I don't know how Chris Lehmann finagled an invite to speak to the FCC, but I sure am glad he did (and that he filmed it!). Click on the picture below to listen to Chris' 10-minute presentation. I promise it will be WELL worth your time.
I don't know how Chris Lehmann finagled an invite to speak to the FCC, but I sure am glad he did (and that he filmed it!). Click on the picture below to listen to Chris' 10-minute presentation. I promise it will be WELL worth your time.
don't teach your kids to read
for the Web
don't teach your kids to write
pen and paper aren't going anywhere
since when do kids need an audience?
no need to hyperlink
no connecting, now
no social networking
or online chat
blogs and twitter?
what a bunch of crap
and definitely, absolutely, resolutely, no cell phones
block it all
lock it down
keep it out
it's evil, you know
there's bad stuff out there
gotta keep your children safe
don't you know collaboration is just another word for cheating?
don't you know how much junk is out there?
haven't you ever heard of sexting?
a computer 24-7? no thanks
I don't want them
you know they're just going to look at porn
and hook up with predators
we can't trust them
don't do any of it, please
'cause I'm doing all of it with my kids
can't wait to see who has a leg up in a decade or two
Higher order thinking is nonalgorithmic. That is, the path of action is not fully specified in advance.
Higher order thinking tends to be complex. The total path is not “visible” (mentally speaking) from any single vantage point.
Higher order thinking often yields multiple solutions, each with costs and benefits, rather than unique solutions.
Higher order thinking involves nuanced judgment and interpretation.
Higher order thinking involves the application of multiple criteria, which sometimes conflict with one another.
Higher order thinking often involves uncertainty. Not everything that bears on the task at hand is known.
Higher order thinking involves self-regulation of the thinking process. We do not recognize higher order thinking in an individual when someone else “calls the plays” at every step.
Higher order thinking involves imposing meaning, finding structure in apparent disorder.
Higher order thinking is effortful. There is considerable mental work involved in the kinds of elaborations and judgments required. (p. 3)
The seventh item on the list, self-regulation, is one that I think is particularly lacking in many K-12 schools because the teachers “call the plays” so much of the time…
Here’s what I think is the money quote:
The goals of increasing thinking and reasoning ability are old ones for educators. . . . But these goals were part of the high literacy tradition; they did not, by and large, apply to the more recent schools for the masses. Although it is not new to include thinking, problem solving, and reasoning in someone’s school curriculum, it is new to include it in everyone’s curriculum. It is new to take seriously the aspiration of making thinking and problem solving a regular part of a school program for all of the population . . . It is a new challenge to develop educational programs that assume that all individuals, not just an elite, can become competent thinkers. (p. 7)
I liked this book. It's very short, but it made me think. I give it 4 highlighters.
School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is 'getting it'. It's the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn't care about workbooks or long checklists.
For a while, smart people thought that school was organized to encourage learning. For a long time, though, people in the know have realized that they are fundamentally different activities.
If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.
See also my other slides and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.
Products that can become commoditized and cheap tend to do so, and companies seeking profits move upstream in search of new scarcities. Where abundance drives the cost of something to the floor, value shifts to adjacent levels.
And that’s really it, in a nutshell, for our students and our school systems, isn’t it? Because the need to store information in our heads has diminished yet again as our storage media have become more sophisticated (this time it’s computers and the Internet instead of books), the value that our graduates bring to their jobs increasingly is dependent on what they can do with what they know, not merely what they know. Because previously-scarce information is now freely and abundantly available on the Web, the value that teachers bring to their current jobs is not how well they can spew forth content and then assess what kids can regurgitate but rather how well they can - and their students can - think critically about and act upon important facts and concepts.
I think most educators and policymakers have yet to give much thought to the occurrence (or magnitude) of this shift…
[Many folks have disagreed with the premise of this book, but I found much to think about inside. I give it 3 highlighters.]
The MySpace study asked social networking users between the ages of 14 and 21 (aka "Generation Y") questions about their interactions both on social networks and in their real life, too. Some 36% of the respondents said they found it easier to talk about themselves online than in the real world, leading them to share more about themselves using technology. This group also felt that their online friends knew more about them, and so, in a sense, were closer than offline friends because they all knew what was going on in each other's lives.
Outside of the social networking sites, the survey respondents overwhelmingly felt ill-at-ease in social groups. A whopping 72% said they felt "left out" and didn't think they fit into any particular group. More than four-fifths (82%) said they moved between four or more different groups of friends in an effort to find acceptance.
So is this…
In other words, are these results something about which to be concerned or to celebrate? Both? Neither? Thoughts?
Beth Still liked the idea and blogged about it. I have some hesitancy, however, about the concept, despite Tom and Beth’s good intentions and despite my inclinations to help administrators by making this social media stuff easy for them [and, yes, I’m now officially changing my mind about item #5 in the hyperlinked post]. Here’s the comment that I left on Beth’s blog:
Although I empathize with the sentiment behind this idea, I confess I have some hesitancy about it. Unlike being handing an iPod loaded with podcasts, which involves no identity infringement, I think most folks would prefer to handle their own online identities. Choice of whether or not to join an online service – or even specific online account usernames and/or Twitter IDs – is critical, I believe, for online identity formation (e.g., I wish I had a common username across services instead of being mcleod in some places, scottmcleod in others, and something else in yet others; I choose to use some online services but not others). What you choose for others may not necessarily be how they’d like to be represented. Also, third parties will begin treating those individuals’ online identities as authentic and representative, despite the fact that you, not they, created them. Your representation may or may not be accurate or fair to the person who has an online identity that supposedly represents her but instead represents your perceptions of her. It’s already tough enough trying to get a handle on the variety of ways in which we can be represented online without our permission. Despite the extremely good intentions here, I’m not sure I’d agree that this is a good thing to do.
The essential question here is whether it’s okay to create an online service account in someone else’s name, regardless of how good your intentions are. Beth says that she would let her administrator fill in his own profile. But she already would have made the account…
If you have thoughts on this, please leave them over at Beth’s post. It should be a good conversation!
