A Digital Future: K-12 Technology by 2018

Rapidly changing technology continues to make its mark on K-12 learning. The recently-released New Media Consortium Horizon Report details six up-and-coming technologies in the next five years for K-12 classrooms. Let’s take a closer loo

Horizon #1: In the next year, or less.

Mobile learning. Tablets and smartphones in the classroom are no longer a matter of “if,” but “when, and how quickly?” Administrators and educators can tap into the convenience of mobile technology in the classroom and the potential for student learning adaptation. Over half of school administrators say there is some form of mobile technology in their classrooms and that they plan to implement more when it is financially feasible. School districts should keep in mind that the purchase of mobile devices for K-12 use is only one piece in the learning puzzle. There must be funding for teacher training and maintenance of the devices too.

Cloud computing. When it comes to greater educational collaboration, cloud computing has unlimited potential. This is true for teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-parent and teacher-to-student applications. By using a common location, academic expectations can be better accessed, along with actual student work. Instructors can also share learning materials and experiences through the remote opportunities that cloud computing provides.

Horizon #2: Within two to three years.

Learning analytics. This evolving concept in K-12 classrooms is different from educational data mining in that it focuses on individual students, teachers and schools without direct implications to the government. Learning analytics is the education industry’s response to “big data” that is used in the business world for improvements and redirection of focus. Learning analytics essentially show students what they have achieved and how those goals match up with their peers. If implemented correctly, this technology has the potential to warn teachers early of academic issues while keeping students more accountable. Using the mobile and online technology already in place, students can better track and tailor their academic experiences.

Open content. The rise of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, in terms of college learning is having a trickle-down effect on K-12 education. The idea that all the information that exists on any given topic already exists, and does not need to be re-created or purchased, is gaining steam among K-12 educators. Within the next three years, expect more shared content available to teachers and to students. Open textbooks, resources and curricula are not the only benefit of an open content push; shared experiences and insights are also valuable teaching tools.

Horizon #3: Within four to five years.

3D printing. Also known as prototyping, this technology will allow K-12 students to create tangible models for their ideas. Many fields, like manufacturing, already make use of this technology to determine the effectiveness of ideas on a smaller, printable scale. In education, this technology will bolster creativity and innovation, along with science and math applications. The STEM Academy has already partnered with Stratasys, a leading 3D printing company, to start integration of the technology in programming classes.

Virtual laboratories. These Web applications give students the chance to perform physical science experiments over and over, from anywhere with Internet access. As in a physical lab, the performance of the student will determine the results of the experiment. While not a replacement for all in-lab exercises, the virtual version can provide extra practice and guidance. There is no pressure to “get it right” on the first run, and mistakes are allowable because the technology lends itself to no-cost repetition. It also may prove a smart solution to rekindling the American public’s interest in the scientific.

In coming posts, I will take a closer look at each of these technologies and their implications on K-12 learners. Which do you think will have the greatest impact?


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How Edtech Companies Can Sell To the International Market

Edtech is a growing market, expected to increase by 17% yearly. However, a significant part of that growth is projected outside the U.S. As international schools begin to accept edtech, the market is becoming friendly for companies. Recent changes in the U.S. market have led to a decline in funding and support for edtech, so embracing international sales will be increasingly important for long term sustainability in the industry. Though the sales trajectory admittedly still needs some work for most edtech companies. Targeting and acquiring international clients comes with different challenges than landing U.S. deals.

What research and considerations does your startup need to address for the international market? How can you successfully sell edtech products to schools outside the U.S.? Here is a quick breakdown for any company wanting to make a move to international edtech sales.

Consider Market Demands

Before attempting to make an international sale, think about the market needs of each country. China, for example, is projected to reach $15billion in STEM spending by 2020. While U.S. spending on STEM learning falls, China continues to invest heavily in youth STEM education.

A 2010 German initiative to improve educational performance had a slow start. However, companies looking to target a global market may do well to focus on the developing European market. Germany, as the largest economy in Europe, is a sensible target for edtech entrepreneurs. The region, as a whole, has committed to improving education by 2020. The potential within the EU is even more evident when you take a look at the success of edtech startups in Europe.

