Why We Are JiJi Believers

Why We Are JiJi Believers first appeared on Sums and Solutions from MIND Research Institute on Thursday, May 28th, 2014.
By Erin Dowling and Maxiel Peralta, PS 310 teachers and winners of the JiJi Believer Video Challenge 
As class 3-104 got ready to create their JiJi Believer video, we asked our students to respond to a writing prompt for homework titled “Why I Love JiJi.” While some of their responses can be heard at the beginning of our video, we thought we’d share a few more reasons why they love JiJi, the penguin featured in the ST Math games:

“I would like to thank JiJi for making my math journey fun and exciting.” — Mieckol R.
“JiJi I love you because you are fun and you help me. I wish I could meet you.” — Dilesy C.
“JiJi helps me on things I had trouble with in the classroom.” — Liz G.
“The games make math fun. My favorite game is pie monster.” — Giovanni M.
“We love making progress because it helps us get better at dividing, multiplying, fractions and rounding.” — Jefferson M.
“JiJi means a lot to me. ST Math is the greatest website I’ve ever seen.” — Larenz S.
Most of our students have been using ST Math for two years now. This year, JiJi has become somewhat of a mascot in our classroom. Each table is named after a continent, and Antarctica is reserved for Jiji’s corner of the room. We have an igloo for JiJi there, along with our ST Math progress chart, pictures and letters the students have written to JiJi, as well as letters that JiJi has written to the class.
Earlier in the year we took the class to the Bronx Zoo and made sure to check out the penguin exhibit. Our students were literally screaming, “JiJi! JiJi!” while looking for their favorite penguin. JiJi is their pen pal, too. Every time the class makes 10 percent progress and they earn a new postcard from JiJi’s travels, the class also receives a box of goodies. There’s always a letter from JiJi addressed to all 25 students. JiJi acknowledges their hard work, recognizes students who have logged in at home, and encourages them to keep playing. In fact, one package arrived just before our state test, with granola bars and good luck charms (penguin erasers)! As soon as the students saw the “South Pole” label on the box, they immediately knew it was from JiJi. When we showed an email from JiJi on our projector to tell the class they’d won first place for their video, they all started cheering wildly.
Why go through all the trouble of creating these letters and packages from a little penguin? It’s because we truly are Jiji Believers. We believe that what MIND Research is doing with the ST Math program will have an impact on our students’ learning. Every time one of us hears, “Oh, I did that with JiJi!” or, “This is just like that game I played on ST Math!” while teaching a math lesson, we know this program is working.
The Common Core Standards ask third-grade students to take large leaps in terms of mathematics. Our inclusion class is made up of special education and general education students, and they have many different needs academically. They learn at different speeds. And in order to cover our math curriculum we need to move through lessons and topics at a speed that sometimes can be difficult for students to keep up with. JiJi helps address all of these challenges. Since students move through the levels at their own pace, our students who work quickly get to explore some topics before we introduce them in the classroom. Our struggling students, meanwhile, can work through a difficult topic without feeling rushed. We can also arrange the levels so that students can review an important topic months after it has been taught in the classroom. This not only helps prepare students for state tests — it also helps prepare them to build a foundation of basic skills, like multiplication and division, that are essential in the upper elementary grades.
We want our students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. We don’t want to teach them to memorize facts or mindlessly compute numbers without a conceptual understanding of what they are doing. We want them to be able to use the skills we’re teaching them today in more complex math classes in the future, in college, and eventually within their careers. We believe that before students can work with abstract concepts like equations, they need concrete and pictorial representations of a topic to build their understanding. This is the way ST Math approaches mathematics.
Finally, we want our students to enjoy math. Some people worry that the fun of learning is being taken out of elementary school classrooms today. JiJi is helping us create learners who just love to learn. They like to explore, they like to try things out, see what works, what doesn’t work. Every week we give the students a partner activity — an open-ended mathematics problem to solve. Usually the problem has them doing something for JiJi, like build a house, plan a party, decorate a banner, etc. They work together to solve the problem as if JiJi is truly counting on them. Then they write a letter to JiJi explaining what they did. They’re not only able to solve a complex math problem, but they can articulate the strategies they used, errors they made and alternate ways to solve.
Not many of our students have access to computers or tablets at home, so they look forward to our two periods of technology a week, when they get to go see JiJi. Recently, we were able to use a set of iPads in our classroom to access ST Math during our extended day program. Once our students were logged into ST Math with iPads in their hands, our classroom was so silent you could hear a pin drop. With two teachers, a paraprofessional and 25 students, our classroom is usually far from silent; it was almost eerie. The silence was broken when one student hugged his iPad to his chest and said, “I love JiJi so much!”
3104teachers resized 600
Erin Dowling and Maxiel Peralta are third grade teachers in an integrated co-teaching class at PS 310 The Marble Hill School. PS 310 is a Title 1 school in Bronx, New York. Their class is made up of special education and general education students. Both Ms. Dowling and Ms. Peralta have a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a master’s degree in special education from Manhattan College. Their favorite part about teaching is watching their students grow as learners and celebrating their accomplishments. They also love bringing JiJi to life in their classroom everyday.
MIND Research Institute is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

