5 ways virtual tutoring reinforces our after-school program

We’ve been working to reinforce and reinvigorate our after-school program with the goal of reaching more students who need it. Staffing shortages and not enough hours in the day have made it difficult for us to achieve this goal, but when we started using the FEV Tutor live, 1:1 virtual tutoring platform we realized that we had discovered the missing piece of our puzzle.

At the time, we were really ramping up our summer program and trying to create as much programming as possible for it beforehand. One of the sites integrated the virtual tutoring into its program for four weeks and we received good feedback from the staff, teachers, and students.

We took those results and ran with them, rolling the online tutoring platform out across all 21 of our school sites with a goal of reaching about 2,500 students in grades 3-8. We offer the tutoring in 45-minute, dedicated blocks of time and alternate between math and reading.…Read More

KinderLab Robotics Donates Robot Kits to Connect Schools in Pennsylvania and Guatemala

Waltham, MA — KinderLab Robotics today announced that it has donated four KIBO robot kits to La Puerta Abierta, a school in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. Part of a partnership with Sewickley Academy, near Pittsburgh, PA, this donation will foster cross-cultural collaboration between the schools. Sewickley’s 5th-graders, who have experience teaching younger students about robotics through the school’s Big Buddies program, will offer guidance to La Puerta Abierta’s 1st-graders as they work on fun, hands-on programming challenges.

La Puerta Abierta, which relies heavily on volunteers and donations, was co-founded by Amanda Flayer, who was a Peace Corps volunteer with Michelle Bonham, a Lower School Spanish teacher at Sewickley Academy. The two schools have previously collaborated by having their 5th-graders create a bilingual book together. When La Puerta Abierta secured mathematics professor and data analyst Gaspar Yataz Pop as a volunteer to teach robotics using KIBO, the idea for the STEAM-powered collaboration between the schools’ students was born.

“We look forward to giving our elementary school students the opportunity to engage with another culture,” said Beau Blaser, director of technology at Sewickley Academy. “Through coding and collaboration, they’ll be learning to connect ideas and concepts together from a great distance. That can lead to an appreciation of the different cultures, but also a realization that there’s a lot of commonality across the human experience. What better way to do that than with some of our youngest learners? They’ll see that anybody can become an engineer or express their artistic ability—you can be anything you want to be in this world, whether you’re from Guatemala or Sewickley, Pennsylvania.”…Read More

Only out-of-the-box solutions will fix the real problems in schools

As members of the media have bemoaned the tragic results of students on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—also known as the nation’s report card—many have been all too willing to jump into the game of who is responsible. Yet, few have sought innovative solutions to change the fundamental underlying reality: today’s schools were not built to maximize each and every student’s learning.

Just weeks earlier, a new report titled “Out of the Box,” along with an accompanying afternoon of virtual programming, sought to introduce a way to change that reality through the use of “innovative model providers” to shift us away from the current paradigm of schooling and “support school communities in actualizing the visions they set forth.”

The solutions generally offered in the media to the challenges students face have revolved around things like tutoring, summer school, longer school hours, and more days. Although there’s nothing wrong—and some things right—with those solutions, what none of them do is upend the fact that today’s schools were not designed to optimize learning. Their time-based nature means that they were, in fact, built to embed failure for the majority.…Read More

Epson Technology Enhances Aquarium Education Programs

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. – As the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. welcomed students back for in-person learning, educators leaned on Epson technology to help enhance education and bring lessons into the spotlight. Leveraging multiple Epson document cameras throughout learning centers at the aquarium, education staff are able to provide hands-on demonstrations to bring engaging lessons to students and visitors of all ages.

“We were so excited to revamp our education programs and bring students back into the aquarium after a few years of virtual programming,” said Alicia Archer, education manager, Aquarium of the Pacific. “The Epson document cameras were teaching tools our staff incorporated into virtual learning. Now that we have launched our in-person programming, these cameras continue to enhance our education programs.”

One of the biggest benefits to leveraging document cameras in their education programs has been the ability to offer a shared learning experience to students. Rather than having to describe something, like a dissection, and then walk table to table to show students, a class can do it all together step-by-step. “We’ve been using the document cameras for our ‘Mysteries of the Deep’ class where we use gel layers on the document camera to simulate going deeper in the ocean. This application with the camera has helped us show how the energy of wavelengths differs, and colors change to bring the visualization to life,” said Archer.…Read More

Using data insight platforms to improve SEL strategies

Although structured social-emotional learning (SEL) has been around since the mid-90s, schools’ focus on SEL has skyrocketed following the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on education. As remote learning exacerbated feelings of isolation and uncertainty, and behavioral and mental health issues emerged, many educators shifted away from attainment goals to helping students cope and connect in an environment that suddenly lacked regular social interactions, academic expectations and daily structure. SEL then became a foundational piece of the return to in-person learning and, by many accounts, remains an integral part of student needs a year into post-shut down recovery.

According to a report from Tyton Partners and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), district spending on SEL programming between the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years grew from $530 million to $765 million. SEL also received a $160 million funding boost in the FY2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act earlier this year. Educators are investing in SEL on an individual level, too. Based on data from DonorsChoose, reports indicate that donation requests for supplies that help students develop SEL skills and improve mental health have almost doubled since 2020.

