Put aside for the moment that segregation of public schools in the United States is at its highest level since 1968; our country has backslid. During the more than three decades from 1954 (Brown Vs Board of Ed) and 1988 (peak desegregation in the US), achieving racial equality, or at least access to equal resources was arguably a more polarizing issue than immigration, gay marriage, and abortion are today. Currently, standards-based testing, and in particular, the changes that will be effected by the voluntary adoption of the Common Core, is occupying nearly all of the mindspace of educators, administrators, and education policy makers alike. Our obsession with testing will seem trivial, however, when we begin to confront the tectonic shift in paradigm that will be inspired by Google Glass.
I have argued before that all of the edtech we have seen in the last decade, cool as it is, has not significantly impacted how well we educate our youth. Few technologies, even expertly applied, have had an impact on the end product of K12 education. STEM scores have risen slightly in the last decade, though this is probably a result of myriad federal and state programs aimed squarely at placing more highly qualified STEM educators in classrooms. Diligently applied software programs to enhance reading ability and numeracy have shown some nice improvements on student test scores; though it could be argued that any mindful application of an educational protocol, employing technology or not, will increase student test scores.
The forthcoming Common Core (CC) Assessments are the next generation of standardized tests in the US, and will meet the testing frequency requirements of the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act also known as No Child Left Behind unless congress should act to change this, which is most unlikely. Forty six of the fifty states have signed on to voluntarily administer the exams that will be written to meet the standards of the Common Core. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of two consortia that organizes the architecting and contracting for the Common Core assessments; SBAC is responsible for about half of the member states, including California.
I have examined the SBAC’s RFP’s for testing design and delivery of the CC assessments, and the consortium managed to construct a guide for contractors that even Finnish educators would admire. It is difficult to tell from the website, but it appears that the SBAC employed work groups that engaged school practitioners, or at least retired practitioners, to shape the tasks.
The winning bids for exam design, delivery, and reporting for the SBAC, have all gone to Wireless Generation, a company turned down by the New York Department of Education at least in part because of the parent company’s (Newscorp) role in mishandling personal data. This actually concerns me less (for now) than does the challenge that the private, for profit Wireless Generation (WG) must meet to deliver on the promise of the Common Core.
I am hopeful that WG can construct a multiple choice administration tool that is adaptive and requires less time of students to assess what multiple choice tests can; namely, what a student does not know. Call me cynical, but less time spent taking multiple choice tests is a win at this point.
Reflections on a year of Blended Learning with 1:1 Chromebooks
Physics teachers have a unique privilege in most high school settings. Most of us work with students that have elected to take our academic course, and with the exception of a growing number of physics first programs, we teach older students. Consequently, we tend to serve a population of learners that are more likely to match our enthusiasm for ideas, and entertain our whimsical diversions than might an average sampling of the student body as a whole. Many of us take advantage of the opportunity presented by this context to innovate with novel uses of technology in our practice. I am no exception to that rule.
When my idea of teaching physics in a one to one setting with Chromebooks was met with enthusiasm by both my colleagues and my administration eighteen months ago, I jumped in with both feet. Now, in April, at the cusp of another punishing two weeks of low quality standardized testing, it is time to reflect on the first year of the blend.
Call it what you want; the digital revolution, the cloud migration, one-to-one. The move to pervasive use of computing as the medium for education is underway. Schools around the world have moved beyond teacher websites, and are empowering students to both access curriculum and create products to demonstrate their learning entirely in the digital medium.
To derive benefits from the move to the digital environment that go beyond the known merits of increased messaging between learning community members, schools must be able to access, save, and store student work in a way that provides meaningful insight to educators. Portfolios are an example of a meta-product that requires a student to curate his own efforts, and can help learners to extend their understanding by offering them an opportunity to make connections between the learning experiences they have had.
What would Maria Montessori say about the use of the edtech available to us as we approach the year 2013?
Heaven forbid any actual Montessori educators should read this post. My summaries of Montessori ideas and structures most certainly do not do justice to the wonderful body of work Maria Montessori left behind, nor do I adequately represent the many mindfully conceived and executed programs based on Montessori’s work. For this I offer an a priori apology.
