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Updated: 5 years 1 week ago

How 6 districts do the Hour of Code

December 11, 2014 - 10:00pm
Students across the nation are participating in an international event to write at least one line of code

hour-codeMark Zuckerberg and Ashton Kutcher do it. This year, President Obama became the first president to do it.

What is it? Coding. This year’s Hour of Code, which takes place any time during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 8-14), should reach even more students than it did last year, when 15 million students participated.

By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computing jobs for just 400,000 computer science students, according to Interest in computer science is dropping, and aims to change that with the Hour of Code.

School districts across the country signed up for the Hour of Code. Here’s a snapshot at what an Hour of Code looks like in each of those districts.

Students at Badin High School in Ohio participated in the Hour of Code event on Dec. 9. Badin delayed classes by an hour Tuesday so that every student could participate in the Hour of Code event, and it was a resounding success, said technology teacher David Gretz.

(Next page: What the Hour of Code looks like in districts across the country)

FCC approves $1.5B E-rate increase

December 11, 2014 - 10:17am
Stakeholders rally in support of E-rate’s potential to expand 21st-century learning to students

E-rate-FCCThe Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 11 voted to increase funding to the federal E-rate program by $1.5 billion. The additional funding comes from a consumer telephone bill increase of $1.90 per year.

Ed-tech stakeholders have for years rallied behind the need to update the federal program, which helps schools and libraries receive discounts on broadband access and services.

The vote brings the annual program cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.

“Broadband is the greatest equalizer of our time, but this only holds true if everyone has access,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in comments before the vote.

“Broadband and connected devices are changing every aspect of our lives,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “So many of our social spaces are now virtual. Plus the combined power of mobility and cloud computing means we can take content with us wherever we go. All this change does not simply stop at the school doors.”

(Next page: Educators react to the E-rate vote)

10 ways to revolutionize PD for the digital age

December 10, 2014 - 10:00pm
Top tips from school leaders on innovating digital professional development and putting the focus where it belongs—on teachers

Odigital-pdver the past 6-8 years we have seen a supersonic advancement in public schools and the way our teachers now must teach. This has hit education like a tidal wave, leaving precious little time for our teachers to process it, and especially to learn how to do it well.

The consequence, in many schools, is that teachers have begun to use technology but have forced it into all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons. Research has consistently shown that technology used in inappropriate ways is actually worse for learning, and this is happening all around us.

At Grand Oak Elementary School in Huntersville, NC we have worked hard to create an environment where we are supporting our staff through this transition. We are only in our second year of existence and yet we have set the stage through our vision to become a school where teachers and students “Collaborate. Innovate. Achieve.” We aim to help teachers understand our goals for educating students while providing them with the tools, resources, and support culture to make those goals reality. In many ways, the focus on differentiation, risk-taking, and learn-by-doing activities we’re introducing to our teachers mirrors what we are asking from our students as well.

This process of adult learning has not been without bumps and obstacles. Teachers were confused, feeling inadequate, and frustrated. We listened to feedback, affirmed their progress, continue to evolve in our processes, and brought in experts to help answer questions. Most teachers were used to the “sit and get” approach to PD that allowed them to be passive consumers of information. This new way of teaching and learning allows them to take command of their learning and professional growth through topics they choose instead.

(Next page: Our 10 strategies and ideas to help create successful teachers)

Tech aids at-risk students

December 10, 2014 - 9:00pm


3D game-based world targets language skills

December 10, 2014 - 8:48am
Website marks debut of resources based on Penguins of Madagascar film

penguins-learningLearning-based game provider JumpStart launched a 3D online world based on DreamWorks Animation’s new Penguins of Madagascar film.

The World of Madagascar is a 3D online world that lets users engage with the film’s characters while sharpening their language-based skills.

Players explore four locations, including Times Square, Central Park, Coney Island, and Venice, Italy with their customized avatar. Players will follow a Penguins-themed storyline throughout educational quests, which are adapted to the child’s specific grade-level.

“The Penguins of Madagascar world is designed to give players a very tailored educational gaming experience,” said Chris Williams, JumpStart Creative Director. “Each quest woven into the game will cater to the player’s selected grade-level in school, enabling players to learn specific skills, while still delivering loads of entertainment.”

“JumpStart has been creating learning-based games for over 20 years, and we’re excited that our new website will offer players a centralized location to find all of the games that they’ve loved for so long and perhaps introduce them to new ones,” said David Lord, JumpStart CEO. “In the future, our aim is to create a singular log-in to give players access to all of the games and game-themed worlds that are available under the overarching JumpStart brand umbrella.”

