Cool Tool | LumenEd

CREDIT LumenEdLumenEd connects classrooms in different countries and gives under-resourced classrooms access to digital content. They accomplish this using the Bright Orange Box, a solar-powered smart projector designed to function anywhere, their Video Pen Pal program and a business model that leverages the resources of schools in the US to reach low-income communities anywhere in the world. Currently, they are working with 6 classrooms in New Delhi, India and 5 classrooms across the Eastern US for their pilot program. Next fall, they will be working with over 100 schools across the US and India with pilot programs in Ghana and Senegal. They’ve been running a Kickstarter campaign to bring global connections to classrooms around the world, and would love to have your support. Help spread their vision, and earn more about LumenEd at (www.lumened.org).

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Engaging or Distracting?

Lowering millennial dropout rates with mobile technology.

GUEST COLUMN | by Danial Jameel

CREDIT OOHLALADropout rates among college students remain high, and approximately 21 percent of students at public institutions fail to graduate. However, grades and tough class schedules are not the only reason students are leaving college without a degree. Institutions are increasingly finding that engagement is a common factor that affects student retention.

As a consequence, colleges and universities are working feverishly to engage students and turning to mobile technology, specifically apps, to do so. But as the edtech market continues to boom, are these tools engaging students in the right ways or are they just a distraction?

Forward thinking colleges and universities that take a mobile approach when it comes to increasing engagement through apps will be ahead of the curve.

Millennials’ Digital Behaviors Drive Demand for Change

The need to increase engagement among college students can largely be traced to the fact that colleges and universities are having to adapt to changing behaviors and preferences of a new generation. Millennials are the majority demographic on college campuses today, and to this group of individuals, technology is the center of their world. From social networking to communicating with friends, technology is engrained into their day-to-day lives.

According to the Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey, eight in ten (83 percent) of college students regularly use a smartphone and the gap is quickly closing between smartphones being used as frequently as laptops.[1] In fact, millennials even send an average of 181 texts a day, according to Mobile Marketer. [2] This tech-savvy generation is all about rapid response, seamless communication and have even started to peg email as an outdated medium.

These changes have in part fueled the rapid growth of the edtech sector. In just the first quarter of 2014, more than $559 million was funneled into the industry covering 103 deals,[3] according to CB Insights. Specifically with apps, the industry has seen education apps gain a share of the overall app market.[4] But do these apps follow the efficacy framework established by Pearson’s and do they support students both academically and socially?

Why Colleges Shouldn’t Overlook Mobile Apps in Edtech Strategy

For colleges and universities, incorporating mobile technology into communication efforts improves the experience for students, but also has the potential to deliver financial benefits. Public institutions lose between $8,000 and $16,000 per student per year every time a student drops out. While the number of edtech tools available today is increasing, it’s important that these tools meet all the needs of the student. If engagement is part of the problem for student retention, then technologies that are put in place by institutions must seek to engage students both inside and outside of the classroom.

Let’s take a look at a college student with a full course-load, for example. A full course-load means that the student is only in class 20-25 hours a week – a small fraction of their time. Without other ways to feel engaged by the university and the surrounding community, that student can very easily feel isolated and depressed. Institutions that are not able to effectively connect with students beyond their time in the classroom are failing when it comes to engagement.

Texas A&M at Galveston is an example of one university that was looking to implement a new mobile platform in hopes to improve engagement. The app went beyond academics and connected students to their peers and community. With this app, students were provided access to a wealth of information and activities all at their fingertips and subsequently felt more engaged. As a result, the school has increased peer-to-peer engagement and produced a total of 50,594 conversations using the platform. Of the students that used the app, 83 percent said the app helped them get off to a good start at their university and 67 percent felt the app helped to reduce stress in the first weeks of university life.

The Future of Edtech is Mobile

As future generations become consistently more reliant on their mobile devices, education institutions must continue seeking new ways to connect with them through those outlets. Personalization and continued interaction with the school and other students is a crucial part of a student’s success. Forward thinking colleges and universities that take a mobile approach when it comes to increasing engagement through apps will be ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting and retaining students, particularly right now, the millennial generation.

