Cool Tool | IO Insights from IO Education

CREDIT IO Education IO InsightsIO Insights equips educators to turn data into insights and action. The student data solution from IO Education breaks down data silos across the organization, and allows school districts to use all of their data to increase student achievement and improve school performance. With IO Insights, everyone from teachers to superintendents have easy-to-use tools needed to easily analyze student achievement, set goals and track progress, and create personal improvement plans. It provides the right tools to the right people at the right time with role-based dashboards for district and school leaders, customizable goal-based reporting and early warning for school leaders, promotion and graduation tracking for school counselors, and the innovative virtual data wall for teachers to visualize student progress and personalize learning plans. It also eliminated the biggest barriers to using data to improve student achievement by “liberating” data trapped in source systems and providing easy-to-use analysis tools designed for each role. This tool is cool because it helps turn student data into insights and action across an organization. Learn more.

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A Call for Relevant Schooling

A CTO requests using technology to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, today.  

GUEST COLUMN | by Warren Barkley

credit-smart-technologiesLet’s pretend everything we know about the United States education system is suddenly able to be changed. What would we do? How would school work differently?

When I think about education from this 30,000 foot view, the first thing I think about is the needs of the modern workforce: Increasingly, we are seeing organizations embrace a remote, on-demand workforce that collaborates across borders, departments and business units. It is a collaborative, high-tech, diverse, and geographically disparate community of workers collaborating towards a goal.

Teaching pedagogy needs to be revisited to effectively incorporate the edtech available to us.

Yet, our education system is still focused on independent work, measured by individual testing and scores – the same way it has been for nearly a hundred years! At this rate, our children’s children will participate in the same school system that our grandparents did, although the workforce in which they need to succeed is dramatically different.

Teaching needs to change to prepare our children for future leadership roles in our society. The United States is already being left behind which can be seen by the sheer number of highly educated and well-trained workers coming from rapidly developing countries. The United States is ranked 16th for the quality of its workers, despite having the world’s largest economy. And according to a recent AACU report, large majorities of employers do not feel that recent college graduates are well prepared for the workplace. This is particularly true when looking at skills like applying knowledge in real-world settings, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and communicating with others.

The workplace requires people with passion, initiative, creativity, resilience and self-knowledge. These skills and abilities cannot be fostered in the classroom alone but rather come from group learning. The education system needs to stop placing children on a learning conveyor belt and labeled according to their ability to recall information on a test. Our students need to be taught what educators call the “4Cs”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity to thrive in an increasingly team-oriented and geographically disparate workforce.

That said, 21st-century learning shouldn’t be controversial. Rather, we just need to redefine what modern learning is using contemporary tools. It’s no longer enough to “know things,” it’s more important to stay curious about learning new things. However, massive change takes time and buy-in from various parties. So in the near term, we need to tackle smaller challenges to better prepare today’s students to become future leaders, in the workforce and beyond.

An education system meant for the 21st century

As a CTO, I am a hiring manager and leader, focused on cultivating a high-performing and collaborative team. I need them to be technically proficient in the relevant technology, and I need team members who can collaborate and think critically and creatively to both solve problems and advance our business. I often see young candidates that, after spending years in schools being evaluated by solo testing, tested individually, walk into the workforce being asked to solve problems in a completely different way from how they’ve been trained.

Though technology continues to disrupt and improve industries ranging from media to internet technology to banking, it has yet to find an effective purpose in the world of education.

Teaching pedagogy needs to be revisited to effectively incorporate the edtech available to us. It’s time to retire the teacher-led lectures and the “sage on the stage” approach to teaching. As it stands, children are more or less baby-sat for six hours per day listening to lectures that won’t help them land a job. For example, many U.S. charter and alternative schools have begun revising their teaching pedagogy so that learning is driven by students and collaborative. They’re also leveraging educational software and hardware to create an environment that not only encourages intellectual growth, and the social and emotional skills needed to be successful in today’s working world.

Further, we need to look beyond just incorporating technology for the sake of it. We need to look at including software-based tools that are engaging and that can emphasize the 4Cs approach. Some examples include:

  • Collaboration tools: Email was just the beginning. Today, colleagues conduct business over multiple communication tools at once, such as Slack, Google Hangouts, text messaging, and more. Learning by doing, working with experts, and integrating theory with practice isn’t generally a focus in the classroom. Without learning how to collaborate and work in groups and teams, I fear that many students are simply not prepared to succeed.
  • Integrating Multiple / Personal Devices: Workplaces have adopted “BYOD”, or Bring Your Own Device” policies, enabling employees to access information and communicate with colleagues in and on the technology platforms that are comfortable to them, no matter where they are located. Classrooms need to start teaching students how to use personal technology, such as laptops, tablets and other devices, to share and discuss their ideas. Teachers need tools to see and evaluate each individual’s contributions in a dynamic fashion, and provide feedback and guidance to individuals and / or the group in real time as well as after a lesson or exercise has ended.

