4 tips for an effective digital citizenship program

Today, students are not merely digital natives; they are voracious consumers and creators of digital content both in school and out. This increased access has also increased the risk that students will engage in riskier behaviors online or be exposed to content that’s inappropriate, or even dangerous. How to interact online in an appropriate way, and how to navigate difficult issues such as sexting and cyberbullying, often aren’t addressed in school curriculum, despite the huge impact they can have on students both emotionally and academically if things go wrong.

At the San Juan School District in Utah, we took some concrete steps in an effort to get out in front of the issue. As the district’s HR director and Title IX coordinator, I was hearing more concerns and seeing some worrying trends relating to cyberbullying, hazing, and sexual harassment, including some serious allegations involving students that occurred off of school grounds.

As a leadership team, we recognized the need to be proactive in order to ensure incidents like this would not happen in the future, and to accomplish this we needed tools to help us facilitate better communication among both students and staff about sensitive student safety and wellness topics.…Read More

High School Students Dive into Media Production

For the last few decades, U.S. school curriculum has centered on college preparation, but in recent years, parents, teachers and administrators have begun advocating for the inclusion of more professional skills-based training. Their vision is quickly becoming reality as more high schools invest in the technology and instructional staff to support more career-minded education, ranging from 3D animation to masonry, robotics and more. According to Texas-based AV Systems Integrator Digital Resources, one such field that’s drawn interest from the education community is news production and live event AV.

Year on year, the company continues to see new clients requesting sophisticated on-campus studio builds that incorporate real-world media production equipment from companies like AJA Video Systems. Schools then harness the facility and equipment to train students on how to deliver daily news casts from start to finish, with students serving as the production crew, news anchor team, director/technical director and floor director. In addition to learning the tools and roles of the trade, they’re taught how to write story scripts; achieve the right voice quality, diction and timing; performance and pacing techniques; and more.

Prosper Rock Hill High School in Frisco, TX is one of the many high schools embracing this methodology, and with help from Digital Resources, recently built a cutting-edge TV studio that its students use to produce and broadcast a live daily news show campus-wide. Similarly, Northwest Independent School District (ISD) in Fort Worth, TX, is using its Creative Media Production Academy, built by Digital Resources, to train students in 3D animation, live event production, broadcast, and more. Some students from the program have gained such valuable experience that they’ve gone on to land positions assisting proAV management for collegiate athletics and professional sports productions post-graduation. With educational outfits like Prosper Rock and Northwest ISD continuing to demonstrate the value that early media production training can provide, Digital Resources expects more districts and campuses to follow in their footsteps.…Read More

7 things we should start teaching in schools ASAP

Americans typically learn a lot of things in school–spelling, math, why plants are green–that are actually useful in our day-to-day lives, the Huffington Post reports. But they also learn a lot of other things–cursive, long division, how to play “Hot Crossed Buns” on the recorder–that are probably not. No, we didn’t waste our time with those lessons. Learning something new isn’t ever a net loss. Playing the recorder provides building blocks for understanding music, and writing cursive has been shown to increase reading comprehension, for example. But it is worth reconsidering what we teach in the classroom and figuring out which lessons could better prepare students for life after graduation…

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The shocking things schools are—and aren’t—teaching

Over the past couple years, several states attempted — and in some instances, succeeded — in passing legislation that brought controversial changes to school curriculums, the Huffington Post reports. For instance, under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed sweeping new school voucher program, tens of millions of Louisiana taxpayer dollars will be used to offer vouchers to more than half of the state’s poor and middle-class public school students. These students can in turn use these vouchers to attend more than 120 private schools, including a number of small, Bible-based learning institutions that boast extreme anti-science and anti-history curriculums while championing creationism. Meanwhile, several states have grappled with how to approach sex education in the classroom. A controversial bill that would have allowed Utah schools to ban sex education and discussion of homosexuality in class passed the state Senate before it was eventually vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert. In the aftermath of that decision, Republican state Sen. Stuart Reid is sponsoring a bill that would require the state school board to develop a sex education program for parents…

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Gearing up for the new school year

Teachers can share ideas to get their classroom technology up to speed.
Teachers can share ideas to get their classroom technology up to speed.

It is hard to believe that it was more than two months ago that I was gearing up for summer.  I was brushing last year’s sand off of my beach chairs, slipping my feet into friendly old sandals, and hitting the gym so I would fit into bathing suits that must have shrunk in the wash!  Now fall is peeking out from behind sweaty days, with soaking rains to revive scorched grass and yellow buses practicing routes that will soon bring bodies into the waiting desks. The bare classroom in which I sit will soon be filled, and I have a new plan to get ready for this school year.

In the past I have dusted off curriculum binders, gathered a supply of whiteboard markers (so recently replacing chalk), and put up a framework for bulletin boards to be populated with student work by the end of week one.  This year is a bit different.  This year is the culmination of my move into the digital realm.  This year my mantra is “Get Teched Up!”…Read More

Internet-enabled ‘flexbooks’ replacing traditional textbooks

At Brandon Valley High School in South Dakota, bulky science textbooks soon might be replaced with slimmer science “flexbooks,” a new model of textbook creation in which teachers write their own curriculum using information gathered from online resources, reports the Argus Leader. Tanya Czepull, district curriculum coordinator, and high school science teacher Justin Lovrien have told the school board about the benefits of flexbooks as opposed to buying new textbooks through the seven-year rotation process. The board will consider the proposal this month. The state Department of Education doesn’t track how many districts buy textbooks or write their own, because districts aren’t required to report that information to the state. But education officials expect it’s a trend on the rise. “This seems like a great idea,” said Julie Mathiesen, director at Technology and Innovation in Education in Rapid City. “Teachers like to customize their content, and this allows for that type of customization.” If the textbook is online, a lot of the value would be in links that students could use to see the animation of a science concept, such as a virtual cell, for example. “This is going to be much more engaging to our students,” Mathiesen said…

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Texas ed board vote reflects far-right influences

A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade, the Associated Press reports. Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than “democratic,” and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard. “We have been about conservatism versus liberalism,” said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. “We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it’s appropriate.” Following three days of impassioned and acrimonious debate, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards with a 10-5 party line vote. A final vote is expected in May, after a public comment period that could produce additional amendments and arguments…

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