Monday, December 26, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
[Lindsy asked if I'd be willing to post something she's written on the topic of online schools and I felt additional perspectives were welcomed on this blog, so, I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few months, the new position at Huston-Tillotson, plus some personal issues, have had me focused elsewhere. So it is with pleasure, that I present an interesting and thought provoking piece by Lindsey Wright. Ray]
Are Online Schools Evil?
Online schools represent one development of the growing trend of web-based education, which itself is far from a bad thing. However, care must be taken to separate the concept of a web-based school from the reality of the institutions that exist now. Unfortunately, many of the existing online schools are part of a pernicious cycle of exploitation that has given the very notion of online education a bad name. Despite this, it's important to keep in mind that the financial evils of these institutions are regrettably symptomatic of broader problems in higher education generally. While the issues with online schooling as it stands now can't be overlooked, educators and the public should nevertheless bear in mind that as a learning medium web-based education holds a great deal of promise if the institutions providing it develop and maintain better objectives and commitment to education itself.
Sadly, the public eye's view of online education has for some time been focused on the predatory tactics used by admissions personnel to pressure prospective students into enrollment at for-profit online colleges. Last year, some of these schools were even investigated by the Government Accountability Office, revealing that college representatives routinely misrepresented or unlawfully withheld information about the schools' programs. In some cases, the GAO's undercover prospective applicants were even encouraged to falsify financial aid forms in order that they (and in turn, the schools) would receive greater sums of federal aid money. These schools are consistently reported as deliberately recruiting low-income applicants for the large aid packages they receive. They've also been called out for targeting veterans eligible for GI Bill benefits. In both cases, the schools are said to have the aim of “churning” through as many students as possible: recruiting them, collecting their federal aid money, and then failing to provide sufficient support to prevent these students from dropping out.
Of course, there are students who successfully and happily graduate from some of these for-profit online colleges (as evidenced by comments posted in some discussions). Nevertheless, and putting aside the schools' own defensive responses, it's difficult to ignore the considerable amount of federal financial aid collected by these schools compared to their high dropout rates, as well as the deceptive recruitment tactics that are often disavowed, yet widely reported.
While these issues are troubling, what is perhaps more worrisome (and often overlooked when the spotlight of infamy falls upon online schools) is the fact that similarly problematic trends exist in American higher education as a whole. Public and private schools with brick and mortar campuses have been admitting larger overall classes each year, even as tuition continues to grow. In particular, state schools, notably the University of California, are admitting greater numbers of out-of-state applicants (who pay higher tuition than state residents) in the face of budget cuts and the economic downturn. Meanwhile, as of 2009 the average college graduation rate in the US was only slightly higher than 50 percent ─¬ and that's taking into account whether students in four-year programs managed to finish within up to six years. For those who do graduate, prospects are not so rosy today for the college-educated as they were even a decade ago.
Many are questioning the value of undergraduate education that leaves graduates without much competitive edge in the job market yet saddles most with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt. For-profit online schools are (perhaps rightly) vilified for grubbing student money and providing what's often said to be sub-par education at too high a price for those who make it to graduation, but it's hard to say American colleges generally are far from the same.
A difficult road lies ahead to address the financial, administrative, and academic issues with higher education. As we take the first steps, we mustn't do so with undue prejudice against web-based education. Undeniably, many of the for-profit institutions promoting online learning now are part of the problem. However, online education itself is good, and represents a medium that will be a part of the solution.
An online school is in principle a very good thing. As a learning institution, it can direct consumption of online content much as traditional schools have begun to do, and as they have long guided consumption of printed content. Web-based and web-facilitated schooling also embodies the greater flexibility, accessibility, and individualization widely recognized to be needed in education generally. Besides the infamous for-profits, a growing number of traditional colleges are offering online courses of study, and even some public school districts have begun to test the waters of online education.
The point to take away is this: online schools as we know them may well be in some cases as bad as their reputations, but online schooling is only a medium for learning, one that holds a great deal of potential for what education needs to become. Going forward, we shouldn't conflate the evils of exploitation and profiteering with the medium of web-based education itself.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Beginning next month I'll be the Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology and Coordinator of Instructional Technology/Distance Education at Huston-Tillotson University.
Of course I've got my own ideas about what all pre-service teachers should be exposed-to/know when it comes to instructional technology, but I'd like to hear your ideas.
Please share your thoughts about both content and approach for preparing pre-service K-12 teachers to be effective advocates and users of instructional technology now and in the future.
My goal is to develop an IT course that HTU can point to with pride. I'd like your help.
