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January 05, 2016

Table of Contents

Free Resources: The Exploratorium's Bite-Sized 'Science Snacks'
Odysseyware Adds 'Principles of Coding' to Its Curriculum
Achieve3000 Releases Leadership Edition Digital Dashboard
PBS LearningMedia Announces Call for Entries for 4th Annual Digital Innovators Program
Discovery Education Adds Multiple New Resources to Digital Services
Free Resources: PBS KIDS' ScratchJr App–Helping Young Children Learn to Code and Code to Learn

Free Resources: The Exploratorium's Bite-Sized 'Science Snacks'

The Exploratorium has launched a new website with more than 150 free, scientifically accurate, and teacher-tested activities that are perfect for exploring in and out of the classroom. For example: Do you know how to build a battery out of pennies? Can you make a magnetic field that's stronger the Earth's, or power a laser light show with your voice?

Complete with videos and beautiful photography, Science Snacks use simple and inexpensive materials that bring to life the same natural phenomena and science concepts visitors discover during a trip to the museum.

“The Exploratorium’s fundamental pedagogy is to give its audience an experience that helps them feel confident that they can figure things out,” says Julie Yu, Director of the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute, which developed the materials. “Our idea has always been to help teachers do hands-on lessons for as little as possible, both because of limited budgets and because using familiar materials demystifies things for kids.”

Established in 1984, the Teacher Institute (TI) is a professional development center for middle and high school math and science teachers. Over the years, TI’s staff of PhD scientists and veteran educators has developed thousands of classroom activities. They created the first Exploratorium Science Snackbook in 1991.

The new online portal will be updated annually with fresh content that demonstrates unusual or unexpected phenomena, sparks curiosity, generates questions, and serves as the starting point for deeper explorations. The launch comes at a time when the Next Generation Science Standards are emphasizing real science and engineering practices, including asking questions, using mathematics and computational thinking, and making arguments from evidence.

The Exploratorium, located in San Francisco … and online! … is a playful learning laboratory of more than 600 interactive exhibits and experiences that ignite curiosity and transform the way people learn. Since 1969, the Exploratorium has influenced generations of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, teachers, students, children, museum professionals and everyday doers, reaching nearly 180 million people annually from around the globe.

Source: The Exploratorium,

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Odysseyware Adds 'Principles of Coding' to Its Curriculum

Odysseyware, a provider of customizable online courses for K-12 education, has added a “Principles of Coding” course to its curriculum.

“Principles of Coding” is designed to introduce middle school students to the basics of coding and to help them delve into the thought processes behind designing technology by creating games, simulations, and even a mobile application.

The course combines project-based learning, oral communication, modeling, and traditional instructional methods so students are able to see the connection between the core subjects and computer science while examining the global impact of technology. It is designed to be integrated into brick-and-mortar classrooms, and is guided by the nationally recognized Computer Science Teacher’s Association standards. As with all Odysseyware courses, the content can be customized for use in traditional, blended, or flipped classrooms.

According to Beth TeGrotenhuis, president of Odysseyware, computer literacy has become as important as reading and math literacy in the 21st century. The company is offering “Principles of Coding” so students are able to explore new career options during a time when, every year, there is a standing demand for 120,000 people who are trained in computer science.

Source: Odysseyware,

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Achieve3000 Releases Leadership Edition Digital Dashboard

Achieve3000 has released a new digital dashboard called Leadership Edition, which gives school and district leaders access to the timely, accurate and meaningful data needed to inform effective action plans and student placement in tiered intervention programs, according to their announcement. Designed to help educators gain a deeper understanding of the literacy needs of their various student populations, Leadership Edition presents key metrics such as student usage, performance, and progress towards college and career readiness in easy-to-read, visual formats.

Achieve3000 specializes in cloud-based, differentiated learning solutions for school-aged youth as well as adult learners. The company’s three most popular solutions – KidBiz3000 for grades 2-5, TeenBiz3000 for grades 6-8, and Empower3000 for grades 9-12 – all are designed to reduce teacher planning time by automatically delivering the same grade-appropriate lessons to the entire class, while simultaneously tailoring them according to each student’s Lexile reading level. Built-in reports then allow teachers and administrators to monitor student progress and forecast future performance at the click of a mouse.

Leadership Edition will further reduce planning time for reading specialists, curriculum coordinators, principals and other education leaders, the announcement states. Provided at no cost to schools and districts with active subscriptions to KidBiz3000, TeenBiz3000, and Empower3000, the dashboard provides a highly visual and easy-to-use presentation of student usage and performance data. Powerful, on-demand filters then help users to drill down and examine data at the district, school, teacher, or classroom level; identify trends over time and pinpoint any exceptions; make comparisons; and determine areas that need attention so they can make informed decisions about the instruction and resources that support student learning.

