Picture this! 4 steps to understanding copyright issues

Respecting intellectual property is something our students need to learn and value before leaving our classrooms; here's how to start

Schools are using digital content more than ever before. They are relying on digital resources, open educational resources, and teacher-created content to support curricular goals. As more of our content is pushed out to students through online platforms, our responsibility to consider copyright as part of our planning process, no matter what the process looks like, grows.

When we are in the trenches of testing windows, grading, school safety, and all of our other daily responsibilities, copyright might not feel like the number-one priority. But it has to become a priority.

It is important that we as educators invest time and effort into becoming comfortable applying copyright—not only to keep ourselves free of the consequences of not doing so, but also so that we can pass on these skills to our students. This is a responsibility that we all share, no matter the grade level or content area.

One image at a time
Applying copyright best practices can be intimidating. There are so many moving pieces to think about and much of it lives in the gray area. Instead of trying to tackle it all at once, commit yourself to making one change at a time. Images are the perfect place to start.

We all use images in the content we create. Teachers include images on instructional materials, we encourage students to use images as part of their work, and administrators publish information for the community that can include images. If you’re doing a quick Google Image search to locate something for a school mascot logo on the school website, for example, it’s time to stop.


Finding the money for SEL

Great advice about grants and other sources from a funding expert

Effective social emotional learning (SEL) requires a thorough understanding of the student population’s needs, training to integrate SEL into everyday lessons, and the instructional resources. Although educators and education advocates acknowledge the importance of SEL, the funding has lagged behind. In the edWebinar, “Funding Social Emotional Learning: Where’s the Money?,” Dr. Rita Oates, president of Oates Associates, explained that money can be found for SEL, but teachers need to be ready to tackle the world of grants. While employing a professional grant writer can be advantageous, Oates offered advice for those who will be overseeing the process or who plan to go after the funding themselves.

First, she said that grant writing is like writing a piece of fiction—teachers are being asked to talk about their vision of the future. They should familiarize themselves with the different tenets of SEL and projects that have already worked. One potential resource is Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which features definitions of SEL, research, and best practices. Research on SEL is especially helpful as grant applicants will need to prove the efficacy of their approach. In addition, educators should assess the social-emotional needs of their target kids. Having an assessment will validate requests to potential funders.

After educators have assembled the background information, they need to look at the variety of funding options. There are several opportunities available from the federal government, such as IDEA (special education); Title I, Part A (the largest single grant through the federal government to school districts); and Title II, Part A (supporting effective instruction). Most of the federal funds are awarded to local education agencies and require a concentrated effort from constituents across the school district.


10 apps for students with special needs

These apps can be used for a range of special needs, including autism, social skills, and communication difficulties

High-quality, effective teachers know how to use technology to engage students and elevate their learning—and they also know students of all abilities can use technology to assist with learning.

A variety of tools and resources, including apps for tablets and mobile devices, can meet the varying needs of students with disabilities and other special needs.

The apps in this list can be used by students with autism, students with communication challenges, those who need social assistance, and more.

[Editor’s note: While these apps may meet certain instructional needs, eSchool News has not used or reviewed the apps in this list.]

1. Rufus Robot: This collection of apps features many apps that are well-suited for students with autism or emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disabilities. Apps include those that focus on groups and categories, feelings and emotions, numbers and counting, and fun and games.

2. Todo Math: This math app is suited for students with special needs and also for those without. It lets educators differentiate for students working on different levels and can help reinforce math concepts in an interactive way.


4 takeaways from the IMS Global Learning Impact Leadership Institute

The three-day conference drew a record crowd of influential education leaders who are making interoperability a reality

For K-12 education leaders working to create a more integrated, interoperable digital ecosystem, Learning Impact Leadership Institute was the place to be! This year’s conference attracted nearly 600 attendees representing K-12 districts, higher education institutions, states, and edtech suppliers from around the world. At this unique event, the best thinkers in edtech come together to make progress towards enabling better digital learning experiences. The power of Learning Impact comes from the community of IMS members, a true collaboration of institutions and suppliers.

