Survey: What online professional learning do teachers prefer?

New survey reveals teachers’ professional learning preferences, trends in priorities

Educators from Pre-K up through higher education most often prefer to participate in professional learning opportunities that focus on training for online software and digital resources (34 percent), classroom management strategies (34 percent), and digital device training (33 percent), according to a new survey released during this year’s ISTE conference.

The 2016 Vision K-20 Professional Learning Survey Report is the ninth annual national K-20 educator survey from the Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN) of SIIA, and also is the first survey focusing on online professional learning (PL).

The survey finds that educators from PreK-12 and higher education institutions most often enroll in courses that provide training for online software and digital resources and classroom management/behavior training.

“Educators have an increasing number of online professional learning choices that provide them with a flexible alternative to traditional professional development formats,” said Karen Billings, vice president and managing director of the ETIN. “The Vision K-20 Professional Learning Survey provides educators and administrators with critical insight to how educators are taking online PL courses, why they take them and who provides them.”

Nearly 60 percent of participating survey respondents said they enrolled in online professional learning in the past year. The survey defines online professional learning courses as any course that includes online, blended or hybrid learning.

Seventy-five percent of participating educators said they enroll in online PL courses when they are personally interested in the subject and want to increase their knowledge in that area. The second most common reason for online professional learning enrollment is to receive continuing education credits (46 percent of respondents).

Educators with less than 20 years of experience working in an educational institution are more likely to enroll in an online professional learning course than educators with more experience.

Educators most commonly select learning opportunities from educational institutions (60 percent) and online communities (60 percent). Courses include videos (76 percent), discussion forums (73 percent), audio (72 percent), quizzes or assessments (68 percent), and slides (64 percent).



IO Education, EADMS merger will expand online formative assessment

Complementary formative assessment solutions will help educators better leverage tools

IO Education and Educator’s Assessment Data Management System (EADMS), a provider of K-12 assessment and data management software, have merged to better leverage online formative assessment capabilities.

With EADMS’ fully integrated assessment and data management capabilities, IO Education will continue to strengthen its ability to utilize all student data to drive educator insight and improve educational outcomes. These complementary solutions will give educators an integrated solution across assessment, analytics and reporting, talent management, professional development and classroom management.

EADMS offers a comprehensive formative assessment and data management solution that provides educators at all levels immediate results to measure student performance, and is optimized for online and paper-based assessment. EADMS enables K-12 districts to personalize instruction by providing the tools to identify performance gaps that prevent students from achieving standards mastery.

“The EADMS platform will deliver instantaneous, invaluable data to IO Education users, so they can leverage it most effectively to drive instructional practices,” said Anthony Tooley, founder of EADMS. “EADMS customers will now benefit from a comprehensive data analytics solution from IO Education that will further empower educators and administrators to personalize learning and improve outcomes.”

As IO Education incorporates EADMS into its product suite, Mr. Tooley will lead the company’s assessment division.

“We believe that formative assessment data provides critical and timely information to personalize learning for students,” said Michael Williamson, Chief Executive Officer of IO Education. “A key driver of student growth involves equipping teachers with the ability to easily assess and measure student mastery in real-time to take personalized action for each student.”

With IO Education, schools and districts can break down data silos and aggregate state, district, classroom and assessment data to develop a rich understanding of student growth. Learn more at



New Common Sense tool shows how secure your ed-tech apps are

New educator resource is intended to find accurate, up-to-date evaluations of privacy and security practices of ed-tech applications

Common Sense Education, in collaboration with over 70 schools and districts nationwide, launched its K-12 Ed-Tech Privacy Evaluation Platform to support educators in their effort to make informed decisions about the educational software being used on campuses throughout the country.

With schools and districts struggling to manage the challenge of evaluating the privacy and security practices of thousands of educational technology products on the market, Common Sense convened stakeholders to develop a platform that provides accurate and up-to-date evaluations of the security practices of the most commonly used ed-tech apps. The robust set of resources is available at

“Evaluating the privacy and security practices of educational software is a daunting task for most schools and districts, but it doesn’t have to be,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “By working together with educators, Common Sense has developed a comprehensive, centralized, and free resource to help an education community that is spread out across the country learn from each other and make more informed decisions about protecting student privacy.”

The robust set of resources for educators includes real use experiences provided by schools and districts as well as an analysis of the strengths and potential risks of each application. The evaluation process consists of four steps:

Transparency evaluation: Identify the thoroughness of the policy.

