Are you Dyslexia aware? Take this short, 10 question quiz

Dyslexia is the most common disability affecting young learners today, with 5 to 20 percent of the student population affected, say some studies.

Dyslexic learners struggle in school and often do not receive the help they need due to a lack of educator and parental awareness. In order to reverse the negative academic trajectory these students often face, awareness is a crucial first step in helping learners get the help they need.

The following true/false quiz addresses many of the common myths and misunderstandings surrounding the learning disability. See how you score on this awareness test!


1. Dyslexia is a disease.

2. Dyslexia can be cured.

3. Dyslexic individuals can acquire reading and literacy skills at any age.

4. Dyslexic individuals have a limited capacity for learning.

5. Writing words and numbers backwards is an early sign of dyslexia.

6. Dyslexia is often associated with difficulty in solving problems.

7. Dyslexia is hereditary.

8. There are upsides to dyslexia.

9. At its core, dyslexia is a disability associated with vision problems.

10. Dyslexic learners are protected by federal law.

(Next page: Dyslexia questions answered)


Block and tackle: How to mitigate a cyberattack on your school

Cyber-attacks have been making headlines after massive data breaches at Fortune 500 companies. According to a recent report by the Business Continuity Institute[1] and the British Standards Institution, nearly nine in 10 businesses worldwide are worried about the threat of cyber-attacks.

Recently, the panic has spread to educational institutions. Unfortunately, schools, colleges and universities are perfect targets, often possessing out-of-date security systems and a wealth of sensitive, monetizable student data. According to the Wall Street Journal[2], cyber attackers have struck more than three dozen schools this year, including recent news of an attack on the Flathead Valley School District[3].

Experts warn these attacks are likely to increase, and educational institutions are increasingly prioritizing investment in technology and systems to prevent cybersecurity breaches.

On October 16, the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter[4] for teachers, parents, students and administrators warning against the dangers of hackers. It recommends infrastructure change and preventative measures. According to the letter, “the criminals are seeking to extort money from school districts and other educational institutions on the threat of releasing sensitive data from student records.”

Hackers aren’t slowing down, so it’s important for educational institutions to employ proactive methods to prevent cyberattacks and protect data and reputational assets.

Recognizing an Attack

Ninety-one percent of cyberattacks start with a phishing email, according to a study by PhishMe[5]. Email scams frequently attempt to trick an employee into clicking an email link, which launches malicious software that compromises the security of the employee’s network. The FBI estimates[6] that compromised email accounts for $3.1 billion in losses per year worldwide.

To prevent an attack, it’s important to train employees to look for the three most common types of email hacks:

  • Fake email coming from a company executive or colleague
  • Fake invoice from a supplier whose email address has been spoofed
  • Fake email from an attorney requesting funds or information about a deal

Even if the employee doesn’t send a payment or transfer funds in response to the email, simply clicking a link in a phishing email could cause a chain of events that compromise the network. 

(Next page: More tactics to prevent cyberattacks in schools)


Why this school is thriving after implementing a 100% blended learning model

Located in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, 225 students along with the faculty and staff of the Village Green Virtual Charter High School (VGV) have been pioneering the school of the future—advancing individualized education and family choice by maximizing technology, creating community, reshaping teaching, and redefining school.

Opened in September 2013, VGV draws students statewide by a blind lottery. Since 2013, VGV has increased its urban student population from 75 to 85 percent and increased its “free and reduced lunch” population from 88 to 94 percent.

This Blended Learning Model is Working

In spite of these challenging demographics, the data supports a disruptive school model that is working. In its first four years of existence, VGV has posted the highest gains of any of the state’s high schools in the assessed content areas of ELA, math, and science and consistently outperformed its sending urban school districts.

VGV has a 97 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent college acceptance rate to schools including: Johns Hopkins, MIT, Xavier, Spelman, Sarah Lawrence, Wheaton and Savannah College of Art and Design.

VGV is the “come-to-fruition” vision of Founder and Superintendent Dr. Robert Pilkington who was asked by RIDE in 2011 to create a “brick and mortar” charter high school with a fully virtualized curriculum using Edgenuity e-courseware.

VGV is the first RI school designed from Day 1 to be a competency- and equity-based, personalized blended learning model. It’s “competency-based” in that students can only progress through their lessons after demonstrating proficiency.

It’s “equity-based” in that all students have access to the e-coursework that will prepare them for college and career; and, all students have the opportunity to take college courses for college credit on a local college campus for a true college readiness experience before graduating from VGV.

It’s “personalized” in that diagnostics along with historical student performance data are used for pathway/course placement decisions, pace of learning is optimized for the student’s needs, courses are built and can be customized for the individual student providing remedial interventions to close skill gaps where needed and providing opportunities for motivated students to accelerate their learning (14 percent of VGV students complete high school in three years); and, students have a voice in a portion of their coursework such as selecting career interest electives potentially earning a credential for completing a sequence of coursework in a career domain.

