Happy, But Stressed
March 28, 2013
A Gallup study was just released about the state of teachers’ well-being, and they seem to be shocked about the results…
Teachers rate themselves as the second happiest grouping of workers in the country, and yet they also rate themselves as the second most stressed in the workplace. The Gallup pollsters seemed surprised that such a low salaried job could yield such high stress – a mathematical quandary.
To us it makes complete sense. In order to take on the job of teaching, one must be passionate, and posses a higher level of good-disposition to lead students through the educational system. It is also one of the hardest jobs in the world, requiring major overtime workloads that are often overlooked by the rest of society. Gallup does end their study with an insightful and important lesson to be learned from their results: we need to address teacher’s well-being in the workplace now.
Read the full report here, and check out this great excerpt:
“teacher’s low workplace well-being, relative to other professional occupations, indicates school and community leaders have important issues to address in the school workplace in order for teachers and students to reach their full potential. It is absolutely critical to raise teachers’ workplace engagement, because their engagement is the No. 1 predictor and driver of student engagement, which Gallup research shows impacts student wellbeing and academic success.”
Youth and Technology
March 27, 2013
A week or so ago, the Pew Center released a study that states 95% of U.S. teens have access to the internet. (There are even more interesting numbers on youth and technology in the U.S. that can be found here, laid out in a short, simple way). The amount of our nation’s youth that use the internet may not come as a surprise to many, but what is far more interesting is that 1 in 4 of these youth access the internet through their cell phones. This is important, especially to teachers and edtech companies, because it must be accounted for when creating and choosing what kind of online education tools to use.
If a majority of your class doesn’t have access to larger monitors/keyboards, especially in urban settings where cell phone internet use is even higher, how can you adapt? Many edtech companies are celebrating the wide-spread usage of the internet by kids, we’re happy too, but what truly needs to be discussed is how do we bridge the digital gap? In the U.S., and especially internationally, there is a huge gap in access to online information. How can we as edtech companies work with international and domestic educators to provide the same kind of access to the amazing breadth of knowledge the internet and its tools provide?
There needs to be an international dialogue on how we can all provide and develop edtech for more than just the most fortunate for monetary gains, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on how to do just that.
March 25, 2013
As technology becomes a more integral part of the classroom, it is important for teachers to take care about what they themselves put on the internet. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) put together a helpful and short guide on how educators can take precautions to make sure that a line is never crossed in our ever-transparent society. Here are some of the most important points made:
- When using school technology, teachers are not protected by privacy laws
- Even if done on a private computer, teachers can be held liable for what they post outside the classroom if considered inappropriate
- There are no definitions on the record for what “inappropriate” is measured as, so it’s subject to each state/school district
Read more on the AFT website, and make sure that when you harness new technology you’re careful about your code of conduct.
The Always Prepped Team
To Tweet or Not to Tweet…That is the Question
March 21, 2013
Kerri Schweibert – Guest Blogger
I don’t have a Smart Phone, I don’t have cable, and I took the leap into 2011 last year by finally signing up for online banking. So I’m not the go-to girl to lead a technological revolution. Of course I host online discussions, have class websites on Moodle, and utilize a SMART Board, but I’ve realized that I’m hesitant to blindly follow in the direction technology seems to be baiting us (no carrot required). As an English teacher and lover of books, I cannot fathom a world where Kindles have become ubiquitous and books extinct. And when people ask me why I’m so opposed to digital texts, the Romantic in me can’t come up with a more concrete explanation than, “There’s just something about holding a book!”
I recently came across an article that, for the first time in a long time, opened me up to the possibilities of technology in education. I’ve always believed that our children’s use of technology hampers their writing capabilities. However, according to OMG Engaging Students on Their Own Terms, “texting encourages written communication. Students are actually writing more now than any time in history.” This makes complete sense when you realize that the typical teenager sends over 3,000 text messages per month. Okay true, but texting will be the death of real writing. In response to this growing sentiment, the article explains that Socrates believed “writing was going to be the death of thinking and debate,” and “fifteenth-century educators believed that the printing press and wide availability of books would be the death of scholarly writing.”
In Shakespeare’s words, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Having students summarize an article, or state an opinion, or forge a question in a tweet of 140 characters can force them to stop doing the tango around their point and just get there. However, at the same token, what if Shakespeare tweeted the balcony scene? The beauty and romance of his language would be lost. So what else can be at stake? What is the dowry we need to pay to the technological gods infiltrating our classrooms?