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[1] Pearson. Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey – National Report: College Students. Retrieved from: http://www.pearsoned.com/wp-content/uploads/Pearson-HE-Student-Mobile-Device-Survey-PUBLIC-Report-051614.pdf

[2] Mobile Marketer Magazine. Why text messaging is still key to reaching millennials. Retrieved from: http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/messaging/18137.html

[3] CB Insights. Global Ed Tech Financing Hits Record in Q1 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/ed-tech-venture-capital-record/

[4] CB Insights. Ed Tech’s App Store Share Rises. Which VC-Backed Apps are Winning? Retrieved from: https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/ed-tech-app-ranking-momentum/

Danial Jameel is CEO/founder of OOHLALA mobile, a smart mobile platform for higher education institutions. OOHLALA works with over 100 universities in 5 countries improving engagement and student outcomes.

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More Power to You

Creating a generation of college- and career-ready students starts with K-12 edtech.

GUEST COLUMN | by Kate Ballard-Rosa

CREDIT truePrepAccording to a new report from the University of Pennsylvania and the Pell Institute, 77 percent of people from high-income families have earned at least a bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared to just nine percent of people from low-income families. Although the percentage of high-income students graduating from college has nearly doubled since 1970, the percentage of low-income students obtaining a college degree has increased marginally, by just three points.

Technological advancements will aid educators in providing each student with the customized approach that will best prepare him or her for exceling in college and in the workforce.

Because a student’s chances of success in college is largely determined by the foundation he or she receives in K-12, curriculum using integrated technologies must begin in those classrooms in order to meaningfully impact college graduation rates. It is imperative that educators, school administrators, parents, and others focus their attention on including education technology platforms, such as Google Classroom, iPad apps, etc., into three areas that can substantially improve college completion rates and create a workforce capable of meeting today’s job requirements: improving academic performance, closing the confidence gap and overcoming financial constraints.

Improving Academic Performance

More schools are recognizing the value of whole child education, which prioritizes creating an environment where each student feels safe but challenged. Because every student’s mind works differently, using one teaching strategy in classrooms is not effective. Education technology has allowed teachers to look at each of their students individually and focus on their strengths and weaknesses in a particular subject or skill. Educators have begun to experiment with teaching concepts in different ways – for example, teaching the “practical reason” behind mathematical problems for students who need concepts to be more tangible in order to absorb them. However, this personalized and diverse instruction can become much more powerful with the use of technology.

Imagine an hour in the classroom. Extra practice with the math app “Math Doodles”, which is designed to give a visual representation of math problems, gives the student who needs math to be tangible extra practice with exactly what he needs. Conversely, a student who struggles in math because he has fallen behind in mental math skills could spend that same time using the app “Number Board”, which is designed to build mental math skills. And a third student, one who just needs more practice than his peers to reach mastery, could use an app like “Math Evolve”, which provides repetitive practice. 

Incorporating a range of teaching styles in K-12 education with the addition of technology is especially important for students with learning challenges. Oftentimes, these students have the potential to meet or even exceed their peers’ academic performance, but they often develop at a slower pace and by the time they catch up (typically around third or fourth grade), they’ve already fallen behind academically. For that reason, it’s no surprise that the graduation rate for such students is 20 percentage points lower than the national average.

Closing the Confidence Gap 

By third or fourth grade – especially when beginning to tackle more complicated mathematics like multiplication or fractions – most students come to believe they are either “smart” or “dumb,” regardless of their actual abilities. A “smart” student will approach a difficult question confident that he or she can figure it out, while a “dumb” student will immediately give up. Educators need to prioritize building confidence in students, especially those who may not be receiving adequate support at home. Scaffolding – or gradually increasing the difficulty of lessons – is one instructional technique that has proved effective in helping students gain confidence and preventing them from wanting to quit or give up. Education technology platforms often break up tasks that were once lumped together.

Take for example the online vocabulary-building platform “membean”. Every program begins with a “calibration”, where the student first determines his starting level. This ensures that the student’s confidence is never shaken, as the vocabulary program will include some words the student knows, and then gradually build in more challenging words. This way, no holes are left in the elementary stages of vocabulary, and the student can continue to learn and develop his vocabulary in a safe environment.

Overcoming Financial Constraints

Because teachers are usually responsible for a class of 20-30 students, students who struggle academically often benefit from working with a tutor outside of the classroom. The rise of online tutoring services with improved functionality have lowered the cost of tutoring substantially, due to minimal overhead costs and technology that automatically customizes a student’s learning plans. The time and money saved by allowing students to work with tutors at home, rather than driving to and from a facility, will benefit high- and low-income families alike. Additionally, with the slew of new resources for educators, such as the aps “Lecture Tools” (which allows educators to easily store lectures and resources) and “Super Duper Data Tracker” (which allows educators to track student progress), it is easier than ever for increasingly more people to become powerful educators. This increase in the number of quality tutors provides access to students who never before would have had the opportunity to receive one on one attention.

