DefinedSTEMlogoSource EdSurge – The Ed Tech Round Up

Defined STEM is an excellent service that offers an enormous collection of pre-created problem and project-based learning resources for all core subjects in K-12.  Each resource is built around a specific career to help increase relevancy, and comes with all the resources, standards, materials, and so on that you could possibly need.  It’s a wonderful service, so let’s check them out!

Before we begin, let’s start with a short animation from the Defined STEM team so you can get a quick overview on what they’re all about:
As you can see, the team puts a big focus on creating content that is not only project-based, but also engaging and relevant.  The fact that each performance task is built around a specific career is one of my favorite components of their site.  From the get go, students no longer need to ask, “why are we learning this” because the assignment is built around a real-world problem.

Browse for lesson by grade level, subject area, or specific standard

One of the main points that the Defined STEM team emphasized when I was exploring their resource, is that this is not designed to replace existing curricula.  Instead, it is meant to be a supplemental resource that teachers can draw upon when they want to integrate relevant activities that are focused on 21st century skills and problem solving activities.

The Performance Task Interface

When teachers first sign on to the main page of Defined STEM, you’ll be able to search by standard, grade level, or subject area.  Grade level might be the easiest to start with, but if you have a specific standard in mind, that’s also a good place to begin.  Speaking of the standards, the team already has all the state and CCSS standards loaded into the site, so if you’re in a US public school, you should be good to go!

Choose How You Want to Search

Once you begin you’ll search, you’ll see that each performance task is broken down by a specific career (as mentioned above).  You’ll also be able to see a summary of what the project is about, and the kind of work the students will be doing.  Overall, it’s an incredibly easy to navigate interface and I think once you’re in, you’ll have no trouble doing some exploring and finding what you’re looking for.

All Performance Tasks are Built on Real World Scenarios

Each specific performance task includes everything you could ever possibly want as an educator. Rubrics, directions, introductory videos, additional articles that the students can use for research, the standards the activity is aligned to, a variety of culminating projects that the students can select from, and even video guides for the students so they can better understand how to tackle a project/assignment like this and learn how to work through the steps.

Everything You Need is Easily Accessible

There is also a social and collaborative component to Defined STEM that allows for teachers to comment on and share any lesson that they find useful.  It’s a great feature for extending the resource outside of your own classroom.

Plus, in addition to all the PBL activities, they also have a large collection of literacy activities that can be used in conjunction with a performance task, or on their own.  These activities focus on things like explanatory writing and argumentative writing, and they also include all the resources you could ever need.


Literacy Tasks are Available as Well!

And if all that wasn’t enough, Defined STEM makes it incredibly easy to customize any of the lessons so they can better fit your needs.  You can either down the activity as a word document, or modify it directly on the web in their editing program.  This way, you can make the lesson perfectly fit your classroom.

When you’re ready for students to access the resources, you could either print them out (great for schools who are limited in technology resources) or send out the link that is given on the side of the dashboard.  When you send out the link to students, you can also customize what they’ll see.  So maybe if you only want to offer some of the culminating projects, or a few of the articles, or filter the articles based on reading level, or anything along those lines, that can easily be done!


Plenty of Options!

Finally, as to pricing, Defined STEM charges $2795 per year, per building.  As many teachers and as many students within a building can use the resource for that price, there are no limitations.

Overall, Defined STEM is an outstanding resource and one that I wish I had had access to while I was teaching 10th grade biology.  The ability to incorporate real-world authentic learning tasks, without having to actually create all the associated materials, is incredibly beneficial and absolutely worth considering.  Plus, the fact that they have lessons which can be used in every core subject area is even more impressive.  With all that being said…


Source THE Journal

With online testing underway in many states, we look at the hardware and software that districts are using to teach to the new standards.

According to the 4th Annual Principals’ Assessment of Public Education, 95.7 percent of schools in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have implemented or are in the process of implementing the standards. Many of those schools are also getting ready to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium assessments for the first time. To get a sense of what is working in districts around the country, we asked educators to share the technology tools that they are using to help implement CCSS and prepare students for the upcoming assessments.

learning upgrade logoPreparing Special Ed Students for CCSS

The Common Core standards emphasize an inquiry-based approach to learning, encouraging students to ask questions and persevere through challenges. According to Christine Fax-Huckaby, a special education academic support teacher in Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) n Chula Vista, CA, that inquiry-based approach can be difficult for special education teachers because “we don’t want our kids to struggle. We don’t want to lose them.”

In an effort to help special education students in SUHSD succeed, the district has deployed a tool called Learning Upgrade, an online math and English language arts curriculum that uses songs, video and games to engage students. According to Fax-Huckaby, Learning Upgrade uses an inquiry-based approach to provide differentiated instruction to help special education students fill in gaps in their learning.

Fax-Huckaby focuses on universal design for learning in her training for special and general educators. UDL suggests that teachers provide multiple means of representation, expression and engagement to facilitate learning, “and I think so many of those things involve technology and inquiry,” she said. According to Fax-Huckaby, Learning Upgrade uses the technology that kids love to motivate them. It lets them continue working on a concept until they’ve mastered it, and she said the district’s assessment data shows that special education students are doing better as a result.

