Ka’Ching! 2016 US Edtech Funding Totals $1 Billion

This is a repost of an article that appeared on EdSurge

Santa proved a little more parsimonious to U.S. edtech companies, which altogether raised an estimated $1.03 billion across 138 venture deals in 2016. Those tallies dipped from 2015, which saw 198 deals that totalled $1.45 billion. (Or, from a different perspective, U.S. edtech companies raised roughly 57 percent of what Snapchat did in its $1.8 billion Series F round.)

In this annual analysis, EdSurge counts all investments in technology companies whose primary purpose is to improve learning outcomes for all learners, regardless of age. This year startups that serve primarily the K-12 market raised $434 million; those targeting the postsecondary and corporate learning sector raised $593 million.

Since 2010, venture funding dollars for U.S. edtech startups have increased every consecutive year. It’s worth noting that even though 2016 marked the end of this trend, the dollar total still surpasses the years before 2015.

The downturn isn’t specific to the education industry but rather reflects a broader slowdown across all technology sectors, says Tory Patterson, managing partner at Owl Ventures. “There’s a broader shift in venture capital where there’s less exuberance companies that haven’t really nailed the business model,” he tells EdSurge.

Dealflow dips has also been felt in the health, real estate, construction and financial technology sectors. Across the globe, venture deals returned to 2014 levels, according to CB Insights. The market uncertainty has led some high-profile companies to hit pause on bigger plans. SoFi, which offers loans and other student services, pushed back plans for its initial public offering this year. Pluralsight, an online learning company that was also expected to IPO, is also on hold.

Venture-backed startups tend to swing between two spectrums, says Amit Patel, a partner at Owl Ventures. On one end are businesses “that grow aggressively but have no revenue associated. The other are those laser focused on business model and revenue. The mood is swinging towards the latter.”

Commitments to “impact” or “mission” aside, all investors—even in education—want to see returns. Often that means converting users into dollars.

“We’ve noticed VCs becoming more selective about their education investments, asking more questions about revenue growth and the leading indicators of product adoption, implementation timelines and ultimately usage,” says Jason Palmer, a general partner at New Markets Venture Partners. Unlike Instagrams and other “5-year consumer internet hits,” more investors, according to Palmer, now realize “it can take 10 or 15 years to build a sustainable education business.”

Breaking Down the Numbers

As in previous years, companies offering tools in the postsecondary and “other” categories out-raised other products. (“Other” includes a mix of products that help business professionals develop skills, are aimed at parents, or are not used in K-12 or higher-ed institutions.)

Expect this trend to continue, says Palmer, as investors come to “a greater recognition that higher education institutions adopt and implement more rapidly than K-12 [schools].” Tuition dollars may be one reason why they have adopted technologies such as student retention and predictive analytics platform. “Colleges and universities are facing financial pressures to keep students who contribute to their revenues. In K-12, you don’t have the same urgency of students as revenue drivers,” he suspects.

This year saw no mega-rounds for startups in the postsecondary sector—unlike 2015, which saw HotChalk, Udacity, Udemy, Coursera and Civitas Learning account for more than $520 million of funding. (Udemy did lead this pack in 2016 with a $60 million round.)

In fact, the biggest funding round of 2016 for a U.S.-based startup went to Age of Learning, which raised $150 million and accounts for 55 percent of the funding total for K-12 curriculum products. The Glendale, Calif.-based company is the developer of ABCmouse, a collection of online learning activities aimed for young children. First developed for the consumer and parent market, the tool is attempting to make headway into schools and classrooms.

Choosier Angels

Angel and seed level funding rounds, which signal investors’ interest in promising but unproven ideas, saw a small decline as well. The 66 deals at this stage are the lowest since 2011, although they totaled $62.5 million—roughly on par with 2014 levels.

Over the past five years, the average value of seed rounds has been increasing, from around $600K in the early years of this decade to roughly $1 million in 2015 and 2016. Discounting edtech accelerators, which typically invest $20K to $150K in startups, the 2016 seed round average actually surpasses $2 million. (We counted 28 such publicly disclosed seed rounds totaling $60.2 million)

Fewer but bigger seed deals are “a sign of maturation in the industry,” says Shauntel Poulson, a general partner at Reach Capital. Unlike previous years, where upstarts and ideas popped up the market, she believes the market is currently in a “stage of consolidation where leaders and proven ideas are emerging.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs ought to pay heed. What this means is that “the bar for seed rounds is getting higher,” Poulson adds. “Before it was about a promising idea and a great team. Now you need to show more traction and even some revenue.” Over the past few years investors have learned that “it’s best to focus on business model sooner rather than later.”

