Tech & Learning - December 2019/January 2020

Page 1




D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 9 /J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 0



2019 We Tried It, You’ll Like It!

Best New Edtech for 2020





2 0 1 9 / J A N U A R Y

2 0 2 0 | V O L .

4 0

N O . 5


8 32





By Christine Weiser Tech&Learning worked with New York City Schools this fall at an event to help their 1,700 website become compliant with state accessibility standards. Use these best practices to make sure your online functionality is optimal for every student, parent, and teacher.

By Lisa Nielsen A krewe of innovative district leaders convened in the Big Easy in December to discuss the most pressing issues facing schools in 2020—from Ransomware attacks, to digital equity attempts, to opportunities in distance learning. Their insight could be your answers.





Reported by Sascha Zuger, Tara Smith and Annie Teich Learn how to teach third graders to code, while you teach yourself. Set up a parent/teacher communications plan that won’t have anyone tearing their hair out. Build your own student phione charging station. And more!

Congratulations to those who entered and won this year’s contest! Technologies were categorized in the following categories: Best use of a product in a classroom, Best use of a product in a school, Best use of a product in a district, and Best re-invention of a classic legacy technology.

DEPARTMENTS & COLUMNS 6 EDITORS DESK Higher and higher—Tech and Learning goes to college! 6

TRENDING First look at the HP Chromebook X2. New details on the Fed’s changes to E-Rate rules. Improving rural Internet access. Teachers worry about the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 15 Sites That Educators and Students Love for Online Tutoring and Teaching. And more!

8 BIG IDEAS •  The joys of printing better and cheaper. • The dangers of lateral phishing.


Tech & Learning (ISSN-1053-6728) (USPS 695-590) is published monthly (except July and December) by Future US, Inc., 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036-8002 POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Tech & Learning, PO Box 8746, Lowell, MA 01853 Periodicals Postage Paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices.


| DE C E MB E R 2 01 9 / JA N UA RY 2 02 0








| D EC E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

CONTENT Managing Content Director Kevin Hogan Contributing Editor Annie Galvin Teich Advisors Carl Hooker, Andrew Wallace,

here do I start? As Tech&Learning rolls into its fifth decade, exciting new developments are happening at every turn—improved coverage, expanded topics, new opportunities. Most exciting? T&L is headed to college. Keeping in the tradition of reporting excellence at T&L’s new parent Future Publishing and brands like TechRadar, PC Gamer, and Tom’s Guide, https://www. now covers the hottest topics in higher ed today — from esports to cloud to data & security — to give higher ed tech directors the information they need to support instruction through the meaningful use of technology. “It’s a time of dramatic change in higher ed,” says Contributing Editor Dr. Margot Douaihy. “Tech & Learning University will be a vital media ecosystem for higher education stakeholders— technologists, instructional designers, integrators, faculty, and staff—who want to learn, share, adopt innovative pedagogies, and transform their campuses. As college tuition increases and student enrollment fluctuates, smarter tools and strategies can help schools stay resilient.” What I find most interesting is that the issues and technologies overlap much more than may be perceived. “IT’S A TIME OF Granted, kindergarten apps for the iPad may not exactly DRAMATIC CHANGE match up with MIT MOOCs, but I do believe you, the IN HIGHER ED,” SAYS reader, will find inspiration from both. For instance, read CONTRIBUTING EDITOR page twelve for details on video walls in schools—maybe DR. MARGOT DOUAIHY. not something at the top of the budget for your local “TECH & LEARNING board of education now, but I believe will be on the UNIVERSITY WILL BE A VITAL MEDIA ECOSYSTEM docket soon enough. I encourage you to bookmark the FOR HIGHER EDUCATION page and sign up for the email newsletter. STAKEHOLDERS— Happy New Year!

— Kevin Hogan Managing Director, Content

Group Publisher Christine Weiser



Marianthe Williams, Steve Baule, Jean Tower, Hank Thiele, Jenith Mishne, Frank Pileiro, Patricia Brown, Phil Hintz, Ken Wallace, Rick Cave, Chris Aviles, Diane Doersh, Mike Jamerson, Rico D’Amore, Todd Dugan, Grace Magley, Andrew Marcinek, John Marcus, Laura Chesson, Jon Castelhano, Karen Fuller

Production Manager Heather Tatrow, Managing Design Director Nicole Cobban

Senior Design Director Lisa McIntosh ADVERTISING SALES Sales Managers Allison Knapp, and Joe Rotondo, SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to and click on About Us, email, call 888-266-5828, or write P.O. Box 8692, Lowell, MA 01853. LICENSING/REPRINTS/PERMISSIONS Tech & Learning is available for licensing. Contact the Licensing team to discuss partnership opportunities. Head of Print Licensing Rachel Shaw MANAGEMENT Senior Vice President, Content Chris Convey Vice President, Sales John Bubello Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance Head of Design Rodney Dive FUTURE US, INC. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036

All contents © 2020 Future US, Inc. or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. Future Publishing Limited (company number 2008885) is registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/or have the necessary rights/permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Future and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/ all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions. Please Recycle. We are committed to only using magazine paper which is derived from responsibly managed, certified forestry and chlorine-free manufacture. The paper in this magazine was sourced and produced from sustainable managed forests, conforming to strict environmental and socioeconomic standards. The manufacturing paper mill and printer hold full FSC and PEFC certification and accreditation.


FIRST LOOK—HP CHROMEBOOK X2 The Chromebook with a Dual Personality By Brian Nadal PROS • Can switch between tablet and notebook • Includes stylus and keyboard • Excellent display • Long battery life CONS • Keyboard isn’t backlit • Pricey


Chromebooks are everywhere in schools but for the most part they’re basic computers that don’t take advantage of the recent design revolution in mobility. Not anymore with HP’s Chromebook X2, a dual-personality system that can be a standard notebook or a stand-alone tablet, depending on the schoolwork at hand. Happily, it’s well made, powerful enough for every student or teacher and is actually fun to use. With a removable display, the Chromebook X2 system has different digital personas for different school tasks. In other words, it can be a notebook with a hinged lid for keyboardcentric work, like writing English essays, and works just as well

with the screen facing the user or away. It’s just as effective as a tablet for scribbling notes, watching an instructional video or sketching triangles for a geometry math class. After using the Chromebook X2 for two weeks, I think it will easily fit into any school’s digital classrooms. It easily connected to a variety of WiFi networks and Bluetooth accessories, like keyboards and speakers. I created mock classroom lessons and activities with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and used a wide variety of ChromeOS school apps, including Google Docs, the Desmos Sure, the X2 costs more than other Chromebooks, but it’s worth every penny for its ability to be a classroom twofer.



| D EC E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020




NEW TEACHER RESEARCH REVEALS AI ETHICS WORRIES New research released by Bett reveals teachers are concerned about the negative impact of artificial intelligence in the classroom. The research, which surveyed over 5,000 UK teachers, revealed that 87% of teachers are worried that the increasing amount of access children have to digital devices in schools to facilitate greater use

of AI could have a negative impact on their friendships and social skills. These concerns are higher for older teachers, with those aged 50+ most concerned (45% very worried) compared to 33% of those in their 20s being very worried. The same research went on to ask teachers about the impact they feel AI will have on plagiarism. Over a quarter of F O R M O R E G O TO W W W.T EC H L E A R N I N G .CO M


| D EC E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020


respondents (27%) feel that AI will make plagiarism easier to spot but almost a third (32%) feel that it will be harder to pick up, highlighting a degree of division. To open up the conversation around this important topic, Bett will be discussing this research live on Twitter as part of their #BettTalks series, with contributors from across the AI and education sectors.



FCC issued a Report and Order making significant changes to E-rate rules for Category 2 funding applications. The order adopts a long-awaited permanent Category 2 budget system for all applicants, and establishes streamlined rules which will take effect starting in FY2021.

Key takeaways are as follows: Starting in FY2021…

In FY2020…

■■ All applicant budgets will be reset. ■■ The program will adopt ‘fixed’ five-year budget cycles. ■■ Category 2 budgets will be calculated on a school district or library system basis. ■■ Equipment transfer rules will be eliminated. ■■ A new budget cycle will begin in subsequent five-year periods (e.g. FY2026) with no rollover of funds from cycle-to-cycle. ■■ The budget ‘floor’ for smaller sites will be increased to $25,000.

■■ Category 2 budgets will be calculated using the same per-site methodology used in FY2015-2019. ■■ All C2 site budgets will expire at the end of FY2020 and will not carry over to FY2021. ■■ The eligibility of caching equipment and services, Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections and Managed Internal Broadband Services will be retained. ■■ All applicants’ site budgets will be increased by 20% (i.e. one-fifth of the maximum FY2020 C2 budget)

Everything in One Box 24/7 Support

Our comprehensive solutions help students learn more effectively, develop essential skills, and improve outcomes. The best part is you don’t have to use multiple vendors—Boxlight can help with it all.





Professional Development

Boxlight has what you need to create the classroom your schools, teachers, and students need to succeed.

Educator Community

Our technology and software empower both educators and students in all forms of learning, enabling real understanding and enhancing student achievement. Whether it’s whole-class learning, smallgroup collaboration, formative assessment, or STEM-based learning, Boxlight offers solutions that enable teachers to easily and effectively enhance student success. In addition, our technology is integrated seamlessly with our dynamic MimioStudio™ software, allowing your teachers to create new interactive lessons or utilize current ones—no matter the platform. We support you with an online teaching community, flexible training, and 24/7 technical support.

See everything Boxlight has to offer at 2 YEARS IN A ROW!





15 Sites That Educators and Students Love for Online Tutoring and Teaching By David Kapuler

4. Classmill - A free site touting “Curated Learning” that lets participants create classes using links, videos, images, and more.

