​Updates, Upgrades and Overheard: What Was Unveiled at ISTE 2017


​Updates, Upgrades and Overheard: What Was Unveiled at ISTE 2017

By Sydney Johnson, Jenny Abamu, Jen Curtis and Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Jun 27, 2017

​Updates, Upgrades and Overheard: What Was Unveiled at ISTE 2017

Flocks of educators and entrepreneurs have made their way down to San Antonio this week for the mecca of edtech conferences, hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education—better known as ISTE. The annual event brings together thousands of teachers all trying to find the latest news, gadgets and education tips (or in this year’s case, to hear a few words from podcast superstar Jad Abumrad).

It’s also a time when companies of all sizes and ages announce their latest updates and tools. After making a few rounds in the behemoth expo hall, we’ve rounded up the ones that made our ears perk up and what edtechies should look out for:

Big news from the blue chips

OGLING GOOGLE UPDATES: With over 70 million G Suite for Education users, Google’s education tools dominate U.S. classrooms. Their presence was clearly felt across more than 40 sessions and a massive expo booth complete with large screens, virtual headsets and the like. Notable updates include a new Expeditions app—an add-on to the Pioneer program—where students can explore in virtual reality on several different devices. Google also announced Cast for Education, a Chrome application that allows teachers and students to wirelessly share their screens with the class.

Quizzes on Google Forms now allow for a bit more customization: Teachers can offer partial credit for answers choices while auto-grading multiple choice questions. Finally, Google partnered with EdTechTeacher to announce apps teachers can use with Google Classroom like Soundtrap, that lets students make music and podcast online—but unlike most Google education products, the app bundles are not free.

MICROSOFT CLASSROOM IS NO MORE. Instead, educators will be able to use Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education. The re-branded product still offers many of Classroom’s services, like organizing class assignments and providing feedback to students, but now the product will come with more collaborative messaging features (think Slack for Microsoft education).

With Teams, educators can now message students directly or set up chat channels for group projects, and there’s a classroom-wide messaging channel as well. Educators at a school can also set up their own channels and video conferences. Teams integrates with School Data Sync, which imports roster information from a school’s SIS, as well as Office 365 and OneNote Class Notebooks.

PHARRELL TEACHES GARAGEBAND: Apple has a new book on the shelf: Tuniversity, a project co-founded by Pharrell Williams that aims to “reinvigorate” music education by helping teachers use Apple’s Garageband in the classroom. Tuniversitiy’s first offering is a book on how to reproduce Williams’ own song, “Happy,” and includes step-by-step tutorials on how students can create the song for themselves within Garageband. The book costs $4.99 in the Apple Bookstore, and includes background on the song, a breakdown of individual instruments used, lessons on rhythm, and a downloadable link with elements of the song that students can interact with in the app.

AS FOR AMAZON, still no word about Inspire, the company’s effort at creating an online education marketplace that made a splashy announcement last year.)

Updates and upgrades

DUDE, WHERE’S MY SCHOOL? Cloud-based operations management solutions SchoolDude launched an IT Help Desk for K-12 and higher-ed institutions. The tool automatically sends IT tickets to technicians based on their skillsets. “As school IT teams are typically understaffed and have limited resources, Help Desk can reduce requests and streamline workflows to get issues resolved quicker and maximize the IT support team’s efficiency,” Nick Mirisis, vice president of marketing for SchoolDude parent company, Dude Solutions, said in a prepared statement.

GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL: Newsela, a popular online resource which allows teachers to select and assign articles based on students’ Lexile levels, is aiming to bring its materials to younger students. “Our bread and butter has always been middle school ELA,” a representative from the company explains. “We’ve talked to them and heard we’re not giving them exactly what they need…We wanted to grow specific content that supports them.” So the company plans to release three new articles a week aimed specifically at elementary students. Each article will contain five “power words”—high-utility academic vocabulary—which students can click on to get a “student-friendly, article-friendly” definition, with a 10-question quiz at the end of the article. Upgrades come just in time for back-to-school.

READ WHAT YOU LIKE: Fashion. Police Brutality. Selena Gomez. These are just a few of the topics Achieve3000 discovered students want to read about—and now they can. The online literacy platform is offering not only new materials based on thousands of student surveys, but also the option for students to customize the content they can read. Think of it like a Flipboard for students, but aligned to students’ lexical level. Upgrades also include Smarty Ants Español, a program designed to help K-2 Spanish-speaking students learn how to read in Spanish.

WHO GIVES A KAHOOT?: Kahoot!, the game-based learning platform, is going mobile. According to Erik C. Harrell, the CEO of the company, the new app was designed to “enable teachers to assign homework that’s fun.” Now teachers can create and assign a “Kahoot”—essentially a gamified multiple-choice quiz—and students can compete against their peers for top score. “Kids can do homework through the app and use it any place, on the go,” Harrell explains. The app will be ready to use starting in September.

REN FAIRE: K-12 learning analytics software, Renaissance, announced Renaissance Flow 360, an assessment-based platform that aims to help teachers analyze differentiated student data to help determine what students are ready to learn next.

Mergers and acquisitions

EDUCLIPPER, often described as a “Pinterest for educators,” has been acquired by Participate Learning, a teacher resource aggregator and search engine, for an undisclosed sum of money. Started in 2012 by educator and frequent ISTE presenter Adam Bellow, eduClipper released an iTunes app in 2013, but has been relatively quiet on the news front since then. Speaking about Participate, Bellow told EdSurge, “I could think of no better team to oversee and build out the future of eduClipper. I am impressed with their dedication to building tools which solve real needs of educators and vision they are executing upon.” At the moment, Participate plans to keep eduClipper free for users—check out the press release here for more.

DOUBLE ACQUISITION: It’s been a big week of buy-ups for Certica Solutions this week. Certica, which works with K-12 edtech vendors around interoperability and centralized integration, announced it has acquired both Unbound Concepts, a tool that tags reading content with metadata to make them easier to find, and ItemLogic, a classroom assessment and content management system. Financial details were not disclosed for either deal.

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