It’s almost fall. Do you know where your textbooks are?

Tired of lost books and antiquated faxes, two districts opt for 21st century asset management

textbooks-assetsTwo years ago Consolidated Unit School District 300 in Algonquin, Ill., was facing a pretty daunting challenge across its 26 schools. When it came to recording the inventory of assets like textbooks, some of the district’s numbers were incorrect. “We’d start a new school year thinking that we had the appropriate supplies for our students, only to find out that our inventory system didn’t reflect what we actually had on hand,” said Susan Harkin, chief operating officer for the 26-school, 21,000-student district.

A student who wasn’t matched up with an algebra book, for example, would often have to wait a week or two for it to be ordered and delivered to the classroom. And for some of the outdated books that are no longer being published, the district could spend months trying to hunt down the textbooks. “Students would start the school year without a textbook to refer to for homework,” said Harkin. “It wasn’t a good situation for a district that’s focused on student success.”

Harkin says the schools’ curriculum and instructional personnel were particularly concerned about the gaps that existed between the inventory system and the actual inventory. At the time, D300 was most concerned about textbooks, although it also wanted to improve the tracking of district-owned assets such as tablet computers and musical instruments.

Finances were another driver, says Harkin, who notes that her district spends $2,500 less than the state average per student. “Assets and resources are tight,” she added, “so everyone wants to do his or her part in helping to make sure we’re using our resources efficiently and effectively.”

Next page: A software solution to keep track


Can online tutors make anytime, anywhere learning a reality?

Supporting off hours learning is a problem you might not even know you have


Recently, I began dubbing the current generation of students the “Netflix Generation.” They learn when they want, and expect learning resources to be available when and where they need them.

This is similar to the way they consume media through streaming services such as Netflix (for movies and television series) and Spotify (for music); they binge watch TV series multiple episodes in a row, and they expect a wide range of music to be available when and where they want. If they listen to a song in the car, they expect to be able to pick it back up in the house or while waking down the street. Increasingly, they expect learning resources to be available in the same fashion.

Smart educational organizations have built rich online courses filled with learning resources to support this type of learning. The old paradigm where learning occurs only in a classroom or lecture hall during school hours is gone. But in off hours, when teachers are at home, what will take their place?

Next page: Giving students study help off-hours


CFY becomes PowerMyLearning

Move will better align organization’s mission, name

computers-powermylearningThe following is a statement from Neil Spears, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles region.

Sixteen years ago, Dan Dolgin and Elisabeth Stock started this organization because they were both deeply concerned about education in our country, and the need to ensure that the paths they both had as students, which had provided them with such amazing opportunities, should be open to everyone – no matter their zip code.

In 1999, the organization was born and was called Computers for Youth — or “CFY” for short. While we were never about only providing “computers for youth,” we’ve become even more convinced over time that it is not just technology alone that powers learning. Rather it is students who power their own learning through a combination of technology and the people who matter most to their success – their families and their teachers.

To better align our mission with our name, I am pleased to share with you that we have officially changed our name to PowerMyLearning.

So, why PowerMyLearning?

We chose this name for our organization because “PowerMyLearning” represents everything we do and everything we stand for. We believe that kids learn best in environments where their teachers and parents are learning too.

For more than 16 years, our organization has helped countless teachers, students, and parents power their learning through technology both in the classroom and in the home. Our work has always been focused on how we can use technology to better meet the individual needs of children and encourage kids to take charge of their learning.

I invite you to help us reach far more schools and far more communities. There are a lot of students, parents, and teachers out there who want to power their learning but could use our collective help.

Let everyone know about PowerMyLearning and help us ensure that the amazing educational opportunities we have all had will be available to future generations of learners, regardless of their zip code.

Neil Spears
Executive Director
PowerMyLearning Greater Los Angeles Region

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Gaggle adds Google and Microsoft trainings for PD

Gaggle adds Google and Microsoft training options; trainers obtain certifications to help educators use leading technology

gaggle-PDBefore the school bell rings to start a new year, administrators are planning instructional training and professional development to help teachers and staff learn new technology and skills.

