8 ways school leaders can support the digital transition

As schools make the shift to digital learning, how are school leaders supporting progress?

digital-transitionAdministrators at the local, district, and state levels are essential to leading and supporting the digital transition in schools across the nation, and at a Sept. 29 summit, a panel of education leaders outlined a number of key ways that leadership can support and sustain a digital transition.

More than 100 educators, policymakers, and stakeholders convened for the Empowering Educators to Enhance Student Learning in the Digital Era, in Washington, D.C., which featured sessions focusing on preparing teachers for digital learning environments, professional development opportunities, and supporting the digital transition from all sides.

Moderated by Jeff Mao, senior director of Common Sense Media’s Learning Solutions Program, the panel featured Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina; Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Homestead, Pa.; Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of schools in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools; and Johnny L. Veselka, executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA).

(Next page: Recommendations to help leaders support the digital transition)


Blended learning and the paradox of the experienced teacher

The move to blended learning can be threatening, even for good teachers. Being aware of their possible concerns is vital for those leading change in organizations.

blended-learning-teacherAssuming a good teacher in the traditional classroom will be a good teacher in a blended learning environment is wrong. The terminology alone provides a clue; after all, it is “blended learning”—not “blended teaching.”

A teacher hopefully will be good in both environments, but this is not a given.

The rules of education have changed, yet some persist in believing old solutions will remain successful. The teacher is no longer the main source of information for a student. The flood of information that is now available online has changed that concept forever. Yet, students still need help in many ways. Teachers need to be educators—guides, mentors, encouragers, and providers of deeper learning and understanding, while allowing students to access basic knowledge in a variety of other ways.

Eddie Obeng makes some powerful observations in his excellent TED Talk, “Smart failure for a fast-changing world”:

“What’s happened to our pace of learning as the world has accelerated? The pace of change overtakes that of learning. This is what happened to us in the 21st century—someone changed the rules about how our world works. The way to successfully run a business, an organization, even a country has been deleted. Flipped! There’s a completely new set of rules in operation. … My simple idea is that the real 21st century around us isn’t so obvious to us, so instead we spend our time responding rationally to a world we understand but which no longer exists.”

What I do works. Why should I change?

An experienced teacher is often a successful teacher. Past knowledge and experience has reinforced the concept that what he or she has been doing works. Average student grades have been good, student engagement (at least, according to the rules of the traditional classroom) has been good, rapport with students has been good, and so on.

Thus, the obvious question in the mind of the teacher is, “Why change?”


11 TED Talks about science and the brain

These TED Talks offer intriguing insights on science topics

TED-TalkEvery 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: 11 TED Talks on the brain and science)


App of the Week: Create stories with Curious George

Curious George engages a new generation of children with a new app

app-weekName: Curious Me

What is it? Curious About Me is an interactive story-building app that celebrates your child’s imagination and individuality. With the help of you and everyone’s favorite monkey, Curious George, your child will be delighted to become the star of his or her very own story.

Best for: Children ages 5 and under

Price: $2.99

Requirements: iOS 7.0 or later


Curious About Me includes:

• Two storybooks to customize with photos, videos, voice recordings, drawings, and more!
◦ Curious About Me
◦ Day at the Zoo
• A bookshelf to view stories in progress
• A gallery to view all your story videos
• The ability to download stories to your device and share with friends and family
• The ability to create multiple profiles so all the family can join in the fun!

Link: iTunes


Deeper learning has significant impact, study finds

What is deeper learning, and how can it transform education?

deeper-learningNew research reveals that students who attend schools with a focus on deeper learning are more likely to graduate on time and demonstrate higher achievement and test scores, as well as an increased likelihood of college attendance.

The research from the American Institutes for Research (AIR), packaged in a series of three reports, also examines deeper learning’s impact on educational opportunity and 21st-century skills including critical thinking and problem solving.

Deeper learning, as defined in the report, focuses on educational outcomes involving “a deeper understanding of core academic content, the ability to apply that understanding to novel problems and situations, and the development of a range of competencies, including people skills and self control.”

(Next page: What the reports reveal about deeper learning in schools)


School stakeholders urge FCC to adopt net neutrality

Educators, ed-tech companies ask for stronger net neutrality rules to protect innovation and preserve the democratizing power of the web


An overwhelming majority of comments from education stakeholders pushed for stronger net neutrality rules.

Letting broadband companies charge more for content providers to stream their services at faster speeds threatens ed-tech innovation, thousands of school stakeholders argue.

The Federal Communications Commission’s latest “net neutrality” proposal has stirred controversy because it would allow companies like Google, Netflix, and Skype to pay extra to ensure faster transmission of their content online.

But this proposal threatens the existence of smaller companies that can’t afford to pay these higher rates, many critics say—including ed-tech startups that don’t have the resources of larger, more established competitors.

“A few years ago, you couldn’t even imagine that the internet could become a system of have and have-nots protected by corporate gatekeepers,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has written legislation to direct the FCC to ban such prioritization deals.

The FCC has struggled for years to come up with a net neutrality plan requiring broadband providers to give fair treatment to all internet traffic flowing over their networks.

The courts have limited previous attempts by the FCC to regulate broadband providers. The agency currently defines broadband as a lightly regulated information service. That means it’s not subject to the obligations that traditional telecommunications services have to share their networks with competitors and treat all traffic equally.

The FCC could use part of its charter, Title II of the Communications Act, to reclassify broadband as a public utility. That would give the agency broader authority to enforce net neutrality principles.

But the FCC is also trying to balance the objections of broadband providers and free-market supporters, who argue that imposing 1930s-era regulations on the modern internet is a recipe for disaster. Broadband providers say they should be free to charge more for an internet “fast lane” as a way to manage the increasing flow of data over their networks.

Aiming to find a middle ground, the FCC has proposed a net neutrality framework that would prohibit broadband companies from randomly discriminating against certain types of traffic over their networks, without reclassifying broadband as a Title II service. The FCC’s proposal also would give broadband providers some latitude to manage their networks by charging more for priority services.

The FCC set a deadline of Sept. 15 for public comments on its proposal. The vast majority of the record-breaking 3.7 million comments filed by the deadline—including at least 4,000 comments that referred specifically to schools—said the agency’s plan doesn’t go far enough to protect a fair and open internet.

(Next page: What school stakeholders had to say about the FCC’s proposal)


New analytics could help measure content efficacy

New analytics tools from uClass aim to give users a better picture of what instructional materials their teachers are using—and whether these resources are effective

analyticsLearning analytics have become a key feature within many school software programs. These tools can help educators understand trends and patterns in student learning, helping them target their instruction more effectively to improve achievement.

Most of these tools focus on analyzing student performance—but what if educators had tools that could measure the effectiveness of the instructional resources they’re using as well?

That’s the idea behind new analytics tools developed by an ed-tech company called uClass.

uClass is an instructional platform that contains thousands of vetted and curated video clips, lesson plans, and other open educational resources from around the web—and school districts can add their own instructional resources as well, by uploading and tagging these materials within the system.

uClass’s latest analytics tools can show users which resources are “trending” across the district—that is, which resources have been used the most in a give time frame—as well as which resources have been used to teach certain standards.

The goal is to give administrators valuable information about what content and strategies are working most effectively, as well as maybe which resources are being underused within a school or district, said Leah Schrader, uClass community manager.

“We were collecting all this data in the background … and we thought, ‘Let’s build a tool to put this information to use,’” Schrader said.

(Next page: More details about these analytics tools—and an invitation for schools to pilot them)