Video of the Week: Make it easy for students and parents to sign up with Seesaw

Ed. note: Video of the Week picks are supplied 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 watch the video at Common Sense Education.

Video Description: Here’s a super simple way to get students and parents signed up with Seesaw. It’s best to get parents signed up right off the bat, at the beginning of the year, and luckily Seesaw makes this easy. With this tip you can make Seesaw–and/or any other platform you use — parents’ go-to place for class updates. You’ll be able to document students’ work and share feedback all year long, keeping parents in-the-know and involved. For more classroom management tips and tricks, visit this collection of resources to help make day-to-day teaching and learning run smoothly.

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7 ways to effectively address challenging behaviors in children with autism

Challenging behaviors can be difficult to address in children with autism. After appropriately identifying the behavior, a suitable intervention can be used to proactively, or reactively, reduce and replace it. Experts reviewed key points and effective ways to address these problem behaviors in the edWebinar, “Effective Approaches to Reduce and Replace Challenging Behaviors Exhibited by Children with Autism.”

1. Define the behavior in a non-subjective manner: In order to address a behavioral problem, the behavior must first be defined. The behavior should be specific, observable, and measurable, and it should not be subjective.

2. Have a data baseline: It’s crucial to have a baseline to tell if the intervention is working, and how well. Therefore, data collection is key when putting an intervention into place. Different methods of data collection can be used depending on the circumstance or how you plan to measure the behavior that’s occurring.

3. Implement proactive strategies: After identifying the behavior and collecting the data, what can be done to reduce or replace it? Proactive strategies may include a classroom checklist to make sure the environment is optimal for learning; the student has an effective way to communicate; there are enough opportunities for movement (depending on the age of the student); and more.

4. Think of a replacement: Also, consider a replacement behavior (an alternative behavior—preferably one the student already knows—that can replace the challenging behavior). For example, teaching a student how to appropriately request a break from a lesson instead of crumpling paper or throwing materials.

(Next page: 3 more tips for managing behavior in children with autism)

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App of the Week: Gorgeous game brings students into Thoreau’s world

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? 

Walden, a game is a simulation of Thoreau’s grand experiment to live in solitude for a couple of years on Walden Pond. Students assume the role of Thoreau (in first person) and experience the seasons at Walden over about six hours of play, collecting bits and pieces (represented as arrowheads) of Thoreau’s writing as they go. It works for both those familiar with games and those not. For students more into games, there’s a working simulation in place that can be explored and understood akin to the popular “survival” genre of games. For students who might not play many games, these systems are relatively forgiving, and it’s possible to just focus on the writings and philosophies of Thoreau — often offered with voice-over narration.

Price: Free, Paid

Grades: 8-12

Rating: 5/5

Pros: Elegantly embeds deep philosophical questions in the act of play.

Cons: It’s possible for players to get stuck on certain in-game tasks or miss important letters and events.

Bottom line: It’s rare to be so moved and permanently transformed by a work of art; that this game manages to (re)create these experiences is a triumph.

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How to measure edtech impact in the ESSA era

The Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN) and Empirical Education Inc. recently released the Guidelines for Conducting and Reporting EdTech Impact research in U.S. K-12 Schools. These guidelines help clarify how research is conducted and how information is presented to users of edtech products based on the changes brought by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In “Measuring Edtech Impact in the ESSA Era,” experts delved into the details of the guidelines.

The updated guidelines take into account nearly all edtech products today in the cloud, providing more access to teacher and student usage data. They also account for the timeline for compressed development of edtech products, and standards of evidence having changed to a more developmental scale with ESSA replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Districts are more frequently asking for their own student and teacher product usage data to perform their own studies. The structure and definitions provided by these new guidelines are useful in helping them obtain what they need and figure out how to do their evaluations.

The 4 Main Sections

The guidelines are divided into four main sections: Getting Started, Designing the Research, Implementing the Design, and Reporting the Results.

