January 2015: Help Every Student Prepare for Spring Assessments

Targeted Resources and Support Tools to Help EVERY Student Succeed

Welcome to January! With the excitement of a new calendar year comes carefully planned preparation for the 2015 testing season. Many of us at Knovation are former educators, and we understand the challenges of implementing test preparation strategies based on your students’ individual needs within your daily lessons. To save time and ease your lesson planning frustration, use icurio’s refinement options and built-in literacy support tools to easily target resources to the areas where your students need the most help—reducing the stress of test preparation for everyone!

Use these tips to find the right resources to meet each student’s learning needs!

Narrow Results to Target Resources

icurio gives you the ability to personalize your web content by narrowing your results to find specific types of content. The Show and Personalize menu on the left side of your icurio content results page gives you choices to narrow your results by choosing any of the available options. Do you need learning games to give your students extra practice with fractions? What about a video in Spanish to help your ELL student understand the concepts?

The Narrow Results options make it easy to find the exact resources you need to meet the wide range of learning needs in your classroom.

Provide Literacy Support Tools

Support all students in increasing comprehension and building vocabulary with icurio’s Read Aloud and Dictionary/Translation functions. Students can access resources at their reading level or be challenged by higher complexity levels–an especially important feature for struggling readers, English language learners and students in need of intervention.

  • Read Aloud – Provides text-to-speech functions for all information on icurio pages, for text on web resources accessed from any Content Result, and for definitions accessed by using the Dictionary/Translation key. Simply highlight a passage of text using a mouse to hear the text read aloud through their computer speakers.
  • Dictionary/Translation – Simply click on a word on any web resource to read the definition or translate the word into other languages.

Save Resources in My Content for Specific Groups of Students

Do you have individual students or groups of students who need extra practice in particular areas as they are preparing for upcoming tests? You can easily create folders in My Content where you can save and organize extra practice resources for those students to use at school or home.

Explore the icurio Help section on My Content for more details about saving, organizing and sharing resources with students.

As test time approaches, help your students feel extra-prepared and confident with help from the hundreds of resources icurio offers on test preparation. Try a simple keyword search for test preparation.

January 2015: Welcome to an Exciting New Season…of Test Preparation!

Targeted Resources and Support Tools to Help EVERY Student Succeed

Welcome to January! With the excitement of a new calendar year comes carefully planned preparation for the 2015 testing season. Many of us at Knovation are former educators, and we understand the challenges of implementing test preparation strategies based on your students’ individual needs within your daily lessons. To save time and ease your lesson planning frustration, use netTrekker’s refine search options and built-in literacy support tools to easily target resources to the areas where your students need the most help—reducing the stress of test preparation for everyone!

Use these tips to find the right resources to meet each student’s learning needs!

Use Refine Search to Target Resources

netTrekker provides a refine search button at the top of any Search Result page. This takes you to a menu of choices which make it possible for you to narrow your results by choosing any of the available options. Do you need learning games to give your students extra practice with fractions? What about a video in Spanish to help your ELL student understand the concepts?

The Refine Search menus make it easy to find the exact resources you need to meet the wide range of learning needs in your classroom.

Provide Literacy Support Tools

Support all students in increasing comprehension and building vocabulary with netTrekker’s TextHelp functions. Students can access resources at their reading level or be challenged by higher complexity levels–an especially important feature for struggling readers, English language learners and students in need of intervention.
  • Read Aloud – Provides text-to-speech functions for all information on netTrekker pages, for text on web resources accessed from any Search Result, and for definitions accessed by using the Dictionary/Translation key. Simply highlight a passage of text using a mouse to hear the text read aloud through their computer speakers.
  • Dictionary/Translation – Simply click on a word on any web resource to read the definition or translate the word into other languages.

Save Resources in My Portfolio for Specific Groups of Students

Do you have individual students or groups of students who need extra practice in particular areas as they are preparing for upcoming tests? You can easily create folders in My Portfolio where you can save and organize extra practice resources for those students to use at school or home.

As test time approaches, help your students feel extra-prepared and confident with help from the hundreds of resources netTrekker offers on test preparation. Try a simple keyword search for test preparation.

