December 13, 2015

We’re a proud sponsor of the Future Learning Device Pilot in Sydenham School

Here is a short report from Sydenham School in London that I just found in their newsletter, edition 125. We’re proud to have sponsored this wonderful school.

Future Learning Device Pilot

In January this year, two tutor groups of Year 7 students were provided with a tablet device as part of our Future Learning Device Pilot. The students were able to take the devices home and brought the devices into school to use as part of their lessons, and we are currently evaluating the impact these devices had on their learning experiences.
We understand this is the biggest such pilot ever to be conducted in a UK school, and are grateful for the support of our sponsors, Dell, Lenovo, Getech and Cetrix for making this possible, as well as to the staff, students and parents of those involved.

You can take a look at the whole article here:

Nasa unveils stunning colour image of Pluto's surface

It's highly unlikely that anyone alive today will set foot on Pluto, so this high resolution colour image of the dwarf planet's surface is going to be the closest we get.

November 28, 2015

It's Not a Technology Issue

Eric Sheninger

Technology still gets a bad rap in many education circles. Perception and lack of information influence the decision making process. This ends up resulting in the formation of rules and policies that severely restrict or prohibit student use of mobile technology and social media as tools to support and/or enhance learning. Even with the proliferation of technology across all facets of society, we still see schools moving at a snail's pace (if at all) to adapt, or better yet evolve, to a digital world. In my opinion, sheer ignorance is to blame. From this ignorance a plethora of excuses arise. Educators and administrators are quick to point to technology as the main culprit for an array of issues. 

Five Ways to Restore Humanity to the Classroom

When I look back on the great teachers who shaped my life, what I remember isn't the way they prepared me to take a standardized test. What I remember is the way they taught me to believe in myself. To be curious about the world. To take charge of my own learning so that I could reach my full potential. They inspired me to open up a window into parts of the world I'd never thought of before. -- President Obama, "An Open Letter to America's Parents and Teachers," October 26, 2015

On Gender, Violence, and the Right to Education

Children and youth of all genders have a right to inclusive, quality education--the foundation to improving people's lives. Yet an estimated 62 million girls are out of school. And with 1 in 3 women experiencing physical and/or sexual assault in her lifetime, we're beginning to understand that the interplay of violence, gender, and education is powerful and complex and demands more of our attention.

November 27, 2015

Bringing Magic into your classroom

Okay, I’m going to get right to the point! I saw these stats on google the other day:
“Spending on the worldwide education sector, which includes higher education, primary and secondary schools, is forecasted to grow by 2.3% to reach US$67.8 billion this year”. That’s good money!
Now, do you want to know what I think? (Please say yes!) We should spend that money on digitizing our classrooms.

November 24, 2015

Broward County School District Accelerates Internet Content Delivery

Broward County Public School District in Florida has implemented open content caching in an effort to deliver online content to classrooms faster.
The district's network infrastructure covers 270 sites, including schools, technology centers and administration buildings, and 225,000 students and 32,000 employees use it on a daily basis to access cloud services, digital instructional materials, personalized learning and collaboration tools, rich media activities and online testing. Teachers have been increasing their use of online educational resources in the classroom, and consequently straining the district's network capacity.

Collaboration System Gives Multiple Students Access to Shared Display

The Nureva Span system lets students create content on their devices and then move it to a larger digital display board.

The Nureva Span allows students to collaborate on a large shared canvas.
A new collaboration system allows students to create content on their own devices and combine it with that of other students on a 10- or 20-foot digital display board.
Nureva has introduced two models of its Span product, a collaboration system that uses a cloud-based application to move students' notes, sketches or images from their personal devices to a shared screen that can be projected on any large surface (like a classroom wall, for instance). Once projected, the content can be moved around or changed in any way desired.

Colorado State U To Debut Online Teacher Licensures in Math, Science

Colorado State University-Global Campus has unveiled new online teacher licensure programs in science and math set to debut this spring.
"The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting the number of STEM occupations will continue to grow significantly faster than other job areas. Therefore, the need for quality math and science teachers to help inspire and encourage children to pursue these areas is greater than ever," said Jon Bellum, provost and senior vice president at Colorado State University-Global Campus, in a prepared statement. "We are excited to offer these new teacher licensure programs as a way to help fulfill this need."

