Hillsborough County Schools reveals 99.98% uptime with LMS

A new system leads to improved outcomes and other revealing data

LMS-uptimeUsing a new purpose-built learning management system, Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida—the country’s eighth largest district—has released data revealing 99.98 percent uptime and significant utilization of the system in the first half of the 2014-15 academic year.

The results are a significant improvement from Hillsborough County’s previous system. Data shows an average of 100,000 Hillsborough students, parents and teachers login to the system, Edsby, at least once a week. The system serves an average of 20 million requests every school day, with an independently measured response time averaging only 280 milliseconds. Usage data also shows that 47 percent of logins are from mobile platforms.

“Based on sheer numbers and scale of the operation, Hillsborough County is one of the most significant enterprise software deployment successes in K-12,” said Steven Asbury, vice president of engineering at Edsby. “The district can manage a massive amount of information and has shown that the LMS contributes to parental involvement and academic achievement. Students, parents and teachers are very clearly using the system, unlike other programs which end up as shelfware.”

Additional information about the adoption is available in an online case study in a recently made infographic.


Turn snow days into e-learning days with these 6 simple steps

With some pre-planning, schools and districts can turn snow days into learning opportunities

snow-learningThe latest winter storm to pound the Northeast left a foot or two of snow in its wake, in the process shutting down much of the tri-state region, limiting access to roads, flights, and, of course, preventing schools from opening.

While the amount of snow needed for schools to close varies by region, there is no denying that excessive snow days have begun to bleed into summer vacation over the past few years. Luckily, some school administrators have found a new approach to end snow days for good.

The solution is called “e-learning days,” or days dedicated to doing schoolwork over the internet.

E-learning brings massive benefits to any school district. They have the potential to save schools lots of money—buses don’t need to be deployed extra days at the end of the year, the school building doesn’t need additional heating, and hourly staff have the day off. Online learning also helps teachers reduce their stress load. It provides a predictable avenue for educators to budget their curriculum goals with available teaching days. Finally, e-learning days provide students with academic consistency and predictability, eliminating any snow day confusion.

E-learning is already becoming increasingly popular. Twenty-seven states offer online classes and 24 states (along with the District of Columbia) offer full-time virtual schools—as many as one million children in K-12 are already participating in these programs. Many well-respected schools are quickly making use of e-learning, including Stanford University Online High School, VISNet, and Laurel Springs. It’s time for e-learning to become common place in public schools, starting with snow days.

Of course, detractors are quick to point out that not every school can provide a virtual alternative to in-person instruction.  Their most potent point is that not every child has equal access to the internet. For example, as of 2013, 75.6% of American households had a computer in the home and 71.7% had Internet access. The two largest age demographics of those with internet access are generally the same age of those raising children in K-12—18- to 29-year-olds (80%) and 30- to 49-year-olds (78%).

(Next page: 6 steps to put e-learning days into practice at your school)


Are digital textbooks worth it?

Early digital textbook adopters share their pros and cons

discovery-textbookIt has been nearly three years since the FCC and Education Secretary Arne Duncan rolled out the Digital Textbook Playbook and challenged schools to go digital within five years. It’s safe to say schools are not there yet. While going digital looks certain, arrival in two years looks doubtful.

The potential benefits for schools transitioning to digital curriculum—specifically, replacing their print textbooks with digital ones—remain compelling. As schools move to the Common Core, and Pluto shifts in and out of planetary status, information can be updated on the fly. Interactive quizzes, comments, and discussions live within the text itself. The addition of video, audio and interactivity allows for multi-modal, personalized, accessible and interactive learning; it’s lightweight for backpacks; and there are cost savings down the road from not printing.

Of course, widespread adoption relies on a robust infrastructure. Wireless bandwidth must be able to handle the load, and filtering must let advanced material through. Students need reliable devices at school and home, and the content needs to be designed for whatever platform they might have. Importantly, teachers need time to learn a new way of running a classroom.

Here, three early adopters of digital textbooks share their experiences, from conveniences and triumphs to pitfalls and setbacks. Their stories provide a glimpse into the present, still-evolving world of digital textbooks, and a hint into where it may be headed.

The Fairfax Learning Curve
Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, with 12,000 students per grade level, is a pioneer in the digital textbooks space. Craig Herring, the director of Prek-12 curriculum and instruction, explains that they started using some Pearson online textbooks in 2009, back when they were essentially PDF versions of the printed books. The next year, they flipped that model by buying online social studies books with some hardcopy backups. Those online textbooks included some new features, and they rolled that out to all grades, 7-12, in 2011.