11. - One of the best and most popu-

Online tutoring and teaching has become a popular resource for students of any age to learn nearly any topic. It can be done at home on a computer or mobile device and is usually cheaper than traditional in-person tutoring. Students love the ability to view and choose courses that work for them.Teachers love the ability to earn extra money doing what they love, from the comfort of their own home— and on their own schedule. Here are a few to Google (links to all at

5. Course Hero - A great homework help site where expert tutors specialize in their subjects and teach students with step-by-step instructions.

topics. The site features categories such as U.S.

6. eTutorworld - An excellent tutoring and test prep site where every session is recorded to help students revise and retain learning. Test prep includes SAT, PSAT, ACT, AP and many more.

12. Tutor Hub - A UK-based community where

1. BitDegree - Offers a wide variety of subjects to learn, including programming and coding. Educators can to make extra money by signing up as tutors.

8. Sophia - A polished site offering college credits where educators can share what they know via different teaching strategies such as blended instruction or flipped classroom.

2. Buddy School - An excellent site for tutoring online that allows tutors to promote their classes and improve their teacher score (rating by students). 3. Chegg Tutors - A fantastic site where students can find a tutor in any subject, anytime 24/7.


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

7. Happy Tutors - A free online community that connects tutors, students, and parents. Tutors can pay a fee for extra exposure on Happy Tutors.

9. Studydraft - An interesting site where a educator places a bid on a student’s order and then the students selects who gets to teach them. 10. Tutoo - A useful site allowing students to find either an online or local, in-person tutor.


lar places to go for online tutoring. Students can get help with any subject, including homework K-12 Schools, Military Families, Libraries and more. There are nice mobility features as well. students can find answers to their questions or find online tutors who sets their own rates. 13. Tutor Hunt - This UK-based site is great for teachers interested in earning some extra money by tutoring online. 14. WizIQ - Probably one of the most popular online sites for teaching/tutoring. There are different pricing plans available for students who take classes in a private virtual classroom. A free trial is offered. 15. Wyzant - A fun place for students to find a tutor on any subject or for test preparation. Extensive FAQs and guidance offered for teachers/ tutors.



Colleges and universities view preparing students for the digital age as a key part of their mandate, hence higher education administrators are increasingly emphasizing digital transformation and immersive multimedia experiences as part of their campus-wide initiatives. Determined to generate competitive differentiation—with the bottom line, top of mind—colleges and universities are looking at how video walls and digital displays can drive efficiency while reducing operating expenses. Video walls have become a crucial enabler to achieving the various business goals of institutions that have committed to going digital. Here are six essentials for higher education institutions to consider when selecting and integrating a video wall and display solution.

1. User Experience (UX)

Traditional visual communications solutions require extensive setup and training to operate and require many hardware components that are expensive and prone to failure. It can be challenging for administrators to set aside time to learn how to manage and maintain video wall technology. Therefore, when selecting a solution, it must be low-maintenance, easy to use and seamlessly integrate with legacy AV. A new generation of solutions exist where there is literally no hardware between the on-premise server and the display. This software-only solution makes it dramatically easier and less expensive for administrators to deploy, operate and maintain video walls.

2. Central Management

Video walls are infinitely adaptable to multiple applications. In the higher education sector, operators require a flexible solution to power all visual communications requirements throughout campus. In addition, most university campuses include multiple buildings, which can complicate the installation and management of video walls. Central management enables administrators to manage an entire system of video walls from a single location and is available with today’s video wall solutions.

5. Network-based 4, Content Scheduling and Real-time Interactivity

Dynamic environments like higher education need to constantly rotate their content and convey different messaging throughout the day. Handling this manually is inefficient. Today’s video wall solutions should include scheduling features, through which administrators can predetermine content changes at certain times during the day or week. Current solutions should also enable administrators to make changes on the fly; e.g., for screen sharing during a lab, for example.

Many organizations seeking high-performance video walls turn to proprietary servers or controllers. All too often, the results are disappointing: a high price tag for a complicated solution that is difficult to manage and isn’t able to grow with the customer’s needs. Today’s advanced video wall solutions use a standard PC/server and/or can integrate with an institution’s cloud-based data repositories. They also integrate with an institution’s existing network infrastructure enabling administrators to quickly and easily integrate content from multiple sources.

3. Zone Layouts and Presets

Layout options and support for multiple, simultaneous sources give administrators flexibility when deploying video walls. In one use case, the video wall can display still images, video and schematics of a building for an architecture class; in another, it can present a single, dazzling image in the reception area of the schools’ administration building.

6. Total Cost of Ownership— The Bottom Line

Administrators should classify video wall solution providers by whether they provide hardware-based or software-based solutions. Hardware-centric solutions include thin clients, media players, cables, extenders and other hardware as part of their solution. Software-centric solutions remove all hardware between the server and the display. Hardware solutions tend to be more expensive, less reliable and significantly less flexible; i.e., upgrades require purchasing new hardware. Software solutions are less expensive, easy to troubleshoot and infinitely upgradeable via software updates. As a result, administrators that deploy software-based video wall solutions can enjoy a total cost of ownership (TCO) significantly below that of hardware solutions.

As colleges and universities continue to modernize communications to better serve and engage with their community, video walls are increasingly becoming a key centerpiece of digital transformation (if the price is right) and we only see this trend continuing to grow for years to come. Read more higher ed tech news at our new site,

Tim Griffin is the Chief Technology Officer and founder of Userful Corporation.


| D E C E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020




MAKING WEBSITES ACCESSIBLE It’s Not Just an Obligation; It’s an Opportunity By Christine Weiser Tech&Learning worked with New York City Schools this fall at an event to help their 1,700 website become compliant with state accessibility standards. Use these best practices to make sure your online functionality is optimal for every student, parent, and teacher.


Go to Put your school web address into the field. Hit enter.

What happened? If your website is like many, you’ll see red and yellow errors and alerts pop up on your site, each with a short description of what was found by using this free accessibility website checker. Not to worry – you’re not alone, and there are tools and resources to help.

WHY MAKE WEBSITES ACCESSIBLE? Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was added in 1998 to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, including both employees and members of the public. In 2017, Section 508 was revised with the requirement that by January, 2018, all federal agencies and contractors must, among other revisions, comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (https://www.


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

Wagner Middle School students were our hosts for the Website Accessibility Summit Since then, there has been an increase in the number of lawsuits filed against public institutions that are not compliant. Schools can act, rather than react, by taking charge of the website’s accessibility so that everyone, including those with disabilities and those who speak languages other than English, can access their content. Following some simple rules can ensure your website is the best communication tool your school has to engage with your community.

HOW THE NATION’S LARGEST SCHOOL DISTRICT IS LEADING THE CHARGE New York City is the nation’s largest school district, with more than 1.1 million students and


1800 schools. As part of an agreement with the US DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, every New York City school and district website must be accessible to people with disabilities by December 2020. This means ensuring more than 1200 websites are accessible in less than a year.

PARTNER WITH AND INFLUENCE WEBSITE PLATFORM PROVIDERS To provide support for this huge undertaking, the NYCDOE’s Office of Digital Inclusion has partnered with major platform providers (listed below) to influence and guide their work. As a result, platforms are developing built-in accessibility checkers and building accessible district templates.


Wehrman said. “People who do not identify with a disability enjoy websites that feature intuitive designs and video captions. And ­— Search engines reward accessibility.”

The Office of Digital Inclusion established an online community to provide webmasters with anytime/anywhere support. The community has a general channel as well as a channel for each website platform. Representatives from each company are members of the community. This way webmasters can get support from each other, the Office of Digital Inclusion, and directly from representatives of the platform they are using.



Keynote speaker Lynn Wehrman, President and Founder of WeCo Accessibility Services

PROFESSIONAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES To assist schools in making progress, the Office of Digital Inclusion hosts dozens of professional learning opportunities, known as #DigIn (Digital Inclusion) Camps. This past November, the district partnered with Tech & Learning to co-host the first “Website Accessibility Summit” at Wagner Middle School in New York.

ACCESSIBILITY REPORT CARDS The Office of Digital Inclusion provides schools with a website accessibility report card when they attend a DigIn Camp. This enables them to see where they currently are and where they need to go. It also identifies what they need to do to make their website accessible by making updates to the heading structure, color contrast, alternative text, meaningful hyperlinks, etc. The content shared during the conference would be valuable to any school or district of any size. Here are the highlights.

Keynote speaker Lynn Wehrman, President and Founder of WeCo Accessibility Services, opened the conference with an inspiring message: “Accessibility is a skill you can learn. It’s not rocket science. It’s a process you apply, not a switch you flip.” As the leader of a company founded and run by digital technologists, all of whom live with disabilities, Lynn talked about the positive impacts of meaningful digital accessibility for students, parents, and beyond. “Making websites accessible is not just for the blind,” she said. “There are many physical differences that are affected by inaccessible websites.” She cited these examples: • If you have limited fine-motor skills, clicking and scrolling is tiring. It’s difficult to select small links and forms take longer to complete. • If you are cognitively impaired, too much information can overwhelm and information can be impossible to find if not organized. • When you can’t hear well or not at all, you can’t enjoy presentations, videos, or webinars that don’t have captions or have improper captions. • If you have low-vision or blindness, improperly coded forms are almost impossible to complete. Inadequate color contrast makes text difficult to read. Images without Alt Text can prevent readers with low-vision from understanding context. “By embracing a Universal Design approach, there are perks for your entire audience,”

In the “Website Platform Showcase,” some of the top website platform providers presented highlights of their platforms, how they believed their platform could help school make their websites accessible, and what made each platform unique. You can watch the website platform showcase to hear each of the presenters explaining what makes their platforms unique and helpful (Courtesy of the NYCDOE #DigIn Office). The following platforms were represented: • Blackboard / Schoolwires Accessibility • eChalk • Edlio • Google • School Messenger • Wix •

WEBSITE PLATFORM WORKSHOPS Attendees spent the next part of the day in workshops hosted by these website platform providers, where they could get a deeper dive into how each solution worked, and how each could be used to make websites accessible.

