All posts by vsteadmin

Federal Budget Threatens to Starve Education

From the ISTE Advocacy Network:

On March 16, 2017, The White House released the President's proposed "Skinny Budget" for FY18, a streamlined blueprint for next year's budget that does not contain much detail about specific changes. What is clear from this Skinny Budget is that the President is attempting to make good on his previously announced plans to shift $54 billion in domestic discretionary funding to defense spending and that the Department of Education would be one of the federal agencies that would suffer significant funding losses as a result. For education, the Skinny Budget proposes to cut $9 billion in funding, which it represents as a 13.5 percent decrease, below the current FY 17 levels.  While the Skinny Budget is silent on the ISTE-supported Title IV, Part A flexible block grant program, which would provide districts with funding for educational technology, it remains possible that the Administration will seek low or no funding for this program as the funding process plays out. While it is ultimately up to Congress to dispose of the President's proposals through the appropriations process and some Republican members have expressed skepticism about the President's proposals already, some significant education cuts are likely in the end.

If the Department of Education's overall funding level of $59 billion becomes law, it will take federal education support back to approximately FY08 levels. In his budget proposal,the President attains the majority of his cuts through eliminating: the $2.25 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program, a block grant that school districts use to hire and train teachers and administrators; the $1.2 billion 21stCentury Community Learning Centers program, which provides funding for after school and summer programs; the $732 million Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity program, a higher education need-based aid program; and the $3.9 billion Pell Grant surplus. The Skinny Budget also indicates that more than 20 other programs would be eliminated, including the Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs. The budget would protect IDEA, funding it at the same level as last year, and increase Title I funding but with a school choice twist.

The central aim of the President's education funding proposals is to begin to shift a significant share of federal dollars towards supporting his goal of providing parents and students greater school choice. The Skinny Budget would accomplish this in three ways:

  • adding $168 million to the existing Charter Schools Grant program;
  • establishing a new private school choice program (no details provided) and funding it at $250 million; and
  • increasing Title I by $1 billion but allowing those funds to move with students to public schools of their choice.

This last move, known as Title I portability, was the subject of intense debate during the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but Congress did not incorporate the concept into the final Every Student Succeeds Act.

Now is the time to get involved and let your Congressional representative know that you support public education. Not sure who represents you? Start here.

To keep up to date with the budget and other issues, join the ISTE Advocacy Network.

No Longer the Sage on the Stage

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. For this edition, Board Vice Chairperson Michael Speidel discusses his own path to personalized learning. 

No Longer the Sage on the Stage.

I have long been an individual who believes that, if you would like your school to change its instructional practices, you must model and be the change that you wish to see.  A few years ago, while conducting a professional development session on how to use our learning management system, I came to the realization that the individuals in the class were all at very different points in their learning. That evening, I struggled with ways that I could meet the needs of all of the learners in the professional development session.

The next day, I developed a “choose your own adventure” professional development activity based on our learning management system. Teachers in the next session would take a pre-assessment that would determine where they would begin their training. Because this was during the “flipped” classroom craze, much of the choose your own adventure professional development was done via YouTube videos that I had created. Besides some of the odd looks that I got from participants as I explained how they were going to learn about our learning management system, the other interesting reaction was that of fellow presenters. Many other presenters looked at me with a “Okay… what do I do now?” face. The presenters were so used to being the sage on the stage that initially this new method of training was something that was uncomfortable to them. Slowly, they began to understand that they could be the coach on the side and help all of the learners meet their needs at one time. This was my initial introduction to personalized learning.

Why Personalized Learning?

This past summer I read a book by Todd Rose called The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness. In the book, Rose details the history of how the concept of the average individual came to be. There is one example in the book that struck me which was the transition from propeller planes to jet engines. Prior to 1950, all Air Force cockpits were designed around the average pilot.  The US Air Force would measure pilots on 10 various body measurements and then design a cockpit around the average measurement of those 10 standards. As the US Air Force transitioned to jet airplanes, they found an increased number of pilot related crashes. Confused about what could be the cause of these crashes, the US Air Force commissioned a study to re-measure 5000 pilots to see if the average measurements had changed and were resulting in the pilot related crashes. The Air Force believed that, if they designed the cockpit around these average measurements, they would have designed a cockpit that would work for the majority of US pilots. When the study was completed, the US Air Force found that, of the 5000 pilots who were measured, not one pilot had the same body measurements as the “average” pilot would have, so they had developed a cockpit that works for no one!