When getting started, using a logic model from the product provider is helpful in developing a model for how the product works. Logic models can show the factors that correlate with different outcomes.

When moving on to designing the research, look at the four levels of evidence defined by ESSA. The first step is to use a logic model. Then, look at a correlational study, run a comparison study, and run a randomized experiment. It’s common to run comparison studies, since randomized experiments can often be time consuming and expensive.

It is important to use caution when handling confidential information while implementing the design. With more personally identifiable student information available from both the school district and edtech products, privacy of edtech usage data has become a higher concern.

Lastly, when reporting the results, keep in mind all findings from edtech product evaluations should be made available. For example, publishing the best evaluation out of five that were conducted will not help the market learn. A report should also have enough detail to know if results apply to a particular context. These details tell schools if a product will work for them, and not just the general average.

For more details, download the full guidelines here.

About the Presenters

Denis Newman, lead author of ETIN’s guidelines for research on edtech impact, is the CEO of Empirical Education Inc., a research organization that conducts dozens of RCTs and other evaluations of school programs. He has 35 years of experience improving student-teacher learning processes and instructional technologies and is a pioneer in applying internet to student learning, professional development, and school administration. His Ph.D. in developmental psychology is from The City University of New York.

Andrew Coulson, Chief Data Science Officer, oversees the development of expansion strategies, product-to-market operations and leads a team of data analysts to conduct evaluation of MIND’s activities. Prior to this position, he led MIND’s Education Division for 12 years, helping to devise and execute strategies and programs to scale the organization’s reach to now support student learning in 45 states across the country. Before joining MIND, Coulson was a program officer for a major Orange County foundation, specializing in education. He also worked for 17 years in upper management as a STEM professional in high-tech manufacturing engineering, acquiring experience in operations, process engineering, reliability and technology transfer.

Bridget Foster has worked in all areas of the education market—from classroom teacher, to state level and industry leadership. As EVP & Managing Director of ETIN, she helps companies better understand the education market, so that they can grow their brands worldwide. She holds credentials in English, science, mathematics and school administration.

Join the Community

EdFocus: The EdMarketing Community is a free professional learning community that will help you connect with colleagues in the education industry to share information and resources, raise questions, and get advice.

This broadcast was co-hosted by edWeb.net and MCH Strategic Data.

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.]

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Why, and how, warranties should guide edtech purchasing

School technology leaders are faced with the buying decisions of products for an entire school or district. These types of edtech purchases are a sizeable investment and, unfortunately, funding can be wasted on products that are overpriced and underperform–diverting school budgets that could be better used to benefit students in other ways.

The first and most obvious factor in the search for the right technology is to decide which product will be most cost-effective. Durability of the technology is the next major influencer.

When evaluating a district’s edtech needs there are several factors to consider, including product warranties and life cycle of the product. Consumer brands typically do not offer warranties for school use, and this is where differentiation between consumer and commercial devices comes into play.

Premature Fatigue is Costly

The largest cost in any bulk purchase is often an item’s replacement that is frequently caused by premature fatigue, not the gear falling short of expectations.

For example, in the case of headphones and headsets for school use, industry professionals recommend choosing headphones made from ABS plastic for greater strength, durability and safety in case of breakage. Other added safety features include recessed wiring and slotted baffles to protect the inner speakers and the students. This type of headphone would have a longer warranty that typically outlasts one obtained from a retail source. Enhanced durability with lifetime protection against students chewing the headphone cord is another aspect to examine.

If replacements didn’t have to occur as often, there would be an overall lower cost of ownership. Eliminating the need for back-up inventory decreases the long-term investment, while also ensuring that the total cost of ownership will not exceed the district’s purchasing means.

Consumer vs. Commercial Warranty

Buyers, administrators and CTO’s should pay particular attention to the fine print specifying whether or not products are warranted for use in schools. This is crucial because it’s often overlooked that consumer-oriented products are not designed or warranted for the heavy-duty, constant use required by schools.

