Tech & Learning - March 2020

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MARCH 2020



LET'S DO THIS! Essential classroom tools to support Project-Based Learning (PBL)


ESPORTS TAKES OFF See page 30 for more.






























By Margot Douaihy 2020 Vision: Making EdTech More Inclusive A Medgar Evers Professor suggests more edtech pilots and real-world collaborative tools. Tech&Learning advisor Monica Burns shares her takeaways from the year’s FETC.

By Nikki Schafer The idea of “learning by doing” has been around since the time of Confucius, but educators are now using the latest digital tools to support this learning approach. Here are some of the best platforms, websites, apps and other online resources available for project-based learning.




Reported by Sascha Zuger and Shannon Mersand Creating real-world 3D printing projects. Using augmented and virtual reality to enrich core subjects at rural school districts. Developing an eSports curriculum that nurtures positive gaming. How a parkour shoe design challenge boosted STEM skills.





Congratulations to the products and platforms that were named Best of Show by our judges at this year’s annual TCEA conference in Austin. The educator judges scoured the exhibit hall floor, rating their impressions of individual products on a sliding scale, evaluating areas such as quality and effectiveness, ease of use, cost, and creative use of technology. Here are the results.

DEPARTMENTS & COLUMNS 4 EDITORS DESK: Taking edtech to the next level 6


16 BIG IDEAS •  Using personalized learning to close reading gaps • Getting real about VR •  Student safety vs. student privacy 34 REVIEWS 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.


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note MARCH 2020



he first flurry of 2020 edtech trade shows has passed (page 22) and as usual there was the attendant hoopla on the latest and greatest gear aimed at the classroom. Augmented and virtual reality applications were front and center. eSport rigs complete with video walls drew crowds. And the robots continue to overtake the exhibition floors. But it wasn’t until several days after these events occurred that I realized one of the more subtle but radical changes happening in edtech—no longer is anyone arguing whether or not we use the stuff but rather how best to use it. Sure, there are still occasional plaintive cries about screen time and phone bans but the conversation about not allowing tech in schools is effectively over. My own home beta-testers (an 8th and 10th grader) prove the point. They both have group backchannels to discuss class projects and homework, amidst the jokes and memes anyway. Google Docs is second nature to them. All correspondence with teachers is in the portal and on record. One night I had an Alexander Graham Bell moment as I checked some homework with my son responding to my questions in real time from somewhere else in the house! I hope you have your own Bell moments paging through SURE, THERE ARE this month’s issue and online every day at STILL OCCASIONAL Maybe the discoveries are not as dramatic as they used to be. But the tools and ideas are changing the world for the better PLAINTIVE CRIES even if we could all put our phones away a little more. ABOUT SCREEN

— Kevin Hogan Managing Director, Content



VOL. 40 NO. 7 FOLLOW US Group Publisher Christine Weiser CONTENT Managing Director of Content Kevin Hogan Managing Editor Ray Bendici Advisors Carl Hooker, Andrew Wallace, 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 Manager (West Coast) Allison Knapp, Sales Manager (East Coast) 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.


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FIRST LOOK—LG ULTRAFINE IPS LED MONITORS New Commercial macOS-Compatible Models Offer Thunderbolt 3 Ports, Ability to Charge Macbook Pro or Mobile Device with Single USB Type-C Port

Price: $1,200

SPEC CHECK • Size (diagonal): 27-inch • Resolution: 5120 by 2880 • Ports: 3 USB C, 1 Thunderbolt 3 • Speakers: 2 5-watt

While there’s still a lot of wide-XGA screens and projectors in use at schools, the move to HD resolutions and beyond is taking hold. LG’s 27-inch UltraFine IPS LED monitor goes all out with 5120 by 2880 resolution that is picture perfect and

ideal for everything from image editing to displaying student artwork. In addition to a built-in camera and speakers, the $1,200 screen has three USB-C and one Thunderbolt 3 port.










LEGO Education’s SPIKE Prime helps develop confidence and STEM skills

Build a Chromebox computer on the cheap

Two screens really can be better than one

Making power cords safer



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CALL IN THE COACH According to a recently published survey sponsored by Digital Promise, Learning Forward, and Google, the biggest issue for most U.S. public schools isn’t a question of access to technology in the classroom, but rather how teachers use it, especially when it comes to professional development. The report, Prevalence of Coaching and Approaches to Supporting Prevalence of Coaching and Approaches to Supporting Coaching in Education, shows a disconnect between how coaches and teachers see tech being used to facilitate the coach’s work, support the educator’s learning, and support educators in using technology with students for learning (Figures 1 and 2). The survey suggests “There is an opportunity for coaches to devote more time to supporting teachers in using technology for student learning, which could lead to increased impactful use of technology by students and increased student engagement and learning.” The survey further maintains that satisfied teachers have coaches who use technology at higher rates than teachers who do not find coaching valuable (see Figures 3 and 4).


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Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4


BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) last month released a new “Student Privacy 101” video series that is designed to help school leaders better understand federal and state privacy laws and protect sensitive student data.

resources about how schools can protect children’s data privacy. To learn more about Safer Internet Day, visit For more information about FPF’s student privacy work, visit


The “Student Privacy 101” video series includes: ■■ An introductory video that previews the challenges and opportunities around collecting and safeguarding student data in the digital age. ■■ A short video on legal compliance, providing concise information about the requirements and role of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); ■■ A brief overview of the most common privacy risks and how to avoid them. ■■ A discussion on transparency, including advice on collecting community feedback, and engaging and informing parents about a school’s data collection practices. FPF also published a new blog post marking Safer Internet Day today with additional information and

The Amgen Foundation and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University (Harvard FAS) announced the global launch of LabXchange, a free online science education platform that provides users with access to personalized instruction, virtual lab experiences and networking opportunities across the global scientific community. LabXchange gives students access to a library of educational videos, interactive simulations, and personalized instruction to aid them in their scientific discovery. Through virtual lab experiments, videos and online collaboration with others in the global science community, students can experience the scientific process for themselves.

By simulating key techniques in molecular and cellular biology, like using CRISPR to correct genetic defects, students can explore a wide range of scientific methods and build their acumen in harnessing science to solve real-life problems. Key features of LabXchange include: ■ Free access to a library of educational content including videos, interactive simulations and assessments ■ Ability to mix and match material ■ Global networking functionality, enabling teachers to collaborate beyond a single classroom, school or district. For more information, visit


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3M and Discovery Education have opened the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which recruits students in grades 5-8 to compete for a mentorship with a 3M scientist, a $25,000 grand prize, and the title of America’s Top Young Scientist. Competition entries are being accepted at until April 21, 2020. Each year, the program recognizes 10 finalists and up to 50 state merit winners nationwide who have demonstrated a passion for solving everyday problems. Previous challenge finalists have collaborated with 3M scientists to create solutions to a wide variety of real-world problems, including water conservation, noise pollution, energy consumption and public transportation efficiency. Last year’s winner, 14-year old Kara Fan, invented a first aid liquid bandage to reduce antibiotic overuse. Students are invited to create a one- to two-minute video communicating the science behind an idea aimed at solving a problem that affects them, their school, family or community. Videos will not be judged on production skills and may be recorded on cell phones or basic digital cameras. Applicants will be evaluated based on their creativity, scientific knowledge, and effective communication skills. In June 2020, ten finalists will be chosen to participate in a summer mentorship program, where they will work closely with and learn from a 3M scientist. Each finalist will also receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center at the company’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., to compete at the final event in October 2020. 3M Young Scientist Challenge learning resources, including classroom interactives and family activities, are available at no cost at


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READ SMART National Geographic Learning has partnered with not-for-profit assessment organization NWEA to help teachers assess student proficiency and personalize learning paths across K-12 reading instruction. NWEA assessments will be integrated with National Geographic Learning’s Panorama reading program, giving teachers insight into what each student knows and how they can differentiate instruction. Beginning this fall, the MAP Growth assessment from NWEA will be administered as a benchmark test and then paired with National Geographic Learning’s skill lessons to give teachers the ability to use the MAP Growth results to create customized assignments for students. Educators will have access to progress reports up to four times a year to offer ways to close achievement gaps. National Geographic Learning’s Panorama reading program uses fiction and National Geographic nonfiction, as well interactive text and video, to help students learn how to read science and social studies content. For more information, visit NGL.


30 SITES FOR DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION By David Kapuler Differentiation, or the ability for educators to meet the needs of a variety of learners, is a key aspect of successful teaching. Fortunately, there are many approaches to differentiation and numerous tools available, including a variety of sites that can help facilitate the process. For a hotlinked index to these services, go to:

1 Actively Learn Educators can make any reading material their own by adding questions and annotation, plus collaborate with others, which helps to differentiate instruction.

2 Answer Pad A student response system and assessment tool that can be used to make a classroom paperless. The “Go Interactive” feature allows real-time collaboration, which helps educators better gauge student understanding.

3 Arcademics Focuses on game-based learning (K-8) across a wide range of subjects. An educational portal allows teachers to track and monitor students, generate detailed reports, and assess student learning.

4 Badaboom An easy-to-use classroom response system through which users can create learning quizzes and games to assess and differentiate instruction.

5 BoomWriter A unique site that lets students express their creativity by adding their own chapters to an initial story prompt. Classmates can anonymously vote on which ones should be included in the final story. Boomwriter then publishes these stories as softcover books, and can personalize each one to include the student’s name on the cover and their final chapter as an alternate ending. Other tools support nonfiction and vocabulary-based writing activities.

6 Buncee A blended interactive learning tool for creating presentations or digital stories that can be embedded into a site/ blog. Teachers can also flip a classroom by assigning quizzes, plus track and monitor students.

7 Chronicle Cloud A cutting edge all-in-one iOS app for teachers for taking notes, assessing students, providing feedback, and more.

8 ClassroomQ An easy-to-use innovative tool that acts as a digital hand-raising device, which assists in assessing a student’s learning in real-time.


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9 edcite Create digital assignments, quizzes, and more, and then have student responses automatically graded in real-time. Detailed student assessment reports can be generated as well.

10 Education Galaxy A new site for grades K-6 that uses game-based learning to help students in a wide variety of subjects. The site also supports assessing student needs and integrating self-paced learning.

