Poll: How has technology impacted the future of work?

A majority of Americans would like to see technology companies take a more active role in improving U.S. education by creating apprenticeship programs and providing more technology resources, according to new data.

The new poll from OZY and SurveyMonkey tracks how technology is impacting post-secondary education and the workforce in the U.S. It also gauges how survey participants feel about free public higher education, online learning, classroom teachers, and more.

Here are some of the results:

What role, if any, would you like to see technology companies play in improving U.S. high schools?

  • Creating apprenticeship programs (57 percent)\
  • Providing technology resources in the classroom (50 percent)
  • Supporting teachers’ technology use in the classroom (42 percent)
  • Sponsoring charter schools in low-income areas (30 percent)

(Next page: How many would strongly support free post-secondary education and tax increases to cover the cost?)


Curriculum trend: 4 ways to become more competency-based

Small groups of students are clustered at tables examining a set of artifacts. Each set contains images, maps, and primary source documents that illustrate how geography impacted the history of the United States. Students use the artifacts to examine the essential question, how do the Earth’s features impact people over time? As they examine each artifact, they annotate and record information identifying the source and its purpose, the author and his or her point of view, the context in which it was created and important information about how the source reveals how the geography of the land impacted the historical event they are researching. A nearby laptop is open and readily available so students can use it to clarify or search for additional information.

The teacher circulates the room answering questions, directing students to additional resources and taking notes on student progress. Later the teacher will review the groups work and provide them with feedback directed at the competencies they are working to achieve. Students will then use the teacher feedback to revise and complete their research before sharing their learning with the class.

Why are students engaged in this work? What is driving the teacher’s feedback and next steps? If asked, the teacher would explain the goals of the unit and the related competencies the students are working towards:

  1. gather, use and interpret evidence from diverse sources
  2. take note of source context, content, authorship, point of view, purpose and format
  3. make inferences and draw conclusions
  4. analyze relationships between geography and history
  5. demonstrate strategies of a self-regulated learner

This classroom is indicative of one that could be found in a competency-based school, where the focus is on helping all students achieve meaningful learning objectives. How can a school make this shift?

(Next page: 4 ways to become more competency-based)


5 signs of a tech-friendly district

The efficiencies afforded us by technology can play a central role in a district’s mission. That’s not to say we need to overwhelm our parents, students, and employees with apps and devices, but there are plenty of things district leaders can do behind the scenes to improve the experience of those stakeholders.

How can you tell whether your district is ahead of the curve in technology adoption? Take a look at these five evolving processes:

1. Student Registration

If you’re curious about how a district manages its registration process, look no further than its public website. Whether parents are new to the district or sending kids back for another year, the last thing they want to do is stare down a pile of paperwork while worrying about when they’ll have time to drop it off at the registrar’s office. The task is equally daunting for registrars, who are holed up for days sorting, reviewing, and rerouting various documents.

Online registration and enrollment aren’t novel ideas in 2017; they are a convenience parents expect and a tool any registrar will appreciate. Barbara Benzala, manager of student information systems at Fort Bend ISD in Texas, recalled her district’s first year with an online process; “[Online enrollment] allowed our campus administrative and registration staff to spend quality time with parents and students – answering questions they felt important or giving a tour of the school – by not having to focus on registration paperwork.”

Tech-friendly districts put people over paperwork, and student registration is one area where the status is easy to check for yourself.

2. Employee Onboarding

The same concepts at play in student registration can just as easily be applied to new hires in their first days with a district. Is that experience marred by release forms, HR paperwork, voided checks, and other mandatory items that need to go to a bunch of different places? Not anymore. Tech-friendly districts understand the impact of a positive first impression on job satisfaction, advocacy, and retention.

Online forms and self-paced acclimation activities are the perfect complement to a traditional onboarding. Technology doesn’t take the place of a warm department and a welcoming mentor, but it can go a long way toward reducing the anxiety of a new (and sometimes first) career destination. Can forms be completed online, or do your new people need to familiarize themselves with your interoffice envelopes? Are training resources available in one easy-to-access portal, or scattered across your intranet? Do you feel the need to brace new hires for an unpleasant experience, or does your onboarding match your culture?

Tech-friendly districts use software to keep onboarding organized, accessible, and consistent across buildings and departments. Show your new hires why they made the right decision.

(Next page: 3 more signs of a tech-friendly district)


Future-forward: How to incorporate the 5th ‘C’ of 21st Century learning

Many of you are familiar with the four C’s of the 21st-century learning framework: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. But step back for a second and remember why you teach students in the first place–so they can be successful adults who contribute to society and thrive while pursuing a fulfilling career. This is why we add to our list of 21st-century learning skills a fifth C: career readiness.