Addressing Close Readingmyoncw

The Common Core requires students to read deeply and extract meaning from complex texts in subjects such as science and social studies. To support close reading skills, teachers at C.T. Sewell Elementary School in Henderson, NV, are using myON and Accelerated Reader.

myON is an interactive, digital library of more than 4,000 books for K-12 that integrates with Accelerated Reader, an online assessment tool for reading comprehension. Holli Ratliff, principal of C.T. Sewell Elementary, said, “Students can read the books on myON, and then can link directly to Accelerated Reader to take their comprehension quiz to measure their understanding of what they just read.”

The school chose myON because it has such a large collection of nonfiction books to support close reading across subject areas. Elizabeth Stuflick, an instructional coach at the school, said teachers select texts that are about one grade level above the class they are teaching. The texts are also related to science or social studies units, so students are deepening their knowledge in those subject areas.

In the primary grades, students can wear headphones and listen to the stories read aloud, and they can then be assessed on their listening comprehension. “They’re hearing good reading modeled for them, and then we’re building that print-to-speech connection,” said Ratliff. For older students, the teachers turn the sound off, so the students are assessed on their actual reading comprehension.

lightspeed_logo_H_RGB_150Managing Small Group Instruction

The Common Core standards expect students to demonstrate effective speaking and listening skills in 1-on-1, small-group and whole-class discussions. Ashleigh Schulz, a gifted teacher at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, LA, uses an audio system called Flexcat to monitor and support students during group work.

Schulz describes Flexcat as a management and monitoring system for group instruction. The system supports up to six communication “pods.” Each group of students has its own pod. Wearing a microphone, earpiece and remote control, Schulz can move freely around the classroom to monitor the groups.

“When my students are outside of the classroom, I can communicate with them, and it’s two-way communication,” said Schulz. “If they’re in the classroom, under the tables or outside in the hallway working — even across the hall in another classroom — they can take these mobile pods and I can hear everything that’s going on. I can allow them to know that I’m there by jumping in to their conversation, or I can just sit back and listen. It gives me such insight into their learning, and helps me as a teacher know where to go next.”

Schulz has found that the system helps keeps students on task when working in small groups because they know she may be listening in at any time. “It’s really awesome to hear and just step back and listen to the way that their brains work, because in the past, as I would walk up to a group, they would shut down,” said Schulz. “And that doesn’t happen now.”

Using Embedded Assessments to Support CCSS MasteryDefinedSTEMlogo

Phoenixville Area School District (PA) is using a tool called Defined STEM, which embeds assessments within the curriculum and asks students to complete multi-disciplinary projects to demonstrate mastery of standards. Preston McKnight, K-12 supervisor of curriculum for the district, said, “The beautiful thing about Defined STEM is that it’s aligned to national standards on multiple levels. The language arts and science pieces are all in play.”

Defined STEM projects include, for example, designing a backpack or manufacturing sunglasses. The backpack project guides students through a series of activities that span multiple lessons, from understanding the elements of design and the necessary math calculations, to drawing their own backpack design, to actually creating the backpack. “That’s the assessment — the backpack is done,” said McKnight. The sunglasses manufacturing project requires launching a PR campaign to market the product, so the students can practice and get assessed on standards across disciplines.

The tool also offers multiple paths through the projects, so each project can be customized so that students with learning challenges through to more advanced learners can all complete the project. The different levels built into each project are all aligned with Common Core standards.

Conducting Formative Assessmentsnaikuweb (1)

To monitor student progress and adjust lesson plans accordingly, Clear Lake Middle School (IA) is using three formative assessment tools: Skills Iowa, My Access and Naiku. Educators use Skills Iowa to assess math and reading, My Access to assess writing and Naiku for multiple subject areas.

In Naiku, each question can be linked to a specific standard to help teachers assess student progress. The tool integrates with the school’s Infinite Campuslearning management system, so when a teacher gives an assessment in Naiku, the students’ scores are logged in the LMS’s gradebook.

According to Steve Kwikkel, principal at Clear Lake, some of the teachers use Naiku’s “exit tag” feature almost daily. An exit tag is a quick check for understanding at the end of a lesson to see if the students met the learning target for that day. “It gives teachers real data right now,” he said, so they can use that information to develop and refine their lesson plans.

Using the data from Skills Iowa, My Access and Naiku to assess student progress and develop quality lessons and units linked to the Common Core makes it unnecessary to teach to the CCSS tests, Kwikkel concluded. “You really don’t have to tell the kid, ‘This is the Common Core standard that we’re working on,’ because they’re operating from that already.”

large-myon-readerSource Houston ISD News Blog

Robert Edmond, a sixth-grader at Johnston Middle School, has been named the second “Reader Leader” by myON for logging the most time spent reading on that website during a particular month.

