Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Upcoming events

I'll be in Phoenix next week for iNACOL's Virtual School Symposium. I'll be focused on equity issues with a preconference workshop and a concurrent session on Monday afternoon.

Then the day following (November 17) I'll be part of the Virtual Tech Forum talking about Online Learning/virtual classes and schools with Maxine Fisher in the Leadership Pavilion from 5-7 Eastern/

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is Blending Computers into Classrooms Radical Redesign?

Barbara Martinez wrote an article about a blended education program in New York's P.S. 100 and called the program radical redesign.

I thought the program sounded interesting, but didn't meet my standard for radical redesign, so I sent Barbara the following note.


Nice article and I get it, but don't drink the "kool aid" that this is radical redesign of the schools. Evolutionary restructuring yes, tinkering, yes, but not radical redesign. The students are still in brick-and-mortar buildings arranged in age-based groups (grades), that measure learning based on seat time. (Those kids got to the 4th grade by sitting in classrooms for the previous 3 180 periods of time called grade 1, 2, and 3.

Blended learning isn't new -- well maybe it is in NY City, but it's not innovative in education -- not when there's already research to show it's effective.

That's not to say that what you write about isn't good, won't benefit kids, and is something different in P.S. 100. But, I think you've got an obligation to your readers to not just incorporate labels given you by the school as fact. If you'd attributed the "radically redesigning" term to the school I wouldn't have bothered writing, but you accepted it and incorporated it into the article giving credence to this tinkering as radical redesign.

I hope, in the future, you'll challenge or at least attribute terms like that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does anyone think this is a good idea?

15 Chicago schools could see longer days
Pilot program would add 90 minutes of online education using nonteachers


In an effort to extend what is one of the nation's shortest school days, Chicago Public Schools plans to add 90 minutes to the schedules of 15 elementary schools using online courses and nonteachers, sources said.

By employing nonteachers at a minimal cost to oversee the students, the district can save money and get around the teachers' contract...

The program's cost is expected to exceed $10 million, the majority of which will be spent on capital improvements like technological infrastructure, wiring and broadband, a source said...
I need to see more about this, but it doesn't pass the "on-the-face-of-it" test. For those of us concerned about quality in online education, this doesn't sound like it's an effort to improve student learning, just something to extend the "seat time" mentality of judging learning.

I hope there's more to it than it appears with this article. The journalist adds a nice sentence at the end of the article which is basically accurate:
While there is limited research regarding the effectiveness of online schools, what is out there is largely positive. In some cases, research has shown that online learning can be better than face-to-face instruction.
but I'm not sure how it applies to the program in Chicago.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

DoJ may put websites under disability rules.

The Department of Justice is considering including websites under the ADA coverage. In 1990 when ADA was enacted the Internet wasn't what it is today. If they move forward with that action the impact would be far-reaching.

Some organizations today use the 508 standards when designing websites, but those technically only apply to government-owned websites. A decision by DoJ to apply ADA to websites more broadly, would have impact on higher education as The Chronicle article states, and also on public school websites as well.

This has been an issue I've been pushing for years. Public schools take federal funds, but many don't consider access issues when they put their websites together. I have taken to task, the folks at District Administration for a while on this because when they used to review school district websites they wouldn't mention accessibility. I think they got tired of hearing from me, because they've been better the past year. They also did mention the issue in an article they did a while back.

The problem however, is most folks don't have a good understanding of equity and access issues. I did a workshop this spring on equity and access for the Innovations in Online Learning conference sponsored by the UT Telecampus. After my session, one of the participants came up to me and said she'd not ever thought about color schemes for her online courses even though she has a son who is color blind. (I had started the session with some of those simple color blind tests.)

It's clear this is an issue that needs more than just a statement that websites should be accessible. There will need to be more training done to increase awareness of just what that means.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Virtual schools soon reality in Mass.

The Boston Globe published an article on May 5th about virtual schooling. While Massachusetts has lagged behind other states in the adoption of virtual schools, the reporter seems to forget that Massachusetts is host to the Virtual High School, arguably the country's first virtual education program. The Globe has printed a number of articles on the Virtual High School going back to the mid-1990s.

