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PilotED Blog

Are you wasting your students’ time?

Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Blog, Education, General Interest, Technology and learning | Comments Off on Are you wasting your students’ time?

Do you tell students to highlight or underline material in order to learn it better? Do you provide them with keyword mnemonics to help with memory? Do you ask them to visualize concepts in order to better understand them? Do you have them summarize what they have learned? In the article Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology, published by the Association for Psychological Science, the authors point out that these commonly used techniques offer very low payback for students. The paper looked at learning techniques that teachers teach students to do on their own to see which ones are useful strategies for learning, and which ones are just wastes of time.Which techniques are effective? Practice tests: when they self-test or take practice tests in order to learn and assess their laerning Distributed practice: when they spread out their study activities over time instead of cramming them all into one timeframe Elaborative interrogation: when they stop and ask themselves why a fact or concept is true Self-explanation: when they reflect on how new information Is related to what they already know, or when they explain the steps involved in solving a problem Interleaved practice: when they mix different kinds of problems within a study session Note that three of the techniques involve practice. The very process of answering questions improves knowledge and retention. By distributing the practice over time, and by varying the content practiced (as opposed to block practice, where a particular skill is practiced repeatedly, and then the next skill, etc.), the practice time can be maximized to produce the most learning in the least amount of time. The other two techniques involve reflection. While learning or reading, students reflect on how this material relates to what they already know or do, or they stop and ask themselves why the specific passage or content is true. As we teach students to become self-directed learners. We should focus on these five techniques that are proven to work. You can read the full 50+ page study here. I should also point out that this article was brought to my attention by Steve Peha at Teaching That Makes Sense. Finally, there has been a lot of Cognitive Psychology research into the most effective ways to use practice to enhance memory and learning. Two young companies with products based on that research are Foundations in Learning in reading and Insight Learning in Math. These products are focused the most efficient ways, based on the most current research, to get students to proficiency and fluency. Related Articles Hooked on Mnemonics…Sort of 5 Learning Techniques Psychologists Say Kids Aren't Getting Sorry , Dilbert, You're Just Too Much of A...

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Are they having fun or are they learning?

Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Blog, Education, Technology and learning, Web/Tech | Comments Off on Are they having fun or are they learning?

Lucas Gillispie (above) works with teachers in his district to offer semester, full-year, and after school programs to Middle School students using games, or, more precisely Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). He co-authored a full one-year ELA curriculum using World of Warcraft (WoW), maintains a website on courses using Minecraft, and runs a third website to start showcasing curriculum that can be followed using practically any game. This is his fourth year teaching with games. I recently got a chance to talk to Lucas about using MMORPGs for learning. Do you incorporate the learning into the games, or do you offer the games as a reward? Students play, and they learn, and then they learn some more. For example, students might get together in World of Warcraft to form a player guild. This could be across classes or schools. They look at what a guild can do. They come up with what they want this guild to do. They discuss and research what they want their reputation to be, and then they write a mission statement for the guild. They research mission statements to figure out what a good one is, and then they write one. They decide on norms of behavior and rules. And they compare what they’ve done in WoW to what they experience in real life. This lesson combines digital citizenship and writing. Are there other types of writing, other than mission statements? Here is an example of creative writing. Students study riddle poems and look at examples. Using what they have learned about World of Warcraft, they create their own riddle poems for that world. They get feedback about the poems from friends before going public with them. They then go into a crowded area in that world to challenge other players to answer their riddle poems and give prizes. In this process they have researched, written, given constructive feedback, and performed for a real virtual audience. Then they reflect on the experience. In another type of exercise, students look at characters and how they impact the storyline of the world. They are learning to consider characterization and point of view. We’ve had them tweet in character as they were acting in WoW. We have quests where they use argumentative writing. They write fan fiction, writing from their character’s point of view. We’ve had them write reports on books like The Hobbit, relating their quests in WoW to the hero journey, and then relate those to their real world experiences as well. All these lessons are available on our website. Do you recommend World of Warcraft to other schools? We’ve had about 20 schools use our curriculum, and I am often asked to speak. The problem with WoW is the cost. It costs $15 per month per student. That’s one of the reasons we tried Minecraft. Minecraft is like a virtual world made of an infinite supply of Legos. Just think of the lessons you could create out of that! Students can design buildings. They can design roller coasters and study forces in motion, like determining where the potential or kinetic energy would be highest. They can recreate scenes from literature. We’ve had students recreate the arena from the Hunger Games, replay some of the scenes, and then reflect on what they created and...

