9 things superintendents can do to empower leadership

School leadership is never an easy task, and throwing in changing technology and the move to digital teaching and learning can prove challenging for even the best superintendents.

Experienced superintendents have said transforming a school district and heading into the digital age is less a sprint and much more a marathon of small, incremental steps leading to their ultimate goal.

Many agree that school improvement models should be shared across the globe to help other educators learn valuable lessons about how shared passions for education can lead to long-lasting, positive changes in schools.

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons is that becoming a strong and effective school superintendent does not hinge on just one thing, but rather, includes setting bold goals, investing in teams, articulating a vision and having honest communication with others.

Now, new superintendent one-pagers from CoSN offer a comprehensive set of resources focused on different edtech topics to help guide and empower superintendents as they lead their schools, educators and students through the digital transformation.

(Next page: Nine resources for school superintendents)


3 ways crowdfunding is reshaping the US edtech landscape

Nowadays, crowdfunding is one of the more popular ways to raise money. A community of backers or ‘the crowd’ contribute small amounts to help fund the development of an idea or project. According to CrowdfundCampus, crowdfunding equity surpassed that of venture capital funding for the first time in 2016. By 2025 global investment from crowdfunding is expected to reach $93 billion.

To say that crowdfunding is growing would be an understatement, and particular niches are expected to benefit the most. One such niche is education.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

Educational platforms, in particular edtech, are seeing ideas come to life as a result of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the most popular, and boast the greatest number of available backers. The success of projects on these platforms is testament to not only the capabilities of crowdfunding, but also how it will continue to reshape the US edtech landscape. The benefits associated with crowdfunding in edtech include the following:

1. New Learning Methods

Crowdfunding is providing opportunities for new learning methods. Previously, students were confined to learning in the classroom or reading a textbook. Nowadays there are so many online learning courses available from places like Khan Academy or Coursera. These platforms provide a good theoretical foundation for beginner students.

Crowdfunding, however, is providing other options, such as LiveEdu to introduce new learning methods. LiveEdu is a live and video tutorial learning platform where content creators teach learners how to build real products. Their crowdfunding campaign is focused on adding more premium project tutorials to their catalogue. Watching an expert build something using technology is a great way for students to get proper hands-on experience in STEM fields in particular.

(Next page: 2 more ways crowdfunding is changing the edtech landscape)


U.S. public wants more life skills for students

The American public wants more than academic quality from its local public schools–career skills classes, licensing and certificate programs, and technology and engineering classes are increasingly identified as important for today’s students in a new public opinion survey.

The public also wants educators to find ways to help students develop their interpersonal skills and limit standardized tests.

These findings are just part of the latest edition of the annual Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the defining public opinion survey on American public education for the past 49 years.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

The poll also reveals that parents value racial/ethnic and economic diversity in their schools, although most aren’t willing to undertake a longer commute to reach schools that would provide that for their children.

(Next page: How the public feels about leading policy trends)


7 beginner’s steps in digital citizenship for any district

How should an entire district begin teaching digital citizenship? To begin with, creativity, flexibility and strong goals are a must.

In “Roadmap to Districtwide Digital Citizenship Adoption,” Theresa Ellington, instructional technology manager at Life Schools Charter School in Texas, explained how she was able to implement a digital citizenship curriculum throughout the Title I district with limited time and no money, and shared lessons learned from the district’s first year using a digital citizenship curriculum.

Life Schools Charter School’s digital citizenship initiative began when they started to notice that many students were posting on social media about their location and other personal details. It was then the district knew that students—especially older ones—needed to be better trained on digital citizenship before entering life after high school.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

Following the district vision, and in search for a free curriculum, Ellington found Common Sense’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum and began from there.

Step 1: Identify Goals and Requirements

Life Schools started small in the first year. First, they identified their desired goals. Then, they figured out what they needed to satisfy for required federal E-rate guidelines.

Step 2: Consider the Timing

They also determined the best timing for the lessons so they wouldn’t interfere with state testing.

Step 3: Find Leaders

After lesson guides for the elementary, middle, and high schools were created, Theresa presented the information to all the principals for input and adjustments. Each of the principals recommended a tech-savvy teacher that could champion digital citizenship on their campus.

Step 4: Champion Flexibility

Reflecting from the district’s first year implementing digital citizenship lessons, her biggest piece of advice was to be flexible. Rather than telling all eight campuses exactly what to do, it was better to provide suggestions, materials, and expectations, but let the schools implement the curriculum in their own ways.

