Casual, ongoing professional development on technology makes a difference at one district
Every Wednesday from 2:45-6:45, the fresh aroma of “personalized” coffee choices from the Keurig fills the air and our teachers settle in to work individually or with their colleagues at the Technology CAFÉ. At the Carson City School District’s Professional Development Center, CAFÉ means more than just providing coffee and snacks: It refers to the ongoing, personalized professional development teachers need to transform their teaching and their students’ learning with technology.
The name evokes a place of conversation and relaxation, but it also defines our special house blend of PD: C-Create, Collaborate, and Connect, A-Advocate, model, and teach digital citizenship, F-Facilitate blended learning experiences, E-Engage in professional learning opportunities.
Starting in the spring of 2014, in conjunction with our rollout of one-to-one laptops for all 1,800 middle school students (grades 6-8), the district’s technology integration specialists identified the need to provide weekly professional development for teachers, beyond the four in-service days already scheduled. Out of this need, the Technology CAFÉ became a reality, and has continued to increase this year with the rollout of 1,800 more laptops for grades 3-5 at all six of our elementary schools.
Vote ensures internet remains open, equally accessible through net neutrality policy
In a momentous decision for the future of the open internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on February 26 approved net neutrality regulations to oversee online traffic and ensure internet service providers treat all legally-flowing content equally.
The 3-2 party-line vote prevents service providers from, for instance, charging websites for faster data speeds to customers. The vote regulates internet service providers in the same manner as public utilities, with a stricter set of regulations to make sure all customers receive equal service.
“There are three simple keys to our broadband future,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. “Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open.”
“We are here so that teachers don’t have to give a second thought about assigning homework that can only be researched online because they are sure their students are free to access any lawful website, and that such websites won’t load at dial-up speed,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
Next page: Three major practices that net neutrality addresses
Free titles include books from more than 400 publishers
K-12 literacy solution provider LightSail will offer a free Starter Library for all customers. The Starter Library includes 200 texts spanning elementary, middle, and high school reading levels, and will grow to 350 texts by March, 2015.
Each free text in the Starter Library comes with LightSail’s signature feature: multiple-measure assessments which are embedded into the text, and completed as students read. LightSail’s formative assessments not only gauge reading comprehension, they allow LightSail to offer a consistently personalized literacy experience.
As students read, LightSail monitors their progress and updates their individual Lexile score on-the-fly, causing the library to adapt based on reading level. Students are always presented texts that are best-suited to optimize their literacy growth.
Pasadena high school realizes benefits of active learning with standing desks
As educators turn their attention to how physical learning environments can influence student learning, more companies are responding to the demand for flexible and innovative classroom furniture.
Ergotron, Inc. placed LearnFit Standing Desks in a classroom at Dr. Kirk Lewis Career and Technical High School in the Pasadena ISD, a suburb of Houston, Texas, earlier this school year and is already receiving positive feedback.
Students taking freshman geography started the school year at traditional sitting desks and in October transitioned to Ergotron LearnFit adjustable standing desks to support project-based learning and reinforce the school’s focus on open, collaborative classrooms.
Next page: What educators think of the standing desks
Interactive online sessions will excite students and open opportunities
Schools in Porterville Unified, Long Beach Unified, and Oakland Unified school districts in the Linked Learning Alliance are receiving full access to Nepris— a cloud-based platform connecting science, technology, engineering, performing arts and math (STEAM) professionals with teachers and their students through a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.
The Nepris platform helps teachers have online, interactive sessions between students and professionals so that the students can learn first-hand about STEAM.
“The Linked Learning Alliance brings meaningful learning experiences to students so they will be thinking ahead to college and career,” said Susan Benz, manager of career readiness for Oakland Unified School District. “Nepris opens a whole new horizon for our students, encouraging them to reach beyond what they might have thought was possible for their lives. Our teachers will love that Nepris does this without being a complicated process or a burden on an already packed curriculum.”
