Reading in the Digital Era

Image via Engadget

Image via Engadget

Reading has always been a valuable skill in classrooms. It influences how we interact with the world and it is still a medium by which many students learn. Now that reading is becoming more digital, it is important that educators start looking into how they can teach this important skill in a new digital age.

With the explosion of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media applications, students are actually engaging more with written language than ever before.  While this should be a success of sorts, the reading they do does not always push critical reading skills or challenges its readers with new vocabulary. The National Literacy Trust found that students who engaged in social media and blogs held a more positive view on reading and writing and that they were able to read and summarize better than those that were not engaging with the language. Educators need to tap into this new reading culture.

One way this can be achieved is by the use of digital libraries. Students as young as three are being encouraged to read by using digital resources that both push reading skills as much as they do other technological literacy. Products give students access to reading materials of their choosing. Educators need to understand that while curriculum set books are important, giving students the autonomy to choose books that interest them fuels a passion for reading. If students enjoy what they read, they will form a positive relationship with the content and see reading as a gateway to information.

Educators need to see the benefits that technology can bring to teaching reading and how forcing a child to sit and read a novel is archaic. Below are some examples of ways that the digital era can be incorporated into teaching reading:

  • The use of online dictionaries and vocabulary lists to help learn new words.
  • Hyperlinking complex words and phrases with videos, and other explanatory resources
  • Use of e-readers and other devices made for e-books
  • Using quizzes and fun, interactive games to test vocab retention and content basics
  • Edtech that allows for live feedback into reading achievements

What all the above suggestion have in common is that they combine traditionally “book reading” with the resources and benefits that come with the internet and technology. One powerful way that educators can approach teaching reading is by using analytical tools to monitor the way in which students read. By having an understanding of students’ reading habits, speed, and comprehension, educators can gain a better understanding of where the problems lie and tailor their teaching to best suit the needs of their students.

So, as we move towards a digital age, teaching practices need to embrace the benefits that come with technology. Edtech is being developed to meet these challenges, and through its use, students can feel validated in their choices and can foster a passion for reading. Educators need to move away from archaic reading methods and start to incorporate the skills that students already have, with the new ones they are acquiring. After all, you need to thank a teacher if you could read this article.

(Story via The Edvocate)

8 Awesome Podcasts for Students

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Podcasts used to seem like a fun way to reinvent radio, but now they are a lucrative medium with hits like Serial that have billions of listens. You can find podcasts on nearly every topic — from movie reviews to academic lessons to celebrity gossip — and in nearly every genre, from short fiction to in-depth journalism to comedy.

Podcasts are a great way to hook kids into learning about a topic. They draw listeners into the story in a unique way, providing different viewpoints from what students are usually exposed to. Teachers can use podcasts to supplement the curriculum with high-quality, free content. And you can find podcasts that will work for every grade level and subject area. The best part about all these podcasts? They’re free. Check out a few great ones to get started!

Wow in the World

Grades K–6

NPR’s new podcast just premiered a few months ago.  It’s the first NPR podcast to be aimed at kids, and the goal is to “guide curious kids and their grown-ups away from their screens and on a journey.” While the specific topics the podcast will cover remain to be seen, the creators say it will focus on important science and technology subjects and questions that families — or classrooms — can explore together.

Brains On

Grades 1–6

Brains On tackles questions and topics that are totally relevant to kids’ interests, including slime, dinosaur bones, fire, lasers, and airplanes. Teachers can encourage students to take one of the topics and research it more completely or to use it as a jumping-off point for science experiments and research-related questions.

Science Friday

Grades 6–12

This podcast covers a variety of complex science topics, which are great for high school students to use in research or when developing a project or paper. For middle school teachers, Kidsnet offers the Science Friday Kids’ Connection curriculum referencing the Science Friday material but in a form more digestible for that age group. Teachers can find any scientific subject covered in the archives, so no matter what you’re teaching, the podcast and accompanying curriculum can be priceless.


Grades 6–12

One of the largest oral history projects of its kind, StoryCorps consists of more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. Students at just about any grade level or in any subject area could use the StoryCorps interviews in a variety of ways. In a National Teachers Initiative section, listeners can find interviews between teachers and students or former students. The interviews can be used as writing prompts, discussion topics, primary sources for research projects, and more. Students can even record their own stories.

This I Believe

Grades 6–12

This I Believe was a radio series on NPR (now archived) that focused on the writing, sharing, and discussing of people’s core beliefs through short personal essays. In the classroom, teachers can use This I Believe to get students to write about their own experiences. Personal experiences, beliefs, and values can make a rich foundation for classroom discussions, but you’ll want to make sure you’ve created a safe space for sharing. A companion book and website offer plenty of resources for teachers and students to work on personal essays.

