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Philip Young

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Are Active Shooter Drills Going Too Far? 8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, May 16, 2019 @ 08:05 AM

There have a been a shocking number of active shooter incidents across the United States over the last few years, resulting in mass injuries and deaths, many in K-12 schools. It’s heartbreaking to turn on your television or radio to hear of another horrifying incident and young lives lost. School safety and security measures are constantly adapting and growing around the premise of active shooters on a campus. It’s extremely important to continue to perfect an emergency response plan by running active shooter drills, testing your emergency alert system, and educating students and staff on what to do in the case of an active shooter. But how far is too far?

School Security Guard

In Indiana a few teachers came forward to report they were left with welts, bruises, and abrasions after an active shooter drill back in January 2019. They anonymously told IndyStar that for the training teachers were asked by law enforcement “to kneel down against a classroom wall, before being shot across their backs with airsoft guns.” Although all active shooter drills are to educate and inform students and faculty of what to do in an emergency situation involving a shooter, being shot at close range for practice seems to push the limits of some educators. One teacher said, “They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing.’ They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times. It hurt so bad”.

8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices

Alice Training Institute released a list of best practices for active shooter drills in collaboration with NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) and NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers). 

  1. Create a School Safety Team
    Alice Training Institute recommends each K-12 school should create school safety teams made up of an administrator; school mental health professional; school nurse; teachers; security personnel; parents; and students. There should be somebody on this safety team that takes charge in coordinating all school safety efforts, including school safety drills. The leader should also be clear in communicating responsibilities to those on the school safety teams, and identify appropriate emergency preparedness activities for the school.

  2. Conduct an Assessment of the School Community
    It’s important for the school safety teams to identify the types of crises that may occur, and what the current school culture and climate is like. For example, this would include determining if there are high rates of bullying incidents in your K-12 school. Assessing the policies in place for active shooter drills and considering if there should be any additional policies added is also key.
  1. Implement a Cost-Benefit Analysis
    Your school’s cost-benefit analysis should consider financial costs in relation to the likelihood of a particular crisis, and the current knowledge and identified needs of staff & faculty. The cost-benefit analysis should also identify resources, activities, or preparedness trainings that must be replaced or postponed to engage in an active shooter drill.

  2. Tailor Active Shooter Drills to the Context of the School Environment
    Your active shooter drills should take into consideration the following - the primary goal of the drill; the age of students, cognitive and developmental levels of awareness of students; students with physical, sensory, or other disabilities who may require unique instructions; the trust and comfort among staff; optimal timing of the active shooter drill; relationships with law enforcement; and lastly the layout of the school.

  3. Create a Plan of Progression
    Your K-12 school should have a plan of progression that identifies specific goals and objectives for the active shooter drill as well as a timeline and metrics to help determine how the drills are performing, and whether more complex exercises are needed.

  4. Prepare for Logistics of the Active Shooter Drill
    It’s important to keep in mind several factors when running active shooter drills such as students or staff who have experienced previous traumatic events. These individuals may want to be excused during a drill, but must have parental consent to do so. Alice Training Institute also recommends having school mental health professionals available to help.

  5. Develop a Communications Plan
    Having an effective communications plan is important before, during, and after an active shooter drill. It’s important to keep parents, guardians, and the school community informed of when drills are planned. This is easy to do with your school notification platform.

  6. Establish a Long-Term Follow Up Plan
    Schools should establish a long-term follow up plan to support sustainability that considers the following – what additional training is required; how the drill integrates with other school safety efforts; how current and previous training and knowledge can be maintained; and when/ how often a follow-up should be conducted.

For more in depth steps for conducting an active shooter drill at your K-12 school, please see the Alice Training Institute ‘Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills’ report.

One of the important points in active shooter drill best practices includes having a communication plan. At Alert Solutions we help many K-12 schools with their emergency response efforts by providing an award-winning school notification system, SwiftK12.  

SwiftK12 enables administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. In the case of an active shooter situation, seconds count.

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

The Importance of Teacher-Student Relationships in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Mon, May 06, 2019 @ 10:05 AM

Positive Teacher Student RelationshipTeachers who make an effort to foster positive and influential relationships with students make a huge impact on children going through school. Not only are they making students comfortable in their learning environment, studies show supportive teacher-student relationships lead to higher levels of achievement than those students with conflict in their relationships.

