Technology & Learning Success

R-7 School District Gets Acknowledged for Technology
The Kansas City Star

Original post The Kansas City Star

The Lee’s Summit School District was among seven educational organizations featured in The Keyword, Google’s a national blog that focuses in part on Chromebooks and the company’s tools for education.

The June 2017 blog, written in conjunction with the International Society for Technology in Education conference, featured Lee’s Summit’s move to one-to-one student Chromebooks.

The organizations are included among a number of “Impact Portraits,” developed during a 16-month investigation by the Evergreen Education Group, which discussed educational strategies and tools with more than 100 school leaders from six countries to develop the case studies.

The Evergreen group describes its mission as helping “state and federal governments, school districts, companies and foundations gain insight into the ever-evolving digital learning landscape so they can successfully plan and implement best practices related to educational technology.”

Each study included key factors that helped schools and students flourish when adopting technology for the classroom — including planning, professional learning, patience and support.

In August 2015, the district gave a Chromebook to each of its 17,500 students from kindergarten through senior high school. Known as Connect2Learn, the program has increased learning opportunities and leveled the playing field for students from a variety of family incomes.

The students use the Chromebooks at school, at home or wherever a WiFi hotspot is available. District staff members have been working with internet providers to help families obtain low-cost internet service. The district also maintains a website mapping businesses that support students by offering free internet hotspots.

By providing each student a Chromebook, the district can offers them more personalized and novel learning experiences. Lee’s Summit used BrightBytes CASE exams to measure results from the one-to-one program. These exams showed increased in all four measures of the test after Connect2Learn’s first year. The test measures classroom, access, skills and environment.

Susanna Clavello on Helping Students Navigate the Digital World in the Midst of Information Chaos

Guest Blog by: Susanna Clavello

Today, librarians and library media specialists’ roles are more important than ever before. Let me explain why.

A research report from Adobe Education notes that, “In today’s world, a proficient employee needs to be computer literate, visually literate, information literate, media literate, and digitally literate.” Yet, a recent study from Stanford School of Education proves a shocking reality: the majority of middle school through college students are digitally illiterate. With so much emphasis on educating students to be good readers, how can we explain this disconnect?

We live in an age where instead of a traditional textbook, the world has become the curriculum and it can be easily accessed anytime. This reality has a significant impact on teaching practices, and since this shift challenges a comfortable and safe status quo, the future of many classrooms is for the most part stuck in the past.

Century after century and decade after decade, the American public school curriculum has adapted to meet the needs of a constantly evolving society. The Information Age began in the late 20th Century with the birth of the internet, putting new demands for a new skillset among graduates. Today, shifts in the global economy plus the increasing sophistication of technology and the shift from Web 1.0 to 2.0, then 3.0 and 4.0 have opened doors to the Conceptual Age. This very fast change has put strains in an education system that has been slow to adapt. In their book Teacher as Architect, Smith, Chavez and Seaman conclude that this inevitable change “...will require an upgrade to our curriculum, new instructional methods and materials, a new profile of a global graduate, and an open mind.”

The difference between deep learning and passing a standardized test is a fundamental change in pedagogy that creates a relevant, rigorous experience.  Leilani Cauthen from The Learning Counsel explains, “...nearly every industry is moving into the Experience Economy while the education sector has largely been left behind. It has instead been filled with new requirements for endless testing and accommodations while not being reinvented to discard some of the earlier, now non-relevant things.” (The Consumerization of Learning, Book 1, Chapter 4)

The definition of literacy has changed in the Conceptual Age and Experience Economy. Traditionally, literacy has been defined as the combination of reading, writing, speaking and listening -a skillset that is taught throughout the curriculum and across grade levels, and that state requirements and accountability measures put much emphasis on. Yet, these skills do not transfer from print to online format. Teaching reading using digital content requires a shift in thinking about what we call literacy as well as a change in pedagogy.

Digital literacy -which many equate to media literacy, web literacy, information fluency, information literacy, or transliteracy- is constantly evolving as technology continues to change and the demands of society continue to increase.

The digital world is where students spend a great deal of time looking up and sharing information, creating content, and interacting with others. Educators must understand the impact of this media on students’ identity and behavior, and help them become literate in the chaotic and confusing web of information. In his Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom video, Alan November reminds us that one of the myths about technology in education is that the web provides diverse ideas from around the world resulting in a generally better educated society, when in reality, this can only be accomplished when users know how to validate and interpret information in order to make informed decisions.