Palmer believes the days where startups could raise money before making some may be over. Expect to get grilled over “revenue growth, product adoption, implementation timelines and ultimately usage,” he says. To round out the questions, “VCs are also starting to ask about product efficacy.”

Looking Ahead

Unsurprisingly, investors held a cheery outlook for 2017, expecting funding totals to hold steady or even increase. More companies will be able to demonstrate sustainable revenue, predicts Owl Ventures’ Tory Patterson, and in turn woo investors’ appetite. “We think a lot of companies will be able to hit the $10 million revenue milestone.”

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality could drive further investments as their applications to help improve learning outcomes become clearer. Also expect to see Chinese investors paying closer attention, says Poulson. “There’s a big after-school market [in China] and an opportunity to leverage a lot of the content that’s being developed in the U.S.”

There’s also word on the street that several education-focused venture firms have re-upped their coffers with new funds to support proven, maturing startups. Stay tuned for more details.

Disclosure: Owl Ventures and Reach Capital are investors in EdSurge

Great Post by David Warlick

via 2¢ Worth

Today’s infographic is simple and to the point. A big part of grade school and even college and onward, is writing papers. Some professions write more papers than others, but it is still an important skill in order to get your point across. This infographic uses venn diagrams to convey the importance of different parts of papers, and to show how they interact with one another. It also shows how much of your paper should include each part.

Of course every paper should begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion. It should also include several point in the middle, that are introduced and concluded in the introduction and conclusion. But how should the middle be laid out? That is up to the author, but it should there is a bit of a formula.

This infographic does a great job of showing that there should be pros and cons. You should always share how your paper may be argued against, and go ahead and prove some of these points wrong. In addition, a good paper should show why the information is important. Why should someone read your paper?

Show this to your students whenever a paper is assigned. Make sure your students are ready to write a good paper, and know what is involved in writing such a paper.




The Rise of Homeschooling Among Black Families

African American parents are increasingly taking their kids’ education into their own hands—and in many cases, it’s to protect them from institutional racism and stereotyping.
ashida s. mar b./Flickr

Marvell Robinson was in kindergarten when a classmate reportedly poured an anthill on him at the playground. After that, the gibes reportedly became sharper: “Why are you that color?” one boy taunted at the swing set, leaving Marvell scared and speechless. The slow build of racial bullying would push his mother, Vanessa Robinson, to pull him from his public school and homeschool him instead.

Marvell is one of an estimated 220,000 African American children currently being homeschooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling, with black students making up an estimated 10 percent of the homeschooling population. (For comparison’s sake, they make up 16 percent of all public-school students nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.)

And while white homeschooling families traditionally cite religious or moral disagreements with public schools in their decision to pull them out of traditional classroom settings, studies indicate black families are more likely to cite the culture of low expectations for African American students or dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated in schools.

Marvell, now 7 and in the second grade, was the only black student in both his kindergarten and first-grade classes, and one of only a few black students in his San Diego elementary school, according to his mother. And Marvell’s Asperger syndrome—a high-functioning form of autism that makes social interaction difficult—only added to the curiosity and cruelty with which his fellow classmates approached him, Robinson added. She was concerned the school wasn’t doing enough about it. “I just thought maybe I could do a better job myself,” she said.

“They said, ‘kids will be kids,’ and the only solution was for Marvell to be monitored—like he had done something wrong,” Robinson said. “In the end, I don’t think that anyone should have to monitor my kid” because of other kids’ behavior.

Robinson allowed Marvell to finish first grade there and began homeschooling him when he started second grade in September. Robinson adjusted her nursing schedule to include 12-hour shifts on the weekends so she could take on educating Marvell during the week. Her husband, a sous chef at a restaurant in downtown San Diego, continues to work full-time and participates in lessons when he can.

And while her primary motivation was giving Marvell individualized attention, Robinson was unable to separate her worries about racial bullying from the decision. “If he hadn’t been bullied I would have really looked into transferring schools, or going back to where I grew up in Kansas,” she said. “At least in Kansas it was more racially diverse. I assumed that’s how the schools would be in San Diego, but I was wrong.”

