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Schools nationwide are under pressure from new state standards to increase students’ writing proficiency. Here's a look at some of the strategies and tools innovative districts have deployed.

More relevant library: Students from Vista USD in southern California work on a project in their school makerspace.

Future Ready Librarians expands concepts of literacy—from books to tech to STEM. The initiative also drives the nationwide transformation of libraries, as librarians take the lead in creating makerspaces in their districts.

More assessment data is available to district leaders than ever before, providing insights into student learning throughout the school year and at the individual student, classroom, school and district levels. However, all of this data will not have a positive impact unless district leaders have a clear strategy to use the insights gained from assessments to inform crucial decisions.

Digital Fly now monitors Facebook along with Twitter and Instagram.

Technology is a vital part of students’ lives: 92 percent of teens say they go online daily and 24 percent say they are logged in "almost constantly." One challenge for schools has been overcoming the perception that social media monitoring jeopardizes student privacy.

Saving time in Biloxi: Technology director Mike Jennings works on a computer while John Farris, network supervisor, looks on. Biloxi Public Schools’ students use thin clients that speed up downloads and ease testing prep compared to traditional computers.

The concept of “going virtual” has been gaining traction in the IT world for years. Today, school CIOs who have taken the next step—the virtualization of desktop computers—see a new range of benefits, including increased flexibility for users, cost savings, stronger security, and more frequent updates of hardware and software.

Integration and simplification top wish lists when it comes to website management tools. Administrators want tools to connect easily and effectively with parents and students as the variety of programs, platforms and devices grows.

A teacher at Howe Elementary School in Wisconsin, above, shows a student the steps of how to submit a digital artifact into his own e-portfolio. (Photo: Photo credit: Digital Student Portfolios, Matthew Renwick/Thinkstock.com: 123dartist)

Decades ago, portfolio assessment meant finding room for bulging binders stuffed with paper. But digital technologies that make it far easier to collect, curate, share and store student work have dismantled the physical barriers that once made portfolio assessment daunting.

With the modernization of E-rate and the increase in available funding for school districts, many administrators face a strategic choice when it comes to their network. Some districts may choose a managed service through a third-party vendor, while others want to keep their network managed in-house by district staff. There are pros and cons to each model and several key considerations every district should examine before making this important IT decision.

Platforms and apps that provide parents direct communication and unfiltered access to grades, schedules, school news and emergency announcements offer better access than ever before.

The Technology for Education Consortium found that the cost for the same iPad can vary, depending on the district.

The education technology market might have become easier for district leaders to navigate, thanks in part to a new nonprofit group, Technology for Education Consortium. Leaders can share their spending limits on certain tech devices, and the consortium produces reports about pricing around the country.

Google rejects assertions that it has violated student data privacy rules.

In December, a nonprofit digital rights group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google is using its ubiquitous access to educational devices to mine student data so it can better target advertising at students.

Old computers may not be trendy, but as school tech budgets shrink or stagnate, many administrators try to squeeze the most life out of their aging devices. Recycling and retrofitting, and hooking up to the cloud, allow districts to delay or even abandon established schedules for buying brand-new equipment.

Blended learning is having a positive impact in schools and districts across the country, but there are a number of key strategies that can advance blended learning to its next generation of even greater effectiveness and improved achievement. The formula for driving active learning comes from the synergy of blending three key elements: product design, instructional design and school design.

Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is in the middle of a multiyear transformation known as S.T.A.T. (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow). Initiated in 2013, the goal of S.T.A.T. is ambitious: To cultivate a 21st century technology learning environment for its 111,000 students that prepares globally competitive graduates.

Administrators have a variety of responsibilities in managing a district, but certain tasks can be burdensome and can distract from the core mission of the school system. Purchasing, deploying and managing learning resources such as textbooks and other materials are time-consuming and costly tasks that can weigh down administrators. However, outsourcing these tasks to an experienced partner can increase efficiency, reduce costs and ensure that the right learning resources get in the hands of students.

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