PresenceLearning offers on-demand summer webinar series

Educators who take the challenge and watch all 10 webinars between July 10, 2016 and August 10, 2016 can earn up to 15.5 hours of continuing education credit

For education leaders looking to take advantage of flexible summer schedules to earn professional development credits, PresenceLearning’s “Decathlon Challenge” webinar series will provide unlimited access to 10 free webinars starting July 10, 2016.

Educators who watch 1 or more webinars and pass the end-of-webinar quizzes can earn up to 15.5 hours of professional development. ASHA and NASP members can earn CEUs and CPD credits.

To sign up for the webinars, visit Individuals do not need to pre-register, but can sign up to receive reminders and encouragement for when the series is open for viewing for credit.

The 10 webinars in the Decathlon Challenge series — 15.5 hours of streamed content in total — were selected from PresenceLearning’s most popular webinar presentations.

  • Dr. Temple Grandin explains the workings of the autistic brain and how to help students with autism during “The Autistic Brain.” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Julie Weatherly, Esq., special education legal expert, presents “Staying Out of Due Process in Special Education,” providing insight into the most common legal issues in special education and how to avoid them. (length: 2 hours)
  • Dr. Marty Burns, neuroscientist and ASHA Fellow, unpacks the most recent neurological research on older students in “The New Science of Learning: Effective Approaches for Older Students with Autism and Attention Disorders.” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Barry Prizant’s “Uniquely Human: A Different Way to See Autism and Create Pathways to Success” presents a research-based new approach to serving students with autism. (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Joe Ryan, behavior disorder expert, provides expert advice on how to implement effective behavior interventions in “Beyond Behavior: Creating a Culture of Data-Driven Behavioral Interventions.” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Daniel Crimmins, special education policy expert, outlines practice alternatives to the controversial restraint and seclusion tactics, as well as out-of-school suspensions in “Positive Behavior Strategies: The Real Road to School Climate Change.” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Barry Prizant introduces The SCERTS Model and explains how it can positively impact social-emotional development for those students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in “Social Communication + Emotional Regulation: An Introduction to the SCERTS Model.” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Frances Stetson, a leading consultant on inclusionary practices, discusses the over-identification of students for special education services and how our nation’s use of inclusion can be improved to better support at-risk students in “Inclusion Is For Every Learner – Or Is It?” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Ed Dunkelblau, one of the originators of the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) movement, talks about how improving social emotional skills can help at-risk students achieve during “SEL – The Real Skills for Success.” (length: 1.5 hours)
  • Dr. Ross Greene, a best-selling author, speaker and psychologist who originated the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach for students with serious behavioral challenges, details how CPS can help reduce disciplinary issues for students with special needs “Lost and Found: What Works (and What Doesn’t) for Behaviorally Challenged Students.” (length: 1.5 hours)

The Decathlon Challenge webinar series is offered free of charge. Attendees will receive a certificate of attendance for each webinar watched after passing the post-webinar quiz and submitting a feedback survey.


CodeMonkey, Sunburst Digital partner on coding curriculum

U.S. classrooms will now have access to CodeMonkey’s coding curriculum, including software programming and critical thinking

In President Obama’s “Computer Science for All Initiative” (announced in the 2016 State of the Union) he states we should offer “every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

Software programming and critical thinking are the new building blocks for our children to compete within a 21st century global workplace. Teaching coding effectively requires an equal understanding of the technology discipline and sound classroom instruction. Successful programs must be tested and proven in real-world, everyday school environments.

CodeMonkey teaches programming basics in a language known as “CoffeeScript” through game-based learning. CodeMonkey is endorsed by Israel’s Ministry of Education and provides instruction to 253,000 students in Israel. Their proven approach emphasizes learning a useful, real programming language through an intuitive and highly engaging online game.

