The average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home. -- President Barack Obama in a recent speech
In this hourlong radio documentary, American Radio Works explores the potential power -- and peril -- of individualized education technology efforts. Can it match a watchful tutor? Listen above, and/or click here to read and/or see some visual extras: One Child at a Time: Custom Learning in the Digital Age.
Last night on 60 Minutes, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced drone delivery in the not too distant future, which set the Internet on fire (so to speak) and reminded me to remind you that drones are coming to schools, too (or at least I think they will and am fasci-horrified by the possibilities).
Other tidbits from the 60M segment? Bezos knows that he's just as likely to be disrupted as previous industries were, and is fighting hard not to let happen to him what happened to Blockbuster, etc. Also: Cloud computing is Amazon's fastest-growing revenue source. Like Google, they're not really making money off what you think they're making money off of.
The Beastie Boys aren't happy about it (or maybe they're being gamed), but you'll probably like this viral video to promote Goldieblocks and girls' interest in making things.
Last week, MOOC founder Sebastian Thrun told Fast Company that, well, things weren't working out as well as he'd hoped three years ago. Today at the Atlantic Eduction page Owen Youngman describes how 56,000 students turned into 1,200 course passers.
The Learning Accelerator via the Hechinger Report
But at least they're not asking you for money or using a 3D printer to make a gun, right? (Spotify and New York City Schools Get Together To Hack on Music Education).
From a recent PBS NewsHour: "One school in Pittsburgh is training the next generation of cybersecurity experts to fight off the bad guys by teaching them to think the same way."
USA Today education writer (and Spencer Fellowship alumnus) Greg Toppo (@gtoppo) has been working on a book about the rise of learning games in education and has just signed a contract with Palgrave Macmillan to publish the book.
The working title is THE GAME BELIEVES IN YOU: How Video Games Work and Why They're Making Our Kids Smarter.
You can read a recent example of Greg's reporting on learning games here.
This is the umpteenth book deal to come from the Spencer Fellowship program, which began in 2008-2009. At least four books have been published already.
Read all about the current and former fellows here.
Image via Candy House Japan.
Robot Toys Teach Tots To Program Code "The robots come ready to play out of the box, and children can interact with them using a tablet or smartphone. Children can use the touchscreen to string together a series of commands that will direct the robot."
Yes, Your School is Watching You WNYC: The Glendale school district in California is paying a firm over $40,000 to monitor the social media posts of their middle and high school students this school year. The state of Florida recently enacted a cyberbullying law which gives schools the power to investigate the off-campus social media activities of their students.
Mass School Closings a Nationwide Trend NBC: Craig Melvin talks with a Philadelphia family that is experiencing school closings first hand.
Calif. Could Lose At Least $15 Million in Federal Funds Over Testing Politics K12: Ever since California approved a bill to suspend much of its accountability testing for one year, everyone has been wondering if the feds would punish the Golden State for straying far from the accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, which call for states to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school and use the results to make key school improvement decisions.
Study: Dual credit benefits kids in richer schools Hechinger Report: A study by the Illinois Education Research Council at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville found that more students were enrolled in dual-credit college courses in high school students in suburban and rural areas with larger enrollments of whites and smaller numbers of low-income families, and that excelled in such things as grades, test scores, and attendance.
Education Department Seeks Feedback On Ratings System For American Universities HuffPost: The Education Department forums are scheduled Nov. 6 at California State University, Dominguez Hills; Nov. 13 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.; Nov. 15 at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls; and Nov. 21 at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
The two main theories behind the last few days of tumult and rumor in LA are (a) that Deasy authorized a leak to scare the board into keeping him (and it nearly got out of hand) or (b) that Deasy opponents (most likely Mike Trujillo in Richard Vladovic's office) leaked the story to try and create momentum around an early Deasy departure.
So which was it and why didn't the leak work?
