Every Monday, SmartBrief on EdTech features Product Showcase, a section highlighting new products and services designed to support teaching and learning. Starting this month, we’re pulling all those solutions together into a product roundup, featured here on our Connected Teaching and Learning blog.

It’s been a busy month for ed-tech solution providers – lots of interesting new products, tools and services for schools and classrooms. Here’s a quick look at our top picks for November:

SGAP app. The hands-down most popular new release this month came from the Student Governmental Affairs Program — its new SGAP app. Available at no charge for Android and iOS devices, the app aims to helphigh-school students to learn more about their government system. Students can use the app to learn more about their elected officials, engage in discussion with other learners, and earn points by participating in civic activities.

Hack Your Teaching. This short 1:30 video, from Edvantage outlines five quick tips for infusing energy into the classroom. (read more…)

On Wednesday, Nov. 19, 110 of the nation’s top superintendents, U.S. Department of Education officials and representatives from a myriad of organizations, convened at the White House for the Superintendents’ Summit, declared “ConnectED to the Future,” by President Obama. The event was an an extension of the ConnectED Initiative launched earlier this year.

Obama kicked off Future Ready, a bold new effort to maximize digital-learning opportunities and help school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career and citizenship. In his speech, he said that it’s time to “yank our schools into the 21st century when it comes to technology, and provide the training and tools our teachers need” and that “every child deserves a shot at a world class education.”

In his concluding remarks, the Obama led all 110 superintendents in a digital pledge signing ceremony, where they joined over 1,100 additional superintendents, from all 50 states in a promise to transform their districts into ones that better prepare students for their future. (read more…)

Four dynamic speakers recently took the stage for the Power Talks keynote at ACTE’s Career Tech Vision 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. Real-world, inspired learning as a change agent in education was a common thread throughout the talks.

Here are four takeaway lessons on the power of CTE from the keynote speakers:

Find your “zone of awesomeness.”

Career and technical educator and national faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education Brian Schoch encouraged attendees to find their “zone of awesomeness.” Finding the zone has helped Schoch design project-based learning that inspires students, and ultimately, helped keep him in the classroom when he considered leaving after his first semester of teaching. Student-led work equals student excitement and engagement, he said. That’s a message some educators may have heard before, but Schoch took his advice one step further, challenging educators to choose projects that also inspire and excite them. When four elements — authentic work, content-rich assignments, teacher excitement and student excitement — come together, “something magical happens,” he said. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Insight Education Group.

In parts one and two of this blog series, we discussed not only the challenges that schools face in implementing effective teacher observation and evaluation systems, but the promising evidence that classroom video can improve how educators grow.

In this third and final post, we take a close look at how teachers in one school district are using video – and the remarkable results they’re seeing.

When Newton County Schools System (NCSS), a 20,000-student district in Georgia, decided to install camera and audio systems in the classrooms of its 23 schools, the primary goal was to reduce disciplinary issues and improve student safety. But as Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey explains, it didn’t take long before they began thinking much bigger about how video could impact nearly every aspect of teaching and learning within the district.

At the time, NCSS’ administrators and instructional leaders were also grappling with issues that are unfortunately all too common: new and heightened curricular expectations and declining student achievement scores – without enough professional support for teachers or funding. (read more…)

textbooksDuring a recent parent-teacher conference for my fourth-grader, the teacher said she had been differentiating instruction for my child. I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant by differentiation. I assumed she was doing this for every student in the class and not just my child. I wondered how and what she was differentiating and what types of assessments she was using to help her differentiate.

This led me to think: Did she really mean differentiation? Maybe she meant personalization or individualization? Did the teacher know the difference between these strategies? Were her definitions and conceptions of these strategies the same as mine?

Personalization, differentiation and individualization all sound good. Every teacher wants to personalize, differentiate or individualize learning and instruction for their students. Many say they do at least one or the other. However, currently there’s not much consensus among educators about the definitions of these terms. Some educators use these terms synonymously. (read more…)