Monday, August 22, 2011
The San Antonio Business Journal has recognized Da Vinci Minds in the 2011 Going Green awards for leadership in education. The recognition is connected to the WhyPower/WhyCareers project that helps students learn about green energy careers.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Friday, July 08, 2011
DaVinci Minds announced today it has been awarded one of nineteen Next Generation Learning Challenges grants by EDUCAUSE to advance DaVinci Minds' WhyCareers program and curriculum. The program provides integrated math, science and career education to middle school students based on Whyville, the learning-based virtual world for teens and tweens. Using the immersive experience of a virtual world, students will experience the simultaneous math and science of green and traditional energy activities in Whyville, earn virtual career badges, and explore real, local career pathways that lead to high-technology, high-wage jobs that require math and science skills, along with the critical thinking, communication and teamwork skills crucial to success in the marketplace.
"DaVinci Minds is thrilled to take our WhyCareers program and offering to another level," said Cliff Zintgraff, CEO of DaVinci Minds and the project's Principal Investigator. "Research indicates teaching and learning that is integrated across math, science and career education leads to improved learning and an improved ability by students to apply what they have learned. Integrated teaching and learning is fundamentally rigorous, and we are honored to be chosen by EDUCAUSE to advance this work, and to have the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the experience of EDUCAUSE, the Gates Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation."
"We need to enhance our country's educational system in ways that engage students both inside and outside of the classroom and provide them with the 21st century skills required for today's workforce," said Ira Fuchs, EDUCAUSE Executive Director of Next Generation Learning Challenges. "The innovative work of our grantees demonstrates how the thoughtful application of technology can help us achieve these goals."
"We look forward to seeing Whyville used even more in schools to teach middle school students," said Dr. James Bower, CEO of Numedeon, Inc., the creators of Whyville. "For 12 years, Whyville has engaged close to 7 million members in inquiry-driven learning. Through our partnership with DaVinci Minds and the support of EDUCAUSE, we will continue our mission to improve learning outcomes both outside and inside the classroom."
"WhyCareers is an interesting innovation in education" said Raymond Rose, WhyCareers Project Director, "because it incorporates gaming and simulations, both of which have been shown to be highly effective learning strategies, especially for middle grade students."
The grant will be used to expand use of the program in partnering schools, to deepen math content and connect that content to national math standards; add tracking of state and national standards in Whyville; and to rigorously evaluate program outcomes. As part of the grant award, DaVinci Minds staff has been invited to participate in a conference on College and Career Readiness. The conference will be hosted in late July in Seattle, WA by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Numedeon, Inc., the creator and developer of Whyville, is a partner in the project, as are multiple school district participants including: Northeast Independent School District in San Antonio, Waco Independent School District, and Beaumont Independent School District. Lopez Middle School in Northeast ISD has hosted the pilot site for an ongoing WhyCareers state grant awarded by the Texas Governor's Office with funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, with the grant managed by the Texas Workforce Commission. "Our many prior supporters and partners have made significant contributions to this work, which enabled us to win this highly competitive award. We want to thank the Texas Governor's Office, the Texas Workforce Commission and our state partners, Power Across Texas and Alamo Colleges, and Waco Independent School District, for their past and continuing support that helped make WhyCareers successful", adds DaVinci Minds CEO Cliff Zintgraff.
Next Generation Learning Challenges is a multi-year program that will help address the challenges facing students, teachers, and schools in the U.S. from grades six to 12 through higher education. It solicits proposals for technology-enabled solutions to critical educational challenges approximately every six to 12 months, through an open process assisted by experts and educators with deep experience in the field.
The initiative will evaluate the projects it supports to build evidence of their impact, and will bring together an active community of innovators and educators committed to driving next generation learning forward to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the U.S.
Nonprofit educational technology leader EDUCAUSE, which works to advance higher education through the use of information technology, leads Next Generation Learning Challenges in collaboration with a network of organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and the League for Innovation in the Community College. Each offers deep, practical expertise in educational instruction, leadership, and management. The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
DEPARTMENT OF ED ISSUES GUIDANCE ON RIGHTS OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES WHEN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS USE TECHNOLOGY
from TCEB - June 2, 2011 - Volume 17, Number 21
On May 26, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance through Dear Colleague Letters to elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education along with a Frequently Asked Questions document on the legal obligation to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of technology. This guidance is a critical step in the Department's ongoing efforts to ensure that students with disabilities receive equal access to the educational benefits and services provided by their schools, colleges, and universities. All students, including those with disabilities, must have the tools needed to obtain a world-class education that prepares them for success in college and careers.