"Finally we have the computing power to grade homework at the same blinding speed that it was plagiarized from Wikipedia." Via The Answer Sheet
For a time, CPS claimed to be "the largest centralized deployment of iPads in the United States." However, it started with a pilot program -- just 750 devices a 23 schools in the first year (2010-2011), then 3,500 the second year as 13 original schools plus 35 new schools were added. The model is designed to be 1:1 but it's not a take-home system like LAUSD.
Now there are 55,000 at schools throughout the district. Here is some background from CPS. They lost edtech guru John Connelly along the way, and are about to lose John Mellios, too. But it's an interesting contrast to the LAUSD experience, among others.
LAUSD looking to delay iPad distribution LA Daily News: Facing questions about security and other issues, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy has proposed a one-year extension in equipping all 600,000 of the district's students with iPads, pushing completion of the program to December 2015.
Common Core Standards Shake Up Publishing Biz WNYC: New York State has become the epicenter of a major transformation in the $7 billion textbook industry that threatens the preeminence of publishing behemoths like Pearson.
Is Pitbull 'Mr. Education'? Rapper Opens Charter School In Miami NPR: Pitbull is just one of a growing number of celebrities who've lent their names and opened their wallets to the charter school movement. His Sports Leadership And Management Academy opened in Miami this fall.
In Controversy and Success, Tutoring Company Dominates Texas Tribune: Among the companies that began operating in the state after the program launched, few offer a better window into the obstacles to the federal program’s success than the company that served Sifuentes’ children, Austin-based Tutors with Computers.
Former Star reporter to head new education website IBJ: Education News Network is raising funds for Chalkbeat Indiana, and already has lassoed a two-year grant totaling $115,000 from the Indianapolis-based higher education advocacy group Lumina Foundation. Lumina said ENN also is looking at establishing other education sites for Boston; Memphis, Tenn.; and Austin, Texas.
Schools Learn Tablets’ Limits WSJ: The highest-profile snafu came in Los Angeles, where a $1 billion program—funded by voter-approved bonds—to provide Apple Inc. iPads for K-12 students came under fire after some [...]
LA Unified’s iPads pilot phase continues on bumpy road KPCC: Four schools have backed out of pilot phase saying they want to see more planning, said district spokeswoman Shanon Johnson.
4 LA schools defer iPads, citing security, liability issues Los Angeles Times: The rejection apparently is temporary — the schools still want the tablet computers — but their stance underscores ongoing problems faced by the L.A. Unified School District as it attempts to provide every student with a tablet over the next year.
Group Presses for Safeguards on the Personal Data of Schoolchildren NYT: Providers of educational technology can mine the data of young children, but privacy groups are trying to set up barriers.
Denver Public Schools election offers voters two paths Denver Post: Michael Yackel uses a cymbal to alert students to get into their classrooms at West High School in Denver. West Leadership Academy is one of two innovation schools replacing West High School, which is being phased out after years of poor performance.
Online Application Woes Make Students Anxious and Put Colleges Behind Schedule NYT: As deadlines for early decision applications near, students worry they have missed something or messed up, while colleges face delays in reviewing applications.
Elementary students learn keyboard typing ahead of new Common Core tests Washington Post: The 7-year-olds in Natalie May’s second-grade class have to stretch their fingers across the keyboards to reach “ASDF” and “JKL;” as they listen to the animated characters on their computer screens talk about “home keys.”
Many shun CPS' plan for 'welcoming' schools Chicago Tribune: Almost half the youngsters most affected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school shutdowns did not enroll this fall in the new schools where officials planned for them to go, records from Chicago Public Schools show.
Read all about it here via Charles Barone.
From last night's PBS: "Forty-five New York City public high school students are taking big strides toward achieving their dreams by learning how to work together on creating fully functional, original cellphone apps with business plans. John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports on how one summer program trains kids to be high-tech entrepreneurs."
These could be isolated examples, or early glitches, or signs of bigger problems. Any other implementations going well (or poorly)? They're definitely using tablets in Chicago but I haven't heard any big problems (or praise) besides a recent theft. Image via Amplify.