Alfredo read for 13 hours and eight minutes on myON in March. He also completed 109 books and took their accompanying quizzes.


Robert Edmond, myON Reader Leader

As a part of his prize, Robert received a laptop (with computer case) from Muses3, LLC, the representative of myON in southeast Texas.

“This was another very tight race,” said Linda Bessmer, managing partner of Muses3. “Robert’s teacher, Wilfred Dacus, instituted a myON Camp for his Life Skills students, where they spent concentrated time reading on myON, and several other Johnston students were only minutes away from the leader’s record, with elementary students close behind.”

Robert was formally recognized during a special ceremony held on his campus April 10.

insightedSource Tech & Learning

On a Friday in 2014, just before the start of a week-long break, library/media specialist Tracey Wong read an article ( ) by Lisa Nielsen about creating a digital portfolio to showcase teacher effectiveness. “I found the article really inspiring,” says Wong, who works for the NYC Public Schools at Fordham Bedford Academy (P.S. 54) in the Bronx. “I thought she had an amazing idea and I wanted to duplicate it.”

Luckily for Wong, she was able to take Social Media to Support Teacher Effectiveness, a class taught by Nielsen, who is director of digital engagement and professional learning for NYC Public Schools. The class is designed to share ways teachers can use social media to meet teacher-effectiveness requirements. Nielsen also teaches Creating a Digital Portfolio to Support Teacher Effectiveness, which focuses on creating a digital portfolio to showcase evidence and artifacts of teacher effectiveness.

Like many districts, NYC Public Schools’ teacher evaluation model is based on the Danielson Framework. Nielsen appreciates that the framework gives everyone a common language and a smart way to look at how teachers can develop and grow. Her classes focus on teacher strengths and how to work on becoming stronger. In the digital portfolio class, teachers learn to use tools like Pinterest, Blogger, Padlet, and eduClipper to submit their artifacts of effectiveness. “Creating an electronic portfolio helps educators and administrators have focused conversations about increasing teacher effectiveness,” says Nielsen.

As Wong went through each component of the Danielson Framework and uploaded artifacts, it helped her to better understand her areas of strength and weakness and to reflect on how she needs to change in order to grow. “I find by using technology for an authentic purpose in my own life, it is then easier to give assignments to students since it is not just busy work, but something that has relevance,” she says. NYC teachers can take any of the dozen classes Nielsen teaches and use that material to teach others back at their own schools. The district designates professional development time every Monday. The professional learning opportunities are listed online and Nielsen promotes them to teachers directly, via her department’s Web site and newsletter, and to principals who can suggest them to their teachers. “We have a tech-savvy person identified at each school called the Technology Single Point of Contact (Tech SPOC) who takes our classes and shares with their colleagues,” she says.

Jacalyn Patanio, a technology coach at The John J. Driscoll School (P.S. 16), an elementary school in Staten Island, provides PD for teachers. She’s taken many of Nielsen’s courses and believes that the digital portfolio class is a great way to tie in all the technology integration she encourages at her school. “This class helped me grasp the need to streamline all my work and capture it in an online space,” she says. “We looked at the Danielson Framework and the areas we are rated on. [We then] brainstormed about how to memorialize our work to show how were are hitting specific areas of Danielson.”

After taking the class, Patanio selected a handful of online platforms for her teachers to use to create their digital portfolios and showcase student work. She set up a series of lunchand- learns during which teachers evaluated platforms and discussed how this would impact teaching and learning. She highlighted examples from Nielsen’s workshop and worked with her principal and assistant principal, who created their own portfolios. “Teachers need choices in their teaching and technology integration, which is what we also want to provide our students,” says Patanio. “My goals from Lisa’s class were twofold— to have the teachers highlight their effectiveness through technology but also to become comfortable with various types of technology and demonstrate for students how they can make choices in their learning, showcase their work, and make learning visible.”

NYC isn’t the only district trying to better its evaluation process by offering teachers concrete methods to strengthen their skills. Here are two other examples.


“When we reflected on our teacher evaluation process, we knew we wanted to find a way to truly individualize the practice,” says Vanessa Belair, assistant principal at Delta Elementary Charter School in Clarksburg, CA. “We all have different strengths and areas of potential growth.” The K-6 school uses Insight ADVANCEfeedback, a growth-centered observation and feedback platform for teachers and administrators. “Since transitioning to Common Core, we have been asking our students to essentially learn and think differently. The standards that we have for teachers need to change as well. Insight’s Common Core Framework has given us a tool that has changed the way we evaluate teachers.” The school finished its first round of formal evaluations in March. Each teacher made personal goals associated with a core practice. Each teacher also received professional development, including peer coaching, visiting schools to observe teachers, and release time to work with Belair. Some teachers viewed video clips about specific strategies on TeachingChannel ( Belair does weekly observations and gives short feedback, but she knows the magic happens when teachers can incorporate what they are learning in the moment.

