Education Week - July 8, 2015 - (Page 10)
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology
ISTE Conference Examines How Tech Is Reshaping Education
development, and hands-on
"maker" education were on
the minds of nearly 20,000
enthusiasts who converged
here last week for the
annual conference of the
International Society for
Technology in Education,
or iste. Education Week
Associate Editor Sean
Cavanagh and Staff Writers
Benjamin Herold and
Michele Molnar were on hand
to cover the gadgets, policies,
and teaching trends that are
reshaping digital learning.
Fresh off a major victory in
overhauling and expanding the
federal E-rate program, proponents of educational technology
are turning their attention to a
trio of policy issues they say could
threaten the spread of personalized digital learning. Chief among
them: expanding out-of-school access to high-speed broadband.
"The 'homework gap' is the cruelest
part of our new digital divide," said
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, speaking at iste.
Ms. Rosenworcel cited research
suggesting that 70 percent of teachers assign homework requiring online access, even though one-third
of households do not subscribe to
The ed-tech community has reason
for hope, however. Advocacy groups
played a big role in the successful
effort to increase by $1.5 billion the
annual cap on the federal E-rate
program, which helps subsidize telecommunications services and broadband for schools and libraries.
Now the challenge is to move from
improved connectivity in schools to
expanded access at home, said Ms.
Rosenworcel, a Democratic appointee to the commission.
The fcc voted last month to invite public comments on a proposal
that would restructure the federal
"Lifeline" program, which subsidizes
phone service to low-income households. Under the proposal, recipients
would have the choice of applying
their subsidies to either phone or
Expanded Wi-Fi is also important,
Ms. Rosenworcel said, as well as future approval of a newly proposed
federal competitive-grant program
that seeks to identify and expand
Charles Mostoller for Education Week
Jason Meyer, above, of Epson, displays the company's Augmented Reality Sandbox, which allows users to transform a topographical map in real time;
a bust of Benjamin Franklin, top right, sits in a 3-D scanner and printer exhibited by Tinkerine; bottom right, 3Doodler displays its 3-D drawing tool.
"innovative broadband access programs that are popping up around
Putting wireless hot spots on school
buses or allowing mobile hot spots to
be checked out of public libraries can
be "the difference between [a student]
keeping up in class or falling behind,"
Draw Hype, Skeptics
From 3-D printing to holograms
to the emerging wave of virtualreality headsets, three-dimensional
technologies continue to capture the
imaginations of some K-12 educators. That range-and a set of older
tools, including a shoebox full of 3-D
glasses from the past few decades-
were on display at iste.
"It's really all about visualization,"
said Len Scrogan, an adjunct professor at the University of ColoradoDenver and a former technology director for the state's 30,000-student
Boulder Valley schools.
"We aimed 3-D at the most stubborn, difficult learning problems
where kids stumble all the time," he
said. "Never use 3-D for what's easy
to learn or easy to teach."
The focus in Mr. Scrogan's session,
titled "Depth-Defying Learning:
Exploring the Top 10 3-D Developments," was less about pedagogy
than about cool tools, however.
Take, for example, a new virtualreality desktop tool from the Silicon
Valley company zSpace, which displayed its wares during the session.
Users sit in front of a large flatscreen monitor. They wear special
glasses and hold a stylus that is
connected to the display. The product combines stereoscopic imaging technology (to give a 3-D view),
head-tracking technology (to move
the object being viewed around in
response to the user's motions), and
10 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 8, 2015 | www.edweek.org
the ability to manipulate objects
using the stylus.
Betsy McDonald, a design and
programming teacher at North
Carolina's private Cary Academy,
tested an application that lets users
explore an animated 3-D human
heart. Using the glasses and the stylus, she could rotate the heart and
bring it "closer" to her eyes, feel its
beating in her hand (via the stylus),
and unpeel layers to see the organ's
While it was undoubtedly engaging, Ms. McDonald said, it wasn't
immediately evident how useful a
classroom tool the zSpace technology would be.
"Sometimes it's hard to get beyond
the bells and whistles," she said. - B.H.
Get Blunt Advice
The job of the school technology
"coach" is to help teachers and administrators become comfortable,
working with digital tools. If only it
were that simple.