Qualitative evaluation: Clarify strengths and potential weaknesses in the policy.

Summary evaluation: Based on the qualitative evaluation, organize strengths and potential risks into four criteria: safety, privacy, security, and compliance.

App evaluation: A high-level summary of the strengths and potential risks of an application.

The Common Sense K-12 Ed-Tech Privacy Evaluation Platform was born out of an initiative that began in 2014 when a group of school districts, including Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia) and Houston Independent School District, approached Common Sense to address the complex and varied privacy policies of technology used in K–12 classrooms. Today, with the involvement of over 70 schools and districts, the great work on the initiative has resulted in a platform that seeks not only to evaluate ed-tech but also to work with the K–12 educational software industry to simplify and standardize privacy policies.

Carl Sjogreen, co-founder of Seesaw, a K–12 digital portfolio platform, said, “We care deeply about student privacy, both as a company and as parents ourselves. Our company takes privacy considerations into account from the first day we start working on a new feature, and we strive to communicate our privacy policies clearly. Having a consistent set of industry privacy guidelines and a way to demonstrate our privacy commitments will make it easier for us and all ed-tech developers to build student privacy into the core of their products.”

A recent Fordham Law School report found that 95 percent of districts rely on cloud services for a diverse range of functions including data mining related to student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, data hosting, and special services such as cafeteria payments and transportation planning. According to the study, districts frequently surrender control of student information when using cloud services, as fewer than 25 percent of the agreements specify the purpose of disclosures of student information, fewer than 7 percent of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors, and many agreements allow vendors to change the terms without notice.

“It is a challenge for educators to keep up with all of the new and exciting digital tools being developed for the classroom,” said L. Beatriz Arnillas, director of IT and education technology for Houston Independent School District. “The privacy evaluation tool is going to help us make quicker and more informed decisions, and, equally as important, it provides one central, collaborative platform for educators everywhere to share information so we are not duplicating efforts when it comes to analyzing the best approaches to protecting student privacy.”

“The expertise of our partner districts, and their day-to-day experience evaluating software and working with vendors, grounds this work in the realities faced by students and teachers using technology,” said Bill Fitzgerald, director of the Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative. “We are working together to create accessible and straightforward criteria that district leaders, teachers, students, parents, and vendors can readily understand.”

Common Sense Education undertook this privacy initiative with the funding support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Yes, teens are addicted to mobile devices — but so are adults

Infographic shares realities behind today’s mobile device addiction

As kids get older, cries for strict limits on their screen time tend to taper off. By the time students hit high school, many are accustomed to texting in the hallways or even sneaking a peek at Facebook during dinner. But is the laissez-faire approach to device use actually enabling addictive behavior? Parents think so—and so do many of their kids, according to a recent Common Sense Media poll of 1,200 parents and teens centered around technology use and addiction.

Multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people, which is common for kids doing homework or socializing, can impair their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively, according to the report.

See also: Report: Teens feel ‘addicted’ to mobile devices

Check out the infographic below for a bit of what the teens (and their parents) copped to:




5 things changing today’s CTO role

During ISTE 2016, a panel of CTOs and educators examined how changes in today’s schools and technologies are impacting the role of the traditional CTO

Chief technology officers (CTOs) in school districts juggle any number of demands relating to IT support, technology integration into classroom instruction, and future district technology plans. But as technology changes, and as the needs of students and teachers change, so does the role of the CTO.

A panel of CTOs, ed-tech specialists, and educators at ISTE 2016 in Denver, moderated by Jeremy Shorr, the director of innovation and education technology in Ohio’s Mentor Public Schools, explored some of the challenges that come along with those changes and shared their best practices for ensuring that technology continues to meet the needs of teaching and learning throughout those changes.

Blended learning

Blended learning has enjoyed time as one of ed-tech’s big buzz phrases. But is it still relevant today, and if so, why? When and where does blended learning make sense, and how do CTOs support that transition? The blended learning umbrella is very, very big. Is that broad umbrella an asset or a detriment?

“Blended learning means flexible learning that caters to learning styles of students,” said Kevin Honeycutt, a technology integration specialist at ESSDACK. “Schools that try to do right by all students, instead of teaching one way, have never left this game. If you’re willing to be flexible to the point of contortionism on behalf of what students need, you’re in that game.”

