Why maker technology is crucial for students with learning difficulties

3D printing and hands-on learning opens up new worlds to some students

difficulties-stemI had always been good at building or “making” with my hands. Whether it was helping my dad with repairs around the house or building model airplanes, I found tremendous focus and inspiration with these types of projects.

The classroom was another matter. Throughout my time in school, I struggled greatly with traditional learning methods. My teachers quickly became frustrated with my lack of enthusiasm and focus on my work. Most assumed I was unintelligent or lazy. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of sixteen that things began to change.

Like myself, other students with learning difficulties—from dysgraphia (a difficulty with writing, mainly in spelling) and attention disorders like ADD and ADHD—respond well to visual or tactile learning and activities that allow physical participation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And these learning impediments are not as uncommon as you might imagine. In the US alone, approximately eight percent of children were identified by a health professional as having a learning disorder, according to a 2014 study. As these types of difficulties become more recognized every day, the importance of adjusting teaching methods has started to increase accordingly.…Read More

3 must-dos for caring for your mobile devices

Use these tips to ensure devices are being properly used and cared for

mobile-learningToday’s classrooms, at any level, are drastically different from the classrooms of just 10 years ago. Messy chalkboards have been replaced by interactive whiteboards connected to computers. Personal tablets and styluses have taken over the classic No. 2 pencils and lined paper. In fact, many middle and high school students have access to mobile devices and are using those devices for schoolwork. And, according to a 2014 report by Project Tomorrow, almost a third of those students are using a mobile device issued by their schools.

While mobile learning continues to work its way further into educational institutions, administrators and their team of educators are faced with a new set of issues.

How will our teachers and students learn to use these devices?…Read More

It’s time for every student to learn to code

Learning to code is about more than career readiness. It’s about helping students make sense of their digital world

code-kidsRecently, there has been a lot of discussion around the importance of coding in the K-12 classroom. Should it be compulsory for all students? An elective? Reserved for those students considering a computer science major in college?

The answer may come down to supply and demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs and only 400,000 computer science students to fill those roles. This represents a gap of one million jobs that will go unfilled, and amounts to a $500 billion opportunity lost.

In 2015, when more and more schoolwork, from kindergarten up through college, is done in a digital environment, students need to know the fundamentals of how the system they are using functions. By incorporating coding and computer science into our schooling starting in elementary school, we can help close this gap and ensure we have enough individuals with the right knowledge and expertise to fill these jobs.…Read More

Oregon Trail and the true value of immersive gaming in the classroom

Twenty-five years ago Oregon Trail changed the face of games in learning. One industry pro looks at lessons learned

immersive-gamingWalk into any bar and ask if someone remembers Oregon Trail. They’re bound to launch into a story about fording the river and losing all their supplies, how little Mary died of dysentery, or how their family’s wagon turned over on the journey. Oregon Trail defines an entire generation of adults. There’s a certain amount of childhood nostalgia that became visible in February as the 1990 version of the game became available to play for free, via the Internet Archive.

What is it about Oregon Trail that had such a profound impact on us that we clearly remember the experience years later?

Part of the answer lies in the way in which social studies is often taught. Despite the best efforts of teachers, history classes cover so much material that often the only choice is to focus on major events, dates, and important people. Not surprisingly, many kids find that sort of rote memorization boring and never truly engage with the material. That affects both comprehension and retention. Long after the test, students might remember the date of the Battle of Hastings, but the context and significance is often lost.…Read More

How schools can keep students safe, and on Facebook

In a BYOD world, managing access to popular social media sites has become critical

facebook-mdmToday, educators are implementing exciting technological advances in teaching and learning. e-learning and a broadening acceptance of social media, online collaboration, and other forms of technological engagement are shaping how we view education, and what it will look like going forward. However, this paradigm shift also opens a Pandora’s Box of threats that require administrators to rethink IT strategies and solutions.

In addition to complying with regulations such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), K-12 administrators have to deal with concerns like cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and students accessing inappropriate video content on a host of devices—a problem made more challenging by the increasing adoption of mobile devices on school networks through one-to-one initiatives and BYOD policies. K-12 administrators have to consider ways to extend their network security policies to these devices as well.

