This week’s Top 10 list signals a flurry of EdTech activity from mindsets to Minecraft and MOOCs. Some of our favorite kids (and adults) love Minecraft, so free MOOCs on Minecraft in the classroom and opps to learning coding are right up our alley.

Upcoming Events

1. Mark your calendar. We are already gearing up for one of our favorite conferences of the year: SXSWedu (@SxSWedu) in Austin in 2015. PanelPicker voting for SXSWedu 2015 is now open. Check out 21 sessions we’re giving a thumbs-up.

Coming in November, the annual iNACOL (@nacol) conference will have more than 200 thought-provoking sessions and networking opportunities. It’s November 4-7, 2014 in Palm Springs and you can register now. Keynotes will feature Sal Khan of Khan Academy (@khanacademy) and The One World Schoolhouse and Michael Horn from Clayton Christensen Institute (@ChristensenInst), co-author of the forthcoming “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.”

While you’re at it, register now to join us at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s (@ExcelinEd) national summit on November 20-21 in Washington D.C. Also, the ASU+GSV summit is on for next April and is already open for registration. Check out our full list of 20 can’t miss conferences. And, hopefully see you soon!

Blended Schools & Tools

2. The Buzz on Buzz. Agilix (@Agilix), a company founded on the idea of putting control of the learning experience in the hands of educators and students, has partnered with both the League of Innovative Schools (@DigitalPromise) and Next-Generation Learning Challenges (@NextGenLC) to offer a free “test drive” of the Buzz Platform. Buzz was originally developed with the School Improvement Network and the Michigan Education Achievement Authority (@EAAofMichigan) as a platform to support the personalized and performance-based culture of the EAA. Letters were sent early this month to all participating schools offering an extended trial period that will allow school networks and districts to gain a better understanding of the personalization that exists within the Agilix platform. To read more about what Tom finds impressive about Buzz, check out Agilix Powers Personalized Learning and for more information about the Buzz Test Drive, drop Agilix a note at [email protected]

3. Two opportunities. SETDA (@SETDA) is hosting a back-to-school webinar on Thursday, September 11. Educators can learn more about how to access the $2 billion in donated and discounted educational technology being made available under the ConnectED Initiative. And, calling all  education entrepreneurs, here’s a good opp: Apply now for the Innovation Incubator program through SIIA. If you are developing promising tech solutions in the K-12 sector, this program provides launch support for YOU. Apps due September 26. Good luck!

Digital Developments

4. We love a good campaign. Khan Academy (@khanacademy) launched a COOL new growth mindset campaign this week. Check out the short video and also use the hashtag #youcanlearnanything to follow along. Based on the growth mindset work of Carol Dweck and in partnership with Mindset Works, Khan Academy seeks to help students build their confidence and recognize that intelligence is malleable. Research backs this up: having a growth mindset leads to more positive outcomes. Tom thinks schools should add a dose of maker to develop the innovation mindset.

For the Younger Set

5. It’s all about early childhood. On the heels of President Obama’s announcement to promote preschool funding for the pre-K, The Department of Education and Health and Human Services (@HHSgov) announced that states have two months to apply for expanding or building preschool programs in order to take advantage of some $250 million dollars earmarked for early childhood ed. Apps are due in mid October with announcements expected in December. Grants are anywhere from $5 to $35 million for new or expansion preschool programs. In related news, the state of New York is giving $340 million to 81 schools to fund full-day pre-K for nearly 37,000 children. The state budget has set aside $1.5 billion over the next 5 years to fully fund a statewide program for pre-K. Those of us that are parents of young ones (and those who plan to have kids!) are crossing our fingers that programs such as these expand across the US. More on that as cities, states, and the federal government mobilize and fund early childhood education. Here’s to hoping!

Dollars & Deals

6. An exciting deal this week. FreshGrade (@freshgrade) a free downloadable app for teachers, parents and students, has raised $4.3 million in funding to bring its communication and assessment app to more K-12 schools. FreshGuide allows teachers to take photos of accomplishments in school, and everything goes into secure portfolios just for students and parents to see (i.e. it’s secure). Teachers can also use FreshGrade to grade and assess work on the go, for parents and students to access via mobile tech. More communication = happy and informed parents. (Stay tuned for some great news from MasteryConnect.)

Smart Cities

7. The revolution is coming to a city near you. In Leading the Shift to Digital, Tom (@tvanderark) recently wrote that “next generation learning will combine environments that blend the best of face-to-face and online learning with policies that allow students to progress as they demonstrate mastery.” In the Smart Cities book (out September 15), Tom outlines the 7 keys to education and employment in cities which include sustained leadership, talent development, aligned investments, and supportive policies for schools and startups. Tom also responded to Kirp’s chirps that innovators don’t like kids….yeah, right, puppies either.

Teachers & Tech

8. Bill and Melinda Gates are celebrating…TEACHERS. The famous couple is celebrating teachers the week of August 19-22 and you can see a photo slideshow of 6 EdTech products that teachers love and use including Edmodo and Bloomboard. Bill Gates talked with Washington State’s Teacher of the year, Katie Brown, about good PD and the impact powerful PD has on kids and learning. Melinda traveled to Tennessee talked with teachers; the teachers and Melinda shared strategies for effective collaboration and discussed how teachers prepare for upcoming school year over the summer. We all know teachers don’t really get a summer break. This video proves it!

9. Next gen #ProfDev. Gone are the days of sitting in lectures as a stand-in for meaningful PD. We have a whole new crop of people who are reimagining professional learning for education. This is from Next Generation Learning Challenges (@NextGenLC) who advocate for personalized PD with a collaborative approach. There are tons of great ideas here for preparing teachers for deeper learning and an infographic on the new wave of next gen PD.

Stem Gem

10. Breaking news…for the kids (and adults) that love Minecraft! ThoughtSTEM (@ThoughtSTEM) has made coding entertaining and accessible. The LearnToMod (@LearnToMod) software teaches students how to write JavaScript code by creating Minecraft (@MineCraft) mods. For the beginning coder, a student could use building blocks of code that produce simple-yet-fun features. In other Minecraft news, Canvas (@instructure) announced free MOOCs for teachers, students, and parents including one on using Minecraft in the classroom.

Canvas by Instructure, ExcelinEd, NGLC and Agilix are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. Bloomboard and Edmodo are portfolio companies of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.

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