The Des Moines Register reported today that the St. Ansgar (IA) Schools have given up on their proposal to purchase a device that would jam mobile phone signals after confirming that such equipment only can be used by federal agencies. The district had looked into the possibility of buying a jammer because it was struggling with inappropriate student mobile phone usage. One of the school board members said:
I don't think they have a place in the educational environment. The educational environment is supposed to be about students learning and teachers teaching and teachers can't teach over a cell phone. If a student is busy on the cell phone they aren't learning. It's a distraction ... and we need to minimize the distraction.
The interim superintendent also noted that he was concerned about students using mobile phones for cheating.
I e-mailed the interim superintendent a couple of days ago and asked him to consider a different, less hard-line approach, noting schools’ responsibility to prepare students for a digital, global era and that other districts have had success with more-accommodating strategies. Maybe I’ll hear from him sometime.
One of the comments to the Register’s article cracked me up:
Oh, For Crying-out-load. Just hang one of those shoe orginizers next to the door and require each student to check in thier phones on entering the classroom, then they can retrieve them after class. Just drop your phone in your slot and pick it up on the way out. Hey look, I solved the problem for less than $5.00
I don’t know if this is a fantastic idea or not, but it sure made me laugh. Sometimes easy solutions to our problems are staring us in the face if only we have the courage to think creatively. As we head into the new school year, who thinks their local school has an effective solution for inappropriate student use of mobile phones?
Men and women who carried lunch pails and spent their days on assembly lines could earn good wages, own their own homes, feed their families, and keep a cottage by the lake. It was a safe, solid way of life, and it didn’t require much book learning. One step up the ladder stood the trades, the jobs in construction and nursing and repair. The junior colleges and vocational schools taught these trades and taught them well. If they didn’t teach much science or math, that was all right, because only students going to universities needed that knowledge. . . . The Midwest has lost the knack to compete in the new economy, and the schools have lost their ability to teach it. (pp. 179–180)
Globalization may be the most egalitarian force in history. . . . If you’re good, you’ve got a chance. If you've got the education and the skills, the door is open. But if you don’t . . . you’re out of luck. . . . If the Midwest’s future contains manufacturing, it will be high-end, high-tech manufacturing, demanding two-year degrees at the least. Biosciences will hire no dropouts. (pp. 172–173)
This is an important book for anyone who lives in the Midwest (or any other primarily rural area). It's a depressing book, but an important book. I learned a ton. I give it 5 highlighters.
State officials know perfectly well that globalization will swallow their traditional industries. But they’re stuck. Workers vote, and a voter who has just lost his job will be an angry voter. . . . Every time a factory dies, its workers go from a private payroll to the public dole; . . . unemployment pay and retraining costs take money away from programs, such as education, that might offer some advantage in the new economy. And so the pressure builds to subsidize the old industries, to do anything to keep them from moving away. . . . The time and money [states] spend trying to keep twentieth-century jobs prevent them from creating twenty-first century jobs. (pp. 35–36)
The dirty little secret of Midwestern manufacturing is that many workers are high school dropouts, uneducated, some virtually illiterate. They could build refrigerators, sure. But they are totally unqualified for any job other than the ones they just lost. (p. 56)
Most of [the] earlier outsourcing dealt with manufacturing and factory workers. . . . The newest wave is different. It’s white-collar outsourcing . . . and it can hit anyone whose job isn’t absolutely nailed down. . . . Basically, any job that does not require face-to-face contact with a customer can be outsourced. Defense attorneys who must appear in a Wisconsin court cannot be in India, but real estate lawyers searching titles can. An Indiana X-ray technician has to be in the same room with the patient; the doctors who read the X-rays can be anywhere. Barbers in Columbus, taxi drivers in Chicago, and kindergarten teachers in Des Moines are outsource-proof. Stockbrokers and tax accountants aren’t. All this is happening now. . . . ‘Anything that can be sent over a wire can be outsourced, anything fungible is up for grabs, any tradable service anywhere in the world. Fifty percent of global GDP is services, and a lot of that is tradable.' (pp. 11–12)
In my never-ending quest to wrap my head around workforce data despite no background or training whatsoever, I’ve been playing around with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) web site. But first a quick look at General Motors (GM)! [click on all images for larger versions]
General Motors has a shrinkage issue
As many of you know, GM has been in the news lately as it faces possible bankruptcy proceedings. The image below shows the shrinkage of GM’s workforce over a generation.
Combine this image with all of the other news on the U.S. automobile industry and it’s easy to see that automotive jobs in America, at least as they’ve traditionally been configured, often are a loser’s game due to lower costs and, often, higher quality overseas.
Hey, how are we supposed to make a living?
Below are two charts that I made after diving deep into the BLS Industries At A Glance data, particularly the historical trend data. The first chart shows that the number of employees in the professional and business services, financial activities, and education and health services supersectors grew substantially over the past three decades. In contrast, the manufacturing supersector has lost over a third of its employees and those job losses show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Of course the education and skills needed for these growth sectors of the American economy are different and/or higher than those needed for most manufacturing jobs. FYI, the data points are from the month of April for each year.
The second chart shows the average increase in real earnings since 1980, broken out by labor supersector and adjusted for inflation. As you can see, not only are manufacturing jobs disappearing, those that are left actually have seen a decline in inflation-adjusted earnings over the past three decades. In other words, the purchasing power of your average manufacturing employee is less than it was three decades ago. Not so for the other three supersectors in the chart. I’m no workforce expert but this doesn’t seem to make a strong argument for the manufacturing industry here in America until our companies figure out how to effectively navigate overseas competition despite higher wages, corporate health care and other legacy costs, Americans’ expectations regarding standard of living, and other issues.
I’m not completely sure what to make of all of this. Right now I’m trying to locate data and present them in ways that make sense to me because I have a sense that this stuff is pretty important. As I share this out, your thoughts and expertise are welcome!
One last thing
FYI, despite my best efforts with it, Wolfram Alpha was of no help whatsoever with this investigation. Maybe down the road as it gets more sophisticated, increases its store of data, etc.
A two-part tale of higher education and online instruction…
“Students demand free beer too”
A May 29 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reads as follows:
Opponents of online instruction believe that traditional, face-to-face teaching is always better. A colleague of mine, wary of caving in to students’ demands for online courses, remarked recently that “students demand free beer, too; that doesn’t mean we should give it to them.”
