10 privacy steps for every district

School leaders can ensure top-notch privacy practices with targeted efforts

data-privacyIt would be hard to name an issue that has taken the education technology world by storm as has student data privacy over the past year. To address this issue, CoSN published our Protecting Student Privacy in Connected Learning toolkit in March to help districts navigate FERPA (Family Education Rights & Privacy Act) and COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).

During the 2014-2015 school year, the Toolkit will be expanded to include additional information on the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule–rounding out the four federal privacy laws relevant to schools.

With all of the confusion and uncertainty regarding privacy, it can be difficult for school technology leaders to know what they can or should be doing. It would be easy to lose sight of some concrete steps they can be taking today to better ensure privacy of student data.

In a report released a few weeks ago titled Making Sense of Student Data Privacy, Bob Moore, a longtime district CTO and founder of RJM Strategies LLC, detailed several common sense steps every school district should take. You can download the full report at www.k12blueprint.com/privacy.

(Next page: 10 privacy steps for every district)


Give engineering education a boost

engineering-STEMTeachEngineering.org is a collaborative project between faculty, students and teachers associated with five founding partner universities, with National Science Foundation funding. The collection continues to grow and evolve with new additions submitted from more than 50 additional contributors, a cadre of volunteer teacher and engineer reviewers, and feedback from teachers who use the curricula in their classrooms.

TeachEngineering.org is a searchable, web-based digital library collection populated with standards-based engineering curricula for use by K-12 teachers and engineering faculty to make applied science and math (engineering) come alive in K-12 settings. The TeachEngineering collection provides educators with *free* access to a growing curricular resource of multi-week units, lessons, activities and living labs.

Formation of the TeachEngineering collection was funded primarily under the NSF National Science Digital Library Program, aiming to establish a national digital library that constitutes an online network of learning environments and resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels. Many other generous sponsors and web partners have enabled its ongoing development and promotion.


Top ed-tech stories to watch: From 1-to-1 to ‘one to many’

No. 3 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the movement toward students using many devices while at school


Whether they’re bringing their own devices from home or using school-issued technology, students are likely to use several different ed-tech devices throughout the day.

[Editor’s note: This is the third 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. 2.]

Marie Bjerede has noticed a shift in the way many educators are starting to think about mobile learning.

It used to be that when school leaders talked about mobile learning, they focused on a specific device and whether it was capable of mobility. Now, more school leaders are “thinking in terms of the students as mobile,” said Bjerede, who is director of the Consortium for School Networking’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative.

This shift might be subtle, but it has profound implications for K-12 schools.

To be able to work effectively, “kids, like adults, need different tools for different purposes,” Bjerede explained. For responding to an in-class poll or quiz, a smart phone or tablet might suffice—but for rendering a sophisticated 3D design, a full-fledged laptop might work better.

Results from Project Tomorrow’s annual “Speak Up” survey on education and technology support this idea.

“We asked the students last year to identify for us their preferred device for a variety of academic tasks,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “The results pointed to a differentiation of devices that they wanted to use, based upon the inherent capabilities and roles of the devices.”

For creating a presentation, “kids want to use a laptop,” Evans noted. “Communicate or collaborate with peers: smart phone. Take notes in class: tablet. Read a book or article: digital reader.”

The idea of the ultimate one-to-one device for learning “is, in fact, a fallacy,” Evans concluded. “Kids are multi-mobilists and want to use a variety of appropriate devices for particular tasks.”

For this reason, a small but growing number of K-12 leaders no longer refer to “one-to-one” computing programs when discussing mobile learning. Instead, they’ve begun using the term “one to many.”

(Next page: What this trend means for schools—and for network capacity in particular)


5 ways the Common Core could be worthless

New brief urges higher education, states to better align Common Core with higher ed practices

common-core-collegeCommon Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia, are supposed to be the ultimate indicator for a student’s college readiness. But according to a new policy brief, Common Core stops at higher education’s gate, offering little to no benefit for a student’s chances of entering college.

The brief, “Common Core Goes to College: Building better connections between high school and higher education,” by Lindsey Tepe, program associate on the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program, begins her brief with a powerful metaphor, linking the blunder of Chicago’s underground tunnel to what’s currently happening with the Common Core.

In 1989, after years of planning to connect two ends of one tunnel under Chicago, the two entities, which started building the tunnel at different points, realized that one side came in nine inches too low, and eight inches to the east of the other side’s connector point.

Like the Common Core, explains Tepe, if higher education’s policies don’t better align with K-12’s CCSS implementation, the nation-wide initiative will effectively become a road to nowhere.

“Careful analysis of state policies and practices reveals a higher education landscape riddled with complications and shortcomings for the successful alignment of higher education with the Common Core,” writes Tepe, “…including admissions, financial aid, retesting and course placement, and developmental education.

Also, little evidence suggests that colleges are meaningfully aligning college instruction with the standards, Tepe notes.

(Next page: 5 ways to better align higher education with Common Core)


New eRate rules invite a new approach: Managed Wi-Fi

The FCC’s extensive eRate overhaul includes a new type of eligible service, managed Wi-Fi, which could lead to more outsourced networks in K-12 schools


Managed Wi-Fi will be eligible for eRate support as a Category 2 service.

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

On page 49 of its “Seventh Report and Order,” a 176-page document that rewrites the rules governing the $2.4 billion-a-year eRate, the Federal Communications Commission refers to 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 routers, switches, wireless access points, and other internal connections, or on the basic maintenance of this equipment. Now, the FCC’s new rules allow schools to enter into contracts that call for Wi-Fi providers to install and manage this equipment—and this full-service approach to wireless service would be eRate-eligible.

