3 Steps to Effective EdTech Implementation

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By Guest Blogger Jessica Sanders, Director of Social Outreach, Learn2Earn

EdTech implementation: the phrase alone makes the process of bringing technology into your classroom sound daunting and stressful. Luckily, what you see isn’t always what you get, and this process can be smooth and stress-free if you look at the big picture, take your time, and remember to be flexible.

Use these three simple tips to take the nerves out of making your classroom future ready.

  1. Look at the Bigger Picture

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates

 It’s important to remember that technology will merely facilitate to your big-picture plan in a way that engages your students and gets them excited about learning. Tools need to supplement your lessons, not the other way around.

Before choosing any tools, answer these questions:

  • What aspects of your curriculum would benefit most from the addition of technology?
  • What are your year-long goals for these students? How does technology fit with those goals?
  • What are Common Core implementation issues that could be solved with technology for you?

Other technical questions to ask yourself:

  • What equipment do I have access to? A computer lab, iPads for all the students?
  • Is there Wi-Fi access in the school? Is it reliable?
  • Will my students be able to access these tools at home or just in the classroom?
  1. Take Your Time

After answering the previous questions you can start your research. Begin browsing apps by genre (Math, Reading), pricing (free, fee-based) or style (gamified, image-focused). You can also browse lists. A few good ones are:

10 Teacher Tools to Techify Your Classroom

Interactive Web Tools for Educators

10 Tech Tools to Engage Students

Once you’ve chosen a few tools to pursue, it’s time to experiment. Spend time learning how it works, and consider how your students will use it in the classroom.

Ask yourself:

  • Will it take them a long time to learn?
  • Will I have to spend a lot of extra time managing it?
  • Will it make me more efficient?

You may love every tool you test—but that doesn’t mean you need to bring them into the classroom all at once. In fact, this may be stressful for you and your students. Choose just one to start with, and once you and your students have mastered that tool, consider adding a new one to your roster.

  1. Be Flexible

 The first few days, even weeks, of using a new tool can be trying. You and your students are getting to know how it works, deciding where it fits in the context of everything else you’re trying to accomplish, and more. During this period, you need to be flexible with time, patience and students. Remember:

Something will go wrong: Sometimes, even the smallest mishap can throw you off. Prepare for this by considering all the things that might not work—students aren’t interested, some students aren’t successful with the tool, it stops working, your Wi-Fi is down—and have a backup plan.

Students might know better than you: Your students have been raised with technology, and know the ins and outs of many programs. Accept their advice if you’re unsure about something; this may be a time when you can learn from them—a moment that empowers them to be leaders.

Bringing new tools into the classroom doesn’t need to be an arduous or stressful task. These tools can make your students more engaged and you more efficient, if you take your time considering what works and what doesn’t.

Look at the bigger picture, test the tools you like, and don’t forget to be patient: anything new takes time to understand and manage, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll see the time was worth the outcome.

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students to raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

10 Tips to Equip Your Classroom on a Budget

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Almost a year ago, we did a post that was very popular about tips and tricks to help teachers equip their classrooms. We’ve brought several of those tips back in this updated list and broadened the scope beyond just free resources. All to give you several options for supplying your classroom on a tight budget!deskchild

Teachers, here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • First of all, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a wish list and ask the parents of your students for supplies. But don’t forget to also ask local bookstores, or craft and office supply stores for discounts or freebies. Many companies can write donations off as a tax break. Tell them a little about your school and your students and how you plan to use the resource. You may get a donation or at least a discount. A nice gesture would be to send a thank you note to the business with a picture of the item in use. Or post to your social media page and thank the business publicly.
  • Check out eBay and your local Craigslist. There’s a lot of great stuff listed on eBay. On eBay, try to bid on “lot” offers for children’s books, teaching supplies, and craft supplies, instead of bidding on individual items. On Craigslist, look under the For Sale section using the keywords “teacher” and/or “classroom.”
  • Find your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is a network with millions of members that are all about reusing each other’s items. Put up a “Wanted” post explaining that you are a teacher and listing what you need.
  • Use Book Clubs! Clubs like Scholastic Book Club offer free books after you’ve accumulated bonus points.
  • Shop around for Back-to-School discounts at the Office Depot and Target in your area. Sometimes managers will allow you to go over the sale limit for coupons because you are a teacher. Other stores frequently put school supplies on clearance when the supplies reach a certain level.
  • Register your classroom at Adopt a Classroom. Individuals can go to this site and search for a teacher they know, a school they have a connection with, or a subject they’re passionate about and fund it. 100% of their tax-deductible donation goes to the classroom. A similar site is DonorsChoose, where public school teachers can post classroom project requests online. When a project reaches its funding goal, they ship the materials to your school.
  • If you’re at a low-income school, you may qualify for free school supplies from Kids in Need Foundation, which maintains a national network of Resource Centers where teachers can get free supplies for their students who are in need.
  • Love shopping? Here is a list of 80 stores(from Office Depot and the Apple Store, to museums and clothing stores) from Gift Card Granny that offer discounts to teachers.  And you can find other teacher discounts on the Teacher Discounts Pinterest board.
  • NEA publishes a monthly list of 10 FREE Things, which includes “the best websites to find printables, your favorite books, instructional videos for you and your students, lesson plans, and other FREE stuff for your classroom.”
  • And finally, if you’re looking for free, high-quality teaching resources, make sure to check Curriki often as we’re continually adding new resources.

