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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
I have been piloting blended learning in my physics classes this week. I intend to make the plunge next year, and wanted to have a few weeks of data to work with as I develop the curriculum over the summer for next year. I will write more about this later, but I want to share a quick update.
Today is day four. Students created google accounts (my school does not yet have google apps) and goorulearning accounts on the macbooks and netbooks I have borrowed from other departments for two weeks. I have had each of five different classes for a 40 minute period and a 100 minute block.
The students are free to pursue the goals outlined for them in my gooru collection at their own pace. They are also free to bounce between working on the computer, working on any of four different lab activities and one experiment, and a station where they work collaboratively (MIT style) on physics problems with white boards.
This is a drastic change from my traditional instruction – and we are all loving it. Informally, the students say they appreciate the ability to move at their own pace, and they like being able to re-play the web resources they are interacting with. I am able to have at least quadruple the number of individual and small group student contacts in each class, and I am finding that everyone is engaged throughout the class.
Below is a photo I took in class today that I colorized and annotated for student anonymity.
I am ready to jump in. For fifteen years I have been employing educational technologies in my high school science classes to increase student engagement and improve student performance. I have documented increases in both of these with my most recent foray into Peer Instruction with clickers over the last three years. Before that I dove head first into podcasting, video making, and blogging. Now, I am ready to take a real risk. I am ready to blend class time to free me up for more individual engagement with students, and to increase the differentiation of study in my classroom.
I will be honest. My first motivation is selfish. Read more…
This is the second in a series of posts I am writing about what the traditional classroom could look like in the near future with already available and nearly available edtech. The first postexplored lesson planning.
By one edtech standard, my high school health teacher was well ahead of his time. He had videotapes of lectures given by another health teacher that he would show to us every day. Content delivered through video is part of the flipped classroom model that is in vogue right now — 25 years later. Teachers falling asleep in the back of the classroom while students watch the video — not so much in vogue.
When I sleep, I dream that my classroom no longer exists, and my teaching job has drastically changed. I facilitate learning in a much more flat infrastructure, drawing upon community and Internet resources alike to facilitate customized, interdisciplinary learning experiences for each of my students. Then I wake up, get in my car and drive to the school where I teach, and contemplate another decade of working to innovate within the same constraints of the industrial model.
I am not a fan of the white paper as a method for judging the success of an educational intervention. However, this particular white paper caught my attention because of the bold, specific claim, the fact that it was written about a year-long study, and because I like to take aim at the big publishing houses.
In brief, HMH studied a year long intervention at Earhart Middle School in Riverside Ca. An experimental group of students were given iPads with HMH Fuse Algebra. The study authors claim that twenty percent more students in the experimental group achieved proficient or advanced marks on the Ca standards exam for algebra (CST algebra) than did the control.
GameDesk, a SoCal based research nonprofit with an interest in gamification in learning, examined student improvement on understanding of certain fraction concepts after playing the Stanford Learning Design and Technology Program’s Motion Math.
The Key findings of the study are listed below..
Children’s fractions test scores improved an average of over 15% after playing Motion Math for 20 minutes daily over a five-day period, representing a significant increase compared to a control group.
Children’s self-efficacy for fractions, as well as their liking of fractions, each improved an average of 10%, representing a statistically significant increase compared to a control group.
All participants rated Motion Math as fun and reported wanting to play it again; nearly all (95%) children in the study reported that their friends would like the game, and that the game helped them learn fractions.
Taken together, the data from this experimental study offer solid evidence that Motion Math successfully integrates entertainment value with educational value.
It is 2016. We are shadowing a fourteen year-old student in a suburb of a major metropolitan city. His name is Elroy.
Elroy wakes up, gets dressed, eats breakfast, and brushes his teeth just like any teen would today. That’s when Elroy’s day diverges dramatically from that of anyone who attended school in 2011.
Instead of trudging off to make first bell, Elroy plugs-in to unschool. Unschool is a personalized learning environment (ple) consisting of experiences both real and virtual, catered specifically to the abilities and interests of Elroy. A learning facilitator (the term teacher is so passe in 2016), call her Jane, has helped Elroy to craft a routine that draws upon a curated mosaic of virtual resources, freeing up Elroy to spend most of his time on projects that keep him both intellectually and emotionally engaged.
This post is a follow up to a previous post in which I examined the experimental design of a blended learning pilot at the Envision Academy in Oakland. A team of technologists and researchers are examining the impact of a blended learning implementation with Khan Academy videos and curriculum. The experiment is taking place in a summer school algebra class for repeaters. Their progress is being documented on this insightful blog. As I write this post, the team is entering their fourth and final week of the experiment.
In my last post on this experiment, I shared one of the Blend My Learning team’s identified successes – that the experimental group (those with new Chromebooks who are using the Khan Academy to learn algebra) has zero classroom management issues. A thoughtful commenter on my post noted that kids plugged into headphones, listening to music, might not be making any noise or distracting anyone else, but this is not necessarily good classroom management. It is often the cacophony of the classroom that is the real symphony of learning.
