Learning by Design: Under-graduate Students’ Practicum & New Forms of School-based Training

In 2010 discussions about the New School reform in Greece were well underway generating much debate in the public sphere. It was at that time when a few academics were proposing new ways of conducting school-based training with the use of digital media. The universities of Rhodes, Patras and Athens took part in a pilot project funded by the Ministry of Education where Learning by Design (LbD) was the principal method of action research and training in selected Greek schools.

Research findings of this attempt were very supportive and thus the Greek LbD network expanded to include trials in different levels and universities concerning curriculum design and teachers’ training. Greek teachers and university students were very receptive of the new means in designing of dynamic learning environments. They gradually perceived themselves as being knowledge producers and workers in times of crisis. Educators redefined their teaching practices and collegial relationships both at regional and national levels whereas post graduate research projects emerged.

In this context the 1st International Symposium on Early Childhood Pedagogy at the University of Ioannina, Greece, run by Associate Professor Maria Sakellariou in association with Learning by Design project Coordinator in Greece, Eugenia Arvanitis, will take place between 22-23May 2013. The symposium is devoted to Learning by Design and its application for the first time in Greece in undergraduate preschool education students’ Practicum, which evolved during the last year. It also came as a pre-conference event to the 20th International Conference on Learning (http://thelearner.com/the-conference) to be held at the University of Aegean, Rhodes ( 11-13 July 2013). Thus, celebrating the active engagement of Greek academics, teachers and students to the newly formed learning community, which envisages to promote innovative pedagogical practices in Greece.

The 1st International Symposium on Early Childhood Pedagogy will be a multimodal forum, which will present and reflect on Learning Elements designed at laboratory level and taught at schools by 250 undergraduate students as part of their compulsory Practicum exercises in kindergartens in the city of Ioannina. Students’ presentations will be supplemented by academic reflections and rigorous discussions in an attempt to draw up a synergy between theory and practice in the Greek context. Another aim is to generate a public dialogue amongst academics, teachers, students, educational personnel and administrators on best practices of teaching and training and, thus, promoting a bottom up change of school-based training culture in Greece.

Greece is in turmoil at the moment suggesting that it is time for visionary initiatives and hands on approaches. Greek educators and academics create a common ground for a change.      More information: http://earlychildhoodpedagogy.gr

Collaboration in the Scholar Learning Environment

Scholar is a web-based writing and learning environment which brings together formative assessment (diagnosis and feedback) and summative assessment (measuring student progress over time and in comparison with other learners). The Scholar team has been working with instructors in a variety of settings to field-test the product, build new features, and develop a greater understanding of social media and computer-supported learning environments. Bring your laptop and join Bill Cope for a detailed tour of the Scholar learning environment.

More information at: http://learning.cgscholar.com/about-scholar


Cast an Up Vote for SXSW Panel: Curriculum Influence on Education App Development

One of the two authors behind this panel proposal for SXSW is the talented Dr. Justin Olmanson, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Education and a colleague working in the research group of Dr. Bill Cope. The other author is Rob Scordino of UT Austin, a doctoral fellow specializing in instructional technology. Their panel proposes to discuss how curriculum for the REAL rather than the imagined IDEAL classroom does and should impact apps for ed.

Sign up for an account to cast your up vote, to get this panel on the schedule. See the short video: “Caught in the Tractor Beam” and cast your vote here. – Kelly Searsmith


When designing an educational app you often spend significant amounts of time developing the app’s instructional approach, but how much time do you spend thinking about curriculum?

This presentation unpacks the influence curriculum has on educational app designers. We begin with a brief history curriculum through the ages before describing the dominant, often implicit approaches to curriculum held today. Next we outline how curricular orientations and decisions, standardization, and the realities of the classroom have a cascade effect on the entire design process, from pedagogy and learning theory to educational context and technology. Finally, we describe our experience iteratively designing a web-based writing application while simultaneously implementing it within an elementary classroom.

Questions Answered

How are curriculum, learning theory, pedagogy, educational context, technology, and development related?
How does curriculum influence the others?
How can knowing this improve my educational application development process?

Nation’s Report Card on Writing: Computers Help Regardless of Income, but Boys are Falling Behind

2012 marked the first year that 8th and 12th grade students were assessed for their performance in writing (persuasive, expository, and narrative) using computers (previous assessments had all been pencil and paper). Computer-assisted writing showed the benefits of drafting and revision. For the complete report, see here. — Kelly Searsmith

Nation’s Report Card: Writing test shows gender gap

by Donna Krache / CNN / 17 September 2012

When it comes to writing, girls are better than boys.

That’s a generalization, but it’s one that is supported by the latest writing test from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), better known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The test, taken by 24,100 eighth-graders and 28,100 students in the 12th grade, was administered in early 2011. NAEP tests in different subjects have been given to students in the U.S. since 1969.  This year, however, marked the first time that the writing test was computer-based.  Students were able to take advantage of editing software and other writing tools, such as spell check and a thesaurus, as they crafted their writing samples.

Since this was the first large-scale writing assessment designed to be taken on a computer, the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the NAEP, said that it could not make comparisons to previous “paper and pencil” writing tests.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Lackluster Results from “School of One” Pilot

EdSurge gives a balanced assessment of School of One’s pilot’s disappointing results — and gives the take-away for future efforts. For more on School of One, click here. — Kelly Searsmith

Lackluster Results from School of One Pilot Scrutinized

by EdSurge / 12 September 2012

The New York Daily News featured a harsh critique at School of One (SO1), the blended learning math model hailed by former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The piece charges that two out of three pilot schools have dropped the program due to less-than stellar results from a study by the Research Alliance for New York Schools [link removed]. Expectations were high for the program, given all the publicity and the amount of dollars spent on it (an estimated $9 million over three years of privately raised funds, according to the Daily News). And so the Daily News gave Klein an “F” grade.

The study itself is more cautious. Its authors note that “with only one year of program operation and no consistent pattern of results in other grades, one should be extremely cautious about drawing inferences about the potential sources of this variation.” Rick Hess details this point in his EdWeek blog–that the data is too scant to “tell us anything definitive about the potential of a wholly new way to think about how schools go about their work.”

Hess also questions the whether these early results were directly responsible for the schools’ choice to drop the program, as the Daily News suggested. “I can just see the Daily News in 1902, stamping a big ‘F’ over a picture of Orville and Wilbur Wright and the headline, ‘Latest ‘Airplane’ Attempt Fails, Proves Air Travel Is a Dumb Idea,’)” writes Hess.

To read more…

Image Source: School of One website

New Studies Show Overwhelming Support for Ed Tech Among Teachers and Parents

It’s good to see in this poll that teachers and parents are supporting greater use of ed tech in the classroom. Although there are still questions about whether and how educational technologies improve learning, the ubiquity of tech throughout social and professional life means that students need to learn how to integrate it into their learning and its expression. — Kelly Searsmith

Technology In Schools: Poll Finds K-12 Teachers And Parents Support Greater Digital Use In The Classroom

Huff Post Education / 11 September 2012

A recent poll by the Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission has found that the vast majority of K-12 teachers and parents support greater use of technology in education, and believe that school systems should do more to improve access.

The poll, which surveyed 883 parents and 812 public K-12 teachers, determined that 96 percent of teachers and 91 percent of parents think that applying technology to teaching and learning is important to the education of American students today. More than half of both audiences also believe that technology will play a much bigger role in educating students during the next decade.

Responses also indicated that the country is somewhat or far behind the curve when it comes to American public schools’ use of technology in education, especially when compared to other parts of the economy.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

Studies Show More Students Cheat, with High Achievers No Exception

Cheating is up, and that is certainly cause for concern. What this article does not yet address is how educators can take advantage of this new culture of collaboration to leverage learning. Individual testing might, as traditionally been done, work best when done under the eyes of proctors and with students entirely unplugged. This is, however, only one way to demonstrate learning. — Kelly Searsmith

by Richard Perez-Pena / New York Times / 7 September 2012

Large-scale cheating has been uncovered over the last year at some of the nation’s most competitive schools, like Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, the Air Force Academy and, most recently, Harvard.

Studies of student behavior and attitudes show that a majority of students violate standards of academic integrity to some degree, and that high achievers are just as likely to do it as others. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades.

Experts say the reasons are relatively simple: Cheating has become easier and more widely tolerated, and both schools and parents have failed to give students strong, repetitive messages about what is allowed and what is prohibited.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

Open College’s Learning Analytics Infographic

source: Learning Analytics: Leveraging Education Data – infographic by Open Colleges

With Flipped Classroom, ‘Old School’ No More

by Wendy Roshan / Education News / 28 August 2012

I started teaching in the early 1970’s, when one of the most important resources teachers had was the mimeo machine.  All worksheets and tests had to be handwritten and run through a hand cranked copier, which would turn your hands blue from the ink. There weren’t computers in every classroom, we didn’t use SMART Boards (just chalk) and students came to class carrying pencils and notebooks, not smartphones and tablets.

Yet, 40 years later, my computer, iPad, and trusty iPhone has revolutionized my life as a teacher. Today, there’s more information at my fingertips than ever before, literally. I can type up an assignment and email it to the whole class, or even have tests taken (and instantaneously graded) online.  Students can stay in touch with me, and I can communicate with parents 24/7 by email.  It’s a major change from the past, and has a lot of benefits for my students.

However, the biggest change for me occurred a few years ago when my daughter, Stacey Roshan, decided to follow in my footsteps and become a math teacher too. However, having grown up in a different generation, she became a different kind of teacher. While I continued to resist new technologies that were starting to be used in the classroom, these tools came easily and naturally to her. In 2009, Stacey attended the Building Learning Communities Conference and learned about Camtasia Studio, software that would allow her to literally flip her classroom. She began video recording her lectures, which students watched for homework, and during class she walked around the classroom and worked with students 1-on-1 when they needed help solving problems.

To read more…

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What a Tech Start-Up’s Data Say About What Works in Classroom Forums

Founded by Stanford MBA Pooja Sankar, Piazza is  threaded discussion board tool aimed at the college market that also enables real-time discussions, polling, and anonymous question posting.The tool gets high marks from users for its simplicity and feature set — and it’s free. The tool’s naming metaphor (“piazza”) is of an Italian city’s square as a gathering place. — Kelly Searsmith

by Jeffrey R. Young / Chronicle Wired Campus Blog / 21 August 2012

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Italy

’s big talk these days about “big data” in education—looking for patterns of behavior as students click through online classrooms and using the insights to improve instruction. One start-up company that manages online discussion forums for thousands of courses recently performed its first major analysis of behavioral trends among students, and found what its leaders say amounts to advice for instructors.

The company, Piazza, shared the analysis with The Chronicle, without identifying any of the professors or students involved. The data set included online interactions among students and professors in 3,600 courses at 545 colleges and universities over a period of 18 months.

Professors may want to think carefully before giving formal grades for participation in online discussions, the data suggest. When professors required a set number of discussion posts, the number of submissions was higher than in courses where professors left participation up to students. But instructors reported the highest gains in student understanding when discussion was less strictly marked.

To read more…

Image Source: famouswonders.com

50 Education Technology Tools Every Teacher Should Know About

There are now so many ed tech solutions out there that sifting through to find the right one can be a challenge. Edudemic has done a great job of breaking ed tech down into functional categories and listing some of the most popular solutions in each. — Kelly Searsmith

Edudemic / 21 August 2012

Technology and education are pretty intertwined these days and nearly every teacher has a few favorite tech tools that make doing his or her job and connecting with students a little bit easier and more fun for all involved.

Yet as with anything related to technology, new tools are hitting the market constantly and older ones rising to prominence, broadening their scope, or just adding new features that make them better matches for education, which can make it hard to keep up with the newest and most useful tools even for the most tech-savvy teachers.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the tech tools, including some that are becoming increasingly popular and widely used, that should be part of any teacher’s tech tool arsenal this year, whether for their own personal use or as educational aids in the classroom.

Social Learning

These tools use the power of social media to help students learn and teachers connect.

  1. Edmodo: Teachers and students can take advantage of this great tech tool, as it offers a Facebook-like environment where classes can connect online.
  2. Grockit: Get your students connected with each other in study sessions that take place on this great social site.
  3. EduBlogs: EduBlogs offers a safe and secure place to set up blogs for yourself or your classroom.
  4. Skype: Skype can be a great tool for keeping in touch with other educators or even attending meetings online. Even cooler, it can help teachers to connect with other classrooms, even those in other countries.
  5. Wikispaces: Share lessons, media, and other materials online with your students, or let them collaborate to build their own educational wiki on Wikispaces.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Envisioning the Future of Education Technology Infographic

Envisioning the Future of Education / Infographic by Michell Zappa & TFE Research


source: http://envisioningtech.com/education/

300,000 U.S. Education Jobs Lost Since June 2009

 At a time that all agree U.S. education needs improvement, teachers are being pink slipped. As this article explains, how we address this problem is of crucial importance, a major issue for the upcoming Presidential election. One point of debate that each solution addresses is whether class size matters. According to research at the elementary and secondary levels, it does. The exception does not prove the rule. — Kelly Searsmith

by CNN Staff Wire / CNN /18 August 2012

CNN: LA May 2011 Protest

Budget cuts are forcing districts to scale back on teachers and staff, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer school days, according to a White House report released Saturday.

More than 300,000 education jobs have been lost since the end of the recession in June 2009, said the report, which was prepared by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council.

“Think about what that means for our country. At a time when the rest of the world is racing to out-educate America, these cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing as a country,” the report quotes President Barack Obama from an address in June.

As a result of the cuts, the national student-teacher ratio increased from 2008 to 2010, from 15.3 to 16, the report said, reversing nearly a decade of gains. Typical class sizes are larger than the ratio because it includes teachers for students with disabilities and other special cases.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Show and Tell for Teachers, Inspired by Reality TV

Learning sciences literature supports the idea that human beings are wired to learn through observation. That’s what makes this bank to expert teaching such a great resource for working teachers and teachers in training. I know that I have learned a great deal myself from watching other teachers teach, and even if teachers don’t put what they see into direct and immediate practice, they are sure to come away inspired. — Kelly Searsmith

by Motoko Rich / New York Times / 15 August 2012

Great teaching, it is sometimes said, is one of those things where you know it when you see it. Now, teachers in Washington will be able to see a lot more of it.

District of Columbia Public Schools / NYT

In deference to a world enthralled by shows like “Extreme Makeover” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the public school district in Washington has hired a reality television company to produce videos intended to improve the skills of its teachers.

The 80 videos, 5 to 15 minutes in length, are peppered with quick jump cuts, slick screen labels and a jaunty soundtrack. In short interviews and classroom snippets, the district’s highest-performing teachers demonstrate how they teach a range of lessons, from adding decimal numbers to guiding students of differing ability levels through a close reading of the Marshall Plan.

The videos, financed by a $900,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were developed as a complement to Washington’s evaluation system, known as Impact, in which teachers are judged on student test scores and classroom observations.

To read more…

Image Source: NYT / article

Has Teach for America Betrayed Its Mission?

An interesting article about the evolution of an idealistic program to bring the best and brightest (at least among the newest crop of teachers each year) to those most at need in public education. — Kelly Searsmith

by Stephanie Simon /Reuters via NBC News / 16 August 2012

When Wendy Kopp, just out of Princeton, founded Teach for America in 1989, she dreamed of recruiting 500 elite college graduates to teach the nation’s neediest children. “My dear Miss Kopp,” a college advisor told her, “you are quite evidently deranged.”

Kopp pressed on, and this fall Teach for America will send a record 10,000 teachers into classrooms from New York to California. The nonprofit boasts $300 million in assets and collects tens of millions a year in public funds, even at a time of steep cuts to education budgets. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praises it for having “made teaching cool again.” And TFA veterans have emerged as the most influential leaders of a bipartisan education reform movement.

But critics, including a handful of disillusioned alumni, contend that policies promoted by TFA-trained reformers threaten to damage the very schools they once set out to save. They argue, too, that TFA’s relentless push to expand has betrayed its founding ideals.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits from U.S. K-12 Market

This piece does a decent job of  treating all sides in this debate of whether and how much control vendors should have in teaching our public school students. It’s a rich and thoughtful discussion, worth reading.  — Kelly Searsmith

by Simon Moon / Reuters: HuffPost Education / 2 August 2012

The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.

Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”

Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.

To read more…

Source: stock.xchng

Solving the Textbook-Common Core Conundrum

What a thoughtful piece by Beverlee Brojack (25-year textbook industry veteran and author of Tyranny of the Textbook: An Insider Exposes How Educational Materials Undermine Reforms; Rowman & Littlefield, 2012)) about the importance of teachers driving the new curriculum that the new Common Core State Standards will require. Brojack suggests that much of school curriculum is textbook-driven, and that teachers–in the form of adoption committees–have the power to impact the textbook market so that the materials offered help them to implement the new standards with uniformity and fidelity. Otherwise, schools will get old textbooks dressed up to look like new, but only superficially so. Brojack is providing a pathway to positive action that seems feasible and possible, if enough schools take it up. — Kelly Searsmith

by Beverlee Brojack / Education Week / 9 August 2012

American educators have a love-hate relationship with textbooks. For some, textbooks provide a comprehensive curriculum in which content requirements are developed in a systematic and organized way. Textbooks can give teachers ideas for sequencing, presenting, and assessing content, skills, and concepts. New teachers often depend on textbooks. For others, textbooks represent scripted, uninspired lessons that turn teachers into slaves and strip them of their creativity with a one-solution-fits-all approach. For this group, even intelligent, published education researchers lose their credibility when they become affiliated with a commercial textbook publisher.

Most states have committed to implementing the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics, but whether textbook publishers will help, hinder, or neutralize this effort is an open question.

The release and adoption of the common standards have inspired two major initiatives. The first is to educate teachers about the expectations of the new standards and how schools will have to change to meet the standards. States, school districts, professional-development companies, and educational organizations provide webinars, in-service sessions, and courses on implementing the common core. But most of these don’t include any discussion about curriculum. Instead, they focus on educating the 3.2 million teachers as if they were individually responsible for revising their curriculum.

To read more…

Image Source: publisher

Ed Tech Cheat Sheet by Boundless

The Boundless Blog has created an infographic that helps to make sense of all those ed tech buzzwords: blended learning, flipped classrooms, MOOCs, and more.

Teacher Experiments with Blogging to Improve Student Writing

We’ve heard it said over and again, that technology is not a magic bullet for education. But we’ve also heard it said that it makes good sense to analyze the effects of particular technologies and the contexts in which they have a positive impact. Recently on this blog, I posted a professor’s poor outcome in adding Twitter to her traditional college class, which used the tool for commenting on class and one another’s assignments. At the end of the term, students responded that they already have enough social media in their lives, that this public use of a personal medium was a bad fit, and that they would rather interact in person (since that was an option, given their brick-and-mortar classroom).

In this next piece, a teacher claims success in having used a blog in his class as a means of authentic writing (students chose their own topics and developed their own voices). He sees value in helping students to develop themselves as writers not just for school  but also for their lives outside of and beyond it, and so do I. The New Learning is not just about the integration of technology into education per se, but about experimenting with and leveraging educational technologies within a context of thoughtful practice to innovate learning outcomes.  Both of the experiments discussed in this blog, former and present, show such thoughtful practice. — Kelly Searsmith

by Julia Lawrence / Education Week / 23 July 2012  [For Brennan’s direct article in The Guardian’s teacher network blog, see here.]

It is to students’ advantage to become masters of two styles of writing, explains Michael Drennan in The Guardian — one style dense but dry, full of declarative sentences and most useful when writing an exam essay or finishing up a term paper; the other is more fluid, emotional, and expressive, to be used for communicating ideas to others. As an experiment, Drennan had his GCSSE and A-level students focus only on these two types of writing exclusively by taking sample tests when in class and writing blogs when at home.

A month into the experiment, Drennan’s students exceeded both his and their own expectations. The range of topics covered was immense: from local news to current affairs, to the most controversial issues of the day. Students used the blogging format to examine natural and man-made phenomena, analyze experimental data they sourced themselves and by their classmates. They engaged with each other by commenting on each other’s blogs and writing their own responses to posts written by their peers.

 To read more…

Image Source: Guardian article

Teacher Performance Assessment: Pilot Introduced into NY Schools This Fall

Within the community responsible for educating and training teachers, it’s widely understood that too little is done to help them learn to design and employ their own learning materials in a classroom setting. The Teacher Performance Assessment, a new instrument for evaluating teachers’ ability to do just this, was created with a Standard University team at the lead. It enters New York schools in a pilot this Fall for statewide adoption of the new standards in 2014. Other states have and are expected to adopt them as well. Something to watch. — Kelly Searsmith

See an earlier post on this effort (and its ties to big publishing) here.

To Earn Classroom Certification, More Teaching and Less Testing

by Al Baker / New York Times / 29 July 2012

New York and up to 25 other states are moving toward changing the way they grant licenses to teachers, de-emphasizing tests and written essays in favor of a more demanding approach that requires aspiring teachers to prove themselves through lesson plans, homework assignments and videotaped instruction sessions.

Stanford Professor Raymond Pecheone

“It is very analogous to authentic assessments in other professions,”  said Raymond L. Pecheone, a Stanford professor who leads the center that developed the new standards.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the New York City teachers’ union, said he favored making licensing requirements tougher.

The change is an attempt to ensure that those who become teachers not only know education theories, but also can show the ability to lead classrooms and handle students of differing abilities and needs, often amid limited resources.

It is also a reaction to a criticism of some teachers’ colleges, which have been accused of minting diplomas but failing to prepare teachers for the kind of real-world experience where creativity and flexibility can be the keys to success.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Twitter as a Pedagogical Tool? My Students Let Me Know. [A Professor’s Experiment]

The most recent HASTAC newsletter has included this May post by Professor Starkman on the Twitter experiment she conducted in her college classroom. I found some of the feedback her students gave surprising. See what you think. — Kelly Searsmith

by Ruth Starkman (Stanford University) / HASTAC Blog in Pedagogy: Collaboration / 17 May 2012

For a while now I’ve been eagerly reading HASTAC blogs and contemplating using digital media in the classroom. Intrigued by Bridget Draxler’s description of her Twitter classroom and Cathy Davidson’s advice to have my classroom, not only flipped, but do “cartwheels” with new technologies, I thought I’d try some of the widely circulated 100 Ways to Teach with Twitter. My goal was to use Twitter for peer-generated comments on student drafts.

Social media is part of my sophomore writing course entitled “Science, Democracy and Social Media” at Stanford University, where students read classic texts on science and democracy from the ancients to Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend and engage in various kinds of digital writing experiments. They also write a research proposal and paper and make a visual public speaking presentation on their topic. For their own research projects, students picked any one or two or all of the three topics in the course title.

Monday I asked the students in my class if they wanted to take part in a pedagogical experiment using Twitter.

Most agreed, though only half the students had Twitter accounts, and the ones without said they were too busy to bother with having any more social media in their lives. Twisting no one’s arm to join the 140-character short-form social media, I simply told students without accounts to use email in our experiment.

In my experiment, I hoped to use social and traditional media to develop a more interactive and public peer-review process by inviting students to evaluate both their peers’ drafts and the respondents’ comments.

We’d already had some success in projecting papers and peer-generated critiques via email on the screen for classroom discussions. Now my question was—what could Twitter add?

To read more…

Image Source: HASTAC profile

Singapore Wants Creativity Not Cramming

This article, although from May, underscores a trend also now found in China — the sea change in education, to educate for a thinking (problem solving, analytical, lifelong learning, innovative) 21st century workforce. Some American commentators have noted that this rising trend in Asia is ironic, given the emphasis in the United States on summative evaluation–which New Learning approaches seek to counter. It is certainly a positive development.  –Kelly Searsmith

Singapore Wants Creativity not Cramming

by Rebecca Lim / BBC News/ Singapore

Singapore’s schools have become global role models, with consistently high results in international tests.

But now they want to move beyond this – towards something that cultivates creativity and what they term as ”holistic education”.

Minister for Education, Heng Swee Keat, said this is ”less about content knowledge” but ”more about how to process information”.

He describes this challenge to innovate as being able to “discern truths from untruths, connect seemingly disparate dots, and create knowledge even as the context changes”.

This strategy aims to prepare today’s students for the demands of the next 20 years.

To read more…

Image Source: article

New Report Concludes: For Many Students School Is Too Easy

Are kids too stressed by the demands of school or are they under-challenged and bored? A new report by the Center for American Progress suggests the latter. What may be wanted, however, is a finer analysis of which students feel their work is too easy and which are stressed. — Kelly Searsmith

School is Too Easy, Students Report

by Greg Toppo / USA Today / 9 July 2012

Millions of kids simply don’t find school very challenging, a new analysis of federal survey data suggests. The report could spark a debate about whether new academic standards being piloted nationwide might make a difference.

The findings, out today from the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank that champions “progressive ideas,” analyze three years of questionnaires from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test given each year.

Among the findings:

•37% of fourth-graders say their math work is “often” or “always” too easy;

•57% of eighth-graders say their history work is “often” or “always” too easy;

•39% of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng 1141363

US National Teacher of the Year: “The revolution begins with us”

Calls for education reform in the U.S. have seemed to pit teachers against policy experts, legislators, and commentators. This false opposition glosses over the really difficult issues that need to be addressed to reform the U.S. education system, such as how to improve parental involvement and community support for local education; how to fairly and most effectively distribute economic resources for education;  and how to ensure students are learning critically and creatively in a system that supports their whole welfare. Systemic issues need to be addressed with less blaming and more generosity, with less entrenchment and greater openness to change. All sites within the system should be embraced as potential sites for positive transformation. — Kelly Searsmith

by Donna Krache and Jamie Gumbrecht / CNN/ 5 July 2012

The United States is obsessed with high-stakes testing that doesn’t show whether teachers are masterful and students are knowledgeable, National Teacher of Year Rebecca Mieliwocki said to nearly 8,000 of her colleaguesat the National Education Association annual meeting Thursday.

“When we help a child reach proficiency at any grade level, we have changed the quality of that child’s life and that community forever,” she said. “But aiming for proficiency means we aim to create generations of children who are average.”

Instead, she said “people who haven’t set foot in a classroom” should not be making decisions and policies about teaching, and teachers should be aiming to take all students – whether hungry, homeless, in the midst of their first crush or celebrating the big game – beyond the test.

“We have got to stop talking about testing and start talking more about developing, supporting and celebrating teachers,” she said. “Teachers are the architects of the change we’ve been waiting for. We’ve forgotten what a teacher can do that a standardized test can’t.”

To read more…

Image Source: article

Transdiciplinary Instruction: The New Learning Expressed in the Common Core State Standards

Katrina Stevens has a valuable take on the differences between the CCSS call of interdisciplinary education and past forms. She’s struck upon the term “transdisciplinary” to describe them.

by Katrina Stevens / LessonCast Blog /May 2012

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), my recent work has focused on literacy across the content areas. As part of this work I’ve been asked to distinguish between content literacy, interdisciplinary literacy and transdisciplinary, so I thought I’d share the definitions I’ve been developing.


