eSchool News

eSchool News
eSchool News covers the intersection of technology and innovation in education.
  • A leader’s guide to technology implementations
    Establishing a shared vision around a technology initiative is one of the most important success factors for that initiative, according to a panel of administrators from around the country who gathered at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia to discuss a leadership roadmap to successful technology integration. The panel was based around ISTE's Essential Conditions, which are 14 necessary conditions for effectively leveraging technology. The conditions fall under the categories of people, policy, and resources. Some of the conditions--such as consistent and adequate funding--are largely aspirational and may not be fulfilled. "The key is working with what you have and understanding the places where you need to have those critical conversations," said ISTE's Mindy Frisbee. Innovative approaches to school technology Barry Bachenheimer, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment in New Jersey's Pascack Valley Regional Schools (PVRS), which was the first one-to-one laptop district in the state of New Jersey. The initiative is now 12 years old. "It's not about the device. The more important thing is about what we're doing with the device--not about the device itself," Bachenheimer said. When we launched this initiative, our board of education was really supportive. We made sure that when they were on board, this initiative was not tied into test scores. District leaders secured buy-in from all stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and they try not to make any big decisions without consulting constituent groups. "We really want to make sure that we follow our vision and make sure our vision connects with our actions, and vice versa," he said. "We want to take risks. We want to be one of the most innovative districts around." In February 2014, PVRS held a virtual snow day during a blizzard. Teachers put lessons together ahead of time and students accessed the lessons on their devices. The district showed 97 percent attendance that day. The district also built in 20 percent time for students. Each week, students get 90 minutes of free time to take ungraded or noncredited classes or meet with teachers, among other activities. District leaders also are focusing on decreasing student stress.
  • Waterford Early Learning for iPad targets K-2 personalized mobile curriculum
    Waterford Institute has announced another platform for Waterford Early Learning, this time on iPad. Utilizing the Apple iPad in schools across the U.S, the Waterford Early Learning (WEL) curriculum is optimized for touch and set to release this summer in time for back to school training. Waterford has enhanced nearly 8,000 dynamic learning activities, including hundreds of new activities, to take advantage of iPad's mobile and touch capabilities and to provide early learners with developmentally appropriate curriculum. Next page: How the early learning curriculum targets students' needs "Waterford Early Learning for iPad provides a multi-sensory learning experience based on a curriculum that is proven effective among early learning students in schools across the country," said Benjamin Heuston, Ph.D., president and COO of Waterford Institute. "This is a first of its kind; something that has never been done before until now. It is a complete learning system with three grades of learning content all available on the iPad." Waterford Early Learning for iPad is a research-based early learning curriculum delivered through personalized learning software and teacher resources. WEL is designed to help children build the foundation for a lifetime of learning. It individualizes three years of complete reading, math and science to meet each child’s unique learning needs. Students use an adaptive learning sequence of engaging activities, songs and books designed by educators. Web-based management tools allow teachers to seamlessly integrate WEL into any classroom via desktop computers, laptops, Chromebooks and iPads. The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah recently used Waterford Early Learning for iPad successfully in its computer labs where students used it three times per week. For each session, students simply touch their picture on the iPad to log into their activities for a 15-minute session. Progress is monitored and managed by the students’ teacher. Waterford School plans to fully implement Waterford Early Learning for iPad in the fall of 2015. “Our test of Waterford Early Learning for iPad in our computer lab has been very successful,” said Teri Andrach, computer lab manager for Waterford School. “The students become very motivated and engaged in their learning activities—more so than on traditional computers. It allows them to interact like never before. For example, they can trace letters of the alphabet with their fingers directly on the iPad. They could never do that on the computer.”
