Archive for the 'education' Category

The ongoing conversation about schooling

The ongoing conversation about school continues today with this post by Chris Lehmann where he states that he is “against for-profit companies running schools as for-profit ventures.”  Gary Stager followed up with a post where he agrees with Chris and states, “Since the evidence supporting computerized teaching systems has been weak since WWII, the dystopians and their bankers pushing this idea feel compelled to dress it up in fancy names like “Carpe Diem,” “Flipped Classroom,” “School of One,” “Blast,” “Khan Academy,” etc….”  Gary also referred to writings of Seymour Papert to reinforce his thoughts and referred to a post from Will Richardson where he liked the statement Chris made calling “for-profit education a thin value proposition.”  Will, in his past posts here and somewhat here continues to question the value of for-profit companies running schools.  Another voice that seems to support this perspective is Diane Ravitch who discusses privatization here and big business charter schools here.

I continue to wonder…

  • What is education reform?
  • Should the conversation and action regarding education reform only occur within traditional public school systems?
  • What is the solution to the  30% of students who drop out of high school without a diploma each year?
  • How do we engage learners – especially African-American and Latino males – in school that leads to a high school diploma?
  • How do we engage all learners so all students are excited about learning?
  • Are students only engaged in learning if they are in face-to-face traditional classrooms with a teacher in room?

And then this update from an article I read after posting the above…How do we engage learners when many reports like this one show that poverty is the issue?



Technology Enhanced Teaching and Learning

Yesterday I wrote about the components of “Blended Teaching and Learning” which includes what the teacher is doing, what the student is doing, what the content is, and where the content resides.  Overall, it is important to understand that blended teaching and learning is part of a continuum from textbook enhanced to technology enhanced to web enhanced to blended to online.

Recently, I had the good fortune of visiting an excellent example of a technology enhanced classroom.  One of my clients is the Juvenile Court and Community Schools in San Diego County and I visited there in the fall.  One of the classrooms I visited was the teen mothers program in downtown San Diego.

It was about 1 in the afternoon when I walked in, along with the director of technology – two men in a class of 40 girls and a female teacher.  Just before we arrived, we found out that one of the teachers in the two classrooms had an emergency, so both classes of girls – about 40 in total – were all in the same classroom.  They were all seated at desks facing forward and in the front of the class were two students presenting on a digital white board.  All of the other students had clickers that they were using as part of the presentation.  The presenters – both girls in the class – were sharing their findings about teen violence.  As they presented, they would come to slide which would ask a question such as: “What percentage of teens are victims of violence?”.  The possible percentages were listed beneath the question and the girls in the class would use their clickers to suggest their answers.  After the audience responded to the question, the presenters would reveal the polling results.  Then, the presenters would say something like, “Ok, I see 25% of you answered C, why did you choose that answer?” and the girls in the audience would respond.  After a little discussion, the actual percentage would be revealed with an explanation.  Also in the room was a baby of one of the girls who began to fuss during the presentation.  The teacher walked over to pick up and console the baby so the young mother could continue to focus and the presentation was not disturbed.

Students were controlling the learning in this classroom and the teacher was the guide on the side that was enhanced with technology.  The technology used included clickers, a digital white board, a computer and a projector.  To me, this was an awesome example of “technology enhanced teaching and learning.”

I commented to the teacher about her use of technology and how effective it was and then I suggested that the only thing missing was having absent students attend online, from a distance, so they could also be part of the action.  She said that she maintains a blog that periodically updates what is going on in the classroom.  It was an excellent example of technology enhanced teaching and learning.

California, Did You Know?

I enjoyed reading Scott McLeod’s blog post about “Iowa, Did You Know” this morning.  I also enjoyed seeing how the “Did You Know” videos have morphed over the years. Then, I saw Lucy Gray’s blog post entitled “Illinois, Do You Know.”

After viewing the “Iowa, Did You Know” video, I immediately thought about the similar statistics for California.