“Each campus is unique, so let them do what works for them,” she said. Also, teachers may need extra support when it comes to things like keeping track of and submitting documentation.

Step 5: Push Awareness…

Another big takeaway was lack of awareness. She found in a school survey that nearly 90 percent of the elementary teachers weren’t aware that the district was teaching digital citizenship, despite the fact that every student was receiving instruction on it.

Step 6: …and PD

For the 2017-2018 school year, Ellington trained all the teachers on the basics of digital citizenship. She also created a system through Google Classroom for them to easily submit materials and documentation electronically.

“It’s also taking (the teachers’) digital learning and their digital literacy up a level,” she said.

Step 7: Work for Student Understanding

Along with working to improve teacher digital literacy, Life Schools is also aiming to increase their digital citizenship content and lessons, and integrate the lessons in the core curriculum so students can have a better understanding of why they need to learn the information.

About the Presenter

Theresa Ellington is the instructional technology manager for Life Schools, an eight-campus charter school district south of Dallas, TX. She is a veteran Texas-certified middle and high school math teacher with 10 years in the classroom and 13 years in education. Theresa’s teaching experience and training includes working with special populations, such as GT/2E students, ELLs, and students with dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. She has a passion for integrating technology and interactive notebooks, as well as implementing innovative data-driven teaching and classroom management methods to inspire students to reach and feel success.

Join the Community

Digital Learning & Leadership is a free professional learning community where you can share, learn, and discuss ideas and best practices to enhance teaching with technology.

This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net and Common Sense Education and sponsored by Symantec.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by edWeb.net. View more edWeb.net events here.]


5 ways educational games improve learning, according to teachers

When teachers used digital educational games in the classroom, students raised test scores by more than half a letter grade in only three weeks, according to a study from researchers at Vanderbilt University and partners at Legends of Learning, a research-driven educational game platform.

The new research, published by the Journal of the Learning Sciences, demonstrates the benefits of game-based learning for students when compared to students who had no access to such games.

Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula” involved more than 1,000 students of 13 teachers in 10 diverse urban, suburban and rural schools in seven states.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

The educators integrated a standards-aligned set of 55 typical educational games into their curricula. Each teacher taught at least one class with the games and one class without.

The research found students in the classes with the games outperformed their peers on essay and multiple choice questions.

(Next page: 5 benefits of educational games, straight from teachers)


Identifying wolves among sheep in the age of student cyberbullying

It’s sad news when research centers can’t agree on whether cyberbullying affects one-in-three, one-in-four, or one-in-five teens.  It isn’t the specific number that’s important; it’s the fact that the number never goes below 20 percent. Imagine being in a classroom of 25 people, knowing that this classroom is not “normal” unless at least five of those students are being bullied.

There are as many ways to cyberbully someone as there are ways to create content online. Social networks? Check. Forums? Check. Blogs?  Check. You get the picture.

Still, most cyberbullies love email, text and IM. They go to great lengths to remain anonymous and most of all get a reaction. The worst effect in my opinion of cyberbullying is well put by a ten-year-old girl from California. “Being bullied isn’t great because after a while you start to believe the stuff that they said to you. I still cry whenever I think about what they said.”

Here are some of the basic methods of cyberbullying:

Harassing Someone Directly

The most obvious and common method of this is posting rumors about someone on a social network or a blog, but cyberbullies get creative. They:

  • Use the “warn” feature on the victim’s social network to get that person investigated or banned from the site.
  • Post the victim’s personal information on the internet, putting them in danger of identity theft or other predators.
  • Create an internet poll that is harmful. For example, asking if he/she is fat or ugly.
  • Using malware or other applications in order to spy on the victim or take control of the victim’s computer.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

Impersonating Someone

This common technique leverages free email accounts offered by Gmail, Hotmail, etc., where cyberbullies create a name similar to the victims. These imposters then go online and act in awful ways while pretending to be the victim, with the goal of ruining their public perception and creating embarrassment and shame. Other attacks that fall into this category are:

  • Stealing the victim’s password (or device) and pretending to be the victim while chatting with others.
  • Changing the victim’s profile in social accounts so that it is offensive.
  • Setting up social accounts in the victim’s name.

