He’s acting, but the nation’s new education secretary is for real

John B. King Jr. settled into the rocking chair before a group of cross-legged kindergartners and fielded a question from a little boy.

“Wait, are you a president?” the boy asked the grown-up in the gray suit, who had been escorted into their small classroom at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., by an army of photographers, cameramen, reporters, and assorted school and county officials.

“No, but I work for the president,” King said with a smile. “He’s very nice.”

King is the nation’s acting education secretary, replacing Arne Duncan, who relinquished the job last week after seven years as one of the most influential policymakers for the country’s 100,000 public K-12 schools.

King, who turned 41 Tuesday, will retain the “acting” modifier for the rest of President Obama’s time in office. He has not been nominated by the president, and he will not undergo the confirmation process required of Cabinet-level officers under the Constitution.

“Decisions around nominations are decisions for the president to make,” King said when asked whether his “acting” status will make it more difficult for him to execute his duties. “I will say the authorities of the acting secretary are the same as authorities of the secretary.”







Republican congressional leaders in the Senate and the House say they want King to undergo the vetting process.

“I personally recommended to President Obama in December that he nominate a secretary of education and that, if he did, our education committee would consider him or her in January and that — barring some sort of ethical lapse found in the confirmation process — I would work to confirm that nominee before the end of the month,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education panel and an education secretary under President George H.W. Bush.


“For proper accountability, especially as we work with the administration on implementing the new law governing elementary and secondary education, it is important to have in charge of the department a member of the president’s Cabinet confirmed by the U.S. Senate,” Alexander said.

Congress overwhelmingly passed an overhaul of federal education policy last month that significantly dials back the federal role in local schools, shifting greater authority to state and local officials.


But the Education Department must craft regulations to implement the law, and tensions already are growing between officials who want to embed Obama administration policies into new regulations and critics in Congress who want to limit the administration’s influence.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said he plans to conduct “robust oversight to ensure the conservative reforms in the law are properly implemented,” according to a spokeswoman. Kline also has called for Obama to formally nominate King.

Alexander plans at least three oversight hearings on how the Obama administration carries out the new law.

Asked Tuesday whether the president intends to nominate King, press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration doubts that King would get a fair hearing from “a stridently partisan Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.”

It would be better if the leader of a 4,200-employee federal agency were not “acting,” Earnest said. “When you’re in charge of an organization as large as the department, it is helpful, and you can be more effective, if it is quite clear that you’ve earned the approval of a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate,” he said.

Federal law allows an “acting” Cabinet secretary for no longer than 210 days. In King’s case, that deadline would be July 29. But there are ways for the administration to get around that, experts say.

King has a compelling life story but a complex recent professional history. The son of New York City educators, King was orphaned by age 12. He credits his public school teachers with saving his life and setting him on a path that led to degrees from Harvard, Yale and Columbia. He founded a high-achieving charter school in Boston and in 2011 became the first African American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York state education commissioner.

But in New York, he oversaw a rocky rollout of both the Common Core academic standards in math and reading as well as a teacher evaluation system tied to new tests based on those standards.

Critics said the state rushed the rollout, without properly training teachers and then holding them accountable for the new standards before local districts had completed new curriculums and classroom materials. Scores from the new tests were used as an element of a controversial evaluation system that affected personnel and salary decisions for some teachers. More than a third of principals in the state signed a letter protesting the new system, saying it was unfair to educators and created an unhealthy focus on test scores. They were joined by thousands of parents, teachers and administrators.

King scheduled a series of public meetings across the state in 2013 to try to quell the growing pushback, but they quickly dissolved into heckling sessions commandeered by irate parents.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) called the state’s handling of the Common Core standards “deeply flawed” and convened a task force that called for a “total reboot,” recommending that teachers not be judged on test scores until 2019.

King joined the Obama administration last year as “senior advisor delegated duties of deputy secretary of education” and was identified as Duncan’s successor in October.

One immediate dilemma for King: About 20 percent of students in New York — one in five — refused to take the state’s Common Core tests last spring in protest. Federal law requires that states test 95 percent of their students in math and reading. As acting education secretary, King will have to decide whether to penalize New York for missing that mark.

At Leleck Elementary, the children listened attentively as King read“Snowmen at Night” and, prompted by their teacher, wished their visitor a happy birthday. When King invited the class to guess his age, the 5-year-olds sized up the bearded, bespectacled King and shouted out estimates: “Thirteen?’ one boy asked. “Thirty?” another tried.

“I’m 41,” King told them. “But I feel young.”

David Nakamura contributed to this report.



