An OER curriculum brings my students’ lives into our classroom

When I was growing up, I assumed that my teachers knew everything, including all of the “right answers.” Now that I’ve been a teacher for 15 years, I know this simply isn’t true. In fact, some of the most powerful learning in my middle school science classroom has happened when I’ve pretended to NOT know the “right answer.” That’s when students take the lead and start to offer up their own ideas, share their experiences, and make powerful connections—sometimes amazing ones that I would never have thought of.

Teaching in this way requires a good deal of flexibility—including in your curriculum. A traditional science textbook doesn’t always provide educators the freedom to delve into topics that students bring up from their own lives or questions they have about the world around them. That’s why I’ve turned to open educational resources (OER).

OER are openly licensed, which means that educators can use, customize, and share these resources for free, allowing them to incorporate material that’s fresh and relevant for their students—all without having to worry about traditional copyright restrictions. I’ve been using an OER science curriculum called OpenSciEd for five years, and it has completely revolutionized the way I teach. It’s also transformed the way my students relate to and take ownership for their learning.…Read More

4 reasons we put all of our district communications on one platform

With 22 schools and 8,000 students—nearly all of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch—we have to cover a lot of area in our district. We’d been using a number of applications to maintain open lines of communications with our parents and guardians. We knew that some were working, and others weren’t, and we wanted to create a more unified school-home communications approach.

In 2020, our new superintendent brought a robust communications platform with him when he joined our district. As soon as we saw the platform’s various functionalities and how it eliminated the need for all of those disconnected communications strategies, we were hooked.

Here are four reasons why we decided to consolidate all of our district communications on a single platform:…Read More

5 ways to prep students for online learning success

Students who attend online school today range from homeschoolers, to those seeking an alternative to in-person public schools, to learners who want to mix virtual schooling with in-person learning. Also, some districts have decided to keep an online option open for students who choose that method.

And while numerous parents and students have chosen to make online learning part of their education, the transition can be challenging. As someone who’s been involved with online schools for more than eight years, here are five common areas of concern and tips for how teachers and parents can navigate these challenges successfully.

Organization and Scheduling are Vital…Read More

The ups and downs of girls in STEM

Are girls really underrepresented in STEM?

Yes. 

In the US, the workforce is pretty evenly split between men and women, but in STEM fields men make up 73 percent of the workforce to women’s 27 percent. Why?

It’s easy to want to find a well-meaning solution for this disparity, or even to brush it off as unimportant. But achieving a gender parity in STEM fields (particularly computer science, engineering, and programmers, among others) isn’t just a feel-good social justice crusade. The number of open tech jobs far outpaces the population of traditionally qualified candidates—data projections have pointed to a global shortage of 85 million tech workers by 2030.

It’s not a matter of encouraging girls to pursue STEM programs just for the heck of it, to prove they can and earn a good paycheck—it’s a matter of graduating enough highly-skilled workers to meet economic demand.

Still, the imbalanced statistics for the genders in STEM are damning. What can K-12 schools do to play their part in preparing the next generation for a talent-hungry workforce?

Let students lead…Read More

Problem-based learning helped boost my underserved students’ engagement

As educators, our charge is to impart knowledge onto our students, open new doors for them, and encourage them to stretch beyond their comfort zones. We try to show them every day that they are capable of doing anything that they set their minds to, but how often do we follow our own advice and push our own boundaries to try or learn something new?

As a physical education teacher in an underserved community, finding ways to connect with my classes during the pandemic and a time of remote learning was challenging. With sports being canceled, I was searching for new avenues to engage my students when I came across the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, a program encouraging problem-based learning.

The contest tasks middle and high school students with identifying a solution to a real-world problem using STEM, and I was hesitant to apply as I do not teach a traditional STEM discipline. However, I knew that my students have a passion for making their community a better place for themselves and their families, and I decided to step outside the box and go for it.…Read More

Private wireless is the key to K-20 digital transformation

Educational institutions across the United States are investing in digital technologies that, aside from transforming the learning experience, promise to improve campus operations, security and communications, and open the door to new e-services for students and staff. To realize the promise of digital transformation, schools at all levels (K-20) need solutions that can extend secure and reliable broadband connectivity campus wide.

