Teachers Now “Pinning” Common Core Resources in MasteryConnect

MasteryConnect is focused on changing the paradigm from the traditional letter-based grading to a mastery-based system where student learning relative to standards can be viewed in real-time.  The site has really caught fire: teachers and administrators are registered with accounts in over 9,000 school districts and 28,000 schools.  These MasteryConnect users have scored over 7.3 million standards for mastery and uploaded more than 48,000 assessments to the MasteryConnect Learning Community. MasteryConnect has become the largest network for sharing assessments around both state and Common Core standards, and now they’ve launched a tool to help teachers “pin”, find, and share standards-aligned resources.

I visited the MasteryConnect team in Salt Lake a few weeks ago right after they launched updates to the site. After watching the team in action, I noticed that they are always learning and asking for feedback. In addition to having a number of teachers on staff, MasteryConnect keeps an intense focus on listening to teachers in the schools and districts they serve, and translating that feedback into immediate changes and improvements in their product.

Recently, MasteryConnect unveiled a cool, social bookmarking feature for standards aligned resources. Much like the Pinterest paradigm of social bookmarking, teachers find or upload any resource on the web, align it to a state or Common Core standard, and “pin” it to a board or collection. Like MasteryConnect’s community of teacher-created formative assessments, it seems that MasteryConnect is at it again, working to create the biggest collection of resources for the Common Core.

Besides this great new tool for the Common Core, here are the top ten features that teachers love most about MasteryConnect:

  1. The MasteryTracker – shows current student mastery relative to Common Core and/or state standards.

  2. Time-saving assessment tools – allow instant data collection through plain paper bubble sheets using GradeCam, or through the MasteryConnect Assessment App on any tablet or mobile device.

  3. Ability to assess with multiple content types, including the new Technology Enhanced Item type.

  4. Curriculum Maps/Scope & Sequence Planning – allow districts and teams to organize standards, assessments, and resources into units and deliver them electronically to teachers.

  5. Free Common Core App – all the standards in one convenient app, that has been downloaded by educators and parents over 650,000.  Get it on iOS, Windows, and Android.

  6. Item Bank Integration – ability to create assessments using content such as The Formative Assessment Item Bank (FAIB) from NWEA.  Look for an announcement soon about an item bank partnership with Pearson and MasteryConnect.

  7. A free and active Professional Learning Community – where teachers from over 28,000 schools across the country sharing standards-aligned assessments and resources.

  8. News feed & collaboration tools – around standards, assessments, resources, and data – notifies teachers of new activity from others within their network.

  9. Easy to manage RTI – tools for remediation and re-teaching.

  10. Class, parent, school, and district level reporting tools – makes it easy for teachers and administrators to compare and collaborate around data driven by common assessments and compare that data to benchmark level data.  MasteryConnect can gives parents a real-time window into what their student is learning.

Teachers and administrators aren’t the only ones taking notice of MasteryConnect. In 2012, MasteryConnect announced their partnership with Solution Tree, a PD company focused on PLCs.  Early in 2013, MasteryConnect completed a Series A round of financing of $4.25 million dollars. Investors included Catamount Ventures, The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Learn Capital, and GSV Advisors. The investment round marked Michael and Susan Dell Foundation’s first program-related investment in the U.S.

MasteryConnect’s Common Core App is THE most downloaded app for the Common Core and provides a resource for parents and educators alike. The integrated Common Core app for iOS, Android, and Windows devices has been downloaded over 650,000 times.  MasteryConnect is currently working on a new app, in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that will be launching in August 2013.

Technology Enhanced Items, one of the recent buzz words in education, are what the Smarter Balanced Consortium calls “computer delivered items that include specialized interactions for collecting response data”. MasteryConnect supports Technology Enhanced Items by using the latest in Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) standards for assessment items that allows them to work with any QTI compliant item bank developing these new assessment item types.

Learn more about the new “Resource Pin” feature as well as the impact MasteryConnect is having on student outcomes in their latest videos:


Disclosures: Mastery Connect is a Learn Capital portfolio company where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.