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Cold, Cuddle And Coffee (Math) Calculation?

With the temperature waning to as low as minus 23 degrees or shrink beyond 25 degrees below the average temperatures, it is time to cuddle your children and spend some good quality time with them. In Oklahoma, the schools were closed and even some of the businesses closed their offices considering the safety of their employees. While you survive one of the coldest winters, something that has not been experienced over past 10 years, would it be advisable to drive your children to the activity centers or the nearby learning centers?

If you feel that your child’s future is your top most concern, well, here is a God sent opportunity that you can actually convert into a once in a lifetime experience. Wondering how would you do that?

Why go out and risk your lives when PracTutor brings a real awesome adaptive learning platform to you.

All you need to do is just enroll and prepare your children to get ahead.

Here are a few key facts about learning math and how learning math online is more practical than the traditional classroom math education:

  • The present day global standardized test scores prove that American students are not ready to compete on the global platform and one of the main reasons for the same is the lack of math skills.
  • There is a fundamental lack of math teachers all across the nation.
  • The adults competing for their careers find lack of math skills as a top most hindrance factor.
  • Math education is facing absolute crisis on multiple levels in teaching as well as learning segments.
  • Basic math fundamentals cannot and will not change, however, the traditional methods to teach math must change if we have to provide better understanding and skills to our students.
  • The universities that implement math learning online attract more students who are adults and struggling for brighter career opportunities.
  • Almost all technology critics agree that online learning is shaping the future of teaching and learning for good.
  • With experiments conducted using traditional learning and online learning, conclusions are that online learning imparts better perspective and gives deeper and clear understanding of the concepts.
  • As online math involves real time dynamic examples, (change of shapes, figures, variables, angles, etc) students find it to be fun while they actually learn. The little challenges that adaptive learning platforms bring in between the tutorials, challenge the students’ minds for deeper contemplation.
  • Another experiment was conducted to observe if learning math online did improve the skill set of the students. It was concluded that the students from traditional learning class and online learners both groups did equally well with easy math problems. However, when the students were given more complex and tough problems, the group of online math learners performed extensively better than the students who were taught in a traditional classroom.
  • The visual evidence that provides more scope to find how concepts work is practically impossible in a traditional classroom.
  • A few more advantages that interactive learning has over traditional learning are:
    • It is based on student’s individual capability
    • It gives student the authority to pace his learning
    • It does not get frustrated while explaining the same concept over and over till the student feels perfectly conversant with it (is virtually unlimited)
    • It keeps students attentive, curious and interested in math
    • It gives instant and personalized feedbacks and encouragements

Apart from the advantages mentioned above, we are certain that though the traditional methods has been developed after years of hard work and research, they do not match up the present day challenges.

The world has become a global village that has abundance of resources available right at your fingertips.

Can you possibly do justice to your children by depriving them the whole bunch of goodness that adaptive learning provides?

Can you afford to keep your children acquainted to the only traditional coaching when the rest of the world marches ahead towards a glorious tomorrow by embracing the blessings of the modern day technology?

Of course, you must spend some quality time with your children having fun while they learn. Will it not be kind of awesome to cuddle him, hold his hand, and lead him to learn (while you can still smell his hair)?

Yes, with such fabulous advantages of learning Math online, who knows you might just encourage your child to fall in love with Math and be a mathematician, Amen!

About PracTutor

PracTutor is a customized learning and practice environment to help students in Grades 1 to 8 master Math and English. We provide 1-to-1 mentoring for each student. We make the learning fun by introducing gamification and help parents and teachers track progress and get alerts whenever they need help.

For More Visit http://www.practutor.com

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The iPad Toolkit for Learning?



It is interesting to reflect how this simplification of iPad key tools has changed in a relatively short space of time. iWork suite aside, you could purchase the above apps for less than the cost of a textbook and have a model that could enhance learning with the right application.

For those educators who are using iPads in the classroom, the suggestions above will be nothing new. The hope is that other educators will not feel overwhelmed by the diagram and actually view a number of core apps as manageable for their own learning curve.

It must be said that there are a number of applications that I could happily add to the diagram that would be useful for the toolkit. For example, Showbie (a way of collecting, assessing and handing back student work) would certainly meet the requirements of many iPad learning environments. The point is that less than 15 apps can be a starting point for learning, with the substitution of applications based on the learner’s needs and educator’s requirements. I have had many conversations with educators who feel that the pedagogical shift and adaptation to the new technology can be intimidating. The diagram above serves to reduce that feeling and start a conversation moving forward with increased technology use in the classroom.


