Knovation Hosts 2nd Annual Student Lab Day and Teacher Focus Groups at Corporate Offices!

Marci Campbell
Posted on our orig Blog site by Marci Campbell.

While schools were out over the summer our Product Solutions Team was busy conducting focus groups and workshops with teachers and students from the local area. Our research-based innovation process is used to identify and understand challenges districts and students face so that we can innovate and continue to enhance our digital solutions to can make a real difference in the classroom.

Knovation 2nd Annual Student Lab Day

We invited 40 local students in grades 4-12 from various school districts to participate in our 2nd annual Student Lab Day. The Knovation Student Lab Day was established to understand the world through students’ eyes, words and actions. Student groups participated in several sessions and learned to design a school dash board and also participated in a simulated classroom where the product solutions teams observed students using the existing product interface. The information gathered helped validate the value we are delivering though our solutions and helped us better understand what we must deliver to meet students’ learning goals. The students enjoyed being a part of our focus group. “I’m definitely doing this next year!” stated one student. Another student stated, “I liked testing a program that you don’t have to use paper; we should use this in school.” Marci Campbell, Vice President of Solutions Management commented on the Student Lab Day, “I think it’s important to provide students with as many access points as possible for learning—creating online lessons are one way to engage students who are technologically focused/motivated. Additionally, so many colleges are using a blended learning model, it’s just good practice to expose students to online learning.”

Knovation Teacher Focus Groups

Knovation’s mission statement, “Igniting the hope of knowing by reducing the barriers to learning” begins by understanding the challenges that students, teachers, administration and parents face. To do this we get out of the office into the schools and bring educators into the office to discuss, develop solutions and validate the delivered value. Over the past years we have been honored to meet with many educators during specifically designed focus groups to better understand needs around RTI, SPED, ELL, digital content, digital curriculum, online lesson development and more. This past summer, we brought in teachers to share thoughts on how Knovation can innovate to create a solution to support the shift to blending learning. The goals of this focus group were to gain an understanding of where each teacher is on the spectrum of classroom shift to blended learning, observe how teachers develop online lessons, and gain insight into the challenges they are facing to deliver, manage and monitor online learning. These valuable insights will provide data for Knovation to understand what capabilities should be on the roadmap for future product development.

Top-Down, Bottom-Up, Inside-Out and Outside-In: Stories of Change and Innovation in Schools

Kathleen Brautigam
Posted on our orig Blog site by Kathleen Brautigam.

Got direction?

“Create a classroom learning environment that does not repeat the mistakes of the past”, said my cooperating teacher in 1970.

So, I vowed…My students would have to do more than just process information. They would problem solve by doing relevant projects that challenged them academically and creatively. Our students would learn about cultural diversity, and marvel at the similarities. I would adapt instruction to meet the individual needs of each student. I would determine where they were on the instructional continuum and help them progress as far as “they” could go.

The reality…I did those things without critical student data informing our decisions, without ready access to a community of experts, without the capacity to create resources efficiently, AND without sharing my efforts with my peers or community. It was a painfully, gradual process (often one lesson or unit at a time) as I purchased or created materials and investigated sources that were static and difficult to individualize.

Most students were motivated. But, I wished they could visit the countries we studied, actively contribute to experiments and get more timely responses to their spontaneous questions and observations. Most of all, I wanted to capture the interest of the students who were not making the connections between information, critical skills and the real world.

Thank goodness…we have come a long way since my first years as a classroom teacher! Instructional models and tools I once dreamed about are now a reality. New learning environments, with a wide variety of technologies, tools and resources, make connecting and learning independently and with others possible. It’s more critical than ever that we apply our best teaching and learning strategies as we move beyond traditional classroom boundaries and practices.

Learn from the past, direct every asset, relationship, and resource available in order to …cooperate, collaborate and communicate as we educate. Here are some examples that are working towards that goal!


Many state, regional and district organizations are building toward the vision of creating collaborative, authentic learning environments for their students in the schools they serve. One rural district’s first steps include virtual field trips, participation in global projects, expeditions, and other forms of interactive online learning. Online expeditions are their choice as interactive textbooks instead of traditional texts. Curriculum guides and connected communities of practice offer their educators lesson suggestions and activities that are aligned with Common Core and state standards. They give students the choice to vote for places the explorers should visit next and chat with expedition members about experiment results, or about how to solve an unanticipated problem. The students could also email questions to online experts around the world and go online themselves to find answers to the daily mysteries they uncover.