Time to Take Interest in Pinterest

Pinterest has taken the social media world by storm. It started out as a community called “pinners” bookmarking their favorite recipes, clothes, workouts, and party planning ideas by “pinning” them. Pinterest has now evolved into a social media channel that can expand thought leadership, increase brand recognition and authority, and expand overall reach. It’s being used by individuals, businesses and schools across the country.
If Pinterest isn’t part of your social media strategy it should be. There are over 48.7 million users active on Pinterest, many of which include education leaders and administration pinning over 500k education related pins a day. Pinterest allows users to find quality ideas, real world examples of concepts for the classroom, and a one stop shop for all things edu. From innovative social studies ideas to engaging higher ed students, educators are using this media channel to find tips, tricks, lesson plans, and creative ways to engage students. If you’re not contributing to the resources available you’re missing out on important opportunities to make connections and drive traffic back to your site.
Here’s five tips to get started on a successful Pinterest account for your organization:

  • Set-up a Business Page. Pinterest for Business offers users free analytics that will measure the number of pins, repins, impressions, and clicks your boards attract. All you have to do is verify your website and start pinning your favorite resources. Have employees that would like to easily contribute to your boards? You can invite employees or other thought leaders and business partners to contribute to your boards, making curating pins easy and collaborative.
  • Use Rich Pins. A fairly new tool allows pins that include extra information within the pin. Whether you’re helping pinners create a reading list or invite them to an upcoming event, rich pins help get more information packed into each pin, making them more useful to your followers.
  • Use Captivating Descriptions and Hashtags. As Pinterest users are scrolling through their feed, they’ll decide to pin or share your content based on the photo you choose and your description, so be captivating! Make your followers want to learn more or take action and use hashtags within your description. Hashtags make your pins more easily searchable to all of Pinterest’s users.
  • Add a Pin It Button to Your Website. Adding this small button to your website and mobile app will help readers easily share your blogs, resources and other content.
  • Diversify Your Boards. Your followers don’t want to see a constant stream of brand specific or sales driven pins. Make sure you’re diversifying your pinterest board by including pins from a variety of resources.

Need some extra advice on how to get started on Pinterest? Getting Smart helps edupreneurs and education leaders amplify their impact with biz dev, marketing, and strategic communication services. We provide a range of services from building and implementing strategy to public relations implementation. Interested in learning more? Visit our services page and shoot us an email.

Robots Are Not Just for Computer Labs Anymore

Tom Lauwers, founder of BirdBrain Technologies, may not be a English or a History teacher but he has no problem understanding how programming or robots could easily lend themselves to enhance that curriculum. That’s why he is very excited to launch this Kickstarter campaign for Hummingbird Duo.
Hummingbird is a spin off of BirdBrain Technologies, developed out of Carnegie Mellon in 2010, by Tom after earning his PhD in robotics- with a focus on educational robotics. They first developed “The Finch” a programmable robot for schools that introduced concepts to elementary and middle school students. Although it is a great way to expose students to programming concepts, Lauwers wanted to make the learning even more hands-on.
The first version of the Hummingbird kit is available to teachers and students now. The kit comes with different parts, like LED lights, sensors and controller boards and allow for students to combine them with arts and crafts materials to make their own robots. After running the beta a pilot programs, it quickly became obvious that not only could this kit be used in computer and engineering classes or in after school programs, but it could easily be integrated into any classroom- creating the bridge between traditional curriculum and 21st century learning.
This week Hummingbird launched the kickstarter campaign for the Hummingbird Duo, to add many of the features teachers who are using the first kit are asking for- including the addition of the Arduino mode. By adding Arduino compatibility, the kit can now be used in high school, college level and even beyond. For teachers looking to add this level of creativity to their classrooms, currently there are online tutorials and virtual training workshops available for directions on how to use the kits- while they continue to build their community of Hummingbird ambassadors who will cover the different parts of the country and provide in person training.
To find out more details of what is included in the kit and how to purchase one, see the full press release below. Also, take a few minutes to check out how these students brought poetry to life – with “Robot Poetry Theater.


Electronics kit is equally challenging and fun for 4th graders, high school students, and adults

Pittsburgh, PA, May 21, 2014 — BirdBrainTechnologies is excited to announce that Hummingbird Duo is launching on Kickstarter. The Hummingbird Duo may be the first electronics kit that is fun and educational for a fourth grader, a high school student, a college engineering student, and an adult maker. The Hummingbird Duo provides several levels of engineering and technology learning. Instead of a steep learning curve, learners progress at increasing skill levels where mastering each level allows one to use the Hummingbird in a new and more interesting way. By participating in the Kickstarter campaign, individuals can purchase the forthcoming Hummingbird Duo at a pre-launch price for themselves or provide one to a school of their choice.
The Hummingbird Duo includes many of the features requested by BirdBrainTechnologies’ core community of teachers: Tetherless operation, Arduino mode, and more minor improvements like wheels for motors, solid-ended leads, improved sound sensing, and color-coding of the connectors by function. “We are extremely excited about the Hummingbird Duo’s potential to empower positive classroom experiences and to grow with students as they learn,” said Tom Lauwers, BirdBrainTechnologies founder and co-creator of the Hummingbird. “The Hummingbird Duo is an excellent kit for introducing electronics, robotics, engineering, and programming in any environment: at home, in the classroom, in summer camp, or in a club.”
The Hummingbird Duo controller will be the core of all new Hummingbird Robotics kits. Hummingbird Duo supports programming environments that range from very easy to advanced and powerful. Everything is free, open source, and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The Hummingbird supports CREATE Lab Visual Programmer, Scratch, Snap!, Arduino, Python, Java, and more.
The Hummingbird Robotics Kit was developed as part of Art & Bots, an ongoing research project at Carnegie Mellon University. Compatible with popular maker tools and software like Raspberry Pi, MaKey MaKey, Arduino, and Scratch, Hummingbird introduces students to engineering design, electronics, and programming through an innovative, arts and crafts-based approach that integrates well with the core subjects.
To learn more about BirdBrainTechnologies’ Kickstarter campaign, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/938274194/hummingbird-duo-a-robotics-kit-for-ages-10-to-110.

