FCC proposes $1.5B E-rate increase

Proposal would bring nation’s classrooms into digital age with federal E-rate funding boost

E-rate-internetThe federal E-rate program could see a $1.5 billion increase if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves a proposal set forth by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Nov. 17.

The increase would come as a result of an increase in fees in consumers’ monthly phone bills. According to a program fact sheet, individuals would see an increase of roughly 16 cents per month, or $1.90 a year.

Under the proposal, the annual E-rate program cap would increase from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.

Today, more than 40 million students do not have high-speed broadband access in their classrooms.

Sixty-eight percent of all school districts said not a single school in their district can meet high-speed internet connectivity goals today. That number jumps to 73 percent for rural districts, which have an even more difficult time accessing fiber networks (41 percent versus 31 percent of urban and suburban public schools).

“While the connected home is commonplace, the connected classroom and library is not,” Wheeler said in a press call to announce the plan.

(Next page: Details about the proposed E-rate increase)


Online assessments a challenge for states rethinking Common Core

School districts in states undecided on Common Core remain focused but nimble as spring 2015 assessment deadline looms

assessment-commonReceiving a mandate to support Common Core assessments can be challenging enough for a district IT team, but what happens when your state is yo-yo’ing on Common Core and debating whether it will continue to embrace the standards or implement its own approach? That’s precisely what Sheryl Abshire, CTO at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., is grappling with right now.

The Common Core argument in Louisiana is highly charged and political in nature, but in a nutshell, the state’s commitment to adopting the new standards has been challenged on several fronts. For example, originally backed by Louisiana’s governor and state superintendent, a PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing contract was recently cancelled and an overall feeling that Common Core was “not right for the state” began to prevail, says Abshire.

“That came as somewhat of a shock for practitioners, both in terms of the technology and the curriculum itself,” says Abshire, who has been in public education for more than 40 years. Over the last few years, she and other K-12 IT experts have put a lot of time and energy into prepping their schools for Common Core assessments. In 2013, for example, many parishes field-tested the PARCC assessment and examined key points such as bandwidth capacity (e.g., will certain applications need to be shut down to free up bandwidth for the testing?), desktop computer availability, and potential demand/usage by students.

(Next page: Ready, but nimble)


App of the Week: Get a little ‘brainly’

App name: Brainly

app-brainlyWhat is it? Got a problem with homework? Get the Brainly app and ask questions about what’s causing you trouble.

Best for: Students

Price: Free

Requirements: iOS 7.0 or later; varies with Android device

Features: Now, when you have a problem with a homework assignment or subject, you can use your smartphone to get help with your homework, quickly and for free.

Link: iTunes, Android


Georgia district extends free broadband to Title I schools

Partnership with Kajeet Education enables district’s mobile broadband expansion

broadband-accessThrough a partnership with wireless service provider Kajeet, Georgia’s Fayette County Schools are offering mobile broadband coverage to students in the district’s Title I schools.

Partnering with 47 districts in 20 states, Kajeet is keeping students connected to online textbooks, apps, emails, documents and websites, as well as their teachers, with its Kajeet SmartSpot solution to ensure that students have a level playing field for academic success.

“The pen and paper days are gone in school, but when kids needed paper and pencil, we provided the materials,” said Clarice Howard, Title I Coordinator for Fayette County Schools. “Today all students need access to computing devices. Through Title I funds, our district provided devices for those who couldn’t afford them, and, with the need to extend the learning day, it’s our responsibility to level the playing field for these children by providing equipment for connectivity after school.”

(Next page: How Kajeet’s SmartSpot extends broadband access for students)


Schools gain free gaming with SimCityEDU

Partnership between game developer and ed-tech company grants free gaming access for 2014-2015 school year

gaming-freeNonprofit developer GlassLab will partner with education technology company Clever, so that schools using Clever Instant Login can access GlassLab’s SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, for free, for the 2014-2015 school year.

Clever provides school districts with simple and secure integration with their student information system (SIS) and offers students and teachers single sign-on access to their favorite applications.

Designed in partnership with Electronic Arts, Inc. and assessment experts from ETS and Pearson, SimCityEDU teaches students about the factors affecting the environment in a modern city while providing formative assessment information about students’ ability to problem solve. By explaining and fostering a greater understanding of relationships in complex systems, SimCityEDU reinforces the core skills deemed critical by states for college and the 21st century workplace.

“We know teachers want to use games in their classroom, so we’re always searching for ways to make it easier for them to do that. Clever makes it even easier to use SimCityEDU in any classroom in the country. We’re thrilled to be working with a partner that values ease-of-access as much as we do, and excited to reach even more educators and classrooms with Clever,” said GlassLab Executive Director, Jessica Lindl.

