myON logoPartnership will provide content to supplement middle and high school curriculums

Cricket Media, an education media publisher, and myON, a business unit of Capstone, announce today that a wide array of content from Cricket’s portfolio of acclaimed children’s books and magazines will now be available to the millions of students reading on myON. With the additional content from Cricket, myON now offers more than 8,000 titles from nearly 70 publishers through their publisher program.

The addition of Cricket Media content to myON’s personalized literacy environment continues the tradition of the myON publisher program, bringing together companies that share the same vision of providing high quality, engaging and fun content to students in order to foster a lifelong love of reading. Cricket Media’s content greatly enhances myON’s collection of high-quality, short-form passages increasingly sought after by educators. Cricket, a market leader in developing enriching, educational content for students, will provide literary and informational texts from its award-winning digital library, including content from its beloved children’s publications, Cobblestone and Odyssey. Earlier this year, The Parents’ Choice Foundation selected each of Cricket’s 13 magazines as 2015 Parents’ Choice Awards winners.

myON, a personalized literacy platform provides online access to more than 5.5 million students world side. Students can access myON at school or home on laptops, desktops, tablets, and mobile devices for an online or offline reading experience. myON creates a collaborative reading environment where students, educators and parents work together to support student reading performance by leveraging reading supports –embedded dictionary, naturally recorded audio, highlighting, digital literacy tools and metrics. Students also have access to a safe social network where they can read, rate, review, and recommend books to classmates.

“We’re thrilled to add even more engaging content to our personalized literacy environment. We started our Publisher Program with the vision the kids reading on myON would have access to highly engaging content, the addition of award winning content from Cricket Media, continues to bring that vision to fruition,” said Todd Brekhus, president, myON. “By incorporating Cricket’s rich educational articles and texts, teachers and students alike have more choices than ever before once logged in to myON.”

Once implemented, school districts benefit from unlimited and concurrent access to all digital books within the literacy environment, accessible on laptops, computers, and mobile devices for both on and offline reading. It’s more important than ever before that our students have access to information texts. Students reading on myON now have unparalleled access to a wide array of these from Cricket.

“We are excited to know that selections from our rich digital library are now available to the millions of kids reading on myON,” said Katya Andresen, CEO, Cricket Media. “Our award winning literary and informational texts are fantastic sources of authentic content for educators seeking enlightening and entertaining passages that meet state and national standards as well as increase reading comprehension.”

About myON

myON, a business unit of Capstone is a personalized digital literacy environment that transforms learning. myON expands the classroom for teachers and students by providing unlimited access to the largest collection of more than 8,000 enhanced digital books with multimedia supports, real-time assessments and close reading tools. myON empowers students and teachers with real-time, actionable data—number and type of books opened and read, time spent reading, results of regular benchmark assessments, and more—based on embedded Lexile assessments that measure student reading growth. With myON, every student experiences the benefits of personalized literacy instruction to propel them to new and unlimited opportunities. www.myon.com www.thefutureinreading.com

About Cricket Media

Cricket Media (TSXV: CKT) is an education media company that provides award-winning content on a safe and secure learning network for children, families and teachers across the world. Cricket Media’s 11 popular media brands for toddlers to teens include Babybug, Ladybug, Cricket® and Cobblestone®. The Company’s innovative web-based K12 tools for school and home include the ePals community and virtual classroom for global collaboration as well as In2Books®, a Common Core eMentoring program that builds reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Cricket Media serves approximately one million classrooms and millions of teachers, students and parents in over 200 countries and territories through its platform and NeuPals, its joint venture with China’s leading IT services company Neusoft. Cricket Media also licenses its content and platform to top publishing and educational companies worldwide. For more information, please visit www.Cricketmag.com, www.ePals.com.

greyedlogo2Source SmartBlog on Education

By Mark Lesser

A national conversation has been brewing on the topic of alternative digital credentials. The media and members of the education community often use the shorthand “badges” in reference to graphic representations awarded digitally for skills earned through a learning experience. But the term can be a hindrance — especially if you have some personal experience with, for instance, Brownies or Boy Scouts — if your goal is to understand the more serious potential of new credentials, beyond cute graphics.

Badges can have all kinds of uses and instantiations on the web. A year after we started issuing our first badges at MOUSE, I came home to my then 3-year-old son angry over a software glitch on the iPad that was keeping him from seeing a badge on his profile in Chuggington, a popular Disney app. In that instance, badges appeared like gold stars, a mere indicator that a task (or level of the app, in this case) had been completed. You couldn’t use that badge to look back on his performance, it didn’t carry metadata to help understand more about the context in which it was earned, and importantly, he had no agency to curate the badges in a shareable way that might help him demonstrate what he knows to others.

