Archive for January, 2010

00125 Digital Curriculum Redoubt

January 25, 2010

In colonial times the military term redoubt was used to discuss one of a series of little forts outside of a main fortress that, together, created a fortification system. With less than 5% of education supported by digital curriculum we have K-12 education’s first redoubt. The other redoubts including professional level teacher education, professional development, broadband connectivity, formative and summative data systems, and a personal computing interface for each teacher and student.

To move out of colonial times, we must transform our K-12 redoubts and main fort into a modern integrated system. A critical barrier is not the lack of motivation but the lack of knowledge on how to integrate effective digital curriculum with the books, white board, and classroom of lecture, recitation and seatwork.

Curriculum is unique for each grade level and each course within that grade level. Let’s assume detailed course standards are adequate for the approximately 150 different half and full semester K-12 courses (Career, Technical Education, core, ELL, special ed, remedial, elective, and physical education (the Wii Fit/Sport is upon us.) The decision support needed for selection and full operation of digital curriculum is not available in most schools and districts.

What is needed is a new “corps of army research and field engineers” only this time they will be digital curriculum experts and extension agents. They need to be centered in a new non-profit public sector “Digital Curriculum Institute.”

This Arizona institute will integrate three unique operations.

Expert staff to assess all significant offerings of K-12 digital curriculum from any source and match the most effective to their respective Arizona course(s);

A portal with a knowledgebase used for accessibility by educators to support their decisions on adopting and implementing digital curriculum;

An extension service to deliver advice and training within the school by mentor-master experts in digital curriculum.

The digital curriculum assessment will go far beyond the typical “Amazon” user ratings to instructional software. It will include scope from supplement to full course, flexibility, student academic performance effect factor (points increase), total cost of ownership, use of real-time formative assessment, data delivery to State Longitudinal Data System, and teacher and computer interface capabilities needed.

With decision knowledge and mentors afoot in the field, the fortress system transforms into a mobile system serving the individual needs of all our students.

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00118 Research Based Legislation

January 18, 2010

Greater Arizona eLearning Association (GAZEL) annual CEO breakfast speaker last week was Arizona Senator John Huppenthal, Chairman of the Senate Education Accountability and Reform Committee

His talk was based on his decade of study to determine what will improve academic performance of Arizona’s K-12 students. His reading of a host of comprehensive research reports and visits to many schools though out Arizona supported his remarks.

Senator Huppenthal recommended four actions:

  1. Hold not just schools but districts accountable for academic performance.
  2. Rank districts on the Arizona Department of Education web site.
  3. Conduct holistic and scientific assessment of reform measures that show significant effects that are over 25% (points) in learning. (This amounts to about ¾’s of a letter grade, for example C to B-).
  4. Check highest districts for reform models and lowest districts for intervention within their 1600 schools.

He referenced a number of very high performing models.  Florida made a significant investment in technology, and their NEAP scores made the largest increase of any state. Vail high schools rejected books in favor of a laptop for every student. Carpe Diem charter school in Yuma has double the 25% learning effect target with digital curriculum and coaches.

Studies are showing only 25% of students do homework in traditional low motivation classrooms. Motivation is rooted in our primitive instincts. Senator Huppenthal believes a critical part of a motivational learning model is the student must a member of a team and maximizing individual status is important. He is working on a program with ASU researchers where the team scores are used as a primary motivational factor.

A critical reason why eLearning works is that the child can stay with his or her social cohort while learning at his or her best pace. Motivation stays high while to learn individual learning needs are satisfied. In Lancaster Monitorial schools, small teams from a variety of grades operate with high degrees of effectiveness in one large classroom.

Senator Huppenthal believes that a “killer application” will emerge. The audience thought that it would be more like a set of killer applications. He also set a vision for the group. The current best application, out of the many dozens he has reviewed, increases learning from 16 to 32 points. He sees 50 points as the target norm. But out there in the future, he expects that we will see the 90 points killer app.

Senator Huppenthal said he could now announcement he will be running as candidate for Superintendent of Education. He suggested that Arizona Department of Education needs an educational “center” to mingle, mix and integrate all of what Arizona knows about technology and education. From a Rand study, he believes that as a middle performing state we are better positioned than others to ramp up to #1.  Many kids start out early with motivation to reach an adult goal but only 3% complete college and enter that profession. With more coordination within Arizona’s multiple-domain pathways that result should be 20%.

