Telehealth: The Next-Generation of Therapy

As classrooms across the country continue to find new and interesting ways to utilize the power of technology, it is important to be open to the possibility of change and advancement. Options that once felt impossible are now changing kids’ daily life.
Imagine students who need speech therapy support, occupational therapy, or counseling services. Now imagine a family, living in a district with limited services or an online student who thrives in the digital environment. What if technology provided them with consistent access, flexible scheduling, and the highest qualified speech and occupational therapists and school counselors? What if an online approach could not only support students but also monitor and track growth measures that can easily be shared with parents and teachers? For many, the telehealth experience is already doing these things.
As Clay Whitehead, CEO of PresenceLearning (@PresenceLearn) describes below, telehealth is an essential component of creating a personalized, individualized experience for kids.
“Special education is squarely focused on the individual. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with special needs define the personalized goals and objectives of the student and how the student learns. PresenceLearning makes it possible to match students with the right therapists for their situation, for therapists to develop unique experiences for their students, and for the IEP team to make the right decisions based on progress data. With teletherapy, we’ve proven that this is scalable, effective, and efficient. From this perspective, we see special education as leading the way of next generation learning toward a future of personalized learning for all students, not just those on IEPs.”
Wondering what it all looks like? The videos below highlight just how access is increasing availability and providing alternative routes to success for our special needs students.
DeSoto County Schools, Arcadia, FL
See how a speech language pathologist uses technology to devise therapy sessions that are unique to each student’s goals and curriculum, and how students themselves respond to the individual attention they receive.

Online Occupational Therapy in Action
Watch as seven year old Nina builds motor planning, sequencing, and sensory processing skills through dancing.

Online Counseling Services
Interested in what a group online counseling session could look like online? Check out this simulated session where two students from different locations meet with their online counselor to work on social skills and explore ways to deal with anger.

Thanks to telehealth providers, such as PresenceLearning, we are seeing a different kind of success story for our students with special needs. A story that emphasizes student growth and outcomes while helping students take pride in their abilities and their potential. Crazy to think how far online therapy has come. Can’t help but wonder, what type of service will be next?
For more inspirational stories on how online therapy is working for schools across the country, check these out.
Synergy Academies – Los Angeles, CA

Murray County Schools – Chatsworth, GA

Bonneville Joint School District 93, Idaho Falls, ID

Fowler Unified School District, Fowler, CA

For more on online therapy from PresenceLearning, download their most recent infographic: Face to Face with Online Therapy.
PresenceLearning is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

A New Start on Accountability

Three of my favorite policy analysts kicked off a blog series intended to prompt a productive dialogue around fixing school accountability systems (#TheNewAccountability). Paul Hill and Robin Lake, CRPE, and Michael Petrilli, Fordham Institute, are equity advocates that have advanced a portfolio of options approach to urban education. They acknowledge how controversial this topic is off the bat:

Every child should be in a school where he or she can learn effectively. That’s not a controversial goal in itself, but the methods meant to accomplish it can become hot buttons. That’s the case with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which made the goal a national policy. It’s also becoming the case with the Common Core, under which states commit to educate children to rigorous standards.
Actions taken in pursuit of the goal are controversial because they are difficult and complicated. There is a lot of work of many kinds to be done: improving teacher training, experimenting with more effective methods, and continuously improving learning opportunities for children. Moreover, none of these tasks are enough by themselves. What ties them together is accountability—the use of standards, measures, judgments, and remedies to ensure that students are making significant progress over time and, if some are not, ensure that they have access to better opportunities.

They convened a discussion group which outlined six principles (a full list can be found here):

  1. All parents need to know immediately when, based on current achievement levels, their children are not likely to graduate high school, or be ready for college or a rewarding, career-ladder job.
  2. Student test scores are indispensable as timely indicators of student and school progress. But they should be considered along with other valid indicators, e.g., course completion and normal progress toward graduation.
  3. Every family should have the choice among public schools that are demonstrably capable of educating children well.
  4. States and school districts must support creation of new options for kids who are not learning.
  5. School leaders must have enough freedom to lead their schools and take responsibility for the results they get.
  6. States should hold schools, not individual teachers, accountable for student progress.

