Welcome to our periodic Worthy of Note!
SREB Educational Technology Cooperative
Worthy of Note: January 2016   

This issue of Worthy of Note focuses on five of the 10 Critical Issues in Educational Technology, covering data analytics, bandwidth, emerging technologies, instructional innovation, and policy.

Data Analytics
  • IMS Global Learning Consortium Announces Products Certified to the Newly Released Caliper Educational Analytics Standard
  • IMS Global, October 20, 2015
  • IMS Global Learning Consortium announced nine EdTech products that achieved conformance certification to the Caliper Analytics standard. This standard is an interoperability standard for educational click stream data (recording of where on the computer screen users click). Some organizations that have implemented Caliper into their products include Blackboard, D2L, Elsevier and McGraw-Hill Education. Caliper’s goal is to reduce the cost of obtaining quality analytics data. The product provides open source code and Application Programming Interface (APIs) to enable rapid implementation of the standard. IMS Global provides online resources for those wishing to implement Caliper Analytics.
  • “3 barriers, 3 fixes for school broadband
  • eSchool News, November 25, 2015, Laura Devaney
  • According to a report from Education SuperHighway, almost one-fourth of U.S. school districts do not meet the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum broadband access goal of 100 kbps (kilobits per second) per student. Three of the most significant barriers include access to fiber, broadband affordability and school district budgets. Schools have made progress in providing broadband access in the past few years, however, with a greater percentage of schools reaching accessibility goals this year than in 2013. Unfortunately as demand increases, school efforts must increase. To help get more students connected, efforts should focus on connecting 9,500 schools to fiber, ensuring every classroom has Wi-Fi, and making broadband affordable.
Emerging Technologies
  • “Making College More Affordable, One Text At A Time
  • NPR Ed, Learning & Tech, September 23, 2015, Owen Phillips
  • A group of U.S. government scientists, known as the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, found that small changes to official messages can create huge effects. Text messages to students can have an impact in improving college access and affordability according to the team. Researchers found the messages helped combat the problem of “summer melt” in which students are accepted to college but do not actually begin attending in the fall. College enrollment among low-income students (in the experimental group) who received text message reminders jumped by 8.6 percent. Another example cited by researchers noted that reminders to help prevent students from falling behind on student loans were also very successful.
  • “UC Santa Cruz Hackathon Grows as Tech Communities Thrive in Central Coast
  • Center for Digital Education, December 7, 2015, Santa Cruz Sentinel
  • This month, student programmers and designers will gather at UC Santa Cruz for the third annual Hack UCSC Hackathon. This event is a coding marathon that provides an opportunity for teams to create apps and programs that respond to various social and business issues. The UCSC event is the largest hackathon on the Central Coast. Teams will be working on apps in the three categories of innovation, social good and income inequality reduction. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winning teams as well as donations to charities of their choice.
  • “Open Educational Resources (OER): Resource Roundup”  
  • Edutopia, December 4, 2015 
  • Resource Roundup of OER is an educators’ guide to open educational resources and information about online repositories. Topics include getting started with educational resources and finding OER, open lesson plans, courses, activities, open alternatives to textbooks and additional resources on the Web. Resource Roundup content is part of the global open content movement and is distributed under legally recognized open, free licenses. Creative Commons is highlighted as well as Achieve’s OER, which includes downloadable rubrics for evaluating OER. Many useful links are provided, and this page is an excellent guide for anyone seeking to use OER in a school.
  • Top 5 IT and technology trends for 2016
  • eSchool News, December 16, 2015, Bridget McCrea
  • Five key trends that chief technology officers and IT professionals in K-12 will take note of in 2016:
    • The modernized e-rate program
      • Addressing the connectivity gap, especially in rural areas, is a priority of the FCC’s Second E-rate Modernization Order of 2014
    • Broadband equity
      • The National Education Technology Plan calls for public educational systems to ensure equity of access to learning enabled by technology, which adds to the growing importance of equity and accessibility with regard to broadband access.
    • Student data privacy
      • Fifteen states passed 28 new student data privacy laws in 2015. Navigating these laws and addressing privacy moving forward will be a consistent and increasing theme.
    • Stronger library-IT alliances
      • Modern libraries are finding commonalities and forging alliances with multimedia and IT departments.
