Marketplace trend update: 5 new ed-tech developments

Remaining a tech-savvy educator means keeping on top of the myriad changes and trends in education, how technology can support those trends, and how teaching and learning can best benefit from near-constant change.

For instance, a new report highlights the link between arts-based learning and STEM education; a new challenge asks participants to explore and report on local folklore traditions; tutoring gets a social treatment; and more.

Below, we’ve gathered some of the latest and most relevant marketplace news to keep you up-to-date on product developments, teaching and learning initiatives, and new trends in education.

A new tool for teacher resource sharing, Boom Learning, will help teachers access a collection of teacher-created content for classroom devices. They also can create their own content to share and sell, augmenting their pay and enabling them to perhaps make up gaps between desperately-needed classroom resources and what school budgets can cover. Students with special needs and homeschooled students are only a few of the populations who can benefit from this type of teacher creation tool. Read more.

A new report from the Art of Science Learning compares the impacts and outcomes of arts-based innovation training with more traditional innovation training that does not incorporate the arts. The research offers “clear evidence” that arts-based learning sparks creativity, collaboration, emotionally intelligent behavior and innovation in both adolescents and adults. The research demonstrates that arts-based learning directly strengthens many key 21st Century learning and workforce skills. Read more.

Nampa School District #131 in Nampa, Idaho has become the first school district in the state to implement the itslearning learning management system. With 24 schools, Nampa SD serves 15,000 students in grades preK – 12, and will begin using the itslearning system this fall. Students will be able to explore, learn, share and express themselves using digital tools, and can also chat with teachers, collaborate on projects, reflect on learning with blogs and ePortfolios and show what they know. Read more.

Cricket Media and the Smithsonian have launched the 2016 Global Folklorist Challenge. The Challenge invites kids 8-18 from around the globe to explore and share cultural traditions and learn professional folklorist investigation, interview and reporting skills. Cultural traditions students might explore range from dance, games, and handicrafts to cooking, storytelling, customs, distinctive jobs, and more. Read more.

The social learning marketplace MindSpree is revamping the tutoring landscape by offering on-demand services nationwide. Tutors and students negotiate location, time and duration of each session. Students receive their first session for free.  MindSpree is available throughout the United States, and has students and tutors located in most major metropolitan areas. Read more.

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Can your internet service provider help close the digital divide?

Darriale Bradley and her family spent many nights in the parking lot of fast food restaurants, but not because of the food. It was for the wi-fi. For Darriale, sitting in the parking lot was the only way she could do her online homework since she didn’t have a home internet connection. No child should have to go to such lengths just to do homework, and every child should have easy and affordable access to the Internet and the opportunity that access brings. Yet, sadly, Darriale is far from alone.

The digital divide is a reality for three out of four American families, meaning approximately eight million individuals under the age of 18 are living without internet access. According to Pew Research, 79 percent of surveyed middle and high school teachers report allowing students to access homework online with 76 percent allowing students to submit assignments online. However, only 18 percent of teachers reported the majority of students have access to the digital tools they need at home, which left those students without access to broadband at a significant disadvantage.

So, where does this leave these students and their families? In short, without an Internet connection you are both economically and educationally marginalized. Luckily, this can be solved and we, at EveryoneOn, with the help of partners, are working to help families connect to the digital world.

In our work, we hear a common refrain from parents: “We know we need internet access, but we can’t afford it.” In addition, there is a lack of awareness about available discounted services and the qualification process for low-cost internet options is often long and cumbersome.

Progress against a problem as big as the digital divide demands bold, collaborative action from both the nonprofit and corporate worlds to address issues of affordability, access, equipment, and inclusive enrollment systems.

The good news? This kind of bold, collaborative work required already is happening and connecting families daily. EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit working with more than a dozen high-speed internet providers and other organizations to provide high-speed, low-cost internet, computers, and free digital literacy training for all unconnected U.S. residents.

One such opportunity for discounted internet service is available through a program called Connect2Compete, a flagship partnership that offers $10 per month at-home service to families with K-12 students that qualify for free and reduced school lunch program.

