Leading the Digital Leap

digital-leapDespite the fact that technology use is part of daily life, on balance, schools’ use of technology remains far from ubiquitous. There is no question that some teachers, principals, and district leaders have made considerable progress in using technology to transform learning. And there are strong examples of school districts that are leading digital change system-wide. However, there exists a major challenge: Few school systems have found a way to create a sustainable, digitally-enabled ecosystem.

The irony is real: Some school systems have not yet realized the promise of technology, for reasons that are varied and complex. Many schools and classrooms lack robust technology infrastructure due to affordability and adequate funding barriers, as identified in CoSN and AASA’s new national E-rate and infrastructure survey. Other factors include district cultures where there is apprehension and often aversion to changes that occur through technology, or a history of past tech investments that were not well-aligned to district needs. While in other cases, districts’ inability to experience an effective digital transformation rests with a lack of human capacity and communication, from vision setting to technical implementation.

District administrators and school board members, though, have an opportunity today to surmount these barriers. To empower K-12 system leaders to make or advance their digital leap, we at AASA, CoSN, and NSBA have formed a powerful partnership. This partnership, which brings together the leading professional organizations for superintendents, district technology leaders, and school boards nationwide, lends our knowledge, resources, and networks to help school system leaders strengthen their ability to lead the digital leap.…Read More

School groups team up to help with digital transformation

‘Leading the Digital Leap’ initiative from AASA, NSBA, and CoSN aims to help school districts take digital learning to a whole new level

digital-leapMany educators across the United States have made considerable progress in using technology to transform learning, and several school districts have advanced beyond small pockets of innovation to embrace systemic transformation.

However, few school systems have found a way to create a fully enabled digital ecosystem that is continuously improving.

To help school systems make this “digital leap,” three leading educational leadership groups—AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the National School Boards Association (NSBA); and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)—are partnering to share their collective expertise.…Read More

Mobile 101: Know before you go

One district strengthened its staff capacity before a mobile deployment

mobile-101In the Township High School District 214 in Illinois, mobile technology use is expanding each year through a series of pilots proposed and supported by classroom teachers.

The district is moving toward a full-scale mobile one-to-one deployment, and district leaders said that in advance of a complete deployment, they wanted to prepare teacher and staff capacity.

To do so, district leaders crafted a multi-step process that empowers educators and allows for flexibility. Important components of that process include planning, a unique implementation approach, using data, and supporting teachers.…Read More

Here’s how digital content and teachers align

Great teachers use digital content—but what needs to be in place to encourage that use?

digital-contentAs digital content becomes more commonplace in districts across the nation, some school leaders and educators wonder: what’s involved in a digital content transition?

During the 2014 National School Boards Association conference in New Orleans, a panel of experienced educators sought to answer that very question.

“We’re undergoing a cultural change in our country, and it’s broader than just schools,” said moderator Joseph South, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Educational Technology. “Digital is part of every aspect of our lives. In some places, digital is embraced wholeheartedly, and in other places, it’s kept at bay.”…Read More

9 digital citizenship considerations

Digital citizenship is one of the key parts of learning today

digital-citizenshipDiscussions about U.S. students’ ability to compete in a global economy, and their ability to use skills such as critical thinking and problem solving to succeed in college and the workforce, are commonplace. But central to those discussions is an issue that impacts nearly everything today’s tech-centric students do: digital citizenship.

While not a new concept or effort, digital citizenship may not be at the forefront of every school leader’s mind. But it should be, said Jason Borgen, program director of the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL) in the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Calif.).

“Digital citizenship shifts the way we do business and what we prepare our students for,” Borgen said, speaking on April 5 at the National School Boards Association’s annual conference in New Orleans. “Lots of recruiters don’t even look at resumes; they look at potential employees’ social media sites. We all have a digital footprint today. We’re all connected globally.”…Read More

District ‘Race to the Top’ rules spur mixed reaction

School groups criticized RTT-D for creating 'winners' and 'losers.'

