Three Lessons from My Unorthodox 10th-Grade Year

My name is Sophia Pink. I’m a high school junior at Washington International School in Washington, D.C., and recently had the privilege of speaking at the 9th Annual Private School Leadership Conference about my experience of creating a hybrid approach for 10th grade.

As a freshman in high school, about two months into 9th grade, I was frustrated. I liked my school, but I spent all my time marching to other people’s orders, and had little time to work on projects in technology, science, and moviemaking that I was really interested in. So I thought about it for a while, and came up with an unorthodox idea. Instead of filling my days with going from class to class, I would take the time to work on projects that really interested me. And, to keep up with my core academics, I would take advantage of the new world of online education.

Read More

Virtual Poetry Slams Deliver Multiple Benefits for Urban Youth

Kimbrlyn Hernandez was so excited when she learned that she and her 8th-grade classmates at M.S. 145, Bronx, N.Y., would be going to Chicago and San Francisco for poetry slams. But the “trip” to those cities to share her poems would take seconds rather than days, thanks to the Internet and Global Writes, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to promoting literacy, communication, and collaboration among young people and an OII grantee. As the virtual encounters and “trips” began, Kimbrlyn’s thoughts were random sentences, but as the sharing and “travel” continued and she gained both confidence in her writing and comfort in the interpersonal relationships she formed online, Kimbrlyn’s poetry evolved.

Read More

Realizing Technology’s Promise for Education Needs Committed Action by All of Us

Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in several events that explored the intersection and promise of education and technology. Although each conference covered distinct topics, considering them in retrospect reveals a common question worth exploring: given recent developments and trends, is it inevitable that technology will improve education and opportunities for our kids? Technology clearly has tremendous potential to improve education, but there are some real barriers that prevent that change from being inevitable. That’s hardly a controversial statement, but I’ll say more in a moment.

Read More

Digital Media Academy Promises and Delivers for D.C. Students

Lights. Camera. Action! The sights and sounds of summer learning in the Hollywood, right? No, right here in Washington, D.C. if you were one of 15 Kenilworth Parkside youth who participated in the Digital Media Academy (DMA) sponsored by the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) this past summer.

Students in the program share their "Daily Downloads," in which they upload media assets they produced to their digital portfolios and journalize about their learning experiences. (Photo courtesy of DCPNI)

Students in the program share their “Daily Downloads,” in which they upload media assets they produced to their digital portfolios and journalize about their learning experiences. (Photo courtesy of DCPNI)

With the help of an OII Promise Neighborhoods Implementation Grant awarded to DCPNI in 2012, DMA gave students in this Northeast D.C. community an extraordinary opportunity to learn from top media artists, journalists, web designers, and other professionals representing more than 23 media-related organizations, a number of which offered internships behind the camera or microphone. The students shadowed Media Mentors who showed them the ropes at such nationally known media enterprises as Google, Black Entertainment Television, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and XM Satellite Radio.

Weekly workshops and coursework provided insights into college and career possibilities in a wide range of fields from media marketing and advertising to PR and journalism to information literacy and digital citizenship. And on Fridays, the students experienced firsthand what classes are like at the Corcoran College of Art & Design or how the Newseum preserves America’s past through its news makers and journalists, as well as other city venues in which the media arts play a significant role in serving the community and its culture.

Read More

Growing Coalition Supports ConnectED

In today’s world, technology has changed and, for the most part, improved the way we do everything from shopping to connecting with friends and family to managing our finances and our healthcare. But for a number of reasons, technology has not yet transformed the way our students learn on a day-to-day basis — at least not on a broad scale. Of course, there are many exciting examples across the country of schools and districts that have harnessed the power of technology to improve student learning, but these are not yet the norm.

One of the main barriers standing in the way is a lack of modern technology infrastructure in our schools that can support exciting and innovative digital-learning opportunities. (Although nearly every classroom in the country has basic Internet connectivity, the majority do not have fast enough bandwidth speeds to support their current needs.) This is why, as part of his ConnectED initiative, President Obama challenged the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the existing E-Rate program to upgrade our schools’ technology infrastructure to support ultrafast broadband speeds.

Read More

The Beginning of a Movement

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an action-oriented summit, Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World, co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It was a fascinating event, and I witnessed and participated in what felt like the beginning of a movement.

We know that the world today is more connected than ever. In particular, through advancements in technology, we now can stay connected — to each other, our jobs, our interests, and our passions — essentially all the time. The same ought to be true for our students and their education — students should have learning experiences that relate to and take advantage of their passions and interests. What they learn in an after-school program or activity should inform and relate to what they learn in school. And all of that should extend to what they learn at home with their families. This represents a shift in how we think about learning and education. Learning now happens all the time and everywhere, and we shouldn’t feel bound by narrow conceptions of when and where learning takes place (i.e., in school, during school hours). The challenge going forward will be designing and creating learning experiences for our students that properly match our modern, connected world (both in the literal, technical sense, and the broader, conceptual sense). That was the main challenge tackled by the participants in the Reimagining Education summit.

