More Than The Robot

Integrating student competitions into the classroom.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lauren Tabolinksky

CREDIT MathWorks.pngStudent competitions provide hands-on learning opportunities to children. In engineering student competitions, elementary and middle school kids are challenged to design and build a robot that will play against other teams from around the world. The competitions mix fun with education and, in the end, kids soak up skills that prepare them better for the future.

Robotics student competitions “prepare students for the real world, where they will be working with a team on a project with a schedule and budget,” said Gary Garber, a physics instructor at Boston University Academy who has been involved with student competitions for nearly 20 years.

Knowing the value of student competitions isn’t new; the challenge is developing curriculum that integrates the long-term benefits of student competitions into the day-to-day classroom.

These competitions teach kids both the technical skills and “softer” skills like collaboration and communication, Garber said. “Teaching collaboration and communication is much harder than teaching programming and mechanics. It’s more than the robot. It’s entrepreneurship. It’s getting kids to work alongside their peers to create something they are proud to share with others.”

Taking It a Step Further

Knowing the value of student competitions isn’t new; the challenge is developing curriculum that integrates the long-term benefits of student competitions into the day-to-day classroom.

Here Garber teamed up with Sandeep Hiremath, an education technology evangelist and student competition team mentor at MathWorks, maker of mathematical computing software MATLAB and Simulink.

Garber and Hiremath connected through VEX Robotics, a competition where they lead and support student teams. VEX is a worldwide competition for middle and high school students who design and build robots to compete in game-based engineering challenges. The challenges test both the tele-operated and autonomous behavior of the robots on the game field.

“We look at the job market, particularly in biomedical engineering, and there’s a huge need for kids to be able to code. Robotics is an easy way for kids to get excited about coding,” Garber said.

To support this need, they developed a robotics curriculum that incorporates Simulink, which, Garber said, is a very visual programming language, opening up programming to kids of all ages and backgrounds, including those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. “Thinking graphically is easier.”

For the teachers, Hiremath said the team is working with the Robotics, Education & Competition Foundation (REC), the organization that hosts the VEX Robotics student competitions. REC will help in reaching the teachers already involved in the student competitions, enabling the teachers to integrate their learnings from student competitions as well as the software and resources via the curriculum into their classroom on a regular basis.

For the curriculum, the focus is more on autonomous robots, Garber said. In student competitions, students program the autonomous tasks of the robots but they are primarily working in the joystick mode. The curriculum expands on the knowledge they’ve obtained in the student competition and focuses on autonomous robots and sensor feedback, he said.

The curriculum challenges kids to determine how to track sensor data and design a controller that responds to that sensor data, Hiremath said.

“Having the perspective of a teacher (like Garber) was very important to the development of the curriculum,” Hiremath said. Garber could provide the insight on what makes sense to teach in a classroom and what’s appropriate for each learning level, he said.

Lauren Tabolinksky is Student Competitions Manager at MathWorks. Getting Started with MATLAB and Simulink for VEX Robotics Courseware is available for free.

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Cool Tool | Spark Board from Cisco

CREDIT Cisco Spark Board.pngEvery teacher wants to close gaps in education. And schools are using technology to help learners achieve more. Cisco sees great potential in integrating disparate tools, and turning “static” learning into “continuum” learning (skills that build progressively). The company’s Digital Education Platform (launched at EDUCAUSE last year) now offers Cisco Spark Board, a touch-based all-in-one collaboration device with wireless presenting, digital white boarding and video conferencing. Additional features include a high-resolution camera, a surround-sound microphone, and a real-time whiteboard with archiving and iteration at a later time. Achievement increases when learning becomes individualized, so it’s critical for schools to get the most out of devices like Cisco Spark Board to annotate, publish and record content for continuous use. Today’s active learners at Howe Public Schools in rural southeast Oklahoma don’t have a robust teaching staff, and it’s difficult to recruit qualified teachers. Howe now uses Cisco Spark Board to make elements of curriculum come to life for different types of learners at different times of the day. Technology can be the gateway to new, robust types of education for today’s digital natives; through individualized instruction, new collaboration tools give every student a voice, and allow teachers to instruct more meaningfully than ever before. Learn more.

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Getting More Out of It

A primer on fully leveraging LMS capabilities in the classroom.