RECOGNITION CEREMONY The day ended with a ceremony where those who were doing exceptional work in website accessibility were recognized. The following categories were represented: educator, borough office, school, and vendor. Attendees at the Website Accessibility learned that building accessible website is not just an obligation, it’s an opportunity to reach their entire school communities. WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY RESOURCES • Accessibility 1-2-3 Flyer: Digital version with tips for making your website accessible ( • Link to all presentations and workshops from the Website Accessibility Summit ( • Participant reflections on website platforms (


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0




While accessibility for our public school’s websites is a legal requirement, it’s also an exciting opportunity. Uncovering the potential of this opportunity energizes and empowers us by giving meaning to our work. At the NYCDOE Website Accessibility Summit, co-hosted by Tech & Learning, attendees learned how to make their school website accessible and better engage their entire school community at this free, one-day conference. Thanks to the following event sponsors, who are helping schools use their digital resources to connect students, teachers, and families to improve the whole learning experience.

As the world’s leading provider of integrated learning, communications and safety solutions, Blackboard serves more than 50% of U.S. students and 70 of the largest 100 school districts. Their awardwinning Community Engagement Platform combines websites, mobile apps, mass notification, and social media management. The platform’s newest addition, Blackboard Ally, is a revolutionary service that integrates directly with a school’s CMS to provide immediate insight into the overall accessibility of website content, instructions for remediation and alternative accessible versions of files and documents.

eChalk makes it easy to create, customize and maintain a mobile-ready website that meets ADA and Section 508 accessibility requirements.


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

For 18+ years, Edlio has been connecting K-12 educators with their communities, offering a comprehensive and easy-touse communication package. Edlio’s content management system powers over 10,000 websites for schools and districts across North America, each with a beautiful design reflecting the organization’s brand and teacher-focused features for easy editing.

New Google Sites makes building responsive websites easy and they are already optimized for tablets and smartphones. Just like a Google Doc, you can collaborate in real time, and see each other’s changes live.

Intrado SchoolMessenger combines school notification, mobile apps, and web content management all under one, easyto-platform. Designed to work together from the start, our school communication systems save time and provide more immediate, thorough engagement with your community.

( Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. Microsoft believes limitless potential is within every student, every educator, every school. They strive to unlock this potential by providing technology that empowers educators and inspires students.


Founded in California in 1987, ViewSonic® is a leading global provider of visual display technologies. As an innovator and visionary, we inspire the world to see the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary by providing award-winning visual solutions for work, play, and education. As leaders in interactive display technology, ViewSonic transforms classrooms into immersive learning environments. Our education solutions drive engagement, energize and motivate students, and make teaching more fun. From ViewBoard® interactive displays and myViewBoard™ collaborative software, to projector solutions for aging whiteboards, our award-winning solutions help you connect and collaborate like never before.

Create a school website. Start a classroom blog. Launch a faculty forum. You can do it all on You don’t need a web developer, or even a manual ­— just an idea and an Internet connection. is a leading cloud-based development platform with over 150 million users in 190 countries. Wix makes it easy for everyone to create a beautiful, professional web presence. The Wix website builder has everything you need to create a fully personalized, high-quality free website. When you choose Wix, you don’t just get a drag and drop website builder. You get the whole package. Free reliable web hosting, top security, the best SEO and a dedicated support team to help you along the way.

Tech & Learning Leader Summit Report

Digital Equity: Urban, Suburban, Rural Districts Weigh In at #TLTechLive Leadership Summit By Lisa Nielsen

Field trip: The National World War II Museum The conference kicked off with a visit to the The National WWII Museum. While nothing beats an actual visit, the Museum, known for problem-based, distance learning and virtual field trips, was a perfect choice for out-of-town attendees. “How would you get troops on a beach when there’s a big coral reef in the way? If you were Eisenhower or Churchill and had the information they had what decisions would you make?” The mind is sparked by this content and the museum does wonderful work of bringing it to life and into the classroom from a state-of-the-art, onsite studio. The Museum is a dynamic educational resource. USA Today gave the Museum its top rank


| DE C E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020


Educational Leaders from various US districts gathered in New Orleans, LA in December to discuss current trends in education and technology and share how each of us have been working to solve some critical problems. Sponsors joined us to share how their products might help to address the needs of schools and districts.

Summit attendees visited the World War II Museum in New Orleans, called by USA Today one of the “Best Places to Learn U.S. Military History.”


Strategies for K-12 Technology Leaders


as one of the “Best Places to Learn U.S. Military History.” Exhibitions and programs allow students from all backgrounds to explore the values and beliefs—the universal concepts—that Americans and their Allies embraced during World War II. The visit started off with each attendee receiving a dog tag that represented a service person. As they traveled throughout the museum, they had the opportunity to learn various facts about their service person. The visit included a 4D cinematic experience produced exclusively for The National WWII Museum by Tom Hanks—who narrates the film—and Phil Hettema. The space offers a state-of-the-art, digitally enabled, multimedia experience. “Beyond All Boundaries” features dazzling effects, CGI animation, multilayered environments, and first-person accounts from the trenches to the Home Front read by Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire, Gary Sinise, Patricia Clarkson, Wendell Pierce, and more. Effects included airplanes dropping from the ceiling, rumbling audience seating, and snow dropping from above. The Museum set the stage for the conversations to come. Attendees from various rural, suburban, urban and mixed districts all shared an experience they could talk about. It provided a common field for attendees to meet and interact.

Representatives from the Museum’s distance learning team presented details about their programs -- most of which are free. ■■ All applicants’ site budgets will be increased by 20% (i.e. one-fifth of the maximum FY2020 C2 budget) for FY2020 ■■ Applicants can seek C2 discounts up to each site’s maximum budget amount, less any amount utilized in the initial five-year period ■■ All C2 site budgets will expire at the end of FY2020 and will not carryover to FY2021

OPENING KEYNOTE: DIGITAL EQUITY & ERATE Day two kicked off with an opening keynote on digital equity & eRate from Funds for Learning president Cathy Cruzan. She shared that on December 3, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Report and Order making significant changes to E-rate rules for Category Two funding applications. The order adopts a permanent Category Two budget system for all applicants and establishes streamlined Category Two rules which will take effect starting in Funding Year 2021. The Order also extends the “test period” rules used during Funding Years 2015-2019 for a final year while increasing all applicant budgets by 20% for Funding Year 2020.

Rules starting in Funding Year 2021 ■■ All applicant budgets will be reset ■■ The program will adopt “fixed” five-year budget cycles ■■ Category Two budgets will be calculated on a school district or library system basis ■■ The per-site funding “floor” will be increased from $9,200 per site to $25,000 ■■ Category Two budgets will be calculated as an inflation-adjusted $167 per student for schools and $4.50 per square foot for all libraries (both rural and urban) ■■ Equipment transfer rules will be eliminated ■■ A new budget cycle will begin in subsequent five-year periods (e.g. FY2026) with no rollover of funds from cycle-to-cycle

Rules for Funding Year 2020 ■■ The eligibility of caching equipment and services, Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections, and Managed Internal Broadband Services will be retained, with no new services added to the program’s Eligible Services List ■■ Category Two budgets will be calculated using the same per-site methodology used in FY2015-2019


Next, Cory Boggs, Executive Director, IT at Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma City lead participants in a discussion about digital equity in schools.

The team from NYCDOE: Maria Tucker, Lisa Nielsen, and Clay Smith.

He advised attendees to: ■■ Know your students ■■ Define your approach ■■ Determine public expectations ■■ Know student needs ■■ Understand challenges

DIGGING DEEPER: DIGITAL EQUITY & ERATE After hearing about digital equity & eRate all attendees broke into small group discussions based on district type: urban, suburban, and rural. They were challenged to consider what digital equity looked like in their district and discuss pain points and solutions. Access at home was a pain point for several districts, however, this included both ends of the spectrum:


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0




teachers don’t integrate technology or understand its value, the students respond accordingly and are not respectful or responsible with their devices.

Attendees got a tour of the WW2 Museum’s distance learning studio. ■■ Pain point: Home WiFi ❍❍ Teachers perceive students DON’T have internet access at home, but they do. ◆◆ Result: They are not integrating work that includes the internet. ❍❍ Teachers perceive students DO have internet access at home, but they don’t. ◆◆ Result: They are integrating the internet as a result when many students don’t. ■■ Possible solutions: ❍❍ Survey students so expectations are based on reality rather than presumptions. ■■ Determine ways to provide home internet for students who need it.


Access points In rural communities, access points are a pain point. Ways this is being addressed ranged from hotspots on activity buses to mifi and other hotspots to take home, some points; ■■ On buses, many start with activity buses and then expand ■■ Buses can be parked in neighborhoods ■■ Provide Verizon hotspots ■■ Should added costs be pushed to families? ■■ It needs to be metered so you know how it is being used ■■ Companies provide grants for this ■■ Access must be filtered, otherwise it becomes mom and dad’s device for the household Digital Accessibility for Families Urban districts discussed the problem of families not understanding anything that is happening in schools because they are unable to access content due to language barriers or disability. This led to a discussion of the importance of ensuring staff understand how to create accessible content written in plain language so it is easily translatable by a machine and can be perceived by those with disabilities. Most districts have yet to take on this challenge. However, the Office of Civil Rights is approaching more and more districts requiring them to ensure content adheres to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Many website platforms are not up to the challenge. However, companies like eChalk and Edlio do support content accessibility. There is a desire for eRate funding to help cover the cost of using such solutions.

Across districts, even when there is digital equity, adults often get in the way of student learning because they are not integrating the technology students know and want to use. Ensuring teachers are comfortable using digital content was a challenge for several reasons:

Device damage Another issue for districts is intentional damage to devices. This was most likely to happen in cases where devices are not being used in meaningful ways. When


| D E C E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020


■■ Challenges ❍❍ Time is not allocated to provide professional learning opportunities ❍❍ Teachers are not evaluated on tech integration ❍❍ Veteran teachers are resistant to change ■■ Possible solutions ❍❍ School and district leadership must be intentional about providing time for teacher learning ❍❍ Work to include tech integration in teacher and leader evaluation ❍❍ School and district leadership can model effective tech integration ❍❍ Ensure veteran teachers understand real benefits and provide them with in classroom coaching and support ❍❍ Include technology leadership in the central and cabinet level

Attendees, sponsors, and T&L staff enjoyed a closing dinner in New Orleans.