As co-chairs of IMS Global’s K-12 Institutional Leadership Board, we had a chance to experience all aspects of the conference. Here are our top moments of the week:

IMS announced a new initiative called One EdTech (1EdTech). 1EdTech is a collaboration that will make it radically easier for school districts to make digital resources and applications available to teachers and students. 1EdTech consists of a secure, trusted cloud-based registry and connection service that will enable any edtech provider to connect to any school district’s learning platform, portal, or student system using IMS’s OneRoster standard. Once a participating organization has integrated they will be able to connect to any of the institutions or suppliers on the other side. 1EdTech will be free to all IMS member organizations that have OneRoster certified products.


6 questions (and answers!) to ask before moving to PBL

How you prepare for your jump into project-based learning (PBL) depends on who you are

Don’t jump into project-based learning (PBL) too quickly. But at some point you’ve got to just jump. Does that sound like conflicting advice? Let me explain.

Some teachers jump on the PBL bandwagon—and these days it’s a loud, expanding bandwagon—because they’ve read persuasive articles, seen cool videos, heard inspiring presentations, or been swept up by enthusiastic colleagues. To these folks I’d say, don’t try PBL until you’ve done a bit more reading, gotten some training, or planned your jump with colleagues.

Pulling off a successful project is not easy for most teachers new to the methodology, except for a few “naturals,” so launching your first one without proper preparation is risky. A project that fails epically might permanently scare off teachers and scar students, who would remember that time they wasted two weeks floundering in class, when their group let them down and they worked late putting together that embarrassing presentation or building that stupid diorama, but what did they really learn?

Who are you?
How you prepare for your jump into PBL depends on who you are. If you’re considering PBL, you’re probably an “early adopter,” as explained in diffusion of innovation theory. (If you’re an “innovator” you’re probably not reading this article because you’ve already been doing PBL. If you’re in the “early majority” you might be reading this article but might prefer to wait for the early adopters in your school to show you that PBL works and how to do it. I assume people in the “late majority” or “laggard” end of the scale are not reading this either.)

Here are some questions to consider about yourself as an early adopter, or bold member of the early majority:


7 lessons for surviving a tech upgrade

With 53,000 students, 6,500 employees, and buildings spread across 88 square miles, our recent network refresh at Klein ISD taught us a thing or two

Several school district officials have told us they want to embrace our philosophy of empowering students and teachers through technology innovation, but lack the right infrastructure to support this vision. As we’ve recently completed a three-year, district-wide technology refresh cycle, we thought we’d share our top takeaways to help our peers get more educational benefits from your network infrastructure.

Lesson #1: Organizational structure matters
Like many districts, in the past our IT department delivered products and services as a separate entity from our curriculum and instructional development staff. Now we’re all organized under the same leadership and our joint team is headed by a chief learning officer.

This reorganization resulted in a strategic shift to giving our curriculum staff the voice that drives our services. In other words, they provide the curricular vision and then we meet their expectations by delivering the right technology. Having a strong and collaborative relationship is critical for determining the infrastructure our district needs for the personalized learning and user experiences that support our district’s mission: “Every student enters with a promise and exits with a purpose.”

Lesson #2: Stay close to users
In addition to our curriculum and instruction teams, we maintain good communications with building principals, teachers, staff, students, and volunteers. We provide them with a clear understanding of our technology vision and the capabilities of our district infrastructure. This information allows our users to consider what classroom and operational innovations they can introduce to leverage the technology we provide to enhance classroom experiences.

Lesson #3: Pursue an ongoing refresh strategy
Instead of undergoing a massive infrastructure refresh once every five years, pursue a rotational schedule to tackle parts of your network every year. This enables you to meet new demands as they arise while also smoothing out capital budget cycles and staying focused on mission-critical tasks by eliminating the inherent distractions caused by major upgrade initiatives.

When pursuing this strategy, keep an eye on technology innovations to determine which ones to adopt immediately, because they add value and are cost-effective, and which to delay until a later date.


5 easy, low-cost ways to do AR & VR in your classroom

Check out the newest apps and websites that let your students explore immersive tech

Our classrooms are transforming—not just with new technology or furniture—but by completely transporting students to new places and experiences. Location, funding, and even reality are no longer limiting our students of personalized learning.

