Archive for July, 2009

90716 Global Digital Curriculum Access With Effective Application

July 16, 2009

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Effective application of digital curriculum

Books, lectures, chalkboards, paper and pencils are curriculum delivery and engagement tools upon which every current teacher has received 13 years of intensive training –before they even got to college. Our current precollege teachers are less interested in books and more attuned to the tools of games, visual and audio entertainment and computer keyboards.

Three new types of curricula are converging as legacy education transforms to a hybrid model. Most text books now have a supplementary disc in the back flap and their web address as additional materials. Online education providers have portals and web sites where students enter a virtual learning environment to engage the curriculum. Independent eLearning curriculum providers design, develop and market their products to schools to use in computer labs and classrooms. These offerings may be full semester courses, enrichment components such as virtual tours and laboratories, or supplementary lessons that enhance learning such as math, history or writing lessons that drill, practice and provide automated formative assessment based coaching.

The adoption of digital curriculum has two major problems. Most students have computer interfaces at home but very little access during school hours. Computers are typically accessible a couple of hours a week in a computer lab. There may be a few in the back of the classroom. There are only a few schools in Arizona where the student has unlimited access to digital curriculum. The second is that even if teachers are educated and trained in the effective use of digital curriculum there is little information and knowledge available to support selection of the most effective digital curriculum. Each learning situation has a unique set of parameters: environment, subject, teacher, and student. The difficulty is matching the learning need with are many thousands of offerings both free and purchased.

Take a typical course such as first semester freshman algebra. Let’s assume all state, federal, and school standards for content are the same (they are not). The many hundreds of digital curriculum offerings range from supplementary to full coverage. They may be delivered via a virtual school, web portal, state network, school/district network, computer lab and/or a G3 cell phone. They may or may not engage the teacher, provide lecture components, guide with real time formative assessment, have collaborative/competitive aspects, lay out a path for exploratory learning and engage with drill and practice. They may be mostly based or rich with effective graphics and simulations. Some are computerization of legacy education processes. Others are based on eLearning research with extensive instructional design. These require an investment in the range of $500,000 to $1,000,000 for a full semester course. Some K-12 courses such as reading, science, and math have a large number of offerings. Other K-12 courses, especially electives have many fewer. After being on review committees for K-12 digital curriculum adoption, I can tell you there really are the good, the bad and the ugly.

As Arizona implements its adoption of eLearning over the next 10 years, educators needs to have a continually increasing knowledge of current and emerging digital curriculum. The Arizona Technology Council’s P-20 committee has spent a year developing an access list that addresses Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) offerings. This volunteer effort has opened a window to the potential for much more comprehensive effort.

What is needed is an Arizona Department of Education sponsored and guided Digital Curriculum Institute. This institute would be charged with finding, researching and assessing the universe of digital curriculum offerings that could be used by the over 150 different courses offered by Arizona schools. This institute would be staffed with digital curriculum experts to building a data base and web portal to house the information on their findings and knowledge based on their assessments. They would provide both studies and expert advice to state and district leadership on digital curriculum policy decisions. Based on the model of the US Dept. of Agriculture extension service, expert agents will be attached to the institute to support decisions in the districts, schools and classrooms.

This institute needs to be founded now so it will be in full operation in two years when the build up eLearning in Arizona schools will be hitting its stride.

  1. Design, fund and implement a “Digital Curriculum Institute” that will find and assess all digital curricula accessible to Arizona K-12 education, and operate a service to support digital curriculum acquisition and use from the State level to the classroom. This independent non-profit institute will collaborate with the Arizona Department of Education, universities, colleges, and districts.


90715 Teacher Transformation for the Digital Age

July 15, 2009

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Global digital curriculum access with effective application.

There are two conversely charged poles pulling at our cadre of K-12 teachers. One is legacy education initiatives. The other is the disruptive innovation of online learning that currently focuses on educating students outside of the classroom. Online is one version of eLearning. At the center is the eLearning transformation which integrates legacy and online education into a hybrid eLearning form of education. One of the effects of eLearning is a shift away from time spent on classroom management to student-teacher one-on-one contact. The goal of K-12 education is for the student to master the academic aspects of the course and develop competency in the application of this knowledge. eLearning can deliver both learning and practice at all grade levels while increasing the pace of course completion.

