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.
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.
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
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…
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.
When was the last time you searched for a worksheet, test question bank, video clip, or an image for that lesson you were planning? Your answer: about two hours ago. Next question. How satisfying was that search? Your answer: not terribly. That is, unless you were searching for STEM resources and you were using Gooru. Well, help may be on the way.
The Creative Commons is facilitating an industry initiative to standardize metadata for tagging resources in education. The Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI) brings together an impressive team of advisors and a technical working group that might just be able to crack this nut.
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…
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 above image is static, but you can see the dynamic one right here. This blew me away. Not so much the information, because I live in the bay area and I am well acquainted with equity issues in schools. I was impressed, rather, by the power that Google is placing in our hands with this Public Data Visualization Tool that allows the laywoman to wow her audience.
I plan to use this tool in both my political and educational circles (crossover reference to Google+ intended – I am a fan). The community discussion about who schools serve is more directly addressed with clear infographic representations such as the one above. In the classroom, this could be a powerful tool for student presentations.
As of this writing, this tool is still in Google Labs and has only forty two data sets to work with; mostly focussed in the social sciences. Of particular interest to EdTech’ers would be the education data for California and DC.
In 2005 Thomas Friedman declared the world is soon to be flat. Where internet access is a nonissue, Google’s technological hammer is making it so.
Wondering if your slideshow presentations are inspiring higher order thinking skills? This infographic from Kathy Schrock might help you answer that question. She has taken Bloom’s taxonomy and applied it to the many tools available to us from Google.
When assigning text reading to students it is helpful to appropriately target the grammatical complexity and vocabulary level for the audience you are teaching. I teach conceptual physics to a very diverse student body. In the same class with sophomore English language learners I will have senior IB diploma candidates. It is helpful to be able to offer them text that covers the same topic with different levels of language complexity. In some cases I write the text myself. More frequently I will pull something from wikipedia or the online texts available to me. Regardless of the source, it is helpful to compare the texts based on some common lexical measurement tools.
Google has a reading level tool that can be applied to a page of search results. Google’s “Reading Level” is limited. It will bin your search results into Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced categories. As yet I have been unable to figure out how to get the tool to do anything but evaluate the entire content of the sites that pop up in their search results. This can be helpful if you use entire websites, say for a research activity, in a lesson, but only if you have spent some time determining what these three categories mean for your students. To find the tool look to the left margin of a google search page: click show search tools: then click Reading level.
A better resource that I discovered recently is the Readability Calculator at Online-Utility.org. This was impressive. The tool allows you to either enter a URL or directly copy and paste text into a text box. Their algorithm is more or less spelled out in the analysis, and the results are estimated for several different metrics including the Flesh-Kincaid. This is a must bookmark for any teacher.
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.
Will schools adopt google chromebook and what impact will it have on education? 1 answer on Quora