SMARTtech: “Competency” is the Word of the Week

Blended Schools & Tools

Dell is on the case (part two). The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) has released the second in a series of case studies that examine blended learning approaches, this time offering a case study of Summit Public Schools. Check out Diane Tavenner, the founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools, speaking about her experiences on the MSDF blog.
Mobile collaboration. This June Blackboard, Inc. increased its mobile offerings and recently launched Blackboard Collaborate in app form under private beta with select K-12 and higher education institutions. Blackboard Collaborate Mobile allows educators and students to Web conference, share content, instant message, respond to surveys, raise hands, and more from tablets and smartphones. Check out Sarah’s piece on the Getting Smart Blog: Blackboard Collaborate Goes Mobile.
Blended learning blog. A recent post on the Education Elements blog offers definitions of blended classrooms, also offering descriptions of key benefits, multiple modalities and foundational models.

Keeping Tabs on Tablets

Beyond tools. Edudemic revealed The Secret To Successfully Using iPads In Education. Spoiler alert: it requires more than putting a tool in students’ hands. Interested in some iPad ideas from teachers? Read Using iPads With Mixed-Ability Students.
Snuffing the Fire? This week, ZDNet asked: Will the new Kindles change the game for tablets in education? The short answer? “No. No it won’t. And the ecosystem is to blame,” says Chris Dawson.

Digital Developments

Survey Says! Two surveys on educational technology garnered some attention this week. A survey from the Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission revealed that 82 percent of teachers and 71 percent of parents said greater emphasis on technology would be helpful for learning. Mind/Shift reported on a surprising find that, despite having to contend with deep budget cuts, schools are able to maintain current levels of technology growth according to data from the Software & Information Industry Association. In its annual Vision K-20 Survey, SIIA found that institutions are maintaining their level of investments in each of the five measures of progress: Enterprise Support, 21st Century Tools, Anytime/Anywhere Access, Differentiated Learning, and Assessment Tools.
NSVF + LGN. NewSchools Venture Fund announced a $200,000 investment in Learning Games Network (LGN), the leading game-based learning research and development studio. The investment will support LGN in building the market for high-quality learning games through the design and development of games and related tools; and help LGN to launch production of the Playful Learning, a knowledge network and community of practice where teachers will be able to share resources and best practices for using games in instruction.
Mark your calendar. PresenceLearning, online provider of live online speech therapy for schools, is hosting a free webinar titled “Online Speech Therapy for Virtual School Students: When, Where and How?” on Thursday, September 27th at 1:00 pm ET (10:00 am PT). To register for the webinar, visit  For more on Presence, check out Tom’s interview with co-founder Clay Whitehead and Clay’s guest blog Telepractice Brings Online Speech Services to School Districts of all Sizes.
Cha-ching. This week Financial Post reported on the “meteoric growth” of venture capital investment in education, citing GSV data that investment in education technology companies in the United States grew to $930-million in 2011, from $52-million in 2005.
Online learning about online learning. Michael Barbour announced the start of the Virtual School massive online open course (MOOC) entitled Introduction to K-12 Online Learning Research which will run over the next four weeks. The MOOC itself was designed to provide a broad overview of the field of K-12 online learning, specifically what is currently known based on the research that has been conducted in the field.
Tailored in Texas. The Texas Education Agency recently launched Texas SUCCESS, to provides online interactive mathematics and reading material available 24/7 to students in grades 3-8. Texas SUCCESS has two primary components: online interactive programs in reading and math, which will assess the student’s skill level then assign and deliver appropriate curriculum tailored to that student’s abilities.
More choice? Of course! Louisiana announced the new “Course Choice” program that expands student choice down to the course level. The new “Course Choice” program was created in the massive education revamp pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and passed by lawmakers earlier this year. The expanded course offerings could be available to thousands of students in the 2013-14 school year. EdWeek reported that more than 30 providers already have stepped forward seeking state approval to take part in the Course Choice program, which opens for business next school year.
What’s on your sash? EverFi announced that it has built Sash, the first open-source badging platform that enables education companies to use badges to encourage and recognize student achievement. EverFi launched the open-source badging technology across its K-12 learning platform in the 2012-2013 academic year. The technology behind Sash allows organizations to integrate badge creation, management, and display into their own products. The badging platform follows the metadata format established by the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure. This week, Technapex offered thought on Using Badges in Education and Beyond.
Go BYO! A new report from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), titled “Safe & Secure? Managing the Risks of Personal Devices,” examines today’s advancing Bring Your Own (BYO) initiatives and related safety and security risks facing. The report outlines Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Bring Your Own Network (BYON), and Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) / Bring Your Own Applications (BYOA)—and explains the factors driving these initiatives, including ensuring that students receive a 21st-century education and lowering district costs.