What her academic colleague somehow, incredibly, fails to realize, of course, is that students don’t have to attend his institution. Since postsecondary students vote with their feet and their pocketbooks, the institution does indeed have to give students online courses if that’s what they want. Otherwise, the university literally won’t have any tuition revenue because its potential students went elsewhere instead.
I can’t wait to see what happens over the next couple of decades. As online courses become even more prevalent than they are now, colleges and universities either will have to get in the game or be left behind. There are too many options available to students for anything else to occur. Some postsecondary institutions are going to realize that they must become more responsive to student needs and desires in order to survive; others won’t realize it until it’s too late and will disappear altogether. It should make for interesting times.
In the meantime, all I can say is… stupid faculty.
“I’ll never do it again”
Another article in the same issue of The Chronicle describes one faculty member’s woeful experience teaching online. The author goes into detail regarding all of the problems that she had with the course, including (but not limited to):
This faculty member obviously has no idea that 1, 3, and 5 are dependent on how the course and the technology were structured. Setting up the course in a different way might have alleviated many of her concerns. Issues 2 and 6 seem to be the result of her own decision-making, not any inherent flaw in online instruction. Issue 4 doesn’t make any sense to me; didn’t she have the same number of weeks as for her other courses? It’s hard for me to be sympathetic regarding Issue 7: My students contacted me too much and asked me too many questions! Waaahh! I guess she prefers it when her students stay out of touch and don’t try to get their questions answered. Finally, can she really blame Issue 8 on the fact that the instruction was ‘online?’ There sure are a lot of faculty who teach online and also have students who like them.
Again, my main thought on this is… stupid faculty.
Whether we want it to or not, the paradigm shift is occurring around us every day. As postsecondary faculty members, it behooves us to learn about it and adjust rather than dismissively rejecting the new learning landscape and stubbornly trying to stick to the status quo.
[Okay, calling these faculty members stupid probably is a little harsh. But I think clueless fits quite nicely…]
Back in February I noted that parents are using online tools to push back on their local school districts. Embodying the themes expressed in Clay Shirky’s excellent book, Here Comes Everybody, parents and other stakeholders are using blogs, online discussion boards, e-mail listservs, YouTube channels, and other social media tools to organize, advocate, criticize, support, and otherwise express their opinions about their local school systems.
Here are some examples:
I’m looking for some more examples of parents (or others) blogging about their local school organization. Not an occasional post (as I am wont to do) but rather dedicated communication channels such as the ones above. If you know of any, please share them in the comments area? Thanks!
I often hear educators say...
We could be teaching differently if it weren't for ‘the tests.’
We could do a better job of meeting our students’ needs if it weren't for ‘the tests.’
I emphatically dispute these assertions. We must take ownership of our own culpability.
Our prevalent instructional model that emphasizes low-level, decontextualized, factual recall was dominant long before ‘the tests.’ Our challenges of providing higher-order thinking experiences, opportunities for authentic collaboration, and real-world connectedness existed long before the No Child Left Behind Act. Our inability to effectively facilitate empowered technology usage, true cultural/global awareness, and other necessary skills for a digital, global, information age is a byproduct of long-held, deeply-rooted cultural and pedagogical norms, not recently-acquired beliefs and behaviors.
Is anyone willing to argue that achievement gaps were smaller before evil NCLB came along and messed us all up? Does anyone think that we were doing a fine job of meeting the needs of underserved populations before ‘the tests?’ Have we all forgotten that school has been boring for generations?
It's not ‘the tests.’ It's our unwillingness and/or inability to do something different, something better.
It's not ‘the tests.’ It's us.
UPDATE: There are some phenomenal comments below. I hope you'll take a few moments to read them. Be sure to also read Greg Thompson's reaction to this post.
I was delighted to see the announcement from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) that it is hosting a summit in July on technology leadership issues. AASA is the national organization for school superintendents. Despite the desperate need for more tech-, 21st-century-skills–, and/or future-savvy school administrators, we don’t see near enough learning opportunities in this area from the big three national associations (AASA, NAESP, and NASSP). Maybe down the road AASA will do another one of these and I’ll get an invite to participate (hint, hint)!
The three-day institute is called the Seattle Summit. If any of you go, let me know how it went for you! Anyone want to go and live blog it? That would be fun!
Here’s a 2–minute video about 21st century schooling and curricula that was created by one of our Educational Administration Master’s students, Steven Hopper, here at Iowa State University. I can take no credit for this – it’s all his – but I sure think it came out nicely!
I think this is a new arena for Steven, so I’m sure he’d appreciate any comments, suggestions, or other feedback you have for him. Happy viewing!
Yesterday was Episode 4 of 4 Guys Talking, the new ‘talk radio’ podcast series from CASTLE. We spent the entire time talking about 1:1 laptop programs. Our first 50 minutes was spent with Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director for the State of Maine. Among other things, Jeff talked about funding models, professional development for teachers and administrators, pedagogical frameworks, challenges faced by the state over the past few years, and, perhaps surprisingly, the relative lack of emphasis on standardized test scores as measurable outcomes for the initiative. He also shared his strong feelings about laptops v. netbooks for 1:1 programs. After Jeff left us, we spent the last 10 minutes debriefing, sharing thoughts, and raising further questions.
You can download the podcast or listen to a Web-streamed version here:
Thanks to those of you who joined us live yesterday, either by calling in or listening over the Web. Future dates/times are as follows (all times Central):
[Yes, I'm still reworking CASTLE Conversations, the old CASTLE podcast channel, which will include all previous and podcasts (including 4 Guys Talking). I'll post about it when it's ready (probably not until summer).]
Photo credit: An Apple in the dark 2
I was disappointed to read recently in the Des Moines Register that Kalona Elementary School here in Iowa is discontinuing its Arabic language program due to lack of funding. Not only is it wonderful when school systems teach languages to kids at the elementary rather than secondary level, this country benefits from having more people who know how to speak Arabic.
