6 STEAM tinkering tools for the holidays

Engage kids of all ages with these STEM and coding learning toyssteam-tools

 

The year that was brought with it a renewed, and much welcome, interest in science and technology, as STEAM, makerspaces, 3D printing, and coding all became hot topics. Each year, as parents look to celebrate the various holidays with our kids, many of us rack our brains trying to find gifts that are both fun and educational. This year is no different and fortunately, the latest STEAM push has made many of the learning tools very desirable as holiday gifts.

The following are six ed-tech tools that will undoubtedly spark the creative and innovative side of kids of all ages (parents and teachers included). These tools are dynamic, engaging, and fun for everyone. Best of all, they’ll help students focus on higher-order thinking skills as they make, design, create, and code their way into 2016.…Read More

New Va. high school to focus big on coding

Students will enter an innovative program that teaches core graduation skills alongside industry internships and computer science

coding-schoolHigh school isn’t what it used to be.

That’s the consensus of a growing number of educators who say how and what students are taught must change in order to better prepare them for a rapidly changing workforce that demands new skills.

With that goal in mind, a group of 13 Richmond-area school systems have banded together to start a new regional high school that will allow students to meet their core requirements while getting an education focused on computer science.…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 complete guide to picking the right device for every grade level

Ed-tech expert Kathy Schrock weighs in on mixed platform solutions for all grade levels

mixed-devicesA few years ago, many school districts jumped on the iPad bandwagon, when they were still brand new. The fact is they were easy to justify for a purchase of a shared cart since the Apple app store had so many wonderful applications for remediation, practice, and extension. These districts purchased the first iPad, which did not mirror and, believe it or not, had no built-in camera. Other districts waited for the second version to be released, which did have a camera and could be mirrored via Apple TV or the Reflector app, but only purchased the model with 16GB of RAM.

After a while, it became evident that maintaining a shared cart of iPads was no small feat. Taking care of the installation of apps and maintenance of the devices, as well as providing a positive experience for each shared user, was not easy. The 16GB of RAM was quickly eaten up by graphic-intensive apps, i-books, and PDF files, and the use of the camera for taking photos and videos. Schools began to think twice.

Enter the Chromebook, a device which was much cheaper and required little maintenance. However, even here there were difficulties at first as students needed to be attached to the internet to use the online Google tools and many of popular Flash-based sites were simply incompatible.…Read More

Every Student Succeeds Act shifts more power to states

Much-anticipated bill attempts to satisfy all stakeholder groups as it moves away from NCLB mandates

every-student-succeedsWhile a “new and improved” version of the hotly-debated No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) would still require reading and math testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school, states would have much more leeway when it comes to defining teaching and learning objectives and outlining accountability measures.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the power to determine their own academic goals and measure progress toward those goals–a departure from NCLB, which aimed for 100 percent math and reading proficiency by 2014.

States or districts will be in charge of determining how to improve persistently underperforming schools. Previously, NCLB gave the federal government a strong voice in what happened to those schools. Now, under Every Student Succeeds, schools requiring much intervention would be among the lowest-performing 5 percent in the state.…Read More

How 2 simple role-play games can transform students into active learners

Role-play enhances engagement and subject matter mastery. It’s also a lot of fun

role-play-game-deskStudents learning about the code of Hammurabi by acting as a council trusted with applying it

Maybe you’ve seen them interacting at Comic Con in fantastic costumes or reenacting decisive Civil War battles down to the smallest detail. Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably more familiar with role-playing than you realize. In education, role-play-as-learning is a unique experience which enhances student engagement, social skills, interest, and mastery of subject matter. It’s an approach that can have some major benefits for students.

At its core, role-play involves spontaneous, co-creative, contextualized, personally involved learning, and one of the best ways to introduce the concept to the classroom is though LARPs. Short for Live Action Role-play, LARPs are one part acting, one part historical immersion/interaction, and one part systematic modeling. It conceptualizes major concepts interwoven within human narratives that inspire students to enjoy and retain their knowledge within their experience. It leverages emotion as a mechanism for students to personalize key knowledge, processes, and concepts. And it involves embodiment and situational modeling, guiding students to not only learn the material but to experience it in context.…Read More

6 reasons why Chromebooks are the device of the moment

What makes Chromebooks popular, and will they outlast their buzz?

google-devicesAs the familiar refrain goes, “It’s not about the device,” but even so schools need to choose one to advance their digital instruction goals. And by all accounts, Chromebooks are the device of the moment, with 2.5 million shipped to schools in the first half of this year alone. There’s no doubt they’re trendy, but is there any deeper reasons for the sales surge beyond appearance and affordability? Recently, I joined host Larry Jacobs and Google Certified Innovator and trainer Chris Scott for an episode of Education Talk Radio in which we talked through these issues at length and came up with a handful of reasons for the Chromebook’s trendsetting status. Here’s the CliffsNotes of that discussion, but be sure to check out the full conversation available online.

Google’s name has staying power. We’ve been Googling for more than a decade by this point, and with the near ubiquity of Google Apps for Education in the nation’s classrooms, educators and students feel comfortable with the Google ecosystem. Branding helps, but at the end of the day, educators do realize that Google is just the conduit for students to advance their learning, not the first and last steps.

Chromebooks have some surface-level advantages. First, they’re cheap, with models often starting around $200. And while the cheaper cost can mean lower quality, it also means cheap replacement parts, too. IT management is simple — and there are few horror stories equaling what schools went through with iPads. They’re easy to share among students, and at a time when online high-stakes testing is still very much a part of the conversation, Chromebooks have the all-important built-in keyboard. None of these things necessarily makes the Chromebook the ideal or superior device for education, but they certainly don’t hurt.…Read More