A transdisciplinary approach moves curriculum and instruction beyond content-area literacy and interdisciplinary connections.  In full implementation, a transdisciplinary approach involves the organization of curriculum and instruction around authentic student questions where concepts and skills are developed through real-world context.  Inquiry is at the heart of the transdisciplinary approach as students seek answers to the questions raised by the curriculum and themselves.  Because the CCSS are mastery standards, within a transdisciplinary framework students must meet all content areas standards through the course of each year. Direct instruction still plays an integral role; students should not be expected to acquire skills solely on their own. (Transdisciplinary instruction should not be a reincarnation of the disastrous whole language movement.) Given the current structures of schools, a transdisciplinary approach will likely look different at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

To read more…

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Frank Catalano’s Five Higher Ed Tech Trends of the Near Future

Frank Catalano’s presentation ends with the five higher ed tech trends of the near future, but it begins with the average ninth grade student of today, illustrating her tech use, interests, and needs. It’s a very thoughtful and substantial forecast, grounded in present realities. The five trends are tablets (iPads for now, with alternatives on the horizon at home and others in development abroad), chunks (piecing together ed tech apps, many of them free), games, paradata (that is, learning analytics), and uncollege.

To view the presentation, click here.

Who is Frank Catalano? Per GeekWire: “Frank Catalano is an author, consultant, and veteran analyst of digital education and consumer technologies whose “Practical Nerd” columns appear regularly on GeekWire. He consults via Intrinsic Strategy and tweets @FrankCatalano.” Former SVP for Marketing at Pearson. Current Board Member  of the Education Division at Software and Information Industry Association. — Kelly Searsmith

Transforming the Teaching Profession in 12 Minutes

In this post listed in the Teacher Quality section of the top-rated education blog The Quick and the Ed, Elena Silva overviews a number of 12-minute talks given at the recent Education Writers Association conference that discuss the state of the K-12 end of the profession. The results may not be entirely unexpected, but taken together they help to cast light upon the kinds of interventions that might help to support teachers in their vital work — that is, given who they are and what they believe about their working conditions. — Kelly Searsmith

Elena Silva / The Quick and the Ed /23 May 2012

Last Friday I had the privilege of talking about the future of the teaching profession alongside an amazing cast of teachers, leaders, researchers, and policy folks at EWA’s annual conference in Philadelphia. The TED-type format–12 minutes for each of us– was fun and different from the regular panels (kudos to Greg Toppo who was a great MC). And it gave me the chance to walk on stage to Fishbone, which is a bucket list item I never knew I had. I presented some results from our new yet-to-be-released survey of teachers. But before I get to that, some highlights of a few of the impressive 12-minute talks that came before me:

SASS-master Richard Ingersoll, at home on the UPenn campus, shared some demographic stats about teachers. That image you have of the young inexperienced female schoolteacher?  It’s right on. The workforce is greening instead of graying and is increasingly female. University of Michigan’s Deborah Ball opened with a slide of an airplane cockpit, asking how we’d feel if the pilot announced before take-off that this was her first flight but that she had always loved airplanes, had done pretty well in physics in college, and was really excited to fly a real plane for the first time. That’s what we’re doing in education, she said, when we stick a classroom full of students in the hands of an inexperienced teacher who may be enthusiastic but is just as likely to crash and burn as she is to succeed with those kids. Ted Mitchell said today’s schools were more like battleships that we expect will fly, which explains why New Schools is all about fresh ideas and is less enthusiastic about putting wings on big old clunky ones.

To read more…

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An Experiment in Learning with Open Boundaries: Urban School, San Francisco

What’s exciting about Mind/Shift’s report on Urban School’s history of and continuing passion for experimenting with pedagogy and curriculum is that it captures so many of the moves the school has made, even though its current initiative takes center stage: an emphasis on a new form of blended learning, working off site in authentic settings and taking real world data back into school settings. This beyond the contained field trip or one-off special project.

Respondents interviewed from Urban School emphasize a school without boundaries, that allows for fluid learning, that takes chances. I finish feeling that I want that in K-12 schools everywhere, now. But the skeptical reader in me assumes that all this takes a great deal of structure and planning to pull off, that it requires the constant stress of assessing what works and what doesn’t, and accepting those times when things don’t work as a matter of course, without stopping to blame or entering into energy-draining internal or external controversies. I’m left inspired, but also wanting to know more about that.

Then too, once again, we find this kind of experimentation working in an environment of limited size (around 300 students, grades 9-12) and privilege (private school with current annual total cost: $35,320 — even if just over a quarter receive tuition assistance, 84% white, teacher to student ratio under the national average, merit-based admissions, 56% of teachers with advanced degrees).

So, I’m also left to wonder whether this approach would scale and whether it would work for other populations, including more diverse and challenged ones —  or is this only something that really takes in a heavily resourced and highly curated environment?

And that, finally, takes me to the larger question of whether we, in our efforts to improve learning outcomes through innovation, ought to look at such intensely tended hothouse orchids as our leading lights or rather to thoughtfully farmed fields where many different kinds of crops flourish, sometimes in tough environmental and local conditions. — Kelly Searsmith

Urban School

Learning that Happens Online and Off, In and Out of School

by Kyle Palmer / MindShift /17 May 2012

Field trips have always been a staple – some might say the best part of — school. But those trips are typically special occasions and happen only a few times a year, if budgets and schedules allow for them.

At the Urban School, an independent high school in San Francisco, off-site learning is going to be a core part of a few of the classes next year.  For students who take statistics and elections  the classes will incorporate a chunk of time spent at companies and organizations that are relevant to the class topic.

For example, in the statistics class, Urban School staff is looking to partner with companies and organizations that have data they’d be willing to open up to classes to analyze. For the elections class, students would ideally work in local field offices.

“With technology, we start with ‘yes’ and then put boundaries on it, instead of starting with ‘no’ and having censorship,”

Time spent in the field would be part of a broader, comprehensive curriculum that includes time spent in class, project work with other schools – perhaps even in other cities and countries that will eventually become part of a larger network, guest lectures and speakers, group work, and online work done at home.

Taken all together, it’s a combination of “flipped,” “blended,” “experiential,” “authentic,” and some of the other buzz words we hear in education circles. This experiment for Urban is what some educators envision would exemplify the future school day: learning that happens outside of fixed boundaries, in fluid environments, applying real-world applications to concepts and theories.

To read more…

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Common Core Standards Drive Wedge in Education Circles

In those many United States where they have been adopted, the Common Core State Standards are due to be implemented in 2014-15. Planning and pilot programs are already underway. But controversy over who should set and assess education standards continues. Those who support the new standards claim they are a sea change, aimed at ensuring that student learn how to think and expressing thinking and how to learn content and communicate learning — rather than parroting memorized material in response to watered-down exams. — Kelly Searsmith

by Greg Toppo / USA Today / 20 May 2012

When did fractions and non-fiction become so controversial?

A high-profile effort by a pair of national education groups to strengthen, simplify and focus the building blocks of elementary and secondary education is finally making its way into schools. But two years ahead of its planned implementation, critics on both the right and left are seizing upon it. A few educators say the new standards, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, are untested, and one Republican governor wants to block the measure, saying it’s a federal intrusion into local decisions.

How did something so simple become so fraught?

The story begins in 2009, when the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced an effort to create voluntary national standards in math and reading. All but four states — Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia — quickly signed on to the standards, known as the Common Core, agreeing to help create then implement them by 2014

To read more…

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Should Big Ed Publishers Play a Role in National Teacher Certification?

Pearson, Macmillan, and Cengage Learning are referred to widely in education publishing as the Big Three. Their market dominance alone has generated watchdogs and critics. Now Pearson has partnered with Stanford University School of Education to take on the challenge of teacher certification, first in a few states and perhaps, eventually, nationally. The move already has its resistors and critics. For the Standford U. press release, see here. — Kelly Searsmith

Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest

by Michael Winerip / New York Times On Education / 6 May 2012

The idea that a handful of college instructors and student teachers in the school of education at the University of Massachusettscould slow the corporatization of public education in America is both quaint and ridiculous.

Sixty-seven of the 68 students studying to be teachers at the middle and high school levels at the Amherst campus are protesting a new national licensure procedure being developed by Stanford University with the education company Pearson.

The UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.

To read more…

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Is Too Much Tech Bad for the Modern Teenager?

The big draw to the article below is an infographic on The Millenial Teenager, produced for OnlineSchools.com. The graphic is meant to suggest how changing media use has had a significant impact on the ways in which contemporary generations engage intellectually and socially–the implication being that education must reflect these changes in order to appeal to them. — Kelly Searsmith

by Sam Laird / Mashable Tech /2 May 2012

Is tech saturation good or bad for the modern teenager?

Arguments can be made either way, but there’s no debating that today’s teens are more wired than ever. And digital permeates the lives of young people in general, too.

People aged 18-34 have an average of 319 online connections, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. That’s compared to an average of 198 connections for the 35-46 group, and the numbers continue to decrease from there.

Pew also recently reported that 63% of teenagers text message with friends on a daily basis, compared to 39% who speak on the phone daily and just 35% who interact face-to-face outside of school. Other research has found that text-happy teens send more than 100 messages per day.

But the digital revolution comes with drawbacks.

To read more…

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TED-Ed Puts TED Materials Under Control of Teachers

With TED Ed, “ideas worth spreading” become “lessons worth sharing.” Each lesson will be under 10 minutes long and designed to educate and inspire. GeekDad at Wired also has a good piece on Ted Ed, with a video tour. — Kelly Searsmith

by Julia Lawrence / Education News / 26 April 2012


TED, or as Gawker.com calls them, “Nerd Coachella,” is introducing a new platform that will allow teachers to take advantage of TED-created video content to put together unique learning opportunities for their students. TED-Ed, launched with the help of $1.25 million donated by Kohl’s Department Stores, currently hosts a few dozen videos put together from previously delivered conference talks which will give teachers a chance to experiment with the new tools.

Each video featured on the site is mapped, via tagging, to traditional subjects taught in schools and comes accompanied with supplementary materials that aid a teacher or student in using or understanding the video lesson. Supplementary materials include multiple-choice questions, open-answer questions, and links to more information on the topic.

The videos themselves are only part of the experience. What makes this platform special is the unprecedented opportunities to customize the content via a process called “flipping,” which allows teachers to edit or completely alter the supplementary content and pipe the information onto a private webpage whose access permissions could be individually set.

To read more…

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Accountability Moving Beyond Math, Reading Tests

It may be that state waivers for NCLB will expand the math and reading-driven curriculum beyond the basics. A strange and unexpected turn in the story. — Kelly Searsmith

by Erik W. Robelen / Education Week / 24 April 2012

As states seek waivers under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, one effect may be to chip away at the dominance reading and math have had when it comes to school accountability.

Many state waiver applications include plans to factor test scores in one or more additional subjects into their revised accountability systems. Seven of the 11 states that won waivers in the first round intend to do so, and about a dozen of those that applied in the second round have the same intent.

Science is the most popular choice, followed by writing and social studies.

To read more…

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Robots Are Grading Your Papers!

Rarely have I come across such a smart indictment of the teaching of writing within educational settings as this. In addition to providing a well reasoned critique, Marc Bousquet advocates for “a different writing pedagogy,” that is the teaching of authentic academic and some forms of professional writing through concentrating on the literature review and its foundational relationship to academic writing.

In addition to providing the opening of the article, below, I cannot restrain myself from giving my favorite passage, which delighted me with a shock of recognition, as a former teacher of writing and literature who has all too often found mechanical writing and junk forms of writing and thinking passing for sound work, even among promising students and at the college level: — Kelly Searsmith

Mechanical writing instruction in mechanical writing forms produces mechanical writers who experience two kinds of dead end: the dead end of not passing the mechanical assessment of their junk-instructed writing, and the dead end of passing the mechanical assessment, but not being able to overcome the junk instruction and actually learn to write.

As bad as this pedagogy’s failure is its successes. Familiar to most college faculty is the first-year writing student who is absolutely certain of their writing performance. She believes good writing is encompassed by surface correctness, a thesis statement, and assiduous quote-farming that represents “support” for an argument ramified into “three main points.”

In reality, these five-paragraph essays are near-useless hothouse productions. They bear the same relationship to future academic or professional writing as picking out “Chopsticks” bears to actually playing music at any level. Which is to say, close to none.

Students of any new skill do need mechanics to help them master the basics, and in essay writing this can mean providing a simple form and a simple process for them to fill and follow (e.g., the five-paragraph essay “junk” genre; focus on sentence- level correctness and clarity; or the same linear writing process steps every time, as if writing by recipe). But teaching these scaffolded forms and processes without pointing out that they are props or helping students to master them and move on to what comes next is a real mistake. Despite the pressures on teachers that Bousquet acknowledges, we can do better. We should. We must.

by Marc Bousquet / Chronicle of Higher Education / 18 April 2012

A just-released report confirms earlier studies showing that machines score many short essays about the same as human graders. Once again, panic ensues: We can’t let robots grade our students’ writing! That would be so, uh, mechanical. Admittedly, this panic isn’t about Scantron grading of multiple-choice tests, but an ideological, market- and foundation-driven effort to automate assessment of that exquisite brew of rhetoric, logic, and creativity called student writing. Without question, this study is performed by folks with huge financial stakes in the results, and they are driven by non-education motives. But isn’t the real question not whether the machines deliver similar scores, but why?

It seems possible that what really troubles us about the success of machine assessment of simple writing forms isn’t the scoring, but the writing itself–forms of writing that don’t exist anywhere in the world except school. It’s reasonable to say that the forms of writing successfully scored by machines are already-mechanized forms–writing designed to be mechanically produced by students,  mechanically reviewed by parents and teachers, and then, once transmuted into grades and sorting of the workforce, quickly recycled. As Evan Watkins has long pointed out, the grades generated in relation to this writing stick around, but the writing itself is made to disappear. Like magic? Or like concealing the evidence of a crime?

To read more…

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Brookings Institution Report on Instructional Materials Policy

Matt Chingos

Two scholars at the Brown Center on Education Policy, Matthew M. Chingos (Fellow, Governance Studies) and Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst (Director) have published a new report, Choosing Blindly: Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core (released 10 April 2012), with K-12 instructional materials policy recommendations through the The Brookings Institution.

The report begins with the premise that evidence shows that the selection of instructional materials can have an even greater impact on student test scores than the quality of instruction. And, yet, “little research exists on the effectiveness of most instructional materials, and very little systematic information has been collected on which materials are being used in which schools.”

The report calls for coordinated federal and state efforts to collect data on what instructional materials are in use–such as through districts submitting purchase reports for these–and for the Data Quality Campaign and philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, to aid with these collection efforts and to provide assistance for assessing how the data collected can be used to improve instructional resourcing.

A summary of the report and a link to the full report can be found here. — Kelly Searsmith

Study on One Laptop per Child Shows Mixed Results

A new study of the impact of the One Laptop per Child program shows that students with laptops improved in general cognitive skill over the control group, but did not improve in math or language arts, and read the same amount over time. The results seem to suggest that there is value in technical literacy, but that learning digitally does not in itself improve domain-driven learning outcomes. What is likely is that better digital learning tools need to be developed that make use of this new medium, tools that are data-driven and interactive. Moreover, teachers need more training about how to select such tools and how to best integrate them into instruction. — Kelly Searsmith

For another story on this Peruvian national experiment with OLPC, see here.

2.5 Million Laptops Later, One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Improve Test Scores [STUDY]

by Sarah Kessler / Mashable Tech / 9 April 2012

At $200 per computer, One Laptop Per Child(OLPC) has sold or facilitated donations of about 2.5 million laptops to classrooms in 42 different countries.

A new study suggests those laptops do not, however, have any effect on achievement in math or language.

The study, which was conducted by development funding source in Latin America called Inter-American Development Bank, looked at 319 public schools in Peru. It found that although OLPC students were more likely to use computers than their non-OLPC counterparts, the two groups scored about the same on math and language assessments 15 months after laptops were deployed.

To read more…

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Intel’s New Studybook Tablet

One of the hot areas in ed tech hardware is tablets. Tablets for K-12 need to be affordable and rugged. They need to work in slow and sometimes unreliable network conditions but meet high multimedia demands.They need to be produced in volume and be available worldwide. Intel is the latest to offer a potential solution for this market. — Kelly Searsmith

by Zoe Fox / Mashable Tech / 10 April 2012

Intel has launched the latest device in its line of classroom computers: a tablet, Intel studybook.

The Intel studybook is built to be both a rigorous education tool and a sturdy playmate. It comes loaded with Intel’s Learning Series software, including an interactive ereader and LabCam applications. The rugged water and dust-proof design is constructed from a single piece of plastic, with shock absorbers surrounding the screen. It’s also drop tested from 70 centimeters, the height of a child’s desk, onto concrete.

“Students today live in a virtual world and this device can give a valid scientific experience for students in emerging economies, ” says Wayne Grant, director of research and planning for Intel’s Education Market Platforms Group, as he throws the tablet across the table to demonstrate its robustness. “Representations of knowledge are changing. Tools are now based in tablet environments.”

The tablet has a 7-inch screen, 1060 x 600 pixel resolution, and can run either Windows 7 or Android Honeycomb software. Some additional features include front and rear-facing cameras, a microphone, multi-touch LCD screen, light sensor support and mobile learning environment. It runs on an Intel Atom Z650 processor.

To read more…

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Consortium for School Networking Releases Report to Inform Digital Media Use Policies

The new CoSN report seeks to balance concerns that have moved some states and school districts to limit or attempt to limit social media and mobile technology access with the promise of educational benefits offered by these new technologies. Concerns include cyberbullying, distraction from the educational mission, inappropriate teacher-student contact or social awareness, and increased risk-taking behavior. Given that social media and mobile technologies are ubiquitous in contemporary American life (95% of teens as young as age 12 use the internet regularly, 80% use social networking sites, 75% have cell phones per the most recent Pew Research Center and Internet and American Life Project report), the report asserts that educators are missing an important educational opportunity in limiting in-school exposure to and conversation about these technologies and their associated information and communication practices. Moreover, they point out the following direct benefits from them:

  • Bridge the gap between formal (in-school) and informal (out-of-school) learning, improving their preparation for real world experience;
  • Construct their own learning environments to help them achieve academically and acquire the skills necessary for the 21st century;
  • Connect instantly with peers, experts, and information resources beyond the school walls;
  • Provide real-time feedback, exchange information, and receive assessments during classroom instruction through a text message or Twitter “back channel”;
  • Document their work through images taken on and off campus;
  • Receive and submit homework assignments digitally;
  • Learn how to utilize mobile devices and social networking as tools for lifelong learning.   (p. 4)

CoSN Press Release / 9 April 2012

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), today joined with 13 other leading education associations in releasing a new report aimed at helping inform and guide education decision makers as they revise policies related to the use of mobile technologies and social media in schools.

The report–Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media –is available here. — Kelly Searsmith

To read more…

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State of the Art? Machine-Scoring of Essays Comes of Age

Automated essay grading is nothing new, despite the title of this recent Reuters story. What is new is the Hewlett Foundation’s Automated Student Assessment Prize contest (roughly January – April 2012) to inspire innovation in the field; specifically, rewarding the “best automated scoring algorithm for student-written essays.” The article does acknowledge many of the limitations of such automated essay grading approaches. They are, effectively, blunt instruments that emphasize conformity, are dull to style, cannot capture the quality of ideas, and focus on very basic features of successful prose (e.g., lower order issues such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation and gross patterns of organization).  But, the article also makes the reasonable point that such automated scoring tools may be useful in measuring whether students have reached a certain basic threshold of competence and could be useful in providing very fast, if crude, feedback on performance. My concern is that such programs be used to supplement rather than replace teacher and peer feedback on higher order issues, which enable student writers to develop a sense of their immediate audience, their own voice, and their surrounding knowledge communities (each with their own communications and epistemological conventions and expectations, present and historical).

Robo-readers: The New Teachers’ Helper in the U.S.

by Stephanie Simon / Reuters / 29 March 2012

American high school students are terrible writers, and one education reform group thinks it has an answer: robots.

Or, more accurately, robo-readers – computers programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade.

The theory is that teachers would assign more writing if they didn’t have to read it. And the more writing students do, the better at it they’ll become – even if the primary audience for their prose is a string of algorithms.

That sounds logical to Mark Shermis, dean of the College of Education at the University of Akron. He’s helping to supervise a contest, set up by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, that promises $100,000 in prize money to programmers who write the best automated grading software.

To read more…

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Not So Fast: Is There Still Value in Multiple-Choice Tests?

Not long ago in this blog, I posted an article that asserts that lecture still has value as a teaching practice, depending on when and how it is used. That article expresses a trend among educators and education researchers to reassess the paradigm shift in education away from lecture, standardized tests, summative assessment, and even fact-based assessments. The question being asked is whether these methods still have value. The article below shares research that suggests traditional multiple-choice tests should also receive a reprieve from consignment to the dust-bin of professional fashion.

Two Cheers for Multiple-Choice Tests!

by Wray Herbert / Huffington Post Education / 2 April 2012

The oldest geyser in Yellowstone National Park is:

a. Steamboat Geyser
b. Old Faithful
c. Castle Geyser
d. Daisy Geyser

We’ve all answered hundreds if not thousands of these multiple-choice questions over the years. We answer them to get our driver’s licenses, and to get into good colleges and grad schools and professional schools. They’re ubiquitous, yet everyone hates them. Educators dismiss them as simplistic, the enemy of complex learning. Students think they’re unfair. And learning experts say they plain don’t work.

To be clear, learning experts are questioning the value of these tests as learning tools. Perhaps the easy-to-grade exams are a necessary evil for assessments — for things like driver’s licenses and law-school admission. But psychological scientists who study memory and learning say that they can’t be justified on a basic cognitive level as learning tools: years of research have shown that multiple-choice questions fail to trigger the memory retrieval that’s known to solidify new learning. With multiple-choice tests, students only have to recognize the right answer, and simple recognition does not facilitate learning. Only digging through memory does that.

At least that’s what critics of multiple-choices tests have been arguing for years. But now some new research is challenging that entrenched view. A team of scientists, headed up by Jeri Little of Washington University in St. Louis, decided to take another look at the much-maligned multiple-choice test, to see if at least some kinds of questions, if well constructed, might indeed trigger the crucial retrieval process, and thus promote memory and learning.

To read more…

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Too Much Homework Can Lower Test Scores

A growing body of research suggests that homework may not have significant benefits for early learning. This article describes new research that suggests that early and excessive homework may also detract from test scores.

by Natalie Wolchover / Huffington Post / 30 March 2012

Piling on the homework doesn’t help kids do better in school. In fact, it can lower their test scores.

That’s the conclusion of a group of Australian researchers, who have taken the aggregate results of several recent studies investigating the relationship between time spent on homework and students’ academic performance.

According to Richard Walker, an educational psychologist at Sydney University, data shows that in countries where more time is spent on homework, students score lower on a standardized test called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The same correlation is also seen when comparing homework time and test performance at schools within countries. Past studies have also demonstrated this basic trend.

To read more…

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Which Works Better for Motivating Kids Academically: Desire from Within or Pressure from Without?

Motivational psychology has long accepted that desire from within is a more reliable and consistent form of motivation than pressure from without. But how do we help children to internalize a desire to learn, succeed, and contribute?  Stephanie Weisman’s personal account suggests tiger parenting may not be the best method, especially if it is necessary or good to let children fail along the way and determine their own paths forward.

Taming the Tiger of Achievement

by Stephanie Weisman / New York Times SchoolBook / 30 March 2012

I went to Stuyvesant High School, considered the most competitive of New York City’s specialized high schools, so I know a thing or two about Tiger moms. Or rather, I’m familiar with their work: students crying over exams, an unhealthy obsession with Harvard and enough teen angst to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

My own parents were supportive, but never put pressure on me to get straight-As or go to an Ivy League college. As long as I did my best, that was good enough for them. It turns out that it was more than good enough: I became valedictorian of Stuyvesant and, to prove it wasn’t a fluke, graduated from Columbia University with the highest GPA in my class.

So what accounts for my academic performance? Am I a genius who can do linear algebra and read Faulkner in my sleep? Far from it. I had unusual difficulty grasping concepts in class — I suspect an undiagnosed learning disability — and had to work extra hard to keep up. A lot of things contributed to my success: good work ethic, study skills, competitiveness, ambition and intellectual curiosity, to name a few.

To read more…

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New Ed Tech Policy and Advocacy Group: The LEAD Commission

The US Department of Education and Federal Communications Commission are supporting the formation of a new policy planning and advocacy group: Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission (LEAD). LEAD brings together interdisciplinary experts to draw up a “blueprint for action” by the end of 2012, one consistent with the National Broadband Plan and the National Educational Technology Plan (Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology).  One of LEAD’s four commissioners is former US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (2005-9), who led the implementation of NCLB Act.

Public, Private Sectors Push New Education Technologies

by Laura McMullen / US News & World Reports / 19 March 2012

Educators across the country are increasingly embracing digital learning these days—especially after the Obama administration’s push last month for all schools to transition to digital textbooks within the next five years. Last week, a group of technology advocates took another major step when it announced the formation of the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission. Cochaired by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and other officials, the Commission will also receive input from the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Education on advancing the transition of digital learning in American classrooms.

To read more…

Image Source: LEAD home page

Surprise: Teachers Crave Evaluation

The headline above ran with the article below. I was not surprised to see these findings. The teachers that we have met while working on the Scholar learning environment and Learning by Design have shown a desire to learn and improve, and, to make a success of teaching.

by Amanda Paulson / Christian Science Monitor/ 16 March 2012

Read education headlines these days, and the take-away might be that it’s teachers versus reformers on most key issues.

But a new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­dation paints a very different picture of teachers and their views.

Having surveyed more than 10,000 teachers, the report offers a nuanced look at how they feel about their profession, testing, controversial reforms, and what needs to change.

Far from wanting fewer evaluations of their teaching, for instance, they want more.

Teachers want more formalized self-evaluations, more evaluations by principals and district leaders, and more assessments of their knowledge in the subjects they teach.

They also agree overwhelmingly that student growth during the school year should be the most important factor in measuring teacher performance. Forty-three percent say it should contribute a great deal, and an additional 42 percent say it should contribute a moderate amount.

To read more…

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The Global Search for Education: Is Your Child an Innovator?

Applied creativity, project-based learning, authentic engagement, making (as in the maker movement), tinkering, innovation are a related set of ideas in the new learning. They emphasize doing to learn, learning socially, and producing outcomes that are socially aware and concretely contributive.  In this article, C. M. Rubin interviews Dr. Tony Wagner about making “the teaching of innovation one of the highest priorities in K-12 education.”

According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Tony Wagner has served as Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group (CLG) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education since its inception in 2000. An initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CLG is a ‘R & D’ center that helps teams to be effective change leaders in schools and districts. He also was on the faculty of the Executive Leadership Program for Educators, a joint initiative of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Business School, and Kennedy School of Government.”

C.M. Rubin / Education News / 15 March 2012

“The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.” — President Barack Obama, January 25, 2011

Welcome to the Innovation Age.  Today’s world will reward the most innovative young people.  World leaders, business executives, educators, and policy makers have joined in the global debate on how we create the next generation of innovators.  Even parents are asking themselves the question: “Is my child an Innovator?”