In 2006 the United States government established the National Strategic Language Initiative (NSLI), “an inter-agency effort … to dramatically increase the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching critical need foreign languages.” Languages targeted by the NSLI include Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Darwazi, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Russian, and Turkish. The NSLI has a number of programs for K-12 schools. Its August 2008 report noted that nearly 47,000 elementary and secondary students had been served to date.
Finding qualified instructors to teach these languages often is difficult for school systems. Finding initial or ongoing funding is a challenge as well. As a society, however, we need to figure out how to make this happen. French, German, and Spanish – the holy trinity of school language instruction – still are important languages but the growing ascendancy of non-Western countries on the global stage also makes other languages important for both economic and cultural reasons.
Photo credit: EidMubarak
I’ve probably watched this video clip of Paul Potts a dozen times and I still choke up when I see it [click on picture to see video]:
Now Britain has Susan Boyle:
There’s a lot of undiscovered potential out there. As schools and societies, we often fail to create the conditions in which talent can be nurtured, recognized, and utilized. I hope that one of the lasting impacts of this Internet age will be that people’s skills and talents get noticed and used more effectively. Sure, there still will be a lot of junk that will get in the way of this happening. But the potential for ordinary citizens to express their talents and reach others is greater than it ever has been before.
Do you have a story of undiscovered talent in your local school organization? I bet you do…
A pilot study at Ohio State University has found that Facebook users in college have lower grades and spend less time studying. I pieced together the following chart from the news release:
Aryn Karpinski, a co-author of the study and doctoral student in education at Ohio State University, said that:
There may be other factors involved, such as personality traits, that link Facebook use and lower grades. It may be that if it wasn’t for Facebook, some students would still find other ways to avoid studying, and would still get lower grades. But perhaps the lower GPAs could actually be because students are spending too much time socializing online.
The news release noted that:
Typically, Facebook users in the study had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0. In addition, users said they averaged one to five hours a week studying, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week.
Karpinski said it was significant that the link between lower grades and Facebook use was found even in graduate students. She said that graduate students generally have GPAs above 3.5, so the fact that even they had lower grades when they used Facebook -- and spent less time studying – was an amazing finding.
My reaction when I started reading the news release was “They found some undergrads who aren’t using Facebook?” Then, sure enough, I found when I calculated the numbers that there were a mere 15 undergraduate non-Facebook users in the study.
I confess that I’m a little wary of some of Karpinski’s generalizations. Although she noted that other factors may be involved besides Facebook use or non-use, the ones that she hypothesized have to do with personality traits and/or predilection for online socialization.
Right now I’m not totally convinced that these findings don’t just represent the fact that about 80% of her non-Facebook users were graduate students. I think it’s safe to say that grad students generally spend more time studying than undergrads. Also, as she noted, grad students’ GPAs typically are higher.
In my mind, the overall generalizations from the study don’t seem to adequately recognize the extremely heavy skew in the non-Facebook group toward graduate students. If I saw that the data (to which she alluded) show that the lower grade trend for grad students was of equivalent size to the undergrad group, then I’d have more confidence in the overall generalizations that are being made in the news release.
Maybe Karpinski will find this post and share some more about her study. Clearly it’s a provocative topic and, if replicated at a larger scale, might provide some really useful information. While her data likely won’t curb Facebook use among college students, they might at least help us understand the potential impact of social networking on postsecondary academic achievement.
One final note: We all should look at – and think carefully about – any research findings that get reported out like this. We need to ask questions like Does this make gut-level sense? and Are the generalizations limited to the data or overbroad? and What more do I need to know to be confident in these findings?. Being informed consumers of research is critical if we are to make research- and/or data-driven decisions to benefit our students.
TIME has a new article out on the use of Web 2.0 tools by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Apparently Intellipedia, a classified version of Wikipedia, has been “transforming the way U.S. spy agencies handle top-secret information by fostering collaboration across Washington and around the world.”
Here’s what I think is the money quote from the article:
The first time chlorine was used in an improvised explosive device in Iraq, someone created a wiki page asking what intelligence officers and others in the field should do to collect evidence of the usage. "Twenty-three people at 18 or 19 locations around the world chimed in on this thing, and we got a perfectly serviceable set of instructions in two days," says Tom Fingar, who headed the National Intelligence Council from 2005 to 2008. "Nobody called a meeting, there was no elaborate 'Gotta go back and check with Mom to see if this is the view of my organization.' "
Intellipedia now consists of 900,000 pages, has about 100,000 users, and receives around 5,000 page edits a day. Hey, if the deeply paranoid folks at the CIA can do this Web 2.0 stuff, can’t schools?
As we all know, we are in the midst of a massive economic downturn. Every month is accompanied by reports of additional, large-scale layoffs. People are losing their jobs in significant numbers. And yet, despite claims that job losses are being felt throughout all areas of the economy, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data clearly show that the impacts of this recession are being felt more heavily by some rather than others.
For example, employees with a 4-year college degree or higher are losing their jobs at a much lower rate than other workers [click on image for larger version]:
Similarly, jobs in more ‘professional’ employment sectors are being lost at a much lower rate than those that traditionally have required fewer skills and/or education:
The numbers here in Iowa parallel what is happening across the nation. For example, although our state is weathering the recession better than many, the latest Iowa Workforce Development report shows that 20,000 of the 22,400 non-agricultural jobs lost over the past year are in manufacturing.
The labor statistics over the past year mirror longer-term trends in the American workforce. As the charts below show, the U.S. is now a country in which 75% of our workforce is employed in what Dr. Richard Florida calls ‘service class’ or ‘creative class’ professions. Lower-skill and lower-wage jobs that fall outside these two categories, such as those in manufacturing, are more likely to be lost both in the short and long term.
Creative-class jobs, which now make up at least a third of the American workforce and are the only segment of the economy that is growing long-term, require different skill sets such as complex communication, critical thinking, and collaborative problem-solving. These are skills for which schools typically have not prepared most of their graduates.
So what do all of these charts tell us? Well, there are no absolute guarantees that your school system’s graduates won’t lose their jobs. But it’s fairly clear that the best way to immunize your graduates from the potential of job loss is to give them the skill sets that they’ll need to 1) acquire an advanced education, and 2) obtain jobs in professional sectors that are long-term growth areas for the American economy (and thus are less vulnerable to short- or long-term downturns). This raises an obvious question, of course: How’s your school system doing at this?