Florida Virtual School, now one of the nation's largest programs, has been educating students in Florida and internationally for as long and is considered the nation's first state-wide program. So, the concept isn't new, though it's hard to tell from the article, and the comments. (If you read the article, be sure to look at the comments too.)

The proposed National Technology Plan supports virtual schooling. There's interesting research on the strengths of online learning as compared to traditional learning. It's too bad the reporter didn't pursue any of that information. That would have been interesting contrast to the quote by the State's Chief State School Officer: “...Learning at its heart is a social endeavor. . . . I think for most students face-to-face instruction is the medium that gives them most benefit.’’

It's unfortunate the Massachusetts Chief doesn't understand that good online education is a social endeavor, and there's research to show that online can be as good or better than traditional face-to-face instruction.

Monday, April 05, 2010

SITE 2010

I've just returned from the SITE 2010 Conference in San Diego. I found it somewhat disconcerting that the opening keynote was talking about her recent arrival to teaching online. It reminded me that a colleague and I did a presentation that covered the issues of preparing to teach online and about the importance of School of Education faculty teaching online at a SITE conference at least 10 years ago. Of course we weren't doing a keynote.

I asked the 60+ folks who were at my session how many were teaching online and got about half the audience to indicate they were doing so, but when I asked how many were preparing their pre-service teachers to teach online only a handful responded.

Virtual Schools have been around now for 15 years and it's not a passing fancy. But it seems based on a very informal survey that Schools of Education are behind the times. This is something I've been asking them to do for the past 15 years. Obviously, I'm not getting through.

I'm not the only one. Iowa State had a FIPSE grant, TEGiVS (that I consulted on) that ran from 2005 - 2007 and they developed modules to incorporate virtual education content into teacher preparation programs. Those modules have been available for Ed Schools to use. Iowa State presented at SITE as part of the project's dissemination efforts. I guess they weren't heard either.

And also this year at SITE I was part of a pre-conference workshop raising the issue of Ed Schools now incorporating engineering education into their pre-service preparation of K-12 teachers.

I've been clear in my position that our education system needs to be redesigned. I don't think the nation's Ed Schools can be seriously redesigned until we've got our new K-12 model, but I do believe Ed Schools can make the adjustments to reflect the current realities happening in K-12. But, as Bruce Droste used to say, "changing schools of education is like pounding cement."

There are individual School of Education faculty who are introducing their pre-service teachers to the latest in education, but we need to get the programs to reflect that thinking, we can't depend on all the faculty to do that. Just look at how many of them are preparing their students to be online teachers.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Android computer

So the previous post is an interesting lead-in for speculation about what the impact will be of Android tablets. There was lots of speculation before the iPad was introduced about it. Clearly, some of my colleagues are very excited and optimistic about what they see as the potential for educational adoption of the iPad.

I have seen reports that both Dell and HP are developing hardware that will run on the Android OS. This week I was talking with someone from Dell who was bemoaning the delay in getting their Android platform out. At the CoSN conference I was talking with a Verizon rep about the lack of educational apps for their Android smartphones. I was told the developers are well aware of that lack and were working hard to develop the apps. (Of course what else could he say?)

Will the price point for the iPad insure that HP and Dell will price their tablets to be competitive? Will the Android developers produce useful educational apps in time to help HP and Dell be seen as potential competition to the iPad in the education environment?

Demise of the Desktop?

Elliott Masie in his March 5, Learning TRENDS newsletter posts:

Google Predicts Demise of the Desktop: John Herlihy, Google's VP of Global Ad Operations, has claimed that desktop PCs would become "irrelevant" in three years down the line. Addressing the Digital Landscapes Conference in Dublin, Herlihy predicted a bleak future for desktop PCs, as smartphones, netbooks, along with other gadgets are evidently gaining grounds over them. In his keynote speech, Herlihy said: "In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant. In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs". This echoes Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comments Global sales of smartphones and other high-end handheld devices have been soaring at a rapid pace and would very soon surpass sales of traditional PCs." This has huge implications for the learning field - as we look towards supporting learning through a new and broader range of mobile based resources. Learning designers will need to refocus their design sensibilities towards a smaller footprint and very different type of learning application.
And if this is true, what does it mean for K-12?