The solution includes companion lesson plans, assessments and online professional development, allowing any teacher to make a positive impact in the classroom. Israel, often referred to as “The Startup Nation”, has more scientists and technicians per capita than the U.S. CodeMonkey students go on to work at innovative high-tech companies that Israel’s economy relies on to help propel them in this global economy. Now, CodeMonkey is offering that proven methodology with Sunburst Digital for U.S. classrooms.

“CodeMonkey emphasizes learning the syntax associated with coding, similar to how the best language arts programs expand upon a student’s grammar and comprehension to foster great writing,” says Joe DeSario, GM of Sunburst. In the game, users control a monkey to catch bananas by writing lines of code, ensuring all students are learning and engaged at the same time. “The students have really enjoyed CodeMonkey,” says Roger Coy, Director at Three Rivers Charter School. “They treat it like a game, especially the self-created challenges section.”

No prior coding experience is necessary in order to teach with CodeMonkey. CodeMonkey is now available from Sunburst at



Why digital PD needs an urgent overhaul

Technology, collaboration, and new standards are changing the classroom at a rapid pace. Every teacher’s professional development must keep up

Like so many of us, I have been grateful throughout my life for the professionals I’ve needed to call upon for vital services and expert guidance. The surgeon who had years of residency and practice before treating me on her own. Or the lawyer, who was constantly staying abreast of federal and state regulations in order to offer me sound advice.

Similarly, students and parents rely on me every day. As teachers, we are entrusted with our nation’s children, and their futures, yet many of us find ourselves isolated in classrooms without the right training or support. Others find ourselves supported by just one or two afternoons of professional development per year. As we collectively elevate teaching so that it may sit comfortably alongside other highly respected and important professions, we must think carefully about how to provide higher-quality, effective continuing education for teaching.

The need for more practical and effective professional learning opportunities for teachers is especially important right now, with new academic standards being introduced and adapted in schools across the country. As a teacher leader who has had this conversation with teachers, administrators, policy makers, and parents, I recognize an important distinction to which we must pay attention. People outside the profession often want to see a greater sense of urgency about our work. Oftentimes, the desire for urgency looks more like drawing small circles around teachers through evaluations, ranking, and sorting. For a classroom teacher, though, this has the opposite effect. When I feel small, I don’t feel urgent. I feel scared and uncertain.

If we want a teaching force that is bold and innovative, then we must fight isolation, because when we’re working together, we’re sharing the responsibility to do better for our students. I am urgent when I see what my colleague down the hall is doing and I want to get better. I am urgent when I watch videos or read about other teachers doing amazing work.

In an increasingly connected world, educators need access to on-demand, online resources, with tools and platforms that facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing. More importantly, teachers should be able to see proven teaching methods in action, with students, in the context of their curriculum requirements and academic standards.

But we’re not there yet.

Teachers say that professional development doesn’t help educators prepare for the rapidly changing nature of certain aspects of their jobs, like using technology and digital learning tools. That’s important insight, given that the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development can be a major source of stress for teachers in the workplace.

There’s little question a change is in order. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides a clear definition of high-quality professional development and will create new opportunities for states and local districts to improve resources and programs. Not to mention, the new federal legislation clearly defines effective professional development as “sustained” (not stand-alone, one-day, or short-term workshops), but rather “intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused.”

We’re in a moment when the policy, the need, and the demand are aligned, so it’s time to take action to improve learning opportunities for teachers at every stage of their careers. But it’s up to district administrators and school leaders to implement real change.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has a vision for how that can happen. As a natural extension of its mission to maintain high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do, it is expanding access to what accomplished teaching looks like in practice. In 2015, the Board introduced ATLAS — an online platform that gives educators at every level the ability to study the practice of National Board-certified teachers through in-depth case studies and instructional videos. Each teacher featured in a video case study provides a written annotation of his or her lesson, allowing users to see the thinking behind each decision and reflection on what worked or didn’t work. Though it is just one example of what next-generation professional development resources look like, it’s a step in the right direction.

