Cool Tool | Boxlight’s ProColor Interactive Flat Panel Displays

CREDIT Mimio Boxlight ProColor Interactive Flat Panel Display.pngDesigned to meet the current and future needs of students, educators, and school IT administrators, Boxlight recently unveiled the ProColor interactive HD and UHD/4K displays. They bring touch-enabled collaborative learning from the front of the class to the back: promoting a high degree of interactivity and revealing the sharpest of details to boost readability. These next-gen displays have set the bar for the interactive flat panel display category by including an Android OS that offers an instant digital whiteboard plus integrated browser, bringing a whole new level of ease of use to the classroom while engaging students in a more collaborative learning experience through a wealth of applications in Google Classroom. The displays include dynamic MimioStudio classroom software that connects the Boxlight products. The software allows educators to create interactive lessons and collaborative activities, and perform real-time formative assessment. It also opens up other activities, enabling educators to use the interactive content they already have. The MimioMobile app brings group learning and collaboration to almost any device. Available in a range of sizes – the ProColor display offer up to ten single-point touch users or five dual-touch and gestures users that work simultaneously with Touch 360° interactivity. These newest interactive flat panels also include built-in stereo speakers, and LED backlighting. Learn more.

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Learning for the Future

Why corporate training can’t lose the human touch.

GUEST COLUMN | by Bernd Welz

CREDIT SAP SE.jpgTechnology has impacted nearly every aspect of modern life. Continued investments in the Internet of Things, digital transformation, and artificial intelligence prove that humans are counting on technology to solve minuscule and massive problems and, generally, improve quality of life across the board. And it has. But is relying solely on technology the best way for employers to prepare their employees for the workplace of the future? No, because learning is an inherently social activity.

Blending technology with the human element of learning is the most efficient solution for effective corporate training programs and the foundation of a Continuous Learning Culture.

Growing concern about the digital skills gap is motivating companies around the world to make enterprise learning a priority, but many are struggling with how to do so effectively and efficiently. From the classroom to the boardroom, methods of education are digitally transforming, but some elements of learning should remain steadfast. Blending technology with the human element of learning is the most efficient solution for effective corporate training programs and the foundation of a Continuous Learning Culture.

The Present

The shift to online learning in corporate training programs is largely due to the need to remain competitive. The Internet has broken barriers of time, geography, and cost. Customizing and implementing corporate training programs simply can’t be left to the four walls of a classroom when modern workforces span the globe and knowledge needs to be updated continuously. Companies need to invest in learning management systems to expand the variety of trainings they are able to provide and actively guide and track their employees’ corporate learning journeys.

For many corporate learning programs, it’s an either–or situation. Online or in-classroom. Siloed. Instead, companies should take advantage of a blended learning approach. Facilitated human interaction that takes place online – interactive massive open online courses (MOOCs), webinars with Q&A sessions, enabling digital “trainers” to act like school guidance counselors, virtual reality, and gamified competitions among classmates – gives learners the benefits of an in-classroom experience, even if they’re miles and time zones apart.

Incorporating human elements in learning, such as working in virtual groups, keeps learners motivated and engaged. For many people, working on group projects in class directly translates to collaborating with remote teams in the workplace across offices and continents. Enabling and encouraging employees to learn together also gives them some stake in the process. They feel obligated pull their own weight and contribute to the team’s collective objective. Communities of practice can be started and fed by group work in training programs.

Encouraging peer-to-peer and teacher-student interaction in corporate training programs not only allows participants to learn from the professor, but also from each other. Training material can be almost perfect, but the exchanges between learners in the “classroom” bring new experiences and perspectives to the table that can’t be replicated. Developing materials for online consumption allows companies to include external sources and up-to-date research that can be accessed on-demand, but there is no substitute for encouraging peers to share their personal experiences when it comes to truly internalizing a new concept.

The Future

Learning is a lifelong process, and corporate learning is no exception. In a time where every company is becoming a technology company, companies need to prepare for whatever the future may hold. Investing in learning management will help companies develop a culture of constant learning – putting employees ahead of the curve.

Companies should consider a blended corporate learning model as an investment in both current and future workforces. On-the-job learning will become a differentiator for talent acquisition and retention because incoming generations of digital natives expect to be constantly challenged and to grow their knowledge. These are people who have experienced technology’s lightning-fast growth first hand, and will offer their loyalty in exchange for a company that provides continued learning and development opportunities.

