Friday, December 18, 2009

Reforming Teacher Education

A week ago I participated in a conference at the University of Texas at Austin. There were about a hundred participants. The goal was to begin a conversation about what teacher education should look like for digital age learners and share that with policy makers, and leaders in teacher preparation.

You can see the materials and presentations on the conference website.

It was interesting and frustrating. It became clear to me that without a clear picture of K-12 education in the digital age; without the vision for restructured public education, it's almost impossible to develop a new model of teacher education. There was consensus that the notion of the teacher as expert on everything needs to be changed, but that was about as far as we got. If we don't know what education should look like, how can we say what the teacher education programs should look like?

There were very interesting discussions. There's a lot of data, and I believe there's actually a great deal of interest in reforming teacher education, but that can't be done without reform of what is now referred to as K-12 education.

Teacher education programs are in part measured on their ability to place graduates into teaching roles. That means the graduates have to fit in to the current culture and design of education in our schools. Today many teacher education programs want to prepare their graduates to teach in technology-rich environments, but that's not often the reality they experience. So, if that was the focus of a teacher education program there might not be a good fit with a teaching job. Then fewer graduates would be hired and the program wouldn't be as well regarded. What would happen if teacher education programs started preparing their graduates for a really restructured eduction system?

I'm back to the proposal I've made before. I want to pull together a group to create a new vision for education in the 21st Century. Once that is developed, then bring together another group to create the infrastructure to enable that vision. Developing the infrastructure involves more than just a redesigned teacher education program, there are policy implications, facility design, and more. I just need to find the funding.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When Innovation Isn't Innovative (or WI3)

October 6 Secretary of Education Duncan announced ED's priorities for grants under the $650 million Investing In Innovation Fund (I3). I'd recommend you read the regulations yourself to see what strikes you about the proposed regulations and associated grant making. The regulations were posted on October 9 for a 30 day public comment period.

I was excited by the title Investing In Innovation. There has been little educational innovation funded over the past 8 years. I was looking forward to seeing new ideas for teaching and learning being encouraged.
the Investing in Innovation Fund focuses on four key assurances, or education reform areas, that will help achieve this goal: (1) Improvements in teacher effectiveness and ensuring that all schools have effective teachers, (2) gathering information to improve student learning, teacher performance, and college and career readiness through enhanced data systems, (3) progress toward college- and career- ready standards and rigorous assessments, and (4) improving achievement in low-performing schools through intensive support and effective interventions.
Then I read the proposed regulations. Two of the categories, Scale Up, and Validation require that a proposal focus on programs that have already been shown to be successful. The third, the Development Grants section does provide limited funding for ideas that have not been tested.

There's no definition of Innovation, nor is there a sense that ED is really interested in innovation since most of the funding will go to activities that have a proven record of success.

In order to be eligible to submit a proposal, either by an LEA (local educational agency a.k.a. school district) or non-profit, the entity must have a proven record of "significantly closing the achievement gaps between groups of students." There is also a required 20% in-kind contribution from non-federal funds.

The regulations, as proposed, make it very difficult to generate any innovative ideas that could significantly improve the way we educate our youth. Basically ED is asking for a retooling of existing ideas. That doesn't fit my expectation for investing in innovation.

The 20% in-kind funding makes it impossible for many school districts or non-profit research and development organizations to submit a proposal.

As of today, 10 days into the comment period, there were 20 comments posted prior to mine. Though when I submitted my comments the system said it could take weeks before the submission appears online. I hope and encourage you to add your voice to the public comments.

There are many elements of the proposed rules and grants that could benefit from comment.

If we don't comment now, we have no right to complain about the final regulations.

The docket ID for making comments is ED-2009-011-0012

Thursday, September 03, 2009

But who's funding innovation?

I was interested in this quote in an announcement I recently received...

"Resources should only be devoted to innovations supported by scientifically-based research." said Scott Elliot, President of SEG Research. "The Department of Education and schools should be funding proven innovations."

The requirements for the I3 Fund that will fund educational innovation in the schools were announced by by James H. Shelton, the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement in a speech given last week in Washington, D.C. Shelton called for the educational community to "get beyond the anecdotes" and indicated that innovation grant proposals should be supported by "rock hard evidence".

I know that there have been educational programs that have been touted with nothing more than anecdotal information to support their success, but I wonder where new innovative approaches to education will come from, if the only programs to be funded are those that already exist.

I know innovation is defined locally, and programs that are old-hat in one location can be innovative in another. but, there are new technologies and new applications being developed continually. How do those get to become proven successful programs if no one is willing to take a risk?