Robinson likely joins hundreds of other African American parents who’ve decided to homeschool their children because of dissatisfaction with the traditional campuses. Indeed, Joyce Burges at National Black Home Educators has watched her membership grow “exponentially” in the 15 years since the organization was founded, a trend also reflected in Marvell’s home state of California. While Burges’s national conferences in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, used to attract only around 50 people, they now attract upwards of 400, she said—a noteworthy number for the first organization for black homeschoolers in a sea of predominantly white organizations.

Research conducted by Marie-Josée Cérol—known professionally as Ama Mazama—also offers insight into the growing trend. A faculty member in the African American Studies department at Temple University in Philadelphia, Mazama began homeschooling her three children 12 years ago and realized quickly that there was little research on black homeschoolers.

“Whenever there are mentions of African American homeschoolers, it’s assumed that we homeschool for the same reasons as European-American homeschoolers, but this isn’t really the case,” she said. “Because of the unique circumstances of black people in this country, there is really a new story to be told.”

In a 2012 report published in the Journal of Black Studies, Mazama surveyed black homeschooling families from around the country and found that most chose to educate their children at home at least in part to avoid school-related racism. Mazama calls this rationale “racial protectionism” and said it is a response to the inability of schools to meet the needs of black students. “We have all heard that the American education system is not the best and is falling behind in terms of international standards,” she said. “But this is compounded for black children, who are treated as though they are not as intelligent and cannot perform as well, and therefore the standards for them should be lower.”

Mazama said schools also rob black children of the opportunity to learn about their own culture because of a “Euro-centric” world-history curriculum. “Typically, the curriculum begins African American history with slavery and ends it with the Civil Rights Movement,” she said. “You have to listen to yourself simply being talked about as a descendent of slaves, which is not empowering. There is more to African history than that.” Mazama’s studies show that black parents who choose to homeschool often teach a comprehensive view of African history by incorporating more detailed descriptions of ancient African civilizations and accounts of successful African people throughout history. This allows children to “build their sense of racial pride and self esteem,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Fields-Smith, an associate professor in the department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia, has in her own studies found similar motivations among black homeschoolers. “The schools want little black boys to behave like little white girls, and that’s just never going to happen. They are different,” she said. “I think black families who are in a position to homeschool can use homeschooling to avoid the issues of their children being labeled ‘trouble makers’ and the suggestion that their children need special-education services because they learn and behave differently.”

What it means to be “in a position to homeschool” has long been a question in the homeschooling community. According to Mazama, regardless of race, homeschooling families tend to be wealthier and better educated because they must have the economic ability to have one parent stay home full time. Home education, she added, is “not a middle-class phenomenon.”

However, both Mazama and Fields-Smith say this is beginning to change; barriers that in the past might have left homeschooling out of the question for many working-class families are being lifted. Greater access to public-education resources is making homeschooling more appealing, too. Mazama pointed to the availability of subsidies ensuring homeschooled children have access to standard public-school nutritional offerings, for example, and public programs allowing homeschooled students to enroll in extracurricular activities and after-school sports as reasons why families are increasingly seeing homeschooling as a valid alternative to traditional education. In fact, Fields-Smith is in the process of writing a book on black, single homeschooling mothers because she sees “more and more families of less means” making the decision to sacrifice traditional career paths so that they can pull their children from school.

Rhonda McKnight would be an archetypical candidate for Fields-Smith’s book. As a single mother, she works about 45 hours per week as a contractor for the state of Georgia—often at odd hours and during the weekend—so she can homeschool her 8-year-old son, Micah. “It’s not easy,” McKnight said. “It’s extremely difficult to balance everything.” While a common criticism of homeschooling is a potential lack of socialization for children, Mazama said the growing number of homeschooling groups solves this problem. McKnight for her part joined a homeschooling collective that, in addition to providing Micah time with other children, also helps her manage her workload. The group gathers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to engage in extracurricular and hands-on learning activities that can’t easily be done in the home, giving McKnight some time to herself—and, of course, some time to work.

Micah, who like Marvell is autistic, didn’t learn well in a classroom with 25 students. McKnight also felt as though his teacher was misinterpreting the symptoms of his disability as behavioral problems and accusing him of “behavior that was not typical to him.” “I don’t know how racially motivated it was at the time,” McKnight said. “But even black teachers are taught certain things they are not even aware of. Our culture tends towards labeling our boys.”

