Trends | How Technology is Changing the Classroom

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Creating with Technology

Five ways to make your classroom more creative with technology.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jessica Sanders 

CREDIT MindMeisterCreativity is no longer relegated to the art room, nor should it be. A 2010 study of 1,500 CEOs, in 60 countries and 33 industries found that creativity is the most important quality for succeeding in the 21st century business world, more so than rigor or management discipline.

This groundbreaking study tells us one thing: educators needs to focus on creativity —teaching students the skills they need to apply a more creative mindset outside of school.

Much of this technology encourages students to explore a more creative side of learning.

Luckily, teachers have access to more technology than ever before, and much of this technology encourages students to explore a more creative side of learning. Here are five ways to use these tools to create a more creative classroom and prepare your students for the future.

Student Blogging

Take the traditional book report or paper into the 21st century with blogging. When students create and submit their work in a blog format, they can use the built-in tools to be more creative. For example:

  • Formatting: Students can add headers, breakout quotes, colored text and links to their sources (rather than putting them in parentheses).
  • Images: Students can use their own images, or ones they find online, to show what they know, rather than just telling you. Encourage students to create their own images and graphs, encouraging them to truly push the creative envelope.
  • Videos: Students can embed YouTube videos into their blog post to further exemplify their point and show their knowledge. The process is as simple as copy and pasting a line of code, and the outcome is a more exciting product.

Mind Mapping

Brainstorming is a fun classroom exercise, but you, as the teacher, do all the work by writing the topics and ideas on the board yourself. When you put this work in the hands of your students they’re able to exercise their creativity and are more likely to remember the topics and ideas: students remember 90 percent of what they do, as opposed to only 30 percent of what they see and 50 percent of what they hear according to Dale’s Cone of Experience.

Use a product like MindMeister, where students can add colors, smiley faces, and icons to their mind map. Not only is this a fun exercise, but personalizing their mind map may help them associate these ideas with things they understand and like.

Comic Strip Creation

Let students tell a story with pictures, rather than words. Image-based assignments force students to think creatively about a topic, in order to find the most appropriate way to display it in this alternative format.

Use a program like BitStrips, with a free 30-day trial, that comes pre-loaded with a variety of layouts, clip art options and text bubbles. It’s also available as an app in Google Play and the Apple app store.

Higher Order Thinking (HOT)

“HOT takes thinking to higher levels than restating the facts and requires students to do something with the facts—understand them, infer from them, connect them to other facts and concepts, categorize them, manipulate them, put them together in new or novel ways, and apply them as we seek new solutions to new problems,” said Alice Thomas and Glenda Thorne, with Reading Rockets.

This way of thinking inspires creativity and imagination. A simple way to encourage HOT and creativity is to assign students open-ended comprehension questions more often.

One program that allows you to do this is Whooo’s Reading, a free, online teacher tool that requires students to answer open-ended, Common Core-aligned comprehension questions.

This forces students to think about the question and come up with their own answer, rather than choosing from a list of multiple choice answers, for example.

Digital Labeling and Image Creation

Instead of having students fill in worksheets, allow them to create their own “worksheets” to label and show what they know. The Stick Around app is an easy way to implement this in your classroom. With it, students use drawing tools and imported photos to create a diagram or image that they label using fun stickers and text.

For example, students could upload an image of the solar system and then label all the planets. They can download the finished product and submit it to you for grading.

Creative thinking is a critical skill in the modern world, and one that’s easy to encourage with a few basic tools. Inspire a culture of creative thinking in your class to better prepare your students for their future.

Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to

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Here Come the Accelerators!

Can education innovation scale to save the world? 

GUEST COLUMN | by Don Burton

CREDIT EDGEedtechSome of the world’s biggest challenges, including housing supply, healthcare, and food shortages, will be improved through private sector innovation in partnership and with oversight from government. Charities and philanthropic agencies can sometimes provide needed stimulus, but sustainable solutions require a complete ecosystem that includes both public and private participation. Education, one of the largest such challenges, is an area with the potential to be drastically improved by private sector innovation in concert with government efforts. Throughout both the developed and developing worlds, nations are looking to education as one of the most important natural resources of the 21st century. Those countries that fail to educate their citizens will fail to compete globally.

The right startup accelerator can dramatically increase the chances for success, the speed at which the startup gets there, and the flow of funding that is the life blood of the business. 