“We strongly believe, with the right targeted support, all of our teachers will be successful,” says Belair. “Often it can be as simple as equipping a teacher with specific strategies and techniques.” Although there is continuous, whole-staff PD around engagement practices, Common Core, data, and other educational topics, our true goal has always been to individualize PD and tie it directly to our evaluation process. “We differentiate for our students so why not for our teachers?” she asks.


Spurred by a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant awarded in 2010, Fort Worth (TX) Independent School District piloted a multi-faceted teacher evaluation and PD initiative to improve teacher effectiveness at 14 underachieving schools that suffered from high teacher turnover. “The grant required us to measure teaching effectiveness based on teaching performance and student performance,” says Andrew McKenzie, TIF Project Manager at the district.

During the 2010-11 school year, McKenzie pulled together a committee of teachers and administrators to choose an alternative rubric from the state’s system to measure teacher effectiveness. They also wanted something that would create wider data to pull from. They chose the Danielson Framework for many reasons, but particularly because it describes performance—not people—and encourages rich, in-depth, focused discussions between the teacher and evaluator.

The district offers face-to-face courses in classroom management and other areas and can enroll teachers when there’s a need. It also offers targeted PD, in which an instructional coach comes in and works with a teacher.

But PD is taking a new turn since the district partnered with Teachscape last year and started using video for observations. Now teachers can check out observation kits, put their iPads on Swivl, and then upload their videos to the Teachscape Learn platform. They can use the videos for self-reflection or share them with coaches, administrators, or partner teachers.

“The first couple of years, it was a challenge to figure out what to do between observations, but we are figuring out ways to handle that,” says McKenzie. For instance, when administrators notice areas to be addressed during an observation, they can share feedback they’d like a coach to address. They can also ask teachers to complete modules from online platforms that are cross-referenced with the framework. What’s nice about the modules is that they are specific and can be completed at the teacher’s convenience. Administrators can also watch the progress. McKenzie says the campuses using this method have had positive feedback.

The videos are also starting to be used in professional learning communities (PLCs) and training sessions. Instructional coaches film teachers or themselves doing a demo lesson or something exemplary and then share the videos with their teams. “Our literacy coach filmed a small-group guided reading lesson and used the video in a PD session in the fall that was immediately impactful,” says McKenzie.

As teachers become more comfortable with the framework, they have begun self-identifying their weaknesses and seeking help on their own. “We have teachers who have been in the system for some time and have become familiar with the rubric who say, ‘I’m rated here and want to get to here. What can I do?’ They ask their administrators, and it’s a good problem to have,” says McKenzie.


► BrainPOP
► Chrome Browser
► Class Dojo
► Common Sense Education
► Edmodo
► EverFi
► Facebook Groups
► Google Apps for Education
► Google Communities
► Graphite
► Padlet
► PBS Learning Media
► Tagboard


► Accelerated Reader
► Apple iPads
► Google Chromebooks
► Insight ADVANCEfeedback


► Lenovo laptops
► Promethean Boards/ActivInspire
► Swivls
► Teachscape


BloomBoard |

Halogen TalentSpace |

Insight ADVANCE |

Netchemia TalentEd |

observe4success |

Pearson Teacher Compass Suite |

Performance Matters’ FASTe Observer |

Standard for Success |

Teachscape |

VIEWPath |


Dave Schuler, a high school superintendent, doesn’t need a crystal ball to see which job candidates have the highest potential; he has analytics for that.

Dave Schuler is determined to hire only the best employees.


Dave Schuler, Superintendent, Township High School District 214

As superintendent of an Arlington Heights, Illinois, school district, this means hiring teachers with the right traits and skills to help students perform at their highest potential. But as anyone who works in human resources can attest, determining which job candidates will make high-quality employees is a lot harder than it sounds. Schuler’s advice? Just look at the data.

Schuler, who works at  Township High School District 214, incorporates predictive data analysis into the hiring process in order to determine which prospective employees have what it takes to succeed. The district does this through a partnership with TeacherMatch, a third-party software company focused on helping schools hire and retain high-quality teachers.

“As we were looking at different ways of ensuring that we were hiring a high-quality person, we found that predictive analytics was an incredibly useful tool,” Schuler said.

Schuler said that they look for candidates with four core characteristics: teaching skills, qualification, cognitive ability and attitudinal factors, which include a prospective employee’s motivation to succeed, persistence in the face of adversity and ability to maintain a positive attitude. Applicants are asked to self-report relevant information as part of their online job application, and TeacherMatch crunches the numbers.

“We think it has created a stronger incoming class of teachers as a whole and also removed some subjectivity on the front end,” Schuler said, noting that the reliance on data helps avoid making hiring decisions on the basis of more superficial factors like what college a person went to or whether they have friends in the district.

After the data have been analyzed, prospective candidates’ applications are color-coded based on how well their skills and traits match up with the characteristics the district seeks. Riffing on the colors of a stop light, green represents a near perfect match, yellow indicates a prospective teacher who shares some of the ideal characteristics and red signals a person with low probability of becoming a successful employee. Although administrators are not limited to hiring only candidates designated as “green,” in order to choose someone who falls into the red zone, for instance, they must provide a strong argument for why that candidate should still be considered despite lacking the desired skills and traits.

