EdSurge’s Year in Review: The Top 10 K-12 Stories of 2018

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EdSurge’s Year in Review: The Top 10 K-12 Stories of 2018

By Stephen Noonoo     Dec 27, 2018

EdSurge’s Year in Review: The Top 10 K-12 Stories of 2018

We’re getting ready to count down to the new year with a countdown of our own: EdSurge’s annual look at the year’s top K-12 stories as chosen by your clicks and shares.

This year, readers turned to stories that helped them make sense of technology’s evolving role in our classrooms and our lives. Every year has its trends, fads and buzzwords—computational thinking, social-emotional learning, Google. But what, if anything, can we learn from them?

Many of the stories here provide an answer to education’s perennial question: How can we make the time we spend with students just a little better? And yet the No. 1 story tapped a different defining spirit for a year marked by teacher strikes and walkouts from Arizona to West Virginia. It poses, perhaps, a different question: Are states doing enough to improve the lives—and livelihoods—of today’s working teacher?

We’re also adding in a handful of “editor’s picks” that focus on what our reporters and contributors do best: Tell stories about the present and future of education. We hope you’ll give them a look. Happy New Year!

10. Micro-Writing is Having a Macro Impact on Identity Development by Bryan Christopher

If you’re a teacher, chances are you’ve used a micro-writing activity at some point. These quick exercises are often used as warm-ups or to check for understanding. But high school English and journalism teacher Bryan Christopher is using micro-writing regularly in his classroom to support identity development and to build a sense of belonging.

9. The Future of Education Depends on Social Emotional Learning: Here’s Why by Giancarlo Brotto

Research indicates that students who receive instruction in social-emotional skills—such as agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability—not only perform better in school, but are more successful in careers and life in general. As it turns out, schools that invest in SEL see a major return on investment. But are educators on board?

8. How Furniture and Flexible Seating Is Turning Classroom Design Into a Fad by Robert Dillon

As schools race to create Pinterest-pretty classrooms with furniture on wheels and flexible seating, Dillon advises teachers to slow down—and adopt a designer mindset. Among the top tips from the educator-turned-author: Take cues from research, and nature. Re-notice your space. Be aware of sound, light and color. And ask more questions. “All of these opportunities will help you avoid the fad, stay focused and support modern learning spaces.”

7. Can You Show Netflix in Class? Copyright for Teachers Made Simple by Eva Harvell

Can you show a Netflix video in class? The answer—like so much else related to digital copyright and fair use—is kind of a gray area. Yet if we’re asking students to consider copyrighted materials when they produce work, it makes sense for educators to practice what they preach, argues one tech director.

6. The 5th ‘C’ of 21st Century Skills? Try Computational Thinking (Not Coding) by Shuchi Grover

For better or worse, computing is pervasive, changing how and where people learn and live. That does not mean every child needs to become a computer scientist, though. What’s more important, says former SRI International researcher Shuchi Grover, is getting students to develop computational thinking skills in everyday class.

5. Six Key Principles That Make Finnish Education a Success by Maria Muuri

Finland consistently ranks near the top of international rankings in education—but why? Part of it comes down to a focus on so-called “transversal” skills, which focus on competencies like self-expression and managing daily life, says one former educator. But Finland also treats students as active participants in their learning—and that can produce big results.

4. The Most Important Skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution? Try Ethics and Philosophy. by Tony Wan

For a future that will be shaped by artificial intelligence, bioengineering, 3D printing and other technologies, how should society prepare its current students (and tomorrow’s workforce)? A panel of global scholars point to an unlikely trio of skills: philosophy, ethics and morality. “If humans are designing machines to replace humans, versus helping them get work done, then that will change the structure of humanity to something that we have never seen,” says Patrick Awuah, a MacArthur Fellow.

3. The Key to 21st Century Classrooms Isn't Tech. It's Evolved Teaching. by Katie Martin

Not all tech-enabled classrooms are created equally, argues AltSchool’s Katie Martin. Where some classrooms plop students down with virtual worksheets, others create rich ecosystems of student-driven learning centered on problem solving and community involvement. The secret lies in evolving roles for students and teachers.

2. 17 Little-Known Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Using Google in the Classroom by Stephen Noonoo

The latest Google must-haves for educators? An extension that turns cursor movements into shortcuts; a tool that translates websites into dyslexic-friendly text; and a slightly creepy way to check for plagiarism. Search our list for even more hidden treasures.