It’s important to get past the idea that “badging” is merely the gold star of the web. Train your mind to supplant patches with portfolio data. Wonder to yourself what it might be like to give your students new ways of demonstrating digital-age and workforce-ready skills. Dream a little about school models like IowaBIG, where students receive school credits for answering the question, “What is something that you hate?” with projects that impact their local or global communities. Consider new ways badges can help students provide evidence of their skills and knowledge future colleges and employers.

Badges offer great potential and opportunity for today’s schools. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Marc Lesser is the senior director of learning design at MOUSE, a New York City-based organization that trains under-served youth to become digital media and technology experts.

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Tech Tips is a content collaboration between SmartBrief Education and GreyED Solutions. Have a tech tip to share? Contact us at techtips@greyedsolutions.com

Miss a Tech Tip? Visit our Tech Tip archive.

 

LU - New Logo 5:4:2015Source Language Magazine

A selection of products designed to help English learners master the nuances of the new math standards

Do The Math

Created by Marilyn Burns, Do The Math was designed to provide maximum access for English language learners. Students in Grades 1–5 build numerical reasoning and problem-solving skills while developing a love of math. Teachers receive comprehensive support to help students develop a strong foundation.

Math vocabulary is explicitly taught using a consistent routine. First, students experience the math concept. Next, students learn through a see it, hear it, say it, write it, read it routine. Throughout the module, opportunities are built in for receptive and expressive use of vocabulary. Language Development boxes present point-of-use instructional support for teachers during each lesson. Spanish translations of math vocabulary are provided for both students and teachers.

Working in pairs allows students to speak their first language or segue to practice English before speaking in front of the whole group. Visual representations of concepts are embedded throughout the program. Hands-on materials help students build understanding and practice skills.

In Miami-Dade County Public Schools, underperforming math students who were enrolled in Do The Math were more likely than their counterparts at the same schools to show growth on the FCAT.

Math Upgrade

Math Upgrade’s curriculum comprises over 400 lessons from kindergarten to algebra featuring songs, video, and games. The goal is simple: engage English language and struggling learners in a course of step-by-step lessons that engages and provides their pathway to success in mathematics, despite potential language barriers. Math Upgrade is unique in its approach to learning; students visually follow their own academic path to success through a map of lessons to be completed. A song with animated visuals teaches a new skill and guides the student through each lesson. If a student commits an error, the system automatically and immediately guides the student to appropriate remediation tasks through a careful explanation of how to solve the problem, with voice and animated visuals. Songs and videos are a universal language that any student can identify with, providing a non-threatening environment that encourages students to take risks. Playing interactive video games involving manipulating on-screen objects, drag-and-drop activities, and solving multi-step problems give students the varied practice needed to succeed in math. Learning Upgrade offers a free school license giving 20 students access to the complete curriculum for a full school year.

Hooda Math

As the school year winds down, parents are planning their children’s summers and fretting that the kids will forget what they’ve learned over the three-month break. Thanks to Hooda Math, they can relax. Math just got easier to practice — more fun and free. Hooda Math has more than 500 web-based and mobile games, ranging from basic skill practice to brain-challenging “escape” games, which take place in fun locations like the Old West, a pirate ship, and Yosemite National Park, and are a favorite among older students. Its most popular games — Ice Cream Truck, Dublox, Multiplication Game, Fraction Poker, and hundreds of others — work on their mobile site, so kids on the go this summer can play anytime. Hooda Math takes pride in being a reliable, trustworthy, educational, and safe resource. Students accessing math games from their tablets’ browsers are automatically routed to the mobile site. The mobile games can be accessed through any browser, from any device. Hooda Math also has a downloadable iOS app that includes more than 50 games. All are free to download, and new games are released weekly on their website.

Click here to read the full article on “Formula for Math Success”

insightedSource Language Magazine

 Michael Moody explains how video can give educators insight into their performance

 

The link between teacher quality and student outcomes has become clear in both research and practice. It’s now widely accepted that teachers are the most important influence on student achievement, and with two-thirds of states adopting more comprehensive and rigorous observation and evaluation systems, policy has shifted significantly in response.