11 Edji A new interactive learning tool that engages students through collaborative highlighting, annotation, comments, and even emojis. The detailed heat map helps educators to gauge student understanding.

12 EDpuzzle A popular site/app for flipping a classroom or lesson by adding questions to a video and then assessing student’s answers.

13 Eduflow A new learning management system in which educators can create courses, track students, and generate detailed reports.


14 Edulastic An innovative online assessment platform that makes it easy for teachers to differentiate instruction.

15 Floop An learning web app for teachers to give and collect student feedback through conversation threads

16 FUNecole An online learning platform for grades 1-6 that allows educators create assignments and lessons, and also integrate computer science into their curriculum.

17 Gimkit A game-based learning solution in which students can create games and educators can then assess the results.

18 Hippo Video A web tool for students and educators to create videos and screencasts that can be used to explore a subject, which helps to gauge student understanding and comprehension.

19 I Know It An easy-to-use site that supports interactive math practice for grades K-5. Educators can assign lessons, engage students, and assess progress.

20 IXL A popular site for math that allows for student tracking with detailed reporting. Educators can monitor areas in which students struggle, and then adjust instruction accordingly.

21 Kahoot Still one one of the most popular classroom tools to gamify and differentiate instruction.

22 Kami A handy learning tool that serves as a digital pen/paper that allows users to annotate PDFs and other documents.

23 Kialo Edu An argument mapping and debate site that can be used to follow the logic of a student’s thinking and help build critical thinking.

24 Loop A cool new student response system in which students can respond to questions by using an emoji or word, or by choosing an answer.

25 Night Zookeeper A interesting new site that builds writing skills through interactive lessons and competitions. The education portal provides an opportunity for educators to track their students and build a library of lessons.

26 Otus A one-to-one learning management solution and mobile learning environment through which educators can differentiate instruction based on detailed real-time analytics.

27 Parlay Teachers can use this online tool to build classroom discussion--browse through a robust library of discussion prompts (with resources), facilitate online round tables, or create a live verbal round table.

28 Pear Deck A platform that empowers educators to create quizzes, slides, or presentations, once the decks are created, students can respond via their mobile devices. Teachers can then assess student understanding in real-time.

29 Socrates A new game-based learning system dedicated to differentiated learning that automatically adjusts content to student needs.

30 ThinkFluency ThinkFluency is an innovative iOS app that helps to assess reading fluency and differentiate instruction in real-time.


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A Medgar Evers Professor suggests more edtech pilots and real-world collaborative tools. By Margot Douaihy Medgar Evers College was founded as a result of collaborative efforts by community leaders, elected officials, the Chancellor and the Board of Higher Education of The City University of New York. The College, named after the civil rights leader Medgar Evers, was established in 1969 with a mandate to meet the educational and social needs of Central Brooklyn. With Evers’ legacy of community engagement, the school’s faculty are exploring ways to utilize edtech and leverage real-world tools, specifically mobile tools, to enhance the student experience. Tonya C. Hegamin, Assistant Professor at Medgar Evers, shared her best practices for multi-modal pedagogy and inclusive instructional design on and off campus.

MEET STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE Gen Z has spoken, and they want mobilelearning plans. According to Pew Research, “Nearly all U.S. teens (95%) say they have access to a smartphone—and 45% say they are ‘almost constantly’ on the internet.” But how is mobile technology being used (or misused) in the classroom at Medgar Evers College? And what do user habits in learning spaces suggest about the workforce of the future? “More than anything, our students need immediacy and flexibility,” said Professor Tonya C. Hegamin, Medgar Evers College. “Blackboard (Bb) doesn’t always answer those needs because of limited accessibility. Our students are always on the go and have multiple

devices and accounts.” This portends a similarly mobile-driven workplace culture. Hegamin explained that her students don’t regularly check school email addresses because the system isn’t as seamless as their personal accounts. Institutional systems must address this reality in 2020. “As a teacher, it’s frustrating to reach out to students via Bb, only to discover that they either don’t check their school appointed emails or that they have never accessed their Bb accounts, even senior students,” she said. Similarly, some students have complained that they can’t seem to change their email address on Bb to feed to their primary accounts. Obviously, this is crucial and blocks communication regularly. It’s clear that the mobile device has become a primary classroom tool—for better or for worse. “Students take notes and sometimes write papers and submit homework via phones and tablets. Clearly this is not ideal,” Hegamin stated. “Although phones can check spelling, they don’t have the best grammar tools and standard formatting. Perhaps this will not be a problem in the future, but when essays don’t appear to be professional or adhere to MLA guidelines, that will cause points to be lost on each assignment.” Students need cohesive, agile tools with continuity over multiple applications for the duration of their educational journey.

COLLABORATION IN A REAL-WORLD CONTEXT Medgar Evers students live busy lives—many have families they are solely responsible for and/

or full-time jobs. “Our institution has policies to accommodate students who can’t be on site all the time,” said Hegamin. “One of my classes has a large grade percentage based on a group project, so students are responsible for collaborating outside of the physical classroom.” Most of Hegamin’s groups rely on texting and emails, even though she sets up groups on Bb. She instructs students to use whatever technology they need to get their work done. She also makes a point of showing students how to effectively use track changes and comments on Microsoft Word early in the semester. That way, when students revise, they can accept my changes and/or have a ‘conversation’ with their instructor and peers through their comments. This is how Hegamin learned to collaboratively edit years ago, and she finds it “disconcerting” that students say that they don’t ever have this kind of advisement in high school or college.

GOOGLE: “ACCESSIBILITY FACTOR” “I’ve been using Google Docs to do any realtime edits with students,” Hegamin explained. “I suggested this to students who are working in groups, but very few students had prior experience. I challenged those who had used it to show their peers or for those who were willing to learn to try it out themselves. Most found it to be truly useful and easy to use and it is portable and available on multiple platforms. I could see the difference in the presentations that used live editing, some even presented using Google Slides. The accessibility factor can’t be beat.”



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Tools & Ideas to Transform Your Campus

INCLUSION & DIVERSITY “Tech can be a great equalizer,” Hegamin said. “If all students have access, there is more opportunity for inclusion.” The more edtech platforms are available for a mobile world, the better. Learning can’t happen in a vacuum, and students are no longer willing or able to be in a classroom all of the time. Meeting the students where they are, with relevant tools, is key for inclusion. More returning students, veterans, and nontraditional students are attending college; there are myriad online venues for educational purposes that will pull in a diversity of learners.



INNOVATION STARTS WITH FACULTY Professor Hegamin uses every opportunity she can to experiment with technology and take advantage of her college’s service-learning opportunities to learn what she can. She also conducts personal research about how other colleagues are working with technology in innovative ways. Technology often requires a learning curve, and not every teacher is willing to be trained. “The first step in education is being willing to experiment and make mistakes,” she opined. The second step to innovate is to ask students what fits their unique needs; it’s pointless to embrace tech that’s not useful right now. Third, Hegamin says, faculty must be willing to be a “Frankenstein,” she enthused. “Pull together whatever works the best for you and your students. Don’t get stuck using only one platform for everything. Carve out one specific semester to pilot a new program or to use the tech you normally use differently. Involve the students, and allow them to rate and discuss so they can learn along with you.”

AV & EDTECH SUPPORT TRANSPARENCY Hegamin uses projectors and audiovisual equipment regularly in class, much like how

professors in earlier decades relied on blackboards. She said that she can’t conduct a relevant multi-modal class without the latest technology. “Students need visual tools,” she said, “and I also use the projectors to do live research, show my notes or to edit papers in class so the students can see exactly what I’m doing and how. My approach is inclusive, so I try to be transparent about what I’m doing. If a student asks a question I don’t know the answer to, I’m eager to look it up so they can see how I find answers.”

UNIFORMITY IN ACCESSIBILITY Access and agency are ultimately socialeconomic issues, Hegamin believes. “If a student is able to afford the newest device, they are already ahead,” she said. “Students who can afford new technology and who are savvy enough to use it to full potential are actually rare.” Most have the technology, but only use Facetime or access the Internet. “Tech can’t enhance anything in a meaningful and enduring way if it’s only for students who can afford the best or the newest.” She believes that institutions that once relied upon computer labs for student use must think now creatively about providing next-generation mobile devices to students. “We need uniformity in accessibility,” she said.

Manufacturers need to offer more free program pilots at diverse institutions, Hegamin says. “There need to be multilingual programs and programs that work when the bandwidth is low or compromised,” she shared. “Students don’t want to wait for tech to load; they do want tech that they can access intuitively and easily, on or offline.”

EMBRACING TECH IS ESSENTIAL IN HIGHER ED If she hadn’t embraced technology in her classroom, Hegamin said she would not be an effective teacher for today’s students. “Students deserve an instructor who has at least a light finger on the pulse of what is new in their fields—and in the world,” she said. “Just being able to access assignments where and whenever I need allows me to grade more quickly and efficiently because I can rely on automated programs to find mistakes on papers.” This frees Hegamin up for higher level and more meaningful engagements. Margot Douaihy, PhD, is the author of three books, most recently Scranton Lace (Clemson University Press). Tonya C. Hegamin, MFA, is the author of Most Loved In All The World, M+O 4evr, Pemba’s Song, and Willow. Hegamin has received honors for her innovative use of technology in the classroom and has presented her classroom case study on the use of Digital Game-Based Learning for building better writing skills for future urban educators at CUNY Games Fest. Professor Hegamin is an Assistant Professor at CUNY Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY.


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Student Safety vs Student Privacy By Dr. Kecia Ray


e live in an era where K-12 districts can’t just think about the physical security of their students and staff; they also have to worry about all aspects of security. Departments responsible for physical security, cybersecurity, and data security must all work together to develop a comprehensive security plan. The problem is that this rarely happens on the typical campus, where multiple different departments manage security in a siloed manner. Very rarely do they intersect and work with one another on a holistic approach to overall district security.

THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. Consider, for example, how quickly one thing can lead to another under potentially dangerous


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circumstances. Someone posts online or writes in a Google doc about his or her intent to, say, bring a gun to school today. The content is published and 45 minutes later, everyone is shocked when the student shows up at school with a gun. That’s because there’s no connection between cyberland and what’s going on in the real world. To bridge this gap, districts need solutions that provide real-time data and that inform decision-making and time-sensitive reactions. If the choice is to install cameras, for instance, then those devices need to provide real-time feeds. And, if the district installs a solution to monitor online documents, email, and/or social media, then it has to come with real-time connections that flow the data back to the stakeholders who can execute security plans and responses as needed. There can’t be 12- or 24-hour delays, much less 30 minutes. It has to happen now. Districts also need accuracy and efficiency in


their data collection and sharing. That requires attention to details like how you’re going to implement the solutions, who is going to be able to access them, and how that information will be distributed to key personnel when an incident occurs. We can look to the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting as an example of how important these points are. To avoid these catastrophic events in the future, districts need accuracy and efficiency into protocols related to how data are collected and shared. And, all of this has to be part of an overall, holistic approach to school safety and security. Going back a bit further in time, we see that nearly all known school shooters used social media in some way to communicate their intentions—even as far back as Columbine. Oftentimes, they’ll post it weeks in advance. Yet, districts and schools don’t monitor that as part of their security approach. Nobody looks at that or



in Education) standards. There’s a difference between a journal and a Google Doc, for example, and kids need to know what’s appropriate or inappropriate to write in a public communication forum. Finally, we have to hold students accountable to technology. There’s a disparity between what the parents are familiar with in terms of technology, and what the kids are familiar with. That’s where the school intercedes by saying, “Let us help you build your digital literacy skills so that you know what’s appropriate and inappropriate, for any kind of communication through technology, whether it be Google, Microsoft, Snapchat, Instagram, and so forth.” Ultimately, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you’re running a district that’s responsible for thousands of lives under 18 years old. In loco parentis gives schools the ability to act as a parent during school hours,


monitors it until it’s too late to do anything about it. The FBI does a good job of monitoring these posts and alerting districts to potential threat (via bulletins that they send to schools), but that can’t be the only thing we rely on to keep our schools, students, and staff safe. The question becomes, what can schools do to create a more holistic and effective approach to safety? It starts by looking at what kids are saying to one another. They’re using Google Docs, they’re on Instagram, Snapchat, and they’re on Twitter. That’s where they’re messaging one another and telling everyone what’s going on. Adults aren’t in these spaces with the kids, but they need to be. And let’s be clear: this isn’t an invasion of privacy, nor does it overstep any boundaries. Through in loco parentis, educators assume responsibility of students in school when parents or guardians aren’t present. Let me repeat that: Through in loco parentis, educators assume a relationship similar to that of a parent to a child. Following this legal doctrine, the safety of a student would trump the privacy that a student expects while in school when they are working or journaling in Google or Microsoft documents. Of course, there is a fine line between privacy and protection. In the healthcare field, when HIPAA was passed and implemented, was a very controversial legislation regarding the release of patient records. Based on FERPA, it essentially defined protection of the data by a randomly-assigned patient number. If there’s a lockdown at a hospital, for example, the administrators can use that number to let family members know a patient is safe. In K-12, we take the same approach with a student ID number, which essentially “cloaks” the child’s identity. Let’s say a student has expressed in a Google Doc that he wants to harm himself or others. Using a student safety platform like Gaggle, the district administrator receives an alert in realtime, alerting her to the problem. She then alerts law enforcement, which, in turn, addresses and handles the issue without incident. Through that whole process, the only time the student’s name would be released would be to 1) the administrator and 2) law enforcement. When I was an Assistant Superintendent in a large urban district, I subscribed to this methodology to ensure our students were protected from any online predators to the best of my ability and that I was aware of their safety needs at all times, even when working in an online environment. This challenge of school safety isn’t going to go away. You’ve installed the gates and fences.

You have doors that lock automatically. You have a protocol that says everyone has to check in at the main office. And, you have identification tags for visitors and now, even students. Historically, these have been the core elements of a “safe” school environment. Unfortunately, there are some depraved people out there and our nation’s schools have to do a better job of identifying them and preparing for them. By kicking off a student communication scanning initiative, schools can immediately add an extra layer of protection that offers something many families can’t afford, but that many of them would gladly endorse. Children also need to be taught responsible digital literacy skills in a world where so much communication and interaction takes place online. This skill-building should be integrated into all subject areas through adopting the ISTE (International Society for Technology

which means ensuring student safety at all costs. Transparency in the safety and security planning process informs parents of how the school intends to keep their students safe while in its care – physically and when online. Again, there is a fine line between protection and privacy, but it can be managed with good policies and parental permission. The key is to be transparent in your planning processes for how you’re going to manage safety and security, and then communicate those intentions to all stakeholders. I can’t think of one parent who would choose their child’s privacy over their child’s protection and safety, can you? Kecia Ray, Ed. D, the CEO of K20 Connect and an Instructor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Ray also serves as a Brand Ambassador for Tech & Learning.


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Using Personalized Learning to Close Reading Gaps By Dr. David F. Lewis


eachers are always concerned about “adding one more program” to their plates. So, as our district team researched the merits of personalized learning, we saw that implementing a personalized learning program could help us reach several of our instructional objectives without additional burden on our teachers. In fact, if we implemented a comprehensive program with fidelity, teachers would have more tools, training and technology to help them differentiate instruction. We wanted to: ■■ Train teachers how to differentiate instruction and provide technology to help them ■■ Have students take more responsibility for their own learning ■■ Close reading gaps for our struggling students Muscogee County School District is near Fort Benning, Georgia. As a military community, a large percentage of our 31,500 students are transitory. Also, we have a 24% poverty rate, and 78% of our students are on some kind of meal assistance program. The district felt that it was critically important that personalized learning ensured that our students did not have gaps or redundancies in their instructional programs. Fortunately, we received a grant from the governor’s office that allowed us to pilot personalized learning in second and third grade in three of our more challenged schools last year. We had already done the background research on the devices we wanted to use from durability and capacity standpoints; we selected Chromebooks and piloted a personalized learning initiative. The program results were impressive in terms of student engagement, and our teachers reported a greater sense of efficacy. The results confirmed our theory that personalized learning would help us achieve our goals, so the school board gave us


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the go-ahead to move forward districtwide. Ed Elements helped us plan and execute the rollout of devices. We piloted the 1:1 Chromebooks in second and third grade last year at three schools; we just deployed Chromebooks in all middle schools at the beginning of the current school year; and started deploying the devices to all of our high schools in January. Then at the beginning of next school year, we will issue Chromebooks to all elementary students—completing the 1:1 rollout.

CHOOSING READING CURRICULUM AND SUPPLEMENTAL PROGRAMS When I first arrived as superintendent and reviewed the reading gap data, I was concerned that there was not a standard approach to literacy instruction throughout the district. In addition to the gaps and redundancies in our instruction, we were also transitioning from a low-level statewide assessment to a much higher level assessment. All of this was the catalyst for searching for a curricular reading backbone. We chose one product for the district, but even as we standardized the reading curriculum, we saw that teachers needed more assistance with differentiating instruction. Many teachers were challenged by how to fully utilize different aspects of the reading program because these topics were not a part of their pre-service teacher education. So, we wanted to address that, while at the same time teach the scientific aspects of reading. We also needed something to help us differentiate instruction and provide quality Tier 1 instruction that aligned with our MTSS scalability from Tier 1 to Tier 3. The district developed pacing guides and we continued to use the supplemental resources we had found successful. Although we had a solution to serve upper-level reading, we still had a need to provide support for lower grades. The grant allowed us to use Lexia Core5 Reading to focus on grades K–2 at three high-need schools. After

the pilot results, we decided to implement Lexia more broadly and use it with our struggling readers in all elementary grades.

THE RIGHT PEOPLE WITH THE RIGHT PLAN FOR PERSONALIZED LEARNING Last year’s pilot got off to a strong start because we worked with early adopters in our district who volunteered to be part of the pilot. You have to be comfortable with the concept of personalized learning and interested in learning yourself. Teachers attended a boot camp where they learned about implementing personalized learning and what that really meant. Differentiation is part of personalized learning, but the terms are not synonymous. The boot camp



training helped teachers really understand that, and they became better teachers. It is possible to personalize learning without technology, but using technology that offers explicit, systematic instruction frees up time for teachers to address the individual needs of each student and provide higher-order feedback. What we saw from our pilot last year was that students began to take more ownership in their learning, they were more engaged and behavior significantly improved at those three schools. One of the outcomes of the pilot was that we saw the ownership of the learning move from teacher to student. The instructional software is great for generating immediate feedback about the student relative to mastery, but using the higher-order feedback—the information that teachers gain from the software to work more effectively with individual students—that is the real art of teaching. We’re providing both the art and science of learning through personalized learning. The results speak for themselves. In one of the pilot schools, 100% of the students closed their learning gaps and achieved their progress goals as defined by the state. The other two pilot schools had similar results.

personalized learning, and Lexia is a big part of it. Core5 is research-proven and now classroomproven in our district. We believe in balanced literacy, in which phonics and decoding are so important, and it does this very well. And, of course, the information the program provides to teachers gives them tremendous insight into the needs of each student. We are helping students

build a learning path and supporting their personalized learning through our technology and devices. I think this is an efficient and effective way to supplement our reading instruction and help students close their reading gaps. Dr. David Lewis is superintendent of Muscogee County (GA) School District.