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Review of EDventures 2013

Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Blog, Education, Technology and learning | Comments Off on Review of EDventures 2013

This article is written by Farimah Schuerman. Last week I attended the Edventures 2013 event of the Education Industry Association. Two presentations on Friday, one of which was a joint presentation with Charlene Blohm of C. Blohm & Associates, but, like every such gathering, as much was learned if not more, than was shared in our presentations.  Intimate sessions, plenty of networking, made this a really valuable two days. I was particularly intrigued to see how the SES (Supplemental Education Services) companies are reinventing themselves into services that collaborate with local school districts, often taking on roles that the districts can’t always provide internally. Three hot topics in the sessions included are summarized briefly here. EIA is an association with roots in much of the for-profit world of education, so it was entirely fitting that the initial presentation was by Michael B. Horn of the Christensen Institute, whose new book, Private Enterprise and Public Education with Frederick M. Hess, on this topic is one I’ll be taking on my summer read. Some of the questions he posed and answered: Are there incentives to encourage student centered learning in the for profit sector? What are the taxonomies of technology-enabling for student centered learning? Rotation: computer lab use Flex: small group of computers which students use during free time A la carte: a variety of applications to be used as any student needs Enriched virtual school: complete integration of applications and systems in blended learning scenario How does innovation take hold? How do you think about identifying ways to enter a market? Solve old traditional problems, Sell to educators in sustaining innovation models Sell to educators in highly disruptive models He thinks we are in a hybrid phase, not in true innovative mode, but that may come in time. “Hybrid innovation combines old and new processes and serves existing users, “says Horn. Disruptive innovation seeks to reach new users who have not yet participated in that market. Much more to learn, but read the book, it was an enormously engaging talk. Another hot topic, Presented by Steve Ross of the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Education, was evaluation, and how it might be done more efficiently, and also, how to differentiate the types: Valued: primarily quantitative, based on data, but not necessarily with a control group and not necessarily randomized Mixed methods which include both qualitative and quantitative data, done with 2 control and two samples. It is considered medium rigor and medium cost research, which might be done as qualitative with a single control group. This can be good in a portfolio, but is not valued in the What Works Clearinghouse. Highly Valued would be: Mixed methods randomized control trial.  10 schools, student level score evaluations. An example is one that NYC is currently doing in math program, being evaluated by the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Education. Kerry Briggs of the Bush Institute also shared their goals and foci: Economic growth to raise living standard Women’s health globally Human freedom, advancing democracy Veterans affairs Women in general around civil society Education reform, school leadership, middle school, accountability, Check out how the US districts compare with nations around the world at: A very motivating speaker, Briggs also announced that Margaret Spelling would be joining the Institute. This is indeed an exciting...

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Podstock 2013

Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Blog, Education, Technology and learning | Comments Off on Podstock 2013