How do you train an innovator?  Which schools are doing it better than others?  Are teachers equipped with the new skills required to educate students in this decade?  Are curricula incorporating the essential content that will help young people become more innovative?  Are parents playing their part so as to ensure their children can face tomorrow’s challenges and ultimately lead richer, fuller lives?

In his must read new book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (Scribner, April 17, 2012), Dr. Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, Harvard University, addresses these issues.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him about the most talked about subject in education today.

To read more…

Image Source: The Hewitt School PR image

Income-Achievement Gap Now Over Twice That of Black-White Achievement Gap

In the United States of 1778, Thomas Jefferson put forward a bill for “the more general diffusion of learning,” in order to undermine the pseudo-aristocracy engendered by the privileges associated with wealth, and especially wealth through birth. The newly formed government would pay for the education of its citizens, including the higher education of those most able, regardless of means. In the bill’s preamble, he wrote:

Whereas it appeareth that however certain forms of government are better calculated than others to protect individuals in the free exercise of their natural rights, and are at the same time themselves better guarded against degeneracy, yet experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes; And whereas it is generally true that that people will be happiest whose laws are best, and are best administered, and that laws will be wisely formed, and honestly administered, in proportion as those who form and administer them are wise and honest; whence it becomes expedient for promoting the publick happiness that those persons, whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, and that they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance; but the indigence of the greater number disabling them from so educating, at their own expence, those of their children whom nature hath fitly formed and disposed to become useful instruments for the public, it is better that such should be sought for and educated at the common expence of all, than that the happiness of all should be confided to the weak or wicked. [my emphasis]

The bill was rejected. Fast forward to 2012.

The Reproduction of Privilege

by Thomas B Edsall / New York Times / 12 March 2012

Instead of serving as a springboard to social mobility as it did for the first decades after World War II, college education today is reinforcing class stratification, with a huge majority of the 24 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 currently holding a bachelor’s degree coming from families with earnings above the median income.

Seventy-four percent of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile.

Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and co-author of “How Increasing College Access Is Increasing Inequality, and What to Do about It,” puts it succinctly: “The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.”

To read more…

Image Source: College Board (reproduced in NYT article)

Peter Smagorinsky on Why the Ed Department Should Be Reconceived–or Abolished

Peter Smagorinsky, Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at The University of Georgia, wrote the following opinion piece, which I share to mark one key position in the debate over education reform in the United States. To be fair to the Department of Education, Smagorinsky does not focus on the good work being done by the Institute of Education Sciences, with its What Works Clearinghouse or its investment in impactful research and technology innovation. In the interest of full disclosure, Drs. Kalantzis and Cope have active grants awarded by IES, and I serve as Co-PI on two of those for which Dr. Cope alone is PI (at Common Ground Publishing).

shared by Valerie Strauss / Washington Post / 11 March 2012

The Department of Education has, since its inception in 1979, served as the source of national education policies governing our nation’s schools. Although I agree with very little else of Rick Perry’s vision for America, I think that either abolishing or thoroughly reconceiving this office would make for a better nation, given that for the most part it has done teachers and students far more harm than good.

Over time, the Department of Education has become increasingly bureaucratic and invasive, and has formulated its policies on questionable information that appears to emanate from hunches, anecdotes, whims, and fads, buttressed by corroborating evidence from ideologically friendly think tanks and media blowhards. Along the way, in what seems to be an increasing national trend of anti-intellectualism and cognophobic reactions to the specter of educated and knowledgeable people having opinions, it has eschewed the opportunity to consult with people who teach in or study schools.

The DOE has instead relied on think tanks, film-makers whose “documentary” productions tell whatever story is convenient to the producer’s vision, commissioned studies designed to find what its authors and sponsors are looking for, billionaires whose money entitles them to policy roles, and other dubious sources. Less known to the public, and in my view the most malignant of these influences, textbook companies have used political connections and contributions to position themselves to dictate curricula and assessment that they conveniently provide, for a substantial fee, at every stage of a child’s educational journey. To give one example, McGraw Hill, with long-established ties to the Bush family and testing contracts in 26 states, reported profits in the penultimate year of George W. Bush’s presidency of $403,000,000.

To read more…

Image Source: UGA Magazine

Teacher Morale Hits 20-Year Low per MetLife Study

Teachers and parents, parents and teachers, the two most essential contributors to children’s educational success and life success. A new MetLife survey shows that while teachers perceive that parents have become more involved in their children’s education, teachers themselves feel less satisfied with their work than at any other time in the past 20 years. Job uncertainty, media criticism, low pay — identifying the causes and working to improve them is one important way that we can reform education.

According to the report

Several factors distinguish teachers with high job satisfaction from those with lower satisfaction.
Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to feel their jobs are secure and say they are treated
as a professional by the community. They are also more likely to have adequate opportunities for
professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers, more preparation and supports to
engage parents effectively, and greater involvement of parents and their schools in coming together to
improve the learning and success of students.  (p. 6)

Survey: Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits a Low Point

by Liana Heitin / Education Week/ 7 March 2012

Teacher job satisfaction is at the lowest it’s been in more than two decades, likely as a consequence—at least in part—of the economic downturn and resulting cuts to education budgets, according to a national survey.

The 28th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, released today, finds that 44 percent of teachers are “very satisfied” with their jobs, down from 59 percent in 2009. The last time job satisfaction dipped as low was in 1989.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

Bill Gates Weighs in on “Education 2.0″

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (whose motto is “All Lives Have Equal Value”) is one of the most important funders of the new learning in the United States, and perhaps the world. For more on their work, see here. This makes Bill Gates’s views on what can and should be done to improve education more important than the average citizen’s, or perhaps even legislator’s or education scholar’s.

How Much Can Technology Help Us to Teach and Learn?

by Bill Gates / the gates notes blog / 8 March 2012

Growing up, I was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged their students to explore areas of learning they were curious about. Having the freedom to try things out allowed me to develop a passion for computing—which eventually led me and a fellow student, Paul Allen, to start Microsoft.

Being lucky enough to have great teachers also nurtured a love of learning that has stayed with me ever since. As I told school leaders recently at the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools, my own experience in school is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the work our foundation is doing in education.

I believe a lot of good teachers could become truly great teachers if we can get better at identifying and measuring effective teaching, investing in helping teachers improve, and rewarding excellence.

I also believe technology can help teachers be more effective and make learning more interesting.

To read more…

Image Source: Microsoft

Interest-Driven Learning: An Interview with John Seely Brown

Asperger’s advocates often advise teachers to allow students with the syndrome to pursue their own interests (often a select number of very intensive obsessions) in order to motivate learning. Given that more motivated learning produces better results, would the same practice benefit all students, and if so, what should interest-driven learning look like? (JSB argues it should allow learners to fail.) What should it include and what can it leave out? And above all how ought it to be assessed? (Is there some way to reward good process rather than results, without returning to E for Effort?)

Q&A: John Seely Brown on Interest-Driven Learning, Mentors and the Importance of Play

by Heather Chaplin / Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning / 1 March 2012

As the leading thinkers and do-ers meet this week at the third annual Digital Media and Learning conference, Spotlight talked with DML2012’s keynote presenter John Seely Brown, self-proclaimed “chief of confusion,” and one of the most enlightening thinkers on nearly any topic.

Seely Brown is renowned for his pioneering work at Xerox PARC and work on interplay between organizations, technology and people. He is currently the co-chair of the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation and a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication at University of Southern California. His latest book (with Douglas Thomas) is “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.” Spotlight spoke with him about how to better engage kids and transform education.

Spotlight: Why is “play” such a buzz word when people talk about 21st-century learning?

John Seely Brown: The key to an arc-of-life learning is figuring out how to honor the fact that when we first come into this world, we are mammoth learning engines. How do we honor what it was that made us able in our first two or three years to master one of the most complicated structures we ever have to face in our lives—natural language?

Somehow we were pulled into making sense of the world and making sense of the world continuously. And we did this through play. It was part and parcel to being.

Spotlight: Is play particularly critical for learning right now, at this moment in history, or has it always been crucial but now we just like to talk about it?

JSB: I would say both. It’s through play that we’re given permission to fail again and again in our first few years of life as we try to make sense of the world. It’s our job as youngsters to build a frame of reference through which we will understand the world. I would argue that building that initial frame actually comes from constant experimenting.

When you come into the world, it’s kind of like being dropped into a massive video game—you don’t have the rules figured out and relative to that, you have to figure out how things work. Eventually you start to connect the dots, to make sense of the world, and that comes from play.

But now let’s zoom forward to the 21st century.

To read more…

Image Source: article (John Seely Brown, pictured; photo by Joi Ito)

12 Tech Innovators Who Are Transforming Campuses

From Edpunk to Citizen science, from podcast lectures listened to on smart phones to flipped classrooms, educational technologies are catalyzing some of the great new experiments in how we deliver and how we receive education. The Chronicle of Higher Education has now gathered together twelve recent articles on innovators in the field for an exploration of what’s cutting edge.

Rebooting the Academy

by various Chronicle of Higher Education writers / 26 February 2012 parent article

Salman Khan
Khan Academy

In just a few short years, Salman Khan has built a free online educational institution from scratch that has nudged major universities to offer free self-guided courses and inspired many

Salman Khan

professors to change their teaching methods.

His creation is called Khan Academy, and its core is a library of thousands of 10-minute educational videos, most of them created by Mr. Khan himself. The format is simple but feels intimate: Mr. Khan’s voice narrates as viewers watch him sketch out his thoughts on a digital whiteboard. He made the first videos for faraway cousins who asked for tutoring help. Encouraging feedback by others who watched the videos on YouTube led him to start the academy as a nonprofit.

Laura Czerniewicz
U. of Cape Town

François Grey
Tsinghua U.

Jim Groom
U. of Mary Washington

Adrian Sannier

Candace Thille
Carnegie Mellon U.

Bradley C. Wheeler
Indiana U.

Burck Smith

Kathleen Fitzpatrick
Modern Language Association

Robert W. Mendenhall
Western Governors U.

Daniel J. Cohen
George Mason U.

John P. Wilkin
U. of Michigan

To read more…

Image Source: Chronicle parent article



Today, the Dalai Lama’s official Facebook post touched upon whether education as such has value, suggesting that it doesn’t on its own, that it can even have a negative value depending on who holds it:

Education and knowledge by themselves do not bring inner peace to individuals, families or the society in which they live. But education combined with warmheartedness, a sense of concern for the well-being of others, has much more positive results. If you have a great deal of knowledge, but you’re governed by negative emotions, then you tend to use your knowledge in negative ways. Therefore, while you are learning, don’t forget the importance of warmheartedness.

The theme of warmheartedness in teaching is also the subject of a new Chronicle article on Michael Wesch, the KSU anthro professor who has been a passionate advocate for the incorporation of technologies like YouTube and Twitter in the pedagogy of higher education. At the heart of the matter is the pursuit of what inspires students and motivates them to learn. Wesch has come to the conclusion that it’s not ed technology that does this, but the shoulder-to-shoulder relationship with a teacher who seeks to impart the wonder of a field to students whose learning and learning experience he or she cares about.

A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working

by Jeffrey R. Young / The Chronicle of Higher Education / 12 February 2012

Michael Wesch has been on the lecture circuit for years touting new models of active teaching with technology. The associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University has given TED talks. Wired magazine gave him a Rave Award. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching once named him a national professor of the year. But now Mr. Wesch finds himself rethinking the fundamentals of teaching—and questioning his own advice.

The professor’s popular talks have detailed his experiments teaching with Twitter, YouTube videos, collaborative Google Docs—and they present a general critique of the chalk-and-talk lecture as outmoded. To get a sense of his teaching style, check out a video he made about one of his anthropology courses. In it, some 200 students designed their own imaginary cultures and ran a world-history simulation by sending updates via Twitter and a voice-to-text application called Jott.

To be fair, Mr. Wesch always pointed to the downsides of technology (it can be a classroom distraction, for instance). But he saw tech-infused methods as a way to upgrade teaching.

Then a frustrated colleague approached him after one of his talks: “I implemented your idea, and it just didn’t work,” Mr. Wesch was told. “The students thought it was chaos.”

To read more…

Image Source: article


It Gets Better When We Help to Make It Better: New Research on Bullying

One important area of focus in support of the whole student is school environment. A key aspect of school environment is student culture, and we might even say cultures, that can evolve within particular classrooms and other collective spaces and activities, grades, and, gender groups. New research led by renowned bullying expert Dorothy Espelage suggests that a positive, high empathy, low-tolerance for bullying student culture may be essential to enabling peer intervention on behalf of bullied students.

Study examines what factors may predict intervention to stop bullies

by Sharita Forrest / U Illinois Press Release / 19 December 2011

Prof. Dorothy Espelage, educational psychology

A new study of more than 346 middle-school children indicates that boys are less likely than girls to intervene to protect a bullying victim, especially if the boy is a member of a peer group in which bullying is the norm. The study also suggests that anti-bullying programs that focus on bystander intervention and empathy training aren’t likely to have much impact unless attention is given to reducing bullying perpetration within children’s peer groups.

The study, led by educational psychologist Dorothy Espelage at the University of Illinois, examined the attitudes and behaviors of sixth- and seventh-grade students and their networks of friends to determine if certain factors – such as gender, empathy and belonging to peer groups that perpetrate bullying – might be predictive of bystander intervention.

To read more…

Image Source: article (staff photographer L. Brian Stauffer)

Four Things Lecture is Good For

Lecture was once a default mode of education delivery worldwide, and some might say that it remains so today. As more teachers at all levels adopt alternative teaching methods, we’re left to ask if lectures are ever appropriate. Here, Robert Talbert gives some good advice about when and why they still  work.

by Robert Talbert / The Chronicle of Higher Education Casting Out Nines blog / 13 February 2012

A lot of my posts here are about alternatives to the traditional lecture-oriented classroom. Based on that, and on somewhat testy comments like thesethat I leave lying around the internet, you might get the idea that I am firmly anti-lecture. But that’s not entirely true. There are times and places where lecture works quite well, even better than the alternatives. Here are a few purposes for which I think lecture is well-suited:

  • Modeling thought processes. The benefit of hearing an expert learner lecture on a subject is that, if the lecture is clearly given, the audience can gain some insights into what makes the expert an expert. A good lecture does more than convey facts or put problems on the board — it lays bare the cognitive processes that an expert uses to assimilate those facts or think his or her way through those problems.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Rethinking Testing in the Age of the iPad

At one time, the promise of tablets or netbooks for education was the ability of students to learn anywhere, anytime. This Education Week article picks up a more recent theme: the possibility of a constant stream of formative assessment to help teachers teach more responsively and students learn more actively.

Schools administer assessments via mobile device

by Katie Ash / Education Week / 8 February 2012

Students in Kelly Neuserâ's kindergarten class at Deer Run Elementary School in East Haven, CT

The 3,200-student East Haven schools in Connecticut, elementary teachers did their initial student reading assessments a bit differently this school year.

Instead of using paper and pencil to jot down observations about each of their students and then collecting and analyzing those notes by hand, each teacher used an iPad to collect the information and send it to a centralized database through software from the New York City-based ed-tech company Wireless Generation.

“One of our primary goals was to be able to develop a system that would bring a lot of the data into one place,” says Taylor Auger, a technology-integration teacher in the district who helped incorporate use of the iPads into classrooms. “Previously, the data was processed by hand, and it wasn’t really being put to use effectively. I’m all for data, but that data has to drive instruction.”

To read more…

Image Source: article (Christopher Capozziello for Digital Directions)

Rules to Limit Teachers and Pupils From Getting too Social Online

There’s no question that learning can and does happen everywhere. The new learning concepts of ubiquity and engagement are powerful game-changers that depend in part on access to technology-enabled social learning experiences. The question is how to keep these safe and appropriate; as Jennifer Preston’s article explores, there are no easy answers.

by Jennifer Preston / New York Times / 17 December 2011

Lewis Holloway, a schools superintendent in Georgia, has imposed a strict social media policy

Faced with scandals and complaints involving teachers who misuse social media, school districts across the country are imposing strict new guidelines that ban private conversations between teachers and their students on cellphones and online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer Pust, who teaches in California, believes social media can be useful educational tools.

The policies come as educators deal with a wide range of new problems. Some teachers have set poor examples by posting lurid comments or photographs involving sex or alcohol on social media sites. Some have had inappropriate contact with students that blur the teacher-student boundary. In extreme cases, teachers and coaches have been jailed on sexual abuse and assault charges after having relationships with students that, law enforcement officials say, began with electronic communication.

To read more…

Image Source: Stephen Morton for the New York Times (accompanies original article)

5 Essential Classroom Management Technologies

Amy Burke’s list of the 5 top classroom management technologies gives a good start to resources teachers will find everyday useful. We hope that one day teachers everywhere will add Scholar to their personal lists!

by Amy Burke / Mashable Tech / 10 February 2012

1. Edutopia

This site makes it easy for you to see what other schools are doing around the country to motivate their students, with everything from technology integration to project-based learning. While incorporating real-life video to inform and improve learning, the site offers its best practices for development in student achievement with commentary and blogs from experienced teachers and curriculum experts.

To read more…

Image Source: Edutopia home page

Academically Adrift: The News Gets Worse and Worse (for Higher Education)

So much of the education debate in the US has focused on high school graduate rates and college preparedness that Academically Adrift gave a kind of shock to the collective system when its authors claimed to demonstrate that most students learn very little when they actually get to college.  More than a year later, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s book seems to have  to have held fast, establishing what is now widely regarded as an important critique of the higher education industry, which the book claims serves two classes of students quite differently, those who are prepared, and come ready and able to educate themselves, and those who aren’t, can’t, and don’t.

What Chronicle columnist Kevin Carey misses emphasizing in his otherwise excellent column calling for increased focus on studying learning outcomes at the college-level is that there seems to be little public awareness that there are two classes of not only students but of the qualities of higher education offered to them. Academically Adrift‘s depiction of President King of Walden College as the quintessential cynic on the value of a college education underscores this unpleasant truth, when King suggests that parents (and students) are happy with mediocre educations so long as the basic expected credentialing happens.

Which is why the learning outcomes research for which Carey calls should focus not just on how disadvantaged students are prepared for college, but also on how colleges ought to be prepared to maintain high rigor and expectations for all students, so that higher education empowers everyone who undertakes it to think critically and creatively, use language ably, and reason about the world effectively.

by Kevin Carey / The Chronicle of Higher Education / 12 February 2012

In the last few months of 2010, rumors began circulating among higher-education policy geeks that the University of Chicago Press was about to publish a new book written by a pair of very smart sociologists who were trying to answer a question to which most people thought they already knew the answer: How much do students learn while they’re in college? Their findings, one heard, were … interesting.

The book, Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, fulfilled that promise—and then some. It was no surprise that The Chronicle gave prominent coverage to the conclusion that “American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students,” but few people anticipated that the book would become the rare piece of serious academic scholarship that jumps the fence and roams free into the larger culture.

Vanity Fair used space normally allotted to Kennedy hagiography to call it a “crushing exposé of the heretofore secret society known as ‘college.'” The gossip mavens at Gawker ran the book through their patented Internet cynicism machine and wrote that “To get a college degree, you must go into a soul-crushing amount of debt. And what do you get for all that money? Not learning.”

To read more…

Image Source: book cover / U Chicago Press

Tips for Evaluating Ed Tech Efficacy Studies

As ed tech publishers strive to convince markets of the value of their products, the question of how their claims should be evaluated and by whom is raised. Here, Watters practical tips for non-experts who want to get a baseline of whether claims they are encountering may be valid.

How to Judge if Research is Trustworthy

B. Gillard

by Audrey Watters/ MindShift / 31 January 2012

Scientists are notorious for questioning the veracity of publicized research — and with good reason. They want to know: Who conducted the research? Where was it published? What were the survey questions?

It’s that much more important when it comes to evaluating research in education that will affect the investment decisions of teachers, parents, and administrators.

Case in point: does the iPad boost student learning? Is it a solid educational tool, as the headline from a recent article in Wired magazine says, maintaining that the devices are improving student engagement and assessment.

To read more…

Image Source:  article

Media Multitasking in Tween Girls May Impair Social Development

The original title of this CNN article suggests the results pertain to “youth” in general, but the article says recent Stanford research did not include boys, because male social development is more varied and extends more over time than girls’.

by Mark Milan / CNN / 25 January 2012

FaceTime, the Apple video-chat application, is not a replacement for real human interaction, especially for children, according to a new study.

Tween girls who spend much of their waking hours switching frantically between YouTube, Facebook, television and text messaging are more likely to develop social problems, says a Stanford University study published in a scientific journal on Wednesday.

Young girls who spend the most time multitasking between various digital devices, communicating online or watching video are the least likely to develop normal social tendencies, according to the survey of 3,461 American girls aged 8 to 12 who volunteered responses.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Virtual Schools on the Rise, but Are They Right for K-12 Students?

Virtual schools are cost effective and allow for certain flexibilities (in scheduling, environment), but are critics worry about the lack of individualized learning, the loss of a face-to-face student-teacher relationship, and the lack of socialization. This article examines these points, allow ample room for virtual school proponents to mount a defense.

by Athena Jones / CNN / 30 January 2012

K12 Chicago Ad

It’s a Tuesday morning in January, and seventh-grader Katerina Christhilf is learning algebra. But it’s no ordinary class. This one takes place entirely online, led by a teacher a few miles away.

As part of her training to become a ballerina, Katerina takes dance lessons four times a week, including up to eight hours on Fridays. All that training makes it hard to go to a conventional school, so she takes science, literature, composition, vocabulary, history, music, art and French – a full course-load – from the comfort of her home, through Virginia Virtual Academy, a program run by K12 Inc. that began operating in the state in 2009.

“Ballet is really important to me and it’s usually in the mornings, so if I went to school I would only be able to go on the weekends,” Katerina explained. “Sometimes I’ll study in the morning and I’ll do a few classes and then I’ll go to ballet for maybe like three or four hours and I’ll come back home and I’ll do some more.”

Katerina is one of a growing number of students who go to school online full time. About a quarter of a million students in kindergarten through 12th grade were enrolled in full-time online schools last year, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a 25% increase over the previous year. Some parents choose these schools because their children are struggling in traditional schools; others do so for their flexible schedules.

To read more and view video…

Image Source: K12 Chicago

Everything You Thought You Knew About Learning Is Wrong

 If learning is brainwork, then the science o f learning helps us to get our brains to work better, to ensure improved learning outcomes. Although this article is brief and its title overly sensational, Sundern describes several practical techniques, grounded in research, that would be helpful to any student or teacher — not to mention all of us lifelong learners.

by Garth Sundern / Wired Geek Dad column / 29 January 2012

Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite of the best strategies for learning.

I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, a distinguished professor of psychology, and a massively renowned expert on packing things in your brain in a way that keeps them from leaking out.

It turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong.

First, he told me, think about how you attack a pile of study material.

“People tend to try to learn in blocks,” Bjork said. “Mastering one thing before moving on to the next.”

Instead of doing that Bjork recommends interleaving. The strategy suggest that instead of spending an hour working on your tennis serve, you mix in a range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork.

To read more…

Image Source: article (original: jems_web, Flicker)

Are Some Children Being Left Behind in the Ed Tech Revolution?

A recent Chicago Tribune article claims that they are, and during a week when other news outlets are reporting increases in iPad and Chromebook use in schools…

As some schools plunge into technology, poor schools are left behind: Quickening pace of technology widens the digital divide.

by Nick Pandolfo / Chicago Tribune: The Hechinger Report / 25 January 2012

On a recent Friday morning, 15-year-old Jerod Franklin stared at his hands as he labored to type up memories of the first time he grilled steak. Next to him, classmate Brittany Levy tackled a piece about a trip to the hospital.

The Bronzeville Scholastic Institute ninth-graders were working on writing assignments in the school’s homework lab, whose 24 computers are shared by nearly a thousand students from the three schools that occupy DuSable High School’s campus on the South Side.

“The ratio of computers to students is absurd,” said English teacher Andrew Flaherty, a veteran educator who reports that many of his students cannot afford computers at home and don’t get enough time to use them at school. As a result, Bronzeville Scholastic students born into a digital era struggle with basic skills, such as saving work to a flash drive and setting margins in Microsoft Word.

To read more…

Image Source: article (image: Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune, 17 January 2012)

Computer Technology that Supports Instruction is Proven to Make a Difference

A research study published last spring in the Review of Educational Research (March 2011 vol. 81 no. 1 4-28) conducted a meta-analysis of the last 40 years of research data to answer the question of whether computer technologies in the traditional face-to-face classroom improve learning outcomes. The results are encouraging.

Author Rana Tamim of Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University (Dubai) and several researchers from Concordia University examined 1055 primary studies based on data  from 60,000 studentsfrom elementary school to college, concluding that

a significant positive small to moderate effect size favoring the utilization of technology in the experimental condition over more traditional instruction (i.e., technology free) in the control group…computer technology that supports instruction has a marginally but significantly higher average effect size compared to technology applications that provide direct instruction. Also, it was found that the average effect size for K–12 applications of computer technology was higher than computer applications introduced in postsecondary classrooms.

In their discussion, Tamim et al. call for more the continued study of what types and applications of technology are most effective in supporting instructional objectives, writing:

We support Clark’s (19831994) view that technology serves at the pleasure of instructional design, pedagogical approaches, and teacher practices and generally agree with the view of Ross, Morrison, and Lowther (2010) that ‘educational technology is not a homogeneous “intervention” but a broad variety of modalities, tools, and strategies for learning. Its effectiveness, therefore, depends on how well it helps teachers and students achieve the desired instructional goals’ (p. 19). Thus, it is arguable that it is aspects of the goals of instruction, pedagogy, teacher effectiveness, subject matter, age level, fidelity of technology implementation, and possibly other factors that may represent more powerful influences on effect sizes than the nature of the technology intervention. It is incumbent on future researchers and primary meta-analyses to help sort out these nuances, so that computers will be used as effectively as possible to support the aims of instruction.

The complete article is accessible free online.

Are Apps the Key to Revolutionizing Autism Learning?

The world of special education is being transformed by technology, especially visually-based interactive applications that empower the child to not only learn but also to express learning.

by Philippa Roxby /  BBC News/ 15 January 2012

“She has gone from being a little girl who had no way of showing us how much she knew, to a little girl who now has a portable device she can laugh, play and engage with,” says her mother Sam Rospigliosi, from Edinburgh.

“Who knows, she might even use it as her voice in the years ahead if she never learns how to speak again.”

Veronica is six years old and severely affected by autism. She has significant learning difficulties and finds many social situations very difficult. She lost all her speech three years ago.

But in common with many other children like her, touchscreen computers have provided a way of learning and communicating that plays to her strengths.

To read more…

Image Source:  article (Veronica)


Exams in South Korea: The one-shot society

The article suggests that high academic achievement based on rote learning can no longer support the creative entrepreneurship that will be necessary for South Korea’s continued economic growth. Even more crucial may be the room for individual choice in one’s education, career, and life course — and the happiness that comes with it.

The system that has helped South Korea to prosper is beginning to break down

The Economist / 17 December 2011

ON NOVEMBER 10th South Korea went silent. Aircraft were grounded. Offices opened late. Commuters stayed off the roads. The police stood by to deal with emergencies among the students who were taking their university entrance exams that day.

