3 ways to be a better digital citizen, online and IRL

Practicing empathy, offering assistance, and staying safe are good behaviors online and off

PLCs-communitiesEd. note: Innovation In Action is a new monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

digital-citizenWalk down the street, look around in a restaurant, or watch people waiting in line and you’ll notice how fully technology has become integrated into our daily lives. Views of technology and its place in society can be seen in movies, television, and cultural references.

It has become such a part of what we do and who we are that it become to be defined as a sort of “digital” citizenship. So what describes a digital citizen?

In my book Digital Citizenship in Schools, I define a digital citizen as someone who shares ideas, makes purchases, plans activities, asks for answers, interacts both at work and in play and much more on digital devices (computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.). In short: living within a digital world.

The technology has provided great opportunities for everyone using technology. These tools have increased our productivity and knowledge base in many ways (checking the weather, looking up facts), but these advantages come with a price. Now, by increasing these opportunities to connect, collaborate and engage with our personal and professional networks requires using and understanding these tools differently. Engaging in these behaviors forces us to act in new and sometimes conflicting ways—to be more social but also more individually focused on our technology. These opportunities to find and share information have increased our dependence on technology.

Being overly connected is resulting in FMO (Fear of Missing Out) or worrying what others are doing, saying, posting, liking, or friending at any time. This has become such an issue that some will keep their devices near them even when they go to bed (and will wake up and post/Tweet/chat in the middle of the night). How can users balance this idea of ultimate knowledge with being with others IRL (In Real Life)?

Next page: Empathy-building behaviors


SETDA partners with 9 hot ed-tech startups

Startups focus on serving K-12 educational needs

SETDA-startupThe State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), which represents U.S. state and territorial educational technology leaders, recently announced its third annual cohort of Emerging Private Sector Partners.

These nine SETDA Emerging Private Sector Partners will debut at the upcoming Emerging Technologies Forum on June 26 in Philadelphia, PA and engage with the SETDA membership over the next twelve months:

1. Allcancode – an app that introduces younger students to computer science through gameplay.

2. Edthena – a platform for teachers to record themselves and receive feedback online.

3. LEARNstyle – trains those with learning barriers on using assistive technologies.

4. Nureva – online portfolio platform that aligns to curriculum and uses ready-made rubrics.

5. Pear Deck – creates live sessions for interactive slide-sharing presentations.

6. Qustodio – allows parents and educators to set controls over kids’ internet usage, and track it using a dashboard.

7. Sibme – tool for sharing personal teaching practices, videos, and documents and reflect on them with others.

8. Three Ring – lets students submit classwork and lets teachers view, organize, and provide feedback to students from mobile devices and computers.

9. Zulama – provides courses and training for students to gain skills in game design, 3D modeling, and other related topics.

The nine companies making up this cohort were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants based on their status as an emerging company, capacity to leverage technology to serve a need in K-12 or pre-service education, and their potential to scale on a state-wide and multi-state basis.

“State educational technology leaders will receive the benefit of learning about our strategic partners’ high quality digital learning products and services,” stated Lan Neugent, SETDA’s Interim Executive Director. “At the same time, these companies will benefit from greater understanding of existing and emerging policies and practices in the states. They will also gain from tapping into the experience and knowledge of those who have set strategic direction and influenced local school technology implementation in their states.”

“We’re thrilled to be selected as a SETDA Emerging Private Sector Partner,” said Nancy Knowlton, CEO of Nureva. “We look forward to receiving feedback and gaining insight from the state members to help guide our product direction as well as the opportunity to stay up-to-date on state and national level policies, emerging trends, education research and best practice.”

Over the next year, the Emerging Private Sector Partners will have the opportunity to benefit from deep education industry expertise via SETDA Channel Partners launching with an Emerging Partners Workshop on June 27. The Channel partners are longstanding experts in the K-12 industry with experience in supporting and scaling successful companies and connecting them to leading organizations like SETDA.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Denver adopts Expeditionary Learning curriculum

Denver makes district-wide commitment to curriculum and teacher professional development

curriculum-denverDenver Public Schools (DPS) has selected Expeditionary Learning (EL) to provide the curriculum for grades 4-8 in the coming academic year.