The poor education, according to McKnight, left Micah significantly behind in several subjects, which means she’s now trying to pack as much into his schedule as possible to get him back on track. “He doesn’t really get a day off—not right now, because he’s just behind. I feel like he doesn’t really have time to relax,” McKnight said, explaining she wasn’t aware just how behind he was until she started to homeschool him. Most devastating, she said, was when she realized her son was reading well below his expected third-grade level: “I felt like I had totally failed him, and the school had totally failed him, and the only thing I could do was work with him one-on-one to get him caught up.”

To get Micah up to par in his academics, McKnight has employed a customized mix of purchased homeschool lesson plans and learning materials she developed herself—all on top of what he learns at the collective. When Micah is home, McKnight said her days are “totally dedicated to him.” They work for at least an hour on each of the core subjects, studying within the grade level that best suits him in each area. On days he returns from the collective, McKnight reads with him for two or three hours with the goal of getting him to a third-grade level by the end of the year. Lessons even continue on Saturdays and Sundays. He’s at his father’s place every other weekend, where he continues his reading schedule, and on the weekends that he’s home McKnight takes him on educational field trips—Atlanta’s many museums are frequent destinations.

It’s this ability to shape everyday activities and lessons to meet the personal needs of each child that Fields-Smith finds so promising about homeschooling—especially for black families. “There is no one way to homeschool,” she said, noting all of the families that she consulted for her study were “catering to their children and customizing their education for them” instead of using a single stock homeschooling curriculum.

Still, Mazama and Fields-Smith acknowledge that homeschooling is controversial, particularly in the black community. “For African Americans there is a sense of betrayal when you leave public schools in particular,” Mazama said. “Because the struggle to get into those schools was so harsh and so long, there is this sense of loyalty to the public schools. People say, ‘We fought to get into these schools, and now you are just going to leave?’”

For Paula Penn-Nabrit, an African American scholar and writer who homeschooled her children in the 1990s, this struggle hits very close to home. Her husband’s uncle, James Nabrit, argued Brown v. Board of Education in front of the Supreme Court alongside Thurgood Marshall; he later served as the president of Howard University. When Penn-Nabrit decided to pull her three sons from public school, it angered many of her black friends. “A lot of people felt that because my family was intimately involved in the effort to integrate schools, that for me to pull my children out of schools was a betrayal of all that work,” she said. “But it really wasn’t. The case had nothing to do with what I, as a parent, decide I want for my child. That decision meant the state can’t decide to give me less than, but I can decide I want more than.”

In 2003, Penn-Nabrit published a book, Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League, in an effort to help others repeat her successes with homeschooling. Her older twin sons, Damon and Charles, both attended Princeton, and her youngest son, Evan, went to Amherst College and then to the University of Pennsylvania.* The book, according to Penn-Nabrit, received “a lot of open hostility”—with several people accusing her of racism—because it detailed accounts of the discrimination her sons allegedly faced in public school and emphasized an Afrocentric approach to education.

Upon deciding to homeschool their sons, Penn-Nabrit and her husband, both of whom have degrees in the humanities, elected to teach them the subject areas they knew well.** For the remaining science and math courses, however, they hired black, mostly male, graduate students from the Ohio State University to take over—in large part so that the boys had exposure to successful people who looked like them.*** After all, according to the Department of Education, less than 2 percent of current classroom teachers nationwide are African American males; until their homeschooling, Penn-Nabrit’s children had never had a black man as a teacher.

“Most black people go to school and never have a teacher that looks like them, and this is particularly true for black boys,” she said. Similar concerns, she noted, led to the creation of single-sex schools—a particularly apt comparison for Penn-Nabrit, who attended Wellesley. “If women benefit from having a period of isolation from the larger group, that could be applicable to black boys as well.”

Mazama, meanwhile, said that rooting children in their heritage in an educational setting allows them to do better emotionally and socially. “If anything, homeschooled black children would be much stronger because they would not have been devastated at an early age by racism,” she said. She explained that the absence of these early destructive experiences, combined with a heritage-focused curriculum, ultimately allows children to recognize and deal constructively with racism—”not by denying it, but by confronting it because they are comfortable with who they are.”