Whatever evolves over the next ten years, teachers with new skills and new knowledge will be at the center of the transformation. The task is two fold. Arizona teacher education and professional development must be significantly upgraded to deliver continuous learning support for 60,000 educators. A specific curriculum for the teachers  must address all aspects of the expected changes in data, formative assessment, student digital curriculum, pedagogy, internet and Web 2.0 and 3.0 content sources, communications, classroom and online management and finally, appropriate application of all the new technology tools and applications.

Traditional college and training classrooms will still be in use. In addition, the continuous nature of this learning will require a significant increase in school mentors and online systems. Mentoring also increases the need for master teachers. eLearning based continuing education for teachers reduces the need for consultant instructors and the amount of time required — while improving outcomes.

If your add up the entire cost of one year of  Arizona K-12 education and divide it by the number of teachers the investment pre teacher is $150,000. In other technology rich industries, the knowledge workers will typically have $1500+ per year budgeted for training and professional development. What is needed is 1% of the all-up cost reinvested to significantly enhance the student academic results. But a typical district training budget is about $150 per teacher, 0.1%. There is a universal consensus across our culture that teachers are the most important aspect of K-12 education. But once in the classroom our current system invests almost nothing to further their capability.

eSATS uses their teacher population forecast model to support system design and long range planning. This model includes five levels of teacher capability:

1. entry as digital native

2. adoption of tools,

3. integration of eLearning into legacy education,

4. transformation of student learning

5. master eLearning based pedagogy and mentoring skills.

It models teachers entering and leaving the state-wide system. This includes new college gradates with their rapid rate of exit over the first five years. It also includes Arizona teachers who reenter the system and transfers from out-of-state. Each type of teacher enters at a specific competency level and over five to ten years moves up to competency level of transformation or master-mentor. About 2% of the teachers are engaged as mentor-master teachers. They spend full time in their schools working with teachers on professional development plans, mentoring, coaching and on-the-job training.

The annual average population is calculated as one teacher for 19 students. Forecasts of student population growth show an average of 2.5 to 3.0% per year.

Teachers striving to reach the next capability level are funded an additional $1000 per year for professional support. Teachers who are maintaining their professional level are funded at $700. Total investment for 2010-2011 school years is $40 million.

Arizona needs to:

  1. Design, fund and implement a system that will provide a Professional Development Plan (PDP) that is individualized for each teacher. The PDP system will be the center of the learning support system for teaching knowledge and practice transformation. This system will integrate the Arizona Department of Education, colleges, districts and professional organizations.
  2. To serve the needs of all Arizona teachers design, develop and implement a major increase in access, offerings and outreach of IDEAL and other means to deliver professional development to Arizona teachers in their work place and community.
  3. Develop a specification, classification, development track and reward system for master-mentor teachers.

90714 Broadband Use by Everyone

July 14, 2009

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Global digital curriculum access with effective application.

The dream of the information superhighway of the early 1990’s has been realized, hasn’t it? We all have one or more internet linked computers at our fingertips. Our homes and offices have technology offerings far beyond our ability to learn to use it. And here lies the rub, this plethora of technology is used for automating everything we do, except leaning – including learning how to use all this …. technology.

The only way we can change this system is for us, and more importantly for K-12 education, to implement a long range on-going transformation of the system. We cannot address this task as a half way, expedient effort. We must address all Arizona K-12 students, and we must address all aspects of the system. In the past Arizona installed computers at a rate of one for every eight students and wired schools without effective professional development, digital curriculum or broadband access. This time we need to turn this formula around. We need to assure that broadband is in place to be a foundation of our eLearning system.

K-12 education requires a systematic statewide assessment of current and projected accessibility to cost-effective broadband. This map must be correlated with the access needs of all K-12 schools as well as their population areas. Broadband planning for middle-mile and last mile must address specific application areas where K-12 education is paramount.