By definition, “blended learning” means that students learn at least in part through online learning with some degree of control over time, place, path and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick and mortar location away from home.

(Next page: A day in the blended learning life for students and teachers)


Case Study: Read How Skaggs Schools Embrace BYOD with Google Apps

Skaggs Catholic Center in Utah comprises of a high school, middle school, elementary school, day center and church, all requiring fast, reliable and secure Wi-Fi to keep up with growing device density.

“We decided to embrace BYOD rather than resisting it”, explains Jim Duane, Director of Educational Resources.

Xirrus Wi-Fi empowers them to adopt Google Apps for Education. The Xirrus EasyPass solution enables their two-person IT team to simply and quickly enable single-sign-on (SSO) via Google login.

Read The Story To Learn How Skaggs Achieve Easy And Secure Wi-Fi Access With EasyPass Google.


The biggest lessons librarians learned in 2017

For the sake of our students, we must embrace the changing role of the school librarian. 2017 was a year filled with makerspaces, student engagement, personalized learning, and more. Here, two seasoned librarians shed light on their biggest lessons learned in 2017 and look forward to the up-and-coming trends for the new year.

“Never underestimate what students are capable of.” – Robin Glugatch

There’s no denying that libraries today look a lot different than they did 20 years ago. This year was the second year that our library was a makerspace. We added new robotics, drones, and video game design, and engaged students using our new Lightspeed audio system. Throughout the year, I saw students evolve, gain confidence in their public speaking skills, and enhance active listening skills when myself or others were speaking. We also painted an entire wall green to utilize the Green Screen with larger groups. The library is leading the way in adding technology and research materials to the curriculum to enhance learning.

The biggest lesson I learned in 2017 is to never underestimate what students are capable of. It is not up to me to decide what is too difficult for a student. If I don’t give them the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves, I risk squashing their ideas, talents, and confidence. This applies to the books that they read, objects they make, and tasks they are given. I would much prefer students to try something and risk failure than always play it safe. Student choice is essential to help students discover their passions and flourish.

The library is a place for all students to feel safe and welcome. As we enter 2018, I believe libraries will become more collaborative spaces for students. The transformation of libraries into makerspaces will provide a space for hands-on exploration and creativity. Modern media specialists will play a critical role in diversifying the materials in the library and promoting inclusion and kindness. We will be looked upon as facilitators for these programs, and will continue to embrace new books, technology, and learning styles.

As a New Year’s resolution, I encourage librarians to embrace the concept that libraries are changing. They are no longer quiet rooms with books. Challenge yourself by asking what you can do to promote 21st-century learning in your library. Create a personal learning network, via Twitter or other groups, to continue to learn how to transform your library and make it a place students want to be.

(Next page: New relationships for libraries)


Innovative tech standards want your feedback

None of us would leave for a destination without a plan of action, without a direction and the right equipment to complete the journey. We all know that we want to provide the best pathways for our students to help foster 21st century skills.

As administrators, our responsibilities cover many areas including technology, which has become a necessary component of living and work. Technology can do many things, but in order to prepare our students for the future, education professionals need a new plan for how to employ it. For example, technology can accelerate innovation in teaching and learning and inspire learners to reach their greatest potential, it can provide students a window into a world right outside their door or halfway across the world.

That is why the ISTE Standards for Administrators are so important, as they provide all of us a set of expectations to effectively lead our schools and districts in an ever-changing digital world. Truly, these standards are the roadmap to accomplish the journey our students, teachers and schools seek to complete.

Using the ISTE Standards

ISTE began a cycle of updating the widely-used standards with the ISTE Standards for Students (released in summer 2016), followed by the ISTE Standards for Educators (released in summer 2017). These standards are a roadmap for educators worldwide to navigate decisions about curriculum, instruction and professional learning that are focused on the learner-driven application of technology.

During these refresh periods, ISTE engaged educators, students, thought leaders, and influencers to develop the latest standards and be a part of the process. We are now in the process of refreshing the Administrator Standards; arguably the toughest one of the group since it needs to encompass so much, but also be concise.

The goal is that the Administrator Standards can help us answer some important questions:

  • How does one lead a school or district in an ever-changing digital environment?
  • What should one know about the implementation and use of technology to effectively lead learning in a school or district?
  • What skills and competencies do administrators need?
  • What is the mindset of a modern education leader?

Seeking Input

We, along with our colleagues on ISTE’s Technical Working Group, are eager to learn from others and understand the challenges and opportunities that exist for leaders. We are already seeing some key themes emerge, including the need for education leaders to be learners themselves, to tell the story of their school or district, and to plan for educational equity that accounts for every student’s individual needs.

