digital literacyFor many educators and students a new school year is underway or about to begin, and along with it come new goals and updated plans for the use of education technology to help educators share best practices and improve student learning.

Last week, we polled SmartBrief on EdTech readers about their plans for using technology in the new school year. An overwhelming 86.67% of respondents reported that they are most excited about new technology tools for learning in the classroom, compared with those reporting excitement about online testing, data systems or tools for classroom management.

For increasing connections with their colleagues this year, 40.3% of respondents plan to utilize personal learning networks, while 35.82% say they will use professional development, 13.43% will rely on social media and 10.45% expect to form connections at education conferences.

Respondents also said that their schools plan to introduce new technology for students this year, with 68.29% reporting that students will be introduced to iPads in the classroom, while slightly more than 17% will introduce flipped or blended instruction and 14.63% are implementing digital textbooks. (read more…)

homeworkAs another school year gets under way, our country has the opportunity to repair urban education in a substantive, strategic and sustainable way — using proven, and common sense, approaches that are based on investing in teachers and engaging our children and families.

Most people, I think, would agree that urban districts in particular face remarkable challenges, not the least of which is the need to overcome poverty, racism and segregation while promoting human values, such as equality and respect. I won’t deny the magnitude — or the necessity — of this assignment.

What I do question are intractable assumptions that the private sector is the answer and charter schools are the saviors that will rescue our urban students from certain failure. A singular focus on charters as the one and only solution would be regrettable. It misses the point and the opportunity.

We can transform urban education in this country, but only through a broader, more strategic approach that is based on investing in the professional development of the estimated 3.2 million educators already in our public schools, and providing intensive programs beginning in preschool that engage children and families, regardless of background. (read more…)

professional developmentLife is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. — George Bernard Shaw, playwright and Nobel Prize winner

To get ideas for a blog on how new and veteran teachers can successfully prepare for a new school year, I spent an hour on the Internet and discovered a rich source of advice and suggestions for teachers. The range of information includes ideas on how to arrange your classroom, 50 ways of getting through the first week and 101 ways for handling stress throughout the school year.

So, what is left for me to say? Very little, except some personal observations for what they are worth and maybe a smile or two because I’ve touched on experiences that you have had or heard about. (read more…)

duncan-100What is the biggest challenge that teachers face as they go back to school this fall? What guidance would you give them to help them meet the challenge

The large majority of states are now making the shift to the Common Core State Standards, a state-led effort to raise standards for which the U.S. Department of Education has provided some support. Educators across the country have embraced the enormous, urgent challenge that goes with this transition to more rigorous academic standards, new assessments, and updated teacher evaluation systems. Teachers are faced with a level of change and reform in schools and districts that is unprecedented.

Overwhelmingly, I’ve heard teachers say that it’s the professional challenge of a lifetime to raise standards so every American student can compete and succeed in the global economy. In discussions with more than 4,000 educators, my team at the U.S. Department of Education and I also have heard teachers say that it’s imperative that we, as a nation, get this right for our kids. (read more…)

Why are kids and teachers so excited to come back to school? To cover new curriculum? To get really good test scores? To spend all day indoors with a minute-by-minute schedule guided by the many rules described in their student and staff handbooks? I think not.

What’s in the heads and hearts of our returning students and teachers?

  1. They return with the hope that people will “get them” and that their interests, passions, strengths and needs will be looked after.
  2. They hope someone will truly care about them and work to help them become the best that they can be.
  3. They want to renew old connections and make new ones. People need to feel connected to school in deep meaningful ways. With connection comes caring.
  4. They want to feel trusted, respected and empowered.
  5. They want to be recognized for their efforts and accomplishments.
  6. They want to feel that they can make a difference in their own lives as well as the lives of others.
  7. (read more…)