Shifting Accountability to Competency-based Learning

Accountability is really important in life.  Without it, we float around often lacking a sense of direction or accomplishment.  Yet, if we’re accountable to the wrong measures, we may have direction and accomplishment but be led down the wrong path.  Ideally, accountability should come from within ourselves; however, often in today’s K12 public education, we see accountability coming from the system, not the learner.

In many public K12 systems today, we focus on accountability to time – our school calendar, our pacing guides – instead of accountability to real demonstrations of knowledge, skill and understanding.  We focus on getting far enough during that time instead of ensuring that learners have achieved competency (or mastery) with the learning goals (the knowledge and skills).  Over time, gaps in competency create more significant issues in the learner’s ability to achieve the next learning goal, since he hasn’t mastered the prerequisite knowledge or skills.  Our current letter grade system masks the gaps and, at times, creates an illusion of competence.  Then, our children focus on the grade, not the learning.  They focus on passing the class, not ensuring they have the competence required for subsequent learning opportunities.  This accountability is leading the learners down the wrong path.

Re-Aiming Accountability on Competency-based Learning

For the past few years I’ve been an advocate for moving away from our current seat-time, grade-level oriented system toward a competency-based system of learning.  Why?  Primarily because I know that we all have learning differences – both strengths and weaknesses – and too often our public K12 system is focused on getting learners to move in lock-step through curriculum versus enabling them to learn for themselves.  Our kids are taught to play the game of education instead of building their metacognitive skills – “learners’ automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes”.  Our kids are taught to focus on grades, not on learning.

A recent MindShift post by Katrina Schwartz, How ‘Deprogramming’ Kids From How to ‘Do School’ Could Improve Learning, provides a nice account of Adam Holman’s (high school teacher) struggle with making this change.  Adam said, “We know how kids learn; we know what classes should look like, and yet our classes look almost the opposite.”  Both Adam and his students had to “reprogram” themselves away from the current accountability model toward a competency-based model, where learners developed an appreciation for mastering concepts over getting letter grades.  “Teachers often complain that more progressive approaches like this suck up time and they can’t cover everything in the jam-packed curriculum. These arguments are excuses, Holman said.”

These are excuses because the system currently rewards us for adherence to the pacing guide over adherence to mastery.  We need a greater focus on what Chris Watkins in learning: a sense-maker’s guide refers to as a “learning orientation” over a “performance orientation” – one in which each child is focused on improving his learning, not proving his learning.  As Adam Holman and his learners recognized, this shift in focus toward building competency, not building seat-time credits, is not an easy one.  We have to unlearn an adherence to the current public K12 accountability model and reprogram our learning environments toward a competency-based learning model – a model in which the accountability is centered on the learner, not the system.

District Administration Top 100 Products

DA picture

Every year, District Administration magazine releases a list of district leaders’ Top 100 K-12 favorite products. The nation’s top K-12 leaders submit hundreds of enthusiastic testimonials throughout the year, and the magazine’s editorial board carefully narrows down the list based on the quantity and quality of these testimonies. In 2014, DA received more than 2,400 unique nominations – a record-breaking number!

The use of technology in school districts has experienced tremendous growth in all areas – from access control to audio-visual tools, from learning management and assessment platforms to instructional solutions. In addition, the number of players within each one of these categories has grown significantly through the years.

Knovation’s flagship solution, netTrekker, is on DA’s Top 100 list –a big accomplishment, given the number of solutions present in the K-12 market, but an even bigger achievement considering that netTrekker has been serving K-12 teachers and students for over 15 years. It almost sounds like an oxymoron that an “old” solution would still be so relevant and meaningful in an industry where new, shiny solutions are launched every week.

Long before Open Educational Resources (OER) were a popular concept in K-12, Knovation had already realized the importance of curating and contextualizing high-quality digital resources so teachers could personalize instruction in an effective and efficient way. Early on, we understood that learning could be taken to deeper levels by providing teachers and students with quick and easy access to resources in different formats, in different levels, supporting different learning goals and needs.

