5 key steps to safeguarding student data

Understanding data can improve student performance and lead to greater productivity for administrators and teachers; here’s how to protect this information

safeguard-dataToday, more than 90 percent of school districts electronically store data on everything from student demographics and course enrollment, to attendance and test scores on statewide assessments.

As uses of student data continue to expand, districts must be prepared to protect this information and ensure it’s only used for its intended purpose: to help students succeed. Here are five things school districts can do to safeguard their student data.

1. Understand the difference between data privacy and security.

Protecting student data should involve two elements: privacy and security. While there have been more nationwide discussions about student data privacy, securing student information is equally important.

Data privacy can be described as the appropriate use of student information. In essence, how are the data being used? On the other hand, data security refers to the confidentiality and availability of student information. In other words: Who is using the data? To protect student data, school districts should have an understanding of both of these terms and their implications.

(Next page: Steps 2-5)


Why BYOT should begin in elementary school

Veteran educator Linda M. Ward argues why “bring your own technology” (BYOT) programs should begin at the elementary level

byotIn an effort to make technology more available to students, some school districts are adopting “bring your own technology” (BYOT) programs, in which students and staff are allowed to bring devices from home to use on the schools’ networks for educational use.

Usually, districts adopting BYOT programs initiate them at the high school level and allow them to trickle down to the junior high or middle school level. It is the rare school district that will include its elementary populations in this endeavor.

Younger students’ brains are more malleable and can absorb and retain more information than their older counterparts. It is considered a best practice to introduce students to educational topics as well as life skills at a young age, continuing instruction until mastery is shown.

(Next page: What current studies show about young students’ brains, and how that relates to BYOT)


5 must-have tools to hire and develop effective teachers

David Schuler, superintendent of High School District 214, shares five must-have tools to hire and develop effective teachers

tech-tools-teachers-hireI have had the privilege of working in public school administration for a number of years as a former teacher, coach, and currently as a superintendent.

I also serve as past president of the Suburban School Superintendents Association and as president-elect of the American Association of School Administrators, where I am honored and privileged to serve superintendent colleagues across the country and Canada.

A common goal among educational leaders is to increase student achievement. A critical piece of attaining that goal is to recruit, retain, and cultivate an excellent teaching staff. The tools described here are uniquely designed to find, hire, and develop effective teachers—giving students the best opportunity to learn and succeed in this ever-changing global economy.

TeacherMatch Educators Professional Inventory (EPI)

It can be challenging to identify teacher candidates who will positively impact student achievement, especially early in the hiring process. TeacherMatch’s EPI offers predictive data to support and improve hiring decisions. Backed by substantial research and powerful organizations in education research like the Northwest Evaluation Association, TeacherMatch has created a hiring tool that assesses teacher candidates in four main areas: teaching skills, qualifications, cognitive ability, and attitudinal factors. The platform is easy to use, and it integrates with most HR platforms. We have found the EPI assessment to be incredibly insightful and essential in making informed decisions as part of our hiring process.

(Next page: Four more tech tools for hiring and developing effective teachers)


It’s called blended learning (not blended teaching) for a reason

Is your Learning Management System paradigm teacher- or student-centered? Long-term success depends upon the correct answer.

blended-learning-teachingMany educators now accept the need to provide course materials online in a Learning Management System (LMS) or Online Learning Environment (OLE) for blended learning to occur successfully. This allows students to review learning materials at any time and from anywhere, and it opens significant other possibilities.

However, this is only part of the solution as we move toward blended learning. Building these resources and online courses with an effective paradigm as the guiding force is also vital. Without this, we are simply moving an old industrial model to a different medium.

An incorrect paradigm might appear to be subtly different, but the ramifications can be large and long lasting. A historical analogy helps to clarify this.

Humanity thought the Earth was the center of the solar system for thousands of years. This produced errors in calendars, our understanding of the dates of the seasons and thus the time to plant crops, and later, our understanding of the motion of the planets. Simply changing the sun to the center of the solar system rectified this.

Who you have placed at the center of your online course development is similar; it will affect the long-term success of your move to blended or online learning.

There are two basic paradigms: teacher-centric and student-centric.

(Next page: Comparing these two paradigms—and the indicators for each)


Listening, the 21st Century Learner, and the Common Core Standards

tales2go200x300If listening is as critical in the workforce as it is the classroom, how—and when—can the act of listening be taught? Download this white paper for insights on what makes a good listener, how the Common Core standards require this, and how to integrate this key skill into instruction.


