Survey: Daily classroom edtech use on the rise

Sixty-three percent of K-12 educators use edtech in their classrooms each day–an increase from the 55 percent reporting the same in 2016, according to an annual survey from the College of Education at the University of Phoenix.

Laptops are most commonly used (86 percent), while other technologies include educational apps (58 percent), 3D printers (21 percent), and social media (41 percent, up from 32 percent in 2016).

Seventy-one percent of teachers said they allow students to research subjects via the internet; 66 percent use games and simulations to help with learning; 49 percent use web-based tools to help students improve writing and comprehension skills; 37 percent let students use video to produce their own content; and 20 percent use clickers to keep students engaged.

Interestingly, 63 percent of the more than 1,000 surveyed teachers also said edtech helps to create a more interactive learning experience, while 25 percent said they still feel intimidated by students’ knowledge and use of technology.

(Next page: Experts analyze what survey results mean for classroom edtech use)


These are the secrets to effective writing instruction

How do you know when a student has turned in a good essay? It can be tempting to answer this question as former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said in describing obscenity: I know it when I see it. But educators need a more concrete definition they can apply consistently across all subject areas.

For Patti West-Smith, the answer is simple: Does the piece of writing do its job?

“There’s no magic prescription for that,” said West-Smith, a former teacher, principal, and instructional supervisor who now heads the curriculum team at Turnitin. “It’s simply, does it work?” In other words, she said, is the essay effective in communicating its ideas? Does it resonate with its intended audience? If so, then the writing is probably good—and if not, then it needs revising.

West-Smith was the first guest in a new podcast series launched by Turnitin, called The Written Word. Co-hosted by Meredith May and Sean Tupa, the podcast explores how written language helps us communicate and engage with the world around us.

In the debut episode, West-Smith described how to evaluate whether a piece of writing is effective. She also revealed what teachers must do to be successful in their writing instruction—including the four essential elements of student feedback.

Purpose and Audience

If a piece of writing is of high quality when it does its job, how can teachers measure this effectiveness? There are two key factors involved, West-Smith said: purpose and audience.

“One of the things you have to consider right off the top is, what is my purpose here?” she said. If the purpose is to tell a story, then how you approach that task is very different from how you inform or persuade someone.

“Even if the topic is the same, those are very different things,” she noted. “What makes a narrative effective is very different from what makes an informational piece or an argument effective.”

The intended audience also matters. For instance, an argumentative essay must make an effective claim. But what that looks like depends on who is reading the essay. “A claim that uses logic is appropriate for a particular audience, but a claim that uses emotion might be more effective for a different audience,” West-Smith explained.

“There is this constant interplay between purpose and audience,” she observed.

(Next page: Effective writing through opportunities and student feedback)


New partnership to promote the 16 Habits of Mind

ASCD, in partnership with Wonder Media, presents a series of animations based on the renowned 16 Habits of Mind developed by Dr. Art Costa and Bena Kallick of the Global Institute for Habits of Mind. This groundbreaking collaboration offers a unique tool that empowers students in kindergarten through 2nd grade with creative and critical thinking skills for success in school and life.

The Habits of Mind Animations offer educators a revolutionary new tool in alignment with college- and career- ready standards to help students learn how to persist, how to manage their impulsivity, how to listen with understanding and empathy, how to strive for accuracy, and 12 other essential life skills.

Research shows that young children form strong emotional relationships with animated characters, and using these characters to model behaviors helps break down barriers to students’ understanding of difficult-to-teach concepts.

“Young children’s minds are sponges, but to help them absorb complex concepts, we must ignite their curiosity by engaging them through mediums they find entertaining—such as animation,” said Deb Delisle, ASCD CEO and executive director. “Habits of Mind Animations open doors to teach kids important techniques for tackling difficult situations they will encounter in school and in life.”

The ASCD and Wonder Media partnership highlights the work of the Institute for Habits of Mind, a powerful education innovator dedicated to helping students reach their full potential both in school and as global citizens.

