Archive for the ‘education news’ Category

Top Resources for Educational Technology News

It can be tough to keep up with all of the news coming out of the educational technology sector.  With such rapid changes in social media, computing devices, and best practices it can be tough to stay informed.  That is why we have compiled a list of the top resources for education technology.

1. Tech & Learning

2. District Administration

3. THE Journal

4. Converge

5. EdTech Blog

So, when you want to learn about new technology besides Tandem, be sure to check these sites out!

Tandem Voted a Top 100 Product by District Administration

Thank you to all of our customers for voting Tandem for Schools as a Top 100 Product of 2010!  In late August we sent a request to our customers asking them to vote for us and they sure came out in droves.  Recognition as a Top 100 Product means a lot to the staff here at Intand and we are extremely grateful that are customers voted for us.  You can feel the energy here in the office today!

You can find the entire list of the Top 100 Products on the District Administration website.

Top Tweets

These past two weeks have seen a lot of great articles posted on our Twitter stream.  You can view them all by going to  Below are a few of our more interesting tweets:

Ideas to Increase Parent Communication in Schools – This article focuses on ways schools can increase communication with parents.  It lists many very actionable measures that a school can use to increase parent communication.

Put Your School’s Calendar Online! – Somewhat of an older article but the point remains the same, put you school’s calendar online!  And we couldn’t agree more.  With today’s technology their is no reason not to put your school calendar online.

Target Announces Plans to Reach $1 Billion in Support of Education – It is always great to hear that corporations are willing to put money into education.  Target is donating another $500 million to help education as part of a new reading initiative.

Federal Government Programs Established To Expand Technology in Education

Despite tough economic times, Congress has moved forward in recent times to implement programs that will expand the use of technology in education – from federal stimulus funds that can be applied toward upgrading technology resources in schools to the establishment of a new, federally funded national center focused on developing learning technologies.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Also known as ARRA, the $787 billion federal stimulus package allocated $650 million for Educational Technology State Grants. The goals of the program are to:

(1) Improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in schools

(2) Assist all students in becoming technologically literate by the end of eighth grade

(3) Encourage the effective integration of technology with teacher training and curriculum development in order to identify successful research-based instructional methods.

Funds can be used for acquiring and maintaining hardware, software and connectivity equipment, professional development to enhance technology instruction, developing and implementing information technology education, application of technology resources to improve communication with parents, distance learning, and developing and using technology tools to enhance education.

The program was launched in the fall of 2009 and is expected to run through the 2012 fiscal year.

National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies

“It’s time that education had the equivalent of what the National Science Foundation does for science, Darpa does for the national defense and NIH [National Institute of Health] does for health,” – Lawrence K. Grossman

This new center within the U.S. Department of Education, was originally the 2001 brainchild of Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of NBC News and PBS and Newton N. Minow, the former chairman of the FCC. Nearly a decade later, Congress has finally allocated federal funds for the center, which will focus on awarding grants to organizations to research and develop learning technology. The current budget is $500,000 and the center will also solicit additional funds through private donations. The center is expected to begin awarding grants as early as fall 2010.

Links to article sources:
After 10 Years, Federal Money for Technology in Educatio The New York Times

Enhancing Education Through Technology Recovery Plan

Image source:

Google Anxious to Usher in the Digital Age in Schools

At a recent conference on Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age, Google co-founder Sergey Brin addressed the increasingly prominent role of technology in schools. Paradoxically a high-school drop-out himself, Brin is part of the search engine monolith’s mission to advance the ideal of universal computer access. Stepping up its involvement in the educational arena, Google has lately supplied schools with its top apps at no charge. But the technology giant’s agenda isn’t all altruism. Google’s growing interest and generosity serve a dual purpose, arming the next generation with the latest tools for success while weaning them on Google’s own brand, thus ensuring a pipeline of future consumers already conversant in the language of the company’s product line.

Brin expressed his conviction that today’s curriculum needs to reflect technology’s expanded role, suggesting that the subject of computer science be given a slot alongside math and English in schools. He promoted the idea of textbook downloads and proposed that students be utilized as tech tutors for younger kids as well as seniors. Students, he suggested, could polish their writing skills as Wikipedia contributors. And Brin was adamant that we could not afford to neglect teachers, insisting that our educators need to be better rewarded.

The proliferation of broadband and the increasing affordability of computer equipment are putting technology within reach of greater numbers with each passing day. Yet even as he foresees a future approaching that ideal of universal access, Brin perceives a downside for students in this digital age, recognizing that expanding horizons can be a humbling, ego-deflating experience. Gaining a global perspective can make one’s own talents seem puny by comparison.

Critics might argue that technology and its availability alone are not the answer to what ails the educational system. Putting laptops in the hands of every student is not enough without the input of dedicated teachers, involved parents, and supportive communities. Children are already wired by nature to learn. Sometimes we just need to get out of the way and remove the barriers to learning.