If you think back to when you were a student yourself, did you make an effort academically when you loved your teacher? Teachers who treat their students how they want to be treated become ‘popular’ to students, which leads to mutual respect. Keeping the line between student and teacher, but also showing students you’re making a concerted effort, will gain their trust and friendship.

5 Tips to Better Your Teacher-Student Relationship

  1. Get to Know Your Students
    The first thing a teacher should do when building a positive teacher-student relationship is getting to know his or her students. Find out their interests, whether it is a favorite sport, TV show, or school activity. NEA recommends talking to students and listening to what's on their mind: “…they will begin to see that you're not just another adult, but someone who is genuinely interested in them.” It is suggested that you do not have any ‘favorites’, but making an extra effort to build a better teacher-student relationship with children who may be a disciplinary problem doesn’t hurt. This can be done by giving compliments such as, “You did a nice job in class today by raising your hand instead of blurting out when you had ideas to share. Your cooperation in class made it easier for me to teach today. Thanks.”

  2. Protect Your Student’s Self-Esteem
    Adolescents and young adults are fairly vulnerable when in school. Their priority is their social standing and relationships with their peers, which tends to cause students to pull away from adults. For this reason, it’s important to protect your teacher-student relationship by managing discipline in your classroom without an audience. NEA tells us, “Being criticized by a teacher in front of their peers humiliates them. To avoid “losing face”, students may react by talking back, smirking, or walking out of class. They will do whatever it takes to preserve their dignity.” Although it is easier said than done, reacting to student outbursts should be quiet and quick with no sarcasm or condescending comments. If you can react to a problem in a light manner or even with a joke, this can prevent any jabs to a student’s self-esteem and protect your teacher-student relationship.

  3. Appreciate Good Student Habits
    Unfortunately teachers find a lot of their interaction with students at a classroom level is due to disruption. When students are listening well or working quietly, make sure you appreciate that. Addressing the class with compliments is a great way to build teacher-student relationships. NEA provides these examples of positive statements towards a classroom:
    • "It's really great to see all of you start your homework without having to be told.”
    • “I appreciate that you are all working so quietly.”
    • “The bell just rang. I see that everyone is in the right seat. That's great.”
    • “It’s easy to carry on a discussion when people raise their hand and don't interrupt others. I appreciate that.”
    • “You're a great class; I enjoy being your teacher.” 

  4. Listen to Your Students
    Being open to receiving feedback from your students is a good quality to have as a teacher, as students like to feel as though they have some influence in what goes on in class. It can also lead to a respectful teacher-student relationship. Topics that could be up for discussion with students include school policies, assignments, and grades. Taking the time to listen to your students’ concerns and ideas shows them that you care and value their thoughts.

  5. Work on Your Teacher-Parent Relationship
    Having a good teacher-student relationship is great, but having parents and guardians on board as well is extremely helpful in fostering student success. Engaging parents in their child’s education often encourages better grades, higher test scores, reduced rates of substance abuse and better social skills. One way to do this is having open lines of communication with parents, which can be done easily with the help of your school notification system.

With these 5 helpful tips, you’re well on your way to creating incredible teacher-student relationships.

Alert Solution’s proudly works with many incredible K-12 teachers across the country and internationally. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, helps foster positive teacher-parent relationships, as well as teacher-student relationships.  

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication, student engagement

Anxiety-Fueled School Refusals - How Do They Impact Truancy?

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 @ 10:04 AM

Parents and educators struggle daily with children and students not wanting to go to school. That’s normal. When children and students completely refuse to go to school it becomes worrisome. Truancy is detrimental to a student’s success in school, and when a child is chronically absent grades slip and sometimes it is impossible to recover academically.

The Impact Truancy has on Student Academic Success

Truancy measures the number of unexcused absences a child has in school. Healthy Children has a number of startling statistics on chronic truancy in the United States, including the fact that it affects 6.5 million students nationwide. That’s nearly 13% of the total student population! Healthy Children states, “Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. For older students, being chronically absent is strongly associated with failing at school―even more than low grades or test scores.” A student who misses a lot of school is also more likely to drop out, or fail out without graduating.

There are a number of factors that could lead to a student missing school, and one of them is anxiety. About 5% of children have school related anxiety, which leads to them refusing to attend school.

A Closer Look at Anxiety-Fueled School Refusals

Anxiety-Fueled School Refusal - Truancy

According to KQED News, mental health professionals are taking a closer look at the run-of-the-mill truancy, and are now referring to some cases of chronic absenteeism as “school refusal”. This can be triggered by several factors including anxiety, depression, family crises, and other traumatic events, which can lead to weeks or even months of missed school days.

