Giving Thanks: The Top EdSurge Contributors of 2016

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Shutterstock / Eugenia Petrovskaya

Teamwork makes the dream work. And in the case of EdSurge, that “team” is way bigger than the 40 people working out of our offices in California.

This Thanksgiving, we here at EdSurge are reflecting on how thankful we are for all of the individuals in our professional lives—our readers, our community members, our mentors and advisors. But there’s one group in particular that we’d like to call out—our contributors. The edtech entrepreneurs, educators, investors and other education professionals that share their opinions and practices through storytelling on our site are invaluable to this industry, and we celebrate them.

Today, we’d like to call out nine of our contributors in particular, who’ve written the most popular articles of 2016. And we’re giving you a spread! Three pieces from our industry-facing Innovate newsletter, three from our K-12 Instruct newsletter, and three from our higher education Next newsletter.

Investors and Entrepreneurs—From the 'Innovate' Newsletter

This year was a busy one for the edtech industry from the standpoint of our AT&T State of Edtech report, which delved into funding deals and product development. Amongst our standout articles and the themes they evoke: a Stanford University researcher on edtech and equity, an entrepreneur on growth mindset, and a look into Chromebooks by the president of a iBoss Cybersecurity.

TEN YEARS OF EDUCATION RESEARCH has shown we are failing to use technology effectively with underserved students, who are mostly subjected to “drill-and-practice or remediation” activities, writes Molly B. Zielezinski. But there’s hope—the Stanford researcher completed a 500-paper lit review with professors Linda-Darling Hammond and Shelley Goldman to identify five actionable tips to provide equitable digital learning opportunities to low-income students.

GROWING PAINS: In a recent national survey, 97 percent of teachers agreed that students should have a growth mindset. Yet only 50 percent said they have adequate solutions and strategies to help. Rupa Gupta, a former educator who now heads Sown to Grow, explored one reason why the idea isn’t working in schools yet: shifting mindsets requires that students build new skills—not just hear encouraging words.

CHROME AT HOME: Chromebooks are on the rise in American classrooms, and many teachers are in favor of allowing students to bring them home. But home Wi-Fi networks don’t have the same protections and encryptions as schools’, leaving students vulnerable, writes Peter Martini, president of iBoss Cybersecurity. He recommends password protection, allowing only valid Chrome extensions and a few other simple tricks to protect students from prying eyes.

Educators and Administrators—From the 'Instruct' Newsletter

Adaptive learning. Personalized learning. Blended learning. With all of these seemingly similar and yet disparate terms floating around, how can we possibly distinguish them? Luckily, K-12 educators and administrators are sharing their practices from the ground in the Instruct newsletter to shed some light on these buzzwords. Two teachers and two administrators representing four states across the U.S. grabbed the top contributor spots, speaking to brain-based classroom design, computational thinking, and school culture.

WRAP YOUR BRAIN AROUND THIS: Erin Klein, a 2nd grade teacher and our 2016 Fifty States writer in Michigan, got frustrated with traditional classroom design. (You know, that old “desk-and-teacher-at-the-front” set-up.) So, she decided to take what she knew about brain-based teaching practices, and turned her classroom design upside down—with the help of her students.

CODING VS. COMPUTATIONAL THINKING: “Computational thinking” (or CT) is the new “coding,” argues Bay Area CS teacher Sheena Vaidyanathan. Why? CT is less about Java and Python, and more about teaching kids to solve problems, which is something that every teacher is responsible for. She’s put together a guide on the ins and outs of CT, as well as several rich resources anyone can use.

ALL TEACHERS SHOULD FEEL LIKE ROCKSTARS, argue educators Kerry Gallagher and Kyle Pace. And they shouldn’t feel shy or nervous about it. “Capitalize on the ‘teacher brag,’” they write. This week, the duo offer five ways school leaders can create a culture that motivates all teachers in a school or district to take risks and try something new.

Higher Education Experts—From the 'Next' Newsletter

What’s next in the world of digital learning at the higher ed level? According to our top Next newsletter contributors, the topics of student debt, innovative practices in community colleges, and online learning design continue to grab readers’ attention. A consultant, a nonprofit associate, and a chief academic officer took to EdSurge this past year to share their stories and thoughts.

SLACK ON: MOOCs get knocked for lacking the intimate discussions and organic student interactions that accompany college classes IRL. Amy Ahearn, senior innovation associate at +Acumen, thinks Slack could add a human touch to online courses. Her team used the online communication platform to lead an online seminar about an ambiguous and risky text. Check out how they did it—and why they’ll use Slack again.

STICKING TO THOSE RESOLUTIONS? Tim Coley, a strategic consultant at Ellucian, shared his predictions for trends that would have the biggest impact on higher education in 2016. He said to watch for mounting student debt, renewed interest in community colleges and innovative federal legislation. Was he right?

UX TO LX: User experience design is one of the hottest jobs in tech. Instructional design is experiencing similar levels of demand in higher education. Whitney Kilgore, chief academic officer at iDesign, says we’re witnessing the marriage of these two fields. “Learner experience designers” merge design-thinking principles with curriculum development and the application of emerging technologies, she writes.

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