4 finalists vie for Superintendent of the Year

Winner will be announced in February at AASA conference

leadership-superintendent-aasaAASA, The School Superintendents Association, announced today the finalists for the 2016 National Superintendent of the Year. This marks the 29th anniversary of the program, which honors school system leaders throughout the country.

Co-sponsored by Aramark, VALIC and AASA, the 2016 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced at AASA’s National Conference on Education, Feb. 11-13, 2016, in Phoenix, Ariz.

The four finalists for the 2016 AASA National Superintendent of the Year are:

Freddie Williamson, Hoke County Schools, Raeford, N.C.
Williamson has more than 30 years of service in public education, with the past nine years as superintendent of Hoke County Schools. He is known for his transformational leadership style, no- excuses philosophy and innovative approach to addressing challenges. Williamson began his journey in public education as a classroom teacher. His experiences have included school administration for more than 25 years in various capacities, including vocational education, curriculum and human resources. In the summer of 2006, he was named superintendent of Hoke County Schools. Williamson has also served in several leadership roles for organizations such as the North Carolina School Superintendents Executive Board, North Carolina Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Board of Directors, Sandhills Regional Education Superintendents Council, FirstHealth of the Carolinas Advisory Board and Fayetteville State University Educational Leadership Advisory Board. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Thomas Tucker, Princeton City Schools, Cincinnati, Ohio
Tucker has served 26 years in the Kansas and Ohio public school systems. During that time, he held the positions of classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of secondary curriculum and superintendent. He was named superintendent of the Princeton City School District effective July 1, 2015. In 2008, Dr. Tucker became not only the first African-American to be named superintendent of Licking Heights Local School District, but also earned the distinction of being the first African-American superintendent in Licking County. He is an active member of many educational associations, civic organizations and committees, including the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

Pamela Moran, Albemarle County Schools, Charlottesville, Va.
Moran has provided 40 years of public education service in Virginia, beginning as a middle school science teacher in Orange County in 1975. She worked her way up through the ranks of education administration in both Orange and Albemarle Counties until her appointment as superintendent of Albemarle County Schools in 2005. From 2009 until 2011 she served on various committees and as an officer in the Virginia Association of School Superintendents before being elected president of VASS in 2012.

Steven Webb, Vancouver Public Schools, Vancouver, Wash.
Webb became superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools in July 2008. He joined the district as deputy superintendent in 2006. Webb has a distinguished 31-year career in public education in Washington and California, serving as superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent for secondary learning and technology, principal and assistant principal, high school teacher and coach. He is an active member of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools and the Western States Benchmarking Consortium. He co-chairs the Coalition for Community Schools Superintendents Leadership Council and serves on the Horace Mann League board of directors. In 2014, Webb was one of eight public school leaders in the nation selected by eSchool News as a Tech-Savvy Superintendent. He currently serves on the boards of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington and Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools. He is also a member of the Washington State University Vancouver Advisory Council.

“We are pleased to be a founding sponsor of AASA’s National Superintendent of the Year program and to honor those who are committed to the success of today’s students,” said Jeff Gilliam, president, Aramark K-12 Education. “These talented educators are being recognized for their hard work and dedication to ensuring that our nation’s students continue to flourish and our communities thrive. We are proud to partner with AASA and VALIC in this important program.”

“VALIC joins AASA and Aramark in congratulating the four finalists for the 2016 National Superintendent of the Year,” said John Kevin, vice president, K-12 Markets, VALIC. “We are grateful for the outstanding leadership these individuals have shown for not only the benefit of their own school districts, but also the school systems throughout their respective states and the entire nation. We thank these superintendents for the superior work they do.”

“The four finalists for the 2016 AASA National Superintendent of the Year have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to excellence in the work they do,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “As a former superintendent, I know that the demands of a superintendent are incredibly high, which is why we look forward to honoring these outstanding superintendents as well as all of the 2016 State Superintendents of the Year at our National Conference on Education in February.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Future Ready update adds new resources and PD for leaders

Future Ready overhaul coincides with the new national ed-tech plan

Last Thursday, The United States Department of Education held an event at the White House unveiling the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Future Ready initiative. There, along with several partner groups, they announced several new commitments and initiatives to help schools become more digitally capable.

