App of the Week: Daily news and events, just for kids

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? News-O-Matic, School Edition, 2015-16 is a daily news and activity app for kids in grades 2–5. Teachers and kids can read five current events articles daily, answer questions, chat with classmates about the stories, and send comments or questions to the editor. Topics include everything from religion and politics to scientific discoveries and kid entrepreneurs.

Rating: 4/5…Read More

6 apps to help parents and teachers communicate

Keep parents in the loop with these tools

Educators know that students’ home lives play an integral role in their academic success. Communication between teachers and parents makes it easier for educators to understand the outside challenges students may deal with, and it helps parents understand how they can better support their children in school.

SimplyCircle
SchoolCircle helps parents stay connected to teachers by organizing school communications in a central dashboard with action items and alerts.

Ringya
Ringya lets users create groups and, within those groups, create subgroups or lists. Users can call, text, email, and chat with individuals, subgroups, or the entire group. Group members are identified by how they’re connected to the user, so a teacher knows who is calling or texting.…Read More

K-12 science teachers in dire need of PD

Sustained professional learning opportunities are needed to help science teachers teach new science standards, according to a new report

K-12 science teachers are often left to deal with a lack of coherent and sustained professional learning opportunities that researchers say are needed to support science teachers inside and outside of the classroom, particularly as they strive to teach new science standards.

As researchers’ and teachers’ understanding of how best to learn and teach science evolves and curricula are redesigned, many teachers are left without the experience needed to enhance the science and engineering courses they teach, according to a Jan. 20 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

This issue is particularly pronounced in elementary schools and in schools that serve a high percentage of low-income students.…Read More

Classroom observations may hurt teachers more than they help, study says

Classroom observations — one of the most widely-used forms of teacher evaluation — might be setting teachers up to fail

Teachers might be at a disadvantage during classroom observation of their instructional practice, which is one of the most widely-used tools for high-stakes job performance evaluations. And whether or not students have a history of high classroom achievement could be the reason why.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) indicates that evaluations based on observing teachers in the classroom often fail to meaningfully assess teacher performance.

The study, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, adds to the ongoing policy debate over when and how teachers should be evaluated.…Read More

The next top scientist could win $25,000

The next generation of STEM leaders is invited to solve tomorrow’s challenges and compete for $25,000 in the annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Discovery Education and 3M have opened the annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a national science competition for students in grades 5-8.

Through the program, young inventors have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work closely with a 3M Scientist Mentor, compete for $25,000, and earn the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

The Challenge rewards students who use their science acumen and innovative thinking to create new ways to solve the issues we face every day. Hannah Herbst, who won last year for her energy probe prototype that seeks to offer a stable power source to developing countries, entered the contest because she wanted to help her 9-year-old pen pal living in Ethiopia who lacks a reliable source of power and electricity.…Read More

Future Ready update adds new resources and PD for leaders

Future Ready overhaul coincides with the new national ed-tech plan

Last Thursday, The United States Department of Education held an event at the White House unveiling the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Future Ready initiative. There, along with several partner groups, they announced several new commitments and initiatives to help schools become more digitally capable.

The main theme of the event was connectivity, but that extends far beyond merely connecting students to technology. Instead, the idea of connectivity envisioned for the future is that technology will serve as a means to connect students to teachers, and allow all students to experience the same access to their interests regardless of demographics.

“There’s an answer for every challenge out there,” said Daryl Adams, Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, who attended the event. “United in purpose and mission, we can do anything.”…Read More

App of the Week: Shakespeare for the iPad generation

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Common Sense Graphite. To read the full app review, click here.
shakespeare-in-bits

What’s It Like? Within Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo & Juliet, the full text of the play is featured side-by-side with an animated reenactment. While the style of animation is somewhat simplistic, there are professional actors voicing the parts. Within the text, simply tapping any highlighted words offers a more modern-day term. Tabs at the top of the text let students move easily between the text, section notes, a synopsis, and their own notes. A navigation bar at the bottom of the screen shows all options — viewing by scene, examining characters, reading analysis, and reviewing notes.

Graphite Rating: 4/5

Price: $15…Read More

How ESSA will boost ed-tech funding

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes block grants intended for technology, among other uses. It also opens the door to new state testing systems

essa-ed-techEight years after the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to expire, Congress finally passed a bill to replace it—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—that gives states more latitude in deciding how to close achievement gaps. The legislation also includes a sizeable state block-grant program intended for technology, among other uses.

Although it’s not the program that ed-tech advocates had hoped for, many expressed cautious optimism that a section of ESSA under Title IV (“21st Century Schools”) could help schools use technology tools to transform teaching and learning.

“We’re pleased that the federal government has renewed its commitment to funding educational technology,” said Lan Neugent, interim executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, in an interview. “It’s great to see that become a priority again.”…Read More

New online portal facilitates i-Ready implementation

Collection of online resources aims to give teachers the right tools exactly when they need them

i-ReadyCurriculum Associates recently launched i-Ready Central to help teachers, principals, and administrators successfully implement its i-Ready program.

The online portal, offered at no additional cost to all i-Ready users and accessible 24/7, includes more than 160 resources organized around stages of implementation throughout the school year.

These resources, including tips, training videos, and planning tools, will be updated frequently to ensure educators have the most current, relevant content at their fingertips when they need it.…Read More

The advanced Google searches every student should know

“Did he seriously just ask that? How old is this guy?” Well yes, I recently seriously just asked a group of students if they knew how to search Google. And yes, the students got a good laugh from my question.

“Of course I know how to use Google,” I have been told by every student to whom I have asked the question.

“Really? Let’s see. This won’t take long,” I promise.…Read More

Kickstarter campaign funds new programmable robots

Programmable robots for kids exceed Kickstarter goal

cannybot-programmingA new Kickstarter campaign has already exceeded its funding goal to produce programmable robots that can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet.

Similar to Spheros, Cannybots, as the robots are known, help teach kids about robotics, programming, design, and 3D printing while they are playing.

The robots look like toy cars and can be programmed to move around a track and in a number of play scenarios such as high speed racing, time trials, sumo-wrestling, jousting and puzzle-solving. Students can also design new car bodies and use a 3D printer to realize their designs.…Read More

These 3 policy areas could help principals become more effective

New report details how state policymakers can help strengthen, support principals

principals-policyWhile school principals are often low priorities on state education policy agendas, a handful of states have taken steps to strengthen the role principals play in schools, according to a new report commissioned by the Wallace Foundation.

After analyzing how principals are supported and prioritized in a number of states, Paul Manna, professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary and the report’s author, suggests that those states’ actions focus on three areas in policymaking.

1. State leaders can move principals higher on policy agendas. Teachers typically have the larger share of agendas and professional development investments, according to the report. But when principals are elevated in state policy agendas, it can strengthen other state education efforts. “Numerous state education policy initiatives developed during the last two decades depend heavily on excellent principals for their success,” the report notes.…Read More