5 ways to move to personalized, competency-based education

A new report from iNACOL examines five key issues that could help improve the future of U.S. K-12 education and increase competency-based education, according to the authors.

In the report, the authors describe how the traditional education system isn’t designed to generate the goals educators and policymakers have set for it.

Ten primary flaws in the current education system–including that the traditional system is time-based, is built on a fixed mindset, and uses academic grading practices that can often send misleading signals about what students know–hinder progress.

But those flaws can be corrected if the U.S. education system is redesigned around the goal of student mastery, as outlined in the report. iNACOL offers specific action steps, policy strategies, and recommendations for enabling personalized, competency-based education.

Through the report, the group aims to inspire state policymakers, including governors, state legislators, state boards of education, state school chiefs, and state policy staff with a vision for transformation.

(Next page: Five issues and corresponding policy steps to move to personalized, competency-based education)


Here’s how 4 schools are supporting wireless internet needs

As wireless internet needs become more important for students and instructors, many schools are bolstering their connectivity to ensure smooth learning experiences.

Schools and campuses must support 1:1 online learning initiatives, artificial intelligence/virtual reality (AI/VR) use, BYOD, shared resources, and on-campus surveillance–these efforts require reliable and cost-effective wireless connections that support collaborative digital-learning environments.

And at a time when internet access is of the utmost importance for effective teaching and learning, IT leaders must ensure consistent access and reliable connectivity.

(Next page: Four schools focused on wireless access and digital learning)


Creating the future of education

The power to create the future of education technology is very appealing. The ability to fabricate and then implement a technological universe that could lead our future generations of learners might be our generation’s greatest achievement. If I were going to put together a formula, I would probably do the following:

1. Identify around 1,000 of the best available education minds from all over the world.
2. Assemble these big thinkers in one place, and over a period of four or five days have open discussion and lively debate around some carefully thought-out subject areas.
3. Include areas of innovation, academics, emotional intelligence, and the business of technology.
4. Invite at least 10,000 working educators and administrators to join in the discussion.
5. Watch carefully as the magic happens.

If I could put together this much firepower in one place and ask the right questions, imagine what could be accomplished.

As it just so happens, somebody beat me to the punch.

The real deal
I have attended a large number of education conferences, meetings, and events in my day, and most of them become formulaic over time. Many provide solid professional development and some entertaining speakers, but I rarely come back feeling like these events are moving the needle, and almost never come back feeling like these events have the power to significantly change the quality of education for our children. I have become accustomed to tempering my expectations. That said, I know the real deal when I see it.

This year in Orlando, I saw the real deal.

(Next page: Program highlights and more)


Q&A: The importance of STEM support for teachers

In January, Discovery Education debuted STEM Connect, a web-based supplemental K-8 resource, developed with the input of educators and curriculum experts, which helps educators create engaging STEM lessons that strengthen students’ critical-thinking skills.

STEM Connect is built on a 4Cs STEM skills framework that helps students develop the creative, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills needed for success beyond graduation. Its flexible, modular learning units give students an easy-to-follow experience using high-quality interdisciplinary resources that can be used in a wide variety of classrooms and across all subjects.

eSchool News sat down with Cindy Moss, vice president of global STEM initiatives at Discovery Education, to talk about some of the important motivating factors behind STEM Connect.

(Next page: Four important questions about STEM Connect)


It’s time for CoSN’s Failfest & Awesomefest

As educators, we know the unexpected happens and failure is inevitable. But failure isn’t often talked about. That’s why one of the most anticipated sessions at the CoSN Annual Conference is the “Failfest.”

Failfest is not your typical conference session. It’s a funny and clever way that helps everyone learn how to avoid particular crash-and-burn experiences. Audience members help select the winners in an interactive, prop-filled, fun-filled contest.

New this year is Awesomefest. Same fun format but based on your awesome accomplishments! Toot your horn and share your success!

Don’t forget to register for the CoSN 2018 Annual Conference and submit your successes and failures!



Video of the Week: 3 Great Ways to Power Up Your Parent Communication

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: Effective parent-teacher communication is crucial in helping students learn. But, for busy teachers it can be challenging just to keep up. Can apps and other digital tools make it easier to keep everyone — parents and students — in the loop? Transparency and equity are key to managing any communication between home and school. Watch here to find a variety of tools and useful tips to help you better engage your parent audience. For more tips like these, visit this collection of parent communication resources.