Youth Radio

Grades 6–12

Youth Radio is not only a great podcast for students, but it’s also created by kids. The kid journalists of Youth Radio offer a very honest take on hot-button issues and current events, with perspectives that don’t often appear in the standard news world. Youth Radio segments can spark discussion on anything from Afghanistan to graffiti to the economy. Your students may even be inspired to start producing their own pieces.

Grammar Girl

Grades 9–12

Grammar is notoriously boring, but Grammar Girl, part of the Quick and Dirty Tips Network, manages to make it interesting, and English teachers everywhere are grateful. The website has transcripts of each episode, but the audio delivery is animated and friendly and probably of more interest to students. This podcast is best for middle and high school students and incorporates both traditional grammar questions and more quirky analysis of new types of grammar unique to social media, for example.

Hardcore History

Grades 9–12

Every teacher and student knows that, while history may not have been boring, history textbooks often are. Hardcore History with Dan Carlin is aiming to change all that, with honest and dramatic looks at historical figures and events that go far outside the basic historical outline many of us learned. While Hardcore History is not released on a predictable schedule and the episodes are often very long, it brings history to life in an invaluable way. History teachers who take the time to curate clips may find that their students have a whole new interest in learning.

These are just a few of hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there. Have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

(Story via Common Sense Education)

Can Selfie Videos Help Students Improve Written, Verbal Communication?

Image via FramePool

Image via FramePool

At Stratham Memorial School in Exeter, NH, second-grade students are improving their critical thinking skills by filming themselves discussing characters and concepts from their reading material.

These videos increase students’ understanding of the story’s characters and how they resolve problems. It helps add more detail about the reading passage and helps them reflect that in their writing. By watching other students’ videos they can further their understanding and discussion.

One app being used for these sorts of activities, Seesaw, allows students to upload the videos for viewing by their peers, teachers and parents. This gives students a medium to express themselves in a way they want to be seen.

Along with a greater focus on technical skills in STEM disciplines, schools and districts have faced more pressure from employers recently to ensure students develop more critical and creative thinking. This selfie activity falls under both categories. It encourages students to improve their verbal communication skills and hone their writing chops.

This practice also takes inspiration from reality TV. While the “confessionals” on those programs are hardly educational, it gives students familiarity with what they are doing and sparks their creativity.

There are decades of research showing that reading and writing scores go up when kids what meaningful, authentic things to read and write about, which this selfie revolution is all about.

(Story Via Education DIVE)

6 Reasons For Adapting Virtual Reality in Education


6 Reasons For Adapting Virtual Reality in Education

1.       The Exciting Evolution

Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to evolve education as we know it.

It immerses students into their learning like nothing ever has before. It blocks both visual and auditory (if you have headphones) distractions in the classroom and has the ability to connect students to the material that they’re learning in a new and exciting way. To say its revolutionary may be underselling VR learning.

Schools need to begin embracing kids’ enthusiasm for technology used for entertainment, and leverage that into technology for “infotainment.” VR is the key. In order to be successful in a traditional learning setting, however, the VR content must be meaningful, engaging, and navigable so that the learning sticks.

2.       The Potential Models

Education standards in many schools must evolve to meet student where they are. Individualizing instruction for each student is the ultimate goal of teaching. Yet in many schools across the country, we’re still applying old school methods: students in rows, memorization, recitation, and regurgitation on tests. Demands on workforce readiness and post-education expectations require education to embrace change. VR has the potential to dramatically shift how teachers and students see education.

This is could help many students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning challenges since it is immersive and engaging. The sheer fact that so many school districts now have a set technology budget is all the more reason to implement VR.

3.       The Required Shift

It’s not enough to put students in front of a computer and have them perform the same tasks.

If we’re viewing students as individual learners, then we need to allow them flexibility in educational pace, path, and content control. This can all be accomplished through a robust VR curriculum.

4.       The Standards For Quality

How to you judge quality VR content? Here are some ideas:

  • Curriculum should be rooted in ensuring learning is not occurred in a vacuum.
  • Diversity in topics—students should recognize what they’re seeing in VR to establish a comfort level, but also they should experience new things to deepen their knowledge and broaden their horizons.
  • Assessments that gauge students’ learning based on what they’re experiencing in VR settings. Learners should be able to demonstrate newly acquired or effectively reinforced skills. An integrated feedback loop so that teachers have access to their pupils’ results is important, too.
  • A variety of programming types (e.g., animation, video, interactive games, etc.) that stretch learners’ imaginations and stave off predictability. Students’ senses should be stimulated so that they are fully engaged and immersed in the lessons by compelling auditory and visual components.
  • Functionality that allows users to interact by rewinding, pausing, skipping, etc., so that they are learning at their own pace and in control of the content delivery—this is student-centered learning in action.
  • Highly capable, reputable platforms so that production pieces are well-supported and can be viewed seamlessly.