Gaggle is expanding its professional development and training options.

Schools or districts using Google Apps for Education or Office 365 can receive onsite or webinar training to meet their specific needs. In addition, they can receive training on Gaggle products such as the Safe Classroom Learning Management System (LMS) or Safety Management for Google Apps and Safety Management Office 365.

Two Gaggle trainers, Amber Aplington-Johnson and Tracy Duncan, are a vital part the company’s increased professional development and training options. They spent the summer obtaining new certifications.

A Google Certified Educator, Aplington-Johnson proved her proficiency in Google Apps for Education by taking courses and exams on Google Sites, Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Drive. She has worked at Gaggle since 2008 in various roles, including as a customer account representative and account specialist.

Duncan became a Google Certified Educator last year and this summer received her Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) certification. MCE certification validates that Duncan has the technology literacy competencies needed to provide custom learning experiences for Office 365 users.

“Amber and Tracy are committed to enhancing their knowledge of our products and other leading educational technology that schools use,” said Heather Durkac, Vice President of Customer Operations, at Gaggle. “Educators can feel confident that, regardless of the technology, Gaggle’s experienced trainers can deliver successful professional development and training.”

A new video details the expanded professional development and training options and includes testimonials from educators across the country who have benefited from Gaggle training.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Is your one-to-one program destined to fail?

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know when you’ve arrived

one-to-one-failureIt’s been a busy summer leading workshops at many schools and districts with one-to-one iPad, Chromebook, and laptop programs. Many of these schools are years into a one-to-one program, and my conversations with school administrators often focus on the success of their program.

In several of these conversations, school administrators have categorized their one-to-one program as “stagnating” and that they face continued resistance from a significant number of teachers. Yet, at first glance, the administrators have provided everything the faculty needs for success.

For one, every student and teacher has a device (and in some cases multiple ones). These schools have a stable wi-fi network, so accessing websites and online programs in the classroom is not a problem. Network filtering is restrained so that teachers can bring social media websites into the classroom. Administrators have also hired instructional technology specialists to assist the teachers. Finally, teachers are afforded much latitude in tech implementation. At these schools there is no explicit requirement for teachers to use the devices and no one is tracking the hours of classroom time dedicated to technology integration.

So, these administrators naturally wonder why their technology integration program is not entirely successful.

Next page: How to think beyond the device


WebAssign launches analytics tool for students

Tool offers a new way for students to view class progress

student-analyticsWebAssign, a provider of online instructional tools for faculty and students, today announced the release of its latest analytics feature for students, My Class Insights.

Integrated with the WebAssign application, My Class Insights gives students an overview of concepts they have learned and topics they are struggling on based on first-attempt-on-problem data.

The user-friendly interface shows students a summary view of concept mastery, as well as provides the subsequent steps in the learning process.

A practice button appears next to each topic so students can dive deeper into a series of similar question types.

“My Class Insights gives students more data and control over their learning, making WebAssign powerful tool for increasing student engagement,” said Jack Narayan, WebAssign chief academic officer and mathematics professor. “Now students can quickly see the areas they need to pay more attention to, and the data presented in My Class Insights should encourage them to fully invest in learning before an exam.”

My Class Insights was designed primarily to act as a study tool, but can also be used as remediation or to identify gaps in prerequisite course knowledge.

This is the latest feature in a series of analytical tools and reports WebAssign will continue to release throughout the year.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


App of the Week: Social Quest, for expressive and receptive language

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

What’s It Like? At the start of the app, an adult will decide if the student(s) will work on receptive or expressive language, and then kids create a character by uploading an image or using an avatar. Teachers or speech professionals can also select the level of challenge involved with answering questions and what to do with erroneous responses. Students or teachers can then drag their avatars to one or more environments and then slide the transporter icon to begin their quests. Kids listen to a scenario and choose one or more options that best fit social norms associated with that situation.