Sandy Hook Elementary Will Be Torn Down NPR: In a referendum marked by a large turnout and an emphatic result, the people of Newtown, Conn., have voted to demolish Sandy Hook Elementary and build a new school. Sandy Hook was the scene of a mass shooting last December, when 20 children and six staff members were killed.
LA school board to review $1-billion iPad project Los Angeles Times: The meeting was proposed by board member Monica Ratliff, who chairs a district committee that is overseeing technology in L.A. Unified.
Deciding Who Sees Students’ Data NYT: Schools across the country are looking at new online ways to integrate and analyze information about their students. But privacy advocates remain wary.
Vouchers don’t do much for students Politico: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.
Michigan school prepares students for high-tech auto jobs Hechinger Report: By the time Brad Foley graduated from high school in 2012, he’d made a bicycle that served as alternative energy source, providing enough power to light its own turn signals, and helped craft a model of an eco-friendly dashboard for cars. For his senior project, he’d designed a “Mission Impossible”-inspired game featuring a security system with laser trip wires.
In this thought-provoking piece, the case is made for disabusing ourselves of ideas of normalcy -- especially when it comes to design and innovation: All Technology Is Assistive Technology (Medium)
Some of the things I learned about the Amplify tablet yesterday in a brief demonstration at Amplify's "other" offices in Manhattan (where everyone has a cold they're all working so hard):
2 -- There is a curriculum but it's open to other content and software (not a closed system like iTunes or the Kindle).
3 -- No, you don't have to use Amplify's learning games to use the tablet. No games, no problem. (You don't even have to use Amplify's curriculum. Use Pearson, Edmodo, your own PDFs -- whatever you want.)
4 -- While there's tons that can be done with the tablet, the instant lockout feature "Eyes On Teacher" is apparently one of the most popular features of the tablet, since it gives teachers a way to refocus kids. (Teachers can also block specific applications, and see what kids are doing.)
5 -- No, you can't erase the user profile information to get to unauthorized sites like the kids in LA did with their iPads. You can't fake the internet address, or "root" (jailbreak) the unit -- so far, at least.
6 -- No, you can't get it in another color besides bright orange (though the rubber looks removable).
If you weren't paying attention (like me) you might not have noticed that NSVF has relatively recently set up a Seed Fund focused on "early-stage, pre-Series A education technology companies often overlooked by, or too early for, the traditional investing community," co-headed by Jennifer Carolan and Wayee Chu.
I'm told @nsvfSEED was launched in January 2012 and has an office in Silicon Valley where all the startup action is and most of its 20 or so investments ($100,000-300,000) have been in for-profit outfits like Ellevate, ClassDojo, EdSurge, and GoalBook rather than nonprofits that the NSVF "mother ship" has invested in previously.
Of course, NSVF has other active funds, focused on regions (Newark, DC, and Boston) and on teacher preparation (aka Learning To Teach).
What makes the Seed Fund different is that it sounds like it's actually operating like a "real" venture fund (to the extent I understand what that is) -- focused largely on for-profit companies at an early enough stage that they really need the help, without any real expectation that they'll all succeed. In this sense, the Seed Fund seems new and different from much of what NSVF has ended up supporting in the past -- and closer to what it was originally intended to do (as far as I understand that).
In the long run, we should never bet against technology. In the short run, it is equally safe to wager that the hurried introduction of digital tools by school systems will continue to undermine their effectiveness.
Anya Kamenetz's The Inside Story on LA Schools iPad Rollout: "a colossal disaster" provides the first draft of the latest chapter of the history of educational technology repeating itself. She reports that LA only tried a small pilot project last spring before rushing ahead with a billion dollar investment in iPads. Even that brief experiment resulted in the loss of 71 tablets. Only the teachers who passed out the iPads got training. They got 40 minutes of instruction on managing the devices.
A logistical problem was discovered when students checked the devices out at the end of the day so they could use them at home. The process of rechecking them in each morning was too time-consuming. Also, checking iPads out at the beginning of class created a problem, “If kids didn’t want to do the work, they would come late purposely and not get an iPad. So in some classes, half the kids had them and half the kids didn’t, they were just sitting with their heads on the desk.”
