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Articles: Technology

Robots Rev Up Classes: Advances in technology bring the use of more robots, like the one at the right, to K12 classrooms—to help students with everyday core subjects, or to cater to homebound students.

McKenna Smith, a high school student in Missouri’s Nixa Public Schools, had been unable to attend classes since elementary school because of chemotherapy treatment. But she didn’t miss as much interaction with teachers and classmates as she could have because she connected with them remotely—via robot.

DA’s Districts of Distinction program, which honors innovative projects in America’s public school districts, will be showcased in a special annual edition of the magazine each July, starting in 2017.

While developing reading skills as early as possible is vitally important because of its strong correlation to overall academic achievement, engaging elementary students with reading both in school and at home can be a challenge. At the Oak Grove Elementary School—part of the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida—administrators took an innovative approach to address the reality that just 17 percent of their preK-3 students were reading at grade level.

Classrooms in Missouri schools use PowerGistics towers for convenient storage of 1-to-1 technology

An in-school Chromebook 1-to-1 program allows the 3,500 students of Confluence Academy Charter Schools in Saint Louis—only 6 percent of whom have internet access at home—to have access to more personalized learning. When Marcy Dotson, instructional technology coordinator, began planning in spring 2014 for the initial rollout, she knew she needed a practical solution for storing the devices in the classrooms.

Model students: Students at Cupertino High School in California learn the basics of math modeling during an AoCMM workshop.

High school math classes focus traditionally on solving equations. The world of mathematical modeling emphasizes creating equations.

The nonprofit Association of Computational and Mathematical Modeling is developing a free mathematical modeling curriculum that it plans to share with teachers by early 2017. It will show students how to construct equations that solve complex real-world engineering, science and computing problems.

Using tablets, apps and YouTube videos, students at a Minnesota elementary school have added new virtual elements to paintings and other artwork, so their masterpieces include videos that not only get them engaged, but also help them better understand ideas behind the art itself.

Educational publishers say they understand the draw of free or one-off materials for purchase online. But they caution administrators: Just because you can build a car from parts and tutorial videos from the internet, it doesn’t mean it makes sense.

Many publishers employ experts who have doctorates in instructional and curriculum design—which they say is a different skill set from classroom teaching.

SIS vendors are working to develop technologies that work across all platforms and are cloud-based. Particular effort is being devoted to the design of user interfaces to create easy and intuitive functionality so that accessing an SIS is as simple as navigating a social media program on a phone.

Is that a giraffe in the hallway? Using the app, Aurasma, new students at Greenwood Elementary in Minnesota play Grizz-e-mon to feel more familiar and safe in their new school. In the example above, students “freed” this giraffe from inside of an egg.

One elementary school in Minnesota riffed on the wildly popular Pokémon Go app to create its own virtual reality game that helps incoming students feel more comfortable with beginning the school year in an unfamiliar building.

 Cindy Elsberry is the former superintendent of Horry County Schools in South Carolina. The diverse, high-poverty district won national acclaim for its digital transformation under her leadership and was rated as one of the state’s highest-performing districts.

As one of today’s most promising models for instruction, blended learning is growing rapidly across the country. But what really is blended learning, and how can educators use it to improve student outcomes?

Click to enlarge: Facebook is the most popular platform among teachers while school and district administrators prefer Twitter. (Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company)

Deeper family engagement and PD are among the top priorities for educators, according to the second annual Educator Confidence Report from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fifty-eight percent of the more than 1,000 educators surveyed desire more parent and family engagement while 84 percent spend their own money on professional learning opportunities.

The Lafayette Parish School System was granted E-Rate funds to fully upgrade the district and to provide 1-to-1 devices to students by 2020.

E-Rate funds kept at least one district connected to the internet through testing—and opened the door for a 1-to-1 initiative rolling out this fall.

The Lafayette Parish School System in Louisiana used to restrict internet access, only granting certain streaming websites to teachers by request. For example, music teachers would be the only ones with access to streaming music—locking out others in the district. And during state testing, schools would disable streaming to ensure exams were not affected.

Measuring movement: The Polar GoFit Ecosystem includes a wristband or chest-based heart rate monitor and fitness assessment software to measure a student’s physical intensity and exertion.

Digitizing education content and learning processes has changed the way students learn and interact during classroom sessions, according to Technavio’s report, “Classroom Wearables Technology Market in the U.S. 2016-2020.”

So classrooms emphasize collaborative learning and visual learning, says Technavio analyst Jhansi Mary J.

Using wearable technology will significantly increase student engagement levels and improve content absorption abilities, says Jhansi Mary J.

A middle school student at Tustin USD in California uses an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The devices have been used in a pilot project at an elementary school and tested at a high school.

As smartwatches, wristbands, headsets and other wearable products become more sophisticated, expect to see classroom networks of these “ultramobile” devices interacting with each other and enabling students and teachers to share digital information as never before.

Teacher and employee engagement has been found to be a crucial component in the success of a school district, by positively impacting student achievement, improving employee retention and reducing turnover. But recent surveys have found that a large percentage of teachers report that they are not emotionally connected with their workplaces, and they were the least likely of all professionals surveyed to say that they felt their opinions mattered or to describe their workplace as an open and trusting environment.
How can district leaders address this common challenge?

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