We have seen what good implementation of the standards can look like and it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was the first school district in the nation to officially adopt the ISTE Standards for Students. At San Pascual STEAM Magnet, a school in LAUSD, the goal has been to implement the learning standards as a means to support teaching and learning, along with the school’s CLEAR Vision (Community, Leadership, Empathy, Academic Integrity, Reflection) which is the driving force behind student achievement.

This important charge has enabled the school to focus on the concept of Empowered Learners. Focusing the school-wide efforts on this particular ISTE Standard for Students has created opportunities for students to be able to choose learning styles that work best for them. This has also allowed the school to create an environment that fosters 21st century skills, from carefully designed STEAM-integrated units of instruction to student-led, project based learning experiences in the school’s media lab. These experiences continue to help all students grow and evolve and support all students.

At the end of the day the Administrator Standards will provide us and our colleagues around the world a clear indication of expectations for learning with technology, as well as a concise mandate as to what we should do to better prepare those under our supervision who are aspiring to lead.

Throughout the next several months ISTE will be working with the education community to update the Administrator Standards, gathering feedback on the draft standards, strategic questions and support needs. This process is an opportunity for all those who impact student success–school and district leaders, educators, higher education faculty, and even students and parents–to help develop these standards. We encourage you to be a part of the conversation at


This “open” innovation may indicate the future of learning

My hometown of Gastonia is a quiet place. Scant traffic. Nice neighbors. Folks still offer you a sweet tea when you visit. By most accounts it’s a sleepy southern town, with roots in textiles and major manufacturers producing Wix air filters and Freightliner trucks. Just what you’d expect from a small town in the South. It’s my idea of heaven, but according to Wikipedia, its biggest claim to fame is that it is the second largest satellite city in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

But get ready. Gastonia, though small and unimpressive to fancy outsiders like Wikipedia, is poised to take advantage of one of the greatest sea changes taking place in education in the last 200 years. Don’t let the headlines and the small-town charm fool you. Gastonia has potential!

Even with all our new technology and the amazing strides we have made in the science of learning, our sons’ classrooms in Gastonia look a lot like my classroom did–and an awful lot like my father’s, who was born in 1923. My father attended classes for 11 years (there was no fourth year of high school then and no kindergarten), but even so, his classes were separated by grade levels and students were assessed by letter grades. Every student was required to learn the same things during the same chronological period. With no technology except a chalkboard, my father graduated high school as a very literate person who was highly proficient in mathematics and knew Latin and Greek.

He was well-equipped for the world he entered, and went on to become a successful optometrist after fighting in WWII. In his day, life was very local. It was expected that after school a person might work the remainder of his life in one role for one company. Local communities were comprised of interlocking parts and ran very much like Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand Theory–each individual worked for his own self-interest and played his part in the economy of individual communities. They didn’t need a “Buy Local” campaign to encourage commerce; they simply didn’t have a choice.

How Much the World has Changed!

Technology has transformed us. Many of the jobs that existed in my father’s world have disappeared. Many of the jobs that exist now in my world will be gone by the time our sons and their peers are running things. School used to be about gaining a shared body of knowledge. To a large degree, what constituted an educated person was agreed upon. To be educated, everyone learned the same things at the same time. If you were clever, paid attention, had good memorization skills and could afford it, you could even progress to college and possibly to graduate school, where your agreed-upon knowledge would qualify you for a profession.

I am the product of a liberal arts education. I know a little about a lot of things. Languages. Poets. Writers. Mathematics. Psychology. History. Sociology. Thank goodness I don’t have to go out and find a real job. I have no verifiable job skills. No provable competencies. I am darn near unemployable. If I were to graduate college today, I might be one of the millions of kids who go back to live with their parents. Or worse, If I were to graduate with my un-provable skill set fifteen years from now, I would be wholly unprepared to make a living and take care of myself.

Here’s the Sea Change: Open Badges

Passing time in school no longer matters. Okay, you made it through high school. What did you learn? Now prove it. Or, you may spend 12 years in college, complete 300 credit hours of study, and know a lot about a lot of things. But unless you obtained degrees along the way, your 12 years are meaningless to employers. You have no way to prove what you know.

Today, learning needs to be quantified. Not by time, but by skills and specific experience. And it needs to be verifiable. We also need the ability to display and share those skills, combine them and show how they are applicable to multiple industries. They need to be meaningful and transferable.

The technology now exists to power the education system of the future. It is already in use, but in the next 15 years it will completely dwarf our current system of assessment.

That’s amazingly quick in education-speak. Think about it. Education is an institution with two primary functions–to educate our children and to serve and maintain the institution itself. Because of the second function, education has been painfully slow to change. But the times they are a-changing.

With these coming changes, there are several terms you should know. Credentialing. Micro-Credentialing. Badging. But the one you should get very familiar with is Open Badges.

