New Science Techbook is built for NGSS

Digital textbook uses instructional approach aligned to real-world science applications

science-discoveryDiscovery Education’s new Science Techbook aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is now available for classroom use.

Designed specifically to help teachers transition to the NGSS framework, Discovery Education’s latest Techbook joins the company’s line of digital textbooks.

The Science Techbook includes standards-aligned content such as video, audio, text, interactives with hands-on activities, and virtual labs intended to help educators differentiate instruction and provide a rich and engaging learning experience for students.

Next page: More details about the Science Techbook


Students’ ed-tech opinions might surprise you

Students are more thoughtful about technology use than many adults give them credit for

students-ed-techStudents see equity of access as a key ed-tech challenge for their schools, and they’d like to have newer technology in their classrooms. But they’re also more thoughtful about their tech use than many adults give them credit for, expressing concerns about distractions and a lack of face-to-face interaction when using devices in class.

Those were some of the key takeaways from a panel discussion held June 30 during the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia.

Hosted by ed-tech public relations firm PR with Panache, “Youth Voices” featured two middle and two high school students discussing their opinions on topics ranging from how they use technology in school and at home, to what they think the future of education will look like.

Outside of school, they’re using social media services like Snapchat and Instagram to communicate with their friends on their smart phones. In school, however, their tech use varies widely, depending on their circumstances.

Christopher Cail, an 11th grade honors student at Pine View School in Sarasota County, Fla., said it’s mostly teachers who are using technology at his school. While students are allowed to bring their own devices to class—Christopher brings his MacBook Pro and connects it to the school’s network—many teachers have not changed their instruction to take full advantage of this opportunity, he said.

Next page: Students reflect on funding and privacy


Classroom in a Box leverages digital solutions for achievement

Recent survey cites 91 percent of teachers believe training on technology in the classroom is important to achieving success

classroom-digitalSamsung Electronics America at ISTE 2015 announced its Classroom in a Box suite of services to K-12 schools.

According to a recent survey of K-12 teachers conducted by Samsung and GfK, 91 percent of teachers surveyed feel that access to up-to-date training on how to use technology in the classroom is important to achieving success. Based on the survey findings, 81 percent of surveyed teachers agree that technology in the classroom enables students to get more hands-on experience during lessons. However, 60 percent of teachers surveyed feel they are inadequately prepared to use it.

“Technology can have a dramatically positive impact on student success, but it’s important to ensure that educators are equipped with the resources and skills needed to leverage its power,” said Ted Brodheim, vice president of Vertical Business at Samsung Electronics America. “Samsung is committed to developing the best in classroom technology, and supporting teachers and schools with professional development that offers a deeper exploration of 21st century learning to improve student outcomes.”

In partnership with McGraw-Hill Education, Samsung’s Classroom in a Box is a fully-integrated pilot program that includes components needed to transform classrooms into technology enabled learning environments.

Next page: Elements of the new digital classroom solution


Third-party sites can now interact with Google Classroom

Quizlet, Duolingo, and more can add new Google Classroom features to their sites

google-classroomGoogle Classroom debuted last year to help teachers and students save time and collaborate with each other, and since then Google developers have been working on how to make sure it worked well with other products that educators love and use in their classes.

Now, developers can embed the Google Classroom share button and sign up for the developer preview of the Google Classroom API.

These tools make it easy for developers to seamlessly integrate with Google Classroom in ways that help teachers and students — like letting teachers create assignments directly from Quizlet, Duolingo, PBS and many other favorites.

Classroom API

The Classroom API allows admins to provision and manage classes at scale, and lets developers integrate their applications with Classroom. Until the end of July, Google will be running a developer preview, during which interested admins and developers can sign up for early access. When the preview ends, all Apps for Education domains will be able to use the API, unless the admin has restricted access.

By using the API, admins will be able to provision and populate classes on behalf of their teachers, set up tools to sync their Student Information Systems with Classroom, and get basic visibility into which classes are being taught in their domain. The Classroom API also allows other apps to integrate with Classroom.