Schuler said they have not been using the system long enough to see how this hiring process will affect benchmarks of student achievement such as grades and test scores, but his school district has seen improvement in other key areas, such as decreased absenteeism.

And District 214 is not the only employer to benefit from the use of predictive analytics. Large corporations such as Google Inc. and Sears Holding Corp. are among companies who have embraced data as a way of improving their talent acquisition model. And Schuler maintains that any company can use predictive analytics as part of its hiring process, once it determines the skills and traits they covet.

Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company, uses analytics to help organizations in sectors outside of education match jobs with prospective employees. Like TeacherMatch, the Korn Ferry Four Dimensions of Leadership focuses on identifying four core characteristics related to job success. In this case, the assessment examines competencies, experiences, traits — such as assertiveness and risk taking — and drivers, which include motivators such as autonomy and challenges.

“Competencies and experiences tells us what a person does, while traits and drivers tell us who they are,” said Mitzi Jordan, Futurestep’s global leader for talent acquisition solutions advisory.

Jordan said Futurestep’s process has been shown to identify candidates who are six times more likely to pass through regular screening.

However, Jordan added, if companies are going to rely on data, they must work to protect its integrity.

“When a company determines the importance of data and analytics in the hiring process, they must ensure they communicate the importance of the data and what it is used for in order to ensure everyone understands their role in updating data accurately,” Jordan said.

Other issues that can arise with the use of big data include potential privacy concerns.

Andrew McDevitt, a senior privacy consultant at TRUSTe, a data privacy management company, said it’s important to make sure that while compiling data on prospective employees, companies make sure they are complying with federal and state labor laws.

“I think data analytics is a great use of information,” McDevitt said. “But with respect to privacy, there have to be some guardrails to ensure companies aren’t going beyond legal boundaries.”

Where employers can get into trouble, McDevitt said, is when they start gathering data outside of the defined talent acquisition process. To avoid this, he recommends complete transparency with job candidates about what data you are gathering and why you are gathering it.

Acquiring a prospective employee’s consent for public disclosure of information is also important to avoid legal issues.

In the case of District 214, Schuler said the only data provided is the information volunteered by candidates in their job applications, and there have been no issues regarding privacy concerns. Schuler said there are no drawbacks to using data for hiring purposes, as long as it’s only part of the process.

“I would be very concerned if we used just analytics by itself, but we’re using it to form a pool of candidates who we then interview as well,” Schuler said. “If you’re on the fence, I would say go for it. Why wouldn’t you want as many tools as possible to create the very best pool?”

insightedSource Scholastic edu Pulse  |  By Michael Moody, Founder and CEO, Insight Education Group

Use these five practices to help teachers help students.

There’s great potential in College- and Career-Readiness Standards (CCRS) to significantly increase our students’ academic performance, and also their chances of success beyond graduation. But none of it can happen unless our teachers are prepared and supported.

In the past, professional development for teaching with new standards was often based on building awareness of the standards and implementing aligned instructional practices. For CCRS, however, that is simply not enough.

New Standards Require a New Approach

As district and school leaders, the first step you should take in successful implementation of the standards is to ensure a common understanding among teachers of the characteristics of a college- and career-ready student and to recognize what mastery really looks like at all levels. Only then can teachers make sound instructional decisions and apply appropriate strategies.

While that sounds simple enough, there are few relevant resources currently available to educators that provide clear indicators of aligned instructional practices and student behaviors.

What to Look for in Every Classroom

Based on more than a decade of experience and the Insight Core Framework, we’ve developed five Core Practices, which outline distinct, observable teacher and student actions and help you gauge the effectiveness of CCRS-implementation classrooms.

Core Practice 1: Know the discipline well

Observable student actions:

*Demonstrates precise content knowledge

*Uses academic vocabulary

*Uses resources that are high quality and appropriately complex

Observable instructional practices: The teacher has a deep understanding of the content he or she is teaching and is able to communicate it in a way students can understand.

Core Practice 2: Prioritize evidence over opinion

Observable student actions:

*Responds to questions with evidence-based answers

*Uses evidence when building arguments, making claims, or explaining thinking

Observable teacher practices: Not only does the instructor need to give students opportunities to find and use evidence to support answers—she or he needs to challenge students to go beyond weak arguments and basic opinions.

Core Practice 3: Grow and improve students’ knowledge base

Observable student actions:

*Makes connections within and across disciplines

*Applies acquired knowledge in real-world situations

*Exchanges and analyzes multiple perspectives

Observable teacher practices: The teacher facilitates connections across disciplines and provides students with the opportunity to practice applying their knowledge in authentic situations with real purposes.

Core Practice 4: Assess progress toward mastery

Observable student actions:

*Demonstrates understanding in various contexts

*Receives, acknowledges, and incorporates teacher feedback

Observable teacher practices: Mastery is more than just tracking grades. The teacher provides timely feedback to students and structures learning activities toward relevant data.