There is a lot to be said about the earlier manifestation of anxiety and mental health disorders in children and young adults. According to a study by the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics there are approximately 2 million American children and adolescents that have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are also known to peak during the school year. This could be because of several factors such as student stress levels due to course load, or bullying and cyber bullying incidents.

Typically, anxiety develops for students when they are transitioning from middle school to high school, or often comes to light as young as age 5 to 6 years old. In younger children it’s a lot more difficult to determine if a child is developing a mental health disorder, as the symptoms are harder to read and present themselves as negative behaviors. The Washington Post explains, “Parents and educators are quick to spot the behavior problem, but they don’t always see the underlying anxiety that drives it… The challenge often lies in the fact that kids might experience these emotions for the first time, without warning. They don’t necessarily know how to connect the dots between a racing heart, a stomach ache, feeling dizzy and anxiety.”

School Refusals: When to Intervene

When should teachers and school administrators intervene when they notice school refusals? The short answer is as soon as possible. The earlier the intervention, the more likely a student can get back on track. The longer the child is avoiding school, the more likely they are to fall behind and experience more drastic consequences. According to the Carrier Clinic, children with unresolved anxiety can often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, and make rash decisions that protect them in the short term. “One study found that teenagers and young adults ages 14 to 24 with social anxiety were nearly 3 times as likely to develop depression later in life than those without the anxiety disorder.”

A key way to addressing student truancy due to anxiety is by getting parents involved. No parent wants their child to drop out of school. Keeping open lines of communication with parents and guardians not only keeps them fully involved in their child’s education, but it’s also an easy way to determine if a student has a string of absences that could be related to anxiety or a mental health disorder.

Alert Solutions recommends using an automated attendance alert, which sends home a message to parents or guardians using their preferred communication method. Not only does this make both students and parents accountable, but it’s also extremely easy to set up with our school notification platform, SwiftK12!

With the increased pressure for K-12 schools to address chronic truancy, we’ve also developed a guide to help tackle and reduce absenteeism. Want to learn more? Download the guide below!

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Topics: student health, attendance, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, truancy

4 Ways for K-12 Schools to Go Green for Earth Day

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Earth Day is an international awareness event focused on preserving the environment’s natural resources from the negative impact of industrialization. There are many ways people can go green and take action, including attending marches, signing petitions, getting involved in local politics, cleaning up litter or waste in public spaces, or working in community gardens.

Earth Day

Across the United States, local K-12 schools have a unique opportunity to participate in Earth Day. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, April 22nd, and it’s the perfect time of year for administrators, teachers, students, and staff to look into new ways to go green.

Prioritizing sustainability in K-12 settings is a practice that will improve the community as a whole. Students will take these lessons home, and consider their individual impact on the global climate outside of the classroom. It’s also an opportunity to reassess school functions, both on an administrative level and in the classroom. Schools are likely to find new ways that technology fits into the picture while exploring eco-friendly options, and these solutions will improve operations for their district. By going digital, administrators can further reduce waste on school grounds while increasing access and convenience for students and parents.

Four Ways K-12 Schools can Go Green for Earth Day

  1. School-Wide Recycling Initiatives
    One of the most essential ways K-12 schools reduce waste is recycling. Luckily, there are several ways schools can make recycling a priority, starting with a student-led recycling club. Putting students in charge of collecting and emptying recycling bins is an excellent way to empower young people to be active participants in green initiatives. By making recycling a chance for students to hang out with friends and be social, the community will be more motivated to participate. Teachers, students, and custodians working together will reduce the number of recyclables wasted or put in landfills, but it is also another way to strengthen a sense of community.

    Schools also have an opportunity to find fun and unique ways to reduce recyclable waste. For example, art teachers can integrate old newspapers, magazines, and other discarded paper goods into classroom projects. Many crafts and classroom activities integrate recyclable materials, including hanging bottle gardens, creating bracelets or other accessories from newspapers, making a rainbow made from bottle caps, or using old cans and pots to create classroom organizers.
  1. Invest in Clean Energy
    K-12 schools across the United States are exploring ways to utilize green energy, such as installing solar panels on roofs and using electric buses. Schools make ideal candidates for solar power panels since they only require energy during the day when the sun is shining, and because they often have the roof size required for installation, as per the New York Times. The main barrier to access electric solar panels is financial, but costs are coming down. If a school does have funding for the installation, the panels can help the building save money on electric bills in the long run.