In a book

I'm one of the subjects of this book... you can read about me pages 24 - 31

More Than Title IX

How Equity Education has Shaped the Nation

By Katherine Hanson, Vivian H. Guilfoy & Sarita Nair-Pillai

Women in America have come a long way in the last one hundred years, from lacking the right to vote to holding some of the highest profile positions in the country. This change, however, did not come without struggle. More Than Title IX highlights the impact one of the most powerful instruments of change—education. The book takes readers behind the scenes of some of the most influential moments for gender equity in education and tells the dramatic stories of the women and men who made these changes possible. The narrative blends historical analysis with dynamic interview excerpts of people whose actions made a difference in both educational equity and in the country as a whole. By showing how hard-won changes in education have improved life for women in America over the past century, the authors remind readers not to take these freedoms for granted.

More Than Title IX explores the history of well-known educational initiatives such as Title IX and affirmative action, as well as lesser-known movements such as the Women's Educational Equity Act. This accessible overview of the women's movement in the U.S. includes a glossary of key terms and initiatives from the past one hundred years, as well as a Gender Equity Timeline charting turning points in gender relations from the 1500s to the present.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Race to the Top

Clearly Arne's stimulus money is getting lots of attention. Everyone is thinking about how to get a piece of the action, and forgetting what the money is supposed to be doing.
1.) improve education for lots of kids,
2.) help stimulate the economy.
But in this case, it's; "educate the kids stupid," not: "it's the economy stupid"

I know that's not the widely held opinion. There's not a good history of education money being spent in the service of kids. One thing is, we don't know how to improve education on a large scale. I was just at a meeting where education was described as having "victory gardens rather than amber waves of grain."

So, are we going to be about developing more victory gardens? We know many people capable of creating a victory garden. But, can we build our victory gardens in such a way that they'll help us get those amber waves of grain?

And if you've been reading this blog, you know that, simultaneously, I want to find ways to seriously restructure the way we educate our population -- not just our youth. I won't belabor the point, but we're looking at a high school curriculum structure from the 1890s and a high school schedule that was designed in the mid-1900s. Isn't it time to push education into the 21st Century?

BTW, Arne's billions won't get us there. There's no vision for that. I was pleased and disappointed to see that the 21st Century Skills project had included science finally. It's taken them 5 years at least to get science in there, but is their vision of science really 21st Century? (pop quiz time -- what's the logic behind the traditional Bio/Chem/Physics sequence in high school science -- answer later).

What about math? Why Algebra then Geometry, then Algebra 2? Does learning Geometry exercise the brain to prepare students for learning more advanced math? We've known the brain isn't a muscle for a long time -- yet the sequence of Algebra/Geometry/Algebra 2 persists. Will the billions in Race to the Top have any impact on that?

Back to the main themes -- appropriate use of technology in the learning process and looking at topics like computational thinking as a real and recognized 21st Century skill. Maybe we need some victory gardens for those two (potentially large) topics. But we should only build victory gardens if they can be copied, enlarged, or put together to start building those really big fields of change.

Back to the billions... looks like all that money will be filtered through the SEAs -- and don't they have a wonderful record of creating innovation in their states? Which state do you think of when I say "innovation in education"? What's the innovation? Is it defined locally or nationally?

I want to encourage you to think about how anything you do can fit into a larger effort to not just revitalize what goes on in today's classrooms, but to change the education so we don't have to immediately think about classrooms as the only place where education takes place.

Oh, Bio/Chem/Physics -- alphabetical order. Honest, that's the rationale. Educational justifications were made later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Time to do more with computational thinking

So, if you've read this blog before you know I'm not happy with what is passing for 21st Century skills education in the United States. Some colleagues and I have been talking about what we can do to move things along in a direction we'd be happy with. I suggested we need to get computational thinking embedded in national content standards. We don't need a whole new set of standards directed at computational thinking we need to help move the existing content standards into the 21st Century.

Last week I was at a meeting of the Diversity Council for Engineers Week. The engineering community is struggling with this issue as well. They'd like to see engineering education take place in high school. A few states do allow elective engineering courses to count toward the high school graduation science requirement. Obviously the Diversity Council is working to encourage diversity to be a cornerstone of engineering recruitment. The efforts to inform and encourage youth to explore engineering is reaching down into the middle grades.

