Cool Tool | ST Math: K-6

CREDIT Mind Research Institute ST MathCheck out this game-based instructional software designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning. Born out of research at the University of California, Irvine, ST Math’s unique approach accesses the mind’s innate spatial-temporal reasoning ability. This ability, which lies at the core of innovative thinking and sophisticated problem-solving, allows a person to hold visual, mental representations in short-term memory and to evolve them in both space and time, thinking multiple steps ahead. ST Math was featured in USA Today reporter Greg Toppo’s book, The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter, as a game that gives students a chance to learn at their own pace, take risks, and cultivate deeper understanding. Greg Toppo joined teachers, corporations, students and parents at the STEMconnector Townhall to discuss how ST Math transforms the classroom with unique game-based learning opportunities to engage students and teachers. The independent education research firm WestEd published a study and found that those grades across 209 schools in California using the program for one year exhibited 6.3 percent more students scoring proficient or better on the California Standards Test, compared to those at similar schools not using the program. Visit a penguin named JiJi.

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Cool Tool | Bloomz App

CREDIT Bloomz AppHere’s a teacher communication app providing real-time updates, event and volunteer coordination, and community building tools to engage with today’s generation of parents. Built primarily for the K-8 environment, it’s an excellent tool for helping to create connections between parents and teachers, thanks to its many tools available in one beautifully designed app. With Bloomz, teachers can save time in their communication with parents by easily send real-time messages, share pictures, schedule parent-teacher conferences and even sign up parents for volunteer opportunities, all made easy through a web or mobile app. Focused on helping teacher’s improve their communication with parents, the people behind the app have recently launched a series of additions to their product, from easier ways to sign up for it (class codes, SMS/Text integration), to increased teacher controls (posts scheduling, parent to parent communication control) and accessibility (content translation). Despite their young life (the service was only made available to the public in February of 2015), Bloomz has already been featured in various publications and gained teacher praise from all over, and is an EdTech Award winner.

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World-Class Graduate Education and Research

Software-defined networking, Wi-Fi, and mobile for teaching and learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Naveed Husain

CREDIT Teachers College imageLike many leading graduate schools, the faculty and students at Teachers College, Columbia University, hold IT to the highest standards for supporting their learning and research needs. Technology needs to flow like electricity or water throughout the institution without friction. Teachers College has a 125-year history of preparing the next generation of educators and civil leaders, contributing significantly to education-related research and policy and shaping the future of education throughout the world.

Approximately two years ago, the College decided to make a significant investment in technology to meet current demands and prepare a secure and reliable foundation for onsite and new online certificate and degree programs. Our legacy wireless and wired infrastructure was not providing enough coverage, bandwidth, reliability or security. End-user wired port utilization in classrooms and research areas had fallen to near zero while the demand for mobility had escalated to multiple devices per person. Students were quoted as saying that the wireless in the library was like connecting on a 56k modem. (For millennials, a 56k modem is the device that we used to use to connect to the internet, the one that made all those beeping noises before you were connected. And, you could not stream Netflix with it!) In addition to the need for better performance, there was also a clear need for a college mobile app, wireless presentation capabilities, streaming and continued “free love” wireless.

Technology needs to flow like electricity or water throughout the institution without friction.

To meet these and other new challenges, we needed a stable foundation capable of adapting to the mobile-first, cloud-first initiatives this college is engaged in. And, to keep our institution among the top programs, we needed to be able to provide services on-demand at a manageable cost-to-production ratio.

With these tenets in mind, we decided to transition our classrooms to a next-generation, all-wireless digital model. Our new classrooms provide wall-mounted touch displays and software-based collaboration features that give students and faculty the desired ability to share content onsite or online and in real-time, with seamless streaming from their devices to the displays as well as web conference services, lecture capture capabilities and the ability to locally broadcast/stream content throughout the classroom using systems like Chromecast and Apple TVs.

