Articles in the Educational Technology category

E-Rate must expand, focus on neediest schools, coalition says

The E-rate program needs a major funding boost to meet demand and should continue its focus on high-need school districts and libraries, a letter signed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC should permanently raise the E-rate’s annual funding cap, now at $2.4 billion, as annual demand is estimated to be double that amount, the letter states. Further, the program must be expanded to ensure adequate bandwidth reaches every classroom and student–not just the school building door, which was the program’s intent when it was first created to provide low-cost connectivity as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The letter was sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and four other commissioners by EdLiNC, The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition, which advocates for the E-rate program on behalf of national education associations. It was signed by NSBA and 18 other organizations.

The lack of support for internal connections “is creating major roadblocks” for students and educators to have enough bandwidth to participate in activities such as online research or digital learning classes, the letter states.

The letter also urges the FCC to continue the E-rate’s poverty-based funding formula rather than proposed allocations that would spread funding by students, buildings, or school districts.

“A change to the current funding formula would undermine the E-rate program’s focus on equity for the nation’s underserved schools and communities, particularly those in rural areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The E-rate has been tremendously successful in helping high-poverty and rural areas access technology, and the FCC should build on that success by increasing funding to meet demand.”

The FCC is considering changes to the program and is expected to issue a Report and Order to modernize E-Rate sometime this year. For more information, read NSBA’s Issue Brief on the E-rate.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 29th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Online learning|Tags: , |

Coalition urges Senate to keep funding bond program for school renovations

The Rebuild America’s Schools coalition is supporting legislation to extend the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program, which helps give low- or no-interest financing to school districts for school renovations and upgrades.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a member of Rebuild America’s Schools, a coalition of national education and civil rights groups and 42 large-city school districts that works to create federal support to help local communities build, renovate and modernize schools.

“QZABs and other low-cost federal financing programs provide crucial assistance to budget-conscious school districts so that they may provide better facilities and technology upgrades that help foster student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

A bill in the U.S. Senate would extend the authorization of QZABs, which began in 1997, for another two years. In a May 12 letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Finance, Rebuild America’s Schools notes that QZABs are being used by school districts in every state.

QZABs and a similar program, the Qualified School Construction Bond, “are helping repair, renovate and modernize America’s school infrastructure and stimulating and creating jobs in Oregon and every state,” according to the letter written by Rebuilding America’s Schools Chairman Bob Canavan to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “These jobs are generated in the construction industry among suppliers, ranging from architects and engineers to roofing, heating and cooling contractors and other skilled construction workers who modernize, renovate and repair schools. Modern, energy efficient schools are helping local communities increase opportunities for all students to develop the educational skills necessary to achieve and succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

The extension for QZABs is part of S. 2260, the Expire Act, which would extend federal tax credits and deductions for a wide variety of programs.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 15th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, School Buildings, Uncategorized, Urban Schools|

Blended learning showcased in District of Columbia schools

A small group of eighth-graders sit at a cluster of desks, staring down at their iPads. On their screens are diagrams of the interior of a slave ship. Their teacher, Tanesha Dixon, leads the discussion. She prompts them to consider what it was like on those ships. They enlarge the image for a closer look.

At another cluster of desks, students are discussing passages about the Atlantic slave trade on their iPads. The rest of the students are reading silently about the Fugitive Slave Act on their iPads.

From her tablet, Dixon can monitor all her students. An alarm sounds; the students working with Dixon move to the discussion group. The students working individually move to Dixon’s area.

Dixon is a social studies teacher at the K-8 Wheatley Education Campus, part of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Her classroom is an example of blending learning, which integrates online technology and content with traditional face-to-face classroom activities. Her students have instant access to source documents and other resources electronically through their tablets through a service called Techbooks – digital textbooks with text, audio, video, and images.

Students have individual IDs and can log in on to any device – computer, mobile phone, or tablet.

“Digital textbooks are more engaging,” said John Rice, DCPS’s manager of blended learning. He recently took representatives from several national education associations on a tour of three district schools that were using blended learning in their classrooms.

The practice of blended learning is growing in schools across the country. Proponents say it allows students to practice simple or rote lessons online, freeing the teacher to do more small-group and individual instruction. DCPS uses blended learning in a variety of ways in its schools.