Schools are unique users of broadband. Without adequate bandwidth the school Internet will slow to a crawl at about 9 a.m. Administrators of a building can schedule their work around this issue, but for 500 to 1500 students hitting their learning stride its not acceptable.

The FCC has defined broadband minimums as 768 kpbs downstream and 200 kpbs upstream to the end user. For schools the need – not the definition – must prevail. Bandwidth need will depend on student population grade level, digital curriculum applications, use of online learning, the number of computer interfaces and connection to homes and the general community. This need is expected to grow significantly over the years. Based on historical evolution of technology and systems we might expect an increase  by a factor of 10 over the next ten years.

One example would be the academic use of the evolving Semantic Web over what will become Web 3.0. When the Semantic Web is operational instructional programs will become much more capable of supporting individualized learning to subject mastery.

For the next two years, Arizona must map, assess and plan to bring effective broadband access to all of Arizona’s application and community needs – including K-12 education. In parallel, the physical build out must continue unabated. This planning-implementation effort must have a ten year horizon to secure the benefits of emerging technology and address the surging needs.

Arizona needs to:

  1. Produce enabling legislation and multiyear funding for the Government Information and Technology Agency (GITA) to map, plan, and implement the needed State leadership and telecommunications industry support to assure K-12 schools and communities have adequate accessible bandwidth over the next ten years.
  2. Produce enabling legislation and multiyear funding as needed to assure that GITA and other Arizona agencies and entities are competitive in securing federal funds to support broadband build out and use.

90712 Data Driven Reporting and Decison Support

July 12, 2009

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Global digital curriculum access with effective application.

The lack of detailed current data is a major aspect of the failure of legacy education to meet current societal needs. Data are required for information and information is required for knowledge. If the teacher-student nexus is to succeed in their learning task they must have a continuous stream of real time data during the learning process. As these data are crafted into information the teacher-student can make knowledgeable decisions about coaching, modifying and enhancing the individualized learning process.

Student Centered: The most critical data are generated by formative assessments of student progress through the curriculum. These data flow from teacher observations, frequent paper-pencil tests and automated feedback from sophisticated digital curriculum. The first is labor intensive and is limited to an average of one minute per school day. The second has a delayed feedback of hours to weeks. The third is timely, detailed and most effective in accelerating individual student academic performance.

Administration Centered: Data from periodic summative assessments of students are used by the schools, districts and the State to assess progress and support decisions. Other system wide data are collected on inputs to education. Over the past several years there has been significant work by the Governor’s P20 Council’s Data and Graduation Committee and the Arizona Department of Education on what data need to be collected and used within their evolving statewide system. A longitudinal data assessment on individual post high school” achievement must be included if the data system is to support long range decisions.

A national association, the Data Quality Campaign, has developed specifications for longitudinal data systems. The association recommends tracking student progress over time, from prekindergarten through 12th grade and into postsecondary education. Six states have adopted all 10 of their Essential Elements for States: Arizona has implemented all but 5, 6 and 7. The Essential Elements for States are:

  1. Statewide Student Identifier
  2. Student-Level Enrollment Data
  3. Student-Level Test Data
  4. Information on Untested Students
  5. Statewide Teacher Identifier with a Teacher-Student Match
  6. Student-Level Course Completion (Transcript) Data
  7. Student-Level SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement Exam Data
  8. Student-Level Graduation and Dropout Data
  9. Ability to Match Student-Level P-12 and Higher Education Data
  10. A State Data Audit System.

For over a decade the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has been working on developing this type of data system. The current efforts are focused on the 10 Essential Elements. The resulting operational systems include the Data Warehouse and the Student Accountability Information System (SAIS).

The current development phase that includes expanding to the full set of 10 Essential Elements is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. Large districts have the staff and data facilities to connect directly with the ADE data system. For smaller districts the ADE has developed a web-centric system that connects though a “cloud service” with an application the ADE provides to these districts.

