Fab School Labs Makeover Contest launches with prizes up to $100k

Online Fab School Labs contest invites public middle schools to realize their vision for a dream technology lab or science classroom

The Northrop Grumman Foundation has launched its online contest, Fab School Labs, to encourage today’s children to become tomorrow’s innovators by creating science classrooms and technology labs that inspire.

Now in its second year, the classroom makeover contest is open to public middle schools and will make five grants of up to $100,000 available to five winning schools to fund a school lab makeover. The submission window for applications begins May 1 and closes June 17, 2016.

The contest is designed to drive students’ interest in science and technology by giving public middle school teachers and school administrators the chance to create the science or technology lab or classroom of their dreams and provide students with access to the latest learning tools and technologies that will stimulate as well as teach.

Inadequate funds to purchase equipment and an overall lack of facilities are frequently cited problems by teachers and educators as it relates to science and mathematics education at the elementary and middle school level, according to the National Science Board and other education sources. To help meet the educational demands of today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, the Northrop Grumman Foundation – through its Fab School Labs program – is helping today’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) labs and classrooms become places of inspiration, imagination and opportunity for students.

“Access to the latest technologies and learning tools can help our teachers be more effective in motivating the next generation of innovators, which is why we created the Fab School Labs contest,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman vice president, global corporate responsibility and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “Children are naturally inquisitive and adept at many of the technologies available to us today. With the help of teachers and the community at large, we look forward to giving more kids the chance to succeed and thrive as they engage in the exciting field of science, technology, engineering and math.”

Beginning May 1 and continuing through June 17, 2016, teachers, principals and school administrators can enter their eligible school by visiting www.FabSchoolLabs.com, where they can learn about the contest and submit their application with video and photos to help tell their story. Semifinalist schools will be chosen and their videos will receive online votes of support to assist with the final selection process. The winning schools will then team up with Fab School Labs contest partner Flinn Scientific Inc. to design a state-of-the-art lab complete with all of the tools, resources, furnishings and finishes needed.

In 2015, the program’s inaugural year, nearly 200 public middle schools nationwide participated in the contest. The five schools selected to receive a grant of up to $100,000 for a classroom makeover were: Benjamin Syms Middle School, Hampton City Schools, Hampton, Virginia; Clifton Middle School, Monrovia Unified School District, Monrovia, California; Aurora Frontier P-8, Adams-Arapahoe 28J: Aurora Public Schools, Aurora, Colorado; Lucille M. Brown Middle School, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond, Virginia; and Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy, Austin Independent School District, Austin, Texas. The five schools are currently working with Flinn Scientific to create and finalize design plans for their new and improved labs before renovations get underway later this year.

In addition to the website, teachers are also encouraged to follow the competition at www.Facebook.com/FabSchoolLabs.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


All the ways iOS 9.3 will impact school iPad rollouts

Apple’s latest overhaul will impact one-to-one and shared device rollouts

In March, Apple upgraded the iPad and iPhone operating system to iOS 9.3 (quickly followed by iOS 9.3.1, which tweaked a few bugs). The lead up to the release caught the eye of the K-12 community, which had been waiting for a few tweaks of their own that would help it better manage both shared and one-to-one iPad implementations. It’s only been a couple of weeks since the new operating system hit prime time, but the feedback is already coming in—and it’s largely positive.

New features in iOS 9.3, for example, make it easier for IT to set up and manage devices via a new managed home screen layout. This feature allows administrators to deploy iPads configured for students, and to select which applications will appear on their device home screens. It might be most useful in shared environments, where more than one student is using a device—but where not all of the apps are relevant for all of those users. Schools can also locate and recover stolen or lost devices via ongoing location tracking that doesn’t compromise student privacy.

Expanded capabilities

Carl Hooker, director of innovation and digital learning at Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas, says his 8,000-student district kicked off its one-to-one mobile device implementation in 2012. Devices at Eanes have been upgraded to iOS 9.3, and he’s already seeing positive impacts. The new Classroom app (the “teacher’s assistant”), for example, lets instructors quickly see what students are working on at any given moment. “We were able to do this before with our mobile device management platform,” said Hooker, “but it was never built into the iOS.”

