‘Collaboration Nation’ offers $50K to one tech-savvy district
Collaboration Nation, a new awards program from CDW-G and eSchool News, will recognize the nation’s finest examples of collaboration and successful educational technology projects.
CDW-G will share the winning school and district’s keys to success and will award that school or district a grand prize of $50,000 to spend with CDW-G on products and services from partners such as HP, Lenovo and Meraki.
“Education is in the digital age, and technology is no longer a luxury, but a critical learning tool,” said Geoff Fletcher, education industry expert and a Collaboration Nation judge. “More than ever, the long-term success of technology-driven projects requires that we bring together all departments – IT, curriculum, instruction and administration – and Collaboration Nation will recognize the schools and districts that have put in the hard work to make this happen.”
From March 2 – June 30, 2015, schools and districts are invited to submit a nomination and short video at www.eschoolnews/collaboration.
With a focus on cross-department collaboration, the winning school or district’s nomination and video will demonstrate exemplary educational technology collaboration and how the project had a measurable impact on learning and teaching.
Schools and districts also are encouraged to be a part of the Collaboration Nation community on Facebook by sharing videos of collaboration successes. Each month (April, May and June), the school or district video that has the most shares on Facebook will win a $15,000 prize in products from Collaboration Nation partners such as HP, Lenovo or Meraki.
A distinguished four-judge panel will review all entries for the grand prize.
Try these mobile and web tools to improve parent-teacher communication
When I was in high school, no one emailed my parents to tell them I had a test. No one sent a reminder to tell them that I needed to bring back a permission form. Instead, I was expected to bring notices home to my parents.
Today, that’s not really the case. With the growth of technology, the reliance on students to fill in the communication gap between teachers and parents has disappeared. As a result, a new challenge for teachers has emerged. Many educators are good communicators by nature, but few are prepared for the huge amount of communication that is expected with students and parents.
Traditionally, teachers would reach parents about their students via phone, or via handwritten, snail-mailed letter, and typically only on important topics. Now, we’re expected to engage in a much more robust is expected due to our relatively newfound reliance on technology. The challenge of doing our job, the teaching itself, is one we expect as we enter this field. However, the challenge to communicate about upcoming tests, collect field trip permission slips, and ensure that our students have remembered to do their homework is one many teachers are still working to solve. E-mail is simply too slow and cumbersome. Way back in 2002, the High School Journal wrote that “School practices for contacting parents should be modernized because they lack reliability and are often ineffective.” In my experience, this is still true 13 years later.
Next page: Tools to make class communication simpler
One of my favorite solutions is Remind, a free service for teachers that allows messages to be sent out to a group of people known as a ‘class.’
When you get started with Remind, you share your class code and parents and/or students subscribe to your class. The message, once sent, appears as either a text message, app notification (iPhone or Android) or as an email, depending on the option that the subscriber has chosen. A nice feature is that you never see the contact information of the subscriber, and the subscriber never sees yours. I use Remind in my classroom daily. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you going:
Some districts ditch online exams for paper and pencil
The affluent Highland Park-based Township High School District 113 near Chicago has all the modern technology, bandwidth, computers and technicians it needs to administer new online state exams this spring — but it opted to go with old-fashioned paper and pencil tests instead.
Likewise, some of the state's largest districts have switched to paper exams, fearing technology glitches could create headaches for students and teachers alike. Some officials believe such distractions could skew results on the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams in reading and math.
"Our concern was really that the results of this testing taken online wouldn't necessarily give clear data on what students know and should be able to do," said District 113 spokeswoman Jennifer Waldorf.
With the main spring testing season just days away, hundreds of Illinois schools are eschewing the PARCC computer exams that include videos, drop-down menus, drag-and-drop exercises and other online functions, adding to the already-brewing controversy over state testing both here and across the country.
In Illinois, about 1 in 4 students are expected to take paper and pencil exams beginning next week in some districts and March 9 in most others, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. A handful of year-round schools started their state exams this week.
The switch to paper and pencil will push up the statewide price tag for testing by about $2.4 million, officials estimated, because paper exams are more expensive than online tests.
The PARCC covers tougher Common Core standards that students have been preparing for over the past several years. But the computer-driven format of the tests can be unnerving for some children who aren't savvy online or may not have the same access to computers as their peers, educators say.
800 new digital learning activities help prepare for PARCC and SBAC tests
Compass Learning recently announced its Pathblazer math and reading intervention solution and Hybridge blended learning solution have been enriched with more than 800 new digital learning activities for grades 6-8.
These activities feature new multimedia and tech-enhanced question types that align to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC).
“As school districts across the country prepare to test their students for the first time using new computer-based assessments, it is critical they have the proper tools that help overcome curriculum pain points and grow students’ confidence in the online testing environment,” said Eileen Shihadeh, Vice President at Compass Learning.
“Our new digital learning activities meet this challenge head on with content and functionalities that represent the types of assessment questions that students will see on the PARCC, SBAC, and other technology-delivered assessments.”
Student learning gaps are first identified through built-in diagnostic assessments or through NWEA MAP, Scantron Performance Series, and Renaissance Learning STAR assessment data. Based on the assessment results, the Compass Learning software prescribes individualized learning paths targeted to each student consisting of a series of digital learning activities.
The new lessons are aligned to state and Common Core standards for increased rigor and address higher-order thinking skills and problem solving. ELA activities involve close reading of complex texts (including fiction and informational text) and writing standards. Math covers major clusters in each grade level and features visual representations to support greater coherence.
The Compass Learning suite of software houses more than 32,400 digital learning activities that conform to the company’s proven instructional approach for personalized learning, including instruction, supported practice, independent practice, and ongoing formative assessment. The lessons are characterized by:
Rigorous instructional content delivered through conversational, age-appropriate activities;
Multiple representations of information such as graphic organizations, concept maps, and video for improved comprehension;
Tech-enhanced question types including select-text (ELA) and drag-and-drop.
Skyward introduces new test bank management solution
As school districts prepare students for assessments, administrators are looking for tools that ease teacher prep time, address established curriculum, and encourage schools and districts to share assessment content.
Skyward, a school administrative software provider, launched a new Test Bank Management Solution that supports in-district test bank management, collaboration among Skyward customers and integration with online test bank providers.
Test banks provide flexibility to create custom assessments at the district, school and classroom level. Educators can easily select questions that most appropriately reflect curriculum, student population and time of year the test is given.
Next page: How created questions align with standards
Questions created through Skyward’s Test Bank Management Solution align with state and Common Core State Standards for analytical reporting, and allow districts to secure those questions to only be used on summative assessments.
Through the new management solution, administrators and educators can better measure student progress and improve individual growth.
“The Skyward Test Bank Management Solution lets educators connect about assessments in an innovative and efficient way,” said Ray Ackerlund, vice president of marketing and product management at Skyward. “Districts will be able to create their own test bank, and safely share assessments with their entire staff, as well as districts across the state and country.”
Skyward will support integration with multiple test bank providers that support the Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) specification format. The QTI is a standard format for assessment content and results, supporting the exchange of material between authoring and delivery systems. It is designed to facilitate interoperability among systems, allowing assessment materials to be developed and delivered on systems interchangeably.
Skyward will launch its first test bank solution in July 2015.