So what’s the difference between a “consumer” warranty and a “commercial” warranty?

Commercial grade items are designed to last longer, withstand the rigors of extended daily usage, generally made to more demanding specifications, and are tailored for learning environments. Material makeup is another element to consider–by scrutinizing the materials used to make the products, buyers can assess which components will be more durable and less likely to break or wear out over time.

Manufacturers build institutional-grade products to last and stand behind the production quality of them. Many manufacturers will ensure the quality of their product by offering a more robust warranty program for institutional-grade products than they will for consumer-based products.

Devices designed for consumer use usually have a standard, short-term warranty and can specify in the fine print that operation beyond personal use will void the warranty.

Whether you’re a school technology leader researching headsets, computer peripherals, tablets or software; or a principal looking to stretch a budget, you’d be well-served to investigate product warranty factors. Although a consumer edtech product’s price point may be more affordable initially, think about how that product will serve students and teachers long-term.

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Principals list 6 school technology priorities moving into 2018

Although 90 percent of principals said they believe technology is critical for student learning, only two-thirds would rate their school technology as strong, according to a new report from MDR EdNET Insight.

The report, “School Trends: Principals’ Perspectives on Instructional Initiatives and Purchasing Decisions,” includes data broken down by school level, size, location, and Title I status.

In combination with the research from the entire four-part series, the report offers a 360-degree view of decision-making authority at all levels, from an administrator, to a principal to a classroom teacher.

(Next page: Principals’ priorities and purchasing decisions)

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4 ways to improve STEM professional development

In Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS), all 10 of our elementary schools have a STEM lab. As early as kindergarten, students begin engaging in hands-on learning and exploring STEM careers. Yet, even with regular visits to the STEM lab throughout elementary school, our fifth graders struggled on the Florida Statewide Science Assessment. Another challenge was that our teachers didn’t have a defined STEM curriculum that was uniformly applied to all elementary STEM labs.

To turn things around, we applied for a Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) grant from the Florida Department of Education. We were awarded the grant in 2015-16 to fund our “STEM Education Enhancement (SEE) for Student Success!” project.

Train-the-Trainer Model

As part of the project, the STEM lab teacher from each elementary school participated in a train-the-trainer model of professional development (PD), which consisted of nine full days of training throughout the school year. In addition, we provided all 10 teachers with the STEMscopes™ online, comprehensive STEM curriculum and hands-on exploration kits.

Through the MSP grant project, our teachers improved their instructional capabilities and their confidence in STEM, which has really paid off in our STEM labs and classrooms.

Following are four lessons we learned that helped us—and could help other schools—enhance the content knowledge and teaching skills of STEM teachers.

1. Give teachers a say.
Teachers often lack a voice and a choice in professional development. One of the first lessons we learned is that teachers should have a say in what they learn and they should feel comfortable enough to have a candid conversation about what they need or what they don’t know.

Toward that end, in each of the nine PD sessions, teachers discussed and decided which science standards they thought should be included in their next training. Including teachers in the planning and decision-making helped them feel more empowered, which helped them embrace the training. It also resulted in PD tailored to their most pressing needs, and it helped them “own” the curriculum and strategies discussed in each session.

2. Facilitate collaboration.

Having nine days of on-site PD helped our STEM lab teachers develop a very strong sense of community. Throughout the training, the level of interaction and the sharing of ideas and materials were incredible, and that collaboration continued online between the sessions. As a result, teachers left each session energized and excited to return to their schools and train their peers on the knowledge and skills they learned.

(Next page: 2 more tips for STEM PD)

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Finally, a guide to parent engagement that works every time

Parent engagement in their child’s education is key to successful growth, but consistently engaging parents is at the top of the list of teacher frustration. Teachers must establish communication with parents by figuring out what works best for them and showing that they are a team when it comes to their child.