Nothing begets success like success. The early adopter teachers in the pilot received all the training and support they needed to be successful. This year they are working with colleagues to help them achieve similar results in fourth and fifth grades in those same schools. After seeing the success that their peers had last year, there is an organic excitement and energy around personalizing learning. The teachers are carrying this forward. It’s not a mandate from the administration. We have also been working with our local university, Columbus State, from which 65% of our teachers have graduated. Pre-service teachers take part in the professional training from EdElements. We include them in this approach to teaching so they can hit the ground running as beginner teachers in our system. This has been a win-win for us. We provide a bridge for them from college students to first-year teachers, and they come out better prepared and knowledgeable about the process and resources we utilize. The hope is that they will be more successful in their early careers, and we will reduce the turnover that often happens in the first three to five years of teaching. Our district is enthusiastic about this shift to


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for education to enable students to learn knowledge points better by interacting with otherwise invisible micro-level processes; for me, this is the right way to approach VR content development. So, where do decisions like these leave schools who appreciate the value of VR in the classroom? As the appreciation of the important benefits of VR leads to more schools committing to the technology, we will see these high quality edtech developers grow further, increasing the quality and diversity of their learning content. The future is bright! Google’s decision is, in a way, a positive move for schools. The education content providers that are surviving are the good ones that are carefully matching the content to the curriculum; in effect the market has created its own natural filter of quality. VR education expert Kai Liang

Getting Real about VR By Kai Liang


roponents of VR believe that it is an excellent educational tool which allows students to play a more active role in learning by exploring and manipulating three-dimensional, interactive environments that create a feeling of ‘being there;’ especially beneficial for concepts that can’t be ‘seen.’ Taking chemistry as an example of one curriculum area, rather than trying to understand atoms from a textbook, using VR, students can ‘fly’ inside various molecules, making invisible atomic and molecular concepts visible and experienced on a human scale. I play an active part in the majority of edtech developments in China, Australia, Romania, UK and South East Asia. In China in particular, the government is committed to VR in education. With all this in mind, I was interested in finding out more about Google’s perceived move away from VR production. Of course, as with many news items, the headline doesn’t tell the full story. At first glance, the headline suggests its move away from VR is because it doesn’t believe in the benefits of the technology. However, when you read further, the report actually stated that it was simply a case of its VR hub funding coming to an end.


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Google’s decision to move away from VR hardware development was also not based on its lack of belief in the power of VR in education; it was because it doesn’t see a future for smartphonebased VR in a box, and I agree with this. The second reason is an age-old problem that we see too often in education: it’s not a big enough audience to attract these multinational giants. The current uptake of VR in schools is gaining good speed, but this is simply NOT comparable to the quantity of business Google expects in the consumer space.

THE CHANGING FACE OF VR CONTENT SUPPLY When I started out in the VR space, there were more than a hundred VR content developers in China; these companies were trying to be everything for everyone. Unsurprisingly, today, this has thinned down to leave only those who are fully committed to supporting the education sector. Of course, while the hardware headsets are important, the quality of the content is the real king! Google Expeditions, zSpace, Lifeliqe are good examples, but the strength of education content developers such as MEL Science is based on their start as science education companies, not VR developers. It’s not about VR, it’s about using the technology

VR HARDWARE MATURITY At an entry level, schools can actually make VR headsets very easily out of cardboard! One step up from this is DIY kits that produce a plastic headset; a slightly better VR experience for around $25. Taking another step up in terms of cost and quality involves manufactured headsets such as Oculus Go’s for $199. Huawei’s new super light and relatively cheap VR Glass headset is expected to sell millions and ignite the market; good news for the quality content providers in education. When we look at the growing maturity of VR technology, it’s interesting to note that there are an increasing number of universities offering a degree course in VR, something that was unheard of a few years ago. So, whether you use VR because of its incredible education power or because students will undoubtedly be using the technology in their future lives, VR is here to stay.



Tech&Learning advisor Monica Burns shares with you her highlight notes from FETC2020. For full access to links and multimedia resources that complement these tools, go to If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that I attended the FETC Conference in Miami. This trip was my fifth time at this event and third as a featured speaker. In between leading workshops and sessions, I was able to get down to the Expo Hall and learn about some new edtech tools. A few of these companies were totally new to me, and several were part of the Startup Pavilion. If there is a new edtech tool that has you excited, share with me on social and tag @classtechtips.

CODING FOR KIDS The first on the list is Matatalab, a coding kit for kids that I had the chance to see in ac-


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tion. It provides a hands-on opportunity for students to explore coding principles. The coding set gives students access to a mat and pieces to move into a pattern.I tried out Matatalab’s coding kit and was very impressed. They also have a musical component that you might want to explore, too.

LITTLE GENIUS STARTER KIT I’m a big fan of Osmo and have seen their apps and tools in action in classrooms across the country. I spent some time on the show floor exploring their “new to me” Little Genius Starter Kit, which includes four different options, including

skill-building practice with storytelling and letter recognition.

SKETCH COMEDY SAT VIDEOS If you’re looking for a new way for students to prepare for the ACT or SAT exams, you’ll want to check out Prepmedians. This website is full of engaging, sketch comedy-inspired videos to help students get ready to take these exams. Full disclosure—I’ve met their enthusiastic founder before and went to high school with his brother, but didn’t know about this awesome endeavor until I came across it on the list of startups at this year’s pavilion.

INTERACTIVE READING LIBRARY Kidint is all about storytelling. It gives users access to hundreds of books and encourages reading together as a family. It works on a variety of devices and lets new users try it out for free for a full month. I like how families can set up profiles for their children and how it awards badges, too. This tool grabbed my attention because I’m always looking for apps and websites that promote joint media engagement.

VIDEO PLAYLISTS If you listen to my Easy EdTech Podcast, you know that I love videos and even have an

episode all about creating video playlists in the classroom. Well, Vubble is an edtech tool designed to create video feeds for students with high-quality content. They’ve partnered with a bunch of notable folks already, including Pearson and the Canadian Film Centre. This grabbed my attention because video is a powerful way to communicate information, and the more we can make sure this happens in a high-quality way, the better.

combination of differentiated resources and gamified learning for math.



Glose is a reading platform that gives students and teachers access to hundreds of books — for free. Students can customize the reading interface, and teachers can monitor student progress. It creates a social network so students can talk about what they’re reading and connect with others. This edtech tool grabbed my attention because… Glose has both a free and paid version meaning you can jump into this ebook library right away.

Boddle is an interactive math game for students in elementary school. It’s an adaptive learning platform and provides content tailored to the needs of individual students in your class. With standards connections and assessments for a variety of math skills, Boddle is worth checking out. This grabbed my attention because of the

Dr. Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. She is the author of Tasks Before Apps (ASCD) and #FormativeTech (Corwin). Visit Monica’s site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.


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Here are digital classroom tools to help support project-based learning By Nikki Schafer Project-based learning (PBL) has been around a lot longer than its recent history might lead us to believe. If you have been reading headlines, tweets, or Facebook posts, you would think PBL just emerged on the scene. In truth, the idea of “learning by doing” has been around since the time of Confucius. Critical thinking has been a focus in education for centuries. In fact, entire education systems have been built on getting students to not just memorize, but experience the learning. John Dewey took experience-based learning even one step farther when he suggested that student interests should be considered. Dewey’s work on pragmatism (the use of hands-on, real-world experiences) in education is the foundation of today’s PBL. Using the same tools Dewey used in the early 20th century does not help students much today. However, PBL offers a scaffold to guide students to make the most of their learning, and makes the perfect spot for the use of more modern technology tools. The Buck Institute for Education: PBLWorks is one of the premiere resources for leaders and teachers looking for information on PBL. Everything you could need to get up and running is here, including ample useful examples of lesson plans and tips. For example, “Essential Project Design Elements” outlines the seven elements that, combined, make up a truly transformative PBL experience. Today’s technology has the power to facilitate a more in-depth exploration of these elements than ever before. Each element has its own goal and may require various technology tools. Ultimately, a resource such as PBLWorks can help students complete a meaningful project and work on advanced real-world skills at the same time.

CHALLENGING PROBLEM OR QUESTION The focus of the project for the student will be a challenging problem or question. Teachers can decide to use current events, past events, or something fictional. The problem can be something student-discovered or teacher-directed. It can be local or worldwide. The real goal of is to provide a good starting point. It needs to be open-ended enough to provide room for exploration, but specific enough to guide students in their search for a solution. Since this is the basis for the project and all the learning involved, the importance of a solid question can’t be overstated. Since the subject and student age are more than likely pre-determined, you will want to start with the topic to be covered. From there, you can use an online conversation board like Padlet or Google’s Jamboard to ask for student input. You could create a board with areas for what students already know about the chosen topic, and one for what students would like to know. If teachers are struggling to come up with driving questions, the PBLWorks Projects page can be a good place to start.


SUSTAINED INQUIRY In PBL, inquiry can involve many different sources. The process of sustained inquiry is not one that will be completed quickly, and it will involve more than one or two research sessions. Inquiry is the idea that students should keep digging and searching until they have reached a satisfactory solution. Book or online research may not be the only thing students do, but it may take up a large chunk of time in the inquiry process. Students need to know how to find reputable, verified sources of information. Common Sense Media has two programs that touch on Digital Literacy: Digital Passport for grades 3 to 5, and Digital Compass for grades 6 to 8. Both these programs will help students be better digital citizens while moving through the inquiry phase of their project.

AUTHENTICITY Part of the reason PBL is such a meaningful practice in education is its connection to authentic, real-world issues. Students can be guided to a project involving problems in the school, their neighborhood, or the world. Establishing such a connection makes the learning worthwhile for them.


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ESSENTIAL TECH in the world. Why not have your project on the repercussions of the Cold War critiqued by an actual Smithsonian representative? Imagine how much learning would happen then!


STUDENT VOICE AND CHOICE Teachers know that when students have a say in their learning, they feel more engaged and become invested. Giving students as many choices as possible in their project will keep them from seeing it as just one more thing to do. Allow students to let their creative side shine with tools such as Canva or Buncee, two multimedia creation tools. If there is a chance to let the students decide, take it.

REFLECTION The process of reflection is a large component of the PBL approach. Teachers should schedule time to allow students to check-in, debrief, and give feedback. Having prompts structured around the learning targets will help students better connect the project to the classroom content. Flipgrid is a perfect fit for teachers looking to “clone” themselves. It allows teachers to record a video prompt, which students can respond to in video form as well. Then teachers can watch the reflections when they’re able to and can be prepared to respond to the students’ needs. Book Creator is another tool worth considering. It can be a wonderful place to keep track of research, solutions that have been successful or unsuccessful, and reactions. Having all the pieces and parts of the project in one place (that can be shared with a teacher) would be helpful for student and teacher organization.

CRITIQUE AND REVISION Giving and receiving feedback is an art that students must learn to be successful. PBLWorks asks students and teachers to focus on high-quality critique with helpful revision suggestions.


