Seven Ways to Prime Professional Development For Secondary Math Teachers

1. Think tomorrow.

The most valuable gift you can give teachers during professional development is a strategy, lesson or resource they can use in class the next day. Give teachers the opportunity to dive into the training as students and reflect as teachers as you model instructional strategies. They will be better able to anticipate what their own students will require and understand how best to meet their needs.

2. Keep it real.
Math teachers spend a lot of time looking for relevant math applications for their students so come prepared with good examples they can use in their classrooms. Provide problems that will help their students make connections to math in the real world now, not just prepare them for the next math course. Students want to solve problems that matter to them so include a wide variety of applications that will have universal appeal for secondary students.

3. Use power tools.
Half of the battle is getting students excited enough about math that they will be ready to learn and willing to persevere. Use every available medium to engage students immediately so they understand the context for a math concept. Video is a powerful medium to show students things they may not be able to understand abstractly. It’s one of the best way to bring real world examples into the classroom and can quickly put to rest the question every math teacher dreads: When will I ever use this?

4. Practice flexible fidelity.
Quality professional development begins with a quality roadmap. However, it may be necessary to veer from the roadmap in order to meet the needs of your audience. You may have to make overall changes in the plan or slight adjustments for certain segments of the audience. Continuous check-ins during the training will dictate when you have to go off script. By modeling this as a facilitator, you will be giving teachers ready-made tools for differentiating instruction for their own students.

5. Dare to be ambiguous.
Approach professional development the way math should be approached in the classroom. That means you don’t have to be quick to answer participants’ questions. Instead, give others in the session a voice and tap their expertise. Demonstrate that real life and real world problems are often ambiguous and that there isn’t always a neat answer or just one way to solve a problem. Model as many opportunities for participants to use their problem solving and critical thinking skills as possible so that they will know how to create the same experiences with their students.

6. Demystify digital.
Math teachers may not be teaching with devices so it’s important to reinforce that while sound instructional pedagogy is still paramount, the digital transition is a reality. In addition to the ins and outs of using digital technology, provide practical classroom management ideas teachers may not even be aware of when using devices. For example, share verbal and visual cues for when students should close their laptops and direct their attention to the teacher. Sounds simple, but for the novice digital facilitator, classroom management is one of many balls they will be juggling.

7. Connect with credibility.
You have done your homework ahead of time and determined specifics about your audience so you are prepared when you walk into the training. Make use of the 10-15 minutes before your session begins to build a rapport with participants while further assessing them as they walk in. You can find out valuable information about them that will help you customize their experience and build your credibility as a knowledgeable facilitator who can meet teachers where they are and ensure they walk away learning something new.

About the author
Lynnell S. Matthews, Ph.D, is a seasoned mathematics educator, with more than 20 years experience in all facets of undergraduate mathematics education. In her role at Discovery Education, Dr. Matthews develops and delivers mathematics and digital integration strategies with K-12 teachers and administrators across the country. She received her B.S. from Towson State University, and both her M.S. and Ph.D in mathematics from Howard University in Washington, D.C.


Leveraging EdTech for Personalized Learning, San Juan USD Implements Schoology Districtwide

Grassroots Growth in District Drives Implementation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – October 30, 2014—In San Juan Unified School District, over 22,000 teachers, parents and students have been using the Schoology ( Learning Management System for everything from online book studies to web-enabled collaborative learning. With so many District users and educational applications already in place, San Juan USD made the decision to invest in the enterprise version of Schoology—which provides additional analytics, integration with the District’s student information system, and administrative features–to deploy throughout the District. Click to Tweet.

Schoology is a learning management system that enhances schools’ ability to power collaboration, communication and resource sharing. Educators can build media-rich learning communities within Schoology where students share, collaborate and learn together in class and beyond the classroom walls—even from a smartphone. San Juan USD has a clear vision for deploying Schoology districtwide including the work teachers have already started, creating and curating Common Core aligned curriculum to be stored and easily accessed right from within Schoology. They are also using Schoology as a repository for digital learning resources (also called OER, or Open Education Resources like Khan Academy and that will be aligned and tagged for districtwide use.

“Quite a few San Juan teachers have already found Schoology to be an easy to use, yet powerful teaching tool so we will build on those experiences as we deploy Schoology throughout the district,” said Carl Fahle, senior director of technology for SJUSD. “Schoology’s features fit well with San Juan’s goal in helping students acquire 21st Century skills such as effective communication in any medium, collaboration, critical thinking, and the appropriate application of technology.”

“Schoology doesn’t just benefit students. It allows us to provide online and blended PD for teachers while giving them a private community to build their professional skills. It also allows for many creative applications of learning like building personal learning communities for students,” said Kalei Eskridge, a teacher on special assignment who has used Schoology for professional development. “Our teachers see Schoology’s potential for a variety of situations like self-paced instruction, face-to-face teaching, blended learning, and 1:1 instruction using devices like iPads, Chromebooks or almost any other computing device.”