It seems that in the third week, the Blend My Learning team is finding that not even headphones and music can keep kids focussed and on task for three weeks of algebra.
Darri Stephens, Blend My Learning Blog author, notes..
When I first checked on “FOCUS” (how long the students had been working on Kahn), there was quite a range: from 0 minutes to 16 minutes. Might there be a way to analyze a subgroup of students’ data as needed? At the beginning of Week 4, I was worried that students had hit that proverbial wall.
For example, one student hadn’t earned a proficient level for any topic since the previous Tuesday (4+ days).
Stephens goes on..
When looking at the totals since Week 1, the class has spent 544 minutes on exercises and only 19 minutes in all watching videos. As an average, that means that the kids have been working on Khan for about forty minutes/day. Give or take some time for the “Do Nows” and the directed mini-lesson, and that still leaves about half of the time unaccounted for… what are those implications?
The real data (improvement on the MDRT for algebra) is not yet out, but I might suggest that the implication of this lack of focus is that Khan Videos may be a good resource for review of material that a student has nearly mastered, but straight forward lecture, whether in person or through the box, is the least effective way for students to learn. The kids are bored, and no amount of virtual badges will motivate high school kids to do any better than they would for the teacher who, in the control class, is more directly engaged in structuring their learning.
I hope that I am wrong. And I will eat crow right here on this blog if I am. Blended Learning has real potential to change the education game. The flipped classroom movement that I have recently blogged about, is blending technology in a dynamic way, and showing some initial results that are quite promising. Have a look at my post about Barb and Brad Newitt from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As I identify in that post, the box is the least significant aspect of the instructional process. However, in the flipped environment, direct instruction through the box offers a teacher the freedom she needs to structure her class with a greater focus on student interactivity and direct teacher engagement with individual students.
I applaud Envision Academy and the Blend My Learning Team for their inventiveness, curiosity, and open dialog. I am curious what they now think the Khan FOCUS metric tells them about student learning.
The College Board professional development series is in town this weekend, and I crashed the party early last night when I met with some flipped classroom converts. Brad and Barb Newitt from South Dakota are here to present a workshop sharing their methods and madness with flipping their own classrooms.
In brief, the flipped classroom is a learning environment in which students have been empowered with access to recorded teacher lectures for viewing outside of class. In fact, it is the expectation in the flipped classroom that students watch the lecture outside of class. Time spent in class is then far more flexible; so the theory goes. Students might work in small groups on challenging assignments, focus on projects, or receive more personalized instruction from the teacher who is now free to move about and interact.
Many flipped classroom teachers choose to also implement mastery learning in a differentiated environment. Removing the sage from the stage and putting her on the internet, opens the door for students to move at their own pace. Some schools use this to allow students to move as quickly or as slowly as they need to in order to master each unit before moving to the next.
With my tongue in my cheek, I asked the couple if they use Khan lectures. Barb smiled and whipped out her laptop. Last summer, funded by a federal i3 grant, Barb, Brad, and some forty other teachers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota spent upwards of 200 hours making their own lecture videos for use in their classes.
Barb’s videos were impressive. Using Camtasia, she weaved together text slides with snippets from popular films, Youtube videos, PhET simulations and myriad other audio and visual resources into an impressive melange that was both entertaining and personal. A small thumbnail sized video of Barb and Brad was positioned on the bottom left of the screen. The masterful mix of audio and visual information was reminiscent of the old school Sesame Street episodes; only Barb’s videos were targeted for a teen audience with appropriate edge and humor.
This year Barb doubled the number of students she has in her physics class while at the same time increasing the average score on the AP exam for this group. I asked her if there were a significant shift in the demographics of the school. She smiled and said, “It’s South Dakota!”
Watching the small window of the couple narrating the presentation together, it was easy to see how Barb’s students would feel like their teacher was really something special. There is a significant body of research to support the idea that the connection between teacher and student is a crucial part of the learning process. Clear links have been established between the connection a student feels to her teacher and the performance of that student in the class. Here is one of many studies that supports this.
Several schools are now experimenting with the use of video instruction to free up other resources. I have written about an ongoing study in Oakland, where an experimental group of algebra students are moving through the Khan Academy curriculum with their own Chromebooks and headphones. I was skeptical that the results of this study will show meaningful student gains. My visit with Brad and Barb gives me the rationale I was lacking before. Though Khan may be a skilled orator, unless he is also willing to come teach your class, I think it unlikely that his soothing voice will provide the same connection that does the visage and voice of a student’s own teacher.
On a side note, Khan may very well be teaching his own class. It has been rumored that he is thinking about starting an independent school of his own to put his pedagogical methodology to the test in a way that he can control. He might want to use Barb’s lecture videos if he does.