Having the opportunity to analyze and reflect on what constitutes accomplished practice is why the National Board process was instrumental in my growth as a teacher. It’s why I have understood the power of video and digital resources to help me get better. It’s why I know that making visual cases of exemplary instruction available to teachers through resources like ATLAS will help overcome feelings of isolation and foster an elevated teaching profession. When educators can see first-hand how to implement a teaching method that’s, for example, aligned with a specific framework, such as the National Board, edTPA, Common Core, or the Next Generation Science Standards, they can more effectively translate that knowledge into accomplished teaching practice.

Regardless of how we get there, America’s teachers deserve a chance to strive for greatness. They deserve every opportunity to excel and grow. And they deserve access to high-quality professional learning resources. When we provide engaging and inclusive professional development aligned to new and changing academic standards, we can ensure our teachers are prepared to step confidently, and urgently, into their classrooms and improve student outcomes.

[image via AP]


App of the Week: Geometry in 3D

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


What’s It Like? Volumize is an app that allows students to import photos from their iPads (using the built-in cameras or any other file in their library) and then draw virtual 3-D geometric solids over the photo to roughly approximate its form. They can adjust the interface’s measurement scale to accurately reflect real-world measurements, making this more than just a virtualization tool –- it’s a powerful 3-D ruler, too. The app then automatically calculates the area and surface area, showing the steps and pieces of those calculations and a net of each solid. For compound shapes, it does all the combination work for you.

Price: $3

Grades: 6-11

Pros: Intuitive interface, automatic calculations, and built-in tools for reporting mean it’s ready for classroom use right out of the box.

Cons: Automatic calculations remove the technical work from geometry, controls can be a bit finicky, and the shape palette is limited.

Bottom line: A quick way to make solids more tangible, especially when paired with good lesson plans that get students working directly with formulas.


All about innovation

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 and read up on other news you may have missed.

This week, we’re focusing on innovation–we hear about it all the time, but we don’t always see it in practice. Now, we’re highlighting some excellent examples of how schools are innovating, from listening to students’ requests for the kind of tools they’d like to use, to supporting librarians as they lead the digital transformation.

Read on for more:

3 ways to revamp lessons for the interactive learner
Today’s students are a uniquely interactive group. Most of the 80 million Americans who are part of the millennial generation—a group that comprises the lion’s share of today’s student population—can’t remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to the internet. Most of them grew up playing video games, and ever since they can remember, they’ve been in constant contact with friends via social media platforms and text messages. A growing number of today’s instructors also fall into this group.

Do one-to-one laptop programs improve learning?
Students who receive a laptop computer from their school tend to see a noticeable increase in academic achievement, a Michigan State University study reveals. Michigan State University’s Binbin Zheng and colleagues analyzed past studies on one-to-one laptop initiatives, and Zheng’s own research, and found that such programs that take a comprehensive approach, including offering one-to-one program support to both students and teachers, saw higher test scores in English, math, science and writing, along with other benefits.

Librarians are taking the lead in the digital transformation
Librarians and media specialists are bridging the gap between instruction and technology. One pioneer shares how she does it.

5 tips for creating a makerspace for less than the cost of an iPad
Where others see trash, I see treasure. Reusing, repurposing, and recycling items that can be found in the kitchen garbage can, on the curb, or collected by friends and families helps educators to save money while protecting the environment. Today, our library makerspace has developed into a 21st century learning laboratory, with funding from grants and through the generosity of individuals and organizations that support our DonorsChoose projects. But it wasn’t always this way.


10 steps to a better one-to-one experience

Planning is a big part of any initiative. Here’s how to plan a better one-to-one program

The word is out. We hear every day from teachers who tell us their school will be going one-to-one this school year. Their classrooms will be equipped with a laptop or tablet for every student, and in many cases, the students will get to take those devices home at the end of the day. For some teachers this is overwhelming; for others it is exciting, and for a few it’s just plain scary. Wherever you are on that spectrum we have some advice to help you move forward and make the most out of these new resources in your classroom.

