Left to Their Own Smart Devices

3 lessons educators can learn from the enterprise BYOD trend.

GUEST COLUMN | by Omer Eiferman

CREDIT wikipedia iPhone5As anyone immersed in education will tell you, today’s students rely on their mobile devices more than ever before. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 78% of teens have a cell phone, and nearly half of those teens own smartphones. College students, on average, own 7 different devices, with a laptop and smartphone topping the list.

Benchmarking the enterprise shift to the bring-your-own-device era, educators should consider that students prefer to use their own technology to stay connected. As with the enterprise space, students now own devices and tools that are better than what institutions can provide, and in addition, enjoy a much faster refresh cycle. In the education space, compared to the enterprise, smart devices are capable of more than providing students with ubiquitous connectivity — they are also an excellent vehicle, or control mechanism, for aligning education stakeholders, such as the student, institution, government and business, for the efficient delivery of educational resources and learning. Educators should consider these three lessons learned by enterprises:

  1.      Target any personal device as a vehicle to deliver education – The availability of powerful personal devices in the hands of students, and the continuous refresh cycle of the latest and greatest, supersedes the ability of educational institutions, similar to enterprise IT, to keep up with technology. Institutions need to refocus the delivery of education, moving away from controlling delivery devices and formats, to focus on consumption. The delivery of education should be standardized so it can be consumed by any personal device.  
  1.      Adopt multi-persona technology to bring the most salient resources to students – A recent blog post by Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., visualizes the future of education by demonstrating how to separate out device use scenarios that are directly related to making educational gains. Just like in the enterprise space, educators can utilize multi-persona technology on smartphones to even further align students, institutions, government and businesses. The separation in personas enables students to isolate their learning from other use scenarios and enables government, institutions, and business, to assure that subsidies and resources are delivered for the sole purpose of education, and not for personal or business gains. The latter is especially important when businesses are reluctant to deliver materials to students when it can be used for non-educational purposes, cannibalizing revenue from business channels.
  1.      Understand the benefits that smart devices bring – Beyond ubiquitous connectivity, devices are able to bring more granularity to the consumption, and delivery, of education. For example, using a device’s GPS capabilities, an institution or content provider can “geo-fence” the delivery of content to when a student is within the university walls, and disallow use outside of the institution’s boundaries. This prevents an out-of-scope use, for personal, or business gain. Devices can also allow for temporal constraints, disallowing the use of materials or connectivity on a summer break. The isolation of educational resources also benefits institutions in that it can allow the institution to have clean data, and insight, in to what students use, and how to improve and optimize resources and delivery. One may even imagine experimentation where different content is served to different students to measure the effectiveness of that content.

Educational institutions should enter the mobile age and embrace the opportunity to be more effective, efficient, and cost sensitive than ever before. The challenge, like with any disruption, is to rethink the system design and utilize new concepts, such as multi-persona, that align with this new age of mobility. Exciting times are ahead for educators.

Omer Eiferman is the CEO of Cellrox, a multi persona BYOD platform.

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E-Rate Update

The program’s guidelines haven’t been updated since its 1996 introduction.  

GUEST COLUMN | by Cathy Cruzan

CREDIT FCC Portals II Building WashDCOn March 6, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Public Notice revealing E-rate program reforms under consideration by the agency. The notice seeks public reaction to proposed modernization efforts. It also outlines changes proposed by educators, school administrators, school districts and consortia, and librarians.

The FCC announced three proposed goals for this process:

  1.      Ensure schools and libraries have affordable access to 21st century broadband to support digital learning.
  2.      Maximize the cost-effectiveness of E-rate funds.
  3.      Streamline the program’s administration process.

In order to achieve equitable broadband distribution, the Public Notice seeks comment on several topics, including: how to best distribute support among applicants for high-speed connections to school and libraries; how to prioritize applications for deployment

Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) surveyed school district leaders, and found that 57 percent believe their schools’ wireless networks cannot handle a one-to-one student-to-device deployment.

costs in the event that the demand for such funds exceed availability; and which objective impact efficiency metrics to use in prioritizing applications.