As K-12 organizations embrace a more mobile environment, security necessarily becomes a top priority in keeping students and networks safe, while providing access to educational tools and resources online.…Read More

Where is our obsession with testing leading us?

A look at global STEM powerhouses shows that high-stakes testing doesn’t mean successful students

testing-obsessionWhenever vitally important goals hang in the balance, people want proof that progress is being made toward achieving those goals. It’s human nature—whether those objectives are building a skyscraper, eliminating disease or, perhaps most notably, educating our children.

Equitable, effective and high-quality public education is an essential goal not just here in the U.S., but in virtually every global society. The question is, is standardized testing a fair measure of progress? And what do we sacrifice in the pursuit of such testing?

The answers to those questions may lie in the situation now affecting many Asian nations. Children in that region are outperforming their global peers, and test scores are high. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent PISA study, the Chinese—specifically children in Shanghai and Hong Kong—rank the highest in mathematics proficiency, a key measure of academic success. The United States, by contrast, ranks 36 out of the 65 countries and economic areas measured.…Read More

Turn snow days into e-learning days with these 6 simple steps

With some pre-planning, schools and districts can turn snow days into learning opportunities

snow-learningThe latest winter storm to pound the Northeast left a foot or two of snow in its wake, in the process shutting down much of the tri-state region, limiting access to roads, flights, and, of course, preventing schools from opening.

While the amount of snow needed for schools to close varies by region, there is no denying that excessive snow days have begun to bleed into summer vacation over the past few years. Luckily, some school administrators have found a new approach to end snow days for good.

The solution is called “e-learning days,” or days dedicated to doing schoolwork over the internet.…Read More

5 essential tech checks for 2015

Is your tech ready to rock in the New Year? Follow this simple checklist and find out

checlist-techIt’s hard to believe, but 2015 is already upon us. For technology directors and IT personnel, that means a whole new year of fires to put out, devices to fix and networks to repair.

Amid all the chaos, it can be easy to let general maintenance slip under your radar. But in my years as a tech director for districts around California, I realized that staying on top of the small things helped me be more prepared to handle big issues as they arose.

So I came up with five essential “tech checks” to complete at the beginning of each calendar year, and I hope they’ll be as helpful to you as they were to me.…Read More

The 5 keys of any successful Career and Technical Education program

A growing number of schools are investing in CTE. Discover what every good program needs

career-technicalSince its inception, the discipline of Career and Technical Education (CTE) has transformed into a rigorous educational program that continues to address students’ skills and training as they enter the national workforce.

CTE initiatives are quickly catching national attention, with many states, and even the federal government, drafting legislation in favor of implementing CTE programs in school districts. As school curricula continue to evolve to meet the needs of a global economy, here are five key components necessary for creating a successful CTE program.

Interactive Tools
Implementing technology in the classroom is rapidly becoming the focus of many school district initiatives to help students and educators effectively learn and grow in their programs of study. This developing trend is especially true for CTE programs, as more districts around the country adopt and implement CTE curriculum. With the changing global workforce, technology skills often play a core role in training students for a career or postsecondary education. Integrating technology into traditional lessons creates an interactive learning environment and allows for project-based experiences through a digital source.…Read More

Six tips for classroom technology success

An industry advisory panel of educators shares strategies to help teachers – regardless of their tenure – implement education technology in the classroom

lego-technologyThe LEGO Education Advisory Panel (LEAP) advises LEGO Education, the education division within the LEGO group, on how to meet the needs of educators and students. The panel consists of 50 educators, across all levels of education, who are experienced with the trials and triumphs of using unconventional teaching tools in the classroom.

Drawing from our experience using a wide gamut of education technology, we compiled the following list of tips and tricks to help teachers —regardless of their tenure —implement education technology in their own classroom.

1.  Be sure to teach the concept that failure is an important and expected part of the process. What we learn from each failure or mistake is the important part and will lead to the next version, or improved iteration in the problem solving process.
– Beth Brubaker, grades 1-8 Project Specialist, North Idaho STEM Charter Academy…Read More