App of the Week: Clips

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? 

Teachers and students can use Clips to create engaging, accessible video presentations that can include Live Titles (captions), music, and fun labels or animated posters. Teachers might create a short video to introduce a class project or even record video instructions in advance for a substitute teacher to play for the class. Students can use Clips as a creative way to demonstrate learning: to describe a concept, deliver a book report, or tell a story. Kids might interview several classmates on a subject and then learn how to edit the video using the simple Trim feature. Since the captions feature is available in so many languages, Clips is a great option for practicing and presenting in foreign language classes.

Price: Free

Grades: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Integrates seamlessly with Apple’s photo and music libraries; video captions are available in many languages.

Cons: “Smart” social sharing could be too easy; teachers will want to teach kids about privacy concerns.

Bottom line: This slick video creation app is fun, empowering, and accessible in lots of languages, but be careful with sharing.


Cutting-edge research to support students with reading disabilities

Current approaches to identifying students with reading disabilities are often problematic and ineffective, and will not lead students to academic success. However, there have been significant improvements in identification and screening that are allowing us to provide greater—and earlier—support. In “Cutting-Edge Research to Empower Schools to Support Students with Reading Disabilities,” Rick Wagner, associate director for the Florida Center for Reading Research, discussed problems with current methods and how to better help students with these disabilities.

Research tells us that dyslexia is due to a problem in language rather than in vision, specifically the phonological system, which is used for processing speech sounds. Phonological processing refers to using speech sounds for coding information when reading, listening, and speaking. Although it’s important to assess for phonological abilities like phonological awareness, phonological memory, and rapid naming, these alone should not determine whether one has dyslexia. “It’s important to do a comprehensive assessment that extends beyond phonological processing,” says Wagner.

(Next page: Reasons why diagnosis is a challenge)


Everyone has a role to play in education today

As we enter a new year, education is a topic that continues to resonate well beyond the classroom into the core aspects of daily life, from home and family to the halls of politics and the corporate world. Since launching SXSW EDU several years ago with the aspiration to become the world’s largest and most inclusive learning festival in the world, it’s been exciting to see the event grow and evolve. As past speakers including philanthropist Bill Gates and Teacher’s College, Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin both observed from the keynote stage, the growth of the event is a direct reflection of the public’s deep passion and interest with teaching and learning—no surprise, when we acknowledge that education is the foundation on which everything is built!

More than the growth of SXSW EDU, though, what’s been most interesting to observe is the evolution of the topics that the community wants to address, as reflected through our crowd-sourced program. Each year, the community proposes thousands of suggestions for sessions and workshops and speakers. As such, the SXSW EDU community’s conversation about teaching and learning continues to become richer and more diverse, spanning the complete life cycle of learning, from early childhood, to and through college, career, and beyond.

While past programs for SXSW EDU focused largely on the standards and structures of schooling, today the program has grown to additionally address the intersection of culture and learning. Stated another way, beyond exploring the 4- or 8- or 12-year curriculums associated with the traditional classifications of elementary, secondary, and post- secondary education, it’s been fascinating to see the program enriched with discussions about lifelong learning in the real world, against the backdrop of rapidly changing expectations to prepare learners for a future that will look far different than today.

(Next page: The evolution of SXSW EDU)


My tech essentials: A superintendent’s guide to instructional coaching

Teacher effectiveness is the number one school-related factor that impacts student achievement. The question then becomes: How do I as a superintendent support my teachers and ensure they are getting the regular, constructive feedback they need to be as effective as possible? I believe the answer lies within effective instructional coaching.

Like athletes, teachers should routinely receive feedback and coaching to help them grow. At Maine Township High School District 207 in Park Ridge, Ill., every one of our teachers receives coaching on a regular basis. In fact, this year’s seniors are the first class to go through the district where each teacher was coached every year. This may sound like a costly and time-consuming undertaking, but we’ve discovered an ingenious system to make it work:

Use teachers as coaches.

In our district, all of our coaches are teachers. Our coaches teach half-time and coach the other half. If you’ve been out of the classroom for five years coaching, teachers may become skeptical about whether you really understand their experience and may not take your feedback as seriously. Having our coaches divide their time between their own classroom and others’ gives them the credibility with the teachers they coach.

(Next page: 3 tools instructional coaches should use)