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…)

Welcome to SmartBrief Education’s original content series about the unique stories of teacherpreneurs. These are the innovative individuals confronting challenges, creating solutions and challenging the traditional definition of “educator.”

Those advocating for teacher leadership roles often face daunting obstacles: lack of funding or trust, resistance to power-sharing or change and the inability of others to see beyond what currently exists. With tight budgets and a traditional hierarchy of leadership, how can teachers build authentic leadership positions within their schools and districts? How can they gain agency within the system, without relinquishing their important work with students in the classroom? These continue to be my burning questions.

As a Center for Teaching Quality teacherpreneur during the 2014-15 school year, I was given a half day of release time to work on my passions beyond the classroom. Charged with a national scope of action, I supported teacher leaders across the country to participate in large movements and ignite small revolutions — it was difficult and inspiring work. (read more…)

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Help us lead the discussion on overhauling the learning management system. Please vote to have our session “LMS: Extreme Makeover” added to the official programming agenda at SXSWedu 2016. Deadline is September 4.

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The use of learning management systems (LMS) is growing rapidly in K-12. In a recent interview with District Administration magazine, ItsLearning Chief Strategy Officer Mike Comer estimates that more than half the classrooms in the United States “have LMS functionality.” With this in mind, we decided to check in with SmartBrief on EdTech readers to get their feedback on their schools’ learning management systems.

According to our poll, 44% of readers are “satisfied” with their school or district’s learning platform. Another 38%, however, stated that they are dissatisfied with their current system. Only 19% indicated that they are “very satisfied” with their platform.

Roughly a third of readers’ schools or districts are in the process of transitioning to a new LMS. (read more…)

At some point we have all had to provide “How to” instructions to friends and colleagues on navigating a website, sharing a document, or on the latest tech tip. You may have tried listing the directions. You may have been a little more adventurous and taken screenshots and added some arrows to help the user see where they should go and what they should click. You may have even combined the two methods. Somehow, you still face the dilemma of not being sure your friend or colleague fully understood what to do.

A free, simple solution to the “how to” dilemma is Screencastify. This is an extension that works with Chrome and will allow you to record up to 10 minutes of video using your computer’s microphone and camera. If you’re shy, you don’t even need to use the camera; you can set it to only record what is on your screen or browser. (read more…)

digital literacy

This month, SmartBlog on Education is exploring classroom design and management — just in time for the new school year. In this blog post, education leader Fred Ende explores four classroom design principles.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But, in reality, it truly is. The environments in which we live and work are reflections of the ways in which we live and work. A well-organized classroom or office gives off a vibe of all machinery operating in collaboration, of tremendous thought going into decision-making and of role and responsibility in concert. A school building or district office with student work adorning the walls speaks to the importance of stakeholder voice, and of knowing, and believing in, those being served.

Much conversation and discussion focuses on managing classrooms and meetings, and how the teacher, facilitator and leader needs to manage up, rather than directing down. While these conversations are important, valid and necessary, less focus appears to be placed on considering how the design of one’s space can sometimes be all the management that is needed. (read more…)