Browse Category: Tips and Tricks

covid funding cliff

K-12 Schools Share Their Strategies for Addressing the Coming Federal Funding Cliff

The COVID-19 pandemic essentially ended the conversation about whether school districts should embrace one-to-one programs that put a computing device into the hands of every student.

“During COVID, a large number of individual devices were deployed,” says Amy McLaughlin, Cybersecurity Initiative director at the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). “We exited the conversation of, ‘Should we do one-to-one?’ and entered the conversation of, ‘How do we maintain one-to-one?’”

Historically, many school districts have struggled to build device refresh cycles into their operating budgets. Often, new interactive displays or laptops are bought with one-time, nonrecurring funds, such as bond money for a school building project. More recently, schools received multiple rounds of federal government funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, the Emergency Connectivity Fund, and other grants to make necessary ed tech purchases.

As McLaughlin notes, the lifecycle for mobile devices such as laptops and tablets is much shorter — about three years, she suggests — than the lifecycle of a school building. In a 2022 CoSN survey, 75 percent of districts said federal economic stimulus funds were significant for supporting hybrid learning. Of those that relied on emergency funding for IT initiatives, 60 percent used the money to purchase devices.

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gamification and education

What Is Gamification, and Why Is It Trending in K–12 Schools?

Educators work hard to set students up for success in a world that is increasingly digital. A 2018 report by the Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies estimated that 85 percent of children entering today’s K–12 schools will eventually find themselves in jobs that don’t currently exist, making educators’ jobs even more challenging.

Add to that the new technologies vying for students’ attention in classrooms and on devices, plus the mental and emotional difficulties many students are facing following the pandemic. How can school districts engage students and set them up for success in a future world of advanced technology?

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3 Ways to Build a Case for (and Win) Early Learning STEAM Robotics Grants

By  Jason Innes

With millions of dollars of ESSER funding (as well as other federal, state, and local grants) still available, the smartest edtech investments are the ones that meet the following criteria:

  1. Are research-backed and deliver evidence-based solutions.
  2. Provide flexible, ongoing professional development.
  3. Offer hours of curriculum to support any subject.

Let’s dive deeper into each of these points to prove the case for bringing coding and robotics into young learners’ hands to support the development of computational thinking and invaluable science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.

1. Evidence of effect is critical.
Early childhood educators seeking funds for edtech should focus on research-backed solutions. When looking to introduce STEAM robotic solutions for children in preK through 5th grade, rely on research to prove the importance of introducing coding robots at a young age. For instance, the decades of research behind the screen-free KIBO robot show that even the youngest students can learn sequencing and coding in a fun and engaging way, regardless of curriculum. Powerful, positive learning outcomes for young learners when working with robotics include the following:

  • Improved sequencing ability in early childhood.
  • Mastery of foundational coding and robotics skills.
  • Integration of robotics across curricula.
  • Positive impact on underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

2. Ongoing professional development supports success.
Effective professional development (PD) assists long after the implementation of the product. PD lets educators embrace a solution and make it their own, customize it to their school’s needs, and understand how to pace the curriculum to allow students time to explore and experiment. Thanks to significant (but time-limited!) stimulus spending in education, educators can use ESSER funds to secure technology and devices, but also professional development to begin implementation right away and feel comfortable with the solutions purchased.

3. Embedded curriculum makes all the difference.
Edtech products that are paired with out-of-the-box curriculum are also must-haves. The accompanying curriculum should be designed to engage children in the full range of powerful ideas in creative coding and robotics, from beginner to advanced use.

After working through the curriculum, young children will be able to develop their computational thinking, engineering, and STEAM skills in a playful way. Most importantly, when educators are comfortable with delivering the robotics curriculum, children will be able to use robotics and coding to express themselves, explore interests, and connect and collaborate with peers. Educators should also look for curriculum that is aligned with both ISTE and CSTA standards, as well as their own state standards.

