November 2019 Guide: Digital & Mobile Learning

We are excited to bring you the second in a series of eSchool News Guides, which are full of resources, tips, trends, and insight from industry experts on a variety of topics that are essential to the classroom, school, and district.


Robotics isn’t scary! 4 benefits of working with robots

A campus technology coordinator identifies four major benefits her district's students get from exploring robotics

Robotics is attracting more student interest, and there’s a reason–when students can make real-world connections between what they learn in the classroom and exciting careers, their engagement and achievement often improve.

Educators across the country are working to establish robotics clubs after school, they’re creating robotics units in STEM classes, and they’re doing their best to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn just how essential robotics is to our daily lives.

As the director of blended learning in the Lancaster Independent School District (TX), Kimberly Lane Clark works with district campuses to help them implement successful blended learning practices. In that role, she frequently incorporates personalized learning and differentiated instruction.

Between innovation labs, STEM schools, and focuses on entrepreneurship and software design, the district’s schools are varied and students have countless opportunities to participate in activities aligned with their interests.

Related Content:

eSchool News Robotics Guide

The eSchool News Robotics Guide is here! It features strategies to help you effectively integrate robotics into instruction, along with tips to find the right robotics resources to successfully teach key concepts. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!


5 places to learn about creepy robots this Halloween

Scary, out-of-control robots have long been a favorite Hollywood narrative--but sometimes that narrative becomes reality

Robotics is pretty awesome–our eSchool News Robotics Guide has reinforced that concept for anyone who wasn’t totally convinced. But sometimes, robotics and robots can also be a liiiiittle scary.

To close out robotics month and celebrate Halloween (because you’re never too old to celebrate Halloween), we’re taking a fun look at times when robotics or robots gave us a scare–or gave us some food for thought.

Some of these videos are probably a bit alarmist, and most of their “scary robots take over the world” predictions will come to fruition. Nonetheless, it’s fun to look at where robots started and where, guided by programmers and professionals whose interest in robotics began at an early age, they’re headed.

1. This video, the Top 10 Scariest AI Robot Moments, tackles Alexa, humanoid robots, self-driving cars, and more.

2. At CES 2019, this narrator encountered products that “might make you fear the artificial future we’re facing right around the corner.” AI has come a long way, and is heading down a super innovative path. But according to this narrator, companies are working really hard to replicate and replace human beings in general.


This program is determined to support girls in STEM

One educator uses the FlexFactor program to show girls and underrepresented student groups how they can pursue STEM careers

Few girls choose engineering classes because they aspire to be engineers. Many choose their classes because their friends do. The sense of belonging is important to them, and girls in STEM want to feel as if they belong. When Marsha* was young, she had no plans to be an engineer.

As she entered high school, many of her new friends joined the robotics club that met after school. Marsha initially decided to not join her friends. However, after a few weeks she started to feel left out of the daily conversation that usually revolved around robotics and their after school meetings. Consequently, Marsha found herself starting to attend every robotics meeting in order to keep up with the conversation and her new friends’ interests.

Ironically, Marsha realized how interesting engineering actually was, and eventually decided to join the competitive girl’s robotics team that year. With Marsha’s help and with the guidance of a female robotics mentor, the team qualified for an all-girls robotics competition. Marsha’s love for engineering was set.

Related content: 4 career connections to help get more girls in STEM

When Marsha’s peers were selecting electives for the following year, she heard that the 2nd year of engineering would be a continuation of what she had already learned in the robotics club, and the same female teacher was again the robotics mentor. Marsha continued in engineering her junior and senior year, and has now decided to major in computer science.

Marsha’s story illustrates some of the key components required to recruit and retain girls in STEM: community, focus on soft skills like written and verbal communication as well as technical skills, the appeal of problem solving in the real world, and relatable mentors or role models. These components are an integral part of the FlexFactor program, and they are why I am a strong supporter of the initiative for its appeal to students like Marsha.


7 great classroom grants you should apply for today

Check out these classroom grants if you or your school are in need of a funding boost or additional resources

Most schools grapple with budget restrictions and funding frustrations–and that’s where classroom grants can be just what the doctor ordered.

There are classroom grants to support STEM learning, to improve school culture, to bring awareness to bullying prevention, and to recognize excellent educators.

Related content: 9 tips from innovative schools

Set Google alerts and keep searching online, because there are tons of classroom grants that meet your teaching and learning needs. While not every grant offers tens of thousands of dollars, smaller grants do add up–and that means more funding for your projects that support your goals.