Cookeville High School Builds Rigor Online with Compass Learning

Lane Ward, principal of  Cookeville High School (CHS) in Putnam County School System in Cookeville, Tennessee, started to the summer of 2012 looking to find the best partner for their various digital content needs with several goals in mind. “We were determined to find an online tool that provided more rigor and more accountability for our Credit Recovery Program,” he explains. “The tool we’d been using wasn’t cutting it. It had gotten to the point where credit recovery was an ‘easy out’ for our students, and it was impacting their efforts in the regular classroom.”
The district purchased CompassLearning Odyssey in July 2012 to use across all schools and grades. Since implementation, nearly 9,000 of its approximately 10,000 students have completed more than 480,000 Odyssey activities.
Ward immediately made three important investments to successfully implement CompassLearning Odyssey on the CHS campus. “First, I identified and dedicated the physical space
to establish two computer labs. Second, I allocated resources to purchase the necessary hardware. And third, I hired the right people to fully staff our two new labs.”
That fall, CHS began utilizing Compass Learning as an intervention tool. The intent was to keep students on track within their classrooms, and out of the school’s traditional Credit Recovery Program. When students fell behind in class, their teachers created standards-based assignments in Odyssey
that targeted the specific skills with which they were struggling. Each student received personalized learning paths that zeroed in on their unique knowledge gaps, which they worked on during designated lab times to accelerate closure and bring them back up-to-speed. This program resulted in 33 percent fewer students (compared to the previous year) who were required to attend credit recovery classes.
“What we’ve quickly discovered about CompassLearning Odyssey as a credit recovery/ intervention tool is it helps stop the domino effect that typically occurs when students fall behind,” Ward explains. “Before, when a student failed Algebra I, for example, he took the online course, recovered the credit, and then moved on to Algebra II and/or Geometry. But, our previous program lacked the necessary rigor to gain foundational knowledge of basic algebra, so this same student found himself struggling, once again. Because Odyssey is so much more rigorous and requires mastery of standards, students get on track and are better able to stay on track as they move through sequential courses.”
CompassLearning Odyssey is also used for intervention in CHS’s intercession program, open labs held during the first week of spring break instead of the first week of fall break. Targeted students complete assignments in Odyssey for remediation/grade recovery. Additionally, Cookeville High School participates in the county-wide benchmarks that are administered through Odyssey. The benchmarks are created by district instructional coaches and target key standards taught each nine weeks. The assessments are administered after the teaching occurs in the classrooms; learning paths are then created for students and serve as a re-teaching tool. In addition, CHS uses Odyssey for homebound students, optional student enrichment, and blended learning activities.

Facilitator Key shares a story about one student he’s been working with in his lab who is having great success. “This particular student really likes the transparency and consistency of CompassLearning Odyssey. The program clearly details where she needs to go and the steps she needs to take to get there. And, she really benefits from the scaffolded help, like the examples and embedded definitions.
In just one semester, this 12th grader will recover five credits using CompassLearning Odyssey. This is a student who was considering dropping out of school, and now she’s on track to graduate with her class.”
Ward has a very different example of how Compass Learning is impacting students at CHS. “One of our seniors is participating in the Tennessee governor’s upcoming roundtable discussion on the state of education,” he explains. “Among the questions participants will discuss at the roundtable is, ‘What are some of the initiatives you’ve been exposed to in the past several years that have had a positive impact on your educational achievement?’
“This student plans to cite CompassLearning Odyssey as one example, because she has used the tool for credit advancement. A very bright, motivated, active student — involved in numerous service organizations, clubs, student government, and  the campus newspaper — Odyssey gave her the opportunity to take a required elective online, which helped create much-needed room and flexibility in her busy schedule.”
Disclosures: CompassLearning is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

How to Learn ANYTHING in a Year

A few months ago, I blogged about how to crack the talent code. My premise was that anyone could become really good, beyond good, at pretty much anything. My process was this:
1. Start with something you’re passionate about learning. This could be game design, guitar, algebra, taekwondo, whatever, but start with something you really care about. Once you master the talent code process and see the results, you can then apply the method to learning anything.
2. Dedicate time to your passion every day. Practice it. Study the parts you are working on for a “deep practice.” Take time each day to work on a weak skill or practice something new. Some days you will just have “maintenance” practice to keep the streak going. Maintenance practice might only last 5 or 10 minutes, but it’s a strong message to the brain that this is important.
3. Track your progress on a goal-tracking app. This helps keep you accountable.
4. Your passions PLUS the unbroken streak of practice days will keep you going. The streak itself will function as a second motivator.
5. Find a mentor. That can be a real person or a YouTube mentor. There are thousands of them.
I had a few case studies of my own for the talent code, but I’ve found the ideal practitioner of this formula. Actually, she found us. Karen Cheng’s video on how she learned to dance in a year has gone viral. Check it out:

It’s pretty amazing to see Cheng’s transformation over the course of a year. Even better is her method. She cracked the dance talent-code using virtually the exact process that I just outlined.
This has practical applications for us as educators. If we can use a process to achieve the things we are passionate about, we can use that same process to find success in things that we not yet passionate about, but that we understand are important for us and our future.
Let’s deconstruct Cheng’s video and tap into her philosophy. Here are excerpts from her YouTube channel and website.
Cheng is passionate about dancing:

Here’s my secret: I practiced everywhere. At bus stops. In line at the grocery store. At work–using the mouse with my right hand and practicing drills with my left hand. You don’t have to train hardcore for years to become a dancer. But you must be willing to practice and you better be hungry.

Cheng tracks her goals and practices every day. Her practices range from regular practice, to deep practice, to maintenance:

When Jerry Seinfeld was trying to make it as a comedian, he used a simple trick. Every day he wrote jokes, he marked an “X” in his calendar. Pretty soon he had a streak he didn’t want to break.
Practice every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. No exceptions. If I’m not feeling well, I’ll practice exercises that use only my fingers or arms. If I’m really sick, I’ll close my eyes, listen to music, and visualize myself dancing. I use Lift to help keep myself accountable.

Cheng sets goals that are measurable and achievable:

Don’t define your self-worth against things you cannot control. Set goals you can control and measure yourself against those instead. I started with a promise to dance at least 5 minutes every day. When I got more into it, I upped my goal to 14 hours a week, about 2 hours a day.

Rethink what goals are. For instance, should winning an Academy Award be a goal for a screenwriter? If a screenwriter doesn’t win one, does that mean his or her career was a failure? Of course not. Like Cheng insists, make your goals something you can control. The winners of the Oscars are in the hands of the Academy voters. A writer should have goals that are measurable, like “I will write every day” (which is every great writers’ advice) or “I will complete two screenplays this year.” Those things are measurable, and they will lead to other things that the writer may dream about, but doesn’t set as a goal (see: Oscar). Invariably, the Oscar winner for best screenplay each year will start his or her acceptance speech with, “This was never my goal.”
The Apple Chief Operating Officer recently stated that Apple’s “goal isn’t to make money.” They want to make good products. Apple was near bankruptcy in the 1990s when Steve Jobs returned to run the company. He found that their products were simply not good enough. Cost savings and revenues gimmicks were not working. Jobs focused on making Apple products cool, slick, top-of-the line products . . . something that they could control. Then the money flowed in.
Cheng realized that video mentors and coaching yourself can virtually replace traditional study:

Some of the best dancers I know have never taken a dance class. They learned by imitating what they saw on YouTube. The best part? It’s free.
Record videos of yourself dancing. I know, it’s awkward, especially when you’re just starting out. I can’t stress this enough, though.

There is important brain activity in this process. Studying your performance leads to deep practice. Highly successful people spend 15-20 minutes a day monitoring, studying, and planning their goals, behaviors, progress, and outcomes.  That isn’t doing the thing; that is “thinking” about doing the thing.
Thinking about your goals and actions still build the neural pathways. Part of Cheng’s method was to visualize herself dancing. Thinking is not just another thing to do. It’s often THE thing to do!
James Thurber said that writers write all the time. Writing, he said, is not sitting down at a typewriter and pecking away at the keys. Writing is in the head. It’s brain activity. And you can do that anywhere. Thurber would think about his stories throughout the day, planning in his head what would come out on the typewriter later. This allowed him (and any writer) the ability to write all the time.
He related that once he was in his kitchen staring off into space until his wife finally yelled, “James, can you stop writing!”

Applying the Process to Anything

Cheng says this method can be applied to virtually any discipline. She worked for Microsoft after college, but decided design was where she wanted to be. She applied the same principles as learning to dance:

This isn’t a story about dancing, though. It’s about having a dream and not knowing how to get there — but starting anyway. Maybe you’re a musician dreaming of writing an original song. You’re an entrepreneur dying to start your first venture. You’re an athlete but you just haven’t left the chair yet.
. . . . I taught myself (design) every day . . . .I hacked together my piecemeal design education in 6 months–there was no way I was ready to become a designer . . . . So I started the job search and got rejected a few times. Then I got the job at Exec.