Despite the consensus on the importance of teacher efficacy and the amount of resources now devoted to accountability initiatives, the real connection between educator-effectiveness systems and measurable improvements in instructional practices is still missing in most districts and schools.
Observations and evaluations should not be just acts of compliance, but rather, opportunities to promote teacher growth through meaningful and actionable feedback.

This missing connection is particularly problematic in specific content areas like foreign languages and literature, as well as in classrooms with English language learners. Observers in these cases must have a deep understanding of both the content and context of lessons, but such specialization is rare. When feedback is provided by observers without the relevant backgrounds, it’s often irrelevant to teachers and doesn’t adequately promote growth.

In a recent poll conducted by Insight Education Group and SmartBrief Education, nearly 70% of teachers reported that they do not receive meaningful and actionable feedback on their instructional practices from current observation and evaluation systems.

It’s not hard to understand why so many teachers feel this way. However, there is a solution that may improve the situation: video.

The use of video technology is commonplace in many industries — perhaps most notably, sports. Reviewing practice and game film has been identified in sports as one of the most effective methods for enhancing performance. Peyton Manning, perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play, is known for spending hours reviewing tapes of every pass he throws. Just like great teachers and school leaders, great athletes and coaches are always looking to improve, working on specific skills together, and discussing ways to find the winning edge.

Video technology is effective in sports for the same reasons it’s effective in education.

Brandon Carpenter, a successful principal and coach from Carter County, Tennessee, used game film for years with his basketball team to help connect feedback and learning for his players. When he had the opportunity to use video in his school, he knew he could make the same connection for his teachers. According to Carpenter, he quickly noticed that video gave teachers the opportunity to view their classrooms from a different perspective. “It is the small details, just like in sports,” he says, “that can be observed with classroom video so that teachers can receive targeted feedback.”

It’s those details described by Carpenter that matter when it comes to specialized content areas and the support teachers need to improve practices. In the same way that pitchers need different feedback than catchers, the feedback needs of language and literacy teachers are significantly different from those of physics teachers.

Interest among educators is clearly building. In a recent SmartBrief poll, over 90% of teachers indicated that they feel filming their instruction would help them grow professionally and improve their practices. In a similar poll, 85% of school leaders said that classroom video would help them provide teachers with better feedback and support.

The benefits of classroom video are becoming obvious to educators — particularly to those teaching specific content areas or unique student populations.

Providing meaningful feedback is challenging in any situation, but in classrooms where teachers and students are speaking different languages, for example, it can be even harder.

However, video supports open dialogue and can instantly provide a beneficial visual that both teacher and observer can point to when discussing practices. Additionally, the technology makes it possible for videos to be shared with content-area experts within the system and even knowledgeable third-party observers.
A district in Georgia is already making it work and seeing great results. With heightened secondary math standards and a lack of expertise on how to support teachers of coordinate algebra, Newton County School System (NCSS) leaders saw an opportunity to leverage classroom video to get teachers the support they needed.

Last year, NCSS partnered with my team at Insight Education Group for content-specific coaching. The coordinate algebra teachers recorded their lessons and shared them with a skilled and experienced Insight coach for timely and actionable feedback.

Prior to this coaching initiative, the district’s coordinate algebra pass rate was 19%. After, NCSS saw gains three times higher than the state average. Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey pointed out, “If a system provides an opportunity to hone your craft and receive more individualized support, then why would you not use that to your full advantage?”

The perspective video provides is especially powerful when new teaching frameworks are introduced, and it can help guarantee that there is a shared understanding of the vocabulary used to describe effective teaching.

Serving as a common piece of evidence, video pushes instructional conversations and feedback processes past the limitations of simple communication to an authentic partnership. Imagine an observer and a teacher sitting next to each other, watching the same video at the same time, and mutually identifying strengths and struggles. With this shared experience and the open, meaningful dialogue that can be established, teachers can accept feedback and make the necessary connections to their practices.

Much of the potential of video technology comes from its versatility and variety of applications. Video can be used privately for self-reflection, with colleagues in PLCs, and even in school- or district-led professional development. These are useful opportunities for teachers to collaborate and analyze practices for quick and simple adjustments.

In Tennessee, video evidence is already used in some school districts as part of teacher-developed and reviewed portfolio-growth models that measure student learning in the arts and physical education.
As the technology spreads to more districts and schools, teachers will naturally begin exploring and experimenting with classroom video, and more innovative uses will come to the forefront.

The benefits of video are not limited to quantifiable improvements in instructional practices or student achievement, though. The technology can also impact morale and culture by promoting transparency, collaboration, and a collective focus on growth.

