Students miss a school day now and then. They get sick, have a doctor’s appointment, or get caught up in a family emergency. These are among common excused absences that don’t usually affect a student’s academic standing. But chronic absenteeism—missing 10% or more of school—is an equity epidemic with short- and long-term impacts on student performance. Each year, almost eight million students are chronically absent for complex reasons.
Sometimes, teaching is more like bombardment: Grading hundreds of essays, placating disgruntled parents, accommodating learning needs, sweating out the principals’ nerve-wracking classroom observation. And then there are the stressors of life beyond the classroom. Being a teacher can be tough. It is rewarding but also overwhelming and, at times, can take a personal and professional toll.
As school districts across the country face school closings, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is launching the SETDA Coalition for eLearning on edWeb.net. The SETDA Coalition for eLearning focuses state leaders, affiliates, and partners in collective action around teaching and learning in the digital age. edWeb will be hosting the new Essential Elements for eLearning community of practice and a series of edWebinars to help disseminate an ever-evolving compilation of rapidly developing resources around eLearning for state education agencies and school districts. The program is free thanks to support from AT&T Aspire.
The goal of digital equity is to ensure that all students have access to devices, high-speed internet, and opportunities to learn both in school and out. While digital equity is a challenge for all school districts, Dr. Beth Holland, Digital Equity and Rural Project Director for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), points out that it becomes a very complex issue given the challenges within rural schools and systems. In a recent edWebinar, Holland along with Jennifer Austin, CETL, Instructional Technology Coordinator at Lac du Flambeau Public School in Wisconsin, Michael Flood, Vice President of Strategy at Kajeet, and Tammy Neil, Computer Science Teacher at Suwannee Middle School in Florida, discuss the unique challenges rural districts face when providing students’ online access to their education. Flood explained that when students don’t have equal access to devices and high-speed internet, it prevents them from having the same kinds of learning opportunities as their more connected peers.
Administrators selecting educational technology programs for their schools or districts face big decisions due to the time and money at stake, so having accurate and relevant information about the programs’ impact on student performance elsewhere should be a critical part of the decision-making process. During a recent edWebinar sponsored by MIND Research Institute, Andrew Coulson, Chief Data Science Officer at MIND Research Institute, and Brian LeTendre, Director of Content and Communications, explained a process for finding data that will help administrators make the best choices for their student population, and in doing so “raise expectations about the availability of information” during program evaluations.
Whether schools are 1:1 or still relying on computer carts, the move to online assessments creates new needs from devices to professional development to data privacy policies. During the edWebinar, “Online Assessment: An Effective, Coordinated, District Leadership Team Approach,” administrators from the Hampton Township School District in Pennsylvania offered lessons they learned from implementing a comprehensive online assessment program.
edWeb.net has just released its 2020 Teacher Professional Learning Survey. For three years, edWeb has conducted an annual survey on professional learning and how edWeb meets educators’ needs. Each year the survey shows consistency in why teachers engage in professional learning, the features that are most important in a professional learning program, and the impact edWeb has on teaching and student learning. When teachers participate in professional learning, they frequently share their learning with colleagues and the school-wide community, multiplying the impact.
Digital learning not only plays a crucial role in preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, it also has an important role in providing equity and access to education, especially in smaller and remote school districts. And, that makes access to adequate and reliable broadband even more important as the development of new technologies continues. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is now preparing to accommodate next-generation technologies such as 5G, virtual reality, robotics, and e-sports, and during a recent SETDA and ENA edWebinar, Christine Fox, the group’s Deputy Executive Director, provided an overview of the opportunities and challenges that schools and districts now face. Marc Johnson, Executive Director of East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative (ECMECC), then provided perspective from a regional and local level on the expanding use of broadband.
It may lack sweat equity, but it’s up there with even the most physically demanding of sports. Esports, the competitive side of video gaming, is exploding. And K-12 schools are buying in because it’s not only fun but also a viable educational tool! A recent edWebinar sponsored by Common Sense Education, “Ready Player One: Esports in K-12,” highlights why esports has taken hold in schools. Research-based evidence affirms its highly positive impact on students’ academic achievement, soft skills, and socio-emotional well-being.
Everyone has been to school and has their own image of what a classroom should look like. And depending on their background and experience, not everyone is supportive of tech-infused learning. Yet, 1:1 classrooms, BYOD, and tech-supported education are today’s reality. During the edWebinar, “Leading Digital Learning: Successful Strategies for 1:1 Implementations,” the presenters focused on how to get buy-in from within the school and across the community to improve chances for success and sustainability.