While SEL and mental health initiatives are different, when delivered as part of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), SEL can play a significant role in promoting responsive relationships, emotionally safe environments and skills development that improve or mitigate mental health issues. In fact, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that SEL screening instruments can be used to both help standardize the identification of anxiety concerns and help facilitate early intervention.…Read More

3 ways educators can embrace and enable inclusive programming

While the effects of COVID-19 may have diminished for many thanks to widespread vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, the pandemic continues to have a significant systemwide impact and exacerbate social gaps. Students still experience elevated levels of pandemic-prompted emotional trauma, anxiety, isolation, and psychological distress due to schedule interruptions, remote learning, the deaths of family and friends, inequitable access to health care, and job insecurity.

Throughout history, the underprivileged, oppressed, and marginalized communities are often the most severely impacted, as our societal infrastructures and systems have shown. Those who are marginalized, and in some cases deliberately oppressed, often must navigate unjust and inequitable policies. This problem defines so many of our systems, and in an educational setting it is compounded by the pressure to learn, get good grades, avoid discipline, and graduate.

The dire ramifications of the pandemic and its effect on our young learners is tantamount. Learning loss is at an all-time high, and most students, especially those whose families can’t afford small-group or private tutoring, are behind academically. We all remember being in school: it’s not just grades and tests; it’s your social life, it’s where you see your friends, and it’s where you better understand your identity and your role in society. Being in school provides so many important identity-forging, character-building and developmentally significant opportunities. Today schools, with heightened focus on mental health and self-care, provide a safe place for youth to be vulnerable and talk openly about what they’re feeling.…Read More

Why universal screening is a more equitable identifier of gifted and talented students

School districts have historically relied on a referral-based process to identify students for gifted and talented programming. This means that teachers or parents nominate their students to take selected achievement and/or cognitive aptitude tests, frequently used as a screener for gifted and talented placement.

Unfortunately, relying on referrals alone results in overly homogenous gifted and talented programs that are predominantly white, middle class, and male. Research shows that referral-based identification excludes too many students from enrichment and advanced academic opportunities.

But districts are slowly starting to change their identification processes. Instead of using referrals to determine which students take the specified tests, districts have begun universally screening every child to make the identification process more equitable, especially when districts use cognitive aptitude tests for all students, not just a select subset.…Read More

How this teacher uses story coding to spark creativity and collaboration

When coding merges with storytelling, you have story coding, in which students use computational skills and design thinking as they demonstrate creativity across core curricular areas.

During an ISTELive 22 virtual session, computer science, robotics, and design thinking educator Paige Besthoff demonstrated how story coding–combining storytelling and coding–helps students develop critical skills.

Story coding involves using computer programming to retell stories–students might summarize a story, write original stories, or use programming to create alternative endings to well-known stories. Teachers can use story coding to bring history, science, world languages, ELA, and even math into their lessons.…Read More

National Readiness Report: A Look at COVID-19’s Impact on Learner Readiness and How Institutions Can Improve Student Success

PITTSBURGH, PA – It goes without saying that the COIVD-19 pandemic has impacted higher education and students across the globe. But to what degree? And how can institutions respond to the shifts in learning? SmarterServices recently published data that reveals both individual and technical skills have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the degree to which learner readiness has changed over the past ten years. Learner readiness has seen statistically significant changes and institutions may need to reevaluate their programming to improve student success.

Data on how COVID-19 has impacted learner readiness comes out of the National Readiness Report, published by SmarterServices. The report provides measures of central tendency for learner traits such as life factors and individual attributes as well as several skill sets, including on-screen reading rate and recall, technical competency, learning management system competency, general technical knowledge, and keyboarding rate and accuracy.

The attributes and skills are measured by the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator, which has been taken by over 6 million learners from over one thousand institutions. Through the National Readiness Report, institutions can compare the performance of their students to those of other students nationally. This year’s report reviews multiple comparisons of readiness levels within several demographic categories, a four-year comparison to determine the impact of the pandemic on learner readiness, and specifically how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted learner readiness over the quarantine period.…Read More

Weaving SEL into curriculum doesn’t have to be hard

As an educator and curriculum content creator, I’m always seeking to develop lessons that offer students opportunities to express complex emotions and share personal experiences. Inspiring self-expression and building a safe communal space begin with authentically exploring social-emotional learning (SEL) content.

Students are always navigating developmentally appropriate mental health and emotional-regulation growth, but today’s students are also coping with the effects of the pandemic. We cannot deprioritize SEL in our school spaces, and the great news is that we’re seeing significant investment and support for SEL. District spending on SEL on SEL programming grew about 45% between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years, from $530 million to $765 million. When administrators and teachers were asked in a survey to rank their top priorities before and during the pandemic, improving students’ mental health and promoting students’ social-emotional competence rose to the number 1 and 2 priorities.

Currently, the grander concern for most educators in the classroom is the overwhelming “how.” Despite having a greater budget and public support for SEL, many teachers are unprepared to incorporate SEL into their instruction. Barriers include insufficient planning time, lack of parental consent, or lack of comprehensive SEL training for educators. …Read More