EdTech Awards Entry Period Open

CREDIT XirrusThe 2015 EdTech Digest Awards Recognition Program entry period is currently open but closes at the end of this month on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. The EdTech Awards program recognizes people in and around education for outstanding contributions in transforming education through technology to enrich the lives of learners everywhere. The program celebrates the best and brightest apps, platforms, products and people in the education and technology (“edtech”) world. The awards program is open to industry solutions providers, hardware and software; platform developers, app-makers, educators and other leaders, innovators and trendsetters in and around education including K-12, Higher Education and lifelong learning. There are three broad entry categories: the Cool Tool awards, the EdTech Leadership awards, and the Trendsetter awards. Each award, in turn, has numerous subcategories under which to enter, e.g., emerging technology solutions, mobile learning apps, academic gaming solutions, professional development solutions, STEM solutions, special needs; edtech leader, edtech visionary, product or service setting a trend, and many more categories. Time is short, but entry is quick and easy. To be considered, click here for an entry form and details.

Posted in cool tools, interviews, trends | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool Tool | Teachwise

CREDIT TeachwiseAccording to a study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, public school teachers spend almost $500 out of pocket on materials for their students each school year. So Frontline Technologies, a leading provider of web-based software for the K-12 education market, developed Teachwise – an online marketplace for teachers to buy and sell original educational materials. No more countless hours developing lesson plans and gambling with unproven, costly material. With this tool, teachers now have the ability to find the best resources at the best price and the opportunity to resell what they no longer need — kind of like an “Amazon (dot com) for education.” With the simplified sign-up process and its unique features, such as the built-in product editor and product focused searches, teachers can quickly find a product they need for their students with ease. Free products are also available so teachers can test them before they purchase. Once teachers no longer need a resource, they can simply upload it to the website, giving other teachers a chance to purchase it. Teachwise works on the idea that hard work and collaboration build strong classrooms and even stronger students. Check it out: http://www.teachwise.com

Posted in cool tools | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fingerpainting the Future of EdTech

A kindergarten teacher shares her view of the real trendsetters in education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Stephanie Pullen

CREDIT Stephanie PullenWho would you say are the biggest trendsetters in education?

Are they superintendents of the largest, most innovative districts? How about the movers and shakers on social media? Or the policy makers in Washington, D.C.?

For me, it’s another group entirely: The five- and six-year-old students who grace my kindergarten classroom every morning.

I’m sure that may sound strange to some of you, so let me explain. When I think about trendsetters, I think of people who are inquisitive, eager to try new things and able to share their discoveries with others.

My students embody those qualities better than anybody else I know, especially when they’re introduced to new technology. I’ll tell you the story of how we implemented one technology in particular so you can see what I mean.

When I think about trendsetters, I think of people who are inquisitive, eager to try new things and able to share their discoveries with others. 

1) Inquisitive

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes around a kindergartner knows this one should be fairly self-explanatory! They have an endless fountain of questions, and I love watching their minds work as they explore new technology in the classroom.

Last spring, we started using the Flexcat, a classroom audio system from Lightspeed Technologies. Basically, I wear a small microphone around my neck, and my voice carries through audio pods I place anywhere in the classroom. Since the system arrived so late in the school year, I was a little hesitant to see how my students would react to the change. So I set the pods out on the four small group tables in my classroom and waited.

As soon as my students entered the room, they were immediately captivated by the new technology, and I was hit with a barrage of questions.

What’s that thing around your neck? What does this blue light mean? What does this button do? Where is your voice coming from? Can you really hear us from all the way across the room?

I was so impressed with their ability to assess this new technology immediately and determine the most important questions about how it would affect them.

2) Eager to try new things 

You may have already guessed this from all the questions my students asked, but they embraced the technology right away, even its more advanced features!

For instance, by using the system’s “Call” button on their audio pod, my students can signal to me that they need my attention, and I’ll hear it in my headset. I wasn’t sure if they would understand that they really didn’t have to raise their hands or yell across the room for me any more.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. They instantly deemed it “super cool” that they wouldn’t have to raise their hands, and one little boy even reported to his parents, “It sounds like Mrs. Pullen is on a stage! We can hear her everywhere!”

If there’s ever a morning where I forget to turn on the system, my students are quick to remind me. In fact, any technology that I’ve introduced in the classroom, no matter how advanced, they have really taken to and used correctly.

3) Able to share their discoveries with others

In addition to being a kindergarten teacher, I’m also a district instructional technologist, so I help anybody in the district who needs help setting up new technology or learning to use it. But I’m starting to think about hiring one of the elementary school students as my assistant – sometimes they’re even better at explaining new technology than I am!

After we began using the that system last year, other teachers were understandably curious to see how it worked. One of my colleagues stopped by my classroom after the school day ended to check out the system, and a student took it upon himself to show her how it worked! He even designed his own “experiment” to test how far the audio signal would reach, bringing one of the pods farther and farther down the hallway.

Of course, my colleague was very impressed with the technology, but I was even more impressed with the student’s desire to explore and explain it to her.

~ ~ ~

Veteran teachers and administrators often resist new technology because they’ve always done things another way, or they’re afraid trying something new will be too messy.

It’s always a little funny to me because my kindergartners have no such hang-ups. They surprise me every day with how quick they are to adapt and learn new things.

So if you really want to meet the trendsetters in education, I invite you to stop by my classroom – you just might learn something.

Stephanie Pullen is a kindergarten teacher at Commerce Elementary School and a district instructional technologist for Commerce ISD in Commerce, Texas.

Posted in guest column | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Cool Tool | Campus Steps

CREDIT Campus StepsThe majority of high schools don’t have access to technology that can fundamentally improve the success of college-bound students. For every one high school counselor there are 477 students and, on average, a high school student will receive a mere 25 minutes of guidance time over the course of their education. Enter Campus Steps.com, among the first free platforms of its kind with powerful apps for students, parents, and counselors to connect, communicate and navigate the road to higher education. Campus Steps provides multiple apps for students to use throughout their high school career. For example, a student can search for his or her best college fit, check SAT deadlines, apply for colleges and communicate with their counselor. A few of the most popular student apps are:

  • Chance of Admissions Technology – Students receive individualized admissions scores based on the strength of their academic portfolios that help them narrow in on the best schools for them.
  • STEPS Admissions Guide – Everything students need to know about what each school expects from applicants.
  • My College Goals Manager – Students create a college goal list and manage their application process all in one place.
  • College Matching - Allows students to search for and be matched to appropriate colleges or trade schools from a database of more than 8,500 schools.

Addtionally, counselors create their own profiles that link to their student profiles. They can use Campus Steps as a workflow and communication tool, sending auto-reminders to students and parents. To register, visit www.campussteps.com.

Posted in cool tools | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool Tool | Monday Envelope

CREDIT Monday EnvelopeMonday Envelope provides relief from reply-all emails and fundraising support for PTAs drowning in Boxtops. Their all-in-one solution for parent communities not only centralizes group information and communication but enables in-app actions like volunteering, payments, RSVPing and fundraising. They “foster strong parent communities while taking the hassle out of participation,” says Byrn Boughton, self-described ‘head instigator’ (CEO and co-founder) for Monday Envelope. “This translates to more involvement and increased funds while saving hours of wasted time,” she says. As Fast Company wrote about them so concisely, “Monday Envelope, an all-in-one communication and fundraising platform for parent-teacher organizations, aims to end the era of lost flyers, disorganized email chains, and red tape.” This is one of the better all-in-one communication solutions built specifically for a PTO/PTA community. With their smart and simple tools for communication, volunteering and fundraising, this Cool Tool is worth a good look.

Posted in cool tools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment