It’s not about the hardware. No laptop, tablet, lapdock, or webtop is going to change education by virtue of its screen resolution, haptic capabilities or processor speed. However, a proliferation of free, cloud-based, high quality, curated curricular materials (videos in particular) just might.
Sal Khan is not the harbinger of a revolution in education because he is a great lecturer. Khan is a revolutionary because he has boldly stood up in the cloud to tell us that there is nothing holding us back from making educational materials free and ubiquitous. Dozens of others have risen to Khan’s challenge; many of whom are making high quality video that can replace traditional classroom lectures.
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.
Me outside of school:
- Jing screencasting
- Google site reading and commenting
- Goorulearing.org collection re-ordering
- Assessment co-creating
- End of project survey writing
- Frantically laptop cart fundraising (1/3 of the way there as of this writing)
Students in my classes:
- Braingenie watching and quiz taking
- PhET simulation running
- 3x more labs doing
- MIT style group problem solving
- GoSoapBox class discussing
- Google site documenting
- Administrator tour tolerating
I ran an electronic survey today in two of the blended classes; sixty two responses in all. I asked students to compare the various types of learning that we do in class in this new blended method against our prior unit that I taught in a traditional fashion. Here are some of my takeaways.
Schools are doing the calculus. With the growing prevalence and lower cost of digital textbooks and the myriad options for tablet displays, it almost makes financial sense to go digital. Almost, but not yet.
In middle and high school the tablet has cachet, but it’s just not quite a laptop. Tweens and teens need to write, and writing on a tablet is awkward at best. The Chromebook is gaining traction because, as it is marketed, it solves many problems. You can read the digital texts on the Chromebook, it is small, but performs better than the first miserable wave of netbooks, and it can be purchased with a 3G wireless access plan for educational settings where wireless is not yet achievable.
As if getting to the One to One tipping point weren’t exciting enough, Google is now adding fuel to the silicon and PCB fire with rumors of a forthcoming heads up display (HUD). No, that’s not a scantily clad teacher dancing in front of the room. An HUD is the Kurzweilian display that utilizes fancy optics to project images that are visually accessible straight from your glasses.
I know nothing about what the price point might be on such a device, but suspend disbelief with me for a moment and imagine what the education world might look like two years from now if cheap HUD’s became a reality. Students sit in their desks or cubicles or tables or whatever, wearing HUD’s that are connected to smartphones or iPod Touches in their pockets. The smartphone serves as CPU so that all the glasses need to do is be the virtual screen for the learner.
Add to this scenario a wireless keyboard that communicates with the phone like this logitech with track pad for $31, and you have a one to one solution for the cost of the HUD (say $100 for my fantasy here), the keyboard, and the few iPod Touches that must be loaned to students who do not have a smartphone plan (much like we do with graphing calculators already). My back of the envelope calculation for a typical US school with 26% of the student body below the poverty line needing CPU loaners still gets us to One to One for under $200 per kid – and that’s if everything in that equation only lasts one year!
Let’s hope that Google elects not to make these HUD’s with tinted lenses. Can you imagine the parodies of Corey Heart lyrics?!
Qualcomm, a global leader in mobile device technologies, recently acquired Halo IP, an intellectual property acquisition firm. The press covered the story as a move by Qualcomm to develop their electric car battery charging business in anticipation of this growing market.
This purchase was not unlike Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola. Google purchased Motorola for their mobile device patents, signaling a deeper commitment to the mobile side of their business. Halo IP possesses IP rights to wireless induction charging technologies. Qualcomm’s purchased of Halo IP signals a move to expand the wireless charging side of their business. It would certainly be convenient if you simply pulled your car over an electromagnet that could charge your car’s battery with the flip of a switch.
It would also be convenient if your students could charge their mobile devices simply by placing them on the designated hotspot on their desks. Read more…
One out of every five times I boot up my clicker software — a process that takes nearly 120 seconds on my MacBook — the program crashes. Re-booting requires a full-system re-start. I desperately want to make the move to personal digital device dependence in my classes.
Not only would a cloud-based solution be more dependable, but it could also be multi-dimensional. In addition to collecting real-time data from multiple-choice question responses, I could examine student text entry to free-response questions. Word clouds could help me quickly identify conceptual trends. Students could share, rank, and respond to questions they generate themselves about the material we are studying.
If the students had their own web-enabled devices, I could experiment with a classroom backchannel during demonstrations and labs. Group problem-solving work could focus more on scenarios that bring out critical thinking. I could teach them to use tools like Wolfram Alpha’s course assistant apps to access basic concepts when they need them. I might even make the plunge to flip my classroom toward that same end.
There are the mac users, and then there are the rest of us. Let me not feign solidarity. I should say, the rest of them.
The blogotwittoplusosphere is full of alpha technology adopters. Many of us have macs. They are the cadillac of personal computing machines. Or at least they are equivalent to what Cadillac used to.. Oh, you know what I mean.
So it is with tablets. If you are reading this, especially if you can in some way claim edtech geek status, and you have a tablet, it is probably an iPad.