What Carr describes and is most worried about, how we "skim" and "bounce" around in our reading, is actually akind of new orality: We are reading as we speak when we are in a group. We "listen" to one statement, then another and another in quick succession: Our reading on the Web is like listening to a bunch of people talking. It's hybrid orality. We find ourselves once again the naturally gregarious humans we always were. We find ourselves creating knowledge continually and rapidly as our social contacts on the Web expand. We have re-discovered new ways to enjoy learning in a social setting.
No, Google is not making us stupid. What Google and the Web are doing is helping us re-claim our human legacy of learning through a rapid exchange of ideas in a social setting. Google is, indeed, making us smarter as we re-discover new ways to learn.
Hybrid orality. That’s pretty heady stuff. Thoughts?
I'm calling on our nation's governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.
President Barack Obama, March 10, 2009
Alia iacta est. How will we answer the call?
I've had a lot of fun guest blogging over at The Des Moines Register this week. For those of you who would like to have a single link that you can forward to others, you can use this web address:
Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” This week I am blogging about 5 key levers that I think are necessary to move Iowa schools forward and help our graduates survive and thrive in this new digital, global age in which we now live. Earlier I discussed the need for 21st century curricula, a robust system of online learning, providing a computer for every student, and investing in leadership. Today’s post concerns the need for better information.
Although the Iowa Department of Education does not collect school district technology plans as many other states do, it does have other mechanisms for collecting some information about technology in K-12 schools. Much of that is reported out in the annual Iowa Condition of Education report. For example, the most recent report tells us that back in 1997–1998 Iowa school districts used to spend nearly $100 per pupil on computer software and hardware. By 2006–2007, that figure had dropped to an average of only $77. Adjusted for inflation, that figure is only $61 ($1.00 in 1998 had the same buying power as $1.27 in 2007).
In other words, our world is becoming increasingly technological but our expenditures on technology in Iowa schools have decreased substantially. Iowa public schools spent $37.3 million on technology last year. It would take a 27% increase – another $9.9 million – to get us back to the spending rates of a decade ago. Adjusted for the reduced buying power of the 2007 dollar, those figures are 48% and $17.8 million respectively.
The Iowa Condition of Education also contains other useful information, such as the state average number of pupils per computer (supposedly at 3.2) and the percentage of high schools (87%), middle schools (81%), and elementary schools (71%) that reportedly have wireless networks. The Iowa Department of Education has all of this information in its database by school and district. But as useful as these data are, there is a lot of information that the Department doesn’t collect. As a result, there are a number of questions that have no useful answers.
Here are some questions that we should be asking in Iowa:
These are all questions for which I’m pretty sure we don’t have much data. Yet the answers to every one of these would be highly informative to how we think about K-12 technology policy, funding, and implementation. So we have a disconnect. And because of that disconnect, we are making purchasing, staffing, funding, and other decisions without the necessary data to inform ourselves.
Who would collect this information? Well, the Iowa Department of Education could take on more of this. Or perhaps the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, and/or the Iowa Association of School Boards. Or even a university research center like CASTLE. But the will and the funding for this has to come from somewhere.
So, like everything else, there is a cost involved. But the bigger cost is that we’re navigating blindly because we don’t have the critical information that we need to adequately and appropriately make instructional, operational, and policy decisions. Some money and effort expended now on gathering better information could save a lot of money and effort later on…
Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” This week I am blogging about 5 key levers that I think are necessary to move Iowa schools forward and help our graduates survive and thrive in this new digital, global age in which we now live. Earlier I discussed the need for 21st century curricula, a robust system of online learning, and providing a computer for every student. Today’s post concerns the need to invest in leadership.
Leadership is absolutely critical to the success of any organization. Whether it be a school, corporation, government, faith institution, non-profit agency, or local community group, every organization lives and dies by its leadership. Organizations with effective, visionary leaders thrive. Organizations with lackluster, ineffective leaders muddle along or decline.
Adapting our K-12 school organizations to the workforce and citizenship demands of a digital, global age is extremely difficult, complex work. We must have leaders in place who can facilitate this transition. Here’s the problem:
That’s right. The people in charge of leading Iowa’s school organizations into the digital, global era don’t know very much about either the digital or the global aspects of the world in which we’re now living. They didn’t grow up in this kind of world, they weren’t prepared for it by their university licensure programs, and, for the most part, they are not receiving adequate training or professional development for it from their school districts, area educational agencies, professional associations, or the Iowa Department of Education. As a result, they’re not active technology users, they’re not immersed in electronic learning environments, and they’re not cognizant of the radical shifts that are occuring in the American workforce.
So we have a critical problem. Iowa principals and superintendents – the folks who are in formal leadership positions in K-12 schools – are the ones who have the responsibility for creating a vision and community buy-in. They’re the ones who have the power to reallocate budgets and other resources. They’re the ones who have the ability to reassign and retrain personnel. They’re the ones who have the authority to realign the various aspects of the organization to meet the demands of a rapidly changing environment. But because most of them don’t understand what it means to prepare kids for this new technology-suffused, globally-interconnected world, the end result is preservation of the status quo or, at best, minor tweaking of our current system of schooling.
It’s important to emphasize that it’s not the leaders’ fault that this is the current situation. There’s no blame to assign here. We just need to recognize that our leaders need a better system of ongoing training and a different kind of preparation in their licensing programs. Unfortunately, we’re lacking in this area as well. In the world of K-12 educational technology, virtually all of the money and attention from the Iowa and federal governments, foundations, corporations, and other entities has gone to teachers and students. Admirable and necessary as this is, we must set aside some of that attention and training money to enable the leadership that will be necessary to initiate and sustain the changes that we need in our school system.