    Electric buses are an option school systems are  beginning to explore in the United States, though they’ve long been popular abroad. These buses provide a valuable alternative to diesel because they don’t expose children to soot or other harmful pollutants. Unfortunately, these vehicles are still twice or three times as expensive as traditional buses, but K-12 schools can potentially make up that money in low fuel and maintenance costs. These green solutions might not be viable in every community, but students, teachers, and administrators can advocate for clean energy funds on the local and state level.
  1. Start a Community Garden
    A community garden is a great idea for school systems looking to bgo green. Gardens help decrease air temperature, increase property value, and have the potential to provide fresh food to supplement school lunches, which reduces carbon emissions by cutting down on transport. There are also mental health benefits to gardening. Being in nature is therapeutic, and the sense of responsibility gardening provides can have a positive impact on mental health for students. Dedicating even a small amount of resources and class time to a school-wide garden space can help cultivate a healthier, greener community.
  1. Go Paperless
    Schools tend to use a lot of paper for bureaucratic and communication purposes. From student health files to detention or late slips to report cards, a lot of paper is used in the daily management of a school. Administrators can eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of paper waste by migrating systems into the digital sphere.

    Luckily, technology provides plenty of paperless methods for communication. A school notification system like SwiftK12 can send voice, e-mail, social media and SMS Text alerts that keep students informed of changes in scheduling or developing emergency situations in the community. Also, our Secure Document Delivery feature can help schools drastically cut paper use by sending report cards, student transcripts, and other timely notifications electronically.  

Not only will investing in digital communication make for an eco-friendly campus, it has also been shown to result in reduced truancy, better parent engagement and more transparency between staff and student families.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: earth day, environment, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, go green

Autism Awareness Month: How Can Your School Promote Acceptance?

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Apr 02, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

Today is Autism Awareness Day, and the month of April is Autism Awareness Month!

Autism Awareness

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is defined as a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive disorders.  There are many different subtypes of autism which are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Some people can live entirely independently with little support, and some require a significant amount of support in their day-to-day lives.

Autism Speaks shares autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the U.S. today, and the indicators of autism often appear by age 2 or 3. There can be developmental delays that appear sooner which leads to an earlier diagnosis. The sooner the diagnosis, the sooner early intervention can start. Research has made it clear that high-quality early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development.

Texas Autism Society shares since the 1970’s the Autism Society have been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM) to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. The month of April is a great opportunity for K-12 schools and educators to teach students about autism and issues within the autism community. There are many ways for students to support their peers in school who may have autism, and raise both acceptance and awareness within the school community.

6 Ways to Promote Awareness During Autism Awareness Month

The Texas Autism Society has several great ideas that are fairly simple for K-12 schools to implement during April to raise awareness:

  • Share Autism Facts
    Consider sharing several autism facts on puzzle pieces around the school and mention these facts on the morning announcements for everybody to hear. You could hang the puzzle pieces on hallway walls or post them on a bulletin board for students and faculty to see.
  • Invite Guest Speakers
    Bring guest speakers into school to present to students. “Speakers can be people on the spectrum, family members of individuals with autism, or professionals in the field.” Your K-12 school could hold a special assembly for these presentations.
  • Autism Awareness Shirts
    Encourage your students and faculty to wear a certain color or specific autism awareness shirt one day of the week.
  • Showcase Autism Awareness Books
    Ask your school library to showcase books about Autism on display throughout the month of April. A few books mentioned by Texas Autism Society include: The Autism Acceptance Book by Ellen Sabin, Tobin Learns to Make Friends by Diane Murrell, Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopman, and Wishing on the Midnight Star by Nancy Ogaz. For a larger book suggestion list, click here.
  • Autism Movie
    Show a movie about autism during a lunch period or in the classroom. A few movies mentioned by Texas Autism Society include: Life Animated, Autism the Musical, Best Kept Secret, Family Next Door, Rain Man, Jack and the Red Hearts, Autism in Love, and The Story of Luke.
  • Create an Autism Ambassador Club
    Autism New Jersey has an Autism Ambassador Program that has a significant impact on increasing the acceptance of autism. “Ambassadors of all ages engage their communities by creating informational displays and presentations in their schools and workplaces, organizing successful fundraising events, and enlisting the support of legislators and state officials throughout April, National Autism Awareness Month.”

