10 essential skills for today’s technology leader

Leading a school district in the digital age can be both exhilarating and formidable. Technology has proven to enhance the educational experience of students and educators, preparing everyone for success in the ultra-competitive, highly connected, ever-shrinking world.

What core competencies do school system technology leaders exactly need to succeed? And what skills should a superintendent look for in his/her technology leader?

CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking), the national association of school district technology leaders, has thought long and hard about this question, and we have developed the first-ever aspirational leadership certification to address this need.

Identifying and Understanding Today’s Chief Technology Officer

In 1990, PwC found that 80 percent of the technology leader’s role was technical. Today, managing the technical aspects of the job is less than 30 percent. However, districts mostly advertise and recruit district education technology positions on the basis of technical skills.

To address this shift and get school leaders on the right path, CoSN formed the Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO. The Framework’s body of knowledge was built and updated by expert CTOs, and validated with support from the National Science Foundation. It defines 10 essential skills that can be grouped into three buckets:

  • Managing Technology (the traditional role of CTOs);
  • Understanding the Education Environment; and
  • Leadership & Vision.

Next page: The 10 essential skills for today’s technology leader)


Students discover the power of coding

Got Code? This week students across the Rowland Unified School District, along with their families, are continuing their exploration of computer coding and programming by participating in Computer Science Week and the worldwide Hour of Code through December 11. “Hour of Code” is a global movement to expose students to computer science by teaching students a minimum of one hour of computer programming.

The District has launched an entire website devoted to the Hour of Code — www.RUSDcodes.com — so that families can participate in activities at home and students can use it as a resource for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education opportunities throughout the year. The new website features coding games and activities, organized by grade level, for students in grades K-12. There is also a section on Creative Coding that shows students how coding is integrated into music, animation, art & design, along with a variety of resources for both students and teachers, including free coding workshops, challenges, STEM contest invitations and student internships.

“Rowland Unified teachers are excited to continue to provide students innovative learning opportunities through coding/programming in their daily teaching by connecting it across the disciplines,” said Dr. Trisha Callella, Coordinator of Education Technology. “Coding is a powerful language and helps with problem solving and critical thinking skills that all students need whether or not they pursue a career in computer science.”

For the past three years, Rowland Unified has had a concentrated focus on educational technology across the District addressing 21st century learning and preparing students for college and career.

“We are committed to integrating technology into our classrooms to enhance student learning and achievement,” said Dr. Julie Mitchell, Rowland Unified Superintendent of Schools. “We have built a purposeful and meaningful learning foundation for our students, which has been possible through the dedication of our teachers to engage in professional development and a willingness to bring these experiences to our students.” In addition to an instructional shift to better serve students, the District has also deployed thousands of digital devices across the District over the past three years with plans to add thousands more in the next two years as part of their Future Ready vision.

For more information on Computer Science Week visit https://csedweek.org/. For more information on the Hour of Code visit https://hourofcode.com/us

The Rowland Unified School District is proud to serve approximately 14,000 students in the communities of Rowland Heights, Walnut, La Puente, City of Industry, and West Covina at our award-winning schools. More than 5,000 adults (16+) are also served by the Rowland Adult and Community Education School. For more information about Rowland Unified, the community can download the free Mobile App for iOS and Android phones/devices that has news, school calendars, a safety Tip Line, high school sports news for Nogales and Rowland High Schools, and helpful parent and District resources. Visit www.RowlandSchools.org or call (626) 965-2541.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


In the marketplace: Measuring student progress, new digital solutions, personalized learning, and more

Tech-savvy educators know they must stay on top of the myriad changes and trends in education to learn how teaching and learning can best benefit from technology’s near-constant change.

Check below for the latest marketplace news to keep you up-to-date on product developments, teaching and learning initiatives, and new trends in education.