Read More

A New Approach to Learning that’s Better Designed for Our Times

“In order to provide the best education in the world again, we must develop educational opportunities and resources that excite and prepare all our students,” is how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees the challenge for the teachers, school leaders, academics, advocates, and entrepreneurs who attended the Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World conference on May 28-29, in Washington, D.C.

Co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the convening brought together participants from many different sectors to think about and make recommendations for a future in which the latest technologies are available and are an integral part of personalized learning experiences for all students, as well as helping to deliver a major upgrade in teacher professional development and the advanced instructional tools they need. Technology alone won’t solve the challenges the U.S. must meet to be a world leader again in elementary and secondary education, but, as Secretary Duncan noted, “We cannot succeed without it.”

Read More

President Obama Announces ConnectED Initiative

We live in a highly connected world, but unfortunately, many of our students aren’t attending class in highly connected schools. Recent data suggests that 80 percent of K-12 schools do not have the infrastructure to access broadband Internet, meaning they don’t have the basic foundation to support digital learning in the 21st century. It also means the nation’s teachers don’t have access to tools to support their instruction or bring new technology into their classrooms.

Yesterday, President Obama called on the federal government, states and districts, rural and urban communities alike, and the private sector to tackle this problem together, as he outlined his ConnectED Initiative. All children in the nation need to be career and college ready, prepared with knowledge and armed with 21st-century skills. ConnectED will help to ensure that this happens by bringing high-speed Internet within their reach.

Read more about Bringing America’s Students into the Digital Age, from the White House’s Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Munoz, and the Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling. Also, click here to read an overview on closing the broadband gap by the Acting Director of the Office of Education Technology, Richard Culatta.

Ready to Learn Grantee Launches Research-Based Digital Education Resources for Preschoolers

Children pilot the “At the Beach” Pocoyo PlaySet at Kingsbridge Community Center in the Bronx, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of HITN's Early Learning Collaborative)

Children pilot the “At the Beach” Pocoyo PlaySet at Kingsbridge Community Center in the Bronx, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative)

The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC) is piloting tablet-based “playsets” designed to provide fun and engaging learning experiences for young children as they develop English language, reading, and math skills. The playsets, which are available as apps for iPads, use a combination of activities, including interactive games and storybooks, sing-along songs, and a word machine, to help close the achievement gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children.

The playsets feature Pocoyo, an internationally recognized preschool character created by Zinkia Entertainment, a partner of HITN in the development of the playset applications. Research during the pilot phase will assess the educational efficacy of these digital products before their commercial release, expected in late 2013. The Michael Cohen Group (MCG) is conducting ongoing formative research during the piloting phase as well as large-scale summative studies of the playsets. The development of the Pocoyo PlaySets will be also be guided by feedback from more than 25 pilot sites in New York, Alabama, Maine, Florida, and California.

The pilot phase launch occurred on March 20, 2013, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The HITN producers demonstrated the playsets in front of an audience of education stakeholders and media. Several audience members had an opportunity to try them out. Following the demonstration, the Early Learning Collaborative hosted a panel discussion among experts in early childhood development and digital media. The panelists included Barbara Bowman, founder of the Erikson Institute and former special advisor on early childhood education to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Warren Buckleitner, founder/editor of Children’s Technology Review; Yolanda Garcia, director of the WestEd E3 Institute; and Roberto Rodriguez, White House special assistant for education policy.

Panelists Yolanda Garcia, Barbara Bowman, Warren Buckleitner, Robert Rodrigeuz, and moderator Ed Greene discuss early learning and digital media. (Photo courtesy of HITN's Early Learning Collaborative)

Panelists Yolanda Garcia, Barbara Bowman, Warren Buckleitner, Robert Rodrigeuz, and moderator Ed Greene discuss early learning and digital media. (Photo courtesy of HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative)

HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative is funded through a $30 million U.S. Department of Education Ready to Learn (RTL) grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. The RTL program encourages and supports the development and use of video and digital programming to promote early learning and school readiness for young children and their families, as well as the dissemination of educational outreach programs and materials to promote school readiness. The HITN Early Learning Collaborative is one of three recipients of the grant, awarded in 2010.

Click here to view a video that highlights the Pocoyo PlaySets.

Learning Technologies Can Transform America’s Educational and Economic Future

“We have reached another ‘Sputnik Moment,'” in terms of the opportunity for the United States to transform education, according to Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, in his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. His remarks were part of the subcommittee’s Feb. 14 hearing, “Raising the Bar: How Education Innovation Can Improve Student Achievement.” The assistant deputy secretary focused on three core ways that learning technology is poised to transform education: increasing access and equity; transforming teaching and learning; and accelerating and enhancing educational research and development. Other hearing witnesses were John White of Digital Learning Now, Preston Smith of Rocketship Education, and Holly Sagues of Florida Virtual School. Click here to view the full hearing to hear what Jim and his fellow witnesses shared about innovation and technology in education.