At the K-5 Randle Highlands Elementary School, all grades moved to a blending learning approached at the beginning of the school year. In one second-grade class, some students sit at classroom desktop computers, working on a program called ST Math. It allows them to work individually at their own pace, while their teacher works with another small group.

Other grades use a program called I-Ready, which includes language arts and math, for self-paced work.

Columbia Heights Education Campus houses a middle school and a high school. The high school, Bell Multicultural High School, features an early college program and classes taught exclusively in Spanish.

Sebastian Kreindel teaches ninth-grade World History in Spanish. He uses Techbooks to find digital resources such as Spanish videos for his students.

Fellow World History teacher Kristen Whitaker’s students don’t have individual computers or tablets yet like they do in Tanesha Dixon’s class, but she’s found a low-tech solution: She prints out Techbook resources for her students, including information about Genghis Khan for a recent discussion on psychological warfare.

Discovery Education, which sponsored the tour, provides Streaming Plus – a collection of instructional videos, skill builders, games, audio files, images, writing prompts, and encyclopedia reference materials – to DCPS district-wide. The company also provides the science and social studies Techbooks to five district schools.

“We are pleased to share with representatives from some of the nation’s leading education associations the wonderful digital learning environments DCPS educators are creating each day,” said Stephen Wakefield, Discovery Education vice president of public affairs. “The district’s efforts to create classrooms that mirror how students are interacting with technology and digital content outside the classroom are helping to prepare a new generation of learners for college, careers, and citizenship.”

The tour was organized by the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of education organizations, of which NSBA is a member.

Kathleen Vail|May 13th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Mathematics Education, Middle Schools, Online learning, STEM Education, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , , , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

NSBA issues student data privacy guide in cloud computing era

As school districts increasingly move to cloud computing instead of on-site data storage, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and its Council of School Attorneys (COSA) have released a guide for school boards introducing the legal issues associated with protecting student data and suggesting best practices.

The guide, “Data in the Cloud,” seeks to raise awareness of student data privacy concerns, and to provide a framework for comprehensive student data privacy approaches in school districts.

The guide notes that cloud computing applications offer ease of use and accessibility, but come with the potential for loss of privacy and increased liability, as personal information is transferred to the application.

“School boards should consider starting a discussion with school district staff and their communities about building a comprehensive student privacy protection program,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This guide is a helpful tool for school boards as they review and potentially rethink policies related to data and student privacy.”

The guide uses a question-and-answer format to explain the relevant terminology, recent academic research, the breadth of software offerings, important legal requirements, and additional resources available to school board members and school lawyers.

“The legal requirements that could potentially govern student data privacy are still evolving,” said Greg Guercio, COSA Chair. “The school law requirements section of this guide is a key asset for school districts and their attorneys. Current laws still leave plenty of room for interpretation on student privacy, making it is essential for district leaders to ask the right questions and understand potential problems.”

Recommendations for school boards include:

• Identify an individual district-wide Chief Privacy Officer (CPO), or a group of individuals with district-wide responsibility for privacy;

• Conduct a district-wide privacy assessment and online services audit;

• Establish a safety committee or data governance team that includes the school or district’s Chief Privacy Officer to work with the school community, recommend policies and best practices, and serves as the liaison between the school district and the community on privacy issues;

• Regularly review and update relevant district policies and incident response plans;

• Consistently, clearly, and regularly communicate with students, parents, and the community about privacy rights and district policies and practices with respect to student data privacy;

• Adopt consistent and clear contracting practices that appropriately address student data; and

• Train staff to ensure consistent implementation of school district’s policies and procedures.

Alexis Rice|April 28th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, School Boards, School Law, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA previews student data privacy in the cloud policy guide

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Student Attorneys (COSA) Director Sonja Trainor for presented a preview of a comprehensive policy guide for school boards during a session entitled, “Cloud Computing and Student Privacy,” on Sunday, April 6 at the NSBA’s 2014 Annual Conference in New Orleans.

The policy guide, which focuses on the tug-of-war between individual privacy rights and the benefits of data management, analysis, and storage on cloud-based platforms in school districts, presents the relevant terminology, recent academic research, breadth of software offerings, important legal requirements, and fundamental resources for school board members and school lawyers.

By acknowledging cloud commuting’s undeniable future in school districts, the report emphasizes that with the ease and accessibility of the cloud comes with the potential for the loss of privacy—and the increase in liability—with any transfer of personal student information.