Career readiness can be engrained into the teaching and learning landscape in many ways. Educators across the nation are latching on to project-based learning (PBL) as an effective teaching method for building 21st-century skills. Career-focused PBL gives students the freedom to explore a variety of careers from the comfort of their classroom.

Here are three educators whose innovative learning strategies are empowering their students to build the skills they need to succeed in 21st-century careers.

Start the Career Conversation Early

– Dr. Genevra Walters, superintendent of Kankakee School District

From the time a student walks through the door of a school in Kankakee School District to the time they walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas, they are constantly transitioning to their next stage of life. Since I started in education, I’ve used the motto, “The transition to adulthood starts in preschool.” Today, the phrase is the mantra pushing my teachers and principals to think past the traditional style of teaching and incorporate hands-on project-based learning that offers students a chance to explore a plethora of careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).

Research shows that the earlier and more often you talk with young children about careers, the more students will envision themselves going to college and working in those fields. To help make all of our students aware of the career options available to them, in 2015 I created a virtual career wheel for Kankakee teachers to follow. Each grade focuses on a different segment of careers, so as students move through elementary school they are able to explore a variety of fields and recognize where their interests lie.

For example, first grade focuses on careers in agriculture, food, and natural resources; while third-grade students focus on business, marketing, and management. During the year, students do four hands-on, cross-curricular projects to further experience what it takes to work in a specific career. The projects make the career wheel come alive because students can apply their classroom knowledge and make connections to the real world. Kankakee’s teachers use a web-based curriculum resource, Defined STEM, which provides hundreds of project-based lessons that are based on real-world problems in STEAM careers.

Since we implemented this model, data shows that in one year (2016 to 2017), reading comprehension scores increased 8 percent, math application increased 9 percent, and math computation had a 42 percent increase. We have also seen an increase in student engagement in all of our K-6 classes, and have built partnerships with local businesses and industries that support students’ exploration and curiosity about future career options.

(Next page: Career readiness through real scenarios; teamwork)


6 grants to support edtech and educational innovation

When it comes to schools’ and districts’ ability to implement new technology tools and programs, cost and shrinking budgets are consistently identified as top barriers to implementation.

And while budget woes won’t improve overnight, schools and districts can boost their available funds with grants that are targeted to different areas of need.

Want to shrink the digital gap for low-income students? Do you need more funding to support youth-led community service programs? Or maybe you want to recognize excellence in education innovation.

Look no further. We’ve got 6 grants to meet various levels of funding needs.

(Next page: 6 grants for schools, educators and districts)


4 ways to customize classroom goals for students

Every student is different. There are various external and internal factors that may affect the pace of a student’s learning.

Why then, do we expect all students to complete a certain amount of work by a certain date? And offer rewards like ice cream, when we know not all students are likely to reach the same goal?

Research around motivation can shed some light on best practices for inspiring the type of motivation that will last beyond that ice cream cone and cultivate a lifetime love of learning. And there are examples of educators from across the country who are implementing unique goal setting and tracking systems that enable all students to succeed.

Extrinsic Motivation and Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

Extrinsic motivation involves expecting a reward for completing a task. For example, every month a school offers a special breakfast for students with perfect attendance.

With intrinsic motivation, the reward is completing the task. It’s that rush of accomplishment and satisfaction of completing your goal.

Research shows that intrinsic motivation is more impactful than extrinsic motivation as far as developing good habits and cultivating deeper learning. So it’s interesting that many edtech programs focus on extrinsic rewards such as badges and customization for an avatar. Especially when research shows that these extraneous elements distract from the learning.

That’s not to say that extrinsic rewards are all negative. One study shows that when rewards were expected, intrinsic motivation decreased, but when they were unexpected, intrinsic motivation was unaffected. Incorporating some extrinsic rewards (for example, a surprise pizza party for students who achieve their goals), can complement the intrinsic rewards.

Educators Using Custom Goals in their Classrooms

These educators show us not only how differentiating goals for many levels of students is possible, but also how they’ve increased student engagement without the use of expected extrinsic rewards.

1. Custom goals can be specific to the class or specific to the individual student.

Take this goal chain from educators Kristen Ramsdale and Melissa Bate at Pickerington Local School District in Pickerington, Ohio. When a student meets a goal, they get to add a paper to the chain. When the chain hits the floor the class gets a reward and starts another chain.

Students are working on individual goals while working toward a class goal, so each student can work at their own pace and contribute to the class goal.

(Next page: 3 more ways educators are using custom goals)


Where will STEM education be in 5 years?

In 2015, there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in the United States, and that number is growing every year. In fact, STEM job growth in the past 10 years is three times that of any other field, but by 2018, it is projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled. Yet, STEM education programs have not kept pace–calling into question whether there will be enough qualified employees available to take on these new positions.