Core Practice 5: Promote intellectual risk-taking and persistence

Observable student actions:

*Feels part of a supportive and challenging learning environment

*Demonstrates academic curiosity

Observable teacher practices: The teacher gives students multiple opportunities to persist through challenges and learn from mistakes by celebrating perseverance. With the CCRS, it’s not only about getting the “right” answer—it’s about persisting and developing skills for solving challenges for later in life.

Putting It All Together

The CCRS are drastically different from standards in place even a few years ago and are unique in their focus on the student—as opposed to simply the content.

While this is an exciting and worthy vision for K-12 education, it will require a great deal of preparation, a long-term vision, and relevant supports in order to be successful. In particular, districts and schools must have a succinct, clear-cut approach to not only identifying indicators of college and career readiness in students, but also illustrating the real link between teachers’ practices and student mastery.

About the Author:

Michael Moody, @DrMichaelMoody, is the founder and CEO of Insight Education GroupHis experiences as a classroom teacher, school and district administrator, and consultant have given him a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities in education today. The complete Insight Core Framework is available for free download, including the rubric and meta-analysis research data for each practice.

OW logoSource eSchool News

How technology can help you apply Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in your schools

According to the federal Education Department, more than 19,000 U.S. schools are using School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports(PBIS), an evidence-based framework to reduce disciplinary infractions, improve the school climate, and increase student achievement.

Similar to Response to Intervention (RTI), PBIS takes a three-tiered approach to instilling positive behavior in schools. Tier 1 focuses on interventions used on a school-wide basis for all students, such as actively teaching and rbehavior-positiveeinforcing appropriate behaviors. Tier 2 applies more targeted approaches to students who need additional support, while the third tier is for students who have significant behavioral problems and may require an individual behavior plan and perhaps wraparound services.

In Arizona, I’ve helped create an event called the Behavior, Education, Technology Conference (BET-C), which explores how technology can help with PBIS. We just held the fourth annual BET-C in early March.

Based on the sessions from this year’s conference, here are three ways technology can support the implementation of PBIS in schools.

Better data use

PBIS relies on using data to identify the behavioral needs within a school, so you can focus your efforts and resources where they will have the greatest impact. This is one key area where technology can help significantly.

Using a data collection and analysis tool enables you to identify the students who have the highest number of disciplinary incidents, for example, so you can plan more specific Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions for these students.

Besides looking at individual students, you can use technology to identify areas of the school that might be “trouble spots.” For instance, if you determine that you have a high number of office referrals from the cafeteria, you might consider adding more staff to monitor lunches.

One of the pre-conference sessions at this year’s BET-C focused on the use of PBISApps, a suite of applications developed at the University of Oregon that helps educators make better decisions to support PBIS.

For instance, the School-Wide Information System (SWIS) is a web-based system for collecting and analyzing student behavior data. The reports available within SWIS allow PBIS teams to review school-wide referrals and understand behavior patterns in greater detail. Users have the ability to drill down to specific incidents and then visualize the data with SWIS to share with administrators, counselors, and parents.

Another program, Pearson Review360, helps educators report on student behavior in their classrooms, analyze these observations to identify key trends, develop intervention plans for individual students, and track the progress of these efforts. It also includes universal screening tools to identify students who have special behavioral needs.

Streamlined professional development

One of the challenges to sustaining a PBIS initiative is staff turnover; when the teachers and administrators on the original PBIS team leave, are there systems in place to make sure these efforts will continue?

Staff development is critical to sustainability. Review360 includes a library of professional development videos to support PBIS implementation.

Another professional development service for PBIS comes from KOI Education, which is one of the co-sponsors of BET-C. It’s a series of multimedia books available for the iPad through iTunes. These digital manuals, which are also available in print format, help guide teams through the PBIS implementation process.

Deeper student engagement

When students are engaged in learning, they are less likely to act inappropriately in class. Boredom, on the other hand, frequently leads to a disciplinary problem. And when students tune out, it’s often because the content is either too challenging or not challenging enough.

Technology can help personalize the learning for students, by adapting the level of instruction to students’ needs or allowing them to work at their own pace. And that, in turn, can reduce the number of behavioral issues that teachers see in class.

Odysseyware, which is another BET-C co-sponsor, is one of many online platforms that can help personalize instruction for students. Incorporating a mix of grade-appropriate text, direct instruction videos, learning activities, and games, Odysseyware’s online content can be used in a blended-learning environment for either whole-class instruction or self-paced learning.

When implemented with fidelity, PBIS can result in a more positive school climate, with fewer class disruptions—which can lead to improved learning. And technology can play a key role in that success.


ClassFlow-Leading instructional delivery system from Promethean earns prestigious education industry recognition-


Promethean, a global education technology solutions company, today announced that ClassFlow was named a finalist for the 2015 SIIA Education CODiE Awards for Best Education Cloud-based Solution and Best PK-12 Personalized Learning Solution. The SIIA CODiE Awards are the premier award for the software and information industries and have been recognizing product excellence for 29 years. The awards have over 85 categories and are organized by industry focus of Content, Education, and Software.