This learning model, along with any learning model, works best when students have a passion or desire to learn. This is usually inextricably tied to relevance. To launch this plan, teachers need to help students find that spark.  If you tell students that they have to learn U.S. History because the state says they need it to graduate, then you’ve really failed the relevance test.
Let students or your kids start with something they want to learn. Give them time to master the process and see results that they want.
My own test subjects (who I call Renfro 1 and Renfro 2) have had successes that parallel Cheng’s. The time-lapse progress bar looks something like this in each case.
Day 1: Awkward practice, a long way from the desired goal.
Day 30: True signs of progress. Awkward period is fading away.
Day 85: Solid habits have formed, looking good. Better than most friends.
Day 100: Mental breakthrough. Triple-digits days in a row of practice. By this point, the person IS the thing that he or she is practicing. Cheng was a dancer by Day 100. Renfro 1 was a guitar player. Renfro 2 was a martial artist.
Day 150: Looking very, very solid.  The typical person may spend 1 to 3 years before they actually practice 150 times.  This is why improvement appears to be so rapid using this formula. If you practice guitar seven times a week vs. once a week, you will learn more than seven times faster. When you practice once a week, you spend a fair amount of time relearning what you forgot from the week before.
Day 180: Practitioners are so good at their process now that they are ready to teach others.
Cheng is more than just a dancer. She’s also an educator, evangelizing others on this incredibly simple process to learn anything. Her new website looks promising.
Using this process, we can turn that worn-out derogatory teacher put-down on its head.
Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
Those who do AND teach, Jedi.

Blog Premise: What Getting Smart Means…

We started this blog five years ago and have posted more than 4,000 blogs–and we’re getting closer to figuring out what this site is about. There is an underlying premise to this blog, you could almost call it a theory of change (as my friends at Bridgespan would say):

  1. Excellence and equity in education is the most important issue for the American economy and society; even more so for developing economies.
  2. Expanding access to high quality learning experiences requires innovation particularly new learning tools and formats.
  3. Learning online holds great promise for improved productivity and expanded access; new school formats that blend online learning and onsite support and application have the potential to prepare more kids for the idea economy.
  4. Blended learning environments leverage great teachers and improve working conditions and career options.
  5. Producing and scaling innovation requires focused investment suggesting an important and complementary role for the private sector; most important advances will be the result of public-private partnerships.
  6. Expanding opportunities for education entrepreneurs and the ability to approach old problems in new ways requires more sophisticated advocacy, particularly the use of new media to amplify impact.
  7. Occasionally, other sources of media provide analogy, insight or inspiration (i.e., serendipity).

PARCC “On Time, On Task”

PARCC chiefs held a conference call Monday to share important updates on PARCC state participation and key areas of the consortium’s progress (see EdWeek coverage here). Laura Slover and Margaret Horn followed up with advocacy and policy partners today.  The message was “PARCC is on time, on task,” and 14 states and the District of Columbia have committed to field-testing the assessment in the spring of 2014.

That level of commitment doesn’t include once PARCC strongholds Florida or Kentucky. This week, Indiana and Pennsylvania joined Georgia, Oklahoma, and Utah as former PARCC states (some have formally resigned, others are watching and waiting).  That makes about a dozen states going their own way–more fall out than I had anticipated but not necessarily a bad thing.  It will reduce comparability but could create a stronger market for assessment innovation.

Last week PARCC Unveiled Pricing that was higher than some of us anticipated. The calls this week clarified that the $29.50 is a conservative estimate.  However, the loss of a handful of states won’t help on pricing–particularly for states planning a year or two of paper and pencil scoring.

Rhode Island chief stressed that PARCC is producing “tests worth taking,” high quality assessments aligned with Common Core State Standards.  Slover stressed PARCC’s focus on “items that test conceptual understanding and bridge to post-secondary education.”

PresenceLearning Provides Online Occupational and Speech Therapy

“Every child learns differently, especially a child that has special needs. PresenceLearning is a remarkable service that not only offer parents access to the best occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists in the nation, but it also builds a conducive therapy session by enabling kids to work from the comfort of their own home.” -Tom Vander Ark

PresenceLearning ensures access to over 400 great Occupational Therapists or Speech Language Pathologists regardless of any schedule or location constraints families might have. They have already completed more than 200,000 interactive, two-way video therapy sessions online, making web-based therapy practical, affordable and convenient for schools, school districts and now families of children with special needs.
During the 2013-14 school year, PresenceLearning will conduct more than 200,000 live online therapy sessions in public, charter and virtual school districts of all sizes nationwide.