You will notice that Google Drive and Explain Everything are an integral part of the learning process. A centralised store with the ability to share folders and information is crucial for educators and students alike. Google Drive has been chosen as it allows 30GB of free storage for every user. You must be registered as a Google Apps For Education institution.

Explain Everything serves as a platform to enhance and demonstrate learning. It has been written about many times as the go-to app for education. However, it is only as good as the user. The educator can record screencasts, transform feedback and personalise learning with it. Students can demonstrate learning, collaborate, create and feedback as well as export their work to their required destination.

The rest of the tools have creation and collaboration at their core alongside the assessment for learning with feedback mechanisms. It is my intention to blog about these processes, as their use develops in our own 1:1 iPad environment and I welcome any input. Any of the apps recommended above are well worth looking into and are suggested after much discussion and debate.

(Incidentally, I am a firm believer that Augmented Reality will play a significant role in education. Consequently I am using Aurasma to enhance learning in the classroom. I would have included it in this toolkit but feel I need to explore its potential a little further. Needless to say, it is well worth looking into if you are fortunate enough to have the technology available).

-with thanks to Greg Hughes @deepexperience1

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#ISTE13 – A Keynote Speech Worth Your Valuable Time

Adam Bellow – Keynote at ISTE 2013

(scroll to 23:15)

As I watched Adam’s keynote from the recent ISTE conference, it sparked many ideas for the forthcoming school year. Adam clearly speaks from the heart whilst conveying that education is changing and learning matters. Surely it would be wrong for us as educators not to embrace the tools at our disposal so we can decide what is appropriate for our students?

I urge you to watch Adam’s presentation and share your views. Not all the tools suggested are appropriate for every learner. However, we must continue to explore all avenues.

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Learning, Learning, Learning not Apps, Apps, Apps

An app on its own is like a thinker without thoughts!

This blog chronicles the trials and tribulations of 1:1 iPad deployment in a large secondary school and, as such, covers many positives and negatives. Whilst it is clear that any decisions about iPad usage were based upon the learning intention, it is (perhaps surprisingly) a source of concern that apps played such a significant part in the blog content. It may be the nature of the beast that apps alone form the basis for conversations about new technology in the classroom. However, the success of tablet provision in the classroom is NOT underpinned solely by apps.

Let me explain. All too often I see reference to ‘look how I can present these words across a picture to engage my students!’ or ‘Check out how this random name app selects my students.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these opportunities have a place as part of the process, but they certainly aren’t a reason to use tablets in the classroom. The power of learning with new technology lies with the teacher and the ability to choose the appropriate tool for the right intention. Moreover, success directly relates to the relationships between learner and educator, and the learner and learning.


Having just spent two weeks working with the Stephen Perse Foundation, it is clear that if the relationships are right then learning is never about the app when using new technology. In two weeks of training, meetings and informal discussion, less than ten apps were discussed in any detail.  In a 1:1 iPad environment, Foundation places learning at the heart of every discussion and sees technology as a tool to assist the learner and educator. Any discussion about apps in the learning process was merely to assist existing methods that work well or transform the learning as certain opportunities didn’t exist so readily before the iPad was introduced.

Take Explain Everything for example. Hang on, ‘it isn’t about the app’ I hear you cry! Please bear with me. When demonstrating the functionality of Explain Everything, conversation quickly turned to possible use for feedback and assessment. It is well documented that feedback is one of the most important aspects in the learning process and it was clear that this is what the educators wanted to talk about. If I’m honest I’m still not quite sure they know how to use the app! However, they certainly do understand that you can record your thoughts whilst annotating a student’s piece of work or add images or video to the feedback. They also understand you can export a movie file where the student will view their work being annotated with a voiceover explaining areas of concern or possible improvements. Most importantly, therefore they understand the importance of the educator over the app.

This type of feedback has always existed through annotated scripts and meetings between educator and learner. Now the process can be transformed with a more significant part of the feedback available between ‘contact’ times. An educator could receive work submitted ‘online’ and feedback their thoughts in a much more effective way, even before the next scheduled lesson. This is what engendered the enthusiasm amongst Stephen Perse staff, not the app.

Similar conversations surrounded the use of Google Drive to remove time consuming resource collation/distribution and the creativity of iMovie. Again it wasn’t the app that was important, it was the process of learning that was of interest to the educators. The excitement about Edmodo as a replacement for the VLE wasn’t hinged on a new platform. It was based on the students’ interaction with the learning process and the need for peer to peer engagement as part of the overall learning intention.