We pour large sums of money into teacher training, student programs, equipment, and other infrastructure. These are all good. However, we continue to see few tangible, sustainable benefits of technological and curricular reform initiatives in most school organizations. Why? Because even our most innovative, technology-using educators continue to run smack into the brick wall of their administrators' lack of knowledge and/or training. Superintendents and principals are making decisions based on ignorance or fear of the unknown. They don’t know what it means to effectively facilitate rich, deep, technology-enabled learning experiences for students. In this kind of unsupportive administrative environment, it is illogical to expect that major changes will occur in our teachers’ classrooms.
The preference of most Iowa legislators, school board members, and funding entities is to get monies directly to students. If that’s not feasible, then allocating monies to teachers is the next most desirable option. Over time, these preferences have led to our current situation in which we are systematically underinvesting in our leadership. Until we recognize that long-term, systemic change never occurs without good leadership – and invest accordingly – we never are going to see the changes that we say we want to occur.
I was really excited to read David Pogue’s article today on Amazon’s new Kindle for iPhone application that allows you to download e-books from Amazon onto your iPhone or iPod Touch. That’s right – no need to buy a Kindle to access Amazon’s ever-increasing book selection. I was quoted today in the Des Moines Register as saying that in many ways the iPhone represents the future of mobile computing. Sure, there’s still a place for the larger screens and keyboards of laptops and netbooks, but it’s awfully handy to have a device in your pocket that does so much.
I’m off to the Apple app store! Wouldn’t it be really great if Amazon made its source code public so that others could improve upon its free app (and thus result in Amazon selling more books)?
At $10 a book (or maybe a little more for textbooks), I think this opens up a lot of possiblities for K-12 classrooms. What do you think?
Photo credit: And a good book
Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” This week I am blogging about 5 key levers that I think are necessary to move Iowa schools forward and help our graduates survive and thrive in this new digital, global age in which we now live. Yesterday I discussed online learning opportunties for students. Today’s post concerns providing a computer for every student.
It is hard to believe that the personal computer is nearly three decades old. Our computing devices have come a long way in that time and they now permeate nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. At the individual level, this movement has been driven by mobile computers and phones, wireless access, and the rise of the Internet. Every generation of computers seems to be smaller, cheaper, faster, and more powerful than the one before. Every new device or online service allows us to do things more efficiently, more effectively, or that we never could do before. And of course the pace of change is quite brisk.
As a result, it’s extremely difficult to find a well-paying job in America these days that doesn’t involve significant use of digital technologies. Unlike other sectors of our society, however, our schools still view the use of computers as a marginal add-on, as something that’s optional rather than essential to the everyday core of teaching and learning. Our schools still pretend that it’s an analog paper world rather than a networked digital world.
This has got to stop. We have to stop believing that we can adequately prepare graduates for a technology-suffused world by immersing them in paper-suffused learning environments. We have to look critically at student-computer ratios in schools – which mask the reality that most computers belong to teachers or are in labs – and ask a different question instead: On average, how much time per week do students get to use digital technologies as part of their classroom learning? The answer to this question is dismally low in almost every Iowa classroom.
There are a number of reasons for the lack of technology-facilitated learning opportunities in our K-12 schools. One is funding, of course. I recently did some back-of-the-envelope calculations for Iowa’s Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce. At $300/year, the costs each year to provide a laptop to the 480,000 students in Iowa would be:
213,000 K-5 students = $63.9 million
114,000 6–8 students = $34.2 million
153,000 9–12 students = $45.9 million
These numbers look daunting, particularly given difficult economic times. But it is possible to do this by sharing the cost between state monies and school districts’ general funds, levies, and referenda. Other potential ways to reduce costs include, but are not limited to:
In the end, we have to balance the costs of doing this versus the costs of NOT doing this.
In addition to funding, numerous other challenges exist as well. One of the biggest is the current predisposition of schools to invest in teacher-centric technologies like televisions, DVD/VCR players, projectors, electronic whiteboards, and document cameras. They’re important and useful but they’re also primarily used as yet another way for teachers to push out information to students. In contrast, laptops, netbooks, digital cameras, small high-definition camcorders, digital voice recorders, webcams, digital scientific probes or sensors, and other devices are primarily used by students to facilitate their own academic learning. If we want Iowa students to gain the technology skills they will need to be productive citizens and workers, schools should be making as many investments in these latter, student-centric devices as possible. There also are a number of free or low-cost online software and tools that students and teachers can use in creative and productive ways.
Another large barrier to students’ technology usage is teachers’ inability to effectively implement digital tools into their instruction. One of the dirty secrets of K-12 educational technology is that many of the computing devices that already have been purchased are rarely used. This may occur because of teachers’ lack of training; most educators need a lot more help in this area. Or it may occur because of a lack of adequate technology support, which results in teachers inability to rely on the technology actually working when they do decide to use it. Or it may occur because of teachers’ outright refusal to integrate technology because of lack of interest or comfort.
Other barriers include the often-draconian Internet filtering systems that are in place in most schools, the increased pressure on schools’ Internet bandwidth capacity from additional computing devices, and the lack of adequate wireless and/or electrical capacity in many of Iowa’s school buildings.
The state of Maine provides laptops to 36,000 students and 11,000 educators (at a cost of just under $300/head, which is the basis of my calculations above). The New South Wales province in Australia has announced that it will be purchasing 197,000 laptops for its secondary students. A number of schools and districts across the country (and a few in Iowa) are piloting or implementing 1:1 laptop programs for students. It is these graduates, who have had the opportunity to regularly utilize in productive ways the same technologies that the adult world uses, who will be best prepared for a digital society.
Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, notes that technology in schools should be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible. This is how technology is in adult workplaces. Can you imagine how unproductive you would be in your job if you had to schedule a time next Thursday for 45 minutes in order to use the computer (as teachers now have to do for students to use the lab(s) in their schools)?
There will be a day when we look back and realize how foolish it was that we waited so long to get a computing device into every student’s hands 24–7. Until that day, however - until we find the collective will to enable Iowa students to productively utilize in their schools the technologies that are transforming our society - they will continue to be disadvantaged compared to their more fortunate counterparts in other states or countries.
Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” This week I am blogging about 5 key levers that I think are necessary to move Iowa schools forward and help our graduates survive and thrive in this new digital, global age in which we now live. Yesterday I discussed 21st century curricula. Today’s post concerns online learning opportunities for students.