Selecting strategic partners and technologies

After a thorough evaluation with multiple networking solution vendors, we determined the best path forward to leverage the latest infrastructure innovations would be to conduct a “forklift” upgrade of our end-of-life equipment and partner with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Aruba (an HPE company) for wired and wireless solutions. In addition, we decided to utilize HPE Technology Services to assist us with the extensive network refresh, helping us to redesign our network architecture and optimize our investment.

Strategic technologies that we deployed include robust software-defined networking (SDN) programmability within the hardware and enterprise management tools for troubleshooting the network throughout our campus. These capabilities, coupled with a new network access control platform, ClearPass, enable a dynamic network infrastructure that will provide role-based access on demand, without the burden of rigid VLAN segmentation. With this solution, we will be able to deliver priority service to applications, add an additional layer of security beyond the perimeter, and conduct anomalous traffic monitoring that includes HIPAA-impacted data transfer both on our wired and wireless network.

Leveraging control platform allows us to create a single security policy across the wired and wireless network. This will ensure that, regardless of how the client connects to the network, all of our users will have the same secure experience. However, because the ‘elegance of experience’ is important to our senior management, and because security implementations can often become a barrier to the fluid use of technology – rather than the simple experience that users desire – devices will have to register to the network, but the experience will be streamlined.

With the platform and client certificates, we can utilize 802.1x authentication to deliver the necessary security without requiring our users to frequently enter passwords. Instead, our infrastructure can dynamically provide the ability to log in using the same privileges, regardless of location, based on who the person is and what device they are using to connect. Our goal is to base services around the person via a human-centric approach.

To make it manageable for our IT team, we needed the ability to set policies efficiently and automate the granting of access to the appropriate types of data for over 5,000 students – as well as our faculty, administrators, staff and research employees.

Deploying the latest innovations

For the LAN, we are deploying dual core switches plus an array of data center switches for top-of-rack server access. Also, we implemented HPE’s Intelligent Management Center (IMC) for LAN management and its SDN solution to dynamically program our network to align with our needs.

Additionally, we adopted multi-gigabit PoE+ campus switches with flexible programmability for SDN applications. We know that SDN is the direction of orchestration and management in the future and these switching platforms will allow us to take strides with SDN while leveraging traditional network management platforms such as the IMC for day-to-day FCAPS management.

On the wireless side, our new WLAN includes approximately 1,000 indoor and outdoor 802.11ac access points (APs) and mobility controllers for fast, Gigabit Wi-Fi. This enables us to provide high-performance experiences in classrooms, offices and outdoor courtyard areas.

This setup ensures support for Apple TVs, which our students use extensively for presentations in classrooms and conference rooms. We’re also installing Apple TVs in all offices, so we rely on the wireless network to support them smoothly and reliably.

Management and troubleshooting APs is accomplished with AirWave. The granularity of current and historical information on each AP, and each of the devices connected to an individual AP, helps us detect and resolve issues in minutes. This improves our operational efficiency and reduces network downtime. Moving forward, we can adopt new proactive monitoring capabilities to simulate situations, such as the flurry of connections at the start of a day, and identify issues before users experience them.

To provide secure Wi-Fi access, we’ll use ClearPass Policy Manager. Its capabilities include automatically segregating guest and internal users, as well as granting role-based access privileges. ClearPass also ensures that authorized users, requiring a higher level of security, don’t inadvertently join the guest network.

Moving toward mobile engagement

Looking ahead, we’re planning to expand our existing mobile app by adding mobile engagement capabilities. This includes deploying a ‘beacons and meridian’ mobile app platform to enhance wayfinding and supply other features like push notifications.

These innovations offer many possibilities. For instance, faculty members will be able to send students granular event notifications. Among the options are date and time, available amenities, refreshments, post-event gathering information and, if needed, any updates, changes or reminders.

Institutionally, we can potentially use the beacons and mobile app to send emergency alerts and supply students with important safety instructions.

With our new combination of mobile-first technologies, we’re answering student and faculty demands for seamless, reliable and secure mobility. We’re also significantly improving our ability to support their educational needs, which includes contributing to life-changing neuroscience, biological and cognitive research.