Due to the numerous laws that potentially govern student data privacy, the school law requirements section of this guide is a key asset for districts and legal teams. Current laws still leave plenty of room for interpretation on student privacy, making it is essential for district leaders to ask the right questions and understand potential problems. The most directly applicable student privacy laws for school districts and service providers are the following:

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and its sister statute, the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), which apply to educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance; and
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to operators of websites and mobile apps that are directed to or known to be used by children under the age of 13.

Formed in 1967, the NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys provides information and practical assistance to attorneys who represent public school districts. It offers legal education, specialized publications, and a forum for exchange of information, and it supports the legal advocacy efforts of the National School Boards Association.

Staff|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Law|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s Technology Innovation Showcase introduces promising solutions

Challenge yourself to think differently as you meet this year’s Technology Innovation Showcase companies. This morning there was an overview from the six honorees in a fast-paced session hosted by the Technology Leadership Network during NSBA’s 2014 Annual Conference. Facilitated by NSBA’s Director of Education Technology Ann Flynn and Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steven Webb, these emerging companies shared their technology-supported solutions that address education challenges they identified. Companies for this 2nd annual Showcase were selected by a panel of NSBA’s previous “20 to Watch” educators from dozens of submissions as some of the promising solutions on the K-12 horizon. One year later the success of companies named to the 2013 Showcase, like GuideK12 and Globaloria, suggests NSBA’s review teams really have an eye for good solutions!

This year’s honorees offer new approaches to differentiated reading (Books That Grow), communications during emergency situations (Share911), robotic kits (BirdBrain Technologies), teacher evaluations (Standard For Success), mobile hotspots (Kajeet, Inc.), and personalized yearbooks (TreeRing). These solutions can save districts money, offer more efficient ways to accomplish tasks, and create more meaningful engagement and memories for students. Don’t miss this opportunity to take some of most innovative ideas back to your district. To learn more about the companies, they are located in the Technology Showcase Pavilion, booths 1855 – 1865 in the Exhibit Hall.

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA provides FCC with recommendations to improve E-Rate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following comments on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Notice on the Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Focused Comment on E-rate Modernization to provide key recommendations to modernize the E-rate program and increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools and libraries.  NSBA applauds the FCC’s proactive efforts to ensure efficient operation and integrity of E-rate; increase the quality and speed of connectivity in our nation’s schools; and address the technology gaps that remain.

Gentzel’s full comment are available and an excerpt of the recommendations are below:

“For nearly twenty years, NSBA has supported the goals of the E-rate program to increase Internet connectivity and provide digital learning opportunities to underserved students, schools and libraries. NSBA is steadfast in its support for the ConnectED initiative and applauds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) focus on broadband deployment in education, so that students are prepared to be competitive and successful in the global marketplace.

“To successfully usher in a new future for E-rate, NSBA urges the FCC to ground modernization of E-Rate in the individual circumstances of the nation’s 14,000 school districts and 98,000 public schools. Put eloquently by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association: School entities across the nation are diverse in their composition and their needs. Local decision-making and local flexibility should be maximized in implementation of the E-rate program.

“Further, NSBA’s recommendations are predicated on the need for additional resources in the E-rate program. Simply repurposing or rearranging priorities for the $2.5 billion E-rate program is not sufficient to achieve the ambitious goals of the ConnectED initiative, and could impact school district finances and operations in ways that make it even more difficult for low-income and rural schools and libraries to meet the instructional needs of their students. Therefore, in addition to NSBA’s filings of September 16, 2013 and November 8, 2013, we recommend the following:

“1. Focus $2 billion in one-time funding for E-rate on Priority 2 services for broadband deployment, and assure that additional schools and libraries have access to the funds. The onetime funding described in paragraph 7 is best suited for initial and one-time investments in broadband deployment such as internal connections, as opposed to ongoing operating costs. Further, there has been a dearth of funding for Priority 2 in recent years, so that only a small number of schools benefit. NSBA recommends that affirmative steps be taken to assure that a one-time infusion of Priority 2 funds is disseminated to schools and libraries that have not had access to such funds in the last five years.

“2. Voice and other legacy services – Establish a menu of options for schools and libraries making transitions to broadband. NSBA supports refocusing E-rate on broadband connectivity, but cautions against eliminating eligible uses of E-rate funds without support for school districts during the transition. An across-the-board approach to elimination or phase down of support for legacy services as described in paragraphs 40 – 46 is not responsive to school districts, whose current equipment, hardware, connectivity, access to broadband, contracting obligations, and other circumstances will vary. NSBA recommends a case-by-case approach and flexible timeframes for transitioning E-rate eligibility to broadband.