The Public Notice focuses on three areas that will encourage cost-effective purchasing: consortium purchasing and bulk buying, technology planning and data collection, and transparency.

To streamline the administrative process, the Commission wants input on how best to minimize the administrative burdens and overhead associated with applying for, and receiving, E-rate support.

Changes are slated for Funding Year 2015 and planning begins this fall, with changes impacting the flow of funds to begin no earlier than July 1, 2015. The Public Notice requests input from stakeholders, with comments due by April 7, and reply comments due by April 21.

The Public Notice also seeks input on restoring discounts for on-campus broadband connectivity, and doing so in an equitable manner for all eligible schools and libraries. In addition, it asks for comments on a one-time targeted surge of support for schools and libraries that lag behind in broadband connectivity. A reduction or lower prioritization of support for analog telephone services, and further ideas for well-defined, time-limited demonstration projects to achieve cost savings and innovation within the E-rate program, are also being examined.

Although the Public Notice does not directly address increases to the program’s $2.38 billion annual budget, the FCC did leave open the possibility that other changes not listed in the Public Notice could be made by the Commission.

Modernizing the E-rate program is a pressing concern—the program’s guidelines and principles haven’t been updated since its introduction by President Clinton in 1996.

Since then, Internet use has increased exponentially, yet funding has lagged behind the demand. In a March 13 webinar, John Harrington of E-rate consulting firm Funds For Learning, made a compelling argument for E-rate reform. Harrington pointed out that demand for funding tripled between 1998 and 2013, from $1.3 billion to $3.6 billion, while funding remained frozen around $2.4 billion.

Harrington also explained that a 2012 Funds for Learning survey of E-rate applicants revealed that only 10 percent of schools feel they are “ready for tomorrow.” This means that 90 percent of schools do not have the infrastructure to support contemporary learning technology. In support of these findings, Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) surveyed school district leaders, and found that 57 percent believe their schools’ wireless networks cannot handle a one-to-one student-to-device deployment.

The Public Notice marks a commitment to President Obama’s goal of connecting 99 percent of schools to high-speed Internet within the next five years. Internet access is necessary in today’s schools to utilize modern learning techniques, but many schools are lacking a sufficient connection. The need for E-rate reform is most pressing in poorer and rural areas, where schools have inadequate Internet access compared to more affluent areas. This need will become even greater as more schools adopt the Common Core State Standards. The new guidelines for academic instruction require students to take assessments online. This puts a tremendous strain on the bandwidth capabilities of many U.S. schools. Increased E-rate funding, along with other changes, will make it possible for under-equipped schools to acquire the bandwidth they need to help students succeed.

The Public Notice is an important first step in a process that will change the E-rate program in the near future. If you support increasing E-rate funding for impoverished schools, reach out to the FCC and your congressional representative.

Cathy Cruzan is president at Funds For Learning, one of the nation’s largest e-rate consulting firms.

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Not Your Daddy’s Printer

How a 3-D printer enhances learning in the classroom.

GUEST COLUMN | by Darin Petzold

CREDIT Airwolf 3D  XLThink of it, model it, make it – that’s our motto at Serrano Intermediate School’s Tech Academy where we embrace Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) education as we transition to Common Core. Our Tech Academy serves 102 7th and 8th grade students and consists of courses in sketch art, computer web design, stop motion animation and modeling design, and woodshop in a classroom equipped with an Airwolf XL 3D printer for manufacturing.

The 3D printer is a critical tool to enhance the learning process in our Tech Academy. It provides vital options that help us move our students forward in developing their creativity, critical thinking,

The 3D printer is a critical tool to enhance the learning process in our Tech Academy.

communication, and collaboration skills needed for success in the 21st century. For instance, this year our students will work collaboratively to create, design and manufacture a full-size, detailed prototype for an innovative product. 

What You Need To Know

First and foremost, the 3D printer is an exciting, cutting-edge technology tool (emphasis on the word “tool”) that we can effectively employ to engage students as we help them explore, learn and understand core principles. It is the perfect complement to our woodshop manufacturing. 