Collaborative Teaching Technology at The Core

It’s clear that technology is an integral part of nearly every facet of our lives. So why has it not infiltrated and revolutionized the U.S. school system the way it has how we shop, hail a cab or find a new job?

If education doesn’t advance as other industries have, we will be doing our future leaders a disservice. With businesses moving even faster while education remains stagnant and unchanged, our children will be left behind.

I have no doubt the U.S. can compete in the global economy, but we must revisit our teaching pedagogy to incorporate methods and tools that align with the needs of today’s workforce. We must foster the skills employers are looking for to bring the U.S. education system forward into the 21st-century and ensure our students are prepared to successfully enter the workforce. Collaborative teaching technology is the foundation of this change we so sorely need.

Warren Barkley is CTO of SMART Technologies. Contact him through LinkedIn.

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New Academic Year, New Technologies

Embracing digital transformation to usher in a new era in education? Start here.

GUEST COLUMN | by Keith Rajecki

credit-oracle-higher-educationA new academic year is officially underway and universities all over the U.S. are looking for ways to deliver a more personalized experience as colleges compete for students–all while being mindful of costs. For many, this means embracing digital transformation and turning to technology to usher in a new era in education. Here are a few places to start:

Personalizing the Student Experience

In the last 10 years, the entire landscape of how universities serve students has drastically changed. The mindset is shifting from considering recruitment and retention as managing transactions to building personalized relationships with students to continuously ensuring their satisfaction. In fact, over 60 percent of students say they chose their college because of receiving personalized attention prior to enrollment. However, more than 55 percent of them went on to say that, once enrolled, they weren’t satisfied with their overall student experience. As word of mouth remains a huge recruitment tool, this is a big problem.

In the last 10 years, the entire landscape of how universities serve students has drastically changed. The mindset is shifting from considering recruitment and retention as managing transactions to building personalized relationships with students to continuously ensuring their satisfaction.

Progressive universities are looking to cloud solutions to help synchronize customer relationship software with student information systems so they can take a more comprehensive, omni-channel approach to managing student experiences. Leveraging data and mobile solutions, universities can contextually deliver relevant content and information to students, at the right time and through the right channel. A cloud-based, multi-channel approach should enable students to start a process on one device, and finish it on another. For example, they research a club on the campus website and then later are informed via a social channel or mobile device that the club is hosting an informational mixer.

Promoting Student Success

Beyond the student experience, undergraduate success should be another major focus. Over time, we have shifted from a mindset on just extending ‘access to education,’ to focus increasingly on “success in education.” The use of predictive analytics is making significant strides in helping universities better understand what is driving success for college students.

While many universities are looking for short term fixes to address their retention and graduation woes, only strategic, long term initiatives will reap significant results. It might seem easier to look for turnkey solutions that solve some issue painlessly, but only thoroughly planned integration and transformation can deliver significant improvements on student success.

Predictive analytics are an excellent way to guide students throughout their entire journey, from their first contact with the institution, to graduation and alumni relationships. By leveraging data across channels to preemptively identify a student’s needs or areas for improvement or difficulties, it becomes possible for universities and their staff to provide students with the right information, schedule counselling meetings and offer help and guidance whenever needed. The idea is to leverage technology not only to assist students in need of help, but to act as a guide supporting every student’s success throughout the entire student lifecycle.

Propagating Institutional Excellence

Nowadays, universities and colleges are more than schools, they’re businesses – big businesses with a level of financial and resource planning complexity that can be staggering. For many institutions, their current operational systems have served them well when they were first implemented, but time has passed and they have now become a management burden that distracts their resources and attention from their core mission.

In fact, 86 percent of higher education business leaders say it is challenging for their finance or business offices to deal with manual processes and inefficient workflow between departments. To survive in today’s digital-driven economy, these institutions need to fundamentally review the way they handle and process their data and ensure that they efficiently manage their operations in a cost-effective manner.

By moving key processes and applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) and Human Capital Management (HCM) to the cloud, university leaders can get a clear and immediate return on investment through smarter sourcing and procurement, simplify and standardize their systems and processes, and strategically allocate resources across campus. In turn, this allows them to focus on driving innovation and delivering new features to improve the student experience.

Ultimately, priorities across institutions vary greatly, and none of them are expected to entirely move away from their old system. However, cloud services provide great tools to realize significant improvements across the campus and beyond, and each university willing to compete effectively in today’s landscape should consider which options make the most sense to them. The most important step is the first one.

