How teacher voice can improve professional development

One common faculty complaint of professional development is that it doesn’t lead to improvement. Four years ago that was certainly the way many educators felt here in the Farmington Public Schools in central Connecticut. Even though providing engaging professional development is a hard challenge, we were committed to finding ways to make PD more responsive and relevant. Hearing from our teachers that this was a pain point for them strengthened our resolve to act.

How did we know that so many educators felt overlooked by our professional learning efforts? In short, we asked them. At Farmington, we have collected feedback from students, families, teachers and staff using stakeholder surveys for many years. Our goal is to ask questions and gather data in ways that let us use stakeholder voice to influence and impact district work. As assistant superintendent, I regularly visit classrooms and participate in committees with students, faculty, and staff to better understand teaching and learning across the district. We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen partnerships among all stakeholder groups, and surveys are an invaluable source of information that has an influence on district practice.

For our PD survey, we used an online survey and data collection platform called Panorama Education to ask faculty to reflect on this statement: “The professional development I participated in this year helped me improve my practice.” Four years ago, the results showed that too many faculty did not feel like PD helped them improve.…Read More

5 ways to improve your school website design right now

These days, before visiting your campus or even speaking to anyone on the phone, the first impression anyone will ever have with your school is via its website. When researching existing schools, the majority of people will automatically undertake in-depth online research to learn more about their options. Therefore, it is crucial that your website contains enough relevant information that is eye catching and easy to navigate through so as to provide helpful information and not confuse the visitor, causing them to leave the website. After enrollment, the website will serve as a vital link between parents, students and school administration.

Content seems to be key here, yet it is not merely enough, meaning if it is not organized in the right way, it will be difficult to find or there will be too much of it, therefore it will not serve its purpose. This is where design plays its part in providing solutions for content display and organization.

That being said, design is not something you should fear since it does not present a difficult task given the development and advancement in the CMS that enable even those without much designer skills achieve great results. Yet, there are a few steps you should consider and implement if you want to maximize your website’s effectiveness.…Read More

Watch 4 ed-tech trailblazers discuss disruptive change for the future

Darryl Adams, DOE’s Ted Mitchell, and more share groundbreaking thoughts

“These are not infomercials,” is perhaps the best way to describe the reinvented interview lineup recently part of ASU GSV 2016’s Innovation Summit held in San Diego April 18-20, according to Casey Green, host of the interactive interviews and founding director of Campus Computing.

In what could be considered a remodel of the education conference to reflect the disruptive change occurring throughout education, ASU GSV’s Innovation Summit hosted a diverse mix of educators, corporate executives, public officials, education entrepreneurs, and foundation officials—and Green, in partnership with eSchool News, was there to capture the invaluable advice and thought leadership from some of the most notable attendees.

Here, you’ll find a sample of the interviews recently conducted during the innovation Summit, as well as a brief description of some of the topics discussed. For even more interviews (more will be added to the current list as we receive the archived versions), visit our ASU GSV page.…Read More

5 ways to give teachers and principals more say in ed-tech buying

Teachers and principals should play a greater role in selecting tech for their schools

Today, we’re seeing a growing number of new ed-tech solutions being adopted directly by teachers, prompting an opportunity to revisit who should be making decisions when it comes to which technologies are used in schools.

A recent Digital Promise report found that, for the most part, teachers and principals play a modest role in needs assessment and procurement, and that district administrators serve as the gatekeepers for school-level technology.

We recently spent the day with 100 leading district leaders, principals, and teachers to discuss the ed-tech decision-making process. Although they explained that district administrators played the most significant role in tech decision-making for their districts, more than half (55 percent) believed that principals should have the most significant say in purchasing decisions for tech in their schools. Only about a third (32 percent) favored decision-making by the central office.…Read More

Should you treat your school like a business?

As parents have more choices regarding where their children go to school, some districts are beginning to view students and parents as “customers” — with surprising results

The idea of treating students, parents and the school community as customers isn’t an entirely new one, but it’s still one that makes some school leaders balk. After all, schools are institutions of learning, and traditionally, they have not been thought of as businesses.

But with the growth of charter schools and online schools, parents have other options to explore if their child’s school does not meet expectations — and when students leave, so, too, does funding.

And in an effort to increase parental engagement and ensure that parents and community members feel as though they are part of their children’s school, the newly-passed Every Student Succeeds Act includes multiple methods to increase parental engagement, including expanded accessibility, regular two-way communication, and enhanced parent and family engagement policies.…Read More

One state’s plan to bring better internet to schools and homes

Ohio’s OneCommunity brings broadband to schools and private homes

ohio-equitySince 2003, OneCommunity of Cleveland has been connecting and enabling public benefit organizations across the state like schools, government agencies, healthcare, museums, and libraries with next-generation fiber optics. And lately, they’re begun working with schools to identify private homes that lack sufficient bandwidth.

