Why a flexible SIS is a key to mobile learning success

Without a well-rounded student information system (SIS), Center Grove would need multiple software programs to manage its Mobile Minds initiative

flexible-SISExpectations for today’s school districts are higher than ever. Despite increasingly tight budgets and fewer resources, districts are required to operate efficiently and ensure streamlined communications.

The Center Grove Community School Corporation understood these challenges firsthand with the implementation of a one-to-one mobile learning program throughout the high school. When executing a successful one-to-one rollout, you cannot overlook the details.

Nowhere was that more true than on July 30, the second day of school this year. The Center Grove Technology Department deployed 2,200 iPads with a staff of 20, all before lunch. In fact, most students at Center Grove High School missed fewer than 15 minutes of instructional time collecting their iPads.

Located in Greenwood, Indiana, Center Grove Community School Corporation consists of more than 1,200 teachers and employees serving nearly 8,000 students across five elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school, and an online Global Campus.

The highly efficient process of deploying iPads was made possible with support of one of the district’s primary software packages, a student information system (SIS) from Skyward Inc. The Skyward Student Management Suite manages the deployment and day-to-day logistics of Center Grove’s one-to-one initiative, called “Mobile Minds.”

(Next page: How the Skyward SIS is powering Center Grove’s Mobile Minds initiative)

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Mobile learning’s major impact

More and more schools turn to mobile technologies as preferred learning tools

mobile-trendsAs mobile learning cements its place in U.S. education, its impact continues to expand throughout school districts across the nation.

Last year, Apple’s education sales broke $1 billion for the first time ever, and iPads continue to hold the market share among education tablets.

Mobile learning leverages the power of the internet to expand students’ learning opportunities. In fact, 92 percent of teachers said they have greater access to educational content, resources, and material due to the internet.

(Next page: Mobile learning on the rise)

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Teacher leaders meet in online community

teacher-leaderThe U.S. Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards today unveiled Commit to Lead, a new online community that makes it easy for educators to share ideas for teacher leadership and collaborate to bring these ideas to fruition. The community enables educators everywhere to provide feedback and vote on each other’s ideas, allowing the most talked about ideas to rise to the top so they can gain traction and prominence in the field. Commit to Lead is the online platform of Teach to Lead, an initiative to promote teacher leadership convened by the Department and the National Board.

“Commit to Lead directly engages educators in defining what teacher leadership can and should look like in their communities, so that collectively we can help make teacher leadership part of the fabric and culture of every school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “It builds on the great work that already exists in the field, and invites the creation of new ideas. It represents one step in our ongoing commitment to listen to educators and support their vital leadership of their profession.”

Commit to Lead invites members to post quick ideas—in under 300 words—that advance teacher leadership in their school, district or state to address a pressing problem in education and improve student outcomes. Reflecting the diversity of teacher leadership efforts, members are asked to select from a broad list of categories for their idea. To ensure a productive dialogue, the community does not allow political statements or advertisements, only genuine ideas and input to advance teacher leadership. Members can promote their ideas on social media, helping to spur the conversation beyond their own school buildings and districts, and can search existing ideas by keywords and location.

“In all true professions, the voices of accomplished practitioners are at the forefront of shaping policy and practice—the same must be true for teaching,” said Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board. “The National Board is working with the U.S. Department of Education and supporters to build a continuum in teaching that makes board certification the norm for teachers and supports multiple paths for more experienced teachers to spread their expertise to their colleagues through both formal and informal roles.”

Ideas posted during a beta launch of Commit to Lead include:

  • Adding teacher perspective to state policy by inviting state education leaders to visit classrooms to speak directly with teachers and inviting educators to participate in feedback sessions and working groups at the State Department of Education. (Submitted by member in Plantsville, Connecticut.)
  • Building a pipeline of new teacher leaders by creating a partnership between a college of education and a local K-12 school connecting freshman pre-service teachers with established teacher leaders. (Submitted by a member in Palatine, Illinois.)
  • Starting an online professional learning community for Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers to share resources and strategies for integrating literacy into their classes. (Submitted by a member in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.)
  • Training lead teachers to serve as peer observers to provide feedback and support to their fellow teachers. (Submitted by a member in Palo Alto, California.)
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6 ways texting can improve school communications

SMS texting is the most cost-effective and convenient technology to use in strengthening ties with parents, the author argues

textingA written note home can get lost, “eaten by the dog,” or sit on the kitchen counter to be used as a coaster for weeks on end. eMails get sent to spam, accidentally deleted, or aren’t read in a timely manner. And, honestly, how often do people pick up the phone anymore?

