Edulastic joins Google for Education Partner Program

Partner technologies complement, extend Google for Education products

Edulastic, a next-generation online assessment platform for K-12 teachers and administrators, has become a Google for Education Partner.

The Google for Education Partner Program recognizes Partner technologies that complement and extend Google for Education products. Now educators can use the technology-enhanced assessments and real-time data of Edulastic seamlessly with their Google Apps for Education.

“We are excited to not only offer Google educators and students a single sign-on experience, but also allow them to sync their class rosters and share Edulastic assessments through Google Classroom,” says Aditya Agarkar, Edulastic Vice President of Product Development. “Our hope is that this integration will save both educators and students valuable time managing multiple logins and accounts.”

This partnership demonstrates Edulastic’s commitment to empowering teachers and administrators with the most advanced and easy-to-use edtech tools available—allowing them to practice their art with the skill and knowledge needed in today’s ever-evolving education landscape.

The Google for Education Partner Program will enhance the value of Google apps to Edulastic customers, and will offer a broad set of powerful APIs that enable Edulastic to help teachers save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students.

“By incorporating easier access to Google for Education tools from the Edulastic platform, we’ve opened the doors for enhanced innovative teaching and student learning,” Agarkar said. “We’re looking forward to creating even more ways to make personalizing instruction easier.”

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MobyMax launches cognitive skill social studies curriculum

New social studies module asks students to think, touch their way to mastery

MobyMax, a personalized learning curriculum, has introduced social studies content for first and second grade. The remaining grades (third through eighth) will be available by August 1, 2016.

MobyMax Cognitive Skill Social Studies is an exciting addition to MobyMax’s complete K-8 curriculum. In the new social studies module, students think and touch their way to mastery utilizing cognitive skill manipulatives.

“Whether teachers use MobyMax Social Studies as their main curriculum or supplemental, their students will benefit from cognitive skill manipulatives,” said Glynn Willett, co-founder.

Engaging, interactive lessons are organized into four major domains: history, geography, government and economics. Each lesson uses cognitive skill manipulatives to push students to think critically about topics being covered. Additionally, lessons include quick checks for understanding to recap main ideas, periodic reviews of relevant vocabulary, and short quizzes for each topic. Each lesson concludes with a comprehensive test, which provides teachers a final summative measure of mastery.

MobyMax Social Studies covers all the essentials. For example, students learn how to use a map scale, distinguish longitude and latitude, and read an elevation map. They hone study skills like identifying cause and effect, summarizing, drawing conclusions, and distinguishing fact from opinion. An assortment of graphs, charts and tables requires students to read flowcharts, pictographs and timelines. Students also master citizenship skills such as how to resolve conflict or make a choice by voting.

The adaptive curriculum covers almost all state standards as well as the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies published by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

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20 educational resources for new teachers

New teachers need support, research indicates, and these free online resources can help

It’s no secret that new teachers sometimes struggle to feel empowered in their positions as educators. In fact, a lack of support, experienced teacher mentors, and resources lead many new teachers to leave their profession within the first three years.

While technology can be a great tool, finding the right technology or tool often proves challenging and time-consuming.

During an edWeb webinar, Shannon Holden, assistant principal at Republic Middle School in Missouri and a longtime educator, offered a list of websites to help new teachers find online resources quickly and easily.

“With the internet being what it is, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time you want to teach a concept,” Holden said.

Searching for educational materials online can reduce work time, Holden said, because many other educators have already produced the same exact resource another educator might be searching for. That resource can be tweaked or edited to meet individual educator or class needs.

Next page: 20 websites to help new teachers find content

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Researchers: Math needs a more visual approach

Stanford University researchers aim to dispel the belief that students should not use their fingers to learn mathematics

Taking a more visual approach to math instruction at the K-12 and higher-ed levels could dramatically change brain development as it relates to future math success, according to a new paper from Stanford researchers.

SEEING AS UNDERSTANDING: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning,” supports the use of visual mathematics and developing “finger discrimination” in students because it could result in higher math achievement.

According to co-authors Stanford University mathematics researcher Dr. Jo Boaler and brain researcher Dr. Lang Chen, the human brain can visualize a representation of the fingers during math problems. This provides an opportunity for further research and pedagogical development.

“Neuroimaging has shown that even when people work on a number calculation, such as 12 x 25, with symbolic digits (12 and 25) our mathematical thinking is grounded in visual processing,” according to the paper.