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It is suggested that students review their own learning as well. Rubrics and other structures can and should be used to guide students in their critiques. Feedback can also come from adults from outside of the school, perhaps in areas of expertise pertinent to the project. For example, teachers could connect with local architects to give feedback on student home designs, or with a largeanimal veterinarian to give feedback on a new saddle for students with disabilities. For this type of connection, teachers may not always be able to find a local professional, which is where a video conference tool can be very helpful. Zoom, Skype, and other video connection apps can allow for collaboration with professionals from anywhere

PUBLIC PRODUCT The idea of having a product to display at the end of the project gives students something concrete to work toward, although there is no “right way” to showcase solutions--the sky’s the limit! Tinkercad allows students to design a 3D object, such as a bridge over a particular span of water, then print it with a 3D printer to display and test it. Presentation software like Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint are also popular choices, with many students appreciating the automatic cycling feature. Many schools host some kind of display night, allowing students to interact with an authentic audience of adults from their school community. Project-based learning is such a wide umbrella, and there are many ways to have a positive impact on student learning through hands-on experiences. What the Buck Institute for Education: PBLWorks has done is given teachers a starting point, a guide to getting started with PBL. From there, who knows what shape PBL will take in each individual classroom? That is one of the joys for teachers: seeing how the process encourages curiosity and morphs as students take ownership of their own learning.


It is sometimes hard to imagine helping people in places you have never seen. This is where a tool like Google Earth might be helpful. Students can see the landscape of the area their project is based on, which may radically change the solutions they are able to develop. For example, the platform could be used in a project such as designing a city park so that children have more space to run and play, which would require students to find an area to place the park, determine its measurements, and then design the park accordingly.

HOW it’s DONE School and District Leaders Share How They’re Making IT Work

3D Printing in Action Creating Real-World 3D Printing Products By Shannon Mersand Students at James I. O’Neill High School in Highland Falls Fort Montgomery School District in New York, under the leadership of school media specialist Sheri McNair, have moved beyond printing simple key chains and phone cases to creating working prototypes of real world products. One project students in McNair’s Discovery CS & Coding course complete is to create an original arcade game combining coding, 3D printing, and fabrication. Student first design and code a video game on that utilizes the 4 arrow keys and spacebar for play. They then have to design and build a desktop-computer sized arcade cabinet to enclose and hide all but the screen on a Chromebook. Finally, using BlocksCAD, a cloud-based 3D modeling tool that utilizes block based programming, students create controllers for their games, which are printed using Dremel’s 3D40 and Protopasta’s conductive filament . The controllers are then attached to a Makey Makey , which in turn is connected to the Chromebook. This allows the conductive controllers to be “activated” and work as part of the cabinets build. A second project students complete in McNair’s course is a building a working drone. Students again utilize BlocksCAD to code the design of a drone body, and print it on the Dremel 3D40. During this project students are working on design and coding skills, as well as learning about aerodynamics as they design a drone that needs to fly. Rather than allowing students to print pre-made models, McNair requires students to design their own, accounting for things like weight of the finished product and its relationship with flight. According to McNair “Students learned quickly that they need to hollow out their designs, as many of the first attempts don’t make it more than a few feet off the ground. This type of hands-on problem solving allows students to break design problems down into their component parts, and learn from their failures.”

TAKING 3D PRINTING TO THE NEXT LEVEL Under the guidance of Michael Leczinsky, a full time lecturer and director of the University’s makerspace, undergraduate students in the College of Emergency


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Students design and fabricate their own game controllers


One 3D-printing project for students at James O’Neill High School involves creating original arcade games, including consoles. Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany have taken 3D printing to the next level, exploring customization and personalization to solve problems big and small. Leczinsky credits the dramatic drop in costs associated with 3D printing with revolutionizing how we solve problems, stating “the sub $500 3D printers is a huge win for schools, libraries, makerspaces, hobbyists, and industry as it allows us to solve problems in entirely new ways. When we have a problem, technology exists to solve it. The rise in open source hardware and software is democratizing access to tools and innovation.” The CEHC UAlbany Makerspace is equipped with Prusa i3 3D printers and AutoDesk Fusion 360. The Prusa i3 is based on the open source concept, and offers pre-built as well as build your own printers. Leczinsky describes Prusa printers as rugged and easily fixable - noting that with the amount of use the 3D printers in the makerspace get, the ability to print new parts when repairs are needed makes them ideal. Students in Leczinsky’s courses, as well as students using the makerspace as hobbyists, are engaged in a number of projects as they learn to prototype products for real world problems. As students advance in their skills, the focus turns to solving problems big and small. From designing storage solutions, to creating vent covers for 3D PRINTING, CONTINUED ON PAGE 29 ❱

HOW it’s DONE Tech’s Gone Country AR/VR in Rural Ed By Sascha Zuger One rural district opened the world to their students using augmented and virtual reality elements to enrich core subjects and prepare them for the future.

Who: Tina Bobrowski, Library Media Specialist Where: Owsley County High School in Southeastern Kentucky What: Using AR/VR to enhance rural education Our students live in an isolated area in southeastern Kentucky. Without access to experiences that would be readily available in larger cities, such as museums and job shadowing experiences, and with a steep socio-economic gap with learners from other regions, we quickly realized that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can bridge this gap by providing our students access to virtual experiences and resources in the fields of medicine, arts and humanities, and mathematics. Students learn immersed virtual worlds more quickly and with greater mastery. A big thing about our community is its natural beauty. Being located in the Appalachian mountains gives our students the opportunity to be surrounded by natural beauty including the Kentucky river, the Red River Gorge area, and the nearby Daniel Boone National Forest. Our student senate began an initiative The use of virtual technology allows all with support from a community challenge students to participate in the learning.


the makerspace’s laser cutter, Leczinsky explains “we may be creating low impact unexciting things, but the idea of customizing to solve your own problems is the focus.” Not all projects being created in the space are low impact, however. Matthew Tyler, a recent graduate of the Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security program, is working with local first responders to prototype and develop parts and modifications for first responder’s drones. The intent of the project is to develop modifications for existing drones to allow for additional sensors, actuators, and parts. According to Leczinsky “In one case, the part designed allows responders to attach lights to the drone so they can illuminate an area and provide better situational awareness and safety for the response team.” Leczinsky went on to describe additional projects such as equipping drones with speakers so that first responders can engage in two way communicate when responding in emergencies, or developing actuators that would allow first responders to use drones to drop life saving medical supplies, or even life rafts. Once the prototypes are approved, Leczinsky

Owsley County High School students in rural Kentucky have been able to overcome distance and socioeconomic gaps through augmented and virtual reality. grant awarded by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) to capture the beauty of our region and tell our story as citizens of Owsley County and southeastern Kentucky. We purchased a drone to fly in the woodland areas and capture images and video of the natural wonder that is southeastern Kentucky.

POSITIVE RESULTS In a high school setting, where students are often hesitant to raise their hands, come to the board, or demonstrate their learning, we have witnessed our students jumping at the chance to put on the headset and explore, show their friends what they have found, and share their experience with others. Students make connections and use them to cement concepts gained from their texts and lessons. With the implementation of drone technology in our classes, students are beginning to see new fields of employment, including unmanned aerial photography and videography. AR/VR, CONTINUED ON PAGE 31 ❱

estimates they will be deployed across New York State to equip more than 200 drones with additional functionality, and will be used in daily emergency response activity. Leczinsky explains “with reasonable computing power, and cost effective tools, anyone can learn to solve simple and complex problems. The underpinnings of our space are to help users learn to do just that.”

CHOOSING A 3D PRINTER 3D printing applications at the PreK-12 and college level offer opportunities for students to engage in real world problem solving, building, design, coding, and critical thinking skills that can be applied to 21st century problems. Choosing the right 3D printer for your students can lead to a world of possibility. Tech&Learning’s 3D Printer Guide offers a detailed comparison of the best 3D printers for the education environment today. Not sure that a 3D printer is your best choice? Check out Tech&Learning’s look at 3D printing pens for education.


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eSports In School? Game On! By Sascha Zuger “Put down that textbook and get on your Nintendo Switch!” Not exactly the usual convo between parent and student, but for 330 4th through 6th graders at Anaheim Elementary, their love of gaming is getting top marks.

Who: Cory Robertson, Directory of Technology Where: Anaheim Elementary School District, Anaheim, CA What: Creating an eSports-based Curriculum I’ve been a gamer since I was five and have always been a part of the gaming community, but I noticed that the online discourse was getting more and more toxic. I worried that the culture that brought me so much joy growing up was no longer a place I could allow my own kids. In education, we have spent 20 years teaching kids how to be good digital citizens—how to hold online discussions, ignore rude/bullying posts, avoid chat rooms—yet, we don’t have any formal instruction based in the gaming world. That’s where our program comes in. Educators in the Anaheim Elementary School District in California have been “Nurturing Positive Gamers” is 9-week curriculum for 4th- through 6thfocused on nurturing more positive gamers. graders focused on the social-emotional learning aspects of gaming. We teach kids how to maintain positivity through tough gaming interactions, how to provide critical feedback, how to deal classroom have become leaders of their Rocket League TECH TOOLS with confrontations, and more. The program culminates Team. Students who were constantly talking in class have in a district-wide tournament (our kids play Rocket become Shoutcasters and now have an entire auditorium League via Nintendo Switches), in which students get an of 400 adults laughing and yelling along with them as ■■ Nintendo Switches opportunity to put to test all that they’ve learned. they broadcast from the stage. Our teachers advocated (durable, wireless offline multifor these students to be a part of the program and, with player options) almost no exception, those kids have become leaders, role ■■ Rocket League (non-violent, models, and have something to be proud of at school. team soccer-like format, with a They felt success during a school day in a way that they pro gaming community presence) rarely ever do. Games are a great place to express yourself. Like to ■■ Google Meet (to stream draw? Love music? Interested in the functions of technolour lessons) ogy and audio-video systems? There’s a career in gaming for ■■ Gaming Career Partners you. It’s all about choice and options, and making sure every ■■ Twitch streamers— child in our district knows they have a place in this world.

The positive gaming curriculum focuses on the socialemotional aspects of gaming.