A decision support system of this complexity and magnitude – with over a million customers – must be continually revised and periodically rewritten. There are a host of new data demands and advancements in data technologies that assure cost saving efficiencies. Typical new data demands include: new district information, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus funds), student-teacher connection, Title 1 with 70 new data elements, and the America Competes Act, which requires significant changes in the SAIS decision support system.

There are three levels of need for data driven decision support systems: state, district-school and teacher-student. These levels have differing specific needs. Some needs are served by contained district-level systems, and others require integration into the state wide system. The State and district-school levels are mainly administrative systems. The teacher-student level systems mainly comprise learning support. Not only must the development and installation of the decision support systems be addressed at all three levels, but technical development and support and user training must be given equal attention. Therefore the following next steps are necessary.

  1. Produce enabling legislation and multiyear funding for the ADE to plan, develop and implement the next generation administrative data driven decision support system. ADE has served as and should continue to serve as the lead entity for the state-wide system development.
  2. Produce enabling legislation and multiyear funding for all Arizona school districts to plan, develop and implement their next generation district data driven decision support systems. They will be responsible both for their district and school needs. They will provide the interface and on-line data transfer to/from ADE and to/from their schools and classrooms.
  3. Produce enabling legislation and multiyear funding for all Arizona schools and school districts, and the ADE to plan, develop and implement the next generation data driven decision support system for classroom learning support. The ADE will be responsible for assessing the most beneficial classroom formative assessment data systems and supporting the districts in their implementation and training of teachers for their use. The districts and schools will be responsible for implementing effective systems for all teachers and students.

90711 Funding Competency Learning

July 11, 2009

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Global digital curriculum access with effective application.

There are many objectives for student learning, but the one the State of Arizona pays for is student competency over a wide range of disciplines. Some courses of learning are prescribed, and some of these are backed with state standards. Others courses are elected by students in their specialized areas of interest.

Today we are not getting what we pay for.

The problem is that the current funding system has evolved to prevent competency in well over a third of the student population. The current system funds seat time based on a 100 day average daily attendance formula resulting in lockstep promotion by grade level. Struggling students are passed through the system and gifted students are turned off by lack of effective learning engagement. When this system was designed in the late 1800’s there were no data drive decision support systems to enable individualized learning. The economy could only accommodate a small percentage of the graduates with full competency of the course materials in a K-12 education.

In 1896 my grandmother graduated high school with a full curriculum including geometry, Algebra, Greek and Latin. Her first job was teaching high school. Most of her classmates learned their numbers and letters in the lower grades and prospered in retail, factories or farms in the Cleveland area.

Thirty students to a class with a teacher and the agricultural annual cycle worked just fine in 1896. Relating funding to costs of running this lockstep 13 yearly cycles settled on seat time as an effective administrative means. With manual accounting systems, it was a simple way to forecast and allocate educational expenditures.

The financial administration of all other aspects of our society have changed in the past 120 years. The funding mechanism for K-12 education must also change.

Many national experts and leading Arizona advocacy organizations are promoting the complex method of basing school funding on student competency learning vs. the more easily administratively measured seat-time. There are many pilot programs supporting this system design. One example is the large publicly funded K-12 Florida Virtual Schools which works at the single student-course level.

Online-virtual education has an education structure and results that are not currently available in the traditional classroom. They provide individual education that is at each student’s natural learning pace. The teachers provide significant one-on-one support along with some group collaboration. The current implementations are mostly in the 7-12 grade levels. The academic performance results from a 2009 US Department of Education study of online and hybrid education show significant academic performance gains over legacy education. This means of learning will continue its compound growth. In a hybrid form it will become a disruptive innovation that transforms legacy classroom education.

One of the first things we need to implement is an enhanced State of Arizona K-12 funding system. The current system must be transformed to support not only the online and hybrid forms of eLearning but all aspects of eLearning. The means a systematic transformation of many of the administrative centered funding mechanisms to student centered mechanisms. This systemic transformation will take 7 to 10 years to implement. For starters Arizona can legislate student centered competency education funding as an alternative to seat time funding.