“That’s the way I teach my own children,” she continued. “I have seen this work.”

Back in San Diego, Vanessa Robinson has also seen it work. Now that she’s been homeschooling Marvell for five months, she notices that he is better adjusted and has moved farther along academically than he did in public school.

“He’s a completely different person,” she said, reporting that his confidence is higher compared to where it was in public school, allowing him to make friends in his neighborhood and learn more quickly. Robinson said that, while she bought a set of lesson plans with a suggested timeline, Marvell now moves so quickly that she has to add lessons together from an array of instructional programs just to keep up. And when he finds something he loves, she lets him dive deep. “Right now, Marvell says he wants to work for NASA, so we’re really focusing on getting in depth into science and space,” she said. His new interest is a thrilling prospect for Robinson, a registered nurse with a background in science.

“I just want my son to be a free thinker and to question everything,” she said. “I wish that when I was growing up, I could have done that.”

* This post previously stated that both of Paula Penn-Nabrit’s sons graduated from Princeton with honors. We regret the error.

** This post previously stated that Penn-Nabrit’s husband had an advanced degree in the humanities. We regret the error.

*** This post previously stated that the graduate students Penn-Nabrit hired to instruct her sons attended the University of Ohio. We regret the error.

This story was produced in collaboration with The Hechinger Report.

Beating Procrastination

December 17, 2014 Procrastination is one of the social evils that has always accompanied us since the dawn of time.Some people crave procrastination and think they can do better when they delay tasks that require immediate attention. Others procrastinate because they lack motivation or interest to keep them focused and on task, some procrastinate because they think they have a  ‘skill deficit’…

How to Trigger Students’ Inquiry Through Projects

via Mindshift

Excerpt from Thinking Through Project-Based Learning: Guiding Deeper Inquiry, published by Corwin, 2013.

When students engage in quality projects, they develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions that serve them in the moment and in the long term. Unfortunately, not all projects live up to their potential. Sometimes the problem lies in the design process. It’s easy to jump directly into planning the activities students will engage in without addressing important elements that will affect the overall quality of the project.

With more intentional planning, we can design projects that get at the universal themes that have explicit value to our students and to others. We can design projects to be rigorous, so students’ actions mirror the efforts of accomplished adults. They will feel the burn as they learn and build up their fitness for learning challenges to come.

There are several ways to start designing projects. One is to select among learning objectives described in the curriculum and textbooks that guide your teaching and to plan learning experiences based on these. Another is to “back in” to the standards, starting with a compelling idea and then mapping it to objectives to ensure there is a fit with what students are expected to learn. The second method can be more generative, as any overarching and enduring concept is likely to support underlying objectives in the core subject matter and in associated disciplines, too. Either way you begin, the first step is to identify a project-worthy idea.

We have condensed the project design process into six steps. After outlining the steps briefly below, we offer examples that show how one might use these steps to develop a germ of an idea into a project plan that emphasizes inquiry. Read the steps and examples all the way through before digging in to your own plan.

Step 1—Identify Project-worthy Concepts

Ask yourself: What important and enduring concepts are fundamental to the subjects I teach? Identify four or five BIG concepts for each subject.

Step 2—Explore Their Significance and Relevance

Now, think: Why do these topics or concepts matter? What should students remember about this topic in 5 years? For a lifetime? Think beyond school and ask: In what ways are they important and enduring? What is their relevance in different people’s lives? In different parts of the world? Explore each concept, rejecting and adding ideas until you arrive at a short list of meaningful topics.

Step 3—Find Real-Life Contexts

Look back to three or four concepts you explored and think about real-life contexts. Who engages in these topics? Who are the people for whom these topics are central to their work? See if you can list five to seven professions for each concept.

With that done, now think: What are the interdisciplinary connections? In what ways might the topic extend beyond my subject matter? For example, if your subject specialty was math and you imagined an entrepreneur taking a product to market, the central work might involve investment, expense, and profit analyses. The project might also involve supply chains and transportation (geography), writing a prospectus for a venture capitalist (language arts), and designing a marketing campaign (language arts, graphic design, technology).