And, some of these internet partners are going even further in expanding eligibility and access to affordable connections. Cox Communications is one example. They were the first company to roll-out the Connect2Compete program, piloting the initiative for the FCC in San Diego, then rolling out the program nationally in 2013. The Cox offer extends Connect2Compete discounts to families with children in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), as well as to families with K-12 students living in HUD-assisted housing as part of the national ConnectHome initiative launched by President Obama in July 2015.

Leadership among internet service providers is critical and makes all the difference to the sustainable success of these programs. In addition to broadening eligibility requirements, Cox is committing time and resources to engage local city leadership, community nonprofits, and public housing authorities to help ensure Connect2Compete and ConnectHome programs succeed in the markets they serve. Because the families we’re trying to reach do not have access at home, information needs to be provided in practical and accessible ways. That means going the extra mile to place information in bus stops, community centers — and sometimes literally placing flyers at the doorstep of public housing authority developments and hiring “street teams” to answer simple questions about how to sign up for service. The most effective supporters of Connect2Compete and ConnectHome have staff members who reach out to local families and are accountable to meeting measurable goals.

Cox sets a good example of what needs to be done by the highest levels of corporate leadership. As a starting point, other companies must recognize the connection between digital inclusion and business success. Bridging this divide expands the customer base for their services and the rest of the digital economy. Second, organizations must make signing up for discounted offers like Connect2Compete as easy and open as possible. Third, companies need to devote the necessary human resources to meet families where they are and get as many families signed up is possible. 

These efforts get real results. More than half of the families who have enrolled in the Connect2Compete program have seen improved grades for their children. The benefits extend beyond schoolwork, as adults also can go online to find and apply for jobs (more than 90 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media to find potential employees). Digital literacy also will improve their likelihood of securing a job offer, as 50 percent of today’s jobs require technology skills.

Undoubtedly, an ISP’s commitment to go beyond simply providing a discount makes an even greater impact.

No student should have to spend time doing homework in parking lot of a fast food restaurant. Affordable home access is a key component of achieving success in today’s digital world. And, working together will help create these connections to the internet and the American Dream that all families deserve.

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Tutoring marketplace offers on-demand learning

The social learning marketplace MindSpree is revamping the tutoring landscape by offering on-demand services nationwide.

The Arizona-based education technology company was founded in 2015 by Keith Rezendes after noticing the tutoring industry was not fulfilling the needs of many. As a former professor and veteran tutor, Rezendez wanted to create a place where students could receive the highest quality tutors for the best value.

“MindSpree is committed to education and student success,” said Rezendes. “By utilizing the sharing economy, MindSpree can utilize tutors across the United States to share their knowledge and expertise with all types of students who are eager to learn.”

MindSpree requires background checks for all of its instructors. This ensures the safety of all its students. The company also provides a platform for educators to make more money.

Whether tutoring is face-to-face or online, instructors offer their expertise in more than 300 subjects including math, science, language, music, surfing and more. Tutors can decide who they tutor, subjects they tutor, and how they tutor.

Tutors and students negotiate location, time and duration of each session. Students receive their first session for free.

MindSpree is available throughout the United States, and has students and tutors located in most major metropolitan areas.

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Cricket Media, Smithsonian launch 2016 Global Folklorist Challenge

Cricket Media, a next-generation global learning company, announced the launch of its 3rd Annual Global Folklorist Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

The challenge, open to kids eight to eighteen worldwide, asks participants to examine a local or regional tradition by interviewing a community tradition bearer and creating a video or slide show to share the story.

Cultural traditions students might explore range from dance, games, and handicrafts to cooking, storytelling, customs, distinctive jobs, and more. Comprehensive supporting materials reinforce real- world folklorist skills by defining terms, providing examples, tips, and organizational tools, and walking students through professional interview and story-shaping processes. Participants also have access to professional folklorists at the Smithsonian.

“The Folklorist Challenge is one of the most exciting programs we offer here at Cricket Media,” says Cricket Media CEO, Stephanie Sharis. “It’s gratifying to engage kids from around the world and encourage them to explore what’s special about their country, their heritage, and their communities. And of course, we are delighted to be working for a sixth year with the team at the Smithsonian to design these and other original and motivating Challenges.”

