Create, Connect, Communicate: Digital-Age Learners Share Digital Stories

Shutterfly200x300With the proliferation of iPads in K-12 classrooms, teachers need apps (tools) that leverage this powerful, new technology and can help them create active, participatory, authentic classrooms that meet the needs of students with multiple learning styles, and align with Common Core/State Standards. Learn how the Shutterfly Photo Story for iPad app is personalizing learning opportunities for students in every grade level across every subject area.


8 educators share back-to-school priorities

Common Core, technology use and integration are among back-to-school goals for the new school year

teacher-schoolA new school year brings with it new priorities for school administrators, teachers, and ed-tech leaders. Focusing on Common Core learning goals, integrating technology into lessons, and expanding students’ opportunity for project-based learning experiences are just some of the new initiatives and objectives educators have identified for the 2014-2015 school year.

eSchool News asked a range of educators, including our own Advisory Board members and educators belonging to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN), to share their own goals for the new year. Using their responses, we’ve compiled a quick look at some of the top back-to-school priorities.

What are some of your top priorities for this new school year? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, or tweet Managing Editor Laura Devaney @eSN_Laura.

(Next page: The top back-to-school goals)


5 ways to create a performance-based school climate

To create a successful performance-based classroom, educators must be aware of multiple elements that affect learning within that environment


Students’ learning is affected by academic as well as nonacademic factors. Enabling them to achieve their full potential requires integrating learning outcome data with information about special needs, interventions and social/emotional factors.

During my time as a classroom teacher, I quickly realized there were many technology tools for managing students’ academic data but few for tracking nonacademic factors that also play a critical role in classroom management.

In fact, 30 years of research indicates that classroom management is rated first in impact on student achievement. Well-managed classrooms allow teachers and students to stay on task and facilitate lesson delivery, learning, and constructive communication. Conversely, a poorly managed classroom is prone to disruptions and discipline issues, which interrupt instruction and adversely affect learning.

In our K-12 educational system, which places an increasing emphasis on academic outcomes each year, we can no longer ignore the link between academic achievement and nonacademic factors such as student behavior. Tracking and managing these factors is not simply a “nice-to-have” capability; it is a “must-have” to create an environment that is truly conducive to learning.

What is so exciting about K-12 classrooms today is that educators have the ability to collect and analyze a variety of data points, so they can make instructional decisions based on an understanding of the whole child. Instructional management solutions can simplify this process by integrating and organizing the data to make it easy to understand, act upon and share.

(Next page: Five ways educators can create performance-based climates)


Trying to change teacher practice? Enlist ‘Bob’

Skeptical staff members are important allies in convincing others to try new approaches

teacher-techPerhaps the most frequent question I get from school administrators is: How can I get my teachers to use technology?

It’s often voiced by a school principal, ed-tech admin, or superintendent who wants faculty to change their instructional practices.

As most administrators know, top-down directives are not going to convince teachers to use technology.

Directives don’t change beliefs, and they often provoke resentment. Nor do “one off” talks by outside experts bring about substantive and lasting change.

Classroom practices are most acutely and profoundly changed by peer-to-peer interactions over a sustained period—whether formal presentations at gatherings or informal exchanges in the cafeteria.

(Next page: Choosing a teacher to model tech use)


5 data protection policies for the new school year

Keeping sensitive data and student information secure is a top priority

data-securityStudent data is a hot topic these days, and as the new school year kicks off, educators and school leaders are examining their data storage and data security practices to ensure that sensitive student information remains private and secured.

Most school information security approaches are multi-layered and come together from different angles to offer protection from a variety of threats.

Schools deal with sensitive and private student information—information that is necessary to connect students with the right resources and opportunities. As the new school year begins, a quick data security refresher can help educators use, and protect, sensitive student information.

(Next page: Five data protection policies)


How to minimize digital classroom distractions

Here are some proven techniques for keeping students from using digital devices inappropriately in your classroom

digital-classroom-distractionsClassroom technologies such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and wireless internet access offer exciting opportunities to enhance and deepen the learning process. However, using technology in the classroom can also bring multiple distractions to students. Without your proactive supervision, students might access games, web pages, and social networking sites as you deliver instruction.

As an educator, how can you confront this dilemma? Read on to learn the various ways on how you can minimize the digital distraction in your classroom.

Digital tech rules and regulations

On the very first day of school, hand students a copy of classroom policies containing the allowed screen time and the instances where they can use their smartphones, laptops, and computers. These might include rules such as…

• No smartphones are allowed when the teacher is conducting a lecture.
• Devices should be put on silent/airplane mode before the start of the class.
• Tablets should only be used during group exercises and note-taking sessions.

(Next page: Ethically removing distractions from digital devices)


5 higher-ed skills to teach K-12 students now

These unusual skills may seem like things to learn in college, but they should be taught long before…here’s why

skills-students-postsecondaryWhile the Common Core aims to teach students critical skills that can translate to college, career, and life (critical thinking, collaboration, and writing), a different set of skills can help prepare students to not just survive post-secondary education, but thrive. These skills should also be taught in high school, if not earlier.

