Celebrating Computing

On the eve of Computer Science Education Week (December 4-10, 2017) your friends here at Knovation have had a chance to reflect on what has been contributed to this effort and what else we could be doing. The White House has issued a call to action, asking organizations and schools across the country to step up and do more in the area of computer education.

Computer Science Education

Last year the “Hour of Code” was a popular choice to introduce the concepts of computer programming, but Computer Science consists of so much more than just coding.  A Computer Science education program will typically cover things like:

Human Computer Interaction
****** helping students understand the impact that computing has had on our society and the many different ways where technology is used

Problem Solving and Computational Thinking
****** students begin to evolve to computational thinking, where they create solutions to many different types and complexities of problems

Web Design and Usability
****** giving students a chance to start designing and coding their own pages and check for the user-friendliness of their designs

Computing and Data Analysis
****** learners will understand all the ways computing has impacted the management and interpretation of data and how data can be used to support ideas or innovation

****** students are introduced to programming in a basic language and design a computational solution to a problem

****** learners will see how robots enable innovation by automating processes that are problematic for humans and the design and creation of robotic solutions

Although computer science education seems like it would only involve technology, there are plenty of other domains where the thinking processes and approaches in computational literacy come into play.  Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts and many other subjects benefit from students who can think the way a computer scientist thinks.

What is Computational Thinking?

  • Taking complex problems and breaking them down into smaller problems that are easier to solve
  • Working out steps or rules for getting things done
  • Understanding the complexity of the task that needs to be managed and the ability to focus on the key details
  • Incorporating the experiences of previous problems or projects to help accomplish the current one
computationalthinkingthumbnailWhat are computational ways of thinking?

As you celebrate Computer Science Education Week, think about new learning opportunities and ways that you can incorporate computational thinking into your curriculum….

….when students write stories, encourage them to plan first, identify the main events and characters

….in art, music or design, have students think about what they are going to create in terms of what sequential steps they need to take in the process of creating

….of course, in Math, students need to get the key information from a problem before they start the process of solving it

Check out some of these great computer science related resources from Knovation’s award winning digital content library for more ideas:

  • Hour of Code Combat: This computer programming game allows students to learn how to write code. Learners write code in real programming languages.
  • Lightbot: An introduction to the hour of code with Lightbot. Program the virtual robot to light up all of the blue squares!
  • Computational Thinking Unplugged Activity: This teacher tutorial provides educators an overview of a lesson in computational thinking without any use of computers. Clicking on the link leads to the full lesson plan. [1 min, 35 sec]
  • Code Conquest – What is Coding?  Don’t know the first thing about coding? Here is a beginner’s tutorial which will give learners all the background information for coding.
  • Code Monster: An instructional program that shows students how to code using Javascript. The Code Monster and his speech bubble are at the top of the screen where kids read straightforward explanations, commands, and questions. Code Monster is simple but most effective as a self-led journey of programming discovery.
  • Java Programs: See some examples made for beginning programmers to understand how to use java to write simple Java programs. These codes demonstrate how to get input from user, working with loops, strings and arrays.
  • Programming Nature Simulations: Learn how to use JavaScript, ProcessingJS, and mathematical concepts to simulate nature in your programs.
  •  Java for Complete Beginners: Learn to program in the Java programming language. This course assumes no prior programming knowledge, just a desire to learn to program.

Knowing Knovation: How a former Superintendent uses her rock star drive to help kids across the nation

Meet Patty Blake!

Patty's picture for blog 1Patty Blake – Content Manager at Knovation 

It’s not every day that you get to visit with a former superintendent and understand what makes them tick, what inspired them, and how their love for teaching continues–even after they leave their districts.

We had a chance to meet up with Patty Blake, former English teacher, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, assistant superintendent and lastly, superintendent of New Miami Local School District. Patty recently turned in her “cap and gown” and headed in a somewhat different career path by joining Knovation there months ago as a Content Manager –not a role many superintendents would consider after leading school districts for 15 years–but one that Patty chose as her way of staying connected to helping kids, inside and outside of the classroom.

From walking the halls of schools in Oak Hills, Hamilton, Three Rivers and New Miami, to watching the Walking Dead on Sunday evenings, take a sneak peek at Patty and you see how her passion for life and her love for kids gets translated into the work she does!

1)   Where is your hometown? I am from Cincinnati, specifically the Westside for all the readers from Cincinnati.

2)   What is your alma mater? I received my undergraduate degree from the College of Mount Saint Joseph and my graduate degree from Xavier University. Currently, I am pursuing my doctorate in Organizational Leadership at Xavier University.