Accompanying teacher or parent materials include lesson plans, global collaboration opportunities, a standards-alignment chart and scoring rubric. The process reinforces a range of 21st-century skills, including the use of digital technologies, and U.S. and international social studies, language, and interdisciplinary curriculum standards.

“The global folklorist challenge invites children to see their communities in new ways and to actively participate in preserving traditions for later generations,” says Michael Atwood Mason, director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “We know this collaboration extends the reach of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to engage millions of students in cultural heritage around the world.”

The challenge deadline is November 30, 2016, with winners chosen by a panel of Smithsonian and ePals judges. Among the prizes for student winners whose entries best demonstrate the folklorist process of investigation and reporting are digital cameras, box sets from the Smithsonian Folkways collection, a Little Passports World Coin Collection, and more.

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Nampa School District 131 becomes first in Idaho to implement the itslearning LMS

As part of its on-going efforts to improve communications, foster collaboration, and bolster student achievement, Nampa School District #131 (Nampa SD) in Nampa, Idaho has become the first school district in the state to implement the itslearning learning management system. With 24 schools, Nampa SD serves 15,000 students in grades preK – 12, and will begin using the itslearning system this fall.

Designed specifically for the K-12 sector, itslearning is a cloud-based digital learning platform that gives teachers, students and parents access to as appropriate course materials, assignments, communities for collaboration, progress reports, and more. According to Dr. Nicole MacTavish, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at Nampa SD, it was the system’s ability to centralize so many resources, data, and processes – and interact with other district systems – that sold them on itslearning.

“We wanted to provide our teachers with a way to easily access a wide variety of content, as well as the ability to collaborate on best instructional practices. Another priority was to improve parent communication and participation,” said MacTavish. “We know from past experience that adding more or different systems wasn’t the answer. If we are truly going to support teachers, students, and parents we need to streamline processes and eliminate barriers. For over a year our task force researched options and spoke with other districts and concluded that itslearning is the platform that will allow us to taking teaching and learning to the next level and beyond.”

Employing a user-friendly interface and functionality, itslearning provides maximum ease of use for all K-12 education stakeholders. Easy to use dashboards allow administrators to review and analyze student performance data and instantly communicate with parents and staff. For teachers, itslearning automates routine tasks such as grading, reporting, and distributing and collecting assignments, giving them more time to focus on students. It also helps them improve their craft by enabling collaboration and access to resources.

Students enjoy the ability to explore, learn, share and express themselves using the creative digital tools they love. With itslearning they can also chat with teachers, collaborate on projects, reflect on learning with blogs and ePortfolios and show what they know – all in a safe online environment. For parents, itslearning fosters increased participation in their student’s school life, allowing access to behavior, attendance and progress reports, details about upcoming lessons, tests and assignments, class announcements, and more.

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The link between arts-based learning and STEM

The Art of Science Learning (AoSL), a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded initiative, spearheaded by its Principal Investigator, Harvey Seifter, has released its newest report, titled The Impact of Arts-Based Innovation Training on the Creative Thinking Skills, Collaborative Behaviors and Innovation Outcomes of Adolescents and Adults.

The report was written by Audience Viewpoints Consulting, the independent research firm AoSL retained to conduct the study. The effort compared the impacts and outcomes of arts-based innovation training with more traditional innovation training that does not incorporate the arts.

“With this research, we now have clear evidence that arts-based learning sparks creativity, collaboration, emotionally intelligent behavior and innovation in both adolescents and adults,” Seifter said. “The implications for 21st Century learning and workforce development are profound.”

Working with Worcester, MA high school students and early career STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals from San Diego, the results were compiled through a series of experimental studies testing AoSL’s hypothesis: that integrating the arts into STEM innovation training results in enhanced individual creative thinking skills, increased collaborative behaviors, and more robust team innovation outcomes.

The research yielded compelling results; a strong causal relationship does indeed exist between arts-based learning and improved creative thinking skills and innovation outcomes in adolescents, and between arts-based learning and increased emotionally intelligent and collaborative behavior in adults.