Technology has a critical role to play in helping to tackle some of the world’s biggest education issues, from skills gaps in STEM and literacy to education access and income achievement gaps. Even in the most developed nations such as the US, we are seeing increasing disengagement and demoralization of student populations with formal schooling. Less than 25% of the US population graduates high school prepared for college or a compelling career. Traditional modes of teaching and learning, dated back centuries, are failing our millennial students.

Education technology startups are approaching some of these problems by introducing technologies that transform the way that teaching and learning is delivered. However, these fledgling companies not only face the same general business challenges faced by all startups but also a set of challenges very specific to the education sector. As a result, they often need specialist help in order to ensure success.

Solving the multidimensional puzzle of global lifelong education will require an army of innovators. That’s where the recent model of edtech accelerators comes in. Accelerators will help to recruit, develop, and support thousands of new innovations and entrepreneurs around the world. Some companies will fail, and some will succeed. But as a whole, edtech accelerators will galvanize the industry, connecting governments, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers and educators.

An edtech startup accelerator helps startups with navigating the specific market minefields. It helps them understand the issues and build the capabilities they need to be successful in this unique market space. It gains the startups access to the right people who can help them think through their strategies and tactics to best grow their businesses; the right partners who can distribute their products or help overcome a key barrier. The right startup accelerator can dramatically increase the chances for success, the speed at which the startup gets there, and the flow of funding that is the life blood of the business.

Critical considerations for an edtech accelerator

Never before has there been this level of interest in technologies that make learning more engaging, interactive and accessible. The power of cutting edge technologies to transform education is leading to increased opportunity to improve learning, from K-12 to higher education and beyond. I have long been involved with the edtech startup community, and have seen firsthand the potential of education technology to transform learning. That’s why together with co-founder Jonathan D. Harber, we recently launched the new EDGE Accelerator for edtech startups in New York City. But before launching a new specialist Accelerator for edtech, there are a number of critical considerations to take into account to give startup participants the right launch pad for success. These include:

  • The right location: Accelerators need a physical place, a city and metro area, with the right infrastructure and talent to create an ecosystem for edtech innovation. A place like New York city has all the raw elements to ignite an edtech innovation fire. It has an abundance of students and learners with the country’s largest school district, some of the most prestigious private and charter schools, the country’s largest community college system, as well as the headquarters of some of the world’s largest corporations and corporate training programs. It has the largest educational publishers and some of the most prestigious teacher’s Importantly, it also has a large investor community investing in edtech.
  • Access to the right network of advisors and mentors to make an Accelerator successful: A quality Accelerator also needs to provide access to a vast network of resources and talent to ensure participants can benefit from a wide range of specialist expertise.
  • Providing enough funding to really help Accelerator participants set themselves up for success: In addition to providing enough funding to help Accelerator startups participants to grow their businesses, a good Accelerator should also be designed to help participants with the further goal of securing their next round of financing to help ensure their continued success.

Don Burton is a co-founder of EDGE Edtech, together with Jonathan D. Harber. The EDGE Accelerator is now accepting applications for the September 2015 class from innovative edtech startups. The intensive, three-month mentor-led Accelerator, housed in EDGE’s offices in New York City, runs from September to December 2015 and each of the ten companies selected for the program will receive $170,000 in funding. Applications are available at, with selections concluding on June 25.

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Request for Help

How technology can fight campus sexual assault.

GUEST COLUMN | by Danial Jameel 

CREDIT OOHLALAOver the past year, gender related assault and misconduct on college campuses has, rightly, generated a fantastic amount of attention, action, press coverage, debate and punditry.

Whether or not the volume of incidents is growing on campus, awareness clearly is. And awareness and education, as well as more visible and pro-active support structures, are all beneficial and predictable responses and preventions. Nearly every campus has recently reviewed their investment in education and support services. And I’m sure every campus has some level of professional security or police as well as emergency call boxes and safe spaces. These are good things too.

A well-designed app, connected to the college community and part of daily student life already, could harness important resources instantly – even sending location information to friends or authorities.

But, surprisingly, real tools seem to essentially stop there. And that’s not good enough.

Technology can’t solve every problem but here, it appears to me, is a real problem with a tech solution which could have a real impact.

Every college in the world should integrate their existing sexual violence resources – emergency assistance, law enforcement, treatment and support – with their growing online, mobile campus communities. I’m shocked it hasn’t happened everywhere already.