When you think about today’s society, it is a society that is based on the average. Admissions offices, HR departments, banks and doctors make life-changing decisions based on averages. As a matter of fact our entire educational system is based on the systems of average.  When you think about all of the students that you had in your classroom as an educator, you know that all those students had strengths and weaknesses. There were no two students who were the same, and there is no such thing as the “average” student. In fact, there is no such thing as the average teacher, the average administrator, or even the average school. This simple yet flawed theory is the reason why personalized learning is so important.

Personalized Learning vs Personal Learning

The terms “personal” and “personalized” have become buzzwords in both technological and educational spheres, with “personal” learning environments and “personalized” search engine results making headlines. Often, the terms are used interchangeably. The difference between personalized learning and personal learning sometimes seems like a matter of semantics, but that could be that terms are used interchangeably when they’re actually not the same.

In a personalized learning environment, much of the content is served up through various platforms; many that are specific to content. Often, these are educational platforms that do not leave much room for personalization. Personalization of learning comes in with how the educator designs their lessons. Personalized learning is like being served at a restaurant. Someone else selects the food and prepares it. There is some customization – you can tell the waiter how you want your meat cooked – but essentially everyone at the restaurant gets the same experience.

On the other hand, in a personal learning environment the learner is the individual who gets to select what and how they wish to learn. Often, personal learning is an item that is equated to project-based learning. Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store; You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

Ultimately, if students are to become lifelong learners, they need to be able to learn though a method that works for them. Students need to understand how to forge their own processes, and we as educators, have the responsibility to ensure that they have the necessary skills and tools to meet their varied needs.

Michael Speidel is an instructional designer for Virtual Loudoun at Loudoun County Public Schools. 

 

Big Deal Book, March 15, 2017

VSTE partners with Big Deal Media to bring you the best in online resources for digital learning and professional development plus grant and competition opportunities and more. In this edition, you can Start Tinkering, Enhance Visual Literacy, Connect with Nature & More.

Here are a few of our favorites from this edition...be sure to check the full Big Deal Book for more great resources!

STEAM Design Competition

The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum’s National High School Design Competition: Good For All is open to all youth aged 13–19 who are high school students in grades 9–12 anywhere in the United States.

Virtual Journey Through Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

With Shakespeare’s Globe 360, students can step inside the famous Globe Theatre in England and discover how it was constructed, see what it would have looked like years ago, and learn about theater life in that time.

Digitized Recordings of FDR’s Speeches

The Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum allows teachers to bring President Franklin D. Roosevelt right into their classrooms with digitized recordings of his most important speeches.

Big Deal Book, March 15, 2017

Not everything in the Book is time sensitive so be sure to check out the archives.

Measuring the Technology Return on Investment, Part II

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board member Meg Swecker will talk about the approach used by Roanoke County Public Schools. Last week, Janet Copenhaver shared the strategies from Henry County Public Schools. Janet and Meg have worked together on many projects in technology that benefitted the school divisions in the Commonwealth.  Their designs are easily replicated and measurable. 

How Two School Divisions Measured a Return on Instruction for their Technology
Part 1: Roanoke County Public Schools

In today's world, most school divisions have chosen a device to use instructionally with their students. After the device is implemented, the real question becomes, how do you prove real outcomes on your investment for instruction? A successful implementation that is instructional driven is much easier to chart outcomes. As you move forward with technology, there are many measures you can use to calculate your Return on Instruction. 

MEASURING RETURN ON INSTRUCTION FOR ROANOKE COUNTY SCHOOLS.

