10 ways to revolutionize PD for the digital age

Top tips from school leaders on innovating digital professional development and putting the focus where it belongson teachers

Odigital-pdver the past 6-8 years we have seen a supersonic advancement in public schools and the way our teachers now must teach. This has hit education like a tidal wave, leaving precious little time for our teachers to process it, and especially to learn how to do it well.

The consequence, in many schools, is that teachers have begun to use technology but have forced it into all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons. Research has consistently shown that technology used in inappropriate ways is actually worse for learning, and this is happening all around us.

At Grand Oak Elementary School in Huntersville, NC we have worked hard to create an environment where we are supporting our staff through this transition. We are only in our second year of existence and yet we have set the stage through our vision to become a school where teachers and students “Collaborate. Innovate. Achieve.” We aim to help teachers understand our goals for educating students while providing them with the tools, resources, and support culture to make those goals reality. In many ways, the focus on differentiation, risk-taking, and learn-by-doing activities we’re introducing to our teachers mirrors what we are asking from our students as well.

This process of adult learning has not been without bumps and obstacles. Teachers were confused, feeling inadequate, and frustrated. We listened to feedback, affirmed their progress, continue to evolve in our processes, and brought in experts to help answer questions. Most teachers were used to the “sit and get” approach to PD that allowed them to be passive consumers of information. This new way of teaching and learning allows them to take command of their learning and professional growth through topics they choose instead.

(Next page: Our 10 strategies and ideas to help create successful teachers)


New Ethernet bridge technology meets bandwidth demands

Technology aims to support high-volume web traffic in districts

ethernet-bandwidthAs more schools shift to digital learning environments and online assessments, districts are looking for reliable and cost-effective solutions to support high-volume web traffic.

ContentKeeper, a provider of BYOD and one-to-one web access controls for next-generation learning environments, just released TurboBridge, an Ethernet bridge technology that meets high-speed performance and scalability demands of districts’ growing bandwidth requirements.

Through a new 2nd generation interception system, TurboBridge provides high-speed web filtering that supports rising bandwidth demands in school districts and education agencies. The system retains higher performance and bandwidth capacities even when SSL decryption features are active, allowing for full inspection and filtering of all or selective secure web traffic.

(Next page: What one district tech leader has to say about his district’s bandwidth demands)


3D game-based world targets language skills

Website marks debut of resources based on Penguins of Madagascar film

penguins-learningLearning-based game provider JumpStart launched a 3D online world based on DreamWorks Animation’s new Penguins of Madagascar film.

The World of Madagascar is a 3D online world that lets users engage with the film’s characters while sharpening their language-based skills.

Players explore four locations, including Times Square, Central Park, Coney Island, and Venice, Italy with their customized avatar. Players will follow a Penguins-themed storyline throughout educational quests, which are adapted to the child’s specific grade-level.

“The Penguins of Madagascar world is designed to give players a very tailored educational gaming experience,” said Chris Williams, JumpStart Creative Director. “Each quest woven into the game will cater to the player’s selected grade-level in school, enabling players to learn specific skills, while still delivering loads of entertainment.”

“JumpStart has been creating learning-based games for over 20 years, and we’re excited that our new website will offer players a centralized location to find all of the games that they’ve loved for so long and perhaps introduce them to new ones,” said David Lord, JumpStart CEO. “In the future, our aim is to create a singular log-in to give players access to all of the games and game-themed worlds that are available under the overarching JumpStart brand umbrella.”

To check out JumpStart’s newly launched website and the World of Madagascar 3D online world, please visit http://www.jumpstart.com/penguins-of-madagascar/.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


8 TED Talks to foster creativity

These TED Talks highlight promising and inspiring concepts

TED-creativityEvery 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.

This month’s talks focus on fostering creativity. Some talks relate directly to education, and others serve to inspire educators and students with stories or examples about creativity and “smart failure.”

Did you miss our most recent TED Talks features? You can find them here.

(Next page: 8 TED Talks about creativity)


Today’s Digital Learner

K12_WP_Cover_Thumb_200x300Digital resources. Multi-media projects. Collaborating online. Online research. Today’s students are connected. Learn how you can increase student engagement with this trends report from Project Tomorrow that offers students’ views on innovative classroom models.


Amplify launches personalized PD service

New service represents an effort to break away from one-size-fits-all PD approach

PD-AmplifyA new professional development (PD) system from Amplify aims to personalize PD for educators using smart technology.

Professional Learning Maps will break from the one-size-fits-all approach offered by most professional development providers to give teachers exactly what they need, when they need it, the company says.

Professional Learning Maps starts with a diagnostic survey during which educators analyze their instructional practices. Based on the survey results, interactive maps instantly show each educator their areas of strength and need. Professional Learning Maps then charts specific sequences of proven professional development content delivered through both online, learn-at-your-own-pace modules and targeted in-person group sessions led by school leaders and expert Amplify coaches.

(Next page: More about Amplify’s latest PD offering)


New AP course makes computing more engaging

Course from the College Board and the National Science Foundation launches during Computer Science Education Week

computing-courseThe College Board and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently developed Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, a course intended to address the challenge of making computing coursework more engaging and accessible for all students and to better prepare a pipeline of STEM majors. Schools will be able to begin offering the new AP course in the fall of 2016, with the first exam being administered in May 2017.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.2 million jobs in STEM are anticipated in 2020, and 4.6 million of them will be in computing. However, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and among these students only a limited portion are women and underrepresented minorities.

Students who take AP math and science courses are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in STEM disciplines, making access to these courses particularly important. This relationship between AP courses and the choice of a STEM major holds true across several groups of students most underrepresented in STEM majors today: women and minorities.

(Next page: How the new course will broaden computing’s appeal)


5 apps for creative iPad storytelling

A clutch of tools for writing ebooks, poems, flipbooks, and more

storytelling-ipadNarrative writing and storytelling skills are useful in nearly every discipline, from English language arts to science and history. Students that might not be able to explain their thinking one way, might fare better using audio, visuals, or some combination of the two. The iPad, a recognized content-creation tool, is a natural companion.

Here, we’ve gathered a handful of apps for story creation, in all its forms, that were originally summarized on APPitic.com, an app resource site with more than 6,000 apps in more than 300 subcategories.

[Editor’s note: eSchool News has selected these apps, which were originally curated by Apple Distinguished Educators, that may help you meet your instructional needs.]

1. A Novel Idea, Free
An app for quick bursts of inspiration, which lets users jot down characters, locations, and plot points and link them together. Written scenes can be organized and moved in and out of order.

(Next page: 4 more apps, including book builders and a poem-writing aid.