When most people think about online learning, they think about adults taking online university classes. Or they might think about the online training that occurs in many workplaces. But online learning opportunities occur in the K-12 sector as well and are increasingly popular with students and their families.
The Sloan Consortium estimates that at least 1 million K-12 public school students took an online course last year. This represents approximately 2% of the national K-12 public school student population and is a 22–fold increase since 2000. About 20 states have statewide virtual high schools that deliver online courses to students across the state. Others, like Iowa, have state-led programs that help deliver some online courses to students.
Florida appears to be the model for the rest of the country. The Florida Virtual School offers almost 100 online courses and is expected to serve more than 80,000 students this year. Its enrolllment is growing at a pace of 50% per year. North Carolina, Utah, and Alabama also have very robust statewide virtual schools.
In addition to creating statewide virtual schools, states are enacting a number of other policies to facilitate online learning. For example, both Michigan and Alabama now have state laws requiring that students have an online learning experience before they graduate. Florida recently passed a law requiring every school district to provide online courses (either itself or by contracting with others) for its K-8 students.
The reasons are numerous for the popularity of online courses with schools, students, and parents. For many school districts, online courses are the only way to provide high-level classes such as Advanced Placement, foreign language, advanced science or math, and other courses. Other districts are finding that online coursework can be an excellent option for at-risk students or credit recovery; for homebound, incarcerated, or home-schooled students; or for meeting the needs of students who simply may not be successful in a more traditional classroom environment. Meta-analyses of existing research show that student achievement in face-to-face and online courses is approximately equivalent. Students and parents value the flexibility, accessibility, and convenience of online coursework. Many online courses also allow students to proceed at their own pace; collaborate with students from other schools or countries; and/or incorporate digital technologies into their learning.
Online learning opportunities for K-12 students are exploding across America. The United States Department of Education found that four years ago over a third of school districts already had students taking online courses. Unfortunately, here in Iowa we are NOT keeping pace. The most recent data from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) show that only a few hundred of the 480,000 K-12 students in Iowa are enrolled in online courses. Entities such as Iowa Learning Online, the Iowa Online AP Academy, and Kirkwood Community College’s High School Distance Learning Program all are delivering courses to students. The Des Moines Public Schools also are exploring some online learning options. However, even if online enrollments in Iowa soon will number in the low thousands, the overall availability of online learning opportunities for Iowa students still is extremely low.
A robust online learning infrastructure for students makes a lot of sense for the state of Iowa (and I’m glad there’s a bill in the Iowa House to consider it). If we’re honest with ourselves, we will recognize that most of our school districts will NEVER be able to provide the curricular diversity that most of our graduates need to be effective digital, global workers and citizens. If we’re truly honest, we also will recognize that the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) is not a viable future option. The ICN is a closed, aging network and the course offerings (and monies) there, like everything else in the world, must move to the Web. Whether it’s a statewide virtual school or some other model, we must significantly increase the number of online courses available to Iowa students if we are to provide them access to the high-quality learning opportunities envisioned in the Iowa Core Curriculum.
Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” This week I will be blogging about 5 key levers that I think are necessary to move Iowa schools forward and help our graduates survive and thrive in this new digital, global age in which we now live. Today I am going to emphasize the work that is being done by the Iowa Department of Education and others regarding 21st century curricula.
Those of you who regularly follow Linda Fandel’s two blogs here at The Des Moines Register know that last year Iowa became the seventh state to join the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an initiative designed to “position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders.” These so-called 21st century skills are those needed by Iowa graduates to be competitive in a global information economy:
Why are these skills so important? Because the rise of digital information and communication technologies such as e-mail, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and the Internet have virtually eliminated the workplace barriers of geography and time. It is now about as easy to work with people halfway across the globe as it is with folks halfway across town. As a result, information, money, and ideas criss-cross the globe at dizzying speeds and work moves to the location of lowest cost or greatest expertise. This puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on the Western wage premium: why pay an American worker such a high salary when someone in another country will do the same work for less?
So we have company after company, task force after task force, and commission after commission telling us that the skills listed above are important because they’re the ones that enable American workers and companies to differentiate themselves from others across the globe. They’re the skills that justify higher American wages and benefits. They’re the skills that drive American creativity and innovation. Economists have shown quite clearly that the only growth in the American workforce is occurring in “creative class” professions that involve critical thinking, complex communication, collaborative problem-solving, and other more-abstract skills:
If you turn that second line chart into a stacked bar chart, it looks like this:
If we look at just the two ends of this last chart, we see the fundamental dilemma. Our K-12 schools, which were created for an era when 3/4 of American workers were involved in agricultural or manual labor jobs, are now expected to function in an environment in which about 3/4 of our workers are now in more cognitively complex service or creative professions:
But we hear from American corporations that they’re having great difficulty finding workers who possess the skills needed to do these jobs, which is why they’re either hiring people from other countries or taking jobs overseas.
If Americans wish to retain their economic preeminence, our schools have to change. The rest of the world is catching up to us and creative, innovative, problem-solving (which requires deep conceptual, rather than shallow procedural, understanding) is American students’ weakest area on international assessments. If Iowa workers are to be globally competitive, they will need schools to help them acquire a different set of skills than they have needed in the past.
Is the Iowa education system up to the challenge? Only time will tell. But a critical step to making this transition is the creation of curricula that emphasize student acquisition of 21st century skills rather than regurgitation of discrete facts and low-level procedural knowledge. This will be an extremely difficult change for Iowa schools to make. We all have mental models, primarily informed by our own school experiences, of what school should look and be like. We cannot hang on to those models and expect our graduates to be successful in a vastly different economic climate. We cannot simply sprinkle 21st century skills like fairy dust on top of what we’re already doing. Instead, we must fundamentally realign the curricula and instruction that occurs within our schools in order to produce the workers and citizens that we need.
The Iowa Core Curriculum, particularly the aspects related to 21st century skills, is intended to get us where we need to go. Iowa citizens need to educate themselves about the Core and start asking tough questions about vision, development, implementation, funding, training, and support of their legislators, local school board members, and the Department of Education. Inaction is not an option, nor is tweaking the status quo, as both are losing strategies in a rapidly-changing digital, global economy.