“3. Demonstration and pilot programs – Eliminate demonstration programs, pilots, or other carve outs from E-Rate 2.0 unless they are resourced by other Universal Service or alternative funds. While there is great potential in the innovations described in paragraphs 55 – 61 to streamline E-rate and make the program more efficient and effective at meeting the needs of schools and libraries, they should not come at the expense of the School and Libraries Fund itself, which is severely oversubscribed.”

View NSBA’s Issue Brief on E-rate.

 

Alexis Rice|April 4th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Rural Schools, School Boards, School Buildings|Tags: , , , |

NSBA advises on student data privacy

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) participated in an expert panel session last month to discuss legal issues associated with transferring, storing, and protecting student data.

Held as part of the Consortium for School Networking’s Annual Conference, the student privacy panel included COSA Director Sonja Trainor; U.S. Department of Education (ED) Chief Privacy Officer Kathleen Styles; Assistant Director at the Federal Trade Commission Mark Eichorn; and was moderated by Alicia Solow-Niederman of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Styles highlighted ED’s resources on the student data privacy, including a recent publication, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services. She recommended three key steps school districts should be taking to address student data privacy: (1) take a hard look at policies addressing student records and data; (2) train staff on your district’s student data privacy policies, and in privacy concerns generally; and (3) be transparent in your student data privacy policies and practices.

Noting that outdated student privacy laws have created holes, making it difficult to craft school policy, Trainor stressed the importance of anticipating trends in legislation and taking a comprehensive approach to student data privacy, while working with a school attorney to keep on top of changing laws.

NSBA will be releasing a resource guide in conjunction with the NSBA Annual Conference to be held April 5-7 in New Orleans, which will help school boards identify the crucial issues associated with student privacy when the school district uses online educational services.  COSA  will also release a detailed resource for school attorneys, which will include suggested contract terms.

In addition to recommending a comprehensive approach to student data privacy protection, the guide will recommend that school boards keep their communities informed and involved in the steps they are taking to guard against loss of student data privacy. Trainor will present a school law session at the conference entitled “Cloud Computing and Student Privacy – What School Boards Need to Know” on Sunday, April 6 at 1:30-2:45 pm in rooms 346-347.

 

Staff|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Publications, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and CDE name 2013-2014 top 10 digital school districts

The tenth annual Digital School Districts Survey

The tenth annual Digital School Districts Survey were by CDE and NSBA

Top-ranked school districts have been announced in the tenth annual Digital School Districts Survey by the Center for Digital Education (CDE) and the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The survey showcases exemplary school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community, and improve district operations.

This year’s recognition goes to school districts for their expanding use of innovative technologies district-wide as well as in the classroom.

The first-place winners in each classification are:

Here are a few of the examples of the technology and information used in the school districts who placed first in each classification, based on student enrollment.

Prince William County Public Schools’ school board meetings in Virginia are televised and streamed live, and available via podcast and on-demand, connecting the public digitally without having to attend Board meetings in person. They have embraced social networking from email, blogs, and discussion boards to forums and more. They use Twitter as part of communications with parents, students and the community. They teach students proper techniques and standards for participation, and explain issues of privacy, tool use and network etiquette. Plus, they expanded their virtual high school (VHS) to include 22 courses for over 9,000 students.

Henry County Public Schools has the largest digital textbook initiative in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently sixth graders have their science book installed as an e-text, with plans to add more textbooks as they become available digitally. Plus, the new Parent Connect mobile application not only links parents and students to the same apps, it also extends the curriculum to all mobile devices.

Springfield Public Schools in New Jersey has continued their one-to-one laptop initiative creating a virtually paperless environment with almost no textbooks in the classroom. Teachers use web-based curriculum and students and teachers have e-lockers and e-portfolios.

“Schools and school districts are embracing technology and it is really exciting not only to see the innovative ways they implement technology, but how they are using technology effectively to teach and advance education,” said Alan Cox, Senior Vice President for the Center for Digital Education. “These education leaders serve as an inspiration to other school districts nationwide for their creative efforts to provide an outstanding education for today’s students. Congratulations to this year’s winners!”

