5 infrastructure concerns for district technology leaders

The growing need for more internet bandwidth is being pushed by an increase in the number of students with devices, according to CoSN’s Annual Infrastructure Survey.

Increases in online assessments and digital content also drive the need for higher bandwidth, according to the report.

The report addresses key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security, and cloud-based services.…Read More

3 challenges to OER implementation

Open educational resources (OER) have made their presence known in education, with teachers and administrators voicing their excitement over free resources that are easily shared and adapted.

In fact, the movement has grown so much that it has received federal attention. The U.S. Department of Education’s #GoOpen campaign encourages states, school districts and educators to use open educational resources.

The Department is proposing a regulation that would require all copyrightable intellectual property created with ED grant funds to have an open license.…Read More

Survey: Parents prefer texting and mobile communication from schools

Determining the right mix of traditional and digital tools to best engage with parents and district stakeholders remains a primary challenge for district communications, according to a new report.

A large part of a school district’s ability to implement successful initiatives or pass bonds lies in its communications and its ability to connect with community members.

Now, a new report from Blackboard and Project Tomorrow outlines the different roles district communications officials play in today’s schools. The results reflect the increasingly important yet challenging role of communications in today’s K-12 districts.…Read More

What’s next in ed-tech? These 18 trends

I do a lot of speaking about technology trends in education, and none of my talks seem to get larger audiences than those that address new or emerging technologies. Part of this is our never ending interest in what is “new,” and also that little voice in my head that says, “maybe I am falling behind.”

So, as an educator interested in technology — after all, you are reading eSchool News — what is the best source for tracking emerging technologies for learning? And, even more important, which of these emerging technologies address the chief problems you are trying to solve in your school or school district?

The answer to the first question is easy. Each year the New Media Consortium (NMC) and CoSN—the Consortium for School Networking — jointly create the Horizon Report. Produced with the insights of an international panel of experts, and with nearly one million downloads per year, this report on emerging technologies for learning is likely the most well-read report identifying key technology trends for primary and secondary education. (The 2016 Report is made possible by Share Fair Nation at go.nmc.org/2016-k12). This comprehensive report helps education leaders and practitioners develop future-focused digital strategies and learning approaches that mirror the needs and skills of the real world.…Read More

These 7 keys are helping one district better prepare its students

In any given third-grade classroom, you can find a student who is reading at a level far beyond their age, and another who is still working on letter recognition. How does a traditional classroom teacher with 25-30 kids manage such a wide range of students? As a district leader, how do I support our teachers and ensure that they are challenging students who are at a higher level while providing struggling students with proper support?

These are the tough questions I asked myself when taking over as superintendent of Maury County Schools in Tennessee in August 2015. Within the first few months, we ditched the old literacy model to adopt a project-based focus; deployed instructional coaches (without hiring anyone); and launched a top-down, district-level approach that quickly gained bottom-up buy-in through school and community support. We also implemented a differentiated literacy program and digital library that measures reading with reading—not quiz scores and points.

Creating the Keys to Success

In my first days as superintendent, I did what I called a “22in22 Tour” where I traveled to all 22 schools in my district in 22 days. I know from experience that the best leaders are the best listeners, so I made sure to take the time to hear what school leaders and classroom teachers had to say about Maury’s administrative approach. I heard loud and clear that there were issues of trust, lack of resources, switching initiatives on a dime, and a need for truly aligned and supportive professional development. That’s when I knew I had to eliminate the top-down approach that the district had taken in the past (and many districts employ) and go through a process to determine our Keys to Success.…Read More

Washington district partners with Discovery on college, career readiness

Washington’s Highline Public Schools announced the launch of a new partnership supporting college and career readiness with Discovery Education, provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms.

Through this collaboration, all K-12 classrooms districtwide will have access to engaging digital content through Discovery Education Streaming Plus, an award-winning, comprehensive digital service supplementing instruction across all K-12 curricular areas.