Florida school leaders worry schools won’t be able to manage testing requirements
Many Florida superintendents fear their schools won’t be able to manage all the new computer-based testing set to begin next week.
Required by the state to certify their schools’ “readiness” for the computer-based portions of the new Florida Standards Assessment, a third of superintendents who have responded so far signed the document but then wrote letters detailing serious concerns.
Many said they weren’t really ready and worried the increase in computer-based standardized tests would chew up class time, limit students’ ability to go online for class work, lead to technology failures and hurt students unfamiliar with the tools of online exams.
Walt Griffin, superintendent for Seminole County schools, noted the state’s certification document only provided one option for superintendents. They must sign off on school readiness and promise that any that aren’t ready will be “provided with support” so they are.
Next page: How schools might not be equipped to handle the testing influx
National gathering of superintendents celebrates milestone
The School Superintendents Association, AASA, will host its annual conference, the National Conference on Education, Feb. 26-28 in San Diego. The National Superintendent of the Year will be announced at the conference.
“AASA has been serving as the voice for school district leaders for 150 years,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “We are helping superintendents set the pace for the way children learn and what they will achieve later in life. As we applaud public school leaders everywhere for the tremendous work they do, we are looking forward to this milestone in an effort to set a positive educational framework for generations to come.”
For the first time, superintendents will be recognized for completing the prestigious National Superintendent Certification program. Launched in 2013, the educational leadership program focuses on sharpening the skills that successful superintendents acknowledge are needed to thrive on the job.
Next page: Nominees for Superintendent of the Year
STEM learning gets a boost with a handful of space-themed apps
STEM learning seems to be a national priority today, with calls for more computer science, engineering, and coding opportunities for students of all ages. With growing interest in the origins and workings of life in our solar system and beyond, there are more engaging astronomy apps (with beautiful imagery) out there than ever.
In fact, using students’ interests to engage them in STEM learning opportunities is a strategy many educators employ. Encouraging students to learn about space pulls them into STEM topics while also exposing them to innovative concepts.
The website APPitic.com, an app resource site with more than 6,000 apps in more than 300 subcategories, offers a number of space-related apps that students and teachers might find useful in and out of the classroom.
Here, we’ve gathered a handful of those apps for each of those stages. You can find the full range of suggested apps online.
[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.]
Broadband for education expert gives four reasons why the FCC’s decision about internet service is a human rights issue
On February 26th the world, as we know it, will either come to an end or we will have the second coming of the messiah.
Why? Because later this week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote to reclassify broadband internet service as a telecommunications service, rather than an information service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—a decision which will have a significant impact on education.
With a handful of exceptions, the policy wonks and industry pundits have taken binary positions on the regulation of the internet, but there is more at stake than the Washington politics and beltway posturing: mainly, the issue of education as a basic human right and how the regulation of the internet may affect those rights.
Here are at least four reasons—from historical and future-looking perspectives—why educators, students, and school administrators should take interest in the commission’s deliberations and decisions.
Choosing and buying the right technology can be a daunting process, especially if you don’t know where to begin
With marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Google Marketplace, AirBNB, and OpenTable, it’s quite conceivable to think purchasing educational technology for the 116,000 schools across the United States in a $12B market would be as easy as buying a toothbrush online. Point. Click. Buy.
Rather the opposite is true. Ed tech procurement is a very analog process in a very digital world. I have seen this as Superintendent of the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District (Howard-Winn) in rural northeast Iowa. Investments in ed tech companies reached historic levels rising to $2 billion in 2014. The choice and innovation is great, but finding and buying even simple things can tax our resources.
As Superintendent my goal, like that of my colleagues across the country, is to ensure we have the most up-to-date technology in the hands of learners—kids and adults. Historically, it’s been inefficient to discover the right products. There are many vendors and sales people. Deciphering the best solutions to even begin conversations can be daunting.
We believe it is critical that 21st century students have 21st century tools that will empower them to think, learn, and create. In that sense, it seems that current procurement practices within our industry are working against us.
Next page: How to involve students and develop trust