If you are curious about how digitally literate your students are, try one of these experiments. Take your elementary students to and practice main idea and details, context clues, cause and effect, and other reading comprehension skills. Then ask them, Would you take your dog to Dog Island? Why or why not? Observe their reasoning and the conclusions they draw. How many of them realize that the information is completely false? And if they do, how can they tell?

If you work with secondary students, ask when is it best to search for information using Google, Wolfram Alpha, Wayback Machine, subscription-based digital collections, or Twitter. Chances are, this may be confusing. Students may not realize that the quality, credibility, audience, and purpose of the information may vary drastically in each of these sources.

Digital literacy is not defined as the knowledge of using technology tools and applications; it is a combination of competencies and skills that are constantly evolving. According to Dr. Renee Hobbs, University of Rhode Island professor and founder of the Media Education Lab, “digital and media literacy closes the gap between the classroom and the culture because it capitalizes on the idea of making information relevant. Relevance ignites intellectual curiosity, and intellectual curiosity fuels lifelong learning.”

On the other hand, educational researcher Doug Belshaw discusses eight essential elements of digital literacy in his TEDx talk: cognitive, constructive, communicative, civic, critical, creative, confident, and cultural - which add another layer of complexity and depth to the modern definition of literacy. Belshaw concludes, “Digital literacies allow ideas to be amplified, to spread quickly, to be remixed.”

Just like reading online is different from reading on paper, so is writing. When students get ready to write online, there should be a prior conversation on what to write, where to publish it, for what purpose, for whose benefit, and how to use good judgment to engage in civil dialogue, should it become necessary.

Current state standards fall short of deepening student understanding of the intricacies of the digital world. Research projects using digital resources are often planned at the end of the school year -once standardized testing is over- and new literacy skills are often covered superficially. In addition, teacher preparation and professional development opportunities very rarely include digital literacy.

Current data from surveys nationwide indicate that 72% of teachers never ask their students to use online tools like Twitter or news feeds to acquire information, and 60% of teachers never or rarely ask their students to conduct research projects using digital resources (BrightBytes, January 2017). Why does this matter? Professor Renee Hobbs says that, “To take advantage of online educational opportunities, people need to have a good understanding of how knowledge is constructed, and how it represents reality and articulates one point of view” (Hobbs, 2010). More than one point of view is needed to draw conclusions and make informed decisions.

The ISTE standards for students 2016 cover digital literacy, and can guide educators in weaving new literacies across the curriculum fabric. State technology standards, on the other hand, may not reflect the most current digital literacy competencies and skills. Consequently, we must create opportunities for students -and adults alike- to be prepared to meet the demands of a constantly changing society, distinguish facts from alternative news, and engage in civil discourse.

As Alan November mentions to in his Mission Critical: How Educators Can Help Save Democracy article (December 2016), conditions that keep schools from teaching digital literacy include:

  • Teaching that often focuses on what is tested, and does not foster enough intellectual inquiry or academic exploration;

  • The omission of digital literacy in the core curriculum and standardized assessments;

  • Restrictive web filters that block teachable moments and give a false sense of security instead of promoting digital citizenship and critical thinking;

  • Limited knowledge of search strategies and how to validate online information;

  • Research skills that are taught superficially, late in the school year, in secondary grades only, or as a one-time introduction at the library.

The following are additional contributing factors:

  • Schools requiring teachers to follow a scripted curriculum versus allowing them to be creative and responsive to their students’ interests and cultural backgrounds;

  • The use of digital devices for supplemental programs or remedial courses, thus limiting access to tools for inquiry and creative work;

  • The misunderstanding that research equates to looking up information, with no analysis or synthesis involved in the process;

  • A perception that technology-related activities are separate from core instruction and therefore non-essential;

  • The fear that technology will eventually replace classroom teachers;

  • Teaching practices that are no longer current and do not harness the power of digital tools. In other words, why ask questions that students can google?  

  • A lack of certified library media specialists at each campus; and

  • A lack of awareness of the implications of digital illiteracy.

So what can schools do to ensure that students are good navigators of the digital world? A lot, actually. Here are some considerations:

  • Identify opportunities to use technology beyond the stage of consumption or substitution of traditional schoolwork, and redesign instruction to allow for student collaboration and creation of content;

  • Equip students with the necessary skills to validate information online and make informed decisions;

  • Allow students to be curious and question the validity of information they are exposed to, challenge assumptions and engage in high levels of inquiry and civil discourse;  

  • Provide opportunities for students to apply complex thinking to identify and create solutions to predictable and unpredictable problems in their community and beyond;

  • Empower students to think about their own thinking, and tap into their personal interests and passions;

  • Allow students to take control of their own learning;

  • Expose students to different social media channels, identify look fors, and develop a deeper understanding of how information is constructed and shared;

  • Implement a digital citizenship program with fidelity and establish a culture of safe, ethical and responsible use of technology;

  • Provide access to a quality collection of subscription-based digital resources that are reliable and trustworthy, and promote their use;

  • Involve school librarians and library media specialists throughout the process.

