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Friday, October 22, 2010

The 7 Most Important Elements in Selecting a K-12 Curriculum Management System (Part 2)

{by Gail Tolbert}

Here are the last three of the most Important Elements in Selecting a K-12 Curriculum Management System (See the first four here.)

5. Look For a System That You Will Never Outgrow

It’s true, leading edge technology means you are provided with a tool that you will never outgrow; as your district and curriculum continues to grow and change, so will the system. Today, many school districts are looking for a new curriculum tool because they have outgrown their current one. Purchasing a system that only handles the needs of today means that at some point, districts will have to go through the process of researching the next generation of software.

6. Can the Software be Customized?

Because no two districts operate exactly the same, it is important to understand the depth of customization that a leading edge company can offer. When assessing curriculum software, some companies will claim that their product is customizable. Often, their definition of “custom” is having the ability to change a title, a font or some other layout or design option. Although, these claims are technically correct the reality often forces school districts to conform to the limitations of the software rather than the software conforming to the district’s strengths. Leading edge technology means the software will customization to meet a districts internal language, process, forms, environment, and the hierarchy of the district curriculum.

7. Chose a Partner, Not a Vendor

Partnerships are not developed by vendors selling or reselling cookie-cutter software. Successful K-12 curriculum implementation comes from understanding a district’s needs, strengths and limitations. Leading edge technology companies take the time to learn the needs of their K-12 school partners and work with them to develop meaningful strategies that meet the demands of the ever changing K-12 school district curriculum. Through those partnerships curriculum systems evolve into a more meaningful tool for teachers and ultimately their students.

Since leading edge technology meets the needs of the 21st Century Educator don’t let the flashy sales, glitzy advertisements and the promise of uniformity lure you into selecting a system that is not good for your district.

Remember, the most important thing is “what’s under the hood”.

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SchoolE Award Early Bird Nominations

If your district was nominated during last year's SchoolE Award, you can start nominating early this year...As in RIGHT NOW!

Nominations will open to ALL districts beginning on November 15, 2010. If your district was a nominee during last year's awards, and you haven't received a link for this year's nominations, please e-mail me ( or contact me on Twitter (@allofek12) and I'll get you taken care of.

Good luck to all districts! Stay tuned for more SchoolE News!

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DePaul University SMASHUP Launches

The DePaul University SMASHUP is now LIVE! Check it out here:

The university SMASHUP will replace a social media listing of all of DePaul's social media accounts (which can be seen here:

Pretty cool, huh?

You can click on the picture to the left to see some screenshots of the SMASHUP - or better yet, go to the SMASHUP itself.

Seeing a transformation like this makes me wonder why any university would put stagnant links to their social media accounts on a page. To me, it really defeats the purpose of the dynamic, fluid nature of social media.

Read the Press Release here.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Journey to Becoming 21st Century Educators (Part 4 of 4): Giving Them What They Need

{by Gail Tolbert}

This is my last of four blogs about many of my friends and connections who are educators, educators at different stages in their career, educators wanting to become 21st Century Educators (Read the first one here) This is my 4th and final blog about my friends’ journeys’ to become 21st Century Educators.

As I listen to their different stories, I see a commonality, a dream, a need, a tool……and it makes me think how we are changing to meet the needs of the 21st Century Learner and how we need to change to meet the needs of the 21st Century Educator too. A great philosopher said that if we are teaching today the same way we taught yesterday, then we are not preparing our students for tomorrow. I stretch this thought to our educators…if we are giving our teachers the same tools today that they used yesterday; then we are not providing them the tools they need for tomorrow.

The good news is that we do not need to create these tools; these tools have been developed, are ready for use and can be accessible to teachers. These web based systems are changing the way we gather information and improving the way we manage our work and providing us with real time, up to date information. I know this as a fact because I have seen them, I have used them and I have seen the amazing results that they offer.

Let me be specific, there are tools to help Christy that will allow her to easily and quickly create and manage her own web site including all the social networking tools. She can easily use advanced editing and design and add class pictures, videos, lesson plans, etc. She can communicate with parents and students; assign homework, add class notes and announcements, a class calendar and links to any resources. Lindsay no longer needs to dream; there are curriculum management tools and the most advanced ones provide an intuitive and easy to use way for teachers to have access to edit, update, collaborate, and share the work they do with curriculum on a daily basis. Some districts think they have all these capabilities…when all they really have are some static documents on their website. These static tools are no longer effective in the ever changing educational environment. Curriculum management means aligning to state standards, mapping and pacing guides, scope and sequence, integration of standards right into lessons, providing teachers with a guide to what, when, and how to teach lessons and give assessments so students achieve their maximum potential. Units and lessons become living documents with reports and search capabilities. District and school administrators use unit map reports and curriculum reports to identify gaps or overlaps in curriculum, review units aligned to state standards, review resources for units and obtain user activity information.

