Thurmond Announces Digital Divide Task Force – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today the creation of a new task force to close the digital divide for California students who lack access to resources such as internet connectivity and devices. The Closing the Digital Divide Task Force will be co-chaired by California State Senator Connie Leyva.

“This task force signals a new era, that California is now working with focus and urgency to close the digital divide in the most concrete way we have ever seen,” said Thurmond. “COVID-19 is a public health crisis in California and all around the world, but it’s also revealed other crises like the technology gap that has persisted for too long, leading to opportunity and achievement gaps for California’s students.”

“As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I strongly believe that ensuring equity for California students is critically important,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino). “One vital step to ensuring equity is by closing the digital divide, which has become that much more evident and urgent as distance learning is now the new reality for millions of school children during the current COVID-19 crisis. I look forward to co-chairing this important task force as we all continue to work together to meet the needs of students in California.”

Source: Thurmond Announces Digital Divide Task Force – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

Amid online transition, schools experience another cyberthreat: ‘Zoombombing’ | Education Dive

BY Shawna De La Rosa

An analysis by The New York Times found 153 Instagram accounts, several Twitter accounts and chats, and active Reddit message boards where thousands of users share meeting passwords to plan Zoom attacks. Sometimes, attacks are carried out by the students themselves, who have piles of homework with no other activity or outlet during self-isolation. Zoombombing can be a way for these students to rebel against the new system.

But school cybersecurity was a challenge long before the pandemic began. Schools and ed tech platforms have been increasingly vulnerable targets in recent years. Now that many schools are completely relying on educational technology to deliver lessons, educators should proceed with additional caution when vetting new software, ensuring that any user agreements fully protect student information and comply with FERPA laws. District administrators should also ensure parents know how to protect their students’ personal information.

Source: Amid online transition, schools experience another cyberthreat: ‘Zoombombing’ | Education Dive

From tumultuous tech sharing to LEGO projects, parents cope with home schooling – Mercury News

By Shayna Rubin

California schools began to shutter its campuses en masse on March 17 and, by Tuesday, a majority of Bay Area school districts confirmed that the 2019-2020 academic year would not continue on campus.

School, though, is still in session — at home and online.

As parents suddenly assume the mantle of homeschool teachers, adjustments vary from panicked Amazon purchases and LEGO projects to tumultuous technology sharing and enterprising group projects. The new normal is still setting in.

Source: COVID-19: From tumultuous tech sharing to LEGO projects, Bay Area parents cope with home schooling

Fairfield-Suisun Connects with High School Seniors and Their Families – Daily Republic

By Tim Goree

The Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District connected virtually Thursday evening with nearly 900 high school seniors and their families. The Virtual Senior Information Night presentation was conducted via livestream on YouTube. The important information was shared on the topics of graduation requirements, satisfying the University of California “a-g” requirements, Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate exams, college entrance requirements, credit recovery, graduation ceremonies, and senior events/activities.

“We could have just sent an email or a letter to our families, but we wanted to try a different approach to reach our students,” said Superintendent Kris Corey. “I’d say it was a huge success based on the number of viewers who logged in. We were especially pleased to have nearly 90 viewers for our presentation conducted in Spanish.”

Source: Press Release: Fairfield-Suisun Connects with High School Seniors and Their Families

Despite COVID-19 crisis, Solano County teachers rally to continue lessons online – Times-Herald

By Thomas Gase

There is a popular spiritual saying that goes, “Remember, the teacher is always silent during the test.” It seems as if the Benicia and Vallejo school districts didn’t get that message.

Although the world is facing a test of high proportions with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, local educators have made more noise than an elephant in a library this week. Since the announcement last Friday that schools would be closed until at least mid-April, educators have rallied to create ways for distance learning with online classes, activities and instructions.

Instead of hearing Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” kids have instead been turning up Google Classroom, a free web service, developed by Google for schools that aims to simplify creating, distributing, and grading assignments in a paperless way. Other programs being used include YouTube, Clever and Zoom.

Source: Despite COVID-19 crisis, Solano County teachers rally to continue lessons online – Times-Herald

Resources For Teaching Online Due To School Closures – The Edublogger

By Kathleen Morris

How would you feel if someone said you need to change your whole approach to teaching immediately? Imagine if, instead of interacting face to face with students in your classroom, you had to create and deliver a virtual program.

Perhaps you’d feel nervous? Overwhelmed? Excited? Unqualified? Inspired? Or perhaps plain lost.

Online learning is fast becoming a reality for hundreds of millions of students worldwide. Teachers, students, families, administrators, departments, and whole communities are being forced to respond and adapt quickly.

Source: Resources For Teaching Online Due To School Closures – The Edublogger

Benicia High launches girls competitive cyber security team – Times-Herald

By Thomas Gase

In the 1992 film, “Sneakers” Robert Redford’s Martin Bishop/Brice character is asked by a bank teller, “So, people hire you to break into their places… to make sure no one can break into their places?” Redford then replies, “It’s a living,” while the teller then retorts back, “Not a very good one.”

