App of the Week: A game of meaning

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? 

Everything is an exploratory game about interconnectedness inspired by the Zen philosophy of Alan Watts. You start off as a single speck of light, moving in open space. You form thoughts and become conscious. Then, you’re on an open plain or desert populated with little critters and rocks and trees. You’re a zebra, albeit a poorly rendered, flipping-head-over-feet-over-head-to-move-around-like-a-square-wheel zebra, as if you’re playing an unfinished game. In fact, all the other animals you can see are also somersaulting around the plain. At first this is puzzling, but you learn later that this animation choice is completely understandable, since there’s a lot to this world: a plenitude of animals, plants, rocks, human-made devices, and many other objects, populating lots of different biomes.

Price: $14.99

Grades: 10-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Elegant use of play and simulation to model Zen philosophy.

Cons: It’ll work on some students, others will surely be bored.

Bottom line: Meaningful and humbling take on interconnectedness, but in that existential sort of way that’s highly individual and potentially hit or miss.


Celebrate Digital Citizenship Week this week!

Internet safety, online communication, digital footprint, strategic searching, copyright and fair use–these days, “tech skills” encompass so much more than simply learning to type and download files. Across all content areas and grade levels, teachers are now addressing the digital citizenship skills kids need to be safe and responsible online.

At Common Sense Education, we believe in a whole-community approach to digital citizenship that engages not only students and teachers in the conversation, but families and the wider community as well. Our K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum along with our Connecting Families program give schools and communities a foundation for addressing these critical topics in and out of the classroom.

For Digital Citizenship Week this year (Oct. 16-20, 2017), we’re calling on all educators, parents, and community members to raise awareness about the importance of teaching digital citizenship by sharing our starter kit: Get Dig Cit-Ready. Whether your community is just getting started with digital citizenship, is looking for resources to share with teachers or parents, or is ready to initiate a school- or district-wide program, there’s something for you here.

From work and entertainment to communication and research, a huge portion of our lives is spent online. And though kids can master a new device in minutes flat, they still need adult guidance on navigating the complex digital world.

Join us this week, Oct. 16-20, for Digital Citizenship Week, and help empower the next generation to make safe, smart, and ethical decisions online.

eSchool News articles on Digital Citizenship:


How our school is personalizing learning through co-teaching

Greenwood College School is a not-for-profit, independent, grade 7 to 12 school with about 450 students and about 60 teachers. We focus not only on academic achievement, but also on each student’s character development through connecting to their varied interests, both inside and outside the classroom. At Greenwood, we emphasize community service, extracurricular activities, outdoor education, the arts, and athletics. We want our students to venture out in the real world, experiencing life as much as possible.

Schools looking to personalize learning generally aim to increase interactions between the student and teacher. To achieve this goal, the most straightforward approach would be to have fewer students per teacher; the idea is that the teacher will have more time to devote to each individual student’s growth.

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

At Greenwood College School, we had an alternate idea. What if we maintain the student-teacher ratio by adding a second teacher to a larger classroom space to promote various groupings and engagement between students and teachers? Instead of shrinking the traditional classroom, we believed that combining classes together in larger, flexible spaces would allow students more opportunities to find their own learning path.

Our essential concern inside the walls of the school is to create the space our students need to direct their own learning and to work at their own pace. For instance, last year we combined 10th- and 11th-grade math in the same room, each with their own teacher. This allowed for more advanced students to excel faster and afforded more personalized support for all students. Having more students and teachers in a room created a more dynamic space, with more opportunities for student groupings.

Clear Data Earns Buy-in from Parents

When we started moving toward this new, flexible classroom structure, we knew it departed from the norm and that data would help us instill the belief that this approach would be as effective as a small class. In the past, we used an in-house student survey, but we ran into problems, since it resulted in mostly anecdotal observations and we couldn’t compare the findings with those from other educational institutions to show how we were evolving. To work with reliable data, we needed a body of research that would compare our data to external sources to see if it could validate our approach and deepen the buy-in within our community.

(Next page: Student surveys and inspiring teachers)


Why protecting students at school is much more than just internet monitoring

The use of technology in schools has provided students with a whole new way to connect and communicate with each other and their teachers, in addition to being a great source for learning. However, on the flipside, access to the wider internet may mean that there is a temptation for students to access websites with inappropriate content–or use it as a platform where negative behavior can escalate, such as for cyberbullying or other undesirable activities.