For example, school and district leaders can view the “Students on Track” metric – which identifies the percentage of students on track for college and career readiness – to locate any schools, grade levels, teachers, or classes that may need extra support. Using Achieve3000’s built-in reports, administrators can then work with teachers to develop a data-driven plan that identifies which students need more intensive instruction and targets the specific skills or standards that need to be re-taught or reinforced, so that all struggling students can get the intervention they need exactly when and how they need it. As a result, schools and districts will be able to get more students on track for success.

The dashboard also allows users to continuously monitor the health of their implementation and ensure that their Achieve3000 literacy solutions are being used with fidelity. For example, users can see at a glance if students are completing the recommended number of reading activities per week. If any classrooms are falling behind, instructional leaders can then remind teachers to increase the number of opportunities students have to complete the activities, ensuring that students are gaining the full benefit from educators’ investment in Achieve3000.

Source: Achieve3000,

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PBS LearningMedia Announces Call for Entries for 4th Annual Digital Innovators Program

PBS LearningMedia, the free media on-demand service from PBS that offers more than 100,000 digital resources for educators, has announced the 4th annual program in which K-12 teachers and administrators are recognized for their creative use of digital media in the classroom. Educators from across the country who excel at using technology and digital media to support student learning are encouraged to enter the 2016 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Program.

The call for entries will remain open through February 8, 2016. Educators are asked to submit a 60- to 120-second video to showcase their innovative use of digital technology and tools in their classroom to inspire students. Entrants will also be asked to complete a profile and answer two essay questions. The PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators’ online application is available at

For the first time since this program launched, all educators who meet the entry requirements, follow the guidelines and submit their application to the Digital Innovators Program will be accepted into the program and rewarded with year-long professional development opportunities, including unique virtual trainings focused on digital best practices, access to exclusive resources from PBS LearningMedia Custom, invitations to special events, a free PBS TeacherLine professional development course, networking opportunities and more. PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators will also receive ongoing support from their local PBS member stations.

A panel of judges will select one educator from each state throughout the U.S, its territories and the District of Columbia as Lead Innovators. The Lead Innovators will receive a three-day, all-expense paid trip to Denver to participate in the 2016 PBS LearningMedia Digital Summit and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. Attendance at these conferences will provide the Lead Innovators the opportunity to meet with and listen to renowned speakers, experts and educators like themselves, to discuss technology in the classroom and learn how to maximize the benefits of using new technologies in the classroom. All Lead Innovators will receive a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Source: PBS LearningMedia,

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Discovery Education Adds Multiple New Resources to Digital Services

Discovery Education has announced the addition of several hundred engaging new resources to its award-winning digital services. This content, from Robomatter, Discovery Communications’ family of networks and leading educational publishers, further empowers K-12 educators using Discovery Education Streaming Plus and Discovery Education Techbooks to create compelling science, social studies and STEM lessons.

Discovery Education has partnered with Robomatter, Incorporated (“Robomatter”) to make Robomatter’s research-based STEM education content available through Streaming Plus. Built on research-based technology and teaching methods developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Academy, Robomatter’s educational solutions teach kids important creative thinking, math, problem solving, and computational thinking skills. Students will have access to Robomatter’s Robot Virtual Worlds software, a high-end robotics simulation environment that enables students to learn programming, as well as Robomatter’s Expedition Atlantis, a math-based game environment that uses the engaging nature of robotics exploration to teach students math skills.

Among the new content supporting K-5 science instruction added to Discovery Education’s Streaming Plus services is:

  • Over 130 titles from Visual Learning Systems. Available in both English and Spanish, this content allows educators and students to explore a variety of core science topics such as light energy, biodiversity, electricity, the scientific method, and more.

  • Breaking Trail with Coyote Peterson. The 42 titles in this Emmy Award-winning series from Discovery Digital Networks takes students on a virtual journey through nature bringing them up-close with wildlife in some of the most amazing environments throughout North America. Students will encounter everything from rattlesnakes to grizzly bears while learning more about the biological science behind their behavior and appearance along the way.

  • Outrageous Acts of Science. Also available in Discovery Education’s Science Techbook, the 26 titles in this Science Channel series explain the inner workings of eccentric experiments through in-depth expert analysis, and provide a useful starting point for class discussions around what inspires scientists’ experiments.

  • How the Universe Works. This Science Channel series of 35 titles, which is also available in Discovery Education’s Science Techbook, blends expert opinion and extraordinary computer-generated imagery in a unique way that helps educators explain the inner workings of space and unusual astronomical phenomena to students.