For those startups looking to branch into the African or South American markets, funding help by the World Bank may play a significant role. Additionally, edtech companies who target the Persian Gulf can get in on the ground floor of a promising market. Understanding the market potential for the countries you want investment from is imperative to international success.

Understand Educational Goals

Looking at the performance of students on the international market, it’s obvious which countries are currently excelling in science, mathematics, and reading, and which need work. While the U.S. didn’t rank in top 10 for any of the categories, educational policy is making edtech a hard sell in American schools.

Meanwhile, international schools are competing to produce the best workers of tomorrow, and those goals can be exploited by thoughtful edtech companies. The United Nations set education goals for the 2000-2015 period. Unfortunately, only three countries met the expectations. For edtech entrepreneurs, this can mean a chance to make a real contribution for the 2015-2030 period. New goals have been set out, and an increase of $22billion in funding is expected to achieve those goals globally.

The key to success will understand what is lacking in the education system of each country, and how your products can bridge the gaps.

Be wary of International Faux Pas

Even if you’ve done your research and investigated the international need for education products, that doesn’t equate to sales. Selling products internationally, requires an understanding of local culture, customs and business values. Each country is different. So, hiring an experienced liaison with an educational background in your target country can give you a head start to negotiations.

Regardless of your particular product or niche in the edtech sector, the international market is a growing opportunity waiting to be exploited. Have you sold products internationally? What have been your greatest challenges and successes with the global edtech market? We want to hear your experiences!



My Vision for the Future of Assessment in Education

Assessment is a big part of today’s education landscape. Most states use high-stakes assessments to measure student growth and proficiency at the end of each school year. But is this really the best way to use assessments? The future of assessment in education needs to change.

In order to really reimagine the future of assessment, we must ask ourselves what the purpose of assessments really are. In their current form, assessments are used to measure everything students have learned. High-stakes end-of-year assessments are used to determine whether students pass or fail a class. These same assessments are used to judge the performance of schools.

Rather than use assessments as the final test of what students have learned and how well teachers have taught them, we should be using assessments to measure student progress all year long. These formative assessments, as opposed to the traditional summative assessments, will change the way we think of assessments.

By using formative assessments throughout the year, teachers can measure what students have learned and where they’re struggling. This allows teachers to modify their instruction based on the results of their assessments, rather than waiting until the term is over to see what students know.

Of course, most teachers are already using assessments in just this way. Teachers adjust what they’re doing all year based on student performance. The problem is, these assessments aren’t used to make big decisions, like whether students should pass a course or how a school will be rated. By shifting our focus from what students know at the end of the year to how they’ve grown all year long, we can get a more accurate measure of student and teacher performance.

When schools are judged, the growth that students have made over the year should be weighted much more heavily than their overall achievement. This would create a more level playing field for all schools, regardless of location or students’ previous achievement.

To achieve my vision for the future of assessment in education, we need to create effective assessments that will help us measure student growth, not just achievement. This will require EdTech companies to get involved in the assessment process and create ways to track student growth. By incorporating technology into assessments, we can bring educational assessments into the 21st century.

How do you envision the future of assessments? How will EdTech be a part of that future?

Tips for Teaching with Apps

Teaching with apps is not new. We have compiled lists of apps and tech resources that can be used in the classroom and for education outside the classroom. However, we haven’t necessarily offered any tips for successfully using apps for teaching.

Finding, downloading, and having students use apps for learning is one thing. Teaching with apps effectively and making use of the data they track is another task entirely. The goal of using an app in education is not simply to use it because it’s available but to enhance learning and individualized teaching approaches.

We’ve listed some tips as to how you as an educator, or even parent, can optimally teach with apps in an effective way.

1. Set Goals & Expectations

When beginning to teach with apps, it’s important to set goals for student learning and to set guidelines and expectations for how students should use and interact with the app(s). Educators should outline goals about what they want students to learn through the app, how this will coincide with other learning material, and how students should interact with the app.

It’s also essential to set goals with your students so they have something to work towards and can recognize when they achieve the objectives. It’s important, too, that students understand the connection to the broader lesson and application of the learning experience.

2. Adjust the Learning Experience

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of incorporating teaching with apps is contextualizing the experience and integrating it with other teaching methods. It’s critical that students see the connections between the broader lesson and the specific app activities.