1. Vernier Engineering Contest: 2020 Engineering Contest, which recognizes the innovative use of Vernier technology to introduce engineering concepts or practices to students. Middle school, high school, and college educators are encouraged to apply for the chance to win a prize valued at $5,500. To enter, educators must complete an online application and produce a video showcasing the investigation conducted with students, the Vernier technology used, and the engineering concepts addressed. The Vernier sensors may be used in conjunction with any Vernier software titles or other programming and robotics systems.
Deadline: February 15, 2020


Inspiring students for college and career—and beyond

Educators can deepen students’ college and career interests with dedicated discovery exercises

Students are constantly reminded about the importance of preparing for college and career, but the responsibility is a shared one. Educators and parents play a large role in ensuring that students are equipped with the proper skillset and knowledge to navigate life post-high school, and are motivated to succeed.

For students to feel motivated, they must be inspired. To make this happen, I use resources provided by TGR EDU: Explore in my classroom, a program that aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in college and career–and beyond.

Related content: 4 ways to support college and career readiness

Part of the program includes Discover Your Passion, an exercise that helps students identify their interests, brainstorm future goals for college and career, and discover their passions. Students visualize, organize, and illustrate their pathways, and create action plans to help achieve them.


Recruiting English learners and students of color for advanced classes

Research shows English learners and students of color are underrepresented in advanced classes--but key strategies can boost their enrollment

While some English learners and students of color may be striving to attain minimal academic competency, others are likely to be high-ability or gifted/talented students who are not receiving appropriate support for their needs, and therefore are less engaged and have lower levels of participation in programs suitable for them.

English learners (ELs) and students of color are persistently underrepresented in advanced classes and in programs for students identified as gifted, according to research presented during a recent edWebinar led by professors Julia Nyberg and Misty LaCour of Purdue University Global. Dr. Nyberg and Dr. LaCour then identified effective ways to improve the number of students participating and the extent of their engagement, through the use of outreach programs and classroom strategies.

Related content: One student at a time: Reaching an English learner

The underrepresentation of ELs and students of color may be due to a lack of technical measures that can be used to identify high-ability and gifted students, or the incomplete application of such measures across diverse student populations.


Teachers say these 6 things can help students with math

A survey sheds light on frequent issues and positive strategies to help students with math

Poor performance in previous math classes and low confidence are some of students’ biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to math success, according to a new survey about math education.

The survey of more than 400 high school math teachers comes from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). Teachers in the survey are all coaches for student teams participating in the MathWords Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, a national online contest SIAM organizes.

Related content: How we created a growth mindset to help students with math

The results indicate that students don’t need innate math genius to excel. Instead, they need practice, confidence, and real-world connections.

“Contrary to public opinion, the results of the survey demonstrate that success in math is not based on nature, but rather, an aptitude for math can be nurtured with effort, motivation, and self-assurance,” says Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge project director at SIAM. “The results also reinforce the importance of making math relevant to everyday life as a foundation to increase students’ desire to learn.”

1. Top 3 success factors

Teachers said the top three success factors for high math performance are: working hard to understand math concepts and knowing when to apply them versus simply memorizing formulas (75 percent); having the desire, initiative, and motivation to succeed (63 percent); and having confidence in their abilities and believing they can succeed (48 percent).


Getting started with AR in the classroom

It's not as difficult as you might think to introduce AR to your students--here are a couple tools to help you dive in

Augmented reality (AR) is described by Jaime Donally in a recent edWebinar as a “digital layer in our real world that gives an illusion that it exists in our space.”

As she highlights, it is an exciting time, as emerging technologies associated with AR are feeling much more realistic. AR software such as Google Maps allows the viewer to have guidance as they are walking in a new area, and AR-embedded browsers can display 3D animated objects in real-life environments.

Related content: 10 AR apps for your classroom

The key to giving students opportunities to use AR begins with supporting teachers as they enhance learning experiences for students. Using AR software and tools such as 3DBear and MERGE, teachers have access to an abundance of activities and lesson plans that offer more in-depth content, provide opportunities for collaboration and exploration, and expand students learning experiences outside of classroom walls.


For kindergarten students, Augmented Alphabet is a lesson that is effective for teaching letter-sound relationships. Using mobile devices such as tablets and iPads, students use AR to demonstrate the letter-sound connection with reflection sheets and interactive activities. Teachers can evaluate students through the students’ ability to respond, react, and explain what they have completed and accomplished.


New Zealand is putting student empowerment at the heart of its data drive

An education official explains how a new data repository will soon offer access to more useful information on demand

New Zealand is a small, some would argue, perfectly formed, country. We’re diverse and proud of it. That diversity is reflected in our education system.

Our roughly 5,000 early childhood education providers, 2,500 schools, 30 universities and polytechnics, and more than 400 private training establishments all run relatively autonomously. That autonomy creates a lot of choice for students and their families, as each provider reflects the diversity of its community in both its values and the local curriculum they offer.

Related content: Here’s how data can inform every lesson

The core attributes of this system have been in place for a long time and it generally serves us pretty well. We punch above our weight by international standards in terms of investment and outcomes from education. Our main challenge is that we have huge variability in outcomes – our top students do exceptionally well but too many of our students fall behind and never catch up.