Schools and higher educational institutions typically rely on Wi-Fi and Ethernet for connectivity. So, it’s no surprise that that many are upgrading or extending their Wi-Fi networks to prepare for digitalization. But Wi-Fi has limitations in important areas such as multi-user capacity, coverage, reliability, security, and mobility. It’s also prone to disruptions caused by interference and obstacles. These limitations could keep institutions from reaping the full benefits of broadband and digitalization.

Fortunately, there’s a better alternative. Private wireless networks (4.9G/LTE and 5G) enable institutions to use standardized cellular technologies and new spectrum options – including unlicensed spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band – to meet the stringent demands of digital applications. By complementing their existing Ethernet and Wi-Fi infrastructure with dedicated cellular connectivity, institutions can provide broadband connectivity for everyone and everything, and support a new generation of campus services.…Read More

4 ways transparent communication builds trust in our district

One of the best ways to build trust with parents is through transparent communication about what’s happening on campus, the status of all things school-related, and how we’re meeting our students’ needs.

Parents are busy and don’t always have time to chase this information down on their own, so it’s up to district and school leaders to open up those clear lines of communication and then use them.

Technology is a great enabler for districts that want to do a better job in this area. By using our ParentSquare safe and secure platform for school-home communications, we’re getting rid of the many disparate solutions that our schools were using—including social media—and replacing them with a unified solution that everyone can use and rely on.…Read More

How to educate in the 4th Industrial Revolution

Just for a moment, think about your physical environment. Perhaps you’re taking your lunch break in your car that has satellite radio and reading this article on a mobile device. Maybe you’re at home on your computer where you’ve got another browser tab open, creating a meeting agenda in Google Drive to share with your colleagues. 

Evidence that we’re in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is all around us. From the mobile device that can connect you via FaceTime or Slack with co-workers worldwide to cloud computing, we operate in a time and space marked by its reliance on artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, the Internet of Things, and automation.

As individuals interested in empowering the next generation of young people to succeed, it is time to ensure that the field of education is appropriately responding to the 4IR, which has impacted nearly every industry in recent years. The question, then, is how can we ensure that we educate students to succeed in a world dominated by the 4IR?…Read More

Schools Across the U.S. and Around the World Partner with VHS Learning to Open a World of Opportunities to Students

Boston — Schools across the U.S. and in eight countries have started or renewed partnerships with VHS Learning this year to provide teacher-led, high school online courses in a variety of disciplines. Some have been partnering with the nonprofit organization for over 20 years.

“Online learning is a valuable tool that can help schools provide students with greater course variety and options for learning,” said Carol DeFuria, President & CEO of VHS Learning. “Schools around the world value our 26 years of experience educating students online, and many partner with us year after year. They trust our program to support their schools’ instructional needs and provide their students with comprehensive, interactive, and engaging online courses led by certified teachers.”

New international school participants this year include BIS in the Republic of Korea, Kingham Hill School in the United Kingdom, and Shanghai SMIC Private School in China. Returning schools include American Community School Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; Asia American International Academy in Taiwan, Province of China; Escola Americana de Belo Horizonte in Brazil; Qatar Academy Sidra in Qatar; and International School of Kigali in Rwanda.

In addition, many U.S. schools have continued their long-time partnerships with VHS Learning. Schools that have utilized VHS Learning for 20 years or more include three Massachusetts districts: Abington High School in Abington, Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton, and Northbridge High School in Whitinsville. Schools that partnered with VHS Learning over 15 years ago include Hampden Academy and Falmouth High School in Maine, and Bromfield School and Hopkins Academy in Massachusetts, Newmarket Junior-Senior High School in New Hampshire, and Hackettstown High School in New Jersey.…Read More