This post is sponsored by VSTE.

“I would go back to high school if it meant going to a school like this,” commented my companion as we toured the Warrior Tech Academy, a school within a school administered by Henry County Public Schools in Virginia. We were being led by four Warrior Tech students — sophomores Charquise Smith-Stultz and Kaitlyn Thompson and juniors Delinda Nguyen and Ana Caro — and the pride in their innovative learning space was evident. The Academy’s classrooms and hallways, carved out of a media center, have turned traditional classroom design on its head. Windows face into the hall so classrooms are bright and transparent. Classroom walls are whiteboards where students are encouraged to brainstorm and communicate. Chairs and tables in the classroom are portable and the hallways include comfortable small group planning areas with overstuffed chairs and small display screens.

The careful attention to space demonstrates the commitment to collaboration that underlies Warrior Tech’s project-based learning curriculum. (read more…)


This letter appears in our new publication SmartReport on ISTE2015.


I loved summer camp when I was a kid. Every July, my folks shipped me and my bags off to Camp Cedar Crest in the mountains of San Bernardino, California, for a week of friends, fun, games, activities and classes. I ate a copious amount of S’mores, played volleyball for hours, sang around the campfire and giggled with my friends into the wee hours of the night. It was always a good time. And I always came away from camp with great memories, new friends and fresh energy for the school year.

The annual ISTE show and conference reminds me a bit of camp. For four days each summer, educators from around the globe come together to network, exchange ideas, learn from one another and find new ways to tackle the challenges of education. This year’s show was no exception, and SmartBrief editors were on the ground to catch it all. (read more…)

Veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker Soledad O’Brien tells how technology can help overcome barriers and close achievement gaps.

This story appears in SmartBrief’s digital publication, SmartReport on ISTE 2015. To see more features, tips and our Tech Showcase, download it now.

Seventeen-year-old Maria Castro had a dream: to attend Stanford University and study solar engineering. The sixth of seven children in a working-class immigrant family, Maria was a standout honors student at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix. Maria was in her sophomore year when she discovered that her school did not offer calculus, a class she needed to be considered for admission to Stanford.

Determined, Maria set out to get the course she needed. She wrote up a proposal for the class, persuaded 31 of her peers to take it with her and pleaded with the administration to get a teacher and funding. It worked. The school added the two-semester course, and Maria and her classmates attended it every day after school. (read more…)

When it comes to using technology in the classroom, teachers “have to be open-minded” and willing to take risks, said Moananui Blankenfeld, a senior at Kamehameha Schools Hawai’i during a conversation I had with her and her peers at their tabletop session at ISTE 2015.

“Get out of your comfort zone,” advised Blankenfeld. “Do something you haven’t done before.”

She was not alone in her thinking. I spoke with several other student presenters at the conference to get their take on the issue and see what advice they have for tech-wary educators. Their insight and advice was honest, practical and (surprisingly) fair. Here’s what they had to say:

Turn to your students. Today’s students were “born in the digital age,” and technology is “second nature” to them, said Keakealani Pacheco, a senior at Kamehameha. Take advantage of this, she recommended. They offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. “Don’t be afraid to ask,” Pacheco emphasized. (read more…)

Education-badge-blue2The vast majority of us now work in environments where the ability to learn is more critical than what we know and where the most valuable currency is influence, not power. — Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts

The education landscape has shifted dramatically during the last 10 years. Tablets have replaced textbooks. Students use smartphones during class — for learning. Educators connect online to share best practices.

What does the next decade hold for education? What will become the future of schools? Educator and author Will Richardson took on the topic during his ISTE 2015 session, Tech in 10: Effective Teaching for the Next Decade.

“‘Knowledge’ isn’t the word any longer. ‘Skills’ is no longer the term. ‘Learning’ is the word,” Richardson said, noting that the jobs of tomorrow will require serial mastery. “If our kids don’t have the ability to learn, it really doesn’t matter how much knowledge we give them.”

“This is a very different world that our kids are stepping into,” he said. (read more…)