Spreading awareness doesn’t only need to happen in school. Get your students’ parents involved by sending home friendly reminders with your school notification system. SwiftK12 allows school administrators and teachers the ability to send messages home using parent-preferred communication methods such as text, emails, social media, and phone calls.

Make this month the biggest and best Autism Awareness Month your school has ever seen!

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Topics: student health, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school programs

Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 @ 13:03 PM

With the digital world continuing to expand year over year, educators are beginning to leverage several technologies to help increase parental involvement in K-12 schools. However, some are skeptical of these digital tools and the effectiveness they have in creating meaningful relationships between teachers and parents. With this being said, the typical in-person parent-teacher meetings are not as common since the evolution of digital technology.

Mom and Daughter on Phone - Parental Involvement

According to a 2016 report, “there’s been a steep drop in the number of parents who believe that more intimate forms of communication—face-to-face meetings with teachers, for example—are the most effective means to convey important information about students.” This study also tells us there is a growing acceptance of digital methods among both teachers and parents.

Parental involvement is a trending topic in the education field.  Studies show students with engaged parents are more likely to attend school, graduate on time, do better academically, and are less likely to drop out. Students are also less likely to get in trouble and have substance abuse problems.

Keeping parents in the loop of day-to-day activities is not always easy, but with the help of digital tools like social media, video calling, and automated notifications, teachers are saving time and keeping parents happy.

3 Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement

  1. Social Media
    Social media is a great way to stay connected with parents and promote parental involvement. Working parents may not be able to make it to parent engagement nights, but following classroom social media accounts such as Facebook pages or Twitter streams will keep them in the know. EdTech shares through using social media “they (parents) can stay more informed and offer more help and expertise during a time that’s more convenient for them.”

  2. Video Conferences & Calls
    If you can’t meet a parent in person, try video calling from the comfort of their home! Like mentioned previously, many parents are working and traveling which makes it difficult to meet with their child’s teachers. Video conferencing software such as Skype, Google Hangout, and FaceTime allow for great parental involvement digitally.

  3. Text Messaging & Automated Alerts
    Automated alerts and text message alerts are an easy way to boost parental involvement. This is becoming a preferred communication method for both teachers and parents alike. According to EdTech, “A lot of young parents become intimidated by formal conferences or can’t get time off work to attend. Many teachers have found that the ability to text parents has made communicating with them much easier.” A study was conducted in 2017 by Columbia University and parents were sent texts weekly about their children’s grades, absences, and missed assignments. This resulted in an “18 percent increase in student attendance and a 39 percent reduction in course failures.” The numbers speak for themselves!

Alert Solutions’ industry leading school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers and administrators to send text messages home to parents with ease. SwiftK12’s automated attendance alerts also serve as a great tool to help save staff time and ultimately increase attendance rates.

Pearson Education explains that improving communication and parental involvement using digital tools won’t happen overnight. They recommend a few tips to help with nurturing parent engagement outlined below:

  • Involve Parents in Coursework
    Find ways to get parents involved in homework and other school projects. This can be done by sending helpful reminders home through their preferred communication methods.

  • Teach Parents About Digital Learning
    With the many skeptics out there, it’s important to talk with parents about your school’s approach to digital personalized learning. Pearson recommends sharing “how are students benefiting, how much time per day are they spending on screens, how does digital allow students to work at their own pace and meet competencies, what will homework look like and overall WHY digital.”

  • Remember: Not All Parents are Fluent English Speakers
    Break down those communication barriers! There are tools for parents and teachers make it easier to grow and sustain parental involvement and engagement across a language barrier. SwiftK12 is a helpful tool as it translates messages with ease.

  • Set Expectations
    Make sure parents know what to expect! Parents who have multiple children enrolled in one school may be overwhelmed if each teacher has a different way to communicate with them. Pearson provides the following example; “Imagine having 2 children each with 6 different teachers who have 6 different ways to access information. This can create deep frustration that is hard to overcome.”

At Alert Solutions, we understand the importance of parental involvement and keeping parents engaged - it has so many benefits for students. We’ve kept up with new technology trends with our school notification platform, SwiftK12. Reaching parents is easy to do with our quick alerts and automated lunch and attendance alerts. 

Ready to learn more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

Could Digital Learning Games Help K-12 Educators?

Posted by Philip Young on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 12:03 PM

In a world where technology is taking over, K-12 educators are looking for new and exciting ways to make their classes fun and engaging. This is being done with the help of digital learning games.  

