Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Disrupting K12

Nice interview with Michael Horn from the Innosight Institute as kind of an update on where K12 stands in relation to the book Disrupting Class. Some notes to pass on:

Significant strides have been made in the online education world over the last few years, and it now reaches students who previously lacked access to quality courses, and those who need credit or dropout recovery options. As a result, online learning is now growing significantly, both in the K-12 and the higher education space

It is fun to track this push and see where it will go. I know from talking to Governor McDonnell's team in Virginia (including new Education Secretary Gerard Robinson) that online learning will be expanded in my home state which is critical.

After the flood of RTTT money school districts will have to get lean. But will they actually "get it" that the virtual world is the key to cost cutting? Sadly, I remain skeptical.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Apple Tablet for Education II

Interesting WSJ article on the Apple Tablet that points out the flaws of using the Kindle for higher ed. It is always more difficult to gain acceptance for a technology if another form has already had difficulty getting traction. From the article:

"In the academic arena, Apple could face hurdles wooing universities if the tablet doesn't meet their needs or isn't compatible with other computing devices that students are using.
Amazon had been hoping to target the market with its 9.7-inch screen Kindle DX e-book reader, for example, but schools said the device wasn't sufficiently interactive and lacked basics such as page numbers and color graphics.

One person familiar with the matter said Apple has put significant resources into designing and programming the device so that it is intuitive to share. This person said Apple has experimented with the ability to leave virtual sticky notes on the device and for the gadget to automatically recognize individuals via a built-in camera. It is unclear whether these features will be included at launch."

Interactive and great graphics - definitely a strenght of the Apple team so hopefully they can solve this problem and move the technology into education. Will my girls be being their college textbooks through iTunes in a year?

For more - see Apple Tablet blog

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apple Tablet for education

Interesting post on the new Apple Tablet details that have leaked so far. Apple was one of the largest disruptive innovations to hit computing and education. It looks like they are going to disrupt even more if you believe the details so far:
  • Apple wants to "reshape businesses like textbooks, newspapers and television much the way his iPod revamped the music
  • Apple hired a former textbook publishing executive who is responsible for "driving global strategy and revenue for the education online store for students

We know what they did to music and I truly believe that they can do the same thing for text books and education. This could be an amazing year for education technology!

Utah is Open

More coverage on Utah's Open High School - this time by our friends over at Flypaper. They even look more at the ratios to see that this school has a student to teacher ratio of 31:1. Of course they also want metrics for the school and since the school is using BrainHoney to determine if students are mastering the standards required, it should be pretty easy to have some initial metrics at the end of the year.

Go Utah!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Singapore vs U.S. Math: we lose

AIR has a very in-depth report on the differences between math education in the United States and in Singapore. Singaporean students rank 1st in the world in mathematics on the TIMS and U.S. students rank 16th. The bottom line is that "Singapore has a world-class mathematics system with quality components aligned to produce students who learn mathematics mastery" - the U.S. does not. Pretty simple.

Here is what you need to produce students with mathematics mastery quoting directly from the report:
  1. Highly logical national mathematics framework
  2. Mathematically rich problem-based textbooks
  3. Challenging mathematics assessments
  4. Highly qualified mathematics teachers whose pedagogy centers on teaching to mastery
  5. And for those struggling in math - alternative frameworks and special assistance from an expert teacher
And what does the U.S. deliver?
  1. No centrally identified core mathematical content that is the focus for the system
  2. Textbooks that emphasize definitions and formulas instead of mathematical understanding
  3. Assessments that are not challenging
  4. Teachers that lack sound mathematics preparation
  5. At-risk students receive instruction from an aide - not a specialist in mathematics

The result is a real shocker:

"The United States produces students who have learned only to mechanically apply mathematical procedures to solve routine problems and who are, therefore, not mathematically competitive with students in most industrialized countries."

OUCH!! If we can't compete mathematically, we most definitely will not be able to compete economically.