Over the past decade, schools have moved several of their academic and social resources online. Nearly every college and university has an online portal for registering for classes, checking or submitting assignments, navigating the campus or learning about social events. Today, that’s pretty standard. And more and more of those schools are moving those resources from online to mobile – putting these resources literally at the fingertips of their students and staff.

At the same time, the only thing growing more rapidly than college resources moving to online and mobile, is the ubiquitous nature of smart phones on campus. Few college students are without them – and students do everything on them from order food and exchange class notes to RSVP for parties.

That’s the world I work in – helping colleges consolidate and migrate their resources into mobile app-driven communities and connect those resources with their students. It’s why I’m surprised that schools haven’t yet insisted that the sexual and gender-based violence resources they already provide be available through a mobile campus community.

It’s seems so obvious and easy. And, for the most part, it is.

When conventional wisdom says that a sizeable number of sex and gender crimes take place in apartments and dorm rooms or at parties, it’s downright foolish to not put crucial resources there – in the hands of those effected. A callbox down the block, while important, physically can’t be in the places where a timely call for help could do the most good.

Since people (especially young people) are inseparable from their phones already, that’s where help should be, at the touch of a button.

A well-designed app, connected to the college community and part of daily student life already, could harness important resources instantly – even sending location information to friends or authorities. It could also do that without the same situational burden of actually calling for help. Discretely touching a button to request help – as easily checking a text message or the time – could make a real difference in a host of situations.

I know that’s possible because we’ve done it already. We build campus safety alerts and support resources into our campus community app and it’s being used on 50 campuses right now. But that’s not enough. Every college president, dean and parent should be insisting that safety features like these be part of online campus life — wherever or however those are actually made available.

There’s no excuse that I can see for not doing everything that can be done to stop sexual, domestic and gender-based offenses on campus. Since this can be done, it should be done. And immediately.

Danial Jameel, cofounder of OOHLALA Mobile, the largest mobile campus community, was recently named Forbes 2015 30Under30 – Education.

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Raw Authenticity

Why crowdsourcing is upping the ante for academic publishers.

GUEST COLUMN | by Petri Rahja

CREDIT Scoopshot imagesUntil recently, user-generated content (UGC) was used strictly for marketing and news media. The ubiquity of smartphone cameras has made it easy for citizen marketers and journalists to participate in the exciting ad campaigns and breaking news of the day. Now, for the first time, academic publishers are exploring the possibility of crowdsourcing UGC photos and videos for their content. At a business level, crowdsourcing will capture visual content at a fraction of the price a professional photographer would charge. From an educational perspective, UGC will improve the quality of learning materials in three distinct ways. 

Now, for the first time, academic publishers are exploring the possibility of crowdsourcing UGC photos and videos for their content.

First, UGC makes ‘native’ content possible. Rather than relying on the same stock photos for every market, publishers can cost-efficiently source images from students’ own countries and local communities. This means that all students will finally see images and videos that depict people they can relate to personally.

Second, UGC can build stronger engagement with academic materials. For example, reading about an historical event is one thing – seeing mobile videos crowdsourced from eyewitnesses is a far more captivating and authentic experience. At the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the Charlie Hebdo marches in Paris, and the refugee crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, millions of images have been taken by everyday people who, unwittingly, will shape historical memory. They can now shape the next generation of educational content, too.

Third, crowdsourcing enables publishers to be more adaptable. Yes, publishers can collect visual content as events and discoveries unfold, just by incentivizing local eyewitness to capture images. This model has been proven in marketing and news media. But publishers can also be creative. They can challenge thousands of mobile photographers to capture the emotions, social situations, nature, industry, technology and aspects life that we see in textbooks. These photographers can capture life in ways that surprise and delight viewers.

The results will resemble the raw authenticity that students appreciate in Instagram feeds and Facebook posts. The deluge of UGC content will also allow publishers to rapidly update their digital materials far ahead of paper editions.

Image crowdsourcing will differentiate publishers from their competitors who rely on generic stock photos. UGC presents an opportunity to improve the quality of educational materials and make the experience far more relevant and personal for students. The human experience can now be taught through the perspectives of all people who bear witness to it.

Petri Rahja is the founder and CEO of Scoopshot, a leading mobile platform for photo and video crowdsourcing with over 600,000 app downloads across nearly 200 countries.

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