  • Percentage of yearly High School Students who Graduate in California:  71% (Iowa is 85%). NCES (2011)
  • Percentage of people with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher: 30.8% (Iowa has 25%).  CPEC (2007)
  • Percentage of people with a Graduate Degree:  10.8% (Iowa has 8%). CPEC (2007)

No doubt that many of the stats from Iowa about the populations in schools, the number of students now attending charter schools,  the decrease in funding for public schools, and how curriculum is delivered in Iowa, is the same for California and other states.

I’d be happy to work with someone more video-savvy than me to put together the “California, Did You Know” video. The “Iowa, Did You Know” video has a Creative Commons License so we can edit and reuse the pertinent parts.

Perhaps Scott McLeod will share where he got the statistics for the Iowa specific stuff, which would help those of us in other states to get the stats for our states.  The references for the stats are probably in one of his resources, but I could not find them.

Well done…and very motivating!  Watch the 7-minute video for yourself.

Do you MOOC?

The word MOOC stands for “Massive Open Online Course” and the University of Illinois is currently offering one on the topic “Online Learning Today…and Tomorrow”  The topic is what caught my attention.  However, as I have become a part of the “EduMOOC” I am experiencing another learning construct.  It reminds me a bit of what money-concerned business managers envisioned online learning might be – get one teacher with hundreds of students and economize the learning.  This is NOT what a MOOC or Online Learning is all about.

With the  EduMooc, we are encouraged to listen to the weekly panel discussion and then participate in any number of discussions via a wiki, Twitter (hashtag #edumooc), Google groups or Moodle groups.  Jeff LeBow of EdTech Talk fame added in a weekly Skype call to talk about the EduMooc.

Like many things in the use of technology, it is best to just jump in and become part of it to learn about it.  So, first, you can join the EduMooc now.  Then, pick your medium for conversation.  And, then contribute your thoughts.

You may enjoy watching this video which does a good job of defining a MOOC:

I found the more interesting way of learning about the MOOC, aside from participating in one, was to read this series of articles and blog posts about MOOCs by those who originated or contributed to the concept.  First, here is a little history about MOOCs.  I will do my best to chronicle my reading that lead me to participate in this EduMooc.  George Siemens, one of the originators of the first MOOC, discussed the EduMooc and stated, “we’re starting to see new models for design and delivery”.  Siemens provided further clarification about the history of MOOCs and then chronicled all of the recent posts here.    David Wiley wrote about his thoughts about MOOCs here, here and here which challenged some of the MOOC thinking. He said, among other things “MOOCs are another tool in the box. If we start swinging them, hammer-like, at everything, we will do so to the detriment of students. We should be honest about the situations they may be appropriately used in, and make heavy use of them there. ”  In addition, Stephen Downes responded and added to the definition of knowledge transfer as it relates to learning, teaching and MOOCs, “we know that knowledge is not justified true belief. We know that it’s a lot more complicated than that...”  In between, Dave Cormier, also an contributor to the MOOC concept, added his thoughts here and then, here.  Cormier said, “If the MOOC challenges anything, it challenges the idea that a teacher can decide what people need to know, how much they currently know and what they should get out of the learning process.”  And then, an article about the EduMooc in The Chronicle, fanned the flames of the different perspectives (which I don’t think are that different).  For me, it is fascinating reading these thoughts and responses from respected people in the field (open source, connectivism, online learning, web innovations, etc.) and this discourse helps to clarify exactly what a MOOC is.

In the Skype EduMooc call today (July 6), I suggested that, based on my observations of students in online courses, that it would be more difficult for high school students to participate in a MOOC than it would be for college students.  I agree with Wiley’s suggestion that MOOCs work better for people who are more academically prepared or who are already independent academic learners.

So, join the EduMooc and decide if this type of learning works for you!