Many programs come to mind as examples of driving this change to more authentic and more self-directed learning using 21st Century resources. A basic and critical need for teaching and learning is affordable and reliable access to broadband. States in partnership with school districts and regional service agencies are taking that vision for change to build statewide broadband education networks providing access with and through college and universities, regional service and individual schools. The more farsighted programs assure connectivity supports collaboration, instruction, professional development, and most important – student learning.

One legislative effort for broadband connectivity, Pennsylvania’s E-Fund, was unique in that it supported multiple strategic programs to infuse technology and learning innovations all the way down to classroom instruction. Over a thousand school level educators, the Keystones, were competitively selected based on vision, interest and capabilities to work collaboratively across the state in a connected learning community committed to finding and incorporating new approaches into their schools. The programs were augmented with a regional approach that highlighted coaching and mentoring (Classroom for the Future and Getting to One) for schools at the state and regional level to drive a vision of classrooms for the future. These initiatives with state support through mandated funding and individual district leadership wrapped every level of education in a collaborative action plan to initiate real change for their classroom learning environments.


Students learn how we learn and work together when we expand the boundaries of their classroom learning environments through with a wider view of the world.

Students are able to engage, empower and accept the accountability for their own learning. Using project based approaches skillfully designed in collaboration with their instructors students decide how they will learn, what they will learn, at what pace they will learn and in what ways they will demonstrate this new knowledge. It is truly a time for the learner – with the focus on knowing their passions, styles and preferences and a commitment across all areas of education to making their learning experiences powerfully personal. The challenge is how to make it happen for all students to make a community of motivated, self-directed learners.


Research based frameworks, such as the enGauge 21st Century Skills, are used by districts to provide guidance on policies, resources, and practices so that educators would shift their focus to skills our students will need in the future, including Digital Literacy, Inventive Thinking, High Productivity and Effective Communication.

At the center of this movement and driving change outward is an empowered faculty. They are creative, energetic individuals who are ready to share ideas, expertise, and time. Their classrooms are active, cooperative settings that remind observers of adult work environments. Teachers leading by example… students as co-learners!

Imagine a sixth grade class… students are creating interactive mathematics tutorials to be used by a second grade class. One student uses the laptops microphone to record classmates saying “Try again; your answer is not correct.” She will use the various recordings as voice prompts in her tutorial. Others discuss – “Is this problem too hard for them? Is this one too easy?” One can hear a student offer to show his neighbor how to change the color of a background screen. A principal passing by is asked to critique a graphic, and a teacher who stops in is asked to help delete an object from the screen. Students are holding the assessment criteria sheets that they created in their hands as they review their projects. Focus and enthusiasm abound-no one is teaching to test questions!


From the outside in, communities are uniting with their school district to bring about change. School, business and community representatives gather to plan for a comprehensive community strategy to bring wireless connectivity to underserved populations or to provide independent funding for resources and innovative practices.

Business and community leaders are creating education foundations to provide independent and sustainable funding for innovative, student-learning programs, and resources supported by technology.

Schools become open laboratories for learning when they invite community in to become part of the process.

One current injection of school and community expertise is the use of business and community experts as instructional coaches or tutors in support of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). These experts share career advice, act as subject matter experts, and sometimes lend business advice to help secure outside funding for a district’s education foundation.

Government, business and community are energizing to create unique solutions. Research is available to defend or replace instructional practices.

As all these efforts converge…Doors are opening, students are engaged and connecting. It’s an exciting time for innovators, visionaries, and collaborators! They are connecting, cooperating, and communicating to invent solutions to better education, and our students’ future. Make it known!

Game Based Learning from BrainPOP

Kari Stubbs, PhD
Posted on our original Blog site by Kari Stubbs, PhD

How will YOU use games in YOUR classroom this school year?

Game-Based Learning

BrainPOP’s approach to the use of use of games as teaching, learning, and assessment tools is one way we’re working to rewrite “the laws of learning.” Last summer, we launched GameUp™, featuring top online game titles that tie right in to your curriculum. Our GameUp partners include:

  • American Public Media/The Wilson Center
  • E-Line Media
  • Filament Games
  • Global Kids
  • iCivics
  • JASON Project
  • Learning Games Network
  • MangaHigh
  • MIT Education Arcade/Maryland Public Television
  • NCTM Illuminations
  • Space Science Institute

Through these partnerships, we’ve been able to bring quality educational games to teachers for FREE, pair them with related BrainPOP content, and wrap them with a layer of teacher support like lesson plans and community conversations.