Photographs & Video

This is where cyberbullies become truly diabolical. Nobody wants and unguarded moment to be photographed and published, and attackers leverage this to the hilt. Photos are taken without the victim’s knowledge at the gym, locker room or bathroom and shared publically. Theft of personal photos and videos are common as well, and the threats ensue. If the victim doesn’t adhere to the blackmail, they are posted on the internet and it’s viral.

The Truth in Numbers

The statistics on cyberbullying are more than disturbing. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center in a 2016 study of 5,707 students between twelve and seventeen years old, thirty four percent of students had experiences with cyberbullying. Even more ominous, over twelve percent were threatened with being hurt online, and twelve percent over a cell phone text.

What Can be Done?

It’s imperative that teachers and parents know that their students and children are protected by state and federal law from acts of cyberbullying. In all states except Maine, Wyoming and New Hampshire, cyberbullying is considered a misdemeanor carrying a hefty fine and even a jail sentence. In addition, schools have the right enforce punishment for cyberbullying both on and off campus. Students should not take matters into their own hands or stay quiet and abide by the bully’s demands. Leave it to law enforcement to help educate students that something can be done.


6 musts when selecting an A+ identity and access management solution

Summer is over, and most schools and colleges are back in session. As with every year, the biggest challenge for IT departments presents itself during the lead-up to the first day of class and the first couple of weeks that follow. Unlike other industries, the education sector has specific identity and access management (IAM) needs. Provisioning accounts for new students and teachers, de-provisioning accounts of students and staff who have left, providing users secure access to the right resources, frequently changing users’ roles, and tracking changes to meet regulatory requirements are just the start.

With IT becoming an important part of the classroom, choosing an IAM solution that can meet all these demands is crucial for the day-to-day function of schools and colleges. Here are some pointers to keep in mind while shopping for an IAM solution that’s a fit for the education industry.

1. Dynamically Provision Accounts for Students 

User life cycle management in the education industry is complex due to the large number of students who come and go each year. Admins need to be able to deprovision and provision a bulk of users in a short period of time. An added complexity is that accounts must be provisioned for users across Active Directory, cloud applications, and e-learning programs.

When choosing an IAM solution, make sure it has bulk provisioning and deprovisioning capabilities. Some tools let admins dynamically provision users in bulk either by importing a CSV file containing student information or through templates specifically designed for user creation. Also, the solution must support provisioning across multiple platforms such as Active Directory, Exchange, G Suite, Office 365 and more.

2. Securely Control Who Has Access to What Applications

Another top priority should be ensuring that students and staff have access to applications — with just the right amount of privilege. Students change their schedule from time to time. Teachers could be reassigned to a different class. Capturing all these changes and making necessary adjustments in users’ group memberships within Active Directory is important.

To meet this requirement, the IAM solution should have granular group management capabilities in Active Directory. Automating or delegating group membership management through a predefined approval workflow feature will also help.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

3. Less Logging In, More Learning

Keeping track of passwords is a challenging task, even for adults. The problem is exacerbated in the education sector as younger students are tasked with remembering multiple passwords. As a result, teachers end up spending valuable class hours assisting students with their forgotten passwords and login issues.

The IAM solution should have single sign-on capabilities, allowing students to log in once with one username and one password and have access to multiple applications. If the solution uses Active Directory as its authentication source, then it becomes even easier to manage users’ identities and control access permissions to cloud apps through organizational units and group-based security policies.

(Next page: 3 more tips for choosing an identity and access management solution)


3 ways the modern school is becoming more like the modern workplace

There was a time when American schools, like American offices, were drab and stuffy places. But things are changing.

As the office has evolved to allow a more creative and collaborative workplace, many educators have taken note, bringing those same features to classrooms, school libraries, lunchrooms and other common areas.

Today’s schools, are now being equipped with outlets from the floors to the walls allowing students to easily plug in and charge laptop computers, phones and other devices wherever they work. They have furniture designed for the way students sit and stand. And they have collaborative spaces designed to allow them to work together in small groups and in teams.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

This trend began with the charter school boom over the last 7-10 years for several reasons. First, these schools were less beholden to older educational designs and in many cases even wanted to differentiate themselves from the traditional model. Second, they were starting from scratch, so they had more options when choosing their interior designs and furniture. And third, many have an explicit goal of better preparing students for success in college and in the workforce.

Setting a New Standard

Now, these new schools are setting the standard for what people expect of a forward-thinking educational space.