There are numerous examples of Schoology already being used in San Juan classrooms for everything from enrichment to teaching students coding. Leslie Wriston, a teacher on special assignment, ran an online book study for GATE (gifted and talented education) students located at various sites without a GATE program at their own schools. Location didn’t hinder these students who communicated with their teacher and their peers using Schoology. In another application during the summer, a group of students took a coding class that used Schoology as a “Digital Hub” for all their lessons and resources.

District staff have developed a formal training and deployment plan in conjunction with the district’s Strategic Plan, which is currently under revision. “Schoology is a terrific resource for achieving many of the objectives outlined in the district’s Strategic Plan, which recognizes that students learn in different ways and at varied paces. This is one of many tools we’ve put in place to meet our students’ needs and help them achieve remarkable results.” added Mr. Fahle.


15 Years Later, EdTech Company Still Keeping Students Safe

Gaggle Featured in Recent Media Stories, Releases New Video Series on Student Safety
Bloomington, IL (October 29, 2014) – Since the start of the school year, Gaggle Safety Management has identified nearly 2,000 instances of potential violence to a student or others, including self-harm, suicide, fights, threats of violence and more.

Gaggle helps detect potential issues early, alerting district officials at any hour if a threat is imminent and allowing educators and parents to intervene positively. The company has been providing safe online learning tools for K-12 education since 1999.

The unfortunate event last week in Marysville, WA, has resulted in more interest in Gaggle Safety Management from both schools and the media. Earlier this week, KOMO News in Seattle turned to Gaggle for advice to schools and parents ( while earlier in the month, WCNC-TV in North Carolina featured how Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools use Gaggle to keep their students safe (

In response to these inquiries, the company has published a series of video vignettes entitled, “Real Students. Real Stories.” that further explain how schools benefit from Gaggle Safety Management. Watch the video series on YouTube or by visiting

“Gaggle Safety Management is a service that a lot of people probably don’t want to talk about,” said Jeff Patterson, Gaggle’s CEO and founder, “but, quite frankly, it’s saving lives and preventing events like the one that happened in Marysville, Washington.”

Gaggle removes the need for educators to review questionable communications so they can concentrate on classroom instruction. The company also works with schools on developing ways to educate their students on digital citizenship through professional development and content initiatives such as infographics, blog posts and webinars.

How to Keep Your Students Safe infographic:

“When school violence occurs, discussions often turn to gun control laws or mental health issues,” said Patterson. “What’s equally important is addressing digital citizenship and working with students on ways to use technology as a positive force in their lives.”

About Gaggle
Specifically created for K-12, Gaggle features built-in processes and classroom workflows designed to promote educator and student productivity. Teachers can easily create, assign, collect and correct assignments on their schedule while promoting student engagement and embracing the benefits of social networking in a safe and controlled environment.

Gaggle has won numerous industry awards, including District Administration magazine 2013 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Product and a 2012 CODiE Award Winner for Best Cross-Curricular Solution. For more information, visit or call 800-288-7750.


Scholastic Announces First-of-Their-Kind Literacy Events to Help Schools Support Family and Community Engagement

NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 30, 2014) – Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company, today announced the release of Scholastic Literacy Events, comprehensive family engagement kits that educators can use to engage families in their children’s literacy development.

The Literacy Events were created by the Scholastic FACE (Family and Community Engagement) group in response to the recent release of the U.S. Department of Education’s Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, with the assistance of Dr. Karen Mapp from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The framework outlines research-based best practices for schools to effectively engage families and community organizations in support of raising student achievement. The Literacy Events are designed to help cultivate and sustain best practice strategies aligned with the framework. Scholastic’s Literacy Events provide tools for districts, schools, teachers, community groups and families to increase their capacity to work together by addressing the framework’s “4 C’s of Capacity:” Capabilities, Connections, Cognition and Confidence.

“Family engagement in a student’s academic career can have a significant impact on the student’s attendance, academic achievement and overall attitude about school,” said Dr. Mapp. “It is important that schools not only show families that they are capable of supporting their children academically but also provide them with the tools to do so.”

“It is our mission to promote literacy for every student in every way possible,” said Greg Worrell, President of the Scholastic Classroom and Community Group. “By providing books and educational materials to students and families of all socio-economic backgrounds, we can ensure that students are exposed to language and learning from a young age. With strong family and community support, the proper tools and hard work, a student’s potential for success is limitless.”

Two themes have been designed for each grade: Spotlight on Reading released July 2014, and The Reading and Writing Connection to be released October 2014.

Each Literacy Event includes a teacher planning guide, three take-home books for students, activity cards to prompt discussion, a welcome banner, a poster and a bulletin board banner.

For more information about Scholastic, visit our media room at
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New pilot links online resources with 3D printers

3D-printerAs the Maker Movement gains momentum, and as educators and students look for innovative ways to demonstrate learning concepts, 3D printers have emerged as a way for students in a variety of subject areas to incorporate technology into their learning.

Tinkerine Studios Ltd., a 3D printer manufacturer and distributor, recently announced the launch of its Tinkerine U school pilot program.

The pilot will run through Jan. 31, 2015, and will initially involve more than 250 educators and administrators from around the world, anchored by 8 school districts in British Columbia, Canada.

