Using your LMS to provide powerful support for teacher intuition

A well-designed blended learning course can provide a teacher with greater insights to support his or her intuition

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Intuition is a wonderful thing. Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book Blink that an expert can draw a correct conclusion in seconds, even in the face of apparently little evidence and understanding of where the conclusion came from.

His opening example in Blink describes an apparently ancient statue purchased by a museum after many scientific tests indicated it was real.

However, experts in the field knew with a glance that it was fake.

An experienced teacher also can have significant intuitive powers. Teachers often have a “gut feel” about how a student is progressing with learning and understanding. This “feel” is often reinforced by in-class informal questions, levels of participation, quizzes, discussions, homework, and more. Results from tests and assignments provide the ultimate feedback.

However, effective blended learning courses have the ability to dramatically expand the supporting data available to a teacher. These data are more granular; more fine-tuned, detailed, and indicative of day-to-day efforts. In well designed and implemented blended learning courses, it is no longer necessary to wait for key assessment items, or time to grade a range of tasks, to gain an indication of how a student is progressing.

Blended learning courses that use a powerful learning management system to incorporate a wealth of learning resources, as well as feedback mechanisms such as quizzes and discussions, offer quantitative data to support teacher intuition. This information can allow the teacher to be even more proactive, intervening with students before key assessment occurs.

(Next page: Providing teachers with key information using graphs)

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Top ed-tech stories to watch: Online testing looms

No. 1 on our list of key ed-tech stories for the new school year is the struggle for schools to prepare for Common Core testing

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Preparing for the exams involves much more than making sure schools have the bandwidth and devices to support every student online.

[Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of stories examining five key ed-tech developments to watch for the 2014-15 school year.]

Next spring, new state exams tied to the Common Core standards in reading and math will be given for the first time in more than 40 states—and there are big questions about whether schools and students will be ready.

Students will be taking the exams online, and a lack of technology or training in some schools—especially those in rural areas—could make administering the new tests a challenge.

“We could be in trouble,” Donald Childs, administrator of the Unified School District of Antigo, in north central Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We haven’t had an opportunity to test rural schools that just got wireless access to see if there is adequate bandwidth to administer the exams during the state testing window.”

Childs isn’t alone in his anxiety. A national survey of school technology leaders earlier this year found that preparing for online high-stakes tests was their No. 1 concern, said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a professional ed-tech organization.

CoSN has created a toolkit to help ed-tech leaders prepare for online testing, and many school districts have been testing their network capacity in anticipation of the exams. But there’s a difference between conducting a trial run and the real thing, Krueger acknowledged.

“Everyone’s kind of waiting to see how it goes, and if they’re really ready,” he said.

Preparing for the exams involves much more than making sure schools have the bandwidth and devices to support every student online.

(Next page: Other considerations in becoming ‘assessment ready’)

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Top ed-tech stories to watch: eRate gets a facelift

No. 2 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the dramatic overhaul of the eRate, the nation’s school wiring program

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The FCC’s new rules aim to transform the eRate from a telecommunications program into a broadband program that supports the delivery of high-speed internet service within schools.

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories examining five key ed-tech developments to watch for the 2014-15 school year. Our countdown continues tomorrow with No. 1.]

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced the most significant changes to the eRate, the $2.4 billion-a-year federal school connectivity program, in the program’s 17-year history.

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.

Until now, internal connections have been designated as “Priority 2” services and have been funded only after all requests for “Priority 1” services (telecommunications services and internet access) were met. However, that left most schools without any eRate funding for Wi-Fi equipment and other internal connections.

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 spread this funding to the largest number of applicants possible, the agency has taken two key steps: (1) It has limited the maximum discount on these services at 85 percent, and (2) it has placed a $150-per-student cap on the amount of internal connections that schools can apply for within a five-year period.

What’s more, the FCC has introduced a new category of service that is eligible for eRate support: managed Wi-Fi, or “managed internal broadband services” as the agency refers to it.

Before, schools could apply for eRate discounts only on the purchase of internal connections, or on the basic maintenance of this equipment. Now, schools will be able to contract with Wi-Fi providers to install and manage this equipment—and this full-service approach to wireless service would be eRate-eligible.

(Next page: What the new rules mean for schools)

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Common Core awareness skyrockets

Public is more clued-in when it comes to the Common Core, but many are still skeptical

Common-CorePublic awareness of the Common Core State Standards has skyrocketed, increasing from 38 percent to 81 percent in just one year, according to the 46th annual PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

But while awareness has seen a boost, 60 percent of Americans said they don’t support the Common Core, with many saying they are worried that the standards will prevent teachers from teaching the material they think is most important for students.

Of those who oppose the Common Core, 77 percent cited lack of local teacher support as a very important or somewhat important reason for their opposition, and 68 percent cited their belief that the Common Core will result in a national curriculum and national tests.

(Next page: More on the Common Core, plus opinions on standardized testing and school challenges)

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5 apps to keep parents and teachers connected

These five easy-to-use and free tools can help parents and educators stay in touch and prevent potential academic concerns

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As we prepare for a new school year, many parents would like to know how they can better connect with teachers and stay informed with their child’s progress.

Maintaining open channels of communication is important and can help prevent a student from falling behind.

There is no shortage of social media and mobile application tools for receiving instant news and communication, and eSchool News has compiled the following apps to connect and network with educators during the school year.

If there is a specific technology not mentioned in this list that you think is helpful, please let us know in the comments section below and by following the conversation on Twitter @eschoolsnews.

(Next page: Five parent-teacher communication tools)

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Case Study: A Better Classroom Experience

AVI-Case-200x300When Cranbrook Schools were designing the Kingswood Middle School for Girls from scratch, they looked to AVI-SPL for an integrated technology solution that would create one-of-a-kind learning opportunities for students, while also blending with the unique architecture of the building. The result was a functional, interactive experience not just for students, but for teachers, staff, parents, and visitors. Learn how Cranbrook Schools is changing the face of education in this case study.

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Case Study: Creating the Library of Tomorrow

NCSU_AVI-SPL-Case-StoryYesterday’s library of card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal System is passé. Today’s learners are tech-savvy and non-conventional. They want a vibrant library environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and deeply engaged learning. Learn how a major university partnered with the world’s leading audio/video solutions provider, AVI-SPL, to make full use of today’s cutting-edge collaborative learning technologies to build the library of the future.

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Prepping students with autism for life after K-12

A number of strategies exist to help students with autism transition to the post-high school world

autism-secondaryTransitioning to higher education or the workforce is a challenge for most K-12 students, but it can be more challenging for students with autism as they learn to navigate new environments.

Educators can use a number of instructional strategies to help their secondary students with autism prepare for the transition out of high school and into higher education or the workforce.

When focusing on middle and high school, the instructional focus should be on the skills that students will need to find employment, said Joel Arick, Professor Emeritus at Portland State University and an educator, researcher, and trainer in the field of autism for more than 30 years. Arick is the lead author of the Strategies for Teaching based-on Autism Research Program and Links Curriculum.

Part of that instruction lies in establishing routines.

(Next page: Establishing routines for students with autism)

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