Every year the country comes to a halt on the day of the exams, for it is the most important day in most South Koreans’ lives. The single set of multiple-choice tests that students take that day determines their future. Those who score well can enter one of Korea’s best universities, which has traditionally guaranteed them a job-for-life as a high-flying bureaucrat or desk warrior at a chaebol (conglomerate). Those who score poorly are doomed to attend a lesser university, or no university at all. They will then have to join a less prestigious firm and, since switching employers is frowned upon, may be stuck there for the rest of their lives. Ticking a few wrong boxes, then, may mean that they are permanently locked out of the upper tier of Korean society.

To read more…

Image Source:  stock.xchng (Image ID: 632376)

One Laptop per Child Debutes Rugged Tablet for Students in Developing World

Begun in 2007, One Laptop Per Child reports having distributed over 2 million XOs the world over. The laptops are designed to enable reading and learning with internet connectivity. The latest version, designed by fuseproject, debuted at CES 2012 and costs just under $100, down by almost half from its earlier form.  For a quick overview of the XO-3, mainly from the perspective of fuseproject founder Yves Behar, see Dezeen.

CES also introduced competition for the XO: the Aakash Ubislate 7, a tablet that retails at just $50.

According to the OLPC faq, “OLPC is based on constructionist theories of learning pioneered by Seymour Papert and Alan Kay, and on the principles in Nicholas Negroponte’s book Being Digital” [link added].

by Zoe Fox / Mashable Tech / 8 January 2012

One Laptop Per Child will unveil its XO 3.0 tablet at the Consumer Electronics Showin Las Vegas Monday. The fully functional tablet is designed to be inexpensive, use little energy and brave extreme weather conditions.

The rugged tablet includes the Marvell ARMADA PXA618 SOC processor, Avastar Wi-Fi SOC, standard or Pixel Qi sunlight-readable display, and supports Android and Linux operating systems. Unlike any other tablet on the market, it can be powered by solar energy, other alternative sources or hand-cranks.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Debating the ‘Flipped Classroom’ at Stanford

In the flipped model of blended learning, students watch online lectures and then complete assignments to which teachers respond directly, sometimes in a classroom setting and sometimes, as in this Stanford version, entirely online. One student’s critique of Stanford University’s public experiment in flipped instruction receives a measured response in Marc Perry’s recent article in “Wired Campus.”

by Marc Perry / Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus blog / 5 January 2012

Stanford University got lots of attention for inviting the public to participate in a series of free online computer-science classes. One thing that’s drawn less notice is how some of the technologies that help facilitate those mega-classes are changing the experience for Stanford students learning the same subjects. Now a Stanford student is provoking a debate on those innovations, with a blog postcritiquing the rigor and format of the “flipped classroom” teaching method deployed in his machine-learning course.

In one version of that course offered to Stanford students, the traditional teaching format was inverted, with lectures presented through online videos and optional once-a-week class meetings devoted to problem solving with the professor. The videos, plus auto-graded assignments, were also offered to the public in the free online version of the machine-learning class. As of November, a staggering 94,000 people had signed up to take that course.

To read more…

Image Source: article


e-Textbooks Saved Many Students Only $1

To ed tech utopianists, e-textbooks promised a revolution in leveling the economic playing field for college students.  Textbooks would be rendered newly affordable, enabling economically marginalized students to attend college at all or to sign up for a larger number of course hours. The dream has not yet been fulfilled, according to a new study that shows a lack of such savings.

by Nick DeSantis / Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus blog / 4 January 2012

Despite the promise that digital textbooks can lead to huge cost savings for students, a new study at Daytona State College has found that many who tried e-textbooks saved only one dollar, compared with their counterparts who purchased traditional printed material.

The study, conducted over four semesters, compared four different means of textbook distribution: traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental, and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device. It found that e-textbooks still face several hurdles as universities mull the switch to a digital textbook distribution model.

To read more…

Image Source: article


Whose Children Have Been Left Behind? Framing the 2012 Ed Debate

Diane Ravitch’s account of her own change of heart and the policies that she now recommends is well worth reading, wherever you stand on the question of testing’s value and uses in education. Ravitch is, by her own account, “Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. In addition, she is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.”

by Diane Ravitch / The Washington Post / 3 January 2012

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. For many years, I was a strong advocate of testing, accountability, and choice. I worked in three conservative think tanks where these ideas were held sacred. In 1998, I went to Albany, N.Y, to testify on behalf of charter legislation. At the time I was connected to the conservative Manhattan Institute. I thought that testing would help diagnose the problems that children had and enable teachers to identify their needs. I thought that charters would enroll the kids who had failed in regular public schools or who were not well served by regular public schools. I thought that charters would collaborate with the public schools.

In a book published last year, I said that I was wrong. I was wrong on every count.

Testing should be used for diagnostic purposes, to help students and teachers, but it has turned into a blunt instrument that is used to reward and punish teachers and schools. Charters should serve the neediest, but, with some notable exceptions, they have become aggressive and entrepreneurial. Instead of seeking out the neediest students, many of them exclude the neediest students and skim the best.

To read more…

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How the Shift to New Digital Publishing Models Might Impact Education

Nicholas Carr discusses some of the implications for education of the publishing industry shifts from print to digital forms.   Among the open questions upon which Carr touches are whether textbooks will become not only more affordable and easier to update and customize, but who will have control over these potentially more fluid digital texts and how recording more frequent, ad hoc changes to them might need to become a matter of editorial policy and / or authorial practice.

by Nicholas Carr / Wall Street Journal /23 December 2011

I recently got a glimpse into the future of books. A few months ago, I dug out a handful of old essays I’d written about innovation, combined them into a single document, and uploaded the file to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. Two days later, my little e-book was on sale at Amazon’s site. The whole process couldn’t have been simpler.

Then I got the urge to tweak a couple of sentences in one of the essays. I made the edits on my computer and sent the revised file back to Amazon. The company quickly swapped out the old version for the new one. I felt a little guilty about changing a book after it had been published, knowing that different readers would see different versions of what appeared to be the same edition. But I also knew that the readers would be oblivious to the alterations.

To read more…

Image Source: article; Edel Rodriguez, illustrator

What is Blended Learning? A Good Video Explanation (from Education Elements company)

EdSurge has recommended this video by Education Elements (a blended learning consulting company) for its clear explanation of blended learning, which is, for many of us, a fuzzy concept.  I have to agree it’s a good introduction, especially because the video ends with four models that seem to be emerging in the field (that’s where things are at their fuzziest). 

Watch Blended Learning Explained.







Image Source: video still

Will Open Educational Resources Benefit the Rich?

Justin Reich’s recent article that asserts OER might increase the achievement gap, even as it raises the performance of all students, has sparked a new debate thread in the community.  This article anticipates his forthcoming empirical research publication on the different uses of wikis within different learning environments, rich and poor.   The article’s strength is found not only in the pause for concern it gives to ed tech utopianism, but also for its recommendations for more inclusive ed tech interventions.  Of interest, too, is Tom Vander Ark’s response (posted at his Getting Smarter blog), which  suggests focusing that we focus instead on the potential for improving all student opportunities and performance–encouraging teachers, cities and states, in supporting and growing this potential–even if the rich may be benefited more significantly than the poor.

by Justin Reich / Educational Technology Debate / 8 December 2011

Basically, I think there are two visions for free and Open educational resources and technology, that can be summarized by these two figures.

Scenario #1: Closing Gaps

In the left figure, we have the “closing gaps” vision. In this vision, everyone benefits from new educational technologies, but low-income students disproportionately benefit. The hope here is that as the ecology of education is flooded with new free and nearly free resources, low-income students will have access to resources previously only available to students in schools in affluent places. […]

Scenario #2: Rising Tide

In the right figure, we have the “rising tide” vision. In this model, everyone still benefits, but now the wealthy disproportionately benefit. From a John Rawls framework, this is still a good thing–everyone is better off than before–but the opportunity gap between wealthy and poor has expanded.

To read more…

Image Source: article (Reich)

11 Tech Factors That Changed Education in 2011

The factors Michael Staton details as game changers in educational technology are as much economic as technical.  Infusions of new venture capital, as well as the promise of increased educator buy-in and expanded markets, are increasing competition and diversification.  The gains are not restricted to ed tech aimed at higher education, either, although that is Staton’s focus in this piece.

by Michael Staton / Mashable Tech / 21 December 2011

In 2011, entrepreneurs and startup activity sprouted up everywhere. Not coincidentally, the Bay Area, New York, Boston, Austin, Portland and every college town from Abilene to Gainesville is fostering young, eager minds. The millennial generation is proving it can create companies — and thus, jobs — that solve real problems.

Trends like these are quickly impacting how young people relate to and absorb education. These days, higher education is a dynamic and increasingly digital environment — and some are questioning the relevance of the traditional educational institution at all. Here’s a look at some of the big changes in tech and funding that have shaped education in 2011.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Students Demand Connection and Feedback Now: Generational Expectations of Those Born Digital

Today’s students are digital natives.  Some have argued that the very concept of a ‘digital native’ is classist, since not all children have regular and broad access to technology, or can be assumed to gain technical facility effortlessly, via high-tech cultural osmosis.  Others make a case for the ubiquity of interactive and social media, and how these are inevitably, inexorably changing our learners, ourselves.

by Sarah Cunnane / Times Higher Education / 15 December 2011

Students currently going through the higher education system are part of a “net generation” who expect instant feedback because of their heavy reliance on mobile phones, social media and video games, a conference has heard.

Arlene J. Nicholas, an assistant professor in the department of business studies and economics at Salve Regina University in New England, spoke at the Society for Research into Higher Education conference, held in Wales last week, giving findings from her research on learning methods among 100 students at a small private university.

She told delegates that the current generation of US students – defined as those born between 1981 and 2000 – were the most diverse, with a third defined as non-white or Latino. But they are also the most demanding, Dr Nicholas claimed. “This multimedia generation seems to expect multiple methods to learn,” she said.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

Online Schools Score Better on Wall Street

Reports on charter school success have been mixed, and so have reports on the effectiveness of education technologies when considered across the board.  Yet, spending is up and profits are too. 

Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools

by Stephanie Saul / New York Times / 12 December 2011

Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third

Lance Murphey for The New York Times

do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.

By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

To read more…

Image Source: NYT article

How Vital is Ed Tech to 21st Century Education? One Answer from India

The author of the column excerpted below, Meeta Sengupta, “currently runs an enterprise that supports various projects across the sector including Words and More (writing by children), a knowledge sharing platform for educators and supports self –organised efforts of the educators in Higher Education as part of her role as chairperson of the North India chapter of the Higher Education Forum. She is also Fellow, Geopolitics at the Takshashila Institution.”

Technology enabled Learning Systems

by Meeta Sengupta / Times of India: EduCable blog / 14 December 2011

Technology has apparently transformed the classroom into a more interactive engaging environment. Both in India and abroad, the more progressive schools seek to engage with learning tools powered by multimedia. The debate on ICT [information communications technologies] for Education has been wide ranging and passionately fought over the years, with naysayers bringing data to prove that educational attainments do not improve while supporters claim that access, achievement and engagement are higher if such tools are used.


Thus learning becomes interactive, a bit competitive and uses a wider range of resources than the teacher could have accessed alone. Online, when on twitter, I have said hello to classes in Finland, New Zealand and Canada and talked about my country. Even for poorer sections of society, I have received assignments on email – a free service provided to learners in many countries. Web based seminars and Open source resources all depend on availability and access to multimedia connected resources.

Classrooms in India too are becoming more complex, especially those in richer schools that can afford to invest in the technology.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

A Call for More Parental Involvement in Their Kids’ Education: It Makes a Difference

Although this op-ed addresses parents, urging them to become more involved in their children’s education, it may also inspire us as education professionals to consider what we can do to better encourage this involvement.  Do we stick with tried and true methods already used?  What new methods can we try?  I wonder especially how educational technologies can help us to  improve our rates of success.  Educational social media and web accessible learning applications seem to offer yet another potential-filled point of entry for parents into their students’ school lives.

How About Better Parents?

by Thomas L Friedman, op-ed columnist / New York Times / 19 November 2011

I[n] recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.

How do we know? […]

Two weeks ago, the PISA team published the three main findings of its study:

“Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background. Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.”

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

College Libraries of the Future: The Digital Now

As more and more resources and aids in college academic libraries go digital, secondary education is faced with increased demands to prepare students for using the libraries of the future, now.  Here are some of the latest statistics about college-based academic libraries, according to a recent NCES study:

• Academic libraries held approximately 158.7 million e-books and about 1.8 million electronic reference sources and aggregation services at the end of FY 2010.

• Academic libraries spent approximately $152.4 million for electronic books, serial backfiles, and other materials in FY 2010. Expenditures for electronic current serial subscriptions totaled about $1.2 billion.

• During FY 2010, some 72 percent of academic libraries reported that they supported virtual reference services.

Article Source:  Academic Libraries: 2010 (“summarizes services, staff, collections, and expenditures of academic libraries in 2- and 4-year, degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia”)

Image Source:  stock.xchng (New York Public Library)

So What Are Math and Reading Tests Really Testing, Anyway?

Advocates of standardized tests as a primary measure of student learning claim that the test of essential competencies that prepare students for college and careers.  Without standardized tests to ensure that students meet minimal standards for competencies in reading and math, we are doing them a disservice.  But are standardized tests really getting at essential competencies? The experience of one successful adult suggests this continues to be a valid question.

When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids

by Marion Bradley / Washington Post / 5 December 2011

A longtime friend on the school board of one of the largest school systems in America did something that few public servants are willing to do. He took versions of his state’s high-stakes standardized math and reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d make his scores public.

By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and willingness to listen.

He called me the morning he took the test to say he was sure he hadn’t done well, but had to wait for the results. A couple of days ago, realizing that local school board members don’t seem to be playing much of a role in the current “reform” brouhaha, I asked him what he now thought about the tests he’d taken.

“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchnge

Video: The Google Effect, and What This Means for Teaching

Journalist John Bohannon takes up how new social media and internet technologies are changing the learning landscape.

by John Bohannon / Online Educa Berlin / 9 September 2011

John Bohannon

Nowadays we use the Internet as an extension of our brains. If we wish to find out the name of the actor we have just seen in a movie we google it on our computer or smartphone. We can look up the recipe of a dish or re-read a newspaper article we liked at any time online. But this way of accessing information “in the cloud” is changing the way we process and store information. We no longer try very hard to recall facts, and students are now better able to remember how to find information than the actual information itself.

What are the implications of this for teaching and learning? John Bohannon, a Boston-based journalist for Science magazine and visiting researcher at Harvard University will examine this question in his keynote speech at OEB 2011.

To view video…

Image Source: article

Coding – The New Latin

A claim now sometimes made is that mathematics is the new lingua franca of the scientific world, at least in pursuit of new knowledge.  I’m skeptical that such a claim for coding can be made for scientific or any other knowledge communities  (since coding is more akin to an underlying syntax than to overt semantic expression), the calls for all fields of knowledge to express themselves through a concretizing means via technology, and to render some dimensions of their disciplines interactive and experiential, is persuasive.

And perhaps the ability to realize this brave new intellectual world should trickle down in the same way that traditional scholarly praxis has been hoped to do with undergraduate students, the ability to research, design, and make competent arguments about different domains of knowledge being assumed as an important competency among the generally educated.  There is, of course, a continuum of competencies, rather than a single competency, which is at stake, both in the traditional cognitive and discursive skill sets and in the technological skill sets evoked here and elsewhere.

Coding is supposed to be a threshold where, once crossed, transforms consumers into makers, who can go from limited off the shelf end users to designs and implementers of ideas.  As is the case with the more established hallmarks of general education skill sets, however, to code or not to code is not merely the question.   Technical literacy goes much beyond coding, as does the technical imagination and how it operates within contemporary culture.  Every technical shop in which I’ve worked has made a distinction between a coder and a developer, between a developer and a designer, between a designer and an innovator with the ability to envision new uses for existing technologies and new technologies for needs old and new. 

So while coding may not be the new Latin, technological literacy (into which I lump analytical thinking, statistical and other mathematical competency, a grasp of physics and electronics, hardware options, software methods and more) and the ability to apply that literacy through forms of technological expression make a good deal of sense for students now and tomorrow.

by Rory Cellan-Jones / BBC News Technology Correspondent / 28 November 2011

The campaign to boost the teaching of computer skills – particularly coding – in schools is gathering force.

Today the likes of Google, Microsoft and other leading technology names will lend their support to the case made to the government earlier this year in a report called Next Gen. It argued that the UK could be a global hub for the video games and special effects industries – but only if its education system got its act together.

The statistics on the numbers going to university to study computing make sobering reading. In 2003 around 16,500 students applied to UCAS for places on computer science courses.

By 2007 that had fallen to just 10,600, and although it’s recovered a little to 13,600 last year, that’s at a time in major growth in overall applications, so the percentage of students looking to study the subject has fallen from 5% to 3%. What’s more, computing science’s reputation as a geeky male subject has been reinforced, with the percentage of male applicants rising over the period from 84% to 87%.

To read more…

Image Source:  stock.xchng

A Social Network Can Be a Learning Network

In this article, Derek Bruff, acting director of the Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in mathematics at Vanderbilt University, makes a case for having students write for a live audience, especially one another, makes a difference.

by Derek Bruff / The Chronicle of Higher Education / 6 November 2011

Last fall, for my first-year writing seminar on the history and mathematics of cryptography, I posted my students’ expository-writing essays on our course blog. The assignment had asked students to describe a particular code or cipher that we had not already discussed—how it came to be, how it works, how to crack it, who used it. They described more than a dozen codes and ciphers. It seemed a shame that I might be the only one to read such interesting content, so I asked the students to read and comment on two papers of their peers. The course blog provided an ideal platform for that task.

About a week later, one of my students arrived at class excited. He had Googled his paper’s topic (the “Great Paris Cipher”) and saw that his paper was the third result listed. He said, with a little trepidation, “Some high-school student is going to cite my paper!” Another student asked if I had seen the lengthy comment left on his blog post by a cryptography researcher he had cited. “That’s pretty cool that the guy in my footnotes read my paper,” he said.

To read more…

Image Source: article: David Plunkert for The Chronicle

Teaching Creativity: The Answers Aren’t in the Back of the Book

In the 21st century, how will we find our way? One answer forwarded by creatives these days is by wayfinding  — as opposed to following a pre-charted course.  The wayfinder, driven by curiosity, is motivated to experiment or explore, willing to fail and able to recognize when something valuable is found.  The wayfinder is about the journey, rather than the destination, about the becoming and the giving away rather than the accomplishing and the accumulating.  Here, Brian D. Cohen, President of the Idyllwild Arts Academy, provides another meditation on this post-modern theme. 

by Brian D. Cohen / Huffington Post: Education / 16 November 2011

“Genius is the error in the system.” — Paul Klee

When a student asks me, an art teacher, how to do something, I often don’t answer. It’s not that I’m especially possessive of my acquired knowledge; to the contrary, I don’t think knowledge belongs to anyone; it should be shared, or better yet, discovered.

As teachers, we imply there are definite answers and that we possess them. Sometimes teachers play a kind of game in which they encourage students to guess the answer in the teacher’s head. It might be better played the other way around.

Figuring things out for yourself has a high value. Thinking is the best way to learn. But it’s painful and a lot of work, and lengthy uncertainty is uncomfortable.

To read more…

Image Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy



CM Rubin’s The Search for Global Education Series — Recommended Reading

At Education News, CM Rubin writes The Global Search for Education series, which I highly recommend as a source for quick information and inspiration to dig deeper.  Some of her recent columns are well worth the read for those of us interested in the New Learning.  As a taste, here are five of my recent favorites:

How Will We Read: In Schools? (11/2/11), a discussion of and interview with “Carl Harvey, President of the American Association of School Librarians about the SKILLS Act (Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries) among other things related to the impact of 21st century school libraries on the educational process as well as college and career preparedness.”

C.M. Rubin

All That Is Me (10/18/11), a discussion of and interview with Anthony Seldon–” author or editor of over 25 books on contemporary history, politics and education”– on “the evolution of education in the 21st century and the holistic model that can develop all the aptitudes of each child.”

More from India (10/4/11), an interview with Dr. Madhav Chavan, “CEO of the largest NGO in India, about poverty and education in India and what is being done about it.”

What Did You Learn Today? (9/20/11), an interview with Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London, who “believes that improving instruction immediately through Embedded Formative Assessment will have a marked effect on education reform worldwide.”

How To Support Your Education System (9/13/11), an interview with Charles Ungerleider, “Professor of Sociology of Education at the University of British Columbia and Director of Research and Managing Director of Directions, Evidence and Policy Research Group” on why “Canada currently ranks in the top 10 countries in all the PISA test subjects, well ahead of the U. S. ”

To read more…

Image Source:  Education News


Idaho Becomes First State to Require Online Education

Idaho’s move to require require high school students to earn two online credits in order to graduate may signal a sea change in public education.  The cost savings online learning promises may prove irresistible.   Blended learning models also promise greater access to distributed education resources, like expert teachers across county or state lines, and improved technology literacy.  Whether Idaho’s decision is a sign of things to come or a flash in the pan has yet to be seen — it’s definitely something to watch.

by Associated Press / Washington Post / 3 November 2011

Education officials on Thursday gave final approval to a plan that makes Idaho the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate, despite heavy criticism of the plan at public hearings this summer.The measure is part of a sweeping education overhaul that introduces teacher merit pay and phases in laptops for every high school teacher and student.

Proponents say the virtual classes will help the state save money and better prepare students for college. But opponents claim they’ll replace teachers with computers and shift state taxpayer money to the out-of-state companies that will be tapped to provide the online curriculum and laptops.

The rule will apply to students entering the 9th grade in fall 2012. It goes before Idaho lawmakers for review in the 2012 session, which starts in January.

To read more…

Image Source:  wwp. greenwichmeantime.com

How Does Plagiarism Detection Software Impact Teaching?

During a stint as a distance-education professor at a very good program associated with a major university, I was required to use Turnitin.com as a matter of policy to check for student plagiarism.  For the most part, the tool only showed what I could already find readily on my own from observing shifts in language and ideas (style, terminology, expert stances).  However, it did provide me with an easily compiled source of evidence to demonstrate plagiarism.  Also, given its database of previous student papers, it could find cases of plagiarism I couldn’t (and did, although much less frequently).  That is, the reuse of student-written papers. 

Did it create an atmosphere of distrust?  I’m not certain.  Student emotions are sometimes not easily read over a distance. 

Did it create a greater sense of accountability?  I’m uncertain about that, too.  I had so many cases of plagiarism in one semester — despite all students having been explicitly (by policy) informed of the tool’s use — that the Dean’s Office (which handled them) began to push back on further submissions (although I continued, of course, to keep turning them in as they came).  Yet, I do continue to believe that plagiarism detect by whatever means is important, to create teaching opportunities both in terms of proper acknowledge of others’ work and professional ethics.

See what you think.

Software Catches (and Also Helps) Young Plagiarists
Escalation in Digital Sleuthing Raises Quandary in Classrooms 1

by Marc Parry / The Chronicle of Higher Education / 8 November 2011

The spread of technology designed to combat academic cheating has created a set of tricky challenges, and sometimes unexpected fallout, for faculty members determined to weed out plagiarism in their classrooms.

In the latest development, the company that sells colleges access to Turnitin, a popular plagiarism-detection program that checks uploaded papers against various databases to pinpoint unoriginal content, now also caters directly to students with a newer tool called WriteCheck, which lets users scan papers for plagiarism before handing them in.

Meanwhile, faculty members at some colleges are adopting a reverse image-search program called TinEye, which lets them investigate plagiarism in ­visual materials like photos and architectural designs.

Cheating is nothing new. But as the ­frontiers of academic policing continue to advance—some 2,500 colleges now use Turnitin—faculty members are being pushed to confront classroom conundrums: Should they scan all papers for plagiarism, and risk poisoning the classroom atmosphere? Should they check only suspicious texts, and preserve harmony at the risk of missing clever cheaters? Could Turnitin and technologies like it lead to more plagiarism, since professors might depend on their imperfect results rather than vigorously investigate suspicious material on their own?

To read more…

Image Source: article: Sarah Weeden, photographer

Screen Time Higher Than Ever for Children

A new study shows that US children have more access and exposure to media than ever before, from television to computers to mobile devices.  The media forms depend on relative affluence, with more interactive media access increasing with parental income.  Will this tech gap lead to educational and cultural gaps in the latest born digital generations?

by Tamar Lewin / New York Times / 25 October 2011

Jaden Lender, 3, sings along softly with the “Five Little Monkeys” app on the family iPad, and waggles his index finger along with the monkey doctor at the warning, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” He likes crushing the ants in “Ant Smasher,” and improving his swing in the golf app. But he is no app addict: when the one featuring Grover from Sesame Street does not work right, Jaden says, “Come on, iPad!’” — then wanders happily off to play with his train set.

“I’ll lie to myself that these are skill builders,’” said his father, Keith Lender, who has downloaded dozens of tablet and smart phone apps for Jaden and his 1-year-old brother, Dylan. “No, I’m not lying,” he said, correcting himself. “Jaden’s really learning hand-eye coordination from the golf game, and it beats the hell out of sitting and watching television.”

Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ longstanding recommendations to the contrary, children under 8 are spending more time than ever in front of screens, according to a study scheduled for release Tuesday.

To read more…

Image Source: article: Michael Appleton for the New York Times

A Classroom Software Boom, But Mixed Report Card

Defenders of educational technologies claim that their contributions to learning are not sufficiently captured in conventional, standardized tests.  Critics, however, continue to press on the question of quantifiable, demonstrated results.

Grading the Digital School: Inflating the Software Report Card

by Trip Gabriel / New York Times / 8 October 2011

The Web site of Carnegie Learning, a company started by scientists at Carnegie Mellon Universitythat sells classroom software, trumpets this promise: “Revolutionary Math Curricula. Revolutionary Results.”

In Augusta, Ga., the school district has expanded the use of Cognitive Tutor math software to all of its high school students.

Grading the Digital School
Unfulfilled Promises

IN THE COMPUTER LAB | Brandon Penvose, a ninth grader, working through math problems last month.

The pitch has sounded seductive to thousands of schools across the country for more than a decade. But a review by the United States Department of Education last year would suggest a much less alluring come-on: Undistinguished math curricula. Unproven results.

The federal review of Carnegie Learning’s flagship software, Cognitive Tutor, said the program had “no discernible effects” on the standardized test scores of high school students. A separate 2009 federal look at 10 major software products for teaching algebra as well as elementary and middle school math and reading found that nine of them, including Cognitive Tutor, “did not have statistically significant effects on test scores.”

To read more…

Image Source:  T. Lynne Pixley for the New York Times

Robo-Truant Tech and Other Apps to Fix Education

The Education Nation Conference recently held in NYC was a big-buzz event.  There seems to be a growing consensus feeling in education circles that the time has come for educational technologies to ‘put up or shut up.’  Alter claims to have gone in to the conference as a skeptic and come out of it as a qualified supporter. 

by Jonathan Alter / Bloomberg View / 29 September 2011

Illustrator: Andy Rementer

The education reform movement is at an important juncture. It will either peter out in platitudes or advance based on a new consensus. At this week’s Education Nation conference in New York City, I came away with some hope for the latter. My cautious optimism is rooted in two Ts — technology and transparency.

