EdTech Weekly News Roundup - April 24, 2015

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Being an educator means you probably have very little time to read the news during the week. Here are some interesting edtech articles from this past week that you might find useful.

"Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web" – The Atlantic

Are some schools emphasizing the wrong objectives when it comes to teaching students about technology? The author explores different perspectives on what students are actually learning about technology in today's world versus what they should be. Included is an interview with Rueben Loewy, a teacher who created a curriculum called Living Online, which covers topics he thinks students should be learning, such as Digital Activism and Cyberpsychology.

"Winning in the Classroom with Your Personalized Learning Playbook" – edSurge

This compilation of articles and other resources aims to help schools better understand and implement personalized learning. It includes twelve resources to get started plus covers these topics: Writing the Playbook: Personalized Learning Frameworks; Carrying Out the Plays: Implementing Strategies School or Districtwide; and Team Huddle: Communicating a Personalized Learning Vision.

"4 Tools and Resources to Help Autistic Students Navigate K-12" – Education Dive

These tools include social robots that help develop social skills; lesson-planning software that helps track and address behavior challenges; a teacher-created tool that helps students develop digital literacy skills; and a curated list of top apps that help students on the autism spectrum.

"10 Ways to Use the YouTube Creative Studio with Your Students" – Teachercast

We know a lot of Haiku Learning teachers use video in our platform to either help differentiate their instruction or as part of projects they assign to students. Check out this video podcast, to learn about some cool features of the YouTube Creative Studio that you probably didn't know existed but have a variety of uses for school projects. It's especially helpful to learn about these tools if you're not using computers that have iMovie or other video editing software.

"How One School Supports BYOT with a Parent University" – THE Journal

Most schools use emails and website posts to keep parents up to date on technology tools and software being used in the school. However, one school is going a bit further. They want to not only keep parents updated, but also help them "become 21st century learning advocates". The school holds monthly, hour-long sessions on topics such as Current Technology Trends in Schools and Internet Safety, and they call the program Parent University.

"Calculating Mastery: When Has a Student Mastered a Standard?" – Haiku Learning

This is one from our own blog this week on standards-based grading. It seeks to answer the question "How do you define when a student has met a particular learning goal?"

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Calculating Mastery: When Has a Student Mastered a Standard?

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Justin Goff is a Haiku Learning Community Specialist, and our in-house assessment expert here at Haiku Learning. Before joining the Haiku Learning team, Justin taught upper-school English at international schools in Korea and Japan. He’s a big fan of standards-based assessment practices and loves that Haiku Learning provides the right tools for teachers to use sophisticated approaches to grading and assessment.


In Standards-Based Grading, it’s important to define how a teacher knows when a student has met a particular learning goal. In other words, you need to know when a student has demonstrated mastery.

This is especially important when you’re trying to get a quick sense of how a student is doing on a particular standard. How do you take that entire history of a student’s performance and compress it into one fact? And when you look at that fact, what is it actually telling you about the student’s level of mastery?

Of course, you can’t include all the historical information in your overall score, or else you’d just end up with the same list of scores you started out with. Instead, you have to choose which information is important enough that you want to include it in the overall score for the standard.

This decision is the key to choosing a Mastery Level Calculation method in Haiku Learning.

3 Approaches to Defining Mastery

Generally speaking, there are three different aspects of student performance you could choose to focus on.

  • You could emphasize recency: “How is the student doing now?” Mastery means the student is currently meeting the standard.

  • You could emphasize peak performance: “How does the student do at her best?” Mastery means the student has met the standard at any time.

  • You could emphasize consistency: “How well has the student done over time?” Mastery means the student meets the standard all most of the time.

These three approaches match the three basic Mastery Level Calculation methods available in Haiku Learning - Most Recent, Maximum, and Median, respectively.

The Pros and Cons of Each Approach

Many would argue that recency is the best fit for true standards-based assessment: by telling you how a student is doing right now, it gives you the clearest picture of what the student needs to do next in order to progress towards the learning goal. Measuring peak performance may also be appropriate in certain situations.