Step 4—Engage Critical Thinking

As you begin to imagine these topics in the context of a project, ask yourself, what might you ask of students? How might you push past rote learning into investigation, analysis, and synthesis? Consider how you can engage critical thinking in a project by asking students to:

  • Compare and contrast
  • Predict
  • Make a well-founded judgment or informed decision
  • Understand causal relationships (cause and effect)
  • Determine how parts relate to the whole (systems)
  • Identify patterns or trends
  • Examine perspectives and alternate points of view
  • Extrapolate to create something new
  • Evaluate reliability of sources

Step 5—Write a Project Sketch

Now, step back and write a project sketch—or two or three. For each, give an overview of the project. Describe the scenario and the activities students are likely to engage in. Anyone reading it should be able to tell what students will learn by doing the project. The process of writing will help you refine your ideas. There are dozens of project sketches in this book (and all are included in the Project Library in the Appendix). Use them as a guide.

Step 6—Plan the Setup

Three small but useful elements are left, and together with the project sketch, they provide a framework for the project. Write a title, entry event, and driving question for your project.

Project title. A good title goes a long way toward anchoring the project in the minds of your school community. A short and memorable title is best.

Teachers at Birkdale School in New Zealand take their projects seriously. They not only provide them with proper names but also fly a special flag in the school’s entry when a new project begins. You might not need to go this far, but a good title conveys a sense of importance and helps make a project memorable. Let these project titles inspire you.

  • Lest We Forget—A project involving war memorials in New Zealand
  • Mingling at the Renaissance Ball—A social studies investigation that culminates in a celebration of human achievement
  • Lessons from the Gulf—A collection of collaborative projects by schools concerned about U.S. Gulf Coast devastation
  • AD 1095 and All That—Time-traveling students intervene to stop religious wars in medieval Europe.
  • Risk and Reward—Students acting as financial counselors present stock information to clients and advise on investments.
  • Stay or Leave?—Students examine economic factors that influence people’s decisions about where they live.
  • YouVille—Students explore past civilizations to design their own utopias.

Entry event. Plan to start off the project with a “grabber,” a mysterious letter, jarring “news,” a provocative video, or other attention-getting event. As we discussed in Chapter 4, make sure it is novel (to make students alert) and has emotional significance (to make them care). Read these examples and imagine how your students might respond. Then plan an entry event for your project.

  • A newspaper article describes hazards associated with a clinic’s use of poorly refurbished X-ray machines.
  • Distraught warrior king Gilgamesh appears in class and appeals to his “subjects” to help him learn why an enemy’s technological prowess in battle outstrips his own.
  • A process server slaps student “witnesses” with subpoenas, compelling them to testify in an upcoming trial.
  • A letter from an elder describes her desire to capture stories before she and other storytellers are no more.
  • A television news story on “designer” babies kicks off an investigation about the ethical implications of genetic manipulation.
  • A forest owlet from a wildlife rescue center visits school bringing Owl Mail and asks students to investigate hazards to its survival.

Driving question. Kick off your project with a research question students will feel compelled to investigate. Imagine a driving question that leads to more questions, which, in their answering, contribute to greater understanding. Good questions grab student interest (they are provocative, intriguing, or urgent), are open ended (you can’t Google your way to an answer), and connect to key learning goals.

Consider how to write a good question based on these “remodeled” examples (Larmer, 2009):

  • What are archetypes in literature? à To increase relevance, you might ask à How do archetypes inform our culture today?
  • What causes tornadoes? à To add context, you might ask à How can we prepare for a natural disaster in our region?
  • What are the requirements to sustain life? à To add interest, you might ask àHow can we design a biome that is self-sustaining?
  • How can we purify water? à To increase challenge, you might ask à How can we advise a village in the developing world to choose an inexpensive water purification system?

One Last Step

Workshop your project idea, especially at steps 5 and 6. Colleagues, students, parents, and subject matter experts will ask questions that will clarify your thinking and contribute ideas you might not have considered.

For more about the book, check out Suzie Boss’s ISTE presentation.

Should Schools Implement Social Media Policies?

via Mashable

Facebook wasn’t a topic of conversation in high schools 10 years ago — it hadn’t even been invented yet.

One decade and a billion users later, and with the introduction of TwitterInstagram and other social networking platforms, it’s become an unavoidable cultural commodity. If you’re a teacher, your students most likely have profiles, and vice versa.

There are plenty of examples of Facebooking-gone-wrong in the education field so far. There’s the teacher in Pittsburgh, Pa., whose colleagues discovered her photo with a stripper online, and the Boston-area teen who was arrested for alleged “terrorist threats” in a rap video he posted to Facebook.