In fact, a 2015 study cited in the paper found that found that when 8-13-year-olds were given complicated subtraction problems, the region of the brain that deals with perception and representation of the fingers, called the somatosensory finger area, lit up, even though the students did not use their fingers.

Next page: Strategies to help students take a more visual approach to math learning

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The Internet of Things smart school is coming

As the Internet of Things impacts education, IT leaders are envisioning uber-connected schools and campuses

Close to half (46 percent) of K-12 and higher-ed IT leaders in a recent survey said they believe an Internet of Things smart school — a school using Internet of Things devices to transform learning environments — will have a major impact in the next one to two years.

Nine percent of respondents said they have implemented parts of a smart school plan, 3 percent plan to implement the technology in the next 1-3 years, 23 percent are aware of it and beginning to investigate it, 36 percent are slightly aware of the topic, and the concept is entirely new to 29 percent.

The survey of more than 600 IT leaders, from Extreme Networks, notes that the scope of smart schools extends beyond traditional interactive classroom technologies and can include wearables, sensors located throughout classrooms, eBooks and tablets, collaborative classrooms, and smart lighting and HVAC.

It also found an increasing use of robots, augmented reality, facial recognition, parking sensors, attendance tracking, and 3D printers.

Benefits of smart school technology include increased student engagement, use of mobile learning, more personalized education, easier learning process for students, improved efficiency, better measurements of student success, and increased creativity.

The most important factors that come with implementing smart school technology, according to survey respondents, are reliable wi-fi and network bandwidth, professional development, network analytics, appropriate student devices, and well-designed collaborative learning.

Survey participants noted that implementing devices to enable smart schools also comes with concerns, most notably, security–just more than 50 percent of respondents cited this as their top concern. Other concerns include privacy, interoperability, and cost. Managing a smart school also is a concern–one that might be addressed with a single dashboard to control devices and systems throughout a school or campus.

One survey respondent said planning a smart school is a concern, too, especially when it comes to teacher and staff buy-in. A successful smart school rollout also would require user training, the right infrastructure, and coordinated timing.

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eSchool Media, Casey Green to host interactive interviews from ASU GSV Innovation Summit

Shindig, a platform for large-scale video chat, to power the three-day event

eSchool Media and Campus Computing announced plans for interactive Thought Leader Interviews at the 2016 ASU GSV Innovation Summit on April 18, 19 and 20 in San Diego.

The interactive interviews are intended to connect educators in schools and on college campuses with the Summit presenters and participants. Shindig, a turnkey solution for video chat teaching and events, will power the three day event, allowing moderator Casey Green, founding director of Campus Computing, and the interview participants to engage directly with the online audience.

The annual ASU GSV Innovation Summit brings together educators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, policymakers, philanthropists, and university and school district leaders to create partnerships, explore solutions, and to shape the future of learning.

“Our goal with these live, interactive interviews is to accelerate the discussion and the dissemination of educational innovation beyond the 3,500 Summit participants who will gather in San Diego,” said Wendy La Duke, the Group Publisher of eSchool Media. “We recognize that there is a large audience of educators who would like to know more about the critical conversations at the Summit. Our interviews from the Summit will serve an eager audience of educational professionals in schools and on college campuses.”

The growing list of confirmed interview participants includes: Michael Crow, president, Arizona State University; Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of Education, US Dept. of Education; Deborah Quazzo, founder and managing partner, GSV; Richard Miller, president of the Olin College of Engineering; Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College, Columbia University; Michael King, VP and managing partner, IBM Global Education; and Bill Goodwyn, president, Discovery Education; John Katzman, CEO, Noodle; and Ron Reed, executive producer of SXSWedu, among many others.

“We are delighted to be working with eSchool News and Casey Green to extend the reach and audience of the Summit,” said GSV Managing Partner Deborah Quazzo. “These interviews are an important component of our efforts to elevate innovation leaders in learning and to extend the reach of their ideas.”

Shindig’s unique technology will also enable online participants to discuss, network, and socialize privately with one another as if they were attendees at the ASU GSV Summit. eSchool Media will host the interactive interviews on both eSchoolNews.com and eCampusNews.com. The Interactive Forum conversations from the ASU GSV Summit will also be archived at eSchoolNews.com and eCampusNews.com for access after the Summit.