Resources ■■ Kajeet provides innovative WiFi solutions. ■■ Waterford Upstart provides four-yearold children access to the highest form of academic support in their early education at no cost to participants: personalized family education and coaching, a new computer and Internet if needed, and adaptive educational software.

MEETINGS AND NETWORKING The vendors provided further resources to help us in making effective change. No one was pushy and everyone wanted to help and have a real conversation. This wasn’t about signing contracts or promises from vendors. It was about building relationships and ensuring attendees were aware of what they offer should the need arise. Sponsors had meaningful conversations together about topics like equity, digital citizenship, emerging technologies, and about being a human supporting our students.

The final session provided an opportunity for participants to share a few final thoughts and takeaways which included: ■■ Home use: It’s a myth that kids aren’t responsible enough to take devices home. There was a consensus among attendees that If schools and districts put the right systems and structures in place, students can not only use devices at home during the school year, but they can also use them during breaks and in the summertime. ■■ Ransomware and phishing: These are now emerging as enormous areas of concerns for educational institutions. ■■ Device diversity: Attendees were split on the idea of student choice when it comes to devices. Some districts felt it was important for students to pick the right technology for the task. In other districts it was an equity issue. It would not be okay for some students to have zippy brand new devices while others had older devices that couldn’t perform the same tasks. These districts provide all students with the same device. ■■ Evolving conversations: Joe Kuzo, Director of Technology at Quakertown Community School District in Pennsylvania, shared that it was nice to hear about the emotional, life-changing impact technology had on students’ lives. ■■ Shifting digital citizenship conversations: Paul Sanfrancesco, Director of Technology for Owen J. Roberts School District in Pottstown, PA pointed out that the focus used to be on ensuring students are using technology responsibly. These days, the focus is shifting to ensuring the adults, teachers and parents, are responsible users. It is likely that our students will fix some of the mess we are experiencing now with responsible use. ■■ Student data privacy: We keep coming back to the conversation of student data privacy. We need to figure this out and get beyond this so we can get to focusing on the teaching and learning that students need.

conversations around lessons learned in various implementation efforts to support technology and our students in schools.


FINAL THOUGHTS: KEY TAKEAWAYS The Summit provided a space for educators to speak openly and passionately on topics of interest. A phrase participants uttered again and again was “Oh, I like that idea.” Attendees left the Summit with meaningful conversations that they can take back to their districts. Connections were made to open the door to those deeper

If you would like to sponsor or attend a Summit, learn more at


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0





The Price Is Right—

How New Technologies Make Projection Tech Cheaper Than Ever By Sascha Zuger


echnology has come a long way. Not only can schools bank on added usability and functionality with the emergence of these new tools, but they can cash in on the budget-boosting side effects of this latest breed of special effects.

LAMPFREE GETS A BOOST Traditional lamp projectors may use up to nine conventional mercury lamps to get 20,000 hours of operation. LampFree models bypass this budget bite altogether. Considering labor, product and disposal fee costs of around $250 per lamp, this adds up to a $2,250 per projector bump to the bottom line alone. (Extra energy expenditure, besides being of high social and moral concern in today’s reality, also adds hard dollars to the tune of an additional $1675/10 projectors over a five year span.) Cost reduction in replacement lamps, greener footprint

without the need to dispose of the old lamps, time and workforce savings in installation and lost teaching time when a lamp blows and mercury-free tech makes budget minders feel great about their choice. But these perks are not new. What is new, however, is that the latest of these laser/led hybrid projectors have made the jump into 4K for added clarity and detail. Equipped with a 4K DLP chip, the tech projects images of approximately 8.3 million pixels to mirror the true color and beauty of images at a much higher level than conventional projectors. With 5,000 lumens, it is great for brightly lit classrooms, auditoriums and larger venues—all while taking advantage of the impressive budget saves of being LampFree.

CONVERTIBILITY ACCESSORIES Every classroom is different, so it makes sense that flexibility in where and how you use your projector and display would be a big plus.

Creative budget builders are finding this can translate to serious savings now that the ease of mobility has developed to the point where sharing tech between classrooms and learning spaces is possible, without educators needing to give up the sense of a personalized teaching tool. The latest group of convertible stands and mobile carts allows the panel or projector to move from presentative to table with just the press of a button, giving versatility for presentation and collaboration— some even achieve this in cord-free, rechargeable battery mode. For some, allowing teachers to move about the classroom for specialized learning or group work is a game changer. New developments allow teachers to communicate with each other, teach from any angle without giving up face-to-face access with students, and to avoid having to use and hook up multiple tools (keyboards, document cameras, etc). Some might want a tabletop display for interactive group projects at some times and standard wall viewing for the class at others. Classes with students at varying levels of abilities and mobility might need to accommodate wheelchairs or other height restrictions. For those situations, this new tech not only represents financial saving, but offers an experience that is priceless.

ESHIFT TECHNOLOGY With so many advances in picture quality, 4K has become the new low bar for schools entering the projector and AV game. The benefits are undeniable, a crisp clear picture offered by 4K includes intense details and textures and fills the field of vision without discernible pixels, even for front row students close to the viewing area. Kids are being accustomed to these higher levels of definition through their gaming and visual tech at home, so the ante on keeping their interest and keeping them visually engaged has been undeniably “upped”. Images appear more natural than those of a 1080p device for a more relaxing and immersive visuals, often through dynamic control focusing which allows each element (background and foreground) to be focused separately for a clearer overall picture. Creating these high level images through individual pixels would be extremely expensive. Fortunately, new tech like eShift has arisen, using DLP or LCD chips to create the image at a fraction of the cost. This sort of tech can project two different 1080p images sequentially at 120Hz frequency, making up the detail of a native 4K display so that students get the experience of a full 4K picture without a 4K pricetag.


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0




By Sateesh Narahari, chief product officer, ManagedMethods


tudents and teachers in K-12 school districts use technology in the classroom for learning, teaching, administrative operations, and to have real-time conversations with one another. With the rise of cloud apps such as Google G Suite and Microsoft Office 365, it’s no secret that students and staff are online during the school day — sending emails and sharing files — more than ever before. In the education sector, email apps like Gmail, Outlook, and Exchange are a must-have to share files and assignments in order to support today’s age of digital learning. As a result, billions of emails are sent every day. Most emails students and staff send throughout the day are internal, in other words, being sent to


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

and received from others within the school organization. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t send or receive emails outside the organization. While email is great for collaboration and productivity in schools, what IT leaders and system administrators now face is the increase of external emails coming from malicious phishing attacks. Students, teachers, and staff may not be aware an email contains a malicious link or file, and open themselves up to having their accounts taken over by a cyber criminal upon clicking. When a successful account takeover takes place as a result of a phishing attack from the outside, K-12 IT teams are challenged with finding where the malicious content has been circulated internally, which could take months. This is because the hacker is now able to pose as the student, staff, or faculty member who fell victim to the initial attack and send malicious emails from their account



Lateral Phishing: What K-12 Schools Need to Know to wreak havoc from inside a school’s Google or Microsoft environment.

WHAT IS LATERAL PHISHING? Lateral phishing is a phishing campaign executed by an external threat — such as a hacker — but the email is sent from a school district’s compromised account to other accounts within the organization. In the case of K-12 school districts, this means the email is sent from a student, staff, or faculty member’s hijacked account. Since the email with malicious content is being sent from an internal school district account, the attack may not be caught by IT teams and can operate undetected for a long period of time. This could lead to more than one account becoming compromised in the same school, or another school within the district, and the task of putting a stop to the phishing campaign becomes exponen-


tially more difficult to contain. The result of the increase in lateral phishing attacks is that IT teams and system administrators must adopt a zero-trust security model to their cybersecurity efforts. Because hackers can pose as a student or staff member inside a school district, the notion of “never trust, always verify” is more important for K-12 schools to follow than ever before. More troubling is the fact that hackers also have another way to execute an account takeover that gives them permission to send phishing emails from the hijacked account of a student or staff member. And it doesn’t require them to click on a malicious link — or document — in an email. This type of account takeover is done through an openstandard authorization framework, or OAuth, that a hacker may execute undetected if an unauthorized third-party application is downloaded by a student, teacher, or faculty member.

BEWARE OF OAUTH ACCESS FROM THIRD-PARTY APPS OAuth allows users to login to one system and then access others without the need to login to each one separately. The rise in popularity of single sign-on (SSO) has made many popular cloud applications adopt this solution and allow people to login to an account seamlessly. However, it has also created security risks that K-12 school districts must be prepared to protect against. While OAuth makes it easy for students and staff to access a number of EdTech apps used in schools, it unfortunately also gives hackers another avenue to take over an account. OAuth access means a hacker doesn’t need a password to access an account. They can use the access token granted by one application to access emails and files in another application, such as Gmail, Outlook or Exchange, while bypassing password and/or twofactor authentication enforcement. One example is when a hacker creates a “look alike” application almost identical to a trusted app and requires email read, write, and send permissions upon download. For a hacker, gaining access to an account via OAuth presents two benefits. First, the email is coming from a sender that looks harmless, which means recipients may be more inclined to open the email and click on the link or document without any reason to raise suspicion. Second, because the email is being sent from an authorized account from inside the school district, the email with malicious content is likely to go undetected by phishing filters or mail transfer agents (MTAs) because the domain is trusted. School districts where students have their own school-provided computer and/or are allowed to


use their own mobile devices are more vulnerable to this type of attack. It’s also notoriously difficult for IT teams and to detect, especially if any of these applications are downloaded from the on-premises network. For these reasons, security at the edge is becoming a “need to have,” not a “nice to have,” and school districts must adapt to stay ahead of hackers.