But you may have noticed a potential problem with these two approaches: they both base the student’s overall score for a standard on a single assessment score. In many cases, though, it’s hard to be certain that a particular score is accurate. This is where a hybrid approach can help by adding an element of consistency.

Most of the Mastery Level Calculation methods available in Haiku Learning are hybrids. Some, like Decaying Average and Average of the Most Recent Three, put the emphasis on recent work while also requiring a bit of consistency. Average of the Three Highest, on the other hand, requires a student to perform well a couple extra times before you consider them to have mastered the standard.

For a number of reasons, focusing on consistency alone isn’t usually a great fit for standards-based assessment. (Our Standards-Based Grading FAQ looks at why this is - and why we still provide some consistency options anyway.)

In a sense, expecting consistency means you’re expecting the student to demonstrate mastery from day one of the class - at least most of the time. If that’s a reasonable expectation for the students in a particular class, then what are the students actually learning? And if it’s not a reasonable expectation, then what does focusing on consistency tell you besides the obvious - that the students hadn’t already mastered the standard before starting the class?

In the end, there may be some situations where this actually is the right fit, but it usually isn’t.

Final Thoughts

Whichever you choose, it’s important to understand your choice and the implications it will have for Standards-Based Grading.

Remember, it’s all about defining and measuring mastery. If mastery means the student can do it now, go with recency; if it means the student can do it at least once, go with peak performance; if it means the student can do it every time, go with consistency.

For Haiku Learning customers: How do you define mastery? Let us know in the Community Forum.

If you're still learning about standards-based grading, Justin did a post on traditional grading vs. standards-based grading back in January. He also wrote Assessing Mastery: The Perils of Averages in Standards-Based Grading last month.

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App of the Week: Toontastic

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In this weekly blog, our own Emily Jeanes gives readers the lowdown on web apps that educators can use inside Haiku Learning. Emily is the very first Haiku Learning Sales Engineer. Edtech ninja, sci-fi writer, and proud transfer from our award-winning Client Services team, she brings with her a passion for researching, playing with and integrating awesome educational tools into Haiku Learning. Like Haiku Learning, she likes to think she plays well with others.

NOTE: We want to give a big thank you to Jody Green, Google Certified Teacher and authorized Google Education Trainer from the La Habra City School District outside of LA. She recently told us about this app, we checked it out, and just had to tell all of you about it!

What is Toontastic?

From their site: "Toontastic is a creative storytelling tool that empowers kids to draw, animate, narrate, and record their own cartoons – it's as easy as putting on a puppet show."

A picture of a Toontastic

Quick Facts

You can create a wonderful story arc, intrinsically adding structure to your presentation:

A screenshot of the opening screen of a Toontastic

And you can add all sorts of cool pre-made stuff to your Toontastic presentation:

A screenshot of the opening screen of a Toontastic

How does it work in the Haiku Learning iPad App?

First, when a student finishes their awesome Toontastic presentation, they can elect to have it uploaded simultaneously to their Video Roll, for easy access by other applications.

A screenshot exporting a Toontastic to your video roll

Then, from the Dropbox within Haiku Learning's native iOS application, hit Add a Video, open yourLibrary, find your completed Toontastic video, and hand it in.

A screenshot showing how to hand in a Toontastic via the iPad app

Why should I try it?

We love that Toontastic is designed for students with pops of color, dramatic music, silly animations, and the easiest drag-n-drop animation tools I've seen on the iPad recently. It keeps things light and fun, while accentuating the different points that give a story structure and arc: scene, conflict, mood, climax, falling action, and of course...robots and dinosaurs.

Toontastic makes building a story (not just an animated presentation) an intrinsic part of its tool, walking students through each moment and scene with a sense of purposeful engagement. Top it off with a built-in functionality that saves your toons automatically to your Video Roll, and you've got an app that truly plays well with others.

And for all of that, we think Toontastic is pretty awesome!

Eager to learn more?

Watch our quick walkthrough of Toontastic...in Toontastic!