“Research has proved that young children model their behavior after animated characters,” said Terry Thoren, CEO of Wonder Media and former CEO of Klasky Csupo, producer of Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys. “We have created engaging animated characters who model and reinforce each of the 16 Habits—the problem-solving, life-related skills necessary for children to operate successfully in society.”

“Since Art Costa and I introduced the 16 Habits of Mind more than 25 years ago, we’ve been seeking new ways for children to learn and practice these essential dispositions,” stated Bena Kallick, co-director of the Institute for Habits of Mind. “When we met Terry Thoren, the former Rugrats CEO, we were immediately struck by his passion for bringing the 16 Habits of Mind to life through animation.”

“Animation has no borders, and children across the world will quickly fall in love with the lifelike animated characters who will make it fun to learn and practice the 16 Habits of Mind,” added Art Costa, co-director of the Institute for Habits of Mind.

About the Institute for Habits of Mind

The Institute for Habits of Mind was founded by Bena Kallick and Art Costa, who have published many articles and books on the Habits of Mind and have worked internationally to create a more thoughtful society. The Institute is dedicated to transforming schools and workplaces into learning communities where the Habits of Mind, dispositions that empower creative and critical thinking, are taught, practiced, and infused into the culture. For more information, visit

About Wonder Media

Wonder Media was founded by former Rugrats CEO Terry Thoren, famed software producer Rudy Verbeeck, and Emmy-nominated producer Ryan Cannon. Wonder Media works with various organizations to develop strategies and animated content aiming to affect students in a positive manner. They have created an education initiative called WonderGrove and produced 215 instructional animations to inspire students in preK, kindergarten, and 1st and 2nd grade to realize their full potential. WonderGrove uses engaging animated characters immersed in powerful stories to target eight crucial areas of growth essential for every child’s success: school readiness, social- and emotional learning, life skills, health and science, safety, nutrition, fitness, and creative play. For more information, visit

Material from a press release was used in this report.


How ‘early exit’ prepares students for the 22nd Century

San Benito CISD (SBCISD) lies at the southernmost tip of Texas, right on the border of Mexico. We have 20 schools serving over 10,000 students. Of those, approximately 2,700 are English Language learners. That’s roughly 26 percent of the student population.

As the Executive Director of Leadership and Performance at SBCISD, I work cooperatively with the administrative team to develop action plans for our at-risk student populations.

SBCISD offers a variety of programs to help remediate our at-risk kids. One such program is our very successful Gateway To Graduation alternative campus. This program incorporates a “catch and release” model providing individualized credit recovery support for students who have fallen behind on their credits so that they can get back on track for graduation.

As a result, over 500 of our students who were at-risk of dropping out have now earned their high school diploma.

In an effort to target our at-risk ELLs, our district recently embarked on a new endeavor focusing our attention on a preemptive plan for students in the earlier grades, with the aim of reducing the need for alternative education measures later on in their schooling.

To do this, our school board recently approved an administrative bilingual education action plan changing our approach from a “late exit” to an “early exit” bilingual model.

Early vs. Late Exits

For 20 years, our late exit system kept our students in a bilingual program from pre-K through fifth grade. Under this plan, our bilingual students exited into all-English classes once they reached middle school. The transition from bilingual to strictly English classrooms was often a jarring experience, affecting our student’s grades and performance on state assessments.

In an early exit model, students who demonstrate the readiness to transition from Spanish to English instruction can do so as early as the first or second grade. With this goal in mind, we are training our teachers to deliver differentiated instruction to our students by grouping them in correlation to their Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced levels of language acquisition.

With the proper transition pedagogy in place, we are providing our bilingual students the opportunity to transition into English instruction at an earlier age if they are ready to do so.

(Next page: ELL instruction, early exit for the future)


3 ways to strategically incorporate creativity in schools

How do you weave creativity into the fabric of school curriculum? School leaders are tasked with this expectation in order to prepare our students for the demands of 21st century workforce skills. But how can this be accomplished?