The following elements are suggested for 2010 legislative attention. Both have low startup cost and are the foundational to the systemic transformation.

  1. Design, fund and implement a system that will provide a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) that is individualized each student. The PLP will be the center of the data driven decision support system used by the student, teacher and parents to guide the K-12 student’s academic career. Elements of this plan will be used to determine course completion competency/proficiency and to report individual student status and progress to school, district, parents and the state data system.
  2. Provide funding and assign responsibility to an agency(s) to assess, plan, redesign and implement a transformation of one aspect of the K-12 financial system. This transformation will enable the funding of any public school, in whole or in part, based not on average daily attendance, but on individual student course completion measured by end of course testing for competency. The level of competency set for each course within each PLP will vary based on student learning ability and ambitions. The individual teacher-parent-student team will make these determinations. The range of competency levels will be bounded at the low end to meet Arizona academic standards and the upper end by student ability, motivation and ambition.

90710 Crisis and New Beginning

July 10, 2009

After July 4th, with all the band music and fire works, we should be well of aware of freedom, democracy and entrepreneurial spirit as our power and our bedrock. Over the past 300 years we have used these systems to weather many crises. The following are on a Wikipedia’s list:

1719      Louisiana Land Bubble

1776      Revolutionary War

1792      U.S. Bank Run

1812      War of 1812

1837      Depression

1861      Civil War

1893      Railroad and Bank Failures

1907      Panic of 1907

1914      World War I

1925      Florida Land Bubble

1929      THE Great Depression

1939      World War II

1950      Korean War

1959      Vietnam War

1973      The Nifty Fifty Crash

1987      Stock Market Crash

1998      Long Term Capital Implodes

2000      Dot Com Boom

2001      9/11

2008      The Derivatives Debacle

2008      Sub Prime Mortgage Implosion

There are more to come. You will notice that as the centuries roll by the pace seems to be quickening. By each century we have had 3, 4, 10 and now, if we extrapolate the current episodes, 40 for the 21st century. Recency of a crisis amplifies its significance. It seems we need to prepare for an increased rate of crisis driven disruptions of our vision of a steadily advancing civilization.

So what do we do?

The entrepreneurial code is highly secretive, but I will share with you one of the dictums “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” (Don’t tell anyone!) We certainly cannot fix the breakneck growth and resulting instability of global communication, information, technology and economics. But we can incorporate selected features to bring our disruptive innovation, eLearning, into the main stream of legacy education.

The other aspect of crises is that they create the opening for new beginnings. Our governor and legislature will solve Arizona’s budget crisis. After a time for recuperation the focus will shift, as it always does, to building for tomorrow. This time the gaze must spotlight creating human capital for our state for that is where our future lies – our people. When the next, the next and then the next crises hit we must have the capability to withstand the buffeting and emerge stronger. This capability has only one source, the talented, trained and educated citizenry within the communities of our state.

Over the next week I plan to develop five post-budget crisis themes for Arizona in five two-page blogs:

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Global digital curriculum access with effective application.

I would like a bit of your time for critical or elaboration feedback. By the end of July eSATS targets the draft of an integrated systems.

90706 NIST and TIP focus on eLearning

July 6, 2009

ATP now TIP has a brief history of learning technology within its high priority technologies. In 1996-98 I knew a Dr. David Fisher in NIST as he developed learning technology within the ATP system and was in the founding meeting for ADL. David was back at Carnegie Mellon when we submitted a proposal to ATP. Of the 56 proposals, we were first to receive a call from the program director. He explained that of all the proposals ours was the best by far for the business section. But the NIST experts could not understand David’s expert-system tutoring model for technology support of learning. We did not receive one of the three $2 million packages awarded.

We understood that technology that drives eLearning did not have a research base in the late 1990’s and still does not.. Other technologies have decades of research and a cadre of PhD’s deeply immersed in R&D. eLearning has little recognition as a unique technology. The vision of eLearning transforming academic performance has yet to take root. The meme is a few computers in the back of the classroom and legacy pedagogy. If you do progress with eLearning I recommend  a significant effort in securing a cadre of proposal reviewers that are knowledgeable about eLearning.

