Bridging the gap between science and coding

Students exposed to coding and programming at an early age are well equipped to take on higher-level computer science courses in high school—and they also build essential skills for future opportunities in the technology world.

When Rob van Nood was hired as the educational technology specialist for Catlin Gabel School in Oregon, coding and computer science courses were only offered in grades 9-12, and not to students in the younger grades.

Related content: 5 examples of coding and robotics in the classroom

This lack of coding education in earlier grades left a significant teaching gap in 21st century skills such as problem solving, designing, and computational thinking.

In a recent edWebinar, van Nood explained that it is his mission to mentor and facilitate computer science learning in a manner that integrates coding in every aspect of his students’ education.


Could technology addiction help students in school?

Instead of a game of dodgeball, kids are playing Fortnite, and instead of assembling building-block castles, they’ve swapped to Minecraft and so forth. Digitalization is on its sharpest incline yet, and it has thrown the “old ways” out the window.

But is it only children’s playtime that has been altered by technology?

In August 2019, eager to discover the impact that technology is having on our youngest generation – dubbed “Generation Alpha” – Domain.ME commissioned a study on children’s technology use. The results, although to a certain degree expected, did not fail to surprise.
How’s technology influencing our children?

Related content: 5 questions to ask about student screen addiction

Children of Gen Alpha are growing up with an array of possibilities that preceding generations did not have a chance to enjoy. From voice assistants, which they are already mastering around the time they learn to speak, to various applications that prompt cognitive development, this generation is under the magnifying glass. And the biggest question on everyone’s mind is: How is technology influencing our children?


4 ways school counselors can use tech to support students

Between my years as a high school counselor and current role as a school counselor specialist for the Arizona Department of Education, I’ve become familiar with the changes and challenges that school counselors across the U.S. are facing.

The 2018 Condition of College & Career Readiness found that college readiness levels remained dismal for underserved learners. This indicates a gap that we need to bridge. It’s imperative that schools provide students with resources and support for future readiness.

Related content: Inspiring students for career and college

According to former Jobs for the Future program manager Tobie Baker Wright, “good career exploration today is working to develop things in young people — the ability to work as part of a team, the ability to communicate effectively, personal responsibility — that help them have agency in making decisions about careers.”

I agree – when it comes to career exploration, the earlier the better. Unfortunately, a national shortage of school counselors has made it difficult to ensure that students have full support, and has resulted in unequal access for districts with a high student-to-counselor ratio.


7 strategies to improve vocabulary instruction

Two-thirds of students in the U.S. are struggling with reading and the gap is widening, according to recent NAEP testing. Although insufficient decoding skills are typically thought to be the reason for weak comprehension skills among students, research has revealed that in many cases, an area of pronounced weakness for struggling readers is vocabulary. As a language arts teacher and learning specialist, I have been alarmed by the decline in vocabulary knowledge I’ve witnessed over the years.

Starting several years ago, my colleagues, speech-language pathologists Beth Lawrence and Deena Seifert, began questioning long-held assumptions about how students should be taught vocabulary. They wondered whether rote memorization of dictionary definitions, a hallmark of vocabulary instruction for decades, ought to be used at all, considering that these definitions often include even more unfamiliar terms, further taxing students, especially those with a language deficit.

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They also hypothesized that students would benefit more from some of the tried-and-true approaches used for vocabulary instruction—explaining how words can be used in a variety of contexts, providing student-friendly definitions, offering repetition, emphasizing morphology (i.e., Greek and Latin roots), and supporting with visual cueing—if they were used alongside an approach that employs alternative modalities to teach word meanings.

Semantic reasoning is a unique approach developed by Beth and Deena that calls into play alternate modalities by asking students to learn and retrieve new words through non-verbal means.


5 ways our district tech enhances student safety

We live in a society where student safety and privacy have become core responsibilities for school districts nationwide. They’ve always been there, but with recent tragedies and incidents, the safety factor is more important than ever.

The issue is two-pronged: we have to be able to protect our students while they’re on campus (the “physical security” aspect) and also make sure that we’re paying close attention to potential mental health issues.

Related content: Schools need interoperability for safety plans

This is a difficult balance to strike in a world where we also have to follow strict student privacy guidelines and adhere to a myriad of other rules and regulations. The good news is that technology is serving as a great enabler in helping us more quickly identify and address issues before they turn into major problems.


4 steps to great customer service in your school

Although many in K-12 are cautious of comparing education to corporations, schools are in the business of educating students and preparing them for life. And one of the most important parts of any business is customer service.

During the edWebinar “Building Trust: 4 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve the K-12 Customer Experience,” the presenters explained why school leaders need to include customer service as part of their strategic plan. They also offered four steps to start improving school-community relations right away.

