3 ways to navigate American politics in the classroom

In our current social climate, it can be tricky for anyone, especially a teenager, to talk about politics and the role of government. But as educators, it’s our job to explain the varying viewpoints that make up our political discourse. It’s also our job to foster an open, secure environment in which students feel safe to share their own opinions.

As an online instructor at a statewide public school, I’ve taught U.S. government and politics during two contentious election cycles. And although I live in California, a left-leaning state, I teach students from across the state whose core beliefs fall all along the political spectrum. From day one, I explain to students that respecting different viewpoints—even when you don’t agree—is part of building maturity. Here are three ways I build a culture of respect in my classroom.

1. Set guidelines
At the start of each session, I provide several rules for students about how we will discuss upcoming topics. Students must respect their classmates’ opinions and offer constructive criticism. I also remind them that I may revoke chat privileges if they do not adhere to these class rules.…Read More

What’s the one tech tool you can’t give up?

With so many tech tools out there, it’s hard to pick just one, but we convinced a bunch of educators to share their must-haves. Hopefully, their words of praise will help you the next time you’re looking for a new product to check out.

“I’ve been using LanSchool for about four years and I love it. I try not to constantly filter or block my student’s Internet access, but it’s nice to have a program that can keep them focused if they get off task.”—Tom Gilbert, M. Ed., NBCT, business and marketing education/DECA advisor, Apex Friendship High School, N.C.

“Until we found Workbench Programming Canvas, we were struggling with ways to help teachers access lessons that teach coding using Spheros and drones. Now our teachers can easily find these lessons on the Workbench platform, get them out to students, and track student progress.”—Ryan Johnson, former instructional technology coordinator, Enterprise (CA) Elementary School District…Read More

10 conversations about digital equity

Educators universally agree that equity should be one of the top priorities in every school and in every district across the country.

Addressing equity issues is more difficult for some districts than others due to factors such as funding, parental involvement, and policy.

According to new Speak Up data from Project Tomorrow, 43 percent of school site administrators say implementing digital content is an effective tool for ensuring equity across classrooms, throughout the school, and within their district. A majority of school principals say instruction in their classrooms regularly includes digital games, online textbooks, and online videos, animations and simulations.…Read More

6 STEM grants to try in the new school year

There’s no arguing the importance of STEM education, but schools and districts don’t always have the money for “extra” STEM activities for students or teachers.

That’s where grants come into the picture–an enterprising educator can snag extra funding or additional resources for classroom STEM projects and can help students do the same.

Check out the following five grants; we have some for students, some for educators, and they all focus on STEM teaching and learning.…Read More

Resources for creating a school culture of empathy, inclusion, and kindness

Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we’ve heard from many educators who are looking for resources to support students’ social and emotional development. To help, we’ve collected our best social and emotional learning (SEL) resources for building a culture of safety, kindness, and upstanding in your school.

SEL Educator Toolkit
SEL skills aren’t core content, but they’re at the core of all content. Find lessons, activities, classroom tools, and family resources to help students learn about character strengths and develop empathy, compassion, integrity, and more.

Digital Citizenship and SEL
A key aspect of digital citizenship is thinking critically when faced with digital dilemmas. Navigating these challenges isn’t only about rules and procedures; it’s about character. Help students examine challenging online situations with this discussion guide.…Read More

3 ways to improve special education outcomes

When you combine a steady growth in the number of students receiving special education services with rising expectations for the educators who serve these students, all of whom have very diverse needs, you get a “perfect storm” of challenges for K-12 leaders.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 6.6 million students in U.S. public schools—or 13 percent—received some form of special education services during the 2014-15 school year, and this number is on the rise. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the percentage of children diagnosed with a developmental disability rose from 5.76 percent in 2014 to 6.99 percent in 2016—and the number of students diagnosed with ADHD increased from 4.4 million in 2003 to 6.1 million in 2016.

As the number of students who qualify for special education services continues to climb, the high bar for the standard of education for these students has been reiterated by the Supreme Court. In the landmark case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the Court affirmed that school systems must be “appropriately ambitious” in designing an individualized education program (IEP) that meets the needs of every child with a disability.…Read More

How wearables, AR, and VR help students to develop SEL skills (part 2)

In my previous post, “How wearables, AR, and VR help students develop SEL skills (part 1),” I explored the ways in which wearables, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) show promise in helping to cultivate social-emotional skills. All three technologies have been greeted with excitement by both the consumer market and many education stakeholders. While these technologies have great potential to support learning in new and novel ways, it is not a given that they will live up to the anticipation surrounding them. As expectations continue to build, educators can begin thinking through the various ways that they might be employed most effectively for learning.

KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight publication, Leveraging Digital Depth for Responsive Learning Environments: Future Prospects for Wearables, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality, explores how wearables, AR, and VR might be used to create responsive learning environments that can help with the cultivation of social-emotional skills. The publication proposes that educators think about possible uses of wearables, AR, and VR by first considering the types of environments these technologies can create and how they might support student learning. To help educators think about possibilities for these technologies in learning the paper presents a framework called the digital depth spectrum which consists of three kinds of spaces:

  • Enhanced physical spaces alter the physical world by applying a thin layer digital information capture, sharing, and feedback.
  • Hybrid spaces use multiple digital layers and more extensive computer-generated content, connectivity, and experiences to enable experiences that have a higher degree of digital immersion but which are still anchored in physical space.
  • Fully digital spaces provide full immersion in digitally created environments with little reference to physical space.
…Read More

3 reasons elementary schools should adopt an LMS—and where to begin

Is it really possible for young learners to effectively use a learning management system (LMS)? This is a common question administrators and educational practitioners ask when considering LMS adoption at the district level.

Through my work with educators across the country, I know the number of elementary school districts and administrators turning to LMS adoption is increasing for all grades—preparing students at a young age to use the technology they will need to master for high school, college, and beyond.

Here are three reasons why districts should consider adopting an LMS for elementary and how they can begin technological integration for all classrooms.…Read More

8 essential qualities of a digital literacy curriculum

“Jeff. I’ve got a big challenge. Help!”

That was a voicemail message I received from a friend, a principal at a local elementary school one sunny summer afternoon. What was the challenge? Her 30 slightly apprehensive teachers had to deliver a digital literacy curriculum to her 450+ students the next school year. Like many other educators around the country, the principal’s team understood the need for their students to learn digital-literacy skills to become responsible citizens and to be prepared for the challenges of college, and careers, but … where to start?

Before discussing building, purchasing or creating a digital literacy curriculum, we decided to devise a set of essential qualities that we felt would be helpful to evaluate potential digital-literacy curriculum options. Ultimately, with the help of other schools and districts, we decided to focus upon these eight themes:…Read More