The other fascinating thing is that Singapore students have better 21st century skills of reasoning, critical thinking and communicating - not because they practiced those skills in some fluff program - but because they focused on applied mathematics! HUGE!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teaching: there is no substitute

Always loved the Porsche ad that used that tag line. In the case of teaching it really is true and you can see it first hand in an op-ed by Carolyn Bucior in the New York Times called "The Replacements". I blogged about the numbers of substitute teachers and the impact on students over at our ABCTE Blog. Essentially there are over over 176,000 substitute teachers adversely affecting over 2.6 million students every day!

That is horrible!

But how do you solve this? The teaching profession should fight this just as hard as they used to fight alternative teacher certification. Using their logic, would you send in a substitute nurse, lawyer or doctor if the licensed professional was ill that day? Would you send in a substitute engineer who didn't even have a college degree to take over the engineering duties designing the bridge that day?

In the rest of the world, you take absenteeism into account when you are staffing your organization. If you have to staff 30 positions and you know that 5% will be out on any given day, you hire the 31 or 32 people - depending on how you want to round. You don't use "temps" unless you are in a high growth mode and can't get the talent. These would be full time, well trained people who could take any class is someone were out. If not, they help with planning, tutoring, training time etc. If there are more people out, the administration has to fill in that day. It is what the rest of the world does - why not our schools?

Efficiency and productivity starts with better staffing models. In this case, it is really an easy fix and the students win.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Textbookless College

Just got a note from a friend from the Kaplan days - Jon Williams - who just went to work for Flatworld Knowledge. For the literally tens of readers of my blog, you will recall that I was gouged $150 for a college algebra textbook this semester. Now I have no problem with buying new texts, but this was so wrong since I have not heard of any dramatic changes to college algebra that required this new edition at such a high price.

So Jon's company is creating open source text books in an entirely new business model that will save millions of other parents thousands of dollars in books. I spent $1,100 for one semester of books for two college students. We cannot say that we are making college accessible unless we bring the costs down. It looks like Flatworld will be the disruptive innovation that does just that.

Congrats Jon - and thanks for making college more affordable!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Creativity without knowledge is just not enough

Americans college students do not have the work ethic that students from other countries have says college professor Kara Miller in her recent editorial, My Lazy American Students in the Boston Globe. It has prompted over 600 responses so far as people are outraged at her and the situation.

Her opening line says it all - if students are going to play Halo 18 hours a day, they are not going to complete their work. I saw a blog recently that said that schools are not teaching to male students in a way that inspires them. I have two daughters in college and have visited and spoken with them a lot and unless professors are going to stand in front of the TV, they are not going to inpsire male students to study.

The most pampered generation is not used to being told to work and work hard. They are used to receiving trophies for showing up. So college is becoming more of a shock to these students. Educrats abhor memorization and want people to feel good about exploring subjects like math which once again says to these students, you don't have to work hard, just feel good.

Feeling good about a subject doesn't cut it in college. As Professor Miller states so clearly: "creativity without knowledge - a common phenomenon - is just not enough". We have both a knowledge gap and a work ethic gap. We see it every day here at ABCTE - people want to pass the program because they paid their money. They don't want to do the work, they don't want to learn how to write a coherent essay. They want the shortcut.

For the past ten years this country been economically stagnant. No movement on jobs and no movement on net worth. With this kind of education system, it is not surprising.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Virtual Open Source High School

Great article on a great concept in education - a virtual high school with open source curricula. Open High School in Utah is breaking new ground by using a mash up of materials to give kids what they really need in class. This to me is really the future. There is no one text that has what teachers want to teach. Allowing them to create a "best of" math class that truly fits the students and the teacher makes total sense. And no text means lower costs.

This is a group that is fully leveraging technology including BrainHoney which allows incredible, low-cost learning management systems. With no building and no texts, two huge costs are eliminated from the charter school budget making it much easier to devote more towards educating students.

I have met the team from Open High and they are passionate about students and understand that technology can really make the difference in student success. Keep an eye on this project - it will take off!