According to Principal Carpenter, “By using the cameras effectively and efficiently, we were able to build a trusting team atmosphere between administration, teachers, and students.”

A trusting team atmosphere is an important foundation to achieving the quantifiable improvements educators are pursuing. By using video to enhance both culture and feedback, Principal Carpenter saw the results he was looking for — moving from a level-one school where student growth was significantly lower than expected to level five, as one of the fastest-growing schools in the state.

Despite clear benefits and educator interest in classroom video for self-reflection, coaching, and even formal observation, implementation of the technology in any district or school must be carefully considered and thoughtfully planned.

In many cases, implementation should begin with only a few teachers. Those who need content-specific feedback and support the most, such as language and literacy teachers, may be the best positioned to opt in and lead the way.

As teachers become familiar with the cameras, they will see the value in video as a means to gain new perspectives and support that have never been accessible before. These early successes will set the stage for expanded use of video and empower teachers as partners and advocates in the process.
Educators are facing higher standards than ever before, but both teachers and school leaders say the systems currently in place to support teachers are not resulting in meaningful and actionable feedback. This lack of effective feedback and professional growth is particularly prominent — and problematic — in specific content areas like foreign languages and literature, as well as classrooms with English language learners.

But like when athletes analyze film to up their game, classroom video can give educators that winning edge by promoting effective instructional practices, ultimately making the difference in student achievement.

Dr. Michael Moody is the founder and CEO of Insight Education Group. His experiences as a classroom teacher, school and district administrator, and consultant have given him a unique perspective on both the challenges and opportunities in education today. Contri­buting regularly to the blog, Moody is always excited to start or join a conversation about helping educators grow. He tweets at @DrMichaelMoody. To learn more about the uses of classroom video and practical resources for implementing it in your district or school, download Insight’s latest policy report: A Game Changer: Using video to achieve high performance in the classroom.

new OW web finalSource Scholastic Administration – edupulse

By Charles Higdon

By moving to a performance-based model and giving students a choice in how they learn, this rural Kentucky district has eliminated dropouts for the last six years. 

Taylor County is a rural community in central Kentucky. We have three schools serving approximately 2,900 students—60 percent of whom receive free or reduced-price lunches.

We don’t fit the typical profile of a poor, rural school district, though: We haven’t had a single student drop out of school in more than six years, and in the last two years we’ve seen a 100-percent graduation rate.

We’ve achieved this success by embracing an innovative, student-centered approach to teaching and learning.

In Taylor County, we have moved to an entirely performance-based model in which students are placed in classes based not on their age, but their ability. What’s more, we no longer require seat time for students to advance.

While other schools in the state require 176 school days to get through the curriculum, we operate differently. Our students work through the curriculum at their own pace, and when they are ready to move on, they can—provided they can demonstrate proficiency on an exit exam.

To operate in this way, we have received special approval from the state. We’re one of the first five districts in Kentucky to be designated as a District of Innovation.

Three years ago, the Kentucky Department of Education invited districts to apply for this status, which gives those chosen more flexibility to be creative in their approach to educating students. There are now roughly a dozen Districts of Innovation across the state.

When we applied for this status, we had to submit a plan describing what we intended to do that would be innovative. Our performance-based model allowed us to apply, and in return, we were granted a waiver from the state’s seat-time requirements.

We also give students a choice in how they learn, because one size definitely does not fit all. We have implemented a “wagon wheel” approach, which places the students at the center, surrounded by six spokes, each of which represents a different way of learning.

Both our students and teachers choose which approach to instruction is right for them, and then we match students to the teachers and modes of instruction they desire.

Included in this model is a traditional approach, in which students come to class for 176 days and receive direct instruction from a teacher. Some students and teachers still prefer this method.

But we also offer five other, more innovative approaches, for those who want to learn in a different way.

*Online learning: Students can work at their own pace using Odysseyware’s online courseware. We have created a virtual academy in which students log in to their online classes from a computer lab, and a fully certified teacher serves as an on-site guide. Since we’ve opened our virtual academy, many of our at-risk students are now actually moving through the curriculum at an accelerated pace and graduating early.

*Project-based learning: Students can learn the curriculum in the context of authentic, real-world projects. For instance, a local business donated LEGO engineering kits to one of our elementary classes, and students worked together in groups to design factories.

*Self-paced learning: In this “flipped” approach to instruction, teachers record their lessons and students can watch these videos as often as they need in order to learn the material. Teachers serve as facilitators during class time to help students master the content.