Virtual Reality Tech Company Partners With Content Provider On Science Resources

Cyber Science 3D and Cengage Learning will join forces to produce educational science products for K-12 and higher ed schools and libraries. The partnership will combine Cyber Science 3D's expertise with virtual reality tools and Gale's access to parent company Cengage Learning's educational content and resources. Cyber Science 3D will provide the platform for Gale's content.
According to representatives from both companies, the collection of integrated products will deliver more vivid content that will enhance teaching and learning. At the same time, Cengage Learning and Gale will provide Cyber Science 3D more access to markets when the first suite of products is introduced in early 2016.

November 23, 2015

Robin Rivers: Getting Back Up

The story originally appeared on A Teacher Like You. 

We get so caught up in testing that we're forgetting to nurture kids. We forget that school isn't just a place to learn, but a place to grow and become a person. That person in charge of that classroom, who kids are looking up to, needs to be a nurturer and a caregiver, a counselor and a relationship guru. This person is everything to these kids, because they may never have had someone like that in their lives.

Instructure Rings the Bell

Instructure Rings the Bell
By Betsy Corcoran

Yes, the panda got to ring the bell, too.
On the auspicious day of Friday, Nov. 13, Instructure became a public company on the New York City Stock Exchange, opening at $16 a share under the symbol INST and ending the day at $18 a share. Instructure sold 4.4 million shares, raising approximately $70 million.
Based in Salt Lake City, Instructure offers a cloud-based learning management system, Canvas, first to universities and more recently to K-12 schools. The company got started in 2008 by two computer science graduate students who wanted to create a platform for organizing learning materials. Their advisor, computer scientist, Josh Coates, had previously started several companies (Scale Eight and that were sold to bigger industry players.
Coates first invested in his students’ venture then rolled up his sleeves and joined as chief executive in 2010. He brought both a discipline of how to build a company—and a quirky sense of humor. The company’s annual user conference, InstructureCon, has the usual keynotes and panels—interspersed with music, mini-golf and trapeze artists.

The Big, Big Problem with Current K-12 Investing

The Big, Big Problem with Current K-12 Investing
By Alex Hernandez (Columnist), Aylon Samouha and Jeff Wetzler

If public K-12 invested 2% of its national spending on research and development (R&D), that would total $12 billion every year.
For perspective, Tesla, widely considered one of the world’s most innovative companies, raised approximately $200 million for the R&D required to put its first electric vehicles on the road. With that aforementioned 2%, K-12 could finance 60 new organizations like Tesla... every year.
Our public schools have big problems worth solving and big opportunities worth seizing. Yet it is difficult to point to the breakthroughs that define so many other industries—and it’s equally unclear who we’d entrust with $100 million to solve a problem that makes teachers and students better off.
Yet, we believe K-12 should invest significantly more money in R&D—making smart bets on dozens of “big problems” every year—while radically changing how those dollars are allocated.

How to Champion the Four C’s in the Classroom

How to Champion the Four C’s in the Classroom
By Kyle Pace

The flood of edtech tools that teachers are presented with has been staggering over the last several years, and continues to be this way. A quick glance on Twitter or any edtech conference program shows this. In fact, just typing “edtech industry” into a Google search can show the magnitude of the edtech business world.
In my experience, edtech tools tend to revolve around the 4Cs of 21st century skills: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. I would argue that there is not "one tool to rule them all" in education. (In fact, looking for one of those is like looking for a unicorn. Good luck.) Any tool that is worthy of consideration by a teacher should first clearly represent how it will impact student learning: What will my students be able to do when using XYZ? How will using XYZ in my classroom create a richer learning experience for my students?
While it’s great to have so many choices, this is also what can hold a teacher back from trying something new in their classroom--especially if the tool is cumbersome or does not show meaningful purpose in students’ learning. But, it’s also up to the educator him or herself to decide how best to integrate the 4 C’s into daily lesson plans. It’s safe to say… both educators and companies can do their part.
And so, let’s start by looking at strategies educators can try when exploring new edtech tools.

