Closing the Broadband Gap for Students and Teachers – Richard Culatta

Yesterday, President Obama and Secretary Duncan launched the ConnectED initiative—a call to connect 99 percent of schools across the country to broadband Internet within five years. The President issued this challenge while visiting North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District, one of the most heralded examples of tech-infused education in the country. Mooresville, one of the lowest-funded districts in North Carolina, invested six years ago in a district-wide “digital conversion,” and has since leapfrogged to top of the state rankings.

The Internet is a powerful tool for putting engaging learning resources, on-demand explanations of concepts, and primary documents and tools for solving real-world problems into the hands of students and teachers. Yet today, most US schools lack the bandwidth to support using these digital learning resources in the classroom.

President Obama described fixing that problem as an essential step in the high-quality education that will keep America a leader in an increasingly competitive global economy.

“Today, the average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home,” the President said in Mooresville. “Only around 20 percent of our students have access to true high-speed Internet in their classroom. By comparison, South Korea has 100 percent of its kids with high-speed Internet. … In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”

Because of those digital deficits, the learning experience in these schools is the most un-connected part of the day for many students and teachers. Without broadband access, students can be constrained by the limits of resources at their specific schools. Yesterday, the President has called on all of us to close that gap and ensure that all students and teachers—regardless of geography or income—can access the rich opportunities afforded by digital learning that the students and teachers from Mooresville have enjoyed.

But this is not just about cables and wires. As Mooresville superintendent Mark Edwards has explained, “It’s about changing the culture of instruction—preparing students for their future, not our past.” Ensuring connectivity in the hands of students and teachers is a catalyst for reimagining the learning experience itself by enabling personalized learning and connectivity to experts.

“Imagine a young girl growing up on a farm in a rural area who can now take an AP biology or AP physics class, even if her school is too small to offer it,” President Obama said in his Mooresville remarks. “Imagine a young boy with a chronic illness that means he can’t go to school, but now he can join his classmates via Skype or FaceTime and fully participate in what’s going on.”

The ConnectED initiative will also invest in improving the skills of teachers, ensuring that every educator in America receives support and training to use technology to help improve student outcomes. The Department of Education will work with states and school districts to better use existing funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to strategically invest in professional development to help teachers keep pace with changing technological and professional demands.

The following are the key elements of the ConnectED initiative outlined by the President:

  • Upgraded Connectivity: Within five years, connect 99 percent of America’s students and teachers to broadband and high-speed wireless at speeds no less than 100 Mbps. The President called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to immediately modernize and leverage the existing E-Rate program, and leverage the expertise of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to deliver this connectivity to states, districts, and schools.

  • Trained Teachers: The ConnectED initiative will invest in improving the skills of teachers, ensuring that every educator in America receives support and training to use technology to help improve student outcomes. The Department of Education will work with states and school districts to better use existing funds through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to strategically invest in professional development that supports teachers to provide a technology-enabled education to their students.

  • Build on Private-Sector Innovation: These investments will allow our teachers and students to take full advantage of feature-rich educational devices that are increasingly price-competitive with basic textbooks and high-quality educational software providing content aligned with college- and career-ready standards being adopted and implemented by states across America.

Today’s teachers face the responsibility of preparing students to thrive in a world of ever-rising expectations and an ever-widening pool of international competition for jobs. In response to the widely recognized need for increased rigor, 46 states and the District of Columbia are currently in the process of transitioning to new, college- and career-ready standards. We can’t afford to deny teachers the tech-supported teaching tools they need to ensure that students achieve to these standards and do their best work every day.

As Secretary Duncan put it to reporters aboard Air Force One yesterday, technology is “a game changer” that empowers students and helps teachers. “Teachers can collaborate across the country with their peers. They can individualize instruction in ways that just hasn’t been able to happen historically… If we can invest to create access to high-speed broadband, we open up a new world of educational opportunity.”

