An online library of educational hip-hop songs and videos for grades K-12, Flocabulary is a learning resource used by over 20,000 schools. Engaging and inspiring students, this company creates instructional resources to support lessons across the curriculum, from science and social studies, to CCSS-aligned math and ELA. They also publish The Week in Rap, a weekly current events series that helps students connect to the world around them. Their Word Up vocabulary program uses contextual definitions to teach interdisciplinary Tier 2 vocabulary words, and has been shown to raise scores on state reading tests. They also offer implementation guides by subject and there are even lessons for teaching students to write their own academic rhymes. With a library of over 500 songs and videos, it has fun, engaging tools for almost every academic topic. Through constant feedback from its growing community, they are hard at work on new resources to meet the needs of teachers and students across the globe. Check it out for 30 days.
A private school IT guy offers up three lessons learned by using a cloud-based phone system.
GUEST COLUMN | by Rainier Apolonio
When Southlands Christian Schools was faced with the challenge of moving our pre-school through 8th grade programs to a new campus, our faculty and staff were up against lengthy phone system downtime and communication hurdles. We opted to take an alternative approach by turning to a cloud business communications platform to completely replace our on-premise legacy PBX system. And although the campus-wide technology modification occurred during critical work hours, our faculty staff continued working with no interruption.
As Gartner Research confirms, the cloud provides incredible value to education—and at our school we discovered the significant role cloud technology can play in enabling our teachers and staff members to do their jobs better. By testing the waters of the cloud in the K-8 setting, we witnessed the power of the cloud, and learned a few lessons along the way.
Let the Cloud do the Heavy Lifting. The cloud provides incredible value to education, whether you’re teaching in a kindergarten classroom, or the dean of an MBA program at Harvard. Initially, the biggest gripe I had with setting up another PBX on-premise system for our new campus was the infrastructure we’d have to lay down, and the complicated communication process we’d undergo to connect with the other systems across our three campuses. Cloud technology played a huge role in eliminating infrastructure challenges, and within a day our school staff of over 100 could reach each other with simple extensions.
Empower Teachers with Technology. We gave teachers and staff control of taking and returning phone calls on their mobile phones, with technology that keeps their personal numbers private. This small change empowered teachers to gain control of their classroom and better connect with the parents of students when needed. Empowering teachers gave our IT department added time to focus on other high priority technology initiatives.
Innovate Attentively. Businesses all around us are inventing and pioneering the very best technology. When working in the elementary school environment, it’s vital to innovate quickly, but still remain attentive to our school’s specific needs. Many factors, including student body size, location and test scores, determine the type of technological leaps we are prepared to take. New technology should be adopted vigilantly, and to meet your school’s individual needs.
Advancements in technology empower our faculty and staff to become better teachers, and I believe our institution benefits greatly from switching to a cloud-based phone system. As we evaluate other technological upgrades, we strive to make decisions that positively impact our teachers and student bodies across all three campuses. Technology has the potential to transform the way our teachers give information to parents and teachers—and switching to a cloud-based phone system has taken us a step in the right direction.
Get a good idea of how more than 400 students in Los Angeles are supporting 1-to-1 efforts and technology integration through the video above. They’re doing it through GenYES 1:1, which prepares Student Technology Leaders (STLs) teams that become responsible for deployment, maintenance, and integration of laptops, tablets, or other devices provided to all teachers and students. The program provides the online resources and environment necessary to prepare a team of STLs. This program proves to be especially important in 1:1 rollouts to provide just-in-time support for teachers and students. Modeling appropriate use of technology for learning becomes a student-led effort, increasing ownership and buy-in from students and parents for new technology initiatives. Generation YES provides the preparation, training, implementation and evaluation necessary for any 1-to-1 initiative. Dennis Harper, widely recognized as one of the world’s eminent leaders in the field of technology in education has been instrumental in bringing computers and the Internet into thousands of schools in more than thirty nations. As founder and CEO of Generation YES, Harper believes that teams of well-prepared K-12 students are the key strategy for realizing meaningful technology integration. All Generation YES programs have STLs at the center.