Canvas Catalog: New Platform to House Online Courses

MOOCs continue to gain popularity and are being offered by more and more institutions, leaving them with the question of where best to house their courses. Up until now, most have lived on broad, common platforms that are really more known to provide “MOOCs,” not necessarily the specific institution providing the content. With the launch of the new Canvas Catalog, institutions will now have the chance to house their MOOCs in one digital space, while still keeping the focus on the institution itself, instead of the platform.

Canvas.net currently has over 50 courses available now for enrollment and will have at least 100 more open up between now and the end of the year. Some course examples starting soon, like STEAM Camp- DIY.  Canvas Catalog was born out of our success with Canvas Network. The Network will be running catalog as well and benefitting from all the great functionality that Canvas has brought to the market.

The new Canvas platform can be customized to work for all education levels as well as for providing professional development- basically any time an institution is looking to provide any type of online learning opportunities. One great example is Pasco County Schools which has an e-school with online courses ready to launch on Canvas Catalog in the coming months.

“Our students, parents and teachers often need to go to as many as five different Web sites to access their courses,” said JoAnne Glenn, principal of Pasco eSchool. “With Catalog’s easy-to-use interface, everything is in one place, streamlining our entire process.”
For the full description and details on how to tap into the power of Canvas Catalog, see the full press release below:


Instructure Launches Canvas Catalog

Inspired by Canvas Network, the new Canvas Catalog provides an all-in-one learning solution for online course publishing and registration
SALT LAKE CITY — May 29, 2014 — Instructure, the technology company serving the academic market through its Canvas learning management system (LMS), today launched Canvas Catalog, a white-label platform that enables any institution, government entity, university or K-12 school to create a branded index of online courses.
“We think the next step in the MOOC experiment is to help institutions harness the power of open, online learning within the fold of their institutional identity,” said Melissa Loble, senior director of Canvas Network, Instructure’s response to the MOOC phenomenon. “Through Canvas Catalog, institutions can also provide preparatory programs, continuing professional development and community-based lifelong learning experiences.”
Whereas MOOCs have traditionally been housed on common platforms that span multiple institutions, Canvas Catalog shifts the emphasis back to the institutional level. It empowers them to produce and market their online courses with their own look and feel. With Canvas Catalog, they can build custom-branded Web sites that allow content creators from any type of institution to build a marketplace or storefront for their course offerings. This gives students and learners a one-stop shop where they can register, enroll, pay and begin taking courses. It also eliminates the need for institutions to build their own front-end course catalog, which is a time-consuming, complicated and expensive process that may not integrate with other systems within the rest of the institution.
The versatile platform can be customized for higher education, professional development and a variety of other online learning contexts, including K-12. Pasco County Schools, for example, has an e-school with online courses that is set to roll out Canvas Catalog in the coming months.
“Our students, parents and teachers often need to go to as many as five different Web sites to access their courses,” said JoAnne Glenn, principal of Pasco eSchool. “With Catalog’s easy-to-use interface, everything is in one place, streamlining our entire process.”
Academic Partnerships, one of the largest representatives of online learning in the United States and around the world, is launching Catalog in connection with its Specializations initiative, which helps its partner universities capitalize on the globalization of higher education through a new global credential. The initiative will run on the AP Open Network, which is powered by Canvas Catalog.
“The AP Open Network is a fully integrated global student engagement and online course delivery system that supports the entire student lifecycle from recruitment, registration and payment to multilingual course delivery, tracking, reporting and credentialing,” said AP Vice Chairman Rob Ganji. “Through our strategic partnership with Instructure, the Canvas Catalog is helping to make an ambitious initiative like ours a reality.”
Through Canvas Catalog, administrators can:

  • Create public course offerings and custom course landing pages
  • Identify collections of courses to create specializations or programs
  • Effectively market courses and course catalogs
  • Issue discounts or promotion codes
  • Automatically distribute certificates and other recognitions of completion
  • Accept payment for courses

The robust platform solves many of the issues administrators and students are faced with. It keeps course information all in one place, providing a simple, central location for all who need to access an institution’s course offerings. It also allows for straightforward registration and payment for courses.
About Instructure
Instructure, Inc. developed the Canvas learning management system to make teaching and learning easier for everyone, everywhere. Canvas empowers learning in every context with open, usable SaaS technologies. And through Canvas Network, Instructure provides a cloud platform where teachers, learners and institutions worldwide can connect and chart their own course for personal growth, professional development and academic inquiry. Learn more at www.instructure.com.