Richard Culatta is the acting director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

With Tech Tools, How Should Teachers Tackle Multitasking In Class? Holly Korbey

Important research compiled on the effects of students multitasking while learning shows that they are losing depth of learning, getting mentally fatigued, and are weakening their ability to transfer what they have learned to other subjects and situations.

Educators as well as students have noticed how schoolwork suffers when attention is split between homework and a buzzing smartphone. Many students, like Alex Sifuentes, who admit to multitasking while studying, know the consequences well. “When I was grounded for a couple of months and didn’t have my phone, I got done extra early with homework,” Sifuentes wrote in response to Annie Murphy Paul’s article, “How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn?

Parents also see a big difference in their kids’ studying habits. Jenifer Gossman reported that her 17-year-old daughter asked her brother to hide her phone so she could study for several important exams. After hours of studying, Gossman’s daughter reappeared, amazed at how productive she’d been without her phone by her side.

“Devices that once were just an entertainment tool are also becoming our educational and work tools.”

But for many, the solution isn’t simply to do away with the gadgets — mostly because they’re the same tools that actually help do the work, and it can be confusing for young adults to distinguish the difference between work and everything else.

“We have a new problem forthcoming and that is our devices that once were just an entertainment tool are also becoming our educational and work tools,” wrote commenter Des. “And with this all combined into one, it’s hard to put one away without the other being easy to access. With these things being integrated, we also start to lose sight of what is actually work and what is entertainment.”

While some teachers want to remove all digital distractions from the classroom, others say Generation M’s biggest challenges — like giving schoolwork undivided attention — require learning a new set of behaviors that need to be taught and modeled. Besides, tasks like online research, communicating with teachers and other students, and sharing ideas and divvying up work online are mandatory parts of doing school work. So the question for educators is: what to do about it?


At the totally wired, textbook-free New Tech Institute in Evansville, Indiana, high school students are online for all their assignments, working on Dell laptops in 90-minute subject blocks. Principal Michael Allen admits that keeping students simultaneously connected and focused for that length of time has been a big challenge. “It is very hard to manage teenagers with technology for 90 minutes of academic purpose,” he said.

But Allen emphasizes that, when dealing with new and emerging technologies, there will undoubtedly be new and emerging behaviors that will need guidance — a responsibility he believes falls somewhat on schools. Much like Howard Rheingold’s call to name attention as a vital digital skill in his book NetSmart, Allen thinks it’s important not only to teach kids how to use technology, it’s important to show them how to be aware of what they’re doing while using it, too.

Allen recently challenged some of his educators to sit with students and teach them how to watch a video math tutorial, piece by piece: “How do you structure watching a tutorial? How many times do you hit pause? How many times do you watch something before you get all the way through it? How do you put yourself in an environment where you can remain focused?” He hopes that teacher guidance can help shape the new behaviors required of students in the digital age, and that includes avoiding being distracted by texts and Facebook feeds.

“Look, it’s not going away. It exists, it’s permeated every other aspect of their life,” Allen said about teens and tech distractions. “The article is timely and correct in so many ways: multitasking is one of the things that needs to be tackled about tech.”

“Look, it’s not going away. It exists, it’s permeated every other aspect of their life. Multitasking is one of the things that needs to be tackled about tech.”

Thirty-year veteran educator Elizabeth Smith, who teaches AP English at Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville, says that over the last decade, teens’ work has changed. “The things that I notice the most are the reduced transfer of knowledge discussed by Poldrack in the article, and the more shallow learning that Meyer mentions,” she said. Smith had a no-tech rule in her class until a few years ago, when school policy moved from prohibiting phones to allowing them in passing periods and in class, with teacher approval. “Of course, this is a constant problem, since they now have them legally at school — their use filters into the classroom.”

In order to maintain student focus, especially during open-book tests, during which many students have the book stored on their iPhone, Smith takes extra precautions. “This is a much bigger issue than ever this year. I have to go around and disable wi-fi (which most of them use) on reading devices,” she said.