For over a decade, RCPS has maintained a robust 1:1 program in grades 9-12. In recent years, the 1:1 program was piloted in in our middle schools.  Currently, grades 7-12 are involved in our 1:1 program, and we hope to expand the program in future years.

Feedback from parents, local businesses, and higher Ed institutions indicate that Roanoke County students are better prepared for a life after graduation based on their participation in the 1:1 program.  Regular use of Microsoft Office programs and 24/7 learning via Blackboard familiarize our students with skills they will need as the move on to college or into the workforce, and access to a laptop 24/7 deepens learning opportunities that many students, and their families wouldn’t otherwise have.  But our instructional practices take students beyond the Virginia standards and support the development of less measurable soft skills, as well. 21st Century skills are a focus of our comprehensive plan and embedded in RCPS instruction.

An example of this is a year-long program that was implemented during our 8thgrade 1:1 pilot.  The Be the Change project challenged 8th graders to identity, research, and connect with, agents of change.  The students selected change agents based on their own personal interests and passions.  Cultural diversity, animals rights, hunger, clean water, special needs, and women’s health, were just some of the topics that students connected with.  Based on this description, you might be inclined to think that the parameters of this project were not that different from other good projects for students of this age. But the technology involved, and the way it was used, gave us a much deeper ROI.

Using their personal interests and passions, the students in the Be the Changeproject selected historical change agents to research.  They were then added to a group of students who were studying the same historical figure.  Each group was comprised of students in their own school, although not necessarily from their own class, as well as students from our neighboring district, Roanoke City Public Schools.  The groups met at local public libraries on three occasions throughout the year, but the rest of the work happened digitally.  Students collaborated via Office 365 to accomplish their tasks.

Students worked collaboratively to research and presented information about their historical agent of change. The presentations were well done, but the overall impression was that these individuals were somehow above the norm.  The students didn’t really connect with the idea that their actions could create positive change in the community.

The next phase of the project was closer to home.  Based on the original interest that the students in each group selected, local agents of change were identified. These individuals were working in our own communities to make positive changes.  The teachers approached these individuals, explained the project, and asked the local change agents to mentor a group.  The response from our local community was overwhelming positive. In our second face to face meeting, groups met their mentors, interviewed them, and learned how regular people from their own communities worked every day to make a difference.

The culminating project for each group involved designing a 30 second PSA based on the information gleaned in the interview with each mentor. The PSA needed to be developed for the mentor’s target audience and had to be easily shared via social media or television.  The students used Office Mix to create artifacts that were broadcast ready.  Most were unfamiliar with Office Mix, however, and had to learn how to use this tool.  Once students understood how to use Office Mix, they created tutorials for their counterparts in Roanoke City. The tutorials were also shared with mentors who expressed interest.

To celebrate the completion of this project, community leaders, mentors, family members, teachers and students met on a Sunday afternoon at a public library. The students shared their PSAs and talked visitors about the changes that were occurring in our community.  It was a celebration that inspired all of us.  The students had transformed. They knew they could make a difference, and they knew how.

The ROI from this project goes far beyond the development of research skills and the use of software.  Students from very different social cultures worked together, based on shared passions. Working together helped them embrace the differences in their cultures and they developed a respect for each other that otherwise might never have existed.  They collaborated in a digital workspace and overcame the challenges associated with not working together in a physical environment. They connected with experts in the community and created artifacts that would further positive changes in our area.  More than all of this, they students learned that they had a voice and the ability to make a positive change in their own communities and beyond.

Quality instruction has always been a focus for Roanoke County Public schools, and the meaningful integration of technology has played a major role.  The Be the Change project is just one example of deeper learning that could not have happened without technology.

Meg Swecker is an ITRT currently working with the Roanoke County School system.  

Big Deal Book, March 1, 2017

VSTE partners with Big Deal Media to bring you the best in online resources for digital learning and professional development plus grant and competition opportunities and more. In this edition, you can Promote Inclusiveness, Integrate Design Thinking, Shape Recess & More.

Here are a few of our favorites from this edition...be sure to check the full Big Deal Book for more great resources!