If educators find the right playful STEAM robotics solutions to take advantage of available funding, they can create an ideal early education environment—classrooms bubbling with engaged students asking questions, children learning from one another, and peers excitedly helping each other find answers. Be sure to prove the case with the tips above and bring in the funding for proven solutions that will engage young learners in creative STEAM learning and inspire their (and your) success.

Jason Innes is director of curriculum, training, and product management at KinderLab Robotics, Inc. He can be reached at jason@kinderlabrobotics.com.

Social Emotional Learning and IT

What’s Social-Emotional Learning Got to Do with IT?

By Delaine Johnson and Mike Lawrence for EdTech Magazine

As educators, we wonder if the kids are OK. A Rave Mobile Safety survey of more than 400 K–12 employees, released in March, found that student mental health is top of mind for 61 percent of respondents.

And while we sometimes feel helpless, we must remember there are small steps that educators can take to help students manage some complex emotions.

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Anyone’s Game: K–12 Esports Opportunities Abound for Girls

In recent years, esports has become increasingly popular. Its audience increased by 38 million from 2019 to 2020, and it’s projected to reach more than 576 million by 2024.

Female participation in the sport, however, hasn’t quite mirrored that pace. Sixty percent of female gamers in the U.S. and U.K. say there’s a significant lack of women participating in esports; nearly as many feel the gaming community isn’t doing enough to encourage female participation in the sport.

Ashley Hodge, who now coaches a 45-student esports team at Dodge County High School in Georgia, previously oversaw a large esports program at another high school in the state. Out of more than 125 students on that team, only five were girls, she says.

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Trends in K–12 Esports Arenas

School esports arenas are popping up across the country as competitive gaming teams grow in K–12 districts. Schools, administrators, and communities have begun to see the value esports provides to students and districts. As a result, district personnel who wish to start esports clubs are facing less pushback in making the case for these programs.

From school colors to shoutcasters, discover the popular elements in district esports spaces.

How K–12 Schools Can Future-Proof Their Technology Solutions

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught K–12 schools anything, it’s that circumstances can change quickly — and that technology can play a big role in adjusting. 

But pandemics recede, and schools continue to teach students. What lessons will K–12 districts learn from the past two years? If they’re like The Lincoln Academy, a new K–12 public charter school in Beloit, Wis., they learn to prepare for the future — not necessarily for the next health emergency, but for anything that could affect how they deliver quality education: curriculum changes, larger class sizes, student tastes, innovative pedagogies, new technologies, you name it.

Learn how The Lincoln Academy built an IT infrastructure that meets its current and future needs.

Bring the Classroom Outdoors

How K–12 Schools Are Bringing Classroom Technology to Outdoor Learning

If you stumble across a group of K–12 school students outside using laptops to track soil levels and search for monarch eggs or observing birdhouses with video cameras, you may have discovered an outdoor learning space.

From informal hammock gardens to high-tech tents, outdoor learning spaces have become markedly more popular over the past few years because of the pandemic. Educators say these spaces give students a chance to breathe fresh air, experience a change of scenery, and, most importantly, gain opportunities for increased learning engagement.

Read more about bringing education outdoors.

Is Dated Technology Contributing to the Great Teacher Resignation?

With 55 percent of educators ready to leave the profession earlier than planned, according to a recent survey from the National Education Association, school leaders are struggling to recruit and retain them. The most common reasons stated for leaving were burnout, limited staffing, and, of course, the pandemic.

Could upgrading the technology teachers use every day in their classrooms help make their work easier — and stem the tide of educators leaving school districts? According to some educational technology experts, it certainly can’t hurt.

Read more about what experts say regarding upgrading technology and its contribution to job satisfaction.

The Evolution of Technology in K–12 Classrooms: 1659 to Today

In the 21st century, it can feel like advanced technology is changing the K–12 classroom in ways we’ve never seen before. But the truth is, technology and education have a long history of evolving together to dramatically change how students learn.

With more innovations surely headed our way, why not look back at how we got to where we are today while looking forward to how educators can continue to integrate new technologies into their learning?

Read more about the challenges of integrating tech in a modern learning environment.


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