True believers in technology don't like to think about these issues. Theorists like LA Superintendent John Deasy believe that technology will relieve schools of the most difficult job in education - creating learning cultures that allow for teaching and learning for mastery. They have it backwards.
Students must first understand that they are supposed to behave differently in class than at home or other places. Before technology can live up to its prodigious promise, students must be taught how to be 21st century students who will use, not abuse their electronic devices. It makes no sense to ignore the fact that some children are too young to bring $700 tablets home. Others still need to be taught how to control technologies and not be controlled by them and there is no shortcuts for that process.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
Head Start preschoolers sent home thanks to shutdown MSNBC: For 770 preschool-aged children in eastern Alabama, school is out indefinitely. Thanks to the government shutdown which began Tuesday morning, Cheaha Regional Head Start (CRHS) has had to close all 16 of its locations, furlough its 240 employees without pay, and tell parents to keep all of the program’s students at home.
Head Start hit hardest by federal shutdown, but other education programs face problems in long term Hechinger Report: For the short term, most schools will likely be unaffected by the federal government shutdown that went into effect today. But if the impasse in Congress lasts a long time, schools may feel the financial squeeze.
Head Start program in Massachusetts nearly shut down the day after school year started Washington Post: A Head Start program in Western Massachusetts started its school year Monday, two weeks later than usual to save money due to sequestration-related budget cuts. On Tuesday,the program almost shut down again.
Education reform advocate John White: We're in danger of becoming the enemy Washington Post: Advocates for charter schools, teacher evaluations and other changes to public education that have become mainstream in recent years are at risk of turning into the establishment they once railed against.
Louisiana Schools Chief Warns Of 'Aggressive Populism' That Harms Education Reform HuffPost: "An aggressive form of populism has asserted itself in the rhetoric of our day," White is expected to say at the conservative American Enterprise Institute's headquarters in Washington. "I see it in a tone that is skeptical of reformers in the same populist way our country today is skeptical of authority generally."
iPad Program At L.A. Schools Needs Fine Tuning NPR: Steve Inskeep talks to Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy about the district's $1 billion iPad initiative, which aims to put a tablet in the hands of every student over the next year. The plan has prompted questions about the role of technology in the classroom, and the extent to which it can enhance teaching and improve student achievement.
New glitches surface in LAUSD's iPad project LA Daily News: Los Angeles Unified's ambitious iPad project hit another snag Tuesday, as officials conceded that some schools have temporarily stopped using the tablet computers, and the school board scheduled a special meeting to get its own questions answered about the status of the rollout.
First, reform supporter Whitney Tilson (right) "shorted" K12, Inc. Then CER founder Jeanne Allen (left) defended it. Then Tilson responded. And so forth. Who's got the better data? Who's more conflicted, financially? See the latest back and forth below, in case you didn't already see it on Whitney's email blasts or CER's emails. With any luck, the argument will continue right up to the big october 9 CER gala celebration and awards event (aka "The Reformies"). Either way, it's a great way for Tilson to push the stock down (and make money doing so) and Allen to protect an ally and funder and to publicize CER's anniversary.
Previous posts: K12 Inc. A Bad Deal For Schools -- And Investors?
Here's an eye-grabbing revenue growth chart from the recent Politico story about the growth and spread of K12, Inc (despite effectiveness questions). You might also check out Whitney Tilson's recent "short" recommendation against the company -- assumedly on financial grounds as well as effectiveness ones.
There are now just six companies that dominate the testing business, according to a new Atlanta Journal Constitution series on the industry. But the competition between Pearson and McGraw Hill remains fierce.
Anyone who's been reading the AJC series on testing mistakes and their consequences should probably also be familiar with Todd Farley's hilarious/depressing book Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, which is now available online:
"Todd Farley's behind the scenes account of his years in the standardized testing industry is provocative, instructive, and often hilarious...."