Tinkerine U is a multifaceted initiative that encompasses traditional classrooms or online learning, and is for learners of all ages.

The pilot is aimed at novices, DIYers, experts, business professionals, and anyone who hopes to learn more about 3D printing.

Company representatives said the company’s intent is to run lectures, workshops, and special events on an ongoing basis.

“We believe that teachers and students of all abilities and interests, from elementary school to high school, can incorporate 3D printing into their teaching and learning,” said Tinkerine U Managing Director Kevin Brandt. “To support them, we created a suite of lesson plans and three dimensional model files. Our goal is to familiarize teachers with the process and practice of 3D printing, enabling them to bring the newest technology into their classroom in both a meaningful and authentic way to engage their students in active learning.”

Tinkerine U’s academic lessons are written by teachers, for teachers, and are aligned with government and state prescribed learning outcomes.

“We want to support early adopters of this technology, and inspire as many entrepreneurs, innovative thinkers and new learners of 3D printing,” said Tinkerine CEO Eugene Suyu.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


7 TED Talks about gaming’s potential

These TED Talks highlight promising and inspiring concepts, including gaming in education

gaming-TEDEvery 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: 7 TED Talks about gaming)


Cognitive assessment leaps into the digital age

Digitized cognitive assessments can enhance diagnostic accuracy, while enabling the integration of new knowledge of cognitive processes into assessments

cognitive-assessment-digitalCognitive ability tests, including those assessing intelligence, have long played a pivotal role in measuring normal and abnormal cognitive development in children.

Used in conjunction with other data, cognitive testing is a valuable method for gathering reliable information about a child’s learning ability and cognitive strengths and weaknesses. This testing also is used to determine how these factors can potentially influence a child’s academic progress. School psychologists, in conjunction with educators, use information from cognitive assessments to help create personalized learning plans for students in need of remediation.

Thanks to recent technological advancements, today’s cognitive assessments provide on-the-fly data that help determine whether a student’s academic progress is matching his or her ability level. This information, when considered along with other factors such as attention and motivation, can help educators develop appropriate learning plans for a student and advocate for individualized support based on specific needs.

Evolution of cognitive assessment

While there are several cognitive assessments commonly used in schools today, among the most trusted are the Wechsler Scales, one of which is the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children® (WISC). Originally devised in the 1949, the WISC has long been heralded for its ability to identify areas of cognitive strength and weakness in school-aged children and is considered by many to be the world’s foremost cognitive assessment.

Over the years, the tests we use to measure cognitive ability have evolved. A greater understanding of cognitive development and processes has enabled the development of subtests that help us measure specific cognitive functions. Additionally, scoring efficiency and accuracy have improved. In the past year, however, cognitive and other well-known assessments have advanced at a rate we have not seen to date, culminating in a digital version of the WISC–V that uses tablets to administer and score the test

(Next page: The benefits of digital cognitive assessments)


Google, gaming, and going mobile: Today’s 5 tech trends

Trends point to a handful of major ed-tech focus areas that grab educators’ attention

ed-techA few years ago the education world found itself entranced by the iPad, a powerful tablet that promised to revolutionize one-to-one programs and revitalize teacher engagement with technology in the wake of sweeping mobile device adoptions. For years, the iPad seemed to dominate educators’ discussions. Now, that storm seems to have passed, as educators and ed-tech enthusiasts are broadening their horizons and looking to the future.

Last week, a group of educators from California and across the U.S. converged on a Napa Valley high school for the Fall CUE 2014 Conference, centered around a theme of next-generation learning.

Here are 5 takeaways from the sessions, tweets, and conversations that came up time and again during the conference, and which offer a revealing glimpse into the types of technology and interventions educators are turning to now.

(Next page: The five ed-tech conversations dominating educators’ conversations)


Leading the Digital Leap

digital-leapDespite the fact that technology use is part of daily life, on balance, schools’ use of technology remains far from ubiquitous. There is no question that some teachers, principals, and district leaders have made considerable progress in using technology to transform learning. And there are strong examples of school districts that are leading digital change system-wide. However, there exists a major challenge: Few school systems have found a way to create a sustainable, digitally-enabled ecosystem.

The irony is real: Some school systems have not yet realized the promise of technology, for reasons that are varied and complex. Many schools and classrooms lack robust technology infrastructure due to affordability and adequate funding barriers, as identified in CoSN and AASA’s new national E-rate and infrastructure survey. Other factors include district cultures where there is apprehension and often aversion to changes that occur through technology, or a history of past tech investments that were not well-aligned to district needs. While in other cases, districts’ inability to experience an effective digital transformation rests with a lack of human capacity and communication, from vision setting to technical implementation.

District administrators and school board members, though, have an opportunity today to surmount these barriers. To empower K-12 system leaders to make or advance their digital leap, we at AASA, CoSN, and NSBA have formed a powerful partnership. This partnership, which brings together the leading professional organizations for superintendents, district technology leaders, and school boards nationwide, lends our knowledge, resources, and networks to help school system leaders strengthen their ability to lead the digital leap.

(Next page: What is the digital leap?)