Texas districts enlist Skyward for data integration

Implementation aims to help districts streamline data and management processes

data-integrationTwo Texas institutions, Mesquite Independent School District and Village Tech Schools, have enlisted Skyward, a K-12 school administrative software provider, to unify school management and data processes.

Both districts identified customer service as the primary factor in selecting Skyward, along with student data security, parent engagement and ease-of-use for teachers.

A large suburban school district located just east of Dallas, Mesquite ISD selected the Student Management Suite from Skyward to answer its data integration needs. Mesquite ISD searched for a management system that stressed data accuracy and security for its 40,000 students, while also providing a user-friendly platform with cost-cutting data storage capabilities.

Village Tech Schools, an open-enrollment charter school in its third year, selected the Skyward Student Management and School Business Suites. Skyward will partner with the school to streamline digital scheduling, as students are allowed to move freely between classes. Village Tech Schools is looking forward to Family Access for parent communication, Gradebook to simplify the grading process and the Business Suite to manage operations.

“We need a solution that meets our short-term and long-term needs,” said Jeremy Jameson, chief technology officer at Village Tech Schools. “Skyward brings everything under one roof; it’s a one-stop shop for grading, scheduling, communicating with parents and managing business operations such as payroll and inventory. Having the option to bring the student and business systems together will help our district move forward, so we don’t have to constantly keep cross-referencing data.”

Mesquite ISD will implement the Skyward Student Management Suite in fall of 2016, while Village Tech Schools implemented the Student Management Suite last spring and is currently implementing the School Business Suite.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Want to foster rich academic discussions? Try a student #Edcamp

An innovative professional development model comes to the classroom

edcamp-studentsEdcamp “unconferences” have shattered the traditional model for professional development, and they’re catching on as a way for educators to share their ideas and expertise in an informal, collegial way.

Now, some forward-thinking educators are adapting the Edcamp model for their students, as a way to spark richer conversations.

Edcamps are professional development gatherings without a predetermined set of topics or presenters; instead, participants volunteer to lead conversations and hands-on workshops among their peers. Content for these sessions is determined organically, during a common schedule-building time at the outset—and participants are free to float among sessions as their interests dictate.

Because the topics are participant-driven, this free-form arrangement often results in lively, passionate discussions among educators, said Jason Seliskar, a fourth grade teacher for the Covina-Valley Unified School District in California. In other words, the kinds of discussions that educators yearn to hear from their students.

“I thought: What would this look like if I tried it with my students?” said Seliskar, who is transitioning into a new role as a district technology coach this fall.

Next page: How it works with students


App of the Week: An app that reads books aloud

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? Read2Go is an ebook reader for students who need help reading print. It’s one of a number of ways to download and read books from the Bookshare Library. Upon setting up a student’s membership, teachers are asked to determine and save just a few settings, like font size and the voice used for audio playback. Teachers only need to enter their students’ information into Read2Go once. From that point forward, any registered student can browse and search in the library, then download and read books independently with just one touch. A search can also generate a list of choices pre-selected by a teacher.

Price: $20

Grades: K-12

Pros: An intuitive interface gets kids into their reading simply and quickly.

Cons: Access is limited only to those with a Bookshare subscription.

Bottom line: Although it doesn’t contain its own learning content, Read2Go opens doors for kids who struggle with reading.



4 apps that make writing with an iPad possible

Who says students can’t write with an iPad?

ipad-writingTablets are a fantastic tool for media creation. But when it comes to more traditional needs, like writing, laptop or desktop computers are still the way to go (or so the conventional wisdom says).

But as it turns out, tablets are extremely versatile tools for supporting writing instruction in the classroom, for everyone from our littlest learners to high schoolers and beyond. Why use tablets for student writing? Research indicates that using digital tools in teaching student writing encourages students to be more invested in their writing, facilitates collaboration, encourages creativity and personal expression, and allows students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience.

Read on to learn about a few of my favorite apps to support the prewriting process and enable your students to create dazzling digital books.

Want to add some pizzazz to your writing unit? Try Kidspiration Maps, which lets students create thinking maps with text and images to capture their ideas. Kidspiration’s vast library of more than 3,000 symbols helps children plan and organize their stories using pictures to complement their words. Not only are the diagrams visually appealing and fun to create, but they also help students organize their writing and generate ideas. In addition, Kidspiration Maps has the added benefit of converting a student’s work from graphic to outline format at the tap of a button. After organizing their ideas in pictorial format, students can expand their ideas and switch to writing sentences in writing view.

Next page: Brainstorming, storytelling, and book making


Think Through Math adds geometry to interactive math system

New offering will combine live tutoring and adaptive math instruction

geometry-toolThink Through Learning, creators of Think Through Math (TTM), an instructional system for grades 3 and above, announced plans to expand its high school software line to include geometry.

Built from the ground up to align to each state’s standards as well as the Common Core, TTM Geometry combines live tutoring from state-certified U.S. math teachers, adaptive instruction and a motivation system that work together to support students to master geometry.

Think Through Math’s teachers tutor students through a two-way interactive whiteboard. TTM Geometry then builds and strengthens conceptual understanding by having students explore math relationships using multiple kinds of visual representations.

To further insure sustainable learning gains, TTM Geometry includes a wide variety of interactive item types; ensuring students are well prepared for the more sophisticated test items being used on state-level assessments.

“As with all TTM lessons, which are designed to emphasize the progressive and interrelated nature of math concepts, TTM Geometry builds on prior knowledge. By incorporating algebraic reasoning, theories and formulas throughout, students can master the big picture of conceptual math relationships, rather than simply practice a series of discrete lessons,” said Sara Byrne, Director of Content at Think Through Math.

Available to students from school and home, Think Through Math’s adaptive learning technology addresses the unique learning needs of every student including English Language Learners (ELL) and those with advanced math aptitude and learning disabilities. TTM lessons and on-line tutoring are both available in both English and Spanish.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


The $300 tabletop 3D printer currently captivating the world

Lightweight device far exceeds crowdfunding goal

Freaks3d-printerA startup in China has already raised more than five times its crowdfunding goal for a tabletop 3D printer, currently starting at $300.

The printer, called Freaks3D, bills itself as the world’s first portable 3D printer. In the 13 days since its Indiegogo campaign started, it has already raised nearly $110,000. A video on the printer notes that it weighs about six pounds when fully assembled thanks to an aluminum frame. (The printer comes in a kit, which users need to put together themselves).

It also boasts that users do not need to preheat filament beforehand, only place the filament in the printer’s entrance path, and that it runs so quietly “it can also be used in a library without anyone complaining about it,” according to a related press release.

The $300 donation level includes the 3D printer kit, step-by-step instructions, and software. For $100 more, the printer comes fully assembled. It plans to begin shipping in August.


Colo. district adopts new assessment system with real-time feedback

Jefferson County establishes partnership to boost assessment success

assessment-partnershipJefferson County Public Schools (Jeffco), Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) and MasteryConnect have entered into a partnership to provide high-quality interim assessment tools to all schools in the Golden, Colo. district.

“To track and improve student learning, we need a comprehensive assessment system that returns actionable information to best support our teachers and students,” said Dan McMinimee, Superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools. “Partnering with NWEA and MasteryConnect will help us ensure our interim assessment system delivers maximum instructional value throughout the district.”

Jeffco teachers and administrators involved in the selection process unanimously voted to replace the district’s previous assessments with NWEA’s interim assessment system. The key component of this system is NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress Assessment (MAP).

Next page: More information about the partnership and plans for assessments moving forward