The broad umbrella “can contribute to blended learning being a buzzword, and not necessarily something that is working to make learning better for kids,” said Susan Bearden, director of IT at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Florida.

Next page: Four more challenges to the traditional CTO role


Hayes Software Systems launches implementation plan for mid-sized districts

The Basic Implementation Plan is specifically designed for school districts looking to quick start their TIPWeb-IT software

Hayes Software Systems, a provider of inventory control software and services for the K-12 education market, announced a new software implementation plan developed for mid-sized school districts. The plan will allow these districts focused on efficiently tracking and managing their assets with an automated inventory system to get up and running in as little as 15 days.

“We continue to listen to our customers within the education space, and this new option is a great example of that. Some school systems may not need the full scope of services that we offer, and yet they still want a solution to achieve their inventory control goals. We developed a more streamlined and out-of-the-box approach to provide an opportunity for all districts to take advantage of our premium asset management system,” said Matt Winebright, President and CEO of Hayes Software Systems. “One of the reasons we’re having such great success is that we continue to stay nimble and make proactive business decisions. Now we can reach an even bigger segment of the market.”

Just as with Hayes Software Systems’ Enterprise Implementation Plan, school districts will be able to track unlimited assets across the district, create an unlimited number of user profiles in TIPWeb-IT, and receive unlimited phone and email customer support for all software users. Customers can also attend free, pre-scheduled, virtual training sessions to understand the functionality of TIPWeb-IT and ensure they are maximizing all it has to offer.

Designed for districts with less than 10,000 students, The Basic Implementation Plan is ideal for those who want a superior software system, but don’t require personalized training sessions or a dedicated project manager. Customization options are also available to support asset management processes and system adoption, like onsite user training or a student information system integration, to further ensure data quality and user satisfaction.

There are over 10,000 districts across the United States that can now take advantage of a premium inventory system. TIPWeb-IT is uniquely designed to address these challenges they face every day:

• Implementing 1:1 initiatives
• Managing the influx of assets in the classroom
• Complying with the requirements of federally funded purchases, like E-Rate Category 2
• Satisfying federal and state audit expectations


Flexcat collaboration system gets big upgrade for ISTE

The classroom audio system now has expanded coverage, Whisper Coaching, and a new iOS app, making it a powerful tool for teachers and their mentors

At ISTE 2016, classroom audio provider Lightspeed Technologies will introduce three new features of its Flexcat system. The only classroom audio system designed for small-group learning, Flexcat consists of a wearable microphone for the teacher, a speaker for whole-group instruction, and a set of two-way audio pods that allow teachers to listen and speak to small groups from anywhere in the classroom so they can reinforce, respond, and challenge students in their moment of need.

Lightspeed’s new mobile app, launching in July, turns teachers’ iOS device into a Flexcat remote control. This allows them to switch among the two-way audio pods directly from their device, making the Flexcat an even simpler and more seamless tool for gathering critical learning insights. The new app unlocks some additional new features of the system.

With the app, the new Flexcat includes expanded coverage for up to 12 audio pods, making it a powerful tool for large classrooms, small-group instruction, team teaching, and professional development events.

Flexcat now also supports Whisper Coaching, a variation on informative assessment. Through a small earpiece worn by teachers and their mentors, mentors can listen in to ongoing conversations between teachers and student groups. Whisper Coaching also allows teachers and mentors to have private conversations between their earpieces for real-time coaching and highlighting teachable moments.

“The Flexcat has transformed my classroom,” said kindergarten teacher Susan Meyer. “Not only do I know that every student will always hear every word I say, but small-group learning is much more valuable for my students and more powerful when I can check in with each group individually to help them stay on track, clarify, and answer questions.”

“The latest updates give the Flexcat new capabilities for the classroom, but also make it an ideal solution for professional development,” said David Solomon, the executive vice president and general manager of Lightspeed Technologies. “Schools that want flexible technology can now use classroom tools for PD as well.”

Educators attending ISTE can experience live product demos of Flexcat and other audio systems, and can enter to win a Lightspeed audio system at booth #1931. Solomon will be available for interviews in the PR with Panache! Storytelling Suite at The Corner Office.



Future Ready Schools heralds school librarians as leaders

New project highlights critical role school librarians play in supporting Future Ready goals

Future Ready Schools (FRS), led by the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, announced Future Ready Librarians, an expansion of the FRS initiative aimed at positioning librarians as leaders in the digital transformation of learning.