K-12 Digital World Language Courses Immerse Students in Language & Culture

Middlebury Interactive’s digital world language courses—from kindergarten through high school and Advanced Placement—utilize principles of the immersion pedagogy and teaching methodology of Middlebury College’s famed Language Schools. Courses are designed at grade level and use interactive media, including animated stories, task-based activities and videos featuring native speakers to take world language learners beyond the classroom setting. These immersive exercises help students acquire tangible language skills and accelerate learning, while teaching cultural awareness.



W.Va. moves to personalized learning

Statewide efforts put personalized learning within students’ reach

personalized-learningEducation leaders in West Virginia are moving forward with an ambitious plan to bring personalized learning to students in a statewide effort under an initiative called Project 24.

Project 24, which advocates for the purposeful and effective use of technology and digital learning in order to position students for college and career readiness, supports districts with planning tools and best practices from experts and education nonprofits.

“Personalized learning can transform how students learn,” said Chip Slaven, council to the president and senior advocacy adviser for the Alliance for Excellence in Education (AEE), which spearheads Project 24. “It changes the traditional classroom from one that operates like an assembly line where every child is being taught in the same manner without regard to individual strengths and needs to a new, flexible model that utilizes a full portfolio of opportunities promoting creativity.”

(Next page: The state’s efforts to achieve personalized learning for students)


Resources to help teachers explain 9/11

The following 9/11 resources for K-12 teachers can help explain this somber day in U.S. history


Photo credit: National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Quiz: Which country has the largest Muslim population? 1) Saudi Arabia 2) Indonesia 3) Egypt 4) Iraq

If you guessed Indonesia, a non-Arab Asian country, you are correct!

OK, what’s with the geography lesson and why is this important?

Millions of Americans and their allies will commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans. This was the biggest terrorist attack against the U.S. since the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II.

Naturally, students have many questions and concerns: Who exactly attacked us? Why did they attack us? Will they attack us again?

While 9/11 is a day for mourning and reflection, it also can serve as a day for knowledge and tolerance.

With all of the content from blogs, pundits, and social media, finding non-hysterical, moderate, and unbiased information on 9/11 can be a daunting task.

How do you plan on teaching the events of 9/11? Share your views in the comments section below and join our growing network of ed-tech professionals on Twitter @eschoolnews.

(Next page: Helpful educator resources for 9/11)


How can we engage all learners? Let students play

When students are put in an environment in which they can learn their own way without fear, they become lifelong independent learners

engage-student-learnersFor most of us, the phrase “games in the classroom” evokes memories of well-used board games (often missing pieces), Jeopardy-style review games, chalkboard games like baseball and hangman, and games handcrafted by creative teachers using any materials at hand.

Some folks might remember playing computer games like Oregon Trail, Math Blasters, or Reader Rabbit. No matter what games you remember, chances are you have strong feelings about them: You either loved them or hated them.

Teachers have always known that games add depth to lessons by engaging students’ imaginations and allowing them to find answers on their own and in their own way. Until recently, however, even the best teachers have been limited by the kinds of games available to them, making it difficult to find games that engage specific types of learners. Whether in the classroom or on the back porch, we play games that appeal to the way we process information.

For every person who loves chess or Settlers of Catan, there is someone who hates them. Personally, I don’t care for first-person shooter games—not because of the content or the potential for violence, but simply because my brain doesn’t think that way. Does that mean the zombie-killing game my friend loves is a worthless time waster? Not at all. For him, that zombie game is creative puzzle solving. The value of a game lies in what we take away from it, not in the game itself.

All learning styles, all the time

It’s in this individual engagement where electronic games win out over traditional games in a classroom setting. The prevalence of computers, interactive whiteboards, and tablets in the classroom has led to the development of education-specific games for all types of learners.

No longer does the auditory learner have to struggle to process the written rules of the board game, the visual learner have to feel anxious when his classmates get excited about the oral test-review game, or the kinesthetic learner have to battle fidgeting while she waits her turn. With electronic games, kinesthetic learners can tap, swipe, and rotate their way to understanding—while auditory learners listen to the information that visual learners internalize through eye-catching graphics.

I’m sure some of you are thinking there are non-electronic games that are suitable for different types of learners, so why make the switch to electronic gaming? The answer is: Learning is not as clear-cut as these learning categories make it seem. People do not learn in only one way. We all share aspects of each of these kinds of learning, and that is where electronic gaming demonstrates its real strengths: electronic games combine the three main types of learning at all times.

(Next page: Understanding how games impact learning—and what research says on this topic)