To see whether testing practices and safeguards have gotten any better or worse since NCLB began, you should also check out Jacques Steinberg's big NYT series on testing from more than a decade ago (The Test Industry's Failures; When a Test Fails the Schools; Right Answer, Wrong Score ).
Previous posts: Test Scoring: The Elephant In The Room; A Scathing, Humorous Look Inside The Testing Industry; Dan Rather Examines Test Scoring ...; "The Truth About Testing" At Columbia J-School; Testing Companies "Streamline" Scoring, Oversight.
Image via Flickr
Voiceover: “Most students keep the Trapper Keeper in their locker. Then, they just change Trappers from class to class. With no large notebooks to carry around, they travel light and easy. After school, they take the Trapper Keeper home with all the Trappers inside.” (The History of the Trapper Keeper | Mental Floss)
The American Enterprise Institute's conference, Teacher Quality 2.0: Will Today's Reforms Hold Back Tomorrow's Schools? showed that the times, they are a-changing. And it's about time. If "reformers" don't admit that they are stalled in the wrong lane of history, our schools will be hurt badly.
The AEI's Rick Hess kicked off the discussion by asking whether the goal of Reform 1.0 is the evaluation of "whether you are a good classroom teacher in a conventional environment?"
Hess then summarized the ways that this "Teacher Quality 1.0" mentality could undermine online instruction, team teaching, and other ways of reorganizing schools. Hess then questioned the codification of this one-size-fits-all approach to teacher evaluation into law.
Teaching should be a team effort, and that applies to schools that serve intense concentrations of poverty and trauma, as much as it applies to the innovative schools that Hess wants. Isn't that the real harm of Reform 1.0? It had the temerity to ram through laws that constrain all types of cooperative learning across our huge and diverse democracy.
Although we disagree on most things, can advocates of the flipped classroom and of full-service community schools join together to reverse laws mandating value-added evaluations?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
On the off chance you haven't seen this already this week, here's the eagle flying with the camera attached. Add some cheesy music and you've got an inspiring professional development video for the next no-student day.
Over the past week or so I've come across three big articles raising questions about the efforts Amplify and others are putting into getting tablets and interactive software into US schoolchildren's hands:
Mashable's late-August piece (Inside News Corp's $540 Million Bet on American Classrooms) raised a slew of questions about the motives and feasability of Amplify's efforts.
From the headline of the story to the tag line at the end, Carlo Rotella's recent NYT Sunday Magazine piece (No Child Left Untableted) persistently casts tablets -- and Amplify -- in a consistently critical if not negative light.
But perhaps the most hair-raising of them all (from the Amplify perspective) might be Todd Tauber's look at the disappointing economic history of media companies trying to get into the education game (When Media Companies Try to Become Education Companies).
Then again, I'm a notorious reactionary/scaredycat when it comes to education technology (except when it comes to broadband access), and the coverage also helps publicize the company's efforts and gives what they're doing a sense of inevitability. So perhaps I'm just reading it all wrong.
Image via PC Magazine
Everyone who's anyone is going to be at the Schools for Tomorrow Conference tomorrow in NYC, sponsored in part by the NYT.
Titled "Virtual U: The coming of Age of Online Education," the focus is on higher education, MOOCs, and other forms of online education.
There's a mix of NYT staffers (moderating, mostly), operators (like Sal Kahn), and thinkers.
Some notable panelists and moderators include Gov. Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware, Ted Mitchell, President and C.E.O., NewSchools Venture Fund, John Merrow, Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour, Andrew Ross Sorkin, columnist/editor DealBook, The New York Times, David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief, The New York Times, Daphne Koller, co-founder, Coursera.
There are also some mostly K-12 folks who are scheduled to speak or moderate, including Diane Tavenner, founder and C.E.O., Summit Public Schools, Melody Barnes, C.E.O., Melody Barnes Solutions (former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council), Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, Joanne Weiss, Former Chief of Staff to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, Tony Florence, general partner, NEA.
