Classroom Upgrades

In 2017, learning spaces and environments are the next frontier.


CREDIT Ergotron.pngWe’ve seen technology infiltrate the classroom in a variety of ways, from physical technology to creating connected, global classrooms. With this integration and the use of technology in the classroom, the way learning happens has changed. Consequently, both teachers and administrators have had to recognize the impact all this change has had on the learning process and help students and the classroom adapt.

What else is ahead in 2017? Here are a few important predictions as we head into the New Year.

Generally, in 2017 we expect to see further personalization of learning tools and technology. Those in the technology side of the industry have traditionally thought of the “tools” as the devices, software and curriculum (and the network infrastructure to support this), but non-tech tools are proving to be critically important in the evolution of personalized learning, too. Learning spaces and environments are the next frontier to bring out the best in our learners.

What else is ahead in 2017? We’ll continue to see the integration of technology in the classroom, the rise of personalized learning and classroom spaces that accommodate every learning type. Below are a few important predictions as we head into the New Year.

Flipped classrooms

As teachers become more experienced in managing the flipped classroom model, they are gaining greater insights and opportunities for differentiated learning. Mobile computing devices and digital curriculum continue play an important role both in and out of the classroom, but the physical learning environment becomes much more important as well.

The flipped classroom model uses educational technology as a means for students to study information outside of school (as opposed to during class time) through tools such as videos, slides and notes. Time in class is then spent discussing the information, with teachers offering guidance, addressing key issues or dealing with any points of difficulty that students may have. By studying the material prior to class, students can spend time asking questions with the teacher and fellow students, creating a more active and collaborative learning environment.

To execute on the promise of collaborative and adaptive curriculums, we need to provide learning spaces that are conducive to cooperative grouping strategies and individualized physical learning needs. Visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners all take in information differently. Teachers must recognize these differences and align their curriculum to these styles to ensure that students are accessing information the way they do best.

Schools will continue to support the integration of technology into students’ daily classroom time to assist with the flipped classroom. Tablets, laptops and desktops will be more readily available to every student and the classroom itself will need to be transformed to accommodate for less lecture style teaching and make room for more collaboration between students and teachers.

Blended learning

In 2017, blended learning will gain a strong foothold outside of well-funded, magnet school. It is an approach to teaching that combines online with traditional classroom methods. Typically, students get facetime with teachers in schools that are then combined with activities completed online through the use of desktops, laptops or tablets. This type of classroom learning allows students to then set the pace and timing of their learning, providing a more personalized learning process.

As teachers continue to implement this type approach, in conjunction with the 1:1 computing trend, students will gain critical skills that the 21st century workplace demands – better collaboration and idea sharing through the use of technology.

Classroom furniture

While curriculum modernizations create opportunities for teachers and students to use the classroom space more effectively, traditional classroom furniture does not. It may not always be the first priority, but classroom furniture at the most foundational level should enhance the educational tools and technology it’s supporting. At an aspirational level, it should also support the teachers’ curriculum, the students’ health, comfort and learning styles.

Given today’s intersection of technology and education, the classroom set-up is at a crossroads. Case studies have shown the positive role that physical activity and height-adjustable desks can have in modern education, helping address the physical and cognitive challenges experienced by students in what has traditionally been a sedentary environment. Classroom furniture can play a critical role in making today’s classrooms where healthier, more collaborative behavior can occur and will be more conducive to learning even as schools prepare for the next wave of digital instruction.

Technology is continuing to shape the future, and our students’ ability to excel in that type of environment depends on how we equip them to succeed. Enhancing the physical environment to support these changing learning styles is the best place for teachers and administrators to start. By integrating useful technology in the classroom and changing the way students interact and learn with those tools, we will bring about happier and more successful students.

Bob Hill is Education Manager at Ergotron, a leading provider of ergonomic products for computer users.

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Protecting School Data

Disaster recovery isn’t child’s play.

GUEST COLUMN | by Mike Grossman

CREDIT Zetta img.pngWithout doubt, one of the most feared keywords now is ransomware. School districts are increasingly becoming a target for cyber attackers who, thanks to under-funded school security budgets, are able to hack into school district networks and demand payment to release privacy-sensitive student, family and staff data.

K-12 school districts can be challenged in obtaining funding for improvements in data security since they do not have the more robust funding sources of higher learning institutions, or universities associated with medical centers. As a result, K-12 cyber security issues typically get lower priority in budget decisions than basic items such as funding school bus operations or facility repairs.

Here are a few refinements for school IT staff to be thinking about to better secure sensitive data.

At the same time, unfortunately, K-12 school districts are becoming an increasingly popular target for cyber attacks, resulting in more data breaches. None of us can stop cyber attackers from trying to disrupt school district operations, or prevent disruptive events caused by natural disasters or power outages, but what school IT staff and administrators can do is take a fresh look at their current data protection and disaster recovery solutions. They should examine whether they have the best preventive measures possible and are spending their, albeit somewhat limited, data security budgets wisely.