GUEST COLUMN | by Steve Wilson

CREDIT accusoft.png

Ninety-nine percent of schools have a learning management system (LMS), yet one in four schools report dissatisfaction with their LMS tool. LMSs have been on the market for just over a decade, but many schools aren’t fully leveraging the capabilities LMSs offer. Despite disconnects in usage and capabilities, the LMS market is projected to reach a value of $16 billion in four years.

But even with the rising adoption of LMSs, classrooms continue to rely on paper assignments and manual admin processes, like assignment submission and tracking. Today’s students are technology driven, and as more classrooms digitize, schools need to review and re-assess how current systems are used. Incoming devices and technology need a consistent and reliable system to mobilize classroom learning.

LMSs have been on the market for just over a decade, but many schools aren’t fully leveraging the capabilities LMSs offer.

An LMS needs to be more than just an online bulletin board, used seldom for one-off homework assignments. For teachers and students to reap the full benefits, tasks like assigning, grading, reading and collaborating should all be supported within the system. In some cases, many early-adopting schools have an LMS solution that doesn’t support these functions. For others, the schools and teachers lack guidance and training on LMSs, preventing them from using these systems to their full potential.

Two common mistakes made by school administration and teachers when it comes to LMSs are fragmented use of the platform and continued reliance on paper processes.

Inconsistency with LMSs

It’s common for an LMS to be treated as a directory or utilized for ad hoc student submissions. But because of their capabilities and flexible nature, LMSs should be used as a central hub for schools. From reading assignments to submitting permission slips and more, teachers and schools need to understand the possibilities before choosing a platform. Today, most schools only utilize an LMS for a handful of needs, making for confusing teacher-student processes. By embracing an LMS for certain needs and then paper for others, there are process gaps left for students and teachers to navigate. This puts more of the focus on administration than learning.

For example, a student trying to access homework through an LMS might run into issues with viewing documents, instead having to download and access the assignment through an external application like Microsoft Word – all capabilities and issues depend on the system’s technology and sophistication. LMSs that don’t have document viewing and other needed capabilities are no more effective than teachers’ sending assignments via email attachments.

Schools should prioritize integration and look to common functions when choosing an LMS vendor. Now that the BYOD trend is growing in schools, students need document viewing functions to read in external apps. From laptops to tablets, devices render differently, so it’s important for students to avoid downloaded files. Viewing features, like HTML5, allow LMSs to display textbooks without relying on a third-party application. With better consistency, teachers can ensure all students have access to coursework, no matter the device.

Paper Dependency

Even in today’s age of digital transformation, where businesses and consumers are moving everything online, schools continue to rely on paper. Part of the problem is the limitations of legacy LMSs. But on the other hand, many schools and educators are hesitant to adopt newer LMSs and lack the proper training on these platforms to transition away from paper-based assignments and projects.

School leadership must keep open communication with teachers and students to identify common challenges and top priorities with LMSs. While many challenges come from schools or teachers not fully utilizing their LMS, some problems come from LMS vendors that cannot provide the right tools for fulfilling critical classroom objectives. For the latter, it may be time to switch vendors. But for issues that stem from lack of training, it’s crucial for schools to ensure that parents, teachers and students are provided basic instruction on using the system.

Supporting BYOD Classrooms

Many classrooms are making steps toward implementing BYOD policies and embracing its benefits. BYOD classrooms will undoubtedly become a classroom staple, and schools need to have the right tools to support a wide range of devices. Fully leveraging and integrating LMSs helps support BYOD classrooms, including adding internet restrictions and allowing for more student collaboration. For example, using an LMS for online document and textbook viewing eliminates reliance on external services. This allows administrators to restrict internet access to the LMS portal and avoid security restrictions. An LMS with tools specific to collaboration can help shape students’ project management skills in a digital environment, making it easy for teachers to assign and guide group projects.

As schools strive to effectively teach a generation born in the digital era, it’s important that they invest in an LMS capable of driving a digital classroom and the training to support these systems’ capabilities.

