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

Balancing SEL and classroom basics

As we enter our third year impacted by COVID, I predict that it is going to take schools three years to fully recover. After spending a year at home, my high school students are back in the classroom, and I am thrilled to be with them.

However, even beyond academic challenges, students also need to work on the basics of being a student, such as getting to class on time and not relying on their cell phone for answers. Here’s how I see teachers, administrators, and students working together to get school back to something resembling normal.

SEL will be essential for students and teachers.…Read More

ClassTag Launches ClassTag Goods to Eliminate Needless Teacher Out-of-Pocket Spending

NEW YORK, NY, August 12, 2021: ClassTag, the leading parent-teacher engagement platform, today announced the launch of ClassTag Goods, a free community-driven solution for teachers to receive much needed contributions for their classrooms. 

Historically, teachers have had to spend their own money to fund their classroom’s supplies, with the average teacher spending $495 a year out-of-pocket. With ClassTag Goods, teachers can now set up their own Classroom Fund which will enable parents and guardians to donate directly to their classroom on a recurring basis. All funds go directly to the teachers (without any hidden transaction or processing fees) who can then redeem supplies from ClassTag’s robust catalogue of Goods. 

“Existing fundraising solutions for teachers have failed to offer the level of flexibility ClassTag Goods provides,” said Vlada Lotkina, CEO and Co-founder of ClassTag. “Before, teachers were beholden to creating finite fundraising projects that, if not reached, meant they would not receive any of the funds donated. With ClassTag Goods, the goal is to finally put an end to this ridiculous idea that teachers should have to spend their own money on classroom supplies once and for all.” …Read More

Amex Trendex: Consumers Prioritize Remote Learning and Work from Home Upgrades this Back to School Season

According to the Amex Trendex, a trend report from American Express, consumers surveyed in the U.S. are anticipating spending more time at home this fall as back to school approaches and work from home practices continue. With this in mind, they’re spending to enhance their remote learning and work environments. The majority of consumers surveyed also note they are missing travel right now, and for nearly half of those surveyed, it’s taking an emotional toll, causing increased stress and anxiety.

Adapting for the School and Work Year Ahead – The way parents are preparing for back to school season is evolving to meet changing demands. In fact, 55% of parents surveyed are considering co-parenting with another family to help ease childcare responsibilities while they navigate working remotely. Parents are also investing in their work from home and remote learning experiences. In lieu of the typical back to school items, they’re planning to spend more on technology (30%) and workspace enhancements such as office furniture (27%).  Due to the challenges they have already navigated over the past several months, the majority of parents (75%) feel prepared to adapt to any changes ahead.

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Education will play a bigger part of TikTok

Bryan Thoensen, who oversees content partnerships at TikTok, said that during the coronavirus pandemic TikTok is seeing people not only spending more time watching videos but also experimenting with the creation of different types of content, including in sports, gaming, cooking, fashion, and beauty. TikTok users are already doing more than just dancing and lip-syncing on the video app.

“It’s not just music. It’s, you know, all these different formats, from cooking to Q&A…” Thoensen said.

Read more at cnet.com…Read More

Digital ethics for kids

iKeepSafe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a safe digital landscape for children, schools and families, recently launched the sixth installment of the Faux Paw the Techno Cat narrated e-book series, Faux Paw and the Unfortunate Upload. This e-book covers digital ethics for kids, helping them to understand how their behaviors online can impact their relationships in real life.

The Faux Paw e-book series is a free resource for parents, educators, and caregivers to help teach children the importance of safety and security online. “With more children spending time online due to COVID-19 school closures, it’s more important than ever for parents and teachers to ensure their children are staying safe while using digital devices,” says Jacalyn Leavitt, founder of iKeepSafe and former First Lady of Utah. “This book — and the rest of the Faux Paw series — is an excellent resource for parents and educators to help keep their children safe when using the internet.”