The main theme of the event was connectivity, but that extends far beyond merely connecting students to technology. Instead, the idea of connectivity envisioned for the future is that technology will serve as a means to connect students to teachers, and allow all students to experience the same access to their interests regardless of demographics.

“There’s an answer for every challenge out there,” said Daryl Adams, Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, who attended the event. “United in purpose and mission, we can do anything.”

One of the major new commitments from the Office of Educational Technology for Future Ready moving into 2016 will be a set of professional learning resources to help district superintendents and their principals and teachers most effectively transition to digital learning. The main feature of this resource is a personalized playlist of bite-sized videos that will focus on the specific needs of a district. The videos highlight ideal, peer-based stories and practices from a wide range of Future Ready districts across the nation.

Additionally, the Alliance for Excellent Education has launched a new, independent website that will be a one-stop resource for ongoing Future Ready efforts, including ongoing professional learning opportunities such as workshops, partner events, online chats, mentoring and topic conversations all aligned to Future Ready Framework. All of this will be centered on a free online planning tool called the Future Ready Planning Dashboard which helps district leadership teams assess readiness, identify gaps, choose research-based strategies and create a customized digital learning action plan.

During the past year, more than 2,000 superintendents around the country have signed the Future Ready pledge and committed to sharing what they have learned with others. Additionally, more than 44 national and 12 regional partner organizations have committed to helping states, districts and schools become Future Ready. A total of 17 statewide Future Ready initiatives are set to launch as well.

Future Ready coalition partners have been asked to contribute resources that align to the four key focus areas of the initiative, which are Collaborative Leadership, Robust Infrastructure, Personalized Professional Learning, and Personalized Student Learning. Many partners are also launching extension programs such as webinars, workshops, mentoring programs, courses and toolkits to provide support for districts and states.

The Department of Education will also hold five regional summits for Future Ready district leadership teams in 2016, located in Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington; and Tampa, Florida. Corporate partners Google, Microsoft, Apple and McGraw Hill have committed to provide support for 2-day regional summits and at least four 1-day dashboard training workshops.

“Through collaboration, a robust infrastructure and personalized learning, Future Ready district leaders are shaping the vision for how technology can transform learning for all students,” said Delegated Deputy Secretary of Education John King.

The national plan

The National Education Technology Plan is the flagship educational technology policy document for the U.S. Previously, it was updated every five years, but starting with this year’s plan, the online version will feature comments sections and will be updated over time in order to ensure that examples and language remain relevant.

The main principles outlined by the plan include equity, active use and collaborative leadership to make learning possible anywhere and at any time.

The plan includes guidelines for helping all students, regardless of background or location, stay connected to technology both inside and outside of the classroom. In order to create more money for this, the plan suggests a move away from traditional textbooks towards high quality open license education materials that will stay consistently up to date.

Indeed, even though there is still a need for greater equity of access to technology itself, the department took care to note that it was more important for educators to work to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled through the technology.

“It is critical that we embed technology in everything that we do,” said Karen Sullivan, Superintendant of Indian Prairie School District 204. “We need to bring unique experiences to all students, not just families who have the means.”

Thus, one of the commitments most stressed by the report, as well as by many of the Future Ready superintendents in attendance, was the need to better support professional development for educators so that they can use technology to provide personalized learning experiences to students. This means shifting from a single technology course to thoughtful use of technology throughout a teacher’s preparation in order to set minimum standards for higher education instructors’ tech proficiency.

The White House event came just three hours after President Obama’s signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act, representing what the administration considers “unprecedented” alignment amongst federal education initiatives.

“Technology has the potential to bring remarkable new possibilities to teaching and learning by providing teachers with opportunities to share best practices, and offer parents platforms for engaging more deeply and immediately in their children’s learning,” said outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“This year’s update to the National Education Technology Plan includes a strong focus on equity because every student deserves an equal chance to engage in educational experiences powered by technology that can support and accelerate learning.”