Why are school librarians and library media specialists so critical in this mission? For once, librarians are experienced classroom teachers with a Master’s degree in library and information science, and certification. They are the information experts on campus for both digital and print materials. They are also computer literate.

Librarians support teachers in helping students build literacy skills -including digital literacy- by teaching students to distinguish legitimate sources from untrustworthy ones, make sense of the information they are exposed to and put it into the right context, so they can make informed, responsible decisions. The library is the largest classroom on campus -a place where curiosity leads to discovery. Librarians provide resources and strategies to promote and implement innovative learning opportunities for students. In addition, they partner with teachers “to design and implement curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation and the active use of technology.” (see

Some of the most exemplary lessons I have observed are the ones co-designed by teams of teachers, librarians and instructional technologists. Some of the best student projects I have seen were supported by a great school librarian.

Schools have the responsibility to teach students and educators alike how to navigate today’s messy and chaotic digital world responsibly and with confidence. We invite you to be open minded about the ideas listed above, remove any barriers or limiting thoughts, and envision the benefits of a digitally literate community at your school. And if it ever feels too overwhelming, remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Susanna Clavello serves as the Coordinator of Digital Age Learning at Education Service Center, Region 20. She is also an IPEC certified professional coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner.


Schools Shift to Free, Public-Domain Curricula

By: Leslie Brody
Original post from The Wall Street Journal

Teachers Embrace Creative Freedom in ‘Open Educational Resources,’ but Critics Say Quality Is Inconsistent

The Mentor Public School district in suburban Ohio hasn’t bought textbooks since 2012, when it spent more than $1 million on them.

Its leaders hope to stop paying for textbooks altogether.

They want teachers in this district for 7,700 students to use free materials available online as much as possible. Teachers are cooking up their own classes in economics, government and high school English, without off-the-shelf commercial products.

“We’re past the day and age of buying a textbook and saying it has everything in it that our kids need,” said Superintendent Matthew Miller.

Mentor is one of a growing number of districts nationwide embracing “open educational resources,” or OER, for kindergarten through 12th grade. These are typically materials in the public domain or released under an intellectual property license that allows teachers to use, remix and repurpose them for free. Supporters see this shift as giving teachers more leeway to be creative, though some skeptics warn the resources can be of inconsistent quality.

OER includes lessons, videos, games and software. Teachers can show students college lectures online, for example, or tap the Smithsonian Institution’s website to recreate Benjamin Franklin’s experiments about electricity.

Now advocates for this trend are highlighting the emergence of entire curricula, rather than just supplements, that are available for free. “Saying that teachers should develop OER was blasphemy 10 years ago,” says Brian Ausland, a consultant at Navigation North, a company that helps schools use educational technology. “Now it is being encouraged by states and the federal government.”

Mentor is one of 107 districts nationwide that committed to replace at least one textbook with free materials within a year. This U.S. Department of Education initiative even has its own Twitter hashtag, #GoOpen. Money once spent on textbooks often gets shifted to teacher training and devices, such as laptops and tablets.

Teachers say these resources are often more engaging and up-to-date than commercial textbooks and their digital versions, and make it easy to pull in different lessons for students of a wide range of abilities. Some see OER as a cost-saving boon for students in poor districts. But many who dive into the sea of free options caution it takes a major investment of time to find what works best.

“Sometimes you get what you pay for,” says Heather Wolpert-Gawron, a middle school English teacher in Los Angeles who uses OER. “We have to look at it with a really skeptical but open eye.”

Representatives of established publishers say open resources can be useful as add-ons, but students benefit from core curricula honed by experts because they are more reliable and structured better. Peter Cohen, executive vice president of McGraw-Hill Education, said, “We spend literally tens of millions of dollars every year on programs to make sure they are well researched, well curated and effective.”

New York took a big step in promoting OER in 2011 when it released EngageNY, a free database of lessons in reading and math aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. These academic standards have been adopted by more than 40 states in recent years and spelled out what students should learn in each grade.

As teachers across the country hunted for help in meeting the new expectations, many found textbooks sorely lacking and EngageNY took off. According to state data, more than 17 million users have visited the site nearly 46 million times and downloaded more than 66 million documents.