*Peer-led instruction: In these classrooms, students learn from each other, with the teacher acting as a facilitator. For some students, it helps to hear an explanation of the content from one of their peers as opposed to a teacher.

*Cardinal Academy: In this new high school program, students develop their own learning plan. They have an advisor, who oversees them to ensure they’re completing the objectives they need to and are pacing themselves correctly, but students can choose for themselves what subjects they will work on, and when. They can also learn off campus through internships.

Letting students learn at their own pace, and giving them a choice in how they will learn, empowers students to take control of their education—and we have seen this approach pay off.

As educators, we’re not here just to ensure that students score well on state exams; we’re here to educate students fully, and prepare them to succeed in college or a career. And we are doing that here in Taylor County.

Charles Higdon is assistant superintendent for Kentucky’s Taylor County Schools. He can be reached at charles.higdon@taylor.kyschools.us  


LU - New Logo 5:4:2015
Source The Learning Counsel

How one school is solving the timeless dilemma of student willingness and involvement and is making summer school count for each child.

As we head towards the end of the school year and preparations get underway for summer school programs, many teachers and administrators are asking two important questions: “How do we gain improved willingness and involvement from students who need to attend?” And, “How do we translate that into better assessment outcomes?”

One school who seems to have solved this dilemma and given us a model to look at is Morris School District. Their summer school program has a long history of success. Students may grumble, but last year every student who participated showed improvement in both math and English. But Morris students haven’t protested as vocally as one might expect, with school creeping into their hallowed summer break. Educators there have seen a bit of an anomaly over the years.

Their summer program is not only popular with students; it has been extremely effective as well. As Coordinator for Extended School Year Grades K-12, Chris Miller, shared the reasons for the program’s success, two key ingredients emerged from the Morris summer school preparations—great care and great data.

Over the summer the district offers its students Basic Skills Instruction (BSI), which is designed for specially selected students in grades three through five, focuses strictly on building capacity in language arts and math. For most schools, student mastery of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a top priority. The goal of the BSI program is to ensure students master CCSS skills by reinforcing what was learned in the grade they just finished. Administrators use data from the previous year to inform summer school teachers where each individual student is at allowing them to personalize each student’s learning experience. These students have been identified by predetermined benchmarks as kids who would benefit from additional support during the summer.

Strong Preparations Need Strong Data
Miller underscored the importance of carefully selecting the students who would benefit most from summer school, and Morris School District is conscientious about utilizing student data to make informed decisions. Teachers and administrators begin during the school year to identify students in order to best position each for summer success. Educators measure the number of times a student needs to be taught something before he or she achieves mastery. They also note any signs of regression, or the need to re-teach lessons that have been presented before. Each case is carefully evaluated by a board, which relies on these data points as well as teacher observation, attendance records, and learning targets so that the students who most need help receive it.

But data isn’t only useful during enrollment. One of the key procedures a school district can use to support its summer program, Miller said, is to provide summer school teachers with plenty of preparatory material. In Morris schools, summer school teachers are given student-learning profiles ahead of time, so the teacher can reach each student on their reading level. Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) scores, math scores, and teacher notes from the school year are all part of the material teachers use to brief themselves on students’ strengths, their weaknesses, and learning style.

Optimizing Lessons
The structure of the day is arranged just as carefully. Alongside student data, Morris provides template lesson plans in advance that address writing objectives and improve reading, writing, and math scores. In class, writing units that support CCSS address next year’s pre-requisite skills at the students’ level. Math lessons focus on basic skills, math fact fluency, and foundational concepts for the next grade. Direct, individual instruction is the goal, but many schools find it is not quite practical. Morris has been experimenting with different programs, and found that blended learning works well to keep kids engaged in developmentally appropriate and beneficial projects.

One method the district has implemented with success is the use of literacy centers – individual or small-group workstations that allow students to explore the material independently. Even so, struggling learners are not always engaged. And when the lessons are individualized, it is difficult to collect information on every student in a personal way. Even the best teacher can’t track every lesson at once.

Last year, Miller and his team looked for ways technology could further enrich students’ summer school experience, and through thoughtful exploration and evaluation they chose to implement curriculum from Learning Upgrade.


This unique a set of lessons delivers CCSS-based concepts through music, song, games, and video while collecting individual student data in real time and letting teachers intervene when they are needed. Miller saw these lessons as a way to engage their students in ways they enjoy, keeping their attention and building their confidence, and they did just that, leading to a full implementation of the cloud-based curriculum in two of their elementary schools.