To check out JumpStart’s newly launched website and the World of Madagascar 3D online world, please visit

Material from a press release was used in this report.

8 TED Talks to foster creativity

December 9, 2014 - 10:00pm
These TED Talks highlight promising and inspiring concepts

TED-creativityEvery educator needs some inspiration now and then, and these days, such inspiration can be found online in just a few seconds.

The internet brings inspiring and motivational speakers and experts to anyone with a connection and an internet-ready device.

TED Talks are some of today’s most popular examples of the internet’s power to expand learning opportunities to all.

Each month, we’ll bring you a handful of inspiring TED Talks. Some will focus specifically on education; others will highlight innovative practices that have long-lasting impact. But all will inspire and motivate educators and students alike.

This month’s talks focus on fostering creativity. Some talks relate directly to education, and others serve to inspire educators and students with stories or examples about creativity and “smart failure.”

Did you miss our most recent TED Talks features? You can find them here.

(Next page: 8 TED Talks about creativity)

Amplify launches personalized PD service

December 9, 2014 - 12:42pm
New service represents an effort to break away from one-size-fits-all PD approach

PD-AmplifyA new professional development (PD) system from Amplify aims to personalize PD for educators using smart technology.

Professional Learning Maps will break from the one-size-fits-all approach offered by most professional development providers to give teachers exactly what they need, when they need it, the company says.

Professional Learning Maps starts with a diagnostic survey during which educators analyze their instructional practices. Based on the survey results, interactive maps instantly show each educator their areas of strength and need. Professional Learning Maps then charts specific sequences of proven professional development content delivered through both online, learn-at-your-own-pace modules and targeted in-person group sessions led by school leaders and expert Amplify coaches.

(Next page: More about Amplify’s latest PD offering)

New AP course makes computing more engaging

December 9, 2014 - 12:26pm
Course from the College Board and the National Science Foundation launches during Computer Science Education Week

computing-courseThe College Board and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently developed Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, a course intended to address the challenge of making computing coursework more engaging and accessible for all students and to better prepare a pipeline of STEM majors. Schools will be able to begin offering the new AP course in the fall of 2016, with the first exam being administered in May 2017.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.2 million jobs in STEM are anticipated in 2020, and 4.6 million of them will be in computing. However, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and among these students only a limited portion are women and underrepresented minorities.

Students who take AP math and science courses are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in STEM disciplines, making access to these courses particularly important. This relationship between AP courses and the choice of a STEM major holds true across several groups of students most underrepresented in STEM majors today: women and minorities.

(Next page: How the new course will broaden computing’s appeal)

5 apps for creative iPad storytelling

December 9, 2014 - 4:35am
A clutch of tools for writing ebooks, poems, flipbooks, and more

storytelling-ipadNarrative writing and storytelling skills are useful in nearly every discipline, from English language arts to science and history. Students that might not be able to explain their thinking one way, might fare better using audio, visuals, or some combination of the two. The iPad, a recognized content-creation tool, is a natural companion.

Here, we’ve gathered a handful of apps for story creation, in all its forms, that were originally summarized on, an app resource site with more than 6,000 apps in more than 300 subcategories.

[Editor’s note: eSchool News has selected these apps, which were originally curated by Apple Distinguished Educators, that may help you meet your instructional needs.]

1. A Novel Idea, Free
An app for quick bursts of inspiration, which lets users jot down characters, locations, and plot points and link them together. Written scenes can be organized and moved in and out of order.

(Next page: 4 more apps, including book builders and a poem-writing aid.

Girls-only class teaches computer, welding, woodworking skills

December 8, 2014 - 9:30pm
All-girl class promotes stress-free, skill-building environment

girls-shopNationwide, at most 3 percent of trades workers are women. But in a Sherwood High School welding, computer technology and woodshop class, it’s completely the opposite. Every student is female.

“Imagine, Design & Build It — No Boyz Allowed” easily filled to capacity this fall, as it has every year since the course debuted in 2009.

That first year, teachers hoped 60 girls would sign up, according to woods and construction teacher Jon Dickover. Instead about 120 expressed interest. The school doesn’t advertise or promote the course, called NBA by students and staff; its popularity has come just from word of mouth.

