Cool Tool | Campuscene

CREDIT campusceneCampuscene is one of the only inbound marketing platforms designed for college admissions. 
It’s no secret: the college search is a daunting and frustrating process. There are over 7,500 options in higher education, and students are supposed to choose which one is right for them based on statistics like student-to-faculty ratios, and average class size. Does that even help? Do they really want to choose where to go to college based on how many books are in the library? This company knows that what students really want to know is what a campus looks like, what the students are like, and if they can “see themselves” at that school. This is how students really figure out where they are going to fit best and thrive. Problem is – the answers to the most important questions are often the most hidden. This company is building a college search that actually makes sense to the modern applicant. They offer virtual tours, video content, interactive maps, and social media content for every school on a student’s list. They make it easy for soon to be graduating high school students to understand what it’s like to be a student at any college before they have to choose. It’s fun, it’s effective, and it gives students everything they would want to make a decision. And – it’s completely free.

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Better Together

Let our kids help create a better Internet.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lynette Owens

CREDIT Safer Internet DayEach year, many countries, organizations, governments, schools, and individuals around the world have used Safer Internet Day to raise awareness about a wide range of issues pertaining to the safe and responsible use of the Internet. This year’s theme is “Let’s Create A Better Internet Together.”

Since 2010, we have celebrated this annual day with the “What’s Your Story?” campaign. By design, we don’t say much. Instead, we encourage young people – with their classrooms or as individuals – to tell the world how they see things and what it means to be great at being online.

There are 37 million kids aged 3-17 that have access to the Internet, representing 18% of all who have Internet access in the U.S. 

Let’s just admit: kids know a lot

It seems in many cases, the public dialogue about safe, respectful, and productive technology use has disproportionately been centered on kids. It makes sense as they are who we all believe to be the most vulnerable and in need of the most guidance with the Internet. But the issues of online safety, privacy, piracy, bullying, and overall digital literacy is not only a youth issue. We all need more education and sometimes reminding of what it means to use the Internet wisely.

Parents and educators don’t have the luxury of recalling their past to guide kids. Beyond the obvious rules and laws about appropriate use, we’re all learning and shaping the rules and norms of appropriate Internet use together. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how you use it, or when you use it.

There are 37 million kids aged 3-17 that have access to the Internet, representing 18% of all who have Internet access in the U.S. They are some of the earliest adopters of technology, and certainly those designed as social networks. While we are all worried about them and working furiously to make sure they have the right guidance to navigate the Internet safely and successfully, it’s very likely that we’re still coming up short because we, ourselves, don’t know enough to advise them of everything. Technology is changing so rapidly and the way we’re using it even more so.

But this fact isn’t daunting to young people. They explore new apps without pause or hesitation, and either adopt or abandon any technology based on whether or not they think it’s useful, interesting or entertaining.   We believe in the midst of that online exploration they are learning things along the way, and are even gaining valuable insight into the best, safest, most private, most efficient, and savvy ways to use technologies that are themselves still maturing and evolving. So, why not let them share what they know?

Looking for a young perspective

To that end, and as part of this year’s “What’s Your Story?” campaign, we are asking young people to answer the following question:

What have you learned that would be helpful to someone who’s new to the Internet?

Since 2010, we have asked young people to respond to different themes through original videos that they must also promote to their family, friends and communities. And we have never been disappointed since day 1. They have a lot of great things to say and we are always excited to listen.

It’s a video contest, but with a twist. We aren’t just looking for contestants to produce a great video or tell a powerful story. Contestants need to get people to hear their stories, too. If they do it successfully, there are many cash prizes including 2 grand prizes. One school and one individual film-maker will each win $10,000.

Why did we design a more complicated contest? First, it’s important to us to get as many young people involved as possible. We chose video because it’s a medium they like and are familiar with. But we didn’t want to limit this to just the professional or aspiring film-maker. That is why views and ratings of a video matter; everyone is able to promote their stories to family, friends, classmates, and beyond.

Second, we want to encourage a positive use of social media. In our contest, it’s a means for social activism as well as increasing one’s chances of winning.

Today we’re asking you to be part of the What’s Your Story? campaign. Help encourage your students and teachers to be part of a great cause that could help others and themselves. Find out more, visit

Lynette Owens is the founder and global director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) program. A mom of two school-aged children, Lynette established the ISKF program in 2008 to help extend the company’s vision of making a world safe for the exchange of digital information to the world’s youngest citizens. The program, active in 19 countries, helps kids, families, and schools become safe, responsible, and successful users of technology. Follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettetowens or read her blog:  

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Crowdfunding in EdTech

Lessons from a bootstrapped teacherpreneur launching a crowdfunding campaign.

GUEST COLUMN | by Brendan Finch

CREDIT BirdBrain imageWithin the crucible of the classroom, educators learn what truly works. There is no grey area: inequity and the achievement gap stare, unblinkingly, at us everyday. Though many of the tools we use in our classrooms have been designed in a lab or by a team of talented businessmen, there’s a new era of small businesses budding.