PresenceLearning Provides Parents With Online Occupational and Speech Therapy to Help Kids Progress


Redefined Speech and Occupational Therapy Services Change the Lives of Families of Children with Special Needs


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – July 30, 2013 – PresenceLearning, the leading provider of online speech and occupational therapy services for K-12 students, today announced the availability of its occupational and speech-language therapy services to parents and guardians of children with special needs. PresenceLearning’s innovative online speech and occupational therapy platform has, until now, exclusively provided schools with web-based access to a nationwide network of highly qualified, fully licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and occupational therapists (OTs) who are available whenever and where ever they are needed and now today parents can access these resources as well.
To learn more about PresenceLearning now visit www.presencelearning.com.
With over 400 carefully selected therapists delivering one-on-one therapy to students via its online platform, PresenceLearning ensures that you can get access to great OTs or SLPs regardless of any schedule or location constraints you might have. PresenceLearning has completed more than 200,000 interactive, two-way video therapy sessions online, making web-based therapy practical, affordable and convenient for schools, school districts and now families of children with special needs.
“Parents come to us and tell us their therapy stories every day,” said Clay Whitehead, co-CEO and co-founder of PresenceLearning.  “We often hear from people who are having trouble finding a therapist who is available at a time that works for their schedule, much less knowing if the therapist gets results. At PresenceLearning we are individually matching children with therapists from the convenience of the home, updating parents on their children’s progress and sharing evidence-based practices that they can use to accelerate this progress to make therapy centered around the child and the family rather than the other way around.”
PresenceLearning is a straightforward and stress-free experience for parents and guardians. In addition to providing parents with the ability to observe live sessions, PresenceLearning also sends regular reports from their OT, detailing progress made, current activities and stages as well as tips and advice on how to work with their child outside of school and therapy sessions.
PresenceLearning’s speech and occupational therapy sessions aim to give students the tools and confidence they need when diagnosed with cases of autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, speech or language impairment and sensory processing disorders. With the ability to work with on-site aides and learning coaches, PresenceLearning therapists can ensure that the student is engaged and getting the most out of sessions that are directly related to developing functional skills related to sensory processing.
“Every child learns differently, especially a child that has special needs,” said Tom Vander Ark, author of “Getting Smart: How Digital Leaning is Changing the World” and CEO of Getting Smart, a learning advocacy firm. “PresenceLearning is a remarkable service that not only offer parents access to the best occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists in the nation, but it also builds a conducive therapy session by enabling kids to work from the comfort of their own home.”
PresenceLearning not only aids parents in their search for the best therapists for their kids but also empowers its therapists with a multitude of resources including its library of age-appropriate games and activities based on the latest therapeutic best practices. Additionally, PresenceLearning connects its enrolled therapists in a private online community where they can share best practices, offer advice and help fellow therapists identify new and different ways to work towards goals.
During the 2013-14 school year, PresenceLearning will conduct more than 200,000 live online therapy sessions in public, charter and virtual school districts of all sizes nationwide.
About PresenceLearning
PresenceLearning (http://www.presencelearning.com) is the leading provider of live online speech therapy services for K-12 students and now offers online occupational services as well. The company offers school districts web-based access to a growing, nationwide network of over 300 highly qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs) and occupational therapists (OTs) via live videoconferencing combined with the latest in evidence-based practices. PresenceLearning expands access to highly trained, fully licensed experts and helps improve student outcomes. PresenceLearning is an ASHA-approved continuing education provider for SLPs and a U.S. Department of Education grant-winner, dedicated to bringing the highest clinical standards to online speech therapy and online occupational therapy.

Disclosures: PresenceLearning is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

3 Ways to Encourage Higher Order Thinking with Technology

As a teacher, I relish the days of summer because I am given the opportunity to learn, rethink, design, and fine tune my teaching with the hope of being able to inspire students and teachers in the coming school year. This summer I have fully embraced the SAMR model of tech integration, fine tuned my ability to align learning experiences to the CCSS and discovered some new flexible and digital tools along the way. Now it’s time for me to think about helping teachers embrace the changes that are necessary to encourage and develop students who are deep thinkers, creators and collaborators. A quote from Justin Reich on MindShift comes to mind

Thoughts from MindShift via Kwout

“One simple way of understanding our pedagogical theory of iPads is that we dn’t want them to just become replacements for notebooks and textbooks, we want them to be objects to think with. We want students using them to mess around with the world around them and their courses of study.”

