Alert Solutions Blog

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

K-12 School Budgets: 4 Ways to Cut Costs Efficiently

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 @ 09:02 AM

Discussions on school budgets and cutting costs come up in K-12 school districts across the country each year. Every district looks for efficient ways to streamline operations and save money without putting students at a disadvantage and upsetting teachers, administrators and parents.  

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The role and purpose of a K-12 school budget is outlined within the AASA White Paper: School Budgets 101 as “a district’s plan for the upcoming year as related to anticipated revenues and expenditures. School budgets allow districts to translate sometimes intangible missions, operations and objectives into reality by outlining and providing specific programs and funding/financial terms.”

According to the Government Finance Officers Association, “Budgeting principles and policies should be developed collaboratively by the district’s school board and the staff members who develop and recommend the budget. Because both parties have integral roles in developing, adopting, and, ultimately, implementing a budget, both parties must strongly support the principles and policies underlying the budget.”

Everybody should be involved with these important financial decisions, and everybody should seek to balance the school budget equally to benefit the district and in turn the teachers and students. So, how do you make these difficult resolutions?

Making Room in Your K-12 School Budget: 4 Suggestions

Cutting school budget costs is no easy feat. The below suggestions are examples of what some K-12 school districts have done to help with slimming down yearly costs.

  1. Target School Utility Costs
    One thing to consider when discussing your school budget is what your yearly utility costs are. If you’re able to bring down electricity costs from your building equipment and lighting, that may free up some room for your budget. According to School Leaders Now, a district in Grapevine-Colleyville found that the lightbulbs in all of their buildings were not energy efficient. “A company was hired to help encourage more energy-minded behavior, from decreasing water usage to making sure all lights were turned off at night. Together those strategies lowered the district’s utility bills from $4.7 million in 2011–12 to $3.3 million this past year (2017).”

  2. Consider Contracting Services & Sharing Services
    A School Budgeting Report refers to contracting services, or outsourcing, as “a practice of making agreements with outside organizations to provide services in a school district.” These outsourced services are a great way for you to maximize your school budget, and cut costs on services such as food & nutrition, transportation, security, custodial services, maintenance, tutoring, and more. Reduced purchasing costs occur with outsourcing as contractors often have the ability to buy in higher volumes. School districts can also share these services with other districts. In a recent study, “Deloitte found that potential savings across the country from shifting just a quarter of non-instructional services to shared services could potentially yield savings in the range of $9 billion.”

  3. Go Green & Paperless
    Did you know the average school with 100 teachers can use over 250,000 pieces of paper annually? We did the math in a prior blog post and found that these costs add up to about $32,500 in paper and printing costs. A shocking number for handouts! Our Secure Document Delivery Module allows administrators to send report cards, transcripts, school schedules, student evaluations, and more home to parents electronically (with no page limit), saving schools thousands.

  4. Online Schools & eTextbooks
    Most K-12 school districts receive money from the state based on student enrollment. In 2013 the Grapevine-Colleyville district launched a virtual school which boosted their number of students enrolled to almost 14,000. “The virtual campus within the district teaches students from all over the state. The expansion was a way to increase state funding and service a larger number of students with fewer teachers, resulting in cost savings.” Another way school districts can utilize online schooling and e-learning is by conducting Summer School online instead of on campus. Technology also makes it possible for schools to save money by switching from traditional textbooks to eTextbooks. Governing tells us “Traditional textbooks cost California $350 million annually. By transitioning to online textbooks, the state hopes to encourage students' participation in virtual learning while radically reducing textbook costs.”

Alert Solutions works with many school districts across the country. We provide an affordable school notification system, SwiftK12, with features like our Secure Document Delivery Module that allows schools to cut out paper and save money! Get started today.

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Topics: school announcement, mobile learning, report cards, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, go green

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.

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

K-12 Schools: Are Digital Learning Days the New Snow Day?

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 @ 11:01 AM

It’s no question that winter is here and in full swing.  Winter storms are sweeping the United States leaving feet of snow and hazardous road conditions. During this time of year, K-12 schools and districts prepare for the onslaught of snow days for their students, ultimately meaning extra days tacked on at the end of the school year.

For a few districts, snow days are a thing of the past! Introducing; digital learning days.

What is Digital Learning?

Child at Home for Digital Learning Day

By definition, “digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience.” Schools are adopting these digital learning days to replace snow days, allowing students to remotely take classes and complete assignments from the comfort of their homes.

According to DigitalLearningDay.org, opportunities for learning are available anytime and anywhere, and individualized instruction ensures all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career. In the grand scheme of things, digital learning days are helping set up K-12 students for the future; especially with the rapid growth and improvement of technology.

Where Are Digital Learning Days Being Adopted?

We’re seeing many K-12 school districts beginning to implement digital learning days as snow day replacements, as classrooms across the country are being equipped with digital devices during lessons.