Each book in the Faux Paw series covers a separate online safety topic for kids, including how to handle a cyberbully, balancing real life with screen time, and how to make healthy media choices. The books are available in PDF format through the iKeepSafe website, or can be viewed on the iKeepSafe YouTube channel as either a narrated e-book or animated cartoon.…Read More

6 free resources for teachers–just in time for back-to-school

Although the school year starts at different times across the country, one thing is guaranteed: free resources for teachers are at the top of the must-have list.

Free resources for teachers are important no matter the monetary value of the resource. A federal survey released earlier this year and based on data from the 2015-2016 school year shows that 94 percent of public school teachers report spending their own money on classroom supplies.

Related content: Make “Welcome Back to School” videos work for you…Read More

Makerspace tips and advice from the front lines

Maker culture is thriving in schools and public libraries across the United States and beyond. From challenges to success stories, no two makerspaces are alike, and maker facilitators have valuable lessons to share. In their recent edWebinar, Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan High School in Conn., Ethan Heise, director of MackinMaker, and Heather Lister, professional learning specialist, discussed their experiences with makerspaces and shared advice for those starting their maker education journey.

4 tips from those in the know

  1. Start small. When New Canaan High School started its makerspace journey, Luhtala realized they needed to start with basics like LEGO bricks, markers, and butcher-block paper to maintain a student-centered mindset. Once students began spending more time in the makerspace and expressing interest in using different kinds of materials, storage and organization—including tackle boxes, shelves, labeled bins, and photo albums with pictures displaying materials—became essential.
  2. Ask for assistance from teachers and students. Although you may be the driving force at your school, Lister did not recommend going it alone. With hundreds or even thousands of kids using the library, it doesn’t make sense to design that space without their voice. Have teachers take a level of ownership by getting their input in areas like the furniture design or adding ideas to a Pinterest board. She also added that you should not be too rigid when it comes to your plan. Save yourself stress by staying flexible when plans change, potential new equipment emerges, or old materials don’t work out.
  3. Do not be one-size-fits-all. Heise said it’s a good idea to choose themes (e.g., coding for kids) so you can assess the materials you’ll need. Be sure to check out device compatibility before purchasing any equipment. A needs assessment that encompasses factors like time, size, budget, theme, and location can help you determine how to move forward. Understanding how long different projects will take your students is key to making sure you’re getting the right products into your makerspace.
  4. Be transparent from the start. Getting teachers on board might be a challenge at first, so Lister recommended presenting your ideas at a staff meeting and asking teachers to collaborate on a project they’re already doing. That way, they’ll see that the makerspace is not something additional, but something they can work into an existing project. “You will really start to see the power and creativity that comes out of (having a makerspace) and you’re going to have so many unintended benefits, good consequences that come out of this,” said Lister.
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Are K-12 data systems ready for AI?

As educators who love technology, we can barely contain our enthusiasm for the potential applications of artificial intelligence (AI). But AI requires massive amounts of data, so before jumping on the AI bandwagon we need to:

  • reflect on the kinds of data that would make teaching more effective and improve learning outcomes;
  • consider the systems that will allow us to collect and manage the data; and
  • create processes to share and analyze the data.

Most districts do not yet have the foundation to make the leap to AI (other than what is already embedded in the apps and programs they’re currently using). Schools still exhibit a lack of maturity around data collection that should make us cautious about AI. There are also algorithmic bias and equity issues that need to be resolved before we move to wide-scale AI adoption. For most districts, spending money on AI over the next three to five years would be money down the drain. The ecosystems to support AI implementation are simply not yet in place in most schools and districts.

5 essential questions to test your district’s AI readiness…Read More

4 ways technology can improve SEL skills

Today’s classrooms are full of immersive high-tech tools—but at the same time, schools and districts are being pushed to promote social-emotional learning (SEL) and improve school climate. Since spending too much time looking at various screens can hinder the direct connection between people, here are four real-world examples of tech helping students connect on a human level with their peers, their teachers, and the world around them.

Howard Vogel: Confronting students’ fear of public speaking

When teaching the 21st-century skill of communication, many schools focus on reading and writing, but spoken communication is just as important to students’ success in school and in life. At J.M. Grasse Elementary School in Perkasie, Penn., where I am the principal, we use technology to make students more comfortable with public speaking.…Read More