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If you know of other free resources, would you please share?

An Experimental School in San Francisco

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

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Yesterday morning, I read an interesting article in Wired (www.wired.com) about AltSchool (http://www.wired.com/2015/05/altschool/), an experimental school in San Francisco founded by a former Google exec that is using technology to enhance and personalize education with a focus on student-centered learning.

Many educators were taught that environment is hugely influential when it comes to student learning. If the atmosphere is not conducive to exploration, students tend to not learn as well. Natural lighting, colorful activities, open spaces, and a flexible teaching method all contribute towards a healthy learning environment and AltSchool seems to have nailed this.

The school is built around the concept of personalizing education, something I wish I had when I went to school. By using a digital platform for students called My.AltSchool and the Montessori Method of teaching, AltSchool is providing a personalized experience for every student, while teachers get instant feedback that allow them to custom-teach to each student. AltSchool uses what they call “The Playlist,” which incorporates “a set of weekly learning experiences and exercises that help students meet their specific personalized learning plan goals.”

AltSchool also incorporates a feedback loop where a product development team works hand-in-hand with the teachers (and by extension the students) to develop apps that have practical usage, such as a recommendation engine for teachers, similar to the ones used by Amazon and Netflix. It takes into account everything that My.Altschool knows about a student and comes up with recommended activities. The eventual goal is to roll out these applications to other schools (public, private, charter) across the country.

Not all children are alike.  Not all children learn the same way.  AltSchool’s philosophy is very similar to Curriki’s in that we’re both driving transformation from the “assembly line factory model” of education into a new model where the emphasis is on personalization, understanding and critical thinking skills.

Some may fault AltSchool’s for-profit business model or claim this is yet another well-meaning attempt to reform public education. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

If you’d like to learn more about AltSchool check out their website www.altschool.com

Coming Soon! New, Fully Redesigned Curriki Website

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

It won’t be long now, before the new Curriki website is live. Currently it is in late stage development. There will be many changes that we are confident you will appreciate. The site will be significantly more mobile device friendly and much easier to use and navigate.

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There will be direct access to all resources in your own library from a personalized dashboard. This will also provide direct access to your contacts and groups and provide you with current information on the latest activity at Curriki and within your community. And the functionality around groups is being redesigned for enhanced discussion and collaboration.

Accessing and uploading resources will be much faster and easier. Creating collections and aligning resources to standards will be significantly easier than at present. The review system will be enhanced to align with Achieve OER rubrics. The not-for-profit organization Achieve was a key developer of the Common Core State Standards. (You can learn more about the eight rubrics at: http://www.achieve.org/oer-rubrics).

We can’t tell you everything just yet, but we hope you are starting to get excited! We at Curriki are very thrilled that we will be able to deliver this enhanced functionality and ease-of-use to all of our users soon.

11 Excel Tricks to Teach Your Students Today!

By Guest Blogger Minnia Feng, Microsoft minnia feng

Excel is one of the most useful tools out there, but some find it complex. Here are some simple tricks to help students excel at using this handy spreadsheet tool. If you don’t have Excel, find out if you and your students are eligible to download it free as part of the Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit— click here to see if you are eligible.

 

1. Never lose sight of row headers by freezing panes

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Freezing Panes is one of the most useful tricks in Excel—with this you can always view your labels for different rows and columns, no matter how much you scroll.

  • If the pane you wish to freeze is the first row, simply go to View → Freeze Panes → select ‘Freeze Top Row.”
  • If it is not the top row, simply click on the cell below the pane you wish to freeze (if you want to freeze row 3 and up, select a cell in row 4), go to View → Freeze Panes → Freeze Panes.

 

2. Give your students the ability to keep track of their assessment through Self-Grade Computation

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Simply click New, then search for “GPA Tracker” in templates —the GPA Tracker template allows students to input their own grades for different types of assignments in each class to get an idea of how they are doing. If your students are on tablets, here’s a tutorial on how to track GPA in Excel for iPad.

 

3. Move back and forth between spreadsheets quickly without clicking anything.

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If you are working with multiple spreadsheets and need to move between them, press Ctrl+Tab to move back and forth between two spreadsheets, and Ctrl+Shift+Tab to move to the previous spreadsheet.

 

4. Use Flash Fill to make formatting tasks a breeze

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Let’s say you have a row of numbers, for example “5554443333”, and you want to change the format to a phone number such as “(555) 444-3333.” Instead of manually typing it out, Flash Fill can do this for you automatically by detecting patterns in your formatting, and works best when your data has some consistency. Works as well with formatting names, dates, and postal codes.