Design Education in All Disciplines

The Smithsonian Cooper HewittNational Design Museum offers several resources on how to integrate design-thinking connections into the K–12 classroom.

Contest on the Relevance of Thoreau’s Ideas

Each year the Live Deliberately Essay Contest, sponsored by the Walden Woods Foundation, invites youth aged 14–21 from around the world to respond to a selected quotation from Henry David Thoreau,reflecting on how his words and ideas are still alive and relevant in their lives and in the world.

Digital Archive of Historical Documents

The Nat Turner Project’s digital archive lets students read original documents related to the only large-scale slave revolt ever to occur in the United States.

Big Deal Book, March 1, 2017

Not everything in the Book is time sensitive so be sure to check out the archives.

Measuring The Technology Return on Instruction, Part I

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board member Janet Copenhaver describes how Henry County Public Schools measured their Return on Instruction as they implemented a 1:1 program. Next week, Board members Meg Swecker will talk about the approach used by Roanoke County Public Schools. Janet and Meg have worked together on many projects in technology that benefitted the school divisions in the Commonwealth.  Their designs are easily replicated and measurable. 

How Two School Divisions Measured a Return on Instruction for their Technology
Part 1: Henry County Public Schools

In today's world, most school divisions have chosen a device to use instructionally with their students. After the device is implemented, the real question becomes, how do you prove real outcomes on your investment for instruction? A successful implementation that is instructional driven is much easier to chart outcomes. As you move forward with technology, there are many measures you can use to calculate your Return on Instruction. IThis blog is a discussion on how two school divisions measure their Technology Return on Instruction!

The first school division is Henry County Public Schools and how they used devices and students, and new learning spaces to measure their ROI.

In my years as a technology innovator I found several factors weigh heavily on usage, student improved achievement, student engagement and your real outcomes our your ROI (Return on Instruction.) In 1998, my division implemented one of the first laptop initiatives in the Commonwealth.  The laptops went home with students and had an external wireless card.  One of the many things I remember when starting our wireless laptop initiative was other technology personnel calling us "radical" and wondering why anyone would want a wireless laptop.  Yes, that was just a short 18 years ago. Imagine what would have happened in technology if those of who chose to think differently had listened to people who called us radical and told us to stop what we were doing with new technologies. We quickly discovered that laptops were not durable enough to go home with students every day so brought the laptops back into school and used them in carts for teachers to checkout with their class. This was our first ROI as these devices were used instructionally in all core classes and used for online testing. Move forward a few years and our school division was one of four divisions chosen to try the Virginia Department of Education's "Beyond Textbooks Pilot. " We were allowed 40 devices (iPads) and 40 digital textbooks. Two determining factors and questions were to be determined by the pilot.  The first one was, Are divisions ready to adapt to digital textbooks? and the second  was, Are textbooks companies  ready and willing to supply digital textbooks? The pilot ran a year and data was collected to determines successes and challenges.As a division, we decided to implement two grade levels with the digital textbook and device so purchased an iPad for each third and fourth grade student.

We also contacted the textbook company and they allowed us to use the digital copy on all of our devices.  We also worked with other textbook companies until we were able to use some form of digital textbook in all four-core subjects.  This became our second ROI as all third and fourth grade students had their textbooks digitally on their device.  The device went home with the students so no heavy book bags were needed.  A survey was conducted with parents to determine if students read more, did their homework more quickly, and was more engaged with their digital books and device.  The answers were not surprising.  Most parents stated that their student was more engaged at home with their device.  Parents also added comments that the device opened up a new channel of communication between parents and students on many subjects including homework and being a digital citizen. The return on Instruction was measured on engagement and homework with our students.

Check out our video on our implementation from the eyes of a former fourth grade student:  https://youtu.be/b-v88QZeRfs

 

Still moving forward a few years, we implemented a 1:1 device in grades 3-8.  However, we found that textbooks companies still did not have the desire to implement textbooks that could be downloaded on the devices to be used without Internet access. Our next step was to find activities that our students could use the devices in school and after school hours.  We began in our libraries.  Librarian purchased eBooks, which could be checked out on the devices. Teachers researched and added appropriate grade level apps and activities on the devices.  Our devices were used as a tool for instructional activities 24/7 and could easily be tracked for homework activities.