Can computational thinking reach down into the middle school? There are people and programs doing that today, but they aren't having a large-scale impact. Can computational thinking find a place in Engineers Week; does it need something different? What are your thoughts about expanding awareness about computational thinking?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

another event

invitation from Lynn Nolan:

Come join us for the…

Digital Equity Summit: “Success Against All Odds”

Lynn Nolan, Senior Strategic Initiatives Officer, ISTE

Bonnie Bracey Sutton, 2009 Digital Equity Chair

Jenelle Leonard, Director, School Support and Technology Programs, US Department of Education

Monday, June 29, 2009, 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Renaissance Washington DC Hotel, Grand Ballroom North

Plan to participate in a highly interactive exploration of success stories against all odds... offsetting the digital divide. Hear from the U.S. Department of Education - How this aligns with the Obama Administration’s commitment to improve Education and the Department’s new focus on success and solutions. We’ll also hear “Success Stories” from selected participants, each providing a brief overview of their challenges, success results, effective implementation, and the evidence of their success.

We look forward to interacting with you as we look at success…against all odds!

Thank you!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let's do away with Web 2.0 in education.

So, there's lots of discussion about Web 2.0 and the use of Web 2.0 tools in education. I recently joined the eLearning Guild and was struck by a presentation about Learning 2.0.

I like the term Learning 2.0. It puts the emphasis where it should be for education -- on the learning rather than on the tools. Yes, Web 2.0 tools can be cool. (blogging is in that Web 2.0 tool box) But the general development of Web 2.0 tools has more often than not, been about the social networking and making a buck, than about education and learning. But educators should be looking at Web 2.0 tools for the application and benefits to learning. Hence, Learning 2.0.

It may seem like a small thing, but I think words, and how we use them, can be big things, and Learning 2.0 focuses on how the tools are used, rather than just on the tools.

Second Life revisited...

Do you have a presence in Second Life? Have you had meetings in SL?

I do have a SL persona, but I'm still a novice. I saw an article recently (and now can't find it :-( ) that was reporting on teacher professional development (TPD) taking place in Second Life. I think that's potentially a good use, reaching folks who are already in SL. I'm concerned however with offering TPD on non-Second Life topics to folks who aren't familiar with Second Life. There was quite a learning curve for me, and I had an expert to guide me.

But what troubled me more, was reading that the TPD was subsequently encouraging teachers to begin using Second Life for student instruction. Oh, I think SL can be a very useful platform for a variety of different learning experiences. My concern is that Second Life is not completely accessible to some people with handicaps. I think there's an obligation to point out to teachers when encouraging them to explore Second Life as an instructional platform, that there are issues of access. There are issues of access with a variety of uses of technology in education, and there are those of us who have been pointing out the access issues for a number of years. I just want to be sure that the advocates of Second Life mention the issue when encouraging educators to explore it. The point is to expand the reach of education not to restrict access to education by locating it in places that segments of the population just can't get to.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A new year and a new attitude.

This blog has been pretty quiet in the final quarter of 08. That will change in MMIX. (How are you at Roman Numberals?)

There have been some changes in my life. I'm now working half-time for MentorNet. That has allowed me to move back to Austin. I'm no longer in a commuter marriage. That just wasn't good for me. (That's could be an interesting topic for a blog post.) When I was living in San Jose, I'd spend a couple of hours each day talking with my wife, so not only have I got half of my day available, but I also have an additional couple of hours every day in my personal time that I have available. So, that means more time to do things like blog.

Of course I do need to fill that half-time opening in my schedule to recoup the income that I'm not bringing in now. I'm open to offers.

A colleague sent me a message this week, pointing to a set of slides from a presentation I'd done about virtual education at a Department of Education conference in 02. The colleague was saying she agreed with my concerns and frustrations. But I wrote those over 5 years ago!

Here's what was on the slides:

My Frustrations

  • Assumption that all F2F is inherently better than any online education.
  • New programs that don’t research or build on the learnings of existing virtual schools.
  • Retention
  • Teacher training
  • Instructional models
  • We’re too wedded to the traditional school, course, class model.

Issues to Watch

  • Access issues
  • Universal design
  • Requiring students to own computers and Internet access
  • Data collection -- especially Disaggregated student performance data

Research Directions

  • What can we learn about online interaction patterns to improve communications?
  • What’s the most effective F2F model?
  • What’s an effective online synchrous learning model?
  • What do we know about basic learning?

Policy Concerns

  • Funding requirements
  • Teacher Certification
  • Who “Owns” the Students (ADA)
  • Seat-time as a measure of learning
  • Restrictions on progress and development of new, potentially more effective learning due to policy reinforcement of School, Building, Course, and Classroom model

Future Directions

  • Open Source Courseware
  • Learning Objects
  • Standards for use of content
  • The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)

It's scary that most of the issues are still on the table. It looks like I'll need to do some more pushing on some of those issues. I'm interested in hearing other reactions.