5.       The Students’ Perception Of Learning


6.       The Existing-And Future-Ecosystem Of Learning

A newer trend in schools is the use of flexible learning environments. It emphasized group work where students individually work on things and come together through their group to present their work together, each playing to their own strengths. VR fits in this model because it can easily satisfy the technology-driven portion of the lesson.

STEM and computer labs outfitted with VR technology that support an entire classroom would be even more beneficial. The benefits are exponential: students can work on lessons in VR, teachers can use their expertise and training in a more targeted manner, and overall everyone is learning and engaged. The flexibility is priceless; schools are already seeing big gains in students’ progress in student-centered learning.

Incorporating virtual reality in the classroom will be a work in progress. Quality VR content supports this goal because it will help further instruction and interest in the lesson content, while allowing teachers to pinpoint students’ needs and address them with more individualized attention—this is optimal for both students and teachers… the VR revolution is on the horizon.

Back-To-School Tips for Online Safety


You’ve seen them on TV, the back-to-school ads are full throttle as the summer months turn to fall.

Soon, children around the world will be starting a new year of classes. This means shopping online for new clothes, school supplies, and connecting on social media with classmates. While this can be fun, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Digital attackers have been after people’s information since the internet was invented. Tricking children is one of the easiest ways to get quick access to banking credentials and other personal information. It’s up to parents, teachers and all those who are tech-savvy to share their knowledge and help children protect themselves online.

Here are some helpful tips to keep kids safe online.


When returning to school and establishing online accounts, it’s best to protect yourself online with password managers. Using a reputable password manager and different passwords for every account will keep your account safe and let you remember and keep all your passwords in one place. Most importantly, never share access to accounts with anyone. Keeping your identity safe should be the number 1 priority.


If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Buying clothes or books online can be scams and are used to prey on young people. Attackers will even set up fake shipping addresses to lure potential victims into a sense of security. Be cautious online to avoid these phishing scams.


Hundreds of thousands of children will log onto social media accounts for the first time this year, and it’s important for parents to lay down ground rules for basic safety. These include:

-          Don’t share personal information on social media
-          Be careful what is visible in photos (like ID cards or driver’s licenses)
-          Turn off location services when you don’t need them.


Staying in touch with classmates when you’re not face to face is a norm now. This includes phone numbers and social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. It may be hard, but avoiding the temptation of building a large friend group of people you may not even know now will help a lot in the long run. Strangers will always try and add you on social media, but by either ignoring them or blocking them, it can save you a lot of strife in the future if they send you inappropriate content.


Homework on-the-go may seem like the perfect solution to a work-life balance. But connecting to Wi-fi in public places could mean that anything you do can be seen by anyone with a connection. It’s best to keep off of sensitive sites like bank accounts until you get home or onto a secure server. Remember, always look a green lock or https in front of the URL instead of http to indicate a secure website.


It is a fact that every day $7 million is lost a day in cellular phones. That amount of data is staggering and is all in jeopardy of being compromised. Students need to enable encryption on their mobile devices. On Apple, simply adding a passcode enables the encryption, while on Android, it is also simple to set up.


Being able to collaborate with students through technology is great, but making sure it’s done safely is important. Accidentally spreading malware can be as simple as plugging in a friend’s USB or opening an email. Try using collaboration services like Google Docs or Microsoft 365. These services are safe and effective for collaborating since you never directly share anything.


Use sites like and to verify sites and downloads before using them. This can save you a lot of time and hassle.


While parental controls can play a vital part, it’s important to have an open communication with your children about what they are doing online. Kids should feel like they are allowed to talk openly about their use of technology to adults they can trust. Adults, in turn, should be able to advise children on how to use the internet to the fullest and safest potential.


Cyberbullying is a major issue. If you see something, say something. It can help immensely. The best thing to do is to talk to a trusted adult and let them handle the situation at hand. In online chatrooms, especially ones for teens, there can be dangerous people. If something looks suspicious, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

OVERALL: Be safe, stay cautious

If something looks suspicious, a quick Google search will always help. The internet is a great tool with endless resources, but is also filled with dangers. Knowing how to navigate safely will help throughout your life.

(Story via Tripwire)

How Campus Ransomware Concerns Could be Solved with Data Analytics

Image via Jumpshot

Image via Jumpshot

Data analytics tools could help colleges and universities identify and respond to signs of ransomware attacks.

According to Ed Tech: Focus on Higher Education, one such tool, Splunk Insights for Ransomware, builds on Splunk's existing data analytics tech to help university IT departments quickly identify a ransomware attack, streamlining a process of addressing an attack once it has been detected.