3)   What was your dream job growing up? My dream job was somewhere between being a teacher and being a rock star.  I decided to go with the one I actually had a talent for doing, teaching!

4)   What attracted you to the education industry? Teaching runs in my family. My oldest sister was a professor at the University of Notre Dame. I also have two nieces and four cousins who are teachers. Because of family ties to education and my love for children, I became an English teacher before becoming an administrator. I taught 7th grade at Our Lady of Visitation and then taught English at Northwest High School, for a combined 6 years, then became a high school and middle school administrator for 10 years. Then I was an assistant superintendent and superintendent for a combined 5 years. Even my husband is a teacher! Now, my oldest son is in the teacher academy at his high school.

5)   Describe your role within the organization. My job title and my role don’t necessarily align- my job title is Content Manager, but I see my role as so much bigger than that. At Knovation, we help teachers find online resources they can trust and help them easily manage the wealth of content available to them. I spend my days searching and reviewing the best online resources for teachers and students to use. We have a rigorous 127-point certification process that every resource has to go through before it can be added to our content library.

Additionally, I have the pleasure of customizing digital curriculum for school districts. Since all resources we offer are standards-aligned, we can easily help a school or district finds the resources they need and organize these resources according to their curriculum maps so teachers have a consistent and rigorous foundation to start. As a former superintendent, I know how important it is to get teachers and students what they need so they can meet the demands and challenges of a changing world.

6)   Can you describe your role in identifying digital resources? I bring my experience as a former teacher and superintendent to help ensure we are delivering meaningful content to your schools and classrooms. My specific role is about giving feedback to keep the resources fresh and relevant. It is critical that teachers and students know that the resources they access are current, reliable and engaging.

7)  What is your favorite part about working with school districts? My favorite part about working with school districts is knowing that what we do saves teachers time and helps kids find the right resources, so they can get more engaged in learning. I’ve spent my entire career with the goal of inspiring kids to learn. At Knovation, we truly deliver resources that make learning that makes sense for all types of students. Whether they want to learn by watching a video, playing a game or actually reading an article, we select resources that kids can understand.

8)  What was the biggest change between being a teacher to being a Superintendent? Which did you like the best? I have never stopped being a teacher, but my classroom and students have changed. I made the switch to administration because I wanted to support teachers as well as students. As a Superintendent, one supports and leads many areas that are outside of the boundaries of teaching and learning. A superintendent holds the ultimate accountability for every stakeholder in the district. It is a 24 hour a day job, especially when there is snow! Asking me which role I like best is like asking me to tell you which one is my favorite child out of three. I love them all!

9)   What has been your proudest moment at Knovation? Well… with my short run here so far, my proudest “academic” moment would have to be when my coworkers made me a certificate when I was given the “rights” to publish evaluations. Yes, it is hanging up proudly near my computer! I have had a few other “athletic” victories here playing the office 4-square game, but I believe some of the plays were contested and are still under review.

10)   What are your favorite hobbies and outside interests? I love attending my children’s sporting and theater events. My husband and I enjoy weight training and going to see the latest scary movie. I am also a pretty big Walking Dead fan!

We’ll continue to feature more employees in upcoming blog posts, so be sure to check back and learn more about the people behind Knovation.

Interested in connecting with Patty? You can email her at pblake@knovationlearning.com.




To Blend or Not to Blend? That’s Not the Question.

Ohio State of Opportunity

The Ohio Blended Learning Network, in partnership with two other organizations, conducted a survey of 211 schools in Ohio and found the following:

• Nearly 58% of the schools have some type of blended learning model.
• High schools are adopting blended learning at a faster rate- 71% of high schools have a blended learning model
• 73% of schools offering blended learning are doing so to offer personalization for students
• 54% of schools offering blended learning are doing so to improve student academic outcomes

Blended learning environments create opportunities and paths for students to engage with instructional materials in a manner that matches their learning style and respects their own pace.

The survey results were used as the foundation to create an overview of the status and direction of blended learning in the state of Ohio, identifying needs and challenges of blended learning, and recommending next steps to address these.

One of the challenges faced by Ohio districts that are looking at implementing or that have already implemented blended learning is the need for finding quality content for the online component of their programs. With the proliferation of free online learning resources over the past years, you would expect that finding good content to create or supplement classes would be a simple task. But it’s not. Finding reliable, teacher-evaluated, age-appropriate, subject-specific and standard-aligned content takes teachers’ time and effort.