POSITIVE RESULTS We’re seeing lots of positive results with student behavior and confidence. Many participants who many not have been excelling in traditional ways in the


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JoMo Senpai ■■ Rocket dev— Psyonix ■■ Professional eSports shoutcasters— Adam “Lawler” Thornton ■■ Logo design and branding of teams—Laura Houston, VAPA TOSA ■■ Game music creation— Mark Anderson, music specialist ■■ Video production— Brian Brooks, media services supervisor

BIGGEST CHALLENGE One of the biggest challenges was getting parents on board. I heard quite a few parents say different versions of, “You mean I spend all my time at home telling my child to NOT play video games, and now you’re asking them to play at school?!?” To address this, we held parent meetings. Once we explained the job opportunities, the college scholarships, and the reality that their kids will play games online—and that we are ensuring that they do so in a positive way—we had more than a few parents say that they wished we’d started earlier. Based on that feedback, we are exploring a modified version of the program for younger kids. For students under 13, there are state and federal re-

HOW it’s DONE strictions on what platforms we can use so as to avoid inappropriate content and communications. This effectively ruled out Playstation, Xbox and PCs. Nintendo Switch inherently blocks all online communication, and the ad hoc wireless options makes the eSports program portable and systematically feasible for our large district (23 sites, more than 16,300 students).

PRO TIPS Start small. We’ve held gaming tournaments (through coding) for a decade so it was easy for us to add this layer to an already established program. If just one teacher is excited by this, then start it up! Don’t be afraid to reach out to industry representatives. I found veteran professional gamer JoMo Senpai simply watching Twitch on a Friday night with my boys. I reached out to ask if I could use one of his videos in our lesson. Not only did he say yes, but he offered to speak to our kids and may come to do in-person coaching with our Shoutcasters. We also reached out via Twitter to Psyonix (the developers of Rocket League, or “dev”), caster Adam “Lawler” Thornton, and others. People involved in the industry know that the future thrives on the kids who are playing now, and that we all benefit from our kids learning.

FINDING FUNDING The eSports gaming curriculum is designed for students in grades 4 to 6.

We paid for the technology utilizing general funds. The total cost for the six schools was $12,000. The curriculum was created in house.


Not only is it in their digital world, where they feel comfortable as digital natives, but it also provided them with more immersive learning, where students felt free to take risks and explore. In particular, they immediately bought into the idea of flying a drone for class. Journalism students were eager to “spread their wings,” learn to fly, get coverage of locations and scout ideas for other flights quickly. ELA students took a virtual reality tour of Ancient Greece, focused on Greek sculpture, then utilizing Z spaces actually created their own “virtual sculpture of a peer” in a similar style.


Owsley County High School, in the heart of Appalachia. Our biggest obstacle is capacity. With only one virtual reality headset currently and six augmented reality systems, students must work in small groups. new viable options for graduates who may choose to stay and work from We overcame our challenges by embracing modular learning, where students their homes in tech fields. Having tech skills is imperative as our community’s receive information at one station, work on Z Spaces in TeleWorks USA Hub has provided work in our area from another station, and complete other portions of their lesson Apple, DELL, UHaul, Amazon, Concentrix and is now the TECH TOOLS in the classroom. largest employer in our county.

FINDING FUNDING Grant funding has supported this initiative. In addition to federal Title I funding where available to support student learning. Unfortunately, in our small socio-economically distressed area, traditional jobs are not available. Our new Gigabit Community with high speed internet can provide

AR and VR provides new learning opportunities for students.

■■ Z Space Augmented Reality System ■■ Primary and Secondary AR glasses/Stylus/Tables to support at least three chairs per Z Space ■■ Custom Built PC with additional large monitor for other students to observe ■■ HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System with Audio Upgrade (overthe-ear headphones) ■■ Viveport software subscription service ■■ DJI Mavic Pro 2 drone

PRO TIPS Target specific units of study when implementing software. Utilize available space and stage the learning environment. In addition, make sure students can not only utilize the technology, but observe others utilizing the technology, see what they are doing, and share their experiences. When looking into drone technology, educators should take a close look at larger companies and understand the standards for sensors, and how drones can be used in the classroom. Companies such as DJI cater specifically to the educational realm. Finally, make all decisions on what is best for students and what can remove barriers to student learning. Carefully review software to include students with special physical considerations, including assisted visuals, captioned audio, seated only interactions, and controller sensitivity adjustment for learners who may need assistance with their fine motor skills. We have found all students, including “differentlyabled” students with special needs, find virtual learning to be more accessible than traditional learning resources.


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Enrichment - It’s Good for the Sole By Sascha Zuger One Massachusetts middle school teacher challenged her students to use their creativity, and some tech, to design the perfect parkour shoe.

Who: Diane Hichborn, Middle School Teacher— Math, Science, Humanities Where: Sparhawk Middle School— Amesbury, MA What: Parkour and the Octoshoe, a Sucker for PBL Enrichment One fall recess I observed a few students tumbling on the ground, jumping off of boxes and projecting off walls. When returning to class, they asked if we could have a Parkour Enrichment. Enrichments are six-week-long courses that provide learning experiences outside the regular curriculum. They are derived from traditional academic domains, the art and kinesthetic realms or practical life-skills and tease out an array of interests in our students. I looked into what it takes to build a course for that type of activity. It must have been meant to be! When I opened my email, there was an invitation from TERC—a non-profit group made up of math and science education and research experts— announcing the Data Arcade Sportslab Parkour Shoe Design Challenge. The challenge took students through an online environment of the sport; Creativity and originality are strongly encouraged set up with milestones and in the design challenge. labs to uncover information needed to create deliverables. During some labs, students tested the coefficient of friction on sneaker outsoles and how the force of jumping affected the design of the midsole. Teams worked together to build models of sneakers that enhanced the shoelace-tying experience. The winning design, Octoshoe, used bio-mimicry to do away with the laces, instead using an octopus-like strap that secured the sneaker with suction cups. Students watched and interviewed real athletes in action. They collaborated in designing the final product.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE The main obstacle I had was the time investment. Fortunately, our current science topic was Forces and Motion, so I was able to incorporate the challenge into


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Designing shoes for parkour helps to boost STEM skills in Sparhawk Middle School students. our curriculum. The final project was to include a business card including a team logo, a presentation board showing the anatomy of the sneaker’s features, and a sales pitch.Together, the students and I learned how designers illustrated the marketability of their shoes and techniques of preparing computer-aided presentations.

POSITIVE RESULTS The competition was rewarding in itself. Students enjoyed critiquing other teams’ designs and said that they will never look at a sneaker the same way. They learned that it was not about the competition, but all that they had achieved along the journey. (Sparkhawk teams took two of the top three awards in the Challenge.)

PRO TIPS Patience and the ability to listen to each student’s ideas are key. I like sharing my ideas and knowledge with them so that they can learn and become more confident in their own abilities. I believe it is important to differentiate the curriculum to suit student’s abilities and then watch the range of possible outcomes. In the end, I reflect on the task, not only as a learning experience for the student, but also for myself.

FINDING FUNDING There was no cost as it was part of a grant that TERC received from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

TECH TOOLS ■■ Laptops ■■ Google search ■■ Spring scales and weights (to test for tread traction, finding the coefficient of friction) ■■ Recycled/upcycled materials ■■ 3D Sketch-up Design ■■ Architectural Tools ■■ Excel



LEGO EDUCATION’S SPIKE PRIME LEGO Education’s SPIKE Prime helps develop confidence and STEM skills By Chris Aviles


OVERALL RATING: APrice: $329.95

ince its unveiling in April 2019, LEGO Education’s SPIKE Prime has been the most anticipated product from LEGO Education. SPIKE Prime delivers an intuitive, naturally adaptive and highly inclusive learning experience that helps students build confidence and develop the essential STEAM and 21st-century skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce. In other

words, a product perfect for my classroom. Over the two weeks, my student Wyatt and I were lucky enough to play with

EASE OF USE Building SPIKE was a breeze for a seasoned veteran like Wyatt, but Wyatt also feels even a LEGO beginner would have an easy time getting SPIKE operational.

SPIKE Prime, which brings together LEGO bricks, a programmable, multi-port

Wyatt is also familiar with block-based coding so he found getting the

Hub, and sensors and motors, all powered by the engaging SPIKE App, which is

SPIKE Prime’s software up and running easy and the block-based coding pro-

based on the Scratch coding language. The kit also includes 32 lesson plans.

gram used to make SPIKE do what Wyatt wanted SPIKE Prime to do was also a pleasant experience.

QUALITY AND EFFECTIVENESS As with all LEGO products, SPIKE is colorful and well-made. SPIKE feels sturdy when fully constructed. The lesson plans capture valuable STEM standards

CREATIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY As a teacher, this was my favorite part of SPIKE Prime: creativity. SPIKE Prime

and design thinking concepts. Lesson plans are easily to follow and adapt to

can take many forms. Where many robotics kits see students build the same robot

school’s lesson plan requirements.

over and over again, SPIKE Prime can be built in many permutations. We saw

Wyatt found the instructions easy to follow and really enjoyed the way the

online that SPIKE Prime can be a robot, a car, a grabbing claw, a locking safe, a fac-

product came packaged. Every brick had its place. He found it easy to take out

tory, and more. The idea that SPIKE Prime can take so many forms, even forms not

and put away SPIKE, as it took us several recesses to put the SPIKE together.

written in the lesson plans, is something both Wyatt and I enjoyed.

SUITABILITY FOR USE IN A SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT SPIKE is designed for ages 10+, grades 6 to 8. I found the lessons to be academically appropriate for the grade levels SPIKE was intended for, but I also could see myself thinking ways to adapt SPIKE for different levels of academic need. I enjoyed watching Wyatt start out attempting to follow instructions for building a car-like robot, but quickly switch to building his own custom robot that could only be described as a can crusher.

OVERALL RATING Mr. Aviles - 5 out of 5 Stars! Wyatt – 10/10! We both loved SPIKE Prime. It is easily the best LEGO education product available.