With the new operating system, teachers can also use AirPlay to share a specific student’s work on a big screen using a projector and Apple TV. “We used to have to ask students to bring their iPads up to the front of the class to plug them in to be able to do this,” says Hooker. On the backend, he says administrators like how the device enrollment profile (DEP) allows districts to purchase devices and then “sync” the device serial numbers with Apple. “This capability has been around for about a year and a half,” says Hooker, “and it’s great because if someone steals the device, it will ask for school credentials when the [thief] tries to wipe the device clean and reboot it.”

What’s different now is that the DEP function is folded into the operating system’s volume purchase pricing (VPT) program on iOS 9.3. Through the program, schools save about 50 percent off mobile apps by purchasing them in bulk. “Apple turned it into a one-stop-shop that makes deployment faster,” said Hooker, “and also helps us save money.” The feature is particularly useful for schools whose one-to-one programs include students who are under 13 years of age. “It can take months to track down all of the parent approvals and get every single student’s ID set up,” says Hooker. “During that time—which could extend into October during the typical school year—pupils weren’t getting apps. I feel like that’s really going to be streamlined now.”

Next page: Supporting a shared environment


How to plan and create true flexible learning spaces

In a blended learning world, learning spaces need to adapt

Teachers who are moving to a blended learning paradigm soon realize that their traditional physical “classrooms” need modification. In most cases, traditional furniture in a traditional room with a whiteboard at the front doesn’t support any of the blended learning models.

This can produce a loss of momentum and enthusiasm as the teacher struggles to find a solution. Teachers who are implementing blended learning have to “mark time,” get frustrated or attempt to “get by” with what is available while flexible learning spaces are designed and built.

Thus, an organization that is moving to a blended learning model needs to be aware of a number of important planning, design and timing aspects of flexible learning environments. Some of the areas 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, and organizational staffing structure, are outlined in previous articles in this series.)

Graph 1 Peter West Flexible Learning Spaces

While reading these points, rate your organization’s readiness on a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent) on each of these points.

Next page: A planning outline for creating flexible spaces


Washington adopts professional learning bill

Legislators pass bill to help deliver high-quality professional learning to educators

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed into law HB 1345, a bill that adopts a definition and standards for educator professional learning. HB 1345, championed by Representatives Kristine Lytton (D-40), Chad Magendanz (R-5), and Steve Bergquist (D-11), passed the House and Senate this session with strong bipartisan support.

“High-quality professional learning, developed in alignment with this new law, will allow our educators to be supported and prepared as they tackle new subjects like computer science and teach to more rigorous math and science standards,” stated Highline Schools Superintendent and Washington STEM Board Member Susan Enfield. “Thank you to Governor Inslee and Representatives Lytton, Magendanz, and Bergquist for recognizing the needs for high-quality training, which are particularly strong in STEM subjects that power student opportunity and the state’s economy.”

“Providing a quality public education for our kids is dependent on quality teachers,” said Rep. Kristine Lytton, Chair of the House Finance Committee. “By talking with teachers from around the state and consulting research, we know it is critical we invest in high-quality learning opportunities that are personalized, data-driven, and sustained. That’s the best way to help educators learn new content and master effective teaching practices.”

“Teachers have limited time for professional learning, which means the professional learning we do engage in must be effective and impactful,” said Washington’s 2016 Teacher of the Year Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, a high school teacher at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. “This bill ensures the time teachers spend in professional learning won’t involve just sitting in front of a power point learning but will be tailored to teacher needs and ultimately student needs.” Gibbs-Bowling is also one of four finalists from across the country for the National Teacher of the Year.


App of the Week: Take an x-ray look into any website’s code

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from the editors of Graphite.org, a free service from Common Sense Education. Click here to read the full app review.

