SETDA launches digital learning implementation guide

Free online resource helps states and districts plan for, implement smart digital learning initiatives

digital-SETDAA new and free resource addressing six focus areas aims to help school leaders implement digital learning initiatives effectively.

The Guide to Implementing Digital Learning (GIDL), from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), is a free web-based resource to support school and district leaders as they work to ensure that investments in digital learning spark positive results.

“Digital learning is more important today than ever before. Our students are digital natives and when students utilize technology in the classroom, they are true 21st century learners,” said Tom Luna, Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction.

GIDL was developed through the input of state educational technology leaders who collaborated across state lines to develop guidance and aggregate resources for, and examples of, effective digital learning implementation. SETDA is proud to have partnered with the Tier I GIDL sponsors, Copia and Curriculum Associates that contributed related resources.

(Next page: Six focus areas in the digital learning guide)


Disney donates $55M in apps, books

Disney Imagicademy apps and books will be donated through First Book over the next three years

book-appAt the White House Summit on Early Education, The Walt Disney Company announced a $55 million in apps and books through First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to educators and programs serving children from low-income families.

The commitment is part of President Obama’s Invest in Us initiative, a challenge to business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, public officials and the public to build a better nation through high-quality early childhood programs for children from birth to age five.

The donation is part of Disney Publishing Worldwide’s launch of Disney Imagicademy, a new, innovative learning brand for families with children ages 3 to 8 designed to inspire a lifelong love of learning and creativity.

Disney Imagicademy offers parents a way to expose their children to fundamental educational concepts in a fun and uniquely Disney way, combining the Disney characters and stories families love, with a research-driven curriculum developed in conjunction with top academic and education experts.

(Next page: Details of the grant)


Making learning limitless

New initiative aims to expand students’ learning opportunities

mobile-learningThe education technology movement has shifted from an experimental phase to the new norm. Standards are changing and teaching methods are evolving because students today are better enabled to not only understand technology in the classroom, but are the drivers for the change.

On Dec. 12, leaders from Samsung, NAF (National Academy Foundation), SOTI, and the Verizon Foundation are joining students in Omaha to roll out the National Academy Foundation Samsung School Solution Initiative. Each device has SOTI MobiControl installed to help students and faculty experience a classroom without walls.

Sitting with students, we witness the command and confidence they have when using technology, wanting to learn more. Teachers become facilitators and coaches; students direct their own learning. These students want to share their knowledge and collaborate more than ever before.

(Next page: More details on the learning program)


Pearson unveils new approach to social studies education

Social studies curriculum was developed in collaboration with educators, experts, and students

social-studiesDeveloping an understanding of social studies–where our society has been and where it is going–is crucial to success in today’s fast-paced, interconnected world.

Last month, Pearson unveiled new secondary social studies programs designed to engage every student in the love of history, geography, government, economics, and culture to provide a foundation for success in civic life as well as college and career.

Created through a collaborative process involving educators, experts and students from around the country, Pearson’s next-generation social studies programs align to the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. The framework, developed and launched last year by the National Council for the Social Studies, shifts the emphasis from delivering content to preparing students for life beyond the classroom.

Kathy Swan, project director and lead writer of the C3 Framework, collaborated with Pearson on the development of the new programs. Swan, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Kentucky, said: “While much of the content in social studies hasn’t changed, if we are going to engage today’s students in learning this important subject, we must transform our instructional approach. Today’s technology provides us with a new way of immersing students in learning about history, geography and culture by personalizing content and actively involving them in thinking in different ways.”

(Next page: How the new social studies programs are designed)


7 ways to keep girls interested in STEM for the long haul

Just 15 percent of U.S. engineers are women. Here’s how to correct that statistic and get girls invested in STEM

girls-stemEngineering is empowering. It encompasses the ability to create whatever you can imagine and thereby change the world for the better. But in the United States, fewer than 15 percent of working engineers are women, despite comprising half of the population. There are a number of possible reasons for this inequality, but a variety of contributing factors take effect at an early age.

Consider that our culture encourages boys to play with construction toys, while girls are given dolls and are expected to be princesses. Boys are praised for being smart while girls are praised for being pretty. Children learn through play; by having the opportunity to build, boys are able to develop spatial reasoning skills in a way that girls aren’t. Classroom expectations also vary by gender; for instance, research has shown that math teachers call on boys far more often than girls.

We need more women to bring their talents and energy into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This process must begin in the elementary school classroom, because by the time they reach middle school it may be too late. Girls may already be discouraged about math and science from earlier negative experiences.

So, the question becomes, how can we encourage more young girls to become interested in careers in the STEM fields?

(Next page: eliminating bias, creating support structures, and other ways to encourage girls)


The best tips for getting your school ready for Common Core assessments

An elearning pro shares how to prioritize to make the transition to online assessments smoother

common core assessmentsAs with anything in life, certain tradeoffs must happen in order for schools to spread already-thin resources across all critical projects. Schools already face this challenge on a daily basis, and now they must become Common Core assessment-ready at a time when resources are especially tight.

“In the end, there have to be some projects and/or expenses that receive lower priority within the district,” says Thomas Ryan, Ph.D., CEO at eLearn Institute, Inc., a nonprofit that helps districts prepare online learning strategies. “At this point, any prioritization that takes place really has to be based on district-wide, long-term decisions.”

Transitioning to a data-driven system
In looking at the digital education shift as a whole, Ryan says some schools are “holding onto the old way of doing things” even as they realize that the shift to online assessments is going to have to happen. “Trying to support a paper-based instructional model and a digital-based model is just too expensive,” says Ryan. “Unless there’s a stream of new funding coming in, schools really need to start putting [digital] transition plans in place.”

To finance such efforts, many districts are reducing traditional (non-digital) expenses to fund online assessment initiatives. For example, Ryan says some school districts are cutting back on copier use and paper expenses, and he points to flip charts, paper clips, pens, and pencils as potential savings areas.

“These items eat up a huge portion of a school’s supply budget,” says Ryan. “When you can divert those funds to tools that will do a better job, you start to save money.”

In helping eACADEMY Virtual High School (a part of Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico) make the transition to digital texts and online content, for example, Ryan says the institution was able to shift costs away from printed book costs; the storage, distribution, collection and replacement of books; and staff members such as textbook clerks.

(Next page: how to share the burden across departments)


A tool in hand is worth… nothing without proper PD

A new ISTE-Verizon program offers schools and districts research-based support and PD for successfully implementing mobile learning

pd-mobileImagine what would happen if hospital leaders announced to surgeons late on a Friday afternoon that when they came to work on Monday they would no longer be doing surgery using the tools they have always used—such as  scalpels, scissors and clamps—and all procedures would be done using new high-tech laser tools, with which they may or may not have familiarity.

How do you think the medical team–the doctors, the nurses and other supporting professionals–would respond? What do you think the patients would say about this abrupt change in standard practice?

Yes, hospital leaders who are mandating this change could argue that technology provides a more accurate way to do surgical procedures, lowering the risk of infection, and potentially decreasing medical expenses. Yet, would this really be the case when the new technologies are being handled by professionals who have not been properly trained in this new way of doing surgery?

Of course, a change of this magnitude would never be implemented in such a haphazard way in medicine–lives are at stake!

I would argue that lives are also at stake in education, and the scenario described above is analogous to the transition to mobile learning in schools. Oftentimes, school leaders announce that the school community is making the switch to mobile learning, pass out devices to everyone, and expect not only that will things continue as they have been, but that the learning environment will be transformed and student achievement will soar.

(Next page: The benefits of truly personalized PD)