Devin Knighton, Director of Public Relations at Instructure
(801) 722-8187 | [email protected]
Twitter: @devinknighton | www.instructure.com
Matt Reichman, Method Communications
(801) 461-9778 | [email protected]
Copyright © 2014, Instructure, Inc. All rights reserved. Instructure, Canvas and their respective logos are registered trademarks or trademarks of Instructure, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other brands and names may be claimed as the property of others.

Guiding and Personalizing College & Career Readiness

By: Mary Ryerse and Tom Vander Ark 

As families and communities gather to watch students walk across the stage in cap and gown to receive a high school diploma, it is often a time of great celebration. Sadly, according to anew analysis from the NAEP governing board , fewer than 40% of of seniors are prepared for college. Further, many graduate without a clear plan for college or career-ready skills.

At this time when academic expectations are high and college and career options are many, varied, and constantly changing, students need new levels and types of support. High school graduation could hold more cause for celebration if every secondary student were provided with tools and systems that helped them successfully meet standards and prepare for the transition to college and career. What if all schools systematically guided all students by helping them think about who they are, where they are headed and how they will get there?

Today Getting Smart released the 11th paper in the DLN Smart Series with Digital Learning Now (DLN) that addresses this topic. “Core & More: Guiding and Personalizing College & Career Readiness” brings together regular Smart Series authors Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark with co-author Mary Ryerse, college and career readiness expert.

This paper outlines how a blended, distributed and scheduled student guidance process can help students meet academic expectations and choose from the ballooning educational options available to them today. We have a perfect opportunity to further personalize the guidance process itself by providing more robust supports to foster individual student success through relationships and tools that focus on the three elements described in Getting Smart:

  • Motivation – building sustained relationships with students, exploring areas of interest and related careers, addressing barriers to school attendance;
  • Customization – helping students set short and long term goals, track progress, and experience success in class, in job settings, and in community services;
  • Equalization – broadening exposure to college and career options, providing high touch/high tech decision support for postsecondary planning for all students.

The paper outlines ten recommended functions of student guidance which build upon the work of David Conley, author of “Getting Ready for College, Careers, and the Common Core” and founder of the Education Policy and Improvement. Conley’s four readiness keys include cognitive strategies (THINK), content knowledge (KNOW), learning skills and techniques (ACT), and transition of knowledge and skills (GO). In order to fulfill these keys, we believe that students need their schools to systemize these guidance functions:

1. Academic Mindset and Culture
2. Understanding Assessments
3. Academic Monitoring
4. Homework Help
5. Course Selection and Transcript Management
6. Self-Management
7. Social and Emotional Learning
8. College Guidance
9. Career Guidance
10. Individual Counseling and Referrals

At the core of these systems is a culture of with high expectations, high support and strong relationships. NASSP’s 2013 Principal of the Year, Trevor Greene made establishing such a culture a high priority at Toppenish High School (Washington), which serves a high minority (95%) and high poverty (100%) population. In just two years, he raised the grad rate from 84.6% to 98.3%.Greene gives credit to the student guidance offered through advisory, “I attribute our graduation rate increase directly to what we’ve been doing in our advisory. I’m a true believer.”

With robust blended, distributed and scheduling processes, not only can more students walk across the graduation stage with a diploma, but also with strong academic preparation and a meaningful plan to go with it.

To learn more or to download the full paper and infographic, go to digitallearningnow.com/dln-smart-series or follow along on social media using the hashtags #SmartSeries, #CCR and #DigLN.

Digital Learning Now is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

5 + 1 Summer Reads to Challenge and Inspire

Lazy mornings, afternoons by the pool, and no agenda. Summer must be here! Of course, we all know this describes maybe 5 days of your summer break with the rest of your time attending trainings, conferences, figuring out what to do with your seemingly permanently-bored children, and a litany of other things that need to get done before the August heat signifies that it’s time to start back up.
The summer is a perfect time to do some professional reading without the harried pace of instructional days, PLC meetings, packing lunches, and coordinating who-picks-up-which-kid-at-what-school. So instead of just grabbing the latest best-selling fantasy, here are five alternatives that will help you reflect and grow in your profession:
1 – It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens bookcover 620x412
Danah boyd has compiled years of research, both qualitative and quantitative, to present to us a picture of youth in the digital age. This is a must-read for educators and parents (really, anyone who interacts with the under-18 crowd in any substantive way) that will challenge your thinking about how best to handle technology in the hands of your kids. Learn more here.
book cover 22 – iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up 
A couple of years ago, a writer for the Huffington Post wrote a piece that she called “iRules” and was a contract to her 13-year old son as he received an iPhone. The piece went viral and now has been expanded into a book. This book advocates that parents are still parents and that adults should be involved in their children’s lives, even technologically. If you’ve ever wondered about the role of parenting in today’s digital age, these first two recommendations should give you plenty to chew on.
3 – Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High book cover 3
While this book was geared for the corporate world, there’s little doubt that the strategies presented can be adapted (or are already a best-fit) for education. If you’ve ever had a frustrating conversation with a student or a contentious debate with a parent, you are probably already adding this to your shopping cart. One piece of advice: don’t read this book on audio. There are a number of very helpful diagrams and charts that are difficult to grasp without seeing them.
bookcover 44 – A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit 
No, this isn’t some kind of Jedi mind trick or new-age philosophy. The idea is simple, straightforward, and research-backed: mindfulness is good for our health AND our productivity. This is an engaging read that directly tackles some of the toughest schools in the country to see if this would have any impact. The results are astounding
5 – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking book cover 5
I can say this book single-handedly changed the way I thought about my students. I realized that, even though I am an introvert myself, the ‘extrovert ideal’ was radically affecting the way I interacted with my class. Be ready to re-think everything you think you know about introversion! To get your brain going, start with her TED talk.
Ok, ok, I’ll include a fiction, but it’s still going to make you think:
The Fault in Our Stars
Yes, it’s being made into a movie coming out next month and yes, it’s technically considered a Young Adult novel. But I chose this book not only because of the excellent dialogue and writing, but because it is a great reminder that things are not always what they seem and we can’t possibly know everything that our students are going through. Relationships are messy, life is hard, and sometimes, age is just a number. Don’t less summer slip by without diving into this one.