Sarah M. Rich, lead teacher champion at Squiggle Park, presented creative ideas from her own experience building parent engagement in “Finally, A Guide to Parent Engagement That Works Every Time!

Start with Home Visits: Doing home visits at the beginning of the year can help to build early relationships with families. Not only do these visits tell the parents that you’re going to be working together for the success of their child, but they can also provide insight on the different cultures and home lives of your students.

Don’t Discount Surveys: Sending surveys to parents at the beginning of the year also helps with getting to know each family. Rich includes topics in her surveys ranging from how parents can contribute throughout the school year to what their child struggles with, to what they want most for their child this year. “Teachers plus parents equals successful students. I want to make sure that the parents understand that I recognize that from the very beginning of the school year,” she said.

Create an Intro Video: On Back-to-School night, Rich and her students create a simple video to play on loop, which explains the school day to parents. She decided to use video after realizing that listening to her presentation was inefficient for parents who had to come late or had to leave early. She also noted that keeping the video short and simple allows her to still have conversations throughout the night.

Personalize Meetings: During parent-teacher conferences, parents should feel that the meeting is personalized for them, and that you know their child. Rich recommended including work samples, any data that shows improvement or areas to focus on, and something the parent can work on at home with their child.

Concept Videos for At-Home: One of Rich’s top tips for engaging parents is to create short videos of tough concepts to help their child at home. If a child is struggling with a concept, you can record a short lesson with the child to explain to parents how they’re being taught. Other videos to create for home include your class collaborating on a project, app recommendations families might find useful, or having an early-finisher make a video reviewing the assignment.

Rich noted that since she has improved her communication, she has received more feedback from parents, which continues to improve her overall interaction with parents.

About the Presenter

Sarah Rich was a founding faculty member at Paul Cuffee School in Rhode Island and a teacher of 17 years. She graduated from the Highlander Institute’s Fuse RI Fellowship Program. Sarah coaches teachers and works with administration internationally, making blended personalized learning available to schools. Sarah uses a flipped learning model with playlists. Her strengths include management in a 21st century classroom, parent engagement, and data analysis. She now is lead teacher at Squiggle Park. Follow her on Twitter @edtechSAE.

Join the Community

Creating a Positive School Climate is a free professional learning community that provides all education stakeholders with a place to collaborate on improving the learning environments of our schools to make them safe places for all students to reach their full potential.

This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by Squiggle Park.

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.]

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3 apps that lead to improved executive functioning skills

According to LD Online, the formal definition of executive functioning is “a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.”

The skills that comprise executive functioning are not definitively agreed upon by educators and researchers. Psychologists Gerard A. Gioia, Peter K. Isquith, Steven C. Guy, and Lauren Kenworthy have identified, through their own research, a proposed list of executive functioning skills.

These skills include inhibition (the ability to self-regulate when presented with distractions such as YouTube, Facebook, etc.), shift (ability to be mentally flexible in unpredictable situations), emotional control, initiation (getting started and not procrastinating), working memory, planning/organization, organization of materials, and self-monitoring (similar to self-awareness).

What are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive functioning skills (EF), located in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, help direct and control other brain functions and movements that lead to academic and personal success. Executive functioning (EF) skills have been compared to the conductor of an orchestra or the flight control tower at an airport. These skills will continue to develop until around the age of 25 when research in brain development has shown that the pre-frontal cortex reaches maturity.

In K-12 students, whose executive functioning skills are not yet fully developed, regulation of these skills often falls on parents and educators. These adults often function as the frontal lobe of the developing student’s brain and provide the needed external prompts, cues, and reminders to accomplish tasks, manage time, and stay organized.

However, when students transition from high school into higher education, the responsibility for executive functioning is shifted from parent/teacher onto the student. This shift in responsibility without proper preparation and support can have negative consequences for students’ transition to postsecondary education.

