7 resources for much-needed information literacy skills

Fake information is everywhere online. After all, everyone has a Facebook friend who elicits eye rolls when he or she shares a sensational news article that is fake or from a heavily-biased site promoting an agenda. But can today’s students tell the difference between what is legitimate and what is false? The answer might surprise you.

As today’s students grow up in a digital world, they must learn information literacy skills if they are to effectively evaluate information sources and become truly informed. Skills such as problem solving and creativity are typically classified as soft skills, because they are necessary but hard to measure. In today’s online world, however, information literacy is moving from a soft skill to one of the most critical.

Why is it critical? Consider this: during the 2016 presidential election, fake news stories were more popular than legitimate media reports.

A BuzzFeed analysis found that in the last three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the most-viewed fake election news stories on Facebook elicited more reader engagement than legitimate top stories from sources such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and NBC News. In all, top-performing fake news stories received roughly 1.3 million more shares, reactions and comments than did the legitimate top-performing news stories.

Facebook was heavily criticized for what many deemed an inadequate attempt to remove fake news stories and false information from the site. Later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that while the Facebook team does not want to discourage members from using the platform to share opinions, it is taking steps to prevent and penalize the spread of misinformation.

“Anyone on Facebook can report any link as false, and we use signals from those reports along with a number of others–like people sharing links to myth-busting sites such as Snopes–to understand which stories we can confidently classify as misinformation,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Similar to clickbait, spam and scams, we penalize this content in News Feed so it’s much less likely to spread.”

(Next page: 7 information literacy resources; a Stanford U. study)


5 technologies to avoid in the classroom-and what to use instead

One of the most popular articles on eSchool Media is a surprising one to the editors: “6 apps that block social media distractions.” This story, which seemed  a bit counter-intuitive for us to write (being a tech-cheerleading publication in nature), has held the top spot by a massive margin for almost three years now; which had the editors considering the question, “Are there technologies that should simply be avoided in the classroom?”

Movie Clip of One Technology Exasperation:

Of course, the editors then had to ponder what would make a technology easier to avoid than try to implement, and came up with a list of broad technologies and technology trends that either A) caused, rather than eased, more problems and concerns in the classroom, and/or B) were not evolved enough to make an actual difference in teaching or learning.

And, not wanting to simply talk technology trash without offering some useful information, the editors then came up with the technology options that may be better suited for the intended classroom task.

See any technologies you believe should be avoided that didn’t make the list? Be sure to leave your comments in the section below.

5 Technologies to Avoid in the Classroom


1. Social Media:This was the easiest to choose, thanks to our reigning king of articles mentioned above. Though social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great for informal, personal use, most of education still has problems implementing these larger social media platforms for meaningful teaching and learning without running into privacy, security and cyberbullying headaches.

Better Option? Classroom-created forums. Many technology-savvy educators have deduced that perhaps the best way to mitigate social media distractions while still allowing for collaboration and discussion is to use a classroom or subject-specific forum or platform. In fact, according to EDUCAUSE, one of the core functions of the post-LMS era is to use a “next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE)” that “supports collaboration at multiple levels and make it easy to move between private and public digital spaces. The NGDLE must also include a requirement to move past a “walled garden” approach to locking down a course’s LMS, and instead enable a learning community to make choices about what parts are public and what parts are private.”

Outside of cloud-based or platform-enabled communication spaces, some apps even allow for project and assignment-only collaboration and organization, such as Slack (which Stanford uses for team communication and work management) and Trello (a project management app). Both are available for Android, as well.

gaming HED

2. Games: There’s a lot to be said for gaming in specific areas of education, like for learning how to code or applying mathematical concepts to real-life technology. In fact, eSchool News recently wrote an article touting the benefits of game-based learning and describing how schools are effectively using game-based learning with great results. However, for the average non-STEM heavy course, using actual games to learn is still in its research infancy as to whether or not games provide any major benefits to learning. Compound this with the unfortunate reality that most gaming is still male-centric, doesn’t usually allow for multi-player experiences, and is new to many educators, the time it takes to vet and properly implement games may be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Better Option? Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR). With AR or VR, educators can still boost student engagement while incorporating some of the best characteristics of visual technology: interaction and visual learning. With AR and VR, teachers can help students better understand abstract or difficult concepts, take learning outside the classroom while still incorporating technology, and strengthen emotional engagement in course material–all while incorporating the traditional gaming characteristics of play and humor. Read more about AR in K-12 here, as well as apps for AR here. Read more about VR in education here, as well as how some schools are seeing massive STEM gains with VR here.

(Next page: 3 more technologies to avoid in the classroom)


7 ways edtech boosts student confidence in the classroom

Edtech is making is easier and more efficient to help students at every level, and to bring even the most timid of learners out of their shells. Dr. Kenneth Shore, a psychologist and Chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools, explains that “Low self-esteem can lessen a student’s desire to learn, his or her ability to focus, and his or her willingness to take risks. Positive self-esteem, on the other hand, is one of the building blocks of school success; it provides a firm foundation for learning.” 