The FRS initiative helps district leaders recognize the potential of digital tools and align necessary technologies with instructional goals to support teaching and learning.

“In today’s digital world, the school library has evolved from a place to merely check out books to one that offers opportunities for collaboration, project-based learning, and online access,” said Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise. “Similarly, librarians are now playing central roles in school leadership and working daily with students, teachers, and administrators. Through Future Ready Librarians, school librarians will be better equipped to support teachers in their transition to a digital learning environment while themselves becoming more future ready.”

Follett, the largest provider of educational materials and technology solutions to pre-K–12 schools in the United States, will support the development of tools and resources to connect librarians and libraries in support of the FRS initiative and enable district leaders to better engage and empower librarians to support their FRS vision.

“Follett is thrilled to support the Future Ready Librarians initiative, as it aligns perfectly with our history and our vision for the future of education,” said Nader Qaimari, president of Follett School Solutions. “Through Project Connect and this initiative, we will continue to advocate for strong, empowered school librarians. Now we can be even more effective as we create new resources and services designed to position librarians as leaders in a digital transformation.”

A network of nationally recognized librarians, including Mark Ray, chief digital officer for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington, will provide input on the development of strategies, tools, and resources aligned with the FRS framework. A former high school librarian, Ray has been nationally recognized for transforming the role of the school librarian into a technological innovator in schools.

“Future Ready librarians embrace change and innovation in education,” said Ray. “As teachers, they empower students as creators and digital citizens; as coaches, they collaborate with teachers as curators and guides. Future Ready schools require new kinds of leadership. The Future Ready Librarians initiative will help define what that leadership can be.”

“School librarians lead transformational learning through their instructional leadership in the digital learning landscape,” said Leslie Preddy, president of the American Association of School Librarians, an FRS coalition partner. “They support educators and prepare youth for informed living in a technology- and information-rich society. The expansion of the Future Ready initiative to include Future Ready Librarians re-affirms school librarians as critical to the transition and sustainability of effective digital learning.”

Future Ready Librarians builds on the Alliance’s 2014 report, Leading In and Beyond the Library, which first outlined the Alliance’s belief that school librarians and libraries should play a key role in state- and districtwide efforts to transition to digital learning. The Alliance has also repeatedly stressed the importance of school librarians through Digital Learning Day, which the Alliance first created in 2012 to highlight great teaching practices and demonstrate how technology can improve student outcomes.

Today’s Future Ready Librarians announcement comes on the heels of the White House’s National Week of Making (June 17–23). The Maker Movement in schools is designed to provide physical spaces within schools where students can collaborate with their peers to build, create, and tinker. These maker spaces are frequently led by librarians and located within school libraries, which have been reconfigured and redesigned to include workstations where students work on projects involving coding and robots, inquiry-based building, and even 3-D printing.

“With skilled librarians leading the charge, school libraries evolve from quiet reading zones to active, flexible learning spaces for student collaboration and innovation,” said Wise. “Such approaches move students to become designers and creators engaged in real-world applications of their learning who are better prepared for success in college and a career.”


Dark fiber could be the future of school networking

Dark fiber is helping some districts scale broadband for tomorrow, not today. Is it the future of networking?

After taking steps to update and increase funding for the E-rate program in 2014, this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began allowing applicants to apply for discounts for dark fiber and self-provisioned fiber.

Seen as a way to give institutions more tools for meeting connectivity demands, these “smart fiber” options are already being used by schools nationwide. With the expanded E-rate opportunities, the number of K-12 districts exploring their dark/self-provisioned options could grow significantly over the next few years.

What is dark fiber?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) does a good job of breaking down traditional and self-provisioned options in a PDF on its website. Basically, self-provisioned options let schools build new fiber networks without using existing fiber optic cables. Schools then own those networks and, as such, are responsible for the related operations and management costs.

According to the DPI, lit fiber refers to a leased fiber service that the school does not own or manage. In this common scenario, bandwidth amounts are controlled by the terms of a contract with the service provider (i.e., 100 Mbps for $3,000 per month).

Dark fiber refers to physical fiber that the school owns, leases, or IRUs (indefeasible rights of use, or permanent contractual agreements). The school then “lights” the fiber by connecting its own network equipment to it, or by contracting with a third party to provide and configure it. Bandwidth amounts are controlled by the school, and determined by the capacity of the optical network equipment.

