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Articles tagged with technology

Educator Sal Khan receives prestigious Heinz Award

Sal Khan, founder of the not-for-profit Khan Academy and the first celebrity advocate for NSBA’s national “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign, has been named one of five recipients of the 19th annual Heinz Awards.

The awards, administered by the Heinz Family Foundation, were established in 1993 by Teresa Heinz to honor the work of her late husband U. S. Sen. John Heinz.

Khan is one of three celebrity spokesmen in NSBA’s national public advocacy campaign, Stand Up 4 Public Schools, where he will be joined by basketball legend and business mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson and talk show host and celebrity spokesperson Montel Williams.

The idea for Khan Academy dates back to 2004, when Khan began remotely tutoring his young cousin, who was struggling with math, and began posting the videos on YouTube. Khan Academy houses more than 5,000 instructional videos and interactive lessons, and its resources are accessed by more than 10 million unique users per month, making it one of the most frequently used online education tools in the world.

“Salman Khan has been a pioneer in the use of online technology to promote personalized learning and to transform education,” Heinz, the foundation’s chairman, said in a written statement. “His Khan Academy is helping move education from a mass-production model where every student learns the same material at the same rate in the same way to an individualized model where students can learn and engage differently based on their personal styles of learning.”

Khan was given the award in the Human Condition category. The other award recipients are:  Abraham Verghese, M.D., Arts and Humanities; Jonathan Foley, Ph.D, Environment; Sanjeev Arora, M.D., Public Policy; and Leila Janah, Technology, the Economy and  Employment.

NSBA’s public advocacy campaign operates on a simple premise: “Who I am today began with public education,” paired with the rejoinder, “Today’s public schools are better than ever.”

In one of the advertisements featuring Khan, he notes that “People talk about college and career readiness, but both are just a means to an end. What we really need to talk about is life readiness.”

Lawrence Hardy|February 26th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized, Mathematics Education, Student Engagement, Computer Uses in Education|Tags: , , , |

Save the dates for 2013 Technology Site Visits

The National School Boards Association and the Technology Leadership Network (TLN) are pleased to announce the 2013 spring series of Education Technology Site Visits. One of the most popular components of the TLN program, these visits  showcase the visionary leadership and technology integration practices of TLN districts, whose very participation in the program is a sign of their interest in innovation.

Leading next year’s line-up is Miami-Dade County Public Schools from March 6-8, followed by Township High School District 214 in Illinois, March 13-15; Pennsylvania’s East Penn School District, April 28-30; and finally, Vancouver Public Schools in Washington from May 1-3.

More details and programming information are to come, but mark one or all of them on your list of things to do in 2013.



Naomi Dillon|May 31st, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, STEM Education, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Lost in cyber space?

NSBA has long been a leader in educational technology — and that’s no exaggeration. Through its Technology Leadership Network and its regular conferences and site visits, the association has championed technology in the classroom for more than 20 years.

So when NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant questions whether the explosion of online charter schools is causing “too many students to get lost in cyber space,” as she does in her recent Education Week blog, she’s hardly coming from Luddite territory.

“All this has taken place with no research to back it up,” Bryant writes. “In fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

A new report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says the biggest takeaway from its study of this burgeoning field — and market, for profit-making companies — is how little we know.

For example, what impact would increased enrollment in cyber schools have on real communities, many of which have long seen the public schools as key to maintaining strong ties between citizens?

Writes Gary Obermeyer, of Portland, Ore., in response to Bryant’s blog: “While I am a strong believer in and advocate for online learning, I do not support the notion of ‘virtual schools.’ My primary concern is for the health and vitality of communities. Schools should be grounded in communities, so that students’ learning experiences can be tied to local issues/concerns, through which they learn to care about and contribute to the community.”

In fact, technology intelligently used can actually help tie communities together by giving disadvantaged students the tools they need to become more active participants. As Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of education technology, writes in a letter to the editor this week to the Washington Post:

“Public schools must provide the technology resources that level the playing field for all students, thus allowing them to excel in core content and develop media literacy,” Flynn writes in response to a Post story on the widely varying use of technology in area schools. “The skills supported through appropriate interactions with technology will define the literate person of the 21st century; those without such opportunities will be left behind.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 19th, 2012|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Technology, 21st Century Skills, Computer Uses in Education, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: The sum total of value-added teacher evaluations

Many criticisms of value-added teacher evaluations are based on misconceptions of how the systems work and how they should be used in a comprehensive teacher evaluation program.