Podstock is my favorite education conference. It’s in Wichita, Kansas, and is run by the Central Kansas Education Services Agency ESSDACK. Keynoting this year’s Podstock was Mark Klassen. At 20 years old, Mark is an internationally known cinematographer. His parents, key teachers, and his Middle and High Schools were all instrumental in allowing him to find and pursue his passion. If Mark had been forced to spend his class time drilling for standardized tests, he never would have developed. Did he learn math, science, writing, reading, history, and communications? Yes! Key teachers provided the encouragement, inspiration, and cover for Mark to develop his skills and knowledge by pursuing what will become his life-long project. Did his teachers provide all the answers? No. When Mark needed to learn something in order to advance his craft, he took it as his own responsibility, reaching out through the Web and Social Networks to find answers, and then putting in the time to learn the skills he needed. Was he exempt from all school requirements? No. Mark described how, after travelling across the US and Canada making films, he had to go back and take “normal” classes in his senior year. That’s when he almost crashed, as he learned how restrictive the educational system can be. Imagine yourself, with your real world experiences, going back to school and doing drudge exercises. But having tasted real, not academic success, he was able to bear through his senior year (with A’s, B’s, and C’s, because grades were not his priority) and respect the limits of the educational system, because he knew it was a necessary step. What lessons can we take from Mark’s story? Mark had access to great parenting, inspiring and flexible schooling, and he had drive, skills, and luck. Mark is an exception, not everyone can excel in a field while still in high school, not everyone has the talent or drive that Mark has. Still, Mark shows the impact a caring teacher can have, the need for flexibility. And his experiences in his senior year highlight how restricting our schools systems can be. Don Wettrick of Indianapolis led my last session. Don leads a class for students who do not want to be told what to study. Students start out by looking through the Common Core standards, and then devise projects that meet multiple standards and interest them. Students opt-in to the course, and perhaps 1 in 5 students cannot adapt to being self-directing, in which case the can go back to a more traditional class. He students have created charities, started successful businesses, interviewed professional athletes (even gotten press passes for the super bowl), and they learn through pursuing what they are interested in with Don's guidance. How does he grade and assess them? Don says, “If students can justify what Common Core Standards they’ve learned, they probably deserve the grade they want. But, Don’s students end up not caring about grades. As they say, “why would I care whether I got an A or a C in a High School class, when I’ve gotten 3 million people reading my tweets?” Don points out, “I don’t teach, I float; I go where students need me.” He is not the sage on the stage. His students generally know more than he does...

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What I Learned at ISTE 2013

Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Blog, Education, Education Business, Technology and learning | Comments Off on What I Learned at ISTE 2013

It’s not about the Tablet Or the app, or the device, or the learning platform. In past years, the message at ISTE seemed to be, “Look at this latest product which is going to dramatically improve education.” While there was still a lot of that this year, there seemed to be a growing consensus that introducing the latest technology is not going to solve any major education problems, unless it was part of a well thought out plan that included change management. The key is increasing student learning without adding to costs. Technology is a tool, but everyone seems to be arriving at the conclusion that it is part of the solution, not the entire solution. Doing projects is not the same as project based learning Ginger Lewman drove this home in her session on technology and projects to drive student learning. Projects that are done to show what students have learned are not the same as project based learning that inspires students to learn. There are some incredibly engaging projects that students can do, and a good project hits a whole range of standards. For example, students can do onsite research (like taking water samples) enter their data on a spreadsheet, and then map the results using Google Fusion tables to create interactive maps. Then, using the maps, students can pose and answer meaningful questions like: Which locations had the saltiest water? Which locations had the most nitrogen in the water? Which locations had unsafe water? A project like this can hit standards in science, math, social studies, reading, research, and writing. For an example of an interactive map that hits close to home, look at a map of states by average starting teacher salary: This opens as data; click on the "Map of Geometry" tab to view as a map. Jam'n in Blogger Cafe (Photo credit: Karin Beil) Where would you rather teach, Idaho or Wyoming?  The Common Core standards start a dialog, they are not the curriculum There is a huge difference between “aligned to the common core” and “designed for the common core,” and that applies to training teachers as well as offering products and services. The common core is meant to inspire creativity and deep thinking, which takes a lot more effort than marking a checklist for content covered. If you are thinking of creating curriculum or lessons for the common core, Jared Wastler suggested starting with four questions for each standard: What does the standard ask for? What evidence proves mastery? How do we get there? What more do we need to know in order to facilitate this? There is a lot of money being pumped into education The exhibit hall was huge, and the vendor parties were lavish. (Farimah, if you read this, I didn’t go to any parties, I went back to my room and worked.) (Image at left by David Warlick) The education environment is certainly changing as we move to digital content, new standards and assessments, extending learning outside of school, and using data to provide better learning and teaching feedback. And change brings opportunities. On the other hand, for 10 years we’ve seen declining spending on education. Publishers and content providers need to keep their eyes out for funding streams and mandates. There are going to be winners and losers. Companies...