Proposed guidelines for school districts to vie for $400 million in new federal grants have elicited mixed reaction from education groups—from concern among ed-tech groups over how “personalized learning” will be defined, to arguments that the grants will exclude smaller districts from competing.

With an eye toward expanding the Obama administration’s signature “Race to the Top” (RTT) competition to the district level, the federal Education Department (ED) recently issued a draft outlining competition guidelines and invited responses from stakeholders.

RTT, which previously targeted only states, has triggered a flurry of education reforms as states scrambled to win billions in funds. Now, the creation of the Race to the Top-District Program (RTT-D) gives individual school districts a shot at winning a slice of $400 million in grants.…Read More

Computerized searches help identify non-resident students

VerifyResidence.com runs computerized searches to confirm the residency information that parents provide to schools.

“Boundary hoppers”—parents who falsify their residency so their children can attend a particular school—can strain already cash-strapped districts. But short of sending the assistant principal to knock on students’ doors, how can administrators pinpoint wrongfully enrolled students? A new technology-based solution claims it can help.

The online service VerifyResidence.com runs computerized searches to confirm the residency information that parents provide to schools, potentially saving districts time and money, its creator says.

When large numbers of students attend illegally, schools feel practical budget pressures as they are forced to support more students than expected. The problem involves not only concern about tax dollars, but also the fact that “schools really need accurate contact [information], because they plan growth and feeder patterns based on that,” said Sonja Trainor, a senior staff attorney with the National School Boards Association’s General Counsel.…Read More

‘Dear President Obama … We can’t test this country into excellence’

Federal policy makers and many school reformers seem oblivious to current research about learning and motivation, Broderick noted.

Speaking during her organization’s 72nd annual conference, Mary Broderick, outgoing president of the National School Boards Association, described a letter she wrote to President Obama urging him to reduce the federal emphasis on testing and give local schools the latitude to nurture students’ creativity.

“During my travels, I [have] observed brain activity in a young child with a complicated puzzle to solve,” she told conference attendees. “You could see the fascination and engagement on this child’s face as he used trial and error to manipulate the puzzle. His brain was stimulated, and he was learning. But, as soon as that little boy was told the answer, he lost interest—and the brain activity stopped.”

She added: “You know what that looks like on the face of a child. Their whole body is in motion when problem-solving, but their eyes glaze over when we pour information into their heads. They feel powerless and disrespected. This is what we are now doing to our children—and to our teachers.”…Read More

How to expand students’ ed-tech access—and stay out of court

Cracking down on cyber bullying, searching students’ cell phones, and filtering internet access are some of the areas where educators can get into trouble if they don’t know their proper legal boundaries.

Finding the right balance between keeping students safe and letting them explore their world digitally was the focus of an April 21 session during the National School Boards Association’s 72nd annual conference, in which NSBA senior staff attorney Sonja Trainor gave advice on how school districts can open their doors to technology without getting sued.

Cracking down on cyber bullying or harassment, searching students’ cell phones or laptops, and filtering school internet access are some of the areas where educators can get into trouble if they don’t know their proper legal boundaries, Trainor said. Here’s what she had to say about each of these areas.

Cyber bullying and harassment…Read More

Why Khan Academy is so popular—and why teachers shouldn’t feel threatened

Sal Khan’s nonprofit now contains more than 3,100 free video tutorials, mostly on math and science—but the site has begun expanding its scope to other subjects, too.

Sal Khan, whose online Khan Academy serves up video tutorials to more than 6 million students worldwide each month, wants to reassure teachers that the free educational service isn’t out to take their jobs—nor is it a statement about a teacher’s ability to deliver a lesson effectively.

On the contrary, Khan said, teachers who are using the service with their students feel more empowered than ever.

“It liberates the classroom,” he told attendees of the National School Boards Association’s 72nd annual conference in Boston, “and teachers’ creativity comes out.”…Read More