But as for the effects of multitasking on her students, as Smith sees it, the problem might be more complex than just teen brains being re-wired by technology interruptions. She also believes that many students aren’t being challenged and engaged enough to stimulate their brains in class. The result is kids who are looking for a welcome, exciting distraction. “I have recently discussed this with my colleagues, and we believe that this is a result of rote learning with much less focus on critical thinking,” she said. “Maybe it is a combination. Perhaps if we were given more leeway at all levels (which I have in my AP class) to teach important concepts in-depth, students would find the learning we are doing more intriguing and would be less likely to head to Facebook for a distraction.”

How will students stay focused? Where will teachers draw the line? For Elizabeth Smith, it’s a no-brainer; even though she can’t enforce it at home, she still has a strict no-tech policy during class. “I prefer talking to my students when they are actually in the room,” she said. “I want my students to boldly take risks. They cannot do this if their ideas come anonymously across an electronic device.”

But even then, students sometimes get distracted. “Students sometimes Tweet things I say in class,” she said, “which, so far, has only been in good humor.”

Use Technology, Collaboration, and Creativity to Inspire Students for Poetry Month – Gail Desler

A poem begins with a lump in the throat. ~Robert Frost

The only problem?
with Haiku is that you just
?get started and then
 ?~Roger McGough

Poetry Inspires

Poetry has the tendency to promote literacy skills in ways that can have a life-long impact on students.

As a 6th grade humanities teacher, I regularly shared favorite or timely poems. Every year in March, prior to our annual week at science camp, I would introduce haiku. Students immediately bought in to the format because “Hey, we only have to write three lines – and there’s a syllable limit!”

Something close to magical always happened as they began drafting, discovering on their own that with the line and syllable limits, “every word needs to count.” And the challenge was on to find the perfect word, which might have to be re-thought if the syllable count didn’t work for that line. They were hooked.

As we headed down the California coast towards science camp, at any given stopping point, such as the tide pools, I could see students, against the backdrop of sand and surf, silently counting on their fingers…counting syllables for the haiku they were composing in their heads. Each year, they returned from camp with notebooks a bit worn from the journey, but containing literary gems – just in time for April’s National Poetry Month. And each year I witnessed the power of poetry to inspire students to imagine more, to read more, and to write more.

New Technologies and Poetry

In my current position as a technology integration specialist, I visit many school sites. Often, particularly at the elementary level, student poetry is boldly displayed on the classroom walls…just begging for a broader audience. New technologies, such as VoiceThread, for instance, make it increasingly easy for students to take their poetry beyond the classroom, out into the world. If you browse the VoiceThread gallery using “poetry” as a search term, you will quickly find hundreds of samples. The VoiceThread Library has short articles to help you imagine the possibilities for combining images with power of the human voice.

Poetry, maybe more than any other genre, lends itself to multimedia writing and innovation. Phoetry (photograph + poetry), for example, is making its way into our language and into teachers’ toolkits. The samples shown on will provide you with a window into this emerging genre. Blogger/teacher Bud Huntinvites you into his second annual NPM 2010. Throughout the month, he will post the daily photo “as a way to generate some prompts for folks who maybe wanted to write poetry, but needed a little push.”

If I could time-travel my former 6th grade students (mentioned above) into the present, it’s fun to think about how free tools, and step-by-step instructions – such as teacher Joyce Masongsong-Ray’s Planning, Writing, and Animating Haiku PDF – and resources – such as Kevin Hodgson’s Making Stopmotion site – for animating their poetry could transform their words from static notebook pages to dynamic stopmotion pieces, such as those produced by 5th grade students at Northside Elementary School.

Examples of Collaboration

There are many ways to take a poem beyond paper and pencil – and, in the process, to build on students’ reading, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and self-confidence as writers. Sometimes community collaboration, a bit of technology, and a shared belief that all students are entitled to poetry can rock students’ worlds, pushing them to academic levels they had not dreamed possible. Teen Salinas Speaks, for example, illustrates the empowerment that comes from this synergy.