IN K-12, THE PERIMETER IS NO MORE K-12 education now lives in a post-perimeter world. Not only do IT teams need to monitor inbound and outbound traffic, they also need to be monitoring what is inside the internal emails exchanged within a school district. Whether it be an email from a student to a teacher (or vice versa), a teacher to another teacher, or a teacher to a staff member (or vice versa). Today, students, staff, and faculty bring their laptops and mobile devices home — outside of a school’s network — but still exchange data with one another inside a cloud application. This means a school district’s security perimeter isn’t as defined as it once was. Furthermore, one could argue a perimeter no longer exists because people are more mobile today than before. But yet, the education market continues to look at cybersecurity from a traditional view, focusing on network firewalls, email gateways, and message transfer agents (MTA). When in reality, K-12 education needs to shift focus to monitoring what is taking place inside an application at all times. Here are three reasons why. 1. Lateral phishing happens when hijacked accounts (i.e. student and staff accounts) are used for internal phishing schemes. MTAs and

firewalls detect both inbound and outbound traffic, but not internal organization emails that lateral phishing exploits. 2. A lateral phishing attack combined with granted OAuth permissions can be lethal for school districts, since nothing written or linked in email subject lines and body text tends to be flagged as suspicious. 3. MTAs do not look at exploits from user-granted OAuth tokens to rogue third-party applications students and staff may download throughout the school year. Hackers continue to evolve and attacks have become more sophisticated — but school districts have yet to catch up in their cybersecurity efforts. Due to the massive amounts of identities, clean backgrounds and sensitive information stored in K-12 information systems, they are now one of the most targeted organizations for a cyber attack. Don’t get me wrong, traditional cybersecurity solutions are still a necessity, but more schools are adopting cloud computing and the industry needs to begin implementing a multi-layered approach to be better protected against a future cyberattack. In K-12 education, this not only means keeping external hackers from entering a school district’s environment altogether with network security and firewalls. It also means having the resources in place to monitor the activity taking place inside cloud applications to ensure the data of students and staff are safe and their accounts secure.


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0



HOW it’s DONE Edtech leaders share their best practices in learning Reported by: ANNIE TEICH, TARA SMITH and SASCHA ZUGER

Use Maker Tools to Design and Build a Classroom Cell Charging Station KYLE CRAWFORD, Technology Education Teacher Coxsackie-Athens Central School District, NY

Most of our high school teachers have implemented a “cell phone parking lot” that allows students to store their cell phone in a single location in the classroom. One of the Coxsackie-Athens’ English teachers suggested the charging station concept as an extra incentive for students to store their phones. This project offered a great design challenge for the Design Process unit I typically do with my Drawing and Design for Production (DDP) students. I provided a design brief outlining the problem at hand and the constraints that they would need to follow. The class split into five small groups to brainstorm as many solutions to the problem as they could. The walls of my classroom are whiteboard from floor to ceiling. Each group was assigned an area and created dozens of thumbnail sketches of their ideas. Students then chose the optimal design within their groups and created several

scale models of their design solution. The class as a whole voted on the final solution, and I helped them create a CAD model from which to build the first prototype. Students then headed into our wood lab to utilize woodworking tools to build the prototype cell phone charging station.

POSITIVE RESULTS This project only scratches the surface of the maker tools that our students have available to them, so doing something of such high natural interest offered a gateway to further involvement for not only the 68 students in the class, but others. Students enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing pathway have access to two 3D printers, a laser cutter, electronics test equipment, four Haas CNC machines, four manual machine tools, three welders, a foundry, a CAD/


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020


HOW it’s DONE CAM computer lab, and a fully equipped wood lab. This variety of maker tools has significantly increased the rigor of our courses, and has ultimately raised the bar of student achievement.

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS The major challenge with this project was allowing each student to have a role during the prototype build, in a way that they all learned the skills involved. The solution to this issue would be to allow several groups to build different iterations of the prototype.

FINDING FUNDING This project was funded by the Coxsackie-Athens High School Technology Education Department budget.

PRO TIP I would suggest allowing the student groups to develop more than one prototype to allow for more hands-on skill development if the time can be dedicated to it. I would also suggest allowing this to become a CAD drawing project if the time is available.

TOOLS USED • Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD Software • Lenovo P310 Thinkstation • Haas CNC machines • CAD/CAM computer lab • 3D Printer - Tiertime Upbox • Laser Engraver - Full Spectrum H-Series 20x12 • Electronics Equipment - Mastech M9803R Multimeter, Mastech HY1802D Power Supply Manual Lathe - Acer 1440G Engine Lathe • Manual Mill - Acer E-Mill • Horizontal Bandsaw - Cosen MH-1016 • TIG Welder - Eastwood TIG 200 (220V) • MIG Welder - Lincoln Handymig (110V) • Arc Welder - Lincoln AC/DC Arc Welder (220V) • Foundry - Johnson Gas Model 900 Crucible Furnace • Miter Saw - DeWalt 10” sliding compound miter saw • Table Saw - Sawstop Cabinet Saw • Bandsaw - Jet 16” Bandsaw • Bandsaw - Jet 14” Bandsaw • Belt Sander - Jet J-4300 Belt sander • Planer - DeWalt 12.5” Planer • Cordless Drill - DeWalt 20V Brushless Drill Driver/ImpactFor • Charging Station:Cardboard/Hot Glue for model building, 1X - 24” x 48” x ½” Plywood, 1X - 12” x 24” x 18 Gauge Sheet Metal, Scrap wood of uniform dimension for phone kickstands, #8 x 1” Wood screws


| DE C E MB E R 2 01 9 / JA N UA RY 2 02 0




Engaging Parents in Student Learning JACQUELINE DUONG, 1st–2nd Grade Teacher

Hoover Elementary School, Oakland (CA) Unified School D Research shows overwhelmingly that students make greater gains when what they’re learning in the classroom is reinforced at home. The challenge is finding an efficient and effective way to communicate with families, says Jackie Duong, who has taught students in grades K–2 for eight years. She’s been part of a pilot program for the nonprofit Family Engagement Lab’s FASTalk and is in her second year using the app with her students’ families. “It allows me to communicate easily with parents,” she says. “I can share announcements about report cards and other information, but I can also send home accessible tips that help raise parents’ level of awareness of literacy at home.” FASTalk is easy to use and Duong loves that it comes loaded with parent information, linked through the district’s Aeries SIS portal. “With other apps, I’d have to chase after parents to sign up,” she says. And FASTalk delivers messages via text, so a parent doesn’t even need a smartphone to access them. FASTalk offers pre-set literacy tips teachers can send to parents twice a week. “They align directly with the lessons and subjects their children are learning and can easily be edited and personalized,” Duong says. “Parents aren’t always sure what kinds of things they can do to help their students at

home and they really appreciate getting these messages.” She emphasizes that the tips are accessible and designed for busy parents to integrate for a few minutes into their daily routines. “An example might be drawing a picture, or talking about gratitude,” she says. “They give parents prompts and talking points to encourage intentional interaction and help make connections.” The students enjoy it, too. “Sometimes a student will say, ‘Oh, you texted my parents and they asked me about …’” Early indications are that the lowest performing Kindergarten students using FASTalk are achieving improved literacy outcomes.

NO LANGUAGE BARRIER Duong also appreciates that nothing is lost in translation with non-English speaking families. Half of her students TECH USED IN are from homes where Spanish is the THE CLASSROOM first language, and she has a few Arabicspeaking families as well. FASTalk • iPads automatically translates messages in more • Fastalk than 100 languages. Duong, the child of immigrant parents herself, understands • ELMO document camera firsthand how important it is to break and projector down communication barriers between • Lexia Literacy parents and their child’s school. • ST Math “Before, I’d rely on Google translate and never knew if the message was • Epic! received or if the translation was correct,” Duong says. “With FASTalk, there’s twoway communication, instead of just one-way from me.” The app supports the extension of learning and enables all parents to learn about what their child is doing and learning at school.

PRO TIP: GREATER ENGAGEMENT WITH PARENTS “It’s always been a challenge to engage parents and get them involved in their students’ education,” Duong says. “We haven’t had a high parent-teacher conference participation rate and parental involvement at school has been low. But FASTalk is a great tool for opening lines of communication with parents and helping them to check in with their kids.”


| D E C E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020



Bring Parent Communication into the 21st Century CATHY DANIELS, Principal

Waters Elementary School, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin Our old communication system was no longer working. The combination of weekly newsletter, Skylert, paper communication, email, and phone calls were no longer an effective way for us to communicate with families. It’s hard to use five-six different communication strategies, and the Friday folder was no longer working. People prefer texting now, but our staff didn’t feel comfortable giving out their phone numbers. We wanted to build a strong channel of communication between school and home so that we could create a closer connection to what was going on in the classroom. Several of our teachers were using Bloomz. They were excited about it because Bloomz gave them the ability to share videos, pictures, messages, and clips with students’ families. It brought teachers and families closer together. We reviewed it as a staff and thought it would be a wonderful way to share our learning lives, so we signed a contract with premium services.

A WELCOME CHANGE Whether it’s teacher messages, video clips, or PTO meeting reminders, everything is shared in the app. Every Monday morning the entire school gets together to celebrate whatever is relevant that week, and we send out Monday morning videos through the app. Parents can attend the Monday celebration if they want to, or they can watch the video clip on the app. This has made a real difference in our school. Parents and families feel a bigger part of our learning community. It’s almost like families have an


eye into the classroom ­— they can see and hear what it feels like to be in our school. It has allowed us to extend our reach, build relationships, and increase a sense of trust.

MEASURES OF SUCCESS Now: • All parent-teacher communication comes from one source • Teachers and administrators can easily share videos and photos with families • Parents can quickly respond to teacher requests • Extended family members can also be in the communication loop • Asking parents and grandparents to get involved at schools is quick and easy. Together, our connected community can support our kids in learning every single day. The numbers show the benefits of better communication: school carnival participation is up to 65% and PTO attendance is up 300%. The additional connections make for a much happier environment where everyone feels included. This app allows the people who need to be in touch the most to be closer—teachers and parents. Everyone wants every child to be a successful learner. The Blooomz app has helped us get better at gathering and sharing information and building relationships that allow our students to be more successful.


| DE C E MB E R 2 01 9 / JA N UA RY 2 02 0




Teach Third Graders (And Yourself) to Code COLIN YUST, Elementary School Teacher

a great motivator for kids to stay on task with math and other core subjects so they can get to their coding lessons and projects.