Digital Learning Games in the Classroom

To put it simply, a digital learning game is a self-guided game that promotes a variety of educational subject matters. These games could relate to subjects such as history, math, science, and more. Instead of teachers lecturing at the front of the classroom, students are encouraged to take an autonomous approach to learning. This student-centered method allows students to generate their own knowledge and receive information through the game itself.

How Do Teachers Feel About Digital Learning Games?

The response to digital learning games was not always as positive as it is today. Many educators were hesitant to stray from the traditional methods of teaching, as it was all they knew. A study conducted by Yun-Jo An and Li Cao found teachers did not seem to fully understand the educational value of digital learning games. Within the study they worked with 50 teachers to show them the usefulness of digital games, and develop their own digital games. “Teachers were generally skeptical about the pedagogical value of digital games, partially due to their lack of familiarity with games, and they remained skeptical about using games in teaching even after playing various games.”

After introducing several different types of digital games, the teachers in this study began to see their worth and were enjoying the games at the same time. An and Cao conducted several different studies and “examined the changes in teachers’ attitudes and perceptions after being exposed to or playing (digital learning) games.” The educators’ attitudes had gone from skeptical and unsure, to positive and excited about the prospect of digital learning in the classroom.

The Benefits of Digital Learning Games 

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and partners at Legends of Learning conducted their own study on digital learning games, and the effects they had on the students and their classroom environment. This research showed the comparison of students who were exposed to digital learning games and those who were not, and the results were very interesting. They showed students who utilized game-based learning out-performed those who did not, and “special education students involved in the study authored lengthier responses to open-ended questions, displayed greater confidence in the subject matter after playing the games, and achieved more than a whole standard deviation difference.”

According to ESchool News, there were 5 specific outcomes from this study revealed by the teachers:

  1. Deeper content games supported in-depth learning, developing investigative, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
  2. The subset of quiz-style games reinforced lessons and helped review material.
  3. Different types of game play simulated interest and engagement, particularly in students prone to being off-task.
  4. Games prompted student-led discussions, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge.
  5. Simple and complex games increased confidence and content mastery.

This study also found there was a rapid increase of engagement within the classroom, teachers were a lot more enthusiastic after seeing the positive results of digital games, and there was a clear increase of student attention spans.

“The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future,” said researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University.

Bringing Digital Learning Games Home

Digital learning games shouldn’t only be used in classrooms. Teachers should encourage parents to promote these fun educational games at home as well. The benefits of game-based learning are clear from the multiple studies conducted. We recommend sharing the results and the positive outcomes from digital learning games with parents and guardians. This is easy to do in a simple email home, or a digital newsletter from a reliable school notification platform, like SwiftK12.

Alert Solutions has always emphasized the importance of parent engagement and involvement in their child’s education. This is one way to do so! The benefits of parental involvement include increased student success, social skills, graduation rates, and more. 

Want to learn more? Contact us today.

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Topics: school announcement, mobile learning, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs

Why K-12 Schools Should Take Student Mental Health Seriously

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

Mental health awareness is a topic being discussed more often, and it’s a conversation many need to have. Mental health conditions are becoming more prominent in students around the teenage and adolescent ages, with many experiencing this onset by the age of 14.

Student Mental Health - Student Taking ExamThe National Alliance on Mental Health shares startling statistics, such as one in five youths currently live with a mental health condition, and less than half of these individuals do not receive any services for their condition. “Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental health conditions can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow and develop.”

K-12 schools are the place the majority of young people spend their days. It’s extremely important that school teachers and administrators educate themselves on student mental health and make sure their students are getting the help they need.  NAMI explains school personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs in students who are experiencing an emerging mental health condition. Once identified, students should be connected with effective services and support.

Common Student Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders come in many shapes and sizes, and students begin to battle these issues at a young age.  Many mental health disorders impact everyday life, making it difficult for students to focus entirely on schoolwork. Some of the common mental disorders are listed below, with the help from Teen Mental Health.

  • Anxiety disorders are classified as disturbances in brain mechanisms that are designed to protect a person from harm. Below are the types of anxiety disorders:
    • General Anxiety Disorder
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • Specific Phobias
  • Mood disorders are classified as disturbances in usual mood states. Below are a two common mood disorders:
    • Major Depressive Disorder, or commonly referred to as Clinical Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality disorders are classified as maladaptive personal characteristics. Below are several personality disorders:
    • Eccentric: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
    • Dramatic/Emotional: Antisocial, Narcissistic
    • Fear Related: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Eating disorders are classified as disturbances of weight and feeding behavior. A few eating disorders to look out for include:
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia Nervosa
    • Binge Eating Disorder
  • There are many more mental health disorders listed by Teen Mental Health. Click here for more.