Washoe County School District

WCSD is one of the first districts to start implementing digital school days, after successfully completing a pilot program last year. The district says this program “will limit disruptions and promote 21st century job readiness and post-secondary educational opportunities for working and learning remotely.” Sharon Kennedy, the Incline Middle School principal, says digital learning days hold the students accountable and  the extra days that would have been snow days won’t be added to the end of the school year. "It's with most things that are new, it's a work in progress," Kennedy said. 

Anderson School District 5

The Anderson School District 5 in South Carolina is also adopting digital learning days to replace snow days, and they are the first school district in the state to do so. They were selected to be a part of an eLearning pilot program, which “lets student’s access assignments at home via Google Classroom with Chromebook devices. Students in grades 3 through 12 will be required to take their Chromebooks home to access the assignments.” Better yet, internet connectivity isn’t required to complete the assignments. “At the end of the day, it makes common sense and financial sense to implement this program,” Superintendent Tom Wilson said in a news release. “No longer will we need to run buses mid-June for a makeup day that only a quarter of our students attend.”

The Downsides of Digital Learning Days?

K-12 districts have been seeing a lot of success with the implementation of digital learning days, but some parents have objected these new policies according to BBC News. "When it snows, let the kids enjoy it," said one commenter. Another said the decision would "ruin school even more", and someone else called snow days "a fun part of childhood". Adam Baker of the Department of Education in Indiana said “Students are still able to enjoy snow days and outside time. Many have PE and science assignments that have them enjoying the outside weather.”

As technology continues to develop, Alert Solutions anticipates more schools and districts will begin to implement digital learning days. With our industry-leading school notification system, SwiftK12, administrators will easily be able to communicate with parents and families when these digital school days will be. 

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

Snow Days Are Going Digital at K-12 Schools Across the Country

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 @ 11:03 AM

If you’re living in the Northeast, Winter Storm Stella is just another reminder that winter is here to stay for at least a few more weeks. In the past, snow, ice and blizzard-like conditions meant one thing to students: snow day!

As much as students enjoy an unexpected mid-week play day, k-12 school administrators feel much differently about snow days.   Unexpected school closures mean less time for students to learn.

That’s why K-12 schools across the country are turning snow days into e-learning days. An e-learning day helps prevent schools from having to reduce scheduled breaks and ensures students stay engaged academically.

So, how do you make an e-learning day happen? Here are five tips:

1. Confirm all students are properly equipped with tablets or laptops.SnowDayBus.jpg

2. Ensure you have the proper learning management software to facilitate an e-learning day.

3. Provide teachers with enough time to create an e-learning plan. These virtual learning plans can consist of:

-  Online Worksheets
- Content to Read
- Interactive Videos

4. Practice! It’s a great idea to test out your e-learning plan on a nice day and work out the kinks before you really need to implement it.

5. Communicate with parents, students and staff members to ensure everyone is prepared and informed.

Bonus Tip! Using a school notification system is a great way to interact with your school community. Hundreds of k12 schools across the country rely on Alert Solutions to communicate with parents, students and staff. Learn more here.

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

More K-12 Schools Turning Snow Days into Virtual Learning Days

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 @ 11:01 AM

Every winter, k-12 schools and school districts across the country are forced to close for snow days. And every winter, schools debate whether or not those snow days of would be best used as virtual learning days.

According to Education Drive, more and more k-12 school districts are experimenting with learning at home. For example, one Ohio school district passed a measure that e-learning days will be implemented if any more than 5 school days are missed due to severe weather.

Many say there is a lack of data to support the effectiveness of e-learning days. However, Education Dive says plenty of data exists to prove they are worth the planning that goes into implementing them.

For example, in 2006, one study found that students in Singapore had successful outcomes after devoting a week annually to virtual learning.

In 2009, a report from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning found that students taking all or part of their class online generally performed better than those taking the same course traditionally (face-to-face instruction).SnowDayBus.jpg

There are many benefits to using virtual learning for school administrators, teachers and students, including:

  • Administrators Avoid Adding Makeup Days  to School Calendars
  • Teachers Can Continue with Lesson Plans as Scheduled
  • Students Ask Questions More Freely in Online Settings

Unfortunately virtual learning days won’t be possible for all k-12 school districts. In schools with a large number of low-income families, e-learning days could not be possible for students without home Internet access.

More innovative k-12 school districts have worked to help set up hotspots for students without access, but there are still many schools that struggle nationwide to do so.

Does your school have e-learning days? Share your experiences on our blog!

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

Snow Days Turn Digital at More K-12 Schools with E-Learning

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jan 06, 2015 @ 11:01 AM

Several forecasts, including the consistently reliable Farmer’s Almanac, predict a cold and snowy winter for much of the United States.

Do you remember wishing for a snow day so you could stay home from school and go sleigh riding with your friends? For many K12 students across the country, having a school-free day may no longer be an option thanks to e-learning!