Steamy STEM Gems

More feedback, better results. Students in Minnesota benefited from the immediate feedback that online math assessments provided, as evidenced by jumps in student achievement.
STEM boost in Baltimore. Baltimore city elementary school students will benefit from a $7.4 million grant awarded to the Johns Hopkins University, that the institution will use to implement STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools–a partnership between city schools and the university that targets students in grades three through five, at nine elementary schools.
Big data meets STEM. T.H.E. Journal reported that students in Arkansas will have access to a Web-based tool to help them master math and science. The Arkansas Department of Education will be providing access to Penda Learning, a Web-based standards mastery resource for students in grades 4-10. Penda uses avatars and competitions to engage students. Teachers get data reported by grade level, class, and student that can be imported by gradebooks and can show time spent on a given task as well as the activities and standards mastered.
Unsung STEM Source. Bayer USA Foundation’s Rebecca Lucore made a great point on HuffPo this week, noting that community colleges are the “unsung” source of America’s STEM talent.
An American winner perhaps? This week we learned about the Airbus “Fly Your Ideas” competition that challenges students worldwide to develop new ideas for a more sustainable aviation industry. This year, victory will mean not only a €30,000 cash prize; the successful team will also welcome experts from Airbus’ Innovation Cell onto their campus for a week of learning on what it takes to become a true aviation innovator.

Getting to the Core

Getting ready in New York. Curriculum Associates’ newest offering, Ready™ New York CCLS (Common Core Learning Standards), will include material that addresses the latest changes to the state’s 2013 mathematics tests announced in late August by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Ready New York CCLS can also be connected with i-Ready™ Diagnostic & Instruction, a valid and reliable online program that enables teachers to pinpoint needs through assessment and provide automated individualized instruction to students.
Take a leap with Fullan. Pearson’s Research & Innovation network is kicking off a series of webinars designed to help teachers make the transition to the Common Core.  The first webinar on Monday, September 24th,, “Common Core: Making the Leap and Achieving Success,” features internationally recognized author, educator and consultant, Michael Fullan, leading a discussion of “lessons learned” with educators who are in the midst of the change. Register now.  And check out Tom’s 16 Must-Read Quotes from Michael Fullan’s Stratosphere.
Librarian Leadership. Catherine Gewertz pointed out this week that the Common Core is thrusting librarians into important leadership roles. Since they are already equipped with inquiry-based skills, librarians are helping teachers acquire the instructional methods they need to adopt.
Common Core Coalition. Tennessee’s push to implement the Common Core State Standards is getting support from The Expect More, Achieve More coalition. The group includes leaders in business, education, and other sectors, and it will work to build awareness and provide tools about the common core.
Collaboration for implementation. The adoption of Common Core State Standards will bring more opportunities for teachers to collaborate in online learning communities writes fifth-grade teacher Christine Newell, in an article that provides lots of ideas and tools for increased teacher collaboration in CCSS implementation.