In the event of a cyber attack, a naturally occurring disruptive event, or human error, how school district data is protected and recoverable is key to returning, as soon as possible, to a normal day of teaching and serving students. The cloud offers a number of advantages for data recovery. Here are a few refinements for school IT staff to be thinking about to better secure sensitive data:

  1. Cloud-based disaster recovery (DR).  Thanks to advancements in data transfer technologies, larger data sets can now be securely replicated to a cloud-based datacenter with exceptional speed. If the school’s primary server fails, IT staff can instantly “spin up” a version of the server in the cloud and run operations just as they normally would by using the cloud-based version of the data. Once the failed server is back online, IT can easily restore the most current data from the cloud.
  2. Direct-to-Cloud Fights Ransomware.  A direct-to-cloud backup solution can employ continuous third party vulnerability scans and industry standard SSL encryption, to further secure data and protect student and staff privacy. In the event of a cyber attack, direct-to-cloud means the data is still secure and recoverable from the cloud, without having to pay a ransom to cyber criminals.
  3. Physical and Virtual Servers and Applications in the Cloud. If a school district is using both physical and virtual servers, it needs to be able to run both types of servers and applications from the cloud. Having this complete DR approach provides the best means of quickly returning to a regular workflow.
  4. Appliance-Free DR.  When a disruptive event occurs, it’s best to avoid having a physical appliance between the server and the cloud connection. It can cost schools valuable recovery time if they have to replace the appliance before restoring a server.
  5. Platform Flexibility.  School IT staff typically manages a wide variety of technology programs and needs a DR solution that can accommodate this diversity. Look for backup software that delivers the flexibility needed to retrieve files, regardless of which server or computer stores the data.
  6. Cost Control.  Budget-strapped school districts can achieve cost efficiencies by employing a software-driven backup and recovery approach. Rather than rely on expensive hardware investments, the direct-to-cloud strategy gives schools a scalable, affordable pricing option.
  7. Reliability.  One thing an IT person does not want to worry about is whether important data that needs to be backed up, is in fact, backed up. School IT staff, during the day, needs to attend to helping students learn through technology, and supporting teacher administrative needs. They want backup and recovery taken care of, reliably, and within the ‘backup window’ they designate. Technology that includes advanced change detection and an efficient storage backend are two of the attributes to look for in choosing a backup and recovery solution.

K-12 school districts need stronger preventive measures to protect sensitive data against cyber attacks. Knowing that budgets are tight, the best approach is to take a hard look now at their backup and recovery systems, make sure they are doing the job they’re supposed to do, and, budget permitting, work to develop a cloud-based strategy that will better protect their valuable data resources.

Mike Grossman is the CEO of Zetta and an expert in cloud-based data protection, and online backup and disaster recovery.

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A CS State of Mind

In New York City, students and teachers well represented.

GUEST COLUMN | by Michael Preston

CREDIT CSNYC teacher training.jpgThe last several years have seen an unprecedented growth in computer science (CS) education. Arguably, 2013 was the turning point for CS in K-12 education, with the founding of local organizations such as CSNYC and national ones such as, whose explicit missions are to expand classroom access to CS.

Significantly, several state and district initiatives have gone beyond simply increasing access to CS to some students and declared CS a required subject for all students — effecting an unprecedented change to curriculum nationwide. Highly populated urban districts, including New York City, Chicago and San Francisco, as well as the states of Arkansas, Rhode Island and Utah, have each launched CSforAll initiatives, providing essential literacy for 21st century learning and an expanded pipeline to pathways in technology today’s public school students.

We recognize educating current teachers is only the first step in a long-term plan to create equitable, sustainable access to CS for all students.

A White House call to action established in January 2016 both acknowledged this growth and spurred additional commitments, and a new CSforAll Consortium was launched in September 2016 to help organize activity and track data across the country.

Teachers are integral to CS Success

In order to teach CS to as many public school students as possible, we need to produce a deep bench of teachers who are equipped with the skills and understanding they need to support student learning. Nurturing deep CS knowledge in a single teacher means that potentially hundreds of students per year will be able to learn CS.

Realistically, schools will seek to integrate CS in diverse ways that will evolve over time. This presents a need for at least two types of teachers: those who will formally be known as CS teachers in their schools; and those who will offer CS in the context of another subject area. Yet there are very few CS specialists for schools to hire, and few current teachers have been exposed to CS in ways that would enable them to teach it effectively in another context. The lack of (1) university programs in CS education — or even a general CS literacy requirement for all students — (2) certification pathways for teachers, and (3) a discernable job market have together produced a chicken-and-egg dilemma that has sustained years of inertia in K-12 CS education.

The tide is beginning to turn, however, with new CS initiatives in schools and districts creating sudden demand for CS teachers. Universities are slowly following suit, with a slate of new teacher preparation programs being implemented across the country, including several in New York City. In March 2016, CSNYC hosted a convening of local universities working on pre-service CS teacher programs and will continue to support their efforts to develop and scale their programs. In 2017, CSNYC will launch a National Science Foundation-funded project called “Finding a Home for CS in Schools of Education” in partnership with universities across the country.