But the logistics of what is and isn’t acceptable between students and teachers online are still being figured out — and it largely varies by school.

Mashable reached out to a few schools across the U.S. to ask about how they’ve adjusted to the digital era. Our primary question: Should there be an overall policy for social media use?

Hans Mundahl is the director of technology and integration at the New Hampton School, a private boarding high school in New Hampton, N.H. The school is a “one-to-one iPad” institution, meaning every student and teacher is provided with a tablet.

“We have three levels of policies, loosely phrased, when it comes to social media,” Mundahl tells Mashable. “The first is a pretty straightforward policy that teachers are not to friend or follow any of their students on any social media channel. We, teachers and staff, are sort of the ‘parents-plus.’ It’s important to establish great relationships with students offline that are not necessarily ‘friend’ relationships online.”

“I strongly believe this can be used positively. By allowing our teachers to connect through social media with students, we both understand the risks that come with it.”

The second policy has to do with Facebook groups. Mundahl said it’s common for the school to create groups for their sports teams and update them with photos, game schedules and rosters.

“The only policy here is that the coaches work with me, and the rest of the social media team, to set up the right privacy controls,” he says. “It’s a great way for someone — say, an eighth-grader thinking about joining the lacrosse team in high school — to ‘meet’ the current team and get a glimpse at what it’s like to be a part of it. But, even though they’re loosely interacting, the actual players and coaches are not to be Facebook friends.”

The final policy is about respecting students’ personal social media presences. In other words: No online “sting” operations.

“We do [conduct] some passive monitoring for our school’s name using TweetDeck. Usually, the results are about the new Hampton Inn hotel or something else unrelated,” Mundahl says.

“But sometimes we’ll find a student, whose profile is public, who’s raising a bit of a red flag with their posts or tweets. We’ll normally update the student’s adviser, and sometimes send the student an email saying, ‘Hey, by the way, we came across this post where you weren’t representing yourself or the school well — just want to let you know.’ But no punishments are issued,” he says.

Other schools have looser regulations regarding student-teacher relationships online.

Robert Dill, who teaches government, psychology and sociology at the public Forest Hills High School in Sidman, Pa., says it’s not uncommon for students and teachers to be connected on social media.

“We don’t have a ‘policy’ in place, necessarily, but it’s definitely an evolving process,” he says. “Initially, when Facebook and everything started exploding, the school district frowned on teachers using it, fearing there would be a miscommunication or improper use with students.

“Over the years, though, it’s changed. Teachers are still cautioned to not discuss a student’s grades or performance over social media — but really, that’s the only rule of thumb. I know several teachers who are Facebook friends with their students.”

Dill’s not one of them — instead, he interacts with students on Twitter. If someone has a question about an assignment due date, or needs clarification on a subject matter, they’ll tweet at Dill. He’ll respond, usually through email.

“If it’s a quick ‘yes or no’ question, like, ‘Is this due tomorrow?’, I’ll just tweet back at them,” he says. “But for longer answers, I’ll switch over to email.”

Dill follows his students back on Twitter, and occasionally comes across some not-so-great-for-a-teacher-to-see tweets. But, similar to Mundahl, he said he’s not out to play detective on anyone.

“There have been some situations in which a student has tweeted something disparaging, usually about a coach or a teacher — but I don’t comment,” he says. “I strongly believe this can be used positively. By allowing our teachers to connect through social media with students, we both understand the risks that come with it. I strongly believe in the First Amendment, and that this is a good forum for communication, but you just need to be cautious with it — especially with pictures.”

A rule that should also apply to teachers, he adds.

The logistics of what is and isn’t acceptable between students and teachers online are still being figured out — and it largely varies by school.

New York-based business attorney Pedram Tabibi believes social media policies are integral for both businesses and schools to implement — so long as they’re tailored to each individual institution.

“It’s a lot more common in corporations — you know, places saying what’s OK to post, things to avoid,” he says. “But I think you’re starting to see it can be applied to schools as well. Each one is different, of course, so for it to work best they need to be adjusted for each individual school and its activities.”