Maria Montessori was a revolutionary in education. During the first half of the 20th Century, she commanded global attention for her work with pre-kinder Italian street children, and later for her inquiries into the education of children of all ages. The Montessori Method requires an observer scientist’s habit of mind for educators of children and adolescents, which relies upon a carefully constructed environment that promotes individual determination. Further, the Montessori teacher becomes a student of each child, observing them work, and carefully noting their accomplishments and challenges so as to be ready to introduce the learner to an appropriately timed task that suits both his interests and abilities.
There are many benefits for educational institutions that adopt Google Apps for Education. Many of the benefits are not visible right away, however. There are online resources and communities to help us find the hidden gems and guide us in best practices. In this post I will list all of the support structures that I am aware of, and that the few folks I consulted on this shared with me. Undoubtedly there will be many that we missed. Please tell us of other resources in the comments and I will add them to the original post as they come in.
..see the full list at the Hapara blog
Three weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting down for lunch with a group of experienced educators at the New England GAFE Summit who are all using Google Apps for Education in their practice. I posed a question to the group, “What would you do with Google Glass?”
Let me back up. As a resident of Menlo Park, California, nearby to Palo Alto, I have seen Google Glass prototypes in the field. These are heads up displays (HUDs) that allow a person to augment their daily experience with an overlay of information relevant to their immediate experience. Think of Schwarzenegger’s sunglasses in the Terminator that helped him find Sarah Connor. Those are an example of a heads up display; only the current version has a graphical interface that is far superior to that donned by Arnold in 1984 – really.
“Facial recognition to learn names.” Offered one of the teachers.
“Take more pictures.” Said another.
For a few minutes, we convinced ourselves that the HUD is just a fancy camera that would let us take more pictures and learn names of students at the beginning of the year more quickly. Then, the ideas began to flow. Read more…
This summer I wrote a post about the Bay Area Maker Faire entitled, My Son Met His People at the Maker Faire. Today I met mine. I am presenting on my blended learning experience with Teacher Dashboard by Hapara at the New England Google Apps for Education Summit in Burlington, Massachussetts.
A guy from New York showed us how three Nexus devices running Android could simultaneously allow students to compose and edit each other’s work on the same document – without typing a word! The voice recognition is now good enough and the web-based collaboration capabilities of docs are now robust enough that this actually works. Read more…
A few months ago, I answered this question on Quora.. If given $1 Billion, what would be the best way to improve education in the U.S.? My answer, currently with 2 votes, ranks in about the middle of the pack (thank you Cameron and Ally!). It is interesting to note that of the 37 answers, I was one of only two teachers to respond, and Michelle Rhee has one of the top ranked responses.
Brian Greenberg, formerly the leader of Oakland’s Envision Schools, and the Fisher Family Foundation, together, have answered a similar question. How could we spend $25M on edtech to really get this movement off the ground? Their answer is the Silicon Schools Fund (SSF). Over the next five years, The SSF plans to invest in 25 Bay Area Schools that intend to open with a blended learning model or transition their current instructional model to a blended one. The SSF press release identifies four specific benefits of this targeted philanthropy:
- The Bay Area will become a hub of entrepreneurial educators committed to starting and sustaining blended learning schools.
- The high-tech communities will be able to partner with local SSF grantees to promote innovation in schools.
- SSF grantees will become a part of a network of cutting-edge schools using blended learning that can share and learn from one another.
- The model of a regional fund can be replicated in other cities throughout the country.
The mid-July issue of Newsweek, linked below, was sitting on the coffee table at the Tahoe cabin of a friend of mine this past weekend. My interest was piqued by the cover image so, despite the fact that it was dated, I picked it up.
The author of the feature article, Is the Web Driving Us Mad?, Tony Dokoupil, presents what I will call a deeply researched opinion piece that does more than just suggest our brains are being negatively effected by our increased interaction with computing devices. I have reprinted his final paragraph below.
But in a way, it doesn’t matter whether our digital intensity is causing mental illness, or simply encouraging it along, as long as people are suffering. Overwhelmed by the velocity of their lives, we turn to prescription drugs, which helps explain why America runs on Xanax (and why rehab admissions for benzodiazepines, the ingredient in Xanax and other anti-anxiety drugs, have tripled since the late 1990s). We also spring for the false rescue of multitasking, which saps attention even when the computer is off. And all of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid. Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.