Educators must also find a good way to combine and manage both traditional methods of teaching and technology-based methods. There must be a balance, routine, and a strong policy surrounding the use of apps for learning.

3. Establish a System of Handling Passwords & Login Info

Certainly, with the use of apps by a class full of students, logistics and the handling of information must be considered and organized. Educators should develop a system to enter, store, manage, and retrieve information such as usernames, passwords, issues, etc.

Whether it’s just a simple spreadsheet, another app for storing and managing such information, or some other tool like Google for Education, it will save a lot of headaches to have all the relevant info logged in one, orderly place.

4. Use Them in Conjunction with Books

Apps don’t replace textbooks and novels. It’s still important to teach with books and other resources so make sure you can find a good balance where one resource does not detract from the others.

For example, after introducing or teaching a lesson from a traditional textbook, educators can follow up on a particular topic or application of the lesson through a specific app.

Apps tend to be more activity-based and hone in on a more specific topic or skill, whereas textbooks contain a variety of information on a broad subject and novels offer personal experiences and perspectives. Each is important to the learning process and can be used to gain varied perspectives and different presentations of information about the same subject.

5. Be Aware of Apps that Abuse In-app Purchases

Always vet the apps you use in the classroom before introducing them to students. Some are sub-par, others irrelevant, and some others offer little functionality while trying to get you to purchase more and more.

It’s wise to research, and select apps that limit ads and in-app purchases, specifically because your students shouldn’t be exposed to some of the content nor should they be able to have the option to make an in-app purchase. These are also distracting to students and teachers. Fortunately, there are many resources for finding good apps that have already been approved by other teachers.

6. Self-Directed Learning

Finally, apps are good for self-directed learning. Some students might even know more than you about the technology or app – it’s ok! Let the students teach you, also. Additionally, students can direct their own learning through the use of apps.

Students can be taught by educators in the classroom, and some can take the lesson further by exploring the key points using apps on their own time. After all, andragogy and heutagogy are gaining increasing popularity in education.

7. Do Further Research on Best Practices

Finally, it is said that we should always be learning and improving. Educators should understand and practice this, too. The tips here are only a few to get you started teaching with apps, but it’s highly recommended that you research best practices and tips from other teachers on your own.

Apps are beneficial to teaching, but they must be used carefully and with an organized plan of execution to be effective.

What tips do you have for those just starting to teach with apps? Tell us about them!

My Vision for the Future of Neuroscience in Education

Researchers are uncovering how the human brain functions, learns and stores memory. The implications of this work have the potential to create disruptive change. Still in its infancy, neuroscience has the potential to change how educators approach instruction and learning.

I base my vision for the future of neuroscience in education on cooperative interaction between researchers and teachers. Already neuroscientists cannot study learning and memory without the assistance of educators who are working alongside students, and teachers must consider the implications of neuroscience for their teaching.

In the future, you can expect to see a strong focus on learning and memory, a strengthened partnership between science and education, and improved student achievement.

Learning and memory

We already know that learning takes place as a result of synaptic plasticity, or the ability of nerve cells in the brain to increase or decrease connectivity.

To say that the brain grows more brain cells is a misconception. The brain cannot produce more cells to increase learning and memory. Instead, it strengthens the nerve endings on either side of the synapses, thereby creating a stronger connection. By adding layers of connections, the brain’s memory is reinforced. This process is called plasticity.

The implication for the future of neuroscience in education is that teachers will have to find ways to strengthen synaptic plasticity. It’s unlikely, however, that they will be able to help build these connections with the aid of digital technology.

The science-education partnership 

Medicine and science often lead the way for schools by providing extensive brain theory research. In the future, educators will continue to take their cues from science, and doctors and scientists alike will use the techniques developed by educators to maximize learning and memory.

In the future, educators and science will collaborate on gathering and analyzing research. The science-education partnership will improve learning and memory, and it will likely shorten the learning process and increase memory.

Tech and medical science education go together, and the applications of scientific theory and discovery to educational practice are clear. Researchers have proven the cognitive connection between digital gaming and learning. Learning comes about as a result of edtech games and simulations that incorporate adaptive branching and require higher order thinking skills.