The components of blended learning

I continue to write about this topic because first, I think it is important for people to fully understand it, and second, because I believe by writing down these thoughts, others will help to provide a come a common understanding so we all get smarter.  Other blog posts here, here and here discuss the definition of blended learning.  Just like trying to define the term “education”, “blended learning” is multi-faceted and has many different components.

There are many aspects to blended learning, just as there are many aspects to online learning.  iNacol, the national organization for K-12 Online Learning has released quality standards for online learning programs and online teaching.  But, to my knowledge, there are no printed standards for blended learning or blended teaching.  Some type of standards or matrix really is needed to address blended learning.  Perhaps something like the Technology Integration Matrix from the Univesity of Southern Florida.

What I do know is that doing blended learning is much more than simply putting lesson plans on the web or having students turn in their work online.  The following components need to be considered as blended learning is further defined or some type of rubric or matrix is developed:

  • Online tools being used
  • Course Management System – using one or not?
  • Student schedule – what parts are online and what parts f2f?
  • Student time – what time are students expected to spend online vs. f2f?
  • Teachers and training – how to be an effective blended teacher.
  • Pedagogy – how is blended teaching different than f2f teaching?
  • Technology infrastructure

There are probably other components I’m missing.  Please add them!


What is “blended learning” teaching?

Earlier this week I wrote about the definition of blended learning and how I thought the definition from the Innosight Institute is too broad.

Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brickand-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.

The definition is too broad because it seems to me that almost any teacher who assigns a student to use a website outside of the school building fits the above definition.  But,  I do not believe that this is really blended learning.

So, as I continue to struggle with a better definition of blended learning, I saw this tweet from Chris Bell:  “Looking for computer science instructor with online (not blended) teaching experience + CA certification. Any leads?

After reading this Tweet, I realized that part of the answer to defining blended learning is not so much the tools or when students do their learning, but also about the pedagogy and what blended learning looks like.  In a previous post, I talked about my daughter’s experiences with blended learning at the college level.  I reread Innosight’s Blended Learning document from January 2011 and then the more recent report (May, 2011) that included Blended learning case studies and some excellent diagrams.

I emailed Chris to clarify why he made this distinction between online vs. blended teaching and he responded, “I had to make that distinction because I need someone who knows how to teach and connect with students at a distance when they may never meet the kids F2F.” And as we discussed the differences and the definition of blended learning, he commented, “we are continuing to discuss the inputs of what blended learning is instead of the outputs (or outcomes).”  After reading Chris’ response, I realized the teaching and pedagogy is equally important if “true” blended learning is to work.

We want students to be lifelong learners who are interested,  engaged and excited about their learning, whether f2f, online or blended.  And we know that the difference between boring learning and engaged learning (whether first grade or high school history or college physics) always gets back to how the content is delivered – also known as teaching or pedagogy.

So, what makes an effective blended teacher?  I would suggest it includes the items listed below and many more:

  • A teacher who knows the difference between f2f teaching pedagogy and online teaching pedagogy
  • A teacher who embraces and utilizes many of the Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning
  • A teacher who has a Personal Learning Network and is a lifelong learner (should probably be a member of Classroom 2.0 and Future of Education)
  • A teacher who utilizes online learning tools integrated into real learning and not used as an “added fun thing for kids to do.”
  • A teacher who utilizes online learning tools with students for both teaching and learning  the standards or objectives for the course
  • A teacher who utilizes online learning tools such as: email, wall postings, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, Google tools, online gradebooks, online drop boxes and many others as they pertain to the learning objectives of the class.  A longer list of online learning tools is here.

All types of learning is really about the teaching.  Behind every technology is a teacher, whether formal or informal.  Bertrand Russell, that famous philosopher best sums all of this up,

More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given

What IS online learning?

Almost a year ago my dissertation, entitled “A Comparative Study Between Online High Schools and Traditional High Schools in California”, was completed.  It has taken me awhile to reflect on what it all means, so this will be the first blog post towards those reflections.