On Wednesday of last week, several members of the US Department of Education kicked off their Back to School Bus Tour at the high school where I teach science in Redwood City, California. The visit was an edtech themed visit, and spotlighted a panel discussion that included edtech pop stars Sal Khan of the Khan Academy and Andrew Ng of Coursera. If you are reading this blog, then you are an edtech nerd and none of what Andrew or Sal had to say will be news to you. Instead, you might be curious about what English teacher and author of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student-Centered Classrooms, Catlin Tucker, said, what activist and former grade school teacher, Todd Sutler, of the Odyssey Initiative did while he was there, and what the students of Sequoia High School did to mark the visit of these dignitaries.
Catlin Tucker sat beside Sal Khan and Andrew Ng on the theater stage in front of a packed house of the local business community, the media, and selected classes of students with their teachers. Secretary Duncan played the role of discussion moderator, and provided the panelists the opportunity to showcase their work. While Khan and Ng shared the excellent work of their edtech websites that are bringing education into the cloud, it was Tucker who stole the show.
Grounded in the practice of a classroom educator. Tucker talked about the very real challenges of getting to a one to one device for each student, and high speed internet access at home for students of little means. She raised the roof, and the Twitosphere, when she told Secretary Duncan that great edtech tools alone would not take us very far, but great tools in the hands of great teachers just might. Sal nodded.
Harvard Computer Science Professor and former Dean of Harvard College, Harry Lewis, has written an article in this month’s Harvard Magazine about his experience blending a preliminary computer science course entitled, Discrete Mathematics. While reading his first person account of this pilot course, I kept nodding my head in agreement as he recounted both the challenges and the successes he experienced in this foray into 21st Century Learning.
After some preamble in his article entitled Reinventing the Classroom, Lewis puts into prose one of the major motivating factors behind the blended, hybrid, and flipped classroom paradigms..
“I believe that if the videos exist, then all my students should have them—and they should have my handouts too. In fact, I think I should share as much of these materials with the world as Harvard’s business interests permit. I could think of ways to force students to show up (not posting my slide decks, or administering unannounced quizzes, for example). But those would be tricks, devices to evade the truth: the digital explosion has changed higher education. In the digital world, there is no longer any reason to use class time to transfer the notes of the instructor to the notes of the student (without passing through the brain of either, as Mark Twain quipped). Instead, I should use the classroom differently.”
It is easy for a middle-class, Washington outsider to become skeptical about our political system that, by some metrics, operates more like a polarized plutocracy than a socialistic democracy. However, in the same week, three members of a Russian girl punk band got two years in prison for playing protest songs in the face of the Russian Christian Orthodox Church, I attended a most democratic, egalitarian gathering of intellectual sharing of best practices.
Edcamp as a concept is in its infancy. Inspired by barcamp, a similar gathering for hackers to share best practices in their technical profession, teachers and educationists in Philadelphia organized the first edcamp less than three years ago. In that time, the edcamp concept has spread like Facebook. See edcamp foundation wiki, and an article about edcamp on edutopia.
What’s the purpose of this video from Good Magazine and University of Phoenix? Is it to encourage the community to get that, “One win?”
I am as big of an edtechnophile as they come, but something about this video just doesn’t sit right with me. I felt the same way after seeing this that I feel after seeing any of the myriad infographics pumped out by the online learning advocacy associations. The feeling is the same one I felt when watching the aging population line up at the Soylent Green factory to take their long vacation. Something isn’t quite right.
If you don’t have the full twelve minutes to watch, at least listen to what Sal Khan has to say beginning at about the eight minute mark. Let me know what you think.
For a moment I considered leaving my years of service in education behind in favor of a new career in music mixing. I can play a little guitar. I’ve picked up some piano since my son Cody, age 7, began taking lessons a year ago. But, I have no raw talent and have never been disciplined enough to have the confidence to perform for others.