I love the idea of a ‘good school promise’ (best captured by #3) and think it should form the backbone of every states ed code.  This list is a good start but doesn’t adequately capture the opportunity of next generation learning.
The commitment to ‘off track’ warning is good but more broadly students and parents should have immediate access to progress monitoring. This will take better progress tracking using achievement data from a variety of sources.  Similarly, it’s not quite accurate to call (end of year state) test scores “timely indicators.” Students and families should have real time access to academic progress information.
The draft presumes a neighborhood school as provider but (like most college students) a growing number of high school students will be building multi provider transcripts through Course Access and Dual Enrollment (see Making the Most of State Course Access Programs). We’ve suggested that this requires much more robust guidance and support systems.
Most significant, the principles are rooted in test based accountability from an era of data poverty when big year end tests began to be used for too many functions: instructional improvement, teacher evaluation, student matriculation management, and school quality.  Rather than asking “How to motivate students to do their best on week long tests?”  Next gen accountability will use discrete (but aligned/comparable) data for discrete needs.
Toward student centered learning. “I think of ‘a new start on accountability’ as a system aligned to student-centered learning,” said Susan Patrick of iNACOL. That means, “Meaningful data at the instructional level and systems of assessments that provide much richer data than our current system. Imagine student data and evidence of students demonstrating through a performance their proficiency level on each and every standard along a learning progression.”
Patrick envisions students having a standards-based profile that allowed three pieces of evidence to be collected for each standard (e.g., projects, tasks, adaptive and embedded assessments) validated through summative assessments–including on demand end of unit and course exams– that are more modular in nature. This competency-based approach would require an entry assessment for placement and comparable growth measures that could answer the question, “How much learning is happening per unit of time.”
For a professional practice and capacity-focused view, see Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm from Stanford’s Linda Darling-Hammond and Gene Wilhoit and Linda Pittenger, National Center for Innovation in Education.  It’s short on intervention and options but there are five aspects that are on the mark:

  • It starts with a nod to Conley’s Think, Know, Act, Go goals frameworks–a good summary of college and career readiness.
  • It stresses stronger preparation culminating in teacher and administrator performance assessments for licensing (which sounds like the competency-based approach described in Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning).
  • On the need for “better assessments of learning— representing much more authentically the skills and abilities we want students to develop—and multiple measures of how students, educators, schools, districts, and states are performing.” And the potential to “move from an overemphasis on external summative tests, even as they become better representations of what students should know and be able to do, to a greater emphasis on assessment that can shape and inform learning.”
  • They recommend a digital portfolio serves to track evidence of readiness for next levels of learning and work.
  • The framework is reciprocal and calls for weighted funding that reflects actual challenges (see Funding Students, Options, and Achievement).

While the CRPE frame has an over reliance on end of year standardized tests, this paper is overweighted on hand scored assessments and professional judgement.  Neither adequately contemplate the contribution of the explosion of formative assessment embedded in games, sims, adaptive learning units, reading apps and writing assignments. Rather than obsessing over 100 items on a year end test, next gen gradebooks will automagically combine thousands of embedded and observed data points to help teachers accurately chart learning progressions. As our recent market research exposed, this is entirely possible but harder than it should be.
When we figure out how to better utilize the explosion of formative assessment that comes with a blended and personalized learning environment, it will be possible to use lightweight sampling strategies like NAEP tests to verify school and provider quality.
In the zone. Compared to CRPE, Darling-Hammond et al suggest more significant changes in measurement, capacity and policy. As noted last week, the way to test new measurement and accountability systems is by creating an innovation zone which could be implemented by an a statewide authorizer using performance contracting to engage districts, networks, and schools in experiments with new delivery strategies, talent development structures, and measurement systems. With a combination of pressure and incentives, a performance contracting approach could, over 5 or 10 years, become the primary delivery and accountability system for the state.
For more, see this iNACOL/CompetencyWorks paper:

5 Teaching Habits to Tame Time

Something kicks my posterior way too often. It’s a frenemy of mine, you see. Yep, that’s right. FREN-E-MY. Think of polar opposites. Some days are swing and duck, while others are smile and enjoy good luck. Are you picking up what I’m laying down? I’m speaking of that ceaseless, consistent, and never-changing thorn in my side…and friend by my side.
As a high school Language Arts teacher of eighteen years, I continually challenge myself to be more disciplined and efficient while improving productivity, quality, and creativity. I’m trying my best, and usually that suffices.
Let’s take a look at five ways I’m attempting to tame time.