In the pitched battles between reformers and traditionalists, I’ve been passionately on the side of the reformers for almost 20 years. With the help of the last four presidents, they’ve made progress against the education establishment in pushing for accountability, common standards, charter schools, merit pay and rigorous teacher evaluation.

But traditionalists in the unions and the business-as-usual bureaucracy have recently been successful in depicting reformers as teacher-bashers (not guilty) and as overreliant on test scores in reading and math at the expense of other subjects (guilty).

Even if they cordially despise each other, reformers and traditionalists will now have to work together to implement the new accountability laws enacted in the past few years in about a dozen states.

One way to do so is by embracing smart new technology.

To read more…

Image Source:  article (Andy Rementer, illustrator)


Reforming Education: The Great Schools Revolution

 This latest education piece from The Economist uses world learning performance improvements as a basis for evaluating state reforms to education.  Decentralization seems, to the author, to be a significant factor in some recent success stories (Ontario, Poland, Saxony).  Whether decentralization is the answer for every state, and for the United States in particular, remains an open question.

The Economist / 17 September 2011 (from the print edition)

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.

Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA’s latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value

Mark Richtel’s NYT piece is critical of what he believes is a lack of the proof behind the hype of learning technologies.  It’s been called “well reported” by EdSurge insiders.

Insider Tom Vander Ark levies thoughtful criticism, however, in “Richtel’s Rear View Mirror Missed the Mark” — focusing on the inevitability of a digital world, the expanded access to learning materials, and the potential for getting the right teachers to students even as ratios can go up.  See also Bror Saxberg’s (Chief Learning Officer at Kaplan) response, which I applaud for this statement:

The problem is that, at scale, our educational systems is still mostly not getting it the right way around […] We’re not thinking about how to improve learning based on what’s known about learning, and then applying technology to make it faster, cheaper, easier, and data-rich.  Instead, as described in the article, we tend to buy first, and wonder why no change in results. […] The key is not to just add screens and silicon and hope for the best. We have to do (and expand) the hard work of understanding what activities by a mind with a particular background optimize its learning. From this we can see how to apply technology to take a better method and make it simpler, cheaper, easier to access, more reliable, data-rich.

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores

by Mark Richtel / New York Times / 3 September 2011

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Amy Furman, a seventh-grade English teacher here, roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They’re studying Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” — but not in any traditional way.

Grading the Digital School

Molly Siegel and Christian Dedman, both 7, worked together with a laptop during a class in the Kyrene School District in Arizona.

In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare’s characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare’s lovelorn Silvius.

The class, and the Kyrene School District as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.

To read more…

Other Responses to Richtel:

Cathy Davidson

Katrina Stevens

Image Source: article (photographer: Jim Wilson)

Tempest in an Inkpot: Is the Fading of Cursive a Loss?

Suggesting the continuing value of cursive as an expressive form, Kanye West raps in his and Jay-Z’s recent megahit “Otis”:

I made “Jesus Walks” I’m never going to hell
Couture level flow, it’s never going on sale
Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses
Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive

For West cursive’s value is rareified, couture (its high-end associations having to do perhaps with designer graphics that have popularized hand lettering of late)–rather than its practical purpose or popular use.  Whether any value for cursive will persist with future generations is far from certain.  In this piece exploring the loss of cursive, Beck usefully surveys the spectrum of present concern over the “fall of cursive” in favor of keyboarding and places the debate within its historical context.

Writing on the Wall

by Graham T. Beck / The Morning News /September 2011

Don’t be fooled by the hand-lettering trend in movie posters and book covers—cursive is dead. Who cares? A million angry commenters around the web who extol the virtues of loops and curls. But the traditional form has a history that’s less than precious.

Third grade was the year cursive didn’t matter. That’s not to say it definitely matters now, or that it didn’t actually matter then, but that’s what I most vividly remember repeating for the nine months that school was in session: “Cursive doesn’t matter.” It was my name, rank, and serial number. Handwriting was my enemy. Those who championed its cause: my captors. “Cursive doesn’t matter,” I’d tell them. “It can’t matter,” I’d say to myself. It couldn’t.

No matter how hard I tried, I was incapable of making my hand shape those precious loops.  […] Forty-four states¾most recently Hawaii (Aloha) and Indiana (Go Hoosiers!)—have tacitly affirmed what I insisted all those years ago, with their adoption of an education platform called the Common Core State Standards, which replaces decades-old handwriting requirements with a “keyboarding” mandate.

To read more…

Image Source:  article (Katie Turner Illustration)

How Do We Prepare Our Children for What Comes Next?

Cathy Davidson’s latest book on education for the 21st century is a big hit.  Here, Tina Barseghian of Mind/Shift interviews Cathy and highlights some of her key recommendations for shaping future learners.

by Tina Barseghian / Mind/Shift / 19 August 2011

When most of us were deciding what to major in at college, the word Google was not a verb. It wasn’t anywhere close to being conceived at all. Neither was Wikipedia or the iPhone or YouTube. We made decisions about our future employment based on what we knew existed at the time. We would become educators, journalists, lawyers, marketing reps, engineers.

Fast forward a couple of decades (or more) and we see that the career landscape has changed so drastically that jobs need new definitions. Social media strategist, app developer, mobile web engineer?

Some of us could ask ourselves if we would have embarked upon our current careers had we predicted how the Internet would revolutionize every part of our lives? It’s hard to say, but when it comes to preparing our kids for what’s ahead, Cathy Davidson has a few ideas. The author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking), who’s also a professor at Duke University, believes that, in light of the fact that “65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet,” we should cast aside our fear of technology, and prepare our school-aged kids with important skills, both in technical ways and other less tangible ways.

To read more…

Image Source: article (official book cover)

Ethics of Technology in the Classroom

This article provides a good example of the tech permissive position on the question of whether to bring tech into the classroom, and particularly social and web technologies.  The educators interviewed–who practice in West Coast Jewish day schools–provide sound perspectives on the kinds of conditions and limits that make this a positive practice; they also given a good sense of the value these technologies bring to their students’ learning, including an often overlooked dimension of tech literacy: ethics.  If teaching technology ethics (especially social media use) to students is of interest, see also this impassioned blog post by Michael Redfearn advocating for it in response to the reactionary commentary on the part social media have played in recent events (“Our youth need education in technology ethics,” TheRecord.com, 13 August 2011).

Using Laptops Offers Lessons in Ethics of Technology

by Ryan E. Smith / JewishJournal.com / 17 August 2011

Big Brother is watching at Milken Community High School. At least, he’s watching your computer.

For two years, the Bel Air school has required every seventh- and ninth-grader to come with a laptop so that it can integrate technology into the classroom. This fall, Milken will install a program, LanSchool, in each computer, which will allow administrators to see what’s taking place on every screen, according to Jason Ablin, head of school.

That means they could know when a student is looking at Facebook instead of their French assignment or when someone’s checking out Lady Gaga instead of Lady Macbeth.

“I can go on my computer at any moment and look at any laptop in the school,” Ablin said.

This software is part of a larger debate taking place on how best to balance the incredible educational power of laptops and tablet devices with worries about their possible misuse and power to distract.

To read more…

Image Source: article (Students at Milken Community High School working on an Apple laptop computer. Photo courtesy Milken Community High School.)

Mo. Teachers Protest Social Media Crackdown

Should the concern over inappropriate relationships between some teachers and students mean that all informal, unmonitored interactions between the majority be banned, either by law (as is now the case in Missouri) or school policy (as is increasingly common throughout the U.S.)?  The coverage of this debate (the article here is no exception) often leaves out a third option that many teachers and schools systems favor as a solution, that of secure and transparent social networks within schools.  These types of networks attempt to create an environment in which administrators and parents in some cases can view online interactions that take place around the classroom even when outside of it.

by Allan Scher Zagier / Yahoo News (Associated Press) / 5 August 2011

As they prepare lesson plans for fall, teachers across Missouri have an extra chore before the new school year begins: purging their Facebook friend lists to comply with a new state law that limits their contact with students on social networks.

The law was proposed after an Associated Press investigation found 87 Missouri teachers had lost their licenses between 2001 and 2005 because of sexual misconduct, some of which involved exchanging explicit online messages with students.

But many teachers are protesting the new restrictions, complaining the law will hurt their ability to keep in touch with students, whether for classroom purposes, personal problems or even emergencies.

To read more…

Image Source: Facebook logo

Review: The Edupunk’s Guide

Stephen Downes, a Senior Research with the National Research Council of Canada, reviews The Edupunk’s Guide by Anya Kamenetz on his personal Half an Hour blog (8 August 2011).

The guide is an e-book distributed for free via web during Summer 2011.  Per the author, “The primary goal is to reach low-income students and potential students to help them find alternative paths to a credential using online and open resources.  The secondary goal is to reach educators and administrators interested in incorporating the latest technology, social media, and collaborative learning into their approaches in order to cut costs while improving learning, socialization, and accreditation both inside and outside the classroom.”  It is the first book to have been sponsored by The Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, a major player in promoting the transformation of education through innovative applications of digital technologies.

I have now had the chance to read The Edupunks’ Guide and can now form some opinions based on what I’ve seen. And if I were forced to summarize my critique in a nutshell, it would be this. Edupunk, as described by the putative subculture, is the idea of ‘learning by doing it yourself’. The Edupunks’ Guide, however, describes ‘do-it-yourself learning’. The failure to appreciate the difference is a significant weakness of the booklet.


It’s *hard* to learn this way; in fact, it’s *harder* than going to college. The educational system as it is currently structured is intended to offer a set of short cuts – access to qualified practitioners, creation of custom peer networks, guided and scaffolded practice – for a certain price. The system isn’t (as suggested in Kamenetz’s booklet) about imposing sets of restrictions and making things more expensive. It’s about offering the greatest reach in the shortest time. It allows those willing and able to invest themselves full-time to master the basics of a discipline relatively quickly, so they can obtain employment and begin the real learning they will need to undertake in order to become expert.

And this is what Kamenetz simply misunderstands about traditional learning – that the greatest of the ‘bucket of benefits’ isn’t provided by the college at all, but by the student. It is this full-time *immersion* into a discipline that helps someone *become* the sort of person who can, over time, be an expert in that discipline. You can’t just get the ‘benefits’ offered by a college and somehow ‘acquire’ an education without that commitment, without that immersion, without that dedication. Kamenetz’s version of DIY education depicts it as a quick and inexpensive short-cut — the exact opposite of what it actually is.

To read more… For background on the Edupunk branch of the Makers movement, see here.

Image Source: author’s blog

Standardized Tests’ Measures of Student Performance Vary Widely: Study

A new study confirms what has long been asserted in debates over NCLB:  that individual state standards for student learning proficiencies differ from those used by NAEP, which determine an average of 10% of state school budgets from “school improvement grants.”  The study provides just one more piece of evidence that NCLB is broken.  But what is the solution?  Is it a reform of NCLB or a new direction altogether?  Should all students across states be held to a national standard, or should such summative testing be replaced with other measures of competency as it develops over time?

by Joy Resmovits / Huffington Post / 10 August 2011

The United States has 50 distinct states, which means there are 50 distinct definitions of “proficient” on standardized tests for students.

For example, an Arkansas fourth-grader could be told he is proficient in reading based on his performance on a state exam. But if he moved across the border to Missouri, he might find that’s no longer true, according to a new report.

“This is a really fundamental, interesting question about accountability reform in education,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the government organization that produced the report, told reporters on a Tuesday conference call.

The report, written by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, found that the definition of proficiency on standardized tests varies widely among states, making it difficult to assess and compare student performance. The report looked at states’ standards on exams and found that some states set much higher bars for students proficiency in particular subjects.

To read more…

Image Source: article (original source US Department of Education IES NCES)

Five Things Student Say They Want From Education

Interactive technology and choice are among two of the five things students say they want from their education.

by staff reports / eSchool News / 28 July 2011

With so many education stakeholders debating the needs of today’s schools, student voices aren’t always heard when it comes to what they want from their education.

And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.

We recently asked eSchool News readers: “What’s the one thing you hear most often from students about what they want in school?”

To read more…

Image Source: article

Professors Cede Grading Power to Outsiders — Even Computers

In Digital Learning Now!,  a key document for framing digital learning policy, The Foundation for Excellence in Education (December 2010) assumes that digital tools will give learners a boost in their learning outcomes in addition to saving schools on costs.  Advocates for outsourcing and computerizing evaluation make the same claims in Young’s piece, below, and yet advocates admit there remains a core resistance in the field of higher education.  What will it take to overcome that resistance?  And, even more importantly, whatever the cost burden of quality education, should it be overcome?

by Jeffrey R. Young / The Chronicle of Higher Education / 7 August 2011

The best way to eliminate grade inflation is to take professors out of the grading process: Replace them with professional evaluators who never meet the students, and who don’t worry that students will punish harsh grades with poor reviews. That’s the argument made by leaders of Western Governors University, which has hired 300 adjunct professors who do nothing but grade student work.

“They think like assessors, not professors,” says Diane Johnson, who is in charge of the university’s cadre of graders. “The evaluators have no contact with the students at all. They don’t know them. They don’t know what color they are, what they look like, or where they live. Because of that, there is no temptation to skew results in any way other than to judge the students’ work.”

To read more…

Image Source:  Kristin Murphy for The Chronicle (article)

Should Standardized Tests Be Used to Evaluate Teaching Effectiveness? Do They Encourage Cheating?

Recent widespread cheating scandals in far-flung districts (Washington DC, Atlanta) among teachers and principals have been taken as a sign by critics of imposed national standardized testing that this method of discerning educational effectiveness is flawed.  This article explores the unfolding of the Atlanta scandal from one teacher’s perspective as a means of getting to the controversy around the method itself.

Cheating Report Confirms Teacher’s Suspicions

by Paul Frisch / CNN / 8 August 2011

Julie Rogers-Martin had started to doubt her teaching skills.

After 30 years in education, working mostly with underprivileged inner-city students, Rogers-Martin felt she had developed a level of competence and professionalism that can only be gained from hard work and experience.

Her superiors at East Lake Elementary School in the Atlanta Public Schools system where she taught for six years seemed to agree. Administrators held her up as a model, praising her classroom management skills and use of technology and showcasing her class to parents and administrators, she says.

But between 2007 and 2009 a strange thing started happening: Some of her colleagues’ students began to outperform her students on the state’s standardized test.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Draft Content Frameworks Released for Common Standards

One of the two consortia established to recommend best assessment practices for the new common core state standards (PARCC) has released a draft of content frameworks.  These include sample instructional units, sample assessment tasks, and professional development modules.  Among PARCC’s members are 10 of the 12 awarded Race to the Top states.
by Catherine Gewertz / Ed Week / 4 August 2011

Many educators and analysts have noted that there is a lot of empty space between adopting the new common standards and testing students to gauge mastery of those standards. Now, we are starting to see efforts to fill that space (think curriculum materials, professional development).

Last night, a set of draft content frameworks landed. Billed as part of the “bridge” between standards and assessments, the frameworks were issued by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of the two big groups of states that have Race to the Top money to design common tests for the new standards in math and English/language arts.

To read more…

Image Source: www.parcconline.org

The Unschooling Movement: Is this Learning Revolution for Everyone?

Unschooling is a movement to personalize children’s education radically.  Children determine what they want to learn, and adults (without required licensure or professional educational backgrounds) serve as guides who provide them with resources for how to go about learning it.  Unschooling may occur within home school or private school settings, the best known of which is the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts.

by Jacque Wilson / CNN / 3 August 2011

Six-year-old Karina Ricci doesn’t ever have a typical day. She has no schedule to follow, no lessons to complete.

She spends her time watching TV, doing arts and crafts or practicing the piano. She learned to spell by e-mailing with friends; she uses math concepts while cooking dinner.

Everything she knows has been absorbed “organically,” according to her dad, Dr. Carlo Ricci. She’s not just on summer break — this is her life year round as an at-home unschooler.

To read more…

Image Source: article (site depicted: Sudbury Valley School)

Five Ideas for Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning

Educational testing expert Bill Tucker provides five additional means to assure digital learning quality to the three presented by Rick Hess in the recent Fordham Institute report.  “Digital learning,” Hess writes, “poses an immense dilemma when it comes to ensuring quality. One of the great advantages of online learning is that it makes ‘unbundling’ school provision possible—that is, it allows children to be served by providers from almost anywhere, in new and more customized ways.  But taking advantage of all the opportunities online learning offers means that there is no longer one conventional ‘school’ to hold accountable…Finding ways to define, monitor, and police quality in this brave new world is one of the central challenges in realizing the potential of digital learning.”  The report and its commentators, such as Tucker, suggest that the discussion of digital learning has shifted from whether or not it is beneficial–and so should be supported given a limited pool of time and money–to how it can be assessed to help create the most beneficial learning experiences.

by Bill Tucker / The Quick & the Ed / 27 July 2011

On Wednesday, the Fordham Institute released “Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning: Three (Imperfect) Approaches,” the first in a series of six papers exploring critical issues in digital learning. Written by Rick Hess, the paper recognizes the importance of efforts to ensure that new digital learning endeavors meet a high bar for quality. And, it offers a helpful framework, outlining and describing the pros and cons of three different quality control approaches: the regulation of inputs, outcome-based accountability, and market-based mechanisms. Perhaps the best part of the paper is its realistic recognition that there is no magic recipe to ensure quality. We need a blend of strategies and a willingness to adopt better tools as they become available, not only for digital learning, but also for traditional, place-based learning and all of the blended learning options in-between.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng (image by clix)

Digital Learning in Low-Income Communities

Recent reports on youth and media have made clear that minority youth are using media heavily, including the new media.  Their use is primarily entertainment / leisure oriented.  The question for educators is how to turn this media play and technology competence to educational ends.

by Sarah Jackson / Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning (MacArthur Foundation)/ 26 July 2011

In an interview at KQED’s MindShift, author S. Craig Watkins says that despite tough economic times, teaching students, especially those in schools in low-income communities to use digital media, is more important now than ever.

“My concern is that as schools are now struggling with budget cuts, digital media and digital literacy is looked [at] as a luxury as opposed to a necessity,” Watkins told MindShift. “I understand the enormous pressure that teachers and administrators are under, especially in the public school system. But we need to build a more compelling narrative that digital literacy is no longer a luxury but a necessity.”

Watkins is an associate professor of media studies at the University of Texas at Austin who has written about the “participation gap” and the ways that black and Latino youth are embracing mobile technology.

To read more:

Image Source: article (photographer: Jeremy Noble)

Reforming the School Reformers

In this commentary, Paul Tough gets tough on the traditional reform movement, which advocates for changes to education within the existing public school paradigm (such as by rewarding teachers for excellence and reducing class sizes).  He claims the evidence shows traditional reform has not been effective, and that traditional reform advocates have offered excuses instead of results.

by Paul Tough / New York Times / 7 July 2011

In the early days of the education-reform movement, a decade or so ago, you’d often hear from reformers a powerful rallying cry: “No excuses.” For too long, they said, poverty had been used as an excuse by complacent educators and bureaucrats who refused to believe that poor students could achieve at high levels. Reform-minded school leaders took the opposite approach, insisting that students in the South Bronx should be held to the same standards as kids in Scarsdale. Amazingly enough, those high expectations often paid off, producing test results at some low-income urban schools that would impress parents in any affluent suburb.

Ten years later, you might think that reformers would be feeling triumphant. Spurred in part by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, many states have passed laws reformers have long advocated: allowing for more charter schools, weakening teachers’ tenure protections, compensating teachers in part based on their students’ performance. But in fact, the mood in the reform camp seems increasingly anxious and defensive.

To read more…

Image Source: edinreview.com

Interaction in the Classroom: U-Author in the News

Dr Bill Cope discusses his transformative software environment for improving students’ written literacy on WCIA-3’s News In-Depth.

Learning Time in America: Report on a Reform Movement

The standard school year in the United States is 180, 6.5-hour days long.  This Summer 2011 report — sponsored and conducted by the National Center on Time and Learning and the Education Commission of the States — compiles advocacy efforts on behalf of expanding the standard school year in order to broaden and deepen the curriculum and the learning potential of students.  The report claims that the movement first gained “headway” in response to a 1994 National Time and Learning Commission report favoring this increase.  President Obama has also called for an increased school year, now that the US is no longer “a nation of farmers.”

In recent years, NCLB has mean a “re-balancing” of curriculum.  According to the report:

The most consequential shift has been a somewhat predictable weighting of time toward classes in reading and math, especially at the elementary school level. This re – balancing is a direct result of the pressure on schools to demonstrate rising student proficiency in these tested subjects. A 2008 study by the Center on Education Policy found that elementary students spend, on average, 141 more minutes per week in English classes and 89 more minutes per week in math than in the days before No Child Left Behind. Yet, in the zero – sum game of school time, increases in some classes must mean decreased time in others. The largest “losers” are science and social studies (now meeting about 75 fewer minutes per week), followed by art (57 minutes per week) and physical education (40 minutes).”

The report highlights the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative as a  “policy model” with at least two profound turnarounds of under-performing schools in high poverty areas to its credit.

Two of the schools with the most impressive gains include the Matthew Kuss Middle School in Fall River and the Clarence Edwards Middle School in Boston, both of which serve a student population that is at least 80 percent low-income. A year before becoming an ELT school, the Kuss had been the first school in the state to be designated “chronically underperforming.” Over the last four years, however, Kuss students have made steady achievement gains, with the school meeting its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) improvement targets for the past two academic years. The Edwards, too, had been a struggling school in danger of being closed, but, in the last two years, its graduates (8th graders) have posted proficiency rates in ELA nearly that of the state average and math proficiency that exceeds the state average.

The additional cost to Massachusetts is $1300 per student in participating schools.

Expanded costs are the main point of critique against extended learning calendars.  One important counter is the potential of ubiquitous learning technologies to allow for extra learning time as well as to enable lateral learning, when students help one another to learn.

To read more…

Image Source: Learning Time in America Report

Tech Ideal vs. the Real Classroom

In this report from the educational technologies market frontline, Frank Catalano, the Principal of Intrinsic Strategy, describes what teachers are actually doing with them in the classroom.  He’s impressed with their variety and ingenuity.  Catalano recently moderated “the opening general session of this year’s Content in Context Conference, organized by the Association of Educational Publishers.”

by Frank Catalano / EdNET Insight / 8 July 2011

We’ve all seen wish lists of what teachers want in digital resources and technology. We’ve all read the increasingly voluminous studies of what educators, in aggregate, have in their classrooms, schools, and districts.

But what, though, are they actually doing?

If some of the highest-profile applications of digital tech to K-12 learning are any indication, teachers are experimenting in ways as varied and individual as the instructor and classroom.

Their inventiveness became clear as I helped put together, and then moderated, the opening general session of this year’s Content in Context Conference, organized by the Association of Educational Publishers. Session organizers asked educators far and wide to go into more depth about what’s happening with digital in the classroom, used teachers’ own videos to illustrate, and added a panel to provide the administrator and policy perspective.

The only consistency in deep implementations of tech is that there’s none.

To read more…

Image Source: Intrinsic Strategy

10 Reasons Teachers Love Blended Learning

Blended learning has been called the “bleeding edge” of those educational technologies that are trending now (EdSurge newsletter v. 22, 7/13/11).  Making computers available for every student in and out of school 24/7–in desk, laptop, or tablet forms–is one major, if temporary, point of resistance to its ubiquity.  Public education administrative and funding models are another.  There is, however, among educational reformers and innovators a definite movement toward adoption, perhaps ultimately widespread adoption, because of the benefits of its perceived benefits, some of which are beginning to be documented in reported learning outcomes and the education research literature.  Tom Vander Ark’s smart take on blended learning’s appeal doesn’t miss some of the difficulties, but it doesn’t give way to them either.

by Tom Vander Ark / Huffington Post / 11 July 2011

Teachers have tough jobs — lots of kids and lots of responsibility — and budget cuts are making things worse. They have administrators telling them to boost achievement and personalize learning, but most of them are on their own without tools. But that is beginning to change as schools are beginning to blend traditional teaching with online learning.

Blended learning is a shift to an online environment, for at least a portion of the student day, made to improve learning and operating productivity. In two important ways, this definition is different than layering computers on top of how we’ve always done things.

To read more…

Image Source: Stock.xchng 933091

Learning with Pictures: Interactive + Comparative Maps

Gulf Oil Spill @ SW11 1PW (London area)

Dimensions is an experimental prototype for visualizing the geographical size of historical incidents (such as the US BP gulf oil spill). Through a semi-transparent digital map overlay, the application compares the size of the historical incident to a present area with which the user is more intimately familiar (via a zip code input by the user).

Aimed at communicating history to the general public, the application came out of a series of workshops and research that took place in summer 2009. The prototype was built by BERG, a design consultancy firm based in London. Such comparative visualizations—ones that place the impersonal within a personal context—strive for an emotional impact for users and so create an opportunity to render the historical in sympathetic, memorable, and motivating terms.

Image Source: Dimensions website

Sir Ken Robinson on the Need for the New Learning

Two TED talks on the need for the new learning by Sir Ken Robinson, one from 2006 and another from 2010. They’ve been widely viewed and well received. If you haven’t seen them, take a moment — you won’t regret it!

How Schools Kill Creativity (2006)

Bring on the Learning Revolution (2010)

Ken Robinson (b. 1950) is an international adviser on education who served as UK Director of The Arts in Schools Project (1985–89) and Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick (1989–2001). Two of his later publications (which followed two key reports on the subject of creativity, education, and the future in 1998) inform the talks linked here: Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Wiley-Capstone: 2001) and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (Penguin: 2009).

Snapshot of Today’s Children in US

The US Federal Forum on Child and Family Statistics has just released its annual report: “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011.” The full report is available for free online. The snapshot information alone is informative. For example:

Children (ages 0-17) make up 24% of the US population, for a total of 74.2 million. They are increasingly ethnically diverse; by 2023, fewer than half will be non-Hispanic whites. 23% of children have at least one foreign-born parent. 6% speak a second language other than English, and these children tend to live in “linguistically isolated” households, where the adults speak little or no English.

Increasingly, children also live in a diversity of family types. Although two-thirds of children live with married parents (with another 3% of children living with cohabiting parents), this reflects a significant decline since 1980, when just over three-fourths of children did. 4% live with neither parent, and over half of these children are being raised by grandparents. Children are also being born more frequently to unmarried women (ages 15-44): 41% of all births in 2009.

In recent years, with the “economic downturn,” child poverty has increased. 21% now live in poverty, compared to 16% in 2000. 45% live in households that suffer from housing difficulties, where the housing is substandard, overcrowded, or excessively expensive (taking up 30% or more of family income). 10% do not have health insurance.

The snapshot presents limited data on children’s education and behavior. 70% of those who complete high school go on to two- or four-year colleges immediately, although as we know from other statistical sources a significant number do not graduate from them as directly. 10% leave the educational system without obtaining a high school diploma or GED. Teen pregnancy has been declining slowly since 1991 (it is now 20.1 out of every 1000 adolescents), but illicit drug use may be again on the rise. Between 2009 and 2010 among 8th graders, it increased 2%, for a total of 10% using some form of illicit drugs. What these indicators of child well being, particularly education, show is that we must do better.