Steve Wilson is VP of Product at Accusoft, a leading technology provider in the document imaging and content management industry. Steve has led development efforts for several different industries including GPS and parenting apps for iOS and Android, photo imaging, and mobile workforce management for utility companies. He coaches youth basketball for his two sons and can be found saltwater fishing in his spare time. Follow @accusoft

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2017 – Finalists

EdTech Digest Awards Program 2017 | Shaping Our Future 

2017 EdTech Awards image.pngAny education company is, by the era in which we now live, an edtech company. And today, any educator, learner, or leader is at least a nascent technologist. Billions of dollars have been invested in this future, and we will no doubt invest billions more. Whatever the immediate figures, because of the integral nature of education to humanity’s ultimate survival, the long-term trend will only be up. In honoring cool tools, inspiring leaders, and innovative trendsetters in education, we do so with a sense of excitement, but also a sense of responsibility. Dream-to-reality makers are awesome to behold. But the stakes are high because these honorees are shaping our future. Perhaps more so than in any other sector, in education there are mission-driven companies and there are purpose-driven people. For what mission, and for what purposes committed individuals or dedicated groups of people help advance the rest of us, is what we honor and celebrate here. And with that, here’s to the innovators, leaders, and trendsetters shining bright in one of the greatest fields of human endeavor. And the honorees are:

=COOL TOOL AWARD FINALISTS: (Finalists listed below – winners will be marked with *)

TRANSP-etdAward-cooltool-finalist.pngnew product or service

SMART Learning Suite from SMART Technologies

CSI Private Eye from CSI Literacy

Smartly from Smartly

Sofatutor from Sofatutor

Discovery Education Science Techbook from Discovery Education

Awe Media from Awe Media

Claned from Claned Group

Enrollment Rx

ABCmouse for Schools from Age of Learning

StrongMind Digital Curriculum from StrongMind

honoree badges.pngPREMIUM PROMO PACKAGE. Get extra help promoting your success! For information about our Premium Promo Package, click here and write in the subject line: PREMIUM PKG

product or service

Top Hat from Top Hat

Flipgrid from Fligrid, Inc.