That’s what Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at NSBA’s Center for Public Education, points out in a series of blogs appearing this week in response to comments by education historian Diana Ravitch and Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss. All totaled, the three blogs provide a good introduction to what value-added is — and, perhaps equally important, what it isn’t.

“As the Center for Public Education report Building a Better Evaluation System states, value-added scores can be an effective tool in accurately identifying effective and ineffective teachers,” Hull writes, “but they should be used within the context of a comprehensive evaluation system that includes observations and other qualitative measures of a teacher’s performance.

Is education technology the key to solving our K12 problems? That’s an exaggeration, of course, but Time columnist Andrew Rotherham says we’re often seduced by what technology can do and consider it a panacea. No Luddite he, Rotherham presents a compelling argument for being purposeful and realistic when you consider new technology for the classroom.

Lastly, read Brett Nelson on Forbes (who comes to us via Joanne Jacobs’ blog) on why students should delay college for two years and get what he calls “grownup training.”

“Specifically: six months spent working in a factory, six in a restaurant, six on a farm and six in the military or performing another public service such as building houses, teaching algebra or changing bedpans,” Nelson writes. “. . . I’d reckon that grownup training would put undergrads deeply in touch with 1) why they wanted to go college in the first place, 2) what a special opportunity college really  is, and 3) more than a vague notion of what — and better yet — who they wanted to be when they grew up.”

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2012|Categories: Teachers, Center for Public Education, Educational Technology|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Who wants yesterday’s paper?” Mick Jagger asked decades ago in a song that had more to do with a failed relationship than the newspaper industry. But as a former newspaper reporter, I’ve tended to take that line quite literally and protested, if only to myself: “I do. I want yesterday’s paper.” Because you can learn a lot from yesterday’s paper (it’s not all breaking news, after all) and, for that matter, yesterday’s books and magazines, yesterday’s poetry and music, yesterday’s take on the world.

And what about yesterday’s classroom technology? Or, more broadly, yesterday’s teaching methods and the curricula that went with them? Are they still relevant today? Not only are they relevant, argues Core Knowledge founder E. D. Hirsch Jr. — they’re far superior to the process- and test-based approaches of today, an approach he says is responsible for across-the-board declines in verbal SATs.

“Our national verbal decline transcends this ‘achievement gap’ between demographic groups,” Hirsch writes. “The language competence of our high school graduates fell precipitously in the seventies, and has never recovered. What changed — and what remains largely un-discussed in education reform — is that in the decades prior to the Great Decline, a content-rich elementary school experience evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-based approach that dominates in our schools today.”

It’s an intriguing argument; and, for what it’s worth, I buy some, but not all, of it. Hirsch thinks we’ve all gone skill-based crazy, but at my daughters’ elementary school in Virginia, for example, the approach to skills and content is quite obviously  “both-and,” not “either-or.”  Is it an outlier? I don’t think so.

Another critique of what some consider today’s newfangled education can be found in The Quick and the Ed, where Richard Lee Colvin proclaims that “dumb uses of technology won’t produce smart kids.” He’s commenting on a recent New York Times article on how state-of-the-art technology has not led to higher test scores in many classes.  Once again, his argument is interesting, if taken with a dose of skepticism.  I doubt, for example, that Colvin could find a lot of school technology experts who think that dumb uses of technology are just the thing to make their students smarter.  It’s a bit more complicated than that.

We’ve quoted from the conservative side (Hirsch) so I thought it only fair to go the other direction, and what better place than to education commentator Susan Ohanian? And it turns out, her guest writer, Yvonne Siu-Runyan, president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), is pining for the old days too. More specifically, a time when school libraries and public libraries weren’t staggering under huge budget cuts. Siu-Runyan quotes an American Library Association study showing that school expenditures for information resources decreased overall by 9.4 percent from 2009 to 2010, and in high-poverty areas by an alarming 25 percent.

It doesn’t bode well for creating the kind of content-rich environments that Hirsch and so many others say are critical to our future.


Lawrence Hardy|September 23rd, 2011|Categories: Week in Blogs, Educational Technology|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA site visit to combine technology, legal issues

To address the ever-changing legal challenges inspired by the latest technological advances, National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Technology Leadership Network (TLN) announces a unique partnership and learning opportunity that draws from two of the most dynamic fields in education: school law and education technology.