I’m all for using a multitude of apps, if appropriate, and I certainly think engagement is a part of the learning process that has been helped by new technology (there’s our Wordfoto again). However, when discussing the introduction of tablets to any educational institution, it is always the learning intention that should be top of the agenda. Logistics are an issue. Infrastructure, cost, implementation and management are indeed crucial to the overall decision. Yet if there is no vision for learning then any level of implementation is doomed to failure.

It’s never about the app for learning.It’s always about the relationships between the educator, learner and the learning process.

Although, with the plethora of whizzy, eye-poppingly shiny new apps out there, I must remind myself of that from time to time!

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Everybody ‘googles’ everything. This tool might make you think!

Employers ‘google’ you. Friends ‘google’ you. You ‘google’ you!

We are constantly reminded of the importance of our online presence as day after day someone has their world changed by a careless tweet or inappropriate photograph. The importance of a digital footprint is understood by many, but perhaps most aren’t quite sure just how they are viewed ‘online’. I’m not talking about an image search, or Facebook post from your teens (although these are very important); it is more that how you are viewed ‘online’ should support your chosen path.

Take a student who wants to earn a place as an intern for a law firm. A Google search doesn’t indicate anything untoward and the candidate is called for interview by the firm. Wouldn’t it be an advantage if that ‘search’ highlighted just how committed to a career in law that student was? Not only would they be called for interview on the strength of their application, but their chance of success might be improved by a clear online interest in the field of law.

Enter Rebelmouse.com


(click image to view site)

It would do this site an injustice to just call it a social media aggregator (you can also write posts on it or ask other people to contribute). It pulls together your online presence and highlights your interests through Twitter, Google+, Facebook, WordPress and many more. It displays your interactions and interests on social media sites and gives a very quick impression of your online presence. Each tile can then be accessed allowing blogposts to be read or articles/videos viewed.

Actions brought together on Rebelmouse include:

Read more here – www.rebelmouse.com/rebelmouse/FAQ/

I should point out that I am a strong advocate of having two separate online profiles, professional and social. Every student I advise is reminded of the need to keep the social part private and the professional side public. This means that sites like Rebelmouse.com only pull together the professional aspects of a student’s online profile. If we go back to our law student, the professional social media accounts should reference law, among other interests, so the Rebelmouse site can bring together an impressive catalogue of interest and interaction.

With the help of sites like Rebelmouse.com the aim would be for our student’s online presence to be supported by:

A blog linked to the area of interestA Twitter account that follows and interacts with a relevant communityA Google+ account that posts regularly, particularly regarding multimedia resources

In addition a student could link any of the popular social media sites as long as it maintains a professional aspect.

I realise that there are many implications linked to creating an online presence like this, but I see it as crucial to our students’ employability. I’m not suggesting they will receive an offer of employment because of it. Rather, that employers will look favourably on an individual who can easily prove their interest and commitment to a profession.

Of course that all depends if they know what they would like to do!

I strongly recommend you check out your own online presence at Rebelmouse.com. You might be surprised at what you see!

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Google Drive for Teachers with ‘How-to’ video links


Google has tripled free storage space, across Gmail, Google+ and Drive, bringing the total to 15GB. This is a serious move by Google as it places the company at the forefront of cloud based solutions with institutions working to tight financial constraints. Having turned to Google Drive as my main storage facility, I thought I would highlight some advantages of using the platform. (Please click on the links for further explanation.)


Access files anytime on any device with an internet connection.Work offline with documents.Share files/documents with others and collaborate in real time.Share folders with students and receive and feedback on assignments.Allow read only access on documents and share with students as resource with no photocopying.Save a document in a variety of formats.Works with other Google Apps to provide platform for forms, surveys, projects.Save to GoogleDrive with two taps of an icon or clicks of a mouse.Search files in Drive for name or keyword.

(courtesy of Anson Alexander)

Google Drive provides a platform to organise and enhance workflow for teachers. The most obvious example is how quickly resources can be shared, annotated and collaborated upon. A shared folder with a student could contain assignments, screencasts and resources that could serve to form a digital portfolio and a reference point for teacher and parents. In my opinion, the fact that we can now share more storage space for free, places Google Drive firmly ahead of Dropbox. This is supported by the recent announcement that you can also save web resources at the click of a button, bringing Google Drive into line with the functionality of Dropbox.

As with other cloud based solutions, there are a number of disadvantages to using Google Drive. Not least the requirement to sign up students via a Gmail account and the testing question of the whole school solution. However, as we make our way with cloud based storage, I can recommend giving Google Drive a try. With 15GB for free what have you got to lose?

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