textbooksWelcome to SmartBrief Education’s original content series about the unique stories of teacherpreneurs. These are the innovative individuals confronting challenges, creating solutions and bringing them to market.

A charming young man with a beard took my order at Starbucks the other day. Before I could offer my name, he wrote “Mrs. Hill” on my cup. Smiling, he reminded me that hadn’t done too well in my class. I conjured the memory of a scrawny kid who bounced instead of walked and liked to help me with technology, and I got a little teary.

The kids are why we do this work. Over the years, I’ve taught over 3,000 young people, and they’ve grown up to be doctors, lawyers, soldiers and baristas. I’ve also received more than one collect call from jail and quite a few letters from rehab. Teachers take part in an intricate system we blithely call “community.” Our experiences and sensibilities make us uniquely suited to fight for the health of that community, and we tell ourselves that we can conduct that fight one kid at a time. (read more…)

digital literacy

SmartBlog on Education is shining a light on education technology innovations during May, exploring the latest products and tools and the hottest trends in ed-tech. 

The benefits of game-based learning are becoming more widely appreciated and utilized by educators. Well-designed and skillfully implemented learning games provide students with fun, memorable and positive experiences in the classroom. Playful learning through digital games can increase student motivation to learn and engage with academic content and skills.

High-quality games create opportunities for authentic strategic thinking, problem-solving and meaningful collaboration. They deliver pacing that is tailored to student needs with instantaneous feedback, create safe places to fail and allow rapid iterations for learning through simulations that might be too resource-consuming or dangerous if executed in the real world.

As a science teacher, I team-teach a project-based science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math (STREAM) class to seventh-graders with art and technology teaching colleagues. To bring the benefits of educational games into our lessons, we recently developed and tested a game-based, interdisciplinary Siege! (read more…)

Education-badge-blue2How can educators, employers and government leaders work together to prepare students for today’s technically-sophisticated labor market? And what kind of skills route students to good, 21st-century jobs? Panelists addressed these questions and more during a May 21 conversation hosted by New America Foundation.

Much attention has been directed to the “skills gap,” or the challenges employers confront in sourcing workers with the right qualifications for today’s fast-paced economy. Here are some lessons stakeholders shared at the discussion:

The U.S. is not alone in this fight

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding skills in the U.S., from both the supply side — students weighing which postsecondary track or college major will land them a job — and the demand side — employers who are struggling in their search for highly-skilled workers. It is taking today’s college graduates more time to find a job, and recent graduates are more likely to be underemployed, noted New America Senior Policy Analyst Mary Alice McCarthy, citing a report from the New York Federal Reserve. (read more…)

This month’s SmartBrief on EdTech Product Showcase roundup is running today due to the Memorial Day holiday.

As the school year winds down, a number of new products are hitting the ed-tech shelves. Here’s what piqued SmartBrief on EdTech readers’ interest this month in Product Showcase:

Bringing STEM to Light: Teaching about Light and Optics

Educators can enroll to take a free online course this summer on the science of light. The five-week, self-paced class, Bringing STEM to Light: Teaching about Light and Optics, is designed for teachers with students ages 6 to 14 and will include a number of hands-on activities using Laser Classroom’s Light Blox Kit. The class begins June 22. Registration is open now for interested teachers.

Online service delivers special education instruction

PresenceLearning has launched a new service that enables students with special needs to receive live instruction from credentialed special education teachers. Schools can use the service for one-on-one instruction as well as with small groups. (read more…)

leadershipI recently delivered a talk at an advancement conference on the topic of identifying and communicating a school’s unique qualities and mission. During the presentation, an issue emerged that sits at the forefront of the minds of many of the professionals who were in attendance.

I spoke of the need for advancement personnel — development, admissions, recruitment/retention, communications, marketing, etc. — to connect deeply and continually with academic leadership. Too often, the two offices operate as independent silos, with each group focused almost exclusively on their respective domains without much awareness or interest in what is occurring across the hallway or elsewhere on campus.

Part of this dynamic may come from each group’s familiarity and comfort level. Academic leaders are usually promoted from the classroom. They excel as instructors and instructional leaders and prefer to talk about pedagogy, to engage with teachers and students, and to deal with the kinds of tasks that are typically associated with school function — scheduling, supervision, curriculum, etc. (read more…)