Sheryl Abshire, CTO at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., sees E-rate’s expansion to include dark fiber provisioning as yet another way for U.S. schools to compete in the global marketplace. “We have an obligation to meet the growing need for bandwidth and to produce young people who are digitally literate and globally competitive,” says Abshire, whose district utilizes leased lines but is currently exploring its self-provisioning options.

“We have to remember that students in Latrobe, La., aren’t competing against pupils in Houston. They’re competing against students in Finland, Germany, Singapore, and Bangladesh, to name just a few,” says Abshire. “I’ve spent considerable time at schools in Asia and Scandinavia, and I can tell you neither has bandwidth problems or spinning rainbows on their [laptop] screens.”

Pros and cons of DIY fiber

When the FCC opened the door for K-12 public schools to explore their smart network options, it also put a whole new set of challenges in front of the district that decides to build its own network.  To help schools determine the best connectivity approach in an era where 68% of district technology leaders say they’re struggling with this issue, CoSN and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University developed Maximizing K-12 Fiber Connectivity Through E-Rate: An Overview. The toolkit includes an overview of the E-rate program, important considerations for schools to assess their options, and a call to action for school systems to begin taking measurable steps toward deciding on and making effective use of today’s fiber connectivity options.

Abshire sees affordability as one of smart fiber’s main attractors for schools. Play by the FCC’s rules by creating a request for proposal (RFP), building out the network, and then maintaining it over time, she says, and over a 5-year amortization period the initiative will probably be more cost effective than leasing lines over that same period of time. “Districts have the chance to think out of the box and maybe even build more bandwidth between schools,” says Abshire, who notes that such initiatives aren’t for the faint of heart.

“A CTO can’t just go out on a limb, develop an RFP, and go through the motions without factoring in ramifications like maintenance, uptime, property rights (e.g., for burying cable),” says Abshire, whose team will take part in CoSN’s Teaming for Transformation project in the spring and visit a district that’s already built its own fiber network. “Here at our vast district, I’ll have to talk to every community agency and even railroad companies (for running the cable under the tresses) to be able to get the job done. It’s a lot of work.”

Next page: What happened when one district went dark fiber 13 years ago


Boxlight to debut standard, interactive laser and bulb projectors at ISTE

New P12 line of projectors offers models for every classroom budget and need, including laser projectors, touch projectors, and combinations of both

Boxlight will be unveiling its new line of P12 projectors at the 2016 ISTE Conference & Expo in Denver, Colorado. Attendees will be able to see live demos of the touch projectors by visiting the Boxlight booth (#3311).

Scheduled to start shipping in late June, the product line offers educators four easy ways to bring stunning visuals to classroom instruction. In addition to a standard projector, the line includes laser, laser HD, and laser ultra-wide projectors. A full list of all 12 P12 interactive touch projectors, as well as stylus-only and non-interactive models, is available at

Stevan Vigneaux, Director of Product Management for Boxlight, drew special attention to three models: the P12L ultra-short-throw laser projector, the P12LU laser ultra-wide projector and the P12B ultra-short-throw projector.

“The reality is that many schools are in the infancy stage of outfitting classrooms with large interactive displays,” he said. “These three models give teachers the ability to create large, touch-enabled areas that will allow up to 10 students to collaborate while engaging with clear, beautifully detailed images that are large enough to be seen from every part of the classroom.”

• The P12B ultra-short-throw displays interactive images as large as 110 inches,
• The P12L touch projector shows interactive images as large as 115 inches, and
• The P12LU creates interactive images as large as 140 inches.

In addition, the P12L and P12LU projectors’ laser illumination saves time and resources – there are no lamps to fail, and no lamps to change. And the projectors’ 20-year laser life span reduces maintenance worries.

All P12 interactive projectors are full-featured hardware and software solutions that include the award-winning MimioStudio™ classroom software and three MimioMobile™ connections. When the projectors are used with the software and a MimioMobile classroom version, teachers can perform collaboration and assessment activities at the front of the room or on almost any student device. Additionally, the projectors’ analog and digital audio/video connections ensure compatibility with virtually any PC, and users can employ them with Mac, Windows or Linux OS.

“Our primary goal has always been to give schools a complete range of choices when it comes to equipping the modern classroom,” said Vigneaux. “So in addition to the four major selections, the P12 line includes projectors for every budget and every need – pen-based interactivity, touch-based interactivity, and standard, non-interactive models.”