Full Sail launches new camps for coding, robotics, gaming, and more

Full Sail Labs, an educational experience designed for students from 1st to 12th grades with a focus on technology, science, art and media

full-sail-labsFull Sail University on Dec. 11 unveiled Full Sail Labs, a series of week-long summer camp for students from 1st to 12th grades. Students can take one of 11 camp sessions focusing on topics such as gaming, robotics, or animation at its campus near Orlando.

Developed by Full Sail University with the goal of creating an engaging and open learning environment that allows children and teens to explore creativity through storytelling, art, and technology, Full Sail Labs provides young creative talent with the knowledge to become digital content creators.

Through this experience, young students have the opportunity to explore the techniques used for filmmaking, coding, animation, gaming, robotics, and much more in a fun and collaborative environment.

“Today’s students discover and understand technology at a very young age. We believe Full Sail Labs allows these students the chance to explore their interests and express themselves through the power of technology sooner than ever before,” said Luis Garcia, Vice President, Full Sail University. “We are thrilled to see what children can create when supported by knowledge and cutting-edge tools.”

Housed within a 4,800 square foot facility adjacent to Full Sail University’s campus, this educational space fosters exploration, creativity, collaboration and fun. The facility contains fully equipped innovative and engaging educational areas including a multi-purpose lab that can be transformed for young students to participate in various digital creative projects. It also features a lounge area for parents, allowing them to observe, in addition to homework stations for siblings.

Full Sail Labs originally launched in May 2015 offering eleven 1-week Summer Camps. Over 170 campers participated in the 2015 Summer Camp sessions for an exciting week of creation where each child explored the process of filmmaking, gaming, music, or robotics.

In September, the Full Sail Labs 2015–2016 School-Year Program began, providing a technology-driven enrichment program in the after-school hours and Saturdays. During that same month, Full Sail Labs partnered with One School of The Arts, a private school in Longwood, FL, and facilitated a 2-week program for their high school students at the Full Sail Labs Winter Park-based facility. In October, a partnership with Windermere Preparatory School began, which now provides a customized Full Sail Labs program and presence on their campus.

Last month Full Sail Labs further expanded by offering a specially designed program for the Central Florida home-school community, as well as launching an Electronic Music Production and Game Design programs specifically for teenagers.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


The new way to create flipped video in 60 seconds without adding software

Use PowerPoint to make tutorial videos for flipped or blended learning

Time strapped teachers need support—we all know this. Now there is a quick and easy way to create even more flexible video tutorials for your blended or flipped learning classes. The tutorials can then be watched over and over. Best of all, this solution uses PowerPoint, which many teachers are already comfortable with.

Previously I’ve outlined how to create Khan Academy-style video tutorials quickly and easily (using Office Snip) in a recent article. Those tutorials had a static background. “Active” (changing) backgrounds are also possible as they allow the teacher to record anything that is visible on a computer screen.

Simple and easy

While software and apps that allow screen recording have been available for some time, the solution outlined here is part of an environment that most teachers are already comfortable with and is very easy to use.

Office Mix, a free add-in for Office 2013 and 2016 on the Windows platform, simply adds an extra tab to PowerPoint.


The Office Mix tab (showing controls) in PowerPoint.

Screen recording

Only one part of this add-in to PowerPoint is required to produce more flexible Khan Academy style video tutorials. This is the “Screen Recording” component.

2_Office Mix Screen Recording Icon

The Screen Recording Icon.

Clicking on this icon allows the teacher to select an area of the screen to record. Anything that lies within this area of the screen is recorded. It could be a web page, a diagram that is annotated with digital ink, an explanation of a piece of text, a solution to a math problem, an explanation of a piece of art—virtually anything. Audio is recorded as well, allowing for fuller, richer explanations. This also makes the tutorial a “learning resource” that can be used independently by students.

Next page: Step-by-step on how to use the tool


App of the Week: Shakespeare for the iPad generation

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Common Sense Graphite. To read the full app review, click here.

What’s It Like? Within Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo & Juliet, the full text of the play is featured side-by-side with an animated reenactment. While the style of animation is somewhat simplistic, there are professional actors voicing the parts. Within the text, simply tapping any highlighted words offers a more modern-day term. Tabs at the top of the text let students move easily between the text, section notes, a synopsis, and their own notes. A navigation bar at the bottom of the screen shows all options — viewing by scene, examining characters, reading analysis, and reviewing notes.