Improved student achievement

According to Scott Bolland, improved engagement comes about when we align learning with brain theory.

That improved engagement is the result of better synaptic plastic, which in turn is developed through digital technology that provides authentic simulation as well as stimulation.

The future of neuroscience in education looks promising because I visualize a future where neuroscience leads instructional practice and instructional practice influences neuroscience.

A Vision of the Future of Higher Education

Every new generation sees changes in the landscape of higher education, but the essential tenets have always remained the same. Students live in dorms or student apartments and go every day to sit in classrooms where they hear lectures from professors.

However, many things we used to take for granted about the college experience may be changing. In fact, the higher education of future generations may be unrecognizable to those of us who came of age in the 20th century.

Here are some of the changes that seem to be emerging.

Adaptive learning

We are already witnessing technologies that adapt to learner needs. These tools can track student progress, making learning far more personalized. Students will no longer have to adjust to the lecture styles of various instructors. Instead, their online teachers will easily adapt to them. As AI (Artificial Intelligence) becomes more advanced, technology will adapt even more intuitively, responding to physical gestures and facial expressions.

Changes in concepts of the classroom space

The increasing popularity of the flipped/blended classroom models foreshadows a reimagining of the classroom space as we know it. Universities will investigate more creative approaches to learning spaces, similar to the global microcampuses proposed recently by the University of Arizona. As devices become smaller, classrooms themselves may be equipped with “smart” functions, able to adjust to the students that enter them as well as to connect to a wide range of teaching materials from around the world.

Equity around the globe

Institutions of higher learning are taking on the mission of making education accessible to students from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds. Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) have opened up a whole world to people that never could have considered a college education before. Although some issues of digital equity still remain, future generations will find educational opportunities increasingly available to the geographically remote and the economically disadvantaged, leveling the playing field to a greater degree than ever.


Technological advances have broken down walls, connecting students to real-world problem-solving and to leaders in their chosen field. Soon, possibilities for partnership between academia and the corporate world will surpass what anyone could have previously imagined. In addition, students and instructors will have the capacity to problem-solve together, resulting in deeper and more relevant learning experiences.

It seems clear that higher education of the future will turn our expectations upside down in many ways. It’s time to prepare to meet this brave new world.

My Vision for the Future of Education Leadership

Education leadership is changing, and so must our perception of what it is to be a leader.

My vision for the future of education leadership places leaders in a dynamic environment in which they will find themselves collaborating with other stakeholders. To be effective, future education leaders must understand how they will impact the lives of the people around them, what role technology will play in learning, and their ability to foster meaningful change.


Making an impact and understanding the implications of that impact are two different things. Future leaders in education will do both.

Educational leaders consistently impact academic achievement, whether through commission or omission. A good leader in education will influence others and create a ripple effect that carries learners far into the world.

In my vision for education leadership, future leaders recognize their impact, and they understand what that impact means for their future.

The role of technology

Educational leaders will rely on edtech for a variety of functions, and they will integrate its use seamlessly in schools.

Having lost their mistrust of digital learning, future leaders will incorporate technology with ease. Edtech will be a common tool in classrooms everywhere. Leaders will integrate digital technology as they prepare for the future.

Students will engage in application based learning – the kind that is hands-on and helps learners connect with their world. You will find a greater number of STEM classes, and the approaches used in STEM will permeate other subjects as well. Social studies and English language arts classes will become more hands-on in response to the demand that instruction becomes more aligned to our findings in neuroscience. For example, students may interact with holistic images of authors and historical figures.

Edtech’s role in this change is to equalize the playing field in the classroom, giving every learner the opportunity to access the individualized learning.

Change agents 

Education leaders of the future will be change agents who create disruptive learning. The leadership may come from the classroom or other unlikely areas, but they will all have one thing in common: they will no longer accept the status quo. Ultimately, education leaders of the future will have the capacity as well as the conviction to bring about meaningful change.

In my vision for the future of education leadership, our leaders will come from diverse backgrounds, and they will embrace digital technology as a way to improve learning.

What Is the Best Time of the Year to Sell to Schools?