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OVERALL RATING: A Price: $249.99

Build a Chromebox computer on the cheap By Brian Nadel


ant to turn an old display into a new all-in-one Chrome

as opening the box and snap-

machine for a classroom, study hall, library or computer

ping in extra memory modules.

lab? I did exactly that by pairing an Acer 21-inch HD

The system has a good mix of old and

screen with CTL’s Chromebox CBX1C computer. It was

new ports that will help it to fit into the teaching landscape. Up front, it has a pair

not only easy to accomplish but this small investment in

of USB 3.0 ports, a micro-SD card reader and a headphone jack, while the back

time and money paid huge dividends for learning.

has connections for a USB C, 2 USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 connection. Video is sent

The $250 Chromebox CBX1C is perfect for the job because it is a small, inexpen-

sive and competent Chrome-based desktop computer. At 1.6- by 5.9- by 5.9-inches, the system takes up one third the space of the more powerful and expensive Apple

to a display or projector with the CBX1C’s HDMI port, but the USB C port can also drive a display for turning the system into a dual-monitor powerhouse. A bonus is the combination of gigabit wired networking, an 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Mac Mini. While the CTL system includes the hardware for mounting it on the back

radio and Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless accessories. It worked well and connected on

of the display, Apple doesn’t make mounting hardware for the Mini.

the first try to my Wi-Fi network and wired infrastructure as well as keyboard, mouse and wireless speakers.

VOILA, INSTANT CHROME DESKTOP I started by removing the system’s rubber feet and then screwing the mounting plate onto the back of the display. The plate works with 100mm and 75mm VESA mounting designs, but the bolts CTL supplied were too long. I added a few washers when screwing the plate into the monitor’s back. In the end, everything fit perfectly. After that, I slid the Chromebox CBX1C onto the included bracket and connected the computer to the screen using an HDMI cable. I plugged it all in with the included power cord and added a video cable, old mouse and keyboard. Voila: instant Chrome all-in-one system. All the pieces were in place and I fired up the system and went through the Chrome

PROS • Inexpensive • Small • Includes VESA mounting hardware • Low operating expenses CONS • Included bolts for attaching computer to display were too long

set up routine to make it ready for students and teachers. All told, it took about 5 minutes to accomplish the transformation. It was time well spent. I now have a compact Chrome desktop computer ready for a variety of uses. It may not have a touch screen but it’s good for anything from checking on email and doing web research to running online lessons and driving a classroom projector.

EDUCATIONAL PERFORMER Over a month of daily use, my all-in-one Chrome desktop never let me down. Always ready for a lesson, online journeys or just replying to emails, the CBX1C registered 476 and 916 on Geekbench 5’s single- and multi-core benchmark tests, putting it slightly behind HP’s Chromebook X2 but ahead of Dell’s Chromebook 3100. It turned out to be plenty of power to handle writing and editing Google Docs, viewing YouTube videos, drawing with Sketchpad and using the Desmos graphic calculator. Despite its obvious place in the classroom, my homemade all-in-one Chrome system lacks a single switch to turn it on and off because the computer and screen are powered separately. To turn it on or off required reaching behind the screen to hit the

power switch. There is an easy fix for this: leave it on all the time and set the system up to go to sleep and turn the monitor off after 10 minutes of idleness. Leaving the power on all the time doesn’t sound particularly green because of the power wasted when it’s not being used. On the other hand, the CBX1C

Under its dark gray skin, the Chromebox CBX1C is the right balance between

with the monitor consumes less than 20 watts when being used and as little as

power and price. At $250, the system is based on Intel’s 1.8GHz dual-core Celeron

1.5-watts when idle, which adds up to about $5 a year if it’s used for 8 hours every

processor and has a generous 128GB of solid-state storage space--twice what most

school day and the school pays the average cost of electricity in the U.S. of 13

competitors offer. The system includes 4GB of RAM but adding more is as simple

cents per kilowatt-hour. In other words, it’s a bargain to use.


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HP ELITEDISPLAY S14 Two screens really can be better than one By Brian Nadel


ometimes huddling around the teacher’s notebook can be a little too close for a small group of students, while using the classroom projector might be too much. Using an external display facing the children while the teacher can see her display and the kids at once is often a strategy that’s just right.

At two pounds, about the size of a laptop computer and only

0.4-inches thick, HP’s $220 EliteDisplay S14 screen provides a quick and easy way to add a 14-inch external display. A must-have accessory, the S14 is an HD display with a wide 178-degree viewing


angle; figure that five or six can sit around it. The included cover protects the display’s glass surface from damage when it’s not being used. It doubles as a fold-open stand that holds the screen at a 35-degree tilt. While sturdy, it can’t be adjusted to a different angle or set up vertically. The display lacks VESA hardware for a generic stand or wall mount.

my Lightning-plug based iPad Pro. The display has an on/off button and fired up immediately. It showed a summary of the connection specs followed by either extending the host system’s

One of the easiest displays to use, forget about fumbling with HDMI or VGA

desktop or mirroring it.

cables, power adapters and crossing your fingers that it works. Just open the cover,

Hidden underneath are four keys for using HP’s Display Assistant soft-

plug the included USB-C cable into a notebook, desktop, phone or tablet and turn

ware to adjust the screen’s output. It takes a little getting used to, but I was

the display on. Unfortunately, the design precludes using a traditional HDMI or

able to change the screen’s brightness, contrast and choose among nine color

VGA cable to stream images to the S14.

modes plus a custom setting with your own color balance. For me, the HP Enhance + setting worked best, with excellent brightness and color balance


that closely matched the output of my Macbook Air. The good news is that

Its output was a little dimmer than the notebooks I used the S14 with, but it was plenty bright enough for use in a well-lit room. To try it out, I started by using an HP EliteBook Dragonfly notebook and then used it with an Apple Macbook Air, a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and an Acer Chromebook Tab 10. All four systems worked like a hand in a glove with the external monitor with no noticeable delay. It worked just as well going over geometric shapes and a timeline of history as with student photographs and online art. On the downside, the S14 refused to work with any of three USB C hubs I have, or

the screen used 5 watts of power, so it will only slightly reduce

PROS • Quick, easy setup • HD resolution • Extend or mirror host notebook • Cover doubles as stand CONS • Display stand angle not adjustable • Doesn’t work with traditional video cable

the battery life of the host notebook. I used the S14 to extend the notebook’s desktop to create a second screen alongside the host notebook. This allowed me to go over curriculum on one screen while working through my email or Web research on the other. It really comes into its own in mirroring mode. Here, the S14 display can be turned toward a small group of students or parents so that all can see the same images. In both cases, the teacher and her audience can maintain eye contact while both are looking at the same material. Regardless of whether it’s used to extend a desktop or mirror a notebook’s main screen, the $220 HP EliteDisplay S14 is not only one of the easiest portable monitors to use but it’s one of the best and least expensive.



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Able to work with just about any USB C-based system’s cables, the adapter is good for PC notebooks, like Dell’s XPS 13 and recent Microsoft Surface Books, Surface Pro Tablets as well as newer MacBooks, iPad Pros and Android phones and tablets. Well designed and manufactured, the magnetic adapter is available in silver or gray, weighs 0.1-ounce and the cable sticks out 0.3-inches away from the notebook’s base. While it risks covering up an adjacent port, it’s easy to reverse the adapter’s orientation so it’s out of the way. The break-away magnetic adapter has a sturdy aluminum case, 20 gold-plated connection pins for reliable transfers and a green LED that shows that it’s working. The adapter complies with the USB 3.1 standard, can move 10Gbps or stream 4K video and carry up to 100-watts of power. In other words, it should satisfy even the largest notebook. Its protective circuit cuts the cur-


PROS • Inexpensive • Small and light • Protects against power cable pulling system off desk • Gold-plated connection pins CONS • Can block adjacent port

Making power cords safer

rent in the event of an electrical short, although the iSkey adapter is not UL certified for safety. Easy to install and use, just plug the small part of the adapter into the notebook and the larger one on the end of a USB C cable. Happily, there’s no way to get it wrong, no software to install and no configuration changes to make. The kit includes the adapter’s two parts as well as a small plastic fork for prying the unit loose from a computer.

REAL WORLD TESTS Over the course of a month, I used the magnetic connector with an HP X2 Chromebook, a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, CTL Chromebox CBX1C and a recent Macbook Air. In each case, when I jerked the cord, the magnetic adapter broke free into two parts and the computer remained on the table,

saving it from a potentially catastrophic fall. It kept the Tab S4’s battery charged for

By Brian Nadel


more than a week of daily use and doubled to send video to a projector. For such a small device, the iSkey Magnetic USB C Adapter can be a

e’ve all seen it: a student trips over a power cord or yanks

lifesaver for school computers. It’s available on Amazon for $22 and might

it and the notebook or tablet goes flying across the room

seem like a luxury. In reality, it’s a pittance compared to the cost of replacing

with the inevitable consequences. The iSkey Magnetic

a computer.

USB C Adapter can put an end to this type of classroom tragedy by pulling apart when tugged. An ingenious design, the Magnetic USB C Adapter is

like Apple’s MagSafe plug and cord. The twist is that rather than being built into the notebook and power cable, the Magnetic USB C Adapter is in two parts: the smaller part plugs into the system’s USB C port and a larger one that goes on the end of the cable. When the two parts are brought to within about a quarter of an inch from each other, they snap together to form a single unit that allows the power and data to flow. But give the cable a yank and the two magnetic parts easily lose their grip and separate. This allows the system to stay put when the cord is pulled, averting a certain computer crisis.


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TECH & LEARNING NAMES THE WINNERS OF THE TCEA BEST OF SHOW 2020 Tech & Learning presents its annual awards program that honors nominated products at the annual TCEA conference. The products below were selected by an anonymous panel of educator judges, who scoured the exhibit hall floor during the conference in Austin. The judges rated their impressions of individual products on a sliding scale, evaluating areas such as quality and effectiveness, ease of use, cost, and creative use of technology. They then met in person to decide which technologies deserved to be named Best of Show.

“Congratulations to the following winners of the Best of TCEA contest,” says Tech & Learning Group Publisher Christine Weiser. “Our judges evaluated each product for its uniqueness in the market and the ability to solve problems in classrooms and schools. There were a variety of solutions nominated for the award, and our judges were impressed with the standout features of the following products.” Please join us in congratulating the following winners!



Abre is a platform that streamlines the software used to manage student and staff learning, daily school activities, data, learning partners, and more. Customers can customize the solutions they need, even down to individual apps, which are engineered to include necessary features without the bloat. “A large impressive management of curriculum, announcements, software licensing, PD, and the list goes on,” say our judges. “Easy to use, and can be customized by district or campus. It’s also parent accessible.”