Just as technology plays its part in spreading such problems in schools, it also has a significant role to play in quashing them. The use of online filtering and monitoring tools to monitor students’ internet activity has been a requirement of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) for some time now, but it alone doesn’t provide the bigger picture of what’s really happening.

Big Brother vs Protection

In the past, some schools have simply blocked students’ access to all websites that were not lesson-specific. That certainly eliminates the issue, but it doesn’t allow students the opportunity to learn about the safe and responsible use of the internet (digital citizenship) in a controlled environment.

Additionally, it doesn’t provide the flexibility to allow specific websites to appear for particular age groups (i.e. Facebook access for older students studying marketing tools). Overall, blocking access does nothing to safeguard the student because, in the majority of cases, no one knew that access was being attempted.

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

In the same way, internet monitoring on its own doesn’t provide context to the search, which could mean schools are faced with a backlog of false alerts or are missing the crucial details to understanding students’ behavior.

CIPA guidance highlights the need for schools to effectively monitor and control what students are doing online by certifying they have an adequate Internet Safety policy that includes technology protection measures. Such measures include blocking images that are obscene or harmful to minors, as well as, educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with others on social media and chat room type activities to help stem cyberbullying.

This brings with it a whole new set of requirements, such as monitoring online interaction with others, their personal conduct, and the content being accessed. So, in addition to monitoring internet access, schools should also be able to monitor search terms, what students are talking about on chat applications and what websites/content they are viewing (whether good or bad).

(Next page: How to better protect students online)


Teacher: These are “My Tech Essentials” for a 1:1 Classroom

Technology is an incredible resource for learning. It connects us to people all over the world, it enables us to find answers to our questions with the click of a button, and it is versatile enough to be used by students of varying skill levels.

I have been teaching in a 1:1 classroom for four years at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School. We started in 5th grade when my colleague got a Khan Academy grant to purchase 12 Chromebooks to supplement the Chromebooks our school provided. We then did a Donor’s Choose project to purchase the remaining computers. We have 1:1 Chromebooks for each student in 4th and 5th grade, and we’re introducing 1:1 for 3rd grade this year.

Within our 1:1 framework, we start by planning our units and lessons with the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework in mind, thinking about how our students will learn best. If it makes the most sense to use the Chromebooks to research or take notes, then that’s what we’ll do, but we also make sure that we have a variety of learning experiences each day. We are a highly collaborative school and 1:1 has helped us tremendously. Our PARCC scores have risen each year since we introduced 1:1 in 5th grade.

These are My Tech Essentials for working in a 1:1 classroom environment:

1. Chromebook: You can’t have a 1:1 classroom without devices. We love the Google Chromebooks because they are easy for our students to use, and we can access all kinds of apps through the Google Play Store. We share resources through platforms such as Google Classroom. (Our students have a Google Classroom in both English and Chinese). We are also able to have our students type weekly essays, and we can give them feedback much more quickly than in the past.

2. Kids Discover Online: Digital curriculum like Kids Discover helps our students explore a range of topics that relate to our IB Units of Inquiry. We have units about conflict, water, human migration, industry, and chemistry. The Discover Maps make it easy for students to make connections across different areas of study, and to explore their own interests. Kids Discover also has a single-sign on feature that can be used with Google accounts.

3. Go Guardian: With a device in the hands of each student, we want to be sure they’re staying on-task and not wandering around the internet. The Go Guardian system sends us email alerts if a student is on an unapproved site. We also have students sign a technology agreement and use the IB’s learner profile to emphasize being principled online.

Students are already using so much technology at home in their free time, and they are incredibly creative with it. Through our 1:1 implementation, I have realized how important it is to use technology in a thoughtful way to enhance learning and to prepare students for the future.


6 paths to innovation under ESSA

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a marked departure from its much-maligned predecessor, No Child Left Behind, and it puts much more power in states’ hands. Now, a new guide is helping ensure states harness that power to prioritize innovation.

Part of the challenge in sustaining innovation lies in the need for states to go beyond stacking new metrics on existing policies, according to The State Innovator’s Toolkit: A guide to successfully managing innovation under ESSA. Instead, they will have to think differently about what innovation means in their schools and how they can reimagine processes to support such progress.