Mozilla X-Ray Googles

What’s It Like? Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles allows students to inspect and tweak the code found in any site on the Web, including any of the individual elements that make up a Web page. Once activated, Goggles highlights these elements as kids roll over them with a mouse. As they click one of the highlighted elements, Goggles offers a pop-up window displaying the code, alongside a preview of that element. Kids can edit the code right in the window and immediately see a preview of what their changes look like.

Price: Free/subscription

Grades: 5-12

Pros: Discovery learning at its best: Revealing chunks of complex code on any website and letting kids edit and remix leads to powerful learning.

Cons: Some kids might need a little extra help understanding HTML structure, tags, and attributes, and the in-tool app doesn’t provide that.

Bottom line: It’s a blast to use and an easy way to get experimentation and prototyping going with plenty of student choice — kids are really in the driver’s seat!


How to turn your classroom into a hotbed of creativity and innovation

Classrooms do not promote nearly enough creativity and innovation. Here’s how they can start

PLCs-communitiesEd. note: Innovation In Action is a monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

Establishing a classroom that guides and supports students in developing their abilities to innovate and create is not often covered in teacher education or in-service professional development.

Nor does learning about creativity or the skills that are drawn on in the creative act figure strongly in commonly implemented curricula or standards.

On the other hand, our society looks to innovation and creativity as essential avenues that will contribute to its future prosperity and well being. Our policy makers, including those who shape school and education, allude to them often, and the public agrees strongly.

True, vestiges of arts education remain in some schools. But while the arts are closely associated with the notion of student creativity, they cover many other things and hardly fill this gap. Further, it’s essential that student creativity and innovation be integrated across the curriculum. We need creative and innovative souls in the STEM, communications, and business areas, as well as in the arts.

Clearly there’s a crucial disconnect. But there’s good news. Being creative and innovative is a natural part of being human. And while schools commonly ignore it in favor of developing other aspects of thinking and learning, avoiding the looming creativity crisis is eminently do-able. Importantly, our society’s shift toward a technology dominant workplace and intellectual environment also offers answers to satisfying this unmet need.

Fostering creativity and innovation

Moving into a style of teaching that fosters creativity and innovation need not seem like an overwhelmingly out of reach destination for teachers who haven’t begun that journey. It can and should integrate nicely with the rest of what’s taught and learned in school. After all, the figures we want to hold up to our students as examples and models of creative thinking and behavior are participants in the world, not outsiders.

Next page: The basics of shifting classroom culture


HMH launches marketplace to connect educators, developers

New online marketplace destination to discover, share and sell digital learning tools and teacher-created content now live

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has launched a Beta version of the HMH Marketplace, a new online destination that offers teachers, ed-tech developers and technology companies the opportunity to share resources and solutions for the classroom with a broad educator audience.

With over 3,000 resources available at launch from teachers, ed-tech innovators such as Education.com and the independent game developer Muzzy Lane, and established providers such as Microsoft and the iconic children’s magazine Highlights, the HMH Marketplace (Beta) offers a wide variety of applications and tools to supplement classroom learning.

“Teachers have told us that they are looking for a better way to locate the great tools that are being created by both educators and developers, something that is clear and straightforward,” said Claudia Reuter, Senior Vice President, HMH Labs. “Our strong partnership with teachers combined with our relationships with technology companies makes us uniquely positioned to help connect these communities, driving meaningful engagement for sellers and buyers and long-term growth for our company.”

Designed by HMH Labs, HMH’s dedicated incubation hub, the HMH Marketplace (Beta) offers teachers and educational content and application creators a seamless route to market and the opportunity to sell to a large educator audience. Customers can browse and navigate through a single gateway to easily locate and purchase education applications, digital learning tools, games, resources for classroom management, and original content made by teachers for teachers, such as lesson plans and instructional materials. More resources, applications and sellers will be added daily.

“HMH Marketplace feels like a virtual teachers’ lounge where educators are sharing their best, most successful classroom resources,” said Laura Randazzo, a high school English teacher in California. “It means that the great ideas a single teacher has in her own classroom can spread widely to help thousands of teachers and, perhaps, millions of students. It’s an honor to be part of this grassroots approach to improving education.”

