Teachers want more support in early education communication

While almost all educators feel support of parents with children younger than school age is important, only 23 percent of educators have sufficient tools to do so, according to a survey from Office Depot.

The nonprofit Center for College & Career Readiness and Office Depot’s “Committed to Learning” initiative surveyed thousands of teachers to understand their perceptions of early education preparation.

“The survey findings show the increased demand for learning initiatives that equip educators with tools to more effectively work with families,” said Becki Schwietz, senior director of K-12 initiatives for Office Depot, Inc. “We are proud to partner with school districts around the country to address the critical unmet needs of students and affect positive change at home and in the classroom.”

Ninety-seven percent of surveyed educators said they felt that communication between districts and parents before students were school aged was important or very important as part of school readiness preparation.

Next page: Do educators need help using parent communication tools?

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App of the Week: Free STEM lessons for every subject

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? With CK-12, students can create an account by entering their email address and a password. They can then explore the site, which is divided into Mathematics, Science, and More. Mathematics includes subjects from arithmetic to trigonometry and statistics. Science covers all the bases: biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as life, earth, and physical science. The More section offers history, technology, and economics. Within each subject, you can click on a circle, each of which contains a number of Concepts (short, chapter-like lessons). For example, if you click on Phases of Matter, you will be given a list of topics that includes evaporation, sublimation, and solutions. Within these topics, you can choose from a series of modalities: Read, Practice, Video, Real World, and more.

Price: Free

Grades: K-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: The information is well organized, the site is beautifully designed, and the wealth of content is outstanding.

Cons: Some sections could be more fleshed out, and the interactives often lack rigor.

Bottom line: Making STEM content accessible to kids with different learning styles, CK-12 could be the key to mastery for some students.

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7 new standards for excellent online learning leadership

As online learning evolves from amateur experimentation to a mainstream professional entity on campus, new standards for quality online learning leadership are emerging in order to not only sustain these distance programs, but ensure they meet the growing demands of 21st-century academe.

Key Points:

  • The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) has released a report detailing seven hallmarks of excellence in online leadership.
  • These standards of excellence for online learning leadership are an attempt to articulate those features and principles that will create opportunities for students that “far exceed anything already achieved in higher education, take pedagogy to a new level, and demonstrate the capacity of universities to be an even more vital force in our society,” notes the report.
  • Hallmarks range from advocacy to entrepreneurial initiatives and much more.

(Next page: The 7 new standards for excellent online learning leadership)

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The Friday 4: Your weekly ed-tech rewind

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

I can’t fit all of this week’s news stories here, though, so feel free to browse eSchool News and read up on other news you may have missed.

This week? The future of education, including citizen science apps, increases in gamification and game-based learning, and artificial intelligence’s impact on the education industry.

Read on for more:

Report: Gamifying computer science is an easy place to start
The report found that just half of U.S. states actually count computer science as a math or science credit rather than an elective, and 29 states lack computer science teacher certification programs. But a new approach that teaches coding through gamification makes it easy for teachers with zero computer science background to teach coding to students.

3 reasons why AI is education’s future
Today’s quickly emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology spells change for practically every industry, including education. The day will soon come when we’ll sardonically ask ourselves: “Remember when we had to visit a website and look around for what we needed?” Now the data comes to us.

Schools are gamifying science with this new STEM app
A new app that lets users upload photos of insects and animals is aiding the discovery of new species, NPR reports. Photos uploaded to the iNaturalist app are accompanied by a location, and from there, amateur and expert naturalists can examine the photos to identify the species.

K-12 gaming is still on the rise
Gaming is growing, that’s for sure. We read about it in survey results, we hear about game-based learning in conference sessions and during webinars, and we stumble across it in news coverage.

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Scholastic, ASCD launch 3-day PD for district-wide literacy improvement

The inaugural three-day Literacy Leaders’ Institute, hosted by Scholastic and ASCD, begins September 22-24, 2016. This new, professional learning opportunity brings together the expertise of both leading organizations with renowned authors and superintendents who are actively addressing literacy improvement in their districts.

Leadership teams in attendance will learn to develop the district, school, classroom, family, and community structures that are necessary to build strong comprehensive literacy programs, and optimize learning environments for all students.

To learn more about the Literacy Leaders’ Institute in San Diego, CA and register to attend, visit: http://www.scholastic.com/literacyleaders.

During the Literacy Leaders’ Institute, superintendents, curriculum directors, literacy coaches, principals, and teacher leaders will experience peer-to-peer collaboration and receive personalized attention from Scholastic coaches and experts from the field. Keynote sessions will address topics such as creating responsive and responsible readers, what it means to be a literacy leader, cultivating literacy in diverse classrooms, improving instruction in high-poverty schools, and more.

Featured speakers include:
• Tiffany Anderson – Superintendent at Topeka Public Schools, Kansas
• Kylene Beers – Past President of the National Council of Teachers of English, award-winning educator, and Scholastic author
• Deb Delisle – Executive Director and CEO, ASCD
• Douglas Fisher – Professor of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University, teacher at Health Sciences High, and Middle College and ASCD author
• Nancy Frey – Professor of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University, teacher at Health Sciences High, and Middle College and ASCD author
• Michael Haggen – Chief Academic Officer, Scholastic Education
• Cindy Marten – Superintendent at San Diego School District, California
• Ernest Morrell – Professor of English Education and Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and Scholastic author
• Robert Probst – Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University and Scholastic author
• Annie Ward – Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Mamaroneck Union Free School District, New York and Scholastic author

“We know that strong literacy skills are the foundation for students to become lifelong learners and by equipping administrators and teachers with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to develop a comprehensive literacy plan, we are helping them bring this to scale within their districts,” said Michael Haggen, Chief Academic Officer, Scholastic Education. “Scholastic is proud to provide ongoing professional learning opportunities for educators and in collaboration with ASCD, the Literacy Leaders’ Institute will combine the best leadership practices with high-quality instruction for an intensive, transformative three days.”

