Trends | Protecting Student Privacy

CREDIT CoSN Protecting PrivacyAs school rolls forward nationwide, CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) and the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) just released a new resource for school leaders to help them smartly discuss the critical issue of student privacy. The infographic explains to parents and guardians of students about school privacy practices and why they are needed. This is the newest tool from CoSN’s Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning initiative. “Collecting student information and data is a bit unsettling for parents and guardians,” says Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “But these rising concerns make it essential that school leaders clearly articulate their student information and data practices. And, as importantly, tell them why these practices make a positive difference,” he says. “This resource will help superintendents, administrators and teachers demonstrate their commitment to delivering a safe, transformational educational experience for students.” Available in English and English/Spanish, the infographic answers the following key questions:

-What data are collected and why?

-How do education data support student success and school improvement?

-How are education data protected?

Customizable for the school or district, it allows school leaders to include specific information about a local situation. The infographic also points audiences to other sources of information about the legal rights of parents and guardians. “Privacy of student data is one of those issues that begs for straightforward and clear explanation. Too often, misinformation creates concerns that are easily eased when parents fully understand how their child’s data are protected,” adds Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, NSPRA. Check it out.

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A Direct Link

Low-income children with access to the Internet on mobile phones have college readiness help.

GUEST COLUMN | by Keith Frome

CREDIT College SummitMore than 28 million children who qualify for free or reduced-priced school lunches in the United States will not graduate from college by the time they are 25. Making it to, and through, college is a complex process, and students face a variety of barriers. Most students, though, do have the desire to succeed in college and careers — they simply don’t know how to navigate the pathway. For these students, a set of tools to help may already be in their hands.

More than 20 million low-income children will grow up with access to the Internet on mobile phones, and those cellphones and other devices can now provide them a direct link to higher education.

More than 20 million low-income children will grow up with access to the Internet on mobile phones, and those cellphones and other devices can now provide them a direct link to higher education.

At College Summit, a nonprofit that empowers low-income students to forge their educational futures, we know that the path to college is neither easy nor intuitive, especially for a teen whose family members and friends have not pursued postsecondary education. For these students especially, teachers and guidance counselors are often the sole source of educational support and direction — but with an average ratio of 457 students per guidance counselor, ushering every student through the college application process is nothing short of impossible. How do we provide the nurturing and necessary nagging every student needs to make it to and through college?

College Summit saw an opportunity to answer this question through a medium with which students have boundless expertise: the Internet. That means for those who have an easier time obtaining a cellphone than they do academic resources and encouragement, the Internet may be the new great equalizer.

Enter CollegeAppMap.org, with free and near-free apps that help students and their families navigate the college application process through high school and beyond. Its mobile and Web-based apps were developed through the College Knowledge Challenge, a competition run by College Summit and the King Center Charter School with technical input from Facebook and financing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Technology can’t replace the personal touch of a guidance counselor, but placing digital tools for success in the hands of students — and their counselors — is a powerful opportunity to solve the nettlesome problem of educational inequity. Even guidance counselors who are tech-weary from the overwhelming number of online teaching tools can benefit from College App Map, which aggregates the best of the best. Consider Zombie College, an app that helps students learn about the milestones necessary for college access through a stimulating and entertaining game; College Abacus, a one-stop “real price” calculator for college costs; and What’s Your Road, an app that matches high school students with profiles and advice from professionals who have experienced similar life journeys.

But even the best of the best can’t help if no one knows about them. Reversing the traditional educational equation, College Summit is planning a series of forums in which students will train counselors on how to use technology to help all the students they teach and advise achieve college success — what we’re calling the App-a-thons.

Financed, in part, by the generous Bezos Family Foundation, the App-a-thons — held in cities across the U.S. — will provide a platform for high school students to introduce counselors to this new generation of college accessibility tools. This year, 200 low-income students will train 500 educators who together serve more than 100,000 students nationwide. These educators will take the College App Map tools back to their schools to spread the word about them among their students, who will share them with their friends, classmates, and families — as they would any other cool new app. This multiplier effect has the potential to impact thousands and thousands of students just this year alone.

Although College Summit helps upward of 50,000 low-income students each year around the country, there are millions more who don’t get to benefit from our high-touch program. This is why we are so excited to scale our efforts through App-a-thons and our support and curation of the burgeoning field of college access and success apps.

For the past 20 years, College Summit’s goal has been to empower students to be agents of change for themselves, their peers, and their communities — for decades to come, these apps, as well as new, innovative ones that will come on the market, will teach even more young people than we could have ever imagined the power of self-efficacy, the importance of education, and the beauty of navigating your own life.

Keith Frome is the co-founder of College Summit, Inc., and Executive Director of King Center Charter School.

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Trends | Shaping Tomorrow

CREDIT ETIS

Check out this cool timeline from Education Technology Innovation Summit (ETIS) by browsing the above clip, then click on it and head over to the full infographic on their site. Their second annual summit (ETIS14) is being held on Thursday, September 25th at the Rolling Road Golf Club in Baltimore. It’s a one day affair that provides opportunities for EdTech professionals and educators to share education strategies, and explore the innovative ways technology is reshaping the traditional and digital classrooms. The theme for ETIS14 is “EdTech in Real Life” — and naturally sessions will showcase real life case studies and experiences of EdTech professionals. ETIS14 is hosted by Mindgrub, a Technology Innovation Agency that produces mobile, social, and web apps for corporations, government, education, and philanthropic organizations.