Keith Rajecki is Senior Director, Global Education and Research at Oracle.

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Cool Tool | Voters Ed from Second Avenue Learning

CREDIT second avenue VOTERS EDThis cool tool from Second Avenue Learning empowers students of all ages to understand the presidential election process. For use in a web browser on interactive whiteboards, computers and tablets, Voters Ed provides a platform for students to engage with historical and up-to-date election data without media spin or advertising. The program gives students primers on the Electoral College and presidential primaries. Students are able to explore results and key issues from all past presidential elections. By tracking current primaries and polls, students are able to build their own prediction maps for the election. Prediction maps can be saved for comparison and can be shared with teachers or parents. With the program, educators receive professionally designed lesson and technology integration plans that are tied to curricular standards and grade levels from kindergarten to AP and college-level learning. Voters Ed supports civic learning and discussion in a wide variety of classrooms. The range of data provided by Voters Ed makes it an appropriate resource both during and after the election cycle. Learn more.

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Challenging Territory

Navigating the B2B to B2C international solutions sales marketplace.

SMARTER SCHOOLS | by Michael Spencer

credit-google-earthSelling in the international school market can be difficult enough; selling to schools that generally have little understanding of blended learning leads to some especially challenging territory.  The success of a curriculum vendor’s international blended learning strategy begins on the learning curve with knowing the market, the international school’s core curriculum, and learning the needs of the individual schools. Then finally, to actually initiate a solution-based sale, someone must educate the school about the customized blended learning solution—a high bar before you get your foot in the door.

A solution-based strategy must be explained and demonstrated to the school owners and the decision maker, and must clearly define how the solution fits the school needs.

An important aspect of successful sales with international schools is the behind-the-scenes path involved to get to the sale, which can be multi-layered. Typically, international school sales are best supported by having a local representative, a reseller.  The curriculum vendor/supplier (usually a U.S.-based company) contracts with a local reseller who has extensive experience in the education sector, a team of sales representatives and has a business network in place. This is often referred to as a B-to-B relationship. When the reseller engages and begins to work with a school, yet another B-to-B relationship is established. Finally, when the school, with the assistance of the reseller, engages the parents to purchase the solution, a B-to-C sale, the third connective relationship is established.

Yes, the B (Vendor) to B (Reseller) to B (School) to C (parent /student) international business model results in multi-layered contracts, roles and strategies, and is a bit time consuming—yet results in low cost of student acquisition years two forward and automatic scale and student retention year over year.

A solution-based strategy must be explained and demonstrated to the school owners and the decision maker, and must clearly define how the solution fits the school needs. This is the responsibility of the reseller. The solution should reflect customization, showing the school the uniqueness of this solution and providing the school with a new perspective often over-riding their preconceived ideas. Solution-based sales sometimes requires the vendor and/or the reseller to adapt or repurpose an existing product or program.

International schools are interested in changing their programs to include a blended learning solution so they can:

  • gain a competitive edge
  • diversify their program offering
  • expand their curriculum
  • replace underperforming outdated curriculum
  • stimulate student’s interests
  • be current – offer updated methodologies and delivery modes
  • fulfill parent’s expectations of being the best school
  • personalize their program based on a student’s needs, pace and ability levels.

Implementing a solution-based sales approach can help schools to identify, focus and improve their weak areas in their academic program. For instance, the reseller can explain how a blended learning solution provides curriculum quality assurances:

  • fosters consistency in curriculum – in content and emphasis
  • easily adds school-wide specific course(s) to address a specific deficiency
  • promotes and assists in meeting accreditation standards.

And blended learning solutions further offer the schools benefits that the reseller can highlight:

  • improved student satisfaction
  • multi-modal delivery of information – teaching to learning styles
  • boosts student enrollment and retention.
  • reduced teacher lesson prep time
  • the staff training / orientation is usually offered free
  • increased one on one teacher student interaction
  • saves money – no more investment in books
  • staff vacancies can be filled easier with a facilitator/para-professional rather than a teacher
  • saves expenditures on teaching staff –  can use more paraprofessionals.

Success in utilizing a solution-based model when selling a blended learning solution to international schools is complex, but workable. It requires a flexible vendor, local reseller with in-country connections, reseller knowledge of the local education market and schools, motivated and solution-oriented trained local sales teams, education of the local school decision makers, as well as time and patience.

Michael Spencer is Senior Director of International Business Development at K12. He is past SVP at The American Education Corporation and past president of One2OneMate, with extensive experience building businesses, designing and manufacturing innovative consumer electronic products and successfully marketing them into the US, European and Latin American markets. He is a regular columnist writing the Smarter Schools column for EdTech Digest. Write to:

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