“The Literacy Leaders’ Institute provides a highly-personalized process for teams to identify challenges in their own literacy plan, and collaborate to develop action plans to implement immediately following the Institute,” said Jim Hemgen, ASCD’s managing director of professional learning services. “It is exciting to be partnering with Scholastic to prove a hands-on and engaging experience where educators not only learn from leading experts, but collaborate and learn with district leaders who may face similar challenges.”

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9 ways to improve your district’s digital leadership

The importance of digital learning is, by now, well established. But as schools and classrooms across the nation use digital strategies to engage students and boost achievement, digital leadership has emerged as one of the most important areas in which to invest thought, time and resources.

Today, digital leadership isn’t limited only to administrators. With the emergence of teacher-leaders, educators at all levels have a chance to model digital leadership for their peers and for students.

Districts that model exceptional digital leadership often have several things in common. Here, Dr. Mark Edwards, senior vice president of digital learning for Discovery Education and former superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District, which has been much celebrated for its dedication to digital integration and 21st-century learning, shares insights on how districts can ensure they are full of digital leaders.

1. Align job descriptions, evaluation processes, and evaluation expectations around digital learning and digital leadership.

“I think aligning expectations around using digital resources and expectations around embracing them at every level, from district leaders on down, creates a sense of a willful disposition to learn more and grow in the digital space,” Edwards said. “Just as technology is changing constantly, that leadership frame has to change and evolve.”

Next page: 8 more strategies for supporting digital leadership

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5 useful tips to get the most out of virtual field trips

To help educators save time, we’ve put together a quick recap on how to prepare for your next virtual field trip (VFT) and five of the best VFT’s based on their relevancy, quality of resources, and potential for student excitement. Student engagement starts with excitement, so get planning!

Prepare: Like any lesson plan, consider how you can prepare your students. First, don’t forget the standards, curriculum, and content you are helping your students uncover. By connecting these virtual field trip experiences to content that you want students to learn, you can ensure students come to the event ready to participate. Also look for pre-event activities your students can participate in. Not only do these activities promote student thinking about what might happen during the virtual field trip, they also allow you to create connections to the specific content you wish to cover.

Engage and connect: During the event, make sure that you take advantage of any virtual connections that are possible, such as submitting questions for panelists before or during the event, or participating in Twitter backchannel conversations as the VFT unfolds. Your participation helps guide live panelists and provides your students the opportunity to be recognized. There’s not too much more exciting then hearing your class’s name and question read aloud during a live virtual field trip.

Model: Don’t forget to model your learning for your students. Take pictures of what is happening in the classroom and document everything going on. In order to maximize virtual field trips, integrate teaching strategies with the content that is shared. You might consider the A-E-I-O-U strategy during the event; showing students how to capture what they learned. (A- an adjective or two that describes what they learned, E – emotion describing how it made them feel, I – something they found interesting, O – something that made them say “Oh!”, U – write a question that you want to learn more about). For more examples of free strategies to use with digital media, take a look here.

Reflect: During the event, identify the talking points and imagery that provides the most direct launching point into your curriculum. Plan to revisit these segments in the future. Consider what resonated with your students. How can you make this more than an isolated lesson? Often, these events pique students’ interest and spark many questions. Use this opportunity to have students record their thinking. Don’t expect to provide answers. Rather, put the learning opportunity back on your students to discover their answers as you work together towards mastering your unit of instruction.

Next page: 5 of the best trips to consider

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Google adds new features to Classroom, Forms, and more Copy

As back-to-school approaches, Google has just released a grab-bag of new features aimed at K-12 educators—mostly upgrades to existing Google products like Classroom and Expeditions—announced in a new blog post.

For Classroom, Google’s still relatively new LMS, the company is adding summaries of student work that can be automatically shared with parents by teachers, who can send the summaries (or classroom announcements) daily or weekly as they choose.

Classroom’s mobile app is also getting some tweaks, namely the new ability to annotate documents, turning them into whiteboard-like screens. Teachers, too, can use the annotations to grade assignments, highlight passages, or demonstrate concepts. To help organize classrooms, teachers can now also add topics to posts and students can filter their streams for specific topics.

New virtual field trips for Google’s virtual reality program, Expeditions, which uses smartphones paired with cardboard viewers, are also being added, letting classes virtually travel to places like Bhutan or inside the human body. Expeditions now features more than 200 trips.

Cast for Education, a free Chrome app that lets teachers share their screens wirelessly to a projector, is now available for all classrooms. Google Forms is also getting an update—namely allowing images to be added to questions or as multiple-choice answers.

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Survey: K-12 gaming use has doubled in the last six years

Gaming is growing, that’s for sure. We read about it in survey results, we hear about game-based learning in conference sessions and during webinars, and we stumble across it in news coverage.

In fact, teachers’ use of game-based environments and online apps has doubled in the last six years, according to the annual Speak Up survey released in May.

In 2010, only 23 percent of surveyed teachers said they used games, compared to 48 percent of those surveyed in 2015, according to the survey. In 2010, 47 percent of teachers said they used online videos, and that jumped to 68 percent of teachers in 2015.

And as gaming become more prevalent in classrooms, education colleges are taking note–some are even asking students to plan for how they might use games in their instruction.

Next page: How universities are helping current and future teachers incorporate gaming

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