While promising, these nascent programs will not produce qualified teachers overnight. In fact, to implement CS at scale for the foreseeable future, our central strategy must be to offer high-quality professional development (PD) for teachers already in classrooms. This is certainly the case in NYC, where our goal is to educate nearly 5,000 teachers over 10 years so we can reach 1.1 million students in 1,700 schools.

Who are these teachers?

Because of the dearth of qualified CS educators, the reality facing school districts is they must educate teachers from other subject area certifications. For example, the NYC Department of Education’s Software Engineering Program launched in 2013 with 40 teachers, but only 10 percent had any background in CS or a related field. Those teachers spent three years and about 350 hours in PD while teaching a curriculum that spanned computer programming, web and mobile development, robotics and electronics.

Educating teachers in CS from other disciplines comes with both benefits and constraints. The benefits include:

  • The teachers are already committed to careers in education and know how to manage a classroom;
  • They have demonstrated an interest in expanding their curriculum repertoire;
  • They are willing to manage a classroom focused on problem- and project-based learning; and
  • They are able to build connections back to their primary certification area.

Conversely, the constraints of in-service PD include:

  • The relatively small amount of time available, compared to pre-service learning and other higher education programs;
  • The lack of opportunity to develop strong fundamentals in CS; and
  • The challenge of developing CS-specific pedagogical content knowledge (how to teach) that may be very different from their primary certification.

The NYCDOE just announced a new slate of CS professional development opportunities for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. By providing schools with a diverse range of options, they are making it possible for schools to implement CS in a way that aligns with their school vision and culture. The PD opportunities are designed to be accessible to teachers of varying backgrounds in CS, whether just starting out or building upon existing knowledge, and allowing teachers to continue to grow over time.

One of the most exciting aspects about the growth of CS in K-12 education is the continued growth of a diverse community comprised of teachers, CS content providers and higher education institutions. We recognize educating current teachers is only the first step in a long-term plan to create equitable, sustainable access to CS for all students. But the first phase of this work will be a sustained investment in our current teacher workforce.

Michael Preston is Executive Director of CSNYC, the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education. CSNYC works to increase access to computer science in NYC public schools and is the city’s partner in the 10-year Computer Science for All (CS4All) initiative. Prior to joining CSNYC, Michael designed and led digital learning initiatives at the NYC Department of Education including programs in middle and high school computer science, personalized learning and digital literacy. Write to:


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Cool Tool | Epson’s iProjection App for Chromebooks

CREDIT Epson iProjection.pngChromebooks are turning into the computer of choice for the classroom. According to Futuresource Consulting, they accounted for more than half of device sales in the K-12 market in 2015. To help schools utilize these devices, Epson created the free iProjection App for Chromebooks so students and teachers can use Epson BrightLink interactive projectors and most PowerLite projectors to wirelessly display documents, photos and web pages from Chromebooks. The wireless capability makes it easy for teachers to move around the room and students to collaborate in small groups. When combined with the Epson Multi-PC Projection with Moderator function, teachers have the ability to display up to four Chromebooks notebook computers simultaneously from a maximum of 50 connected devices for an engaging and collaborative classroom experience. In addition to the iProjection App for Chromebooks, the iProjection App is compatible with iOS Apple devices running iOS 4.2 or later, including the iPad®, iPhone® and iPod touch®, and most AndroidTM devices running Android 2.3 or later. Learn more.

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Cool Too| NovoEd

NovoEd engineering team.pngNovoEd is a learning platform for the modern workforce (pictured are some of the company’s engineering team during an off-site gathering at their co-founder’s home). Its social, collaboration, and mobile capabilities power more engaging learning experiences, enabling organizations to more effectively train their employees, partners, customers, and students. These experiences are as impactful as in-person training programs, but can be deployed faster and reach entire organizations, driving business transformation. The platform has over 1.3 million users from organizations such as IDEO, Comcast, Nestle, Sanofi, ING Bank, Stanford, Wharton, UVA Darden, and UC Berkeley-Haas. The platform is differentiated by several key elements:

  • The modern, mobile user interface provides a consumer-grade experience, on-demand from any device and fully accessible. The platform seamlessly integrates media types to promote deliberate practice and active learning.

  • An effective and experiential approach allows for applied project work and collaboration in small groups. Small group interaction triggers social learning, which boosts effectiveness and increases accountability.

  • A social, engaging environment prompts learners to interact in context and share work with peers. It delivers sustainment and reinforcement, extending learning beyond the course with peer-to-peer connections and mentor feedback.

  • Powerful Reporting and Management tools provide real-time data for a detailed view of learner engagement and content quality. NovoEd integrates with existing enterprise systems and provides bank-level security and compliance.

Learn more.

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