Exclusive new resources supporting middle and high school social studies instruction recently added to Discovery Education Streaming Plus include:

  • Discoveries America. From award-winning publisher Bennett-Watt Entertainment, the 50 titles in the Discoveries America series tell the stories of each of the 50 states through profiles of historic sites, major cities, and natural wonders. Leveraging exceptional images, interesting subjects, and fascinating stories, Discoveries America, which has also been added to Discovery Education’s Social Studies Techbook, supports a variety of social studies lessons.

  • How We Got Here. The 10 titles from this American Heroes Channel series help students explore U.S. history through the lives of iconic Americans, such as Henry Ford, Levi Strauss, and Clara Barton, whose entrepreneurial genius radically changed their worlds and ours.

The popular Global Wrap and Global Stories features are also returning to all Discovery Education services. Available exclusively through Discovery Education and published by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, Global Wrap (suitable for grades 6-12) and Global Stories (suitable for grades K-5) present an age-appropriate summary of the week’s most pressing global news. All Global Wrap and Global Stories content is archived, providing an opportunity for students to see the application of science, math, and social studies concepts in the real world.

Containing thousands of standards-aligned resources, Discovery Education Streaming Plus helps build students’ mastery in interpreting, understanding, and evaluating information across all subject areas, the announcement states. Teacher resources include lesson plans, instructional strategies, and content collections organized around themes. Students can access images, primary source documents, podcasts, oral interviews, books on tape, articles, and videos, and more.

The Social Studies Techbook series uses an inquiry-based instructional approach that emphasizes informational text literacy, analytical writing and problem solving skills that students will apply in the classroom and beyond. Each subject area includes primary source documents and activities, digital investigations, multimedia reference library, interactive maps and informational texts. Utilizing an inquiry-based format built on the 5E model, the Science Techbook, through hands-on labs, digital explorations, an interactive glossary, and data analysis activities, helps teach students to read, write, and think like scientists.

Source: Discovery Education,

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Free Resources: PBS KIDS' ScratchJr App–Helping Young Children Learn to Code and Code to Learn

PBS KIDS has launched PBS KIDS ScratchJr, a free app developed in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab and Tufts University’s Developmental Technologies Research Group. Available now on iPad and Android tablets, PBS KIDS ScratchJr helps children ages 5-8 learn core coding concepts as they create their own interactive stories and games using PBS KIDS characters. PBS KIDS ScratchJr incorporates PBS KIDS media properties, including WILD KRATTS, WORDGIRL, PEG + CAT and the new series NATURE CAT. As kids snap together colorful programming blocks to make their favorite characters move, jump, dance and sing, they will learn to solve problems, design projects and express themselves creatively.

In tandem with the launch of the app, PBS KIDS ScratchJr companion activities will also be available. Local PBS stations, schools and other organizations will be able to use these activities to create educational hands-on experiences for young children with PBS KIDS ScratchJr. These activities are available through PBS LearningMedia in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13) and the Hour of Code. Additional materials will be available in the coming months.

The app has been developed as part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS Ready To Learn Initiative with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Ready To Learn is a federal program that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families.

Through outreach efforts supported by Verizon and Ready To Learn, PBS member stations will extend the reach of PBS KIDS ScratchJr to underserved communities. In 2016, local stations across the U.S. will use PBS KIDS ScratchJr content to help children in their communities learn coding skills through outreach programs and partnerships with Title I schools. Verizon will also be supporting the development of afterschool activities and a weeklong summer camp. In addition, via PBS stations, teachers will be provided professional development workshops on coding and integrating PBS KIDS ScratchJr into the classroom and afterschool activities.

PBS KIDS ScratchJr is now available for free from the App Store on iPad and from the Google Play store on Android tablet. More information on PBS KIDS apps is available at

PBS KIDS ScratchJr is a collaboration between the DevTech Research Group at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development in Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, and the Playful Invention Company.

PBS KIDS ScratchJr Features

  • Colorful Programming Blocks: Snap together the color-coded programming blocks to create sequences of actions that cause characters to animate and interact in fun and exciting ways.

  • PBS KIDS Characters and Backgrounds: Create projects based on PBS KIDS shows and mix-and-match more than 150 characters.

  • Paint Editing: Create unique characters and backgrounds.

  • Voice Recording: Use the recording tool to add sounds and give voice to projects.

  • Story Starters: Find inspiration with in-app story starters! Each Story Starter features a different set of characters, and you can edit and complete the story however you’d like.

Source: PBS KIDS,

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