Senator Huppenthal is typical of the rapidly increasing number of state leaders that are engaging eLearning to in their efforts to improve K-12 education. Their understanding of critical protocols within this eLearning decade is the reason for optimism in the years to come.

001011 Next Decade Protocol Wave

January 11, 2010

Before plans are made, we need to have a reasonable estimate of what opportunities and threats lie in the near future – the next couple of years. Our public media (remember I am from the 40’s and 50’s) are filled with a spectrum from ranting heads – at all points of the compass – to droll rational analysis. After one separates out the entertainment and academic aspects, three broad assumptions can be made:

When you compare 2000 to 2009 on a number of aspects — from the economy to academic performance gains – the past decade has been a “Big Zero.” There is a pent-up indefinable and unforeseeable something that has the potential to drive a grand benestrophe. [antonym to catastrophe – bene Latin for good, strophe Greek for turn. This is a word that resulted from an international contest I concocted in the early 1980’s.]

The US and Arizona are not in decline, we still have a couple of decades grace before we need to concern ourselves with the Great Crisis. Unlike stuff such as food and cars — good ideas are never used up.

We will continue to make stuff but we will continue our global economic leadership with our many our protocols. We have protocols for making medicine, using data, building helicopters and moving consumer goods. Our culture keeps inventing and adopting new ones. Our operating system includes rights, fair laws, strong families, social trust, visionary leadership and folks who work hard to do the job right.

eLearning is a powerful protocol that delivers digital content via technology to support the work of both teacher and student.

Over the next decade eLearning will lead the protocol driven economic wave. All protocols are rooted in a system. We expect the eSATS statewide eLearning system design will emerge as a leading protocol to drive transformation.  The technology base systems will be defined and installed and the digital curriculum will integrate with the learning environments. Both teacher and learner will transform their crafts to work much more closely with each other. The learning ecosystems will respond through innovation and enterprise.

As the this protocol  wave of academic achievement ramps up, our economy and society will be freed from the one restraint holding them back. They will blossom.

How do we help to pull this off?  Exploring that challenge continues next.

Ref: David Brooks, Josef Joffe and Paul Krugman.

00104 eLearning Decade

January 4, 2010

Although the prophets of doom are almost always wrong, we may be heading into troubling times. So a mantra I just made up should help:

Have No Fear, Its Happy New Year.

We have plenty to be fearful about over the next couple of decades. According to my current reading of a “true believer” book, The Fourth Turning, civilizations have 80 year cycles that are made up of four generations of 20 year cycles. The past three 80 year cycles ended in 20 year times of crisis (Revolutionary War, Civil War, and Depression-World War II).

But we also have plenty to look forward to. The historical set of 20 years of crisis and upheaval also had significant build-out of respective infrastructures (toll roads and canals, railroads, highways). In our times of crisis the new infrastructure will be broadband/Internet, digitized medial records, high speed trains, and security at all levels.

Over the past 20 years we have seen economic spasms, terrorism, and many opportunities ignored by “best and brightest” ideologues. But the current problems are at a “2” level and are a build up to the “10” level crisis we might expect in the future. Fortunately our “Fourth Turing” period will be lead by “smart and pragmatic” realists who are crucial for the challenges ahead.

So much for my “true believer“) hat (thank you Eric Hoffer. Let’s get back to today’s issues and eLearning. We assume that the skills, education and knowledge of Arizona’s people and leaders will continue to be its most essential asset. Over the past several months I have attended many meetings of Arizona leadership working on Arizona problems. For the first time most of their solutions for education included eLearning as the key to implementation.

The Arizona Republic’s 2010 predictions for the next decade has a section for education and technology:

Slim notebook, video lessons, learn at school-home, and individualized repetition learning to mastery and pace of progress. Math and science will have teacher-facilitator for multiage students at same academic level. Self-paced learning will have some students into full college work in highs school and others mastering the subjects at their slower pace before they move on. High school graduation will be a bit old-fashion.

Sounds like a pieces of a pretty good vision. Now it’s up to us as advocates to implement for Arizona. I have a New Year’s resolution to keep. Part is to produce a one page (+) blog for you each week. I will also provide updates on current upcoming events. The blog will represent a continually developing framework and direction for our advocacy. This will be based on developments within our highly fluid legislative policy groups, governance and legislators.