We both teach in one-to-one classrooms. Diana’s students have iPads that they take home, whereas Jen has a cart of laptops students use daily in her classroom. We’ve both been teaching with one-to-one in some capacity since 2008, and we also both coach our colleagues who are new to technology integration. If you know your school is going one-to-one this year, there are some things you can do this summer to get yourself geared up. Here are the top ten things we find ourselves telling teachers over and over:

Relax. Integrating technology into your classroom is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a few years before you and your students are completely comfortable with a range of digital tools and the ways they can enhance learning. Try not to worry about “keeping up with the pace of technology.” Realistically, none of us can do that. Just jump in where you can, and start getting comfortable with one thing at a time.

Learn the nuts and bolts. Your school or district will likely offer some professional development about this process. It probably won’t be enough, but take advantage of what is offered. Ask questions. Then, find your own training. For technical aspects about how things work, you can often find helpful tutorial videos on YouTube. Try searching for what you want to learn. For example, searching for “How to make a Google Form” will leads to several helpful videos that you can watch and use to practice at your own pace.

Log in to your Learning Management System (LMS). Most one-to-one programs include a recommended, or required, LMS. This is a password protected portal just for your class where you can post assignments, and discussion questions, and collect students’ digital work. Setting up your class pages on your LMS may take some time initially, but it will save you time later. If you have access to your LMS over the summer, try logging in and looking around.

Start with a problem. As teachers we spend our summers reflecting on changes we want to make and challenges we want to solve. We know plenty of teachers who start by using their LMS or their one-to-one devices to solve one pesky classroom issue. Commit to trying one tool or strategy with your students that you hope will help. Don’t try to change everything about your teaching practice all at once. Digital classrooms aren’t built in a day.

Plan to collaborate. Digital classrooms need digital resources. Many you can find online, but some you will want to make yourself or customize for your students. Digital resources are very easily shared. Generally, I collaborate with my colleagues by sharing a planning Google spreadsheet and then different people add links to articles, videos, or sites we can use to go with the curriculum. We use Dropbox to share documents we have created, graphic organizers, and student activities. Starting this process before you are busy with the day to day needs of being back in school will save you time in the long run.

Next page: Sites to help curate materials


New resource offers 9 student data privacy best practices

Focusing on communication and stakeholder involvement can help data privacy

Technology, family involvement and communication are key to executing school data privacy best practices, according to a new white paper from communication service provider West Corporation.

“School and Student Data Privacy: Nine Considerations for Community Engagement” offers an overview of nine best practices that can help school leaders navigate student data privacy policies and frameworks.

“Data-enabled technology use in schools has increased exponentially over the past decade, helping inform teacher instruction and enterprise decisions and making student privacy and data security more important than ever,” said white paper author Mark Schneiderman, West’s Education group vice president of government affairs and former senior director of education policy at SIIA. “Maintaining student confidentiality requires a comprehensive set of school data policies and practices. It is crucial that everyone in the school community—educators, parents and students—understands the importance of data security and privacy.”

West’s Education group will host a webinar for school and district leaders addressing school and student data privacy Thursday, June 9, at 11 a.m. Pacific /2 p.m. Eastern. Schneiderman will lead the webinar and will be joined by Linnette Attai, an expert on privacy compliance and best practices as president of PlayWell, LLC and project director for the Consortium for School Network’s (CoSN) Privacy Initiative.

All webinar attendees will receive the “School and Student Data Privacy: Nine Considerations for Community Engagement” white paper, and it will be available for download on the SchoolMessenger website following the webinar.

To register for the webinar, visit

The white paper and webinar are not intended to and do not provide legal advice. School leaders should consult legal counsel to best understand their district’s risks and options under the law.


Miami-Dade using itlearning LMS in pilot

Ten middle and high schools are using the system’s digital curriculum management and delivery tools to support and optimize personalized learning

The nation’s fourth largest public school district, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), is running a semester-long pilot program utilizing the itslearning learning management system (LMS) to select, deliver and manage the instructional components for secondary level social science courses in 10 schools.