We feature games around math,science,social studies, and health, and the collection is continually growing. Plus, we’ve highlighted both games for play and game creation. We even feature some student created games on our site.

Among the titles featured on GameUp is a civics-themed game called “Budget Hero,” which was developed by American Public Media and the Wilson Center. This simulation puts the player in the shoes of top U.S. policy-makers as they try to balance the budget by weighing priorities including the environment, school funding, and energy without going bust.

Also featured is “Cell Command” by Filament Games, a game in which players are inducted into a fleet that traverses cell walls, completing missions such as encoding amino acids in ribosomes or supervising digestive enzymes in mitochondria. Even adults with a few minutes to spare could play “The Blood Typing Game” by®. It challenges players to figure out how lab technicians identify blood types and how blood transfusions are carried out. No matter the subject area, each game exemplifies the overwhelming potential game developers have to help people grasp complex topics in a way that is interactive and lends itself to organic learning.

Check it out.

Research: Teacher Attitudes About Digital Games in the Classroom

BrainPOP recently partnered with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop to lead a research project, Teacher Attitudes about Digital Games in the Classroom . Five hundred teachers from around the country were surveyed for the study. More than 60 percent of them feel that games helped increase engagement with subject area content among lower-performing students. 62 percent report that games make it easier for them to level lessons and effectively teach the range of learners in their classrooms.

The project’s final report includes a series of video case studies. Each video case study shows an individual teacher who integrates digital games into his or her curriculum in exciting and innovative ways. I want to give you the opportunity to hear from one of these educators: Lisa Parisi, a 4th-grade teacher in New Hyde Park, NY. This particular subject in the case study makes excellent use of freely available games from BrainPOP and MangaHigh to engage her students in challenging math and science content, as well as promote self-directed and project-based learning.

To play these free games, simply visit BrainPOP ( and click the GameUp icon. Be sure to check out one of our own newest releases – Guts and Bolts (

Teaching is Fun. Learning is Fun. Take time to play. Games. Seriously.

About BrainPOP

How much do you know about BrainPOP? We’re best-known for our digital content – movies, quizzes, games, and other interactive features – trusted since 1999! But we’ve also been involved in some pretty amazing projects since we first came onto the scene, and our collection of teacher- and student-loved tools is always growing. In addition to our core resource, BrainPOP we now also offer:

  • BrainPOP Jr. (K-3)
  • BrainPOP in major world languages including Spanish, French, and Chinese
  • BrainPOP ESL , for English language learners
  • Free mobile educational apps for iOS, Android, and Chrome, including the BrainPOP Featured Movie app; the BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week app; and the BrainPOP Español Película del Día app
  • GameUp™ , a collection of carefully vetted educational game titles from leading game creators, all tied in to our content
  • BrainPOP Educators, a free professional community of more than 200,000 members and countless offerings like lesson plans, webinars, video tutorials, graphic organizers, and a rich curriculum calendar

Our resources have become so popular both inside and outside of the classroom that BrainPOP’s global sites host more than 11 million visits each month. We support individual, team, and whole-class learning in traditional, blended, and “flipped” settings. Additionally, our content is mapped to Common Core, aligned to academic standards, and easily searchable with our Standards Tool.

Igniting the Hope of Knowing

Randy Wilhelm
Posted on our original Blog site by Randy Wilhelm
How is it that we come to KNOW something? How does that happen? Learning and knowing happens 24/7, whether there is a system of education involved or not. Kids are born with the natural desire to KNOW things, which is fueled principally by curiosity. They are always asking questions, seeking answers to often very vexing questions, especially from their point of view. Do you remember what it feels like to know something new for the first time? Sometimes kids say knowing, really knowing something new can produce a warm feeling in their chest, maybe from excitement, but not likely from pride. The system of education often looks to external solutions for ways to improve learning. Yet we should simply look inside each student, for each is outfitted with a pretty powerful, curiosity-motivated desire to know. Unleash it, and the results will be exponential, not linear. We have to find more ways to ignite the hope of knowing.

  1. Barriers to Learning

    The system of education has become very focused on measuring learners – What is your IQ? How fast do you read? Can you memorize 50 new facts? With the focus on how ‘smart’ a learner is, they system looses the ability to understand where their interests, passions and talent really lie. Unfortunately, learners are aware of this misplaced focus and quickly learn to play the game (system) rather than expanding their own interests. They loose their built in engagement, motivation and love for learning that is almost uniquely their own.


    I wonder…while recognizing the need for data to understand learning and to drive learning, how do we keep that need from becoming the end game of learning?

