Turn tech PD into a casual trip to the CAFE with this new model
Every Wednesday from 2:45-6:45, the fresh aroma of “personalized” coffee choices from the Keurig fills the air and our teachers settle into work individually or with their colleagues at the Technology CAFÉ. At the Professional Development Center, Carson City School District CAFÉ means more than just providing coffee and snacks: It refers to the ongoing, personalized professional development teachers need to transform their teaching and their students’ learning with technology.
The name evokes a place of conversation and relaxation, but it also defines our special blend of PD: C-Create, Collaborate, and Connect, A-Advocate, model, and teach digital citizenship, F-Facilitate blended learning experiences, E-Engage in professional learning opportunities.
Starting in the spring of 2014, in conjunction with our rollout of one-to-one laptops for all 1,800 middle school students (grades 6-8), the Carson City School District Technology Integration Specialists identified the need to provide weekly professional development for teachers, even though there were four in-service days already scheduled. Out of this need, the Technology CAFÉ became a reality, and has continued to increase this year with the rollout of 1,800 more laptops for grades 3-5 at all six of our elementary schools.
Next page: How teachers use the CAFÉ
As with most one-to-one program goals across the country, our program is designed to meet the following three goals. (1) Increase academic achievement and student engagement. (2) Minimize the digital divide by increasing equity of access for our high poverty high-need student population, where over 50 percent of our 7500+ students qualify for free and reduced lunch. (3) Transform the quality of teaching and learning with technology to increase 21st century skills for economic competitiveness, and college and career readiness.
However, those goals cannot be met without “ongoing job-embedded, student-centered, collegial” technology professional development of which includes just-in-time practice, mentoring, and peer coaching. The Technology CAFÉ provides the systemic component of personalized professional development for our teachers just as the “Learner-Centered Organizational Model” from our District Race to the Top Grant provides the personalized learning structure for our students.
Net neutrality gains FCC approval
In a momentous decision for the future of the open internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on February 26 approved net neutrality regulations to oversee online traffic and ensure internet service providers treat all legally-flowing content equally.
The 3-2 party-line vote prevents service providers from, for instance, charging websites for faster data speeds to customers. The vote regulates internet service providers in the same manner as public utilities, with a stricter set of regulations to make sure all customers receive equal service.
"There are three simple keys to our broadband future," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. "Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open."
"We are here so that teachers don't have to give a second thought about assigning homework that can only be researched online because they are sure their students are free to access any lawful website, and that such websites won't load at dial-up speed," said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
The new regulations address three practices:
No blocking: Broadband providers are not allowed to block access to legal content, applications, or services
No throttling: Broadband providers "may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices"
No paid prioritization: Broadband providers are prevented from favoring certain internet traffic over other equally legal traffic in exchange for consideration
LightSail announces free digital ebook library
K-12 literacy solution provider LightSail will offer a free Starter Library for all customers. The Starter Library includes 200 texts spanning elementary, middle, and high school reading levels, and will grow to 350 texts by March, 2015.
Each free text in the Starter Library comes with LightSail’s signature feature: multiple-measure assessments which are embedded into the text, and completed as students read. LightSail’s formative assessments not only gauge reading comprehension, they allow LightSail to offer a consistently personalized literacy experience.
As students read, LightSail monitors their progress and updates their individual Lexile score on-the-fly, causing the library to adapt based on reading level. Students are always presented texts that are best-suited to optimize their literacy growth.
Next page: Sample ebook titles
In addition to free texts, districts and schools can purchase ebooks for use with LightSail’s literacy solution from a selection of more than 80,000 titles spanning 400 publishers. LightSail is the only tool that combines content from more than 400 publishers into a single K-12 tool, thanks to an exclusive partnership with Baker & Taylor, the leader in library content management.
“We are excited to offer free content with LightSail’s award-winning literacy solution,” said Gideon Stein, Founder and CEO of LightSail Education. “Our district and school partners have enjoyed access to the very best books to motivate student readers, and the addition of excellent free content makes LightSail even more affordable for K-12 schools.”
"LightSail's literacy solution is directly tied to our district mission, and facilitates our initiatives for critical reading and thinking," said Chris McMurray, Student Achievement Specialist for the Parkrose School District in Oregon. "As a LightSail partner, we are thrilled that hundreds of free books are now available to our schools, helping us make the most of our district's resources."
School implements standing desks to boost student engagement
As educators turn their attention to how physical learning environments can influence student learning, more companies are responding to the demand for flexible and innovative classroom furniture.
Ergotron, Inc. placed LearnFit Standing Desks in a classroom at Dr. Kirk Lewis Career and Technical High School in the Pasadena ISD, a suburb of Houston, Texas, earlier this school year and is already receiving positive feedback.
Students taking freshman geography started the school year at traditional sitting desks and in October transitioned to Ergotron LearnFit adjustable standing desks to support project-based learning and reinforce the school's focus on open, collaborative classrooms.
Next page: What educators think of the standing desks
"Since the introduction of the LearnFit standing desks student engagement has gone up markedly," said Jason Rhodes, geography teacher at Dr. Kirk Lewis Career and Technical High School. "Students are more actively participating in discussions and the amount of time that it takes students to complete tasks has lowered by four to five minutes, which is a big deal in a 45-minute period."
The LearnFit desks transform static classrooms into active learning environments. Students can change their own desktop height on demand, so a comfortable position can be achieved whether sitting or standing or using different types of technology like tablets or netbooks. The casters enable easy movement for reconfiguring classroom layout and student collaboration. Desks can be rolled together for small group breakouts and quickly returned to the full classroom configuration when done.
"Oftentimes the afternoon, post-lunch hours pose the greatest challenge for teachers as student attention starts to fade," said Rhodes. "The afternoon performance with the LearnFit desks is night and day. I've had no sleeping issues recorded this year, and any time I sense a potential issue I have the students change their positions, which does a great job of recapturing their attention and focus."
Schools, STEAM professionals interact online
Schools in Porterville Unified, Long Beach Unified, and Oakland Unified school districts in the Linked Learning Alliance are receiving full access to Nepris— a cloud-based platform connecting science, technology, engineering, performing arts and math (STEAM) professionals with teachers and their students through a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.
The Nepris platform helps teachers have online, interactive sessions between students and professionals so that the students can learn first-hand about STEAM.
“The Linked Learning Alliance brings meaningful learning experiences to students so they will be thinking ahead to college and career,” said Susan Benz, manager of career readiness for Oakland Unified School District. “Nepris opens a whole new horizon for our students, encouraging them to reach beyond what they might have thought was possible for their lives. Our teachers will love that Nepris does this without being a complicated process or a burden on an already packed curriculum.”
“This grant brings Nepris to dozens of California schools and will connect hundreds of students with subject matter experts and professionals from right next door or from across the globe,” said Sabari Raja, CEO and founder of Nepris. “We are pleased to join the Linked Learning Alliance in inspiring students to dream big and achieve great things.”
Teachers use Nepris to request speakers or mentors who will talk with their students while exciting them about careers in science, engineering, technology, performing arts and math.
By managing the end-to-end process starting with matching professionals’ skills to teachers’ needs and then hosting the sessions, Nepris allows professionals and companies to manageably and effectively reach out and interact teachers and their students.
Professionals and educators can see archived sessions or enroll at Nepris.com. Companies can sponsor teachers, schools or districts. Individual teachers from elementary, middle or high schools can sign up for a free trial at any time.