In practice, the job requires flexibility, toughness, and a lot of diplomatic skills, said Alyssa Tormala, an
English teacher and instructionaltech coach at the private St. Mary's
Academy in Portland, Ore. She offered tips to a roomful of district
educators and tech specialists.
Tech coaches are often expected to
know how to fix any breakdown with
any device, or any loss of connectivity-and right away. They're expected to introduce new technologies
and devices, and work with teachers
eager to learn, and those who are
resistant. In some school districts,
they juggle those duties with teaching too, as is the case with Ms. Tormala. Among her recommendations
for school tech coaches:
*Work as "informed collaborators."
Make it clear teachers must know
the technology-though they may
not claim to be experts on everything about it-and they should be
comfortable trading ideas about how
to use it with classroom educators.
*Find your "village." Coaches
need help from administrators and
teachers who will support them and
urge them to keep going with important tech projects in the face of
*Keep professional development
short, engaging, and choice-based.
*Know what your job is and is not.
Some tech coaches are asked to be
the fix-it people for nearly everything in a school. "Stand firm" and
tell administrators not to dump
other tasks on them.
*When working with teachers, sell
them on why the tools they're being
asked to master will help instruction
"It needs to be a program of invitation and attraction," Ms. Tormala
Even thought it's mostly adults
at iste, students did make appearances. Here are two student technology projects highlighted at the
Building a Database
For Kentucky Farmers
In her three years in the Student
Technology Leadership Club at Maurice Bowling Middle School in Kentucky's 1,800-student Owen County
school system, 10-year-old Sydney
Cobb has learned a lot: How to use
iMovie. How to produce a newscast.
How to build a database. How to
work with QR codes.
But what Sydney really loves
about all that technology is how it's
helping her rural community. The
club's first project was building a
database to track the health history
of cattle raised on local farms. The
students paired the database with
QR-code tags that can be attached
to the cows' ears, so any farmer with
a smartphone can get an instant
read on the medical history of any
cow he or she comes across.
More recently, the group has produced short videos for local farms, in
the hope of promoting the markets
where they sell their produce. Sydney is hooked, in part because the
benefits of her newfound interest in
technology have been tangible.
"Originally, I just had a Kindle,"
she said. "Now, I have a computer
and a phone."
Teenage 'Geek Squad'
"We're like the Geek Squad," said
17-year old Caroline Espinal, a senior at In-Tech Academy in the
Bronx borough of New York. She
was referring to the mouse Corps,
a multischool after-school club that
pulls together technology-minded
students from around the New York
The program's focus is on applied
design and technology. For Caroline and her peers, that has meant
spending the past year creating assistive technologies to help adults
with cerebral palsy. At iste , the
students showed off a hacked joystick mapped to an-onscreen keyboard. The device allowed an adult
with limited use of only her right
hand-for whom the mouse Corps
was designing-to type and navigate a mouse with ease.
To get there, the group ordered
a video-game joystick online, then
hacked its software so it would work
for their purposes. They also coded
their own on-screen keyboard using
Flash and Action Script.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 8, 2015
Education Week - July 8, 2015
Nev. Moves to Split Clark Co. District
Crazy Quilt of State Responses To Cries of Overtesting
Common Core Trickles Into All States
Advocates Scrutinize Head Start Proposals
Supreme Court To Decide Case On Union Fees
News in Brief
Ed. School Critic Levine, MIT Partner to Launch Teacher-Prep ‘Lab’
Ariz.’s 20-Year-Old ELL Case May End, But Debate Rages On
Spelling—en Español—Catches On, With Bees in Multiple States
Blogs of the Week
ISTE Conference Examines How Tech Is Reshaping Education
Budgets, Testing Issues Took Legislative Stage
States Struggle With How to Ensure Good Teachers in All Schools
K-12 Issues Fall Within Suite of Recent High Court Rulings
In States, Plenty of Talk But Incremental Action on Early Ed.
Lengthy Floor Debate Looms for U.S. Senate Over ESEA Rewrite
Fresh Entrants in GOP’s Quest For White House
House, Senate Appropriations Bills Would Cut Back Ed. Dept. Funding
What We’ve Learned From a Longer School Day and Year
The Illusion of Closing The Achievement Gap
The ‘Power’ of Adversity
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Scholars: Challenging Racial Injustice Begins With Us
Education Week - July 8, 2015