Second, 3D printers are a whole lot slower than laser printers. Manufacturing time can vary from one to seven hours depending on the size and complexity of the design model, which makes full-size models for 30-36 students in a 52 minute class impossible. To address this and keep students engaged, we teach students to design models scaled to miniature size, allowing us to produce more students’ products in a viable timeframe by putting multiple computer models in a matrix for the 3D printer. 

Our 3D printer allows us to produce more intricate and detailed products with a larger variety of material to choose from than we could manufacture in traditional woodshop, which is exciting for our students. For example, our students are making “Mini Me” bots with articulated limbs and detailed heads. Students will create an idea for their bots, sketch out their idea and then make the bots’ bodies and limbs with woodshop tools and create the head with the 3D printer. There are woodshop tools that we just don’t have the time to teach the students how to use safely to produce a detailed head, but we can teach them to design a computer model and program the 3D printer to make it. 

For the full-size prototype project, the students are making a sketch drawing to communicate their idea for everyone to review, then they will vote and select the best idea. The students will then have the opportunity to collaborate on designing the model and manufacturing the selected product for entry into our county’s 2014 Maker Challenge—a collaborative project of Career Technical Education of Orange County that provides an opportunity for local students to participate in an integrated STEM design project. Their challenge is to use 3D modeling and printing to design and build, or significantly repurpose, products that will solve problems, needs or wants. 

Our Tech Academy Process

Think It – Students create a product in their mind and then must be able to communicate it graphically to others. In the art course, students are learning to sketch their ideas utilizing single-point and two-point perspective drawing techniques. Without these art skills, students would not be able to transform their idea into a computer model design for manufacture. Once they have successfully communicated their idea in a drawing, students move on to the next stage of development.

Model It – Our computer course uses “Sketch Up” software to teach students how to design the model for their product to be manufactured. As part of this design process, students will need to use their knowledge of proportion and scale to design their model on a miniature scale. Not to mention being thoroughly engaged as they design a viable computer model.

Make It – Students learn to transfer their computer model to the software that will run the 3D printer to manufacture their product. 

Moving Forward

Our Airwolf XL 3D printer will continue to play an integral part as we move forward into our “STEAM” Academy next year, providing more sophisticated design, modeling, aerodynamics, automation and robotics engineering experiences for our students with the Project Lead the Way curriculum. With the variety of filaments available for our 3D printer, we will also be able to design and manufacture some of the parts that we will need for robotics and other projects. 

Darin Petzold teaches Wood Shop, Tech Academy and Science at Serrano Intermediate School, Lake Forest, California. Write to: Darin.Petzold@svusd.org

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Irreversible Momentum

Promethean CEO Jim Marshall discusses the future of technology in schools. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero 

Jim Marshall CEO of PrometheanJim Marshall is the CEO of Promethean. He was appointed to the Board in July 2012 having joined the Company in 2011 as President of North American Markets. Previously, Jim served as CEO of SpectrumK12, a company that produces software solutions to improve the performance of at-risk and special education students. Prior to leading SpectrumK12, he was CEO at Agentis Software and took the company through a management buyout to sustained profitability. Jim has held a number of high-profile executive positions, including Vice President of Apple’s US Education Division and has extensive experience of helping technology companies to build and develop accomplished management, sales, marketing, professional services and channels teams. Jim is an active member of the Cobb County Education Foundation and is a former Director of the Florida Council on Economic Education, an organization that teaches fundamental finance and business concepts to high school students. He has received public recognition for his work in

There is power in learning, and it is essential that all citizens are a part of it, and can participate.

education in the states of Michigan, Maine, Florida and Georgia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management and General Sciences from the University of South Florida. In this EdTech Digest interview, Jim talks about current challenges, implications of a large Miami rollout, billions for broadband, and a force in education that can’t be stopped.

Victor: As someone who has spent many years in education, what do you see as the top challenges facing students/teachers today?

Jim: Well Victor, while it is difficult for anyone to narrow down the challenges faced by students and teachers today, I can tell you what I believe some of them to be. First of all, because there are many disrupted changes, mostly good, happening in classrooms today, it can be difficult for students and more so for educators to assimilate them, without some help, or professional development.