What will successful corporate learning programs look like in the future? They will know what employees have already learned, what they need to learn, and offer personalized recommendations for what they might want to learn. They will offer lectures in real time that can be reviewed and shared later. They will bring learners together to discuss and exchange ideas synchronously both in virtual and physical classrooms. Machine learning will troubleshoot, generate questions, and develop recommendations. Augmented reality will make information more attention grabbing, negating the need for “mandatory trainings.” Most importantly, companies will be prepared, and employees will be empowered.

Bernd Welz, Ph.D., is Chief Knowledge Officer in Products & Innovation at SAP SE. He is also an edtech and digital learning enthusiast, startup mentor, passionate husband and father, and running addict. Follow him @BerndWelz

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Cool Tool | SchoolMint

CREDIT SchoolMint img.png

Administrators are finding that their current paper-based process for managing school choice and student enrollment means long hours of data entry for staff and a confusing, time-consuming process for parents. Instead, SchoolMint provides an award-winning, cloud-based enrollment and school choice platform that makes the end-to-end enrollment experience easier to manage for both school staff and parents. SchoolMint serves PreK-12 independent, charter, and district schools nationwide. The comprehensive platform’s four primary tools include Application and Lottery Management, Registration Management, Digital Forms and Documents, and School Choice and Unified Enrollment. Collectively, these solutions improve operational efficiency, lower costs, and provide reporting and analytic tools for schools, and they empower parents with a mobile and user-friendly option to navigate the enrollment process. It’s currently used by more than 3,000 schools and districts, including Cleveland Metropolitan School District, New York City Charter School Center, and Spring Branch Independent School Districts. Learn how these organizations and others have benefitted from automating their enrollment process with SchoolMint here.

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Sparking Curiosity

Getting hands-on with students to encourage a future in STEM.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jeffrey Whitford

CREDIT Curiosity Labs.jpgThe world around us is constantly being changed and challenged by advancements in science. Think of how far we’ve come in just the past few years in regard to our access to technology, health care and knowledge. Scientific advancements make the world a more exciting place—they enable us to live a vibrant today, while giving us hope for an even brighter tomorrow.

Behind every scientific breakthrough is a curious mind.

But behind every scientific breakthrough is a curious mind. Without this curiosity—and without a pipeline of future, inspired scientists—we cannot thrive. To keep the spark alive, it is critical for parents, teachers and today’s leaders in STEM to help ensure all children have access to quality education and the right tools to ignite their passion. The best and brightest minds aren’t just reading about science—they’re doing science.

Unfortunately, while experts agree that hands-on education is vital in sparking student curiosity —further priming them for a STEM-related career—access to this type of engaged learning is not always possible due to changes in education policies around the globe, financial constraints, or both. This is a problem that can’t—and shouldn’t—be ignored.

Helping to bridge the knowledge and curiosity gap in STEM is something that I—with the support of our team at my company and our numerous partner organizations—have been committed to for the past several years.

Sparking Scientific Curiosity Worldwide

In 2016, MilliporeSigma launched SPARK—a first-of-its-kind, global skills-based volunteer program that engages our network of 19,000 employees. Through the program, we aim to bring science to life for children around the world—giving students access not only to experiments and the equipment needed so that they can have more fun exploring science, but also to our trained employees and scientists who are with them every step of the way to answer questions and pique their interest in STEM.

At the heart of the program is Curiosity Labs—a library of interactive science experiments developed in partnership with the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University using the Next Generation Science Standards. The labs are typically delivered by our employee volunteers—right in the classroom—and provide students with all of the materials needed to complete an experiment. Teachers can choose from more than a dozen different lessons designed to supplement their existing curriculum. Experiments range from learning about DNA extraction, to constructing their own water filtration device, to learning about chemiluminescence and creating their own glow stick.

Within the past year, more than 40,000 students around the world took part in a lesson. The results we’ve captured through our surveys have been encouraging.

  • 79 percent reported an increase in content knowledge following the lesson.
  • 80 percent demonstrated confidence in science—indicating that they know “quite a bit” or “very much” about science.
  • 81 percent stated that they “enjoy” science.

These results—and our desire to reach even more young minds—are what led us to stem out (pun intended) and expand our efforts in 2017. In addition to adding four new lessons to our curriculum this year, we also introduced the new Curiosity Cube in January. This is a 22×10-foot, retrofitted shipping container that has been transformed into a mobile science lab—allowing us to bring hands-on science to more students. We are piloting it in the U.S. this year, with a goal of reaching more than 350,000 students through a tour of more than two dozen cities. We are also planning to bring the cube to select trade shows throughout the year—giving current and future leaders in STEM a chance to experience the interactive science lessons for themselves.