Building on the popularity of the TLN’s spring series, a new education technology site visit will take place October  12 to 14 in the St. Charles Parish, La., school district, held concurrently with NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Practice Seminar in New Orleans..

“In a time of increased social networking and communications both among students and faculty, the need for school lawyers and school-based technology coordinators to remain abreast of legal trends in the field is readily apparent,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “The partnership between COSA and TLN is a natural one that is sure to contribute positively to dialogue.”

School policies and legal guidance often struggle to keep pace with the rapid advancements resulting from the introduction and adoption of new technologies, added Ann Flynn, director of education technology and state association services for NSBA.

“This new meeting is designed to address that intersection and offer attendees the practical guidance they need from COSA’s relevant technology-oriented sessions by integrating a traditional TLN site visit around those legal workshops,” Flynn said.

Located 20 minutes west of the Crescent City, St. Charles Parish Public Schools serves about 10,000 students in 17 schools. The district’s successful integration of technology includes a nearly 2:1 student-computer ratio districtwide and a leadership culture that views its commitment to technology as an essential component within the school board’s Strategic Action Plan. The district’s freestanding Satellite Center where high school students can explore career pathways in engineering, culinary arts, multimedia and broadcasting utilizing cutting-edge technology tools will be showcased along with classroom visits and mini-briefings to other schools across all grade levels.

Technology leaders and school attorneys will get an update on the latest technology cases and how the outcomes could impact district policies. Discussion topics include the “do’s and don’ts” of data mining on job candidates and current employees, what forms of board member communication can be considered public information, and how districts can leverage Web 2.0 tools to improve community engagement and instruction without opening itself up to potentially embarrassing, libelous, and litigious situations.


“This event creates an opportunity for dialogue between attorneys and school practitioners to better understand each others’ positions  around these emerging issues  and  provide both groups with valuable insights,” said Flynn.


A notable panel of legal experts, communication specialists, and district officials will lead a discussion on the inherent conflict between the First Amendment rights of media and the confidentiality rights of families involved in crisis scenarios such as cyberbullying and student suicides.

“The role that technology can play in those incidents, as well as how social media is used to transmit information about a crisis reflect the challenges educators face in striking the right balance with policies,” Flynn said. “New state laws limiting communication via social media between students and teachers is another example of how quickly the tech law landscape is changing.”


School tours and classroom observations will be interspersed throughout the three-day event, providing participants with a chance to watch technology in action, be it a computer electronics class that teaches high school students to rebuild and repair used computers that are then provided to their fellow students or an engaging and effective reading intervention program powered by the latest science and technological advances. District staff will also offer mini-briefings to ensure participants understand how professional development and the use of data contribute to the district’s success.

Registration is open and more information is available at


Naomi Dillon|August 15th, 2011|Categories: School Law, Educational Technology, STEM Education, 21st Century Skills|Tags: , , |

Generation Y kids harder to reach, teach

1-1232525847nXGsIn his annual address to secondary school heads, John Dunford, the general secretary of the U.K.’s Association Of School and College Leaders, acknowledged yesterday that a culture of instant gratification has made the job of teaching today’s youth harder than its ever been.

“Success appears to come instantly and without any real effort,” Dunford told the conference audience. “It is difficult for teachers to compete. Success in learning just doesn’t come fast enough.” 

Well said, Mr. Dunford, but hardly revolutionary.

For years now, I’ve heard from teacher friends and seen from site visits how much teaching has become by necessity almost entertainment like; we must engage the students by making lessons fun and relevant.

One teacher told me recently that she has to convince high school students that learning basic math concepts like multiplication and  division are necessarily skills in life, even employing popular rap stars and their lyrics about money making within her arsenal.

That’s sad … but is it inevitable given how prolific and accessible technology and media are and make everything seem? Not only do we have 24/7 media, we have an endless supply of fame-seekers willing to broadcast their lives 24/7.

Naomi Dillon|March 8th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Educational Research, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

How a Virtual Learning Environment Can and Should Help Learners

Jeff Borden gave a great presentation on the rationale of why and how online learning can help students and teachers. His talk was not full of the often empty rhetoric about how “digital learners” are different from the rest of us. I’ve thought and written about this on my blog ( Jeff said the learners haven’t changed–the way they and we learn has changed. I think the sooner we include everyone in the conversation about learners the better. No one benefits from creating a divide between so-called digital and non-digital learners. Another point that Jeff made was that students like technology because they like variety. We all like variety–young and old. Online learning can help address this deep need inside of all of us.