This project stems from the vision of middle school teacher Natalie Bernasconi, who explains the steps: “Start with the support of the Central California Writing Project, then mix together a group of middle and high school teachers and students, add one very cool journalist / slam poet guest speakerto light a fire under them, then give them a community space at the localSalinas Public Library to meet in, and you’ve got Teen Salinas Speaks.”

Poetry Lessons, Ideas and Resources

If you have been looking for lessons, new ideas and resources, and maybe a little inspiration to ignite your celebration of National Poetry Month, check out the ten sites I’ve listed below. I’m betting you’ll find at least one activity you can use tomorrow!

Scholastic’s April Is National Poetry Month – Tons of ideas and resources to jump start your poetry unit. For the younger students, what could be more fun than having , our Nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate, sharing his voice and providing a little mentoring? There are plenty of resources for secondary students too, from Using Poetry to Explore and Change to interviews with Maya Angelo to awarding-winning 17-year old poet Meredith Weber, who invites you into her poet’s workshop.

Read/Write/Think – I’ve been a long-time fan of this NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) site and have come to expect outstanding teacher-tested, research based resources like the ones posted for National Poetry Month. I recommend checking out the “interactives,” such as Diamonte Poems or What’s an Acrostic Poem? and then move on to sample some lessons, such as Poetry Portfolios for your primary students, Composing Cinquain Poems with Basic Parts of Speech for elementary students, or Is a Sentence a Poem? mini-lesson for secondary students.

National Writing Project – This organization (to which I’ve been a member for 15 years) is at the heart of how I approach the teaching of writing – including poetry. What you’ll find on their National Poetry Month and the National Writing Project site are Writing Project teachers, including Natalie Bernasconi, telling their stories and sharing their reflections and lessons learned about the place of poetry in their classrooms.

Edsitement – Not be outdone by NCTE or NWP, the National Endowment for Humanities has also assembled some outstanding resources on theirNational Poetry Month: Forms of Poetry site. If you are looking for a unit on Langston Hughes, I recommend The Poet’s Voice – Langston Hughes and You, a scaffolded lesson that will address two central questions: What is meant by voice in poetry, and what qualities have made the voice of Langston Hughes a favorite for so many people? You might use this lesson as a starting point, and then revisit the NWP site to introduce Gavin Tachibana’s creative idea to combine Langston Hughes’ poetry with Tibetan prayer flags in the inspiring Dream Flag Project.

PBS’s Poetry Everywhere – They had me at Robert Frost’s reading ofStopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night, and by the time I’d finished listening to/watching the stunning version of Emily Dickenson’s I Started Early, Took My Dog + Teacher Tips, I was already sending out Tweets about this beautiful site.

11 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month – The New York Times Learning Network is an outstanding resource, both for its content and for keeping newspapers alive in the classroom. What a great assortment of ideas for hooking students on poetry! The concept of illustrated chapbooks, complete with a template from Microsoft, via seasonal greetings from Robert Frost is the first idea for celebrating the month. Keep going…all the way to the 11th way: Finding Poems Everywhere, ideas for creating found poetry “from newspaper articles, sports broadcasts, school lunch menus, field trip permission slips and the like.” Be on the watch for the Learning Network’s upcoming Found Poetry Challenge!

Poetry 180 – From the Library of Congress, “Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year.” I recommend starting with former Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ An Introduction to Poetry.

Favorite Poem Project – Listen to and watch volunteer readers from across the nation sharing their favorite poems.

Poetry Forge – Tapping into visual appeal of Flash, Poetry Forge is “an open source archive, designed to allow teachers and student writers to explore, manipulate, create and develop innovative tools for the development of poetry.” – From the Academy of American Poets, this site offers resources and a call to action – with Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is simple: “Select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 29.” But wait, there’s more…for the busy educator…how about Poet’s in Your Pocket,’s mobile poetry site. Download the Poem Flow app from iTunes and you’ll be able to browse over 2,500 poems by author, title, occasion, or form. Imagine the possibilities! You too can “read a poem, anytime, anywhere?whether to fill a spare moment, woo a darling, toast a friend, find solace, or recite a few immortal lines?verse is now at your fingertips.” Amazing!