A new web-based tool will offer far greater ease and clarity for state and district leaders seeking to set learning goals and measure progress under the sweeping Every Student Succeeds Act. The tool, called the Student Growth Simulator, was developed by Chiefs for Change, researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, and Tembo, an education technology firm. Read more.
Canvas by Instructure launched a new, first-of-its kind mobile app that allows parents or designated guardians to monitor their children’s education and progress at a glance. The Canvas Parent app is available to all iOS and Android users to help parents of K–12 students stay informed on their children’s assignments, grades and overall schooling. Read more.
Skyward has launched Qmlativ Education Management System, the next evolution of the company’s SIS and ERP technology. The SQL-based platform features a revolutionary user experience, preemptive support measures, and a focus on the growth and development of every user. The platform’s simplified interface and commonsense navigation are designed to ensure a successful and enjoyable experience for even the least tech-savvy users. Read more.
A new K-12 digital solution from Britannica Digital Learning, called LaunchPacks: Social Studies, is designed for classroom use and to make lesson planning more efficient. The solution helps teachers engage students with ready-to-use content that covers the entire curriculum. LaunchPacks includes more than 1,600 current, trustworthy and highly relevant content sets, from American Folk Heroes to World War II, offering a full range of articles, images, videos and primary sources presented in an engaging interface and optimized for any size device. Read more.
OnCourse Systems for Education, a provider of cloud-based technology for schools, has announced a partnership with Hopewell Valley Regional School District. Over an 18-month period, the district transitioned 400 staff members onto the new, all-encompassing platform with the aid of OnCourse Project Management and Support. After implementation, educators, administrators, and students reported numerous improvements to their daily experience. Read more.
The Houston Independent School District is installing adaptive security motion detection from NAPCO Security Technologies in all its schools. NAPCO’s adaptive motion detection equipment automatically selects the appropriate mode in order to optimize intruder catch and reduce false alarms, according to the company. HISD, the seventh largest K-12 school district in the United States, has secured a bond that would fund considerable spending on upgrading its security needs. Read more.
Education Elements, which builds and supports school systems that meet the needs of every learner, will partner with Fairbanks North Star Borough School District to design and implement personalized learning across all its elementary and secondary schools over the next three years. The district has set five strategic goals, including personalized learning, effective communication, parent and community engagement, organizational support, and technology integration. Read more.


Is this graphic novel STEM education’s secret sauce?

Educators and STEM advocates are always searching for engaging ways to keep students interested in STEM–and a new graphic novel that uses computational thinking to teach students to code might be the next big thing.

It’s no secret that STEM jobs, especially computer science, are growing more rapidly than the pool of qualified candidates to fill those jobs. But far too often, students lose interest in STEM at an early age, creating a stubborn pattern that many are hoping to break.

Curly Bracket, from Ashoka fellow and Swedish social entrepreneur Johan Wendt, is a combination textbook and graphic novel that builds students’ computational thinking skills.

It takes advantage of the graphic novel format to engage students with visual representations and active movement, and it shows with clarity each problem students must solve and why those problems are important.


The lead protagonist is a girl, which Wendt said was a non-negotiable when creating the book.

“We didn’t want to support existing structures and stereotypes–we wanted to change them,” he said. “In the book, Curly doesn’t solve her problems using any super powers; she simply pays attention to her studies and learns as a coder would learn. This is what we want to introduce to all kids.”

(Next page: How computational thinking helps students think like programmers)


4 ways to enhance STEM in preK classrooms

Young children are natural scientists eager to discover all they can about the world around them. Technology, too, can expand students’ interest in STEM, as well as their ability to acquire information and solve problems—even in preK classrooms.

In Waco Independent School District (ISD), our prekindergarten program provides a learning environment that affords each child opportunities to use their natural curiosity to make sense of their world. Over the last two years, we’ve dramatically increased students’ time on task in STEM, while helping them get a jump-start on learning key concepts and skills.

Here are 4 ways we’re sparking young learners’ excitement in STEM, while preparing them for kindergarten and beyond:

1. Provide meaningful science experiences for future learning and excitement.

Children enter preK classrooms with many conceptions about the world, which they’ve gained from prior experiences. Meaningful science learning experiences help children investigate those pre-existing ideas while building a foundation for additional knowledge. They also help increase children’s understanding of living things, cycles, changes and patterns—concepts that organize the learning of science.

In our classrooms, prekindergarteners participate in simple investigations that help them begin to develop the skills of asking questions, gathering information, communicating findings, and making informed decisions. Using their own senses and common tools such as a hand lens, they can make observations and collect information. Through these experiences, they build a strong foundation for future learning and inquiry.

2. Use engaging, age-appropriate and challenging technology applications.

Technology, too, can extend students’ knowledge and enrich their learning of curriculum content and concepts. That’s why we teach our preK students the basic functions of computers and related technologies. Through our program, they develop techniques for handling and controlling various input devices. This helps them become increasingly confident, independent users of age-appropriate technologies and software programs.

