part of future resume requirements. Sixty-seven percent think that by the time they’ve finished school, some or almost all jobs will require coding skills, 37 percent said it’s somewhat or very likely their future jobs will require coding, 32 percent said it is somewhat or very unlikely, and 30 percent were undecided.

Survey responses revealed a gaping gender disparity, however: 31 percent of male students said they know how to code, compared to only 18 percent of female students.

Indeed, coding and computer science still struggle to attract women. A September 2013 Census report revealed that men are employed in STEM positions twice as often as women.

Fifty-nine percent of students said they learned how to code between ages 11-18, and 30 percent learned at age 19 or older. Five percent said they learned how to code at age 7 or younger.

Fifty-one percent of students who know how to code said they learned to do so because they enjoy it.


App of the Week: Do you know your states?

app-statesName: Census PoP Quiz

What is it? Test your U.S. state knowledge with Census PoP Quiz, a new population challenge about the 50 states and the District of Columbia from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Best for: Students and teachers

Price: Free

Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later; Android 2.2 and up

Features: With each state challenge completed, users will earn a badge to show their knowledge of various state demographic characteristics. After earning badges from every state, the app will unlock the final U.S. challenge. Throughout the quiz, players can share their badges on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

  • Challenges that test your knowledge of topics such as population, housing and commuting from the American Community Survey (ACS)
  • Questions that span locations in all 50 states and the nation’s capital
  • Badges to share with social media connections

Link: iTunes and Android


5 stimulating web apps that will engage K-5 students

Sheree Schulson, a second and third grade teacher at Parkside Elementary School in Coral Springs, Fla., shares five interactive apps for K-5 students


Educational apps have huge potential for today’s students.

As the world is ever changing, so are the students we teach. We, as teachers, can’t just open up a textbook and teach a lesson like we did 10 years ago. Modern day students have grown up in a world of iPads and smart phones—a world of constant stimulation.

Now, they need teachers who can provide lessons that are just as stimulating. We must evolve with the learner and update our teaching strategies so that they are engaging, motivating, and hold our students’ interests.

Here are a handful of web tools I’ve used in my elementary classroom that will create a stimulating educational environment.

Voice Thread

This is an interactive collaboration tool that lets students add audio or text commentary to videos and images. Their peers can then log onto the website and add their own comments or draw right on the original document. The kids really love to read and listen to everyone’s feedback.

It’s very easy to figure out how to use this tool. For example, you can post a math problem, and each student could respond showing how to solve it using the Voice Thread tools. In my classroom, I posted a world map on to the Voice Thread application and asked students: Where did your family originate from? Each student circled the area and explained it either by video, audio, or text. They loved it.

You can use a Voice Thread for storytelling, deep thinking, or even as a research tool. For example, I had students research parts of the human body, and then they posted their facts onto human body diagrams that I posted. The end result becomes a showcase of what the students have learned. Teachers are always looking for ways to see if their students are mastering concepts. Often, they have students take a test or write a report. Using Voice Thread as an alternative form of assessment allows teachers to evaluate students’ knowledge creatively—plus, it’s free!

(Next page: More engaging apps)


Webinar: Innovative Display Solutions in Education

avi-spl200x300eSNWebinar2Learning environments in the digital age are higher touch and higher feel than at any time before. Printed posters on the wall have been replaced by digital signage and pull-down projector screens in auditoriums. Classrooms have given way to high-definition touch displays and video walls.

Today’s students, whether in an elementary school or cutting-edge university, want an immersive, interactive learning experience. As education administrators, it can be difficult sifting through the countless learning technology options to meet those needs. In this webinar, experts from NEC highlight all the exciting collaborative learning technologies available today and how working with global audio/video solutions leader, AVI-SPL, can propel your facility to the leading edge of modern education.

About the presenters

Benjamin Hardy, Sr. Product Specialist for NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc., focuses on the technologies and design of NEC’s large-screen products. He is responsible for product launches with specification details, technical documents and competitive matrices to support the sales department.

Rich McPherson, Product Manager of Projectors for NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc., is responsible for the company’s full projector lineup. Rich manages the marketing and messaging of projector families, pricing and inventory issues, product roadmaps and all engineering and technical aspects of the projectors. Rich works closely with the sales and channel marketing teams and has been with NEC since 1995.


Get ready: iOS 8 is almost here

Apple’s new iOS 8 release has big potential for education, but school networks must be prepared, experts say


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But as most school IT leaders will agree, iOS 7 posed problems for school networks, in many cases leveling those networks as students attempted to update at least one, and often more than one, device on their school’s network.

Apple has a huge stake in the education market, and iOS 8 promises some next-level features for educators and students.

A major feature, called “extensibility,” enables apps to work together better and share more information. According to Business Insider, this means less time switching between apps and more time for productivity.

Extensibility, coupled with other iOS 8 features, promise to put the latest upgrade at the top of Apple users’ priorities.

How can school IT leaders prepare school networks for the upgrade?

(Next page: Important steps schools can take to prepare)