Improving online accessibility for students a major issue for schools
As schools make recorded lessons available to students online, they may not be making them accessible for students with disabilities. For some, that decision is causing serious consequences.
Free VirtCon PD event focuses on digital media and the classroom
Discovery Education invites teachers and administrators worldwide to participate in the upcoming Spring VirtCon on Saturday, April 25.
This no-cost, day-long professional development event offers both virtual and face-to-face opportunities for educators to learn actionable tactics and strategies for deepening the integration of digital media into classroom instruction.
“Previous VirtCons empowered me with a wealth of strategies, tactics and resources that I have used to create even more dynamic lessons for my students. This annual event has helped me stay on the cutting edge of effective technology use in the classroom,” said Sandi Dennis, Library/Media Specialist at Westchester Elementary in Georgia’s City Schools of Decatur.
Among the scheduled keynote presenters are:
• Dacia Jones, District Science Specialist at North Carolina’s Durham Public Schools. During her remarks, Jones will share her insights on how to engage students with inspiring activities that raise expectations in the classroom, include students in the planning process, and tie authentic learning to standards.
• Don Levy, Former Senior Vice President of Marketing for Sony Pictures, Faculty at Boston University. Levy’s presentation will discuss how the increasing availability of digital production tools and a growing market of trained and experienced talent creates new and important opportunities to apply visual techniques to communicate, educate and develop understanding.
• Dr. Todd Wirt, Assistant Superintendent for Academics at North Carolina’s Wake County Public School System. Dr. Wirt’s presentation will explore how the digital transformation of classrooms worldwide has given students many opportunities to experience an environment of choice. With increased freedom and creativity, failure is naturally going to become a part of the process. Dr. Wirt will share with participants his recommendations for designing classrooms that foster creativity and embrace failure.
Additional presentations during the Spring Virtcon will explore a variety of timely education topics. Among the scheduled presentations are:
• 6 Ways to Show What You Know, presented by Dennis Grice, K-8 Technology Teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School in California. During his session, Grice will demonstrate practical ways to give students ownership of their own learning that empower them to use their creativity to ‘show what they know.’
• It’s About Learning, Not the Device, presented by Rachel Yurk, Instructional Technology Specialist at Cedarburg School District in Wisconsin. This session will explore instructional models that support the effective integration of technology into instruction. Educators will learn more about valuable digital resources and how to implement them to make the classroom environment stronger, while increasing learning and motivation.
Report: Idaho wasted $61M on failed school management system
Idaho wasted $61 million on a failed statewide instructional management system for schools, according to a new state performance evaluation, as former state schools Superintendent Tom Luna pushed it forward despite warnings it wouldn’t work.
Tim Corder, special assistant to new state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, told lawmakers this morning the report is accurate. “We really are a changed administration,” Corder told the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. “It was not us. It was the previous administration. … Superintendent Ybarra did not create that problem, but Superintendent Ybarra is going to be about fixing that problem.”
The report from the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations showed that Idaho has spent $61 million on trying to implement Schoolnet statewide, including a $21 million grant from the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation.
The state committed a total of $77 million toward the project, including the grant, as part of Luna’s “Students Come First” school reform initiative.
Idaho voters rejected the Students Come First laws in a 2012 referendum. In addition to the statewide instructional management system, the push called for a laptop computer for every Idaho high school student, a new focus on online learning, and shifting resources to cover the new expenditures without increasing school funding.
“Poor management, poor decisions, and poor system functionality compounded themselves and prevented the goals for a statewide instructional management system from being realized,” Rakesh Mohan, director of the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations, told lawmakers.
Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, called it “sickening results, if you ask me.” She said, “I think we’ve been waiting to hear this report. … You see that there’s $61 million, you think, wow, that would have gone a long way for roads.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, agreed. “This is just , it’s more than disheartening,” he said, “and I think even though the department may have changed leadership, that we need to make sure that things are investigated a little further and people tell us how this has been made so that it doesn’t happen again. It seems to be every year we find somebody has a great idea, and doesn’t check it out, doesn’t build a good RFP, dsn’t build a good plan, doesn’t manage the plan, and we end up spending tens of millions of dollars of citizens’ money, and then of course we claim poverty on why we can’t support the teachers or the other services.”
How 3 districts empower teachers as tech leaders
Plans to transition to a digital environment are forming in districts across the country, but the success of those plans largely hinges on one thing: teacher buy-in. Three school district leaders share how they are empowering their teachers to be leaders when it comes to technology use.
Panelists included Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District; Dwight Jones, Superintendent in Residence with Discovery Education; and Todd Wirt, the assistant superintendent of academics with the Wake County Public School System.
Next page: Supporting teachers as digital transition leaders
"Creating a digital learning environment is critical to our children's success," Grier said. "I believe that tehcnology, when done right, gives kids more time."
The challenge, he said, lies in moving from having simply good teachers who produce average gains to having great teachers who can use technology as a tool to empower their instruction and support student achievement.
"The importance of digital learning environments--it's critical," he said. "You can create the environment but you have to have a high-quality teacher who is trained and who knows how to make the most out of that environment."
"The classroom environment has changed dramatically," Jones said. "How do we support teachers as they go to scale? Help them get the necessary professional development and help them 'see' a new classroom where they work with students who want to have a voice in their learning."
"We're asking teachers to be more vulnerable and trust their students more than they have," said Wirt, addressing the need to create a shift where students and teachers use digital tools and resources and collaborate more.
"How do you create the culture and conditions where teachers feel confident to take risks and experiment in that environment?"
Free summer school access to lessons for schools, districts
Educators and administrators across the country are looking for innovative, effective ways to ensure their students do not become victims of the ‘summer slide’ as well as attain mastery of state and national standard benchmarks.
Learning Upgrade, leading provider of engaging song and game based curriculum for math and reading, is offering complimentary summer school access to its web-based, standards aligned curriculum to all qualifying U.S. schools and districts.
The company looks to support districts in their quest to halt the dreaded summer slide, without putting a burden on their budget. In addition to the lessons, Learning Upgrade will provide additional support to summer school teachers and administrators while enrolling students, integrating the curriculum and tracking progress to mastery.
“This is the fourth year Learning Upgrade will offer full and complimentary access to any qualifying school in the US. Results over the past 3 summers have been extremely positive. In just four weeks, students can complete a full year of curriculum with detailed, web-based reports for parents, teachers and students,” said Learning Upgrade CEO Vinod Lobo.
Research from the National Summer Learning Association shows that, without refreshing their memories, students may lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency over the summer.
“Summer is a fantastic time to engage all learners, and prevent the dreaded summer slide, especially those that may need extra help catching up or keeping up with their classmates,” states Lobo.