The question then shifts away from whether or not you should blend, but when, how and how much will it cost your district. One point all districts need to consider is the cost of opportunity loss as blended learning environments have proven over and over again to far outweigh the cost of not blending.

We would love to hear what your school is doing to include blended learning into your classrooms. If you haven’t started, or if you are in the process, let us know. Whether you use our solutions or not, we are here to help you weigh the pros and cons and help guide you as you move into the blended learning environment.

For more information on the Ohio Blended Learning Network survey, click here.

Integrating LMS and Digital Content: Moving Beyond Digitized Curriculum

OERintegrationLMS image

As the print-to-digital transition of instructional materials gains speed, schools need an organizing platform for their digital resources. The Learning Management System (LMS) serves that purpose and is gaining attention as a result.

LMS’s allow for teacher-student interaction and may include tools to manage assessment, deliver instructional resources, report results, suggest instructional strategies, facilitate collaboration, and communicate with parents. The degree to which an LMS manages resources, assesses student knowledge, prescribes instructional strategies based on assessed progress, and provides reports on student learning varies considerably depending on the system.*

Headed to a New Direction

The shift away from textbooks and growing use of online content has pushed K-12 schools and districts to develop strategies to support teachers in selecting, aggregating, and delivering relevant content to students. However, LMS’s do not yet have the capabilities to synthesize content in a meaningful, searchable way.

The existing wealth and anticipated growth of free digital content and open educational resources (OER) propose a new challenge for the LMS landscape. LMS’s must be able to integrate a wide variety of digital content from various publishers and authors. While portability standards, like Common Cartridge, enable an LMS to import course content, few contain the features or functions of personalized search for content.

LMS shortcomings arise from the larger shift in the way students learn and access information in today’s classroom. LMS vendors need to strengthen blended learning models by providing interoperable access to content as schools move past merely digitizing text resources.

To support blended learning, a future LMS should be equipped with the following capabilities:

  • Link content to formative assessment results to enable educators and students to receive personalized attention
  • Integrate existing course information with digital resources to provide all learners flexibility in using different resources
  • Bring content together into a unified, simplified search–even if the resources live outside of the LMS
  • Remain standard-aligned to district curriculum

What changes would you like to see to strengthen the effectiveness of your LMS?

*EdNet State of the K12 Market 2014 Report

Major Advantages and Challenges of the OER Movement

OER image

Digital content has never been so accessible. The burgeoning Open Educational Resources (OER) movement reflects wider trends in the K-12 space–rapid shifts to blended learning and personalized instruction.

As we approach another school year, some teachers will navigate the world of OER for the first time while others who have some experience, will begin seriously integrating it as an integral part of their daily instruction.. And for good reason: The benefits of OER are almost as endless as the number of resources themselves. Yet, implementing OER isn’t without challenges. For the uninitiated, we thought it would be beneficial to offer a refresher on the key advantages and challenges of OER.


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  • Access – In many ways, OER functions as an equalizer in the classroom, effectively removing barriers to access instructional material. Regardless of subject or grade level, teachers with limited budgets now have unprecedented access to current, engaging resources. And in the end, all teachers benefit from an influx of high-quality instructional resources they can access and share with others.
  • Cost – Textbooks are expensive. With OER, schools can now access instructional resources without the cost of print books. Through Creative Commons and other forms of alternative licensing, OER are meant to be freely shared, mixed, and rated – akin to the traditional modes of teacher-to-teacher collaboration that ultimately strengthen instruction.
  • Timeliness – Textbooks have figurative expiration dates. With frequently changing needs and accuracy of information, those expiration dates can come without warning and at any time. Since OER are delivered digitally, instructional materials can be easily updated and altered to remain accurate and relevant.
  • Engagement – With so many resources at their disposal, it’s never been easier for teachers to personalize instruction. In addition, OER can meet all modalities of student learning by offering content in different formats.
  • Flexibility – OER are as diverse as they are engaging, which means they can be leveraged to compile an entire unit or simply fill in curricular gaps along the way. Educators can use them to start from scratch or supplement existing classroom materials. With the right resources and creative inclinations, OER present truly endless possibilities.