Worryingly, only 16 percent of students graduating high school are proficient in STEM and also interested in a STEM career. The natural response to such a low percentage would be to prioritize improving STEM education efforts in the classroom. However, this is unfortunately easier said than done.

The economic climate in the US has seen both budget cuts and increasingly diverse opinions among educators and administrators about where to spend the money made available to them. We must work to find ways of blending STEM education into all elements of the classroom, inspiring student interest at a young age.

Let’s explore a few changes we’re anticipating over the next five years that could make a real difference to the quality of STEM education teachers would be able to provide. If followed through, they could prove crucial to encouraging more students to engage with the subjects that will define our future.

1. Fueled by more effective teacher education, students will become fluent in coding 

To prepare students for careers in growing STEM fields, we must increase the importance of programming literacy, or fluency in computer science and coding, in the same way that we did for reading and writing in the mid 20th Century. We need students to become as familiar with technology as they are with a pen and notepad. And it happens through hands-on experience.

However, it’s difficult to achieve this kind of widespread programming literacy when it hasn’t already been a part of most teachers’ schooling. School districts, particularly administrators, must commit to providing the resources necessary to train teachers on STEM subjects that they may not have had the opportunity to learn before. Supporting teachers’ personal education in this way will allow them to further integrate coding and computer science into the classroom curriculum, furthering the development of programming literacy.

(Next page: 2 more STEM predictions for the future)


Does your district’s broadband measure up?

A free tool from nonprofit EducationSuperHighway is intended to help district technology leaders compare broadband and connectivity information with other districts nearby and across the nation.

Compare & Connect K-12, which launched in beta in early 2016 and is now fully launched and available, displays public E-rate application data and lets users explore bandwidth speeds and compare broadband prices with school districts in a specific region or in any state across the country.

The goal is simple: transparency regarding school district broadband and bandwidth pricing data in an effort to help school districts get more bandwidth for their broadband budgets.

Schools need high-speed broadband and ubiquitous wi-fi to ensure all students have equal access to digital learning opportunities, advocates and stakeholder groups say.

Providing robust bandwidth today and ensuring scalability for future classroom needs is critical to enabling teachers and students to take full advantage of digital learning opportunities. While significant progress has been made, 21 million students across the country still lack the broadband they need to take advantage of digital learning.

(Next page: District success stories and highlights of the new tool)


These SEL strategies address bullying behavior

Uplift Education is a high-performing charter school network in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We serve approximately 17,000 scholars in a rigorous college preparatory environment, and are in the process of authorizing our schools in the full continuum of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The International Baccalaureate focuses on interdisciplinary lessons, cultural understanding, and character development.

Positive school culture and strong relationships are the underpinnings of high academic achievement. We know that bullying can impact school culture and climate, and we also know that a positive school climate has the power to decrease harmful instances of bullying.

Bullying Hurts Academic Performance and School Climate

Schools need to be emotionally safe environments for all students. According to Hammond (2014), neuroscience shows that when students feel at risk, they are less likely to retain information and engage in higher-order thinking. When a person experiences a threat, whether physical or social, the amygdala is triggered. Through a release of cortisol, higher-order cognitive functions such as learning, problem-solving, and creative thinking stop.

Stopbullying.gov, the federal government website managed by the U.S. department of Health and Human Services, tracks the effects of bullying. Kids who are bullied are more likely to report loneliness, anxiety, and sadness. These feelings can lead to changes in eating and sleeping, a decrease in interest in activities, and an increase in skipping school. As a result, children who are bullied are at risk for a decreased GPA and lower performance on standardized tests.

Bullying affects more than just the target. Bystanders—students who witness an incident of bullying—can react in a myriad of ways. While some bystanders may actively intervene to support the victim, others may encourage the incident. Another common response is to passively accept the behavior while monitoring the crowd for reactions. Students who do not intervene often report feeling powerless to stop bullying, anxiety and guilt about the incident, and vulnerability about being the next target. This impacts the individual scholar and overall school culture and climate.

(Next page: SEL strategies to combat bullying)


App of the Week: Make every week a science week!

Ed. noteApp 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? 

Science Friday is a website and weekly radio show highlighting the latest in science and technology. The site is organized into four different tabs: Listen, Explore, Educate, and Events. The Listen tab taps into the actual NPR program where the hosts talk about everyday scientific phenomena. They’ve hosted shows on alien life, antibiotics within the context of the food market, taste buds needing a tune-up as we get older, and lots of other topics.

Price: Free

Grades: 3-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Intriguing and thoughtful podcasts, stories, and lessons help build curiosity.

Cons: There’s a lack of support for struggling learners.

Bottom line: For a weekly rejuvenation of scientific learning, Science Friday is a source of inspiration for both teachers and students.