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2013 Ed Tech Industry Summit

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Blog, Education, Technology and learning | Comments Off on 2013 Ed Tech Industry Summit

Thank you Karen Billings and everyone from the SIIA for another successful Ed Tech Industry Summit this week. Lots of interesting companies, and here are some highlights. First the three winners from the Innovation Incubator: Farimah Schuerman watching Curtis Linton receive School Improvement Network’s Codie Award Derek Luebbe of Jetlag Learning won most innovative product for simCEO. By placing students in the roles of CEO and of investors around virtually any educational topic, simCEO energizes students to learn. Saad Alam of Citelighter won the educator’s choice award. Citelighter allows to students to research and write more efficiently by allowing them to curate, annotate, organize, and collaborate. James McClafferty of Brain Parade won the most likely to succeed for See.Touch.Learn. See.Touch.Learn is a visual learning and assessment system which has proven especially helpful in reaching special education students. Lil Kellog won the Ed Tech Impact Award for her many years of contributions to education. Derek Luebbe of Letlag Learning and James McClafferty of Brain Parade Dr. Dustin (Dusty) Heuston of The Waterford Institute won the Lifetime Achievement Award, and provided his thoughts on where US education needs to go. We must focus on early learning. By the time students are in third grade, it is virtually impossible for most of them to catch up; students who had been slow learners would be expected to learn at twice the rate of other students for five or more successive years. By Kindergarten, students from low SES environments face an incredibly wide knowledge gulf. Their lack of cognitive stimulation has impeded brain development. Their vocabularies are 1/3 as large as high SES student, which creates a substantial obstacle throughout their academic sojourn. Their lack of reading readiness will leave them far behind their cohort. We must broadly deploy technology that uses adaptive learning to individualize instruction. We cannot merely improve the efficacy of our current education system, especially when we are also trying to cut education costs. We must transform it through the use of technology. Limitations in the current delivery system means that teachers can provide students with  barely 1 minute of individualized instruction a day. Even if we could improve the current education system, the limited gains would not be keeping pace with the rest of the world. As tech continues to become more powerful, accessible, and cheaper, it can improve and replace much of the role teachers play in delivering cognitive learning, while enhancing the teacher’s role as coach and leader. These are detailed in Dr. Heuston’s new book, The Third Source: A Message of Hope for Education.  Congratulations to all of the Codie Award winners. We want to send special congratulations to our clients: Lisa Barnett with Atomic Learning's first two Codies of the evening Lisa Barnett of Atomic Learning for Tech Skills Plus Training Package winning Best Postsecondary Learning Solution, Best Postsecondary Solution, and Best Education Solution. Curtis Linton of School Improvement Network for PD 360 Mobile’s winning Best Educational Use of a Mobile Device, and thank you for your kind words. PD 360 is the leading Professional Development platform for educators. Berj Akian of Classlink winning Best Cloud Application Service for LaunchPad iOS and Touch Apps. LaunchPad allows schools to deliver a personal virtual desktop to all students to any device through the cloud. Looks like our...

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60% Change to Math Content Under Common Core

Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Blog, Education, Technology and learning | Comments Off on 60% Change to Math Content Under Common Core