Thinking with technology and messing around with the world for learning

Here are three ways for teachers to prepare to design learning experiences that encourage higher order thinking through the use of technology as a tool for learning.
Develop a digital toolkit
Explore and play with digital tools yourself to see how each one allows you to express your thinking, then add them to your personal digital toolkit. Introduce efficient tools to students through digital playlists and guided learning resources for exploration. A good place to start is by creating a simple digital playlist with MentorMob. Collect resources with the click of a button and let students explore them live within the playlist.

Design flexible learning experiences

Grab your toolkit, embrace Essential Questions, then build lessons around them. Adopt an online learning platform and publish collections of curated content easily. Why not create a Wikispaces Classroom of live resources for students? How about using a Padlet Bulletin Board to collect student feedback?

Get out of the way and let students create 

You can take it one step at a time by working your way up the SAMR ladder and making each stage count along the way. Set high standards that include the CCSS and 21st Century Skills development. Helps students learn to engage in everyday research to find information, understand it and use it in original ways to construct knowledge and present information and ideas. Get out of their way and experience the benefits of the learning partnership in your classroom.

PD Anytime -10 Education Podcasts from EdReach

Podcasts are free, easy ways for teachers, and anyone interested in the education field to share ideas, learning and news. Because you don’t need anything more than a computer, a mic and internet access, more and more stakeholders in education are finding the value in not only listening, but recording great podcasts.

Still, a good podcast takes time commitment, and the amount of free time educators have to dedicate to outside projects is always in flux. That means the educational podcast library is also frequently in flux, but just all the more reason to stay connected and make sure you are subscribed to the newest and best podcast available.

EdReach Network makes it easy for educators to stay update on great podcasts, by hosting them all in on one channel, and as their motto says, they are “giving educators a voice, a big voice.”

Here are a few of Getting Smart’s favorites, but check out Edreach for the full listing:


1. PBS Newshour Education– is hosted consistently on the Edreach Network and can be subscribed to from there. Posted every other week, it is high quality education content that is truly great listening for all who want to stay informed on what is happening on the nation’s education landscape.


2. Techlandia Podcast- Fondly known as “The Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” of education podcasts, three educators, Jon Samuelson (@ipadsammy), Curt Rees (@curtrees) and Alison Anderson (@tedrosececi) share 3 apps, 3 great people to follow on Twitter, and 3 great things happening in edu… along with their own version of humor. They’ve also welcome incredible guest educators who accomplish amazing things in their schools and are so generous to share their knowledge and advice.


3. Edgamer – Gamification is truly a hot topic in the education world! Zack Gilbert and Gerry James, two dedicated teachers, sit down each week to explore the topics of gamification, what it takes to add games, digital and non-digital to the classroom and review the new and best games out there. They are already up to episode 106, so it’s pretty safe to say these guys know what they are talking about and are a must listen for any teacher wanting to use games to make student learning better.


4. Mobile Reach – 3 teachers, Jennie Magiera, Sue Gorman and David Freeburg share their tremendous amount of experience and skills having to do with everything from Apple to Google inside the classroom. These three know what works and what is worth the time and money. They also truly explore the pedagogy and philosophy behind adding different aspects of tech to the classroom or to teacher productivity. They are good friends and fun to listen to, each with their own version of a midwest accent.


5. MacReachMeg Wilson and Kelly Dumont have been collaborating for a long time now to record and share their Mac knowledge. Definitely known in the field as two Mac experts every educator would love to know, they generously share what they know and keep their listeners up to date on everything current with Apple and the digital learning space.


6. Teacher Tech Talk – There must be something in that midwest air, because another trio of expert tech educators,Chad Kafka (@chadkafka), Judi Epcke (@jepcke), Tammy Lind (@TamL17), share out the latest news on everything from iPads to Chromebooks and every app in between. Also, they are always good for catching up on cool things happening in the space where technology meets education.


8. Google Educast– A classic and staple podcast from the Edreach network, keeps the audience up to date on everything happening in the world of Google- one of our the greatest education tools ever created. Unfortunately, it seems to be one with the most changes, too. Weekly guests and google experts team up each week in a hangout and to dive into Google and all it’s updates and then describe what they mean for teachers and students.