Nearly 30 years later it’s actually a very good living, and Benicia High teacher, Andreas Kaiser, as well as Career Tech Educator, Annette Fewins, want to make sure that more students get interested in the field. Especially women.

Benicia High School has launched a girls competitive cyber security team, Cyber Panther, and approximately 25 students have already joined. The Panthers class is taught by Kaiser and Fewins.

Source: Benicia High launches girls competitive cyber security team – Times-Herald

17-year-old boy with nonverbal autism blogs to reach others like him – Daily Republic

By Tribune Content Agency

A few years ago, Mitchell Robins wasn’t able to tell anyone precisely what he was thinking. He lost the ability to speak when he was 4 and relied primarily on a system of pictures and limited sign language to tell his parents and caregivers what he wanted to eat or when he felt sick or how he wanted to spend his time. Then his parents realized he could spell.

Now Mitchell, 17, communicates deliberately, pointing letter by letter to a board that displays the alphabet. Ask him a question and his expression will flit between deep concentration and a jovial grin as he slowly spells his answer. Mitchell, who has autism and is nonverbal, said using spelling-based communication has changed his life.

“It changed everything because I could get my wants and needs met,” he spelled during a recent interview at his home in Highland Park, Ill., curled up in a couch corner while one of his therapists held the board at his eye level. “I am very happy people are finally figuring out how to reach people like me because it is a human rights issue we need to solve.”

Source: 17-year-old boy with nonverbal autism blogs to reach others like him: ‘People need to stop underestimating us’

Benicia High students win App Challenge for Fifth Congressional District – Benicia Herald

By Editor

Congressman Thompson announces 2019 App Challenge winners; Winners selected by local tech experts

Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) announced that Kai Rush and Benji Ryujin have been selected as the 2019 App Challenge winners for the Fifth Congressional District for their app Space Trace. Kai and Benji are seniors at Benicia High School and competed against more than a dozen other app designers in this year’s challenge. They were selected by a group of local technology experts.

Source: Benicia High students win App Challenge for Fifth Congressional District

What do administrators need to know ahead of the 2020 E-rate filing season? | Education Dive

By Roger Riddell

Though the filing window closes in February, it’s never too early to start the planning and paperwork for E-rate funds from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The program’s impact has been critical to broadband connectivity for many schools, especially when it comes to ensuring infrastructure is up-to-date and there’s enough bandwidth for the ballooning amount of tech in classrooms. This only grows in importance as more states take their annual standardized exams digital, particularly for rural schools and low-income schools at large.

Source: What do administrators need to know ahead of the 2020 E-rate filing season? | Education Dive

33 states adopted 57 computer science ed policies since 2018 | Education Dive

By Naaz Modan

As there is a national push for increased computer science literacy, many states are requiring high schools to offer courses in the subject, with some districts even making computer science a requirement for graduation. Some states are even requiring elementary and middle schools to offer computer science, the report says.

Georgia is among those phasing in the change through an incremental approach over the course of six years. The state has put in place benchmarks to see the plan through:

Source: 33 states adopted 57 computer science ed policies since 2018 | Education Dive

Parents of Kids With Special Needs Find Advice Navigating The System Online – Mindshift

By Laura McKenna

When Stasi Webber decided it was time to uproot her family from their Michigan home to find a better school for her 11-year-old son with autism, she turned to the internet for answers.

The public schools in her state don’t provide the specialized behavioral and life skills training, known as ABA therapy, that her son needs; he skips school every Tuesday and Thursday to receive these essential services. But recently, Webber learned from parents on social media that her son could get both academics and ABA training in schools in New Jersey, where she grew up.

With a tentative plan of returning to her childhood home in Mahwah, she found three or four local social media sites run by special education parents and asked about ABA services at the local district, its willingness to send students to specialized schools and comparisons with nearby towns. She put her house on the market.

Source: Parents of Kids With Special Needs Find Advice Navigating The System Online – Mindshift

‘Paperless First Day’ attendance recording boosts efficiency – Education Dive

Districts considering major paperless transitions should heed Jones’ advice about providing ample training ahead of time. Videos work well for new processes in many cases because they can be viewed independently and rewatched for further clarity.

The long-term benefits of going paper-free also pay off on the initial investment. Printing, copying and distributing paper documents is a waste of time, money and resources, with schools spending an average of $50,000 a year on paper and ink. Today’s students also often prefer to work on screens rather than paper.

Source: ‘Paperless First Day’ attendance recording boosts efficiency – Education Dive

Hackers’ Latest Target: School Districts – New York Times

By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Some hackers demand ransom; others sweep up personal data for sale to identity thieves. But whatever hackers’ motives, school systems around the country have been the targets of their cyberattacks.

One attack forced the Houston County School District in Dothan, Ala., to delay the first day of school for 6,400 students. Others crippled computer systems at the Syracuse City School District in upstate New York and at three school districts in Louisiana.

Many public institutions, including hospitals, local governments and colleges, have been hit with ransomware attacks in recent years, but school districts have proved particularly enticing to hackers because they hold troves of private data and often lack the resources to fend off intruders.