The study divided participants into control and treatment groups. Both groups used a hands-on project based approach to learning innovation. The treatment curriculum replaced 9 hours of the traditional innovation pedagogy used in the control curriculum with 9 hours of arts-based activities designed to achieve the same learning objectives. The study lasted five weeks.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence that validates what artists, inventors, scientists, technologists, educators, entrepreneurs and humanists have known for thousands of years,” Seifter said: “discovery and innovation happen at the intersection of art, science and learning.”

The research demonstrates that arts-based learning directly strengthens many key 21st Century learning and workforce skills, a finding with numerous immediate and longer-term practical applications for K-12 and post-secondary education, informal learning and workforce development.

The data strongly suggests that arts-based learning can help STEM companies to spark high performance innovation teams among a new generation of professionals, and that schools, museums and science centers can create environments that foster creativity, collaboration, innovation and engagement by integrating the arts into STEM learning.

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Boom Learning encourages resource sharing, less printing

Teachers have always shared resources, now more than ever. Teacher-to-teacher sharing is under threat from a surprising source: schools that want teachers to print and copy less and use devices more. Boom Learning bridges the gap between school and teacher needs.

“Boom allows teachers to access a growing and varied collection of teacher-created content for those devices, or to create their own,” says Boom Learning advisor and former teacher Rachel Lynette. Teachers can sell what they make, augmenting their pay.

Boom Learning allows teachers to create and deploy classroom-ready resources in less than an hour. For students with unique needs, “it provides a tool to make customized decks,” says Della Larsen.

“Boom Learning is really a win-win for everyone. Teachers save time, paper, ink, and other resources. Students interact with educational content in a meaningful and motivating way,” says Lynette.

Boom Learning has exceeded Lynette’s expectations. “Boom allows teachers to unleash their design talent. I love how teachers are finding new ways to use the tools, and how the platform is evolving with their suggestions.”

Resource sharing among secondary teachers has lagged compared to sharing among primary teachers. Michele Luck, who makes Social Studies resources for secondary educators, says: “Secondary teachers need online, interactive resources that they can trust to provide quality content and rigor without having to worry about Internet risks or wasted student time.” Boom Learning meets that need.

According to Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed., an educational consultant with Hand in Hand Education, “Homeschoolers are another group who can appreciate the appeal of Boom Learning.” In addition to citing the time and cost savings it offers, Keener says part of its appeal is that “Boom Learning’s learning management system provides families with objective measures of student learning.”

Boom Learning reinforces standards and skills and saves teachers time. Mercedes Hutchens, who creates for the primary school market, says “it makes students start over when they just keep clicking wrong answers to find the right one and it keeps that data so the teacher can see what the student was doing.” According to Secondary Science Teacher-Author Kristin Lee, “Boom Learning provides a level of reporting, differentiating, and self-grading that has the potential to save a teacher hours of data organizing.”

With its launch this August, teachers heading back to school have a new source for finding teacher-made interactive teaching resources.

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College Choice releases 2016 rankings for best business schools in the world

College Choice, which focuses on college and university rankings and resources, has published its 2016 rankings for the Best Business Schools in the World.

As the economy becomes a more global affair, business professionals are looking towards getting a graduate degree that specializes them in international business. So it’s no surprise that business schools around the world are heeding that call and have developed a degree that meets the needs of these business professionals.

“Enter the Global MBA, a relatively new development in the world of MBAs. Business schools in the U.S. have led the way in graduate business education for decades, and the two-year MBA has long been accepted as the standard. But a new breed of one-year MBAs at schools in both Europe and Asia is on the rise, and to say they’re holding their own in the world of management would be an understatement,” Christian Amondson, Managing Editor of College Choice, stated of the ranking’s publication.

The 2016 College Choice ranking of the Best Business Schools in the World was put together with factors that matter to business students. Academic reputation, the overall cost of attending the school, length to graduation, and graduation employment rates were all taken into consideration. This research was done by utilizing the school’s website and program, along with a nationwide survey of college freshmen published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA and statistical sites like the National Center for Education Statistics.

The HEC School of Management is first in the College Choice 2016 ranking for the Best Business Schools in the world, followed by Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley.

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