Stanley Fish’s recent New York Times commentary (Two Cultures of Educational Reform) is excellent, but it also indicates that higher education may not yet understand what is about to hit it.
Fish reviews Derek Bok’s Higher Education in America and asks how Bok can be so bullish on Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) before he has evidence that they will work. Fish then asks the even better question of how devotees of technology can be so enthusiastic in promoting the benefits of digital learning without considering the harm that may be inherent in it.
Fish says an online learning advocate demonstrates with “chilling clarity” how its deleterious effects can be ignored. MOOCs, she says, can release us from the “shackles,” i.e. the need to interact with actual people, who must be endured in a classroom.
Fish also cites Andrew Delbanco who says that MOOCs are just the latest battleground in the centuries-long tension between “facts versus knowledge, skill versus wisdom … information versus insight.” Delbanco characterized it as a conflict between “methodology and non-methodology.”
Fish, Delbanco, and their university colleagues have only been subjected to part of the struggle. As we in public schools have been shocked to learn, education is caught in a struggle between methodology and non-methodology and a brand new form of non-methodology – known as Big Data.
This Jetsons video is really just an excuse to link to a couple of articles about where things stand on robot teaching and where we thought we were going way back when the Jetsons was being aired: When your teacher is a robot (PandoDaily); The Jetsons Get Schooled: Robot Teachers in the 21st Century Classroom (Smithsonian). Oh, and because StudentsFirst still hasn't posted any video from Friday's LA event.
The underlying problem with his analyses is that the frequency with which somebody tweets - whether it offends him or not - doesn't actually tell you much about why somebody is using Twitter. Greene's assumption is that the more often people tweet, the more highly they must think of themselves.
That's a convenient interpretation if you're looking to feel superior, but it's probably not worth taking all that seriously because there are lots of reasons why people tweet that have nothing to do with self-importance. The fact is that tweeting is low-cost, so it shouldn't surprise us that some people who really enjoy it - for whatever reason - will do it often.
I tweet pretty frequently. I haven't done the math, but I'm guessing I'd have a pretty high "narcissism" score by Greene's metrics. But I certainly don't think that I'm "saving the world", and I'm acutely aware of the fact that most people have little interest in what I have to say.
Still, tweeting is fun! I like finding links from others, and I enjoy making snarky comments about links of my own. Tweeting also helps me practice brevity, which is useful and rewarding. (Puzzlingly, Greene acknowledges that there are plenty of legitimate reasons to tweet. It's not clear why he assumes those reasons don't apply to others.)
Of course, Twitter is often put to more-obnoxious uses, including for education policy discussions. Some individuals really do rely too heavily on sloganeering, and it's annoying when people try to engage me on Twitter with arguments that are really better suited to blog posts and comment sections. And Twitter - like so many other venues on the internet - enables a great deal of unpleasant tribalism.
Those problems really have little to do with the frequency with which people are tweeting. But have they nevertheless "coarsened education policy discussions", as Greene suggests?
Imports from Chine and other countries have pushed the price of lined paper way down over the past decade, notes the Atlantic: The Ruthless Global Battle for Your Back-to-School Shopping Dollars
Here are some of the big stories in the latest ("back to school" edition of Scholastic Administrator (@scholasticadms), the magazine that sponsors this blog (and runs a regular interview and column from me as well):
President Poses for E-Rate: Obama introduces E-Rate upgrade program, ConnectED. The goal? To bring high-speed Internet access to every school in the U.S.
The Future of a Shuttered School: School closures are on the rise, but what if student enrollment rebounds?
The Fantastic Five: Profiles of leaders who initiated radical, and successful, changes.
Are Tablets Better Than Laptops? Top educators debate which device fits students best.
Charlotte's Turnaround Artist: Ann Blakeney Clark: Ann Blakeney Clark on working with under-performing schools, strategic staffing and collaborating with fellow educators.
Is Your School Assessing Security? A look at which measures offer the best protection at a time of ever-shrinking budge
If you want to see the whole magazine in all its electronic glory, go here.