Dawn needs access to an on line testing and assessment tool. She can create her assessments and test questions, access questions from a question bank, schedule the test, and have real time access to all the results by class, content, teacher, student, test or question item. This online testing tool can gather test results, align the test and question to state standards and have an incredible amount of information to improve instructional strategies for her class and each student. To expand on this data, Susan can use an analytical tool that “ slices and dices” student information.Need student data from a certain test, year, class, or individual? No problem, she would have it. She can aggregate the data or look at the data from many attributes. She too can have real time access to student performance data. This analytical tool can not only gather student test results, but can store data and create comprehensive reports with custom dashboards for every school in the district.

Today’ s educators are just like today’ s learners; they need accessible technology especially for analyzing and managing what they do in the classroom. They need this revolutionary technology
for their 21st Century journeys.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The 7 Most Important Elements in Selecting a K-12 Curriculum Management System

{by Gail Tolbert}

School districts across the country are actively seeking web based software systems to help manage, track, search and report on their ever changing district curriculum. The review and assessment of web based curriculum management tools can be a daunting and time consuming task. When assessing curriculum management systems, school districts often say they have too many decisions to make and do not know all of the right questions to ask.

Many districts have also compared shopping for curriculum management tools to buying a car. They look for name recognition, great advertising, product branding, and even look to see what their neighbors are using. When buying a car, a casual glance tells a potential buyer the model, the color and the general features. Sometimes, however, the most important features in a car are what you can’t see and that is also true for K-12 curriculum management systems.

In an effort to simplify the process and help school districts know what to look for I have compiled a list of the 7 most important elements in selecting a K-12 Web Based Curriculum Management System. We will look at the first 4 today and I will follow up with the remaining 3 in a second post.

1. Seek Leading Edge Curriculum Technology
Leading edge technology is not just a term, it is a company goal, a mission and a behavior. In simple terms, it is how the company chooses to spend their time and resources. Leading edge technology is only acquired through years of continued research and development and represents meaningful past actions, continuous focus and a vision of future goals and trends.

Some companies choose to spend all of their time and energy in sales and marketing, but the leading edge technology company chooses to spend its time and resources on web based research development. The difference in the final product between these two types of company priorities is significant.

I have talked to many districts that have made a curriculum management purchase later to discover that their system was cumbersome, hard to learn and liked by no one, which often resulted in no one using it. Look for a system that is very intuitive and user friendly, allowing virtually anyone to learn it and use it. If you have ever heard someone say, “I don’t care how my car works, I just want to turn the key, put it in drive and go”, the same statement could also be used for curriculum management software.

2. Look Under the Hood
The primary element under the hood of leading edge technology is the amount of data it can handle; view it as the horsepower of the system. Leading edge curriculum technology collects, stores, and organizes the most robust information and the smallest detail. This data can be easily searched and organized for reports which give districts the ability to make changes and decisions on curriculum at all levels of the K-12 school district.

3. Is There Knowledge Behind the Product?

It is important to understand the knowledge and credibility of the company selling the product. Some of the K-12 curriculum sellers are not writing and designing what they sell. They are merely marketers selling someone else’s product; they are resellers, not developers. These resellers of curriculum may be limited on how much they can change, update or customize their product.

It’s important to ask a company what other software products they specialize in (such as assessment, SIS, student performance) besides curriculum management and how they manage their data. Now that you know that the data management in a curriculum system is the horsepower that drives all information, you want them to be experts in that data management and the correlation behind the data.

4. Experience with K-12 Integrated Systems

For school districts without any software tools, a curriculum management system is the right place to start, in most cases. For school districts that have already invested in curriculum systems, they often discover that additional needs and requirements emerge. Some examples of those needs include testing and assessment data, student performance data, professional development data and teacher evaluation data. Does the company have overall knowledge in all these data management areas?

As the system becomes more robust, the horsepower or data management of each system requires a correlation and connection among all the data. Each of these additional products connects together so the data can be aggregated and dissected by dashboards and analytics.

The direction that districts are heading in is clear. Data is their future and the use of the most current and assessable data allows teachers and administrators the tools they need to drill down and sort the information in a variety of ways (by grade level, building, and teacher or by standard to name a few). This information can be generated by leading edge technology developers in a “dashboard view” giving decision makers a meaningful tool to assess their curriculum quickly and concisely.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ANNOUNCING: The 2011 SchoolE Awards. Nominations Begin Next Month!

I am oh-so-excited about this upcoming year's SchoolE Awards contest to find the best school district website, I couldn't wait until November to start talking about it!


The inaugural year was a giant success. There were more than 1,600 nominations made from across the U.S., and we received more than 26,000 votes during the last two weeks of the contest. We are so thankful for all of the comments and feedback that members of these passionate districts left and we are using that to make this year's contest even better! Congratulations again to HEB, Clear Creek and Friendswood ISD for coming out on top last year.