Larry D. Rosen claims that we’re all headed for iDisorders: “where you exhibit signs and symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as OCD, narcissism, addiction or even ADHD, which are manifested through your use — or overuse — of technology.” As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s true. People keep their phones next to their dinner plates, families enforce “tech breaks” at the table, someone gives you the play-by-play of their daily activities via status updates. As my dear friend Ryan once said, “Why is it I can drive for days with my gas light on but freak out when my cell battery goes below 50%?”
So what’s the apropos cliche here? “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Well, maybe you can just send them a friend request.
Kerri Schweibert received a B.A. in English Education from Stony Brook University and an M.A. in English literature from Queens College. Born and raised in New York, Kerri spent time traveling and studying abroad before she decided to settle down in Hawai’i. She currently lives in Honolulu, teaching English at Assets High School.
The Passion to Learn
March 20, 2013
A couple of hours ago, our communications guy came across a video on twitter called “If Students Designed their own Schools…”. He made us all sit down to watch it together in the office, and we were extremely impressed to say the least. It made us all think about why we got into the edtech world, and we started to reflect on our own educational history. All of us in the office had our own stories: different types of high schools, colleges, and in some cases, self-education. So how did we end up back in the realm of education, all in the same office?
It’s because we love to learn.
Every day we learn new things in our office by collaborating with each other on all levels: programmers, designers, PR reps, and our leadership. Much like in the video, we all work together, bouncing our ideas off each other, and most importantly, with teachers. We want to learn more, and we want to help teachers make it easier for today’s youth to learn.
What the face of education will look like in ten years is impossible to predict, but what we can all control are the goals of its progression. Through real, egalitarian collaboration between the edtech world and teachers, together we can make sure that the driving force behind educational innovation is the passion to learn, not to just make money or pass tests.
EdTech and Teacher Voice
March 18, 2013
Ben Barton, Guest Blogger
I have just returned from SXSWedu (4-7 March) where my company zondle was competing for the Launchedu prize (K12). We didn’t quite make the showdown but the experience of pitching was fantastic.
Overall the conference seemed more a ‘trade show’ rather than teaching event with groups like Pearson (Foundation) and Amplify having a big presence. Others have commented about the lack of teachers including @tomwhitby, @ewanmcintosh and @audreywaters, and this did cause me some concern (along with the obsession with ‘big data’ – what are governments going to do with it?).
I share many concerns that business and big government are driving too much of the innovation in education right now, and teachers are being left as passive consumers of whatever technology will give the right data (or return on investment).
This is why the best part of my week was visiting a small school in South Austin called Cunningham Elementary to take a class on games based learning, talk to teachers and watch an amazing assembly.
Zondle is my third start up, each of these have started bottom-up by focusing on what teachers need to deliver on requirements set to by districts or central government. By keeping our overheads low and building communities around each business, we have been able to make strong profits by targeting affordable products straight to teachers.
There are three key methods for keeping in touch with teachers and putting them at the heart of our community:
a) Focus Groups – run 5-10 every term to test products, find out what teachers are concerned about right now and build community.
b) Regular email/twitter contact –to keep teachers informed about our developments, and even what we are thinking about new initiatives from government etc.
c) Visiting schools – after I sold my second business, I became a teaching assistant in a school in inner city London. The experience was invaluable, and I now try to visit a school (for a whole day) at least 2x per month to ‘walk in the shoes’ of teachers.
None of this is rocket science, but it does fly in the face of the cult of the engineer and marketing guru in many EdTech startups I see. Of course I love amazingly put together technology and innovative approaches to the market, but if your company doesn’t begin and end with the teacher in mind then your product/service won’t get used.
Ben Barton is CEO of zondle (one of 6 semi-finalists in LaunchEdu at SXSWedu 2013). Zondle has over 220,000 users around the world answering 7m questions each month. Previously Ben was a co-founder at Rising Stars UK Ltd and a teaching assistant at Whitmore School, Hackney, London. He tweets @bartoneducation and re-builds a canal boat in his spare time.