As we moved forward, we decided our devices needed new environments.

We first changed our library environment spaces to challenge our students to collaborate, think critically, communicate and create. This is a sample of how our media center looks at this time.  Notice the stage that students can sit on and listen or read.  We redid the tile, painted the walls, and added new technologies.  This video shows an elementary library that has been transformed into a learning commons space.  Notice the stage that students can use to sit on rather than their chairs.   https://youtu.be/iLEtRplmQWw In some instances just getting new paint, new tiles, new furniture and branding the new collaborative center with technology and maker spaces encouraged the students to use their devices to create and to share activities with their peers.  Moving forward, the librarians were trained on coding and other STEM activities and integrated these into their lesson plans for all elementary grade levels.

We believe it is very important for students to use technology in an environment that is conducive to collaboration and creativity.  These new learning spaces are ways our students use their technology for return on Instruction.

In our two high schools students may opt to attend one of our academies based on the New Tech concept.  Students are issued a laptop to use 24/7 and are required to work with their peers to design and create projects.  These two academies use devices to  solve and create solutions for the community as well as for the school division.  Their return on instruction is helping businesses in our community with web pages, instructional artifacts, and creating schedules for activities.  Their technology is used every day for collaboration, communication, creativity and think critically.

Janet Copenhaver is the retired Director of Technology from Henry County Public Schools.

Meg Swecker is an ITRT currently working with the Roanoke County School system.

MEASURING RETURN ON INSTRUCTION FOR ROANOKE COUNTY SCHOOLS.

For over a decade, RCPS has maintained a robust 1:1 program in grades 9-12. In recent years, the 1:1 program was piloted in in our middle schools.  Currently, grades 7-12 are involved in our 1:1 program, and we hope to expand the program in future years.

Feedback from parents, local businesses, and higher Ed institutions indicate that Roanoke County students are better prepared for a life after graduation based on their participation in the 1:1 program.  Regular use of Microsoft Office programs and 24/7 learning via Blackboard familiarize our students with skills they will need as the move on to college or into the workforce, and access to a laptop 24/7 deepens learning opportunities that many students, and their families wouldn’t otherwise have.  But our instructional practices take students beyond the Virginia standards and support the development of less measurable soft skills, as well. 21st Century skills are a focus of our comprehensive plan and embedded in RCPS instruction.

An example of this is a year-long program that was implemented during our 8thgrade 1:1 pilot.  The Be the Change project challenged 8th graders to identity, research, and connect with, agents of change.  The students selected change agents based on their own personal interests and passions.  Cultural diversity, animals rights, hunger, clean water, special needs, and women’s health, were just some of the topics that students connected with.  Based on this description, you might be inclined to think that the parameters of this project were not that different from other good projects for students of this age. But the technology involved, and the way it was used, gave us a much deeper ROI.

Using their personal interests and passions, the students in the Be the Changeproject selected historical change agents to research.  They were then added to a group of students who were studying the same historical figure.  Each group was comprised of students in their own school, although not necessarily from their own class, as well as students from our neighboring district, Roanoke City Public Schools.  The groups met at local public libraries on three occasions throughout the year, but the rest of the work happened digitally.  Students collaborated via Office 365 to accomplish their tasks.

Students worked collaboratively to research and presented information about their historical agent of change. The presentations were well done, but the overall impression was that these individuals were somehow above the norm.  The students didn’t really connect with the idea that their actions could create positive change in the community.

The next phase of the project was closer to home.  Based on the original interest that the students in each group selected, local agents of change were identified. These individuals were working in our own communities to make positive changes.  The teachers approached these individuals, explained the project, and asked the local change agents to mentor a group.  The response from our local community was overwhelming positive. In our second face to face meeting, groups met their mentors, interviewed them, and learned how regular people from their own communities worked every day to make a difference.

