Ensuring accessible content for all students

This summer, many faculty will work on developing or revising curricular content for their courses. One of the keys in developing new digital materials is verifying that those materials offer accessible content for all students.

Today, most learning management systems (LMS) and software programs offer some level of accessibility compliance checking. However, they are not always thorough or error-free.

Related Content: 5 steps to ensure accessibility…Read More

4 keys to building an equitable STEM program

This year in schools across the nation, approximately 136,000 students took advanced placement (AP) computer science, a 31 percent increase from last year. This group included a record number of female and minority students, but girls still only accounted for 28 percent of students taking AP computer science exams, while underrepresented minorities accounted for 21 percent. Meanwhile, the increase in STEM jobs shows no sign of slowing down, and only 33 percent of workers ages 25 and older have a degree in a STEM field.

What does this all mean? It means we can’t afford to leave anyone out. We need to find ways to immerse all students of all ages, races, genders, and types (not just the “talented and gifted” kids) in rich STEM learning. Educators need to do whatever they can to engage all students in a way that appeals to their interests across all STEM subjects. In working with hundreds of school districts across the country, here are four steps I’ve seen educators take to effectively build and nurture an equitable STEM program.

1. Provide STEM professional development (PD) to elementary teachers.
One of the challenges educators face is that there are limited opportunities for STEM-specific PD designed for elementary teachers. To promote STEM equity, schools first need to help more teachers figure out how to integrate STEM into their curriculum.…Read More

3 keys to student success with early college programs

Like a growing number of school districts, North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools (GCS) has early college programs that allow students to earn college credit while they’re still in high school. But what’s unique about GCS is the number of choices the district offers: 14 altogether, including nine high schools that operate on college campuses.

GCS has offered early college options since 2001 and has seen remarkable success, despite serving a largely urban and low-income population. All but two of its early college high schools have a 100-percent graduation rate—and the lowest rate among the other two is 97 percent.

What’s more, these programs aren’t just serving the top students in the district, who would already be on a college track. Some of them target students considered at risk of dropping out, making college both attainable and affordable for students who otherwise would not attend.…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

Are you a Hooray, Hmm, or Hell No educator?

Change is hard. How can you get reluctant teachers to embrace change and try new innovations in teaching with technology? At ISTE 2016, popular ed-tech speaker Jennie Magiera shared several strategies for doing just that—turning those “yes, but…” objections into “what if…” adventures.

Magiera, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher who is now the chief technology officer for School District 62 in Des Plaines, Ill., said there are three types of people whom ed-tech leaders will encounter when they encourage their staff to innovate: “hoorays, hmms, and hell nos.”

The “hoorays” are those who are eager to try new tools and techniques in their classroom, she said. The “hmms” are those who watch with interest but aren’t ready to dive in right away, and the “hell nos” are those who actively resist.…Read More

The 10 questions to ask before you start your one-to-one program

Asking the right questions can make all the difference, says a one-to-one pro.

questions-one-to-oneWhen preparing for one-to-one programs, schools today spend too much time thinking about the device and not enough time on why they’re launching a one-to-one program in the first place.

That was one of the key takeaways of a one-to-one themed session given by Ann McMullan–former executive director of educational technology at Klein ISD in Texas who now works as an ed tech consultant–at the Annual CUE 2015 conference in Palm Springs last week.

“If you have the money, ordering the devices is easy,” she said. “The No. 1 challenge is: How do you make life inside today’s classroom relevant to the students’ lives outside the classroom, and prepare them for their tomorrow? We need to think about students being creators of content, not just consumers.”…Read More

How a GoPro Got My Students Excited to Learn

One teacher recounts the transformation in learning, collaboration, and creativity he’s seen after adding a GoProgopro-racecar

Rewind to May 2007. . .

I had not planned to purchase a GoPro while out shopping. However, it was on sale, I had a coupon, two gift cards, and two weeks in the Florida Keys was just a moon phase away. Needless to say the summer spent fishing, snorkeling, and kayaking in the Keys yielded very few incredible pictures. I had purchased the Digital Hero 3, the first GoPro with sound. After that experience my GoPro stayed packed up with all my kayak gear and did not see the light of day too often.

Fast forward to August 2013 . . .    …Read More