Graphite Rating: 4/5

Price: $15

Grades: 8-12

Pros: It’s an all-in-one resource with the full text of the play, analysis, and animated dramatization.

Cons: The app version doesn’t include all of the features available through the Web interface.

Bottom line: An impressive resource for whole-class or at-home Shakespeare exploration.


Vernier opens 2016 engineering contest

Three STEM teachers will each win $5,500 in prizes for creatively using Vernier sensors to introduce students to engineering concepts and practices

engineering-grantVernier Software & Technology is now accepting applications for its 2016 Engineering Contest that recognizes engineering, science, and STEM teachers for their creative use of Vernier sensors to teach students engineering concepts and practices.

Three winning teachers — one middle school teacher, one high school teacher, and one college instructor — will each receive prizes valued at $5,500.

Applications for the contest are due by January 15, 2016, and winners will be announced on March 5, 2016 on the Vernier website and Facebook page.

To enter, teachers must complete an online application form, as well as produce and submit a short video showcasing their engineering project involving Vernier sensors in action. The sensors may be used in conjunction with Vernier’s Logger Pro software, NI LabVIEW software, Arduino, LEGO MINDSTORMS, VEX, or any other system incorporating Vernier sensors.

Applications will be judged by a panel of Vernier experts based on innovation, engineering objectives, and the ease by which others can replicate the project. Middle school and high school applicants will specifically need to explain how the project addresses the engineering practices called for in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Each winner will receive $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and $1,500 toward expenses to attend the 2016 National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) STEM conference or the 2016 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference.

“Our annual Vernier Engineering Contest is one way we show our ongoing support for teachers as they foster the development of the next generation of engineers and scientists,” said David Vernier, former physics teacher and co-founder of Vernier Software & Technology. “The contest provides a great opportunity for teachers to share their engineering best practices and win prizes and professional development opportunities to further enhance their teaching.”

The winning projects from the 2015 Vernier Engineering Contest focused on developing a robot to test the internal temperature of a Hot Pocket, creating a light bulb from an ordinary staple, and designing a solar oven.

For complete information on the 2016 Vernier Engineering Contest and to submit an application, visit www.vernier.com/grants/engineering/.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


TeachCS zeroes in on computer science

TeachCS addresses critical shortage of qualified computer science teachers by connecting high school educators with computer science curricula

computer-scienceAs the nation focuses on Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13th, computer science curricula developers and professional development providers joined forces to announce TeachCS, a platform for high school teachers looking to broaden their computer science training and curricula.

Funded by private sector philanthropy, the goal of TeachCS is to match in-service high school teachers with both computer science professional development and financial support to attend training from leading academic institutions, in order to better prepare their students for the lucrative computing jobs most in demand in the future.

In its pilot year, TeachCS will provide in-service high school teachers with funding for professional development in one of three areas – Exploring Computer Science (ECS), AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP), or Bootstrap.

“TeachCS will support educators with little to no background in CS Ed who are looking to become computer science teachers. The chief requirements are the teacher’s interest in learning to teach computer science and the support of the school community in the creation and sustainment of a computer science program for at least three years,” said TeachCS Executive Director Rob Underwood.

Both requirements will be evaluated through a fellowship application to be launched in early 2016 through which any public high school teacher in the nation can apply.

“By bringing together in-service teachers looking for computer science education training, leading CS education curriculum and associated professional development providers, along with both financial support, all under one virtual roof, the TeachCS platform will connect three critical groups that must work more closely together if we’re to successfully expand computer science education in the United States,” said Pedro Torres-Picón, founder and board chair of TeachCS.

Lucy Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), is joining the TeachCS Advisory Board. Sanders noted that TeachCS’ national focus is crucial to improving diversity in technology.

“The call for increasing diversity in the technology workforce means that we need to ensure that high school educators are properly trained and equipped to prepare students for the lucrative and secure computing jobs that we are encouraging them to pursue,” she said. “TeachCS offers professional development to high school educators with a broader reach, eliminating financial and geographical obstacles that have deterred teachers in the past.”