When I first met Wayne Skipper five or six years ago, he was already talking about badges and how they fit into the future of education. At that time, the education world was beginning to have some serious discussions about moving towards a competency-based model. The college presidents I knew were all talking about it. A few school districts were playing with it. But no one was successfully making the leap between education and industry, and no one had the vision to create a system for obtaining and displaying competencies that was sharable and open. There were some tech companies in the space that were talking about cornering the market in credentialing–they were intent on getting rich by owning the rights to credentialing or badging–and making everyone pay them to house and distribute credentials.

My friend Wayne had a different idea. He wanted to make the whole thing open. And FREE.

Fast forward a few years

To date, nearly 15 million Open Badges have been issued in the US alone. Open Badges is a technology standard that allows the user to take any learning achievement, whether formal or informal, and recognize it with a portable micro-credential. Open Standards allow everyone to put all these types of learning activities on the same playing field and describe them in the same language. That means everything is interoperable. Businesses, schools, associations and learners, everyone can share information–everything works together. Verifiable skills are transferable from one job to another, even between completely different industries. It is the piece of the puzzle that makes everything possible.

Wayne’s company, Concentric Sky, developed the Open Badges 2.0 specifications. The company wrote the developer’s tools, the developer’s guide and the open source badge validation tools. The MacArthur Foundation’s spinoff, Collective Shift, approached them in 2015 to take over stewardship of the Badge Alliance, which they held till 2017 before handing it to IMS Global Learning Consortium, a member-driven global standards body.

That Sets the Stage for What’s Coming Next

Business is becoming increasingly global. Future workers will be hired globally and work remotely. Most workers will be independent contractors, working for multiple businesses–sometimes at the same time. Think gigs, not jobs. That’s our future economy, and the way that our students, sons and daughters will make their living.

The Internet has changed everything, but everything is going to change even more. The ability for our children to gain, display and distribute their credentials will be the way they find employment. A business’s ability to find and contract with skilled workers will be the difference between the success and failure of that business.

The world is changing. Technology has democratized opportunity. The future is global. Fancy cities like Charlotte and Nashville are giving way to towns like Gastonia, with its scant traffic, nice neighbors and skilled workforce.

And now, my fellow Gastonians have real options. Our middle son Stone is 15, and wants to be a radiologist. Many of the competencies he needs will be obtained online. He can also practice medicine online. His patients will come from all over the world. I’m reasonably sure the technology used to obtain his medical credentials will be some version of the Open Pathways technology, created by my friend Wayne Skipper.

It’s really a small world to be so global. Of course, our youngest son Aidan still wants to be a professional motorcycle racer.

I’m not sure they have an app for that.


Why keeping parents and kids connected in the early years is critical

In more than 60 percent of all two-parent households, both parents work, and in nearly all of these households, at least one parent is employed. This means that the vast majority of parents in our country experience regular and prolonged periods of time away from their children. Since parental involvement is one of the most influential factors in students’ academic success, the question then becomes how to help working parents stay abreast of what their child does when they are apart.

As a lead teacher at a YMCA Early Childhood Center, I believe children of all ages benefit from having their parents and teachers on the same page with their growth, health, and education on a regular basis. We offer care for more than 3,500 children (from infants through preschoolers) every year.

Being a YMCA facility, we teach kids to make healthy choices, as well as teaching them the ABCs, and other important life skills, like good sportsmanship and how to be themselves. We know that the values and skills children learn early on become the building blocks for their future lives.

Good Habits Start Early

If you eat healthily as a child, you become more used to those kinds of food than unhealthy foods. For example, I myself didn’t grow up eating very healthy food—eating out was easier since both of my parents worked two jobs. Now that I am an adult, I don’t always make the best eating choices. On the other hand, when my sister was growing up, my mom was able to stay at home and give her home-cooked meals every day, and as a result she is fit and eats healthy foods all the time.

At the Early Childhood Center, I encourage healthy eating habits by encouraging them to eat (or at least try) the food we provide, and modeling healthy eating and drinking habits while I am in the classroom. I also try to instill healthy habits by taking the children outside at least 60 minutes a day and doing small physical activities inside like yoga and GoNoodle throughout the day.

Using Smartphones to Engage Parents

Because our working parents only see their children a few hours a day, we want to keep them updated about all the fun things their children are doing during the day, and we also like to send home helpful information about health and wellness.

For a long time, we communicated with parents using daily sheets we would type on the computer, print, and then make copies of. We used up a lot of paper this way. We also sent out a monthly newsletter featuring upcoming events and lessons. Personally, I prefer to communicate on a daily basis (both at drop-off and pick-up) so we can know anything that would be beneficial during the day and we can give parents an update of what happened each day.

(Next page: Streamlining processes, better connecting parents and children)