Lessons from 2018

From no-zero grading policies to building better school culture to social-media posts gone wrong, a recap of the stories that mattered to you--and what they taught us--plus some of our favorite products and services that we saw this year.

What we learned

Ignoring a no-zero grading policy may cost you. An eighth-grade teacher in Florida was fired after refusing to award 50% credit to students who did not turn in an assignment was fired. Diana Tirado, whose school had a no-zero grading policy, said bye to students through a class app, and some who responded said they agreed with her refusal to award credit for no work.

Shielding students from pain and conflict hurts them. Too much coddling and not enough curbing of social media and digital device use are taking a toll on students' mental health, according to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, authors of the book "The Coddling of the American Mind." Educators and parents should "prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child," write Lukianoff and Haidt assert.

A healthy school culture begins with happy teachers. Elementary-school principal Tracey Smith realized that improving her school's culture had to start with her teachers -- discovering what mattered to them then connecting that back to the classroom. Smith offers several methods they used to make the school happier and shares the school's theme for next year: "We Are Connected."

Praising students' process nurtures growth mindset. Praising effort alone may limit growth mindset, according to a study published in the journal Child Development. Report co-author Jaime Amemiya suggests focusing praise on process, which includes both effort and strategies.

Educators, watch your words--seriously. A teacher in a Minnesota school district resigned following backlash stemming from a threatening comment she made on Twitter about newly sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She wasn’t the only educator to have a social media fail this year. A superintendent in Texas and a school board member in Florida came under fire for comments they made on Facebook.

Students want to know they're safe at school. Emphasizing the steps schools are taking to keep students safe in the wake of a tragedy such as the recent Florida school shooting can help relieve anxiety and fear, asserts Melissa Reeves, former president of the National Association of School Psychologists. Other strategies include tuning in and letting students guide the conversation.

What we saw

Education providers were busy this year, showing off their wares at TCEA, ASCD, ISTE and ACTE CareerTech Vision, among other shows. Here are a few of our favorites:

ISTE and Ted-Ed's new Masterclass program that launched this past fall, profiling ISTE members--such as Luis Perez--sharing the challenges and triumphs of their classrooms.

The Army STEM Experience, a mobile classroom with robots, a Situation Room, Mission Room and Research and Development Room, that gives students a real-world look at what engineers and other STEM professionals do in the Army.

NBA Math Hoops, a basketball board game, featuring players from the NBA and WNBA, that lets students practice math skills by analyzing player statistics through a 16-week season, culminating in a championship.

Lexia PowerUp Literacy is a blended- and personalized-learning program designed to help students in grades 6 and higher become develop proficiency in reading and literacy.

Coding Awbie, an interactive game from Osmo, introduces young learners to coding as they roam through trees and pick strawberries with Awbie.

creatED, a professional development program from Crayola, aims to nurture creative thinking in the classroom through art-infused instruction.

Jett, a facially-expressive robot from RoboKind, that teaches students with autism spectrum disorder how to code and program using a curriculum that lets students work on their own, at their own pace.

Fast ForWord, from Scientific Learning, is a personalized intervention platform that offers real-time support for students who struggle with reading and language learning.

Kanoe Namahoe is the director of content for SmartBrief Education and Workforce.

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