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Microsoft Teams, a collaboration tool similiar to Slack, will now be available for education customers, ZDNet reports. In an announcement on a blog, the tech giant said the tool would now be available as a free add-on to Office 365 Education users, like universities.

"We recommend that IT admins enable Microsoft Teams and begin using it now within their IT organizations; and for targeted groups of faculty, staff, teachers, and higher education students," reads the blog post.

Teams channels allow for formatting, flags and attachments for collaborators. According to ZDNet, more integration with Outlook email will continue.

ZDNet reports that Teams will run on Windows, Android, iOs and web platforms.

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Field trips aren’t always an option for schools, for a litany of reasons — cost, location, timing and more. In California, one program brings field trips to students in real time with video conferencing.

California State Parks is expanding its distance-learning program, Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Schools, so that students can visit the parks without leaving their classrooms.

PORTS park rangers facilitate real-time interaction with students, taking them on virtual field trips through 10 California state parks, where they learn about redwood ecology, monarch butterfly migration and historical topics such as the California Gold Rush.

In one field trip, a ranger in a kayak takes students into a kelp forest by using a submerged GoPro camera and video confer­encing equipment.

High Impact Virtual Experiences

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The best offense is a good defense, and the adage certainly applies when it comes to a one-to-one device program. Chromebooks or tablets can be stolen or lost, so it’s up to IT to do what it can to mitigate risk.

For instance, Valerie Truesdale, chief of technology, personalization and engagement for North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, says she teaches kids about keeping their devices safe, but she has another plan in place if all else fails. Truesdale employs the cloud-based Google Admin console feature that turns the Chromebook into a “dumb brick” as soon as it is reported missing. “It’s a powerful disincentive,” she says.

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Goshen Community School’s new Liebert power and cooling system provides system status information in real time and sends the IT staff email alerts if problems occur.

For example, the SmartRow solution features an LCD monitor that shows information such as the current temperature, while the Liebert APM UPS has an LCD monitor that shows the expected battery runtime if a power outage occurs, says David Snyder, Goshen’s technology director.

The district has set the temperature in its racks at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if it exceeds that by a certain amount or if power goes out, the Liebert system promptly alerts the IT department. “If anything gets wonky, we get an email,” Snyder says.

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After a historic vote, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the new secretary of education on Feb. 7, 2017.

After a tied 50-to-50 vote in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence cast the first ever tiebreaking vote in a cabinet nomination, The New York Times reports.

As a long-time proponent of school choice in K–12 education, DeVos' position on other issues, particularly those in higher education have been unclear.

eSchool News reports that in the past, DeVos has been an advocate for educational technology as a way to help students have a choice in the way they learn.

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Infrastructure is not a major issue to bring computer science to schools, according to Eugene Lemon, president of the Golden Gate chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.

“To me, the bigger issue is the lack of trained staff, of teachers, to teach computer science concepts,” he says.

Lemon’s is a common refrain. While some states like Rhode Island are providing access to necessary training, districts elsewhere may be on their own.

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Thanks to a new Swedish entrepreneur, kids have yet another way to learn STEM skills, eSchool News reports. Curly Bracket, developed by Johan Wendt is a textbook with a twist: It’s a graphic novel. When the protagonist Curly solves a problem, she uses computational thinking and elements of coding to find the answer.

“In the book, Curly doesn’t solve her problems using any super powers; she simply pays attention to her studies and learns as a coder would. This is what we want to introduce to all kids,” says Wendt in the article.

Curly Bracket started with an October 2016 Kickstarter campaign and books will be out in February 2017.

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Makerspaces, like any other new technology initiative, take some trial and error before they can succeed. However, there are strategies you can take that will help your project go more smoothly. Below, find four best practices for building makerspaces that help students reach for the stars.

1. Marry Analog and Digital

While 3D printers, mini computers and robotics might come to mind when thinking about a makerspace, experts say it’s important not to forget the basics such as arts and craft supplies, Legos, scissors and cutters, grinders, metal, sewing machines and Styrofoam – or whatever works in your school. “Kids love cardboard,” agrees Chris O’Brien, the founder of Lower Bay Learner’s Guild, which helps New York schools create makerspace and project-based learning spaces. “They can use it for any number of things. It excites the imagination.”

2. Teach Your Teachers

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