No matter. When Cody and I visited the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation today, my self doubt was dwarfed by an overwhelming compulsion to mix music from different cultures into a fusion that in my mind’s eye could be the 21st century equivalent of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
Earlier this year Corning released a viral video, A Day Made of Glass 2, showing the potential of multi-touch surface technology applications for home and educational use. Most of us thought it novel, but dismissed the portrait as blissfully optimistic. Today, I discovered that future is already here.
Motivating questions have been used by master teachers probably for as long as humans have inhabited their neocortex. An inspiring question targets the background, interests, and capabilities of a student. Such a question can be a launching pad for discussion, inquiry, and a starting place for a learning trajectory. This summer, I have the privilege of working with two teams of three master science teachers who bring an average of 12 years of experience each to a problem that the cloud is finally going to help us solve.
The recent attention given to the New Media Consortium Horizon Report for k12 has me thinking of the future again. I had a free couple of hours on Saturday morning when I woke up early with a gentle summer hangover and decided to pick up Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future.
In the first chapter, Kaku jumps right in and addresses what is to become of the computer. Published in 2011, after extensive interviews with the world’s leading scientists and technologists (an impressive list of names that fills a full seven pages of the introduction), and in light of Google’s recent introduction of Google’s Project Glass at the Google I/O this month, it is hardly a bold prediction when Kaku suggests that our connection to the internet will move into our lenses. With voice command technology and natural user interface capability rapidly improving, it isn’t too far fetched to predict that our interface to access the internet will soon be nearly invisible to those around us.
Is there a difference between watching Sal Khan on the internet and having him teach you face to face? According to Sal’s cousins there is. In his TED appearance, Sal reveals that his cousins told him they prefer his internet videos to his in-person tutoring. The reason they prefer their virtual cousin to the real one is that they can pause, rewind and playback his teachings – at least that’s the reason they shared with Sal.
A more data-based answer to the above question may exist, but in my limited survey of research I found only a few relevant studies to help us out here. Both studies were in the post graduate medical education field and indicated that virtual teaching in that environment is about as effective as face to face teaching (Cardall, Barker). Your first question is probably the same as mine, “What if the learners are not quite as highly motivated as training professionals?”
Writing about future trends in any industry, at least from the blogging perspective, is fun because there is no accountability and it is fair to be blissfully optimistic. With that disposition I write now, inspired by the recently released 2012 Horizon Report K12 edition, a projection of possible future trends in education technology authored by Larry Johnson, Samantha Adams, and Michele Cummins of the New Media Consortium.
The NMC Horizon Report > 2012 K-12 Edition is available for free download here.
Last year I wrote about the 2011 edition of the report. To make it more fun I fictionalized a day in the life of Elroy, a high school student in the year 2016. My post drew the attention of the authors of the report and this year I helped advise them. As one of several globally sourced advisory board members, I participated in a wiki discussion that took place over several weeks this winter. I learned about technology applications I had not yet even heard of, and as one of the only traditional school teachers on the panel, I probably brought too much skepticism to the proceedings. Casting my skepticism aside, let’s take a look at what a day in the life of Elroy might look like in 2017.
Meet Elroy, a 15 year-old junior at Sequoia High School in Redwood City. The year is 2017. Elroy has been in public school since his first day of kindergarten. Beginning in ninth grade, Elroy’s parents elected to enroll him in the Open School Project (O.S.P.) at Sequoia, a program initiated that same year to accommodate the growing demand for personalized learning environments utilizing the wealth of educational resources available with the latest technology.
For the last day and a half I felt like a hungry kid in an edtech candy store. As a participant in Jason Calacanis’ Launch Education and Kids, I got to see thirty-three education startups pitch to a mixed audience of entrepreneurs and teachers and a panel of venture capitalist judges.
Twitter is aflutter with short reviews of the spotlighted products. Search the hashtag #launchedu. Thankfully, this saves me from feeling obliged to offer a comprehensive list of reviews in this post.
Instead, I will offer some commentary about what is soon to be available to teachers and students, and the potential impacts for practice.
First, the trend of making products available to the consumer for free is still alive. Many of the edtech companies that pitched at Launch EK offer at least some part their service for free. Some then make money by upselling services that you will want once you begin using the tool and become a convert. Some make money providing user data trends to other interested parties (not necessarily selling your email address).