Stock PhotoWhen discussing my classroom cell phone policy with students at the beginning of the school year, I made what proved to be a mistake. I told the students that I wouldn’t obsess over policing their phone use in class; after all, smartphones can be powerful tools for learning.

But for the majority of students, I often lost the battle of classroom management and attention despite showcasing and integrating how I — and they — could use a phone to learn, to connect curiosity with knowledge, and complete course assignments.

Here’s the bottom line: Attention and digital distraction is perhaps the most overlooked instructional issue in today’s classrooms. Changing – -or perhaps chipping away at — the entertainment and leisure paradigm for digital tools is tricky and downright frustrating at times. It doesn’t matter if you ban cell phones in the classroom or embrace usage; many students will distract themselves without thinking twice, or, given the freedom, will tweet and text away at a staggering rate. (read more…)

badgeSmartBlog on Education’s monthly content award recognizes content written by educators, for educators that inspires readers to engage, innovate and discuss.

SmartBrief Education editors and writers sift through thousands of sources each day, reading a variety of content, including blogs and commentaries written by you and your peers.

In an effort to recognize some of the innovative voices in the field, we’ve asked our team to nominate their favorite content — written by educators, for educators — each month from which we’ll choose two winners for the Editor’s Choice Content Award.

This month’s winners inspired us by challenging educators to rethink “failure.”

Meet this month’s winners:

Learn more about our previous winners.

June Editor’s Choice Content Award

Think fast: What is the purpose of education? Ask any group of people — including any group of educators — and you’re likely to hear a different answer from each. Therein is a clue. If each of us gives a different answer to this age-old question, doesn’t it follow that education serves a unique purpose, for each individual?

Indeed, if there is a common theme to answers given to this question, it typically revolves around the individual: “To give each person a life-long love of learning.” “To give learners practical skills that will enable them to support themselves.” “To ground each student in a philosophy of life that will allow him or her to flourish.” Is each a legitimate answer to the question? Yes. Is each focused on an individual’s growth and success? Yes.

For millennia, the practice of education has aimed for and fallen short of this ideal of individualized growth. (read more…)

tablet on white background. Isolated 3D imageThis past spring, I was asked to substitute teach in one of our first-grade classrooms. There were no guest teachers available that day so, as the elementary principal, I was it. Being a former fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, I was a bit out of my comfort zone. How would I document what students learned during their time with me?

During the literacy block, I found moments to capture learning with my iPad. Using the device’s camera, I was able to take photos of both the students’ work and of them actually working. Along with images, I typed up reflections from our experience. In addition, I recorded audio of one student reading aloud their own writing to me. All of this information — text, images and audio — were stored within one note in Evernote. When I was done, I emailed the note to the classroom teacher. Once shared, the teacher was then free to add any or all of the content from this one note to the students’ digital portfolios within Evernote. (read more…)

SmartBrief on EdTech recently polled readers to discern how well they feel today’s schools are using technology to prepare students for college and careers, and to better understand what such preparation might look like. In addition, we wanted to gauge readers’ views on the use of massive open online courses — or MOOCs — in the context of higher education.

Our findings showed that a majority of readers — 82.16% — feel their schools are at least doing “somewhat well” at preparing students with the technology skills needed for college and careers, while the remainder gave their school or district lower ratings.

Regarding the specific type of tech skills being taught, respondents chose digital citizenship skills and online learning skills in almost equal numbers as the skills that are most valuable for students. A much smaller number put the highest importance on teaching students to use the latest technology devices.

More than half of readers weighing in on MOOCs in higher education responded that such courses may be a viable option for all students, while a smaller number — just over 16% — believe MOOCs may disrupt the higher education landscape as a whole. (read more…)