Furthermore, in the past few years, it has been easier for educators and students to use the Internet due to better devices and WiFi bandwidth capabilities. That has made the move to digital assets and online content more efficient and practical as well. Personal technology in the classroom has gone from just talk of 1:1 to handhelds for everyone, and now it includes touch interactivity with everything from whiteboards to tablets. Many of these changes have occurred in financial crises, down-turned budgets, and pedagogical moves from NCLB to common core standard goals, and more.

The problem still remains as to how these major changes can be managed in systems that have been isolated to change for so long.

Victor: Big things are happening in Miami. What sort of over-arcing theme do you have for the 18-month professional development accommodating that ActivBoard Touch rollout? 

Jim: Bringing technology all together in a meaningful way to make teaching and learning better should not make teaching or student achievement and progress more difficult. It’s not enough to just talk about hardware, software and solutions anymore. We need to drive any education initiative to improve teaching and learning outcomes. Now, if we can do that and make a teacher’s workload a bit easier by using technology, let’s do it. Miami-Dade is just one of many places where we can deliver real-time actionable knowledge, how to, and professional development to help teachers teach and students learn. We must also remember how important it is to know how those students are doing by the moment—child by child—in each class and day.

Victor: Company-wise and beyond Miami: What is “next” and how can your vision revitalize the conversation around education?

Jim: Well, what is next is where we’ve been headed for quite some time. We are now at the point where the technology and solutions we provide and continue to develop are becoming ubiquitous in the classroom. Beyond that, educators and students don’t need to be technology specialists to use them. The classroom user interface has change, and continues to change. While there still may be an interactive device at the front of the room, the teacher doesn’t need to be in the front of the room directing anymore. And because personalized devices are in the hands of students more, they can participate and help build more robust lessons and engage in their own learning more. The times of having only a few students in a class active will become rare. When we look at a classroom we see 25 to 30 researchers, scientists, mathematicians, individual learners and leaders collaborating.

Victor: In light of the 2008-09 recession and subsequent budget tightening and so on, including recent sequestration, are schools in the clear, or at least easing toward something close to a new normal in terms of budgets (especially with technology integration, updates and modernization in mind)? 

Jim: Budgets have improved as of July 1, 2013, and that was most likely the first time since the melt down. While it may not be over, the majority of the states either had improvements done, remained status quo, or looking at improvements now. I remain positive. Everyone we’ve talked with has seen signs of additional funding improvement and all are looking forward to seeing additional improvement again on July 1, 2014. When it comes to technology integration, updates, and providing the right tools for teachers and students, we must move forward.

Victor: Now for a broad question: What are your thoughts on education in general these days? Are we headed in the right direction, could we be doing more, thoughts about Obama/FCC billions for broadband? 

Jim: The momentum for education change and improvement is there and irreversible. Everything we can do to facilitate it and foster progress is our mission. With new personalized and collaborative interactive tools, wider access to the Internet, and great content, apps, and cloud-based opportunities. We are at a place of information exchange never seen before, and it can only move forward and become greater. I think the President is right; it is essential that we provide access to all of these learning tools, places, and resources. There is power in learning, and it is essential that all citizens are a part of it, and can participate.

Victor: Looking ahead, what does education look like 3-5 years from now?

Jim: We have a very good start, and I think we’re headed in the right direction, too. Our goal is to modify the way we think of the learning space, as well as where and how learning happens. We also feel it important to help educators discover new ways to actively motivate students, assess them each class and day, and know how to engage students at all learning levels. There certainly will be more of a cloud-base influence in all classrooms in doing that, as well as more technological give and take throughout a lesson between teacher and students. We are already thinking 3 to 5 years down the road, but we need to remember those educators and students just starting that journey, too. Professional development needs to be a part of that. We will continue to share what we know, and show what we know, to those who haven’t seen or heard it yet. In that way, followers become leaders.

Victor: Anything else you care to add or emphasize about education, technology, the leadership needed to advance us, or anything else for that matter?

