In May 2019, 150 principals from across the country participated in an edWeb survey on the topics, challenges, and accomplishments they experienced this year as the educational leaders in their buildings. Some of the most significant challenges and successes were highlighted in a recent edWebinar presented by Shannon Holden, Principal, Pierce City High School, MO, and Dr. L. Robert Furman, Principal, South Park Elementary Center, PA. Interestingly, no matter what the topic, all principals pointed to a universal message that school culture can either be a catalyst for student success or a roadblock to positive changes.
When students feel like they are helping drive their education and have a say in their own learning, achievement thrives. That’s been a given even when education technology was only a pencil and paper. Now, many edtech tools promise that they will help promote student voice, but how can educators tell? With years of experience using edtech to engage students, presenters in the edWebinar, “Encouraging Student Voice and Choice in the Classroom,” identified six edtech tool characteristics that give students agency in their education.
Communication and collaboration are not the same thing. There are many tools that allow educators and administrators to talk to each other, but to take advantage of edtech’s promise, they should also be able to use the tool to work together on the same projects. In her presentation, “Collaboration Near and Far in Digital Professional Learning Communities,” Geri Gillespy, Administrator of Digital Integration at West Ada School District in ID, talked about how to get the most out of online collaboration programs.
A Challenge-Based Learning model pioneered by Apple is now helping teachers engage middle school students in deep learning through projects that combine developing questions, investigating scientific phenomena, and solving problems in their classrooms, schools, and communities. In a recent edWebinar, Anthony Baker, Project Director for Digital Promise, which has further developed and researched the Challenge-Based Learning model, explains that this approach enables students to make meaningful connections to their science curriculum while also answering the age-old student question: “Why do I need to learn this?”
A pilot program of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has made 12 states’ reviews of secondary math and language arts materials available, with a wide range of K-12 resources from these and other states to follow. As explained by Christine Fox, Deputy Executive Director of SETDA, during a recent edWebinar, this searchable information will help educational leaders ensure that the materials they purchase are high-quality, aligned with their standards and goals, and accessible to all students.
“One of the challenges of teaching math, particular in the United States is that school math seems to come from a different universe than life math.” In a recent edWebinar, Sara Delano Moore, Ph.D., Director of Professional Learning for ORIGO Education, underscored that we, as educators, need to help students engage in math by seeing math as something vital to them. Moore points out that there are formal mathematicians with advanced degrees and accreditations, but anyone who uses math and thinks about the world quantitively can be considered a mathematician.
All educators are lifelong learners, whether they’re figuring out how to incorporate the latest edtech device into their lessons or researching bios on NBA players to help a reluctant reader. But while schools expect teachers to continue their education, most only get rewarded for getting an advanced degree like a master’s or a Ph.D. Now, organizations like Digital Promise have developed micro-credential programs, which recognize educators for acquiring new skills. During her presentation “Measuring and Sustaining Professional Learning Through Micro-Credentials,” Odelia Younge, senior project director for educator micro-credentials at Digital Promise, explained the key elements of micro-credentials, how they work, and what differentiates them from other professional development.
Coding and robotics programs in classrooms reflect how integral technology is in our lives. Educators like Angie Kalthoff, Technology Integrationist in St. Cloud, MN, and Ann Bartel, Instructional Technology Specialist in Chilton, WI, teach K-8 students about technology through coding and computer science programs that incorporate the 4 Cs of learning: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. In a recent edWebinar, Kalthoff and Bartel explain that they want to coach students and not just tell them what button to push or the correct sequences to move a robot across a mat. By being challenged to take ownership of their learning through design thinking, students grow to understand that it is okay not to get the right answer the first time and that failing is part of the learning process.
School- and district-wide wireless internet access is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s a must have. And with staff, teachers, parents, and students needing 24/7 access, there’s never a good time for down time. During the edWebinar, “Smart Network Design for Transformation and Innovation: Reaching in and Beyond the Classroom,” the presenters discussed the six elements of CoSN’s new network design for continuous service.
Schools are facing new challenges now that most learning involves the web—chiefly, the ability to do work at home or anywhere away from school grounds. While many are looking for ways to provide all students with a device, just having the device does not mean equitable learning. All students need to have the same access to WiFi, and thus the ability to use the device, whether they are at school or not. In the edWebinar, “Closing the Homework Gap: Digital Equity for All Students,” the presenters talked about the challenges and potential solutions to fulfill the promise of anytime, anywhere learning.