Individual Lessons, Individual Data
In a district that knows the importance of good data, a program like Learning Upgrade will make a big difference. And, indeed, it has. Miller’s teachers have combined these two resources to practice station rotation learning, in which students work individually or in small groups to review old skills or gain exposure to new ones through Learning Upgrade. The combination means that kids have continuous instruction throughout the school day. Most teachers of summer school agreed that Learning Upgrade and blended learning made for an effective pair. One wrote, “I’ve been teaching summer academy for 8 years, each and every year has been successful in its own right, however last summer was my best academy experience yet. Attendance was at an all-time high, and I truly enjoyed watching my students build confidence and succeed.”

Students engage in this targeted material, combined with direct individualized instruction, and practice a blend of foundations. The teacher rotates ability-based groups to target their level. Class size is kept low, eight to ten students each, and the Learning Upgrade platform allows teachers to flag students who may be struggling with a certain concept and provide them with 1-on-1 or small-group instruction.

Their careful planning and hard work comes through in the numbers. A large majority of students drastically increased in math proficiency, in all logging more than 560 hours on Learning Upgrade last year. Miller commented that all students benefited from their approach and that overall student engagement was extremely high. They look to replicate their success this coming summer as well.

Meanwhile, reactions from the families have been very positive. An overwhelming majority of parents agreed their child received the additional support they needed, appropriate instruction that engaged their child and that it was a great use of time.

So parents and teachers are on board, but the key to kids’ approval, Miller says, has been the incentive program. While the goal is to get kids excited about learning itself, sometimes extrinsic motivators can be a big help. Morris uses a reading log program and an attendance incentive–if the weekly objectives are met, students take home a prize on Thursday, the last school day of the week. Classrooms have a Treasure Chest prize for attendance, and there are morning meetings to get kids psyched.

Recognizing Achievement
The summer session is crowned with a program-long reward for top five readers and those with perfect attendance. The awards give students a sense of pride, as well. Miller shared a message he received from one of last year’s top five readers: “After our summer school program was out, I received from a student, thanking me for summer school because she was so proud of what she was able to accomplish. For an educator, it doesn’t get much better than that.” Incentive-based programs that get kids excited and motivated are terribly important because kids know their peers are outside. One very effective way to take away the sting is to make sure summer school is not the same as the rest of the year.

Mr. Miller shared Morris Schools’ comprehensive plan that ensures individualized instruction, small class sizes, engaging curriculum and various incentives as the recipe for their success. The ability-based grouping in small classrooms, blended learning, and rotation station model, all increase 1-on-1 time. Teachers have a leg up when they are provided with lesson plans up front, and can do even more when you support them by providing individualized data on each student. In summer classes teachers rely on their eyes, their ears, and the data from programs like Learning Upgrade, which provides deeper, individual student information to teachers automatically. Miller showed that when summer school is less like real school, with incentives, prizes, and a motivating atmosphere, kids feel that their summer is special, whether they spend it outside playing catch or inside brushing up on math.

 

By: Rachel Norris

mactoschool2Source EdNet Insight

By Robert Baker, President and Founder, Mac to School — Friday, May 22, 2015

Transitioning From Consumer to Education: Beyond Price and Packaging

With industry reports indicating that investment in ed tech companies hit $1.87 billion in 2014, it’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs and companies in the consumer sector are considering entering the education market or have already begun making inroads. What many of these business leaders quickly discern is that education is a unique industry and that it’s critical to understand the differences between these markets to be successful.

While the disparities between the consumer and education markets may seem glaringly obvious to those of us who’ve worked with schools and districts for some time, the subtleties run deep. It’s like diving into a lake. You can dip your toe into the water to test the temperature, and you can see with some clarity a few feet down to determine that it appears good for swimming. However, it isn’t until you look beneath the surface that you discover its complex ecology.

When we launched Mac to School as an offshoot of our successful Mac repair consumer business, we relied on experts in the education industry to help us better understand the landscape and its ecosystem.

To put your company on the path to success in education, you’ll need to know the differences between the consumer and education markets that extend beyond pricing and packaging.

Provide solutions; don’t just sell products. In the education market, you must have a more thorough understanding of your audience and their pain points than you do in the consumer sector. To best serve educators, you have to know the various ways educators could use your product, their end goals, the life cycle of your product in schools, the symbiosis of decision-makers and users, how each may be impacted, and similar issues.