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  • Availability – There is a wealth of resources already developed and ready to use, but OER currently skew heavily toward middle and high school classrooms. As OER expand, it’s important that resources are available to teachers at all grade levels.
  • Quality – As with anything on the internet, it’s essential to assess the validity of different OER. Not all materials are responsibly vetted and aligned to standards. Access to resources is important, but access to the right resources is far more important.
  • Time – Without a vetted, curated library of OER, it can take hours to research and locate high-quality materials for just a single lesson plan. Add a little extra time to align each resource to standards… Access to an organized, tagged collection of OER can save a lot of time – and even more headaches.
  • Organization – To save teachers time and ensure effective instruction, it’s imperative that resources are able to be organized in a way that clearly denotes which skills, subjects and standards they cover. It’s equally important to have the resources organized in a way that matches each district’s curriculum maps and pacing guides.
  • Maintenance – Standards are always changing, which means teaching materials have no choice but to keep up. Even if you identify and use OER one year, they may not be alive, current or reliable the next. It takes time and dedication to keep all OER relevant and up to date.

Acknowledging the challenges that are inherent to OER is the first step to leveraging a wealth of resources that can truly make a difference in teaching and learning!

If you’re interested in learning how our solutions can help address the challenges above, visit here. And if you have any challenges or successes to add to the OER conversation, let us know in the comments below!

Browser Support Changing For Learning Resources

A small percentage of the resources that Knovation curates rely on the Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI), which is a plug-in that extends the capabilities of browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. NPAPI was developed by Netscape 20 years ago, and was introduced as a way of allowing users to interact with media-rich content, such as videos or simulations.

A lot has changed since 1995, and as publishers have gradually moved away from this older technology, so too have browsers. We now find that resources which rely on NPAPI plugins are often slow to load, cause the browser to crash, or even compromise the security of your computer. As a result, Chrome has decided to phase out the support of resources that rely on NPAPI plug-ins, such as Java and QuickTime.

Knovation is committed to staying close to this development as browsers make this shift. During this time, we will be continuously analyzing resources that we curate, and removing those that no longer meet the high standards that we apply to every learning resource that we make available.

We encourage you to alert our curriculum content team in the event that your browser is unable to display a resource. If you find a resource that no longer works as expected, please let us know by reporting a problem. Youai??i??ll find the ai???Report a Problemai??? button next to every learning resource in netTrekker and icurio.Ai?? We will work quickly to resolve the issue, or locate additional resources that you can use in their place. If youai??i??re experiencing issues with QuickTime or Java resources using Chrome, consider opening the resource on a different browser, such as Internet Explorer.

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Knovation and NWEA: Closing the Assessment-Instruction Loop


Knovation is thrilled to announce our partnership with the Northwest Evaluation Association™ (NWEA™), a global not-for-profit educational services organization known for its flagship interim assessment, Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®).

For years, users have requested NWEA for the ability to get more frequent information on student progress and to access a more granular picture of the skills that need support in order to meet the expectations of rigorous college- and career-readiness standards.

NWEA has responded to this request by creating Skills Navigator — an online classroom assessment system that quickly and accurately measures student skills in math, reading, and English language usage. Skills Navigator is designed to give a “power boost” to teaching, helping teachers:

  • Identify the skills students are ready to learn
  • Collect evidence of skill learning
  • Monitor student progress toward mastery

And, as if access to all this information wasn’t enough, Skills Navigator helps teachers answer the “what now?” question that usually comes up after teachers identify skills that need more work for certain students. That’s where Knovation comes in, closing the assessment-instruction loop.

Skills Navigator connects students with targeted, rigorous online learning opportunities powered by Knovation’s dynamic collection of over 360,000 high-quality, standards-aligned Open Educational Resources (OER), curated using a 127-point certification process. The Knovation-Skills Navigator integration enables teachers to immediately and seamlessly assign differentiated learning resources to help every student grow and progress.

We are honored to be NWEA’s partner in a solution that has the potential to help teachers close achievement gaps, use data to guide instruction, and support kids with diverse needs.

Read NWEA’s blog post on Skills Navigator and the partnership with Knovation.


Technology-enabled Personalized Learning Summit Report


Personalized learning is a comprehensive educational approach that puts students at the center and engages students when, where, and how to best meet their unique needs and interests. Summit participants recognize the central human element of teaching and learning and view technology as a teaching force multiplier and a learning accelerator that can enable more efficient and effective use of learning time.

Last year, over 100 education leaders attended the Technology-Enabled Personalized Learning (TEPL) Summit hosted by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University in collaboration with Digital Promise, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA). This convening was unique in that the leaders included similar representation from industry, associations and nonprofits, and university and K-12 educators. Together, they compared experiences, discussed common challenges and barriers, explored case studies, and identified potential solutions and models that all must be addressed collectively to scale the implementation of personalized learning through technology.