We all understood that the Common Core was meant to drive change in instruction, but did we understood how much change? Less than 40% of what is supposed to be taught in Math under the Common Core is currently taught at that grade today. One of the most interesting presentations at NCTM was the results of a study comparing the Common Core to state standards. Dawn Teuscher of Brigham Young University presented, based on a paper she co-wrote with Shannon Dingman of the University of Arkansas, Jill Newton of Purdue University, and Lisa Kasmer of Grand Valley State University. The name of the paper is Common Mathematics Standards in the United States, and it is due to be published in The Elementary School Journal. The paper specifically studies grades 6-8, comparing the Common Core State Standards in Math (CCSSM) to the current state standards in eight large states. But the implications are more universal and can likely be extrapolated to all states and all grades. First step was to granularize the CCSSM, as these standards are written in a way that generally encompasses multiple learning expectations. For example: CCSSM 8.EE.5: Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways, For example, compare a distance-time graph to a distance time equation to determine which of the two moving objects has greater speed. This is really three different learning expectations: Graph proportional relationships Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways Interpret unit rate as the slope of a graph The researchers went into all the standards, and broke them down into learning expectations, which can then be compared to the existing state standards. Second stage was to map the CCSSM learning expectations to the learning expectations of existing state standards. There were four possibilities for CCSSM learning expectations: The existing standards could teach the material at an earlier grade than CCSSM It could be taught at the same grade level under both plans It could be taught at a higher grade currently It could be something new that is not currently taught at all The study found that, across states, about  40% of the CCSSM objectives are not taught at all today, in any grade. About 15% is taught in higher grades. About 15% is taught in lower grades. And only about 30% of the material is currently taught in the grade dictated by the Common Core. The specifics are different state by state, one state may teach an objective in 4th, another in 5th, and a third may not actually teach that skill, but the overall percentages generally apply.   Looking at individual grades: 48% of grade 6 CCSSM standards are new in at least ¾ of the states (absolute values, inequalities, measure of variation, and geometry) 46% of grade 7 CCSSM standards are new in at least ¾ of the states (relationship between 2D and 3D figures, angle measurement, random sampling, comparative inferences) 39% of grade 8 CCSSM standards are new in at least ¾ of the states (transformational geometry, qualitative features and comparisons of functions) The biggest focus areas of new material are around statistics and probability and geometry. In fact, only about one quarter of the learning objectives of the Middle School...

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Federal and state education funding and policy

Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Blog, Current Affairs, Education | Comments Off on Federal and state education funding and policy

SIIA Ed Tech Government Forum 2013 By definition, virtually all US public education is funded and controlled through federal, state, and local governments. The SIIA ETGF, just held April 9-10 in Washington, DC is a chance to hear from federal and state education policy wonks what is likely to happen over the next year or two. At this year’s conference, there were six themes: What is the federal funding environment What is the funding environment at the states What is happening with Common Core What is happening with the Common Assessment What about Federal Education policy and the waivers What is the outlook in higher education Federal Funding Don’t look for much. It seems that the department of education is going to allow states to reserve up to 15% of last year’s money to go into next year, as a way to soften the blow of sequestration. There do not seem to be any looming events that will force the government to come to a budget compromise, so look for sequestration to continue for at least the next 6 months, with federal education funds being cut 5-7%. Since these are the funds that are often used to purchase content, the impact on the publishing industry will be overweighted. State Funding State revenues are back up to where they were in 2007. Normally, this would be good for education, except the cost of Medicaid, which is mandated, has been growing by 5% a year. This is squeezing education spending. In general, expect some small increases in state funding of education (for the first time in five years) but a lot of that will be paying for increased pension and salary costs. Common Core State Standards Depending on how you phrase questions, states and schools are either totally unprepared or virtually completely ready. Teachers will often say that they already teach higher level skills according to the common core. Yet, when you talk to teachers about evaluation, they often respond by saying that neither they nor the students have been getting support to prepare them for the standards. Educators will say that they currently have to cover so many topics that they cannot afford to go deeply into any one, so they are looking forward to the narrower by deeper focus of the Common Core. But they will also respond that if the new curriculum skips any areas that they currently teach, they will find a way to still cover it. Practically, we will not fully know the effect of the Common Core until schools have to start administering the common assessments. Common Assessments These are due to be required for the 2014-15 school year. On the technical side, schools don’t have enough computers or bandwidth to deliver the tests. To get the money to invest in that technology, they’ll have to take the funds from some other area, because no additional money is going to be available. Just as large an issue is that students will be scoring about 30-40% lower on these assessments as they have been on most state tests. How will states and communities cope with the fact that, while they showed 70-80% proficiency for students in 2013-14, they will be reporting 30-40% proficiency the following year? How will that affect teacher evaluation? Will states start backing...