But because some of NCLB’s structures remain intact under ESSA, states could attempt to innovate but remain stuck in the same cycle. The brief outlines a series of frameworks to help states think about how their systems can successfully manage innovation under ESSA.

Innovation brings risks, and while some education leaders embrace those risks and celebrate the lessons found in failure, other leaders are more hesitant and wish to avoid failure, thus leaving their schools in the same cycles.

(Next page: 4 principles and 6 approaches to innovation)


New AI tool helps teachers tackle math

As the new school year begins, elementary school teachers are now able to access a new, free online artificial intelligence (AI) tool designed to strengthen their math instruction and help students learn at higher levels.

The IBM Foundation announced the availability of Teacher Advisor With Watson 1.0, software that uses Watson AI technology–trained by some of the nation’s leading math experts, with feedback from more than 1,000 teachers–to provide elementary school teachers with targeted math resources for their kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms.

Faced with the pressures of limited time, higher academic standards, diverse student needs, and the responsibility to teach many subjects and multiple grade levels, elementary school teachers have expressed a critical need for easy-to-use, well-designed math resources and ongoing support.

Even with the best resources, many teachers lack dedicated coaching and struggle to target effective teaching strategies that help students improve their proficiency in math, a linchpin academic subject.

(Next page: Educators react to the new AI resource)


Adaptive literacy? 3 must-knows for teachers and admin about adaptive learning

The use of differentiated instruction to individualize each student’s learning experience is becoming more common in today’s elementary classrooms, but creating meaningful differentiation for a typical class of 25 students or more can still be a challenge. What should educators and administrators know about adaptive learning?

In “Adaptive Literacy Learning 101,” presenters reviewed findings from Tech & Learning’s 2017 survey on adaptive learning and highlighted key points that everyone should know.

1. Value is Abundant

The survey found that instructional leaders overwhelmingly saw the value of adaptive learning to help individualize instruction. About 85 percent of K-8 educators and administrators thought of personalization when they heard the phrase “adaptive learning.”

This figure jumped to 95 percent among district personnel. Survey respondents also rated “offers personalized/individualized learning” as most important in a list of adaptive learning system benefits.

These results indicate that K-8 educators and administrators who want to provide differentiated instruction in subjects like reading and math should look to adaptive learning software, especially in large classrooms.

2. Use is Becoming More Sophisticated

The use of adaptive learning in grades K-8 is not only on the rise, but becoming more sophisticated.

Almost two-thirds of K-8 leaders are using adaptive learning software in their school or district; in 2013, this number was only about 40 percent. Nearly half of survey respondents said their solutions provide real-time and continuous adaptability.

On average, schools use adaptive learning solutions for three days a week, 30 minutes each day, and almost 70 percent of educators say their students also access adaptive learning solutions from home at least occasionally. Since not all adaptive learning systems are the same, educators should look for highly sophisticated learning systems with real-time adaptability built into instruction, rather than having to wait for periodic assessment.

3. Barriers to Implementation Still Exist

Although the use of adaptive learning tools is growing among K-8 schools, some barriers still remain.

K-8 leaders who are not using these solutions cited budget issues as the top reason why. 60 percent of those who are using these solutions said training teachers to use the systems is their top challenge.

Having the time to implement the software was rated second highest. Because training and time are key barriers, schools should look for adaptive learning solutions that are easy to use and implement, and that generate easy-to-understand data and insights, which help to make instruction that much more targeted and effective.

About the Presenter

Lauren Kimlinger is a first grade teacher and technology and math instructional leader at Boise-Eliot Elementary School in Portland, OR, with a fierce passion for edtech. She has a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Oberlin College and a Masters of Arts in teaching from Concordia University. During her seven years of teaching kindergarten, Lauren became fascinated by the mind-boggling choices in the emerging edtech market. Through experimenting with new technologies, observing students and their data, and learning about blended learning, Lauren has made her own practice very much about meeting students exactly where they are and giving them their next step. Utilizing all available methods: technology, small groups, one-on-one conferences, alternative means of assessment and group project work and more, Lauren intends every year to step out of students’ ways and allow them to meet their potential.