Acer’s ConceptD 7 PC is a premium notebook for students in creative spaces including graphic design, film/photo editing, and shoutcasting esports tournaments. Shoutcasters can deliver real-time play-by-play and color commentary on the competition thanks to the 9th Gen Intel Core i7 processors and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics. It has a 15.6-inch 4K UHD PANTONE Validated display with 100% Adobe RGB color gamut and Delta E. Our judges say, “It’s a great laptop, and the ability to convert to a tablet is nice.”


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The Acer Predator Triton 500 fits the bill for eSports students needing for a powerful yet lightweight gaming notebook. It features an overclockable NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with Max-Q design, a 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H processor, a 512GB NVMe PCIe RAID 0 SSD, and 16GB DDR4 memory, plus a 15.6-inch 300 nits IPS display. “Fills a void left by other gaming laptops,” say our judges. “Having the NVIDIA G-SYNC technology in a portable gaming system is awesome.”


An Android-based, highresolution, high-brightness smart projector that transforms traditional classrooms into blended learning spaces. The BenQ Smart Control app and HID-compliant interactive whiteboard provide flexibility for teachers, and the wireless projection allows students to share their ideas without having to unplug or plug in devices. An innovative anti-dust accumulation sensor makes for energy-efficient projection through years of daily operation, even in harsh environments. “BenQ always makes quality products,” say our judges.


This HDMI screen mirroring system supports BYOD classrooms by allowing up to 32 presenters to lead from any device. Users simply plug the InstaShow transmitter into their device and tap to share content. It wirelessly transmits a signal to the display as soon as it’s plugged in, so users can connect and present without tech-related delays. Four can share the screen simultaneously. “Great product for BYOD or 1-to-1 schools,” say our judges. “Love the ability to show multiple devices.”


This projector provides vibrant colors and high brightness of 3500 lumens in WXGA resolution with no lamps or filters to replace and long-lasting performance of 20,000 hours. Additional features include a 1.5X zoom lens and a dust-resistant design that efficiently cools and reduces noise. Teachers can also remotely display their device or students’ devices from anywhere in the classroom. “We love the lamp-free technology,” say our judges, “And the cost savings from never having to replace bulbs.”


An all-in-one solution, this projector boasts 3500 lumens and a WXGA native resolution of 1280x800, making it bright and wide enough to see more content. With no lamps or filters to replace and long-lasting performance of 20,000 hours, it includes Casio’s Educational Solutions suite that facilitates easier use, plus an auto input search and the ability to remotely display a device from anywhere in the classroom. “We currently put Casio’s projectors in all of our classrooms,” say our judges.


This software makes lessons and group activities more collaborative by allowing students to wirelessly connect from their tablets, Chromebooks, or other devices. Teachers can view all connected devices at once and choose which to cast to the screen. It’s bundled with every Clear Touch® panel, so no third party hardware or renewing subscriptions. “Hook up to 64 devices through the software and you can choose up to four screens to show on board at a one time,” say our judges.


A software tool that comes bundled with Clear Touch panels, it provides the ability to remotely troubleshoot panels, monitor device usage statistics, act as a digital decoder, set power savings modes, and communicate announcements across individual panels or entire schools. Through a built-in digital decoder, schools can stream public television or other content without needing a third-party digital device. Our judges say, “A lot of IFP don’t have management pieces. ‘I didn’t even know that these existed.’”


i-Ready offers individualized instruction in reading and mathematics while also combining assessments and insights. The customizable diagnostic tool provides educators with actionable criterion-referenced and normative data. New mathematics and Spanish diagnostic tools have recently been added in addition to improved accessibility features, more robust historical reporting, and interactive learning games. “The power of the product is the ecosystem of the assessment, curriculum, and PD,” say the judges. “Adaptive learning, data-driven, and personalized.”


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Gizmos are more than 400 online simulations that cover topics and concepts in math and science for grades 3-12. Each comes with extensive teaching resources, including group and 1-to-1 lessons. The interactive design allows for extensive manipulation of variables and “what-if” experimentation, while visualizations and graphing tools help track results from experiments. In-depth activities also provide more opportunities to explore. Our judges: “Simple, easy to use, and ready-to-go lessons.”


An adaptive and individualized math curriculum that focuses on building basic fact fluency and quick recall for students of all ability levels, this solution combines research-proven methods and innovative technology. It offers continuous monitoring of each student’s performance, intuitive and powerful reporting, and anytime, anywhere access. “It’s adaptive and individualized math curriculum made to engage students utilizing games, making math fun while improving student math skills,” say our judges.


GoGuardian Admin keeps students safe on any device, browser, or OS, all from a single unified interface. Whether it’s a student network requiring granular filtering and reporting, a guest, or lab network—all is covered. It offers flexibility for specific schools’ policies, reducing time spent on configuration and maintenance. Beacon Starter can also be deployed within Admin at no additional cost to help support suicide prevention programs. “Great products and great customer service,” say our judges.


Powered by artificial intelligence, Amira Learning is the digital implementation of the TPRI assessment and dyslexia screener for grades K through 3, and provides 1-to-1 reading practice. Effective for all students, including English language learners, it also automates scoring and reporting. Reading practice is assisted by an AI avatar, and employs more than 25 different micro-interventions backed by the science of reading. Amira is compatible with the work of the psychometricians who created and support TPRI.



WhiteBox Learning is a complete standards-based STEM learning system for grades 6 to 12 that brings real-world design to the classroom. Twelve applications provide students the opportunity to design and analyze 3-D models, learning through simulations and unlimited design iterations. Model objects include items such as drones, racecars, and rover robots. Our judges say, “An amazing STEM app that allows students to simulate building and analyzing designs before a physical build.”


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Waggle, for grades 2 to 8, is a personalized, digital learning solution that combines adaptive learning technology, real-world teacher feedback, and gaming elements in a fun, online learning environment to engage students. Focused on math and English language arts, it addresses the five CASEL Framework Competencies through content, reflections, and interactions with others. Waggle also offers real-time insights. “The ability for the teacher to launch classroom-wide competitions and track measures such as grit and persistence is impressive,” our judges say.


Writable is a digital platform for grades K through 3 that delivers more than 600 comprehensive, customizable writing assignments. With it, teachers can offer meaningful, timely feedback in an easily digestible format, while an online suite of tools invites students to engage in purposeful writing. Teachers can streamline grading with stored comments, and the access to data helps drive instruction and practice. Our judges: “It offers great teacher feedback and individualized assessment.”



NetSupport DNA is an IT management and internet safety solution that helps educators, technicians and counselors manage all classroom devices and school-wide IT assets. It also allows counselors to proactively identify and protect students via internet metering, keyword/phrase monitoring, webcam controls, and concern reporting. New enhancements allow for increased efficiency and the reduction of excessive data storage. “The combination of so many vital IT services into one product simplifies efforts and costs for districts,” say our judges.



Lumens’ streaming toolkit has four elements: video and audio capture, production tools, encoding for streaming, and recording and content management. It allows up to four video sources, plus livestream and record and live switch scenes. Video and audio can be combined from multiple sources, and the multi-view director enables fast scene switching. “Simple, easy-to-use media processor,” say our judges. “Made for non-technical users needing to manage multiple video sources.”


Built for K-12 classroom Chromebooks, this case features wrap-around design and easy-grip book-cover spine. With rugged bumpers, overlap corners, and a wide, textured surface, it provides a steady carrying surface to help prevent drops. It also has rigid polycarbonate panels that protect against scratches and impact damage, and a TPU bumper with enhanced corners extend over the bottom of the case when closed. A clear back panel makes for easy scanning of asset tags. The non-slip feet provide stability.

A digital reading platform that provides students with 24/7 access to thousands of fiction and nonfiction books and news articles—in English, Spanish, and other languages. It includes colorful illustrations, professionally recorded audio, and annotation tools, plus built-in close reading tools, customizable literacy projects, and a large collection of nonfiction titles. “The ability to download books into the program allows for off-line access for students,” say the judges. “Cost might be a factor but it’s a great product.”


Curriculum-based measures that assess the developing literacy, numeracy, and socialemotional skills of pre-K children, myIGDIs also helps to identify learners who may need additional support to reach kindergarten-readiness benchmarks—and then gauges the effectiveness of that support. With both paper and electronic administration options, it provides clear instructions for delivery and scoring, plus detailed analytics to support screening and progress monitoring within RTI/MTSS models. The judges: “It addresses the screen time dilemma faced by many districts with students this age.”


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ON DEMAND Check out the following resources from our partner sites:




Enhancing Print-Based Learning: 4 Things Education and IT Leaders Should Know

An adaptive program focused on effectively differentiating math instruction and practice for students in grades K through 9, it includes interactive features, team challenges, real-world scenarios, and instant feedback. Embedded supports and scaffolds help students master even the most challenging math concepts as they move through increasingly complex levels and grade-specific math domains. “Combines the oft-used adaptive math software with a time-based component,” say the judges. “All lessons are teacher assigned.”

Sponsored by: Epson America and PaperCut

The Latest K-12 Digital Content Trends & Strategies That Make a Difference Sponsored by: OverDrive Education


Awards of Excellence– Secrets to Success


Schoolzilla’s data-driven dashboards give educators actionable insights into trends in student attendance and achievement, helping to identify opportunities to improve learning outcomes. Dashboards can integrate more than 135 education data sources, including student information systems, interim and state tests, Star Assessments, and behavior management systems. Education leaders can also track daily progress toward goals around chronic absences, grades, student growth, and college readiness. “Analytics made easy for administrators,” say our judges.

What Ed Tech Apps Work Best for Learning? 10 Tips to Make the Most of Teacher Webinars


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By using a variety of sensors with the STEAM kits and the Google Workbench programming canvas, middle school students can collect real-time experiment data to build coding and computational thinking skills. Available in three versions, the kits also have lesson plans, coding activities, and technical support. The judges say: “There are very few products like this out there but this one allows measuring of real-time data to be coded into action (lights, movement, pictures) by students.”






Smoothwall Monitor is a digital threat assessment tool that enables schools to identify early-stage threats before they become real-life incidents. It tracks students through websites visited, content downloaded, messages sent, feelings expressed in documents and across social media, looking for any intention to harm. “Alerts come with automatic screenshots of the user’s screen at the time of the alert and can be graded in terms of accuracy to the desired alert,” say the judges.


Scholastic 2 TurnitIn 5 Vernier 7


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