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Why your lead gen campaigns aren’t generating leads, and what you can do about it

Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Blog, Business Techniques, Education Business | Comments Off on Why your lead gen campaigns aren’t generating leads, and what you can do about it

The archive of Farimah’s and Sue Hanson’s (of PR with Panache) webinar sponsored by Agile Minds on March 14 is now available. Sue started with the point that lead generation is much more difficult when there is no brand awareness, and brand awareness starts with your story. If you want to build a successful business, you have to have a story; one that makes the audience feel something. A story doesn’t try to get your audience to buy, it gets them to buy in. A story helps build brand awareness, or in other words it achieves buy in, if the audience feels it is relevant (it’s about a problem that they feel they need to solve) and if they can relate or identify with the people who are solving the problem using your solution. The place to start building your story is to talk to your customers and find out what caused them to seek you out, and what results they are receiving. Farimah explained that a recognized brand makes lead generation much more effective because it creates an element of trust, it keeps your company on top of mind when they have a problem you can solve, it creates leads by itself, and it makes other lead generation activities (such as email, cold calling, and conferences) more successful. Without brand recognition, and without an investment in brand recognition, all other lead gen activities are more difficult. When it comes to the specific lead gen activities themselves, Farimah said that targeting is critical. Who owns the problem that you solve? Who has to fix it, and who pays the consequences if it is not fixed? Who makes the decision on what to buy to solve the problem? Who influences the decision? Who can be an impediment to the buying decision? Know your audience, and target your activities, messaging, and lists to reach that audience. Many of Academic Business Advisor’s clients use conferences as both lead gen and branding activities. Put yourself in the shoes of conference attendees. If they glance at your booth as they walk by, is it obvious what you do and what problem you solve? Too many booths show happy or struggling kids or teachers, but fail to communicate what the companies do. All successful lead gen activities make a compelling offer. Often good information (such as a webinar or free ebook on a relevant topic) is more valuable to potential prospects than an offer of some limited time free use of your product or service. Farimah and Sue stressed that whatever activity you perform, your followup activities should be pre-planned. If you offer a webinar or go to a conference, have your followup emails queued and ready to go, along with some call to action. Sue’s PR with Panache can help you generate a buzz that translates into business. Farimah (and my) Academic Business Advisors helps education companies develop and execute winning strategies to grow their education businesses. If either of these sounds like something you could use, please contact us at...

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Cathy Toohey on FETC 2013

Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Blog, Business Techniques, Education, Education Business | Comments Off on Cathy Toohey on FETC 2013

This post is was written by Cathy Toohey of The Toohey Group who had some reflections on the 2013 Florida Education Technology Conference or FETC. Cathy is an independent educational marketing consultant. For the past 25 years Cathy has worked on a wide-range of products and programs from early childhood to professional development. FETC was very well attended and enthusiasm was extremely high. As a marketing consultant my overall take-away word from the exhibit hall was MANAGEMENT. FETC (Photo credit: GreenNetizen) Everything seemed to focus on the process or the device for management. There were exhibits for managing the data, the cloud, the content, the teachers, the kids, the community, the standards and the devices. Sometimes it is helpful to see the exhibits through the eyes of a “mystery shopper” and here are some tips from those marketing eyes. Don't just swipe my badge Ask how I like the show, the weather, anything to seem somewhat engaged with the customer and your product Remember the person in the exhibit area (unless another vendor) is a customer in some shape or fashion A simple or silly give away still works if no other reason than to help with #2 Using a personal device in the booth is not a welcoming message Engaging demos do gather a crowd If you are a no-show, ask a friend to take the booth name and # down from the curtain Too many matching T-shirts in a booth draw attention to the fact there are more reps than customers in the booth Not everyone is focused on the (fill-in-the-blank) so find out what I need before you start your pitch Make sure your reason for being at the show is purposeful and that your message is clear, Facebook likeable, and each of your reps knows the focus Related articles Best Websites from FETC 2013 Attending the Florida Educational Technology Conference and Measuring One Rural District's Growth in Using Technology FETC 2013 et...

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