In the past decade, K-12 educators have made tremendous strides in recognizing that students have different learning styles and challenges that, with the right tactics and new technology, do not have to hold them back from achieving anything that their peers with more conventional learning styles and stability at home are capable of. Technological advancements will aid educators in providing each student with the customized approach that will best prepare him or her for exceling in college and in the workforce.

Kate Ballard-Rosa is the Managing Director of truePrep, a premium, online tutoring company that provides high-quality SAT tutoring at an affordable price. She previously worked as a tutor and is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley. 

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Decisions, Decisions

Should I outsource my school’s Wi-Fi network?

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason King

CREDIT ADTRANPicking up from our last discussion around cloud wireless, let’s take a look at the specifics for when a school district should move forward with either an on-premises or managed Wi-Fi solution.

From a greater number of mobile devices on the network to digital education initiatives to online learning and flipped classrooms, there are a growing number of market drivers making this decision more critical than ever before. Ultimately, a loss in connectivity can result in lost productivity and frustrated students and teachers.

Giving students an education that facilitates long-term academic success while instilling confidence and critical thinking skills requires a modern curriculum and a dependable network.

With this in mind, when does it make sense for a school district to make the switch from an in-house Wi-Fi solution to a managed offering?  Key to this decision is to ask the following questions:

Question 1: Single-site, Multi-site and Multi-tenant facilities – does the district have difficulty managing multiple buildings?

For smaller school districts or private schools where there are fewer buildings, an in-house Wi-Fi solution might make the most sense. If the school doesn’t have the IT staff needed to manage multiple properties, then a managed Wi-Fi service might be the best way to go, so that everything is centralized with one provider.

Question 2: Wireless network expansion driven by BYOD – is the district able to keep pace with the number of new devices coming onto the network?

Many school districts are facing a growing number of devices on their network. This is being driven by both BYOD and 1:1 computing programs, where wireless devices are becoming the norm in the classroom. Does your IT staff have the expertise to handle the on-boarding of all these devices? There is software to help combat this trend, but many are turning to a managed solution to offload the burden.

Question 3: Limited IT resources – does the district have enough resources to manage the network?

Many schools focus on a student to teacher ratio in order to determine if the learning environment is being optimized for individual attention and student success. Flip that around and consider your school’s IT staff to student ratio. If you start trending too high, a managed solution might be the right move.

Question 4: Day-to-day maintenance/management – is the IT staff getting bogged down in routine tasks?

If the staff is limited, the district could benefit from offloading typical IT burdens and allow their existing resources to focus on what they do best—serve their students and faculty.

Question 5: Wi-Fi security – are you able to keep up with the security demands?

Today’s IT staff needs to have real-time and historical reports and trends into network health, users, connected devices, capacity and usage. Only then can they make informed decisions on network investments, which include whether to go with an on-premise or managed solution, to improve the user experience.

Critical to all of these questions is making sure the district also has the flexibility to go from an outsourced model to bringing management back in-house – especially important, knowing that E-rate funding has no guarantee year after year. Also, most school districts do not want to get locked into a long-term subscription model.

A school system’s first priority is students. Giving them an education that facilitates long-term academic success while instilling confidence and critical thinking skills requires a modern curriculum and a dependable network. That’s why the network solution needs to be one that enriches this experience and puts learning above all.

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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Cool Tool | Edgenuity MyPath

CREDIT Edgenuity MyPathA new supplemental program designed to meet students where they are in reading and math, Edgenuity MyPath™ gives them exactly what they need to catch up and get ahead. The program incorporates the benefits of technology to provide students with age-appropriate, online instruction and give educators the ability to monitor progress easily. While designed for middle and high school students, the program covers skills and concepts as low as the third-grade level. MyPath consists of three elements crucial to a successful intervention that provide an effective learning experience: assessment, instruction, and progress monitoring. MyPath uses a proprietary assessment, the Edgenuity Placement Exam (EPE), to place students into an appropriate Individualized Learning Path (ILP). Schools that already have a partnership with Northwest Evaluation Association™ (NWEA™) can simply import their Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) results into Edgenuity MyPath. Based on the results of the student’s placement exam, MAP results, Edgenuity’s learning management system recommends an ILP that provides high-interest, age appropriate instruction for each student. These ILPs target the skills and concepts each student is ready to learn, regardless of grade level or class. As students work through their lessons, educators use dynamic reports to monitor progress.

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