    • Addressing human issues first
      • At the core of technology is the user, and technological developments necessitate training teachers, students and parents. 
  • “An EdTech Buzzword Bingo Card
  • NPR Ed, Ideas, October 15, 2015, Anya Kamenetz
  • Buzzwords are pervasive in the realm of education technology, and this list is a great guide to those most common in today’s education landscape. Some of the terms covered include adaptive, app, blended, competency-based education, disruptive, personalized and real time. This list is an excellent resource for dissecting technology terminology.
 Instructional Innovation
  • Jobs for the Future Named a Partner in $9.2 Million First in the World Grant Awarded to Central Carolina Community College
  • Jobs for the Future, September 25, 2015
  • Jobs for the Future is a strategic partner in a major grant received by Central Carolina Community College. The school is one of two receiving this grant to test innovative interventions to improve student outcomes. A consortium of North Carolina community colleges known as Carolina Works will benefit from the grant and test the innovations being developed. Jobs for the Future will provide expert coaching and assistance to the schools involved.
  • “Tales From the Front Lines of Adaptive Learning
  • Campus Technology, September 23, 2015, David Raths
  • As adaptive learning platforms increase, the pioneers are the administrators and faculty members who volunteer to be a part of pilot programs. Several administrators and faculty members spoke to Campus Technology about their experiences.  Shoreline Community College in Washington state received grant funding to work with vendor CogBooks on creating and implementing adaptive learning courses. A Shoreline professor, Dutch Henry, commented on the massive workload that undertaking such an initiative generated. Three years later, he said the college has seen gains in student persistence and success, though it is still a small program. Tom Cavanagh, an administrator from the University of Central Florida, agreed that these programs require a large amount of work, but that the work is worth it. Cavanagh stated that comprehensive faculty training is important for adaptive learning success. These programs also offer opportunities for personalized assignments, and other administrators and faculty commented on this aspect and its positive effect on student grades.
  • “Higher Ed’s Moneyball?
  • NPR Ed, Ideas, October 15, 2015, Eric Westervelt
  • This story highlights efforts to pair data science with interventions to improve student performance; Valencia College in Florida is cited as an example. It is a community college with many students attempting college for the second or third time. Many of these students are employed. Professors equipped with the appropriate software and digital platforms collect and sort academic data that can be used as an intervention strategy. The data help instructors gauge how engaged a student is with online course material and discussion forums. Data also provide information on a student’s academic background. Civitas Learning, Starfish and Blackboard are cited in the story as software companies innovating in this field with the goal of increasing student learning and success.
  • “Why Facebook engineers helped this district build a personalized learning tool”
  • eSchool News, October 7, 2015, Bridget McCrea
  • In 2011, California’s Summit Public Schools developed an online Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) due to administrators’ dissatisfaction with popular commercial learning management systems. Facebook is headquartered just a few miles away from the schools, and a small team of volunteer engineers decided to help with the project. The result is a PLP that may go nationwide. The model focuses on students and factors in individual short-term and long-term goals. It also covers real-life scenarios that involve critical-thinking and problem-solving. Creating a unique platform allowed the school district to house all of the curriculum and learning resources within the PLP. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to make the PLP a free, open resource for educators and schools everywhere.
  • Homer Meets High-Tech: Data Visualization and the Classics
  • Edutopia, Technology Integration, November 12, 2015, James Earle
  • Middle school teacher James Earle uses data visualization to engage young readers in ancient texts. While reading The Iliad with his class, and with inspiration from LitCharts and moebio, he engages his class in tracking instances of rage across the book to create a data visualization. Below are seven tips Earle offers to incorporate visualization when teaching classics.
    • An inherently interdisciplinary process
      • Present data in graphic form; it should involve scientific analysis and reading comprehension.
    • Framing study to teach agency
      • Allow students to frame the study; buy-in increases.
    • Data management and design thinking
      • Incorporate data visualization for students to think about user-friendly design.
    • Teamwork and communal analysis
      • Include data maintenance, entry and accuracy to encourage students to collaborate and assess each other.
    • New insights: Friends or frenemies?
      • Analyze instances of rage across the book to shed light on the text for students and teacher by leading to new insights on character relationships.
    • Fact-based inquiry
      • Include analysis to spur larger real-world questions and critical-thinking.