With ransomware incidents rising 35% in 2015, solutions that can constantly monitor for such an attack are increasingly critical in saving time and money for institutions.

Education has become one of the primary targets of ransomware attacks, in which a network is infested with malicious software that blocks access to files or threatens to publish them until a ransom is paid. Due to the sensitivity of data often in question, as well as its necessity to job performance, these attacks have proven successful in many cases.

Beyond adopting solutions that can monitor the network for these attacks and prevent them, college and university IT leaders must ensure that campus stakeholders are educated on how to avoid falling victim to malicious activity, as well. In most cases, the No. 1 threat to network security is the end user.

At the University of Dayton, Associate Provost and CIO Dr. Thomas Skill has addressed this in recent years with an campus wide campaign focused on running phishing tests; sending updates, warnings and the latest security news; and offering incentives and prizes for people to complete certain actions as a way to promote greater awareness among students, faculty and staff.

With this, it could really help reduce the chances of ransomware on college campuses as well as high schools.

(Story via Education Dive)

Taking Notes with Tech

Image via Meeting Tomorrow

Image via Meeting Tomorrow

In a 2014 article in Psychological Science called “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer claimed that while note taking in itself could be beneficial to student learning, using a laptop proved to be detrimental. A recent article from Scientific American, “Students Are Better Off Without a Laptop in the Classroom,” added fuel to this fire.

Before blaming a device—either the pen or the laptop—we need to identify what is best for individual students by considering what I call the four S’s of note taking. Does the system students are using:

  • adequately support the students’ learning needs?
  • allow students to save their notes to multiple locations?
  • let students search for salient points?
  • permit students to share with peers and teachers?


What if, because of individual learning styles, using pen and paper is a detriment to learning? By providing students with digital options, we can remove a number of barriers to learning and create a least restrictive environment.

1. Using text-to-speech options. When typing content, students have the option of hearing it played back through text-to-speech. Imagine the potential for an English language learner or struggling reader to be able to listen to his or her own notes. On either iPad or Mac, the Speak Selection option reads back any text typed into any app. The Read&Write Chrome app provides this feature, and Microsoft’s Learning Tools include text-to-speech in both Word and OneNote.

2. Recording media directly in notes. Others may benefit from recording audio directly into a note. Google KeepOneNote, and Notability include the capability to record audio directly into a note, and the latter two also support audio syncing—the ability to sync anything typed or written with the audio recording. While a student might not replay an entire class, he or she might tap on a word and jump directly to that portion of the audio.

Though rarely considered a note taking tool, Book Creator can be used as a multimedia notebook. Students can not only record audio narration onto the pages of their books, but also include video. Imagine capturing video observations of a science lab or recording a classmate solving a math problem on a whiteboard.

3. Establishing visual hierarchy. Most note taking and word processing tools quickly create bulleted or numbered lists. Several of my former students with visual-spatial challenges found that aligning text and creating visual order helped them better synthesize the information. And note taking apps like OneNote and Notability allow students to organize their notes using a familiar hierarchy. They can replicate digital structures they might use in the physical world, like binders, notebooks, and pages.

Digital notes offer multiple dimensions—text, images, drawing, handwriting, audio, and even video—that paper notes do not. Students need the opportunity to identify strategies that best support their learning.


Whether students take notes using a digital platform or capture pictures of analog notes in an app, technology allows them to save their work indefinitely. Google Keep automatically saves in Google Drive and OneNote in OneDrive. Notability can sync via iCloud or automatically back up to any number of cloud-based options, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. Once students can access their learning from anywhere and any device, their work is truly saved.


The fact that students can save notes doesn’t mean they can find what they wrote or typed. Beyond file names and organizational structures, students can also search digital notes to locate desired information. Consider the search possibilities afforded by Google Keep, OneNote, or Notability: Students can look for specific words or phrases in typed text as well handwritten notes.

The potential also exists to tag content—to apply keywords to notes describing the overarching purpose, important details, or even a rating of understanding. Students can take pictures of handwritten notes and tag them by topic, concept, or level of comprehension. So students can add another layer of organization, apply an additional layer of understanding, and reflect on their work.


When choosing a note taking strategy and platform, a key component should be whether or not a student’s notes can be shared among peers as well as with teachers, tutors, or parents. Going beyond simply emailing a document or copying a piece of paper, digital notes can become a collaborative experience—especially when students use tools such as Google Keep and OneNote that allow multiple people to write on the same note at the same time.

Today’s students require strategies that support their acquisition of knowledge, allow them to save their notes across devices, permit them to search through vast quantities of information, and share their learning with the rest of their community. By teaching these four S’s, we’re providing them with the skills they’ll need to succeed in a world that requires not only constant access to information but also the ability to synthesize it.

(Story via Edutopia)