CodeCombat adds game, web development to coding platform

CodeCombat, which offers an engaging platform for helping kids learn computer science (CS), has significantly enhanced its platform in time for back to school.

CodeCombat has added major new capabilities including Game Development and Web Development, and quadrupled the number of levels available to users of its original Learn to Code module, giving students plenty of runway to keep enhancing their coding skills.

CodeCombat’s classroom product, which launched just four months ago, is now in use by 45,000 students in grades 4-12 across 1,600 schools in all 50 states – making it one of the fastest-growing companies in the ed tech space.…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

Kids Discover Online unveils custom assessments feature

Kids Discover, a provider of engaging science and social studies curriculum, announced that its interactive digital library, Kids Discover Online, now includes custom assessment capabilities. Kids Discover Online enables educators to mix and match material from science and social studies to facilitate students’ exploration of big ideas through cross-curricular learning. The newly added Assessments tool gives educators full control to create, distribute, and assess custom quizzes, tests, and homework assignments directly within the platform.

The Assessments feature includes more than 5,000 pre-built questions covering more than 1,200 science and social studies topics. Question types vary to include discussion prompts, short answer, multiple choice, and true/false. Educators can save content to their Classroom and have questions specifically corresponding to a given article automatically populate the question bank.

“It is so important that our users know we listen to their feedback and requests. They are our best source of information on how to continue making our solution the absolute best for them and their students,” said Ted Levine, the president and CEO of Kids Discover. “With pre-built questions, customization features, automated grading, and Gradebook tracking, teachers will now be able to use our science and social studies content to accurately assess their students’ knowledge and understanding within those subjects.”…Read More

Cricket Media, Smithsonian launch 2016 Global Folklorist Challenge

Cricket Media, a next-generation global learning company, announced the launch of its 3rd Annual Global Folklorist Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

The challenge, open to kids eight to eighteen worldwide, asks participants to examine a local or regional tradition by interviewing a community tradition bearer and creating a video or slide show to share the story.

Cultural traditions students might explore range from dance, games, and handicrafts to cooking, storytelling, customs, distinctive jobs, and more. Comprehensive supporting materials reinforce real- world folklorist skills by defining terms, providing examples, tips, and organizational tools, and walking students through professional interview and story-shaping processes. Participants also have access to professional folklorists at the Smithsonian.…Read More

How augmented reality enhances the classroom — even without technology

Several years ago, I made one of those foolish Dad choices. Despite my wife’s better judgment, I let my six- and seven-year-old sons watch Men in Black. What I thought would be a cool evening of fighting aliens turned into one of those nights ending with two kids afraid of going to sleep under a wife’s “I told you so” glare.

Miraculously, I stumbled onto a solution when my elder son came into our bedroom around midnight saying he kept waking up scared because he was afraid a giant bugman would get him. In the moment, a solution arose. I told my son that I kept special, super strong anti-bugman powder in the bathroom, so strong it could only be used in emergencies, but that it could keep bug monsters out of the house. With that, I went into the bathroom, filled a small plastic bag with talcum powder, and spent the next thirty minutes walking around the house throwing the powder about the place while chanting “Go away bugmen!” with my son. He slept the rest of the night.

The point of the story is not about showing myself to be a good parent (I abandoned any pretense to that title when I said to my wife, “The boys might be scared at first, but by the end they’ll be laughing”). What this incident demonstrates is a kind of teaching technique that too often is underutilized or even forgotten.…Read More

Yes, teens are addicted to mobile devices — but so are adults

Infographic shares realities behind today’s mobile device addiction

As kids get older, cries for strict limits on their screen time tend to taper off. By the time students hit high school, many are accustomed to texting in the hallways or even sneaking a peek at Facebook during dinner. But is the laissez-faire approach to device use actually enabling addictive behavior? Parents think so—and so do many of their kids, according to a recent Common Sense Media poll of 1,200 parents and teens centered around technology use and addiction.

Multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people, which is common for kids doing homework or socializing, can impair their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively, according to the report.

See also: Report: Teens feel ‘addicted’ to mobile devices…Read More

5 ways music and tech are adding a little STEAM to our lessons

Technology plus music is an easy, accessible way to put STEAM in lessons — and students love it

The holy grail for those of us in education is a method that imbues students with higher-level thinking skills that stick, preparing them for what comes next in their lives.  This means not just reaching all students with the content they must learn but making sure this information stays around in their heads to improve their school performance and knowledge base.

As we all know, this can be a tall order, but in my school district, we’ve been using the latest and newest technologies that help to engage kids in learning. Our results have been significant and, I believe, worth sharing.

My job involves instructing both teachers and students in how to implement technology tools into their lessons. All our middle- and high-school students in Moore County, N.C., have Chromebooks so our digital tools must be compatible. As part of our constant brainstorming of new ideas and tools, my team heard about an online music recording studio called Soundtrap that runs on Chromebooks and we developed a curricular program to use it at many schools in our district. I personally use it at both of my middle schools.  One is a Title 1 school with a minority population of about 50 percent, and a free or reduced lunch status of about 65% while the other one is not a Title 1 school and its minority population is about 20 percent.…Read More

The 4 essential elements of passion-based learning

Teaching students effectively means getting to know them — and their passions

Think back to when you were still in school. What do you tend to remember most? Do you think back to the unique field trips you went on? The cool science experiments? What about a favorite teacher?

For me, it was projects and Mrs. Gianni. That’s what I remember most about school and the teacher that comes to mind. Mrs. Gianni had blond hair that always looked like it needed to be dyed. She was young and energetic. I also remember the way she made me feel, her high expectations, how she was always smiling, and how I felt like I could be anything in her eyes.

Teachers have always had the ability to make a big impact on their students. The teacher chooses whether it will be a positive or a negative impact. Of course every year we start the year with the best intentions. We love all our kids the same. However, there is always that one student (sometimes more) that we just can’t seem to reach. We try different things, we ask for help, we learn their background, but we still can’t seem to figure out how to get through.…Read More

TED-ED clubs give students a platform for sharing ideas

The clubs are fashioning the next generation of TED speakers one big idea at a time

One of Mitzi Stover’s biggest challenges as a teacher is convincing her students they have a voice. Stover teaches speech and English at North Torrance High School in a working-class area of Los Angeles where kids seldom travel or even leave the neighborhood.

“Their world is very small geographically,” Stover said during a recent presentation at the CUE 2016 national conference in Palm Springs. “And teenagers are already so dismissed most of the time.”

From her years of teaching, Stover knew that having students delve into their interests and personal experiences was one of the best ways to develop their passions — and in turn their public speaking. But presenting to the same classmates they saw every day was decidedly low-stakes and hardly helped her convince students they had a voice, let alone a global reach.…Read More