Tag Archives: Ed Tech

Growing Number of Poor Americans are Phone Only Internet Users – What does that Mean for Education?

PEW Research recently published a study that showed a growing number of lower-income Americans access the internet solely through a smartphone. As many as 1 in 5 American children live at or below the poverty level and roughly half of all children qualify for free/reduced lunch, meaning that they live just above that poverty threshold (about $41K/year

for a family of four). If this trend continues, we should assume that a large portion of our nation’s children will have limited access to broadband and computers and will use a smart device for their internet access. What are the implications for education as teachers and schools move to more digital practices in their institutions?

Limited access to the internet or other resources is what we often call the “Digital Divide;” it often impacts students who are low-income, especially those in rural areas. There is no quick fix to addressing accessibility and broadband internet access is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity. What can educators do on an individual level to support students who are on the other side of the digital divide?

While on an individual level, teachers can be aware that many students in their classrooms do not have access to high speed internet or computers at home. They can also promote device agnostic tools (tools like G-Suite for Education can be installed on any device with near full-capability). Another potential option is that they can allow students to use class time and school resources to work on robust, digital assignments. However, teachers often feel powerless to help students when the problems facing students in the digital divide are so complex and need to be resolved at a macro-level.

There are a few attempts to address the digital divide. The e-rate program, which help to subsidize high speed internet in both urban and rural areas, has had a dramatic impact on bringing broad-band access to low-income as well as rural areas. However, even with this subsidy, students often have limited access at home. As the internet has become the primary repository of learning and knowledge, how can we ensure that all of our children have access?

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Stay on Top of your News with Feedly

I read a lot of news, blogs, and magazines… a lot. People often ask me: “how did you find this?” or “how do you stay on top of it all?” Well, I cheat. Well, it’s not really cheating. I use an RSS reader. My favorite is feedly. Feedly helps me to organize all of my news feeds by category; for me, those categories include: Hard News (NYTimes, Washington Post, etc), Lite News (think HuffPo), Education, Technology, Social Studies, etc. I don’t need to hunt around the newspapers for relevant content. Rather, they show right up in my feed.

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Courtesy of blog.feedly.com

Feedly has some great free features, namely up to 100 feeds, easy organization into three (3) categories, and mobile & desktop access. You can also share stories directly from the preview pane via Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and email. However, it also has some pretty powerful “pro” and “team” features. For a small fee you have unlimited feeds, unlimited categories, clip from Feedly directly into notebooks like Evernote or OneNote, annotation and highlighting, sharing to WordPress (great for bloggers), and an overall faster interface.

If, like me, you’re an avid reader and need some help staying on top of it all, check out Feedly!

Inspiring & Supporting Innovation at Independent Schools at this year’s ATLIS

 

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Courtesy of Pixabay

“Innovation” — there’s a reason it’s a provocative and powerful topic in the landscape of education. Public, Charter, and Independent Schools are all feeling the pressure from disruptive innovation as well as turning to innovative practices to solve curricular, financial, and recruitment woes. The reality is, we are living in an ever-shifting landscape. Traditional routes of career readiness are no longer reliable, previously “safe” jobs (think accountants, lawyers, and doctors) are now seeing job security fade away, and “traditional” schooling is coming under more scrutiny. The cost of university education is having many individuals rethink the options of pursuing higher education given the relatively flat career landscape facing them on graduation. As such, schools are now looking at innovative practice to help them solve these problems – how can they prepare their students for the jobs of the future (especially if we don’t know what those jobs are)? As a Technology Leader, I am often a part of conversations about innovation. This is not to say that innovation is all about technology, but radical innovation often encompasses employing new technologies. Innovation is challenging… it’s hard. Why? Because it necessitates culture shift and “organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner” — Peter Drucker.

Facing the challenges of innovation in my career and public life, I am especially excited about attending this year’s ATLIS conference in Los Angeles, California (April 24-26) as its theme is “Magic Magic Happen” and its focus is on innovation. I know that I will be inspired by the keynote speeches of Jaime Casap (Educational Evangelist) and Tim Fish (Chief Innovation Office of NAIS); both of them have worked with Independent Schools, helping them to innovate their curriculum and institutions. Looking at the posted schedule, I’m excited to learn more about innovative curriculum enhancements such as incorporating coding into the whole curriculum, implementing gamification, and creating new educational spaces, such as maker spaces in the library. Even better than learning about these initiatives, I’m especially excited to learn how to support them at my institution through transformative professional development and creating & fostering a culture of change.

This year’s ATLIS conference is the most exciting yet. If you are exploring innovative curriculum and technologies in your school, this is the year to attend! You can still register on the ATLIS website.

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Google’s Team Drives are a Great Tool for Project Based Learning

A few months ago, Google began testing a new feature in its Enterprise suite – Team Drives.

 

Google Team Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device. Unlike files in My Drive, files in Team Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and get work done.