The live, interactive interviews will be take place from noon – 4:00 PT (3:00 – 7:00 ET) for three days, from Monday, April 18th through Wednesday, April 20th. The interviews will be available on any web connected device, computer, tablet, or phone.

For additional information about the Interactive Forum and to register for access to the interviews, please go to: http://shindig.com/event/asugsvsummit.

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Researchers tackle gender bias in STEM education

Researchers are tackling the stubborn question of how gender bias impacts STEM education

STEM education at the K-12 and university levels has seen its share of headlines, as industry experts and policymakers tout its importance in the nation’s economy and workforce.

Despite the focus on engaging students in STEM education and encouraging them to pursue STEM majors in college, the STEM industry is still male-dominated. In fact, a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study revealed that women hold approximately 50 percent of jobs in the country, but only fill just 25 percent of STEM jobs. That same study revealed that 17 of the top 20 highest-paying occupations require STEM skills.

With these gender disparities in mind, a collaborative research project between Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab and the School of Computer Science, called the HEAR ME project, is hoping to identify how students themselves feel about STEM education’s importance, and how they think gender bias could, or already does, impact them.

“STEM education has been a very big movement in education, and as we focus specifically on STEM learning, one thing we want to make sure of is that the biggest stakeholder in this is being heard,” said Jessica Kaminsky, project manager of the CREATE Lab at CMU and key researcher behind the HEAR ME project.

“Who better to ask about what STEM learning looks like, if they’re seeing a gender bias, than the students who are living out the STEM programs running in their schools?,” Kaminsky said, adding that gender bias at all levels of education will be examined to. “I interviewed a 5-year-old boy who told me very convincingly that only boys can make robots–girls can’t. He was really set on those gender norms. What does this look like when you’re in the university setting?”

Next page: How the project addresses STEM education and gender bias

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6 ways to make your blended learning PD more successful

“Just do it” may be an effective slogan for a sporting shoe company, but it is not an effective change management technique to move to blended learning.

The move to blended learning has been labelled as “disruptive” by many, such as Clayton Christensen in his book “Disrupting Class.” It is a significant shift in the teaching and learning paradigm. Thus, it would seem obvious that substantial professional development should be available to staff involved in this change.

Some of the aspects of professional development that need consideration are covered in this article. A radar graph is provided to allow an organization to determine its understanding of and commitment to the changes that are needed. (Other aspects of an organization wide move to blended learning, namely infrastructure, leadership, mindset, organizational staffing structure, and flexible learning spaces, are outlined in previous articles in this series.)

While reading these components of a professional development program, rate your organization’s current or planned program on a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent) on each of these points. Plot these points on the radar graph provided (below).

radar-graph-blank

Leadership involvement – The leadership of the organization must be actively involved. They should attend and be active participants in every training session as a minimum. This demonstrates to staff that the professional development is important. If the leadership regularly misses training sessions, staff may also believe that they have other things that are more urgent and important than the professional development program, and thus commitment and attendance may decline.

Ideally, the leadership of the organization should develop and present some of the professional development sessions. This is real “leading from the front” and it shows commitment to the changes. (The principal at my school led professional development sessions on blended learning during two days at the start of this academic year. It was extremely valuable and left no doubt of the commitment of the leadership to change.)

Technology/pedagogy blend – A major focus of the professional development program should be the pedagogy. Being able to use the hardware and software effectively is absolutely vital, and this will probably be a major component of the professional development program during the early phase of the change. However, it is easy to continue to focus on this to the exclusion of other things.

A significant portion of the training should focus on how to change the teaching and learning paradigm. This may require a shift to small group or individual training sessions as faculties and individual teachers come to grips with the specifics of how to change what happens in their classroom.

Models of success – Teachers need to know that they changes they are implementing are worthwhile. Thus, successful models need to be explained and demonstrated. The success may come from articles and case studies, or they may involve conversations with experts in the field. These may be successful educators from within the organization (“show and tell” can be powerful) or from outside the organization.

For example, my organization in Australia recently completed a two day professional development program on blended learning by having Skype video conferences with two flipped learning expert teachers in the U.S. These teachers had proven success, and covered practical and academic subjects. The positive effects were significant; sometimes people from outside the organization are needed to widen the perspective of the teachers involved in the change.