    See the full TEDxTalk at

  2. Living in the Question

    Children are experts at asking questions – any adult who has spent a long period of time with young children can give a thousand examples of their endless curiosity, variety, randomness and sometimes pure genius of the questions they ask. That natural curiosity and focus on the “why” removes the concept of implausible from their world – they believe anything is possible. Kids are born to live in the question. Educators can leverage their passion and keep them asking questions by asking good questions and not jumping immediately to deliver the answer. The hope we have for the K-12 experience is that the curiosity to know remains alive and well in each student’s soul.

    I wonder how we can work together to create a learning culture designed to encourage the asking of good questions versus force-feeding the answer?

    See the full TEDxTalk at

  3. The Pendulum of Engagement

    Have you ever learned something new that you would have never thought you would be interested in? Many of the skills needed in college and career are ones that you wouldn’t necessarily seek out yourself – they are so engaging because the need is real, immediate and relevant to solving a problem or answering a question. Engagement has the ability to supercharge a learning situation – to move them from inquiry to investigation, from interest to action. Engagement ignites the student’s hope of knowing, and powers the pendulum of their desire to know. Yet in some cases, the lack of engagement in schools has stilled the pendulum of learning in our kids. Our hope is that the stilled pendulum that is within each child is tapped gently and put back into motion through engagement.

    I wonder, what are some methods we could use that would re-start or accelerate that pendulum of engagement?

    See the full TEDxTalk at

You, Your Network & Your Digital Legacy: Personal Branding for Teachers

Lida Citroen
Posted on our original Blog site by Lida Citroen

You entered the educational field for many reasons. Maybe you are passionate about working with children. Perhaps a great teacher inspired you. Maybe you want to influence the next generation of leaders. Whatever your motivation, you focus on your craft, your skill and your profession. You don’t likely focus on your reputation.

Your reputation is what others think of you. As you interact with fellow educators, students, parents, administrators, your community and other colleagues, they form perceptions of you (your reputation) that impact the value they assign you. That reputation can have a significant correlation to whether or not others want to engage you in the kinds of opportunities and activities you are looking to be involved in.

Perception is reality in the minds of your parents, students, prospects, colleagues, and other stakeholders. Managing and directing that perception and building your legacy could be the most critical tool in your professional tool bag.

What is personal branding?

In my book, “Reputation 360: Creating power through personal branding” I offer this definition:

A brand needs to represent a set of values, promises and expectations and meet those expectations at nearly every step. Branding gives experience to something intangible; it gives names to the qualities I feel when I work or interact with you.

Everyone has a personal brand. It is your reputation and what others use to assign value and relevance to you. A brand is an emotional connection you have with others, and it sets the expectation of an experience of working with you.


Personal branding starts with you

Personal branding begins by understanding what you are passionate about, what you value and how you live an authentic life – what sets you apart?

As you begin to define and build your personal brand, look inside first. Ask yourself:

  • Do people around me feel I am someone who can be trusted with confidential information?
  • Do my students feel heard and respected?
  • Do my actions match my words?
  • What makes me different than other educators?
  • Am I surrounding myself with colleagues who hold the same values I do?
  • Am I living in concert with my beliefs?

Understand the needs of your audience

It is critical that you understand to whom you are positioning your personal brand: your target audience. Your audience holds the opportunities you desire, such as a career promotion or the opportunity to teach at desired institutions. Targeting those audiences and stakeholders who will find you relevant is critical, cuts down on your branding efforts, and makes your “self-promotion” feel more focused.

Create a powerful reputation

It may feel awkward to approach your interactions (in person and online) as part of a reputation strategy. Educators are often not sidetracked with self-promotion. The goal of personal branding is not to brag about yourself but rather to become very intentional about the words you choose, the company you keep and the way you represent yourself to your target audience.

Your reputation… online

Today it seems everyone has a Facebook page, Google+ and Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and he or she blogs incessantly. Should you?

For most of us, social networking plays an important role in building our reputation. Today’s social networking platforms offer the ability to connect with colleagues, parents, thought leaders and other influencers in the profession, to research, collaborate and grow our visibility.

In every action you take online (from posting an update on LinkedIn, to participating in a group on Facebook, to posting a YouTube video explaining a complex algebraic theory your class is struggling with), consider how others will perceive you. Become intentional about the words you choose, the way you communicate and engage others, and how you represent yourself consistently with your values.