Designed specifically for the K-12 sector, itslearning is a cloud-based LMS that enables teachers to engage today’s “digitally wired” students anytime, anywhere and on any device. The MDCPS pilot will run through May, after which teacher feedback and input will be solicited.

In 2014 Miami-Dade Public Schools launched the “Digital Convergence” initiative, a program to provide wireless access in all its schools and put digital learning devices such as laptops and tablets in the hands of all students. According to Brazofsky, the itslearning pilot is a great opportunity for teachers to maximize the potential of the initiative through the use of an LMS.

“Because the itslearning platform consolidates and automates the curriculum management process, teachers participating in the pilot are able to infuse digital tools and content into their lessons,” said Brazofsky. “Thus far the teachers report that the system has helped facilitate communication, collaboration and interaction between them and students. They also say that by using digital tools they’re so familiar with, students are far more engaged in their learning.”

“The streaming videos is a favorite for me and the students. I don’t have to spend time searching online for proper educational videos because the itslearning system has already vetted them and matched them to our standards. I simply add a link to the video on the assignment and students can watch it from home,” said Jaela Vazquez, a world history and geography teacher at Coral Reef Senior High School. “The Bulletin Board is another incredible tool. I write out agenda on it and attach all the PowerPoints and handouts for students who were absent, or for students to reference later when they’re studying.”

Teachers participating in the pilot receive personalized professional development and training from itslearning, including formal face-to-face biweekly digital meetings, and on-demand tutorials that support digital and blended learning via the itslearning platform.

The high schools selected to participate in the pilot are: Coral Gables, Coral Reef, Miami Southridge and Miami Southwest. The middle schools include: Ponce de Leon, Country Club, Herbert Ammons, and Jorge Mas Canosa. One school, Miami Arts Studio @ Zelda Glazer Middle School serves students in grades 6-12.



9 case studies reveal secrets of successful blended, online learning programs

Evergreen Education Group details academic outcomes of nine different programs using Fuel Education

Successful online and blended learning programs in a recent survey are those that prioritized better teacher-student relationships, used an online curriculum as a primary instructional source, and used a combination of in-person and virtual instructional support.

Over the past year, digital learning policy research and advisory firm Evergreen Education Group conducted in-depth analyses of nine schools that use online curriculum and platforms from Fuel Education (FuelEd) as the instructional foundation of their programs.

After observing and interviewing groups of students, faculty, staff, and school leadership at each of the nine schools, Evergreen Education Group identified certain key characteristics that make blended and online learning programs successful, including student relationships, online curriculum as the primary source of instruction, and a variety of instructional support.

Evergreen Education Group, in cooperation with FuelEd, has published an executive summary and nine full case studies, “Outcomes of Blended and Online Learning Programs in Schools Using Fuel Education Curriculum.” The report aims to further the understanding and potential benefits of blended and online learning programs among schools demonstrating strong academic results, and to highlight the commonalities in instructional models, practices, measurements of success, and outcomes.

Of the nine online or blended learning programs, five were whole school programs and four were credit recovery and remedial programs.

While all differed in size, demographics, community types, location, and status of program development, the research team found important similarities.

Each program reported improved student outcomes despite serving a broad spectrum of students — from failing and struggling students to mainstream and advanced students seeking a personalized educational experience. In addition, the programs used different measures of success, such as scores on year-end tests, graduation rates, and college attendance rates.

