District automates account management, registration process

UMRA allows for automated account management including the process of managing Google Apps accounts

account-managementTools4ever, a provider of identity and access management (IdM/IAM) solutions, announced today that Culver City Unified School District in Calif. has implemented User Management Resource Administrator (UMRA) and Password Synchronization Manager (PSM).

Prior to implementing these Tools4ever products, the district’s IT leadership was charged with manually creating and managing student, staff and parent accounts for the thousands who needed to access its systems, which was time consuming and extremely inefficient process.

Tools4ever’s UMRA now allows Culver City USD to automate its entire account management process so that no manual action is required. When a new student begins at the district, his or her information is simply entered into the student information system and UMRA automatically creates an Active Directory account and a Google Apps account and places them in the appropriate groups, and any other parameters that Culver City USD has set.

In the summer of 2014, district leadership made the decision to implement Google Apps for all of its staff and students in an effort to enhance the learning experience. They quickly realized that this would be a tremendous undertaking and needed to find a solution that allowed for the automation of this process.

Robert Quinn, technology director at Culver City Unified School District said, “UMRA has been a huge life saver for me. It probably has saved hours of my work schedule every week. It has been great working with Tools4ever. They are always friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to help. I never felt pressured in anyway, no matter how often I needed help with our projects.”

Tools4ever provides a variety of identity and access management solutions for educational entities, as well as student information system integration and data synchronization solutions, to more than 650 educational entities throughout North America, including school districts, colleges, universities and technical institutions. For more information about how Tools4ever serves the education sector, visit https://www.tools4ever.com/industries/education/.

To learn more about Culver City USD’s move to an automated identity and access management solution, visit: https://www.tools4ever.com/industries/education/references/culver-city/.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Report: Professional development is ineffective and wastes money

District PD spending does not equate to teacher improvement, study finds

professional-developmentResults from a study of more than 10,000 teachers across four districts reveals that professional development — of any type — did little for the teachers or districts studied, and found that less than a third of teachers improved performance year-over-year as a result.

The study, conducted by nonprofit TNTP, found that the participating districts (there were three large ones and one charter network) spent an average of $18,000 per teacher, per year on PD, but only three in 10 teachers saw “substantial” improvement over a two- to three-year period. Two in 10 teachers at surveyed districts saw declines in practice. No particular approach or quantity of PD was found to help improve teacher performance, although there were modest gains for teachers in districts that focused on two related practices.

“The hard truth is that the help most schools give their teachers isn’t helping all that much,” said TNTP CEO Dan Weisberg. “There’s enormous untapped potential within our nation’s teachers, but our findings suggest that we’re nowhere close to unleashing it. That’s not what we’d hoped to find.”

Next page: 6 major findings

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Stopping teacher turnover in its tracks

How do you retain the best educators? Observation and feedback, says one school

turnover-teachersGetting new teachers into the classroom has been a major focus of districts across the country during the last 30 years, as turnover has increased, especially in historically underserved communities. School leaders at high need urban schools and elsewhere have resorted to signing bonuses, merit pay, and strong benefits in an attempt to lure teachers in. One public school in Arizona even advertises a four-day work week as a selling point to get them in the door.

Recruitment is important. However, the retention of high quality teachers is equally, if not more, crucial. More organizations are realizing the necessity of developing ways to support teachers to raise retention. Keeping effective teachers in classrooms, particularly in a high needs school, is becoming more of a focus for administrators. One way to achieve retention is through building a common mission and vision. Teachers want to be part of a high quality organization dedicated to a common goal for success.

Milwaukee College Prep, where I serve as COO, is a high achieving urban K-8 charter management organization with four campuses and 2,000 students. The campuses are located in the most poverty-stricken areas in Milwaukee. As a successful urban CMO, one of the most important questions often asked is, “How do you train and retain outstanding educators?” To which I often reply that giving teachers support through observations and feedback is perhaps the most vital piece. Teachers who are passionate about education pursue opportunities to perfect their skills. They appreciate feedback and specific action steps to guide self-improvement.

Next page: How feedback leads to retention

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Discovery launches new STEM services for PD and curriculum

PD, coaching, curriculum development are combined in new educational services

discovery-servicesDiscovery Education is launching three new services designed to help school systems nationwide grow capacity for STEM teaching and learning.

The new resources aim to support school systems in building and sustaining a culture of STEM education through a unique combination of immersive professional development initiatives, job-embedded instructional coaching, rich digital content, and extensive community engagement.