The presenters acknowledged that schools will have a more difficult time figuring out what good customer service looks like for their constituents than in other industries. Students, parents, teachers, and community members not only come from diverse backgrounds, but they also have disparate, and sometimes competing, needs.

Related content: Should you treat your school like a business?

At the Seattle Public Schools, Heidi Henderson-Lewis, Customer Service Manager and District Ombudsperson, says they focus first on building healthy relationships with the Five R’s: Ready, Responsive, Respectful, Reliable, and Reflective. In addition, they focus on being proactive instead of reactive. Sharing information, no matter whether it’s good or bad news, before community members hear it from somewhere else can help the school maintain a positive relationship.


How the tech community can minimize brain drain in rural communities

[Editor’s note: Today’s stories take a two-pronged look at rural brain drain. This story examines the issue from the tech community’s perspective. Look at the issue from an educator’s perspective here.]

As an educator with a background in computer science, I have always been passionate about teaching STEM skills to the next generation, particularly students in rural areas who may not have as much exposure. For the past several years, I have been doing just that for high school students in Alabama, most recently in Lawrence County.

In 2013 our county faced the closing of the paper mill, our largest employer and number one corporate citizen – greatly impacting an area where jobs and career options were already very limited. Since then, I’ve witnessed the proliferation of what many now call the “brain drain”–a problem particularly pervasive in rural areas, referring to how students are forced to look for careers outside of their hometowns due to limited career options in their fields of interest.

Related content: Where will STEM education be in 5 years?

With the increase in STEM careers and promise for students interested in pursuing this path, rural communities without access to these jobs feel the impact of rural brain drain particularly hard.


4 ways educators can combat rural brain drain

[Editor’s note: Today’s stories take a two-pronged look at rural brain drain. This story examines the issue from an educator’s perspective. Look at the issue from the tech community’s perspective here.]

More than 30 years ago, the Department of Justice researched and concluded that stronger families and communities create successful school environments. Fast forward to the present day, the importance of that link between the community and school is still vital for student success. There’s a give and take relationship with the education system and its community, meaning higher standards and stronger school systems encourage the community outside of the school to succeed as well.

With this in mind, a common problem in rural area schools is bridging that gap between school books and real-world experiences – particularly when it comes to STEM. With STEM fields expanding, it’s important to show students in rural communities how they can learn to be innovators and problem solvers for this generation.

Related content: STEM learning invigorates classrooms

In a small town, it doesn’t take much to help foster a child’s dreams and ambitions. It starts with a local business owner hosting a career fair, an optometrist judging a science fair, or a published author reading in their former classroom. With a community in tow, we need to cultivate their imagination and explore all possibilities by preparing them for the workforce, especially in the areas of STEM.


4 questions to ask about multimedia content

When considering multimedia presentation systems for classroom use, one’s mind immediately goes to the hardware–the monitors, projectors, and other components often grab all the attention. But, what is the critical ingredient in a multimedia presentation system? The MULTIMEDIA! Without high-quality multimedia content that is flexible to meet instructional goals, your presentation system is just a collection of high-priced hardware.

Over the last two years, I’ve had the unparalleled opportunity to talk with hundreds of educators nationwide as I gathered input and feedback on the design of Discovery Education Experience, our recently launched K-12 learning platform.

Related content: Key components of the digital classroom

During these discussions, I learned that educators approach choosing multimedia resources for their students just as they design classroom lessons–they start with their end goals in mind. They ask probing questions like: What are we trying to accomplish with our presentation system? What sort of instructional environment are we trying to create? What do we want teachers to be able to do within the multimedia environment we are creating?

Related Content:

eSchool News Multimedia Presentation Systems Guide

The eSchool News Multimedia Presentation Systems Guide is here! It features strategies to help you integrate engaging and media-rich tools into the classroom, and it offers a look at how these tools engage students and strengthen student voice. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!


A strategy to help struggling adolescent readers

According to the Nation’s Report Card, about two-thirds of eighth-graders are not proficient readers. What’s even more alarming is the fact that the size of that cohort has remained steady for the last 25 years! This means, unless they have had intervening remedial instruction, the majority of ninth-to-12th-grade students are also non-proficient readers. And, as can be seen by the Report Card, those inadequate reading comprehension skills are producing below-grade-level performance across academic subjects.

Fortunately, research shows that adolescence is not too late to learn to read well. The challenge for teachers is that one class of students will contain a wide range of reading abilities and needs, from those who are virtual non-readers to ones who are at grade level or above grade level.

Related content: Improving reading skills through text-based discussions

So, how do we teach all those students to read well? How do we maximize student learning? And how do we minimize the time it will take to get them to reading proficiency?

Understand students’ strengths and weaknesses

Even when they display similar reading proficiencies, students’ overall strengths and weaknesses are going to be very different. Therefore, it is essential to pinpoint the specific reason for a student’s lack of proficiency.