“The HMH Marketplace is a natural extension of Education.com’s focus on giving parents and teachers the power to choose high-quality interactive and printable resources that best support their individual teaching needs,” said Todd Schwartz, co-CEO, Education.com. “HMH’s presence gives us a powerful new avenue to connect with educators and help them increase student engagement, confidence, and learning.”


Survey: Districts are increasingly going digital

Annual survey reveals more and more districts are turning to OER and other digital learning resources

Sixty-two percent of districts in a recent survey have a digital content and curriculum strategy, and more than half of those strategies (38 percent) include using Open Educational Resources (OER).

The findings come from the Center for Digital Education’s Digital School Districts Survey Awards, which gather data on schools’ efforts to grow digital learning. The awards also recognize exemplary use of technology school boards and districts.

Of districts participating in the survey, 62 percent are using classroom technology tools such as interactive whiteboards, document cameras, display equipment, and assessment tools. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said they will definitely modernize in the next 12-24 months.

Half of surveyed districts have completed a one-to-one initiative with supporting infrastructure, and 38 percent are either planning to or definitely will modernize in the next 12-24 months.

Next page: Districts’ top 10 IT priorities


How the latest ed-tech developments will impact teaching and learning

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

Every Friday, I’ll recap some of the most interesting and thought-provoking news developments that occurred over the week.

I can’t fit all of this week’s 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:

7 things you need to know now about E-rate changes
A bigger annual cap isn’t the only recent change to the E-rate program. New forms, new data, the potential for infrastructure discounts, and (even more) new funding are all colliding to create one of the most challenging application periods in memory.

The unique internet search site your students don’t know about
The Wayback Machine is a reference tool for the internet Age as basic as a dictionary. When was the last time you saw a student use it?

13 apps that promote higher-order thinking standards
While mobile devices, tablets in particular, have been commonly used to reinforce math and reading skills through the use of games, they can also be used to promote the development of higher level skills and knowledge included in the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S): creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; and critical thinking and problem solving. Here are a handful of high-quality apps that reinforce these skills and promote others.

Texas district upgrades fiber optic network
A new 100G high-capacity network will support 128,000 students and staff across Houston.


How can school leaders deliver high-quality customer service?

New resource emphasizes the critical importance of parent, community satisfaction; offers practical advice on creating a culture of exemplary customer service in K-12 schools

As part of its mission to help schools address persistent communication and community engagement challenges, K12 Insight has released the latest installment in its monthly School Leader’s Definitive Guide series.

The School Leader’s Definitive Guide to Quality Customer Service gives educators a set of practical steps to help them expand the lens of “success” beyond the classroom to student and family satisfaction.

At a time when the nation’s public schools are losing students to charter and other alternative schools, educators don’t have the luxury of being unresponsive or making decisions in a vacuum. Parents and families want schools that listen and respond to their feedback.

“We have to understand that we do have customers. We’re not a monopoly just because we are the public school system,” said Dr. Wendy Robinson, superintendent of the Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana. “We have to treat our customers the way customers want to be treated anywhere in the world.”

In the Definitive Guide, school leaders will learn the importance of customer service in education and how to set goals to achieve higher levels of parent and student satisfaction. They will also get a blueprint for how to scale a culture of quality service across their organization.

The inaugural installment in the series, The School Leader’s Definitive Guide to Navigating Social Media, was released as a pilot project in late 2015. It provided objective insights, practical examples, and research to help school leaders tackle persistent engagement and leadership challenges. Nearly 2,000 educators downloaded the first guide, prompting K12 Insight to partner with a veteran education journalist to expand the project’s scope.

“The success of our social media guide was proof positive that educators want and need access to high-quality content that helps them think strategically about the challenges they face,” said Corey Murray, senior director of strategy and engagement for K12 Insight. “School leaders have it tough. If this series and our other daily content gives them the tools and insights to make their jobs a little easier, that means we’re doing something right.”

Future Definitive Guides will cover topics including the Every Student Succeeds Act, bonds and levies, school board relations, and student engagement.