Before comparing any schools or completing any research regarding online learning, it is important to define “online learning.”  To start with, the following items by themselves are   NOT online learning:

  • posting PowerPoints to a website and having students view them
  • emailing assignments to students
  • using a website for face-to-face instruction
  • having students create a website and/or online resource for an assignment

Non-researchers like to define “online learning” in policy as many states have done in legislation.  Generally, online learning is a percentage of time spent online by students and teachers for instruction.  This percentage ranges from 50% to 80% depending on the researcher and/or legislator.  However, if the body of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of online learning is every really going to be known, we need to agree on a definition.

The way traditional schools are categorized is generally the same and include full time students, full time teachers, curriculum based on statewide standards, use of lecture, textbooks, and technology for the delivery of the curriculum, and a school day with a total of six periods that lasts about 6 hours per day.  Charter schools follow similar categories or typologies as was explained in the charter school section of this literature review.  However, as schools and courses have moved online, a clear consistent way to categorize online courses has not emerged (Barbour & Reeves, 2009).

Online schools and online charter schools do not fall into neat categories in the same way as traditional schools.  Over the past 10 years, researchers have worked to define the categories or types of online schools.  Clark (2001) identified online school programs by four categories:  state-sanctioned/state led, college or university based, consortium or regionally based, and local education agency based.  Another study identified five categories including: statewide supplemental programs, district-level supplemental programs, single-district cyber schools, multi-district cyber schools, and cyber charters (Watson et al., 2004).  The types of schools were further refined into four categories including: state virtual school, multi-district, single-district, or consortium (Watson et al., 2009).

Online schools are defined in a variety of ways including the entity that develops the online school, whether students attend full time or part time, how instruction is delivered, the technology used, the amount of time students meet face-to-face with a teacher, and how they are funded.  The entity that develops and maintains the online school can be state-led, county, region or consortia-led, company-led, or district-led (Watson et al., 2009).  In some cases, online schools are home grown by a few teachers in a school district, chartered in a district or developed by a company that administers online charter schools across many states.  In some state-led schools such as Idaho, all students who attend are part time, while in other online schools and, especially in charter online schools, students only attend full time.  How an online course is delivered is another way researchers define online courses.  Some institutions consider online courses as courses in which 100% of the instruction was delivered online, while others used various percentage cutoffs such as 80%, 70%, and 50% of online instruction (Parsad & Lewis, 2008).  Some schools provide primarily asynchronous instruction while others provide primarily synchronous instruction.  Different technologies used may cause curriculum to be delivered in different ways.  Setzer and Lewis (2005) found that school districts who were engaged in distance learning courses reported using the following technologies for online course:

  • 49% reported using two-way interactive video
  • 35% reported using Internet courses with asynchronous instruction
  • 9% reported using Internet courses with synchronous instruction
  • 7% reported using one-way prerecorded video
  • 1% reported using other technologies

Another variable used for categorizing online schools is how often students may meet in person with a teacher either in a traditional classroom or individually.  Some online programs deliver content fully online where students do most of their coursework from home, while other programs known as hybrid or blended online courses use online courses for instruction but meet students in a regular classroom on a daily or weekly basis (Watson, 2008).  Allen, Seaman, and Garrett (2007), who have surveyed online learning in higher education have categorized online courses in four distinct different ways including traditional, web facilitated, blended/hybrid and online.

I believe the Allen, Seaman and Garrett (2007) definition is the one that should be used for defining online learning.  Here is how they break it down:

  • TRADITIONAL: 0% delivered online
  • WEB FACILITATED: 1 to 29% delivered online (teacher uses websites, may use a course management system for posting syllabi, presentations, etc.)
  • BLENDED/HYBRID: 30-79% delivered online. Students meet face-to-face with instructor in addition to having substantial coursework completed online.
  • ONLINE: 80% or more delivered online. A course where most or all of the content is delivered online.  May include a few face-to-face meetings.


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