MSD of Warren Township, IN

Collin Yust has been teaching second through fourth graders for over 10 years. “Put me in front of a class—math or English—and I’m comfortable jumping in,” he says. Coding, however, was another story. When Yust learned about Codelicious he knew it would be a great way to introduce a creative new element to his block periods for math, social studies, and science. He received support from his forward-thinking district to implement the curriculum in his classroom. “But I’m not tech savvy—though I’m better now—and I was a little nervous about teaching coding,” he says. So he did what any good student does—he did his homework. He taught himself to code by going through the Codelicious lessons. “It seems daunting—but if I can do it, anyone can do it,” he says. “Codelicious is very teacher friendly, and it’s progressive and personalized, so students learn basic skills and the projects, many of which are game based, get harder.” His students particularly love the soccer game and space activities, and Yust loves that Codelicious is cross-curricular so he can integrate coding into science and other subject areas. “The kids get fired up because they can see the connections,” he says.



PRO TIP “I jumped right in and taught myself the curriculum, and that was the best preparation for teaching something entirely new,” says Yust, a self-professed history buff who never thought he’d be teaching coding. “When I made mistakes, I’d go back and figure it out. Many of those were the same mistakes that happened in the classroom, so I was prepared to help guide students. I tried to be as many lessons ahead of them as possible.” Warren Township used some of the funding they received through Race to the Top to complete a 1:1 initiative with Chromebooks, which allowed Yust to bring in the Codelicious curriculum. Yust also uses the science money he receives each year to invest in another set of Snap Circuits. “Every year, with another set, more kids can use them more often,” he says.

• Chromebooks (Lowell While increased confidence might not be the Elementary is in the midst first benefit of learning to code that comes to mind, of a “soft transition” from it’s an important one. “Codelicious has given some Chromebooks to iPads) kids a chance to shine,” Yust says. “When a shy • Codelicious student gives a demo on the SMART Board, for example, that new confidence carries into other • Snap Circuits areas too.” Through debugging activities, students are developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as well. “It’s awesome to see students have that experience of figuring something out,” he says. “It’s hard for third graders to see the big picture and think long-term, so that kind of instant gratification is great.” Students are also connecting what they’re learning to the games they play outside school. “They think about all the coding that’s behind the scenes of the decisions characters make—and it gives them an idea of classes they might take in middle or high school and career opportunities they might want to explore.” And, Yust says, because they love it so much, Codelicious is also


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020




Tech & Learning magazine has announced the following 2019 winners of its annual Awards of Excellence contest. “For 40 years, Tech & Learning has reported on how edtech products are improving teaching and learning,” says Tech & Learning Group Publisher Christine Weiser. “In keeping with this mission, our 2019 Awards of Excellence contest focused on stand-out products that are both unique in the K-12 market, as well as those that are helping schools solve specific problems.” Congratulations to the following winners!


T&L judges love that it can reach large crowds in a small form factor as well as its Bluetooth and USB features.


BENQ Alma’s approach emphasizes protecting and even recovering instructional time by making everything from planning instruction and communicating goals to seeing and interpreting data easier and more efficient. “Alma SIS is cloud-based and intuitive for all stakeholders,” say T&L judges. “Its clean dashboard allows easy access to all of the data on a student—from grades to medical records and bus routes. It fully integrates Google Classroom and is interoperable with other curricular data systems.” BenQ’s RP Series IFPs are intuitive hubs where teachers and students can work together, make annotations from any device, and share ideas freely. Teachers can create a learning environment tailored to specific classroom needs without complicated system setups or workflows. T&L judges appreciate the management and quick support features of this open software platform with NFC and other customizable features that follow users between boards.




AMPLIVOX MEGA HAILER PORTABLE PA SYSTEM The Mega Hailer reaches audiences of 5,000—9,000 and broadcasts highly intelligible speech up to a half mile. It’s ideal for emergency communications and outdoor events of any type. It operates on AC power or rechargeable battery, and its wireless microphone has a range of 300 feet.


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020


CATCHON This data analytics tool compiles real-time data on every school device, enabling districts to make data-informed decisions about the apps and online tools their educators and students are using. CatchOn requires no virtual machines, hardware,

2019 additional authentication processes, or captive portals. T&L judges like that it “covers categories that matter for instruction, budget, and performance; makes recommendations for PD; and tracks usage, subscriptions, and many other data metrics in one dashboard.”

CLASSLINK ClassLink empowers students and teachers with instant access to learning resources. ClassLink® LaunchPad includes a library of over 6,000 single sign-on apps. ClassLink Analytics provides usage data to decision makers. ClassLink Roster Server securely delivers class rosters, and ClassLink OneSync automates account provisioning and reconciles accounts in real time. T&L judges like the comprehensive list of apps, the time saved with fully automated account provisioning, and the visibility into the use of online programs that enables better fiscal decisions.


CLEAR TOUCH COMMAND™ With Clear Touch Command™ IT departments and administrators can troubleshoot panels remotely, monitor device usage statistics, act as a digital decoder, set power savings modes, and communicate announcements. “The best feature of the new Command software is the ability to broadcast video and content to all screens across the district simultaneously, which enables them to be used for streaming services or morning announcement broadcasts as well as emergencies,” say T&L judges.


KIDS READ NOW Kids Read Now is a turnkey inhome summer reading program designed to help students become proficient readers as they enter fourth grade. It includes a library of titles and an easy-to-use app for parents. The app also provides schools data for monitoring student progress. “It eliminates the summer reading slide and offers students and parents/caregivers tools to succeed and enjoy reading. It’s very affordable and has been recognized and authorized for use as a Title I, II, and III eligible funding resource,” say T&L judges.

MANAGEDMETHODS ManagedMethods makes cloud security easy by securing data in cloud applications including Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, OneDrive, Sharepoint, Citrix Sharefile, Box, Dropbox, and Slack. ManagedMethods also scans emails in Gmail and Outlook for malware, sensitive data, and objectionable content. “It’s an easy-to-implement solution that does not require agents, proxies, or extensions and gives a high level of visibility into your cloud products, and security profile,” say T&L judges.


EDMENTUM EXACT PATH Exact Path utilizes adaptive diagnostic assessments paired with targeted student learning paths to ensure academic growth in reading, language arts,


and math. Edmentum also offers integrations with NWEA MAP Growth assessments and Renaissance Star assessments to kick-start learning using schools’ existing data. “This tool supports individualized learning and helps teachers assess areas of need in a way they could not do without leveraging technology,” say T&L judges. “It also supports teaching with prescriptive lessons to build on.” With NetSupport DNA IT staff can centrally manage and support IT assets and endpoints across a school- or district-wide network while promoting positive digital citizenship and protecting students. Powerful student eSafety features support counselors in identifying and protecting students via internet metering, keyword/phrase monitoring, webcam controls, and more. “It’s a very comprehensive suite of tools,” say T&L judges, “with student tracking and safety features and licensing management.”


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0






MYON BY RENAISSANCE Personalized reading selections based on stueent interest and reading level This digital reading platform provides students with 24/7 access to thousands of fiction and nonfiction books and news articles. The multimedia reading experience includes colorful illustrations, professionally recorded audio, and annotation tools. “Love this product,” say T&L judges. “Students select engaging articles based on interest and reading level. The audio recordings model perfect cadence and fluency, which is critical for English language learners or students who don’t have fluent readers to read to them at home.”

XELLO This online program helps K–12 students connect their interests, skills, and current education to their future goals. It offers assessments, college and career profiles, and integrated course planning tools for students, as well as tracking and reports for educators. “With its many tools to help students identify their goals and prepare for college and career readiness, Xello fills a gap in this area,” say T&L judges,




360 CLOUD Securly’s end-to-end student safety solution keeps students safe, secure, and productive. The 360 Cloud offers the industry’s first cloud-based web filter, a web portal and mobile app for parents, a classroom management tool for teachers to guide and communicate with their students. The 24/7 humanassisted AI analyzes student messages for signs of suicide, violence, and bullying. “The 360 Cloud allows parents to monitor the internet and choose when their child is online,” say T&L judges.


WIN CAREER READINESS SYSTEM The personalized WIN Career Readiness System includes career exploration tools, academic and employability skills courseware, and the Ready to Work and Essential Soft Skills credentials. “The WIN Career Readiness System is unique in that it’s completely web-based and offers a battery of assessments for students to show their workforce readiness and skills they have obtained,” say T&L judges. “It’s also gamified in that it provides both a credentialing system and a badging platform.”


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

| WWW.TECHLEARNING.COM zSpace Experiences include experiential simulations. Students observe cause and effect, collect live data, and change conditions in the environment through lessons based on Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers set up tools and resources that help students through each lesson. “These new experience packs enable students to access thousands of 3D and AR manipulatives and provide a virtual laboratory for completing assignments that may not be safe or accessible in a real-life lesson,” say T&L judges.


APEX LEARNING NEW GENERATION COURSES https://www.apexlearning. com/new-generationcourses These courses in a broad range of subjects take digital curriculum to a new level with enhanced supports, a fresh look, and multiple instructional approaches

2019 to address various learning styles. According to T&L judges, the courses are “Fantastic, engaging, and the kind of learning we want to see in our schools. Teachers want to deliver this kind of education, yet often do not know where to start or where to get resources.”



THE LEARNING ALLY AUDIOBOOK SOLUTION This solution helps to bridge the gap between a student’s decoding and comprehension and intellectual skills. The program provides access to humanread audio textbooks, literature, and popular titles, and a database tracks and measures reading progress. “Schools have typically not addressed dyslexia, and now states are mandating that they do,” say T&L judges. “Schools have little experience and need help and support in this area, and this solution would be great for them to try.”