OpenEd, the world’s largest catalog of educational videos, games and assessments recently launched Common Core Quest – a free app available on the App Store and Google Play that can test and track the mastery of Common Core Standards. With millions of U.S. teachers implementing these rigorous standards in their classrooms, they are faced with the challenge of tracking learning gaps and personalizing learning to ensure all students are on track to meet and exceed the goals. With this fun, ad-free app, students have the ability to take quizzes and practice problems that demonstrate full understanding of the required math and English/language arts standards. When learning gaps are identified, Common Core Quest immediately links the learner to resources from OpenEd’s library of millions of videos and games for practice, allowing students to understand and complete difficult homework, or practice for an upcoming quiz or test. As student’s progress, they are rewarded with ribbons for each Common Core standard met, and badges for entire strands. In addition, the quizzes in Common Core Quest feature Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) style questions, helping students prepare for the rigors of the high-stakes assessments they will face in the spring.
Virtual server hosting for schools and colleges: mitigating security risks.
GUEST COLUMN | by Adam Stern
It’s now part of the conventional wisdom that cloud computing has altered the information technology delivery model. The steady embrace of the cloud among schools and colleges does not, however, mean that educational institutions can or should let their guard down on matters of security and data protection. While cloud server hosting provides compelling benefits, security is an essential part of any discussion of cloud adoption. Mitigating security risks is imperative to creating a comfort level among CIOs and CISOs, to transition applications and data to the cloud.
Now more than ever, cloud service providers are realizing that managing security is fundamental to facilitating cloud adoption.
Applications, systems and data all have different security thresholds. For example, web, mobile and social can be moved to a virtual server without the same degree of security concern as there is for regulated information or mission-critical applications – an especially relevant concern for public institutions. When deciding whether an application, product or service belongs in a cloud server, CIOs and CISOs must consider:
- Type of data or application
- Service-level agreement
- Security environment
The decision to move to the cloud, especially the public cloud, should depend on the sensitivity of the data and the level of security offered by the cloud provider. The final question should be whether the value offsets the risk.
Cloud service providers (CSPs) are beginning to put a greater emphasis on security protections, with technologies like clustered firewalls and IDPS (intrusion detection and prevention systems). In the cloud’s infancy, CSPs touted scalability, initial cost savings and speed. But the prospect of enhanced security in the cloud – indeed, that the better cloud deployments now mean that data is safer in the cloud than on a typical unsecured desktop – has altered the conversation. Educational institutions assessing cloud service providers can now seek out CSPs whose security controls mitigate the risks of moving to the cloud. Increasingly, schools are facing the challenge of dealing with outdated modes of storage and finding affordable, practical, secure solutions that meet their needs.
When considering a move to virtual server hosting, CIOs and CISOs need to check for audits of a CSP’s security controls. Look for providers who have passed the SSAE (Standards for Attestation Engagements) No. 16 Type II audit, one of the most rigorous auditing standards for hosting companies. The audit confirms the highest level of service and reliability attainable for a virtual server hosting company. To be SSAE compliant, a hosting provider should offer SSL capability, enterprise-level, application level protection, hardware firewall, IP-restricted FTP, managed backups with 14-day retention, advanced monitoring and multi-level intrusion prevention.
In addition, an increasing number of CSPs are using the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Service Organization Control process (SOC), the organization’s certification of controls with verification for cloud environments. Some of the larger cloud service providers now publish SOC reports on their security controls. Mandates from CIOs and CISOs may be required before SOC reports are published by all cloud providers.
Now more than ever, cloud service providers are realizing that managing security is fundamental to facilitating cloud adoption. Those cloud providers concerned about safeguarding their clients’ data and applications – so vital in schools and colleges, public and private – are taking steps to mitigate those risks with tight security controls and transparency regarding those controls.