4 key digital learning developments

Annual survey finds that students say digital learning supports self-directed learning and collaboration

digital-speakupFifty-eight percent of high school students in a national survey said they use their own mobile devices for learning in school, and 47 percent of teachers in the survey reported that their students have regular access to mobile devices in their classrooms.

The information comes from Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey, which polls students, parents, administrators, and educators about their technology use in and out of school.

“We definitely have seen an increased sense of urgency around how to effectively use digital tools and content to be able to impact student learning,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, during a Congressional briefing to discuss the data.

“There isn’t one recipe for implementing digital learning, particularly personalized learning. …As part of that, we’re seeing more and more use of digital content,” she said.

Next page: The importance of digital access and equity


Turning Technologies signs Student Privacy Pledge

Company is latest to promise to safeguard students’ personal information

privacy-pledgeTurning Technologies has joined the growing list of education service providers to sign the Student Privacy Pledge.

Introduced by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Software & Information Industry Association, the pledge is a commitment by school service providers to safeguard student privacy regarding the collection, maintenance and use of student personal information.

The Student Privacy Pledge holds providers accountable in the proper management of student data. Signatories commit to not sell student information, not engage in target advertising, to use data for authorized, education purposes only, not change privacy policies without notice and choice, enforce strict limits on data retention, support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s information, provide comprehensive security standards and accordingly be transparent about collection and use of data.

Next page: More privacy protection efforts


The 3 trust questions to ask every ed tech vendor

Vendors need to answer these questions when establishing trust with administrators

trust-questionsThe educational technology procurement market is enormous: $13 billion is spent annually. Just last year a historic $2 billion of investment capital was pumped into ed tech startups. As an educator, how do you know who to trust when it comes to meeting your district’s technology needs? Do you trust the established companies fighting ever harder to keep their market share? Can you trust their overpowering marketing machines? Should you trust the new, innovative, and exciting start-ups? Do they have bandwidth and capacity to keep us “online?”

These are the questions I ask as superintendent of Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in northeastern Iowa. To help answer them, I have developed three baseline questions that have been essential in building trust with vendors we work with. They have served my district well through myriad procurement cycles, including a recently launched one-to-one Apple device initiative.

Does the vendor understand our core business?
Our core business in schools is learning. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s really obvious John. And next you’ll tell me, ‘Iowa has corn, too!’” But it’s surprising how many educators and vendors forget this. Profits, commissions, and shiny features can be placed squarely ahead of learning. Does this sound harsh? Maybe, but considering it happens more frequently than anyone wants to admit, it is essential this question is asked first and not overlooked.

Whether it is an LMS, professional development provider, hardware or software, we listen to whether vendors truly focus on learning. We establish this early on in our conversations with vendors. “How will this solution positively impact my students and the teachers that support them?” we ask. Trust is built with those that do.

Next page: Don’t let vendors set the direction


Math gets an ‘Extreme Makeover’

Free math video resource aims to connect learning to 21st century careers

math-makeoverWhat are two things you need to build a house? Ty Pennington, known for hosting ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, will show students in grades 4 and up that along with the proper materials, they need strong math skills.

Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, has released “Math@Work™: Math Meets Homebuilding,” the third episode in an educational web series connecting mathematics directly to careers and problem-solving skills used on the job.

The 15-minute “Math@Work: Math Meets Homebuilding” webisode is available for free on the Scholastic Mathematics website at: www.scholastic.com/mathematics.

Next page: How the videos challenge students to use math 


Teaching handwriting more effectively using technology

New technology is helping teachers model handwriting in a more natural way

handwriting-whiteboardTeaching handwriting to an entire class of students at the same time has always been a compromise. A teacher has always had to stand at a white board to show a class how to form letters, words, and sentences. Usually a whiteboard marker is used; modern technology has sometimes replaced a whiteboard marker with a digital pen that uses an interactive white board (IWB) or, more recently, an interactive projector.

But that’s far from ideal. The problems with these models include:

  • When standing at a board, there are usually students who cannot see what is being written. This is just the nature of a classroom with desks. Having students sit on the floor in front of the whiteboard may reduce this problem, but then there is then no room and no flat surface for a student to place a book in order to duplicate the writing skills being taught.
  • Teaching writing also involves teaching how to hold a pen. However, holding a pen to write on a vertical white board is different to holding a pen normally to write on paper on a desk. Thus, it is difficult for the teacher to model the correct grip.
  • A whiteboard marker (or pen for an IWB) is considerably larger than a traditional pen. It is sometimes a different shape and thickness. Thus, it is difficult to hold the pen the same way a child should hold the pen which makes it almost impossible to model the correct grip.
  • Use of an IWB may also produce other problems (unless the school provides one of the newer ultra-short throw projectors). These include:
    • Shadows cast by the person standing at the board affecting part of the image.
    • Light from the projector shining in the eyes of the person standing at the board.

The entire process is a compromise.

All of these problems can be eliminated by the use of the appropriate technology.

Next page: How to solve the problem with a projector and a tablet


Pearson launches DRA2+ app for iPad

DRA2+ app guides teachers through reading assessment

pearson-appPearson has launched the Developmental Reading Assessment, Second Edition PLUS (DRA2+) iPad App for literacy assessment.

Now available on the App Store, the new app guides teachers through the formative reading assessment as they observe, record and evaluate changes in reading performances of students in grades K-8.

The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA2+) is intended to give educators tools to monitor changes in student reading performance.

With the ability to identify independent reading levels and provide a focus for instruction, teachers can try to meet each student’s individual needs.

The DRA2+ app also includes a word analysis component to observe and assess foundational skills, as well as the progress monitoring assessment to monitor student progress and inform instruction through multiple, brief passages in both fiction and nonfiction.

