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Articles: Classroom Integration

While technology infiltrates every aspect of K12 operations, CIOs must negotiate with various vendors to ensure students and educators can make the most out of new software and hardware.

At Lawrence Public Schools in Kansas, teacher Paula Barr sits with second graders in her blended learning classroom at Quail Run Elementary School.

Widespread use of digital learning materials, an intensifying focus on achievement and the influx of digital devices into classrooms are increasing districts’ need to have some form of learning management systems (LMS), experts say.

Students at Cherokee County School District use Pearson’s WriteToLearn to help them become better writers.

As Common Core standards require students to write extensively across the curriculum, more districts are using automated assessment tools to save teachers time and give students immediate analysis.

Birmingham Public Schools use ETS’ Criterion as a learning and teaching tool. Students get immediate feedback on grammar and mechanics, as well as links to exemplary writing with detailed techniques to improve.

Some vendors have developed tech tools that will solve the challenges of teaching and assessing student writing effectively. We asked several experts to share their thoughts about writing assessment concerns and how administrators can address those issues. Here’s what they had to say:

John Williams is executive director of technology for Metro-Nashville Public Schools.

When your job is to manage the IT infrastructure for more than 83,000 students, across 150 schools, who use more than 340 different pieces of education software, it would not be too surprising to be singing the blues.

But in Music City—Nashville—our district is singing up-tempo and thriving even as we enter year two of a sweeping technology initiative to equip all students for 21st century learning and future colleges and careers.

In the middle school STEM lab at New Canaan Public Schools in Connecticut, students frequently choose to learn with flight simulators rather than 3D printers, video games and other technological options.

“It’s definitely our most popular tool,” says Vivian Birdsall, New Canaan’s middle school STEM teacher. “Not only do the flight simulations expose our students to aviation, they’re so exciting and fun that our students often don’t realize how much they’re learning from them.”

The percent of school IT leaders who say they are using different cloud services has increased in the past year, according to CoSN’s 2015 “K-12 IT Leadership Survey.”

A large majority of district technology leaders report moving some crucial IT services to the cloud this year, according to a March report from the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN).

More than 65 percent of IT leaders say their district now uses productivity tools such as Google Apps for Education that run through the cloud—a rapid increase over last year, when only 10 percent reported using these services, the 2015 “K-12 IT Leadership Survey Report” found.

Landlines are out and internet-based phones are in for many schools this year, as the modernized E-rate program begins scaling back funds for traditional phone service.

Discount rates for long-distance calling, cell phones and other services will drop by 20 percent every year starting this year, as determined in the July 2014 E-rate Modernization Order adopted by the FCC. E-rate funds for email, web hosting, paging and phone directory assistance were completely eliminated this year.

Nine out of 10 students recognize the importance of developing technology skills early to ensure they are prepared to enter the workforce, according to new research published by CompTIA, an information technology industry association.

The September 2014 survey of 1,000 middle school students further found that most rate their tech skills as average or above. In the study—“The Changing Classroom: Perspectives from Students and Educators on the Role of Technology”—students also said they wanted more instruction in the following:

In the Bonneville Joint School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a Summit Hills Elementary School student, right, takes a speech/language therapy class with therapist Claire Plowgian, above.

More districts now deliver speech and occupational therapy online. It’s a solution for staffing shortages, especially in less populated areas, when therapists can provide therapy, participate in IEP meetings and handle other tasks remotely.

Allan F. Daily High School students in Glendale USD take part in a total computer rebuild, used as a student-led training session. A student demonstrates with his classmates how to replace the CPU chip.

Students trained in IT support are providing teachers with Johnny-on-the-spot resources and bolstering the responsiveness of districts’ lean tech staffs. The eager students provide districts with an inexpensive and much-needed tech resource; and the students gain experience, new skills, and confidence.

Authors Darryl Vidal and Michael Casey provide administrators with a structured methodology for developing an educational technology vision that benefits all stakeholders.

Vision: The First Critical Step in Developing a Strategy for Educational Technology

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Authors Darryl Vidal and Michael Casey provide administrators with a structured methodology for developing an educational technology vision that benefits all stakeholders and supports school and district strategic plans.

R.J. Gravel (@rjgravel) is the director of instructional technology for Johnsburg School District 12, in Johnsburg, IL.

As more school leaders adopt cloud-based technology to support educator and student achievement, the need for efficient processes to run student and teacher accounts increases.

In the past, printed instructional materials would be received, sorted, labeled and distributed to classrooms. Materials traveled from the office to the teacher, then from the educator to the student. But for cloud-based materials, the distribution process looks quite different.

School districts will make their biggest tech investments in tablets and WiFi in 2015. (Click to enlarge chart)

Computing devices embedded in jewelry and glasses. Microchips tattooed into skin and sewn into clothing. In one form or another, devices that gather data without any help from the user will slowly infiltrate districts in 2015. In fact, the number of people with a wearable computing device will more than triple this year.

Authors Michael Horn and Heather Staker say culture is crucial to innovation in schools.

Blended learning is poised to transform education as we know it. We know the what and the why, but it’s not often we learn how. In their book, Blended, Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, Michael Horn and Heather Staker lay out the components of successful blended learning programs, and challenge readers to create a culture that can make these innovations succeed.

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