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Though Monday was the first full day of the International Society for Technology in Education's annual conference, the festivities kicked off Sunday night with an opening celebration. This year's conference — the first under new CEO Richard Culatta, who previously led the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Ed Tech and later served as innovation officer for Rhode Island — will welcome over 21,000 attendees and exhibitors from every corner of the United States, as well as 70 countries, descend upon San Antonio, TX.
Additionally, the organization issued the latest update to its Standards for Educators.
The opening night also saw Jad Abumrad, host and creator of the public radio program “Radiolab,” deliver a keynote described by those in attendance as "powerful," encouraging attendees to push forward with innovative ideas and embrace challenges, "being the question" rather than simply asking it, as they strive for future-readiness.
Current and former superintendents share digital equity strategies
A Monday morning panel moderated by CoSN CEO Keith R. Krueger saw former Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance, former Coachella Valley Unified School District superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams, and Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kurt Steinhaus discuss strategies for guaranteeing digital equity for students across a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
Dance, whose district forms a horseshoe around the Baltimore city school district, said that a rethinking of what a BCPS diploma should mean resulted in administrators agreeing that it should convey students who are globally competitive. That meant giving them access to an equitable and effective learning environment, placing digital equity at the center of the district’s agenda. “We knew we had to go slow to go fast — you’re not gonna turn around the Titanic overnight,” Dance said, adding that 18 months of planning was involved.
The strategy started by providing 1:1 devices to elementary students, thus necessitating that it later be expanded to middle and high school.
In Coachella, Adams saw a rate of only around 16% college attendance rate for graduates in the deeply low-income district as "educational malpractice." He pushed to transform the district to prepare students for college, career and citizenship by working with Apple to provide iPads to every student, and in addition outfitted buses with WiFi networks to expand Internet access throughout the district, thus addressing the homework gap.
In Los Alamos, a tiny district 7,000 feet up in the mountains that's sandwiched between Pueblo Native American communities, Steinhaus developed a six-part strategy to address digital equity. That strategy included:
- Establishing standards for hardware and software to save money and time
- Implementing a 1:1 initiative with exactly the same device to avoid device overkill
- Signing a partnership agreement with county government and Native American communities to provide connectivity, as well as within the libraries and churches
- Adopting professional development around access
- Communicating with the community, holding parent sessions to learn more about household Internet access
- Rethinking homework
For additional reference, CoSN also offers a free downloadable digital equity toolkit, which includes, among other things, advice on leveraging existing facilities and resources.
Alabama district lays out 6 easy steps for launching a 1:1 Chromebook program
Another Monday session saw consulting teacher Tiffany Goldschmidt, Moodle and Google Apps for Education administrator Mike Johnson, and educational technology support services coordinator Jeremy King, all from Alabama's Baldwin County Public Schools, discuss their process for a successful 1:1 Chromebook implementation.
Among topics discussed were the cost difference after transitioning to Chromebooks from a previous MacBook program, the benefits of E-rate on the networking end of such a rollout, and device management issues. Keep an eye out in the coming days for our full recap.
New classroom experiences go live for Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education
- Tech giant Microsoft showcased new School Data Sync, end-to-end assignment management, and integrated OneNote Class Notebook features for Microsoft Teams, which recently went live, free of charge to students and educators, in Office 365 for Education.
- The features also include Microsoft Stream video service integration, conversation management controls for teachers, and new engagement features like class themes, emojis, stickers and GIFs.
- Microsoft also partnered with Fresno Unified School District on a study detailing how the features benefited student outcomes and social-emotional learning experiences.
Google Education launches Google Earth Voyager, new app bundles
- The launch of Google Earth Voyager adds an array of interactive guided tours to the tech giant's education offerings, with partners like the National Geographic Society, PBS Kids, HHMI Biointeractive and Mission Blue contributing to the storytellers, scientists and nonprofit organizations enriching the stories and accompanying lesson plans available via the platform.
- Two new app bundles centered around STEM and media literacy are also coming to Chromebooks, continuing Google's digital literacy awareness efforts beyond its "Be Internet Awesome" digital citizenship and safety program.
- And on a final note, the company's ISTE announcements also include 10 Impact Portraits examining student outcomes after tech implementations.
Alma touts new software feature allowing all district staff to build reports
- Integrated SIS and LMS platform Alma launched a new custom reporting wizard, which aims to boost teacher autonomy and data visibility via an easy-to-use interface that the company says requires "little to no training" for all staff to use.
- Example scenarios include a teacher using the tool to compare performance against attendance, group students together based on mastery for lesson planning purposes, or add more information to a canned report. Principals might also use it to, for example, examine overall pass rates across a variety of categories.
- The company says the ease of use for the tool could also lessen the burden on data and IT staff, as they would need to field fewer requests for reports and could focus on other things.
Getting Smart report details SEL benefits of Minecraft
- Getting Smart's new report, "How Minecraft Supports Social and Emotional Learning in K–12 Education," touts significant SEL benefits via the popular game, based on interviews, case studies and a global survey.
- In a broader sense, the report also provides insight on the overall use of gaming in the classroom, and top SEL skills reportedly built by Minecraft: Education Edition specifically included "problem solving" (97.7%), "creativity" (95.5%), "critical thinking" (93.3%) and "collaboration" (91.1%).
- Additionally, 88.8% and 86.6% felt decision-making and communication skills, respectively, improved bia Minecraft play, while 51.1% saw benefits for empathy.
Renaissance unveils Flow 360 and Growth Alliance
- With Renaissance Flow 360, learning analytics provider Renaissance says it is facilitating assessment-driven personalized learning by connecting assessment, planning, learning and practice in a single location.
- The platform, a finalist for a CODiE Award, has been implemented in a number of districts via an early adopter program, with El Paso Independent School District Superintendent Juan Cabrera calling its adoption a continuation of his district's efforts to track and document student growth and achievement data over time.
- Flow 360 also works hand-in-hand with the Renaissance Growth Alliance, which brings together instructional thought leaders to improve student performance measurement and tracking, with the ultimate goal of helping teachers reduce the amount of time necessary to plan differentiated and personalized learning.
CatchOn aims to show device and app usage data in real-time
- Touted in a press release as the first tool to show usage data for every device or program being used in classrooms, CatchOn's platform gathers data on how much all devices, apps, software and websites are being used in real-time.
- Already in use in a number of districts like Illinois' Gurnee School District 56, CatchOn's goal is to help districts make the most of their IT budgets.
- The platform currently works across iOS, Mac OS, Windows Surface, Android and Chromebook.