ClassFlow is a comprehensive instructional delivery system that increases depth of student engagement by providing interactive and collaborative use of classroom devices, digital curriculum and assessments for learning. ClassFlow gives teachers the ability to deliver high-impact, multimedia lessons and breathe educational purpose into Chromebooks™, iPads®, laptops and classroom displays, such as interactive projectors, SMART Boards® and Promethean ActivBoards.

The formative assessment capabilities in ClassFlow give teachers real-time insight into student progress and understanding, allowing teachers to intervene immediately to reteach concepts and challenge advanced students. ClassFlow also helps teachers personalize instruction using the data from their assessments.

“We are honored to have ClassFlow recognized as an SIIA Education CODiE Award finalist for providing teachers and students with an all-in-one resource for learning,” said Scott Cary, Chief Marketing and Products Officer at Promethean. “This validates Promethean’s vision of providing meaningful solutions that raise student engagement, and in turn, student achievement.”

This year’s awards program features 28 Education categories, several of which are new or updated to reflect the latest industry trends and business models. New for this year, top awards in three overall Education categories will also be presented. These overall categories include Best PK-12 Solution, Best Postsecondary Solution, and Best Education Solution.

“This year’s finalists are breaking ground with new business models and innovative products. We are pleased to recognize the best in educational technology with these 157 products,” said Karen Billings, vice president of the SIIA Education Technology Industry Network. “I look forward to honoring them all in May at the Education Industry Summit.”

All winners will be announced during a special awards dinner at the nation’s leading education technology conference, the Education Industry Summit, in San Francisco on May 5. The announcement will also be live streamed.

Details about each finalist are listed at For more information on ClassFlow, visit

About SIIA
SIIA is the leading association representing the software and digital content industries. SIIA represents approximately 800 member companies worldwide that develop software and digital information content. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to the leading companies that are setting the pace for the digital age. For more information, visit The Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN) of SIIA serves and represents more than 200 member companies that provide educational software applications, digital content, online learning services and related technologies across the K-20 sector. The Division shapes and supports the industry by providing leadership, advocacy, business development opportunities and critical market information. For more information on ETIN of SIIA, visit

About Promethean
Promethean (LSE: PRW) is a global education company that improves learning productivity by developing, integrating and implementing innovative 21st century learning environments that help make everyone more engaged, empowered and successful. Headquartered in the UK, with a US office in Atlanta, Georgia, Promethean World Plc is listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. More information about Promethean is available at

Media Contacts
Suzy Swindle, Promethean
+1 206-661-0757

Allison Bostrom, SIIA Communications
+1 202-289-7442

iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Chromebook is a trademark of Google Inc. SMART Board is a registered trademark of SMART Technologies Inc.

©Promethean 2015.  All Rights Reserved. Promethean, the Promethean logo, and ClassFlow are trademarks or registered trademarks of Promethean Limited in the United Kingdom, United States and other countries around the world.

DefinedSTEMlogoSource K12 Tech Decisions


Ohio schools are teaching STEM across all subjects for a more holistic approach to STEM education.

While education used to tout reading, writing and arithmetic, the industry is now saying STEM, STEM, STEM and the pressure is on for schools to rise to the challenge.

“STEM is a growing interest across the United States, especially in our region, says Jason Braddock, instructional supervisor for secondary math and K-12 STEM at Mahoning Educational Service Center (ESC) in Ohio. “We are always looking for the most effective options to teach STEM education and we strive to be at the forefront of this conversation.”

Braddock works with 21 different school districts in the area, all of which make an effort to implement STEM education in some way. This ranges from schools with self-contained STEM classrooms to schools that introduce STEM concepts through traditional science courses. However, Braddock wasn’t seeing a solution that made an effort to link STEM with other subjects areas like English or Social Studies, so he began to search for a platform with a more holistic approach.

Related: High School STEM Lab Brings Design and Engineering Concepts to Students

“We really needed something that everybody could share across grade levels and subject areas,” Braddock says.

A few years prior to Braddock’s search, the county above his used a grant to implement curriculum from a company called Defined STEM. It turns out the county below him had followed suit and it wasn’t long before Braddock received a call from a company representative. The Defined STEM platform is unique in that it uses project-based learning and real-world applications to introduce students to STEM education. Braddock was impressed with what he saw and set out to find the funding to pay for it. He applied for a two-year e-textbook grant through the Ohio Board of regents and iLearnOhio. Braddock then got nine districts in the ESC on board for a pilot.

What really impressed Braddock about the Defined STEM platform was the way it addressed all subject areas with its integrated project-based learning approach.

“Rather than separating the projects, saying this is one’s for English class and this one’s for math class, Defined STEM focused on cross-curricular instruction,” Braddock says. It was also key to his vision for how STEM education should be approached.

Armed with new e-textbooks, Braddock gathered teachers from the nine participating ESC districts and held a two-day professional development session that took place over the summer. During the session, teachers from all disciplines worked together to come up with ways they could integrate the STEM projects into their curriculum.