Providing students with the right tools only makes sense. If Google and its counterparts in the tech sector are eager to help underwrite that effort, our financially strapped schools are sure to welcome the support. However, there needs to be a caveat. Not that long ago, schools across the nation were reconsidering having jumped at the chance to earn a few perks by allowing the big soda companies to stock their products in cafeteria vending machines. Whether by coincidence or consequence, a wave of childhood obesity followed. As we usher in the digital age with the support of giants like Google, schools should take care not to sell out the malleable minds in their charge.

Image source / CC BY 2.0

Virgina Pilots Teaching with Video Games

The state of Virgina has implemented a pilot program to use a math video game called DimensionM, which uses 3-D graphics and math orientated missions, to teach algebra. In 2008, the University of Central Florida conducted a study of students who played the game and concluded that it improved students’ understanding and significantly raise test scores.

According to eSchool News:

Students in the experimental groups who played Tabula Digita video games over an 18-week period scored significantly higher (in some cases, twice as high) on district benchmark tests than students in the control group who did not play video games, researchers said.

Also, four out of five teachers (and all 15 students) who were interviewed reported that students’ math understanding and skills improved as a result of playing the educational video games.

Often video games are given a bad name, but they also have the potential to increase learning if used in an educational way. I have heard anecdotes of schools in Japan issuing the Nintendo DS to students and there are many educational games available on the iPod touch that can exercise the mind or improve vocabulary. One of the reasons that video games can help learning is that it is fun and engaging for students. Also, games often have specific goals that must be accomplished to win, which can motivate students to keep trying until they successfully solve problems. This can build student’s resiliency when they can’t solve a problem on the first try, which author Malcom Gladwell argues is an important component of educational performance. Gladwell argues in the book Outliers, that one of the main reasons Asian students score better in math tests is because they have been ingrained with the habit to keep trying, a trait that is generally less present in American students. It seems that video games may not rot the brain after all.

photo by hiperia3d

Will the Stimulus Funding Be Canceled Out by Local Budget Shortfalls?

With an unprecedented $100 billion being invested in education from the federal level, is it possible that the investment will be canceled out by local budget shortfalls?

The Washington Post describes one county that is cutting their school budget in direct response to increased federal funding.

After hearing that an initial batch of $11.8 million in federal funds would soon arrive in Loudoun County, supervisors slashed $7.3 million from the schools budget. They also made clear that if more federal recovery money flows to schools, schools might be asked to give back an equal amount of county dollars.

This is a frightening case study because if budgets are slashed at the local level because the local governments know that they will be receiving federal funds, then the billions in additional funding could end up merely sustaining the status quo.

However, Secretary Duncan has warned schools of using such tactics. According to a Washington Post article:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned states against playing “shell games” with money aimed at schools. The stimulus law and regulations have strings to protect against big drops in education funding but allow the most cash-strapped states to seek some flexibility. “Where we see a state or district operating in bad faith or doing something counter to the president’s intent, we’re going to come down like a ton of bricks,” Duncan said in a March conference call with reporters.

The administration has high expectations for schools to show progress in order to receive subsequent rounds of funding and a share of the “Race to the Top” pot of funds. The “historic opportunity to reform education” may be in jeopardy if federal funds to improve schools are being used just to refill local budgets to necessary levels to avoid job cuts. With some communities already being forced to cut hundreds of school jobs, it may be mission impossible to reform education in this environment.

Photo by artemfinland

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Describes His Vision for Educational Reform

by Charles Sipe

Arne Duncan spoke to Education Week about education reform, how the stimulus will be used, and his vision for education under the Obama administration. He lays out his priorities in education reform such as preparing students for life success by increasing graduation rates and higher education rates, and describes important actions needed to improve education, such as raising standards, establishing comprehensive and ongoing assessments, and rewarding good teaching.

You can view the full-length interview video below.

3:30 mark

“This is a historically once in a lifetime opportunity..While we want to get money out fast, is is critically important that we want to be smart, and drive this reform agenda…Simply investing and maintaining the status quo is not going to get us to where we need to go as a country, we want to try to get dramatically better.”

Duncan wants to use this record stimulus to enable the dramatic change that he believes is essential in the education system. This would suggest some radical changes to current way things are done, in order to challenge the traditional way things have been done in the past. It is unclear what dramatic changes he plans, though he has hinted in the past that he favors extending the school year or school day.

3:50 mark

“We are looking for a commitment to a set of reforms..that many states are actually already pursuing and these are great ideas coming from states and this is a chance to take to scale what is working and push harder than we ever had..we’ve talked a lot about college ready, career ready, internationally benchmark standards, that we need to raise the bar. In far too many states because the bar has been lowered due to political pressure, I would argue that we have a race to the bottom.. and we want to literally reverse that and create a race to the top. We want to really encourage states to think very very hard about their standards. And ultimately where the bar is low, we are doing children and families a great disservice, and I would go as so far as saying we are lying to them when in a given state a child is told they are meeting standards…I think they are on track to be successful…and unfortunately in many many places if you are”meeting standards” since that bar has been driven so low, those children are at best, barely prepared to graduate from high school and totally, inadequately prepared to go to the competitive university level and graduate from that university.”