“There’s less pressure because we’re all girls,” said sophomore Maddy Griffin, who is taking the class this year. “You feel more confident. You can take a lot of these skills and use them.”

Providing early skills training is crucial, according to the nonprofit Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., as exposure during school can open doors to family-wage careers.

(Next page: How school staff support the class’s development)

How U.S. schools can help make a difference for girls’ education worldwide

December 8, 2014 - 9:30pm
Two education industry veterans who have recently launched a new organization to empower young women and girls around the globe talk about how schools can get involved

girls-thinkingKathy Hurley and Deb deVries have spent their careers in education, first as special ed teachers, and then in educational publishing, where they retired this year from the Pearson Foundation and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, respectively. But before the dust could settle on their gold watches, the women started a new organization, Girls Thinking Global (GTG), whose ambitious goal is to create a global network of organizations that serve adolescent girls—to help the groups connect with one another and best leverage their resources to serve the needs, especially education needs, of young women worldwide.

On December 8, GTG had their official launch in New York City, where they aired a documentary highlighting the work of the Jungle Mamas, a Pachamama Alliance program that trains indigenous Achuar women and adolescents in the Ecuadorian Amazon to become birthing attendants. Hurley and deVries talked with eSchool News about their work, and why their organization’s mission is important to American schools.

eSN: What spurred you to create this organization?

Kathy Hurley: During my time in education, and especially over the last 10 years with Pearson and the Pearson Foundation, I’ve been fortunate enough to observe firsthand many educational systems around the world. One of the most consistent threads I encountered, especially in the developing and underdeveloped world, was that where girls were educated, they were more likely to be leaders in their community and seek opportunities that would allow them to be active contributors outside the home.

Deb deVries: There is data that shows that positively impacting the life of a girl has significant implications on the family, the community, and the local economy. A year ago when we both knew we would be retiring, we decided to talk seriously about starting a nonprofit focused on girls. We wanted to give back, make a difference, and continue to be involved in the industry. When Kathy was accepted into the Harvard Advanced Leadership Institute in 2014, she brought our outline of a program that would become Girls Thinking Global.

(Next page: Efforts to support girls’ education)

20 tips for putting Google’s 20 percent time in your classroom

December 7, 2014 - 10:00pm
2 innovative educators share tons of tips for creating innovative, inquiry-based classrooms in only one day a week

google-timeOriginally pioneered at places like 3M and HP, Google’s vaunted 20 percent time, which lets employees spend a full one-fifth of their time on passion projects, has spawned everything from Gmail to Google News. Now it’s gaining ground among educators who are carving out a chunk of their already-limited time with students to work on innovative inquiry-based projects that resonate on a deeper, personal level.

AJ Juliani, an ed tech innovation specialist at Upper Perkiomen School District in Pensburg, PA, piloted 20 percent time three years ago when he taught High School English at his former school, and since then, he’s authored Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL to Drive Student Success, and created a free course for teachers on his blog. Kevin Brookhouser, a high school English teacher at York School in Monterey, CA, has also run 20 percent time projects in his classroom and recently finished writing a book about his experiences, called The #20time Project after raising money through a Kickstarter campaign.

Recently, Juliani and Brookhouser shared their top tips for getting started, overcoming obstacles, and creating something students find truly meaningful.

1. Dedicate One Day A Week
When he began 20 percent projects in his classroom, Juliani decided to dedicate every Friday to the project, instead of 20 percent of each class day, which he found insufficient. “I wanted to give them the ability to get into that state of flow,” he says. “Giving them 10 minutes a day, they were never going to get into that.”

2. It’s Not Just for High School
Twenty percent projects can be used in any subject, and with any grade or skill level. “I’ve done genius hour at the elementary level all the way to doing it with teachers so it doesn’t really matter the level,” Juliani says. “It’s more or less how you’re structuring or framing it to what that actual subject or grade level is.”

3. Set Your Own Parameters
As English teachers, both Juliani and Brookhouser knew that students would be hitting standards just by virtue of all the speaking, listening, reading, and journal writing they’d be doing. For other subjects, they suggest setting parameters on a subject-by-subject basis. Math teachers, for example, might require students to do accounting or use equations to solve project problems.

(Next page: 4 inspiring student projects)

District policy change could ban selfies

December 7, 2014 - 9:30pm
Students would need teacher permission to take selfies in school

selfie-banWhether by design or not, a proposed Wake County (N.C.) school policy change could ban students from taking pictures of themselves and others in school.