This change “will allow schools, for the first time, to leverage eRate discounts to outsource major aspects of delivering on-campus broadband connectivity,” said John Harrington, chief executive officer of the eRate consulting firm Funds For Learning. “This is analogous to a school cafeteria considering bids to manage their kitchen and serve students meals.”

These types of agreements “could lead to improved network performance,” Harrington added.

(Next page: More details about managed Wi-Fi’s eligibility—and one state’s experience with the service)


Top ed-tech stories to watch: Schools grapple with data privacy

No. 4 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the need for K-12 leaders to navigate a data privacy minefield


School leaders must talk openly about privacy and address parents’ concerns proactively, before it’s too late.

[Editor’s note: This is the second 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. 3.]

After the high-profile demise this past spring of inBloom, a controversial nonprofit organization that aimed to build a national, cloud-based student data system to improve education, school leaders face a puzzle: How can they balance the privacy concerns of stakeholders with the need to collect and analyze information about their students?

Amid an onslaught of criticism from parents and data privacy advocates, states that had signed agreements with inBloom began to pull out of the initiative last year, and the group shut its doors in April. Now, ed-tech observers are wondering what inBloom’s collapse will mean for other efforts to personalize instruction using cloud-based data systems.

As school leaders turn to software companies for help in collecting and storing student data in the cloud, privacy advocates worry about what will happen to the information—and whether it might be used for marketing purposes.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act governs the use and disclosure of students’ personal information, but it can only penalize schools for non-compliance. The law doesn’t include any direct authority over software providers—which is one reason many policy makers think it’s time to update FERPA for the digital age.

(Next page: How new legislation intends to modernize FERPA—and the biggest lesson that school leaders can learn from the inBloom fiasco)


Games: The new learning experience

As gaming technology evolves, the educational implications are almost endless

game-trendIt seems you can’t go anywhere in the education world without hearing about game-based learning. At its core, game-based learning connects learning and meaning to content to give students an intrinsic learning experience, in which the games elevate the content in a meaningful and engaging way.

Games are particularly effective learning tools because they give students open-ended environments in which to explore, play, and create.

True game-based learning uses intrinsic experiences and moves away from a more simple extrinsic rewards-based system where students play the game in pursuit of a reward or achievement and are disconnected from the fundamental content.

Games combine just the right degree of challenge with just the right amount of engagement, said Lucien Vattel, CEO of GameDesk, a nonprofit focusing on research and development around game-based learning. GameDesk recently launched Educade, an online portal that links students, teachers, and parents to an online resource library full of apps, games, and hands-on activities.

(Next page: How games can impact learning)


Top ed-tech stories to watch: Maker movement makes waves

No. 5 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the proliferation of maker spaces in schools


Rapid advances in technology, such as 3D printers, have allowed students to create much more complex projects. (Stefano Tinti / Shutterstock.com)

[Editor’s note: This is the first 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. 4.]

During a special summer camp last month, the Economic Development Center at West Virginia State University was buzzing with activity.

High school students Drew Jett and Christian Rohr were sitting in front of a computer, designing a silencer for paintball guns. Fellow student Sully Steele sat nearby, working on a prototype for an arm brace that holds a smart phone on the user’s sleeve until it’s needed—flip your wrist, and the phone slides into your hand. Not just intended as a cool, spy-type gadget, the device was meant to protect users’ pelvic regions from the electromagnetic radiation emitted by their phones.

All three students were using the free, three-dimensional modeling software Sketchup Make to design their creations, and they planned on using a 3D printer to bring their creations to life.

Paintball guns are “quite loud and obnoxious,” Jett said. “So we’re going to try and make [them] a lot more silent. There are no silencers currently for paintball.”

The students’ ideas were just the kind of innovative thinking the DigiSo Maker Camp’s organizers were hoping to foster.

“We touch on a little bit of design thinking, entrepreneurship, problem solving,” said instructor Venu Menon. “And then we … give students a lot of leeway to be able to use [technology] to create a project.”

The DigiSo Maker Camp is an example of how the “maker movement” is catching on quickly in education. As the new school year approaches, “maker spaces” are cropping up in countless schools and libraries nationwide.

Having students complete hands-on projects isn’t new. For years, many educators have championed a constructivist, learning-by-doing approach in schools.

But now, a number of factors have converged to push this concept into the education mainstream.

(Next page: Why the maker movement has grown in popularity—and how it helps meet a critical need)


App of the week: Stack up your math skills

Math app helps young students develop addition, subtraction skills

math-cubesName: Mathcubes

What is it? This app helps children enjoy and learn math in an entertaining and fun way. In a short amount of time they will control numbers and solve addition and subtraction challenges.

Best for: Students 6-8

Price: $0.99

Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later

Features: The exercises that can be found in Mathcubes Addition and Subtraction cover a range of ages that go from 3 years old, to help students become familiar with numbers, up to 8 years old, with combined sums and subtraction operations. In Mathcubes children will see cubes jumping and bouncing around them, they will be able to throw them against each other, pile them up and drop them, interacting at a level never seen before.

Other features include:

  • Adapted to encourage learning through experimentation.
  • Intelligent system of exercises that allows adapting the difficulty to the child’s level.
  • Prizes and rewards to motivate children and encourage its usage.
  • All the exercises are strengthen by a system of utterances that works in several languages: English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
  • Alternative graphic set prepared especially for children with learning difficulties or visual challenges.

Link: iTunes