Nonprofits are building on this free model and getting help from major philanthropies. Some aim to provide not just piecemeal lessons, but soup-to-nuts full-year curricula, with teacher guides.

This month a California-based nonprofit called Open Up Resources announced it teamed up with a New York-based nonprofit, EL Education, to offer a new core curriculum in English language arts for kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We would like nothing more than to change the market to focus on learners’ needs rather than shareholder value,” said Larry Singer, chief executive officer at Open Up Resources. The partnership is backed by foundations and expects revenue from optional services like coaching teachers to use its materials.

UnboundEd, another nonprofit backed by philanthropy, develops free curriculum that teachers can use to help poor children who are behind catch up quickly.

“Teachers don’t have the time or expertise to rewrite curriculum,” said Kate Gerson, managing partner of UnboundEd and a former teacher and principal. “On a Sunday night you barely have time to figure out what you’ll teach for the next three days.”

Despite the proliferation of free resources, the Association of American Publishers reports that annual net sales of instructional materials for prekindergarten through 12th grade grew in recent years. The group’s tally of the largest education publishers found net sales, in print and digital formats, of $4.11 billion in 2015, up 10% from 2012, though that rise has been choppy.

Jay Diskey, executive director for the PreK-12 Learning Group at the association, said that “OER evangelists” have predicted the death of the textbook market for years but that hasn’t happened. “It’s becoming more and more of a blended world,” he said.

Appeared in the Mar. 31, 2017, print edition as 'Schools Shift to Free ‘Open’ Curricula.'

BrightBytes Presentation at Litchfield School Board Meeting
Litchfield Independent Review

By: Leah Byron
Original post from "Litchfield School Board Makes Decision on Re-Roofing Project" Litchfield Independent Review

This summer, the Litchfield School District plans to replace sections of the high school and middle school roofs, as well as the entire roof over Lake Ripley Elementary, per a 10-year maintenance plan approved by the Litchfield School Board Monday.

Re-roofing is just one component of the district’s maintenance plan, outlining a schedule for facility improvements through 2027. The plan, approved annually by the School Board, also calls for re-paving the Wagner Education Building parking lot this year.

While the board has spending concerns, Jesse Johnson noted that designating funds to complete the replacement of a quality roof would cost less overall.

Andrea Uhl, a financial specialist from Ehlers and Associates, the district’s financial advisor, presented the board the information about general obligation bonds in order to finance the project.

The project is estimated to require a $2.5 million bond issue, which the board unanimously approved obtaining, along with a pre-sale report and notice of intent.

Enrollment Declines Steadily
Because Minnesota public schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, Superintendent Daniel Frazier expressed concern over the district’s declining enrollment. Currently, the total number of students enrolled in district is at 1,549. But Frazier predicts that this number will drop in the next five years to 1,328, a loss of 221 potential students.

Declining enrollment may be attributed to more than one factor. By 2021, Frazier projected that the kindergarten class size will be at 99 students, while the senior class size could be at 104 students. Compared to the 150 students that were enrolled for the year 2015, that is a significant decrease, he noted.

The number of births in Meeker County has dropped as well. Five years ago, in 2011, there were 136 births. In 2015, the birth rate was 123. It was noted that lowest number of births was in 2014, at only 100.

The board concluded that members need to keep watching enrollment numbers. The board needs to find a way to mitigate declining enrollment, Frazier explained.

Director Discusses Technology Implementation
Since the board’s first focus is on technology, members were eager to learn how technology is being used by the student body and faculty, according to chairman Marlin Schutte. Jennifer Ridgeway, technology director, gave a presentation on BrightBytes, a learning data and technology assessment tool.

BrightBytes assesses technology-based learning data nationwide and for individual districts based on a framework known as Classroom-Access-Skills-Environment, or CASE. In its assessment, Ridgeway reported that Litchfield Schools are above average for the state and the nation in terms of proficiency in technology. Overall, the district scored exemplary, with a higher score than both the state and nation.

Ridgeway explained that the students are using Apple computers and tablets as a tool to learn and study better in and outside of school. The fact that students will have to update their computer systems in a couple of years was a primary discussion point between Ridgeway and the board. Ridgeway agreed to talk to her administrative team to get a better sense of how to best keep up the systems.

Almost every job now has at least some usage of the computer and using it in schools helps teach problem-solving, Schutte said.

“We are committed to helping our students prepare for life, citizenship and work in an ever-changing business and technology world,” Ridgeway said.