In addition, 35 teacher leaders and their principals, representing five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school, will participate in Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps. A comprehensive professional development system, Digital Leader Corps develops teacher-leaders to propel the district’s transition to modern digital learning environments.…Read More

This city’s blended learning program has led to a big culture shift

Key takeaways:

  • A blended learning program in D.C. began in 2012 is freeing up time for more project-based learning by pairing ELA and math software with individualized lessons.
  • Both national and local grants are providing much of the funding.
  • A training program is helping teachers rethink lessons for blended learning.
  • One school has seen an 11-point increase in its math proficiency rate and a 4.5-point increase in reading.
  • “We’ve seen a real culture shift here and I suspect that we’ll see continued changes and a lot of success,” said one district ed-tech leader.

For the past two years, the Washington, D.C. Public School District (DCPS) has earned a sort of celebrity status with lawmakers, superintendents, and think tank heads filing in to see what, and especially how, students are learning. They have a good reason to visit. In a district that has been plagued with low test scores and student performance, several D.C. schools have seen student proficiency levels jump in math and reading in recent years.

Part of their success has hinged on the way teachers are using blended learning in the classroom.

“Blended learning definitely has been an important factor in the changes we’ve seen in our students, our teachers, and in our schools,” says David Rose, deputy chief in the district’s Dept. of Educational Technology and Library Programs.…Read More

Nampa School District 131 becomes first in Idaho to implement the itslearning LMS

As part of its on-going efforts to improve communications, foster collaboration, and bolster student achievement, Nampa School District #131 (Nampa SD) in Nampa, Idaho has become the first school district in the state to implement the itslearning learning management system. With 24 schools, Nampa SD serves 15,000 students in grades preK – 12, and will begin using the itslearning system this fall.

Designed specifically for the K-12 sector, itslearning is a cloud-based digital learning platform that gives teachers, students and parents access to as appropriate course materials, assignments, communities for collaboration, progress reports, and more. According to Dr. Nicole MacTavish, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at Nampa SD, it was the system’s ability to centralize so many resources, data, and processes – and interact with other district systems – that sold them on itslearning.

“We wanted to provide our teachers with a way to easily access a wide variety of content, as well as the ability to collaborate on best instructional practices. Another priority was to improve parent communication and participation,” said MacTavish. “We know from past experience that adding more or different systems wasn’t the answer. If we are truly going to support teachers, students, and parents we need to streamline processes and eliminate barriers. For over a year our task force researched options and spoke with other districts and concluded that itslearning is the platform that will allow us to taking teaching and learning to the next level and beyond.”…Read More

Florida Virtual School migrates to Brightspace

Florida Virtual School (FLVS), a statewide public school district in the state of Florida and international provider of education products and services, has selected D2L, a global learning technology provider, to deploy its Brightspace platform as the district’s new learning management system (LMS).

FLVS, the largest fully accredited online state public school in the U.S., had nearly 400,000 completed semester enrollments in the 2015-16 academic year.

The Brightspace platform includes a number of advantages that were key elements in its selection by FLVS. Since the platform incorporates personalized learning, teachers can deliver their lessons with much greater flexibility and give each student the personal experience they need to succeed. Brightspace was designed with modern students in mind and offers a clean, responsive user experience as well as integrated social media, chat and advanced video features.…Read More

Arizona district turns to tech to improve equity and access in college and career readiness

Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, all students in grades 9-12 in Dysart Unified School District in Maricopa County, Arizona, will be able to more effectively collaborate with school counselors to identify their strengths, plan academic coursework, determine career aspirations, find best-fit colleges, and discover scholarships using Naviance by Hobsons, a digital college and a career planning platform.

Having tripled in size since 2000, Dysart USD is recognized as one of the fastest-growing school systems in the state, serving a high population of Latinos and English Language Learners (ELLs), as well as first-generation college-bound students. Despite its unprecedented growth, the district has maintained an 85 percent graduation rate among its four comprehensive high schools. The district’s goal is to graduate all students ready for college, career, and a productive life in the 21st century.

“We take our responsibility to prepare students for the opportunities and challenges beyond high school graduation very seriously. We work as a community—of teachers, parents, students, and community leaders—to provide a supportive learning environment that empowers students to achieve life-long success,” said Dysart Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick, who was named Arizona Superintendent of the Year in 2015. “As we continue to grow and serve a more diverse student population, we consider Hobsons a strategic partner to help us scale our college and career readiness initiatives and inform our district-wide strategy, ensuring that all students are set up for success.”…Read More