— Kelly Searsmith

Image Source: Stockvault

New Work Group for Making Web Search Education-Friendly

Improving Web Searches for Students

by Steve Kolowich / Inside Higher Education / 8 July 2011

The problem with students using Google is not that the search giant is incapable of retrieving useful educational content. It’s that finding that content using simple search terms is a difficult art to master.

But a coalition of education-oriented companies and organizations aims to make it easier to find useful educational content amid the detritus of the Web. The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and Creative Commons, the leaders of the group, announced on Tuesday that they are forming a working group to come up with more detailed criteria that could eventually be incorporated into the search interfaces for Google, Bing, and Yahoo!

The project, which has funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was prompted by a joint move by those major search engines to help users do more structured Web searches.

To read more…

Image Source: Stockvault

The Global Search for Education: The Future of Jobs?

In this interview, Hugh Lauder (author of The Global Auction) discusses his (and his co-authors’) research into the future of jobs in the world economy and how education in the West needs to change to prepare students to fill them. He is especially keen to note that the knowledge economy is no longer special to the West, which has tended to assume that the East would only inherit the West’s manufacturing economy.

by C.M. Rubin / Education News / 6 July 2011

Recession. Economic Crisis. Increasing World Competition. For Finland (The Global Search for Education: More Focus on Finland), the successful way forward in this situation was through education reform.

The impact of education on individual and national prosperity has long been debated by politicians, policy advisors, business consultants and academics. However, Professor Hugh Lauder explains, “the links between education and a modern economy are much more complex than policy makers would have us believe. Education will no longer be the route to good jobs unless we fundamentally rethink the purpose of education. Rounded students are better suited to the modern economy. If we focused on creativity versus rote learning and exam passing we just might surprise ourselves”.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Writing About Math

MIT has developed a new, open-access WordPress-based tool to facilitate crowdsourcing ideas about teaching. The site’s pilot focused on how to teach ‘writing about math,’ since the ability to articulate math concepts and operations has been incorporated into college classrooms over the past decade. ‘Writing across the curriculum’ (WAC) has also increasingly been incorporated into state standards and appears in the new Common Core State Standards, although mathematics is not a field named specifically (alongside history / social studies, science, and technical subjects). Writing about math, however, remains a final frontier (CCS pp. 64-66).

by Dan Berrett / Inside Higher Education / 6 July 2011

When course requirements at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shifted 10 years ago, faculty members in the mathematics department found themselves with a new task in their job description. Not only did they have to teach their students to solve equations; they also had to instruct them in writing and communicating effectively on the subject.

This change in duties — which mirrored similar shifts in the teaching of discipline-specific writing at other institutions — gave rise to a host of new challenges, from the administrative to the pedagogic, said Haynes Miller, professor of math at MIT. The math faculty there had to learn how to teach the subject from a different perspective — one in which words, not just numbers and symbols, are given emphasis.

Arriving at a common definition of effective teaching of writing and communication courses proved to be another obstacle, said Miller, because these classes were taught in seminars, many of which followed unique syllabuses or reflected the preferences and styles of the faculty and students in the courses.

To read more…

Image Source: ECS project partner logo (MIT)

Cognitive Research Shows Trade Off Between Instruction and Exploration

Research by cognitive scientists at MIT suggests that children may be less motivated to explore new phenomenon on their own when they are introduced to it through explicit instruction. The study is most interesting for what it suggests about exposing children to new technologies. It leaves open the question of whether its insights are transferable to all types of learning.

Don’t show, don’t tell? Cognitive scientists find that when teaching young children, there is a trade-off between direct instruction and independent exploration.

by Emily Finn / MIT News Office / 30 June 2011

Suppose someone showed you a novel gadget and told you, “Here’s how it works,” while demonstrating a single function, such as pushing a button. What would you do when they handed it to you?

You’d probably push the button. But what if the gadget had other functions? Would it occur to you to search for them, if your teacher hadn’t alluded to their existence?

Maybe, maybe not. It turns out that there is a “double-edged sword” to pedagogy: Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery. A study by MIT researchers and colleagues compared the behavior of children given a novel toy under four different conditions, finding that children expressly taught one of its functions played with the toy for less time and discovered fewer things to do with it than children in the other three scenarios.

To read more…

Image Source: article; Patrick Gillooly, photographer

Academic Preparedness is Not College Readiness

by Bill Tucker / The Quick & the Ed (opinion) / 29 June 2011

“College readiness” is the new mantra. And not surprisingly, there’s a scramble on to develop the measures that define what readiness actually means.

The two assessment consortia seek to make the scores from their new assessment systems align directly with readiness. The PARCC consortium, for example, lists “Build a Pathway to College and Career Readiness for All Students” as the first bullet in its visioning statement. And, ACT has a whole product line of tests and related research dedicated to measuring and tracking/predicting college readiness. But, there’s a danger to entirely assessment-based measures of college readiness. These indicators are critical, but they don’t measure everything research shows students need to actually succeed in college.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng: Image ID: 813593

Study: Minority Students Spend More Time Using Media Each Day

Although critics worry that excessive media consumption may cause children to suffer from sedentary lifestyles, lack of socialization, and inattention to schoolwork (concerns echoed here), this study out of Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development also suggests some positives. Minority youth are especially “avid adopters” of new media, are not significantly less likely to have access to computers in the home, and spend no less time reading print materials than white youth.

Study: Stark differences in media use between minority and white youth

by Wendy Leopold / EurekAlert! Northwestern U Press Release / 8 June 2011

Minority youth aged 8 to 18 consume an average of 13 hours of media content a day — about 4-1/2 hours more than their white counterparts, according to a Northwestern University report, the first national study to focus exclusively on children’s media use by race and ethnicity.

“In the past decade, the gap between minority and white youth’s daily media use has doubled for blacks and quadrupled for Hispanics,” says Northwestern Professor Ellen Wartella, who directed the study and heads the Center on Media and Human Development in the School of Communication. “The big question is what these disparities mean for our children’s health and education.”

To read more…

Image Source: Free Pixels

What Is Game Based Learning?

Instructional developer Aneesh Bhat of Upside Learning proposes four defining characteristics for game-based learning, with links to research.

by Aneesh Bhat / Upside Learning Blog / 21 June 2011

I spent close to a year laboring under the delusion that game based learning was all about incorporating course material into a game. After all, what else could it be? If I incorporate all the course learning objectives into a game setting and keep score – it qualifies as game based learning doesn’t it?

No! It doesn’t!

Research suggests that if learners are able to score and win the game without learning, they are more likely to do so. So what conclusion can we draw here?

In order for a game to be educational, it is imperative that the learners be required to learn in order to score and win the game.

To learn more…

Image Source: article

Why “Brain Gyms” May Be The Next Big Business

“Smart games” are usually thought of as being directly didactic. A new generation of neuroscience research-driven games, however, is focusing on cognitive skills development.

by E. B. Boyd / Fast Company / 16 June 2011

[…] Back in 2007, Lumosity was a scrappy startup scrounging for seed money. Today, the San Francisco-based company that creates games to make your brain work better is announcing it’s landed over $32 million in new funding.

What a difference four years make.

“When we first invested, we were concerned this was just a niche area for people with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems,” Tim Chang of Norwest Venture Partners tells Fast Company. “But Lumosity has proved there’s universal demand for this among all demographics.”

To read more…

Image Source: article

New Project to Set Educational Metadata Standards

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation are funding a new initiative to create educational metadata standards, which are essential for digital content curation on the web. This descriptive metadata will “create a common vocabulary for describing educational resources…The vocabulary will be the first independently developed industry-specific framework designed to work with schema.org, the web metadata framework launched June 2, 2011 by Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, thereby improving the practical search and discovery of learning resources online. A common framework for tagging and organizing learning resources can enable further applications; thus, in order to maximize buy-in and the realization of future benefits for all learners, interoperability and transparency will be key criteria for the vocabulary and LRMI’s development process ” (LRMI FAQ, Creative Commons).

Project to Set Educational Metadata Standards Launched

by Ian Quillen / Education Week / 7 June 2011

The Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons announced Tuesday an initiative that would create a standard coding language for all searchable educational content on the Web.

The Learning Resources Framework Initiative will aim to improve search results for educational content on the Web, whether those searches are by teachers, students, or parents.

Creative Commons, which provides copyright licenses for content producers who wish to create open (or alterable) resources, will lead the technical work of creating a streamlined, education-specific metadata language. In layman’s terms, they hope to create a common language of codes web producers and developers should embed within a digital learning object, depending on its properties.

To read more…

Image Source: IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology Newsletter 5.1 (January 2003)

Will Computers Replace Schoolteachers?

Author and educator Gregory Ferenstein weighs the advantages and limits of computers as enablers of learning, especially when students use them to learn on their own.  He concludes that they are getting so good at some aspects of enabling student learning that the paradigm for teachers roles as educators must shift toward what they can do in addition and instead.

by Gregory Ferenstein / CNN Opinion / 9 June 2011

Cash-strapped school districts, from Florida to Washington, have discovered that minimally supervised students hunched over laptops can outperform their lectured counterparts for a fraction of the cost.

A broader review of research by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009 discovered that “students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

As long as schools measure performance simply by rote memorization on multiple-choice tests, no teacher can compete with instant access to the world’s information. Unless schools change, more and more teachers will find themselves replaced by computers.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Transdisciplinary Studies and the New Learning

Since the mid-1990s interdisciplinarity has been advocated as a means of transforming contemporary research and education. Rather than organizing inquiry around disciplinary specializations–with their conventions of knowledge formation and articulation–scholars and researchers, designers and engineers, teachers and students, would now employ themes, bringing to bear on these themes disparate methods and perspectives.

Nell Painter, Creative Research Center, MSU

Like most intellectual fashions, the weakness of interdisciplinary studies lay in its popularity. Some versions of what purported to be interdisciplinary studies were instead multidisciplinary — maintaining specialized approaches rather than synthesizing them (see, for example, Benson 1982) to achieve genuinely integrated methods and, through these, intriguing new perspectives.

This is not to suggest that multidisciplinary approaches have no value; they have the potential to be specially informative. It is to say, however, that strong claims for the transformative power of interdisciplinary approaches were sometimes undermined by a lack of structured, rigorous, radicalized practice. After all, a synonym sometimes used for interdisciplinary studies is integrative studies.

A decade later, transdisciplinarity arose as a movement not only within higher education but world intellectual and design cultures. Sometimes referred to as “radical interdisciplinarity,” the approach attempts to tap into the full range of human creativity by developing radical new methods of inquiry, especially those enabled by new media technologies. Two typical methods by which radical interdisciplinarity mashes up disciplines are (1) combining analytic and expressive modes of investigating or communicating knowledge and (2) distributing and flattening the dynamic construction of knowledge.

Examples of combined analytic and expressive modes for knowledge investigation or communication:

  • exploring blood dynamics or physics equations through sonification (such as is done in UC Santa Barbara’s Allosphere)
  • artistic performances (such as contemporary dance) that employs scientific or data visualization and / or sonification (as iLAND does)

Examples of distributed and flattened knowledge construction:

  • aggregating crowdsourced information (e.g., Wikipedia)
  • reCaptcha
  • topic- and news-driven blogs
  • GLOBE citizen scientist program for youth

Degree-granting programs in interdisciplinary studies at colleges and universities are growing in number, but still typically face an uphill climb on campuses where competition for resources between traditional disciplines and such new initiatives is significant.  Tenure lines for radically interdisciplinary faculty tend to be scarce, making it difficult for campuses to build local communities around such work.

Distributed knowledge communities encouraged by centers, institutes, associations, and conferences–university-affiliated or not–are therefore all the more important in connecting people working within transdisciplinary studies. Some are, by now, venerable institutions, having begun the course earlier than most — for example, MIT Media Lab (one of the few well-funded degree-granting successes with large numbers of graduates who are seemingly ubiquitous), SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica, and Leonardo (the association and journal).  Some of these communities have begun to establish themselves as new leading lights, such as George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media (the creator of Zotero); RPI’s world-class EMPAC; University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Games, Learning, and Society Group; and HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science,and Technology Advanced Collaboratory).

Still more communities are being established at colleges and universities worldwide across the transdisciplinary spectrum, from area informatics to digital arts and humanities, treating contemporary themes as diverse as environmental studies and ideological terrorism. These programs are encouraging teachers and students to reach beyond the bounds of not only disciplines but also classrooms, institutions, and nations, to engage with experts and non-experts, to manifest in print, on the web, and in the studio, theater, and lab.  They tend to be almost as outward as inward facing, encouraging interactions that cross institutional boundaries, as well as departmental and disciplinary ones.

Take for example Montclair State University’s Creative Research Center, which opened in the spring of 2010, led by cultural historian and critic Neil Baldwin. CRC was created to provide a “transdisciplinary online community,” a “a born-digital, dynamic, nimble, open-source, collaborative space — a Web forum to stimulate, reinvigorate, promote and publicize Very Large-Scale Conversations.” This “hub model” for encouraging interdisciplinarity is one that has great potential, with these hubs serving as distributed innovation pumps across a wide sea of creative possibilities.

We find that such contemporary knowledge communities are very much in synch with the new learning.

— Kelly Searsmith


Benson, TC. 1982. Five arguments against interdisciplinary studies. Issues in Integrative Studies 1: 28-48.

Image Source: MSU CRC site, main page; artist Nell Painter

The Debate Over Social Networking in Schools

Social Networking in Schools: Educators Debate the Merits of Technology in Classrooms

by Victoria Fine / Huffington Post Education / 27 March 2011

In this digital world, opportunities for education are available like never before. Though teachers using online tools are empowering students take part in their education, they may also expose them to inappropriate material, sexual predators, and bullying and harassment by peers.

Teachers who are not careful with their use of the sites can fall into inappropriate relationships with students or publicize photos and information they believed were kept private. For these reasons, critics are calling for regulation and for removing social networking from classrooms — despite the positive affects they have on students and the essential tools they provide for education in today’s digital climate.

The positive effects of social networking sites in education are profound.

To read more…

Image Source: stock.xchng

The Condition of Education 2011

The U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics has just released The Condition of Education 2011 report. The report is available in full and brief forms. The report

summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The report presents 50 indicators on the status and condition of education, in addition to a closer look at postsecondary education by institutional level and control. The indicators represent a consensus of professional judgment on the most significant national measures of the condition and progress of education for which accurate data are available. The 2011 print edition includes indicators in five main areas: (1) participation in education; (2) learner outcomes; (3) student effort and educational progress; (4) the contexts of elementary and secondary education; and (5) the contexts of postsecondary education.

The report shows, for example, that NAEP reading scores have improved slightly for 8th and 12th graders, but remained constant for 4th graders since 2007. There continues to be a significant performance gap at all grade levels between white students and students of historically underserved minorities. The only narrowing of the gap was for African American 4th graders between 2009 and pre-2007 (it did not diminish between 2007 and 2009). In all other cases, the performance gap remained constant.

To read more…

Image Source: U.S. Department of Education IES

What Parents Aren’t Asked in School Surveys–and Why

Alfie Kohn is a widely published critic of competition, rewards, and other standard K-12 educational practices (such as homework prior to age 15). His latest book is Feel-Bad Education and Other Contrarian Essays on Children & Schooling (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011).

by Alfie Kohn / Huffington Post Education Section / 23 May 2011

The results of an opinion poll will vary — and not by a little — as a function of how the questions are phrased. “Do you favor special preferences for minorities in the form of affirmative action?” will attract many fewer favorable responses than “Do you favor efforts to help minorities get ahead in order to make up for past discrimination?” And then, of course, there are “push polls,” which only pretend to sample people’s views while attempting to influence them: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Congressman McDoodle if you knew he was a practicing Satanist?”

I find myself thinking about how much more — and less — there is to polling than meets the eye whenever I come across one of those surveys that school administrators like to distribute to parents. I have to assume these are not intended as the equivalent of push polls, that there’s a sincere desire to be responsive to the community and an honest pride in being able to cite “data” to judge the effectiveness, or at least the popularity, of school policies. (Data good.)

To read more…

Image Source: Alfie Kohn website

Assessing Assessment in K-12

In this article, University of Pennsylvania education professor Katharine Beals details where assessments commonly go wrong (e.g., assessing what has not been taught) and what can be done to ensure they go right. Beals is the author of Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World: Strategies for Helping Bright, Quirky, Socially Awkward Children to Thrive at Home and at School and writes the blog Out in Left Field.

Assessing K-12 Assessments

by Katharine Beals / Education News opinion / 25 May 2011

As the 2010-2011 school year enters its final marking period, as states wrap up their No Child Left Behind tests, and as colleges and selective high schools send out their admissions decisions, ‘tis the season of K12 assessments. They come in all shapes and sizes and measure all kinds of things…For all the assessing that assessments do, how often are they themselves assessed? Where do we even begin?…should this assessment be graded, and, if so, how? How many points should the student lose? What other consequences or follow-up measures should ensue as a result of the student’s mistake?

…One way to address these last questions is to step back and consider K12 assessments in general. Whether the assessment tool is a test, a homework assignment, or an in-class activity, what purposes does it serve?

To read more…

Image Source: article

Digital Natives, Digital Brains?

by James Gee (ASU) / Huffington Post / 23 May 2011

There is a lot of talk today about “digital natives” and “digital brains.” Some people use the phrase “digital literacy” for skills with digital tools. The word may be more appropriate than many people know.

Traditional literacy (reading and writing) has and still does come in two grades. One grade leads to working class jobs, once a good thing when there were unions and benefits, but now not such a good thing when it means low pay and no benefits, usually in service work. The other grade leads to more meaningful work and more financial success. What distinguishes these grades of literacy? The premium grade involves mastery of so-called “academic language,” the forms of language used in research, empirical reasoning and logical argumentation. Now, I am well aware that nearly everyone hates “academic language” (things like “Hornworms exhibit a significant amount of variation,” rather than “Hornworms sure vary a lot in how well they grow”), but when they are in good jobs, they are there because they got through their high school chemistry book and argued and debated their way out of a good college.

Does digital literacy come in two grades, as well? Are there ways with digital media (as there are ways with words) that lead to quite different results, despite the fact that everyone is participating and using digital media? I believe there are. Further, I believe that the premium grade involves mastery of “specialist/technical language,” the forms of language used in specialist communities devoted to technological skills and reasoning. Such language is linguistically fully akin to “academic language”; indeed, it’s a variety of it.

To Read More…

Image Source: publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)

Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the NYC Dept. of Ed., on Obstacles to School Reform

In the most recent Atlantic Monthly online magazine, Joel Klein, outgoing Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education discusses the obstacles to school reform he encountered on the job. He’s not optimistic about the current state of affairs or its prospects for dramatic reform, writing that America’s students are “stuck in a ditch” while the “rest of the world is moving ahead,” and yet we have little sense of “national urgency.” The solution? Not possible unless there is a “major re-alignment of political forces.” Only then can we “rebuild our entire K–12 system on a platform of accountability; attract more top-flight recruits into teaching; and use technology very differently to improve instruction” — the difficult but necessary work of school reform.

The Failure of American Schools

by Joel Klein / Atlantic Monthly online magazine / June 2011

Three years ago, in a New York Times article detailing her bid to become head of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten boasted that despite my calls for “radical reform” to New York City’s school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and I had achieved only “incremental” change. It seemed like a strange thing to crow about, but she did have something of a point. New York over the past nine years has experienced what Robert Schwartz, the academic dean of Harvard’s education school, has described as “the most dramatic and thoughtful set of large-scale reforms going on anywhere in the country,” resulting in gains such as a nearly 20-point jump in graduation rates. But the city’s school system is still not remotely where it needs to be. […] That story holds more than true for the country at large.

To read more…

Image Source: Wikipedia entry on Joel Klein

Social Media in the Classroom

Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using the Tools of Social Media

by Trip Gabriel / New York Times / 12 May 2011

Wasn’t it just the other day that teachers confiscated cellphones and principals warned about oversharing on MySpace?

Now, Erin Olson, an English teacher in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, is among a small but growing cadre of educators trying to exploit Twitter-like technology to enhance classroom discussion. Last Friday, as some of her 11th graders read aloud from a poem called “To the Lady,” which ponders why bystanders do not intervene to stop injustice, others kept up a running commentary on their laptops.

To read more…

Image Source: article

Gates and Pearson Foundations Tackle Online Common-Standards Coursework

Through the Next Generation Learning Challenges, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has championed learning technologies as well as common core standards in order to update education for the 21st century. Now, the Foundation has made a significant gift to the Pearson Foundation to fund its development of teaching and learning tools for common core standards, including both free and commercial curriculum modules in math and language arts across grades. The commercial modules are expected to be offered by the Pearson publishing company, which operates the non-profit Pearson Foundation. The blend of open source and proprietary educational materials is certain to have its critics, but such a model also promises continued funding for development and support, i.e., financial sustainability.

Foundations Creating Online Common-Standards Coursework

by Catherine Gewertz / EdWeek / 27 Apri 2011

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pearson Foundation announced today that they’re working together to craft complete, online curricula for the common standards in math and English/language arts for elementary, middle, and most of high school.

The Pearson Foundation’s work is being supported by a $3 million grant from the Gates Foundation. It’s part of a $20 million suite of Gates grants that are aimed at developing a range of teaching-and-learning tools for the common standards. They capitalize on new technologies such as gaming and social networking.

To read more…

Image Source: Pearson Education logo

Series Focuses on Rocketship’s Success

Starting on April 29th, Mind/Shift’s My Education series (7 parts to date) has focused on the success of Rocketship Education, a three-charter school cluster founded in 2007 in San Jose, California.  Rocketship Education has gained attention for its innovative methods and high-performing students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds (91% at its flagship school qualify for free or reduced price lunch).

Rocketship Education focuses on college-preparedness from kindergarten onward, offers a tightly scheduled day of sequenced learning, and incorporates learning technologies that emphasize formative assessment to track student progress closely and regularly.  The goal is to empower students through individualized learning and to improve their performance through data-driven instruction.

The segment on formative assessment (Part V) provides a valuable entrance into Rocketship’s philosophy.

Focus on Assessments Fuels Rocketship’s Goals by Tina Barseghian / 5 May 2011

Test scores are very important to Rocketship Education, a cluster of three charter schools in San Jose, California.

One of Rocketship’s biggest points of pride is the high API score at its flagship school, Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary in San Jose, where 91% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Rocketship scored 925, the same as the average of Palo Alto School District, a much more affluent community nearby.

But that’s not the only score the network focuses on. Rocketship assesses students every eight weeks to make sure they’re on track.

To read more…

Image Source: article

What Can Educational Entrepreneurs Offer Traditional Education?

Dr. Lynch, an education professor at Widener University, holds out hope for educational entrepreneurship’s role in improving traditional education — if the two can manage to work together.

The Impact of Educational Entrepreneurship on Traditional Public Education

by Matthew Lynch / Education News opinion / 19 April 2011

What if there were total free markets in education in the United States, and traditional public education systems as we know them today did not exist? Education would be a product for sale, just like any other product on the U.S. market.

The idea may be mindboggling, but many education entrepreneurs would likely see an opportunity that fits with their vision of how education systems ought to work. With such an opportunity unavailable, they must be content to effect change in education by working within the current system.

Education entrepreneurs are driven by the belief that public education organizations are agricultural- and industrialization-era bureaucratic entities, far too enmeshed in familiar operational customs and habits to lead the innovation and transformation needed for schools today. They see themselves as change agents who are able to visualize possibilities. They want to serve as catalysts for change that will deliver current public educational systems from a status quo that results in unacceptable educational outcomes for too many children.

To read more…

Image Source: Widener University faculty directory

New Research Claims Motivation Affects IQ Test Results

Standardized intelligence tests have long been criticized for, among other things, testing only one type of intelligence, and specifically the sort that correlates to academic success. A new study soon to be published by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that this controversial measure of intelligence is impacted significantly by one’s personality, and specifically one’s motivation to perform well on such a test.

IQ tests measure motivation – not just intelligence

Intelligence tests are as much a measure of motivation as they are of mental ability, says research from the US.

BBC News Health / 25 April 2011

Researchers from Pennsylvania found that a high IQ score required both high intelligence and high motivation but a low IQ score could be the result of a lack of either factor.

Incentives were also found to increase IQ scores by a noticeable margin.

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To read more…

Image Source:  stock.xchng 125700

Beliefs about Nature of Intelligence Impact Self-Assessment of Learning

The press release describes research on how accurately learners predict their own learning results to be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science. The research was conducted by David B. Miele of Columbia University, Bridgid Finn of Washington University in St. Louis, and Daniel C. Molden of Northwestern University.

How Beliefs Shape Effort and Learning

by Divya Menon / Association for Psychological Science press release / 15 April 2011

If it was easy to learn, it will be easy to remember. Psychological scientists have maintained that nearly everyone uses this simple rule to assess their own learning.

Now a study published in an upcoming issue Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests otherwise: “Individuals with different theories about the nature of intelligence tend to evaluate their learning in different ways,” says David B. Miele of Columbia University, who conducted the study with Bridgid Finn of Washington University in St. Louis and Daniel C. Molden of Northwestern University.

To read more…

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The Futures of School Reform: EducationWeek Blog Series

Education Week has just posted online a week-long blog series on the futures of school reform, curated by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Invited writers are “leading thinkers from the academic, business, philanthropic, government, and public-policy sectors.” Many of the blogs, like Howard Gardner and David Perkins, call for re-envisioning educational policy and practice in order to more actively and successful form people, workers, and citizens for the complex information societies and economies of the 21st century.

Excerpt from Gardner:

In considering education in the United States today, what’s wrong with the picture? In a word, we’ve focused so exclusively on one figure–performance on a certain kind of standardized test instrument–that all other considerations are obscure or absent. I recommend a dramatic reversal of figure and ground. At the center of the image called American Education, I propose three dominant figures: the kinds of Persons we value; the kinds of Workers we cherish; the kinds of local, national, and global Citizens that we need.

Excerpt from Perkins:

Today’s educators face a small world paradox: the smaller our common world gets, the larger and more complicated our personal worlds become. Globalization, digital technologies, and cheap and fast modern transportation make the common world we and our children occupy ‘smaller’, thereby putting more places and jobs and products and channels and websites and cultures and friends, and, yes, responsibilities at everyone’s fingertips. An average person in 14th century France inhabited a relatively simple personal world with maybe three sides: farm, village, and the church. Today ordinary individuals construct amazingly complex personal worlds with many facets. The game has truly changed.

Posts are:

Barriers to Improvement by Paul Hill, 19 April 2011

Market Forces Strengthen Public Education
by Paul Hill, 18 April 2011

Needed: A Reversal of Figure / Ground
by Howard Gardner, 15 April 2011

The Elephant in the Room of 21st Century Learning
by David Perkins, 14 April 2011

System Transformation, Whole Child Focus, and Community Design by Julie Wilson, 13 April 2011

21st Century Education Requires Lifewide Learning
by Chris Dede, 12 April 2011

The Future of Learning by Jenny Thomson, 11 April 2011

To read more…

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u-author Being Tested in Local Schools

The u-author literacy learning environment is being fieldtested this spring in three East Central Illinois schools. Hear what teachers and students have to say about their experiences with the project.