Year after year, netTrekker has delivered those curated, contextualized, standards-aligned resources to help districts impact teaching and learning in ways that have continued to evolve and still meet today’s classroom needs.

netTrekker delivers the industry-leading library of Open Educational Resources (OER), including more than 360,000 digital resources that are curated, contextualized, tagged and standards-aligned to support personalized learning. Being part of the DA Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products Award further demonstrates that the benefits delivered by netTrekker remain current and relevant, as recognized and highly valued by administrators and educators.

We look forward to being part of DA’s Top 100 Product list again next year!

December 2014: Understand and Celebrate Winter Across the Curriculum

Winter-Related Resources in the Core Subject Areas

The word “winter” creates different images for each of us. Some think of sledding, hot chocolate, and navigating snowy roads. Others remember gray skies, reading by the fire, or just being cold. Whether you love winter or really dislike everything about it, there are many opportunities to use icurio’s resources to help your students understand and celebrate the season with winter-related resources in the core subject areas.

Elementary – Exploring Seasons

  • Get Ready for Winter – This non-fiction reading passage and question set from ReadWorks introduces the topic of hibernation and explains what animals do to survive the winter. The resource includes a question set and answer key.
  • Math is Fun: The Seasons – Help your students discover the reason it gets cold in a resource about the seasons. The explanation includes a wonderful animation of the Earth’s tilt and rotation around the sun and how that affects the weather.
  • The Ice and Snow Book – Students will enjoy reading this eBook about fun activities that they can do in the winter. Audio is available so students can listen as they read along.

Middle – Solstice, Symmetry and a Snowy Evening, Oh My!

  • CK-12: Seasons – What is an Equinox? What is a Solstice? Students will extend their knowledge about the reason for the change in seasons by using an in-depth resource from CK-12.
  • Khan Academy: Snowflakes, Starflakes, and Swirlflakes – How about using paper snowflakes when discussing symmetry? This video from Khan Academy will help students understand the concept even better.
  • HistoryLink.org: Wellington Avalanche – Sometimes winter can turn deadly. Students can read historical accounts of the worst avalanche in the history of the United States during the winter of 1910.
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – This became one of the most beloved poems of American poet Robert Frost. Find information about the poet, student questions. And visit this PBS resource for a reading of the poem by Frost himself.

High – Winter Across the Subjects

  • Smithsonian Institute: Lakota Winter Counts – Have you or your students ever read about the Lakota Sioux winter counts? Learn what the winter counts contain and how different winter counts document the same events in this resource guide.
  • PBS Freedom: A History of US – Extreme winter conditions? It would be harder to get more extreme than the conditions faced by the patriots at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. Use these resources to help students understand the extreme challenges that were faced by the people who were fighting for our independence.
  • How is Artificial Snow Made – Sometimes warm weather prevents snow from occurring where it needs to be. Enter the creation of artificial snow. The following chemistry video shows students how it’s done.
  • Science of the Winter Olympics – Ever wonder what kind of calculations go into the making of an Olympic athlete? This video resource will explain how math is used to help athletes in the winter Olympics get their gold!

Find these winter resources and more in icurio with the keyword search: December Newsletter.

What’s the Purpose? And Why Is that Question so Important?

The definition of purpose:

Noun (source: Dictionary.com)

  1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  2. an intended or desired result; end; aim goal

What’s the purpose of this? For educators, I’m sure this is a question you get asked every day by your students. I remember being that kid, asking that question, especially in Algebra and Geometry classes! What’s the point of this? Why do I have to learn this? How am I ever going to use this in real life? And I can imagine how tiresome that question could be when you hear it over and over again.

Why is that question so important?

But as I look at my work as the Marketing Director for Knovation, I think about how important that question is every day, in big and small ways. On a small scale, we question what the purpose is for any marketing activity or project we take on. Why are we doing this? What is the desired result we expect this program, campaign, ad, email, conference, meeting, etc. to deliver? When you take a few minutes to contemplate the outcomes you’re after, it can definitely help you in defining what you do and how you do it so that you’re not wasting time, energy or money on things that aren’t going to lead to the desired goal.

