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.

Ed-tech providers hit the ground running in February, launching a number of solutions for the classroom and campus. Here’s what readers liked this month:

SpaceChem. Students battle monsters and build factories that turn raw materials into chemical products in SpaceChem, the new educational puzzle game from Zachtronics. Students flex their logic and design muscles as they complete missions and battle enemies. The game, available at no charge to schools, is available on Mac, Windows, Linux and STEAM platforms.

ProjectNextTech. Learning.com has released ProjectNextTech, a two-semester course on digital literacy. Using project-based instruction, the course teaches high-school students how to choose technology tools; search for and evaluate information properly; and find, assess and create media in a number of formats. (read more…)

P2WOkay, so maybe you don’t need the “T” in “CTE” to spell “college and career,” but I gather that you get my point even without reading any further.

But, humor me, and read on.

With so much of the national edu-talk being about making sure that learners of all ages are “college and career ready,” you might think that this form of readiness is easy to define. But that isn’t the case. I conducted a quick, informal Google search and found that each of the five links I clicked on related to college and career readiness all had different definitions. Even the similarities were problematic. Despite having similar wording tied to ensuring that learners have the knowledge and skills necessary to hold successful careers, the broadness of such an idea prevents any of us from interpreting deep meaning.

That being said, there is something that is crystal clear when it comes to being ready for what comes after 12th grade, and it is something that I have only learned since working in my current agency. (read more…)

professional developmentWhile scrolling through my Twitter feed, I saw a Rick Wormeli slide someone shared about “What Doesn’t Motivate?” posted from his presentation at the 2013 National Conference on Differentiated Instruction. The last bullet point on the slide struck a chord with me: “Students spending the majority of their day working on their weak areas, being reminded of their deficiencies.” As a former special education teacher, this is a practice I have fought against my entire career. Sadly, with the added emphasis on standardized testing, this soul-crushing practice has become even more common. Is it any wonder that many students are disenfranchised? There has to be a better way. I believe one large piece of the motivation puzzle lies in emphasizing children’s strengths — not dwelling on deficits.

Educational researchers have extensively studied how students learn best. Many of the best techniques we know of are now primarily used with students identified as gifted. (read more…)

textbooksMaking the extraordinary ordinary is an original SmartBlog on Education content series. The series explores the possibilities and challenges of making the extraordinary ordinary. It features stories of hope and possibility, of teachers, principals, schools and districts doing extraordinary things with increased regularity, creating a different kind of momentum in public education.

There is a new majority in our nation’s public schools. Recent data from the Southern Education Foundation reveal 51% of all students are eligible for free or reduced lunch — schools’ basic benchmark of low-income status. Combined with the recent release of “Ending Child Poverty Now” from the Children’s Defense Fund, the crisis is stark. What can educators do?

Our national rhetoric is that if you work hard and study hard, success will follow. We go into education and youth services because of a deep belief that we can make a difference by helping children learn, think, try and achieve. (read more…)

Tech Tips is a content collaboration between SmartBrief Education and GreyED Solutions.

My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Rhoda, had a knack for taking virtually any object and creating a teaching tool that was relevant, accessible, and an instrument of enlightenment for his eager pupils. Was this an innate skill, or was he formally taught how to do this? I suspect that Mr. Rhoda possessed an inherent capacity for innovative thinking and teaching, and synthesized his formal professional development training and materials to enhance his ability to work his magic. I loved his magic, and I recall that my peers did too. He was a “chef”, one could say, creating a daily multicourse banquet of delicious teachable moments for us, and more importantly, with us. By being an imaginative teacher, we became more imaginative, involved, and engaged students – we were emerging “chefs”!

Unfortunately, in contrast to Mr. Rhoda, some teachers today might be considered the equivalent of the microwave oven. (read more…)