Price: $13

Grades: 6-12

Pros: Designed by professionals to target specific and appropriate language responses.

Cons: Visually busy, which may present problems for some students.

Bottom line: This is a must-have for middle school students who need extra receptive and expressive language practice.



Inquiry-based science platform lets students conduct investigations

Web-based tool aims to engage students and teachers in science and engineering skill development

science-engineeringVan Andel Education Institute (VAEI) has launched a new scientific inquiry platform, called NexGen Inquiry — which guides students through the scientific method and lets them conduct investigations and journal their progress.

Released in preparation for the 2015-16 school year, NexGen Inquiry includes an interactive teaching and learning platform that supports existing curriculum, integrated teacher professional development, a teacher community and a resource library.

Built by teachers for teachers, NexGen Inquiry is the result of more than a decade of work with students and science educators at the Van Andel Education Institute Science Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a foundational support for the Next Generation Science Standards as well as other state standards.

NexGen Inquiry includes a web-based journal wherein students can complete investigations designed and distributed by their teachers and also plan and conduct their own investigations. The journal incorporates VAEI’s Community of Scientific Practice model and QPOE2 (Question, Prediction, Observation, Explanation and Evaluation), its process of scientific inquiry. As students complete investigations, they have the ability to easily add content in a variety of forms: text, images, data tables, charts and videos, using tools readily available within their own journals.

“The Community of Scientific Practice and QPOE2 opened my eyes to real, hands-on science and has taken my science instruction methods to the next level,” said Jessica O’Donnell, fifth-grade teacher at Spring Lake Intermediate School in Spring Lake, Michigan. “I am excited to incorporate the NexGen Inquiry™ teaching and learning platform with my fifth grade class this year as we increase technology access for our students.”

Teacher professional development resources are built into NexGen Inquiry through self-paced video modules. Video modules have been designed to mirror the progression of VAEI’s highly successful face-to-face trainings with more than 700 local science educators. Advanced levels of professional development modules are planned for release during the 2015-16 school year.

NexGen Inquiry further supports science educators by providing a resource library with full access to instructional scaffolds and posters for use in implementing the Community of Scientific Practice model and QPOE2 its process of scientific inquiry. Teachers interested in asking questions of other practitioners or sharing ideas and best practices with their peers and VAEI staff can participate in just-in-time professional development activities by participating in forum discussions and polls within the NexGen Inquiry Teacher Community.

Visit for more information and to begin a FREE, 90 day trial.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


New version of SAS Curriculum Pathways offers more personalization

Resource recommendations, customized home pages are new features

sas-personalizationThe latest version of SAS Curriculum Pathways offers with improved search, user ratings and comments, individual home pages and automated resource recommendations–all with a goal of making learning and teaching more effective, and with more personalization, than ever.

“We make changes because we listen to teachers and students,” said Scott McQuiggan, Director of SAS Curriculum Pathways. “They want a more social experience, to share their opinions and tips with others. They want to navigate our more than 1,250 resources easily, and get relevant recommendations automatically. The new SAS Curriculum Pathways is a substantial leap forward.”

SAS Curriculum Pathways provides tools, resources and apps in English language arts, mathematics, sci­ence, social studies and Spanish. Proven in traditional, virtual and home schools, they’re built for how students learn.


Next page: What the redesigned tool offers


The 7 do’s and don’ts of creating your own OERs

Do follow these best practices in creating open resources to use and share

oer-creationWhether you know it or not, most educators have already started creating their own open educational resources (OER) in the form of tests, handouts, and presentations. Bringing them on online to share with other educators is just the natural next step.

But there are best practices creating and sharing OERs, which are resources that are freely shared and able to be modified and redistributed.

This “grass-roots, bottom-up” approach to content creation enables educators to tailor content to meet students’ needs,” said Tyler DeWitt, an MIT Ph.D. student and a student coordinator for the MIT+K12 video outreach project, during an edWeb webinar, which explored these and other related takeaways and gave several tips for creating OERs that work for educators.

Next page: Advice to follow