Steve N
Steve Nordmark – Knovation CAO

Their suggestions are now available in a final report titled Technology-Enabled Personalized Learning Summit: Findings and Recommendations to Accelerate Implementation (PDF), co-authored by Knovation’s Chief Academic Officer, Steve Nordmark.

It is an honor to have Knovation involved in such an impressive piece of work.

Read full press release. 

April Market Showers Bring UDL Flowers

April showers

One of the panel presentations and discussions at the May 2015 Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) Education Industry Summit, focused on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). During the panel, some recent, noteworthy mentions of UDL in the marketplace were shared. Like UDL “market showers” released in April 2015, they caused May to become the perfect time to share the beauty of their blooms, brightening the opportunities for all learners.

The First Shower

An article by Kim Greene titled “The Growing Case for UDL”, featured in the Spring 2015 edition of Scholastic Administrator. What I particularly liked about this article was how it mentioned the benefits of UDL on addressing the needs of all learners within the K-12 learning community, not just special education. It prominently featured an implementation at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Revere, MA–Adam Deleidi, the Assistant Principal at the school said, “There’s a misconception that this is a technology or special education initiative. It’s not either.” In fact, the article shares that in the past two years since starting their UDL implementation in the 2012-13 school year, “special education and discipline referrals are down by 50 percent” and “out-of-school suspensions have plummeted by 70 percent….”

The implementation at Deleidi’s school is a perfect example of how relying on UDL as a foundation for your approach to learning results benefits throughout the school for all learners.

The Second Shower

An article reviewing the benefits of UDL in the higher education setting titled “7 Things You Should Know About Universal Design for Learning”, posted on Educause. Similar to the Scholastic Administrator article, it emphasized the ROI that schools realize through UDL implementation. In particular, the article mentioned how the “University of North Carolina System … incorporated UDL into its College STAR initiative.” More specifically, as part of its STAR initiative, at “East Carolina University, … a STAR program for students with identified learning disabilities resulted in a 90% retention rate, higher than the retention of the university as a whole.”

Thus, through high-quality design implementation, UDL helped East Carolina University realize a meaningful ROI by retaining more students.

The Third Shower

A whitepaper titled, “Ed Tech Developer’s Guide: A primer for software developers, startups, and entrepreneurs” published by the United States Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. Within the section titled, “Opportunity 8: Making Learning Accessible to All Students,” UDL is prominently featured because the UDL “guidelines encourage instructional practices and educational content that embrace the widest possible diversity of learners.” Borrowing from the broader context of Universal Design (“designing products and spaces so that they can be used by the widest range of people possible”), what the Ed Tech Developer’s Guide argues is that when you leverage UDL, “not only do you facilitate school district compliance with civil rights laws, but your apps will become much more beneficial to your users as well, even those who may not have specific learning disabilities.”

So, an intentional focus on UDL during product design and implementation benefits all learners.

The Fourth Shower

A section of the draft legislation on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) titled “PART G—INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY EXPANDS CHILDREN’S HORIZONS (I-TECH)” mentioned UDL. The proposed legislation recognizes the significant benefits of the UDL guidelines, calling for funding and coordination of implementation support for programs consistent with the UDL principles. It specifically calls for State Education Agencies to be able to use funds to provide “technical assistance to local educational agencies to … use technology, consistent with the principles of universal design for learning, to support the learning needs of all students….”

Again, the key aspect to this proposed legislation is that it recognizes the power in the UDL framework to “expand the horizons” of all learners.


This Week We Celebrate Teachers….


Showing appreciation to a teacher (yours, your child’s, your colleagues’) doesn’t have to mean that you create a holiday, bring food or provide gifts.  Sometimes it is as simple as writing a short note letting her/him know you acknowledge all that he/she does.  It’s kind of cool to see the look on a teacher’s face when he/she hears from a past or present student about how he/she has made an impact—for some it is a shy smile of humility and for some there is a response that looks like the face of a kid on Christmas morning.

So, even if you’re too busy to write a note, inscribe something in your favorite book and give it to him/her, have your child draw a picture or bring him/her a snack… tell the teacher he/she have made a difference, be sure to explain how and why (that’s the special in specifics).

As we continue our work here at Knovation to ignite the hope of knowing, we also need to take a moment to make sure that the teachers we serve enjoy the gift of knowing as well–knowing they make a difference in the lives of students.

Thank you to the teachers out there who made a difference in my life and to all teachers – you are appreciated this week and beyond!

Randy Wilhelm – CEO, Knovation