The New Way to Write

by Cynthia Schweigert / WCIA / 14 April 2011

New software developed by the U of I is being tested in area schools[.]
It’s a new way for students to work on their writing skills.
U of I developers created it in hopes of eliminating standardized testing.
They think teachers are putting too much class time into the test. The new software would put the spotlight back on the students.

To read more and watch the news video…

For more on the project…

Image Source: school website

How Much is a Good Teacher Worth?

Is there an economic formula that can help us to make sense of what teachers contribute to the national bottom line? You’ll be surprised by how much interesting evidence the author of this article brings to bear on the question.

Valuing Teachers

by Eric A. Hanushek / Education Next / Summer 2011 11.3

For some time, we have recognized that the academic achievement of schoolchildren in this country threatens, to borrow President Barack Obama’s words, “the U.S.’s role as an engine of scientific discovery” and ultimately its success in the global economy. The low achievement of American students, as reflected in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (see “Teaching Math to the Talented,” features, Winter 2011), will prevent them from accessing good, high-paying jobs […] the achievement gap between the U.S. and the world’s top-performing countries can be said to be causing the equivalent of a permanent recession.

To read more…

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Research Shows Rewarding Teachers, Students May Reduce Self-Motivation and Long-Term Thinking

This article reviews past and current research on whether extrinsic rewards for performance have a positive net effect within and across contexts, such as education. The clear result: no, not in the case of complex tasks and intellectual performance. In fact, it can have some surprisingly negative consequences.

The bonus myth: How paying for results can backfire

by Nic Fleming / New Scientist / 12 April 2011

If you want to boost people’s performance, don’t bank on bonuses

Bonus culture has come under intense scrutiny since the ongoing financial crisis began in 2007. Many people have been outraged by the way some bankers and top executives seem to have been rewarded for failure. Others find the idea of multimillion-dollar bonuses morally abhorrent. Even US President Barack Obama has gone as far as to call large bonuses “obscene”.

But few have asked whether performance-related bonuses really do boost performance. The answer seems so obvious that even to ask the question can appear absurd. Indeed, despite all the fuss about them, financial incentives continue to be introduced in more and more areas, from healthcare and public services to teaching and academia.

To read more… (free registration required)

Image Source: article (Plain/Picture Design)

Bloggers Challenge President on Standardized Testing

by Trip Gabriel / New York Times / 6 April 2011

Does President Obama believe standardized testing has gone too far?

Mr. Obama criticized “high-stakes” tests last week at a town-hall-style meeting, contrasting them with less-pressured tests his daughters took in their Washington private school. Those remarks, which did not receive wide coverage at the time, have since prompted close followers of education policy to wonder whether the president opposes his own Education Department.

In the public forum, hosted by the Spanish broadcaster Univision on March 28, a high school student, Luis Zeyala, asked the president if there could be less testing in schools.

Mr. Obama agreed that “we have piled on a lot of standardized tests” under federal education law, meaning the annual proficiency tests in reading and math given to Grades 3 through 8 as well as once in high school.

To read more…

Image Source: technorati.com

If We Cut the Arts, Are We Cutting Our Throats?

Alex Hiam is a writer and artist whose work on the impact of creativity and social skills within organizations has broad appeal, from business to education to government.

An Interview with Alex Hiam

by Michael F. Shaughnessy / Education News / 2 April 2011

1) Alex, as you know, these politicians are looking at cutting art, music, P.E., theatre- a number of programs that, at least in my view, contribute to the education of the total person. In your mind, what are your concerns?

First, it’s a good thing to have artists in our society; they contribute to the quality of our thinking and our culture, so the idea that we should boost our economy by training only little business-people is horrible. However, that said, there is also a lack of understanding among politicians as to how one would best go about the process of creating a new generation of successful business-people. We seem at least to all agree that we need innovators and entrepreneurs in our society, so that’s a starting point at least. Now, where do they come from? First, they are probably going to be in the middle to the high end of the creativity range, so these are today’s curious, creative, expressive children, not necessarily the ones who ace multiple-choice tests or top out on IQ scales.

To read more…

Image Source: alexhiam.com

From Asset Management to Affect Management: Learning that Promotes Happiness

An article that does an especially good job of characterizing the new trend toward honoring the affective in learning, orienting it within the new learning revolution.

Happiness, Learning, and Technology: Why “Affective” Schools are the New “Effective” Schools

by Ben Williamson / Digital Media and Learning / 22 March 2011

What are the connections between emotional education and digital media and learning? Faced with a global economic recession, civic unrest, and major environmental catastrophe, governments around the world are now obsessed with cheering us all up, especially kids. Measures are being designed to gauge global, national, organizational and individual levels of happiness, and well-being is being put at the heart of public policy. Ensuring children’s happiness now and in the future is therefore becoming an urgent aim for education.

The State of Happiness

Schools are emotional places. Everyone remembers their school days through the rhythm of emotional highs and lows. From first days away from home to first dates and first loves, and from lasting friendships to last bashes at the graduation party, as well as from the playground brawl to perpetual bullying, emotional currents run right through schools. Yet the “affective life” of schools is too often ignored in favor of the so-called “effectiveness” of specific pedagogies, leadership styles, and curriculum provisions that can be used to “improve” schooling.

To read more…

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Top Ten Web Tools for Teachers

In this short piece, Saltman discusses the most popular web tools for educators, with an emphasis on classroom management and communications.

by Dave Saltman / Harvard Education Newsletter 27.2 / March-April 2011

In the quest to work smarter, not harder, teachers are flocking to an ever-expanding galaxy of web-based tools for help with everything from classroom management to classroom discussions. Here are some tools that are now grabbing teachers’ attention—and the attention of their students. Virtually all are free, with a few offering paid upgrades that add some technological bling.

To read more…

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New Edutopia Guide Offers Tips for Assessing Project-Based Learning

This new guide is largely informed by suggestions from Edutopia community teachers. One of its themes is using assessment to foster learning rather than simply measure it.

New Guide Offers Assessment Tips for the Classroom

by Suzie Boss / Edutopia / 24 March 2011

Recently, I watched a team of ninth-graders share their vision for a city of the future. They had clearly done their research, investigating everything from the politics of ancient Athens to the principles of sustainable design in the 21st century. They summarized their findings online and then took their learning a step further to design a 3-D model of their ideal city.

As their classmates and teachers gathered around the scale model, the young urban designers pointed out the innovative features of their metropolis. Not only were these students able to apply what they had learned, but they did so with passion, eloquence, and creativity — none of which would have been adequately assessed by a multiple-choice test.

To read more and get the free guide…

Image Source: My Ideal City / Copenhagen (archimuse conference); artist: Sofia Lucas

Ewan McIntosh: Content is Not King

Ewan McIntosh advocates for a view of learning that is about “construction” (pupil-led, project-based), and centers on a “maker-curriculum,” rather than as a series of assigned activities to be completed (teacher-led, task-based), and centers on a consumer-curriculum.

by Ewan McIntosh / Ewan McIntosh’s edu.blogs.com / 25 March 2011

Listening to a presentation in Belfast from m’old colleague Andrew Brown from LTS, he reminds me of this quote from blogger, storyteller and, yes, content-creator Cory Doctorow, pictured:

Content isn’t king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you’d choose your friends — if you chose the movies, we’d call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.

One of the key points I’ve been driving in the past year has been the importance of schools providing places for conversations and exploration to take place, perhaps through a design thinking-based pedagogy and process.

To read more…

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Common Core Standards versus Customized, Co-Created Learning

In this article, education expert Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach explores her reservations over the National Common Core Standards movement.

by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach / Conversations from the Edge / Voices from the Learning Revolution / 12 March 2011

I have been thinking a lot about standards, Common Core, and the dynamic tension education is experiencing between content and context. My perception is that Common Core has a narrow focus, which is good and in terms of framework to the curriculum – it works. However, my fear is that the Federal government will play in this sandbox pretty hard, so I wonder if it will be just one more power grab.

Maybe the reason National standards bother me is I feel it is an attempt at mass control of education, a one size fits all approach, and one more way to send the message that learning can be standardized. Maybe it is because standardization in some ways is demeaning to educators. They should be the designers of learning and orchestrators of creative curriculum implementation and student ownership of learning.

To read more…

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Bridging the Gap: Radical Interdisciplinarity a Must for 21st Century Knowledge Workers

John Eger advocates for promoting 21st century innovation through learning that incorporates radical interdisciplinarity, bridging the arts & humanities and science & engineering. Read more on and by Eger at ARTStem.

Merging C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures

by John M. Eger / Huffington Post education reform blog / 17 March 2011

Fifty years ago, physicist-turned-novelist C.P. Snow talked about “two cultures” of physicists and writers and the “hostility and dislike” that divided the world’s “natural scientists — its chemists, engineers, physicists and biologists — from its literary intellectuals.”

He found it strange that more scientists weren’t artists and musicians and more artists lacked a similar interest in the sciences. What happened to the classically trained person? he mused. In his day (turn of the 20th century), all these subjects were “branches of the same tree.”

Yet for the last 100 years or so, it seems, things have not changed.

To read more…

Image Source: ARTStem

Testing Maintained Knowledge: a reframing of assessment

In this commentary, John Jensen makes a case for incremental knowledge testing, focusing on students’ daily retention of learning, as a better measure of cumulative mastery of a subject or a skill.

Just Test the Winners. Ignore the Losers.

by John Jensen / Education News commentary / 21 March 2011

Watching kids play Prisoner’s Base could be an analogy for what we need in national testing. In Prisoner’s Base, if you catch a member of the opposing team, you keep him. You win just by keeping more of the other side in your “prison.”

Or think of a tug of war. The center of the rope you’re trying to pull over to your side is each thin slice of knowledge. Once you drag a slice onto your side, you keep it .You win just by pulling the center of the rope onto your side until the whole rope comes.

In learning, the cellular unit of what you pull onto your side is just a single point of knowledge—from the simplest in kindergarten to the most complex in senior high. Whatever it is—calling on memory, judgment, reasoning or creativity–you master it sufficiently to explain it, and respond to any requirement to demonstrate it. Then you maintain it at that level.

To read more…

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New Study on Young Children’s Media Use

A new study–Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children, released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop on March 14, 2011–details children’s media use, finding that children continue to use television as their primary media but that new media use is increasing, even in children under 5, and that Latino children receive more “media exposure” than those of any other ethnic group. For the study, see here.

Study: 80 percent of children under 5 use Internet weekly

by Sarah Kessler, Mashable / USA Today Technology Live / 15 March 2011

Nearly 80% of children between the ages of 0 and 5 use the Internet on at least a weekly basis in the United States, according to a report released Monday from education non-profit organizations Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop.

The report, which was assembled using data from seven recent studies, indicates that young children are increasingly consuming all types of digital media, in many cases consuming more than one type at once.

To read more…

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Is the Status of the Teaching Profession Linked to Quality of Instruction?

This article focuses on Andreas Schleicher’s advocacy for raising the status of teachers in the US, assuming that improved status would lead to a greater number of top graduates entering the profession and that these top graduates would improve the quality of instruction, which would, in turn, improve learning outcomes.

U.S. Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status

by Sam Dillon / New York Times / 16 March 2011

To improve its public schools, the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more, according to a new report on comparative educational systems.

Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the international achievement test known by its acronym Pisa, says in his report that top-scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland recruit only high-performing college graduates for teaching positions, support them with mentoring and other help in the classroom, and take steps to raise respect for the profession.

To read more…

Image Source: Fine Books Magazine (artist Mare Blocker)

Scaling Up Text Complexity and Increasing Literacy Across the Disciplines: Taking on CCS Elements

The article discusses a pilot program in a Bronx high school that is taking on the challenge of addressing two common core standards elements: increasing the complexity of the texts with which students engage over time in their coursework and improving literacy outside of the language arts classroom (such as in social studies and science). For a look at the Common Core Standards, see here.

Teachers Tackle Text Complexity: Pilot N.Y.C. program in line with elements of standards

by Catherine Gewertz / Education Week: Focus on Literacy / 14 March 2011

On a freezing morning in February, teachers from a Bronx high school pore over excerpts and guidelines, trying to figure out whether they should teach The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or leave it to college professors.

A team of teachers from International Community High School joined colleagues from 17 other schools here to wrestle with the American classic in a basement meeting room as part of their city’s attempt to beef up secondary literacy instruction.

In the first year of a pilot program, the 18 schools are digging into new ways to accomplish two objectives emphasized in the common-core standards: engage students in increasingly complex texts as they move through school and help them conquer literacy skills specific to disciplines such as history and science. Spearheaded by the nation’s governors and schools chiefs, the standards have been adopted in most states, including New York.

To read more…

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Assess-as-You-Go, a University of Illinois College of Education Project, Makes the News

Assess-as-You-Go–a University of Illinois College of Education research project funded by the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences–was featured on WAND news, focusing on how the project may make summative, standardized testing a thing of the past. Project commentary was given by Bill Cope, the project’s principal investigator; Sarah McCarthey, collaborating faculty; and Colleen Vojak, project coordinator. For the story, see here.

Text Complexity and Other Not-So-Simple Things

An encounter with Timothy and Cynthia’s Shanahan’s introduction to disciplinary literacy. The duo are reading experts at University of Illinois-Chicago. Timothy Shanahan’s blog (which chronicles the visit described in Gewertz’s blog) can be found here, at Shanahan on Literacy.

by Catherine Gewertz / Education Week blog / 10 March 2011

Ever since that morning I spent in a basement in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood a few weeks ago, I can’t get text complexity off my mind. Nor can I shake the image of the opening slide in a PowerPoint presentation about “disciplinary literacy”: a curvaceous woman in leather and high boots, carrying a whip.

Contrary to what you might think, I did not make that up to get your attention. It really happened. I was hanging out with teachers from a high school in the Bronx at a professional-development day that was part of a city pilot on secondary literacy.

The pilot was prompted by New York’s adoption of the common standards, which harp heavily on the need for students to be much stronger at grappling with complicated informational and literary texts, and the need for teachers to learn “disciplinary literacy” strategies to help students decode the challenging grammar, vocabulary, writing, and ways of thinking specific to each subject.

To read more…

Image Source: Daniel Fazier, HHMI Bulletin

Goal-Setting Programs Lead to Student Success

The article reports claims that goal-setting programs lead to student success, by encouraging students to break down larger goals into smaller ones that are less intimidating and more achievable in the short-term.

Making Kids Work on Goals

by Sue Shellenbarger / Wall Street Journal / 9 March 2011

Thirteen-year-old Jackson Sikes has been struggling for years to raise his test scores in math. When he got a 33% last year on fractions, Jackson says, “I didn’t know how I was ever going to learn them.” Battling his homework just made him frustrated, says his mother Linda, of Gilmer, Texas.

New research suggests the inability to set personal goals is a weak spot for U.S. children and hurting their academic achievement. Sue Shellenbarger explains.

Jackson’s teachers proposed a solution: They taught him to trim his goal into smaller steps and try improving his scores just a little from test to test. Gradually, he raised his results to 90%. “I’d take those little steps, then I’d just keep on stepping,” Jackson says.

To read more…

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Harvard Education Letter on ‘Bricks and Clicks’ Schools

The current issue of the Harvard Education Letter discusses early results from hybrid charter schools, and they are promising.

Hybrid Schools for the iGeneration: New schools combine “bricks” and “clicks”

by Brigid Schulte / Harvard Education Letter Vol. 27 No. 2 / March-April 2011

School buses begin pulling up in front of Carpe Diem, a middle and high school in Yuma, Ariz., around 7:15 in the morning. In the next 30 minutes, 273 students in crisp uniforms will walk through the front doors and have their ID badges scanned to record their attendance.

By 7:45, most will be sitting in front of computers at their work stations—row upon row of individual study carrels in a big open space administrators call the Learning Center. Middle school students sit on one side of the room, high school students on the other, separated by an area with cushy couches and tables called the Fishbowl, where students gather to chat between classes or to work on group projects.

For the next 55 minutes, students work independently at their computers, learning core subjects or electives through online curricula aligned to Arizona’s state standards. They put on headphones or twist iPod ear buds into their ears, because the online programs are interactive and multimodal—comprised of audio, video vignettes, Flash animation, quizzes, and games. Paraprofessionals called “assistant coaches” walk through the center to make sure kids are doing their work, fix computer glitches, help with academic questions, and—most important, administrators say—check in emotionally with the students, talking with them about anything at home or at school that might be affecting their learning.

The students may be sitting in the same place, but, academically, they’re all over the map.

To read more…

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U of I’s Software Could Make No Child Left Behind Exams History

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s faculty/staff paper features a story about one of Bill Cope’s latest projects in transformative learning technologies for literacy.

by Sharita Forest / Inside Illinois / 7 March 2011

While social media such as Facebook and Twitter have transformed the way people communicate, educational practices haven’t kept pace, relying on outdated, limited tools such as standardized tests that don’t reflect the profound changes precipitated by the Web. An interdisciplinary team of experts at the University of Illinois is developing software that they believe will transform the practice of writing assessment – and potentially eliminate cumbersome proficiency testing such as that mandated by state and federal agencies as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The software, called “u-author” – the “u” for “ubiquitous,” available anywhere, anytime on any Web-enabled device – embeds the practice of writing in a social media environment that promotes complex learning and interaction among peers.

The software provides a writing space in which students’ compositions become portals for evaluating their progress in language arts and science.

To read more…

Image Source: article (Bill Cope and Colleen Vojak)

Learning by Design at the Heart of Gordon Primary’s Literacy Block

Learning by Design is at the heart of Gordon Primary’s literacy block. The Australian elementary school has won praise recently for its dramatic success in measured student improvements.

Gordon Primary Runs Rings around Rivals

by Emma MacDonald / Canberra Times / 4 March 2011

Gordon Primary School may not be the ACT’s top-performing school when its raw data is unveiled today on the My School website.

But it has managed to achieve significant improvements on student performance between Year 3 and Year 5 across almost all literacy and numeracy domains – making it a best-practice model for the ACT, Australia and possibly even the world.

The Tuggeranong school, with 497 students, is the subject of growing interest in Australia and internationally for its ability to take below-average students and get them to average or above-average performance in a relatively short time.

To read more…

image source: article (Principal Murray Bruce)

Personal Learning Networks (an excerpt)

At his personal blog site, Will Richardson posts an excerpt from his new book, Personal Learning Networks, co-written with Rob Mancabelli. The book will be published this May by Solution Tree.

by Will Richardson / Weblogg-ed (cross-posted to ASCD Whole Child blog) / 28 February 2011

Seventh/eighth grade teacher Clarence Fisher has an interesting way of describing his classroom up in Snow Lake, Manitoba. As he tells it, it has “thin walls,” meaning that despite being eight hours north of the nearest metropolitan airport, his students are getting out into the world on a regular basis, using the Web to connect and collaborate with students in far flung places from around the globe. The name of Clarence’s blog, “Remote Access,” sums up nicely the opportunities that his students have in their networked classroom.

“Learning is only as powerful as the network it occurs in,” Clarence says. “No doubt, there is still value in the learning that occurs between teachers and students in classrooms. But the power of that learning is more solid and more relevant at the end of the day if the networks and the connections are larger.”

To read more…

Image Source: Solution Tree

Grading Essays: Human vs. Machine

A new pilot study by the Educational Testing Service suggests that machines can grade essays with a fair degree of accuracy for basic academic literacy. Whether machines can assess conceptual reach, creativity, or mastery of an area of knowledge is another matter.

by Scott Jashchik, Inside Higher Ed / USA Today / 21 February 2011

If a computer can win at Jeopardy, can one grade the essays of freshmen?

At George Mason University Saturday, at the Fourth International Conference on Writing Research, the Educational Testing Service presented evidence that a pilot test of automated grading of freshman writing placement tests at the New Jersey Institute of Technology showed that computer programs can be trusted with the job. The NJIT results represent the first “validity testing” — in which a series of tests are conducted to make sure that the scoring was accurate — that ETS has conducted of automated grading of college students’ essays. Based on the positive results, ETS plans to sign up more colleges to grade placement tests in this way — and is already doing so.

To read more…

image source: insidetheschool.com

The Personalized Learning Revolution

Susan McLester discusses how this latest version of individuated outcomes in education relies on learning technologies to achieve greater emphasis on student-centered learning that measures competency progression over variable time, rather than grade levels over pre-determined intervals, to milestone learning progress.

Learning Gets Personal
The nation’s next education reform movement shifts to more customized learning to ensure students master skills before advancing.

by Susan McLester / District Administration / March 2011

At education conferences, as well as in professional association reports, as a target area of funding for nonprofit foundations and in the literature of industry vendors, the term, “personalized learning” has taken center stage in an arena already crowded with complex and long-standing issues and concerns.

Why personalized learning? And why now?

To read more…

image source: article

R. Barker Bausell’s Latest Book Follows 30 Years of Education Science to a Logical Conclusion

In this article, A. Graham Down reviews R. Barker Bausel’s Too Simple to Fail, a book that analyzes the major results of the past thirty years of education science and then determined what insights can transform educational outcomes.  Dr. Bausell’s earlier book is Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Oxford UP 2007).

Why Schools of One Are Our Future

by A. Graham Down / Education Next / 23 February 2011

Too Simple to Fail, a new book from Oxford University Press, is a review of thirty years of research into how children learn and what would give us better results. The author, R. Barker Bausell, a biostatistician in the School of Nursing at the University of Maryland, has come to the conclusion that classroom instruction is hopelessly obsolete, and that the answer to the deficiencies of our educational system is the tutorial model.

As a graduate of Oxbridge, with its time-honored tutorial system, it would be difficult for me to dispute Dr. Bausell’s central premise—that one-on-one instruction is the best guarantor of improved academic performance. Of course, this would involve displacing or at least supplementing the traditional 1:35 student:teacher ratio of the conventional classroom. But Dr. Bausell’s exhaustive research summary leaves one with no other plausible conclusion.

To read more…

image source:  EducationNews.org, which includes an interview with Dr. Bausell on the book

Book Review of Barry Barnett’s Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools

In this article, Kenneth J. Berstein reviews Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools–Now and in the Future (Teachers College Press 2011). The book was funded by The MetLife Foundation and written with the help of the TeacherSolutions 2030 Team.

Education Review, an online journal that publishes reviews of books in the field of education,  is a project of the National Education Policy Center.  Reviews appear in and are of books written in in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

by Kenneth J. Bertstein / Education Review / 4 February 2011

In all of the public discourse of what we need to do to fix public schools and educate our young people for the future, one set of voices has until now been conspicuously absent. It is the voices of teachers.

This new book […] is an important attempt to include the voices of teachers in helping frame the discussion of how we address our educational needs.

Those of us in classrooms, unless we choose to be oblivious, recognize that our profession needs to be redefined. We lose too many good teachers from classrooms because too often the only path for professional and financial advancement is through administration. In the meantime, we see the students arriving in our classrooms changing as society changes. Often we are prevented from changing what we do in order to meet them where they are. We know this has to change.

To read more…

image source: goodreads.com

ASCD Award Honors Whole Child Education

Now in its second year, an ASCD award honors whole child education. This article explains the school-wide practices that led the Malcolm Price Laboratory School of Cedar Falls, Iowa to be the very first honoree. A second honoree will be named this year at the organization’s annual conference, later this March.

Malcolm Price Laboratory School Exemplifies Vision in Action

by Melissa McCabe / ASCD site / 7 March 2010

Honored at yesterday’s Leadership Appreciation Luncheon, the University of Northern Iowa’s Malcolm Price Laboratory School (PLS) in Cedar Falls, Iowa, is the winner of ASCD’s first-ever Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award.

The award recognizes schools that move beyond a narrow focus on academic achievement to take action for the whole child, creating learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.

To read more…

image source: WCF Courier file photo

Join the Movement to Transform Learning: A Guest Blog by George Lucas

Filmmaker George Lucas explains why he created a foundation twenty years ago to transform education in this Edutopia guest blog. Edutopia is a professional community site funded by The George Lucas Foundation Educational Foundation.

by George Lucas / Edutopia / 27 February 2011

I didn’t enjoy school very much. Occasionally, I had a teacher who would inspire me. But as an adult, as I began working with computer technology to tell stories through film, I began to wonder, “Why couldn’t we use these new technologies to help improve the learning process?”

Twenty years ago when we started The George Lucas Educational Foundation, we could see that digital technology was going to completely revolutionize the educational system, whether it liked it or not. Yet, in light of extraordinary advancements in how we use technology to communicate and learn, our schools and districts have been frustrating slow to adapt.

To read more…

image source: article

New Non-Profit to Promote Revolutionizing Education with Technology

Another major US foundation aims to transform education through technology, this time with the help of Twitter cofounder Biz Stone. Others foundations with this aim include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (through the Next Generation Learning Challenge) and The George Lucas Educational Foundation (creator and sponsor of Edutopia.com).

New Nonprofit Aims at Tech Collaboration, Social Change

by Grant Gross, IDG News / PC World Business Center / 23 February 2011

A new nonprofit launched Wednesday by a tech advocacy group and a cofounder of Twitter will focus on using technology to drive improvements in the U.S. education system and other social changes.

One goal of ConvergeUS, the brainchild of the TechNet IT CEO network and Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, is to convene diverse groups to work on a “technology innovation blueprint,” a plan for using technology and social media to drive social change, its founders said. ConvergeUS will work with three other groups each year to work on social issues, with a summit every year where top thinkers in technology and social issues will gather in Silicon Valley, said Rey Ramsey, TechNet’s CEO.

To read more…

image source

Formative Assessment: Best Methods

Formative Assessment­—A Process, Not a Test

by W. James Popham / Education Week / 22 February 2011

note: Popham is the author of Transformative Assessment (ASCD 2008)

[…] For today’s educators to get clear-headed about what is meant by the formative-assessment process is particularly important. This is because the formative-assessment process, when used by teachers, leads to substantial gains in students’ learning. If teachers are confused about the meaning of this potent process, then the likelihood of their using it properly will surely be diminished. It’s tough for teachers, or anyone else, to employ something correctly when they don’t fundamentally understand it.

Happily, we now have available about four decades’ worth of empirical evidence attesting to the instructional dividends of the formative-assessment process.

Recent reviews of more than 4,000 research investigations show clearly that when this process is well implemented in the classroom, it can essentially double the speed of student learning. Indeed, when one considers several recent reviews of research regarding the classroom formative-assessment process, it is clear that the process works, it can produce whopping gains in students’ achievement, and it is sufficiently robust so that different teachers can use it in diverse ways, yet still get great results with their students.

To read more…

Blackboard Poll Finds Education Officials Back Personalized Learning

Study: Educators Back Personalized Learning

Scholastic Administrator Magazine / Winter 2011

More than 9 out of 10 education officials agree personalized pacing for students could help raise achievement levels, according to a recent poll by Blackboard. The same ratio also say teachers need additional professional development to use individualized instruction effectively. Six out of 10 say their district wants to deliver virtual courses, while nearly half say students are not able to take all the courses they want or need because of conflicting schedules or lack of available staff.

