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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Empathize: Gather information from users In action: Fourth-graders in Colorado solicited ideas from local residents to help their city redesign a local park.

Define: Frame the problem In action: Administrators in Glenbrook High Schools District 225 considered student experience when redesigning classrooms. They chose furniture that let learners move around. 

Some call design thinking a revolution in learning, while others see it as just the latest fad, better left to Silicon Valley charter schools.

Though not yet used widely in special education, virtual and augmented reality have the potential to be game-changers.

Dan Phillips, director of the Technology Resource Center at the Marin County Office of Education in California, has given VR headsets to children in wheelchairs, allowing them to walk and move virtually as they work on a 3D digital science curriculum.

Digital games excel at building a range of skills without students realizing they are “learning,” says Marissa Miller, a special education teacher at Warwick Neck Elementary, which is part of Warwick Public Schools in Rhode Island.

Some of these games come with puzzle pieces, styluses and other physical components.


Link to main story: Edtech equalizers in special education 

Students who have significant physical disabilities can benefit greatly from advances in “eye-gaze technology.”

With various platforms, students move their eyes to type letters or select pre-programed phrases. They can also navigate the internet and use computer programs with eye movements.


Link to main story: Edtech equalizers in special education 

TOUCH POINTS—Apps have provided new, more nimble learning alternatives at Kent Intermediate School District in Michigan.

More elaborate technology has opened up more possibilities for students with a range of needs. In some schools, robots now help children develop social-emotional skills.

Peter DeWitt is a professional development coach and the creator of Collaborative Leadership, a PD service that combines transformational and instructional leadership, and that includes ways to engage the school community with a focus on learning.

Collaborative Leadership is a series of one to four workshops focusing on research-based influences that can foster a supportive and inclusive school climate, increase academic and social-emotional learning, and maximize the efficacy of every school stakeholder.

This spring, schools have experienced a profound increase in student suicides and attempts, as well as school shootings. Recognize that as bad as things have been this spring, things are likely to be worse next fall. Contention over race, origin, LGBTQ, and sexual assault/harassment will increase, along with contention over gun control in the context of a focus on school shootings. Schools must be prepared to go into the 2018-19 school year.

KOHLER, Wisconsin—When Superintendent Quynh Trueblood’s mind races in the middle of the night, she quickly finds herself using a mixing bowl and her oven. 

“When I bring in baked goods, people in the district know I couldn’t sleep,” says Trueblood, who has led the single-building Kohler Public Schools in Wisconsin for the past six years. 

“I slept so well when I was a teacher—I used to be a 10-hour-a-night sleeper, now I’m a 3-in-the-morning waker-upper.” 

Looking to illustrate an abstract concept from a novel she’d read, an Oklahoma high school student turned to her building-level school librarian. Then, with the school librarian’s encouragement to tinker in the makerspace, the girl sculpted a clay model of a kneeling woman balancing a 3D-printed replica of the earth on her back.

Roberto Padilla is superintendent of the Newburgh Enlarged City School District in New York. Nancy Gutiérrez is chief strategy officer for the NYC Leadership Academy.

Turnaround leaders need to respond with urgency and make key changes quickly while establishing a vision and a strong team to carry out that vision.

These district solutions serve as models for other districts, and cover the K12 spectrum, from English language learners to dropout prevention to data-driven decision-making to water conservation.

The 45 schools and systems recognized by this year’s District of Distinction program have created homegrown initiatives to support students’ social-emotional development, to provide powerful new opportunities for career-focused STEM learning and to improve the skills of educators.

NMSI’s mantra is that education empowers opportunity. How have you experienced that?

A K8 school district in Southern California was focusing efforts on increasing the proficiency of its English language learners, a population that makes up 32 percent of its students. It also sought to reclassify as many ELLs as possible before middle school—a time when the defeatist mindset usually sets in.

The process to select a new elementary math program for Columbia Public Schools began four years ago. K12 Math Coordinator Dana Hibbard located the highest-performing schools in Missouri and selected their top two math programs for piloting in her district of 18,555 students.

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