Come On Get App-y

Dojo on the Go. A month after raising a substantial seed round, San Francisco-based ClassDojo launched its first native mobile classroom management app. Through the iOS app teachers will be able to give students feedback in real-time from their smartphones and tablets, with an Android app to follow shortly.
Mobile versions abound. Online learning developer Wowzers launched a new mobile version that features a full classroom management system, a complete third through fifth-grade Common Core curriculum, as well as a supplemental sixth through eighth-grade curriculum. The newest version of Wowzers is now supported on any mobile device, including iOS and Android platforms.
Publisher partnership. Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and online test prep, announced a new partnership with Zinch, a Chegg Company and an online resource for college preparation and admissions.
PBL-Algebra. Curriki, a global K-12 community for creating, sharing, and finding open learning resources, has launched a free Algebra 1 course aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Available online, this project-based modular course engages students through real-world examples, projects, interactive web 2.0 tools, videos, and targeted feedback, Curriki says.

Higher, Deeper, Further, Faster Learning

The word of the week. I’m ready to declare that “competency” is the word of the week, with great pieces from iNACOL’s Competency Works on Cracking the Credit Hour and Better Assessment Practices, EdSector with The Credit Hour: A Poor Proxy for Student Learning, and HuffPo on What Is Competency-Based Education?
MOOCs for remediation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it is seeking proposals for the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed to serve as remedial and other general education courses, which are often stumbling blocks for lower income students. The foundation said in its request for proposals that it hopes to encourage high-quality MOOCs that could help improve college completion rates.
Exam options. Online learning venture edX announced its agreement with Pearson VUE to offer learners the option of taking a proctored final exam. Due to this new agreement, edX learners now have the option of taking a course final exam at one of over 450 Pearson VUE test centers in more than 110 countries. Proctors at the centers will verify the identity of the examinee and administer the tests. Examinees using the Pearson VUE centers will take the same rigorous exam as online learners and will be charged a modest fee for the proctoring service. edX announced a similar partner with Udacity earlier this year.
OER Bill. The California State Senate passed an open textbook bill this week that would create an OER library for the textbooks in the most popular undergraduate classes at the state’s public universities.
DIY MOOC tools. Edudemic reported that Google has just unveiled a (“very beta”) version of its own course building software. Click here to get started with Google’s new Course Builder. Speaking of MOOCs, our Getting Smart guest blogger asked this week: Can Online Education Ever Really Be Free?

The Big “D”

Lessons from Health IT. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced the availability of a new Health IT Dashboard today. The new web content presents some of the initial results from ONC’s research and monitoring into patterns of health care provider adoption and use of electronic health records (EHR). Why Health IT you ask? Well, we happen to think there’s a lot education can learn from this example when it comes to student data. More on that soon in October’s Digital Learning Now! Smart Series paper on electronic student records.
Cool school data tool. Mind/Shift highlighted California-based charter network Aspire Public Schools this week for its school-created data system called Schoolzilla. It’s a web-based data platform that is now available to any school who wants to use it for free. Teachers or administrators can sign up at Schoolzilla to get started, with fee-based implementation support.
Big data attention. The Brookings report on Big Data is getting some attention, and rightfully so. GCN covered the report, explaining How analytics can make education a learning experience for teachers while InformationWeek noted that Big Data Could Fix School Shortcomings.

Movers, Shakers & Ground-breakers

The University of Pennsylvania announced that Law School professor Edward Rock has been appointed Penn’s director of open course initiatives. Rock’s main responsibility will be to oversee Penn’s ongoing partnership with Coursera, an online learning platform that offers free, non-credit classes. Penn first announced its partnership with Coursera in April, and has since increased its investment in the company
The 2012 McGraw Prize in Education winners have been named. This year, the 25th anniversary of the Prize, honors the following “Game Changers” John Merrow, Sal Khan, Ariela Rozman, and Timothy Daly. Visit McGraw-Hill’s YouTube channel on September 19 to watch videos of the Prize winners.
Disclosures: Digital Learning Now!, Pearson and Curriculum Associates are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. ClassDojo is a Learn Capital company where Tom Vander Ark is a partner. Tom is a director at iNACOL.

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