DPS will use EL’s English Language Arts curriculum for approximately 18,000 students, covering all of Denver’s 6th-8th graders and the majority of the city’s 4th and 5th graders.

In addition, Expeditionary Learning will provide professional development for more than 600 teachers and administrators in the district, beginning this summer.

“We believe Expeditionary Learning’s curriculum is an exemplar standards-based literacy option for all students,” said Devin Fletcher, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Denver Public Schools. “The modules build knowledge and skills toward performance tasks, offer differentiated supports for students, and provide independent reading and choice opportunities.”

EL’s curriculum is in use in 465 school districts across 36 states and the District of Columbia.

EL has partnered with schools and districts for more than 20 years, using a combination of curriculum materials that draw on real-world challenges and teacher professional development sessions that employ “embedded” coaching in the teachers’ classrooms.

“Denver is the ideal partner for EL in implementing the changes that need to happen at this critical moment in education,” says Scott Hartl, CEO of Expeditionary Learning.. “The demands on our young people around college and workplace readiness require a different way of thinking about student potential – it’s not just about rigor and testing, but about cultivating a sense of curiosity and joy around learning.

“Our district partners are working toward this goal for our students, and how we can all come together to create the conditions needed for success.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


App of the Week: myBlee Math

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.

What’s It Like? myBlee is a math practice and tutorial app for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. First, users set up an account (using an email address, username, and grade level), then kids can launch straight into the lessons and step-by-step instructions. They can scroll through the lesson icons and select the one they wish to complete. Each lesson consists of six levels, with brief instruction followed by a set of questions. Kids can repeat lessons, but they have to complete a lesson in order to move on to the next one. After answering a question using either the pencil tool or a touchscreen feature, kids tap a check mark to find out whether they answered correctly.

Price: Free/paid

Grades: K-6

Pros: Instruction, practice, feedback, and the ability to easily track progress make this a very well-rounded learning tool.

Cons: The audio sounds robotic and may distract at times, and the monthly fee is a little steep.

Bottom line: A supportive tutoring system with excellent features; try out the free version first to make sure it suits your classroom and your kids.



If you can Google it, why teach it?

With Google in the classroom, teachers should reimagine lessons

google-teachingAre any of us better than Google as an instructor?

Is there anything value-added vis-à-vis your classroom teaching? Might one contribute a unique understanding, or presentation, of content? Is offering a professional, high-quality, filtering of fluff and misinformation your unique contribution? Or, is there high-quality feedback that deepens and furthers learning – something arguably Google still does not do?

Kitchen table pedagogy

The point is, of course, that you probably can Google every single concept you currently teach and your students know this well. An added challenge is to grapple with the informal course designs that are popping up all over the net. We might reference this phenomenon as “kitchen table” pedagogy. These home-based “course designers” are challenging in ways that most academics have not even begun to consider; that is, their value, and perhaps the edge, they may have over other forms of transmitting traditionally taught academic information.

In the field of psychology there are numerous kinds of homegrown experiments peppering the net. For example, many good examples of kitchen table concepts exist, such as object permanence, the rouge nose experiment, and examples of ego centrism.

One can wonder how professors justify their classroom design in light of knowing how much teaching and learning is available any time and free of charge on the internet. How can one in good faith continue to teach as if the internet does not exist? With each semester that passes, students are not just a little bit more digitally native, but are algorithmically more in-tune with how to find information on the internet.

In a recent NPR interview with correspondent Anya Kamenetz, former Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent, and current CEO of PDK International, Joshua Starr, asked a prominent school superintendent in the Washington D.C. area similar questions. Starr, discussing his stepping down as superintendent comments “I ask teachers all the time, if you can Google it, why teach it? Because we have so much information today. How do you help kids navigate that? That’s critical thinking and creative problem solving.”

Like modern day explorers we might head onto the high seas of the web and explore and evaluate, perhaps colonize it, too, by landing and frequenting places that provide valuable resources that can be shared with others. Obviously there is no value-neutral way to do this kind of pedagogy, but it is clearly the future of education — as unavoidable as the rising seas themselves.