Whether you weave poetry into your year-long English/Language Arts curriculum (as a number of state content standards currently mandate), use it for making cross-curricular connections, or save it as a treat for “when testing is done,” please join the conversation and share your questions, ideas, and best practices for igniting a love of poetry.

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Technology – Mary Beth Hertz

Poetry is one of my favorite forms of writing. As I wrote in a recent blog post, there was a time when poetry was “my grounding force, my way of grappling with the world, questions, uncertainty, joy, sorrow, conundrums, beauty, ugliness and all forms of life that living could throw in my direction.”

In 1996, April was named National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poetry across the country. If you are planning on incorporating National Poetry Month into your classroom or your school, here are a few of the many great ways to celebrate through the use of technology.

1) Scholastic’s National Poetry Month Resources

  • Online Poetry Publisher: have your poem published online to Scholastic’s site.
  • Poetry Idea Engine: an interactive way to learn about different poetry types and get ideas for building your own. Great for use for modeling on an Interactive Whiteboard before students start writing poetry on their own.
  • Scholastic also offers different ways to bring poets into your classroom through podcasts, interviews and other activities.

2) Listening Booth

Listen to hundreds of poems read by poets themselves. This is a great way to help model a variety of styles of poetry reading as well as how poets hear poems in their heads. Try having students read a poem out loud before they hear how the author reads it.

3) The National Poetry Map

Learn about poets who are from your state and learn about poetry events going on near you.

4) Poem Flow

Poem Flow is an app that lets you access poetry through mobile devices in your classroom.

5) A Poem in Your Pocket

Don’t forget that Thursday, April 26th is Poem in Your Pocket Day! Use your mobile device to record a poem (with apps like iPhone’s Voice MemosiPhone Recorder, or Voice Recorder for Android) or use the Poem Flow app, and play a poem out loud from your mobile device (kept in your pocket!).

Here is my poem for National Poetry Month. It came to me while sitting in my small Philadelphia back “yard.”

South Philadelphia Evening
The city is breathing.
It inhales with the hum of an airplane
and exhales with a child’s laughter.
I close my eyes and breathe in unison with the distant sound of sirens, a barking dog, and a slamming door
Soft rhythms in the cool Spring air at dusk.

30 Incredible Ways Technology Will Change Education by 2028 – Terry Heick

30 Incredible Ways Technology Will Change Education by 2028 – Terry Heick

Technology is changing at a rapid pace, so much so that it’s challenging to grasp.

While there is little uniformity in technology, there are some trends worth noting that have spurred tangent innovation, including speed (a shift from dial-up top broad band), size (from huge computers to small handheld devices), and connectivity (through always-on apps and social media).

In fact, we have some to expect nearly instant obsolescence—smartphone contracts that last a mere 24 months seem like ages. Whether this is a matter of trend or function is a matter of perspective, but it’s true that technology is changing—and not just as a matter of power, but tone.

In 2013, technology has become not just a tool, but a standard and matter of credibility. While learning by no means requires technology, to design learning without technology is an exercise in spite—proving a point at the cost of potential. And it’s difficult to forget how new this is.

Fifteen years ago, a current high school sophomore was born.

So was Google.

It’s hard to recall what life was life before Google. In that 15 years, it has gone from a way to search the mess of web pages with your Netscape browser, to a ubiquitous digital brand that powers Android smartphones, hosts not just videos but full-on learning channels, stores all of your personal communication in the cloud, has leap-frogged Skype with Google+ Hangouts, and autocompletes your searches for you in an eerie kind of hive-mind. Oh, and Google Street View, virtual museum tours, and the most powerful way to find information known to man. 

In 15 years.