9. iDig Video – Apple distinguished educator, Jonathan Furst and James Crawford talk about great and innovative ways to integrate the art of video creation into any classroom. They teach great ways and explore motivations to help students create video projects. They also do a great job debunking the myths around working with Youtube and other video sharing sites that sometimes scare schools away from emphasizing the importance of video in the classroom.


10. #Eduwin Show– What is your #eduwin? James Gubbins and co-hosts share specific examples of #eduwins each week. Perfect show if you’re ever feeling discouraged or frustrated by what seems to be happening or not happening in classroom. A weekly review of everything going right in education, something we could probably always use a little more reminding of.


These are just a sampling of what EdReach has to offer. Podcast topics included Flipped Learning, School Design, Arts, Theater, Outdoor Learning and more.

Navigating the swamp with Michael Fullan

Fullan and Donnelly describe two powerful forces that are combining to create what they call the “swamp”:

“One is a relentless ‘push’ factor; the other is a prodigious and exponential ‘pull’ phenomenon. The push factor is how incredibly boring school has become…The counterforce is the ‘pull’ of rapidly expanding digital innovations that are the result of lean and not so lean startups, as small–scale entrepreneurs and behemoth businesses and financiers populate the digital swamp. The result is an exciting but undisciplined explosion of innovations and opportunities.”

“Alive in the Swamp,” a new report published this week by UK-based Nesta and U.S.-based NewSchools Venture Fund, outlines the Innovation Index developed by change guru Michael Fullan & Pearson’s Katelyn Donnelly. The report offers practical advice for policymakers, education leaders, education innovators and edtech companies to help us all navigate the murky waters of education innovation.

After spending the better part of four years as a grad student reading and highlighting Michael Fullan’s books, it was a pretty big honor to spend a half hour chatting with him about his latest projects.

The swamp may be muddy, but it was clear during our conversation that Fullan is optimistic about the future of education. He explains, with the digital innovation explosion and no real criteria to size it all up, the swamp can be scary, but it’s populated by a lot of life.

The diversity of thriving organisms in the swamp is reason for excitement, but Fullan is most excited since this wave of educational technology adoption “has an organic flavor that’s attracting educators for intrinsic reasons.”  On this trend of bottom-up adoption by teachers, Fullan explains that the shift is happening naturally. There’s a “collective uprising” happening that is giving school and district leaders the opportunity to become enablers and not enforcers.   He explains what he’s seeing in the schools where he works: “When the change is natural and organic, there’s more excitement and engagement.  Students ‘come to life.’ It’s not just the ubiquitous use of technology. It’s more about what’s happening with the relationships between and among teachers and students when these innovations are well-implemented.”   For more on this topic, check out the recently-released “Towards A New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning” co-authored by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy.

Fullan’s observations of changing roles for students, teachers and leaders characterize what he’d like to see more of when it comes to the implementation of digital innovations–innovations that succeed in three key areas – pedagogy, technology and system change. Building on Fullan’s Stratosphere, it was the observation by Fullan and his colleagues that so many innovations are unbalanced in these three areas that revealed the vulnerability of technology and led to the creation of the Innovation Index.

In creating and testing the Index, Fullan and Donnelly weren’t surprised to learn that innovations scored well in technology strands such as ease of use and quality of user experience, but were weak in pedagogical areas.  Fullan explains this is troubling, because “system change is automatically weak if pedagogy is weak, regardless of the strength of the technology.”

The Index is necessary, because, as Fullan and Donnelly assert, “Up to this point, technology has not impacted schools,” and, “Billions have been invested with little thought to altering the learning system.”  Even though the digital swamp is teeming with innovations that are delivering outcomes in limited environments, the authors note we’ve yet to see true transformation at scale and point to our own “How Digital Learning Contributes to Deeper Learning” as an effort to highlight promising examples that revealed more small-scale exceptions rather than mainstream disruptions of traditional systems. Creating the Innovation Index is an effort to change this.

With The Innovation Index, users can rate digital products or services against three key criteria, using a four-point scale. The scores assigned to each criterion are then combined to build to an overall assessment of the innovation.