Organized Bookmarks

Think about it. How many occasions have you re-searched for an educational resource that you used just last week? Can’t remember the name exactly? Hmmm. That doesn’t help. Guess the only thing to do is keep searching. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking.
Take a look at how something so simple can help you spend time so wisely.

Imperfect Screencasts

All right. Don’t let me offend anyone here. However, have you ever found yourself on a Friday teaching a co-worker the same concept that was shared with other colleagues Monday through Thursday? Was it something that could have been screencast or video recorded? If so, go ahead and do it.
Not only will you save time by sending your colleagues hyperlinks to your screencasts or video recordings, but your forward-thinking co-workers will also be able to pause and replay as they practice the very same concepts you have taught.
And don’t worry about getting your recordings perfect. If perfection is a part of your plan, you will defeat the purpose and lose all kinds of time. A screencasting guru once told me, “Whether you burp, your dog barks, or your wife hollers at the kids in the background, keep right on screencasting and recording. ‘Cause if you stop at every little imperfection, you’ll never finish. Plus, all that’s real. So be real.”
Screencast-O-Matic and Jing are two free programs to use. However, if you can swing it monetarily, Camtasia rocks.
Please find below one of my better screencasts and a hyperlink to many more here.

Virtual Meetings

I’m all for the face-to-face meetings. Physically being in a room full of enthusiastic educators adds a much needed jolt to teachers’ psyches. However, sometimes the extra time it takes to navigate a long walk across the campus, to engage in an impromptu conversation, to disengage from that same conversation, to ascend a flight of stairs, and to wait an extra five minutes for a late colleague to arrive makes a Chevrolet 454 engine seem fuel efficient.
Oh, how I sometimes want to simply stay put and use a video conferencing tool to connect with my colleagues and collaborate in a scheduled meeting. It really is so easy. Google Hangouts, Skype, and Microsoft Lync are all valuable technology tools that allow people to meet in a very efficient manner. Google Hangouts and Lync allow up to 10 people on one video call, while Skype boasts a maximum number of 25 in a group video call.
As if virtual meetings with colleagues aren’t enticing enough, don’t forget about joining classes with a fellow teacher in another school district to team-teach. It may sound complex, but the only tough part is trying to match up class times. Although I have only shared classes through Microsoft Lync with teachers from my school district, the process was awesome. I will definitely try again soon.

Google Forms

I jokingly tell people all the time, “Using Google Forms can help solve just about any issue…maybe even world peace.” Seriously, though. A precisely constructed Google Form can not only create magic in your classrooms, but it can also save so much time when gathering resources among teachers. Instead of spending hours upon hours discovering helpful videos, current events, lesson plans, and other valuable internet resources, simply create a Google Form and share it with your colleagues. True synergy then occurs as a group of focused educators scramble to share their favorite resources. Watch the video below to take a quick look at this process in action.

Tweetdeck and Twitter Lists

Let’s be real. If someone is “following” 20K people on Twitter, there is no way those interesting tweets are all being read. There is not enough time in the day. Heck, I am following over 600 and would like to follow more, but I find it challenging at times to keep up with the overwhelming amount of awesome information that flows directly to me. What is my solution?
Two things.
1. I use Tweetdeck to effortlessly browse certain hashtags or members of my PLN. By setting up only my desired columns, I can easily scan #edchat, #edtech, and #engchat hashtags all at once.
2. Creating and using Twitter lists also saves me a bunch of time. When I follow someone new, I immediately add him/her to one of a multitude of lists with titles that include: edadmin, ELA, educators, edtech gurus, and many more. Here’s a quick video tutorial to get you started.