“When a teacher delivers the DRA2+ using a tablet, data is captured real-time, eliminating the need to manually upload scores later,” said Alistair Van Moere, Ph.D., head of Pearson’s Assessment Product Solutions group.

Teachers can score student reading performance by recording them reading aloud for on-demand playback. With the app, available in both English and Spanish, they can diagnose reading proficiency and determine students’ DRA2 independent reading levels, monitoring the progress of struggling readers.

Data from the assessments delivered using the App can be uploaded to the DRA Dashboard Management System, allowing teachers and administrators instant access to student-, class-, school- and district-level results to guide data-driven decisions.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Groups provide broadband to S.C. housing project

Novatel Wireless, Kajeet launch pilot project for educational broadband access

broadband-wirelessWireless service provider Kajeet, along with Novatel Wireless, are partnering with South Carolina’s Spartanburg School District Seven and the Spartanburg Housing Authority for a pilot program to provide students in public housing with filtered internet connectivity to access online textbooks, apps, emails, documents and websites, as well as communicate with their teachers.

Seven in 10 teachers assign homework that requires high-speed internet access, and yet, on average, only 30 percent of students can access the internet at home, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

In the past two years, Spartanburg School District Seven has attempted to put technology in the hands of all its children by providing all students in grades 3 through 12 with either an Apple iPad or MacBook Air.

Next page: District estimates about the number of students without home internet


What are IT leaders worried about? Assessment readiness and money

A CoSN survey reveals CTO concerns about privacy, budgets, and assessment readiness

leardership-cosnFor the past three years, CoSN—the Consortium for School Networking—has conducted the K-12 IT Leadership Survey seeking to identify major trends and challenges, and provide a picture of these leaders.

What are the key technology trends in education according to leadership in our school systems? What do the data tell us?

Assessment readiness is again the No. 1 priority for IT Leaders. The growing imperative about being assessment ready isn’t likely a surprise for those living in states adopting the Common Core. However, regardless of where you live, all states are increasingly moving their high-stakes assessments online. And, they are doing it quickly.

Yet less than 30 percent report they are fully prepared for online assessments. Sixty-two percent of respondents say they are either “fully prepared” or “almost ready.” But that still leaves nearly 40 percent of districts unprepared to implement online assessments.

Another growing concern is privacy. Last year, for the first time, we added privacy to the list of potential top concerns. It ranked dead last by our IT Leaders. Perhaps that didn’t fully explain the situation since privacy might be a concern, but not yet a “top tier” concern.

This year we asked the question in a different way; “Is privacy and security of student data more important, less important or the same as last year?”

Next page: How school budgets are holding up


Improve teacher development using a challenge-based model

Most training workshops actually fail teachers by creating a culture of dependency

collaboration-challenge“I can’t do that.”

“Are you serious?”

“No way.”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard at the beginning of one of my professional development workshops.

You see, whether teachers are learning to teach with iPads or Chromebooks or Windows Surface tablets, I typically begin an EdTechTeacher workshop with a challenge, or a set of tasks I expect them to complete within a limited amount of time.

In the case of an iPad workshop, I might have 12 tasks that I ask them to complete in, say, 20 minutes, or perhaps six tasks in less time. These tasks typically involve some basic but also some intermediary or even advanced uses of the iPad:

•    Take a picture
•    Take a screenshot
•    Create a 20-30 second movie starring a colleague.
•    Go to http://edtechteacher.org/ipads. Add to Home Screen.
•    Copy the second sentence in the first paragraph. Open Notes app and paste into Note.
•    Speak the sentence in Note.

For many who are new to the iPad, or new to a Chromebook or some other device, these challenges can be daunting. And even those who have intermediary or advanced knowledge of these devices often don’t know how to complete all the tasks.

So, the immediate reaction is, “I can’t do this,” or “Why aren’t you simply showing me how to do this?” But, invariably, everyone completes the challenge—and only a few have to exceed the allotted time.

Next page: How to structure challenge-based lessons


The innovative district where career prep is the only focus

A look at technology’s role in 21st century career and technical education with Dr. Nivea Torres of the Connecticut Technical High School System

nivea-torresDr. Nivea Torres has held a variety of roles during her 23 years as an educator, from teacher, to bi-lingual coordinator, to elementary school principal. The variety of experience likely comes in handy as she juggles the various moving parts in her current role as Superintendent of the Connecticut Technical High School System, a rather unusual district. CTHSS is actually a statewide system of 17 technical high schools, an alternative education center, and two adult schools of aviation, funded in full by the state of Connecticut.

“I was drawn to this district because I was very intrigued by this model of instruction,” explained Torres. “It’s a very project-based approach to learning that’s very different from the traditional model of lesson delivery and instruction that students receive at comprehensive high schools.” The district is career-focused, with 33 career pathways for more than 10,000 students.

eSchool News recently sat down with Torres to find out more about her experience at the helm of CTHSS, and technology’s role in the technical high school setting.

eSchool News: As an educator, what is it about the career prep model that excites you?

Dr. Nivea Torres: I think as an educator, we want students to graduate with a strong academic background, and at the same time to have problem-solving team-building communication and competitive skills, and I clearly see that this model really works for kids. We have a lot of kids who are a testament to that who are very successful entrepreneurs now.

eSN: Is it common for your students to go straight into the work force or into business for themselves?

Torres: Over a third of our graduates are gainfully employed, and over 50 percent of them go into some form of higher ed. I think that’s a testament to the work we do here. Our core vision is to provide that world-class career and technical education. It’s very different from a career and technical education class at a local district where you explore career options. Our goal is to make sure that kids are gainfully employed. We work very closely with the department of labor. So this is an occupational program versus a non-occupational program.

Next page: Technology at the career prep level