On a big scale, we sometimes ask ourselves what is the purpose of the career path we’ve chosen? When I get up every day, am I going to work doing something I believe in, something I love, something I feel has a purpose? I can personally answer that question with a definite YES, which is why I’ve spent the past 11+ years working at Knovation. I believe in the company’s mission to serve teachers and students. I believe that the solutions Knovation offers are making a difference in classrooms around the country. Having the answer to that big “Why am I doing this?” question is motivating and can give you the drive to work hard toward realizing that purpose.

Encourage the questioning!

So the next time your students ask you the, “What’s the purpose of this?” question, I hope you can pause for a minute and be proud that you’ve created a learning environment where kids feel comfortable asking that important question. Teaching them the value of asking “WHY?” is an important skill that can help them to be successful and satisfied in their future work.

November 2014: Introducing New Science Simulations from our Partner CK-12

New Resources from CK-12

Are you in need of a visual teaching strategy to teach the Doppler Effect? Maybe you need an applicable illustration demonstrating sound waves? Our friends at CK-12 have introduced 71 new interactive simulations, which aim to explain core concepts of physics to middle and high school students through daily real world experiences of the world around them.

These new resources are now available through icurio, adding to the collection of more than 3,000+ math and science resources from CK-12 already accessible through icurio.

What is CK-12?

CK-12 resources approach science and math concepts with multiple modalities for all learning types. These modalities include text, videos, images, reading, simulations, real world applications, activities, flashcards, study guides, assessments and more.

One of our subscribers shared these thoughts after using the new CK-12 simulations:

“[The CK-12 simulations are] engaging, interactive activities where students can carry out virtual experiments and collect data in the area of physical science. Each simulation is easy to reset and repeat, so crucial in the data-gathering process for students.”

How Can You Use the CK-12 Resources in Teaching and Learning?

Providing real-life examples, the simulations can be used in many cross-curricular experiences.

The Physics of Swimming

This example features an illustration of the actual physics behind the swimming stroke, the butterfly. This simulation can be used in a science setting and also in a physical education classroom. Providing the science behind a physical activity will offer the student the relevance of executing the stroke correctly. Click here to see the resource.

Sound Waves

The study of sound waves is not only for the science classroom. The instrumental music classroom can act as a scientific lab also. Providing the science behind producing sound waves can provide a technical, and visual, application to assist young performers to produce a rich tone. This simulation will actually slow down the sound wave vibrations so the student can observe music in motion. Click here to see the resource.

November 2014: Introducing New Science Simulations from Our Partner CK-12

New Resources from CK-12

Are you in need of a visual teaching strategy to teach the Doppler Effect? Maybe you need an applicable illustration demonstrating sound waves? Our friends at CK-12 have introduced 71 new interactive simulations, which aim to explain core concepts of physics to middle and high school students through daily real world experiences of the world around them.

These new resources are now available through netTrekker, adding to the collection of more than 3,000+ math and science resources from CK-12 already accessible through netTrekker.

What is CK-12?

CK-12 resources approach science and math concepts with multiple modalities for all learning types. These modalities include text, videos, images, reading, simulations, real world applications, activities, flashcards, study guides, assessments and more.

One of our subscribers shared these thoughts after using the new CK-12 simulations:

“[The CK-12 simulations are] engaging, interactive activities where students can carry out virtual experiments and collect data in the area of physical science. Each simulation is easy to reset and repeat, so crucial in the data-gathering process for students.”

How Can You Use the CK-12 Resources in Teaching and Learning?

Providing real-life examples, the simulations can be used in many cross-curricular experiences. Here are two easy ways to locate the simulations and all the CK-12 resources in netTrekker:

Keyword search for CK-12. Then drill down by subject. Keyword search for the topic of your choice, then use the Refine Search option and select CK-12 under the Featured Content

* Note that a simple sign in is required to access the CK-12 resources.

Cross-Curricular Examples

The Physics of Swimming
The Physics of Swimming

This example features an illustration of the actual physics behind the swimming stroke, the butterfly. This simulation can be used in a science setting and also in a physical education classroom. Providing the science behind a physical activity will offer the student the relevance of executing the stroke correctly. Click here to see the resource.