An increasing number of school districts are using e-learning to keep class in session during inclimate SchoolClosingNotificationweather. There are many benefits to using e-learning for school administrators, teachers and students, including:

  1. Administrators Avoid Adding Makeup Days to School Calendars
  2. Teachers Can Continue with Lesson Plans as Scheduled
  3. Students Ask Questions More Freely in Online Settings

“Your curriculum continues without that time off and you’re not just putting days at the end of the year and trying to fill those days,” says Superintendent Sandra Weaver of the rural Metropolitan School District of Wabash County in Indiana, which used three e-learning snow days last school year.

For snow days, K-12 students can bring home the iPads they use at school. On those e-learning days, students log into the Learning Management System (LMS) to find their assignments, and teachers are at their home computers to answer questions via email, Weaver says.

In addition to this Indiana school district, school districts in Ohio, Illinois and West Virginia are also using e-learning on snow days.

Is your school looking to use e-learning to avoid unexpected school closures? Share your thoughts on our blog!

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

Mobile Device Management: Teachers are Taking Control of the Classroom

Posted by Erika Scialdone on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 @ 13:09 PM

Technology in the classroom is a growing trend for students and teachers today. Laptops, tablets, cell phones and other mobile devices are frequently used when teaching lessons to K-12 students.

Teachers are implementing a new system into their classroom to increase the attention of students on mobile devices with Mobile Device Management Software. This type of system has allowed teachers to make their lesson strictly about the subject at hand, and not what the student was researching or downloading at any given time.

The Benefits of using Mobile Device Management Software include:

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-    “Freezing” mobile devices

-    Locking student’s mobile devices for educational materials only

-    Students will be unable to browse at their leisure

-    Inappropriate applications will no longer be an issue in the classroom

-   Online safety is restored

-    Transitioning to online tests, 1-to-1 and BYOD (bring your own device)

There are certain precautions when using a mobile device management system. For example, certain systems do not work with desktop computers, and other systems can only be used for certain types of operating systems. (i.e. Microsoft Windows, Apple’s Mac OS, Linux etc.)

Another example is from Preston Winn, AirWatch Director of Business Development for Education states, “These devices, if not used correctly, can be a distraction,” Winn says.” It’s not hard to get devices to teachers, the struggle we have is helping teachers understand how to use [them] effectively in class.”

K-12 schools are spending an immense amount of money on mobile devices. Utilizing mobile device management systems properly is key to maximizing the value of an administrator’s investment.

Do you think using the Mobile Device Management system will improve your student’s attention? Share your thoughts on our blog!

 

 

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

Common Core Mobile Apps: What School Administrators Should Consider

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 @ 13:07 PM

Common Core standards have been overwhelming the education world and sending school administrators and teachers through the difficult process of integrating these changes into their K-12 schools. 

The use of mobile technology in K-12 classrooms has been growing; however the number of mobile apps available to school administrators and teachers has also grown exponentially.  This includes the number of mobile apps available to help with the transition to Common Core standards.parentstexting

This leaves school administrators with a few questions: What Common Core mobile apps should our K-12 school use?  What mobile apps will best help us make this transition?

First of all, school administrators need to determine their learning strategy.  School administrators should also consider how it can be assessed with Common Core standard skills of communication, critical thinking and collaboration before adopting any Common Core mobile apps

A recent District Administration article also recommends school administrators assess the Common Core mobile apps and ensure they meet the following criteria:

  • Allow teachers to modify content to meet the students’ needs
  • Accommodate different learning styles, particularly for students with disabilities
  • Include a built-in assessment component to measure progress
  • Promote inventiveness by giving students a chance to create within the app
  • Simulate real-life situations in which students can apply the new Common Core concepts

Read more blog posts related to mobile learning here.

Topics: mobile learning, education

Mobile Technology Thrives as a Learning Tool in K-12 School Districts

Posted by Nina Russo on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 @ 14:06 PM

K-12 school districts have seen a growing use of technology in their classrooms.  From smart boards to iPads, technology is an integral part of learning and communication in today’s K-12 school districts.

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Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have increasingly been seen in K-12 classrooms, despite much debate.   Although some concerns still remain, mobile technology has grown as a learning tool and is gaining more support from school administrators.

One way school administrators can deflect the cost of integrating mobile learning into school districts is by implementing a BYOD (bring your own device) program, allowing students to use the technologies they already use in their everyday lives.

A recent eSchool News article shows the results of a study focused on mobile learning in K-12 school districts.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • School administrators say the following devices have had a significant impact on transforming teaching and learning:

    • Tablets - 41 percent

    • One-to-One Programs - 28 percent

    • Mobile Apps - 22 percent

    • BYOD - 22 percent

    • 86 percent of school administrators said mobile learning increases student engagement.

    • 67 percent say mobile learning also helps each student personalize his or her learning.

    • In 2010, just 22 percent of school principals said they were likely to let students use their own mobile devices in school and this year’s survey reveals that 41 percent of principals said they now support the move. An additional 10 percent said they had already changed school policy to support BYOD.

Not only does mobile technology give students access to more digital learning opportunities, but can be used as a communication tool for the school district as well.  

Does your school support mobile learning initiatives?  Share your thoughts on our blog!

To learn more about the School Announcement Mobile Command Center, download our brochure

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

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