So when you find time is kicking your rear end at work, take just a second to give yourself a hand and replace analog with digital. Will you be more efficient, productive, creative, and…happy? Who knows.
Only time will tell.

Rethinking the Education Experience of Future Generations

By: Deborah A. Gist, R.I. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Lisa Duty, Partner at The Learning Accelerator.
Every student comes to school with a unique set of skills, abilities, needs, and aspirations. But in the traditional classroom environment, even the best educators are challenged to reach every child in a way that meets her or his personal needs.  Through blended learning – which brings together traditional face-to-face instruction and online instruction under the guidance of a skilled teacher – students can proceed at their own pace and can pursue and develop their own interests and passions.  This is what’s happening in many classrooms in Rhode Island public schools today.
The need for a new approach
Across Rhode Island, a growing number of schools are engaged in blended learning and teachers are leading the way in demonstrating how to wield new technologies to improve and expand classroom instruction.  To support this initiative, RIDE and other public agencies, professional-educator membership organizations, technical-assistance providers, business-sector supporters, and other partners have stepped up to provide resources and expertise to advance blended learning across the state.  In applying the Framework for Cultivating High-Quality Blended Learning at the State LevelRIDE and its partners are laying the groundwork and investing in systems level transformation rather than relying solely on change taking place one school at a time.
In it together
We believe that real transformation requires a range of competencies, resources, and influence that can be obtained only from a broad coalition of actors—working both inside and outside of the system.  None of us “owns” the solution or the capacity to produce the change we seek in education; rather, we are counting on the power of many organizations and people– including teachers, students, and families– working together to transform education. In Rhode Island more than 50 organizations and partnerships are taking part in the development of blended learning; among them are the Highlander Institute, the Rhode Island Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Rhode Island Foundation, Learning First Alliance, the Rhode Island Society of Technology Educators, the Rhode Island Middle Level Educators, and the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association. Each organization has its own mission and its own constituency, but all share a commitment to preparing students for success and to seeking innovative ways to transform the classroom environment.
Scaling new capacity
Right now in Rhode Island, we’re trying to determine, at the state level, how we can bring about system-wide change that transforms instruction and touches the life of each student.
Throughout this process, we ask ourselves such questions as: What is RIDE best positioned to do?  What are our core competencies?  How can we work best with our partners across the state to create new forms of schooling?  How will we fund the shift to blended learning?  We all want to use technology to transform our schools and classrooms, but how will we make those initial investments?  Embracing blended learning means changing our current practices, and this goes not just for schools and districts but also for state-level membership organizations, networks, foundations, technical-assistance providers, and of course RIDE itself.
What the Framework could mean for other states
Many believe that states should develop and adopt policies to advance blended learning, but we argue that advancing blended learning goes far beyond policy.  Implementing the Framework is a means of taking disciplined action, not just layering new blended learning opportunities on top of old forms of schooling (or new statewide initiatives on top of old statewide initiatives no matter where they originate).
States have to commit resources to provide support for implementation (such as grants to districts, schools, and individual educators), communications and learning opportunities to share practices across schools and districts, and a vision of what our schools and classrooms can look like not on the far horizon but in the near future.
The Learning Accelerator recently released an important resource, A Framework for Cultivating High-Quality Blended Learning at the State Level, for state leaders who share its goal of achieving improved student outcomes within an innovative culture.  The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and thousands of Rhode Island teachers and students are blazing a trail for the nation, demonstrating how to bring more personalized student learning experiences into our classrooms.
debora-gist-profile-175pxwDeborah A Gist (@DeborahGist) is the Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. She began her career in education 25 years ago as an elementary-school teacher in Fort Worth and, later, in Tampa, where she conceived, designed, and initiated a literacy program serving families in 108 elementary schools in Hillsborough County. Deborah holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a doctoral degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania.