What Educators Should Do


Don’t try to use a dozen edtech tools at one time. Don't even try tackling all 4 Cs at the same time. Pick one or two of these 21st century learning skills  to focus on during the school year and then ask which tools help students develop those skills. Here are a few that I support:
If you try to use too many tools at once, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and become frustrated. Get really good at using one and then continue on from there. As long as you’re moving forward, don’t get caught up on how fast you’re moving.

Don’t Try to Stay on Top of it All--And Have 'Sandbox Time'

Teachers, you know the name of the game in education is “flexibility.” Edtech tools come, they go, they’re free, then they’re not. It’s the nature of the beast. This is one of the many great reasons to have a personal learning network (PLN) that you can tap for advice, resources and ideas. This also means that you have to keep a “learner first” mindset with all of these tools that come your way.
Make the time for “sandbox time" with a tool you’re thinking about using in your class. Get together with other teachers and practice using it before you try it out with kids. Then, be sure to get back together with your colleagues to share your classroom experiences with one another. You’ll grow, your students will grow and everyone will win.

What Companies Should Do

When It Comes to Pricing, Be Upfront

This is always a popular topic with edtech companies, isn’t it? If a tool is "free," does it offer teachers and students enough capabilities that they can do something useful? If teachers only have a “freemium” option, is that useful? Will they only get to enjoy, say, 30 days of using the tool before they are expected to pay?
Look, I get that at the end of the day, edtech companies are businesses that need to make money. Teachers and administrators get this, too. Just make it easy for teachers to understand what they’re getting when they click that sign-up button. I have seen some edtech tools that make it ridiculously difficult to locate pricing/trial period information. Don’t make it a guessing game.
Teachers and administrators--at least the ones who are paying--don’t have time for this. My personal opinion on this is that if you want to have a pay version, then great--have it. However, please offer teachers and students a decent free version to use, too. I’ve found more often than not that the free version does just fine for most students and teachers.
Please don’t make your premium version a budget buster, either. Administrators are the ones having to constantly find ways to do more with less. Make it a reasonable annual price and make it clear exactly that the teacher gets (and how it will benefit student learning). A student tool that I believe does this well is Kidblog. Yes, they recently started offering a 30-day trial of their premium version. But even the premium version is affordable at $29 per year per teacher. For what you get, I think this is a very good value.

Understand Needs By Having Teachers as Advisors

If an edtech company is 1) not hiring people with education experience and/or 2) not listening to the direct needs of teachers and students, then they’re missing the boat. This is the only way that a web tool or app is going to have an adequate pulse on the true needs of teachers and students.
Many companies have had great success by creating an advisory board of educators, an ambassador program, or something similar. It ensures that teachers and students have a voice within the organization and it is an effective, efficient way to continually iterate impact on classrooms.
I can’t think of a better way for a company to measure their impact on the 4Cs by seeking opinions and evaluations from teachers. Invite teachers to try a beta version, participate in virtual focus groups, and create pilot groups to try out specific components with their students.

Get Out of The Way

I have always said, the best web tools do a great job at getting out of the way of student learning. This means they just work and do exactly what the company says they’re going to do. The login/signup process is simple (hint: let teachers and students use their Google accounts), it’s seamless for teachers to manage and share student work, and it’s easy to learn how to actually use the tool.
For example, my students shouldn’t have to click six times just to get started on collaborating with a classmate online. I think of my own children in this situation: It has become totally normal (not to mention easy) for them to share a story with me that they’ve written or an illustration they’ve created in Google Draw. They share it, I leave them comments, and they keep working. It’s quick, efficient and it’s become the norm. This should be the case no matter which of the 4Cs the tool is focusing on.
Again, if you read the point I made before this one, then this should not be an issue.
Whether you’re a teacher giving some new edtech tools a spin, or a creator of an edtech tool, I charge you with a great responsibility. If you’re a teacher, it’s about remaining a learner first and taking some risks. If you’re making an edtech tool, it’s about truly understanding what teachers and students need. After all, we’re all in it for the same reason--student success.