Understanding the Impact of Student Mental Health

As the first line of defense, educators must understand the importance of student mental health, and the impact it has on young people. Unfortunately, when a young adult is faced with a mental health disorder, they often don’t address or treat it until a later age. Student mental health disorders correlate with low achievement, disruptive behavior, chronic absenteeism, and even dropping out of school altogether.

As the first signs of a mental health disorder usually present themselves around the age of 14, teachers who interact with students this age should begin to keep an eye out for any behavior that appears to signify mental illness so that they’re able to get the help they need.

How to Spot & Address Student Mental Health Concerns

There are a few indicators to look out for when considering student mental health. If you see a student withdrawing, being unsocial, lacking self-confidence, or acting out of character, they may need help.

Nancy Barile, an award-winning teacher, started to notice that one of her students was not herself. She explains this student was always punctual when it came to classes and homework, was meticulous with her appearance and was always friendly. When Nancy noticed she no longer tried with her school work, was showing up to school disheveled and wearing the same clothes, and was uncharacteristically withdrawn, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Luckily there were mental health experts ready to help. Nancy explains, “They discovered that (this student) was depressed and suicidal, and she needed an immediate psychiatric intervention. She was hospitalized for a period of time, but she was able to return to my classroom a few months later. With the help of medication and therapy, she managed to graduate with her class.”

This is an important example of how teachers and administrators can spot a problem and effectively address a student’s mental health concern.

Having open communication and informative conversations about these tough subjects is extremely important, as it could save a student’s life. 

Alert Solutions works with many K-12 districts and schools across the country, all of which should be aware of the importance of student mental health. Sharing information internally and externally with students, teachers and parents will help keep everybody informed and engaged in the topic of student mental health awareness. This can easily be done through blogging, social media, and with a school notification platform such as SwiftK12.

Interested in learning more about SwiftK12? Download our brochure below.

 SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

Diversity in Education: The Importance for Today’s Students

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Feb 19, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

It’s a known fact that a positive school culture directly correlates with student success, which is why including and celebrating diversity in K-12 education is extremely important. Diversity can be defined as the inclusion of different types of people. This includes, but is not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and religion. The first step for teachers when introducing diversity in the classroom is to determine how each student is unique.

Diversity in Education Students

Although it may seem straight forward to expect educators to provide students the opportunity to learn about different cultures and languages, there are some growing challenges teachers and administrators face when trying to introduce diversity in school.

The National Education Association explains that academic achievement gaps between students of diverse backgrounds, gender inequalities and sex discrimination, bullying and harassment of students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and respecting students of all religious backgrounds are all murky waters teachers have found difficult to navigate. As these topics are sensitive for many, it is a daunting task to suggest bringing these differences into the classroom. The NEA also states “Institutional hurdles such as high-stakes testing and the lack of resources for "nonessential" subjects make addressing the issue of diversity even more challenging.”

Bringing cultural and sensitive topics into the classroom can give your students a sense of belonging, and this sense of belonging has a domino effect. Excite Education claims “if a student doesn’t feel like they belong, or that they aren’t valued for who they are, they’re less likely to have any interest in being involved in the class.” A student who does not feel included is likely to show a decrease in participation and short attention span, both of which do not lead to academic success. 

How to Promote Diversity in Education

  1. Understand Your Students
    Every student in your classroom is different, which is why understanding each of them as an individual is important. Take time to look at their strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, relationships with other students, and their learning styles. Doing this will show your students that you’re invested in them, and that you care. Like mentioned above, investing your time in getting to know your students will give them a sense of belonging, and in turn they will be present in class and more likely to participate.

  2. Challenge Diversity Stereotypes
    There are a lot of unfair stereotypes out there for several cultural backgrounds. Instead of avoiding the subject all together, consider challenging these stereotypes in a sensitive way. Tes Education states “these topics should not be avoided and evidence suggests that learning to challenge stereotypes in one significant domain (e.g., gender) can also translate to others (e.g., race or religion).” It’s also encouraged to bring in teaching material that represents the rich diversity of the world. Include material that shows many different perspectives and exposes students to a variety of diverse cultures.