The culminating project for each group involved designing a 30 second PSA based on the information gleaned in the interview with each mentor. The PSA needed to be developed for the mentor’s target audience and had to be easily shared via social media or television.  The students used Office Mix to create artifacts that were broadcast ready.  Most were unfamiliar with Office Mix, however, and had to learn how to use this tool.  Once students understood how to use Office Mix, they created tutorials for their counterparts in Roanoke City. The tutorials were also shared with mentors who expressed interest.

To celebrate the completion of this project, community leaders, mentors, family members, teachers and students met on a Sunday afternoon at a public library. The students shared their PSAs and talked visitors about the changes that were occurring in our community.  It was a celebration that inspired all of us.  The students had transformed. They knew they could make a difference, and they knew how.  Special Olympics PSA   Angels of Assisi PSA

The ROI from this project goes far beyond the development of research skills and the use of software.  Students from very different social cultures worked together, based on shared passions. Working together helped them embrace the differences in their cultures and they developed a respect for each other that otherwise might never have existed.  They collaborated in a digital workspace and overcame the challenges associated with not working together in a physical environment. They connected with experts in the community and created artifacts that would further positive changes in our area.  More than all of this, they students learned that they had a voice and the ability to make a positive change in their own communities and beyond.

Quality instruction has always been a focus for Roanoke County Public schools, and the meaningful integration of technology has played a major role.  The Be the Change project is just one example of deeper learning that could not have happened without technology.

ISTE 2017 Program Available Now

Educator-tested strategies. Extraordinary resources for transforming learning and teaching. Renowned presenters. And an enormous, interactive expo hall.

That’s what you’ll find at ISTE 2017.

Check out the full program, now live, then begin personalizing your learning by choosing from more than 1,000 sessions! Learn the way you like by selecting from lectures, BYODs and hands-on learning environments.

Not yet registered? Sign up now to connect with like-minded teachers at ISTE 2017 June 25-28 in San Antonio.

Super Early Bird Pricing Ends March 1, 2017.

Extraordinary educators. Extraordinary professional development. ISTE 2017.

Big Deal Book, February 15, 2017

VSTE partners with Big Deal Media to bring you the best in online resources for digital learning and professional development plues grant and competition opportunities and more. In this edition, you can Connect Math to Music, Unravel Science Mysteries, Redesign Art & More.

Here are a few of our favorites from this edition...be sure to check the full Big Deal Book for more great resources!

Math Ideas with Liberal Arts Connections

Developed at Westfield State University in Massachusetts, Discovering the Art of Mathematics: Mathematical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts is publicly available through a collection of free books and workshops.

Immersive Virtual Reality Experiences

Developed by The New York Times, the NYT VR app for iOS and Android puts users at the center of stories in an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience.

Program Spotlighting Frederick Douglass’s Legacy

Frederick Douglass spent his life fighting for justice and equality. Born into slavery in 1818, he escaped as a young man and became a leading voice in the abolitionist movement.

Big Deal Book, February 15, 2017

Not everything in the Book is time sensitive so be sure to check out the archives.

Archived Recording Available: CETL Certification Webinar, March 14, 2017

Archive Webinar Recording

The VSTE CoSN Council will be sponsoring a free informational webinar about the Certified Education Technology Leaders (CETL) certification on March 14, 2017, at 4:30 PM. The webinar will be hosted by Tim Tillman, Director of Technology and Learning, Colonial Heights Public Schools, a CETL certified leader. Tim will discuss the certification in general and, for those who are currently studying for the exam, offer tips and techniques for preparing and taking the test.

CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. As part of its mission, CoSN sponsors the Certified Education Technology Leaders (CETL) certification.  Earning the CETL certification will demonstrate that you have mastered the knowledge and skills needed to successfully build 21st century learning environments in your district. You can learn more about certification here.

The webinar is complimentary but we are asking for registration. Please use this form to let us now if you plan to attend: https://goo.gl/forms/xFSP4sATUrnMdZK02

The webinar will take place in VSTE's Adobe Connect room: http://vste.adobeconnect.com/vstelive.

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