..But What Are They Learning? 3 Tips for Deeper Learning

It’s here. Aromas of pumpkin and apple fill the air as even the leaves changes their wardrobe. It’s autumn. School is in full swing with all its accoutrements and that means we’ve moved from wide-eyed optimism to the in-the-trenches daily grind. Our lesson planning shifts from big, broad brushstrokes that encompass entire months to the far less glamorous tedium of making it through any given day. The plans we wrote in August are completely useless (everything has changed… again) and we’re trying to figure out how, in such a short amount of time, we’re behind the ball again.
In a recent conversation with my friend Nancy, she made the statement, “We’re really good at planning activities, but how are we doing when it comes to planning learning?” I think this gets the heart of what’s happened. We’ve planned our activities to get the school year started, but now we’re realizing that the learning we hoped would take place, well, it isn’t. At least not like we hoped it would. So we tutor and ask students to stay after school or eat their lunch in your room so you can work with them or send letters home or all of the above. These are great things, but they’re all reactive. How can we get in front of these issues? How can we move from planning activities, to planning learning?
1 – Stephen Covey was on to something: Begin with the end in mind. What is it that students will do at the end of your unit/lesson/activity? Once you know where they’re headed, you can start to identify the steps to get them there. This means you always start with the learning outcome before you even think about the activity. Common sense? Maybe. But it’s far too easy to hear about something another teacher did and want to port it over to your room without considering the implications to your own curriculum. The same holds true (maybe especially so) for “technology lessons” where you force-fit your lesson into a given tool (app/website/resource) without considering exactly how that activity will lead students to mastery of the topic at hand. This is old (very old) advice, but one that is quickly left behind in our zealous pursuit of engagement.
2 – Design for learning, not engagement. Engagement can only take you so far. The pursuit of engagement is a lot like this. You’re always on the hunt for the next trick, the next ‘thing,’ the next app, the next website. It’s exhausting! There’s nothing wrong with keeping things fresh and new (you should!) but not for its own sake and certainly not in isolation. There are more resources today that are designed to drive student learning than ever before and our access to more information has become essentially unlimited. It’s time, then, to pair these new tools with a well-designed lesson that seeks deep learning from the start. Deep learning is inherently engaging. If you design a lesson for engagement, you’ll get neither engagement nor learning. If you design a lesson for metacognitive deeper learning, you’ll get both.
3 – Put students in charge of their own learning. Students should always be able to articulate what they’re learning, how the current activity is developing mastery of that topic, and how they’ll apply their learning to other (seemingly unrelated) situations. It is this last point (often known by its sexier title: divergent thinking) that truly makes a difference in student learning. Far too often, students are stumped when a question is posed in such a way that they must depart the path on which they learned in order to blaze a new trail, one that aggregates learning from a variety of sources to develop a new path to understanding. Put another way, they only memorized the rules, they never fell in love with the idea. It’s time to flip the script and develop systems where students can track their own progress (and no, a grade in a gradebook just doesn’t do it). When students are aware (metacognition) of their own learning journeys (where they are, where they’re headed, and how they’ll get there), suddenly it isn’t about grades, games, activities, or tests: it’s about education.
Whether you’re a classroom teacher, an instructional coach, school district administrator, or even an entrepreneur looking to support instruction, I implore you to ask (at least reflectively): but what are they learning?
For more on Deeper Learning, check out the Getting Smart Deeper Learning Page

Good Work: Connecting Mission & Task

The highlight of producing Smart Cities was interacting with 60 thought leaders who are compelled by a mission and have found or created a way to connect it with work that they enjoy. Each of these contributors understand their unique gifts and the activities that produce flow–those experiences when you are fully absorbed and fully productive–and they have aimed their time and talents at their mission. And these 60 have dedicated their lives to improving the education of young people. They are talented, passionate, and humble–working with people like that is the best part of what I do.
James Taylor said, “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.” I’d argue that it is connecting cause and gift, mission and task. When you do that it’s not work, it’s love.
Passionate about LX. Jon Kolko, design lead at MyEdu (now part of Blackboard), wrote a great post on why EdTech design should focus on learner experience design (LDX) more than expediency. Jason Gorman, Six Red Marbles, and I agree and have been writing about this (see 10 Elements of Next-Gen Learner Experience). It’s great to see districts like Danville Schools in Kentucky making powerful learning experiences their number one priority–and combating boredom which may be the number one problem in our secondary schools.  LDX is at heart of the Deeper Learning movement (see 20 school profiles) and what Andy Calkins, NGLC, calls next gen learning. This week I had the chance to talk to folks living LDX:

  • Imagination Foundation has 82,000 schools and clubs signed up for the Cardboard Challenge (based on Caine’s Arcade, pictured, join now!);
  • Teachers using to integrate science, history, and social studiers (we collected their stories here);
  • Jeff and Laura Sandefer, Acton Academy, are scaling up an exciting student-centered elementary school model;
  • Jason Lange at Bloomboard is thinking about great learning experiences for teachers;
  • Carrie Irvin & Simmons Lettre at Charter Board Partners are creating online and coaching resources for board members; and
  • Pat Hoge at Connections Education who thinks deeply about better online experiences for students.

Speaking of Connections, co-founder Steven Guttentag was named president this week following Barb Dreyer’s passing (she is remembered here).
Shout outs. Here’s a couple posts I just had to share on Twitter in the last few days:

Connections is an Advocacy Partner. Tom is a director at Bloomboard, Imagination Foundation and Charter Board Partners.

3 Organizations Selected by The Learning Accelerator for Grants in Blended Learning Human Capital

The Learning Accelerator (TLA) (@LearningAccel) announced the selection of three grantees who will receive nearly $1 million to continue leading on improving the implementation of blending learning and support for educators. Funding for this human capital cohort will focus on principal training, teacher professional development platforms, and further implementation of a previously funded teacher fellowship program. This is the second round of grants in the human capital sector, with the first round announced last March. Upon the announcement, Beth Rabbitt, Partner at The Learning Accelerator said:

Availability of really high quality, highly accessible resources to help educators make the shift [to blended learning] is low. Our initial strategy, which we’ve been calling our Next Gen Human Capital Initiative, seeks to build the ecosystem by building a suite of training and professional development supports for blended teachers and leaders and creating tools that are open, modular, scalable, and competency-based to personalize learning for adults.

This second initiative cohort is comprised of three organizations that are tackling this work from different, but collaborative methods.
Friday Institute for Educational Innovation | NC State University’s College of Education –

  • About: Advances education by preparing teachers, administrators, counselors, and educational professionals who use technology to transform the learning process.
  • Grant focus: Codify curriculum, pilot a national blended learning principal training program

CFY-Power My Learning | National Non-profit Organization

  • About: Supports personalized instruction through innovative tools enabling students to enrich their education through exploration, while offering pathways for self-remediation.
  • Grant focus: Help the organization leverage its PowerMyLearning platform to create a personalized professional development approach for educators.

Highlander Institute | Statewide Non-profit Organization, Rhode Island

  • About: Alongside sister organization, Highlander Charter School, the Highlander Institute supports learners by designing and providing education services while acting as the outreach and dissemination hub for the school.
  • Grant focus: Follow-up grant to fully fund the organization’s efforts to launch and sustain a statewide, Rhode Island teacher fellowship.

As part of The Learning Accelerator’s effort to create scalable solutions in the human capital sector, these grants will continue to build the capacity of TLA’s partnering organization while addressing gaps in the blended learning ecosystem.
For more TLA and the human capital grantees, see:

The Learning Accelerator is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

Watch | 11 Year Old Designs 3D Printed Solution with City X Project

As students across the country went back to school this month, many were greeted by a new game changing learning tool: The 3D printer.
Educational uses for 3D printing have expanded over the past two years. Free software such as SketchUp (formerly Google Sketchup), MatterControl and new low cost 3D printers have allowed increased accessibility to schools. In 2013, the United Kingdom Department of Education even launched a campaign that supplied 21 schools with 3D printers and supporting curriculum.
However, in the United States 3D printing has been primarily limited to high schools and universities. Enter the City X Project and James an 11 year old from Appleton, WI, who are leading the integration of 3D printing curriculum in elementary classrooms. Watch:


City X Project is a Common Core State Standards-aligned 3D printing and design thinking curriculum for 8 to 12 year-olds. In partnership with Made in Space, City X Project ran the first workshop with James’ class in Appleton, WI. As part of the workshop, James, dubbed “Space Kid,” was challenged to design 3D printed solutions for citizens of City X, a figurative human settlement on another planet where everything is created with 3D printers. James invented the “Health Coaster” to help address health care problems that citizens of City X face. To celebrate James’ imagination, creativity, and problem solving, his design will be printed on the International Space Station next year.
City X Project is providing their toolkit for free! The toolkit is a detailed guide to facilitating the City C Project workshop.


What’s in the toolkit?

  • Step-by-step guide to running the City X Project workshop.
  • Point-by-point alignment with Common Core Standards.
  • Ready to print workbooks and “citizen cards.”
  • Add-on activities, additional materials, and equipment.

With the increasing emphasis in STEM, don’t be surprised to see more 3D printers in schools this year. NMC Horizon Project’s Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2013-2018 forecasts an increase in schools adopting this new technology and describes the academic advantages 3D printing curriculum:

3D printing allows for more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available – from design to production, as well as demonstrations and participatory access, [3D printing] can open up new possibilities for learning activities.

More on how 3D printing is changing how students learn, see:

Across the Canvas Cloud

Yesterday, Instructure announced the next big thing for their Canvas learning management system (LMS): Canvas Commons. This new platform focuses on the social needs of educators and the power of the web to connect people.
This learning object repository is designed to be a place where the best practices, unique ideas, courses and curriculum can be freely shared — all seamlessly integrated into the Canvas LMS environment.
Canvas Commons 1
Back in June, Canvas was selected by Unizin, a higher ed consortium, as the learning platform for delivery. The choice largely based on commitment to and support of open standards. Unizin members looked forward to an open, cloud-scale platform of their own to host online classes and share research and analytics, giving educators the flexibility and freedom to shape their own online learning environment. They were also key players in identifying the need for the Canvas learning object repository and will be the first major organization to pilot the tool.
“Teachers and designers often create custom learning resources — or simply accept materials handed down to them — because it’s hard to find and incorporate vetted, relevant, open content, activities and assessments,” said Jared Stein, vice president of research and education at Instructure. “Canvas Commons makes it so much easier to not only find and reuse the world’s best and brightest teaching ideas, but also to revise, remix, and, of course, redistribute those activities back into the community.”
For many educators, Canvas has provided a unique solution to the LMS. As Getting Smart Teacher Blogger John Hardison noted in a recent blog post, “After struggling through previous user-UNfriendly LMSs, I welcome Canvas with open arms.” Innovative and collaborative teachers, like Hardison will surely be excited about the possibilities that Canvas Commons brings to teacher engagement and development.
Canvas Commons 2
Although currently in a piloting phase, within several months, Canvas Commons will be free to all Canvas LMS users and allow them to:

  • Build and share complete courses – With Canvas Commons, users can build and share a complete course, including course activities, outcomes, assignments and quizzes.
  • Create a personal learning object repository – Users can create an individual repository to keep to themselves, providing a single, central location for all of their education assets and eliminating the need to search endlessly for old resources they’ve used years ago.
  • Leverage the Canvas Commons database – Users can search for relevant materials (and filter by topic, grade level, institution and resource type) and assemble courses without spending countless hours creating materials from scratch and scouring several different external sources.
  • Incorporate activities and content from Canvas Commons to Canvas instantly – The seamless integration of Canvas Commons and Canvas makes it simple and easy for users to put the best resources from Canvas Commons into their courses on Canvas.
  • Selectively share across the entire Canvas network – Institutions can share publicly across the network or share specific learning activities under a license that fits their goals.