 

5. Use Excel Survey to collect information directly into an organized spreadsheet

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Need to collect data from others and not have it be scattered when you receive it? Excel Survey (found in Excel Online) allows you to create a survey quickly and easily, then compiles the information in real time as it comes in. Great for group projects and surveys.

 

6. Move entire columns of data easily and quickly

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Simply highlight the column you want to move and put your cursor over the border—it will change into a crossed arrow icon, allowing you to drag to move the column freely.

 

7. Select all with one click

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Ever wonder what that little triangle is at the top left corner of your spreadsheet? You can click on it and quickly select all the cells with open simple click.

 

8. Ctrl + Arrow to move to different corners of the spreadsheet

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Working with a particularly long and extensive set of data? No need to scroll—simply press “ctrl” + the arrow key in the direction you want to go. For example, “Ctrl+ →” will take you to the rightmost point of your data, and “ctrl+ ↓” will take you to the bottom line of the data.

 

9. Transpose Data in Rows to Data in Columns, and Vice Versa, with two clicks

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Sometimes you realize the data you had displayed horizontally would make more sense displayed vertically. Instead of copying and pasting everything one by one, copy and paste all the data you’d like copied, then click Home→Paste→Transpose Icon, and the data will display in the new format.

 

10. Find out the average, count, and sum without any formulas or clicks

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Did you know that if you select a set of numbers, the average, count, and sum automatically display without you doing anything? Excellent.

 

11. Combine two chart types by creating a combo chart and adding a second axis

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What happens when you have two different types of data you want to show in a single chart? Excel makes it easy. Simply select the data you’d like for your chart, press the insert tab and click recommended charts, then click all charts tab and select the combo category. If the two sets of data have different scales, simply check the “secondary axis” box for the scale you’d like to add and click ok. Find out more in this in-depth tutorial.

World Leaders Discuss New Economy at NES 2015 Japan

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By Curriki CEO Kim Jones

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I just participated in the sold-out New Economy Summit (NES)  here in Tokyo. What a fantastic event! World renowned innovators who are leading the global economy gathered here and included Prime Minister Abe, CEOs from Lyft, Evernote, Houzz, Dropbox and Airbnb, as well as leaders from Kyoto University, U.S. Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Larry Ellison of Oracle, George Roberts of KKR, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, and of course the host, CEO and Founder of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani. Not to mention many entrepreneurs and the classical composer Yoshiki!

Earlier this week, we had a full house for the education panel I spoke on with nearly 2,000 people in attendance! The topic was Innovation in Educational Fields: The Change in School Education Scenes – What We Need Now and was moderated by Yuki Naito (President & CEO, Drecom Co., Ltd. / Executive Member, Japan Association of New Economy).

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NES 2015 Education Panel Speakers. (From top, clockwise: Kim Jones, Chairman and CEO, Curriki; Pille Parikas, Managing Director, eKool; Shihoko Urushi, Principal, Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin; Yuki Naito, President & CEO, Drecom Co., Ltd. / Executive Member, Japan Association of New Economy.)

 

I did a short TED-style presentation, and answered many excellent questions from both the moderator (who spoke Japanese with simultaneous translation) and the audience. The Japanese school, Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin, on our panel is quite interesting. As you may know, Japan is a very conservative country and has been traditionally slow to adopt new ways of doing things. But that is changing with the influence of companies like Rakuten and SoftBank, whose CEOs are the most successful and well-known entrepreneurs in Japan. Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin is an all-girls, private school that gives every student a tablet and the majority of work is done online. This prestigious private school is led by Principal Shihoko Urushi and is among several educational institutions at the forefront of reforming education and moving education into the digital world. Of course, any change will take time, but at least things are starting to move.

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There were two big takeaways for me from NES 2015. First, we are all part of a sharing economy. And secondly, Japan is becoming the new “hot spot” for entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The environment is quickly changing to make Japan much more welcoming and productive for starting new businesses! This is a big plus for our recently-launched Curriki Japan,  which offers free learning resources to students, teachers and educators. I encourage you to check it out.

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MIT Collection: OpenCourseWare

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

The MIT Collection on Curriki (available here) contains 49 relevant topics in Calculus, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Most of the material is selected to support the College Board Advanced Placement Program offering college-level examinations to high school students.

The content has been selected from freshman-level courses at MIT specifically to support the needs of high school students interested in the Advanced Placement exams for Calculus, Physics and Biology. There are 21 calculus topics, 18 physics subject areas, 9 areas of biology and 1 chemistry lab section.

Examples of topics included are:

  • Calculus – Computation of Derivatives
  • Physics – Waves
  • Biology – Heredity

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“The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.”
Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering

MIT OpenCourseWare has been offered since 2002, and covers an extensive range of topics, primarily in science and engineering. These are free and open materials that span across the complete MIT curriculum. As of 2014, according to the MIT OpenCourseWare web site:

“2250 courses published

1 billion page views and 170 million visits.

100 courses have complete video lectures.

900 older versions of courses have been updated.”

Check out the MIT Collection at Curriki, particularly for your more advanced students. And for yourself and for your really advanced students, browse the MIT OpenCourseWare content!