The use of technology is especially important for children who might not have access to such tools at home. This is the case for many of the children participating in our free prekindergarten program.

(Next page: STEM in preK classrooms tips 3-4)


App of the Week: STEM goes underwater

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? 

Busy Water is a logical puzzle-solving game where a tricky cat has unplugged Archie the fish’s tank. Through over 100 levels, kids put together pipes, experiment with water in its various states, and use wheels, ropes, rotating planks, and gravity to safely direct Archie to his aquarium. Higher levels unlock only after kids successfully complete previous levels.

Price: $3.99

Grades: 1-5

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Challenging puzzles and a build mode let kids experiment in a totally different perspective.

Cons: Minimal help to learn the gameplay, and no help for solving difficult puzzles may frustrate some kids.

Bottom line: This challenging yet kid-friendly set of logic puzzles wonderfully allows kids to solve problems and experiment with light science concepts.


Kick off your Hour of Code with Minecraft’s help

Just in time for Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code, Microsoft Corp. and Code.org have unveiled the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a coding tutorial for students and educators.

The Hour of Code is an annual global campaign held during Computer Science Education Week, which this year runs Dec. 5–11.

The new web-based tutorial, available for free at http://code.org/minecraft, helps novice coders to create and share their own simple “Minecraft” game, and is designed to empower anyone to begin learning the problem-solving and critical thinking skills required in today’s tech-fueled world.

Created by “Minecraft” game designers at Mojang and Microsoft, in partnership with Code.org, the fun and easy-to-learn one-hour experience builds on the success of last year’s record-breaking “Minecraft” tutorial, which reached more than 30 million students worldwide.

With the immense popularity of “Minecraft” around the world, Microsoft and Code.org believe the tutorial has the potential to reach people of all ages and likeness. Women and girls already compose nearly half of the game’s global fan base.

The tutorial also underscores Microsoft’s commitment to ensuring all young people have the opportunity to learn computer science, an economic and social imperative in this era of digital transformation, which is expected to generate 1.4 million computing jobs in the U.S. alone by 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the U.S., 40 percent of schools do not teach computer science, and Microsoft aims to reach students most likely to be among those without access, particularly girls and minorities.

Designed for ages 6 and up, the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer teaches students to create their own “Minecraft” experience where they can program the rules. They can make chickens that drop gold, or zombies that run away instead of attacking. Along the way, students use Code.org’s familiar drag-and-drop coding interface to learn computer science concepts such as object-oriented programming, event handlers and repeat loops. Players face a series of 12 challenges, culminating in creating their own simple game, which they can share with friends.

“The 2016 Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial builds on the success of the original in a great way,” said Mike Harvey, technology teacher from Falmouth, Maine. “By programming familiar game events themselves, learners will be able to experience computer science in a way that is authentic as well as fun. The open-ended challenges help to show that our favorite games (like Minecraft) are ultimately created with code.”

In support of Code.org and the global Hour of Code campaign, Microsoft also will lead thousands of youth coding events in more than 60 countries. During Computer Science Education Week, this includes hundreds of free workshops hosted by Microsoft Stores across the globe. Students can reserve a spot in a store workshop by visiting microsoft.com/youthsparkprograms and also visit their local Microsoft Store to learn more.

In addition to the latest tutorial and coding events, Microsoft has also been receiving rave reviews from educators on the newly launched “Minecraft: Education Edition” title, a fully featured title that brings the magic of “Minecraft” to the classroom for more immersive, long- term lesson plans.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


10 Hour of Code and computer science resources

Every year in December, students and teachers have a chance to participate in nationwide computer science and coding activities during Computer Science Education Week.

Computer Science Education Week, running from Dec. 5-11, is sponsored by the Computing in the Core coalition and is organized by Code.org.

This year, the event is even more significant–after intensive work, Code.org and partners launched the K-12 Computer Science Framework to help more students access programming opportunities.

The need for increased attention to computer science learning frameworks and opportunities is evident–a two-year Google study exposed racial and gender disparities in computer science education.

In addition to other Computer Science Education Week activities, the Hour of Code asks students, teachers, and anyone who is interested to devote at least one hour to coding during Computer Science Education Week. Participants can choose from guided tutorials or can join in scheduled Hour of Code activities that education or community groups have organized.

