It’s the time of year when we pause to focus on the teachers–past and present–who are making a difference, and make sure that we show them the love and appreciation they deserve.

Our work with hundreds of schools confirms that teachers aren’t just making a difference for the kids in their classrooms, they’re making a difference across the planet. Research confirms that teachers are leading the path to personalized learning by implementing new learning models like blended, competency-based and project-based, deeper learning.

There’s more than one way to #thankateacher and not all of them include apple-themed coffee mugs and painted hand prints. We thank teachers today and every day by highlighting the amazing shifts they are making in service of learners. Here’s to you, smart teachers!

Blended Schools & Tools

1. Hot off the press! The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) released a new report Tuesday, Student-Centered Learning: Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems to Optimize Learning, authored by Liz Glowa and Jim Goodell. This paper explores the information technology (IT) requirements necessary to build integrated, student-centered systems that can support and optimize personalized learning, maximizing the learning potential of each and every student.

2. The correct question is… The National Education Policy Center released another ridiculous report last week warning that online and blended learning schools are struggling. Christensen Institute’s Julia Freeland posted a response in the Hechinger Report titled Taking the Correct Temperature of Blended Learning where she noted that “blended learning is flourishing” and “is quickly spreading, as online learning becomes an integral part of the nation’s schools.” She suggests the best research shaping the field will not ask the question, “Does blended learning work?” Instead it will evaluate specific blended learning models relative to problems that individual school systems are trying to solve.

3. Cool schools. We love hearing about schools finding innovative ways to further student learning, and here are two great examples from our friends at EdSurge:

  • Innovation personalized. When Summit Public Schools couldn’t find the personalized learning tool it needed, the charter system decided to create it internally. The new software, Personalized Learning Platform (PLP), was reviewed and tweaked by Facebook engineers, and then 19 other schools and districts were invited to try it through a “Basecamp” program.

  • Student drivers. How is an elementary school in Harrisburg, South Dakota taking steps to go from teacher-driven to student-driven learning? Travis Lape, a technology integrationist in the district who worked with Harrisburg Freedom Elementary on this project, shares more on how the school is eliminating grade levels and bringing in a flexible collection of learning environments.

Blended Bonus: The Foundation for Blended and Online Learning announced that 50 students will earn $10k each towards college through its scholarship program! The scholarships are available to students who have completed five blended or online courses during their last two years of high school and plan to continue their education in college or vocational school programs.

Digital Developments

4. Open Sesame. Sesame Workshop and IBM Watson are partnering to develop edtech for pre-schoolers. IBM will draw on Sesame Workshop’s deep well of educational research, experts and content while helping them decide how it can apply advanced technology in its own educational products and research.

Dollars & Deals

5. Coding for everyone. Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and other big names in tech and corporate America have teamed up with governors and educators to urge Congress to provide $250 million in federal funding to school districts in order to give every single K-12 student in the nation an opportunity to learn how to code. We recently shared five important reasons for expanding access to coding learning experiences in K-12 in our Smart Bundle Is Coding the Most Important Language to Learn Right Now?

6. Investing in the future. There were also some interesting investments that happened over the past week, spanning early education through higher education:

  • Shark bait. Billionaire investors Mark Cuban and Chris Sacca invested $600,000 in early education platform Brightwheel on the popular “Shark Tank” television show. Brightwheel is a free innovative, all-in-one app for daycares and schools track information, stay connected and communicate to parents about their children. During the Shark Tank episode, investors Cuban and Sacca fought over the opportunity to invest individually before finally agreeing to participate together.

  • Did you get it? GotIt announced today that it has raised over $9 million. The chat service connects learners to an expert who interactively works with them for 10 minutes to solve a problem through a step-by-step explanation.
  • Taking full measure. Almost one year after raising a $5.5 million round, Full Measure Education has raised another $6 million from the same growth-stage venture capital firm, Safeguard Scientifics. Full Measure Education develops personalized software for students involved in post-secondary education to help prepare community and vocational school students for promising professional careers.

STEM Gems

7. Sky is the limit. Drones are a popular item to own, and now a new book from the International Society for Education (ISTE®) shows how educators can use them for student learning. Chris Carnahan, Laura Zieger and Kimberly Crowley wrote Drones in Education: Let Your Students’ Imaginations Soar for educators who want to know more about the advantages incorporating drones can have on the effectiveness and appeal of their curriculum.

Policy Pieces

8. Student opportunities and outcomes. Two new reports were published jointly by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) to provide timely research and evidence-based examples for educators and policy makers looking to leverage ESSA to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all children. The reports, Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States and Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act offer valuable guidance for schools, districts and states looking to re-imagine their systems of support, improvement, opportunity and accountability. Question about ESSA? Here are 5 things states need to know about school accountability.

Let’s Get Personalized

9. Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks recently visited Charleston County School District and shared insights into how medium-sized districts can effectively introduce personalized, competency-based education. Check out the complete blog series:

  1. Breaking Ground for Personalized Learning in Big Districts
  2. Progression of Implementation for Personalized Learning
  3. Personalized Learning at Pepperhill Elementary
  4. A Conversation with Teachers at Stall High School
  5. A Conversation with Teachers at Goodwin Elementary School
  6. Pinehurst Elementary School

The Big “D”

10. Student supports. In partnership with leaders from across the education field, the Data Quality Campaign has developed Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students: a set of recommendations to help states enact policies that are critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning.

For more see:


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