“It was so fun to see our English teachers and even our gym teachers trying to brainstorm ways to tie this curriculum into their classrooms. It’s pretty common for those teachers to feel marginalized when we’re talking about STEM so I was glad this conversation could include everybody,” Braddock says.

This is the first full year the ESC districts have had the Defined STEM platform in place, but the teachers have already found interesting ways to implement it. Braddock recalls a recent project that was taken from an idea students found in Defined STEM. The students created a Shark Tank-like game show called “Wildcat Tank.” Students were assigned a region in the United States and had to create a self-sustaining restaurant for that area. They then presented their business plan in front of a panel of judges that included Braddock and local businesses in the community. Nearly every subject area was involved including:

*Social Studies: Students researched demographics of the region to determine what kind of restaurant would make sense for their customer base.

*Science: Students identified the compound and renewable energy sources they could sue to cut back costs and carbon footprints for their restaurants.

*Math: Students came up with equations to set the most fair, profitable prices for their restaurants to charge.

*Choir: Students wrote a catchy advertising jingle to promote their restaurants.

*English: Students wrote the business model for their restaurants, as well as a pitch to investors and potential B2B partners.

“I was really impressed with the students’ creativity,” Braddock says. “The kids seemed thoroughly engaged with the project and really did a nice job with it.”

The cross curricular and collaborative nature of the Wildcat Tank game show exemplified what Braddock sees as the the core of the districts’ Defined STEM platform.

“It takes everything they know in multiple subjects and helps them apply it to real-world situations,” Braddock says. “It also allows them to collaborate with others who may have different skill sets, which is so important for 21st century learning.”


MactoSchool2015webSource THE Journal

The Columbus School District in Wisconsin serves a small community south of Madison, with only three schools and 1,300 total students — about 30 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In other words, we’re just a typical small school district trying to make the most of our limited ed-tech budget.

Despite our modest means, we have a fairly robust technology infrastructure. A 10-gigabit fiber backbone connects our three school buildings, all of which have wireless access. We have 100 Mbps of bandwidth out to the public Internet, and we’re bumping that up to 300 Mbps soon. We’re also on our way to having one device for every student in grades 1 through 12 next year.

We’ve built out our IT infrastructure with the help of a few simple strategies. Here are five recommendations based on our experience.

Plan Ahead

Strategic planning is critical to maximizing your ed-tech investment. By correctly anticipating future needs, you can avoid unexpected costs — such as having to upgrade your network before you’re ready because it no longer can handle the demands of your students and staff. Planning ahead will save you money in the long run.

When I started with the Columbus School District, we did not have a strategic plan in place to guide our technology needs. We had old Apple Airports randomly located around the district to provide wireless access, with no strategy for their replacement — and we had laptop carts that were not being used because of a lack of wireless coverage. To get the proper wireless coverage we needed, we had to pull money from our building budgets. With a solid strategic plan in place, we are hoping to avoid this need in the future.

Consider Leasing

Leasing has allowed us to procure 1,000 Lenovo laptops for a one-to-one computing initiative without a large up-front investment. If we did not lease this equipment, we would have had to come up with $295,000 for a one-time outlay — but by leasing, we were able to spread this cost over three years at a low interest rate (2.49 percent) and payments of $102,474 per year.

We’ve opted for a three-year lease, so we’re not locked into using outdated technology; after three years, we’ll be ready to refresh to newer devices. Leasing not only makes it easier to budget for new technology; it also makes planning easier, and it forces you into a reasonable replacement cycle. Owning the devices makes it easy to keep deferring their replacement for another year, and then another — and so on.

Shop Around

By talking with multiple vendors, we have been able to negotiate favorable prices on equipment and reasonable rates on leases. For instance, when we let our laptop vendor know we were looking at a local bank for lease rates, the vendor lowered its offer — which the bank ended up matching. Because our school board was very intent on keeping the business local, we went with the local bank for our financing.

Explore Creative Funding Sources

Besides seeking various corporate and private foundation grants, we took advantage of Act 32, a program intended to help Wisconsin institutions replace their outdated equipment with more energy-efficient models. With $800,000 in state funding, we were able to replace our network switches and establish a virtual server environment, which reduced our number of servers — and also our energy bill.

We also applied for and received a Wisconsin Department of Public InstructionSTEM grant for our Project Lead the Way program, which helped us fund the laptops needed for that program in our middle school. We landed a grant from John Deere that helped fund our Project Lead the Way program as well.

Leverage Tech Buy-Back Programs

We were looking to replace about 300 Mac minis with new devices at the end of December when we came across a tech buy-back program from Mac to School. The company paid for us to ship all 300 devices back to them, and they are in the process of inspecting each device.

Once they’re done, we’ll get a certificate declaring that all data have been destroyed from each machine, along with a check for $22,500 that will help pay for replacement devices. The process couldn’t be easier — and it is helping us offset the cost of new equipment.