Newsela from Newsela

E-rate Manager from Funds For Learning

Renaissance Accelerated Reader from Renaissance

Woot Math from Woot Math

iTutor from iTutor Group

Makey Makey Invention Kit from Makey Makey

DreamBox Learning from DreamBox Learning

Osmo from Tangible Play

academic gaming solution

CodeCombat from CodeCombat

Sokikom from Sokikom

ClassCraft from Classcraft Studios

Matific from Slate Science

Grand Canyon Expedition from Brett E Shelton

Writing Games from Toolwire

Triseum Games from Triseum

Prodigy Math Game from Prodigy


Exotrex Science Adventure Game from Dig-It! Games

assessment solution

FastBridge Learning


Learnosity from Learnosity

Renaissance Star 360

Lumos StepUp from Lumos Learning

TAO from Open Assessment Technologies

Sapling Learning


Remark Test Grading Cloud Edition

CLASS Online Assessment and Plan

hardware solution

ViewSonic CDE7061T Interactive Flat

Belkin Air Shield Always On Protective

zSpace Virtual Reality Learning Lab

ActivPanel from Promethean

RICOH PJ WX415NI ultra short throw projector

collaboration solution

SMART Learning Suite from SMART Technologies


HMH Marketplace

eBackpack LMS v4

Nureva Span visual collaboration system


Explain Everything




communication solution

Netmedia Parents Evening Booking

Blackboard Community Engagement



Gather Education

FlexCat from Lightspeed Technologies


Bloomz App from Bloomz


360 Alumni from 360 Alumni

content provider solution

mozaBook from Mozaik Education


Shmoop from Shmoop


Kids Discover Online


Creation Crate


Unlock by FLVS


arts, music, creative

iZotope Pro Audio Essentials


Digital Theatre Plus

CoSpaces from Delightex

Travels with Music

district data solution

DataSense from Authentica Solutions

Otus LMS from Otus


Global PD from Solution Tree


Autodesk Sketchbook for Education

Education Data Solutions

IO Education

Achieve 3000 Leadership Edition

MAP Measures of Academic Progress

e-learning, blended learning or flipped solution


mozaBook from Mozaik Education


IXL Learning

Blackboard Personalized Learning


DreamBox Learning from DreamBox Learning

PBS Learning Media from PBS



emerging technology solution

Fulcrum Labs

Boxlight Labdisc

Full Measure Education


HumaGram from Promethean


Snowflake MultiTeach


Modest Tree Media

3Doodler from 3Doodler

higher education learning solution

Top Hat from Top Hat

Bridge U

Masters and DoctoralNet


SafeColleges Online from Scenario Learning

StepWise from Accuplacer

REEF Education by i>clicker

MyLab from Pearson



workforce skills or corporate training solution

Fulcrum Labs

University Beyond

Event Leadership Institute

Nepris from Nepris

Salesforce Trailhead

Bridge from Instructure

Grovo from Grovo




IT networking connectivity / access solution

vCloudPoint zero client



Mojo Enforce

Aruba ClearPass

learning management system


Edsby from Edsby

eBackpack LMS v4

Joomla LMS


Canvas from Instructure

Jupiter iO by Jupiter Ed

Docebo from Docebo

D2L Brightspace

Motivis Learning

mobile (device) solution

iC30 Cart by LocknCharge

Vernier’s Graphical Analysis for Chrome

REEF Education by i>clicker

Kensington AC12 Security Charging


mobile app (early childhood/elem)

eSchoolPLUS Family App

Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues

Curious World

DragonBox Numbers app from WeWantToKnow

Waterford iPad app from Waterford Institute

mobile app (middle and high school)

Autodesk Tinkercad


IXL app from IXL



mobile app (postsecondary)


Myday by Collabco

Bb Student




language learning solution

Voxy from Voxy


Essential Spanish Vocabulary Flashcards

Middlebury Interactive Languages from Middlebury Interactive


parent/student solution

Blackboard Mobile Communications

Edsby from Edsby

eBackpack for Parents



Learning Coach Central


IO Education

FreshGrade from FreshGrade

Jupiter IO by Jupiter Ed

presentation solution

ViewSonic ViewSync 3 Wireless Presentation Gateway

Epson DC-21 Document Camera

ClassFlow Desktop from Promethean

Maestro SIS by BocaVox


professional development learning solution


Global PD from Solution Tree

Edthena from Edthena

Silverback Learning Solutions

Whetstone Education



Eduplanet 21

PBS Teacherline

ASCD myTeacherSource 

classroom management solution for teachers

Top Hat

ClassInsights from WebAssign



ClassFlow Desktop from Promethean


Bloomz App from Bloomz

Carrot Rewards

Jupiter IO by Jupiter Ed

Kickboard from Kickboard for Teachers

security/privacy solution

BrightBytes Digital Privacy


Cisco Stealthwatch

DataSense from Authentica Solutions

research, reference, or resource solution

ABC-CLIO Solutions Database from ABC-CLIO

Newseum ED

Defined Learning

Pearson Writer

Smithsonian Learning Lab

STEM solution



Defined STEM

Nepris from Nepris

Bring Science Alive!

Through My Window

Elesapiens Science & Fun

Amplify Science


Cengage: MindTap for Mathematics

personalized learning solution

Fulcrum Labs

IXL Learning

Silverback Learning Solutions

Zoomi Inc


DreamBox Learning

Expertise Management for Corporate Professionals

Learning Curve



special needs solution

Kurzweil 3000

SMART Technologies

Rethink First

Fast ForWord

Clicker Communicator

Capti Voice

MAP Measures of Academic Progress

Skills for Autism by SKILLS Global

Pathfinder Health Innovations




iSpire from School Specialty

Standard for Success

Square Panda


EdCast from EdCast


Blackboard Planner




=LEADERSHIP AWARD FINALISTS: (Finalists listed below – winners will be marked with *)

TRANSP-etdAward2017-leadership-finalist.pngedupreneurs, startups

Michal Borkowski

Stanley Watts

Alefiya Bhatia

Greg Davies

David Blake

Carol Barash

Idit Harel

Steve Wandler and Lane Merrifield

Elad Shoushan

Johanna Wetmore


Bill Goodwyn

Matthew Pittinsky

Paul Zane Pilzer

Sam Chaudhary

Jack Lynch

Carol Ribeiro

Eric Yang

Saki Dodelson

Phyllis Lockett

Tom Davidson

school leader

Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier

Barbara Nesbitt

Stu Keroff

Matt Renwick

Brad Currie

Bethany Petty

Joshua Clemmer and Michael Burke

Anna Cutaia-Leonard

Zachary Leonard

Nancy Foote

Darryl Adams


Matthew Ohlson

Alan Katzman

George Perreault

Patricia Hoge

Chad Lewis

Chris Jagers

Mark Breen

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Joe Ross

Damian Creamer

global leader

Kelli Campbell

Jerry Huang

Elad Shoushan

John Baker

Donna Stoering and Andy Anderson


Charlene Blohm

John Harrington

Christopher J. Nesi

Jon Corippo

Pam Lloyd

PR firm/publicist

J Harrison PR Group

Communications Strategy Group

C Blohm & Associates

PR with Panache

L Wolfe Communications


Jay Silver

Matthew Schnittman

Andre Thomas

Tyson J. Smith

Michael Moody and Jason Stricker

=TRENDSETTER AWARD FINALISTS: (Finalists listed below – winners will be marked with *)