Selling your edtech products directly to schools is a big undertaking. If successful, school and district sales can be the breakthrough for your edtech startup. However, top-down sales are time-consuming and take a lot of investment on the front end. It’s important to understand the process of district purchasing to succeed. One major question posed by edtech entrepreneurs is, when is the best time of the year to sell to schools?

Unfortunately, this can be a tricky subject with multiple variables. Here are some tips for determining the right time to approach schools about your edtech offering.

Spring Fling

The most common time for startups to contact districts is the spring. That is because budgets for the coming fall are being approved and schools are often shopping for products to implement. While the spring season is busy, it may not be the right time for your product. Take into account the type of product you’re offering and what kind of financial commitment you’re pursuing.

Schools are inundated with sales requests through the spring, and if your proposal isn’t on their priority list, you won’t get a meeting. Spring sales should be reserved for products with whole school implementation which will be used for the coming school year. Software products take longer to approve than hardware, so if you’re pitching a new LMS get in with the spring rush.

Additionally, if your product takes a significant investment, spring is the time to approach schools. You will need to come in on a new budget, not pick up the slack of the previous year.

Summer Sales

Conversely, if you’re offering smaller applications for individual use or hardware, you may have an easier time in the summer. School officials only have so much time for sales calls. So, approaching them when they’re less busy with more substantial purchases will be a smart strategy.

Summer is also an ideal time to contact teachers if you’re using a bottom-up model. Teachers are busy in the spring and fall. Furthermore, most teachers plan their coming year in the summer months. Offering a system to help with classroom organization or provide interactive lesson plans will be more successful during the planning phase.

Winter Wonderland

While the budgets of most schools will be tapped by winter, you may be able to pull in some last minute sales. Smaller purchases like supplementary tools and hardware can be offered to use any unallocated funds before the new budget year.

Autumn Strategy

Regardless of your product, remember that schools officials are excessively busy in the autumn months. They will have a lot on their calendars with implementation of new software, student orientation and smoothing out bumps. The fall season is the best time for relationship building with current and potential clients.

Instead of pitching ideas, helping with product setup or giving teachers and administrators one on one attention is best. Making yourself an asset to teachers and administrators will be a smart move for future contact. Selling to schools is just like any high stake sales industry and requires a bit of schmoozing which will undoubtedly help you land meetings during the summer, spring and winter months.

The process of selling to schools is slow. Some purchases take weeks for approval; others may take up to nine months. Patience, resilience, and planning are the keys to success in edtech sales.

What plans have you found successful for school sales? How do you get your foot in the door with administrators? We’d love to hear your feedback.



3 Ways That Technology Can Boost Campus Security

The need for increased security on college campuses is a growing concern for parents, family members, and loved ones. In the news and media online, you can hear or read about incidents, accidents, and even violent crimes that are taking place on US college campuses. Technology can offer increased security, regardless of the reason for the apparent increase in crime on university campuses. An increase in security on our college campuses should be one benefit of living in the age of growing technology. So, how can we use technology to keep our students safe?

  1. Security Alerts Delivered by Text Messages and Apps:

As a college student once, myself, I remember receiving text messages directly to my “dumb phone” through my college’s optional text message alert system. Even though I attended college without an Android or iPhone, I was able to receive immediate alerts from my university about threats on campus. Sometimes the alert was regarding an impending snow storm, and sometimes campus alerts via text message enabled me to be aware of a possible threat to campus security. Technology now has far surpassed the ability to protect its student bodies just through text message alerts. Although university’s security departments can quickly notify entire student populations through a simple text message, now as noted by Meghan Bortez many security apps and gadgets are widely available to students to increase their personal protection and security.

  1. Increased Lighting and Advanced Cameras:

Automatic lighting systems and sensors can be placed across entire university campuses to increase security. Some ways we can increase campus security are actually quite simple. we can protect our students by increasing the amount and quality of security lights. Students will feel more secure when walking back and forth to classes when security lights are distributed throughout the campus. No areas should be left completely in the dark. Neal Raisman author or “10 Steps to Create a More Secure Campus,” comments that increased lighting can not only offer increased protection but, may also decrease the student drop-out rate, because students may feel more secure when walking on campus at night. Also, noted by Meghan Bortez on www.edtechmagazine.com, an increase in the quality, quantity, and placement of cameras on university campuses can discourage petty theft and violent crime.  When crimes do occur, campus security should be able to view camera footage to help identify the perpetrator.

