3 things great teachers do with technology

3 inspiring examples of how teachers turn technology into relevance and make learning count

teacher-technologyToo often, we see teachers putting the proverbial cart before the horse. They find an app or tool they like, so they introduce it in their classroom. The students might find it cool and engaging—but if the teacher hasn’t defined why they’re using that tool, its integration has no clear, educational purpose.

If, instead, you begin with a learning goal in mind and choose apps and devise activities in support of it, then you’re on a path to meaningful technology integration.

To help educators develop a vision for using technology in their classrooms, here are a few examples of what great teachers do with these tools.

1. They Empower students through creativity

Shawn McCusker has been teaching high school social studies for nearly two decades. For years, he would have his students demonstrate their understanding of the great industrial philosophers by writing a comparative essay.

Two years ago, Shawn was involved in an iPad pilot program, and he gave his students a choice in how they would demonstrate their knowledge: Students could write an essay, or they could tap the creative potential that existed in their iPads.

(Next page: How YouTube helped a shy student thriveand score a hit video)


This Superintendent is bringing internet to every student, like it or not

Superintendent Darryl Adams has turned a poor, rural district into a hotbed of innovation

profiles in visionFew superintendents can claim to have met personally with President Obama. Fewer still can claim they toured the country opening for Hall and Oates in the 1980’s. But Dr. Darryl Adams, of Coachella Valley Unified School District, isn’t your typical superintendent.

“I’ve always had a knack for making the impossible possible,” remarks Adams. In 1984, he was in the first all-black rock band in heavy rotation on MTV and had a hit song on the radio. After 8 years of touring with his band, he decided to teach his love of music, and became a music teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Soon after that, he became a principal, and then got his doctorate, which led him to his current position at Coachella.

“As the leader of my band, I developed the ability to make things happen and serve people,” remarks Adams. “I’ve always been on the side of trying new things, exploring new ideas, continuously improving whatever is good, and never accepting the status quo. And this quality is as important for education as it was for music.”

CVUSD is one of the poorest districts in California. One hundred percent of its students are on reduced lunch. There are high populations of undocumented students, and students living on Native American tribal lands.  When Adams stepped in as Superintendent in 2010, one of his first goals was to show the community that regardless of their socio-economic status, the district can provide to them a 21st Century education that fully prepares their students for college, careers and citizenship.

(Next page: How CVUSD is bringing internet to every student without breaking the bank)


Gaming, coding top students’ ed tech wish lists

National survey identifies educators’ instructional practices and students’ learning preferences

technology-learningAccess to high-speed internet is among middle and high school students’ top technology preferences, according to a CompTIA national survey of students and educators

Fifty-six percent of surveyed students said they’d like access to high-speed internet, 57 percent said they would like laptops, and 53 percent said tablets are a must-have.

When broken down by gender, male students demonstrated a greater preference for high-speed internet and game-based learning simulations, while female students expressed a preference for tablets and mobile e-learning apps.

Fifty-two percent of students want to learn more about gaming in school, 49 percent want to learn more about computer troubleshooting, and 45 percent want to learn more programming/coding.

Just 9 percent of middle and high school students said there is little or no technology used in their schools.

(Next page: What instructional technologies will educators purchase?)


App of the week: Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.


hooked-phonics-appWhat it’s like: Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition includes 12 steps; each teaches rimes and letter sounds to help kids build words. Within each step, videos with catchy songs introduce letter sounds and sight words, and games help kids build words using onsets and rimes. Kids practice reading immediately, starting with step one, using the three ebooks that correspond with each step.
Price: $49.99
Grades: Pre-K-1
Pros: Rich resource includes a full phonics curriculum for an entire class of students.
Cons: Hefty price tag could put it out of reach of some teachers.
Bottom line: Thorough, high-quality phonics program offers impressive benefits for emerging readers.

Amazon launches e-textbook publisher for educators

New self-publishing service lets teachers create interactive e-textbooks

kindle-publishingAmazon is rolling out a new e-textbook publishing service specifically for educators.

Called Kindle Direct Publishing EDU, the self-publishing platform lets teachers create texts by marking up existing PDFs, which can be turned into textbooks that can be uploaded to the platform and shared with students on a range of computers and mobile devices, such as iPads and Android tablets.

“Kindle Textbook Creator makes it easy for anyone to take any PDF and create a richly featured and widely available eTextbook,” said Chuck Kronbach, Director, Kindle Direct Publishing. “We look forward to seeing how authors use the new tool and getting their feedback to guide us in adding more features to KDP EDU over time.”

(Next page: Highlighting, note-taking, and other platform features)


HP technology solutions aim to boost outcomes

Assessment technology, training, software bundles among new tools

HP-technologyAs part of an effort to produce meaningful outcomes for students, teachers, and communities through the use of technology, HP has introduced assessment technology, hardware products, software bundles, and online educator training courses.