Model the model – Blended learning professional development should have a large number of the training sessions delivered in a blended learning format. Ideally a variety of the blended learning models, from full online courses to flipped learning to station rotation (or whatever models are being used) should be involved. These should not just be demonstrations; they should be the method of delivery of the learning. This has a number of benefits, including:

  • Modelling the type of learning environment that teachers are moving to.
  • Showing that the trainers can “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk”.
  • Demonstrating belief in the models for all, rather than just being for school students.

General and faculty specific – Quite a few aspects of blended learning are “generic”; the same principles apply across all faculties. Examples include:

  • The SAMR Model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition)
  • Blended learning models and how to implement them
  • Design principles for the online component of courses
  • Effective use and integration of online quizzes, chat/discussions, collaboration tools, etc.

Some other aspects of blended learning are specific to a faculty. For example Art may have a different method of implementing blended learning to Physical Education or Chemistry. Each faculty would also use different online learning resources and may have different expectations of students, depending on the blended learning model that is being used. Blended learning professional development should provide the broad principles of blended learning, as well as allow faculties to fine tune their approach.

Timing and structure – The professional development must be well planned and organized. It must demonstrate commitment to the change by the organization. It must not be ad hoc. This should hardly need to be stated, as it is fundamental to any professional development program. However, experience indicates that it is something that needs to be reinforced.

Thus, it should

  • Have a clearly defined path and clearly defined goals.
  • Occur regularly – blended learning is a major change to the teaching/learning paradigm. Change will not happen quickly and easily across the organization. Thus, one professional development session per year would produce almost no change. It is up to the organization whether this PD is once per month, fortnight or week, but it must be regular and scheduled.
  • Be long term – the change to blended learning across an organization takes years, not weeks or months. The professional development program should reflect this. Of course, the style and format of professional development will change over time, but the commitment must be maintained.
  • Include group training and in-class, practical training. Support for implementation within the classroom is vital. This will require expert trainers/teachers who can assist teachers in a live environment.

An analysis of a hypothetical organization is shown on the following graph. This organization has some areas that need to be improved. The optimal result would be a graph with all aspects rated a 5; the “larger” and “smoother” the graph, the greater the probability of success.

Graph 2 Peter West

The move to organization wide blended learning is a disruption for many as it changes the comfortable and familiar teaching paradigm that has been at the core of the “classroom” for many decades. It is essential that schools have a well thought through and systematic approach to professional development to assist teachers with the change.

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National STEM Video Game Challenge now live

Annual video game design competition fosters game-making skills as pathway to STEM learning, offers opportunities to win valuable prizes

The National STEM Video Game Challenge is open for student submissions of original, playable video games and game design documents. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, E-Line Media, and founding sponsor the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) aim to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among youth by transforming their natural passions for playing video games into designing and creating their own.

This year the STEM Challenge also welcomes its newest sponsor, the National Geographic Society, along with its supporting sponsors the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Grable Foundation.

The STEM Challenge is open to middle school and high school students in the U.S. in grades five through twelve. Students may enter as individuals or as teams of up to four members. Entries can be created using any game creation platform such as Gamestar Mechanic, Unity, GameMaker, and Scratch or as a written game design document. The deadline to submit entries is August 15, 2016. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000, as well as game design and educational software. Student winners will be invited to a special event at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. in November 2016.

“Video games inspire and improve the lives of millions of our nation’s students. We look forward to an outstanding competition and to experience remarkably innovative video games,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the U.S. video game industry. “We are also delighted to partner with National Geographic and its outstanding creative team and legacy of remarkable, mesmerizing entertainment content.”

Sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Nat Geo Explore is a new prize stream that invites students to bring the spirit of exploration to video game design. Winners will have their games or design documents featured on the National Geographic Education website, which reaches more than 1 million visitors a month.

“For more than 128 years, the National Geographic Society has been a pioneer in exploration and storytelling, and has educated future generations to be responsible global citizens. Our participation in the National STEM Video Game Challenge allows us to help kids create and explore through their inspiring game designs, and reemphasizes our commitment to education,” said Kathleen Schwille, vice president of curriculum at the National Geographic Society.

The STEM Challenge offers game design and mentoring workshops in approximately 20 cities across the nation for youth and mentors, featuring professional game designers and industry professionals as instructors. A full calendar of workshops and events along with submission rules, game development and design tools, and STEM resources for participants and mentors can be found on the STEM Challenge website.

The STEM Challenge was inspired by President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate Campaign.” Nearly 4,000 middle and high school youth participated in the 2014-15 competition. Previous winners have showcased their games at the White House Science Fair.

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