Jim: I’m very privileged to be in this place right now. It is special and important to me to be at a time and place where I know that I can contribute to something so important and valuable—the education of children, and helping their teachers succeed. The next few years hold some wonderful challenges, but certainly many more magnificent accomplishments and achievements. There is no place I’d rather be.

Victor: Well alright! And thank you, Jim! 

Jim: Thank you, Victor!

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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Rugged Connections

One state’s mission to harness the power of data for student success.

GUEST COLUMN | by Judy Chappelear

CREDIT Wikipedia creative commons rmhermenLike much of the nation, Montana faces a challenging academic and economic landscape for supporting college and career readiness.  Though this is a top issue on the national agenda, it requires resources and buy-in from individual states, districts, and schools. With an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent and a high school graduation rate of 84.4 percent, Montana has seen steady improvements in its economic prospects over the past five years. There is still much work to be done, however, to close skills gaps and drive individualized student success.

Stakeholders in education – from students and parents to school administrators and state officials – need access to secure and organized student data to make informed decisions

Aligning postsecondary and high school curriculums to these job needs is imperative. 

and drive alignment between student career aspirations and statewide workforce needs.  Montana will join a growing number of states utilizing technology to forge a stronger connection between education and career success.

Fostering College and Career Readiness

We often ask sixth or seventh graders if they plan to go to college and the majority say that they do. However, by the time they are juniors in high school, that goal can be thwarted for a variety of reasons, making it tough to steer them back on course.

Research shows that academic success in high school, postsecondary retention, and career satisfaction are all related to a learner’s understanding of how his or her interests, skills, and values relate to academic and career pathways. When a student identifies the right pathway and makes good decisions about their postsecondary and career goals, it leads to higher high school graduation rates and postsecondary retention, which leads to completion and job placement.

But whose responsibility is it to guide students through this process? We too often rely on school counselors to provide information and guidance. With student-to-counselor ratios of 450+:1, it is not possible to provide personalized attention to every student.  An ongoing process is needed to support career aspirations and drive college accessibility and affordability.  Moreover, students need to understand their options and strive for success early, since 71% of projected jobs in 2020 will require some form of a postsecondary education.

Building a Skilled Workforce

The nation faces a growing need to develop a skilled workforce in order to meet the demands of our current industries and fill job openings. Montana is not exempt from this.  Although the labor market in Montana mirrors that of the national market, there are some differences. For example, in Montana, there is a greater need for skilled manufacturing workers, as well as students who pursue degrees in hospitality and healthcare.  Aligning postsecondary and high school curriculums to these job needs is imperative.  Employers and institutions must work together to equip students with the training needed to be successful, and together identify potential candidates with the skills and personalities that will be able to fill these jobs in the future.

Utilizing Technology to Overcome Challenges by Empowering Students and Administrators

In response to these challenges, Montana is taking a big step toward creating a one-stop college and career readiness environment for students and families.

Montana OPI will provide every administrator, teacher, parent and student with access to a personalized portal equipped with the tools needed to promote academic, career, and financial planning at any stage of a student’s learning.  A student will be able to combine his or her academic history with future education and career aspirations to create a personalized plan for success.  This approach helps to level the playing field by providing information and planning tools to all students and their parents, particularly benefitting the underserved populations and first-generation college students.

The portal will also allow counselors to monitor students, track cohorts, and intervene as needed. The portal further simplifies the transition from high school to college by ensuring that academic records combined with information like career aspirations, self-assessment, and extracurricular interests are readily available to postsecondary institutions for admissions consideration. Additionally, school and government stakeholders are able to monitor student outcomes, and make informed decisions regarding the improvement of education and workforce.

While Montana’s primary goal is to support student success and facilitate transitions to college, their innovative approach will ripple forward to impact the economic future of the state by providing a well-prepared workforce for employers.

Judy Chappelear is Vice President of Solutions & Strategy at ConnectEDU. The Montana Office of Public Instruction provides vision, advocacy, support, and leadership for schools communities to ensure that all students meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. The partnership between ConnectEDU and IBM is putting data into context, and comparing it across time, schools, and districts to ensure Montana’s students are on track to graduate and are college- and career-ready.

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