A few developers have been helping Google test the API. Here are a few examples of what they’ve built:

  • The New Visions CloudLab (makers of Doctopus) built rosterSync for Sheets, an add-on integrated with Classroom. Harnessing the power of Google Sheets, admins can sync data from any student information system with Classroom.
  • Alma, a hybrid student information and learning management platform, will let schools easily create and sync their class rosters directly to Classroom with just a few clicks. And if an admin adds a student to a class in Alma, that student will get automatically added in the Classroom class. See more in their demo video.
  • And if you use Pear Deck, it’s now easy to start an interactive Pear Deck session with any of your Classroom classes. Just click “Invite from Google Classroom,” choose a class and your students will automatically be invited. Pear Deck will always use your current roster of students from Classroom, so you don’t have to keep rosters up to date across apps.

In the Admin Console, admins will be able to restrict whether teachers and students in their domain can authorize apps to access their Google Classroom data. And Google doesn’t permit other apps to use Classroom data from the API for any advertising purposes.

Classroom share button

Google also introduced the Classroom share button, a simple way for developers – or schools – to allow teachers and students to seamlessly assign or turn-in links, videos and images from another webpage or product.

The share button only requires a few lines of JavaScript, and you can customize the button to meet the needs of your website. When teachers and students click the button, they can quickly share to Classroom without having to leave the site they’re on. More than 20 educational content and tool providers have already committed to integrating the Classroom share button, including PBS, Quizlet, American, Museum of Natural History, Discovery Education, Duolingo, and TIME Edge.

To get started or learn more about either the API or integrating the share button, visit

Material from a press release was used in this report.


SunGard K-12 Education releases eSchoolPLUS 4.0

User interface offers at-a-glance insights, action-oriented support for student achievement

education-sisToday, SunGard K-12 Education announced the release of eSchoolPLUS 4.0. The next-generation student information system, eSchoolPLUS 4.0 is a solution for student information management that helps educators directly and positively impact student achievement.

This release amplifies SunGard K-12 Education’s student information system with a smart user interface and a variety of features that promote collaboration.

According to Joel Hames, SunGard K-12 Education’s vice president of product, eSchoolPLUS 4.0 delivers on the vision of bringing a highly elegant solution with user-focused interactivity to schools. “With recent advances and increasing options in technology, today’s educator relies on a broad spectrum of devices and browsers to access their web applications,” says Hames. “eSchoolPLUS 4.0 meets educators where they are by leveraging the latest technology to create a progressive, highly usable, and forward-thinking solution for student achievement.”

With HTML5 as its core technology, eSchoolPLUS 4.0 offers the same application and user experience across any browser and choice of PC, Mac®, Chromebook™ notebook computer, and iPad® or other tablet.
eSchoolPLUS 4.0 sets a new standard for usability with features including responsive design, advanced navigation tools, and mobile-first design concepts, such as tablet-friendly icons and pages and gesture-friendly screens. The result is a very friendly user experience, regardless of which of the multitude of devices and browsers educators and administrators are using to access this web-based application.

This solution also provides advanced tools and at-a-glance insights that promote collaboration between administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

Highly customizable smart search functionality throughout the software puts ad-hoc reporting capabilities at the fingertips of educators. And, with SunGard K-12’s hallmark PLUS 360 Notifications, eSchoolPLUS 4.0 mines student data to help increase user efficiency by allowing educational stakeholders to choose to be automatically alerted when certain events occur or criteria are met.

For Hames, these new features, along with eSchoolPLUS’ well-received standards-based gradebook, create a solution that is very responsive to the needs of today’s educator. “With this transition, we’ve taken a very stable, proven, reliable workhorse of a student information system and transformed it with advances that our customers and others have said will make a real difference in education,” he says. “This effort, which has been more than a year in development, is important to us because we believe that it will support educators in doing the incredibly important work they do for this nation’s children.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


App of the Week: Quist – Today in LGBTQ History

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? Quist (a contraction of “queer history”) is a reference app for exploring historic events that involved members of the LGBTQ community. Quist’s developers created the app to build awareness, engagement, and support for the LGBTQ community and the history of the community’s struggles. On launch, users see events that occurred on this date; then, users can tap that story to view a longer entry and to browse other entries from that date

Price: Free/paid

Grades: 6-12

Pros: Good images, huge volume of content, and great developer website tell a powerful (and sometimes overlooked) story.