The release includes:

  • National Education Technology Assessment
  • HP Education Edition tablets and a notebook
  • HP School Pack Software for education edition products
  • HP Education Cloud-first devices
  • Link Technology for Education
  • HP Teaching with Technology online courses

“At HP, we believe that every student should have access to a high-quality education, at any time and from anywhere,” said Gus Schmedlen, vice president, Education, Printing and Personal Systems, HP. “When access is combined with quality learning, social and economic outcomes result for students, for schools and for communities.”

The HP National Education Technology Assessment (NETA) program, designed to build sustainable education technology strategies and assess the impact of technology-based interventions in schools, includes developing the best approaches and establishing cultural readiness to maximizing student achievement. Additionally, the NETA assessment technology verifies that students aren’t just showing up at school, but actually learning and preparing for their future.

(Next page: Details on each new HP technology tool)


5 keys to a successful STEM program at your school

One principal reveals the science behind starting a successful STEM program

stem-studentsInterested in making the jump to STEM learning at your school? Mine was too. As an elementary math magnet school for nearly two decades, Mound School was looking for a way to further incorporate science into the curriculum. After receiving a federal grant from the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, we altered our approach and sought to transition to a STEM curriculum.

Now in our first full year of implementation, we have a few suggestions to help other schools replicate our success.

1. Integrate hands-on practice
Historically, our curriculum was primarily focused on math integration with some teachers offering science lessons a couple times a week, while others only a couple times a month. In order to properly become a science magnet school, we needed a new approach. One way we sought to better integrate science into our curriculum was by dedicating one classroom as the science lab, a space for students (and teachers!) to practice science in a hands-on way.

We also pursued several strategic partnerships with local farms, allowing us to connect our students to the agriculturally rich community in which we live. In addition to these partnerships, we also established a school garden. Both of these opportunities have been a great way to transform traditional classroom learning into a hands-on practice. By allowing students to take variables discussed in the classroom and put them to the test in their garden, you are giving them real-life insight into the experiences of both scientists and farmers.

(Next page: Contests, incentives, iPads, and more tips to enhance science)


Meet Pecha Kucha, the Japanese presentations changing everything about PowerPoint

“Students, please remember to monotonously read every slide word-for-word when you present to the class.” Said no teacher ever.


powerpoint-pechaAs I prepare for my presentation this week at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) on “Presenting with Pecha Kucha,” my colleagues have repeatedly asked me, “What is Pecha Kucha?” The short answer is it’s a great presentation style that gets students thinking and learning, not reading slides. A longer one might be to explain that the term comes from the Japanese words for “chit chat,” so as you might guess this unique presentational style embraces a more conversational tone. But more importantly, it is transforming presentations as we know them.

My performance arts background as an actress, director, and theatre teacher gives me a great understanding of what it takes to be a dynamic performer, and an even greater appreciation of a great performance. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that after several years of teaching high school theatre and English, I became utterly dejected by the quality of presentations my students gave.

It wasn’t their fault; my students simply had never been taught how to present information in a way that was engaging and interesting. In fact, many adults struggle with this same task. We have all seen so many bad presentations in our lives, we have come to think that’s what presentations are supposed to be like. My students honestly thought the act of giving a presentation meant looking something up on Google, copy/pasting some information into PowerPoint slides, and then getting in front of the class and timidly reading those slides verbatim to a disinterested and disengaged audience (myself included).

I had to stop the madness!

(Next page: 20 images; 20 seconds: the magic of Pecha Kucha)


Common Core, BYOD, assessments among districts’ budget priorities

Survey reveals that school districts are prioritizing ed-tech in the wake of more positive budget news

districts-surveyAn annual report based on two large-scale surveys of education decision-makers reveals that school technology budgets are growing stronger, school leaders are seeking Common Core-aligned instructional materials, and there is a growing demand for tools that improve teaching and personalized learning.

The results come from MDR’s State of the K-12 Market 2014 report, conducted by the EdNET Research team. The report seeks to define important trends that will impact U.S. schools in the coming year.

Major findings reveal a reliance on digital resources and an expansion of access through mobile devices, implementation of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, and one-to-one computing initiatives; increased experimentation with new instructional models; an uptick in preparation for online assessments; and fewer worries about budgets.

(Next page: Schools anticipate their next year’s budgets)


Seven 3D Printing STEM Projects To Do With Your Class

StratasysESN200x300aIn this whitepaper learn how several schools – early education to high school level – utilize 3D printing in the classroom to help students develop valuable skills and practice persistence, communication, and teamwork. These seven ideas will help your students gain experience in design and problem-solving through 3D printing while building their science, technology, engineering, and math skills. These lessons learned will last each one of them a lifetime.

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