1. The Data Tells All: Teacher Salaries Have Been Declining For Years by Jenny Abamu

“Why would you want to be a teacher when you know teacher pay is actually declining over time?” asks economist Sylvia Allegretto, reflecting on data from the National Education Association that shows steep declines in teacher pay—as much as 15 percent during the past 10 years—relative to other professions. EdSurge looks at how each state fares, and whether unions actually improve teacher pay in our biggest story of the year, which was even referenced in a column from the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.

Editor’s Picks

What Does Growth Look Like for a Student Who Isn’t Having Success on Standardized Tests? by Farhat Ahmad

Some things just don’t show up on the stat sheet or gradebook, like showing up to class or meeting goals. For Georgia high school teacher Farhat Ahmad, “little things matter a lot when it comes to recognizing student growth.” Here’s a personal story about providing the emotional supports needed to help one troubled student find his voice and the confidence to change course.

Million-Dollar Advice: The High Cost and Limited Return on Personalized Learning Consulting by Jenny Abamu

What do edtech consultants actually do? And why do they charge such a pretty penny? EdSurge followed the money and results in two districts that footed the bill for personalized learning consulting services—which don’t always translate into better learning outcomes. See why some educators and consultants are calling for more accountability.

Inside the Project-Based Program That’s Turning Refugees Into High School Grads by Donna Neary

When older students immigrate to the U.S., they typically enroll in high school with hopes, but little expectation they will earn a diploma. Yet a yearlong accelerated program in Louisville, Ky., is helping students graduate—and even get into college—using a unique project-based approach that helps them master English, key content standards and the crucial skills they’ll need for life.

Teen Mothers Need a Lot of Support. This New Orleans School Actually Provides It. by Emily Tate

It takes a village to raise a child—and sometimes, it takes a whole school to help the child’s mother graduate high school. EdSurge visited a New Orleans school that helps pregnant and parenting students navigate the challenges of being a new mother—while juggling routine schoolwork. The school’s “homebound” program has helped a student named Joy stay on track and graduate.

Tear Down That Wall? Why Data Walls May Cause More Harm Than Good. by Tina Nazerian

In many classrooms students may find their names on a wall, showing everything from their grades and test scores to behavior. These so-called “data walls” are popular among teachers—but are they effective? Some teachers say they can stoke the competitive spirit; others say the practice does more harm than good.

We’re getting ready to count down to the new year with a countdown of our own: EdSurge’s annual look at the year’s top K-12 stories as chosen by your clicks and shares.

This year, readers turned to stories that helped them make sense of technology’s evolving role in our classrooms and our lives. Every year has its trends, fads and buzzwords—computational thinking, social-emotional learning, Google. But what, if anything, can we learn from them?

Many of the stories here provide an answer to education’s perennial question: How can we make the time we spend with students just a little better? And yet the No. 1 story tapped a different defining spirit for a year marked by teacher strikes and walkouts from Arizona to West Virginia. It poses, perhaps, a different question: Are states doing enough to improve the lives—and livelihoods—of today’s working teacher?

We’re also adding in a handful of “editor’s picks” that focus on what our reporters and contributors do best: Tell stories about the present and future of education. We hope you’ll give them a look. Happy New Year!

10. Micro-Writing is Having a Macro Impact on Identity Development by Bryan Christopher

If you’re a teacher, chances are you’ve used a micro-writing activity at some point. These quick exercises are often used as warm-ups or to check for understanding. But high school English and journalism teacher Bryan Christopher is using micro-writing regularly in his classroom to support identity development and to build a sense of belonging.

9. The Future of Education Depends on Social Emotional Learning: Here’s Why by Giancarlo Brotto

Research indicates that students who receive instruction in social-emotional skills—such as agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability—not only perform better in school, but are more successful in careers and life in general. As it turns out, schools that invest in SEL see a major return on investment. But are educators on board?

8. How Furniture and Flexible Seating Is Turning Classroom Design Into a Fad by Robert Dillon

As schools race to create Pinterest-pretty classrooms with furniture on wheels and flexible seating, Dillon advises teachers to slow down—and adopt a designer mindset. Among the top tips from the educator-turned-author: Take cues from research, and nature. Re-notice your space. Be aware of sound, light and color. And ask more questions. “All of these opportunities will help you avoid the fad, stay focused and support modern learning spaces.”