As the arts integration officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, it is the duty of my office to implement arts-integration strategies throughout this very large school system. Our philosophy allows creativity to be the basis for teaching, learning and problem-solving.

To implement this approach, we ensure that our staff has the risk-taking mindset, creative leadership and flexibility to exemplify the art-integration teaching method.

The district’s strategy for systemic change is broken down into three phases:

  • Use a school-by-school approach to build upon the arts-integration community
  • Empower the Professional Learning Communities at each school through diverse, but targeted professional development
  • Utilize the resources in the educational and arts communities to build creative capacity of the teams.

Take a School-by-School Approach

We have taken a school-by-school approach to create model arts-integration schools. There are currently 65 schools participating in the art-integration program in a system of over 200 schools.

Each of our model schools must have a committed school leader and a Professional Learning Community (PLC), consisting of 6-10 teachers.

Empower the PLC

The PLC is responsible for assisting in creation of a school vision by charting a strategic course to transform the school into an arts-integration model. These schools have the freedom to develop strategies to meet the needs of their specific institution, allowing creativity to flourish and opportunities to engage in the creative process.

The challenging component is preparing teacher leaders and the PLC to lead by example to implement these arts-integration strategies to teach creativity across all subject areas. Empowerment of teacher leaders at the school is essential to whole school reform. Once these change-makers are prepared, they can begin the process of school-wide change.

To assist in this effort, we looked at many professional learning programs, and all of the models have teacher engagement in a hands-on multidisciplinary approach. What they were missing, is a way to change how teacher themselves learn. For arts-integration to be successful, teachers must learn the same way we expect the students to learn. They must leave their comfort zone and engage in, what for some, is risk-taking behavior.

Harness Communities

To accomplish this goal we have utilized many resources. Crayola’s creatED has arts-integration at its core. Providing ways for teachers to confront their fears about teaching creativity, strategies for building effective learning communities, and enlisting others in building a sustainable plan that all school stakeholders embrace. This goal is achieved by using visual arts to build a community of creative learners.

To supplement arts-integration instruction, teaching artists from John F. Kennedy Center, Young Audiences of Maryland, and the Wolf Trap Foundation have been invited to professional development days with staff, to bring creativity and enthusiasm that comes from being an artist.

This component takes professional learning beyond the Four C’s, to enhance the teaching mindset by using the arts as a means to an end in teaching overall concepts. Even our STEM teachers have realized through arts-integration that creative thinking serves as the basis for all learning.

Technology adds to this professional learning method as webinars and twitter chats are organized around the topic of teaching creativity. This provides teachers with the flexibility of learning based on their schedule and preferred use of collaborative technology.

Teaching students to be creative problem solvers begins with empowering their teachers. It is our goal to ensure that all teachers have the knowledge and creative confidence to incorporate throughout their teaching, allowing creative teaching to become creative learning.

When students are able to take ownership of their learning through visual, creative expression – that is when the most in-depth learning occurs.


App of the Week: Minecraft for the classroom

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? 

Minecraft: Education Edition takes everything teachers love about Minecraft and adds new collaboration tools, classroom controls, and more. The Classroom mode gives teachers a map view of the world and the ability to interact with the students in one central location; if a student wanders away from the group, the teacher can easily bring the avatar (student) back to the working area. Teachers can create “chalkboards” of different sizes to display their learning objectives within the game, as well as non-playable characters (NPCs) to act as guides with links to more information. A camera tool has opened up new opportunities, as well. Students can now take pictures (and selfies) of their creations and generate a portfolio of their work to show the learning process. A newer feature, the Code Builder, lets students use programming to perform tasks in the game.

Price: Paid

Grades: K-12

Rating: 5/5

Pros: Highly engaging, adaptable to any subject area; great improvements to teacher controls.

Cons: Some students will be used to the freedom of the original Minecraft game and may balk at the more traditional, guided structure.

Bottom line: An excellent tool to engage students in learning, collaboration, and critical thinking is now more accessible than ever to teachers.