The teacherpreneur represents the next stage in this evolution — teachers solving problems through scalable edtech start-ups. We’ve lived through the systemic issues facing education and we’re able to use strategies that we know will work to solve them. As crowdfunding becomes a commonplace tool for teachers through platforms like DonorsChoose and GoFundMe, can crowdfunding provide funding for these emerging businesses?

I’d like to challenge educators who have innovative ideas to try their hand at building a business.

We’re launching an experimental answer: a Kickstarter campaign for Adaptive History. BirdBrain History will be our second content area of adaptive and differentiated reading. We’re an early start-up that’s served over 50,000 students and teachers in the last year. In no way does this mean it’ll be easy. To date, the only edtech tool that’s run a successful large-scale crowdfunding campaign was Mathalicious in 2012! Our goal is to create the most accessible curriculum tool on the market for students to read and schools to pay for.

The current model for edtech funding has its roots in Accelerator and Venture Capital funding. This model provides growing ideas with the capital they need to scale their businesses, but also creates businesses that are driven to be acquired to provide a return for its investors. The amount of capital available for businesses who accept these funds is substantial, but I’m unconvinced that this is the driving force we want powering the next generation of edtech.

Private business certainly isn’t the silver bullet for alleviating educational inequity, but we can use it to test out our ideas. If an idea fails, the business fails; and schools have little tolerance for tools that don’t work. My hope is that we’re able to incubate smaller solutions without massive capital, in just a few classrooms or schools. If teacher networks can be properly leveraged and great ideas can spread quickly enough, then this may be an option for the coming generation of teacherpreneurs.

I’d like to challenge educators who have innovative ideas to try their hand at building a business. Rather than subjecting yourself to a new “program” that may or may not work, you’ll have concrete affirmation or denial through the market itself. Every educator I’ve ever spoken with has a unique perspective on the classroom. You’re already doing invaluable and groundbreaking things in your classroom and the rest of the world deserves to share in your success.

If you don’t know where to start, there is a growing network of edtech entrepreneurs and do-gooders that would love to connect with you. Teach For America connects their alumni through the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, and you’re able to connect with many other education enthusiasts through local Meetups, Accelerator events and StartupWeekendEDU.

My all-time favorite edtech events are Edcamps. Dubbed an “unconference,” attendees set the schedule for the event upon arrival the morning of the event itself. Presenters are attendees, not vendors. You’ll meet rockstar educators and if there was ever a place to put your finger on the pulse of transformative tools and needs being addressed by teachers, this would be the first place to look.

For now, head over to and hopefully we can inspire you to take the leap yourself. If not, we’d appreciate any support you can offer.

Brendan Finch is the founder of BirdBrain Education, veteran teacher, Teach For America alumnus, and would love for you to continue the conversation on Twitter @BirdBrainFinch or to contact him directly at brendan (at) Follow BirdBrain Science @BirdBrainEdu and BirdBrain History @BirdBrainHstry

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Cool Tool | 

CREDIT CueThinkCueThink is an innovative peer-to-peer iPad application designed to improve students’ critical thinking skills, math language and communication. At the heart of the platform are “thinklets” — video vignettes of solution strategies created by students with the help of scaffolds and rubrics. Learners in grades 4-12 develop systematic problem-solving skills, read for understanding, think more deeply and learn from each other while building a rich portfolio of strategies. CueThink leverages what students already know and do well – social media, content publishing, and gaming – and brings those experiences to the math classroom, thus deepening student engagement and learning.
 Their companion web-based teacher dashboard provides access to rich content developed and vetted by our experienced education staff. Educators can also incorporate their existing curriculum as well as create and share their own content with the community.

 A teacher user from New York said, “If you are tired of having students mainly watch you think, start using CueThink!” Download their iPad application at and create your first thinklet. Or, read how a teacher introduced CueThink in her classroom – Learn more at

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Cool Tool | Hstry

CREDIT Hstry digital learning toolsThis digital learning tool that enables teachers, students and historians to create and explore interactive historical timelines. Using a platform designed to mimic social media, “Hstry” presents history in a format that is easily understood, engaging, and familiar to the 21st century student.

 Hstry’s timelines include not only text and images, but also video, audio, and quiz questions. Furthermore, students can comment, discuss, and ask questions directly on the timeline itself, both deepening their understanding through interaction with other students and further engaging them in their study of history.

 Teachers have the possibility of either using Hstry’s own timelines which follow the common core, or create their own and share them with their classroom or the community. Students can also create their timelines making history not some vague and passive event in the past, but something alive with which they can engage. The use of the first person perspective, where the student puts her/himself in the shoes of a famous historical character, is a good example of this. As the platform is accessible from any device connected to the web, this can be something the students work on at home. Hstry therefore becomes a useful assessment tool for the teacher.

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