(Next page: The huge mistake that nearly derailed Fairfax’s program)


Maker movement front and center at EDexpo

Conference attendees will have a chance to learn about the Maker movement’s impact

maker-movementMakerspaces will be showcased at EDexpo 2015 with a unique exhibit area and education offering to help dealers and manufacturers tap into this growing opportunity surrounding hands-on learning.

Syliva Martinez, the co-author of Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, will present a General Session on February 21 entitled: “Makerspaces – The New Trend that Can Add Dollars to Your Bottom Line.”

Martinez is the preeminent expert on Makerspaces working in schools around the world to bring the power of authentic learning into classrooms, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. She will be sharing her knowledge on these do-it-yourself spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn, and share strategies on how to capitalize on this trend in education.

EDexpo attendees will get to experience a Makerspace right on the exhibit floor as Atlanta area Makerspaces (or Maker communities) participate in a contest to see who can create the most innovative education-related project. The Education Market Association (EDmarket) has partnered with Decatur Maker, a non-profit in the Atlanta area, to organize the space.

These projects will be demonstrated during show hours so that attendees can interact with the makers and try out the equipment. The participating organizations will display typical tools found in Makerspaces along with any other displays that capture the spirit of making such as a 3D printer, laser cutter, robotics demonstration, woodworking equipment, prototyping demonstration equipment, and more.

“The Maker movement represents an opportunity for growth by combining the tactile resources our members already provide with new and exciting products that are needed to meet the demand for STEAM and Fab labs,” says Jim McGarry, EDmarket President and CEO.

For more information on EDexpo 2015, February 22-24 in Atlanta, please visit www.edexpo.com.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Will big data jobs go unfilled?

Data experts convene to create profile of the “big data specialist” position, which is predicted to be in high demand if data skills remain untaught

big-dataStudents at both the K-12 and university levels should learn how to handle and interpret big data, but to do this, educators at both levels must be comfortable using and teaching about big data.

Big data is quickly becoming one of the most important fields, and workers who are able to handle, analyze, and interpret data will be in high demand in the workforce. And this need is critical in education, from students who must know how to use data as part of learning, to educators who should be able to interpret student data.

“At the university level, [professors] see this huge need for people who have the training to work with big data, so they’re creating training programs, certifications, graduate programs, and even whole new departments,” said Ruth Krumhansl, director of the Education Development Center’s Oceans of Data Institute (ODI). “What they’re saying is that this is a whole new field requiring knowledge from many different disciplines.”

ODI helps students and educators learn about big data, from its potential, to its importance, to the need for professionals to have data skills.

(Next page: How big data is quickly becoming an essential skill)


Cogent Education wins 2015 FETC Goldfish Tank Innovators Competition

Company recognized as top innovator at the Florida Education Technology Conference

Cogent Education: Interactive Caseeducation-winners is the winner of the Goldfish Tank Innovators Competition during the 2015 Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida.

The Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN) of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry, and 1105 Media, Inc., which provides integrated business-to-business information and media to qualified professionals in the public, academic and private sectors focusing on technology, made the announcement during the conference.

“This year’s Goldfish Tank competition was the closest ever,” said Karen Billings, vice president and managing director for ETIN-SIIA. “The educators in the audience had a really tough decision because all of these innovators are really harnessing technology in new and engaging ways. Cogent Education has the potential to engage students for years to come.”

A panel of ed-tech experts selected Cogent Education: Interactive Cases as a finalist for the Goldfish Tank Innovators Program, and conference attendees voted it most innovative and likely to be used in the classroom.

(Next page: Additional winners in the education competition)


How a GoPro Got My Students Excited to Learn

One teacher recounts the transformation in learning, collaboration, and creativity he’s seen after adding a GoProgopro-racecar

Rewind to May 2007. . .

I had not planned to purchase a GoPro while out shopping. However, it was on sale, I had a coupon, two gift cards, and two weeks in the Florida Keys was just a moon phase away. Needless to say the summer spent fishing, snorkeling, and kayaking in the Keys yielded very few incredible pictures. I had purchased the Digital Hero 3, the first GoPro with sound. After that experience my GoPro stayed packed up with all my kayak gear and did not see the light of day too often.

Fast forward to August 2013 . . .    