For Haiku Learning customers: Are you already using Toontastic in your class? Share how you're using it in our Community Forum!

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Question of the Week: How Do I Manage All the Activity in Haiku Learning?

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Well, if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about the classroom it’s this: Students need reminders. They need to be told something verbally, shown it, and then told again, and shown again. Rinse and repeat.

What has changed over the years is how students get reminders. Some teachers probably still write due dates on chalkboards and whiteboards, but today there are so many more options available when it comes to managing all the activity in the classroom.

At Haiku Learning we get it. Just ask some of the former teachers on staff! So, we've made it easy and provided a variety of options for teachers to communicate reminders and for students to manage their workloads. We also know that sometimes teachers need their own reminders, so we've included something special just for them!

Teachers can...

Send reminders via email or text message. Send reminders for specific assignments from your Assignments area. Click on the Unsubmitted column, and you’ll have the option of sending a message to all the students who haven’t submitted the assignment yet, or manually select students yourself. We make it easy by providing a default reminder message, but you can edit the message to your liking.

Screenshot that shows students who haven't turned in an assignment

Post Announcements. These are great visible reminders that help students (and parents) stay up to date with events, assignments, and field trips for your class. Most teachers place Announcements in a prominent place, and it’s easy to move them with our drag and drop interface.

Screenshot of Announcements at the top of the page

Create a Note-to-Self. Just for teachers! A Note-to-Self is connected to any grading area. This feature is accessible in our traditional gradebooks, attendance books, dropbox assignments – practically anywhere in Haiku Learning that you can enter a grade! Try adding a note to remember that a student will be out of class next week, or that they had a great comment during class. These are private and will only be visible to teachers in the class.

Screenshot of a Note-to-Self in the gradebook

Students can...

Create a To Do in our iPad app. Students have lots of freedom to create a tailored To Do list here. They can create tasks, assign them to specific classes, set due dates, and add any other relevant info they need to know. They can easily show, hide, delete, edit, rename, and reorder with a quick swipe. Their To-Do list is the first thing they’ll see when they sign into the app, so it’s staring them right in the face!

Students see the To-Do right when they log into the app

Between all the options described above, teachers and students have quite a few options to manage all the activity in a class.

Just remind yourself to use them...

For Haiku Learning customers: Do you use any of the above methods to manage your classroom activity? Help out your colleagues and share what works for you in the Community Forum!

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EdTech Weekly News Roundup - April 17, 2015

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Being an educator means you probably have very little time to read the news during the week. Here are some interesting edtech articles from this past week that you might find useful.

"Educators Innovating Learning From the Inside Out" – Edutopia

To really prepare and transform your school for 21st century learning, this article suggests you start with teachers and first identify the type of teacher they are: teacher-researchers, design-thinkers, teacher changemakers, or teacherpreneurs. Once you identify that, you can help encourage the growth they need to reimagine learning.

"Innovation Leadership in Schools" – Getting Smart

If you could describe an ideal innovative school leader, what would that description look like? Lindsey Own, a science teacher in Washington, culled, reviewed, and analyzed all of the ideas from conversations and presentations she'd been a part of, and came up with a description for an "Innovation Learning Strategist". Lots of thought and research went into this one – check it out and see what you think.

"8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD" – Edutopia

Here are eight practical tips from a very trusted source, Vicki "Cool Cat Teacher” Davis, educator and blogger. She starts off by noting how important it is to model what you’re teaching...like don’t teach collaborative learning by giving a lecture about it!

"How Do You Score on This Blended Learning Checklist" – edSurge

Many schools are thinking about going blended, but when is it the right time? This handy checklist can be a great way to make sure you’re covering all the bases, and some of the questions can be used as great conversation starters with your colleagues. It was put together by Mary Jo Madda from edSurge and some current and former educators.

"Kindergarteners Who Share iPads May Perform Better: Study" – TIME

Most schools that invest in devices for early elementary students tend to purchase tablets. However, a recent study says maybe you shouldn’t go 1:1 with tablets, but rather have students ”share them” and you may see better results.

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