The guidance provides information to schools about their responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The guidance supplements a June 2010 letter issued jointly by OCR and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The June letter explains that technological devices must be accessible to students with disabilities, including students who are blind or have low vision, unless the benefits of the technology are provided equally through other means. The new guidance highlights what educational institutions need to know and take into consideration in order to ensure that students with disabilities enjoy equal access when information and resources are provided through technology. More details are online.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
So, I asked a basic question to all the [LMS] vendors who were pitching their wares to my district: where are the teachers? I was told that we could always record our classes and post them for students to watch at their leisure.I found it interesting that Heather would not only ask a vendor that question, then accept the response as knowledgeable. My comment about that was to compare her question to asking a school building architect where the teachers were, or if group instruction would be possible.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
- There's a programming competion sponsored by ACM and called the "Battle of the Brains" that the US hasn't been on top in this decade.
- He stated that 73,000 new strains of malware have been identified every day this year, and that these are the bullets in the cyberwar taking place today.
- The Department of Homeland Security wanted to hire 1000 folks with cybersecurity skills and thus far has only been able to find 300.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Computational Thinking, Computational Science and High Performance Computing in K-12 Education: White Paper on 21st Century Education
Executive Summary (full paper, posted on etc journal can be found here)
The 2010 National Educational Technology Plan says “…technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work…. Whether the domain is English language arts, mathematics, sciences, social studies, history, art, or music, 21st-century competencies and such expertise as critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and multimedia communication should be woven into all content areas.”
The US has, since the late 1990s, been trying to describe what a 21st Century education should look like. Futurists are trying to divine the skills that will be needed for jobs that do not yet exist, employing technologies that have not yet been invented. However, a careful look around can allow us to see many areas that have been virtually unnoticed by those who are focused on 21st Century Skills.
Supercomputing – sometimes called high performance computing – is not a new technology concept, but the supercomputers of 25 years ago were about as powerful as a cell phone is today, and likewise the supercomputers of today will be no better than a laptop of 10 to 15 years from now. As the world of the biggest and fastest computers has evolved and these computers have become increasingly available to industry, government, and academia, they are being used in ways that influence everyday life, from the cars we drive, to the food in our cupboards, to the movies we enjoy.
Supercomputing is not an end in itself, but rather the technological foundation for large scale computational and data-enabled science and engineering, or computational science, for short. It is a collection of techniques for using computing to examine phenomena that are too big, too small, too fast, too slow, too expensive, or too dangerous to experiment on in the real world. While problems with small computing footprints can be examined on a laptop, the grand challenge problems most crucial for us to address have enormous computing footprints and, thus, are best solved via supercomputing.
As a result, in order to be competitive as a nation, we need to produce knowledge workers in far greater numbers who understand both what supercomputers can do and how to use them effectively to improve our understanding of the world around us and our day to day lives.
The thinking about large scale and advanced computing has evolved, too. Today, we realize that, while not everyone will be using big computing in their jobs, they will need to understand the underlying concepts.
These concepts collectively are referred to as “computational thinking,” a means of describing problems and how to solve them so that their solutions can be found via computing (paraphrased from Jeanette Wing, Jan Cuny, and Larry Snyder). Computational thinking includes abstraction, recursion, algorithms, induction, and scale.
Our 21st century citizens, entrepreneurs, leadership, and workforce will be best positioned to solve emerging challenges and to exploit new opportunities if they have a strong understanding of computational thinking, how it applies to computational science, and how it can be implemented via high performance computing. These are true 21st century competencies that will serve our nation well.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
“We don’t intend to penalize institutions if they haven’t received” authorization from every state by July 1...
We want to foster innovation and not suppress it..."
Friday, March 25, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Yes, we need students/citizens to be able to read and write to be effective in the 21st Century, but I don't think adding the R is helpful. There's already a good deal of emphasis on the need for literacy, and if there was anything to be added, I'd make it an L for that, but then we'd have STEALM or probably METALS.
As it is, what's really happening with STEM is much more SteM. There's little being done with engineering, and technology overall in K-12. Yes, technology is used, but the lack of understanding about technology, the computational thinking is missing. So, first I'd like to see SteM education be closer to STEM education, then TEAMS.
Friday, March 04, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
The point behind this posting is that while informal learning has great stories to illustrate how learning can take place in social media settings, the lack of structure has risks. I think this is an important warning.
I see the excitement educators feel when they find a new tool. And while the instructional approach du jour may be fun to explore, I get concerned that the tools may be used without adequate study.
I have repeatedly commented about the lack of study on the most effective approach to the use of synchronous online education. I'm still looking for a research study on effective synchronous online instruction. If you know of one, or have conducted the research please let me know.
And, I'm always looking for examples of how to make online learning effective.