Source: Hackers’ Latest Target: School Districts – New York Times

Is Wi-Fi a Health Threat in Schools? Sorting fact from fiction – Education Next

By Kenneth R. Foster

Since the early 2000s, when wireless connectivity and the Internet evolved into everyday technologies, they have come to pervade our home and work lives, revolutionizing the way we share and access information. Wi-Fi circuits, which connect a device to a wireless network and the Internet, are incorporated into billions of devices, ranging from bathroom scales and “smart” electric outlets to equipment that streams movies and music. Wi-Fi is installed on our smartphones and laptops, at home and in the workplace, in cafés and airports, and of course, in schools everywhere.

Digital learning and wireless connectivity have become so entrenched in schools that many educators now consider high-speed Internet access a requirement for effective teaching. The federal government, via the Federal Communications Commission, subsidizes wireless connectivity and other technology in schools through its E-rate program.

Source: Is Wi-Fi a Health Threat in Schools? Sorting fact from fiction – Education Next : Education Next

Video skills are a valuable gateway to digital literacy | Education Dive

By Lauren Barack

At Armstrong Jr-Sr High School in Pennsylvania’s Armstrong School District (ASD), students who take video production classes learn far more than how to interview people, use TV equipment and edit video — they’re learning to look critically at the world around them.

“I feel we’re teaching them real life skills, how things are created, why interviews are conducted the way they are,” Chris Garritano told Education Dive. “But we’re also teaching them how to interpret what they see in real life.”

Students can start taking some of the classes their sophomore year of school and continue through senior year. There’s a weekly TV show, shot with a three-camera setup in the district’s TV studio, that runs about 25 to 30 minutes. Students also produce a live show called Talent Talk that’s shorter, often seven to 10 minutes, said Garritano, ASD’s multi-media technician, whose primary responsibility is running the TV studio and equipment.

Source: Video skills are a valuable gateway to digital literacy | Education Dive

Torlakson Appoints Technology Services Director – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that he has appointed Rodney Okamoto as Director of the Technology Services Division. His division provides the California Department of Education with Information Technology (IT) leadership, technical services, and a state-of-the-art infrastructure that enables it to deliver effective education services in California.

Okamoto most recently served as IT Manager II, overseeing the Information Systems and Services Office in the Technology Services Division. During his more than 20 years at the California Department of Education, he has chaired the multi-state Smarter Balanced Technology Workgroup and served as California’s IT Readiness Coordinator. His efforts were a major reason California was recognized for the most successful implementation of computer-based assessments in the country.

“Rodney has demonstrated a wealth of knowledge, technical expertise, and leadership skills. His team-oriented personality will help the CDE fulfill its mission of providing California students a world-class education in our multicultural, multilingual, and highly connected world,” Torlakson said. “Utilizing technology strengthens education for our students, as well as the educational support happening in our Department and at schools throughout California.”

Source: Torlakson Appoints Technology Services Director – Year 2018 (CA Dept of Education)

School Bond Measures On November Ballot – SFGate

Two cannabis tax measures, three school bond measures and a sales tax measure are on ballots around Solano County for the Nov. 6 election.

Voters in Suisun City and Benicia will consider a cannabis industry general tax that requires majority approval.

The tax rate under Measure C in Suisun City would be no more than 15 percent of gross receipts and $25 per square foot of space used for commercial cannabis activities.

The estimated $2 million in annual tax revenue will pay for public safety, street maintenance and other city services until voters repeal it.

Source: Cannabis, Street Repair Sales Taxes, School Bond Measures On November Ballot – SFGate

How To Use Chromebooks For Powerful Creation in School | MindShift

By Katrina Schwartz

As technology becomes more ubiquitous in classrooms, many schools are choosing Chromebooks because it’s one of the least expensive devices, a big win for schools balancing spending priorities. A 2017 report of the education market found Chromebooks dominate with 58 percent of the market for school mobile device purchases. But many teachers aren’t using these new tools for much more than notetaking and slideshow presentations.

Tanya Avrith is a self-proclaimed techy-teacher. She piloted iPads in one school she worked at and Chromebooks in another. “By January I felt like I hit a wall,” Avrith said. She found the Chromebook more limited for student project creation than iPads and started digging for Google apps and plug-ins that could add functionality.

She teamed up with Holly Clark, an education strategist, to write “The Google Infused Classroom,” a book they hope will help teachers see Chromebooks as more than a testing device or an expensive notebook.

Source: How To Use Chromebooks For Powerful Creation in School | MindShift | KQED News

Kindness Campaign seeks student videos – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

Students in seventh through 12th grades are encouraged to participate in a countywide video contest that underscores the impact of positive behavior in Solano County.

The Kindness Campaign student video contest, sponsored by 4th District Supervisor John Vasquez and District Attorney Krishna Abrams, invites students to produce and submit a video that is between 30 seconds and two minutes in length that expresses what the power of kindness can accomplish at school, at home and in our communities to make a positive difference.

All videos must be submitted by or before April 20.

Source: Kindness Campaign seeks student videos