Life of Pi…day
March 14, 2013
Happy Pi day from everyone here at the Always Prepped office! We thought we’d celebrate by sharing a little history of Pi that we borrowed from our friends over at scholastic:
“The first calculation of pi was done by Archimedes of Syracuse (287–212 BC), one of the greatest mathematicians of the ancient world. Archimedes approximated the area of a circle by using the Pythagorean Theorem to find the areas of two regular polygons: the polygon inscribed within the circle and the polygon within which the circle was circumscribed. Since the actual area of the circle lies between the areas of the inscribed and circumscribed polygons, the areas of the polygons gave upper and lower bounds for the area of the circle. Archimedes knew that he had not found the value of pi but only an approximation within those limits. In this way, Archimedes showed that pi is between 3 1/7 and 3 10/71.”
Pretty cool, eh? Those Ancient Greeks knew what was up.
It’s been a great Pi Day here, with developers racing to recite the digits of Pi (Reed won by listing 35 digits in under 30 seconds), and many punny Pi pictures drawn.
I hope everyone is having their own awesome festivities at their respective schools. If you have some pictures or a Pi Day story, send them over to us and we’ll tweet them out!
-The Always Prepped Team
Too Much Work, Not Enough Time
March 11, 2013
“The percentage of teachers spending 50 or more hours each week on all teaching duties has trended steadily upward since 1976. In 2006, more than half of all teachers (52%) were in this category.” NEA Report, March 2010
In the midst of doing some research, we came across the numbers above. Since the 70’s, a majority of teachers have increasingly spent more than 50 hours a week teaching. This might come as a shock to many people who think that teaching is an easy job with little time commitment. However, between grading, teaching, lesson plans, leading after-school clubs, college recommendations (for HS Teachers), and volunteering at sporting events and dances, it’s surprising that teachers could have any time for themselves.
That’s why here at Always Prepped, we’re striving to give back teachers some of their hard-earned time. We know that teachers also spend a ton of trying to find the best and newest edtech tools to incorporate into their classes. We’re trying to simplify that by putting all those tools in one easy dashboard. So teachers, get some of your time back by signing up for Always Prepped, and let us know what we can do for you!
Celebrating Women in Education
March 8, 2013
“We must continually remind students in the classroom that expression of different opinions and dissenting ideas affirms the intellectual process.” -bell hooks
I started the blog post today with a quote from bell hooks, not just because she’s my favorite feminist theorist, but because these words are central to the educational ideals we try and live up to at Always Prepped. We wanted to take some time on International Women’s Day to celebrate women in education.
Over 74%+ of the education workforce in The States is comprised of women. That’s an amazing number, and a testament to so many women who are dedicated to improving education for all children. This blog post could be pages long naming amazing women like Graca Machel, Mary McLeod Bethune, Clara Barton, or Fatema Mernissi, who have all carried the torch in education reform and development. However, the list doesn’t end there; it’s bottomless. With so many innovative female educators today striving to create the 21st century classroom (many have joined us on Always Prepped), the list will never end, and we’re excited to be a part of the process.
In a world where every day is men’s day, it’s important that we all stop and thank the women in our lives, and our world, for what they’ve done for every single one of us.
So from all of us here at Always Prepped, thank you so much, and keep fighting the good fight.
Funny to say out-loud and passed in 1974, FERPA seems like a law that wouldn’t be relevant today. But, with the advent of the edtech industry, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) has never been more important.
FERPA was created to make sure that information about students, collected by schools, was being utilized in a responsible way by setting up the following rights:
- Parents, guardians, and students 18 or older (PG&S) can obtain and request corrections of student data
- PG&S must sign off on the sharing of any student data with the government, other schools, or outside firms
However, Schools can share “directory” data with whomever they please. Directory data is categorized as “the student’s name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, major field of study” (5, A), among a few others.
Why it’s so Important Now:
When reading the bullets above, one might ask, “why is the second bullet point in bold”? The section of FERPA that gives PG&S the right to be notified about data has a wide swath of exceptions. This is where the all-important discussion about edtech innovation versus personal liberty comes to the center stage.
Subsection 5, F of FERPA gives teachers and administrators the ability to share student info without permission if they feel it will improve their education.
The sharing of information is a double-edged sword for education innovation, both a vital tool to be utilized for aiding teachers on shaping the future of our world, and an area that could be manipulated and over-marketed if put into the hands of those who care more about money than our children. At Always Prepped, we believe that student data must be secure and entrusted to only those who are fighting to improve education, not manipulate it. That is why we have taken so much time and care to make sure we have the best and safest system (bank grade encryption) for our educators, students, and parents to help them monitor their information.
Whatever direction the future takes, the door is open for a great dialogue.
To read the actual text of FERPA: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232g