This insight will enable you to modify or re-engineer your offering to suit the needs of educators and schools. This often means going a step further than just selling a tailored product. Successful companies in education offer a solution, such as adding complementary services, professional development and training, and more, to ensure the efficacy of your product and the greatest customer satisfaction.

When we discovered that schools were our best customers for refurbished Apple equipment, we began offering services to reconfigure large quantities of machines for schools at no extra charge. This saves them countless hours of installing their operating system of choice on each device and saves them the fees they’d otherwise be charged if they purchased the refurbished machines from other providers. Because we’re dealing in greater volume, we’re able to offer this free service to schools that we’re not able to offer in our consumer business.

Move product and purpose under one roof. Oftentimes, you’ll see companies try to sell a consumer product to educators by simply showcasing the different ways it can be used for educational purposes, without offering the support and modifications to the product that schools need to ensure it fits their unique situation. Typically, a few salespeople, who sometimes lack the proper knowledge and background in the industry, are assigned to handle the education business. This model usually ends in lackluster sales because the mission, product, and structure of the company do not align with the education market. Education becomes a secondary focus.

Three years ago, we created a new company, separate from our consumer business, entirely dedicated to the educationally driven mission to ensure we were delivering on our promise to schools. We were able to leverage the insight we’d gleaned from working with schools in the past to customize our product line and services to the education market, offering the high-quality technology educators want at a price they can afford.

Relationships are paramount. The marketing and sales process is more nuanced in education. It thrives on relationship building, from the first introduction to after-the-sale communications, whereas the consumer market depends mainly on a sole transactional experience. You have to be entrenched in the education industry to best understand the complexities of the funding models, the political and regulatory environment, and the influencers and decision-makers involved in the process.

In the consumer business, you can advertise where your customers are, but in education, you can’t advertise in classrooms. You have to know where to reach your target audiences and how best to do so in ways that foster engagement, trust, and a lasting partnership. Additionally, the benefits that resonate the most with educators vary and may not be what you’d assume based on experience in the consumer business. Initially, we thought cost would be a significant factor in the decision-making process for budget-crunched schools. However, it was the time-savings of our solutions that ultimately won over our school customers.

Philanthropy matters. While corporate social responsibility is trendy in the consumer market, it’s not a significant difference maker in selling products. In education, helping improve kids’ lives must be at the core of your business. Educators are passionate about what they do, and you must reflect that if you want to be successful. Embrace the heart that’s in this industry and give back. We’ve enjoyed the shift from consumer to education and consider it a blessing that we can help schools while doing this job.

In the consumer market, it’s often cutthroat—competition is based on price, and your value is based on sales. Here we get to be the good guys and stand tall, even amongst the biggest players in the industry, as we all are striving toward the same goal: helping schools and helping kids.

____________________________________________________________________________

Robert Baker is the President and Founder of Mac to School. The company buys, refurbishes, and sells Apple computers and equipment and serves the public and private education markets working with schools and districts throughout all 50 states. He can be reached at rbaker@mactoschool.com.

new OW web finalSource eClassroom News

Latest expansion brings all 16 Career Clusters into the classroom

Odysseyware is launching 16 additional CTE courses for the 2015-16 school year. With these new courses, the company now offers courses in each of the 16 national CTE clusters.

Each course is designed by educators and experts in their respective career fields to ensure students acquire core academic and 21st century skills that will prepare them for life after graduation.

The new courses cover a broad range of career paths:

*Architecture: Introduction to Architecture and Construction, Principles of Construction

*Communications: Introduction to Arts, A/V Technology and Communications, A/V Technology and Film Careers

*Government: Introduction to Government and Public Administration, Introduction to National Security

*Education: Education and Training, Careers in Teaching and Training

*Finance: Introduction to Finance, Banking Services Careers,

*Manufacturing: Principles of Manufacturing, Manufacturing Production Process Developmen

*Marketing: Introduction to Marketing, Principles of Marketing Research

*Logistics: Transportation, Distribution and Logistics, Logistics Planning and Management Services

These Career and Technical Education programs afford students the opportunity to explore a variety of career paths while they’re still in school.

For a complete list of courses, including the 16 released today, please visit Odysseyware online at www.odysseyware.com/career-and-technical.

EXO-USource eCampus News

 

A look at what it takes to develop a BYOD initiative that incorporates device-agnostic lesson plans, content, and collaboration tools.

In the 2015 Higher Education Edition of the Horizon Report, The New Media Consortium pinpoints Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as one of the most important developments in educational technology with a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less.