7 Ways Edtech Boosts Student Confidence in the Classroom

1. It gives students the ability to review or change their answers before submitting their work, which gives them more control over their contributions. Especially for students with a fear of embarrassing themselves when sharing work in a group setting, being able to type their thoughts on a Chromebook and review it for clarity, grammar, and quality can give them the self-assurance needed to present their findings with the rest of the group.

2. For a student who is hesitant to raise his hand when the teacher asks a question, the Google Classroom family of products can create virtual class discussions that engage students in question-driven content, where they can feel comfortable thinking through and then submitting their questions through the software platform.

3. Often with quiz or test taking apps, there is a prompt to proofread and correct errors, and students can mentally confirm their answers before making it ‘official’ and submitting.

4. Using edtech also lets students mind-map their thoughts and organize responses more efficiently, which then makes them more confident in their work. Mind mapping is a visual form of note-taking that creates an overview of a topic and helps students sort and organize its complex information. Bubbl.us and MindMeister are two apps available for classrooms to facilitate easier mind mapping. With these apps, students can easily make colorful mind maps online, then share and work with other students.

(Next page: 3 more ways edtech boosts student confidence)


District’s parental engagement soars with new “Glow and Grow” practice

When my district, Charles City Public Schools (CCPS), created our strategic plan, we established “Community Investment in Public Schools” as one of our five core goals. As a small, rural school system with a staff of about 145 serving 719 students in two schools, we feel that strong relationships with our students’ families is essential to our students’ success.

Data Poor with Little Internet Access

Before we could set out to improve our community’s engagement with our schools, we needed to know families’ perceptions about the school division and their attitudes about engaging with their children’s schools. We realized that we needed baseline data collected through a family survey that is aligned with our strategic plan. At the same time, we also gathered feedback from students and teachers and staff using surveys designed to surface and understand their perspectives about school.

This was the first time our division had taken on family perception research of this magnitude, so we started out “data poor” when it came to stakeholder feedback. Our families have always been willing to communicate, but the challenge was to capture that information when only 40–50 percent of our community has internet access. Pushing something out over email alone was not going to reach the number and mix of households we wanted, so in early 2016 we sent out paper copies of a family survey that we had developed with Panorama Education.

Identifying Next Steps with ‘Glows’ and ‘Grows’

Last summer, with our first round of feedback data from students, parents, and teachers in hand, our next step was to find a way to evaluate that data.

I wanted to make sure staff were engaged and energized by learning from the community’s feedback, rather than seeing it as “another thing” on their plates. First, we made sure all of our teachers and staff could access the data through Panorama. Then, we asked teachers and staff to bring their tablets to an all-staff session where we all logged into the platform. Teachers and staff broke out into groups, and each group was tasked with looking at a different aspect of the feedback.

To focus our efforts to understand what the data are telling us and how to define next steps, I asked everyone to identify one “glow” and one “grow” within the data. The idea of “glows and grows” is to boil a great deal of information down to a relatable level.

A “glow” is a bright spot we should call out as a strength and continue to nurture. A “grow” is an area where if we focus on improving, we stand to make important gains. I didn’t want to anchor our thinking around challenges, but rather places where we can make great gains by growing and improving.

The beauty of “glows and grows” is that it’s so accessible. After that first session, our teachers and staff came away with lots of tangible things they could tease out of the data. One example of this was in the area of family engagement, taking us right back to the goals in our strategic plan.

(Next page: How the district boosted parental engagement)


Did you know? 15 new digital curriculum products, developments

Technology changes at a rapid pace, and educators have to keep up.

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.

Digital Curriculum and Assessment

Michigan’s Flint Community Schools (FCS) announced a new partnership with Discovery Education. Through this new collaboration, FCS educators teaching grades K-8 district-wide can now accelerate the creation of authentic digital classrooms by integrating Discovery Education’s Science Techbook, an innovative digital textbook, into classroom instruction. Read more.

Turning Technologies announced the release of ExamView v11. The complete assessment solution now features a fresh new appearance, expanded learning management system integrations, synchronous and asynchronous assessment potential, comprehensive clicker support and, for the first time, the ability to upgrade to online testing capabilities that will change the way assessments are administered and taken in the ExamView classroom. Read more.

The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) at Johns Hopkins University released its much anticipated website called Evidence for ESSA, a free web-based resource that provides easy access to information on programs that meet the evidence standards defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Read more.

Next page: More digital curriculum and ed-tech marketplace developments


What does assessment without testing look like?

Educators at all levels agree on the need to assess what their students know, but a growing number of them find that tests are not the best way to do it.

This trio of educators has found innovative ways to empower their students to show what they know.

Assessments as Progress Monitoring

Linda Baker, K-4 literacy specialist

Traditional tests are not always the best indicators of our students’ success because many of them are reluctant readers to begin with, so we can’t always rely on a measure on any particular day. We don’t know what’s happening at home. We don’t know how they’re feeling. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account when we do all our screenings.

We do a lot of progress-monitoring for each skill that we teach. Every week our students learn a different skill, and every Friday we progress-monitor to see how the skill is being used—for example, can they properly read the words we have assigned?