Join the Community

Adaptive Literacy Learning is a free professional learning community that helps educators realize and experience the value of adaptive learning in individualizing instruction and propelling K–5 students to achieve at or beyond grade level.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Voyager Sopris Learning®.

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

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


These easy intervention strategies can help struggling readers thrive

Finding patterns and honing in on struggling readers’ skill deficits will quickly point educators to the appropriate intervention.

In “Timesaving Strategies for Selecting Interventions for Struggling Readers,” Cindy Kanuch, reading specialist at Calhan Elementary School, presented tips on working to address skill deficits in the most efficient and effective manner, which in some situations can help students improve in as soon as one to two weeks.

Start with the Foundation

The various components of reading—oral language, phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, background knowledge, comprehension, and comprehension for cognitive processing—relate in that they all build upon each other. When testing for a skill deficit, is it important to identify the precise lowest skill level with which a student struggles, and begin remediation from there.

“Just as you would never build a house on an unstable foundation, you can’t build reading without stable foundational skills,” Kanuch said. She also noted that it saves time to narrow interventions to focus on a single skill at a time, otherwise it may be too much for the student to take on.

Each deficit requires a different remediation; by taking the time to determine the underlying cause, efficiency can be increased and faster results achieved.

Incorporate Robust Classroom Language

For troubles with oral language, educators can make sure the language used in the classroom is robust and plentiful so students can hear and use informal and academic language as much as possible. They can do this by listening to audiobooks, such as those from Learning Ally, or by participating in “turn and talks” and answering discussion questions with partners, which gets all students involved.

For interventions in phonics, Kanuch recommended syllable coding. For older students she makes up complicated nonsense words for syllable coding to ensure her students don’t just happen to know the words from memory.

Use Chunking and Phrasing

Students struggling with fluency can do chunking and phrasing exercises with cards that contain phrases to learn to read multiple words at a time, instead of word by word. They can also do exercises that involve reading with expression, like playing “read it like a…” where students must read text like different characters (vampire, pirate, etc.).

They can also play “guess my punctuation,” where one student reads a text and the rest of the class should be able to correctly guess the punctuation in the sentence.

To boost students’ vocabulary, educators can teach roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Students can also play games like the “multiple meaning web” and “shades of meaning” to become more familiar with synonyms and similar words.

Out of the many intervention strategies she provided, Kanuch concluded with four important takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Save valuable instructional time by analyzing your struggling students’ assessment data and error patterns to determine the most foundational skill deficits, and build up from there.
  • Focus your interventions on a precise skill deficit for maximum instructional efficiency.
  • Teach strategies and skills that can be widely applied, like phonics expectations, syllable types, roots, and affixes.
  • Make sure the intervention you choose is remediating the desired deficit.

Find all of Cindy’s tips and time-saving strategies here.

About the Presenter

Cindy Kanuch is the reading interventionist at Calhan Elementary School. She has provided literacy interventions for K-12 students for over 10 years. Cindy is on the board of the Rocky Mountain Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, a member of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham at the Associate level and is a Certified Academic Language Practitioner (working to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist). She is the 2016 recipient of the inaugural Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award. Cindy’s current concentration is training teachers to efficiently and effectively identify and remediate reading and spelling deficiencies for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students.

Join the Community

Empowering Struggling Readers is a free professional learning community that provides educators, administrators, special educators, curriculum leaders, and librarians a place to collaborate on how to turn struggling readers into thriving students.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Learning Ally.

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

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


IT leaders expect steady increase in digital materials

Technology leaders at the K-12 and higher ed levels said they expect more digital learning tools in their schools and on their campuses, but they also expressed concerns over having enough manpower to handle increased technology demands.

The information comes from a new report, the Education Operations Health Index, based on two decades of SchoolDude data and survey results, and it offers a glimpse at the state of technology, school facilities and operations nationwide. The report covers technology management, preventive maintenance, deferred maintenance, community use of facilities and energy conservation.

Positives in the index include an increase in schools moving to digital curriculum, schools more capable of supporting an array of devices, and IT departments being set up well to handle cybersecurity concerns.

Negatives include budget constraints, which ranked as a top challenge, and not having enough time or staff to address challenges.

(Next page: How much do technology leaders expect digital materials to increase?)