Every Monday, SmartBrief on EdTech features Product Showcase, a section highlighting new products and services designed to support teaching and learning. We’ve pulled all the solutions together into a product roundup, featured here on our Connected Teaching and Learning blog.

Spring is upon us and, with it, the launch of several new classroom products and solutions. Here’s what SmartBrief on EdTech readers liked this month in Product Showcase:

Permission Click. Teachers now have new way to create and send digital permission slips, thanks to Permission Click, a free online platform for schools. Parents can submit approvals, make payments and receive receipts through the system. The platform comes with form templates, digital archiving and payment history.

Backyard Engineers. Students design catapults for water balloon fights with neighbors in Backyard Engineers. Gamers can tailor their device’s mechanical elements to control movement, accuracy and range. The game can be played on Google Android and iOS devices as well as through a Web browser for $5.99. (read more…)

classroomA couple of years ago, we commissioned an external review of our human resources functions in the Syracuse City School District. I noticed that our district needed to take a more proactive approach in seeking out the highest quality teacher candidates.

Our superintendent and the board of education based one of the primary goals of our 5-year strategic plan, Great Expectations, on the results of that review. This plan continues to serve as a road map for us, defining the reform-based goals that will guide education transformation in our city.

Great Expectations specifically called for us to develop and implement teacher recruitment and selection processes that would make it possible for Syracuse to compete for the most talented educators around. We realized that we needed to implement new, forward-thinking processes and technology to attract, identify and hire the highest quality candidates.

Here’s how our district strategically used data-driven technology like predictive analytics, a new microsite with Google Analytics and social media to improve our hiring processes and achieve meaningful results. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Curriculum Associates

A key objective of the Common Core State Standards is for students to cultivate close reading skills—the ability to read literature and complex texts and interpret their meaning. D. Ray Reutzel, education professor at Utah State University, outlines the key principles of close reading and offers ideas to help teachers and administrators guide students to success.

What is close reading? What are the key principles and essential steps?

Close reading is making a comeback with national adoption of the Common Core and other college and career readiness standards in English Language Arts. Educators have been doing this type of reading with students for decades under other names. Close reading is deep, effortful and sustained reading versus casual, surface, or quick reading of text. It requires students to peel back multiple layers of meaning embedded in text to derive an interpretation of text meaning that is not explicitly stated. (read more…)

tablet on white background. Isolated 3D imageAs information and communication technologies become necessary tools for teaching and learning, schools are looking for solutions that create consistent teaching and learning experiences for students and educators. At the Evergreen School Division, opening communication among teachers, administrators, students and parents was key in developing a strategy to create a connected education environment.

With the plethora of software solutions available for schools, a considerable amount of time and research is spent on choosing the right technology to implement at schools. As school administrators work to increase communication and engagement in their education environments, they may consider these strategies:

Research and development

Teachers are focused on their classrooms and optimizing the learning experience for their students. Therefore, they often do not have the time to find the right tools that will help them manage their classrooms. A research and development approach to determine what works well for teachers, administrators, students and parents can be a good way to begin a conversation about what the school actually needs from its technology or software. (read more…)

social networkWith the evolution of social media, professors and students are now able to forge a lifetime of mentorship and friendship if they do it right.

After all, having the ability to mentor students is one of the great honors of being a professor. And now with the emergence of social media, that bond does not have to end when the course is over.

Sure, students could always email or visit a professor after they graduate. I did with many of mine. But as time ticks by, it’s easy to lose that meaningful connection with someone who helped shape your life in so many ways.

Teaching a social media class, I naturally connect with many of my students on Linkedin, Twitter, and Google Plus. However, it’s not enough to just “connect” with former students on these platforms. That’s really no different than having their names sit dormant in your address book. (read more…)