Districts can add SimCityEDU to their Clever Instant Login account and students and teachers will be able to log in to SimCityEDU with one click, no longer wasting time with multiple usernames and passwords.

“SimCityEDU is a new learning game both teachers and students are clamoring to get their hands on. We are thrilled to help make it easy and secure for schools to adopt and use it as part of this next wave of digital learning innovation,” said Clever CEO Tyler Bosmeny. “Since both Clever and SimCity EDU are free to schools, together we are helping to usher in new learning options for schools that may have been previously unavailable.”

In November of 2013, GlassLab released SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, the first of a new generation of educational games built to meet the needs of today’s students and teachers by creating dynamic new game-based tools that make the most of classroom technology and engage students while providing teachers with real-time assessments of Common Core skills that they can trust for guiding instruction. Glasslab’s team draws on the talents of a world-class group of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Most come from commercial game development, educational technology, or academic research in learning and assessment, and all share a passion for doing work that improves learning outcomes while maintaining a high level of student engagement.

For more information about SimCityEDU, visit www.glasslabgames.org/games.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


5 Twitter hashtags you should be searching

Regularly searching education-related Twitter hashtags can help educators expand their professional growth

twitter-hashtagSocial media remains a game-changer in education. Through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, students are able to collaborate on projects or discussions about assignments.

Educators connect with peers across their district, state, or, in many cases, across the world. This ability to stay connected has led to the development of professional learning networks, sometimes called professional learning communities, in which educators build networks of peers they admire, those they share common interests with, and those they hope to learn from.

Much of this connecting occurs on Twitter. Many states have regular Twitter chats focusing on general education or highlighting specific education topics.

(Next page: Five Twitter hashtags and recent tweets containing those hashtags)


Companies partner on digital safety initiative

Intel Security and Discovery Education join together for three-year digital safety education effort

digital-safetyIntel Security and Discovery Education are partnering on a three-year initiative, the Intel Security Digital Safety Program, designed to teach children to “Think Before You Link” and make safer decisions when using the internet.

The Intel Security Digital Safety Program will equip educators, students and parents with the tools they need to be confident, safe digital citizens.

“Teaching our kids to be safe and savvy online is one of the most important things we can be doing,” said Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer of McAfee. “If we’re successful in these kinds of endeavors, we’ll be contributing not only to kids’ personal well-being but also to their future education and careers – all of which will spur economic development.”

(Next page: Program resources and focus areas)


Digital Bytes zeroes in on digital citizenship, media consumption

New resource aims to help students think critically about digital situations

digital-securityToday’s increasingly mobile and connected world presents both opportunities and challenges for students and educators.

On one hand, students have the ability to connect with peers and experts across the globe. On the other, this more open type of communication can expose students to unsafe online situations.

Digital citizenship–the idea that students have the opportunity to create a positive and powerful digital footprint, and must know how to conduct themselves while interacting online–aims to teach students about leveraging the power of the internet while also remaining safe and responsible.

(Next page: What Digital Bytes will offer users)


6 tools for parent-teacher collaboration

Mobile devices make it easier for parents and teachers to collaborate and communicate

parents-teachersEducators know that students’ home lives play an integral role in their academic success. Communication between teachers and parents makes it easier for educators to understand the outside challenges students may deal with, and it helps parents understand how they can better support their children in school.

In August, we brought you five tools that parents and teachers could use to start the school year off connected.

As winter break looms in the not-too-distant future, and as report cards might prompt some parents to touch base with teachers more often, here are six more tools to help facilitate communication.

(Next page: Six apps for parent-teacher communication and collaboration)


Can BYOD be a reality?

Is BYOD a trend brought on by marketing or can it really be a reality?

BYOD-contribWe have all heard the term BYOD/BYOT and many of us have even implemented such a program in our institutions. The thought of offsetting district expenditures by having students supply their own devices is certainly an eye opening thought. Can a BYOD truly exist without a district supplied one-to-one option or similar district solution? It’s something I wrestle with each time I hear of districts doing one without the other.

The two terms BYOD and one-to-one are typically heard synonymously for the simple fact that in a BYOD only environment, those students who do not have access to their own devices will not be able to participate in online or computer based classroom activities unless provisions are made in each classroom to ensure every child has a device. This in itself can pose its own challenges as certain personal devices may not be able to view resources required by the class.

Flash based activities will not be viewable on iOS devices. Most testing as of today states explicitly that personal devices may not be used, so in this case, we must still have enough district owned devices to tackle the growing number of online assessments.

(Next page: What will districts need to support BYOD?)