Early adopters of #ARVRinEDU (Augmented reality and virtual reality in education) have sought out resources to meet the demands and needs of our students and managed to keep their spending in line with the school budget. These immersive technologies are providing more than the “wow factor.” They are building a bridge that breaks through classroom limitations.

A small percentage of classrooms will have the funding and resources to bring mobile devices and viewers to every student, but the majority of our schools don’t have class sets. Most schools do, however, have access to tablets or laptops, or they have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) arrangement. By using what we already have, we eliminate the need for massive purchases, additional training, and the rapid transition to outdated devices. With the flood of new AR and VR tools ranging from web to app-based, our classrooms can include engaging activities that are flexible with the tools we already have available.

As students engage with content, they want the learning to be personalized, interactive, gamified, and authentic. Because AR and VR allow students to explore what they find interesting and interact with 3D objects as many times as necessary to gain understanding, educators no longer have to provide the same experience for every student.


Measuring the hidden costs of OER

Open educational resources hold the promise of providing districts with ‘free’ curriculum, but in reality, they can cost districts in four different ways

Open educational resources (OER) have been promoted as a solution to the rising costs and scalability needs in education. The idea that free content can solve curriculum needs and decrease costs is very appealing. In looking to OER as a potential solution, it is helpful to consider—beyond the “free” price tag—the actual cost of implementing a comprehensive OER program. Districts need to look at the implementation, management, and ongoing costs associated with OER.

Is OER the right fit?
There are key questions instructional leaders need to ask to see if OER is the right fit for their district. Often there is a vision for the content, whether it’s a lesson plan, unit, or entire curriculum. OER is created by nonprofits, organizations, and even individuals who have many purposes in mind as they contribute to education. After considering the purpose and motivation of the designers, educators should ask some additional questions:

  • What costs did the creator take on? Who paid those costs?
  • Is the OER high-quality and research-based?
  • What educational expertise does the designer have?
  • Is the OER designed using best-practice strategies? Is the content engaging?
  • If the OERs include advertisements, are these acceptable and in accordance with district policy?
  • Will the material be reliably updated and maintained?
  • Will the website be there in a year? Do the creators have enough funding to continue?

If OER seems like the right fit, the next big question to consider is this: What are the total costs of implementing and maintaining OER over time? These costs fall into four categories.


App of the Week: Kiddom

LMS offers tangible options to differentiate learning


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 looking for effective ways to differentiate and individualize learning should give Kiddom a look. Upload a document to an assignment from Google Drive, and students can download their own pre-named copies. Create standards-based assignments (with an option to use CASEL’s social and emotional learning competencies), and draw lessons and resources from one of many sites, including Listenwise, IXL, TedEd, and Khan Academy. Provide clear directions and exemplars to students by uploading videos, PDFs, pictures, and more. Help students track progress and achieve mastery by assigning lessons based on prior student progress, and promote student accountability by teaching students how to view and analyze their own data.

Price: Free

Grades: K-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Partnerships with companies like LearnZillion, CK-12, and Newsela give teachers access to ready-made lessons and resources.

Cons: The lack of collaborative or social features may disengage students, and the one-at-a-time grade entry process may frustrate teachers.

Bottom line: An excellent option for monitoring individual progress toward goals, but teachers will need to be deliberate when selecting and assigning content.


Teachers may not be so hot on students’ use of digital devices for learning

Do teachers have a positive view of digital devices? The answer might surprise you

Close to half of teachers (42 percent) in a Gallup poll say they think digital devices have a “mostly helpful” impact on students’ education, but they have less positive views of devices’ impact on physical and mental health.

Thirty percent of teachers in the March 5-12 poll say digital devices are neither helpful nor harmful to students’ education, and 28 percent say devices are mostly harmful.

Fifty-five percent of surveyed teachers say digital devices have a “mostly harmful” effect on students’ physical health, and a resounding 69 percent of teachers say students’ digital device use has a mostly harmful impact on their mental health.

The results are especially interesting when viewed in relation to increased debates about how students’ use of social media may impact anxiety and depression, as well as how social media platforms can be used for bullying.