Sound Waves
Sound Waves

The study of sound waves is not only for the science classroom. The instrumental music classroom can act as a scientific lab also. Providing the science behind producing sound waves can provide a technical, and visual, application to assist young performers to produce a rich tone. This simulation will actually slow down the sound wave vibrations so the student can observe music in motion. Click here to see the resource.

2014 Digital Learning Awards Winners Announced

Congratulations to the Top 100 Districts

2014 Digital Learning Awards

Today we announced the recipients of the 2014 Digital Learning Awards, which honors the top 100 school districts using digital resources to enhance their classroom experience. The program honors districts across the country using netTrekker to deliver educator-vetted, standards-aligned digital resources to every student and teacher in their district.

Knovation congratulates these 100 school districts for their outstanding commitment! The list was broken out by small-, medium-, and large-sized districts. View the Full List

The top three school districts in each enrollment category include:

Large-Size Districts (more than 25,000 student enrollment)
  1. Forsyth County Schools, Cumming, Georgia
  2. Fort Bend Independent School District, Sugar Land, Texas
  3. Baltimore County Public Schools, Baltimore, Maryland
Mid-Size Districts (5,000-24,999 student enrollment)
  1. Fort Smith Public Schools, Fort Smith, Arkansas
  2. Akron Public Schools, Akron, Ohio
  3. Naperville Community Unit School District 203, Naperville, Illinois
Small-Size Districts (less than 5,000 student enrollment)
  1. La Grange Elementary School District 102, LaGrange Park, Illinois
  2. Canton Public Schools, Canton, Connecticut
  3. City Schools of Decatur, Decatur, Georgia

For more information, please read the full press release.

Voice from the Field: One Teacher’s Journey to Implement Standards-Based Grading

Rachel Porter
Rachel Porter, Cincinnati Christian Schools

We are pleased to feature this guest post from Knovation customer Rachel Porter. Rachel is a Junior/Senior High English Teacher at Cincinnati Christian Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Being an effective educator can have some serious obstacles. One of the greatest challenges I have, one that affects my effectiveness in the classroom, is GRADES. Now, stay with me here. Over the past three years, I have been slowly making the transition to running my classroom in a standards-based manner. This means that the purpose of my grades is simply to communicate to students and parents what students know and at what level they can perform the skills being assessed.

The Challenges of Inconsistency

In my school, teachers have autonomy in the classroom, and this means they have freedom to grade however they wish. This is a great thing for someone like me who is changing everything about how my grades look. However, since I believe so strongly in the standards-based grading philosophy, this autonomy isn’t such a great thing at times. Let me elaborate. Some teachers give points for turning in homework. Some give points for bringing in tissues or candy to the classroom. Not only are points attained for these types of things, but teachers across our school weigh things differently in their classrooms. For instance, in some classes, homework is worth more than assessments. This allows students to fail all tests and still pass with a high grade in the course. This is an obstacle for me as a standards-based teacher because I am the “lone nut” in the school, and it has become my job to communicate this to students, parents and administration, so that what I am doing with grading makes sense.

Turning the Ship: From Factory Model Schooling to Standards-Based Grading

All of us grew up in what Rick Wormeli calls “factory model schooling,” and therefore, using a standards-based grading system rocks the worlds of both parents and seasoned teachers. This idea isn’t novel, but it’s different and therefore seems threatening. Not only does it seem threatening to teachers, but also it requires them to uproot their pedagogy and the grading systems that they’ve had in place for decades. This is scary.

So, how do we turn this barge around? How can one teacher in one building pave the way and convince teachers that grades should solely communicate levels of mastery as it pertains to standards being assessed in the curriculum? That’s the million-dollar question.

Here’s how I’m working on it:

  • Transition to standards-based grading in my own classroom.
  • Model it well.
  • Proactively communicate to students, parents and administration through email, screencasts and face-to-face interaction about what this “new” way of grading is all about.
  • Start the conversations during times of collaboration with my colleagues in order to break down natural defenses that will arise in the minds of these teachers.
  • Be quick to apologize when I don’t get it quite right.
  • Keep an open mind and be willing to tweak what I’m doing when evidence shows that it’s best for me to re-evaluate.

I would love to hear ideas from others who have implemented standards-based grading.