DISCOVERY EDUCATION EXPERIENCE This streaming service assists educators in creating real-world learning opportunities that engage students and improve academic achievement. The service’s standards-aligned content is assignable and can be bookmarked and remixed to meet the needs of diverse student populations in a safe, secure environment. The engaging content is complemented by a library of research-based and teacher-tested instructional strategies. “It’s a great engaging resource,” say T&L judges. “Both teachers and students like this product.” By gathering all your edtech tools in one place, Otus provides a common, organized, system that contains all of the tools teachers need to engage students in the learning process. This is not only more efficient, but it also gives teachers a more complete picture of student information than exists in disconnected silos. “Teachers love having all the information they need in one place,” say T&L judges, “and parents don’t need to log in to several different sites.”

PARENTSQUARE, INC. PARENTSQUARE With oversight throughout and powerful reporting metrics, ParentSquare unifies all communication and parent engagement tools used across classrooms, sites, and districts. Two-way group messaging, private conversations, district-wide alerts and notices, and a simple user interface keep everyone connected. “This is a very comprehensive set of communication tools that pull disparate data into one place,” say T&L judges. “All stakeholders can use this, get support, and have it in their own language.”


FSR’S SMART-WAY ON-FLOOR RACEWAY SYSTEM This system installs on top of any flooring to offer a quick, easy, and affordable solution for wire management. The raceway compartments provide ample space for power, communications, and A/V connectivity. “This raceway system solves a major problem for schools redesigning their learning spaces for 21st-century learning tools,” say T&L judges. “It eliminates the need for concrete cutting or removal for traditional raceway installations and allows for both low-voltage and high-voltage applications simultaneously.”


PREDATOR HELIOS 300 FOR ESPORTS PROGRAM US/content/predator-series/ predatorhelios300 A variety of configurations for this gaming notebook let gamers choose the best option for their budget, game, and playing


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0





style. Options include different display sizes, overclockable GPUs, Killer networking and wifi, and fast DDR4 2666MHz memory. It also keeps cool during long game sessions. “The cost versus configuration makes it very affordable for schools,” say T&L judges. “It’s a very good unit to get programs started at the ground level.”

device content for better moderator control. “This is a good solution for connecting multiple devices, is not OS-dependent, and is great for BYOD programs,” say T&L judges.



PROMETHEAN ACTIVPANEL ActivPanel’s latest generation, the Elements series, delivers innovation and the security and manageability trusted by IT professionals. New features include an easy-to-use Unified Menu, proprietary Vellum™ writing technology, integrated Classroom Essential apps, and multi-device screen sharing with touchback. “It’s still a very good interactive panel solution,” say T&L judges. They like the management and collaboration features as well as the inclusion of ClassFlow and ActivInspire software at no extra charge.

AVER INFORMATION, INC. AVERVISION M15W WIRELESS DOCUMENT CAMERA document-camera/m15w The M15W connects to the school’s wifi network and allows teachers to display lessons live, stream them throughout the school, or record and save lessons directly to the school network. The included interactive software allows teachers to annotate and add text and images to the live video. “It’s a compact and mobile solution that can connect either to the school wifi or peer-to-peer,” say T&L judges.


WEPRESENT wePresent is an award-winning, collaborative wireless presentation gateway designed for corporate and classroom applications. It offers full integration with Chromecast and Airplay, onboard interactive and collaborative tools, eco standby mode, and on-screen preview of connected


| D E C E MB E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

| WWW.TECHLEARNING.COM With Bloomz, teachers can share instant messages, announcements, photos, calendars, permission slips, volunteer sign-ups, and more through one easy-to-use interface. It’s free for parents and teachers and is a private and secure environment. Administrators can track parental involvement and target specific audiences for announcements. T&L judges like that it allows parents to see authentic projects (not just grades) and provides just-in-time communication.


BRITANNICA LAUNCHPACKS: SCIENCE Leverages over 1,800 high-quality, diverse digital content sets and enables educators to make strong cross-curricular connections to engage students in meaningful learning. Activities and question sets immerse students in thinking like scientists. Packs are searchable and can be filtered by category or grade level. “I love that there are tons of rich, in-depth resources and their choice of integration with Kahoot! which encourages gamification in the classroom,” T&L judges say. “They also incorporate differentiated levels of each resource.”


BRITANNICA LAUNCHPACKS: SOCIAL STUDIES “The Britannica LaunchPacks host a plethora of materials and digital content and incorporate differentiated levels of each resource,” say T&L judges. Over 2,000 expertly curated bundles of Britannica informational text and multimedia assets are focused around thematic units covered in the K–12 social studies curricula. Each Pack is dedicated to a specific topic and features a variety of content types—articles, images, videos, and primary sources—ideal for lessons, classroom activities, projects, or assignments.



BRITANNICA DIGITAL LEARNING LUMIELABS This digital storytelling and video-creation platform combines curriculum-relevant, project-based video lessons with millions of royalty-free, rights-cleared, fair-use multimedia clips. “I particularly like that LumieLabs makes it easy for educators to harness students’ passions and natural engagement with media to meet subject-area learning objectives, assess students’ mastery of content, promote voice and choice, and weave in practical skills that enable students’ futures in a safe, controlled environment,” says one T&L judge. “LumieLabs also supports cross-curricular lessons.”


CASIO SUPERIOR XJ-S400UN LAMPFREE® PROJECTOR Provides vibrant colors and high brightness of 4000 lumens in WUXGA resolution for up to 20,000 hours. Casio’s R-Laser & LED light source projects brilliant colors and detailed images of up to 300”. It’s network ready with LAN Connectivity (RJ-45) and optional wireless capability, a 1.7X zoom lens, and a dust-resistant design. “For teachers who don’t want to lose writing space, lampfree projectors are great and cost less than flat panels,” say T&L judges.



BULB DIGITAL PORTFOLIOS bulb is an award-winning digital portfolio simple enough for K–8; beautiful enough for high school, college, and career pursuits; and powerful enough for a lifetime of learning. Digital Portfolios helps students express their abilities beyond test scores while building knowledge and skills. “It’s very intuitive to use and allows for creativity in displaying content as well as collaboration,” say T&L judges. “Teachers can use it for instruction as well as professionally.” With this interactive whiteboard application, bundled with all Clear Touch® interactive panels, users can write on an infinite canvas and access a live browser tool that allows them to open, save, and use unlimited browsers within their presentation. “I love that you can open multiple browser sessions, tie in video, and also bring in PDFs and even flash activities—and store it easily on your favorite cloud storage choice,” say T&L judges.




CASIO ADVANCED XJ-F211WN LAMPFREE PROJECTOR products/Advanced Provides vibrant colors and high brightness of 3500 lumens in WXGA resolution for up to 20,000 hours. Includes a 1.5X zoom lens and a dustresistant design that cools, reduces noise, and eliminates the need for filters. The XJ-F211WN is network ready with LAN Connectivity (RJ-45) and optional wireless capability. “Projectors still have relevance,” say T&L judges. “They can offer a much bigger viewing screen than flat panels for considerably less cost and for a similar, if not longer, life span.” Clear Touch Collage™ makes lessons, group activities, and remote learning more collaborative by allowing students to connect from their iPads, Chromebooks, or other devices and cast their screens to the classroom’s Clear Touch® interactive panel. “For years, AirPlay and Chromecasting has been unstable and inconsistent. Collage takes those pains away.” T&L judges also love that Collage works with any device, tablet, laptop, or desktop to easily screencast whatever device you choose and allows up to 32 devices to connect simultaneously.


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0





students or remedial students grasp the basic fundamentals of math through interactive and manipulative digital tools,” say T&L judges. “It breaks down mathematical algorithms into easy-to-understand problems that help students develop math skills.”


STUDY ISLAND This comprehensive, customizable K–12 standards-based practice and assessment tool makes it possible for educators to implement the type of in-the-moment formative assessment that can truly transform instruction and learning. Teachers have to access to lesson plans, videos, and other instructional resources. “Study Island is good for test preparation,” say T&L judges. “Students enjoy this program and are engaged in the gamified learning, and it gives teachers insight into the needs of students.”


EPSON BRIGHTLINK INTERACTIVE DISPLAYS With network-ready BrightLink® interactive displays using 3LCD technology for high color brightness and wide color gamut, students and teachers can control, annotate, highlight, and draw on projected images, websites, documents, and more using an interactive pen or a finger. T&L judges like the adaptable image size, interactivity and connectivity features, and the quality of the image on a variety of surfaces so that the projection surface, such as a marker board, can still be used for other purposes.


EXPLORELEARNING GIZMOS Over 400 online simulations, or Gizmos, excite curiosity and invite interaction and cover topics and concepts in math and science for grades 3–12. Gizmos help students to make connections and draw conclusions with an interactive design that supports manipulation of variables and “what-if” experimentation. “The simulations for math and science are fully engaging,” say T&L judges. “These interactive manipulatives are suitable for all grade levels. They work on any device, and particularly on interactive panels and whiteboards.”


EXPLORELEARNING REFLEX Reflex helps students of all ability levels develop fluency with their basic math. It combines researchproven methods and innovative technology and offers adaptivity and individualization, powerful reporting, and anytime access. “Reflex Math is an amazing tool for helping younger


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020



EXPLORELEARNING SCIENCE4US Specifically designed for K–2 students, Science4Us covers inquiry, physical science, life science, and earth and space science. The sessions include thousands of online and offline activities that can be completed in as little as ten minutes. “There are very few materials available to engage K–2 students in STEM,” say T&L judges. “Science4US begins to solve that problem. The multiple modalities available for students to learn makes Science4US the perfect tool for differentiating science instruction.”


GALE IN CONTEXT: FOR EDUCATORS This convenient web-based app merges quality, curriculum-aligned content and related lesson plans in an educator-focused user experience. It includes tools to help educators discover, personalize, and share resources easily with students and collaborate with colleagues. “This is a terrific resource to help educators teach students to become savvy digital information curators,” say T&L judges. It’s integrated with Google Drive, Google Classroom, and Microsoft OneDrive.