Students touch their cell phones 43 times a day and send about 60 texts, showing that mobile technology is the best way to reach them. And with 91 percent of adults owning cell phones, texting is actually the most efficient means of communication with parents, too—especially for schools.

Here are six ways that SMS texting can help improve your school’s communication with both parents and students.

Parents

1. Reminders: With one push of a button, you can send instant text reminders and details to parents about upcoming events, assemblies, and teacher conferences. Who’s bringing what snack? What time is the play? Keep parents engaged in school activities by making sure they have all the relevant information.

(Next page: More ways to improve communication via texting)

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Get the stats on STEM vs. STEAM

Advocates say STEAM education–with an “a” for the arts–should trump STEM education

STEM-STEAMSTEM education is, by now, familiar to educators and parents across the country. Without STEM knowledge, students won’t be well-prepared to enter college and the workforce. But some are hoping that STEAM education, which includes the arts, will receive more support in classrooms.

According to research compiled by the University of Florida, students who engage in music education often perform better on math tasks. For instance, one study showed that students who took music appreciation scored 61 points higher on their SAT verbal section and 42 points higher on the SAT math section.

The most common elementary school arts subjects include music (94 percent) and visual arts (83 percent), with a few schools offering dance (3 percent) and theater (4 percent).

(Next page: Comparing STEM vs. STEAM research)

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Vocational education is making a comeback

The future is bright as traditional academic institutions and vocational schools are reinventing how students learn

vocational-educationWhen you think about vocational education, you might conjure up a picture of a mechanic or a carpenter. Historically, vocational education, rooted in learning a particular skill set, was positioned in direct contrast with traditional higher-education learning, based primarily on academic theory.

Vocational education often was deemed a second-tier educational choice for those who could not go to college. Today, however, vocational education is making a comeback.

In today’s information economy, demand for specialized, technical skills has become a necessity. With a blurring of lines between skills-based and theory-based education, it’s worth exploring the impact of vocational training on the future of education.

The number of niche providers of vocational training is on the rise, particularly in areas where specialized skills are required for job advancement. Schools have redesigned programs to be shorter-term and focused exclusively on skill-building. For example, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy offers marketing bootcamps for students, and General Assembly offers product management and web development immersion courses.

We have also seen this demand for specialized skills in the computer coding market. Coding has been hailed as the untapped opportunity in the U.S. job market, with computer programming jobs growing at two times the national average of other job growth. However, less than 2 percent college graduates leave with computer science degrees. In response, vocational schools like the New York Code and Design Academy have been popping up across the country to teach students the computer skills they need to excel in as little as two months.

(Next page: Three ways to adopt vocational education into your curriculum)

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How to avoid eRate rule violations

The FCC is investing millions of dollars to remove eRate waste, fraud, and abuse. Here’s how to make sure you’re not caught in its net

eRate-violationsThis summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a Universal Service Fund (USF) Strike Force, which is tasked with combating waste, fraud, and abuse in various USF programs, including the eRate.

This newly created Strike Force, which is part of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, will almost certainly expend considerable resources ensuring that the procurement practices of schools receiving eRate funding comply with FCC rules.

To avoid a future encounter with the Strike Force, schools should re-evaluate their internal compliance programs—and here’s how.

For schools, one of the biggest challenges in the eRate process has been complying simultaneously with state and local procurement rules and with the separate, occasionally inconsistent requirements of the eRate.

While the eRate requires adherence to state and local procurement laws, the program also requires applicants to comply with a number of rules that are unique to the program, or face a denial of funding. Because these eRate rules are not always ingrained into a school district’s procurement practices, they are sometimes ignored or misinterpreted—with disastrous results.

(Next page: The most common eRate rule violations—and how to avoid them)

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App of the Week: Get interactive with museum art

art-appName: NGAkids Art Zone

What is it? This app contains eight new hands-on activities inspired by works in the National Gallery of Art collection.

Best for: Students ages 9-11

Price: Free

Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later

Features: The NGAkids app provides an immersive experience as children visit a virtual art gallery and explore a variety of works spanning more than 300 years of art history. High-resolution graphics, careful attention to detail, and a variety of subjects, painting styles, and techniques help cultivate an authentic understanding of the artistic process and reinforce users’ familiarity with the fundamental elements of art. Unexpected animation and audio features further enliven the program and foster fun learning experiences.

There are 10 sections to explore: Portrait, Landscape, Seascape, Still Life, Action Painting, Exploring Color, Color Field, Collage, Sketchbook, and My Art Gallery.

Link: iTunes

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