7. Can You Show Netflix in Class? Copyright for Teachers Made Simple by Eva Harvell

Can you show a Netflix video in class? The answer—like so much else related to digital copyright and fair use—is kind of a gray area. Yet if we’re asking students to consider copyrighted materials when they produce work, it makes sense for educators to practice what they preach, argues one tech director.

6. The 5th ‘C’ of 21st Century Skills? Try Computational Thinking (Not Coding) by Shuchi Grover

For better or worse, computing is pervasive, changing how and where people learn and live. That does not mean every child needs to become a computer scientist, though. What’s more important, says former SRI International researcher Shuchi Grover, is getting students to develop computational thinking skills in everyday class.

5. Six Key Principles That Make Finnish Education a Success by Maria Muuri

Finland consistently ranks near the top of international rankings in education—but why? Part of it comes down to a focus on so-called “transversal” skills, which focus on competencies like self-expression and managing daily life, says one former educator. But Finland also treats students as active participants in their learning—and that can produce big results.

4. The Most Important Skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution? Try Ethics and Philosophy. by Tony Wan

For a future that will be shaped by artificial intelligence, bioengineering, 3D printing and other technologies, how should society prepare its current students (and tomorrow’s workforce)? A panel of global scholars point to an unlikely trio of skills: philosophy, ethics and morality. “If humans are designing machines to replace humans, versus helping them get work done, then that will change the structure of humanity to something that we have never seen,” says Patrick Awuah, a MacArthur Fellow.

3. The Key to 21st Century Classrooms Isn't Tech. It's Evolved Teaching. by Katie Martin

Not all tech-enabled classrooms are created equally, argues AltSchool’s Katie Martin. Where some classrooms plop students down with virtual worksheets, others create rich ecosystems of student-driven learning centered on problem solving and community involvement. The secret lies in evolving roles for students and teachers.

2. 17 Little-Known Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Using Google in the Classroom by Stephen Noonoo

The latest Google must-haves for educators? An extension that turns cursor movements into shortcuts; a tool that translates websites into dyslexic-friendly text; and a slightly creepy way to check for plagiarism. Search our list for even more hidden treasures.

1. The Data Tells All: Teacher Salaries Have Been Declining For Years by Jenny Abamu

“Why would you want to be a teacher when you know teacher pay is actually declining over time?” asks economist Sylvia Allegretto, reflecting on data from the National Education Association that shows steep declines in teacher pay—as much as 15 percent during the past 10 years—relative to other professions. EdSurge looks at how each state fares, and whether unions actually improve teacher pay in our biggest story of the year, which was even referenced in a column from the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.

Editor’s Picks

What Does Growth Look Like for a Student Who Isn’t Having Success on Standardized Tests? by Farhat Ahmad

Some things just don’t show up on the stat sheet or gradebook, like showing up to class or meeting goals. For Georgia high school teacher Farhat Ahmad, “little things matter a lot when it comes to recognizing student growth.” Here’s a personal story about providing the emotional supports needed to help one troubled student find his voice and the confidence to change course.

Million-Dollar Advice: The High Cost and Limited Return on Personalized Learning Consulting by Jenny Abamu

What do edtech consultants actually do? And why do they charge such a pretty penny? EdSurge followed the money and results in two districts that footed the bill for personalized learning consulting services—which don’t always translate into better learning outcomes. See why some educators and consultants are calling for more accountability.

Inside the Project-Based Program That’s Turning Refugees Into High School Grads by Donna Neary

When older students immigrate to the U.S., they typically enroll in high school with hopes, but little expectation they will earn a diploma. Yet a yearlong accelerated program in Louisville, Ky., is helping students graduate—and even get into college—using a unique project-based approach that helps them master English, key content standards and the crucial skills they’ll need for life.

Teen Mothers Need a Lot of Support. This New Orleans School Actually Provides It. by Emily Tate

It takes a village to raise a child—and sometimes, it takes a whole school to help the child’s mother graduate high school. EdSurge visited a New Orleans school that helps pregnant and parenting students navigate the challenges of being a new mother—while juggling routine schoolwork. The school’s “homebound” program has helped a student named Joy stay on track and graduate.

Tear Down That Wall? Why Data Walls May Cause More Harm Than Good. by Tina Nazerian

In many classrooms students may find their names on a wall, showing everything from their grades and test scores to behavior. These so-called “data walls” are popular among teachers—but are they effective? Some teachers say they can stoke the competitive spirit; others say the practice does more harm than good.

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