  1. Place Emergency Blue Light Phones Across Campus:

Some campuses are now placing “emergency blue light phone systems,” across their campus. At the University of Florida, police have installed emergency blue light phones across their campus. These “phones” enable you to alert security immediately of a security breach or concern without even placing a phone call. At the press of a bottom on one of these tall blue, highly visible phone systems, students can instantly contact their campus’ security dispatch center. By pressing the button, the dispatch center will also know the student’s location immediately. The dispatch center can send security personnel to that precise location and speak to the student. These emergency blue light phones are an excellent way to increase security on campus and should be put in use on every campus across America to decrease violent crime.

What Else Can We Do?

With the technology that we have available today, there should be no excuses why the students of America are not feeling safe on their own college campuses in the afternoon or at night. University alert systems increased lighting and cameras, and emergency blue light phones or other security systems can immediately increase the security and safety of student bodies. In addition to taking advantage of today’s technology developments, students, faculty, and staff need to work together to put in place effective security systems on their own campuses. Increase communication, collaboration, and inform your student body from orientation to graduation about how to stay safe.

Neal Raisman presents additional simple suggestions that can be used by everyone. For example, universities can offer defense classes and post the university police department and emergency contact information in public spaces. There should be no reason that today’s generation of young adults should fear their safety on their own college campuses with the options that we have available today, provided through technology and university and student collaboration.




Can Coding Improve Your Child’s Writing Skills?

There’s a big push in education right now to teach kids how to code. Coding is undoubtedly an important skill that will help students in the job marketplace. It’s an in-demand skill and a useful one. But can coding help students in other areas? Some are now suggesting that coding can help improve students’ writing skills.

Telling a story through code

In many ways, coding is like writing a story. Programmers must go in a sequential order, just like storytellers. Just like writers, programmers first sit down and plan out the story they will tell. What will happen in the beginning, middle, and end?  This is just as important for programmers to know as it is for writers.

Kids can also use coding to create stories. While we may not think of coding as a creative pursuit, it certainly can be. Some of the best video games tell stories. Through coding, students can create their own stories. The best part? These stories are interactive. Just like an old “choose your own adventure” book, the reader (or player) can decide what the character will do next and change the outcome of the story.

Programmers and writers must use words wisely

Good writers use their words wisely. They know how to say something in as few words as possible. This helps keep writing concise, readable, and to the point.

When writing code, good programmers know how to do a lot with just a few lines of code. Excess code can make a program confusing if other programmers need to make changes. Too much unnecessary code can also confuse the computer and lead to unexpected and unwanted outcomes.

When kids practice coding, they get into the habit of eliminating excess. This will make them better communicators and writers. They’ll know how to say a lot in just a few words—an increasingly important skill in a world where attention spans are shrinking.

Coding forces kids to plan ahead

Both writers and programmers have to learn to plan ahead. Most teachers are familiar with the struggle of trying to get students to complete graphic organizers and plan ahead before they start writing. This kind of big-picture organizational thinking is a challenge for kids.

When writing code, students have to know where they’re going. Otherwise, their code will end up a garbled mess that’s hard to make sense of. Programming allows students to practice planning ahead and thinking about the big picture, a skill they’ll definitely need in writing.

In writing and code, there are rules

Another similarity between writing and coding? Both have rules that must be followed. If kids ignore the rules when coding, they’ll end up with a program that doesn’t work. Certain functions must go in a particular order, and programmers have to understand the proper use of each bit of code.

In writing, there are rules, too. While you won’t get an error message if you break the rules of grammar, writers who eschew conventions may find that their work is hard to read. Knowing the parts of speech and understanding sentence structure is a lot like knowing how to write code.

By practicing their coding skills, students can get a sense of how to piece these different parts together. This skill will translate into their writing, making them better writers.

Coding and writing aren’t that different

In many ways, coding and writing and alike. Both require an understanding of the basics as well as the ability to plan ahead and see the big picture. And both coding and writing allow kids to get creative and tell a story in their own unique way.

Have your kids learned to code? If so, what changes have you seen in their writing?