The launch of these new capacity building services is part of Discovery Education’s continued commitment to supporting STEM education. For over a decade, Discovery Education has provided school systems worldwide the professional development, digital services, project-based learning opportunities, and other initiatives needed to build the engaging STEM learning environments that encourage students to solve real-world problems while improving academic achievement.

Next page: The new services

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Lesson development tool lets you search by student interest

InterestID recommends relevant lessons based on student interest

interest-techNextLesson, a K-12 developer of personally relevant curriculum, has launched InterestID, a student interest and lesson discovery tool, at EdmodoCon 2015. InterestID enables teachers to discover their students’ interests and easily find standards-aligned lessons on topics students love.

InterestID allows students to voice their favorite interests within categories such as sports, books, movies, food, music and gadgets. Students can filter by specific categories, rate whether they like or dislike individual items, and add new interests to guide future lesson development. They can also view a summary of their most liked categories and interests.

Teachers are able to view the interests of their students in a summary that displays the top categories, most popular interests within those categories, and recommended lessons from NextLesson based on those interests. Teachers can view summaries for individual students or classes as a whole, and track changes in their students’ interests over time.

“We want to help teachers make learning relevant by connecting lessons to things students already know and like,” says Dion Lim, Founder and CEO of NextLesson. “By having students voice their interests through InterestID, teachers can meet students where they are by discovering lessons that their students will find interesting and engaging.”

InterestID is a free tool available on nextlesson.org and in the Edmodo Store.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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7 mobile learning myths no educator should believe

Two researchers discuss myths associated with mobile adoption and use

mobile-learningBy now, educators are familiar with the term mobile learning — or mLearning — having experienced its rush in classroom popularity starting as early as 2000. But two researchers say it’s now imperative that educators slough off the myths from the reality to avoid ineffective classroom practice moving forward.

“In recent years, many projects have assisted in the maturation of mLearning and much has already been done to integrate mLearning into mainstream education. However, mLearning is still in its infancy and we are merely seeing the tip of the iceberg,” notes Tom Brown, a former associate professor of research and development in tech-enhanced learning at the University of South Africa , Pretoria (UNISA), and co-author of the report (after the report’s publication, Brown left to become CEO of a portfolio management company).

“Our perspectives on [mobile learning] seek to…stimulate an appetite to embrace the opportunities in open and distance learning, while minimizing the potential negative effects of technological, social and pedagogical change,” explains Lydia Mbati, senior researcher with specialties in higher ed-tech and pedagogic theory at UNISA, and co-author of the report.

Most of the myths identified by Brown and Mbati focus on mobile learning’s oft-described “techno-centric” characteristics, which the researchers say may do a disservice to those educators either interested in implementing mLearning, or have already done so.

Next page: Mobile isn’t just learning with smartphones

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Michigan expands access to online speech therapy for underserved students

Michigan now allows Medicaid reimbursement for online speech therapy, which could help with access

speech-therapyMichigan schools are now eligible to receive Medicaid reimbursement for speech telepractice services, just as they do for on-site services.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services policy, live, online speech-language therapy, also known as telepractice, is simply “subject to the same provisions as therapy provided to a patient in person.”

Live, online delivery of speech-language services—also known as telemedicine or telehealth—is a mode of delivery that has been shown to produce the same or better results when compared to onsite delivery. Telepractice is recognized as effective by the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and supported by dozens of published, peer-reviewed research studies.

Next page: Reaction to Michigan’s decision

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Providing free wireless hotspots helps this district close the equity gap

A new program is helping students connect to devices and internet after the last bell

wifi-equityThe achievement gap. The literacy gap. The nutrition Gap. The preschool gap. It seems like our education system talks and talks about the inequities that exist between students and schools that are well-funded, well-supported, and well-granted, and those that struggle to keep the lights on, pay their staff, and run the HVAC.

There’s another gap, a growing one, perhaps with less media buzz, that has made its way to the doors of our schools. It’s one we can no longer ignore. This is the chasm between the homes with and those without access to quality broadband.

It’s a complex and layered issue. In rural schools, the availability of internet access beyond school and home can be difficult to obtain, while students in urban areas often can poach access from libraries, open networks in the community, or nearby fast food restaurants. In both rural and urban settings, many students are obtaining their wi-fi signals using smartphones as hotspots at a rate that isn’t sustainable for their cellular plans. Others have a home network that is plagued with speed and consistency issues. In all of these situations, learning, especially at the pace and rate necessary for today’s student to succeed, is inhibited.

Next page: An innovative hotspot program

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