But there are right and wrong ways of doing so. A handful of employers, he says, have asked their employees and job applicants for their social media passwords: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — the whole nine yards. Ten states have outlawed the practice, and the SNOPA bill (Social Networking Online Protection Act), introduced in April, is being pushed at the federal level to make asking employees for their social media passwords illegal in every state.

“This is obviously an extreme example, and it’s certainly not the right way to do it,” Tabibi says. “Social media policies are not meant to be some sort of restrictive or privacy-violating blanket. But if you take your community’s culture and values into consideration, you can nail down some sort of structure that will prevent both the staff and students from getting into trouble down the road. You just need to address it from all sides of the coin.”

Does your school have a social media policy? If not, do you believe there should be one in place? Or is it unnecessary? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Jeff Piontek commentary about the article, there needs to be a social media policy for our students and to protect them from the “dark side” of the web.

The Differences between “PBL Versus Project Based Learning”

via Edudemic

There’s a big difference between using projects in the classroom versus project-based learning in the classroom. What are those differences, you ask? Lucky for you, friEdTechnology (great name) whipped up this snazzy side-by-side comparison outlining the biggest differences.

In the visual, they describe what ‘projects’ are and how they work in the classroom. For example, projects can be done at home without teacher guidance or team collaboration. They are based upon directions and the folks from friEd say they’re “done like last year” (curious if you agree with that or not!)

On the flip side, Project-Based Learning is a fluid technique to enhance learning that really looks nothing like projects as they’re described below. For example, in a PBL scenario, the teacher’s work is typically done prior to the start of the project, it’s graded on a clearly defined rubric, and has driving questions that keep the learning going.

As you can see, this is quite a slanted look at how projects are different from project-based learning but it’s interesting nonetheless. What do you think of this chart? Is it accurate? Are the descriptions correct? What would you change?



Jeff Piontek commentary on this is that either way these are engaging ways to get our students to look at school/classes in a very different manner. 

Report: BYOD Has the Potential to Expand Greatly in Five Years

via eSchool News

Results from a new survey presented during ISTE 2013 indicate that U.S. schools and universities still strive to expand their technology use, and postsecondary institutions often lead the way in technology integration.

On June 26, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) released the full report from its 2013 Vision K-20 Survey, the sixth annual national survey to measure U.S. educational institutions’ self-reported progress toward building a framework that embraces ed-tech and eLearning.

For the first time, the 2013 survey asks about “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies in the classroom. The responses varied by education level, with only 20 percent of the elementary segment currently allowing devices in the classroom compared to close to half of the secondary and K-12 district segments. However, this gap may narrow in the next five years if participant expectations are accurate.

A majority of K-12 and close to half of postsecondary participants who report devices are allowed in the classroom also mention that their institutions currently restrict their use. At the K-12 level, restrictions on use can be expected to stay the norm in the near (five-year) future. However, at the postsecondary level, responses indicate two different paths for BYOD: people at institutions that currently allow devices but restrict their use anticipate restrictions are likely to continue in the future, while those who report BYOD with no current restrictions anticipate no restrictions in the future.

Among institutions that currently allow BYOD, more than three-quarters of K-12 educators report current restrictions on their use in the classroom. Among respondents at institutions which currently allow BYOD or expect their institution will allow BYOD within the next five years, a majority anticipate future restrictions on use, although a notable proportion in each segment say they don’t know.

Other notable findings include:

  • Levels of ed-tech integration at schools are holding steady despite budget challenges, while interest in ed-tech integration continues to remain high.
  • Schools and universities continue to rate the importance of ed-tech integration as very important.
  • Postsecondary continues to lead the way in ed-tech integration compared to K-12.

The final 2013 report is available here.

The 2013 Vision K-20 Survey was developed to provide benchmarks against which educators and administrators can measure their institutional progress in using technology to provide 21st century tools, anytime/anywhere access, differentiated learning, assessment tools, and enterprise support.

“Jeff Piontek” as an administrator and as a teacher this is interesting. Being the former Director of Instructional and Informational Technology I have implemented a 1:1 program and it is daunting. This is the way of our students in our schools today.

Become a Teacher (Infographic)

via Certification Map

Teacher certification requirements vary greatly from state to state. Most states have various levels of certification for teachers based on the age group or subject area they wish to teach. Please see our state-by-state breakdown to determine the specific requirements needed to get certified in your state.




This is pretty amazing as a teacher (Jeff Piontek) I remember going through the process and it was daunting.