I think raising standards is good, and necessary to help students compete in an increasing competitive international environment, but this could also make it tougher for students to graduate from high school and end up reducing the number of high school graduates.

“Secondly we need great assessments…in that when children take a test in 10th or 11th grade, frankly there shouldn’t be any surprises there. We should know in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grade what students strengths and weaknesses are. We should get real time data to parents, to the students themselves, to teachers to say these are strengths, these are weaknesses, this is what they are doing well, this is what we need to do collectively to improve. So being able to track students throughout their educational career is very very important. Data systems are at the heart of this reform effort, that we have to know where the data tells us. And where we can’t track students…how can you begin to know if they’re improving or not. We need comprehensive data systems that do 3 things, track students throughout their educational trajectory, second track students back to teachers…track teachers back to their schools of education.”

This makes a lot of sense but to measure how students are progressing through their educational career, doesn’t that mean more standardized testing will be required in order to gather that data? In Washington State, there has been tremendous criticism and backlash against the increased standardized testing, with many believing it forces teachers to conform to the test. I think measuring progress will be a major challenge for this reform effort.

“Third…great teaching matters, talent matters tremendously in this work. And we want to encourage states to think very very differently about that. How do we recognize and reward the best and brightest. We have literally hundreds of thousands of teachers around the country who go way beyond the call of duty…and are making a phenomenal difference in students lives in some of the toughest communities…we have not done enough to incent that, to reward it, to shine a spotlight on it and we have to do that..there have been many disincentives to take on the toughest …and we want to reverse that…we have areas where we have national shortages…science, foreign language…I think we should be thinking about paying those students more…instead of having the marketplace inform us of where are strengths are, where our weaknesses are, where we have real shortages. Do we want to have these shortages 10 years from now or do we want to fix it. A little money on the table would absolutely help in rewarding excellence, paying more where we have areas of critical need.”

I agree with this point the most, because I think that recruiting and retaining the best talent will be the key to educational improvement. In order to reach the goals of dramatic improvement, I think there needs to be a dramatic shift in how teachers are recruited and rewarded, specifically a strong increase in pay to attract a larger pool of talented individuals. I don’t think the current pay scale is in line with the importance of the position in society and until that is fixed, there will not be enough talent to solve the problems in our schools. I think that a possible solution that Secretary Duncan may be overlooking is a volunteer force. President Obama has called for citizens to volunteer, and there are few areas that need volunteer help more than schools. How can Duncan leverage an energized citizenry to help improve schools?

Education Week Interview with Education Secretary Arne Duncan from Education Week on Vimeo.

What do you think? Are you encouraged by the rhetoric from the Secretary of Education? Do you agree with what he thinks is most important in the reform effort?

Image by Obama-Biden Transition Project

Budget Cuts Ahead

In a new survey (PDF) by the National Governors Association, budget cuts are ahead for many school districts throughout the nation.  That means cutbacks in many areas for schools, and the need for more efficient spending in the budgets that remain.  You can read a summary here of how these cuts will be felt by everyone, not only schools.

How can Tandem for Schools help when budgets get tight?

For one, it can offer technology that won’t break your bank with software license fees or expensive ongoing training needs.  Plus, it will enable efficient and easy calendar planning that will free up your valuable staff to manage other key needs.

And if you opt for trying out our Tandem Premium tools, you will be able to manage transportation and its budgets with great ease and financial efficiency.

Tandem can definitely help your school or district, but it will help parents too.  What if that baseball game gets cancelled, or the PTA meeting moved to another day?  Tandem is great at keeping your staff and parents informed so they don’t go driving to events that aren’t even happening.  Plus, you will avoid getting slammed by a bunch of phone calls in your office by parents wondering what’s going on.

All in all, Tandem can help make life easier, all the while saving your school or district money and time. What a better way to help manage your school in these times of tight finances.

We’d love to personally show you how Tandem can help your school enhance it’s limited resources.  Schedule a personal demo now, using the form, and we’ll get with you right away to show you Tandem benefits.  Or call us.

Creating and Connecting

The National School Boards Association underscores the need for thoughtful policies regarding online social networking within school communities in an excellent study.  With the exponential upsurge of sites like MySpace and Facebook, it is clear that reactive responses don’t work — students will still be typing away after hours, keeping in touch with friends.

Some stats:

71% of students use social networks at least weekly.

59% of online students talk about educational topics online.

50% of online students talk specifically about homework online.

All of this online social networking tech is still shaking out.  People still don’t know what to do with it, or what to make of it.  It’s an untamed beast.  But it shows powerful potential to connect with students and parents in new and efficient ways.

Imagine connecting with your local school community (and beyond) with online calendar updates, event invitations, etc. through MySpace or Facebook.

At Intand, we are looking to drive technology in these areas, especially in the event communication arena.  Look for more in the future.