Currently CIO at the Teachers College, Columbia University, Naveed Husain has over 20 years of global professional experience in the private and public sectors. This includes challenging duty stations for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where he supported missions in Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, and Somalia, among others. Prior to joining Teachers College, he served as CIO for Queens College and in leadership roles at a range of organizations.

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A Fundamental Technology

Three benefits of adopting cloud-based software for universities. 

GUEST COLUMN| by Matt Clark

CREDIT CorcentricUniversities have traditionally struggled to access and manage data across numerous academic departments. Advancements in technology now allow schools to tap into a variety of sources for a wider assessment of risks and opportunities. By utilizing cloud-based solutions, higher education institutions can take advantage of benefits that include risk minimization, operational improvement and establishing trust.

Risk Minimization

Schools are susceptible to a seemingly infinite number of risks. This becomes more apparent with larger universities that have many departments. To alleviate stress, schools must first identify the anticipated risks to their sensitive information. From there, they should create a short list of risks that need to be focused on more closely, based on how

Billions of dollars are being invested in this market, a clear indicator that universities not only need to take notice, but take action in adopting these tools.

damaging the consequences may be. Utilizing the cloud gives schools on-demand access to a shared system of data and resources, making this process a more tangible and efficient undertaking. Implementing a system of risk prioritization will not only help in managing and resolving issues more effectively, but it will ensure that each team member involved is on the same page when it comes to where time and effort should be spent.

All of the strategic planning and monitoring in the world does not exempt a school from the occasional issue. Learning from missteps and mistakes is extremely valuable – even more when there is data and resources to substantiate recommended solutions. The key is tapping into historical data in the cloud to gain insight in order to prevent these risks in the future.

Opportunities of Operational Improvement

Ignorance is never bliss when it comes to sharing information – it can cost a school time and money. Rather than seeing transparency as a challenge, universities can leverage the opportunity to identify potential operational improvements. These improvements can result in cost savings, more time, efficient processes and better ways to allocate resources.

When academic departments are siloed – metaphorically and sometimes physically – the separation of data, insights and resources is doing more harm than good. Now with new technology being developed at a higher frequency, there are a number of cross-device cloud solutions to help schools manage enrollment and other academic data across departments, gaining insight that is actionable. For example, schools that can better optimize enrollment data distribution by using cloud-enabling data processing are more likely to enroll best-fit students. The speed at which this type of technology is growing also shows no signs of slowing down. According to a Forbes report, the global Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market is projected to grow from $49 billion in 2015 to $67 billion in 2018. Billions of dollars are being invested in this market, a clear indicator that universities not only need to take notice, but take action in adopting these tools.

Establish and Maintain Trust

Transparency, internal and external, is an essential part of establishing trust and reinforcing a positive reputation. Schools that lack a full understanding what’s going on in each department are finding themselves up against many risks and liabilities that could have been avoided. With competition for students as tight as it is, schools cannot afford to have inefficient processes. When a school moves its data to the cloud, not only is this a strategic decision that is environmentally friendly but it’s also a step towards transparency. Cloud solution tools enable teams at a university-wide level to keep a closer eye on where departments are succeeding and where red flags need to be raised. This fosters an environment of personal responsibility within university walls in order to build and reinforce a positive public image.

Working with the cloud enables a school to be more nimble, cost effective, and time-efficient. By embracing these solutions, a school will reap rewards that can be accounted for numerically on a spreadsheet but also felt by the public when it comes to a positive reputation. The on-demand access to resources and insight alone is a fundamental technology that any university today should take advantage of in order to stay innovative and transparent.

Matt Clark is COO for Corcentric, overseeing day-to-day operations and all software engineering and operational efforts, including implementation, client services, integration, and IT infrastructure. Most recently, Matt was VP of Operations for Corcentric. He received his degree from the University of Maryland. 

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Trends | EdTech’s Most Active

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