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and coordinator of the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University. He also is Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE). He blogs regularly at www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org.
The Washington Post recently published a really interesting article on the ability of well-connected parents to influence the decisions of their local school districts (hat tip to The Science Goddess). The term ‘well-connected’ refers to parents’ abilities to use online tools to communicate and mobilize (rather than to their connections to people with power).
The article highlights several different online communities of parents and has some great quotes:
We are not our moms, who were just involved in the PTA. . . . To expect us to show up and just make photos or write checks does not sit well with this generation.
It used to be that the superintendent and the School Board made decisions and said, 'This is how it's going to be,' and the community would accept that.
Many school systems 'are still responding to 21st-century parents with 20th-century approaches.'
Below are a few examples of parents pushing back on their local school systems. Parent tools include blogs, online petitions, and even administration countdown timers! I’ve linked to individual posts but you can click on the headers to see the blogs in their entirety.
Be sure to also read about the New York City Department of Education ‘truth squad,’ whose job it is to ‘scour a group of 24 education Web logs, e-mail Listservs and Web sites in a hunt for factual errors and misinformation.’
Dean Shareski, Will Richardson, and Alec Couros, among others, have blogged about the importance of trying to manage one’s ‘digital footprint’ or digital identity. However, John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, in their excellent book, Born Digital, note that “Social identities are much richer, more varied, and more persistent – AND FAR LESS UNDER OUR CONTROL – than ever before” (p. 34; emphasis added). In other words, now that everyone can have a voice, we have a lot less control over what gets said about us than before, and what does get said is more visible and findable than ever.
Online communication technologies have greatly amplified the abilities of parents to voice their opinions and mobilize for desired change. Activist parents now have a bevy of new tools and strategies to help facilitate their agendas and they are not afraid to use them. School organizations are going to have to get used to this new state of affairs in which parent activism and criticism are more public, permanent, and far-reaching. I’m pretty sure that most school leaders haven’t really thought about this…
What are your thoughts on this? If you’ve got an example of a parent group in your area leveraging online social tools to advocate for change in its local schools, please share!
Image credit: lynetter
I think it is becoming increasingly clear that our current system of education is going to go away. There are simply too many societal pressures and alternative paradigms for it to continue to exist in its current form.
Imagine that, day after day, all you have to eat and drink are bread and water. When that’s all that you’ve ever had, it tastes good. Even wonderful, sometimes.
Imagine that on one special day someone gives you a little taste of honey. Maybe a small smear on your piece of bread. From then on, of course, your normal diet never tastes as good again.
So what? Well, I think that increasingly our schools will have to recognize that…
Our kids have tasted the honey.
When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to interact and connect and collaborate with people all over the globe. If they wish, they can do this on a regular basis.
When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to learn about areas in which they’re interested and to act on issues about which they’re passionate. They get the opportunity to be creative. They can make and share videos and stories and pictures and other things and, if others see value in them, find audiences in the hundreds or thousands or even millions.
When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to be immersed in personalized, individualized learning environments. We call them ‘the Internet’ or ‘video games.’ These environments are characterized by active inquiry and – in the case of video games – continual problem-solving.
What do our kids get when they go to school?
Do they get the chance to regularly and frequently interact with diverse people from all over the planet? Nope. If they’re lucky, they might get the chance to interact with other students in their class, who like as not come from the same place and/or culture that they do.
Do they get the chance to be active content producers rather than passive information consumers? Do they get the chance to reach authentic audiences? Nope. If they’re lucky, they get to be creative every once in a while for a ‘special project’ or occasionally exhibit their work one evening at school for the local community.
Do they get the chance to experience individualized learning? Nope. Instead, they’re exposed to a mass model of education, one in which they’re lucky if occasionally the lesson is at “their level.”
Of course there are some exceptions to what I’ve written here, but for the most part this holds true for most students in most schools.
Our kids have tasted the honey and they have no interest in going back to what was.
I thought I'd share something that we're doing here in Iowa...
The School Administrators of Iowa (SAI), the state leadership association for principals and superintendents, and CASTLE, my center at Iowa State U., are working together to ramp up administrators' knowledge and ability to be effective technology leaders and supporters.
The flyer for the workshops and our wiki will give you an idea of what we're doing:
Session 1 focused on big picture issues: the world has changed, schools need to change too, how do schools keep up?, how to lead in an era of disruptive innovation, etc.
Session 2 (occurring right now) starts with a little more big picture stuff, then introduces participants to the Social Web (including concrete examples of usage by teachers and students). We conclude with 60-75 minutes of getting set up with Google Reader and loading it up with a few feeds so that they can start immersing themselves in the Social Web too.
Reactions to the first two sessions have been extremely positive. School administrators want to do what's right - they just don't know this stuff and so don't know how to proceed. Helping them wrap their heads around what's happening, showing them concrete examples that spark ideas that can be done back home, and giving them the ability to engage in the social aspects of the Web are all activities that help them move themselves and their school organizations further along...
Session 3 likely will focus on good classroom technology integration (what does it look like? how do you support it?) and fears / concerns (what happens when you open up your school organization to these tools and learning environments?). We'll also likely show them some other stuff that they can do with Google Reader.
Thoughts? Reactions? Suggestions?
I am pleased to announce that my presentation for the 2008 K12 Online Conference is now available!
Happy viewing, everyone. The original files are below if you’d like to use them, including my speaker notes.
Here are my notes from Alan November’s keynote today at ITEC 2008 in Des Moines. ITEC is Iowa’s statewide educational technology conference so it’s always a good time. I actually had never seen Alan present before so that was fun for me. He was extremely entertaining and I got to go up and meet him afterward. He said that I was younger than he would have guessed!
I sat next to Angela Maiers. Vic Jaras, Evan Abbey, Carl Anderson, Leigh Zeitz, Rob and Magda Galloway, and bunch of other fun people also were there (including a good showing by Iowa State folks!). Iowa may not be where we’d like it to be but there are some fantastic educators here who are trying hard to make it happen!
Update: I added a picture of Alan to this post. It's not the greatest picture in the world but it's hard to get him to stand still!