1. Electrification is the first major change with technology being the driving force. More students are using laptops at their desk instead of in a separate computer lab, so in addition to outlets in the floors and walls, desks and work tables are coming equipped with built-in electrical panels with outlets and USB ports so students can plug in and power up anytime they need to. That’s been harder to do in older schools built in an earlier era, but many are catching up as buildings and classrooms are remodeled.

2. Ergonomics is the second major force. Standing desks have become popular in offices, especially among middle-aged workers with back problems. But more schools are showing interest in having some standing desks as an option, as well as chairs that encourage good posture and help students strengthen their core.

3. Flexible Space is the third shift, which is even more fundamental. Educators have long since moved past the “one-room schoolhouse” approach where students only sat in rows before a teacher and a chalkboard, but their classrooms didn’t always reflect this. Now, more classrooms are designed to incorporate flexible spaces where students can gather in small groups and even rearrange multi-purpose furniture as needed, while libraries and common areas are designed using furniture to promote collaboration.

This reflects the more collaborative approach to work that began in tech companies but has now spread to other professional industries. Schools that want to train the workers of tomorrow are taking heed and giving them the kinds of experiences they need to succeed in these new, less rigidly hierarchical workplaces.

These flexible spaces often are filled with lightweight, brightly colored and easily movable stools that can be rearranged to suit a group of any size while also encouraging people to have a more informal and free-flowing conversation.

Of course, these changes aren’t necessarily appropriate for every school. But taken collectively, they point toward a new style of learning that is more open, more collaborative and more appropriate for preparing students for the workplaces they’ll enter in years to come.

[Editor’s note: This story was originally published on The Huffington Post. It has been re-published with permission.]


ISTE issues Digital Citizenship Week challenge

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) will leverage Digital Citizenship Week (Oct. 16-20) to raise awareness of the importance of teaching digital citizenship to students of all ages. ISTE challenges students, educators and parents to take time each day during Digital Citizenship Week to explore what it means to be good citizens in a digital world.

“The need to teach digital citizenship skills has never been greater. These skills include concepts like how to use tech to organize around good causes, how to respectfully disagree online, and how to distinguish between true and false information. As our interactions with friends, community members and government leaders become increasingly mediated by technology, we must model and teach the behaviors we hope to see in our next generation of digital leaders,” said ISTE CEO Richard Culatta.

ISTE is providing a number of resources to support schools and families in taking the Digital Citizenship Week challenge:

  • Release of Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities a book by Kristen Mattson, Ed.D., that focuses on the need for educators to think about digital citizenship as more than a conversation about online safety. Included are tips for creating digital spaces where students can experiment and grow, educator stories about successful participatory digital citizenship and classroom-ready activities.
  • DigCit Coffee Break email course that gives educators a tip a day on digital citizenship, along with free resources to use in their schools, including a printable poster illustrating the three critical elements of digital citizenship.
  • Free webinar for educators, “Bring Digital Citizenship to Life in Your School,” on Oct. 16 at 5 p.m. EDT will examine how to help students realize the potential of technology in engaging ways.
  • Two digital citizenship Twitter chats on Oct. 19 that allow for engagement and sharing of best practices and resources. The first will be led by Marialice Curran, a leading voice in the digital citizenship conversation, at 8 p.m. EDT using the hashtag #ISTEChat. The second, hosted by ISTE’s Digital Citizenship professional learning network, will discuss the role of edtech coaches in the development of digital citizenship, at 9 p.m. EDT using the hashtag #digcit.

Digital Citizenship Week is a national effort focused on helping kids use technology to engage with and improve their communities. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #DigCitWeek.

About ISTE

The International Society for Technology in Education  is a nonprofit organization that works with the global education community to accelerate the use of technology to solve tough problems and inspire innovation. Our worldwide network believes in the potential technology holds to transform teaching and learning.

ISTE sets a bold vision for education transformation through the ISTE Standards, a framework for students, educators, administrators, coaches and computer science educators to rethink education and create innovative learning environments. ISTE hosts the annual ISTE Conference & Expo, one of the world’s most influential edtech events. The organization’s professional learning offerings include online courses, professional networks, year-round academies, peer-reviewed journals and other publications. ISTE is also the leading publisher of books focused on technology in education. For more information or to become an ISTE member, visit iste.org. Subscribe to ISTE’s YouTube channel and connect with ISTE on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Material from a press release was used in this report.