Teachers, administrators, and students attributed the success of their programs to several factors:

Better relationships with students—All schools felt establishing deep and meaningful teacher-student relationships was an essential component to success and thus made it a priority. When teachers had a better understanding of both a student’s academic capability and his or her personal and family situations, they were better able to tailor their teaching and counseling activities to fit that student’s individual needs. Students agreed and felt that their teachers genuinely cared about them and would help them succeed.
Online curriculum as primary source of instruction—Using the FuelEd curriculum allowed teachers to work more directly with students in both one-on-one and small group formats. Many students felt they received more personal attention from teachers in these programs than in traditional schools. Schools cited one of the benefits of the FuelEd curriculum was its comprehensive catalog of content for kindergarten through 12th grade, including core courses, electives, advanced courses, credit recovery, and remediation. Teachers from all schools reported that the online courses were appropriately rigorous and provided a highly engaging learning experience for students. Students worked on these courses at their own pace, and most reported this flexibility as one of the major reasons for their success.
In-person and virtual instructional support—Most students interacted with their teachers frequently each day, whether the interaction was in-person or virtual. Many students reported that they received more personal attention from their teachers in these programs than in a traditional school setting.

“Overall, the research team was struck by the upbeat, positive attitudes of students, teachers, and staff, and by the different but impressive results within each program,” according to the report. “The most noted keys to success were the strong relationships between individual teachers and individual students supported by the comprehensive and flexible online curriculum provided by FuelEd.”

“These nine programs are excellent examples of how schools are successfully using blended and online learning to meet the unique needs of their students and to improve academic outcomes,” said Gregg Levin, General Manager of Fuel Education. “We are pleased to team with Evergreen Education Group to document these different implementation approaches and best practices to share with other schools and districts looking for innovative ways to better engage students, empower their teachers, and boost achievement.”


Material from a press release was used in this report.


3 ways to revamp lessons for the interactive learner

To connect with today’s interactive learner, look to these innovative strategies

Today’s students are a uniquely interactive group. Most of the 80 million Americans who are part of the millennial generation—a group that comprises the lion’s share of today’s student population—can’t remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to the internet.  Most of them grew up playing video games, and ever since they can remember, they’ve been in constant contact with friends via social media platforms and text messages. A growing number of today’s instructors also fall into this group.

Educators who want to reach students who favor interactive communication know that integrating digital tools into their lesson plans can be an effective strategy, and many have incorporated technology tools into the classroom in one way or another. But to make a real difference, educators have to integrate technology in a meaningful way. It’s not sufficient to just use social media platforms as an alternate communication venue or post schedules on a class Facebook page

So how can educators use technology in a more meaningful way? Here are three methods educators are successfully using to connect with a new generation of students in the classroom.

Gamify lessons

Friendly competition can improve focus and drive better results, which is why “gamification” is a hot trend in corporate training and educational circles. Teachers can “gamify” lessons by integrating competition into classroom presentations in a number of ways. For example, a gamification feature in presentation software can enable educators to set up teams or allow individual students to respond to embedded questions and display aggregate results on a screen; some software solutions also feature a leaderboard so everyone can monitor progress.

The types of games educators can incorporate in their classrooms varies widely, from quiz show-type games that allocate points based on correct responses and speed in answering questions to wagering-style competitions, in which teams can bet amassed points on their ability to provide a correct answer to questions. Students can provide answers using a keypad that comes with the software or an app on their mobile phones. A gamification approach is highly effective in getting all students involved in classroom activities and providing educators with data they can use to assess student progress.

Turn lectures into a 2-way conversation

Students who are used to highly interactive communication often have difficulty adjusting to traditional classroom lectures, where they are expected to silently take notes while the instructor speaks. Educators who are looking for new ways to engage students can turn top-down lectures into two-way conversations with technology. By embedding questions into presentation slides and allowing students to transmit answers via response technology, teachers can give students a voice in the classroom.

This approach is also useful for instructors who need to gauge students’ grasp of the topic on a real-time basis. When teachers embed questions into presentations and ask students to respond, they can display the results in chart form right in the presentation slide, which allows the instructor to assess the aggregate level of knowledge. Questions can be phrased as multiple choice, yes-or-no, or even open-ended—a format designed to assess conceptual understanding or enable the use of problem-solving techniques to arrive at the correct answer.

Next page: Crowdsource to connect with the interactive learner