  3. Celebrate Diversity & Culture
    Teachers should encourage diversity in education by celebrating each student’s culture and individual diverse background. A simple way to do this is targeted seating plans. Maybe switch up the classroom and promote cooperative learning activities that prompt students to interact with a neighbor they may not speak to often. Another way to promote diversity in school is to have all of your students present and share stories about their family history and heritage. Tes Education suggests trying different kinds of food together, or marking festivals as a class. Your students could showcase their diversity in a picture presentation, play, or even a short movie project. Make it fun, educational and inclusive – and don’t forget to involve parents!

At Alert Solutions we appreciate the hard work teachers put in when educating the students of today. Introducing suggestions on how to include diversity in education is just one way we can help our customers.

For more helpful resources, check out our Education Resource Center for tips, tricks, and strategies!

 Education Resource Center

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, student engagement, school culture, school climate

6 Ways to Incorporate Social Media in the Classroom

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Feb 05, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

Students today don’t go very far without their smartphones. They’ve become an extra limb to many, a viable source for information, and a way to stay connected with peers through messaging, texting, and of course, social media.

Social Media

According to surveys, nearly 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone, or access to use one. 45% of teens also say they are online at a near-constant basis.  

These high percentages are proof it’s time to jump on board and embrace social media in the classroom. McGraw Hill brings up this great point, “the academic conversation has shifted from "How can we prevent social media from being a distraction?" to "How can we best make use of social technology in practical, sustainable, and secure ways?".

Social media fun is not just for students, but social media channels also have great tools to provide insights and knowledge on various topics, which is helpful for studying purposes. Teachers may not know how to start incorporating social media into their classroom for learning, which is why we want to bring some ideas and examples to the table.

6 Ways to Bring Social Media into Your Classroom 

  1. Show off Your Classroom
    A great way to engage with student’s families is to show off your classrooms on social media websites. Live tweet success stories in the classroom and create your own hashtag. This keeps parents in the loop, and allows students to look back on what you’ve done throughout the school year. Parent engagement is a growing phenomenon, and many teachers are looking for creative ways to keep parents involved in their child’s education – social media is one way to do this.

  2. Make Social Media the Homework
    Let’s be real, students do not look forward to homework. Try incorporating social media to make homework fun! For example; The Ed Advocate suggests having students tweet or post about assigned readings. Students can summarize what they’ve read, or respond to a quick question about the reading assignment over social media. Twitter is a great source for current news and trending topics. Have your students bring research they’ve found on a specific topic, and share their findings in class the next day.

  3. Connect with Other Classrooms
    Encourage your teaching peers to jump onto the social media train as well! Creating social media pages for your classrooms is a great way to reinforce the bond between the students in your class. It also promotes a healthy competitive spirit when you connect with other classrooms in the school. Collaborate with other classes through social media, and may the best classroom win!

  4. Start a YouTube Channel
    YouTube may be one of the most popular social media channels for teens.. Don’t know how to do something? There’s most likely a YouTube how-to video out there. Teachers can post their own educational videos, or use the platform to showcase informative videos for the class. Creating a YouTube video could be a great project idea for your students, and we’re sure it would be entertaining for students to watch their peers acting on video.

  5. Embrace Blogging
    A classroom blog is a great way to share assignments, inspire student discussions, and keep parents involved. According to the Ed Advocate, setting up a blog is not only simple, but secure. Invite your students and their families to the blog and only they can see the content. Try assigning writing projects on the classroom blog so students can review their peer’s work, leave comments, and have discussions on the various blog topics. Students are then able to receive feedback in a manner that teachers can filter and control.

  6. Create “Fake” Personas
    This last tip may sound strange, but is a great way to bring social media into the classroom. Creating ‘fake’ social media profiles as historic figures or characters in a book makes learning about these topics and stories fun. Students can tweet or post about major events in this character’s life in the voice of this person. The Ed Advocate states “some teachers have discovered that students love the idea of creating fake profiles for the people they are studying in class.”

Social media is evolving daily, and K-12 students are being brought along for the ride. Instead of banning smartphones and working out of educational books, encourage the use of technology and social media in the classroom for learning purposes.

Did You Know? Our SwiftK12 school notification platform enables users to post school alerts directly to Facebook and Twitter social media pages. Keeping these pages up-to-date with the latest school news, unexpected closures, and emergency alerts, provides your school community with a reliable source of information.

 SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, mobile learning, power announcement, powerschool, education, social media education, parent engagement

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