App of the Week: Interactive whiteboards for everyone

whiteboard-appName: Conojo

What is it? Conojo is an innovative drawing tool that makes it easier to share ideas, images, notes, and any other visual manifestation you can think of.

Best for: Students and teachers

Price: $2.99

Requirements: iOS 7.0 or later

Features:

  • Narrate and record your in-app brainstorming sessions and export them to social media and email in seconds.
  • Work live with colleagues, classmates, or friends to freely coordinate and communicate.
  • Seamlessly share your designs with friends and colleagues via email, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, and more.
  • Work with a multitude of helpful tools for free hand drawing or creating unique concept maps.
  • Type up notes with over 100 stylish fonts.
  • Effortlessly import and export project files, compatible with all major file types.
  • Learn more with our numerous Training Videos and ‘Learn How to Draw’ Videos for beginners.

Link: iTunes 

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7 resources for student collaboration

Student collaboration is more important than ever–here are some tools to support it

collaboration-toolsCollaboration is increasingly emerging as one of today’s top skills. Part of the 4Cs, it is needed in K-12 classrooms, in higher education, and in the workforce. Students who leverage technology to build collaboration skills are building strong college- and career-ready skills.

More and more classrooms are going mobile, whether that is through school-issued laptops or tablets, or via BYOD initiatives that allow students to bring and use their personal mobile devices in school.

However collaboration is accomplished, it’s evident that mobile collaboration tools are as important as ever.

Here, we’ve listed a number of free and fee-based collaborative tools and apps, along with developer-provided descriptions, for students to use as they develop collaboration skills in and out of school. This is just a small sample of collaborative tools, and if you have a favorite that is not listed, please let us know in the comments section below.

(Next page: Collaboration tools for students)

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What students really think about learning online

Online German teacher Susan Lafky reveals what her students say about web-based instruction

students-learning-onlineAfter recently posting two pieces about being an online teacher on the Middlebury Interactive Languages’ blog, I realized something was missing from the conversation: the voice of the students actually taking the digital classes.

So I polled my German language students, asking one simple question: “What do you like most about learning German online?” Participation was completely voluntary, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of students who took the time to respond.

When reviewing the students’ comments, some clear themes emerged. One of the bigger themes was how much the students value self-paced learning. I have found that with many students, a self-paced structure actually enhances independence, responsibility, and confidence.

If you miss a day you can easily get caught up, and you can work ahead.

I can take my time and not be in a huge rush to finish classes and forget everything I’ve learned.

Doing online schooling has allowed me to work at my own pace, be it faster or slower than everyone else.

Being able to watch (recordings of) classes if you miss them.

To choose at what time of day you do your work.

The fact that it allows you to spend more time on one project more than another if need be.

It helps build quality skills like responsibility and organization.

(Next page: More student feedback—including some of the key challenges they face in school)

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Survey finds gender gaps in school IT leadership

Data from CoSN’s 2014 ‘K-12 IT Leadership Survey’ raise important questions about gender equity in the school technology field

IT-leadership

Forty-eight percent of men in school IT leadership positions earn $100,000 or more, compared with 36 percent of women.

While women who occupy leadership positions in school technology are better educated and have more experience, on average, than their male colleagues, men in the school information technology (IT) field generally earn more money and hold more prestigious job titles: This is the main takeaway from an analysis of IT leadership in K-12 education by gender.

The findings are based on a sampling of data from the Consortium for School Networking’s 2014 “K-12 IT Leadership Survey.” They raise important questions about fairness, compensation, and leadership for women in school IT.

“Our findings reveal that, despite equity gains in recent years across industry sectors, gender disparity and bias [still] exist … in our nation’s schools,” said Keith Krueger, CoSN’s chief executive, in a statement.

“The results should open the eyes of our school leadership and communities to the inequality with which many women technology leaders compete against in the field,” Krueger added. “At a minimum, this issue merits further research and action to ensure women are fully represented and treated fairly throughout their professional careers in K-12 education and elsewhere.”

An analysis of the findings from CoSN’s annual IT leadership survey unearthed the following results:

Representation. Women are less represented in IT leadership positions in K-12 education than men. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed identified themselves as men, whereas just 34 percent were women.

Earnings. Women in school IT leadership positions generally earn less than men. Forty-eight percent of men earn $100,000 or more, whereas 36 percent of women earn that amount. At the low end of the pay scale, 15 percent of men earn less than $70,000, compared with 26 percent of women.

(Next page: Information about job titles, educational attainment, and experience of men vs. women in school IT)

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Four research tools for project-based learning

Digital research tools can help students as they engage in project-based learning

research-projectHere are reviews of four high-quality digital tools that can help with project-based learning, courtesy of Common Sense Media and its new Graphite service–a free database of teacher-written reviews of learning technologies.

Noodle Tools

Grade range: 6-12

What is it? No noodlin’, just serious research with this comprehensive resource

Pros: From creating notecards to listing citations, every step is scaffolded with multiple supports built right in; the site’s focus on the why of research is excellent.

Cons: Through all of its thoroughness, the site could do more to help make the research process more engaging for kids.