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Cool Tool | Social Studies Techbook

CREDIT Discovery Education TechbookThis cool tool brings history to life with an innovative multimedia reference library that links key documents to people and places; interactive maps, digital explorations and activities; primary source documents; and informational text. It engages all learners through multiple reading levels and languages, promotes personalized learning via different pathways through content, encourages critical thinking and enables project-based learning. Social Studies Techbook is available for middle school courses including United States History, World History and World Geography & Cultures courses. With compelling videos and primary source documents from Discovery’s exclusive Multimedia Reference Library, it links social studies to key historical resources and features activities that encourages students to think, do and investigate history instead of memorize it. Students become historians and learn to develop a reasoned point-of-view, which supports the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Launched in the fall of 2012 in partnership with the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, the Social Studies Techbook is currently being used in nearly 30 states. Find out more and preview their video on their website.

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Great Connectivity Expectations

Keys to unlocking the most value from new e-rate funding.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason King

FCC E-RateAs many children and teachers head back to school, they are bringing with them a plethora of wireless devices to use as educational tools in the classroom. They are also bringing with them great connectivity expectations. While the quality and availability of wireless connectivity may not be a concern at some K-12 institutions, there are still many schools and libraries struggling to find affordable wireless services and provide reliable Wi-Fi to students, faculty and guests.

The FCC recently made the most sweeping changes to the E-Rate program in 18 years, greatly expanding the opportunity for K-12 school districts to implement Wi-Fi.

To help address this issue, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support program, commonly known as the E-Rate program. The program’s goal is to help schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications services, broadband Internet access and internal network connections. The E-Rate program provides discounts ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent of the costs of eligible services.

The FCC recently made the most sweeping changes to the E-Rate program in 18 years, greatly expanding the opportunity for K-12 school districts to implement ubiquitous Wi-Fi access. It includes an additional $2 billion in funding for Wi-Fi projects over the next two years, and $5 billion over the next five years. Rural and urban school districts will most benefit from this new support, as the eligibility for E-Rate is based on the percentage of students in the district eligible for the National School Lunch Program.

However, no matter how much funding is increased or how it is distributed, it remains crucial that schools and libraries carefully consider how to best utilize support they receive. Luckily, the recent E-Rate changes included new coverage for a Wi-Fi option that might be the most cost-effective solution yet. The latest program approved managed Wi-Fi services as an alternative to on-premise managed wireless solutions. The updated program allocates a budget of $150 per student over five years, or $30 per student annually for managed Wi-Fi.

When looking at the updated changes, which are outlined in a 176 page document, there are some key considerations for school districts to look at to ensure they are fully taking advantage of this new funding:

Complete Maintenance: With most schools and libraries suffering from limited IT staffs, they should be careful in choosing a vendor which provides a complete maintenance solution, such as 24/7 proactive network monitoring and Help Desk support. These options offload the burden of dealing with end-user Wi-Fi connectivity issues from internal IT staff, allowing them to focus on more important issues.

Advanced Flexibility: For those districts that are looking for additional flexibility, they should consider a solution that will allow them to freely migrate between a public cloud and private cloud Wi-Fi option. This service model provides them with an ongoing option to either maintain control on-site or offload that management to a service provider. The ability to migrate between the two models enables a school or library to easily and quickly make changes to how they manage IT based on need, cost and more.

Avoid Extra Fees: Many wireless solutions and platforms hide extra licensing fees for features such as guest access, high availability and intrusion detection, which are critical to a school environment. Schools and libraries leveraging the E-Rate program must carefully consider which solution will cost-effectively meet their networking needs today and in the future, without hamstringing them with add-on licensing feeds.

Adherence to SLAs: Service Level Agreements (SLAs) guarantee a certain level of performance for any data or application crossing the wireless network. It is crucial to ensure that your vendor provides a strong adherence to SLA standards, or you could end up with poor quality of service for end users, and— in the event of a service outage or emergency — long response times and/or complicated issue resolution procedures.

Security: Proper security requirements need to be identified by district officials and IT staff and shared with your wireless vendor. Regardless of whether you are deploying on-premise or managed Wi-Fi, security parameters must be met. For example, an important feature for Wi-Fi setting is the ability to assign role-based access. This function distinguishes between a teacher and student role, and assigns a different set of policies and access rights to each.

While it’s likely that schools and libraries will continue to face funding challenges, the E-Rate program is making a difference for many communities. Whether your school or library is considering purchasing and managing on-premise wireless infrastructure or leaning towards a managed Wi-Fi service, it’s important to carefully define the features and capabilities that matter most to your students and staff. More importantly, it is crucial to find a solutions vendor that understands those goals and can seamlessly meet them. Together you can unleash the potential power of your wireless network and the educational resources in your community.

Jason King is the director of marketing for the Bluesocket Business Group at ADTRAN. With over 15 years’ experience in the industry, he is responsible for the overall promotion and positioning of the company’s Wi-Fi solutions. Find him on Twitter: @jjking24

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