It was the start of a new school year and I found myself teaching six classes of eighth grade technology and one class of TV Production. I was intimidated to be teaching TV Production and having to produce a daily news show for the school. I was not a stranger to project-based video projects, but a daily TV show was a different monster.

The first thing I did was dust off my old GoPro, purchase a remote control car, and a bag of adhesive mounts. The TV production students started using the remote control car and my old GoPro to drive around school and film different events. I am not sure what was more exciting for the students, to see themselves on the morning announcements or to have them jump in front of a remote control car running down the hallway during class change.

This setup worked for a while, but as with any type of older technology, there were limits. I had to find a way to get a new GoPro that had Wi-Fi capabilities, so the entire production would be simplified. Significant time was spent looking for ways to upgrade our equipment and I had my eyes set on a GoPro Hero 3 Black+ camera. After meeting a sales rep for GoPro at FETC 2014 and entering an education contest, I won a GoPro Hero 3 Black+ with accessories for my classroom. In a matter of days the GoPro started to reshape my technology classroom in many positive ways.

(Next page: Photo and video projects inspire students)


DCPS implements Follett’s Aspen SIS

District cites customizability, flexibility needed to meet evolving needs

follett-dcpsThe District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) system has selected Follett and its Aspen solution to help the 47,000-student district capture, report, manage and analyze its student data, support enrollment, scheduling and behavior, and help track student attendance and prevent truancy.

DCPS officials said the district was seeking a more robust, flexible and customizable student information system (SIS).

Comprised of 111 elementary and secondary schools and learning centers located in Washington, D.C., DCPS introduced Aspen into its elementary schools this year and plans to implement the solution districtwide this summer.

Weighed down by an aging, cumbersome SIS, district officials embarked on a search for a new system more than a year ago. Key factors in selecting a new SIS included how it performed out of the box, its customizability to meet the district’s ever-evolving policies, and the system’s flexibility.

“The district identified the many pain points with its previous SIS and we’re confident Aspen will help meet and exceed DCPS’ overall desire to measure and advance its student learning and student/classroom management,” said Tom Schenck, president, Follett School Solutions. “We are honored to partner with a district that so passionately believes a strong school system with high achieving students is the backbone of the city.”

The adoption of Aspen extends the long-term relationship between DCPS and Follett. The district has used Follett’s Destiny Library Manager for more than eight years.

Now in 15 states and Canada, Follett’s Aspen SIS serves more than 1.5 million students.

For more information on Follett’s PreK-12 business, visit FollettLearning.com. For more information on District of Columbia Public Schools, visit www.dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


eSchool Media effort will address education’s challenges

eSM partners are bringing K-12 stakeholders, industry thought leaders together to collaborate, communicate, and break down barriers

eSN-educationeSchool Media (eSM), is thrilled to announce the launch of its eSchool Experience and Exchange Regional Assembly Series (E3).

The vision behind the E3 series is to shed light on and provide a venue for collaboration between school, district and industry leaders to openly discuss and address the challenges facing education today and those of tomorrow while fostering conversations that lead to real, actionable solutions for our kids.

The first E3 Assembly in the series is slated for early-Q2 2015 in California.

In partnership with GreyED Solutions and Net4EdAccess, eSM will convene both National and Regional Advisory Boards, comprised of educators and administrators, for the E3 Series to ensure each assembly touches far-reaching national issues like the Common Core or Blended Learning as well as local challenges teachers face in their classrooms daily.

(Next page: What industry experts are saying about the effort to shed light on education’s challenges)


ClassDojo updates classroom management app

New app focuses on parent-teacher partnerships for student success

ClassDojo-appClassDojo, a tool that gives real-time, positive feedback to students, updated its flagship mobile app to let teachers and parents build stronger relationships with each other.

ClassDojo helps teachers encourage students to develop critical skills, such as encouraging students to work in teams, contributing creative ideas, or persisting through difficult problems, by recognizing these attributes with positive feedback directly in the classroom.

The app now includes comprehensive messaging features so that teachers and parents can use private messages, photo sharing, and voice notes to have better ongoing, open communication.

“We believe in a world where stronger relationships between teachers, students, and parents matters a lot,” said Sam Chaudhary, co-founder & CEO of ClassDojo. “We know this leads to more success in school, in our communities, and in life. We’re excited about our update today, because it makes the school-to-home connection a reality for families everywhere.”

(Next page: New features in the app update, including messaging)