“Technology innovations enable local school boards to connect with their communities and support students and teachers in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The 2014 Digital School Districts Survey offers powerful examples of technology’s role in the transformation of public education.”

The top ten rankings are awarded to those school boards/districts that most fully implement technology benchmarks in the evolution of digital education, as represented in the survey questions.

All U.S. public school districts are eligible to participate in the survey within the three classifications based on size of enrollment.

There will be a reception honoring the school districts at NSBA’s Annual Conference next month in New Orleans.

Full list of 2013-2014 Digital School Districts Survey – Top Ten-Ranking Winners:

Large Student Population District Category (student population 12,000 or more):

1st Prince William County Public Schools, Va.

2nd Colorado Springs School District 11, Colo.

3rd Hampton City Schools, Va.

3rd Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Ga.

3rd Township High School District 214, Ill.

4th Houston County School System, Ga.

4th Richmond County School System, Ga.

5th Houston Independent School District, Texas

5th Kent School District, Wash.

6th Fayette County Schools, Ga.

6th Katy Independent School District, Texas

7th Klein Independent School District, Texas

7th Northwest ISD, Texas

8th Forsyth County Schools, Ga.

9th Cherokee County School District, Ga.

9th Hall County School District, Ga.

10th Blue Valley Unified School District #229, Kan.

Mid-sized Student Population District Category (student population 3,000 – 12,000):

1st Henry County Public Schools, Va.

2nd Monroe County Schools, Ga.

2nd School District of Janesville, Wis.

3rd Decatur City Schools, Ala.

3rd Jefferson City Schools, Ga.

4th Oconomowoc Area School District, Wis.

4th Center Grove Community School Corporation School District, Ind.

5th Harrisburg School District 41-2, S.D.

5th Mt. Lebanon School District, Pa.

6th Fayetteville Public Schools, Ark.

7th Colquitt County Schools, Ark.

8th Bergenfield Public Schools, N.J.

9th St. Charles Parish Public Schools, La.

10th City Schools of Decatur, Ga.

Small Student Population District Category (student population 3,000 or less):

1st Springfield Public Schools, N.J.

2nd Hanson School District 30-1, S.D.

3rd Maine Regional School Unit 21, Maine

3rd Lindop School District 92, Ill.

4th Lower Moreland Township School District, Pa.

4th Carroll County School District, Ky.

5th Allendale Public Schools, Mich.

6th Chickamauga City School System, Ga.

7th Cedar Bluffs Public Schools, Neb.

7th Goochland County Public Schools, Va.

8th Charlton County School System, Ga.

9th Taylor County School District, Ky.

10th McIntosh County Schools, Ga.

Selected Survey Findings and Trends:

School Board Meeting Availability:

  • Board meeting agenda and docs e-displayed on screen – 80 percent
  • Televised – 31 percent
  • Streamed and Archived – 32 percent
  • Via Podcast – 22 percent
  • Fifty-two percent of states allow Board members to participate/vote in school board meetings remotely.

The district allows alternatives to core content instruction in classrooms:

  • Students can take fully online classes for core content credit – 79 percent
  • Blended classes are offered and meet core content requirements through a combination of face-to-face and online instruction – 67 percent
  • Core content is currently delivered online – 61 percent
  • The “flipped classroom” concept is utilized- 61 percent
  • Video conferencing for instruction is utilized as part of core content – 47 percent
  • The district has developed plans to deliver core content online – 33 percent
  • No alternatives to core content face-to-face instruction are being explored – 3 percent
  • Describe the district’s strategy regarding mobility:
  • District offers professional development for teachers on how to use mobile devices and apps for instruction – 88 percent
  • Student-owned mobile devices can be used in the classroom – 83 percent
  • District encourages the use of mobile apps for instruction – 81 percent
  • District provides mobile apps for students to use for instruction – 67 percent
  • District has successful actions in place regarding physical protection of district-owned devices – 65 percent
  • District provides 1:1 mobile devices for students to use in the classroom – 46 percent

Status of BYOD:

  • Implemented – 56 percent (up 22 percent from last year)
  • Of the 56 percent that have implemented, in which grades?
  • 9th – 12th – 84 percent
  • 6th – 8th – 74 percent
  • 4th and 5th – 62 percent
  • Pre-K – 3rd – 51 percent
Alexis Rice|March 27th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Educational Technology, Leadership, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, T+L, Teachers, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , , , |
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