Executive functioning skills are the foundation of academic success in college, but similar to ‘soft skills’ in the workplace, are often not explicitly taught in secondary education. So what can parents and educators do to help support the executive functioning skill development of their students?

Recognizing the gap in EF skill development of incoming freshman, some universities embed EF language in freshman seminar courses or offer advising and coaching supports that focus on executive functioning skill development. These services can be helpful; however, they replace the role of the parent with another adult on campus (i.e. disability coach, advisor, etc.). This type of support, while well meaning, does not increase a student’s independence in managing their executive functioning.

However, there are many tools and smartphone apps available which allow student’s to be independent, responsible, and accountable for skill development in discreet and convenient ways.

Apps for Executive Functioning Skills

Because the smartphone market is flooded with thousands of apps, it can be confusing for parents and educators to discern which app will be the right match for their student. It may be helpful to first do an executive functioning skill assessment with students to determine their current level of EF strengths and weaknesses. Here is a worksheet with suggested assessment categories.

Technology and smartphone apps allow students to bring executive functioning tools with them into their classrooms and dorm rooms on campus. Below are 3 apps that are effective tools to help students improve their executive functioning skills:

Tool #1: 30/30

This app is perfect for visual learners or anyone who struggles with spending too much time on Facebook, YouTube, checking emails or other activities which can easily consume too much of your student’s time. The app allows you to pre-set a list of tasks and allocate the length of time that you want to spend on each activity. The app makes a sound when it is time to move on to the next task. But most impressive about this app is the visual component. You can color code each task, watch the timer count down, and see the list of tasks coming up next. This app is one of the best apps we have found which makes time “visual” and is great for both children and adults.

(Next page: 2 more apps for developing executive functioning skills)

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How to protect school district servers from overseas cybercriminals

Beginning on September 13th, the hacker group known as the TheDarkOverLord Solutions, the same hackers that breached Netflix’s servers, breached a Montana school district’s server and stole personal information including addresses and medical records. The hackers made contact with school officials and families making violent physical threats late on Wednesday the 13th and the following Thursday. Schools across the area were closed down and extracurricular activities were cancelled the 14th-19th due to the threats, affecting over 15,000 students. On Monday night, the sheriff’s department released a 7-page ransom letter that was sent to the school board demanding a bitcoin payment to stop the threats and prevent the release of the stolen information. Law enforcement including the FBI and other agencies are working diligently to identify the whereabouts of the hackers and have encouraged recipients to not make contact with the hacker or pay the ransom.

While there is no imminent threat of real physical harm due to the believed overseas nature of the hacking group, what is most concerning is how easily the hackers were able to access the district’s servers–they shutdown an entire community for multiple days and stole stockpiles of information on staff as well as past and current students.

The district has decided to not pay the ransom, so there is the potential for identity theft to occur if the hackers decided to release or sell the stolen personal information on the dark web. Details of how exactly the breech occurred have yet to be released; however, it is most likely to be a part of a mass malware distribution that discovered a vulnerability in the small Montanan community and is now affecting the lives of hundreds who had their information stolen.

Educational institutions must be prepared for cyber attacks. Cyber criminals are increasingly sophisticated and are non-discriminatory in their target selection as long as they believe they can make a profit. To prepare for, and mitigate, the effects of a cyber attacks, educational institutions must create a cybersecurity culture and focus securing information not perimeters.

Creating a Cybersecurity Culture

Cyber criminals seek out the easiest targets–those that lack cybersecurity awareness and have vulnerabilities such as an unprotected password. Therefore, many organizations can prevent cyber attacks through use of good cyber hygiene and the implementation of cybersecurity awareness.

Cyber hygiene is the practice of maintaining online safety. In organizations some steps to follow are:

  • Ensure the network is private and protected
  • Use strong unique passwords and update them appropriately
  • Have employees utilize the organization’s email platform, not personal emails
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

(Next page: Cybersecurity awareness and securing information)

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