There are growing movements in higher education of going beyond a professor’s traditional curriculum and, instead, learning skills that are vital not just to a specific major, but give students a leg-up in class, in internships, in careers, and in personal finance.

“It’s interesting to see, in these megatrends, what demographics are showing us: By 2050….22 percent of the world’s population will be age 60 or older. (Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Ageing and Development 2012, 2012)—a gap that many companies are nervous about filling due to concerns about student skills,” said Shannon Schuyler, partner and U.S. leader for Corporate Responsibility, PwC.

And while base skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and the basics of STEM are crucial for students to master before entering higher education, a different set of skills could help students make an even easier transition to a rapidly evolving higher-ed atmosphere; where job and life skills are becoming better integrated into graduation necessities.

[Listed in no particular order]


1. Digital literacy skills

From learning how to master multiple devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) to navigating web resources, digital literacy is becoming even more critical as colleges and universities begin to incorporate digital learning into classrooms and homework.

Beyond that, basic Word skills and the ability to take online assessments with ease are now must-knows when entering post-secondary education.

Thankfully, the Common Core requirements (as well as public libraries!) and the online assessments included with them will help students develop these skills as soon as possible; skills that “…include technology operational skills such as keyboarding and spreadsheets, as well as higher-order skills such as finding and evaluating information online,” said Nick Smith, director of marketing for

The Common Core testing brings a “new sense of urgency” to the teaching of digital literacy skills in school, Smith said. That applies everywhere, he said, but especially in lower-income communities where students aren’t learning these skills at home.

Schools interested in taking digital literacy skills a step further should also look into offering alternative competency pathways, through online options such as digital badges, online course credentials, and even MOOCs, since many colleges and universities are beginning accept these credentials and are even urging students to seek job-specific skills pathways.

(Next page: Skills 2-5)


What should we make of the South Korean tutoring boom?

Is the South Korean private tutoring explosion model something that other countries should try to imitate?


South Korea leads the world in the amount of money spent on tutoring services. (Source:

To say that South Korea takes its private tutoring seriously would be an understatement. In fact, spending on private tutoring in South Korea has surpassed spending on public education in Finland, a country with one of the best education systems in the world. So what, exactly, is driving this crazy growth?

To put it simply: competition. Many South Koreans believe that the only way they can outperform their peers is with the help of a tutor. In fact, nearly 90 percent of elementary students in South Korea receive some form of tutoring.

This tutoring does not come cheap, either; the average South Korean family spends about 20 percent of its income on private tutoring. Although the price is steep, many parents consider tutoring to be just another monthly expense they have to take into account. If everyone is using a tutor, can you afford not to?

Because of the huge demand for tutors, the industry feels a little like a national sports league, complete with its own teams, called hagwons. These hagwons are tutoring companies that routinely compete with each other to hire the best teaching talent. Indeed, top South Korean tutors are treated like famous athletes and paid accordingly. Some tutors can earn as much as $4 million a year and it’s not uncommon to see the faces of famous tutors plastered on billboards or on the side of buses!

However, does it actually work?

(Next page: Examining the South Korean tutoring system)


Explore new and free ed funding options

Free learning community offers funding resources, tips

funding-edCDW-G, a provider of technology solutions to education, government, and healthcare, and, a professional learning and social network for the education community, have partnered on a free professional learning community around educational funding.

The professional learning community will provide a place for educators to engage with peers on successes, challenges, and best practices associated with educational funding. Additionally, community members will collaborate with each other to expand innovative programs, prepare students for the increasingly complex skills they’ll need to participate in tomorrow’s workforce, and help close the equity gap in educating students from all backgrounds and circumstances.

This collaborative community is free for educators, thanks to the support of CDW-G. The multifaceted program will host interactive webinars and provide an online community where members can learn from each other 24/7 through a discussion forum, resource library, and other web 2.0 tools. The program is an extension of CDW-G’s website, a free and fresh grant-finding resource, which hosts a collection of more than 2,000 active grants and awards. Dedicated to helping educators identify the financial backing that’s needed to take learning to higher level, this 2013 AEP Beacon Award-winning site was designed for K-12 and higher education institutions, and delivers access to more than $2.1 billion in educational funding opportunities.

“CDW-G is dedicated to providing the best possible resources to our customers,” said Joe Simone, director of K-12, CDW-G. “GetEdFunding is very much an extension of that philosophy – designed for K-12 and higher education professionals and institutions to find grant opportunities to augment their budgets, expand critical programs and provide additional resources to their students.”

Lynn Scott, senior program director for, added, “At edWeb, we know that funding is top of mind with so many educators. Every day, they are in our webinars and community forums asking for funding advice. This community answers the call of so many edWeb members, and we are grateful to CDW-G for providing a program to help our members navigate educational funding opportunities.”

Educators can join the free GetEdFunding community on edWeb to stay informed about upcoming webinars, join in discussions with peers and funding experts, and gain access to valuable resources. The community is a collaborative forum, and community members are invited to share their expertise by presenting a webinar to their peers. Interested educators are encouraged to contact edWeb’s Lynn Scott to submit a request to present.