Here's a video that recaps the highlights of last year's SchoolE Awards:


Where do I start?
  • Categories based on student enrollment to make the nomination and voting processes more fair. The top fifteen districts, based on nominations, for EACH category (Whew - that's 45 total!) will be judged, and based on the judges' scores, the Top Seven for each category will move on to the voting phase. That means we'll have THREE top-place winners, and THREE runners-up!
  • Bigger and Broader Judging Panel - This year's judges have backgrounds in everything from K-12 instructional technology to higher education web design to graphic design expertise.
  • More ways to nominate and vote - Including by e-mail address, Facebook and Twitter! You'll be able to spread the word to your friends and the community SO much quicker - and easier!
  • Longer time to vote giving districts more time to get the word out.
  • Even more recognition for districts.
The SchoolE Awards contest is not just about a good design. It's about districts with websites that the community can get excited about and join together to support deserve to be recognized as well. That's what defines a SchoolE Award winner. A great website and great support.

To check out the SchoolE Awards 2011 contest, you can check out the awesome NEW site here:

Stay tuned for more details! We'll be announcing our 2011 judging panel members and more details about this year's nomination process very soon!

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Journey to Becoming 21st Century Educators (Part 3 of 4): Dawn and Susan

{by Gail Tolbert}

This is my third of four blogs about many of my friends and connections who are educators, educators at different stages in their career, educators wanting to become 21st Century Educators (Read the first one

Dawn has been teaching for 25 years. She is a seasoned teacher and grade-level chair for her building. She mentors new teachers and works with student teachers. Dawn is a good role model and always learns and keeps current in her profession. Dawn has prepared and given many tests and assessments during her tenure. She has spent many hours creating, editing, updating and scoring tests. She would love to have a tool with which she can store, manage, access and edit her test questions. She wants to create her own test bank. Dawn and her team review lots of documentation and test score results and question the issue of accountability. They wonder if they are teaching and testing on all the state standards. They wonder if they are missing any standards or if they are over teaching and spending too much time on any standards.

They dream about all the information to which they would love to have access about the student results. These dreams include not only student scores and percentages but information about outcomes aligned to the standards and outcomes over time. She wants current, real time information to improve classroom instruction and her instructional strategies for the class and for each of her students.

Susan is a curriculum coach for an elementary school. She meets with and mentors all grade levels on instructional strategies. She knows and talks with Dawn even though they teach in different states. She, too, wants an assessment tool about which Dawn talks. In her building, the discussion on testing and assessments then lead to the bigger picture of student performance data for the school and district. Susan needs to be able to track student progress from kindergarten through 5th grade and then pass that data on to the middle school. She needs one tool with which she can look at the school, the class, the teacher or one child. She needs to track not only how students are performing, but how they are performing on each of the state standards. Parts of her responsibilities include the improvement of student performance through the improvement of teaching strategies. She needs access to detailed, ongoing, current assessment data to give her that information.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

AllofE Traditions: Fantasy Football Tournament

This post was written by our CEO, Amit Guha. Every year, AllofE Solutions has a Fantasy Football Tournament for the employees. These are his week-by-week struggles with this year's tournament.

MY Fantasy Football Dilemma

WEEK 1 - The first week I started my top RB draft for the year, Ryan Grant. He barely lasted a couple of plays before injuring his knee. He was out for the game and soon we found out that he was out for the season.

WEEK 2 - The second week, I had Michael Turner and Reggie Bush as my two running backs. Michael Turner ran for 75 yards in the first half. He had done nothing the previous week and I thought that my luck was turning. But not so fast-he was injured before the half and sat out the the rest of the game. Then on Monday night, Reggie Bush breaks his fibula and is out indefinitely. (We later learn that thankfully, it is not his tibia, but hey, he is still going to be missing a few weeks).

WEEK 3 - Now running out of running backs, I decided to start Fred Taylor. The pattern continued and he could not finish the game either. After six carries for barely 16 yards he had a toe injury and was gone too.

WEEK 4 - The running back situation was beyond repair and it was a bye week for Romo. So, I decided to start Vick this week because of his amazing run until that point. You all saw what happened then!!!

Looking Forward

I do realize that it is a huge stretch to think that there could be any possible connection between these injuries and key players that I started every week on my little Fantasy Football team. But then you start wondering about butterfly effects and chaos theory.

I was simply accepting my bad luck the first couple of weeks and not worrying too much. But for this to happen four weeks in a row does seem super freaky.

Should I stop fielding a team for the rest of the season? Would that be the ethical things to do?

Maybe some of my you have had worse experiences. I am always fascinated by patterns and just wish that this was a different, more positive pattern. Like every RB that I ever started running for a hundred yards and a touchdown every week, etc.

Well I am going to give it another week hope that the luck of my Fantasy Football players will change for good. I am not sure what I will do, if somehow this trend continues. Then I would probably retire my team for the rest of this season.

I am of course, hoping that this act of writing about this will bring about a change. For those of you who might be interested, I plan to start Romo (Dal) as the QB and possibly Portis (Was) and Turner (Atl). Please pray for my team and do share your own stories about patterns and Fantasy Football.