I received a survey in my school email inbox today. The administration is considering changing the school cell phone policy and they want faculty input. The leadership recognizes that times are changing, and they are not alone.
I carried out an anonymous survey in my five science classes last year to determine what percentage of my students (60 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced cost lunch) possess a cell phone on contract. Answer: 100%. This is consistent with a recent Pew Research survey that found 95% of millenials (18-34) owned cell phones.
Few teachers are yet harnessing the educational power of their wired students, and for good reason. Cyberbullying laws in all 50 states put the onus of protecting students on the LEA’s (Local Education Agencies). This means that schools are expected to punish cyberbullies, but it also means that families can sue schools for not effectively protecting their children from harassment. In an overly litigious society, the institution responds with constraints. Most schools do not allow cell phone use during school hours at all.
The incidence of scoliosis is soon to decline. Nearly every state in the nation is either opening or has already opened the opportunity for local public school districts to purchase their next round of textbooks in electronic format. And why wouldn’t they? eReader market competition has already driven the price of such a device under $100. A single science textbook can cost more than that by itself.
Besides the spinal relief that will certainly be provided by housing all text in a single, ten ounce device, the growing acceptance and market infrastructure to support etextbook adoption gives us more to look forward to. In the same way that the internet flattened the music world and paved the way for successful indie bands, in the same way that AirBnB is flattening the lodging world, and in the same way that Grub.ly is flattening the world of going out to dinner, acceptance of electronic textbooks opens the door for the flattening of the textbook industry.
In this post, that will likely be a long one, I examine the latter exploration because the team that is carrying out this study is calling it an experiment. Experimentation in any social science is difficult, and it is particularly difficult in education. There are few well controlled experiments in education, and those that are well controlled are usually limited in scope. I recently dissected a pilot study of a blended learning environment with School of One technology in the New York City public schools. Below, my scalpel is even sharper. I do this not because I am a curmudgeonly union stiff. Quite to the contrary, I really want this to work. I am critical because I want it to really work.
I am excited about the possibilities offered by well-used, appropriately designed EdTech. However, far too often in education, the real experts, classroom teachers, become the subject of someone else’s untested idea. There are many reasons for this, but I will leave a thorough discussion of such issues to those in education politics. Let’s talk tech!
I am entering this conversation two weeks into the Envision academy “experiment,” and all of my information is coming from the blog where they are documenting their progress.
The Blend My Learning Team that is doing this important work in Oakland recognizes that what they are doing would not stand up to academic standards because of their small sample size; two classes of 25 students each. Nonetheless, the study appears to be controlled in three significant, albeit insufficient, ways. Kudos to the team for randomly assigning students to the experimental and control groups. More praise to the team for recognizing that the study would have to be done with the same teacher in both the control and experimental groups to have any meaning. And lastly, the team selected for a pre and post test a standard algebra concepts understanding metric, the MDRT, to measure the effectiveness of their treatment.
Unfortunately, this is where things fall apart. Based on the following paragraph lifted from the BlendMyLearning blog it is apparent that there is a team of researchers/educators in the experimental, blended Khan class.
“One of the questions we are considering with Khan is whether we truly let students work on whatever content they need. Khan suggests that all students start at the beginning of their “star chart” with single digit addition and then build up steam as they get a lot of problems right, earn “energy points” and badges, and get comfortable on the platform. That said, what about the students who have big numeracy gaps in fractions, decimals, percentages, etc.? If they only have five weeks of summer school to remeidate algebra, we are pondering whether it is “okay” for them to focus on their numeracy gaps but not get as much of the algebra content. Our plan is to give them a week or so to focus on where they need it most and then monitor the data. But it may be that these students get more of a foundational shoring up rather than true algebra intervention.”
More than one adult in a classroom gives a class an advantage. Even if that adult is an impartial observer, and it does seem that the BlendMyLearning team is involved in a not insignificant way in the classroom, students behave differently and are likely to be more task oriented with more supervision. Is the team equally present in the traditionally taught class?
The research team decided to control the experiment by excluding all technology from the traditional class. This is unrealistic. Most teachers employ technology in some fashion. Thousands of math classrooms across the country use interactive white boards. Many teachers do some kind of online lab work with students, and there are a growing number of classes employing remote response pad technology. Preventing the teacher from using any technology in the traditional class, the control, is akin to attempting to control an experiment on the effectiveness of using GPS in navigation by preventing the control from using a map.
Experimental effect. The experimental group is being treated as special in several additional ways. First, every student has a brand new Google Chromebook. Did they have to be new? Students are asked to give feedback on the learning process on a regular basis. Are students in the traditional class also asked how the class might be improved to better meet their needs? The experimental group students have been interviewed on video and asked to reflect on their learning process. Is this valuable reflection also happening in the traditional class? Students in the experimental group were told that they are part of a “revolutionary” new technology program. No doubt, buy-in to the process was necessary. I know. I am a high school teacher. But the experimenters have already biased the students toward success by telling them that they are a part of something that will change them.