“In higher education,” NMC states, “the BYOD movement addresses the fact that many students are entering the classroom with their own devices, which they use to connect to the institutions’ networks.” The Horizon Report includes an example from California State University, which studied the BYOD phenomenon and found that students “could only engage in educational activities for six minutes before turning on their devices for support.”

The open question on U.S. campuses is not if students are bringing their own devices or how to connect them to the institutional network, but rather: how do you support all these personal devices at the point of instruction, in the classroom? How can educators can effectively design lessons and utilize software in an environment where their students are using myriad different devices, computers, and operating systems?

According to some educational experts, the best approach to supporting BYOD for instruction is the “device-agnostic” class. Device-agnostic tools are applications that work across multiple systems without requiring any special customizations; they are compatible with most (or all) operating systems and can be used on various tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

Learning is enhanced when students use their own devices

At Triple Point Advisors in San Francisco, CEO Gauri Reyes, a former university professor, says the proliferation of BYOD on higher-ed campuses is being driven by students’ desire to integrate their personal device usage with their educational activities. “While it definitely makes sense to keep the two [activities] separate,” says Reyes, “the trend in modern technology is to merge the two sides together into one.”

Merging those two sides can lead to good things, according to Reyes, who has seen learning fields enhanced, collaboration stoked, and educational spheres positively impacted when students use their own devices in class. The problem, she admits, is that there is a plethora of devices currently on the market, and not all of them share the same platforms or operating systems. This can create issues for educators who have to create lesson plans that incorporate tools like the iPad, iPhone, Android, tablet, and/or laptop. The age of the device itself can also come into play, she notes, particularly when some students have newer equipment and others have older, outdated versions of the devices.

“These devices all have different quirks,” says Reyes, “and that makes it hard to predict which ones will ultimately be brought into the classroom, who will be using which ones, and who needs to know what about the devices and their capabilities.”

Examples of device-agnostic applications

To help smooth out some of the BYOD-related bumps in the college classroom, applications like Haiku Deck (presentation software), Tackk (a multimedia scrolling poster), and Snapguide (for creating step-by-step guides) are all offered in iOS, Android, and/or web versions. The latter, for example, uses a browser-based interface to allow students to access the application from any device – regardless of operating system – and use it online without having to worry about software incompatibility issues.

One of the newer entrants to the device-agnostic BYOD market is EXO U, a platform that allows instructors to share information and collaborate with students across multiple operating systems. Shan Ahdoot, CEO of the San Francisco-based firm, says such applications help educators get “everyone on the same page” quickly and effectively without wasting classroom time or IT resources. “The goal is to create a consistent experience from phone to laptop to interactive whiteboard,” says Ahdoot.

In the absence of such tools, Ahdoot says the BYOD experience can be challenging for instructors who have to use a combination of email, the campus learning management system (LMS), or other means of collaborating with students. Also, he says web-based applications don’t always look the same on different devices. An online program like Evernote, for example, appears differently on an iPad versus a laptop versus an Android device.

Like Reyes, Ahdoot feels that BYOD as a whole can be a very productive and effective way to put devices into the classroom without a large financial investment (on the part of the institution) or the need for extensive IT support. Plus, he says, students tend to take better care of their own phones, laptops, and tablets compared to those that are distributed by an institution.

Design for cross-platform, whether approved or not

Even with its obvious positives, the BYOD movement comes with its own share of setbacks. For example, Reyes says instructors will continue to be challenged by the need to effectively develop lessons and content for multiple devices and operating systems. To those instructors that are already feeling that strain, Reyes says the best approach is simply to assume that the technology is going be brought into the classroom – and whether it’s “approved” or not.

“Start by taking the most popular devices that are out there and making sure your applications, lesson plans, videos, or other content work on those devices,” Reyes advises. “Just make the assumption that whatever you’re developing or using has to work on iOS, Android, or another platform, and then create an environment where your students can learn, engage, collaborate, and communicate effectively.”

 

myoncwSource District Administration

From videos to games, tools to help students learn to read are all about fun.

Programs that are compatible with mobile devices allow students to improve reading and literacy skills in and outside the classroom. On the educator side, many new products track students’ progress and offer assessment tools.

myON Reader

Capstone Digital

A personalized literacy environment, myON Reader engages students at all reading levels with its library of more than 8,000 digital books. Books are recommended to students based on individual interests and reading level using the Lexile Framework for Reading. myON Reader recently added new reading levels for beginning readers, an additional placement exam for K1, and new benchmarks for assessment. www.myon.com

To view the full list of the latest in reading and literacy curriculum please click here.