We also monitor the data we get from Reading Horizons, the computer-based program we use for our literacy teaching, to see what needs to be taught longer and what students have mastered. We then make our student groups accordingly. There’s a lot of flexibility, with students moving from group to group as they master various skills.

We see our students and use Reading Horizons on a daily basis, so if a student doesn’t seem to be doing his or her best work, we continue to monitor that student on a daily basis and adjust accordingly.

(Next page: 2 more ways of assessing without testing)


There’s an emotional side of edtech—and it’s affecting school innovation

[Editor’s note: This post by Alan November, written exclusively for eSchool Media, is part of a series of upcoming articles by this notable education thought leader. Check back later this month for the next must-read post!]

At one of my recent workshops, I was approached by a teacher who had never redesigned her lessons to take advantage of edtech’s potential to transform learning. She was still stuck in the $1,000 pencil phase of using new tools to do traditional work. When I showed examples of how teachers around the country were challenging students to design and find solutions to their own problems, she immediately saw the benefit of shifting her thinking.

The good news was that she was reconsidering her beliefs and was now convinced that she had been underestimating her students. The bad news is, she was afraid of appearing vulnerable in front of her students if something went wrong. Because she had never tried shifting control to her students to research their own problem designs using edtech, she was worried that she would not be knowledgeable enough to help them develop their own ideas.  While she could see the value of challenging her students to try something new, she felt anxious about moving ahead.

A Common Dilemma

I believe this is a common dilemma. Any one of us can feel paralyzed by the tension between wanting to change but feeling vulnerable if we try something new.  I am convinced that the difficult work of transforming teaching and learning with the help of edtech is not about teaching teachers how to use new tools; it’s really about the emotional side of letting go of control and managing the anxiety that comes with a sense of loss.

If we are to tap the potential of emerging tools and the web to increase student achievement, we need to better prepare our leaders and teachers to understand the emotional side of change.

Learn from the best innovations in education! Join education thought leader Alan November in Boston July 26-28 for his 2017 Building Learning Communities edtech conference, where hundreds of K-12 and higher-education leaders from around the globe will gather to discuss the world’s most successful innovations in education.

Rob Evans is one of the foremost experts on this issue. He is the author of Understanding the Human Side of School Change, and I’m thrilled to say he will be speaking at the 2017 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston on July 28. In a podcast I recorded with Rob, he briefly touched on some of the keys to successfully managing change in education.

When I told Rob the story of this teacher who had approached me after my workshop and shared her anxiety with me, he said: “It would be surprising if she felt anything else.”

He explained: “I have yet to encounter a school that is able to confidently and publicly say to its students and parents, ‘We’re going to try some new stuff. It might not work as well as we hope at first. We’ll probably learn some valuable lessons in the process. But there might be some disruptions en route.’ The tolerance for error that we know is crucial to the learning in children is something that adults (too often) don’t give each other.”

I asked Rob: How can K-12 leaders build a culture that supports risk-taking among their staff?

(Next page: Supporting change and risk-taking)


5 tips for new, easy and affordable school edtech upgrades

Waiting on a slow computer to load or update wastes valuable time and can detract from lessons and class time. However, shrinking budgets make it hard for schools to offer reliable computers and technology to students and teachers. Many school administrators think buying new devices is the only way to provide computers that will help students and teachers succeed. Rather than allocating budget toward expensive new computers, schools can easily improve system performance, save money and extend the life of existing systems.

The importance of memory and storage is often unknown until something goes wrong with a computer. Upgrading a computer’s memory or storage can help students and teachers be more productive, use classroom apps, and find new ways to engage via technology.

Here are 5 things you can do with upgraded systems that you may not have been able to do before:

1. Use Design Apps like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro: Many media and design apps that are used in schools all require a lot of system resources. But using them in a classroom can better prepare students who are entering the workforce. These are skills that extend beyond typical classroom instruction and can help students succeed in the working world.

2. Engage students in new ways: The classroom is constantly changing and as more schoolwork is assigned and completed online, computers and servers need more RAM and SSDs to power the digital classroom. Fast systems can boost online classes and make virtual chatrooms run with ease.

3. Keep students excited about coming to class: Fast computers with near-instant boot times and improved system responsiveness can help students be more efficient and maintain their attention. Seamless multitasking on upgraded systems can maximize the limited one-on-one class time that teachers have with their students.

(Next page: 2 more ways to boost IT offerings while decreasing IT spending)


ED programs set to lose another $3 billion

President Donald Trump is asking Congress to cut almost $3 billion from the federal education budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to a document obtained by Politico.

The memo offers an in-depth look at some of the proposed cuts and program eliminations.

These latest cuts are in addition to next year’s proposed budget, which would see $9 million slashed from the U.S. Department of Education.

The cuts are intended to increase military spending and finance the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congress must pass a plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year to avoid a partial government shut-down. As Bloomberg News reports, Congress is likely to reject the White House’s additional proposed budget cuts, which total nearly $18 million in all, making the prospect of a shutdown all the more real.

The proposed additional cuts would cut $1.3 billion from this year’s Pell grant surplus–this is on top of the cuts proposed for next year.

(Next page: More details on how the education budget would shrink under this latest proposal)