What happens to technology in the next 15 years may not simply impact learning in a typical cause-effect relationship. Rather, it might be the case that one absorbs the other, where information access, socializing ideas, and creative collaboration may be organic and completely invisible.


Smarter MOOCs slowly correct the crude whenever, wherever models of the past, beginning to improve the credibility of eLearning.

Improved blended learning models provide schools struggling to justify themselves in light of modern access to information with new options—and a new purpose.



Adaptive computer-based testing slowly begins to replace one-size-fits-all assessment of academic proficiency.

Learning simulations begin to replace direct instruction.

Game-Based Learning continues to be sparsely adopted, primarily used in project-based learning units and occurring on mobile devices with limited interactive inputs and screenspace that compromise game-based learning’s potential.

Apps will continue to supplement textbooks in some districts, replace them in others.


Technology to promote early literacy habits is seeded by venture capitalists. This is the start of new government programs that start farming out literacy and educational programs to start-ups, entrepreneurs, app developers, and other private sector innovators.

Digital literacy begins to outpace academic literacy in some fringe classrooms.

Custom multimedia content is available as the private sectors create custom iTunesU courses, YouTube channels, and other holding areas for content that accurately responds to learner needs.

Improved tools for measuring text complexity emerge, available through the camera feature of a mobile device, among other possibilities.

Open Source learning models will grow faster than those closed, serving as a hotbed for innovation in learning.

Purely academic standards, such as the Common Core movement in the United States, will begin to decline. As educators seek curriculum based not on content, but on the ability to interact, self-direct, and learn, institutionally-centered artifacts of old-age academia will begin to lost credibility.

Visual data will replace numerical data as schools struggle to communicate learning results to disenfranchised family and community members.



Cloud-Based Education will be the rule, not the exception. This will start simply, with better aggregation of student metrics, more efficient data sharing, and more visual assessment results.

Seamless peer-to-peer and school-to-school collaboration begins to appear in some districts.

Schools function as think-tanks to address local and global challenges such as clean water, broadband access, human trafficking, and religious intolerance.

Diverse learning forms begin to supplement school—both inside , including entrepreneurial learning, invisible learning, question-based learning, and open source learning.

Self-Directed Learning studios and other alternative methods of formal education for families.


“Culture” will no longer be “integrated into units,” but embedded into social learning experiences, including poverty, race, language, and other trademarks of what it means to be human.

Dialogic learning through digital media will have learners responding to peers, mentors, families, and experts in a socially-embraced collaborative pattern.

Learning simulations begin to replace teachers in some eLearning-based learning environments.

Truly mobile learning will support not just moving from one side of the classroom to another, but from a learning studio to a community, whether physically or through a Google+ or Skype-like technology.

Personalized learning algorithms will be the de facto standard in schools that continue the traditional academic learning approach.

The daily transition from eLearning and face-to-face learning will more elegant, but still a challenge for many districts and states, especially those with considerable economic deficits. Among other changes, this will create minor “migratory ripples” as families move in response to educational disparity.



Biometrics—the feedback of biological responses include sweat gland stimulation, heart rate, eye position, and other data–will provide real-time learning feedback not just for educators, but for-profit organizations for the purpose of analytics, market research, and ultimately consumerism.

Learning simulations begin to replace teachers, and some schools.

Diverse learning forms begin to replace school just as the old-model of content–>curriculum–>data–>personalized academic learning is honed to perfection.

Schools as we know them will now be outnumbered, no longer just supplemented by eLearning, blended learning, and self-directed learning platforms, but incredible learning simulations and full-on virtual worlds.

Remaining schools that refuse to adapt to new technology and cultural trends will cause splintering in some communities as the significant cost of technology integration increases socio-economic gaps.

Seamless Heads-Up Displays will equip learners with information, feedback of performance, and social data in real-time.

New certificates of achievement and performance that are social, portfolio-based, and self-selected will begin to replace institutional certificates, including college degrees.

Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad; Envisioning Tech;  Matador NetworkTeachThoughtStanford University;Gamespot