Next page: 3 solutions to try


How one school integrates 3D printing

Teachers are using 3D printing across the curriculum in an expanded pilot

3D-printingStudents at a Massachusetts charter school are getting a first-hand look at what it’s like to integrate 3D printing into their curriculum.

Teachers at The Sizer School, a North Central Charter Essential School, began piloting curriculum with NVPro, a 3D printer from NVBOTS. The 3D printer is now incorporated into teachers’ lesson plans on a larger scale.

“The Sizer School offers an interdisciplinary approach to education that is both inclusive and intellectually challenging,” said Linda Tarantino, Instructional and Technology Integration Coach at The Sizer School. “As we strive to inspire passionate and creative life-long learners, NVBOTS has been a true partner every step of the way. In addition to bringing staff onsite to train everyone on the NVPro, while educating us on all of the great things 3D printing has to offer, they have taught our students so much more than 3D printing. They model what it means to be an engineer and create a technology start-up company.”

The Sizer School, formerly the North Central Charter Essential School, is a 7-12 grade urban public charter school in Massachusetts, serving about 370 students. Approximately 45 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

When NVBOTS agreed to pilot the NVPro 3D printer, there wasn’t a staff member in the building who had any experience with 3D printing or designing for 3D printing. Now, 3D printing plays an integral role across several areas of curricula at The Sizer School, in addition to science and math classes.

For instance, members of an 8th grade class were learning about Helen Keller and created Braille name tags with the NVPro. Another group of students in 7th grade English class were writing their own fairy tales and used the NVPro to make related bookmarks. With student interest growing daily, The Sizer School even established a 3D Printer Club for students interested in exploring 3D printing outside of normal school hours.

“NVBOTS is dedicated to inspiring young minds by exposing them to the experiential learning needed to excel in the world,” said NVBOTS CEO AJ Perez. “We look forward to collaborating with The Sizer School on additional programs in the months ahead, creating valuable experiences that will make a lasting impact on student development and their ability to achieve personal greatness.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


New AP computer science course launching in 2016

Course aims to offer an engaging computer science education

computer-scienceThe College Board and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will begin offering a new Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles course in the fall of 2016.

Although most U.S. students use information technology on a regular basis, only a small fraction of them have the opportunity to take a computer science course in high school. In fact, a smaller percentage of U.S. high school students take computer science courses today than two decades ago. In addition, women, African Americans and Hispanics are significantly underrepresented among those students who do take computer science courses.

In response, in 2009 the College Board, with NSF support, began developing a new Advanced Placement computer science course. That course, called AP Computer Science Principles, is designed to be rigorous, engaging, and relevant to all students. More than 30 teachers and university faculty collaborated to develop the AP Computer Science Principles course and exam.

Next page: More details on the soon-to-be-released course


Educating parents of the Siri generation

In our digital world, some parents may feel lost at sea. Here’s what they need to know

[Ed. note: Carl Hooker will deliver a related session on digital parenting at this year’s ISTE conference on Monday June 29. Previous ISTE coverage has focused on iPads and coding and keynoter Josh Stumpenhorst.]

digital-parentsWhat ever happened to the good old days? When I was a kid I used to listen to music my parents didn’t like and stay out riding my bike until the street lights came on. Today, our kids have scheduled playdates and a steady stream of organized activities, and spend the rest of their time connecting to others online. We no longer live in an analog world, yet why do we think our parenting should look the same as it did back then?

As an administrator in a one-to-one mobile device district, I’ve seen firsthand how access to devices can disrupt learning for both good and bad. But we forget that this disruption also occurs at home when the students take their device home. Our teachers hopefully have hours and hours of support and training for integrating these tools in the classroom, but what help are parents getting?

The first reaction of parents is to take away the “threat” (in this case the technology). They’ll look for the quick and easy way to block, filter, monitor and track everything their kids are doing online. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to be aware of things your kids are doing. Last fall I wrote this letter to parents about YikYak and social media awareness. While parents were happy to hear about this new app, I also sensed an increase in frustration and helplessness. How can we stay ahead of our kids? They seem to have the two things we don’t have: time and lack of responsibility.

Next page: A hard truth for parents: There’s no easy way out


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