Stop asking whether laptops improve learning outcomes

The media might not be able to get past the question — but we in education need to dig deeper

It’s a question we hear all too often—from parents, technology critics, and, of course, the news media: Do those pricey laptops schools buy actually improve academic results?

On the surface, it seems logical. Schools make big investments in technology and stakeholders want to see a return on that investment—by way of better school ratings or big jumps in test scores. But really, the question is superficial and shows a limited understanding of what is needed to enhance teaching and learning using technology.

Laptops by themselves change little. They are simply one component of a range of things that need to change in order to leverage technology to enhance education. Introducing laptops while not changing the teaching and learning paradigm is of little use, and may even produce negative academic outcomes.…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

Bloomz announces new features at ISTE 2016

The teacher-parent communication app will be free for schools and introduces student timelines, behavior tracking, and video support

Just in time for ISTE 2016, the teacher-parent communication app Bloomz is announcing a major award and introducing new features, including offering its basic schoolwide product for free.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) recently named Bloomz a Best Website for Teaching & Learning in the Social Networking and Communications category. “Members of the Best Websites committee were very impressed by Bloomz,” said AASL President Leslie Preddy. “The site combines the features of several collaboration and social media platforms in order to optimize communication with parents. Bloomz’s ‘one-stop shop’ opens a window into the classroom that today’s parents expect—while protecting student privacy. One committee member said, ‘Honestly, I wish it had existed when I was a classroom teacher!’”

Bloomz also announced four new updates that will be coming to its mobile and web app in time for the upcoming school year:
• Student Timelines: As teachers share pictures of a students’ work, parents will now see a portfolio or timeline of their child’s creations, and watch them evolve over time. The feature is similar to that of a Facebook timeline view for every student over time, across all activities. This feature is scheduled to launch in August.
• Behavior Tracking: This feature helps teachers send home reports of how students behave in class. Taking a cue from the app’s name and to reinforce positive student behavior, “blooming” flowers will be used to provide parents a pictorial representation of their child’s behavior throughout the school year. Behavior tracking will also be available in August.
• Video support: This feature has been the most requested by Bloomz users. Now, teachers will be able to record moments from the classroom and share them directly on Bloomz, where parents can watch and enjoy them. Video support will be available starting in September.
• Free for schools: Bloomz is also making its current basic schoolwide communication product (currently in beta until the new school year), free for schools moving forward.…Read More

District launches responsive website from Rediker Software

Waltham Public Schools chooses Rediker Software’s RediSite for their 10 schools and district office to meet the increasing mobile needs of parents, students and staff

Serving more than 5,500 students and 10 schools, Waltham Public Schools unveiled an improved approach to mobile communications recently by launching a district-wide responsive website from Rediker Software.

The service provides schools and districts with an attractive and affordable website that delivers an optimal viewing experience on any device. The site automatically adjusts to any size screen for easy reading and navigation on smartphones, tablets and computers without having to maintain a separate mobile site.

In keeping with Waltham Superintendent Drew Echelson’s strategic priorities for the district, RediSite will make it easy for all parents to access information about their students’ progress and about their schools.…Read More

Why digital PD needs an urgent overhaul

Technology, collaboration, and new standards are changing the classroom at a rapid pace. Every teacher’s professional development must keep up

Like so many of us, I have been grateful throughout my life for the professionals I’ve needed to call upon for vital services and expert guidance. The surgeon who had years of residency and practice before treating me on her own. Or the lawyer, who was constantly staying abreast of federal and state regulations in order to offer me sound advice.

Similarly, students and parents rely on me every day. As teachers, we are entrusted with our nation’s children, and their futures, yet many of us find ourselves isolated in classrooms without the right training or support. Others find ourselves supported by just one or two afternoons of professional development per year. As we collectively elevate teaching so that it may sit comfortably alongside other highly respected and important professions, we must think carefully about how to provide higher-quality, effective continuing education for teaching.

The need for more practical and effective professional learning opportunities for teachers is especially important right now, with new academic standards being introduced and adapted in schools across the country. As a teacher leader who has had this conversation with teachers, administrators, policy makers, and parents, I recognize an important distinction to which we must pay attention. People outside the profession often want to see a greater sense of urgency about our work. Oftentimes, the desire for urgency looks more like drawing small circles around teachers through evaluations, ranking, and sorting. For a classroom teacher, though, this has the opposite effect. When I feel small, I don’t feel urgent. I feel scared and uncertain.…Read More

Blackboard launches New Learning Experience platform

Integrated platform enables personalized learning, streamlined communication with family and community engagement, and unified workflows

Blackboard has launched a new K-12 platform for districts and schools that brings together institutions, parents, teachers, and learners in an integrated approach that addresses fundamental requirements for student success including school safety and security, family and community engagement and personalized competency-based learning.

Blackboard’s offering combines multiple products, integrations, and professional services that can be deployed individually or as a comprehensive solution.

Technologies include: Blackboard Mass Notifications™ (formerly Blackboard Connect™), Blackboard Web Community Manager™ (formerly Blackboard Schoolwires™), Blackboard Mobile Communication App™ (formerly Blackboard Parentlink™), Blackboard Social Media Manager™ (formerly Sociability™), Blackboard Collaborate™, Blackboard Blackboard Open Content (formerly xpLor), and a choice of Blackboard’s leading learning management systems: Blackboard Learn™ or Moodlerooms™ and their mobile apps for students and teachers.…Read More

Follett acquires ClassBook

Deal aims to create ‘best-in-class solution for private and parochial schools’

Follett announced it has acquired ClassBook, a K-12 education online bookstore that serve schools, teachers, parents, and students. ClassBook provides private and parochial schools with 24/7 bookstores, streamlining and personalizing the ordering and fulfillment process for print and digital textbooks.

The acquisition combines Follett’s publisher relationships, infrastructure, and resources with ClassBook’s digital services, with the combined entity steadfast in its focus on delivering high-touch customer service.

Follett accesses, curates and delivers content to schools from a network of more than 7,000 publishers and education-service providers. ClassBook provides and manages access to eBooks and eTextbooks through proprietary digital tools, including the “Virtual Backpack” app, which allows students to manage access through a single virtual bookshelf.…Read More

Edsby making cloud service available on Microsoft Azure

Forthcoming cloud service from Edsby will build on earlier integration work

Edsby, a cloud-based learning management system for K-12 school districts that connects teachers, parents and students using modern technologies, will soon be available on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s hyperscale, enterprise-grade cloud platform, as part of a global relationship between the two companies.

Edsby will be making its Edsby cloud service available in Azure data centers in the U.S. for American customers. In Canada, Microsoft Corp. recently announced plans to establish Azure cloud data centers in Ontario and Quebec and Edsby will be available in these Canadian facilities in time for the 2016-2017 school year. Shortly after, Edsby will be made available in Azure data centers in Australia, Europe and elsewhere.

“By utilizing Microsoft’s global network of Azure data centers, we can streamline how we provide Edsby in multiple regions around the world. This also enables us to meet customers’ regional or national data sovereignty requirements,” said John Myers, Edsby President. “In addition, the dynamic scalability and high availability of Azure will enable Edsby to scale to handle the millions of new users required by provincial, state and national level deployments.”…Read More