Pittsburgh: University Inspired EdTech

“Pittsburgh is special place for startups,” according to Jason Lange of Bloomboard. Lange’s Silicon Valley teacher development system opened an office in Pittsburgh this year because of “an incredibly impressive talent base that has already demonstrated historical success in education, gaming and human-computer interaction.” Combine the talent base with a relatively affordable cost of living and an open community and political environment looking to embrace startups and innovative technology companies, and you’ve got an environment conducive to innovation.
A collaborative of educators, researchers, designers, and community leaders, and more are remaking learning every day by connecting students with hands-on learning experiences to develop relevant skills that the new economy rewards. The Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network helps children and youth develop their own interests, to work collaboratively to find creative solutions to problems, and to experiment, fail, and start over with new ideas. Helmed by non-profit organization, The Sprout Fund, the network supports collaboration between educators and innovators.
Utech. Pittsburgh Today ran a six part series a couple of years ago suggesting that “Pittsburgh is on the verge of reaching a critical mass in terms of the number of successful start-up companies, entrepreneurs, availability of local early stage capital and ability to push and pull university technologies to market.” Pittsburg universities played a pivotal role in the development of a new economy based on technology, finance, and health–particularly Carnegie Mellon University.
CMU has been an edtech hotbed for more than two decades. Characteristic of the city as a whole, CMU serves host to the type of coordinated talent you cannot get access to in many other places. CMU students are involved with prototyping applications for Bloomboard and other key student-led projects. The Human Computer Interface Institute (HCII) has a handful of interesting learning research projects underway.  CMU is home to the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, Language Technologies Institute, and the OLI (Open Learning Initiative). Acrobatiq, an OLI spinout, focuses on evidence-based course design that measurably improves learning outcomes.  With the goal of designing the future of edtech, CMU recently launched a Masters in Learning Science and Engineering.
The recently launched CMU Integrated Innovation Institute is an initiative to cross-train students in engineering, design and business with the goal of producing masters’ graduates with the skills and know-how to accelerate new product and service creation.
Founded by CMU cognitive and computer scientists, Carnegie Learning is a leader in secondary math software. The Apollo Group acquired Carnegie Learning for $75 million in 2011.
Elijah Mayfield developed the LightSIDE writing scoring engine as a grad student at CMU. His open engine scored high in the Automated Student Assessment Prize (see ASAP case study).  LightSide Labs now builds automated writing support tools, including intelligent tutoring for middle and high school student essay writing. They’ve received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and are piloting in nearby schools, including Upper St. Clair and Chartiers Valley.
Pitt’sLearning Research & Development Center was the source of the IP for SWoRD, a peer review writing assessment system that removes bias and is marketed by Panther Learning. Pitt is also home to Lauren Resnick’s Institute for Learning.
More EdTech. OnHand Schools, which manages large sets of student data, letting teachers drill down to the student level to cater to individual learning needs.  Recently, Panther Learning and OnHand teamed up to offer curriculum and assessment solutions to more than 100 school districts, with a focus on improving how secondary schools will meet the Common Core writing assessment.
Think Through Math, formerly Apangea Learning, provides one-on-one math tutoring with live, online, certified teachers.
Duolingo is a language learning site that uses gamification and crowdsourcing to translate the web.
Saxifrage School is an alternative to colleges for vocational careers which has gotten some traction.
Digital Dream Labs is a new company in Pittsburgh doing impressive work on tactile programming games for early childhood computer science education.
Fitwits is “an obesity prevention and health literacy research project that uses games and character-driven narratives to transform unhealthy lifestyles into healthy ones.”
Consulting giant Accenture acquired Pittsburgh-based training and development shop Maynard in 2007 and created Accenture Academy, a blended learning solution serving over 100 clients in 140 countries.
In April 2013 Startup Weekend Pittsburgh saw more than 100 people participating in the third signature startup event. Winners from the last few Pittsburgh startups have formed companies, hired staff and even gone through accelerator programs.
Maker Hive. The MacArthur Foundation selected Pittsburgh as the third city to host a Hive Learning Network (along with NYC and Chicago). Hive Pittsburgh launched in the Spring of 2013 with a three month summer learning initiative. Hive Days of Summer activities have turned city sites into “maker” camps for teens.
Hive Pittsburgh is just one of many innovative learning initiatives happening in Pittsburgh. Tweens and teens have access to maker learning in MakeShop, STEAM learning atAssemble, on-line literacygames at community libraries, multimedia training at theLABS at the Carnegie Libraries, aRobotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University, and even music remixing atHip Hop on LOCK.
To help spread maker and digital learning practices into more communities throughout the city, the Remake Learning Digital Corps recruits and trains mentors in digital and maker learning practices and matches them with community centers, after school programs, neighborhood libraries, and other informal learning spaces. Digital Corps mentors work with youth to help them develop digital literacy skills while making competencies through projects that bridge computer programming, crafting, and robotics.
TechShop, a big maker success from Menlo Park (featured on Bloomberg), opened a new location in Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square last year.
There’s also been a recent building boom of digital and maker learning spaces in public schools across the region:

And it doesn’t just end with students. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit is transforming professional development withTransformeED – a digital playground for teachers to provide inspiration of how they can bring technology and maker practices into the classroom. And parents can get support through organizations ranging from theFred Rogers Center toWQED Multimedia.
Pittsburgh educators, innovators and organizations have come together to form the Kids+Creativity Network – more than 100 organizations, including public school districts, non-profit groups, libraries, museums, after school programs, and neighborhood community centers – which is committed to “remaking learning” in the greater Pittsburgh area. According to Gregg Behr of The Grable Foundation, through this network, “New pioneers—gamers, roboticists, technologists, and designers—are working alongside educators in and out of schools to inspire and provoke creativity and curiosity among children and youth in the Pittsburgh region.”
Students are also making policy. On Wednesday, The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools agreed to use a student bill of rights proposed by teens as a guide for revisions of the district Code of Student Conduct.
Pittsburgh has become a second tier EdTech hive even though the state of Pennsylvania gets a failing grade on the most recent Digital Learning Now Report Card. And, while there appears to be little evidence in Pittsburgh K-12 schools, the city is a pretty good example of university inspired innovation.
Thanks to Jason Lange,Elijah Mayfield, Gary Gardiner, Mark Limbach, Ryan Coon, Dave Guymon and Mary Ryerse for their help on this post.  Tom is a Bloomboard director.

EdTech 10: Map Is The Word

The key word for this weeks is “maps” – whether it’s mapping the way to college and career readiness, providing the latest mapping software to K-12 schools across the country or maybe just pulling out your road map to decide where you are going to visit during your summer vacation- we have all covered and much more in this week’s EdTech 10.

Blended Schools & Tools

1. How to Save Money & Expand Options. Building on the innovative Louisiana Course Choice model, a new paper written by four smart Stanford students in partnership with Digital Learning Now (@DigLearningNow) outlines a payment mechanism for courses to help spur successful student outcomes and forms the basis for effective state policy. This is a must-see framework for any state or district considering expanding access to part time online learning.

College Knowledge

2. Map to Success. Today, with Digital Learning Now (@DigLearningNow), Getting Smart releases the next #SmartSeries paper, “Core & More: Guiding and Personalizing College & Career Readiness.”  The paper outlines the 10 benefits students should experience from a distributed counseling and advisement program. Check out  the infographic for the paper- A College and Career Readiness GPS for Every Student.

Digital Developments

3. Nobody Left Behind. Education SuperHighway (@EdSuperhighway) and COSN (@CoSN) have come together to build a model for shaping a smarter E-Rate and build up wifi capacity so that all students have the internet speed and availability they need to learn in the 21st century.

4. Getting A New Look. Our friends at Digital Learning Now (@DigLearningNow) are getting a new look – they have released a new website, resources and many new features that will all help education leaders easily find ways to maximize the use of technology, including:

Be sure to Check out a  of the DLN Smart Series that Getting Smart has been proud to be a part of for the last two years on their new publications page.

Smart Cities

5. A Fresh Start. What if you could design implement a new statewide public education system that adapts quickly to the fluid expectations of society and enables learning to transcend time and place to ensure student success. That is what Amy Anderson (@berkanderson) and the Donnell-Kay Foundation (@donnellkay) is working towards with ReSchool Colorado, a multi year initiative working to create an new education system from scratch.
6. Growing Innovation. Joe Ableidinger (@Jableidinger), director of World Class Schools shared how innovative school models are paving the way for policy shifts in issues like seat time, student assessment, and educator evaluation. All will become more malleable as the implementation of new school models continue to provide promising alternatives in areas that lead to improved recruitment and retention of great teachers and student learning outcomes.
7. Meetups Covering the Map. Meetup and startup champ Chris Nyren has been Johnny Appleseed of EdTech Spurring & Supporting Entrepreneurship in Chicago, LA, Phoenix, and the Twin Cities.

Dollars & Deals

8. Maps for Schools! Billionaire Jack Dangermond’s Esri (@esri) pledges $1 billion towards bringing mapping software to America’s K-12 schools. Hopefully, the tool will help students learn “creative problem-solving” through hands-on projects. Pointing to the Get The Lead Out Project in Detroit as an example, Dangermond said, “It let kids to use analytics and come up with ideas for their own communities. The kids learned citizenship, science, problem-solving, and political involvement.”