For more information on features and capabilities, check out
Instructure is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

EdTech 10: Smart Cities, Competitions and Investments

This week’s top stories show evidence of folks “getting smart” about innovations in education. The Foundation for Excellence in Education (@ExcelinEd), in partnership with Getting Smart, launched the My School Information Design Challenge (#SchoolInfo) – a national competition to rethink and redesign the way in which data is presented on school report cards so that they can drive decisions, spark discussions and support the efforts of state departments of education. The competition offers prizes up to $35,000–so if you are a designer or data geek or a parent who knows school information could be more usable, this is a great way to contribute to education AND enter a cool design challenge. And we’re just getting started…read on for the top 10 EdTech stories of the week!

Smart Cities

1. Cities skilling up. The Smart Cities blog series has culminated in the release of a paperback and ebook. Authored by Tom Vander Ark (@tvanderark) with Mary Ryerse (@maryryerse), Smart Cities that Work for Everyone: 7 Keys to Education & Employment outlines the 7 keys civic formula required to dramatically boost learning outcomes and employability. After debuting the book at the National Conference of State Legislators, Tom and national policy experts stressed importance of innovation zones as an incubation and migration strategy.

Blended Schools & Tools

2. Digital Promise welcomes new members. Eleven new school districts joined Digital Promise’s (@DigitalPromise) League of Innovative Schools. The organization now has 57 innovative members serving more than 3 million students. Members partner with research institutions and EdTech companies to share best practices through participation at conferences, creating greater innovation in leadership and learning. Also, congrats to new member Kettle Moraine School District (we were impressed with two themed flex high schools).
3. Efficacy as a key measure. Pearson (@pearson) is determining what products and instructional practices are most effective and has defined efficacy as “a measurable impact on improving people’s lives through learning.” As John Watson of Keeping Pace (@KeepingPaceK12) suggests, this can be challenging for schools that are implementing digital learning. The end result? We need to know what change is any implementation going to create, how we might measure it, and how we will know if the outcomes are achieved.
4. Unpacking good EdTech stories. Michael Horn (@michaelbhorn) at Christensen Institute wrote this blog about schools that are getting blended learning right. He sites programs that have demonstrated results in the Enlarged City School District of Middletown in New York, (the district won a RTTD grant) including i-Ready, DreamBox Learning (@dreambox_learn), Lexia Learning (@LexiaLearning), Achieve3000 (@Achieve3000), and myON. Takeaway: Start with goals and pick models that support them.
5. Billions and billions. There’s been loads of news coverage lately on Big History Project (@BigHistoryPro), including a New York Times magazine feature on the rich content platform. Getting Smart on Big History Project was launched and features a Google Hangout with teachers who use Big History, resources for professional development, and deployment insights – perfect for a middle/high school humanities or science course or block. Enjoy! Interested in sponsoring a Smart Bundle, check out more information here.

Digital Developments

6. Final-Oui! Khan Academy (@khanacademy) courses are now available in French at! As we know, world language instruction deserves to be mentioned in the conversation around blended learning opportunities. Stay tuned in with Getting Smart as we release “Elevate and Empower: World Language Instructors as Key Players to Competency-Based” in partnership with Rosetta Stone (@RosettaStone) next month.
7. Three cheers for open, transparent, and accessible resources. President Obama (@BarackObamaannounced that the US government will “promote open educational resources to help students and teachers everywhere.” Other highlights include plans to launch an online skills academy and pilot new models for using open educational resources to support learning.


8. Prize-a-palooza. In addition to ExcelinEd’s MySchooInfoChallenge, there was a lot of activity in prizes this week.

Dollars & Deals

9. Fresh deals. Four new deals this week caught our attention.
Shortly after acquiring Socrative, MasteryConnect (@MasteryConnect) closed a $15 million financing push and turned the corner from viral app to classroom game changer .

Higher, Deeper, Further, Faster Learning

10. Deeper Learning. A comprehensive study was released by the American Institutes for Research (@AIR_Info). Findings: Students from Deeper Learning Network (@DeeperLearning) were more likely than their peers to attend 4 year universities and graduate on time and students in Deeper Learning schools “have better scores on assessments that measure core content knowledge and complex problem solving skills.” (See profiles of 20 Deeper Learning schools.)
The Foundation for Excellence in Education, Pearson, DreamBox Learning and Curriculum Associates are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.