Bottom line: NoodleTools gives kids smart, specific assistance where they need it the most — with citations, paraphrasing, and organization, though the details may overwhelm.

ResearchReady

Grade range: 6-12

What is it? Versatile site teaches research skills, offers teachers flexibility

Pros: Research skills get real-life credibility in an accessible format that both instructs and supports learning.

Cons: Despite supportive graphics other accommodations like audio options, translations, and linked definitions aren’t included.

Bottom line: Because the lessons make information literacy accessible, it’s a great resource for teaching research-based units.

EasyBib

Grade range: 7-12

What is it? Helpful citation and writing resource for instant bibliographies

Pros: This handy tool takes all the un-fun parts of writing a research paper and demystifies them, making it less intimidating for students to find and cite the best sources.

Cons: The sidebar ads can be distracting and they’re a little pushy about upgrades if you’re using the free service.

Bottom line: EasyBib takes the pain out of citing sources and gives students and teachers a comprehensive place to organize all research paper-related activity.

CiteLighter

Grade range: 8-12

What is it? Say goodbye to note cards: research and citations made easy for students

Pros: It’s like a one-stop shop for student research, from gathering sources to organizing research and outlining their own writing.

Cons: The automatically compiled bibliography may encourage student passivity rather than inquiry into the why of the citation process.

Bottom line: A smart, intuitive support for all steps of the research paper process; design and sensibility resemble the social media sites teens love.

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5 steps to a problem-solving classroom culture

Math problems can be engaging and thought-provoking with the right instructional strategies

math-problemProblem solving is one of today’s top skills—students who apply problem-solving strategies in the classroom are building important talents for college and the workforce. The math classroom is one of the best places to help students build these skills.

Creating a culture of problem solving in a math classroom or in a school involves prompting students and educators to think a little differently and systemically.

“The world does not need more people who are good at math,” said Gerald Aungst, supervisor of gifted and elementary mathematics in Pennsylvania’s Cheltenhamn Township Schools. “What the world needs are more problem solvers and more innovators.”

“We want people who are innovators, and don’t assume that what people tell them is impossible is impossible,” Aungst said during an edWeb leadership webinar.

One of the most important mindsets comes in realizing that, even in math, the context of a statement makes all the difference. Students should understand more than just the mechanics of math, Aungst said—they should investigate the context, the meaning, and how math problems and concepts work in a particular situation.

The five steps to building a problem-solving culture aren’t quick fixes or easy tips, Aungst said, but can be impactful when applied with the bigger picture of the classroom environment in mind.

(Next page: Five steps to creating a culture of problem solving)

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Wi-Fi in schools: Security vs. accessibility

Wi-Fi in schools can enhance student learning, but addressing the security risks is a good learning opportunity for administrators as well

wi-fiWi-Fi has been adopted with great enthusiasm by schools around the country; the opportunities it presents for learning are vast.

So, recent news that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will spend $2 billion to boost wireless internet connectivity in U.S. schools and libraries during the next two years is a great step forward. While FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has called it a “watershed moment” to give wireless access to an estimated 10 million students, privacy experts are raising a collective eyebrow.

One of the possible downfalls to having students on Wi-Fi networks at school is the clear security risk: The network could be hacked, or a student could bring a virus from home onto the school’s wireless network. The very benefit of Wi-Fi in schools—easy, open access—is also the biggest threat. If it’s easy for the students to access, but it’s just as easy for hackers, that means everything on a school’s Wi-Fi network is vulnerable.

The FCC initiative is clearly aimed at promoting education and bringing schools up to speed, but is the department helping school administrators understand the risks, or simply doling out the cash without further security advice?

(Next page: Examples of the vulnerability of data in our school systems)

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Interactive U.S. history series for tablets

history-libraryAs the new school year begins, the Library of Congress invites students everywhere to touch, draw on and explore some of its most valuable treasures—all via a new set of free interactive eBooks for tablets.

The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details and make notes about what they discover.

The first six Student Discovery Sets are available now for the iPad, and can be downloaded for free on iBooks. These sets cover the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, and Understanding the Cosmos.

With a swipe of a finger, learners can peer into the workshop where the Statue of Liberty was built, scrutinize George Washington’s notes on the Constitution, and zoom in on the faces of new arrivals at Ellis Island. Using the portability that tablets bring, students can hand their work to a classmate to collaborate.

The objects in the Student Discovery Sets are primary sources—items created by eyewitnesses to history. From Galileo’s drawings of the moon to Zora Neale Hurston’s plays to Thomas Edison’s films, these maps, songs, posters, sheet music and iconic images immerse students in history, culture and science and give them the power to explore.

Primary sources have unique instructional power, says the Library’s director of Educational Outreach, Lee Ann Potter. “By analyzing primary sources, students can engage with complex content, build their critical thinking skills and create new knowledge. The Library’s new Student Discovery Sets provide rich tools for launching that process of analysis and discovery.”

The sets are designed for students, providing easy access to open-ended exploration. A Teacher’s Guide for each set, with background information, teaching ideas` and additional resources, is one click away on the Library’s website for teachers, www.loc.gov/teachers/. Regular tips and resources for teachers are available on the Teaching with the Library of Congress Twitter feed, @TeachingLC.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

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