Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 Introduced in the US Senate

US Senate 111th Class PhotoOn Friday, June 19, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) introduced the Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015, major legislation that would support innovative ways to improve student access to the Internet and other digital learning resources outside of the classroom. SETDA did sign on as a supporter of the bill.

The Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 aims to narrow this growing divide by supporting innovative ways to ensure students stay connected and extend access to digital learning opportunities when they leave the classroom. This bill would support states and school districts in piloting creative methods to increase student access to digital learning resources outside of the school day with the goal of increasing student, parent, and educator engagement and improving the ability of students to participate in new learning models, apply for work opportunities, and fill out college applications and financial aid forms.

The legislation also directs the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to conduct a national study of the data associated with this growing digital divide, including information on the barriers to students having Internet access at home, how educators are adjusting classroom instruction to cope with this challenge, and how a lack of home Internet access impacts student participation and engagement.

The federal pilot program authorized under this legislation is inspired by a portable Wi-Fi initiative at the Cherryfield Public Library in Cherryfield, Maine. The “Check-out the Internet” initiative allows students to check-out a mobile Wi-Fi device to provide them with Internet access outside of school. The initiative is a public-private partnership with the New York Public Library, Maine State Library, U.S. Cellular, and Axiom Technologies with additional sites in rural Maine expected to be launched this summer. Participating students must lack Internet access at home and have a laptop or tablet issued by their school through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, a program that was spearheaded by then-Governor King to provide laptops to every seventh and eighth grade middle school student in the State of Maine.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Library Association, Common Sense Media, the Consortium for School Networking, the Competitive Carriers Association, Engine Advocacy, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, the National Education Association, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and U.S. Cellular.

Full bill: http://www.king.senate.gov/download/?id=4743E157-EFA6-4671-94BC-E21E28A438F9&inline=file

Comments from National Leaders In support of the Bill: http://www.king.senate.gov/download/?id=EB9E69AA-93D1-4D3F-A851-D0C94ABF3DAE&inline=file

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Policy Report: Low Impact ‘Distractors’ Weakening Education

Forget about longer school days; forget about performance pay; forget about smaller class sizes, teacher professional development, or — gasp! — technology as a magic potion. According to an Australian education expert, these are all distractors that have only incremental impact on student learning. Much of his attention is paid to the education system in the United States.

In two separate reports published by Pearson Education, John Hattie, director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, deputy director of the Science of Learning Research Centre, and chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, called into question many of the assumptions pursued by education reformers over the last two decades.  Continue reading

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How to Manage Cell Phones in the Classroom

When I ask the students why they are so attached to their devices with the small (some aren’t so small) screens, I invariably get the response, “It’s my life.”

I just don’t get it and probably never will, but here is my attempt at understanding. After careful observation, I have determined that the cell phones are analogous to what happened when the Walkman first appeared on the scene for the older generation.  A Walkman was a portable cassette player that sometimes came with a radio.

Students could conveniently take their music with them and also conveniently tune out any undesirable noise. Within this cocoon of music, students feel safe and protected. “I study better with my music” is a frequent response to “Please take the earbuds out.” It doesn’t matter how much research you share about the brain not being able to focus on more than one thing at a time, as soon as you turn your back, the earbuds will be back in.

They even have hoodies with built-in earbuds instead of drawstrings so that the students can wall themselves off with little chance of detection. They have thousands of songs on their playlist. It seems like an appendage to their bodies (as with many adults, as well). Continue reading

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Top 12 Summer Tips for Top Teachers

During summer days, if you’re a top teacher, you’ll take time to improve your best asset — you. If somehow it’s not clear why that’s so important, look at it this way: when financial times are tight, our schools can improve the bottom line in four ways, three which aren’t beneficial for us as teachers.

  • They can cut teachers and staff.
  • They can cut benefits.
  • They can lower quality.

We teachers can become more productive and better at our jobs.
The best choice for our students, schools, and us is #4 — becoming better teachers. But how? We’re so tired!

Here are 12 tips that I use to level up every summer. Continue reading

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Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach

Student-centered, technology-driven instruction remains elusive for most

Public schools now provide at least one computer for every five students. They spend more than $3 billion per year on digital content. And nearly three-fourths of high school students now say they regularly use a smartphone or tablet in the classroom.

But a mountain of evidence indicates that teachers have been painfully slow to transform the ways they teach, despite that massive influx of new technology into their classrooms. The student-centered, hands-on, personalized instruction envisioned by ed-tech proponents remains the exception to the rule.

“The introduction of computers into schools was supposed to improve academic achievement and alter how teachers taught,” said Stanford University education professor Larry Cuban. “Neither has occurred.”

Indeed, a host of national and regional surveys suggest that teachers are far more likely to use technology to make their own jobs easier and to supplement traditional instructional strategies than to put students in control of their own learning. Case study after case study describe a common pattern inside schools: A handful of “early adopters” embrace innovative uses of new technology, while their colleagues make incremental or no changes to what they already do. Continue reading

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Administration Honors Schools, Districts and Postsecondary Institutions for Sustainable Facilities, Health, and Learning Practices

White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss and NOAA Director of Education Louisa Koch joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday to congratulate the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees on their achievements at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

At the event, 58 schools and 14 districts were honored for their leadership in reducing environmental impact and costs, promoting better health, and ensuring effective environmental education. In addition, 9 colleges and universities were honored with the first-ever Postsecondary Sustainability Award. Representatives from the schools, districts and postsecondary institutions received sustainably crafted plaques and banners in recognition of their achievements. Continue reading

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Friday Institute and State Educational Technology Directors Association Release State Digital Learning Exemplars National Report

The State Educational Technology Directors Association and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University College of Education co-released the national report, State Digital Learning Exemplars: Highlights from states leading change through policies and funding. States are striving to support the expansion of technology tools and resources in K12 education through state policies, programs and funding in order to provide digital learning opportunities for all students. This paper highlights examples of states with policies in support of 5 key areas: innovative funding streams and policy, digital content, human capacity, network infrastructure and data management and privacy. While there has been progress toward digital learning nationwide, several states have emerged as leaders in embracing digital learning via state policies and practices in all five areas mentioned above: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Utah. This report also highlights other states with significant progress in at least one of the specific five areas.  Continue reading

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