TRANSP-etdAward2017-trendsetter-finalist.pngproduct or service setting a trend



Discovery Education’s Techbook series




OER Commons

Teachers Pay Teachers



leader setting a trend

Joe Catania

Donna Williamson

William Bushaw

Len Scrogan

Zac Leonard, Dan Koch, and Alex Stubenbort


Curriculum Associates


The BLE Group

Open English

Perspectives for a Diverse America

Cirkled In

European Leadership University

PeopleAdmin’s Inspired2Educate

Blockchain Certificates


Congratulations to all finalists! Finalists are listed above; winners will be marked with an asterisk (*). Winners will be announced later in March 2017. Stay tuned! Honoree badges available here. Also, ask us about our promotional packages to help you in celebrating your success and getting the word out about your efforts; just click here and write: PREMIUM PKG in the subject line. 

* * *

For a reminder notification about the next awards program opening, click here and be sure to include: REMINDER 2018 in the subject line. We will contact you at a later date with more information closer to opening. For a look at past instructions which will be out of date but may assist in planning, click here.

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EdTech: The Secret Weapon

Is edtech the route to STEM integration in the classroom?

GUEST COLUMN | by Na’ama Y. Rosenberg

CREDIT voki image.pngThe United States National Academies has emphasized the need for enhanced STEM education in the United States. Its top three recommendations were to:

  • Increase America’s talent pool by improving K–12 science and mathematics education
  • Strengthen the skills of teachers through additional training in science, mathematics, and technology
  • Enlarge the pipeline of students prepared to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees

Studies also show that students today are not prepared for a STEM enriched world. The National Math and Science Initiative states that only 36 percent of all high school grads are ready to take a college-level science course, and the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world at an alarming rate, ranking just 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries. Getting students ready and excited for STEM subject areas is critical. Luckily, edtech and STEM initiatives integrate beautifully to create better learning outcomes for students. A study from KIPP Academy in Houston, TX showed students who learned in iPad equipped classrooms had 49 percent more students rated as proficient or advanced than traditional classrooms without iPads.

There has been an increasing trend in education to raise the competitiveness of American students entering high school, particularly in the disciplines of science and math. Many programs have been created to address the rising interests of students and the goals of the governmental initiative, such as robotics clubs, coding classes and mobile devices in the classroom. However, edtech software available today provides many additional opportunities to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in standard academic subjects such as English, history, and foreign languages.

One of the most central ways to implement the USNA’s recommendations is to integrate technology into the classroom with “blended learning”, where students might work on tablets or laptops. That is a step, but does not address the essence of the STEM ideal. STEM means integrating more of these disciplines together, and with interdisciplinary approaches.

To that end, there is a variety of edtech platforms that represents a unique capability which epitomizes the very goals of STEM and bridge the gap between traditional learning and the new, emerging standards expected in today’s classroom. Edtech is a booming industry, which makes options plentiful, ensuring a solution for each classroom’s individual needs.

Specifically, edtech software like Voki, Discovery Education, and Google Classroom can incorporate all the facets of STEM, and provides an engaging tool that students embrace. An example of how this is done – in a history lesson, students can design their own presentations electronically to share with the class. Even though the primary topic at hand is history, students are still engineering solutions on how to best format their presentations, and utilizing the technology available to them to convey a message.

Today’s students have spent their entire schooling careers surrounded by a variety of technological mediums, and are eager to embrace new learning opportunities. The Department of Education cites that 83 percent of teachers are interested in using technology in their classrooms, but only 10 percent of schools even allow students to access the software used in the class remotely.

Teachers should harness the excitement and meet common core standards and STEM requirements all in one lesson. Finding new ways to excite today’s young people about subjects of which some are actually afraid, is a challenge that cannot be overstated. Edtech tools can be used to achieve all of these goals and equip students to be even more passionate about, and technologically competent, confident and prepared for a STEM focused world.

Na’ama Y. Rosenberg is a former educator and school administrator, and is currently the Director of Content Development at Voki, an edtech tool that allows teachers and students to create their very own digital talking avatar.

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