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Articles: Technology

Selected from more than 2,100 nominations, the editors of District Administration magazine proudly present the 2015 Readers’ Choice Top Products. This annual award program alerts superintendents and other senior school leaders to the best products their colleagues around the country use to achieve district excellence.

You—the nation’s top K12 leaders—submitted testimonials about your favorite products throughout 2015. Our editorial board carefully narrowed down the list based on the quality and quantity of theses testimonies.

Penn Manor School District IT staff and student technology apprentices discuss FLDT, their DIY software imaging program for in-house student laptop management.

Developers created some of the world’s most recognized software in garages and college dorms. The same do-it-yourself spirit thrives today across public education. School innovators customize software that ranges from small applications used within a single classroom to programs that support a district’s full administrative functions.

K12 schools and universities are increasingly purchasing 3D printers such as the MakerBot and integrating them into the curriculum to prepare students for STEM careers.

Analysts expect 3D printer shipments to double worldwide to nearly 496,500 units in 2016—in large part due to demand from K12 schools and universities, according to a new report.

3D printers—devices that create physical objects from digital plans—are more common in STEM classes than in people’s homes, despite manufacturers’ initial expectations for the machines.

Many districts hesitate to integrate social media into district policies because administrators fear cyberbullying, class distractions or other negative consequences. But administrators embracing the new tech tools say social media enhances student and community engagement.

Inexpensive Google Cardboard glasses work with a smart phone to take students on immersive virtual field trips.

Students can explore the Great Wall of China and the surface of Mars using wearable technology products that are dropping in price and becoming more education-focused. Wearable technology, a new report says, will be mainstream in schools within four to five years.

Ramy Mahmoud teaches in the Plano ISD and is a part-time senior lecturer at The University of Texas at Dallas.

In my 10 years of teaching the ninth grade, I have struggled with a certain category of students—the low performers. These are the students who walk into class on the first day of school expecting to fail. They know nothing about me, but I represent every adult who has ever failed them in the past.

At Blue Valley Schools in Kansas, above, the website redesign team shows off its work. CIO Greg DeYoung stands on the far right.

A district’s website presents contrasting demands. It needs to be a constant digital presence: always up and always available. Yet its content and functionality are ever changing.District leaders solve this challenge in several ways.

Click to enlarge: Countries such as Turkey and Tunisia have 45 and 53 students for every school computer, respectively

Regular access to a computer varies for students around the world.

Some countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, boast less than two students for every computer at school.

Others, such as Turkey and Tunisia, have 45 and 53 students for every school computer, respectively.

Most school districts back up student, human resource and finance records and other essential administrative data every night.

From hurricanes to software viruses to accidental keystrokes, many dangers threaten to corrupt school district data or impede access to it. To prevent loss of critical information, districts back up data routinely, on location and off-site. New devices and lower-priced cloud offerings mean districts no longer have to trade access for cost.

Albemarle County Public Schools removed hundreds of high school lockers and replaced them with benches for students to charge mobile devices.

One central Virginia high school replaced hundreds of lockers with device charging stations this fall to bolster its 1-to-1 program.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system arrived in late July free, for one year, to schools and other customers running copies of Windows 7 or later. By the end of August, it had been installed on 75 million devices worldwide.

Windows 10 joins an ever-changing mix of Apple, Android and Microsoft devices and operating systems found in U.S. school districts.

Click to enlarge: Five steps districts can take to save money on edtech purchases. (Source: Foundation for Excellence in Education)

As the lines between instructional and technology budgets blur, CIOs can improve their district’s procurement procedures to get what their classrooms need from an increasingly complex edtech market.

3D printing offers multiple ways for students to get hands-on experience and to gain marketable skills before leaving high school

3D printing offers multiple ways for students to get hands-on experience and to gain marketable skills before leaving high school. Administrators must find ways to integrate the technology into existing courses or to enhance new class offerings.

Why are 3D printers so important to education now and what future trends should CIOs be aware of to ensure the technology succeeds in the classroom?

Rajeev Kulkarni

Vice president and chief product officer

3D Systems

Some of the latest software solutions monitor applications for free meals and track federal and state reimbursement reports for the National School Lunch Program.

Serving meals in schools has changed dramatically over the last few decades.

Many students suffer food allergies, and others don’t have enough money in their lunch account.