At last, the time has come to announce the winners of the Back to School Giveaway — those fortunate souls whose classrooms, schools, or districts will be taking home their share of the $150,000 in premium edtech resources offered by VocabSushi, SchoolTube, Sweet Search, Virtual Nerd, Collaborize Classroom, and (of course) TestSoup. This is an exciting moment — for me and (I hope) for all the entrants.
Without further ado, here are the winners!
We’ll be sending out emails to these lucky individuals later today with information on how they can go about claiming their prizes and getting their classrooms, schools, and districts set up with all the best that the BTSG co-sponsors have to offer.
And if you don’t see your name up here, don’t despair! We’re more than willing to work with you on bringing our services to your school in whatever way we can. We saw a lot of passion from the entrants to the BTSG, and we want to reward that. I know that we can find a way to work together to help your students. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll be in touch in a flash!
We’ve only got a couple more days left to go on the Back to School Giveaway — three, if you want to be exact (and I do). As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, we have well over 200 entrants, which actually still leaves fairly good odds that each entrant will take something home for their school or district, considering we have 20 prizes to give away.
Actually, every entrant can get something out of it if they want, because each of the six companies involved are offering discounts on their products or services to anyone who troubled themselves to leave a reply on the page and enter into the drawing.
Personally, I’ve been blown away by the responses we’re getting to this. 200 entrants may not sound like a lot, and maybe it isn’t. But many of these people are taking the time to emphatically thank us for organizing such a giveaway. Others are tweeting about it (that’s how you score bonus points for your school and increase your odds of winning) and some have even blogged about it.
When I went to ISTE, I left with such a feeling of excitement for the future of education. I had met some of the most enthusiastic and committed educators I could have ever asked to meet. This contest is doing the same thing for me. I see some of the best educators this generation of students could ask for in the spreadsheet that I’ve created to keep track of all the entrants.
These folks have gone out of their way to sign up for something that yes, could benefit them a little, but would mostly benefit their schools or districts at large. The fact that we spent nothing on advertising and tried to spread the word mostly through social networks shows that they have plugged themselves into numerous edtech hubs in order to keep their fingers close to the pulse. And that’s awesome.
I’m looking forward to seeing how many people sign up before Friday at midnight (realistically, I’ll close comments down on Saturday morning to give the last few stragglers a bit of a grace period). But mostly I’m looking forward to seeing how the winners but all these great edtech solutions to use in their classroom.
If you haven’t entered yet, go ahead and do it! You just might get something great for your students out of it.
We live in exciting times when it comes to educational technology. Not only has technology been getting better and better for many years (at a nearly exponential rate), it has also gotten significantly more affordable.
But with the rise of technology comes downsides too. For one thing, distractions abound, from smartphones to online social networks to television to videogames. People — especially young people — spend hours upon hours each and every day staring at screens and interacting with devices that even science fiction writers wouldn’t have predicted would exist 20 years ago.
And it’s starting to show. Student achievement is falling or remaining stagnant by all measures. Why is this? Is it because students themselves are less capable? Hopefully not. They certainly have all the necessary tools for success at their disposal. The resources possessed by the average school today are far and away better than those of a “good” school from many years ago.
So is it the fault of the parents? Again, hopefully not. They say many parents these days spend less time with their children because they’re working so much, but I think that’s a bit of a cop out. I don’t subscribe to the belief that society is getting worse. Maybe we’re just more aware of it thanks to how easily information spreads these days, but people have always been lazy, uncaring, and all manner of other bad things.
That must mean teachers are getting worse, right? Honestly, I think not. I had many wonderful teachers growing up, and I know many wonderful people who decided to devote their careers to teaching students. Blaming teachers for everything is basically scapegoating, and I don’t think that’s fair.
The source of the problem, I think, lies with the solution: technology. With each passing year, technology gets better and better and our lives are changed — sometimes drastically. Do you remember when you first learned about the internet or used your first smartphone? For me, these events were absolutely life-changing, and I say that without hyperbole.
It’s not to say that I could never live in a world without those things (not that I would choose to!), but that the amount of work these inventions save me each and every day is astounding. The list of random things I no longer have to do thanks to new technology could fill a book, and I am truly grateful for it. These advancements allow me to focus my life on other, more useful and satisfying pursuits.