Securing a Future of Innovative Breakthroughs

Albert Einstein once said “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

What and how we teach our children today will affect the decisions they make down the road—and how they will, in turn, teach and inspire others. I am fortunate to work with a great group of individuals who share my passion for sparking scientific curiosity in young minds, and who are committed to making an impact.

What are some of the things that you are doing to spark curiosity and improve access to STEM-related knowledge?

Jeffrey Whitford is head of global corporate responsibility for MilliporeSigma, a business of Merck, KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. He develops and implements strategic programs in green chemistry, product recycling, environmental sustainability and social responsibility, and directs their corporate responsibility initiative, SPARK, in which employees in 36 countries participate in charitable events designed to benefit their local communities. Share your insights below and join in the conversation on Twitter using #SparkCuriosity.

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A Cloud-First Strategy

Improved privileged account management to secure student data and meet compliance mandates.

GUEST COLUMN | by Mike Somerville

CREDIT Univ San Diego - Thycotic.pngAs Manager of Systems Support and Chief Cloud Evangelist, I lead the IT systems team at the University of San Diego. We’re responsible for four data centers, the network, virtualization, servers, and more—everything that needs a password for access.

Automating Privileged Account Password Security

To manage and secure our IT infrastructure, we recognized years ago that we needed to automate the process, especially in terms of how our IT staff handles passwords for privileged accounts. With the average cost of a single stolen record in the education field running as high as $300, it’s imperative that we protect our data with the most effective tools available.

Putting privileged account password management in the cloud helps the university eliminate upfront capital costs while avoiding getting locked into any single solution.

Because of the extensive access granted to IT users of privileged accounts—the proverbial keys to the kingdom—we wanted software tools that would help us to secure passwords and at the same time help us be more productive.

In 2009, we went through an extensive evaluation of password protection solutions and settled on Thycotic’s on-premise Secret Server. One of their key advantages from a business perspective was allowing everyone to log in to the same single point of access for their passwords. With its introduction, the university is able to take our privileged account password management to the next level.

Migrating to the Cloud Step by Step

The solution on premise was easy to use with excellent support, and we implemented an additional instance at another data center for extra security and redundancy. But, we were also concerned about the possibility of a catastrophic event on campus affecting our IT network. So, we installed an instance in a virtual private cloud. When the company introduced this solution this year, it offered an option we immediately appreciated. Now that our passwords are vaulted and secured in it, we no longer need to manage or maintain multiple instances on premise.

While the University of San Diego follows a cloud-first strategy for its IT systems, we still vet our cloud providers extensively. We need to be sure that our student’s data is going to be safe in their cloud. The solution-provider proved to us without reservation that we could trust the safeguards they’ve put in place and that our passwords would always be available.

The free one-month trial gave us an easy way to test out the solution with our IT systems and with our developers. Both groups were comfortable with how the solution worked and there was no retraining necessary.

Putting privileged account password management in the cloud helps the university eliminate upfront capital costs while avoiding getting locked into any single solution. It reduces IT staff time devoted to software maintenance and ensures we always have the latest updates for our solution. In short, it simplifies our professional duties, and makes it easier to securely manage thousands of passwords.

Demonstrating Compliance and Satisfying Auditors

Demonstrating compliance with FERPA certification is a must for the university to protect student’s information and gain the trust of their parents. Like many universities, USD has internal as well as an external auditor. Every year our IT operations are subject to audits that make sure all our data and processes are secure. Once the auditors know that we’re using this as a password security solution, they demand less proof and detail in satisfying their audit requirements. That saves us considerable time and effort in meeting FERPA, HIPAA and other mandates.

Facilitating the education experience

At the University of San Diego, our IT team constantly reminds itself that we are not in the data center business; or even the IT business. We’re in the higher education experience business. And as far as our students, faculty, administrators or staff are concerned, IT should be invisible to the users it serves. IT should simply be always available and secure.

We’ve found something that delivers a single point of success for our passwords. Whether our servers are online, onsite, or not, we can always go to one website for the solution.

Mike Somerville is Manager of Systems Support and Chief Cloud Evangelist at the University of San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @Amazingmikes


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