9. It’s Game Time. It’s time to join JiJi the Penguin for ST Math’s(@Mind_Research) Game-a-thon, a challenge for K-12 students across the country. Choose a math concept to build the game around, build any kind of game, from cardboard to computer game.  Video the game and submit for the chance to be featured at the 2014 Math Fair – At the Square Root of Fun, August 2, 2014 in Irvine, California.
10. Here’s One for the Teachers. Just a few days left to enter the “Teachability Dream STEM Classroom Contest” (@teachability) where teachers can win a dream STEM classroom worth $2,000 from Teachability by Pearson- an online environment for teachers to connect, discuss, learn and improve, wants to know what inspires STEM  teachers around the country! Create a Pinterest board titled “My Teachability Dream STEM Classroom” by this Saturday for the chance to win!
Digital Learning Now, Pearson, MIND Research and Education SuperHighway are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.

6 Mistakes You Might Be Making with Technology Integration

When integrating technology into the classroom, it is easy to believe that all that is required is Wifi access and a Symbaloo page full of websites and digital tools. But while such an infrastructure may be advantageous to integration efforts, there are mistakes that many of us might still be making when using personal computing devices and Web-based content with our students. In an era where ignorance can mean legally-binding repercussions, understanding how to effectively use 21st century tools in the classroom is tantamount to effective classroom management or content area best practices.

Failing to Adapt Teaching Style

Giving students access to apps and the Internet isn’t going to transform the teaching or learning experience by itself. Regardless of how engaging or multi-media-rich any given content channel is, great teacher-led facilitation of digital learning is key. With instant access to an ever-growing world of information, forming the habit of asking students why they think an online source is credible is a newly requisite skill. Additionally, forsaking the “look-at-page-56” for the answer mentality in favor of strategic Web searching reflects a paradigm shift in how we find meaningful information to solve or enlighten genuine problems while allowing for tangential learning to take place as well. Aside from changes to the process of curation of information, the relationship between teacher and student, with the introduction of technology, shifts from a unilateral transfer of knowledge to a synergistic creation of learning, a partnership that requires adaptation by both teachers and students in order to take place.

Assuming All Students are Digital Natives

As in vogue as the notion of “Digital Natives” seems to be, not all of our students understand how to use, or even have access to, technology tools, regardless of how primitive they may be. Introducing a new device, app, or the Internet itself still requires that we pay attention to equity issues and differentiation. Particularly in rural areas or low-SES landscapes, access to the newest technologies may be fleeting or nonexistent outside of school. Incorporating support mechanisms for technology use into instructional designs and lesson plans is now just as important as doing the same for subject matter practice. Rather than viewing ourselves as “Digital Immigrants” and our students as “Digital Natives”, it would serve all of us well to accept the fact that we all are, in our own ways, “Digital Explorers.”

Ignoring Student Privacy Considerations

Many of the tools that we work with, whether online or on handheld devices, require users to agree to the software’s terms of use. These are often known as “clickwrap” agreements because users are, in effect, agreeing to legally binding contracts as they click through the agreements that grant access to using the digital tool. Exercise caution when accepting “clickwrap” agreements. Be sure to read all of their terms. Failure to do so may not only tie you into a non-negotiable and enforceable contract; but also compromise FERPA-protected student information including student names, contact information, education performance records, and other personally identifiable information such as transactional metadata. A good practice is to print off “clickwrap” agreements and frequently review the software’s current version to see if anything has changed that may compromise your district’s acceptable use policies or your own comfort level.

Using Technology with a Limited Understanding

Aside from the student privacy concerns of various digital software and tools, ensuring that you know how to use the websites and mobile applications that you will be encouraging your students to use is imperative. Never ask students to access or create content on a platform that you are not familiar with yourself. Becoming proficient with the tools that you choose to use in your classroom will enable you to identify whether or not they are useful, distracting, developmentally appropriate, or tech-heavy, among other characteristic attributes. Understanding what a tool offers and how to effectively leverage it for student learning may also lead to better identification of its relative advantage, or ability to solve an identifiable problem inherent in a pre-existing instructional design. In other words, understanding how to use technology will assist you in ensuring that it is used in the classroom as best as possible.

Stopping Short of Assessment

As with any other new practice or instructional strategy, efficacy should be assessed all the way from planning to execution. A tool being fun has no place in the classroom if it doesn’t lead to improved student learning, achievement, or growth. Referring back to a digital tool’s relative advantage, ask yourself whether or not incorporating such a technology into your instructional design met the goals and objectives identified in the planning phase of instruction. If not, was it the fault of an inappropriate pairing of tools with a learning task, or some other factor? In the same way that you would evaluate the causality of a reading intervention with a struggling reader’s growth, evaluating and assessing the role of technology in your teaching must be present and objective all the same.

Going It Alone

Finally, collaborate! As discussed in the Blended Learning Implementation Guide, tech integration is a team sport. When the expectation has become actively participating in a PLC, grade-level team, or at a minimum, with a partner, closed doors and closed ideas become obsolete. Aside from the intellectual capital that can be generated from collaboration, the logistical and emotional tolls of technology integration become more manageable when doing so is a group effort. In the context of this post, working with another or group of individuals lends itself to correcting the above mistakes. As a blended learning team, you all can share the load, learn from each other, leverage resources, and collaborate in pursuit of student success.
Integrating technology into the classroom and curriculum is no longer a choice based on personal preference, but an essential iteration of effective teaching and learning practices. While the first step to leveraging technology for meaningful student learning is accepting educational technology itself, the further we continue to integrate, the more important it becomes to honestly identify our mistakes and correct them with continued education. Only when we refuse to do this will the errors that we make with edtech lead to lackluster initiatives and missed opportunities for teaching and learning.