Lev Gonick, chief executive, said OneCommunity was born out of the need to elevate Northeastern Ohio’s “Rust Belt” status by infusing the region with faster and more accessible Internet. “Northeast Ohio was looking for a roadmap to reinvent itself,” said Gonick, who at the time was vice president and chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University, one of OneCommunity’s founding partners.

“Community leaders embraced the idea that whatever our future might be,” he adds, “fiber optics would [provide] a very important underlying and enabling infrastructure to get us there.”…Read More

Students’ ed-tech opinions might surprise you

Students are more thoughtful about technology use than many adults give them credit for

students-ed-techStudents see equity of access as a key ed-tech challenge for their schools, and they’d like to have newer technology in their classrooms. But they’re also more thoughtful about their tech use than many adults give them credit for, expressing concerns about distractions and a lack of face-to-face interaction when using devices in class.

Those were some of the key takeaways from a panel discussion held June 30 during the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia.

Hosted by ed-tech public relations firm PR with Panache, “Youth Voices” featured two middle and two high school students discussing their opinions on topics ranging from how they use technology in school and at home, to what they think the future of education will look like.…Read More

The 3 trust questions to ask every ed tech vendor

Vendors need to answer these questions when establishing trust with administrators

trust-questionsThe educational technology procurement market is enormous: $13 billion is spent annually. Just last year a historic $2 billion of investment capital was pumped into ed tech startups. As an educator, how do you know who to trust when it comes to meeting your district’s technology needs? Do you trust the established companies fighting ever harder to keep their market share? Can you trust their overpowering marketing machines? Should you trust the new, innovative, and exciting start-ups? Do they have bandwidth and capacity to keep us “online?”

These are the questions I ask as superintendent of Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in northeastern Iowa. To help answer them, I have developed three baseline questions that have been essential in building trust with vendors we work with. They have served my district well through myriad procurement cycles, including a recently launched one-to-one Apple device initiative.…Read More

How to include the community when making key school decisions

Finding common ground is a difficult, yet essential, task of teacher, principal, and district leadership.

As the 2012 presidential election and the fiscal cliff battle indicates, political division is the new normal. Created to serve as common schools for the common good, public schools are often caught in the crosshairs of opposing factions.

Finding an increasingly elusive common ground is a difficult, yet essential, task of teacher, principal, and district leadership, however.

That’s why the notion of peer, student, and public engagement is gaining such currency, whether through professional learning communities, 21st century learning strategies, voice polls, online surveys, or potluck suppers built around hot topics like safety, new curriculum initiatives, or looming budget cuts.…Read More

Smart phones require smart communication strategies

When parents perceive a communication void, they will work to fill it, by creating their own mobile apps or alternative social media sites.

With as many as 49 percent of all U.S. adults using smart phones, according to Nielsen reports, it’s time to get smart about school communications as well.

Today’s on-the-go parents, teachers, and principals require fast, easy access to news and information. In most cases, this requires access to stripped-down mobile websites or special applications (apps) designed for smaller screens and sometimes sketchy wireless internet connections.

Smart-phone use is nearly ubiquitous among young American adults. According to Pew Research, two-thirds (66 percent) of young adults ages 18 to 29 own smart phones. This jumps to 68 percent for adults of any age with household incomes of $75,000 or more. At 59 percent, adults ages 30 to 49 don’t lag far behind these top groups in terms of smart phone ownership.…Read More

Social media trends should prompt a rethinking of school communications

Websites are slowly taking a backseat to text messaging and micro-blogging tools like Twitter for breaking news, emergency messaging, and sharing other urgent information, writes award-winning columnist Nora Carr in the June edition of eSchool News—and schools should be aware of this trend.

Virtual schooling’s popularity challenges policy makers

Because assumptions vary based on individual perceptions of the role of virtual schooling in K-12 education, school officials need to invest more time and effort communicating about these issues, not less.

With student enrollment increasing rapidly, virtual schooling is experiencing some growing pains. From high dropout rates to concerns about academic rigor, virtual schooling is generating a litany of complaints and unintended student consequences.

Recently, for example, high-flying students at a suburban high school in North Carolina were shocked to discover that their class ranks had dropped unexpectedly, just in time for many major college application deadlines—and scholarship opportunities.

The culprit? Students dually enrolled at the traditional school and in online classes offered through the state’s virtual high school earned enough credit to move from the top of the junior to the top of the senior class.…Read More