We’re in the Golden Age of Educational Apps, according to Shannon Holden, Assistant Principal at Republic Middle School (MO). However, many parents and educators question the educational value of apps and worry they are taking away from actual instructional time. Holden reminded attendees in his recent edWebinar “10 Apps Every Teacher Needs NOW!” that like any instructional resource, teachers should carefully review each app’s purpose and potential for aiding the learning process. The apps showcased in the presentation help reinforce lessons, organize lesson content, and assess student progress.
In a recent edWebinar hosted by edWeb.net, Amy Filsinger, Head of School Success, Mike Rettberg, Professional Services Lead, and Chris Walsh, Head of Impact from Always Be Learning (Abl) agreed that student-centered scheduling ensures that ALL students get the classes they want and need. You can almost be guaranteed to see a large magnet board with its color-coded magnets in most school buildings. Filsinger stresses that “every year, there is roughly $10 million dollars being managed on a magnet board with post it notes, and expo markers.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is, at its heart, a processing disorder. And while the students with ASD face a variety of challenges depending on where they fall on the spectrum, even those considered high functioning have difficulties with pragmatic social language and understanding social interactions. So, when educators mainstream students with ASD and hope that they will learn how to interact in the classroom just by watching their peers, the educators are setting up the students for failure. Nina Finkler, a learning consultant with years of experience working with students with ASD, says success comes when schools actually acknowledge the different needs of students with ASD and set up individualized supports throughout their learning career. In her edWebinar “Meeting the Needs of Students with ASD Within the Mainstream Classroom”, Finkler outlined the biggest challenges with mainstreaming and key strategies for helping them thrive in their new environment.
What’s the best way to know what’s going on in schools? The answer, of course, is to visit the school, talk to the staff and students, and observe the learning process. What’s the easier way? Looking at proficiency data. For better or worse, standardized test scores are simple for anyone to access, typically a link or two away on the web. But as Mitch Slater, Co-Founder and CEO of Levered Learning, pointed out in his edWebinar “A Little Data is a Dangerous Thing: What State Test Score Summaries Do and Don’t Say About Student Learning,” looking at data from one set of assessment scores without context is virtually meaningless. While educators should track performance data to help inform their overall view on a district, school, or class, they need to keep in mind basic data analysis principles to ensure that they aren’t getting a false image of their students’ achievement.
Twenty years ago it was easier to identify fake news. There were the tabloid papers in the grocery store checkout line and the sensationalized “news” programs that promised inside looks at celebrity lives. Now, between the number of online information sites and the proliferation of social media apps, plus near constant mobile phone use, determining a story’s credibility seems to call for advanced detective skills. In her edWebinar “Fight Fake News: Media Literacy for Students,” Tiffany Whitehead, School Librarian for the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, says that’s exactly what we need to teach students. While today’s youth may be aware that not everything on the Internet is true, they don’t have the tools to evaluate accuracy and authenticity.
Augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality—can immersive technology really benefit students and their learning, or are these just tech fads? In their recent edWebinar, Jaime Donally, Author, Speaker, and Edtech Consultant, and Michelle Luhtala, Library Department Chair at New Canaan High School in Connecticut, explained that although these technologies aren’t the answer to everything, they are transforming learning and will continue to do so going forward. In addition, while the thought of using these tools can be exciting, schools need to first plan for successful integration into the classroom and curriculum.
It’s an often-told story: the new principal comes to a school, opens the supply closet, and sees tons of notepads (or pencils or toner). When she looks at the supply order and asks why even more are being purchased despite the surplus, the reply is, “it’s the same order we make every year.” Unfortunately, that philosophy typically applies to school schedules as well. At the end of the school year, the previous master schedule is duplicated, teacher rosters are updated as needed, and no other changes are made regardless of changes in the student population. In addition to this practice being lazy, the presenters of the edWebinar, “Using Student-Centered Scheduling to Address Equity” said copying the same schedule year after year can lead to further segregating students and keeping low-performing ones from reaching their potential. While reworking the master schedule may not be the most exciting part of the principal’s job, presenters Karin Chenoweth, Author of Schools that Succeed; Sergio Garcia, Principal, Artesia High School (CA); and Chris Fitzgerald Walsh, Head of Impact, Abl, say making sure instructional time isn’t wasted is the administrator’s most important job.
Tech4TeacherEd is a new edWeb.net community for pre-service teachers, college of education faculty, and inservice educators to share resources and ideas for integrating digital tools into the classroom. The goal of Tech4TeacherEd is to provide a free professional learning community where undergraduate and graduate pre-service candidates can discover information about integrating technology into teaching and learning, a wide range of resources for educators, and the ISTE Standards for Students, Educators, Education Leaders and Tech Coaches. The community hosts edWebinars presented by teacher ed candidates, giving them an unprecedented opportunity to share their learning and perspectives on the issues impacting education with the global education community. It helps them engage as a professional in lifelong learning right from the start in their pre-service years.
When Congress passed FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) in 1974, school and district leaders could rely on once-a-year training and reviews to make sure they remained in compliance. Now, when educators could potentially add a new app with a few mouse clicks, managing student data privacy is a never-ending task. In the edWebinar “Student Data Privacy: A Priority and Essential Commitment,” presenters Dr. Charles Dumais, Superintendent and Executive Director, Cooperative Educational Services, Trumbull, CT; Dr. Quinn Kellis, Superintendent Dysart Unified School District, Surprise, AZ; and Linnette Attai, Project Director, CoSN Privacy Initiative and Trusted Learning Environment Program, explained CoSN’s Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning initiative and superintendents’ essential role in directing their districts’ efforts. Discussing CoSN’s Five Critical Guidelines for Ensuring Data Privacy in Your Use of Technology, the speakers told attendees that when it comes to data privacy, the word “done” isn’t in their vocabulary.
Mention edtech, and the first thought that usually comes to mind is collecting data to evaluate students’ progress. And during the recent webinar “Get Smart with EdTech: Track Usage on Every Device,” presenters Jeremy Bunkley, Director of Information Technology Services, School District of Clay County, FL, and Leo Brehm, Product Manager, CatchOn, acknowledged that one goal of edtech is to provide educators with data so that they can develop a more effective and personalized learning plan for each student. They also said, though, that with the silos of information that still exist in many schools and districts, one of the most important pieces of data to collect is to find out what edtech resources are actually being used in your classroom. By asking three key questions, leaders can get a better sense of their K-12 edtech ecosystem.