To read more (including the poll results for curriculum specialists)…

Education 2020 — An Emerging Consensus about Learning

by Paula Smith /Huffington Post / 17 February 2011

We’re in the midst of a profound and far-reaching educational revolution that spans two centuries and bridges the industrial and information ages. And, when it’s completed sometime over the next decade, I believe that this sweeping transformation will be known as the one that redefined what schools look like in the 21st century.

[…] There are many conflicting theories about why our children are not expanding and enriching their knowledge horizons — and lots of finger-pointing about what’s holding them back, too.
But there’s also a new and growing consensus that could lead to sensitive and fresh educational standards, benchmarks, models and teaching styles designed to help students discover the joys of meaningful and responsible learning.

To read more (including Smith’s 5 key elements of the new learning accord)…

On “The Learning Society,” Cisco System’s global education initiative

The Learning Society’s Global Ambitions

by Sara Bernard / Mind/Shift / 17 February 2011

If we want our education system to adapt to the 21st century, we need to re-imagine the entire thing — not just build more of the same. So claim the thought leaders behind The Learning Society, a concept launched as part of Cisco Systems’ Global Education initiative at the 2010 Learning and Technology World Forum in London last year.

Their big idea is this: Education can no longer be isolated from the rest of society. Learning is no longer confined to the hours of the school day, the walls of the school building, or even the duration of our time “in school.” It’s everywhere, all the time, involves everyone from all walks of life, and requires constant tinkering and improvement.

The Learning Society project, led by Richard Halkett, Cisco’s director of Strategy & Research for Global Education, is, so far, just a white paper and a video. Their hope, however, is that its recommendations will generate enough buzz to get a global foothold.

To read more (including listed recommendations)…

An Experiment in India Aimed at Closing the Achievement Gap

Skipping Rote Memorization in Indian Schools

by Vikas Bajaj / New York Times / 17 February 2011

The Nagla elementary school in this north Indian town [Pantnagar] looks like many other rundown government schools. Sweater-clad children sit on burlap sheets laid in rows on cold concrete floors. Lunch is prepared out back on a fire of burning twigs and branches.

But the classrooms of Nagla are a laboratory for an educational approach unusual for an Indian public school. Rather than being drilled and tested on reproducing passages from textbooks, students write their own stories. And they pursue independent projects — as when fifth-grade students recently interviewed organizers of religious festivals and then made written and oral presentations.

That might seem commonplace in American or European schools. But such activities are revolutionary in India, where public school students have long been drilled on memorizing facts and regurgitating them in stressful year-end exams that many children fail.

Nagla and 1,500 other schools in this Indian state, Uttarakhand, are part of a five-year-old project to improve Indian primary education that is being paid for by one of the country’s richest men, Azim H. Premji, chairman of the information technology giant Wipro.

To read more…

Report Claims Blended Learning Has Ability to Transform Education — Depending

Report: Blended learning could hit or miss

Policy makers, ed-tech companies need to help blended learning reach its full potential

by Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor / e-School News / 10 February 2011

Blended learning has the ability to transform education, according to a new report—but if certain guidelines and practices aren’t ensured, blended learning could become just another add-on to an archaic system on its way out, the report warns.

The report, titled “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning,” by Michael B. Horn, co-founder and executive director of education at the Innosight Institute, and Heather Clayton Staker, a senior research fellow for education practice at the institute, describes how blended learning can affect education, but why it also could fall short of its potential.

According to the report, blended learning, which it defines as “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace,” has grown exponentially over the past decade.

To read more (pp. 2 & 3 limited to subscribers)…

To read the Innosight Institute report on the Rise of K-12 Blended Learning

Horizon Report Names 6 Top Ed Tech Trends in Higher Ed for 2011

6 Top Tech Trends on the Horizon for Higher Education

by Ben Wieder / Chronicle of Higher Education Wired on Campus / 8 February 2011

Mobile devices are one year away from transforming education. For the third straight year.

The 2011 Horizon Report, an annual look at technology trends affecting higher education, points to mobile devices as one of six technologies to watch. Of the other five trends, game-based learning and learning analytics—using data to track student progress—are new additions for 2011.

The report, produced by the New Media Consortium and Educause, notes that mobile devices have been listed before, but it says that resistance by many schools continues to slow the full integration of mobile devices into higher education.

To read more…

Gates Foundation Next Generation Learning Challenge First Wave Finalists

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced finalists for the first wave of its Next Generation Learning Challenges, which were announced in October 2010. The NGLC are “aimed at dramatically increasing college readiness and completion through applied technology.” The first wave addressed the deployment of open core courseware, scaling of blended learning programs, encouragement of deeper learner engagement, and mobilization of learning analytics in postsecondary education.

The Gates Foundation created this program out of the belief that the “potential for success in applying technology to solve educational challenges has already been demonstrated in many places, in many ways.” Their goal “is to seek solutions with proven potential and to expand their reach to many more students so that meaningful improvements in college readiness and completion can be achieved. The NGLC mission spans secondary and postsecondary education (grades 6-16).”

Here is an example of a Wave I finalist project with a New Learning design:

Anoka Ramsey Community College

Jenni Swenson

Connecting Learner Analytics to Developmental Math Redesign: Providing Intervention Strategies to At-risk Students

This state-wide project with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (25 two-year Community and Technical Colleges and 7 Universities) will scale-up modularized developmental math courses based on a newly redesigned NCAT model, and will use initial and on-going assessment to reinforce concepts leading to a mastery-based curriculum. The project will also include companion learner analytic capabilities through a student “dashboard” of progress and, utilizing institutional data mined from system-wide sources, will identify performance markers and apply predictive modeling to trigger intervention strategies that proactively engage at-risk students in behaviors to encourage persistence and completion.

For the complete list of finalists (with project descriptions, scroll down for these), see here.

On McGonigal’s Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Jane McGonigal on Harnessing the Power of Games for Change

by Sara J. / Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning / 9 February 2011

In her new book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” game designer Jane McGonigal argues that video games can help improve our lives and solve real world problems.

McGonigal says games offer meaningful social experiences that can translate into the real world. Playing games make us happy, she argues, because they fulfill important human desires to work with others and to have “epic wins” in our lives.

When we play games, McGonigal told Stephen Colbert in an appearance last week, “We are tapping into our best qualities, our ability to be motivated, to be optimistic, to collaborate with others, to be resilient in the face of failure.”

But it doesn’t stop when “game over” appears on the screen. The skills we learn playing games, McGonigal explains, need to be harnessed for the social good. And the book offers compelling evidence of how games are being used today to do so.

To read more…

What Can Virtual Educators Learn from the Charter School Experiment?

Lessons for Online Learning: Charter schools’ successes and mistakes have a lot to teach virtual educators

by Erin Dillon and Bill Tucker / Education Next / Vol. 11 No. 2 Spring 2011

Advocates for virtual education say that it has the power to transform an archaic K–12 system of schooling. Instead of blackboards, schoolhouses, and a six-hour school day, interactive technology will
personalize learning to meet each student’s needs, ensure all students have access to quality teaching, extend learning opportunities to all hours of the day and all days of the week, and innovate and improve over time. Indeed, virtual education has the potential not only to help solve many of the most pressing issues in K–12 education, but to do so in a cost-effective manner. More than 1 million public-education students now take online courses, and as more districts and states initiate and expand online offerings, the numbers continue to grow. But to date, there’s little research or publicly available data on the outcomes from K–12 online learning. And even when data are publicly available, as is the case with virtual charter schools, analysts and education officials have paid scant attention to—and have few tools for analyzing—performance. Until policymakers, educators, and advocates pay as much attention to quality as they do to expansion, virtual education will not be ready for a lead role in education reform.

To read more…

Toward a Science of Learning in Higher Ed

Views: Toward a Science of Learning

by Diana Chapman Walsh / Inside Higher Education views column / 14 February 2011

In travels around the country, I’ve been seeing signs of a trend in higher education that could have profound implications: a growing interest in learning about learning. At colleges and universities that are solidly grounded in a commitment to teaching, groups of creative faculty are mobilizing around learning as a collective, and intriguing, intellectual inquiry.

This trend embraces the advances being made in the cognitive sciences and the study of consciousness. It resides in the fast-moving world of changing information technology and social media. It recognizes and builds upon new pedagogies and evolving theories of multiple ways of knowing and learning. It encompasses but transcends the evolution of new and better measures of student learning outcomes.

As more and more institutions sign on to administer the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Collegiate Learning Assessment, some see the resulting data as sufficient to close the books on the question of student learning, while others see them as no more than a rudimentary beginning. The advent of new instruments reflects in part the desire to unseat the commercial rating systems that wield enormous influence despite their well-known shortcomings and distortions. The new measurement regimes are responding, as well, to demands from accrediting and regulatory agencies for convincing data on “value-added educational outcomes.” But educators know that assessing what students have learned is far less valuable than finding out how they learn.

To read more…

Teaching with Wikipedia: Reference Works as “Mirrored Technologies”

Wikipedia: Information Source and Knowledge Community

by John Jones / Digital Media and Learning blog / 10 February 2011

One of the challenges facing the digital media and learning community—in fact, all educators—is the rapid pace of technological development that makes necessary the constant evaluation and investigation of new information and communication technologies. As a writing researcher, I am fascinated by the way in which knowledge communities shape writing, and these knowledge communities are often effective means of orienting students to new information sources. One of the most fascinating of these communities is Wikipedia, and Colleen A. Reilly of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, has just written an interesting new article on how students can be taught to understand and participate in Wikipedia.

Building on Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala’s Windows and Mirrors, Reilly argues that students should not be taught to view Wikipedia as a simple window on information; that is, as a technology that they look through in order to view the facts and histories contained on the site. Reilly identifies—correctly, I think—this windowed approach to the online encyclopedia as being the source of many individual objections to it, such as the quality of its writing or the tendency to vandalism. Viewing Wikipedia as a simple presentation of information, one which is to be accepted uncritically (i.e., to treat it as one might be tempted to treat other reference works), is to miss the point. Instead, Reilly argues that students should be taught to read Wikipedia—and all reference works—as mirrored technologies; that is, to understand how these communication technologies, as she puts it, “allow and encourage users to see, simultaneously, a reflection of the media’s use in context, helping users to be aware of the technologies’ designs, their status as constructed media, and the mechanisms through which they function.”

To read more…

Classroom-Tested Tech Tools To Boost Literacy

To improve reading skills, many teachers are harnessing the technology they already have

by Katie Ash / Education Week Digital Directions / 4 February 2011

Instead of investing in prepackaged software programs, many teachers are harnessing the technology they already have—such as webcams, audio recorders, blogs, and other Web 2.0 tools—to boost literacy in students.

“With schools being so cash-strapped, we can’t go around and buy a new program all the time,” says Adina Sullivan, a 4th grade teacher at the 720-student San Marcos Elementary School in California. “You can go with something that you can find a lot easier at no cost and make it work for what you need, rather than [using pre-packaged software.]”

Sullivan, who is a lead technology teacher at her school, works with English-language learners to help build vocabulary and fluency.

To read more…

Education Policy in the News

Newsletter / The Forum on the Future of Public Education, U Illinois College of Education / February 2011

“Research” Continuously Cited by Politicians

In recent months the media (and politicians) have turned their focus to the debate over school choice; “Waiting for ‘Superman’”, “Race to the Top”, and the Rhee, Klein Manifesto all support the expansion of charter schools throughout the United States. As media outlets continue coverage of this issue, school choice has become a hotter topic amongst politicians. Included in the political discourse about charter schools is the accuracy of references to empirical evidence, and one claim that keeps surfacing is that teacher quality is the most important factor in determining a student’s success. […]

The Charter School Experiment Symposium

The Forum on the Future of Public Education is sponsoring a symposium on The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence, and Implications, Harvard Education Press, 2010, edited by Christopher Lubienski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Peter Weitzel, University of Illinois at Springfield. The symposium features a presentation of the book’s main themes and conclusions by the editors as well as presentations of select chapters by contributing authors […]

“Gainful Employment” Debate Continues for For-Profit Colleges

On June 18, 2010, the Department of Education released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding for-profit and proprietary colleges. Specifically, the NPRM laid out guidelines surrounding federal aid to postsecondary institutions based on the debt that graduates accrue and their achievement of “gainful employment,” a term that is getting much scrutiny from supporters of for-profit education and others. […]

To read more…

The Future of Teaching and Learning: 3 Trends

Three Trends that Define the Future of Teaching and Learning

by Tina Barseghian / MindShift / 5 February 2011

In today’s dynamic classrooms, the teaching and learning process is becoming more nuanced, more seamless, and it flows back and forth from students to teachers. Here’s a look at current trends in teaching and learning, their implications, and changes to watch for.

The Three Key Trends

1. Collaborative.

If Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it’s to play nicely together. Sure, there are times for buckling down and working alone, but in most cases, the collaborative process boosts everyone’s game. In progressives schools across the country, students and teachers are learning from each other in all sorts of ways.

Sharing information and connecting with others — whether we know them personally or not — has proven to be a powerful tool in education. Students are collaborating with each other through social media to learn more about specific subjects, to test out ideas and theories, to learn facts, and to gauge each others’ opinions.

To read more, including other posts in the series…

A Connection Between Social / Emotional Learning and Academic Success

Social Emotional Learning in Schools Lifts Student Grades, Says Loyola University Chicago Study

by AP News / Huffington Post / 7 February 2011

According to a study led by Loyola University Chicago professor emeritus Joseph A. Durlak, learning about social skills in the classroom may increase students’ academic success. The report specifically focused on the effects of social and emotional learning (SEL) initiatives in K-12 classrooms. The study concluded:

“[It] appears that SEL programs are successful at all educational levels (elementary, middle, and high school) and in urban, suburban, and rural schools… Results from this review add to a growing body of research indicating that SEL programming enhances students’ connection to school, classroom behavior, and academic achievement.”

SEL programs focus on social themes rather than academic study, letting students role-play and take part in problem-solving activities to learn how to react to and process emotions.

To read more…

U.S. News & World Report Grading Teacher Colleges

Teachers’ Colleges Upset By Plan to Grade Them

by Trip Gabriel / New York Times / 8 February 2011

Grades are the currency of education — teachers give them to students, administrators grade teachers and states often assign grades to schools. Now U.S. News & World Report is planning to give A through F grades to more than 1,000 teachers’ colleges, and many of the schools are unhappy, marching to the principal’s office to complain the system is unfair.

Numerous education school deans have protested that the ratings program’s methodology is flawed since the program was announced last month. In a letter last week, officials from 35 leading education colleges and graduate schools — including Columbia, Harvard, Michigan State and Vanderbilt — denounced an “implied coercion” if they do not cooperate with the ratings.

To read more…

What the US Could Learn from Finland about Education Reform

The Children Must Play

by Samuel Abrams / The New Republic / 28 January 2011

While observing recess outside the Kallahti Comprehensive School on the eastern edge of Helsinki on a chilly day in April 2009, I asked Principal Timo Heikkinen if students go out when it’s very cold. Heikkinen said they do. I then asked Heikkinen if they go out when it’s very, very cold. Heikkinen smiled and said, “If minus 15 [Celsius] and windy, maybe not, but otherwise, yes. The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.”

In comparison to the United States and many other industrialized nations, the Finns have implemented a radically different model of educational reform—based on a balanced curriculum and professionalization, not testing.

To read more…

Youth Writing on the Web: A Literacy Revolution?

Connected They Write: The Lure of Writing on the Web

by Raquel Recuero / DML Center / 24 January 2011

The massive adoption of digital media in the everyday life of teens has reshaped social and educational practices in Latin America. A digital divide persists but youth are increasingly more connected. In Chile, for example, more than 96 percent of all students have Internet access. In Brazil, almost 80 percent of the population between 16 and 24 years and almost 70 percent of those aged 10 to 15 accessed the Internet in 2009. With that kind of penetration, digital media is creating new ways to understand literacy, learning, reading, and especially, writing. Far from hurting the writing practices for youth, digital media seems to be creating a far more complex and compelling space for them to flourish.

To read more…

An Experiment in Gifted Education: The Davidson Academy

Challenging the Gifted

by June Kronholz / Education Next / Spring 2011 Vol. 11 No. 2

[…] What’s a school to do with youngsters like Alex Wade and Taylor Wilson, kids who are intellectually years ahead of their age group, their textbooks, the curriculum, and usually their teachers?

When the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) surveyed states in 2008 about what they provide in the way of gifted education, it found the answer to be “not much.” At least a dozen states don’t let children start kindergarten early, even if they’re already reading The Aeneid. Two states bar a middle schooler from taking high-school classes. At least 30 states allow only those in 11th and 12th grade to also enroll in college classes. And almost no one will waive mandatory-attendance laws for the 15-year-old who has gotten everything she can out of her high school and itches to move on.

“That’s a mistreatment of students,” says Bob Davidson who, with his wife, Jan, founded, developed, and then sold the company that marketed the hugely successful Math Blaster and Reading Blaster computer software. So, in 2006, the Davidsons started a public school—a public school like no other—on the University of Nevada campus.

To read more…

Cathy Davidson Asks, Why Teach? Teaching for the 21st Century

Why Teach?

Cathy Davidson / Digital Media and Learning Blog / 31 January 2011

There are as many reasons to teach as there are reasons to learn. One reason item-response testing (the twentieth-century’s dominant method of testing) is so deficient is that it tends to reduce what we teach to content (especially in the human, social, and natural sciences) or calculation (in the computational sciences). Think of the myriad ways of knowing, making, playing, imagining, and thinking that are not encompassed by content or calculation. This semester, I’ve moved over to highly experimental, collaborative, peer-led methods in my two undergraduate classes, “This Is Your Brain on the Internet,” comprised largely of students in the natural and social sciences, and “Twenty-First Century Literacies,” made up mostly of students in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

To read more…

Grading the Education President: Debate on his Plan for Reform

Grading the Education President

Opinion Page / New York Times / 26 January 2011

On one issue, at least, there seemed to be rare agreement in Washington. President Obama and Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was flawed and needed revision. The legislation, a priority of President George W. Bush and enacted with bipartisan support, gave Washington more power to set national education standards.

On Tuesday night, in his State of the Union message, the president touted his Race to the Top standards instead, saying that they were developed by governors, not by Washington. “Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids,” he said in his address.

Do the education goals outlined by the president pass muster? What were the strong and weak parts of the president’s statements on education in his address?

To read the six opinion essays…

U WI-Madison’s Games, Learning, and Society Initiative

Prototyping Our Way to Reforming Education

by Heather Chaplin / Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning / 4 January 2011

As anyone in the field of education knows, change comes slowly. It isn’t easy to move the needle in an institution like compulsory education that has existed since the turn of the last century. Yet, some educators are beginning to test that assumption.

Kurt Squire, associate education professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, wanted to approach change differently—as a videogame designer would—by employing rapid prototyping of an idea and tons of user testing.

“I’m adverse to the model in education where there’s a group of people who develop this thing that is going to solve all your problems, that’s going to be your silver bullet,” Squire said. “I want to make education more participatory.”

In 2008, Squire, who is also a leader in the Games, Learning and Society initiative, a group of more than 50 faculty and students investigating game-based learning, at UW-Madison, started designing a curriculum that took advantage of mobile technology.

To read more…

New National Educational Policy Center Study on NYC Charter Schools

Adding Up The Spending: Fiscal Disparities and Philanthropy Among New York City Charter Schools

by Bruce D. Baker and Richard Ferris / National Education Policy Center / 26 January 2011

In prominent Hollywood movies and even in some research studies, New York City (NYC) charter schools have been held up as unusually successful. This research brief presents a new study that analyzes the resources available to those charter schools, and it also looks at their performance on state standardized tests. The study reaches some surprising conclusions, some of which include the following:

• Spending by NYC charter schools varies widely, and these differences in spending per pupil appear to be driven primarily by differences in access to private donors. […]

• Outcomes also vary widely. However, there is little or no relationship between spending and test score outcomes after including appropriate controls. […]

• NYC charter schools serve, on average, far fewer students who are classified as English Learners or who are very poor. Both groups of students require more resources to teach than do other students, meaning that charters with lower enrollments of these more resource-intensive students can devote their funding to other purposes.

To read more…

Poverty’s Affect on IQ and Literacy

Nature after Nurture?

by Meghan Rosen / 3 Quarks Daily / 24 January 2011

Last year, while doing our taxes, my husband and I were surprised to discover that we weren’t as poor as we thought we were. As lowly graduate students making a combined income of about $50,000 per year, I had assumed we were on the penny-pinching side of the national pay scale. But when I compared our income to the median income in the country, I found that we were sitting comfortably in the center. We had made it; we were officially smack-dab in the middle class. I thought it would feel different. […]

This year, 16 million children will be born into poverty (1 out of every 5 children born in the US). […] The cycle is vicious, and unrelenting. But is it possible to escape? How early is the influence of our environment engraved into the patterns of our development?

In 2003, a study from the University of Virginia showed that 7 year-old fraternal twins raised in families with low socioeconomic status had almost no variability in IQ. Why is this surprising? Fraternal twins are as genetically dissimilar as any other pair of non-twin siblings—their IQs should have been different.

To read more…

A Re-Affirmation of Testing as a Learning “Technology”

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test

by Pam Belluck / New York Times / 20 January 2011

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

To read more…

Are We Preparing Students Too Narrowly for Taking on the World?

Our superficial scholars

by Heather Wilson / Washington Post / 23 January 2011

For most of the past 20 years I have served on selection committees for the Rhodes Scholarship. In general, the experience is an annual reminder of the tremendous promise of America’s next generation. We interview the best graduates of U.S. universities for one of the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed on young scholars.

I have, however, become increasingly concerned in recent years – not about the talent of the applicants but about the education American universities are providing. Even from America’s great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago.

As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.

To read more…

Bi-Lingual Immersion Elementary School Closes Achievement Gap

Oakland school one of two in California honored for closing achievement gap

by Katy Murphy / Oakland Tribune / 18 January 2011

In public education, closing the “achievement gap” between students who are poor and middle class, black and white, English learners and native speakers has become a common goal — and a ubiquitous buzzword.

But Oakland’s Manzanita SEED Elementary School is doing it. And it’s doing it more swiftly than almost every other school in the state, by the federal government’s calculations.

Manzanita SEED, a small, Spanish-English immersion elementary school in the Fruitvale neighborhood, was one of two schools in California to win the 2010 National Title I Distinguished School Award for that reason.

About 85 percent of the school’s students come from low-income families and half enter kindergarten.

To read more…

Return on Educational Investment Study Links District Productivity and Student Achievement

U.S.Study Hopes to Increase School Efficiency

by Wendell Marsh (Reuters Life!) / Yahoo News / 19 January 2011

At a time when U.S. school districts face tighter budgets, schools may be able to get better results if they increase productivity, according to a new study.

But achieving an increase in education efficiency may require spending less on administration and more on teaching.

The Return on Educational Investment study, conducted by the Center for American Progress, assesses around 9,000 school districts across the nation in terms of student achievement as seen on reading and math proficiency tests versus spending.

It also evaluates to what degree improving efficiency would increase student achievement.

To read more…

New Report Suggests Limited Learning in Undergraduate Colleges

Students not learning a lot in college, tracking study finds

by Eric Gorski (AP) / Denver Post / 18 January 2011

A new study answers questions about how much students actually learn in college — for many, not much — and has inflamed a debate about the value of an American higher education.

The research of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

One problem is that students just aren’t asked to do much, according to findings in a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” Half of students did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

Using the Arts to Think and Teach Differently About Math

Bending and Stretching Classroom Lessons to Make Math Inspire

by Kenneth Chang / New York Times / 17 January 2011

[…] Ms. Hart — her given name is Victoria, but she has long since dropped the last six letters — has an audacious career ambition: She wants to make math cool.

She effused, “You’re thinking about it, because it’s awesome.”

She calls herself a full-time recreational mathemusician, an off-the-beaten-path choice with seemingly limited prospects. And for most of the two years since she graduated from Stony Brook University, life as a recreational mathemusician has indeed been a meager niche pursuit.

Then, in November, she posted on YouTube a video about doodling in math class, which married a distaste for the way math is taught in school with an exuberant exploration of math as art.

To read more…

What Should Wikipedia’s Open Educational Resource Platform Include?

As Wikipedia Turns 10, It Focuses on Ways to Improve Student Learning

by Tushar Rae / Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus / 14 January 2011

As Wikipedia hits its 10th year of operation, it is making efforts to involve academics more closely in its process. The latest is a new plan to build an “open educational resource platform” that will gather tools about teaching with Wikipedia in the classroom.

Rodney Dunican, education programs manager for Wikimedia, Wikipedia’s parent company, is part of the team working to build the platform, which he said will highlight the ways in which Wikipedia can be used to improve student learning.

“We don’t want them to cite Wikipedia,” he said of students. “What we really want them to do is understand how to use and critically evaluate the articles on Wikipedia and then learn how to contribute to make those articles better.”

To read more…

A Growing Field for Supporting Learning: Educational Data Mining

Data Mining Gets Traction in Education: Researchers Sift ‘Data Exhaust’ For Clues to Improve Learning

by Sarah D. Sparks / Education Week / 11 January 2011

The new and rapidly growing field of educational data mining is using the chaff from data collected through normal school activities to explore learning in more detail than ever, and researchers say the day when educators can make use of Amazon.com-like feedback on student learning behaviors may be closer than most people think.

Educational data mining uses some of the typical data included in state longitudinal databases, such as test scores and attendance, but researchers often spend more time analyzing ancillary data, such as student interactions in a chat log or the length of responses to homework assignments—information that researchers call “data exhaust.”

Analysis of massive databases isn’t new to fields like finance and physics, but it has started to gain traction in education only recently, with the first international conference on the subject held in 2008 and the first academic journal launched in 2009. Experts say such data mining allows faster and more fine-grained answers to education questions that ultimately might change the way students are tested and taught.

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What Lessons Can Be Learned from Maine’s Student Laptop Program?

School Tech: 6 Important Lessons From Maine’s Student Laptop Program

by Sarah Kessler / Mashup – Yahoo! News / 4 January 2011

When students at Skowhegan Area Middle School decided to undertake a study of the town’s history, they departed from traditional readings and paper writing. They instead made podcasts about historical landmarks that cumulatively produced a walking tour, recorded interviews with town elders and created websites for local farmers. Like the 225 other middle schools in Maine, every seventh and eighth grade student has been provided with a laptop computer, making projects like these accessible.

“It’s just a part of how we do business now, and in some ways we’re starting to take it for granted,” explains Michael Muir, who helped design the leadership development program for the initiative that brought one-to-one computing to Maine. “It’s very exciting because it’s now a part of the culture of teaching middle school in Maine … that all the kids have laptops and you teach with technology, and it’s exciting because it’s no longer the new thing.”

In 2002, the state of Maine signed a $37 million contract with Apple that provided laptops to 33,000 middle school students and 3,000 teachers. The contract was extended in 2006 and expanded in 2009 to include some high schools. All seventh graders, all eighth graders, and students at 55% of Maine’s high schools are currently issued laptops. At the launch of the initiative, the state made no apologies about how it had chosen to spend its one-time state surplus.

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