Gail Chapman, Director of National Outreach for Exploring Computer Science (ECS), emphasized the importance of TeachCS in empowering teachers and school communities, particularly in communities that have been traditionally underserved.

“TeachCS will provide access to professional development that will support teachers in schools interested in creating CS programs without the necessity of large district partnerships. Focusing the professional development funding on programs that are well-established and backed by research will provide much needed guidance in terms of choice of curricula, while providing the flexibility to choose what best fits students, school priorities, and overall pedagogical philosophy,” said Chapman.

Lien Diaz, Senior Director of AP Computer Science for the College Board, embraced TeachCS efforts to get teachers trained to teach the new AP Computer Science Principles course (AP CSP) launching in Fall of 2016.

“AP CSP not only offers a broad introduction to computer science that goes well beyond coding, but makes computer science more inclusive and accessible for females and underrepresented groups.” said Diaz. “In high schools, 9 percent of the students who take the AP Computer Science A exam are Hispanic and 4 percent are African-American but with the help of TeachCS and the creation of AP CSP, we can create more opportunities for all students to study computer science that will help power the future.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


100 districts that are digital learning innovators

Knovation honors districts for outstanding usage of online and digital learning resources

digital-learningOne hundred school districts across the U.S. have been honored for their use of online and digital learning resources to personalize learning.

Knovation’s 2015 Digital Learning Awards program honors districts across the U.S. that use netTrekker or icurio to find, organize and share hundreds of thousands of standards-aligned resources that are professionally evaluated, tagged and maintained, ensuring students truly benefit from their digital shift.

The awards are presented to small, medium, and large districts based on how they used the Knovation Content Collection via netTrekker or icurio during the 2014-2015 school year.

The top three winners in each size category are:

Large districts (more than 25,000 students):

  • Baldwin County School District, Bay Minette, Alabama (icurio)
  • Cabarrus County School District, Concord, North Carolina (icurio)
  • Wake County School District, Cary, North Carolina (netTrekker)

Medium distircts (5,000-25,000 students):

  • Mooresville Graded School District, Mooresville, North Carolina (icurio)
  • Alhambra Elementary School District 68, Phoenix, Arizona (netTrekker)
  • Coppell Independent School District, Coppell, Texas (netTrekker)

Small districts (less than 5,000 students):

  • Community Consolidated School District 93, Bloomingdale, Illinois (icurio)
  • Corinth School District, Corinth, Mississippi (icurio)
  • Ross Local School District, Hamilton, Ohio (icurio)

“The Digital Learning Awards honor school districts that are leading high-level implementation of digital resources,” said Randy Wilhelm, CEO of Knovation. “We recognize the outstanding use of online learning resources in these schools as an advancement of personalized learning for each and every student.”

View the complete list of Top 100 Digital Learning Award winners at: www.knovationlearning.com/dla.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


The Hour of Code’s nationwide momentum

Catch up on the most compelling K-12 news stories you may have missed this week

news-picEach Friday, I’ll be bringing you a recap of some of the most interesting and thought-provoking news developments that occurred over the week.

I can’t fit all of our news stories here, though, so feel free to visit eSchoolNews.com and read up on other news you may have missed.

In this week’s news:

How to choose the right programming language for students

Way back in the 1970s, working as a computer programmer was quite prestigious, and if you wanted to get into computer programming, your potential employer would more often than not put you through a batch of aptitude tests in order to determine your suitability: even if you had a degree.

9 great free activities for Hour of Code

Computer science skills have enjoyed more time in the spotlight as educators, policymakers and celebrities tout the importance of coding and programming skills. This year’s Hour of Code reinforces computer science’s growing importance.

8 new standards to support school principals

Eight new standards for supervisors of school principals, covering topics such as instructional leadership and meeting the needs of diverse learners, aim to guide supervisors as they help those principals improve their effectiveness in an evolving role.

Should schools count coding as math?

Backed by an all-star cast of Silicon Valley executives and nonprofit leaders, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the University of California Academic Senate on Dec. 2 to count high school computer science classes as math classes instead of electives — a move supporters say could help to diversify the tech industry.