HOVERCAM PILOT X With this fully integrated and portable wireless digital teaching station, teachers can intuitively work from the station or undock the tablet for greater mobility. The system features Windows 10 OS, 13MP document camera, and a wireless HDMI transmitter that can beam content to any interactive flat panel, projector, or display. “It’s a full-featured interactive teaching tool with a lesson-capture feature that allows both audio and video recording of lessons for later review,” say T&L judges.






MANGO CLASSROOM BY MANGO LANGUAGES Mango Languages offers a practical and engaging way to bridge the gap between textbook learning and real-world conversations. It’s a 24/7 teaching assistant with free mobile apps that include offline learning and auto play, lesson plans, and assessments. T&L judges were impressed by the number of languages available and the fact that lessons are constructed for learning, feedback, and practice. “It’s a great addition to the curriculum,” they say. This innovative differentiation platform allows teachers to provide every student with instruction and practice at the level that’s best for them in all four core subject areas. Freckle’s rich, engaging learning experiences accelerate growth. “This platform provides innovative differentiation and combines the subjects to provide support in many subject areas with quality resources that engage students,” say T&L judges.


PROJECT IMAGINE: WORLD HISTORY https://www.pearsonschool. com This modular digital companion program supports any world history curriculum. Archival videos, music, photographs, and more give students a perspective on culture and everyday life and enable them to engage with world history from multiple perspectives. “It’s a very comprehensive solution with a variety of options that allow teachers to customize instruction. It’s unique and immersive with multi-media features and primary source documents,” say T&L judges.

SAM LABS Unlike other coding and STEAM products using mobile or web, SAM Labs produces a hands-on maker system. Three level-specific, inclusive instructional kits of easy-to-follow and standards-compliant lessons pair with innovative hands-on blocks that connect to an engaging online programming portal (SAM Space). “SAM Labs bridges the gaps between making, problemsolving, collaborating, coding, design-thinking, and STEAM in an all-in-one solution for K–12,” say T&L judges.




PBS MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATOR CERTIFICATION BY KQED: MICRO-CREDENTIALS To become certified, educators can collect up to eight micro-credentials, which include evaluating online information, analyzing media, creating a code of conduct, and creating multimedia content for classroom use. Courses range from learning about copyright and fair use to managing and assessing media projects with students. “This is innovative and very achievable. It’s free and self-paced and reaches a segment of professional development that has a high need,” say T&L judges. This independent reading management tool for K–6 offers built-in assessments and text-based comprehension check-ins. A complete, blended solution, Literacy Pro offers over 2,300 highinterest ebooks, including Spanish titles, and connections to thousands of print books. “The point system is a great way to gamify and motivate students,” say T&L judges, “and the analytics are great for classroom teachers and to share with families.”


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0





creative confidence and critical thinking. It tackles subjects like engineering, coding, and physics with intuitive guides and smart bricks to put real-life STEAM topics right at students’ fingertips. “Combining coding, Legos, and iPads is a trifecta win,” say T&L judges. “It’s great for teachers who aren’t trained in coding and provides great plans and lessons with engaging, projectbased real-world applications.”


WATCH AND LEARN LIBRARY This online hub of hundreds of core curriculum videos and teaching supports to strengthen PreK–3 teaching and learning was created by early childhood experts. It can be used during whole-class instruction, to support small-group differentiation, and to extend knowledge with anywhere, anytime access. Each video connects real-life concepts to core science, social studies, and ELA topics. “This will be great for English language learners and has good analytics,” say T&L judges.

VERNIER SOFTWARE & TECHNOLOGY GO DIRECT® SENSORS There are more than 40 sensors in the Go Direct family that students can use to collect data either wirelessly with Bluetooth® or via a USB connection in chemistry, biology, physics, physical science, engineering, environmental science, and coding. These sensors are affordable, easy to use, and supported by free software compatible with a wide variety of devices. “They make learning feel ‘real world,” say T&L judges. “They bring science to life and build inquiry and investigation skills.”

WE COMMUNICATIONS WEDO 2.0 Brings 280 building elements to life, and software and lesson plans motivate students to collaborate, build, problem-solve, and explore while deepening their STEAM knowledge and developing 21st-century skills. The combination of physical LEGO® bricks, standards-aligned activities, and an intuitive block-based coding environment helps elementary-school students learn the important STEAM skills in a fun and interactive way. “It’s very engaging and project based, and teaching coding with LEGOs is a great idea,” say T&L judges.




WE COMMUNICATIONS LEGO EDUCATION This hands-on, cross-curricular STEAM solution combines LEGO® Technic™ elements, classroom-friendly software, and standards-aligned lessons to spark


| DE C E M B E R 2 019 / JANUARY 2020

| WWW.TECHLEARNING.COM STEMscopes combines an award-winning digital curriculum, supplemental print materials, and ready-made exploration kits with a 24/7 professional development portal to support student and teacher success. It addresses the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and state standards and its core approach is hands-on investigation. “STEMscopes builds STEM learning and provides great tools for teachers and students,” say T&L judges. “Differentiated science lessons meet students where they are and students learn by doing.”


EVO™ LITE BY CLEAR DIGITAL™ Clear DigitalTM EvoTM Lite is an innovative, mobile, digital display that combines simplicity and versatility in a sleek, weatherresistant, battery-operated package. The remarkably durable EvoTM Lite offers brilliant HD resolution that delivers messages with stunning clarity. “This product solves the problem of having portable digital signage,” say T&L judges. “It has an incredible battery life and is also waterproof. It’s flexible enough to be used anywhere inside or outside your facilities.”

CURRICULUM ASSOCIATES I-READY The research-based i-Ready online program combines powerful assessments and rich insights with effective and engaging instruction in reading and mathematics to address students’ individual needs. Its adaptive diagnostic provides teachers with actionable insight, offers a complete picture of student performance and growth, and sets a personalized learning path for each student. “It’s a great assessment tool and can be used in a variety of situations, including virtual schools,” say T&L judges.

IXL LEARNING IXL IXL’s comprehensive K–12 curriculum, Continuous Diagnostic, personalized guidance, and real-time analytics work together seamlessly to give teachers everything they need to personalize learning and help students grow. IXL creates personalized action plans for every learner and the curriculum covers over 8,000 skills in math, English language arts, science, social studies, and Spanish. “It has a broad range of tools for assessment and very good diagnostic features,” say T&L judges.



https://www.gofrontrow. com/en/ezroom-trio-detail The ezRoom Trio™ is the only all-in-one classroom media solution with premium sound quality and complete scalability. The plenum-rated enclosure installs easily in drop ceilings and requires only a single electrical outlet and optional network connection. It’s perfect for installations where equipment needs to be secured, out of sight, and connected. “It has a very nice combination of features, is scalable, easy to install, and integrates with existing PA and bells,” say T&L judges.

MOBYMAX This complete and interactive K–8 curriculum for 27 subjects can be used on any device with an internet connection. The suite of integrated and automated classroom tools saves teachers precious hours with assessments, grading, and markup tools for writing, diagnostics, IEP reporting, messaging, and real-time progress monitoring. T&L judges appreciate its comprehensive list of curriculum subjects as well as the fact that it’s cost effective and has IEP reporting, progress data monitoring, and other tools for teachers. [EDITOR’S NOTE: The judges also selected MobyMax as a winner in the District and classroom categories.]


NETSUPPORT SCHOOL This classroom management software allows educators to monitor, manage, and interact with all student devices in the classroom. It follows ISTE standards and includes collaboration tools like screen sharing and group chat. A discrete help request feature allows for 1:1 support. “NetSupport allows teachers to see the devices of all students in the classroom, push out certain websites, and block others,” say T&L judges. “It can also be used with all devices, including Windows, IOS, and Chrome.”


| DE C E MB E R 2 0 1 9 / JA N U A R Y 2 02 0






Check out the following resources from our partner sites:


PRESENCELEARNING “Online therapy for students is misunderstood by many district leaders,” say T&L judges. “They need to understand how this works. It’s difficult to find certified staff to provide therapy, and this is a great solution for virtual students and students having a tough time attending school.” PresenceLearning’s network of certified clinicians use the company’s proprietary therapy platform, which integrates traditional therapy materials with a unique secure video conferencing experience that enables them to work with students in any location.

How to Launch an Instructional Technology Strategy Sponsored by: OverDrive Education

Strategies for Building Proficient K-12 Writers


Sponsored by: Voyager Sopris

SCHOLASTIC F.I.R.S.T. education/ookaisland/# Scholastic F.I.R.S.T. (Foundations in Reading, Sounds & Text) is an adaptive digital adventure on Ooka Island that teaches the five foundational reading skills for students in grades PreK–2. This 80-hour curriculum delivers research-based instruction within an interactive, engaging, and personalized learning environment. “Schools need researched reading programs,” say T&L judges, “and the gamified look and feel are engaging and fun for emerging readers.” They also like the analytics that help teachers understand a student’s reading in detail.

Content, patience and a plan: How to launch an instructional technology strategy Sponsored by: OverDrive Education

Strategies for Delivering Required ESSA Reporting and Supporting Student Success Sponsored by: BrightBytes

8 Ways Teachers Can Incorporate Technology into the Classroom Sponsored by: Voyager Sopris


Check for updates


11 Shmoop is an online education resource that offers online test prep (AP, ACT, SAT), digital courses, videos, college and career readiness, enrichment, intervention, PBIS, credit recovery, and even college courses. Shmoop materials balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous materials. “Shmoop breaks down difficult concepts into easy-to-understand terms and the kid-friendly language is engaging,” say T&L judges. “Teachers still need to be involved in ACT/SAT prep, but Schmoop makes the learning fun.”

Boxlight 9 Fastbridge 13 Kokomo 17 Managed Methods


Powergistics 7 Scholastic 2 TurnitIn 5



| DE C E MB E R 2 01 9 / JANUARY 2 02 0