But a change of focus necessitates a reevaluation of what we teach our children. We can no longer waste time teaching kids things that they will simply not need once they get out of school. A couple examples: I never write in cursive, but I do use my phone to send important emails and texts regularly. I don’t remember how to use a library card catalog system, but I can find nearly anything on the internet. I almost never do complex mental math, but I can use a scientific calculator quite well.
In some cases, I was introduced to these things in school. I learned how to type in elementary school, I was introduced to the internet for research, and I had to buy a TI-83 for math class. But I only received a cursory education about each.
I perfected my typing skills by using instant messaging programs and playing online videogames. I figured out how to find (and analyze) truly useful online information when I began work as a research associate at a public policy institute. And I had to teach myself how to program my TI-83 to do my work for me so that I would never have to do a complicated formula again.
These skills that I list are some of the most useful skills that I posses, and they were not adequately honed by a school system that is stuck teaching skills from the past. Education needs to be dynamic, now more so than ever. The best way to do that is to harness the awesome power of educational technology. Only then will we be able to churn out students ready to succeed in the modern world.
If you are a teacher, librarian, or media specialist and are looking to increase the use of educational technology at your school for free, check out The Back to School Giveaway. You can enter simply by leaving a comment on the page, and there is $150,000 worth in premium edtech content available to winners, contributed by six different companies.
If you’re not an educator but know one that might be interested in entering, please feel free to spread the word. We are accepting entries until the end of this month.
You probably don’t know this unless you keep a pretty sharp eye on our library page, but TestSoup comes out with new flashcard content every single week. Sometimes we’ll revise or update an existing set (like we did just recently with the GRE), but often that means churning out brand-spanking-new flashcard sets available online, in the iOS App Store, and the Android Market.
Usually we send out an email to everyone on our mailing list announcing all the new content, but that really only helps people on our mailing list, now doesn’t it? So I thought that it might be nice to write a short post about the three new flashcard sets we put out just last week.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully you saw something you liked. And if not, just remember that we’re cranking out new content all the time. Who knows — next Monday you might see something that really grabs you by the horns.
Oh, and one final thing: if you’re a teacher and you’re in the market for $150,000 of free edtech resources for your classroom and your students, head on over to the Back to School Giveaway. It’s a (free) contest that we’re co-sponsoring with some other great edtech companies. We would love for you to win.
Not a teacher? That’s okay. Feel free to spread the word!
by John J. Walters
This one goes out to all the teachers, professors, and other educators who scour the internet on a regular basis, looking for ways to make their classes more engaging and their students more successful. I’m going to keep this one brief, since you’ll have a little bit of extra reading to do at the end. You’ll see what I mean.
It is with great pleasure (and at least a small measure of personal pride) that I announce the creation on one way for educators to bring quality edtech resources into their classroom at little or no cost whatsoever — the Back to School Giveaway! Go ahead and click the link. I’ll wait here. And pretty much everything I could possibly tell you about the #BTSG (that’s our very official hash-tag) is there already.
But I know some people need a little convincing before they go clicking links and entering massive giveaways with $150,000 worth of edtech resources at stake. I can understand that. So allow me to explain things a bit.
If you have a Facebook account, chances are you saw this status on your newsfeed at least once in the past month or two:
Tonight a teacher somewhere in your neighborhood is getting ready for your child’s new school year, writing lesson plans or writing your child’s name in their grade book, while you are watching television. In the minute it takes you to read this, teachers all over the world are using their “free time,” and often investing their own time & money for your child’s literacy, prosperity, and future. Re-post if you are a teacher, love a teacher, or appreciate a teacher.
As the son of two educators, I can assure you that I did, indeed, re-post. Aside from my parents, I’ve seen committed teachers go far out of their way to help me (and other students) time and time again. In fact, I even wrote this guest blog post for Quincy Tutoring about it. But just writing about it didn’t seem like enough.
So the TestSoup team started brainstorming. How can we give something back to teachers for all that they’ve given? And that’s when it hit us: why not create a giveaway? So I got on the phone and started talking to our friends from the EdTech Karaoke event we co-hosted at ISTE 2011.
Before I knew it, we had a team of six companies who were working on coming up with prizes (and lots of ‘em!) and a site layout for the BTSG. Over the course of the month of August — while most teachers were actively engaged in preparing lesson plans and making sure they had all their ducks in a row for the coming semester — we pulled it all together.
Today marks the start of the contest. I strongly encourage you, if you are an educator, to sign up. And if you’re not? Pass the word along to someone who is. We all have friends in the education world, and they could all use some free resources for their students, I’m sure.