  • GREEN: Good – likely to succeed and produce transformative outcomes

  • AMBER GREEN: Mixed – some aspects are solid; a few aspects are lacking full potential

  • AMBER RED: Problematic – requires substantial attention; some portions are gaps and need improvement

  • RED: Off track – unlikely to succeed

The Index will serve a variety of users since it provides a method to evaluate learning innovations, companies, products and school models. Fullan explains, however, that the Index is truly “more of a heuristic device than a literal one.” The report’s goal is to get people thinking beyond the technology itself.  “We had to find a way to give people a wider lens,” says Fullan. “Spelling it all out forces everyone to also take account of pedagogy and system change, improving the chances of successful implementation.”

As Sir Michael Barber explains in the paper’s foreword, “The future will belong not to those who focus on the technology alone, but to those who place it in the wider context of what we know about maximizing learning and realizing system impact.”

Not surprisingly, it was evident during our chat that Fullan is thinking about his recent projects as preliminary steps toward the long-term goal of  whole-system change across districts, states, and entire countries.  Fullan and his partners hope that readers will test the index, offer suggestions and join the conversation to help advance the field. You can share your comments by X (Fullan sending this by email, if I don’t fwd it tonight we can just remove this sentence.

For additional resources related to The Innovation Index head to the Alive in the Swamp webpage and download the full report.  The following video features Sir Michael Barber, Michael Fullan and Katelyn Donnelly discussing education reform, the impact of learning technologies and the practical advice offered in the report.

2014 Vernier Software & Tech Engineering Contest Open Now

Calling all middle school, high school and college educators… apply and submit a video of your student STEM project or experiment using Vernier sensors in conjunction with Vernier’s Logger Pro software, NI LabVIEW software, LEGO NXT or EV3, VEX, or any other system incorporating Vernier sensors.
“The winners will be announced on March 5, 2014 on the Vernier web site and Facebook page. Each winner will receive $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and $1,500 towards expenses to attend the 2014 National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) STEM conference or the 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference.”
For more information on the 2014 Vernier Engineering Contest and to submit an entry, visit www.vernier.com/grants/engineering/.
Check out last years winner:



Vernier Launches its 2014 Engineering Contest

Vernier honors three STEM teachers who will each receive $5,500 in prizes for innovative uses of Vernier sensors in teaching engineering concepts
BEAVERTON, Oregon, July 30, 2013 – Vernier Software & Technology is now accepting applications for its 2014 Engineering Contest that recognizes STEM educators for introducing students to engineering concepts and practices through innovative uses of Vernier sensors. A middle school teacher, a high school teacher, and a college instructor will each win prizes valued at $5,500.
Educators interested in applying for this contest must submit a video showcasing the use of Vernier sensors in a project or experiment. Applications are due by January 15, 2014.
The sensors may be used in conjunction with Vernier’s Logger Pro software, NI LabVIEW software, LEGO NXT or EV3, VEX, or any other system incorporating Vernier sensors.
Applications will be judged on innovation, engineering objectives, and the ease by which others can replicate the project. Middle school and high school applicants are asked to specifically explain how the project addresses the engineering practices called for in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The winners will be announced on March 5, 2014 on the Vernier web site and Facebook page. Each winner will receive $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and $1,500 towards expenses to attend the 2014 National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) STEM conference or the 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference.
“There are thousands of ways technology can be used to teach engineering concepts and to engage students with problem-solving and engineering practices,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For over thirty years, we have been helping teachers incorporate sensor technology into engineering activities, and we have seen teachers design their own creative sensor-based activities as well. The Vernier Engineering Contest recognizes and awards teachers for their innovative uses of technology with students and provides a great way for them to showcase these best practices to fellow educators.”
Last year’s Vernier Engineering Contest winners used Vernier sensors with NI LabVIEW software to create a virtual musical instrument and to conduct a transiting exoplanet experiment.
For more information on the 2014 Vernier Engineering Contest and to submit an entry, visit www.vernier.com/grants/engineering/.

About Vernier Software & Technology
Vernier Software & Technology has been a leading innovator of scientific data-collection technology for 32 years. Focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Vernier is dedicated to developing creative ways to teach and learn using hands-on science. Vernier creates easy-to-use and affordable science interfaces, sensors, and graphing/analysis software. With world-wide distribution to over 130 countries, Vernier products are used by educators and students from elementary school to college. Vernier’s technology-based solutions enhance STEM education, increase learning, build students’ critical thinking skills, and support the science and engineering practices detailed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Vernier’s business culture is grounded in Earth-friendly policies and practices, and the company provides a family-friendly workplace. For more information, visit www.vernier.com.