I have attached a 2005 study for OSD-IDA where my team designed a portal for eLearning communities of practice. It might be a starting place for studying the expertise levels available for an eLearning TIP.

Building on the ADL definition for a learning object I am defining eLearning as:

Any learning supported by digital means.

Off ” White Paper

Critical National Need Topic Area:

Education both formal and informal, training to academic.

Your 2009 CNN Topic Areas are:

Civil Infrastructure


Green Chemistry




Personalized Medicine.

eLearning is a foundation issue that cuts across all technology areas. Somewhere in each of the studies (including Rising Above the Gathering Storm). The expressed concern is about one or more deficits in:

Educated/trained workforce;

Knowledgeable users/consumers;

Critical thinking populous;

Tech savvy political and adoption system;

Citizens fluent in long range analysis and commitment to change.

Many of technology studies gloss over the 21st century education deficit with education statements based on wishful thinking. The general theme may be: “Educators will self reform their education process and all teachers will miraculously improve their capability to top decile.” Us technical folks are very familiar with systems design and what it takes to transformation of our technology based industry. We are very familiar with disruptive innovation that is critical for transformation. But somehow we do not make the technology industry parallel with education and prescribe incremental innovation to reform of a very mature education industry.

As Henry Kelly opinioned in his 1988 congressional research report, all major industries except one have used technology to increase effectiveness, accessibility, productivity and efficiency. The one hold out is education. After a century plus of acceptance and celebration of technology transformation ranging from transportation to medicine education still does not get it.

Because the application of technology to support human learning may be the most difficult challenge is not reason for NIST-TIP to ignore it. With initial use in WW II (Link Trainer, etc.) the creation and adoption of eLearning applications has been slow. The normal technology driven industry innovation cycle takes 40 to 50 years. Twenty years from invention to initial ramp then another 20 year to maturity. But after 60 years sporadic eLearning adoption in K-12 education only 3% of learning is technology supported. The tippling point of 10% is many years off.

Industry revenues are estimated at $20 billion. The largest online provider is University of Phoenix Online, a $3 billion Phoenix operation. The largest digital curriculum provider is Pearson Digital in Chandler, AZ at $300 million. Pearson is a roll up of a half dozen AZ and San Diego K-12 eLearning startups. The eLearning industry is a tiny size if you consider the $trillion+ global market for formal and informal learning. It’s federal research budget is less than $100 million  which has not materially changed in 20 years.

What is the problem?

One is leadership at all levels failure to recognize and address this opportunity. The second is the low level of R&D funding to develop theories, support invention, create engineering design tools and develop and test applications. The third is the need for systems transformation of the entrenched legacy system for formal education.

NIST-TIP’s role plays out within the second problem. NSF, NIH, DOD and Department of Education have spent a tiny fraction of their budgets on eLearning R&D. There is little coordination and little application within the eLearning industry. What is needed is R&D leadership at the federal level.

NIST-TIP normally sends rifle shot into a half dozen technologies that are within a well established industry that needs innovation acceleration innovation in a critical area. I recommend that NIST-Technology Innovation Program take on eLearning as center piece program that addresses needs of all emerging technologies. A systems approach to eLearning technology innovation is recommended.

Components of this system might be:

  1. Bump long range global R&D 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3: Host the development and operation of the eLearning communities of practice portal. Coordinate the development of this community with FAS, DOD and other entities along an eLearning systems technology roadmap.
  1. Provide TIP funding in a coordinated invention-application effort within the critical elements of the eLearning system.
    1. eLearning savvy teacher development;
    2. Digital curriculum development;
    3. Real time formative assessment;
    4. Data decision support systems from teacher-student to administration;
    5. Broadband access for 100% of students.;
    6. Student interfaces for learning;
    7. Distributed learning systems.
  1. Be the champion within our national governance to promote the invention, development and adoption of effective eLearning systems to serve all citizens.