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Courtesy of G-Suite Learning Center

If you are incorporating more project based learning into your classroom, Team Drives are a great way for students to collaborate and share, especially on robust projects. In addition to creating content, they can use it to store materials, bibliographies, media, and more. Additionally, as everyone in the group “owns” the product, you don’t run into a problem when one of them tries to submit content via Google Classroom.

To learn more about Team Drives in G-Suite, click here. If you do not yet see it as an option for your G-Suite account, contact your administrator.

A Great Interactive, Presentation Tool

Let’s be honest, there are a million ways out there to make a presentation and just as many tools designed to help you do just that. Recently, I was introduced to a new tool for creating beautiful, interactive presentations and infographics that actually impressed me: Visme. Visme allows you to create a variety of presentation media: traditional slide-decks, auto-flowing slide decks with embedded content, interactive infographics, design and product features, and more. Here’s a great introduction to Visme:

If you’re a teacher, Visme is a great way to create flipped content, empower students to create robust and beautiful presentations, or otherwise create material to distribute to others. In Visme’s Learning Center, you can easily learn about new features, access tips and tricks, and be inspired by what others have done.

Lifelong Learning is a Life Skill not a Buzz Word

Working in education, I have seen my share of buzz words (and concepts) come and go. Often they are rebrandings of past, failed initiatives or great ideas that simply don’t work among the established cogs of the modern educational machine. However, one “buzzword” that I believe has been unfairly branded as such is “lifelong learning.” Lifelong learning is “the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.” In other words, it’s a self-driven desire to continue to learn and grown in all areas of our lives well after we leave a classroom. I have attended numerous educational conferences and events that highlight the need for educators to inspire “lifelong learning” in their students. In the world of educational buzzwords, it’s easy to roll one’s eyes and get back to the classroom. However, what I have learned in my world of education and technology is that lifelong learning is not the latest flash in the pan. Rather, it is now a necessary life and career skill.

In the past, job changes were few and far between and career changes (barring going back to school for a degree) were practically unheard of. Now, with automation and technology putting more people out of work and a shifting landscape in the economy, job-hopping and career shifts are becoming more prevalent. Forbes highlights that job hopping (moving to a new job every 2-4 years) is becoming a career necessity, often leading to higher salaries, more opportunity for advancement, and a better “cultural fit” at your place of employment.

But besides the fact that job hopping can lead to better opportunity, the reality is that job hopping and career shifts is not just an “acceptable practice” but becoming a necessary one, thus the need for self motivated learning. In his almost dystopian non-fiction work Rise of Robots, Martin Ford argues convincingly that automation and technology will not only be displacing factory workers and manual laborers, but traditionally “safe” jobs that require high levels of (often expensive) education–think lawyers, doctors, and even writers. If the trends that Ford highlights continue, unemployment and (more commonly) under-employment by even the highly educated will persist and grow. The Economist made a similar argument, stating that the solution to these trends is continued education throughout the life of one’s career (whether it stays within a single trajectory or takes a radical shift):

A college degree at the start of a working career does not answer the need for the continuous acquisition of new skills, especially as career spans are lengthening. Vocational training is good at giving people job-specific skills, but those, too, will need to be updated over and over again during a career lasting decades.

In their article “School and the Economy,” economists Murnane and Levy argued that the answer to helping students (and adults) be prepared for the new, shifting economy is to emphasize softer skills: expert thinking and complex communication, primarily “…the ability to solve new problems that cannot be solved by applying rules. (If the problem could be solved by rules, a computer could do it.)”

Lifelong learning empowers individuals to adapt to a variety of new jobs and career paths in the unforeseeable future. Levy and Murnane have a less apocalyptic view of future employment. While they argue that many traditional careers will shrink and even disappear, they view this shifting landscape as one that will open up new avenues and jobs. However, preparing for those jobs requires greater emotional and intellectual agility; a desire and passion to learn new skills and information.

Whatever the future holds for careers, lifelong learning is now a critical component for success. Your current job or position may downsize or all together disappear. New opportunities may be a better fit for your skill set and passions. Whatever the the future holds, being prepared and skilled at adapting to it through continuous learning is vital for success.

The Privacy Paradox

I have written a great deal about the importance of privacy for ourselves and our students. How much data corporations and the government gather about us, our families, and especially our children should be an important topic for educators and parents alike. This week, the Note to Self Podcast began their quest to investigate how we can take hold of our digital world and privacy. Check out the first episode of their series the Privacy Paradox.

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WNYC Privacy Paradox

Americans have struggled with their views on privacy, security, and convenience since the dawn of the internet; PEW Research center has published numerous polls and studies on just this topic. These problems have exploded with the advent of social media, smart tools (thanks Waze for getting me around that traffic), and now the internet of things (do you own a Nest Thermostat or an Amazon Echo?).

Check out this evocative series on privacy and your digital self.