Cons: Inconsistent interface interrupts engrossing content; external links have a wide range of quality, reliability, and appropriateness for kids.

Bottom line: A fine reference tool that’s best used to introduce kids and adults to the LGBTQ community’s history.



BrightBytes releases leadership module at ISTE 2015

Module improves school leadership practices and behaviors that research links to student achievement

leadership-clarityBrightBytes, an educational research and analysis organization, has added a leadership module to its Clarity platform. Created in partnership with McREL International, a nonprofit education research and development organization, the Leadership module empowers educational organizations to grow and develop exceptional leaders and track the progress of their improvement initiatives.

“Knowing the status of your most important initiatives is critical for every school leader,” said Rob Mancabelli, CEO and co-founder of BrightBytes. “The Leadership Module communicates the impact of your work to all your stakeholders in seconds.”

The Leadership module is based on McREL’s research about the leadership practices that have the largest impact on student outcomes. The module provides personalized, actionable analysis for organizational teams in the areas of purposeful community, managing change, and leadership focus

“The Leadership module gives principals, superintendents, and other administrators ready access to data, insights, and recommendations on leadership practices that improve student achievement and staff success,” said Bryan Goodwin, President and CEO of McREL.

BrightBytes’ Clarity platform has a variety of solutions intended to help educational leaders make better, data-driven decisions for student learning. Each module on the platform gives schools, districts, and states very specific next steps on how to use their strengths to address gaps, enabling them to prioritize learning initiatives and allocate investments for maximum impact.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


7 of Leslie Fisher’s favorite gadgets for 2015 and beyond

Futuristic drones, wearables, and augmented reality are cool tools to watch

Speaker and self-professed gadget geek Leslie Fisher took to ISTE 2015 to share her favorite futuristic tech tools at her session “Attack of the Gadgets,” where she previewed everything from drones that follow you to next-gen augmented reality tools to a gadget that really does attack you. From the just-released to the possible pipe dream, here’s a sampling of the future of tech.

Lily. Your own personal paparazzi drone flies and follows you (or, rather, the tracking device you wear like a watch) for up to 20 minutes as it snaps photos and records video from way up high. It’s also waterproof, captures sound, and shoots in HD.
Release: February 2016; $500

Pavlok. Fisher describes this bracelet that uses light electric shocks to help wearers reach goals and break bad habits as “a personal coach for your wrist — a personal coach who is basically a low-grade masochist.” Users who don’t meet their goals risk getting zapped, having shaming Facebook posts pushed to their feed, and even losing money (to other users who are meeting their goals, naturally). According to a video on its website, the bracelet bullied one user into abstaining from all refined sugar (which admittedly was her goal) in a single day. Did somebody say stocking stuffer?
Release: Pre-order; $200

QBall. Basically a dodgeball with a built-in microphone, this soft, bouceable sphere can be linked into any sound system and tossed around a classroom or gym for audience participation. Certainly gives new meaning to a mic drop.
Release: Pre-order

Next page: Augmented reality, iPad tools, & more


A leader’s guide to technology implementations

ISTE 2015 session examines how school and district leaders can best plan for a technology initiative’s success

technology-leadershipEstablishing a shared vision around a technology initiative is one of the most important success factors for that initiative, according to a panel of administrators from around the country who gathered at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia to discuss a leadership roadmap to successful technology integration.

The panel was based around ISTE’s Essential Conditions, which are 14 necessary conditions for effectively leveraging technology. The conditions fall under the categories of people, policy, and resources.

Some of the conditions–such as consistent and adequate funding–are largely aspirational and may not be fulfilled.

Next page: What various school leaders did to ensure their technology initiatives’ success