Build a strategy for social networking:

In choosing to engage with your current and prospective audiences online, consider these points first:

  1. Apply strategy to your efforts. If you just want to get online and play around, you could damage to your personal and professional reputation – your brand – which is your most precious asset. Create a strategy for how you will engage, where you will become active and how you will measure success from your online activities.
  2. Articulate your value proposition. Educators entering social media need to be clear on what they offer that makes them stand out. What do you offer that makes you unique in your topic. What makes you different from your colleagues?
  3. Be careful. The way you represent you and behave online is public. What you post, share and comment on is public domain if posted in an online forum. Consider who might see your content and what that content will make them feel and believe to be true about you and your expertise, values and reputation. Students, parents, administrators and legislators can all see how you interact online.
  4. Focus on consistency. Educators with strong personal brands show up consistently and authentically. They have achieved genuineness through confidence and experience and through focus and care. Your online contacts expect you to use the same language, tone, posturing and attitude. Across any of the platforms you choose, strive for consistency: be sure to speak, write and represent yourself as the same person I’d meet in the flesh. There is no such thing as “personal vs. professional” since everything online is public.
  5. Focus on relationships. Social networking is all about interacting and forming relationships – professional, personal, and cause-related. Online, we give and take, collaborate, share and discuss; this is what makes the online forum rich and inviting.
  6. Know your audience. Spend the time understanding who and where your target audiences are online. Are they students, fellow educators, legislators and policy makers, parents? How do they engage with each other online? Learn as much as you can before you dive in. Also, learn about your institution’s policies for online activity.
  7. Listen. Your friends, students, parents and colleagues are talking online. They are sharing valuable information about their needs, likes and dislikes. Spend the time to listen and respond appropriately and authentically.
  8. Decide what to say. Not every educator needs to have a pithy blog to be relevant online. Everyone has something to say and there are many forums to offer input, advice, sharing, awareness and best practices. From LinkedIn Groups, to Google+ and Facebook fan pages, to blogs and community sites like Know New Ideas, there are many places to chime in and connect with others.
  9. Get started. Most individuals don’t know where to start with social networking. My advice is to begin by taking inventory of 1. Who you are, 2. Who might care, 3. Where they are, and 4. How you can reach them (using social media).

When building your personal brand – your digital legacy – you control much of the perception others will have of you. As you approach your behavior and interactions with strategy and intention, others begin to recognize your value and relevancy.

Lida Citroën is an international branding and reputation management specialist who enhances the identities of companies, executives and individuals globally. As principal and founder of LIDA360, LLC, she practices an integrated approach to branding, marketing and communications that enhances the total experience and reduces the investment for success.

An accomplished speaker, Lida engages audiences with her empowering message about managing your personal brand and reputation. Lida presents programs for school districts, corporations for non-profit organizations around the U.S. Lida is the author of Reputation 360: Creating Power Through Personal Branding, (Palisades Publishing, 2011) is a best-selling guide to gaining competitive advantage through reputation management.

Increases in Autism Signal Increased Personalized Learning

How do you know when the vision of personalized learning is advancing? Well, believe it or not, recent news coverage in USA Today and eSchoolNews about Autism is one indication. At this point, you might be saying, “Huh, not sure I follow you.” It’s not that anyone’s excited about the increase in Autism diagnosis rates – not at all. But as you dig deeper, you find greater public awareness for children with unique learning needs, an increased sophistication in the diagnostic methods for identification of unique learning needs, a strong desire to discover the neurobiology nuances that serve as contributing factors, and creative solutions that focus on the child’s unique learning needs. All of these are solid, common threads within learning science research that help us identify the unique needs of each child and increase our sophistication with personalizing learning.

I have some firsthand experience with this. My oldest son was formally diagnosed by the TEACCH program in North Carolina when he was four. In fact, we noticed unique traits in him when he was only a few months old. Most parents are left in the dark because of a lack of awareness and sensitivity to those unique traits. Parents don’t know enough to trust their instincts, and often their family members and even their pediatricians downplay their concerns because of a lack of awareness. You’re told “not to worry about it”, “Kids develop at different rates”, and “He’ll be fine; let’s just wait until the next visit.” Fortunately for my wife and me, we had family members and a pediatrician with an awareness and sensitivity to signs of Autism and encouraged us to seek formal diagnosis. Even more fortunately, our son is thriving in school because of the personalized learning approaches he’s received over the past ten years. So I know, firsthand, the benefits of identifying the unique learning needs of a child and personalizing his learning to maximize his growth. That’s why I’m encouraged by the attention given to Autism. I see the possibilities. I foresee how this attention and the success of Autism research will spill over into an increased desire to personalize learning for every child, regardless of his unique needs.