Calling All Edtech Bookworms: EdSurge’s Top Articles of 2015

Calling All Edtech Bookworms: EdSurge’s Top Articles of 2015

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Is it already the end of the year? Oh my.

This year, EdSurge has run more than 1,600 blurbs and stories. And in doing so we’ve collectively downed thousands of cups of coffee, broken several keyboards, and pulled out more than a few hairs in the process.

We surely can’t take all—or even the majority—of the credit. A hearty share of the stories we’ve ran since 2011 come from our network of over 500 contributing writers and columnists. And we couldn’t be happier or more thankful. The stories you find on EdSurge are dependent on our community of readers and writers, who not only fight the good fight every day in classrooms and offices, but share insights and lessons learned. Without your work and dedication, there wouldn’t be stories to tell.

We want to hear from more of you! If you’ve got some unique insights, commentaries or tips to share, please check out our guidelines and send us your polished drafts!

So which stories were the cream of the crop in 2015? Here’s our countdown to the Top 10 stories of the year.

We asked San Jose high school sophomore Audrey Mullen to share how she and her peers actually use various edtech tools and how they really feel about their teachers’ blended learning approaches. The result is a straight-from-the-source playbook that no blended teacher—or entrepreneur—will want to skip. Among her cheeky, candid commentaries: “Pick your poison! Stop juggling between paper and digital.” And don’t miss her list of four “tools that save[d] my life.”

The edtech tips and strategies that technology integration specialist Kerry Gallagher shared at the start of school will be every bit as applicable after the kids come back from the holiday break. Check out what her toolbox looks like when it comes to finding OER materials, managing paperless workflows and tracking formative assessments with live analytics.

You may well have heard of the SAMR model for blended learning. But how the heck do you implement it in your classroom? EdSurge columnist, “Ms. EdTechie” Patricia Brown has stepped up to the plate with this guide on bringing the SAMR Model to iPads and more—with some delicious coffee metaphors, no less. (We'll have our latte with a shot of “redefinition,” please.)

Terry Grier, Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, believes in the power of badges—even if introducing them to teachers isn’t always easy. He shares on EdSurge how HISD and VIF International Education teamed up to make a digital badging system for 28 classrooms. These badges offer “a professional development experience that teachers have been seeking: one that is flexible, job-embedded, and collaborative, and provides actionable strategies for use in the classroom,” he writes. They are like “wheels on luggage. You are left wondering why it took so long to put this system in place.”

If you could choose any state to teach in, which would it be? You would consider a variety of factors, like where your family is located, where your spouse could get a job and, of course, how much you would expect to be paid. Sure, New York, on average, pays its teachers the most. But that doesn't factor in the sky-high rent and other living costs. EdSurge’s Michael Winters explores what teachers in each state actually earn after factoring in cost of living. Take your best guess: What’s a better destination for teachers than, say, Hawaii?

Who’s the real “khan” when it comes to claiming the top education website in the US? The question is intentionally misleading, because it is not who you might think. Here are some hints: the company was founded in 2005 by a fifteen-year-old student. Another clue: the company raised $12 million in its first funding round in November.

4. PowerSchool’s Journey Away From Pearson

Pearson shed a lot of weight this year—and gained a lot of pounds. The series of Pearson’s divestments was a major ongoing storyline in 2015. What would become a defining—and painful—year for the world’s largest publisher started with rumors that it was looking to sell PowerSchool, the market leader in student information system (and a profitable line of business). The deal finally happened in June; Pearson CEO John Fallon described the move as part of a grander strategy and internal reorganization “to focus more directly on learning outcomes.” In the following months, it would go on to sell two other cash cows: The Financial Times, and its stake in The Economist Group.

“Fade Out” is one of PowerPoint’s most annoying effects. That's also what students and, frankly, most of us feel the same way when we’re bombarded with gaudy slides that make our brains feel like oversoaked sponges. EdSurge's Mary Jo Madda explores the science behind “cognitive load” and how you may be losing your students (or investors, or whoever you’re trying to convince) with ridiculous PowerPoints.

“Think about when you go to Starbucks to complete some work,” asks Kayla Delzer. “Why do you choose to work there? Where do you choose to sit?” These questions prompted the North Dakota teacher—and EdSurge columnist—to redesign her second-grade classroom to look more like a “Starbucks for kids” and less like a classroom. Here’s how she ditched the desks and created the coffee-shop atmosphere without breaking the bank.

Our top spot goes to Zach Klein, who, as a kid, felt guilty for spending so much time playing Sim City on the computer. Then he built and sold Vimeo, and launched DIY.org to create a community where kids can feel empowered and encouraged to explore creative hobbies like beekeeping, crytopgraphy, or the simple pleasures of Legos. “Whether it’s Minecraft or duct tape wallets,” he writes, “the kid-passions that seem like fads, if not totally unproductive, can alternatively be seen as mediums for experiencing the virtuous cycle of curiosity: discovering, trying, failing and growing.”

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