  • Frequency of digital content use varies, survey shows
    Ninety-seven percent of educators surveyed for an annual report said they use some form of digital content, and more than 50 percent of those respondents said they use apps, websites, and/or digital games in the classroom. But there also remains a gap between teachers' and administrators' views on digitally-enhanced instruction and professional development. The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Educator Confidence Report surveyed more than 1,000 teachers and school and district administrators about various issues relating to technology in the classroom. Of the 97 percent of educators who use digital materials in their classrooms, the most commonly-used resources were free or open educational resources (71 percent) and video (66 percent); digital versions of instructional materials (54 percent) and interactive whiteboards (54 percent), and apps, websites, and/or digital games (51 percent). Laptops and desktop computers were cited as the most often used classroom technology, but only 23 percent of respondents said they used that technology daily. Eighteen percent said they used it 3-4 times per week, and 23 percent said they use it 1-2 times per week. The majority of respondents said their students use digital tools rarely (1-2 times per month) or never to turn in an assignment (63 percent), take an assessment (65 percent), or engage with each other for learning purposes (68 percent). The survey also revealed gaps between classroom teachers and district administrators. Seventy-seven percent of administrators said their district used interactive whiteboards, compared to 52 percent of classroom teachers. Similar gaps exist when it comes to the reported use of open educational resources (87 percent vs. 70 percent), online assessments (66 percent vs. 42 percent), learning management systems (64 percent vs. 36 percent), and adaptive learning content (49 percent vs. 35 percent). The results also indicate a technology gender gap: 80 percent of CTOs/CIOs in the survey were male, compared to 20 percent female. Awareness around student privacy issues is becoming more important as well, with 41 percent of educators saying they were very aware of privacy policies associated with products students use.
  • Minority children underrepresented in special education
    Contrary to popular belief, minority children are not overrepresented in special education classrooms and are actually less likely to be diagnosed with and treated for disabilities than white children with similar academic achievements, behaviors and economic resources, according to new research co-authored by George Farkas, professor of education at UC Irvine. Special education programs have been the target of legal challenges on the grounds of discrimination and racial bias, yet the study found that minority children are underdiagnosed across five disability conditions for which U.S. schoolchildren commonly receive special education services. “From the beginning of kindergarten to the end of middle school, minority children are less – not more – likely than white students with similar performance and behaviors to be identified as having learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, other health impairments, or behavioral disorders,” Farkas said. Minority children are more likely to grow up in economically depressed neighborhoods, be exposed to dangerous pollutants, and be born prematurely or at a low birth weight than white children and are, therefore, at higher risk for developmental and behavioral problems, he said. Intervention programs such as special education are of particular benefit to these children. The findings contrast sharply with most prior educational research as well as current federal legislation and policies, which have focused on attempting to reduce what has been reported to be minority overrepresentation in special education. “These policies instead may be exacerbating the nation’s educational inequities by limiting minority children’s access to potentially beneficial special education and related services to which they may be legally entitled,” Farkas said. Students enrolled in special education programs receive an individualized education plan and may get small-group or one-on-one instruction by teachers trained to support their learning. They may also be granted extra time to complete tests. “Education professionals should be attentive to cultural and language barriers that might keep minority children from being appropriately evaluated and identified for disabilities,” Farkas said. “Minority children with disabilities may be denied [remedial] services if well-meaning but misguided advocates succeed in placing limits on special education placement.”
  • EdRedi makes tablets ready for classroom use
    To help make tablets more classroom ready, Education Resources created its EdRedi application which allows classroom teachers to intuitively supervise and control their students’ name-brand devices, such as the Acer Iconia 10.1 tablet, the first EdRedi-enabled device. Launched at the 2015 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, the new software application is equal parts device, content and instructional management combined into a single application for 1:1 learning environments. Teachers can access EdRedi-enabled devices from anywhere within their network and can access the EdRedi Cloud anytime from any device that can connect to the internet, including a school desktop, iPad, and smartphone. Once in the password protected instructional environment, teachers can supervise and control their students’ EdRedi-enabled devices, deploy lessons and activities, and differentiate instruction. This solution enables the delivery of new and existing materials at the right pace and level for each student's needs. The EdRedi platform consists of Educational Resources’ system-level APK installed directly on name-brand student devices. Devices "made EdRedi" from Educational Resources’ proven partner manufacturers can seamlessly connect to the EdRedi Cloud Management Platform; automatically update teacher generated changes from the EdRedi Cloud; upload and deploy digital content of all forms from the EdRedi Library; and, supervise, control and view student devices enabled with the EdRedi App. “Tablets are the perfect size device for education,” said Chris Klein, head of Community and Engagement at Educational Resources. “However, while these devices have the power to greatly enhance the teaching and learning processes, to date they have not included the management tools to make them suitable for classroom use. Our new EdRedi application helps ensure that students use the devices in an instructionally-safe environment, one in which teachers can easily supervise use and control content in order to individualize instruction.”
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