One of the revisions to the school district’s technology policy would prohibit students “from taking pictures or videos with any device unless directed by a teacher.” The wording comes at a time when “selfies,” self-portraits usually taken by cellphones with cameras or webcams, have become a staple of youth-driven social media.

Several Wake school board members questioned the wording on taking photographs when the changes to the technology policy were discussed last week by the policy committee.

“We know that kids have phones in school and are using them,” school board member Monika Johnson-Hostler said in an interview. “We need to be clear and cautious about what we say about using personal devices.”

(Next page: More about the potential “selfie ban”)

FBI seizes L.A. school district records related to troubled iPad program

December 5, 2014 - 10:02am

ipad-laFallout over the Los Angeles school district’s $1.3 billion plan to provide iPads to every student intensified Dec. 2 with the revelation that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the failed effort.

FBI agents seized 20 boxes of records related to the iPad program on Dec. 1, and court documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times show a federal grand jury is examining the matter.

Federal investigators declined to name the target of the probe. But the FBI’s actions have brought a renewed focus on the program nine months after the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office closed its own review without filing charges.

The subpoena demanded that the district produce a wide array of documents related to deals with Apple, maker of the iPad, and curriculum provider Pearson, the companies that won a lucrative, multiyear contract.

(Next page: More details on the district’s troubled iPad program)

4 essential game-based learning questions

December 4, 2014 - 10:00pm
Asking the right questions can help games make a positive impact in the classroom

game-learningYou’d have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with the rise of game-based learning in classrooms across the nation in recent years. Integrating a game into an instructional unit may seem daunting, but four key implementation questions should help educators use games to support teaching and learning and help drive student engagement.

Games offer opportunities for collaboration and inquiry-based, self-directed learning. They also support skill development that students need under Common Core math and Next Generation Science Standards.

It’s first important to define what is not a learning game, said Susannah Gordon-Messer, curriculum and professional development specialist at the MIT Education Arcade, during an edWeb webinar on gaming implementation strategies.

(Next page: Essential questions when considering games in learning)

5 teaching and learning grants you don’t want to miss

December 3, 2014 - 10:00pm
School grants offer much-needed financial help for schools

funding-grantSchool funding is a challenge even in the post prosperous of times, especially when it comes to ed tech–technology is always changing, and maintaining or upgrading initiatives, tools, or resources is not always free. Many educators and administrators rely on school grants to fund important projects and opportunities for students.

Each month, eSchool News compiles a list of new education grant opportunities. This month’s grants address early learning, student documentaries, literacy research, and more.

Check out these funding opportunities for teachers, students, parents, and administrators–there’s likely to be a grant that’s relevant to your needs.

(Next page: December’s funding opportunities)

Coding classes lead to 21st-century skill development

December 3, 2014 - 9:45pm
Students develop problem-solving skills with computer coding

coding-classesAdeline Brutger peered at the screen of her mini-laptop.

The Grand Forks third-grader described three cartoon figures she was using in her story, two of which appeared to be walking down a road. One, a blob-like character, hovered in the sky.

Her plot was simple: One character says something mean to the other, and the latter whispers that he doesn’t appreciate the mean words. The third character says he doesn’t like the bullying that’s happening.

“I know most stories (require) problem solving, so I had to pick another guy to tell him the stuff,” she said during a recent Herald visit to her class.

Brutger was showing an example of a story she created, designed and put into action using basic computer coding techniques at Lewis and Clark Elementary School. As technology becomes ever ingrained in daily life, elementary students in Grand Forks and throughout the region are learning skills aimed at preparing them for the digital future, said school officials.

(Next page: How coding classes are becoming more important in schools)

Game-based math program expands to Denver students

December 3, 2014 - 9:30pm
Gift brings MIND Research Institute’s ST Math program to more than 900 Students math-program

DIRECTV/MIND Research Institute

Denver Public Schools, DIRECTV, and the nonprofit MIND Research Institute are partnering to deliver a computer-based math program to three local Denver schools.

The grant from DIRECTV provides the ST Math game-based instructional software to more than 900 students at Carson Elementary, University Preparatory School, and Smith Renaissance School.

DIRECTV and MIND Research’s partnership in Denver builds on the DIRECTV Math Challenge, which was launched in Los Angeles in 2014 to drive student achievement and inspire K-12 students to love science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

(Next page: Educators at the school offer insight on how the math program will impact student learning)

Overcoming barriers to school connectivity

December 3, 2014 - 9:00pm