In short, while the Blend My Learning study at Envision Academy may provide the Khan Academy team (who, by the way, further tainted the experiment by visiting the school during the process) with valuable insight into what works for kids in a blended environment, any results the team attempts to publish should be consumed with scrutiny. For example, nothing but a significant gain on the MDRT metric should be considered, well, significant. Any qualitative analysis about student buy-in will have to be disregarded entirely because of the adult attention the experimental group has received – “Are we going to be famous?”
Nonetheless, I was impressed with the reports of the on-task behavior, and the comment about zero classroom management issues in the experimental class. Blended learning, so far, has shown great promise in high school science classes when used as an inspiration to inquiry, and when the video is not (paradoxically) a straightforward explanation of a concept. Blended learning has also been used successfully for years as a credit recovery device for students, like these Envision Academy students, who are repeating the class having failed it at least once already. I am skeptical but hopeful about the possibilities for differentiation that blended learning offers in high school. If Envision Academy students show significant progress on the MDRT there may be reason to get curious, but please contain your excitement until the teacher reviews start coming in.
[Musicians, tune your keyboards: playing in a laptop orchestra] Shared via (Purple Bowl Digest) on Android http://feeds.arstechnica.com/~r/arstechnica/everything/~3/OEKpftzorVM/laptop-orchestras-what-are-they-and-where-did-they-come-from.ars
Technology is changing educational practice. Some of the changes are subtle, as was the move from paper gradebook to electronic gradebook. Others are more dramatic, like immersive, adaptive learning environments that differentiate and individualize k through 5 math instruction. Is there a tipping point at which we will see a quantum leap in student achievement? My research with Stanford University doctoral candidate, Bryan Henderson, suggests there may be.
After the second of a three year study, examining the impact of Peer Instruction coupled with the use of remote response pad technology (clickers) in a misconception driven instructional environment for high school physics, we are seeing preliminary results that I never thought possible. I teach in a title 1, public high school in California. We schedule physics for almost all students who have passed algebra. This is atypical of the national practice. Physics is typically offered to students in their junior or senior year who have demonstrated strong math skill. It is these higher-achieving peers against whom we are comparing the results of my students in our study. And it is the national average, normalized gain on the Force Concepts Inventory (FCI – a common metric for first semester physics in both high school and college) of these better prepared peers that we are using for our comparison.
Normally, in education research, as with many of the social sciences, published studies have made an attempt at controls that are admirable given the constraints of the population, but the confounds often call into question any inferences the researchers might attempt to make. We have been lucky. For two years, and again this fall for a third, I have been scheduled to teach a full schedule of the exact same class. Thus, comparing classes, by controlling all aspects of an instructional protocol save for the experimental condition will have been possible for a group of nearly five hundred students when we are done. Additionally, my collaborator on this study has a master’s degree in physics and excels with statistical analysis. Also rare in educational research is the level of statistical control that he brings to this work with parametric matching of students and propensity score matching.
It is in this context of concern for solid results that our initial results are showing us that my students are doubling (yes 2x) the national average normalized gain on the FCI for physics. And we are doing this with students traditionally thought to be incapable of succeeding in the physics classroom. I can take very little credit for these results. Students in my classes prior to the intervention my colleague and I hatched together would most certainly not have been this significant. This is corroborated by a control group in which we have observed significantly less gains.
So why the title? So impressed am I with the results of our instructional protocol that I want every physics teacher and eventually all science and maybe even math teachers to have access to the instructional protocol we are using. How will they access it? Smartphones. Any web-enabled device will do for that matter, but I suspect that nearly every kid in the country will have a touch-capable, web-enabled smartphone in three years (that’s when Moore’s law brings the price point within reach of all but my most struggling families). When this happens I will be able to easily share the webtool we are currently developing to help others replicate our technique.
We are not alone in that we have a tool that can significantly impact educational practice if only every kid in every classroom was ever-connected to the web. I think the point at which all kids can bring and use a smartphone in school is the point at which we will see a quantum leap in student achievement
Stay tuned. We will be ready to publish our results in the winter of 2012.
Will schools adopt google chromebook and what impact will it have on education? 1 answer on Quora
What categorical money will buy the EdTech product you have designed that you know will change the lives of both teachers and students? States allot budget amounts for school districts into categories so that no one group or cause will get a disproportionate amount of the state allotment for that district. Most administrators and administrative assistants are familiar with the system; they must be, to spend state funds. Teachers, the customers who matter most, are not always aware of where the money they will need to buy your product will come from. You must tell them how they can fund the purchase of your product. Maybe what you have to offer can be justified under “Mathematics and Reading Professional Development.” Or maybe it will fall within the categorical provided to keep kids from dropping out, “Pupil Retention Block Grant.” These examples are from California’s Categoricals, but the same categorizations are available in most states.
HS teachers are keenly aware of the value or distraction provided by technology in the classroom. You might sell a district’s leadership on the idea that something will increase student engagement, like interactive whiteboards, or decrease operating expenses, like online professional development videos, but if the teachers can’t find the added value, good luck with selling them replacements and renewing subscriptions.