(Next page: 10 can’t-miss computer science resources)


We used these Google tools in our schools and saw tangible results soar

Authors’ Note: We’re often asked by educators, “what impact do you see with Google technology in schools?” Last year we engaged Evergreen Education Group on a journey around the world to answer that question. During Education on Air on Sunday December 3rd, we will share the findings in Impact Portraits. These case studies demonstrate the success with Google for Education through the lens of teachers, students and administrators. To hear Linda Darling-Hammond lead a discussion on Impact Portraits, register now for Education On Air.

At Evergreen Education Group we’ve studied K-12 digital education for sixteen years. Among the most important developments we have seen is the proliferation of devices in the classroom, whether through bring-your-own-device, district-led one-to-one programs, or other channels. However, relatively little study to date has examined how devices are successfully deployed and what their impact has been.

Getting Real Input from the Ground

We were therefore thrilled that Google was interested in learning the answers to these questions, and in particular that they understood the study required speaking directly with the district and school leaders, curriculum and instruction specialists, and teachers at the forefront of the use of technology in schools.

Over the course of 16 months we spoke with more than 100 district and school leaders in six countries representing more than 880,000 students, analyzed each school’s documents and data, conducted surveys of administrators, teachers and students, and reviewed surveys that the schools conducted. Our goal at every step was to let educators tell their stories, be honest about the challenges and failures, and celebrate the successes in the vein of highlighting these wonderful schools and providing guidance as schools continue down the digital path.

What Does Real Success Look Like?

Early in the project we were asked to complete the sentence “Technology in the classroom equals…what?” Our answer: when considered alone, technology equals nothing. Technology is a tool that can be used well, or it can be used poorly. But when technology was combined with four key factors, it could help the school flourish.

What are these key factors? Planning, Professional learning, Patience, and Support.

Why are these factors necessary? Because supporting the teachers who are using technology and transforming classrooms takes time—time measured in years, not weeks or months.

What does success look like? It takes different forms. But one common factor is that when educators speak of their success, they rarely lead with technology. Instead they talk about personalization, student engagement, and the role of teachers—all of these supported by technology.

“This is about weaving technology into everything we do—especially differentiating instruction and having students collaborating,” said Dr. Mike Pressler, principal of Maine East High School. “Education technology is a tool, not a strategy.”

(Next page: 7 schools weigh in on their measurable successes using Google tools for education)


ISTE seeks your opinion on its Standards for Teachers

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) announced that it is seeking public comment on the first draft of the refreshed ISTE Standards for Teachers. More than 600 individuals from around the world provided insight into the contents of this initial draft and, by the time the second draft is released in early 2017, ISTE anticipates that thousands more will have participated in the process.

HOW:  Similar to the recent refresh of the ISTE Standards for Students, the refresh process for the ISTE Standards for Teachers is open and inclusive, soliciting input from educators around the world at every step. To help educators participate in the process, ISTE today released a free toolkit for facilitating a public forum, Twitter chat, or conference session with colleagues to provide feedback to the process.  The toolkit includes a facilitator’s guide, surveys for gathering feedback and annotated presentation slides.  For more information, visit http://www.iste.org/TeacherRefresh

WHERE: The first draft of the refreshed ISTE Standards for Teachers is available for comment at http://bit.ly/2eU05Rl

WHEN: The refreshed ISTE Standards for Teachers are slated for release in June 2017 at ISTE 2017 in San Antonio. At that time, ISTE will kick off the refresh process for the ISTE Standards for Administrators.

WHAT: The ISTE Standards provide a framework for learning, teaching and leading that is amplified by technology. These digital age standards are not “technology standards,” but, rather, are a road map for educators worldwide as they navigate decisions about curriculum, instruction, professional learning and how to transform pedagogy with technology.

About ISTE

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®is the premier nonprofit membership organization serving educators and education leaders committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world. ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world.

Innovative offerings include the widely adopted ISTE Standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age–as well as the ISTE Conference & Expo–the world’s most comprehensive ed tech event. The organization’s robust suite of professional learning resources feature online courses, consulting services for schools and districts, books, and peer-reviewed journals and publications. For more information, visit iste.org. Connect with ISTE via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.