    • It’s free!
      • Teachers:  Implement a similar initiative on the Internet.
  • Survey Highlights American Teacher Demand for Bigger Role in Ed Tech Decision Making
  • TES Global, December 14, 2015
  • According to a TES Global survey of over 4,300 teachers in the U.S., a majority want more influence with regard to educational technology in their classrooms. Over 60 percent of teachers surveyed believe they should be the primary decision-makers regarding what technology is used in their classrooms, while only 38 percent are actually considered in the process. These decisions are left to school, district and regional leadership in many cases, or they are driven by budgetary pressures.
  • “Kindergarten Coders Participate in Computer Science
  • Center for Digital Education, December 15, 2015, Matt Thompson
  • As a part of the Hour of Code, a national initiative to engage more students in computer science and coding, kindergarten students in Genoa, Ohio, worked through tutorials that included using computer commands to move a dinosaur on their computer screens. Students participated in various tutorials, including some with popular themes, such as “Frozen,” Angry Birds, Minecraft and “Star Wars.” At middle schools in the school district, students learned Web and app coding basics. Teachers hope the initiatives will help students become more adept with technology skills they are likely to need in their future careers.
  • Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, December 2015
  • 2016 National Education Technology Plan
  • By setting a national vision and plan for learning enhanced by technology, the National Education Technology Plan builds on the work of leading education researchers and other education stakeholders. This plan includes examples of transformation enabled by effective use of technology. Major sections of the plan include:
    • Learning:  Engaging and empowering learning through technology
    • Teaching: Teaching with technology
    • Leadership: Creating a culture and conditions for innovation and change
    • Assessment: Measuring for learning
    • Infrastructure: Enabling access and effective use
  • “Student Data Privacy Legislation: What Happened in 2015, and What is Next?
  • Data Quality Campaign, September 24, 2015
  • Student data privacy-related legislation affects the use of data by many education stakeholders, including policymakers, parents and educators. The Data Quality Campaign has summarized data on the types of proposed and passed student data privacy-related legislation. Some of these bills relate to online service provider governance; others seek to establish procedures for handling data within districts and states. A summary of all introduced legislation is included and notes that 46 states considered bills addressing student data privacy in the 2015 legislative session.
  • “New Federal Law Means Computer Science Is Officially Part of STEM
  • EdWeek, Curriculum Matters blog, October 9, 2015, Jackie Zubrzycki
  • The article covers an expanded definition of STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as originally included in the STEM Education Act of 2015. The expanded definition includes computer science programs as a part of STEM education efforts. While the new law does not increase STEM funding, it does provide for programs that were not previously eligible for STEM-related funding. This bill also directs the National Science Foundation to maintain support for informal STEM education programs at places like museums and nature centers.
  • “Software Accessibility Suit
  • Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2015, Carl Straumsheim
  • A blind student, Aleeha Dudley, has sued Miami University in Ohio based on the allegation that the university’s website and licensed software are not accessible to students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice is joining the lawsuit. Dudley alleges that the university is violating Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which requires public institutions to provide equal access for students with disabilities. Dudley says her success at the University of Miami, where she enrolled in 2011, was hindered by software that did not provide access for blind students. A lawyer specializing in disability rights commented that the ADA covers the institutions, but not third-party software vendors. As this case moves forward, the Department of Justice will address this accessibility issue with regard to vendors listed in the proposed complaint.
  • “3 Policy Barriers Facing Computer Science Education
  • Center for Digital Education, December 14, 2015, Tanya Roscorla
  • Though computer science is receiving more attention than in the past and being championed by high-profile politicians and celebrities, there are still obstacles to increasing its availability in public education. Three primary barriers are:
    • Lack of computer science teachers
    • Lack of consistent teacher certification requirements
    • Lack of funding
  • Two states have made significant efforts to overcome these challenges through legislation. Arkansas designated funding for every high school in the state to offer computer science courses and given the dearth of teachers, included options of traditional, blended and online learning as ways of providing these courses. Washington state also funded computer science learning standards, teacher certification standards, teacher endorsement and professional development.
Prepared by Caitlin Daugherty, policy analyst, January 2016. For more information, contact Wanda Barker, director of SREB’s Education Technology Cooperative, at

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