Another important way Jeff made for the case for online learning is that the technology can meet the many needs that teachers have everyday. As teachers, we want our students to write more, to think more, to create more. Online technology tools can help us achieve these goals. By using some very straight-forward tools effectively, we can get a lot of return for our investment. What really came through in Jeff’s talk was that he wasn’t just a “tech head” going off on the cool new tools. It was very clear that he uses these tools in actual classrooms. It’s great to hear from someone who has “the goods” and can help teach and inspire others.

Lindsey Pahs|October 29th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, 21st Century Skills, T+L|Tags: , , , , , , |

Frans Johansson and The Medici Effect

During the general session on Wednesday, Frans Johansson shared his vision of the power of diversity in innovation. If anyone has had a diverse life, Frans has–from his quick recap of his life we can see that he’s had to pull together resources/ideas from a wide range. Luckily we can all benefit from his experience. We can ask ourselves and our students in a wide variety of situations to think about the material differently. The question “How is a neuron like a hand?” becomes a tool for exploration, innovation and discovery. The draw for many teachers to the profession is the ability to be creative. We like the process. Now we can use the “Medici Effect” to help guide us in fostering creativity in our students. Combine ideas that seem disparate. Ask if the seemingly impossible is possible–let’s try it!

Lindsey Pahs|October 28th, 2009|Categories: 21st Century Skills, T+L|Tags: , , , , , |

It’s time for a new conversation

After participating as a panelist for the  School Food Nutrition Foundation’s recent webinar, “School Lunch 2.0 – How Websites like Facebook and Twitter can Revolutionize your School Nutrition Program“, I received a follow-up e-mail from a frustrated school nutritionist who had registered but was unable to participate. She had sent the e-mail announcement about the webinar to her district’s IT Director in their small district to inquire about why she was unable to connect to the session through a popular webinar platform. (By the way, the complimentary webinar is archived at SNF in case you missed it.)  His response  – upon seeing the topic –  was to dismiss her entirely with the following one line e-mail;

“We are not going to be opening Facebook or Twitter in our Internet filter. This would be a waist (sic) of your time.”  

For those of us who work with emerging tools and see their potential to improve outreach and communication efforts, not to mention how the same tools can positively impact the classroom, this response was a wake-up call that there is still much work to be done.  The Technology Leadership Network knows that new tools sometimes face resistance by IT departments and administrators who initially dismiss them without having a thoughtful conversation about how they might further the district’s goals  and that’s exactly what happened to this educator.

The district’s web site is largely a “Web 1.0” product that exhibits little vision for using interactive tools. As an example, it offers no way for the public to e-mail board members, yet, the superintendent’s welcome letter talks about how they will need to engage their community’s support to pass an upcoming levy. It doesn’t appear they are very interested in making it easy to establish that kind of a  two-way dialogue!  Other districts are finding that  thoughtful use of their web site or social media tools can build bridges and create credibility that is helpful when issues are put to a vote. As for building relationships with the community through social media, the fastest growing age group on Facebook is 35-54…exactly the age group of many parents and local voters!

The Technology Leadership Network urges leadership teams think about these tools. NSBA has hosted the T+L Conference for 23 years to help districts make sense of new technologies as they emerge. The conference often provides just the spark that is needed among board members, innovative district administrators, teachers, and the IT staff to start a true dialogue of collaboration about how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning, streamline administrative operations, and facilitate communications.

And just in case you think only big districts can leverage their web site and modern tools, you’re wrong!!   NSBA works with the Center for Digital Education to rank the top district web sites each fall and will be announcing the 2009 rankings next month. In the meantime, take a look at the list of the top-ranked, “small enrollment” districts from the 2008 Digital Districts Survey that focused on how technology supports their operations and communications, with special attention paid to ease of access and interactions. With today’s education challenges, there’s no room for rigid, one line answers from a dictatorial IT Director who is more interested in controlling his network than supporting his customers. It’s time for a new conversation!

Ann Flynn|September 28th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, Leadership, NSBA Recognition Programs, T+L|Tags: |
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