In Other Action
The board hired Ann Selix as a special education paraprofessional at Lake Ripley Elementary working for 5.75 hours per day at a starting wage of $12.64 per hour.
The board accepted the following staff resignations: paraprofessionals Jan Johnson and Shannon Bode, physical education and health teacher Jo Carlson and physical education teacher John Carlson. The Carlsons are retiring at the end of the school year.
The board approved two overnight trip requests: one for the girls golf team to attend a tournament in Brainerd in May and another for the robotics club to attend a competition in Duluth in March.

The board approved the district’s 2017-18 school calendar.

The next School Board meeting is Feb. 27 in the Wagner Education Building.

The Goal: Internet Access for all PVUSD Students
Capitola Times

Original post from The Capitola Times

By: Maria Orozco, President PVUSD Board of Trustees, and Jeff Ursino, PVUSD Trustee

On November 16 the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees considered several programs expanding access to Internet services for low income students across the district.

With the introduction of Chromebooks and possible rollout of digital textbooks, there is a sense of urgency at the District level to ensure that our students have access to the Internet while at home. Results from a PVUSD BrightBytes survey in October of last year showed that 3000 of our students do not have home Internet access. This puts students whose families cannot afford Internet access at a disadvantage compared to those that have access. Students without Internet connectivity at home cannot access instructional content and online learning resources, which may affect their educational performance.

As stated by Maria Orozco, Board President, “Students rely heavily on internet access for online learning, homework projects, research and communication with teachers. Internet access is an integral part of 21st century learning and no student should be left behind.”

Students with Internet access at home are able to gather information from a wide array of public sources almost instantly. With Internet access in their homes, students are able to peruse magazines, books, newspaper articles and Internet sites. Such connectivity readily invites students to seek a deeper understanding of the subject as well as a more complete knowledge of what is being discussed.

Another advantage is the excitement that the Internet brings to our students. A survey by the National Math and Science Initiative found that hands-on Internet activities excites students and allows them to be more fully engaged in the educational process. As many parents can tell you, our children are already very involved with the Internet through social media and video games. Giving our students home access to the Internet will help our students towards a more productive educational experience.

A final benefit that we feel is of the utmost importance, is that internet home access for our students will help to close the communication gap between parents, students and teachers. With Internet and email access, parents are able to communicate more frequently and directly with their child’s teacher thereby helping to advance the student’s education by building a more effective and meaningful parent/teacher partnership. Also, students are able to email their homework and class assignments to their teachers thus allowing a faster response from them and an end to any “the dog ate my homework” excuses.

In an effort to increase internet home connectivity and to give our students access to these benefits, the PVUSD Technology Services will present to the Board options to help provide PVUSD’s low income families and their students with free or discounted home internet service. Other options being considered include: installing Wi-Fi on District buses providing internet access to students while on the bus; “WiFi hotspots” students could check out from the school library to provide internet service at home; and Chromebook 4G LTE cards that will provide internet access for students using the Chromebook.

All of these Internet service options are to help every student in our schools to have the best educational experience possible. The 21st century workplace is often based on knowing how to use technology. By providing all our students with Internet access, we are giving them the tools to be successful, and that is a goal we all can get behind.


How Can We Measure Edtech's Return on Investment?
EdSurge News

How Can We Measure Edtech's Return on Investment? <BR><B>EdSurge News</b>

In Oakland, many teams have adopted a teacher-centric approach to designing initiatives, such as those that are technology-related, and have started assessing the ROI of these initiatives based on educator and student feedback. 

BrightBytes Clarity Survey: What Does the Data Tell Us?

BrightBytes Clarity Survey: What Does the Data Tell Us? <BR><B>NPS ED Tech</b>

The Clarity survey helps Norfolk Public Schools combine input from administrators, teachers and students to understand the environmental factors, skills, access levels and classroom factors that shape the impact of technology in a school district.

More Schools Have Modern Internet and Computers. What Are They Doing with Them?
The Hechinger Report

More Schools Have Modern Internet and Computers. What Are They Doing with Them? <BR><B>The Hechinger Report</b>

At the Arlington Independent School District in Texas, school leaders aren’t just interested in if teachers are using technology. They want to know how it’s being used.

MLTI Team Supports Districts’ Technology Planning through BrightBytes

MLTI Team Supports Districts’ Technology Planning through BrightBytes

Mike Muir, Maine DOE’s Learning Through Technology Director, explains the need to support educators' efforts by providing access to BrightBytes, a quality planning tool for Technology & Learning.