Core & More: Guiding and Personalizing College & Career Readiness

Implementing higher and more clear common expectations in core subjects is a big step forward for American education, but it will require more robust guidance and support services. There is an emerging opportunity to customize and better support individual students success:
Motivation – building sustained relationships with students, exploring areas of interest and related careers, addressing barriers to school attendance;
Customization – helping students set short and long term goals, track progress, and experience success in class, in job settings, and in community services;
Equalization – broadening exposure to college and career options, providing high touch/high tech decision support for postsecondary planning for all students.
Digital Learning Now (DLN), a national initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), in association with Getting Smart, today released the 11th white paper in the DLN Smart Series. Titled “Core & More: Guiding and Personalizing College & Career Readiness,” the paper features the expertise of Getting Smart authors Dr. Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark, with co-author Mary Ryerse. To complement the paper, the infographic “A College and Career Readiness GPS For Every Student” was released Tuesday.
For more information, download the paper.
The full press release is copied below.


Digital Learning Now Releases Smart Series Guide to Next-Gen Advising

White Paper Provides Guidance on Supporting Individual Student Success
Through Advising and Guidance Systems

WASHINGTON (May 29, 2014) –Digital Learning Now (DLN), a national initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), in association with Getting Smart, today released the 11th white paper in the DLN Smart Series. Titled “Core & More: Guiding and Personalizing College & Career Readiness,” the paper features the expertise of Getting Smart authors Dr. Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark and co-author Mary Ryerse, who brings a background in college and career readiness to the project. A complementary infographic, “A College and Career Readiness GPS For Every Student,” was released on Tuesday.
Implementing higher and more-clear common expectations in core subjects is a big step forward for American education, but it will require more robust guidance and support services to ensure individual student success. Students have always benefited from performance feedback, mentors, advisors, counselors, and strong support systems. The shift to higher standards creates an opportunity to further customize and better support students, and enhance the student-mentor relationship, through:

  • Motivation – building sustained relationships with students, exploring areas of interest and related careers, addressing barriers to school attendance;
  • Customization – helping students set short- and long-term goals, track progress and experience success in class, in job settings and in community services;
  • Equalization – broadening exposure to college and career options, providing high touch/high tech decision support for postsecondary planning for all students.

“The intent of the paper is to clarify the central mission of student guidance systems, sketch the architecture of information systems, and encourage aggregated demand in the hope it will lead to more investment and innovation in next-generation guidance systems,” said Dr. Schneider, Director of Policy and Research at Getting Smart.
This latest Smart Series white paper offers details on processes, existing tools and current examples of best practices for creating a next-generation system of student guidance and support. The authors describe the opportunities and challenges, and explain how more robust guidance systems can play a critical role in tracking progress, boosting college and career readiness, and empowering better choices.
“Strong guidance systems can take on a more integrated and comprehensive role in supporting academic and career readiness,” said Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart. “Better student guidance isn’t a fix for all problems, nor will it fulfill all readiness needs or guarantee that all students meet the rigorous Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It will provide much needed support to students and increase their rate of success.”
Thousands of secondary schools have incorporated guidance systems in the last 15 years; however, these practices and structures have not become the norm, in part, because of a lack of curriculum and information systems. Most teachers were not trained to participate in distributed guidance, and many teachers introduced to advisory structures find the multiple missions and lack of support systems confusing and frustrating. Advisory structures allow for college guidance, career guidance, homework help, academic monitoring, and other guidance functions to be delivered in an integrated manner.
“In practice, the best student advisory systems are blended, distributed and scheduled to ensure effective implementation and attainment of outcomes,” said Ryerse, education consultant with over 15 years of college and career readiness leadership experience at the district, state, and national level. “The systems must enable students to connect their academic preparation, strengths, mindset, and learning to their college and career aspirations.”
With rapidly expanding online choices, better guidance systems will be critical to ensuring that self-blends and customized pathways add up to better preparation—a key to equity and excellence, and a necessity if we are to graduate a new generation of students equipped to thrive in college and career.
Digital Learning Now is active on Facebook atFacebook.com/DigitalLearningNow and Twitter at @DigLearningNow. Using the hashtags #SmartSeries, #EdTech and #DigLN, readers can join the discussion on Twitter and Facebook.
Learn more or to download the full paper.
Catherine Wedgwood at (206) 291-7190 or [email protected]
About Digital Learning Now!
Digital Learning Now is a national initiative under ExcelinEd, with the goal of advancing state policies that create a high-quality digital learning environment to better equip all students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in this 21st century economy. The policy framework stems from the belief that access to high-quality, customized learning experiences should be available to all students, unbounded by geography or artificial policy constraints.
About Getting Smart
Getting Smart® is an advocacy firm passionate about innovations in learning. We help education organizations construct cohesive and forward-thinking strategies for branding, awareness, advancement and communication, and public and media relations. We are advocates for better K-12 education as well as early, post-secondary and informal learning opportunities for all students. We attempt to accelerate and improve the shift to digital learning. On GettingSmart.com we cover important events, trends, products, books and reports.