Archive for February, 2010

00222 Numbers and Digital Curricullum

February 22, 2010

Four numbers define the current magnitude of Arizona K12 Education.

240      2000        60,000       1.2 million.

The focus of our K12 transformation is Arizona’s 60,000 teachers and 1.2 million students. Their work plays out in 2000 schools supported by the resources and decisions of 240 school district and charter school leaders.

Our future is based on how we spend $110 billion, the total cost of K12 education over the next ten years. This means we do have options, even though we remain at 50th position for spending per student.

The 21st Century is happening, and it is critical that we transformation our existing legacy means and methods to meet its challenges. The only path at assures both efficiency and effectiveness is eLearning.

eLearning focuses on the interrelationship of the student and the teacher within the curriculum. eLearning requires transformation to digital curriculum. It is the gating factor which then defines the needed teacher professional development, education and training along with the broadband and computing systems.

Over the past decades thousands of digital curriculum products and services have emerged and fallen by the wayside. Many have been continuously improve to serve the teacher and student. There is a wide range of sources, both internally developed in the virtual, charter and traditional schools and externally developed and supported by vendors, states and university researchers. In 2010 approximately 5% of K12 student learning is being supported by digital curriculum within an eLearning environment.

Ignoring all the optimistic forecasts of the past, the 5% is currently forecast to grow to 50% within the next nine years. One of the challenges is for leaders in districts, schools and classrooms to make effective transformational decisions on the adoption of digital curriculum. There are 150 different K12 courses, many state standards, hundreds of digital curriculum offerings for some courses and few if any for others. There is currently a lack of knowledge on what digital curriculum is accessible, effective and efficient. Consider the situation as the emerging digital curriculum market grows by a factor of ten!

The Digital Curriculum Institute (DCI) was designed over the past 5 years to address this challenge for all Arizona schools including homeschoolers. The DCI mission is to create data, information and knowledge that are not currently available and provide decision support to K12 school leadership. The goal is to accelerate successful adoption of digital curriculum through a support service that responds to requests from school decision makers.

By launching the this year the DCI will be ready when the financial contraction eases and schools can once again invest in innovation. The long range strategy of the DCI is to help grow eLearning expertise within the districts to give our state and economy an advantage in our race for global competitiveness.

Advertisements

00215 AZ Republic Ed Vision — Imperatives & How Tos

February 15, 2010

Arizona Republic’s 2020 Vision For Arizona

Over the past four Sunday’s, and on into the next two Sunday’s, the Arizona Republic has dedicated 4 to 5 pages to addressing Arizona’s future. The five weekly issues selected are elements of the vision: economic strategy, government reform, improving education, the state budget and rethinking the boarder.

Their focus is on creating a Vision for 2020 and then recommending practical steps to change our current ways to reach the vision. Craig Barrett, former Intel Chairman and CEO set the stage with 10 steps to building a smarter Arizona with Smart People, Smart Ideas and Right Environment. The 10 are: K12-benchmarked curriculum and testing, K12 good teachers, K12 dropout prevention, funding for universities, college completion, fund Science Foundation Arizona and university research, focus on alternative energy R&D, state policies to promote investment in innovation, grow economy with high paying jobs and compare Arizona with global competitors, not neighboring states.

Economy: After addressing housing woes and leadership challenges, the baton was passed, on the following Sunday, to a sustained job-growth and economic strategy with three recommendations. Florida is cited as a model for creating a strategic plan for economic development. Arizona pioneered this statewide process in 1989-1992 with 3000 participants, $500,000 and SRI International. Florida modeled their Enterprise Florida process after ours and then did something differently. They followed, funded and updated the plan yearly. We let ours die on the vine.

Base industries concept, adopted by Florida and many other states, was also invented and modeled for Arizona’s use during our 1989-1992 planning process as industry clusters. Several clusters flourished since the early 1990’s including the Optics cluster in Tucson and the statewide Biotech cluster. The software cluster organization integrated several other clusters and renamed itself the Arizona Technology Council. The cluster organization superstructure from the Arizona Department of Commerce was disbanded about 6 years ago. Compared to other states, the ADC and other Arizona economic development organizations have few tools to attract and growth base companies.

Enterprise zones for companies to open in, or move into, empty commercial real estate will not only increase the quality of these facilities and provide employment but stop bleeding of high tech, hi paying jobs to other places.

Government: I could not find quality education => quality workforce => quality jobs => globally competitive economy in the Sunday sections. Let’s see how K12 fares in the Sunday focused on government. Right off, our 46th place in education is mentioned. The polls show that a high majority of Arizona folks want better education and only 10% polled felt their elected officials served them well. Other states such as Utah have a high level of collaboration and public meetings to shape public policy. Arizona’s population is highly involved in civic entrepreneurship compared to many states but the endgame of legislation and governance fails to implement their advocacy. The three changes recommended are: “abolish term limits and restore wisdom and experience to the statehouse (like Oregon), tune up the initiative process so it is not easily abused (like Utah), and give the governor authority over the largest part of state government” – education (like Florida).

Education: All three government fixes would greatly benefit the transformation of K-12 education. This Sunday’s paper started with Massachusetts is the model where the great need for research, academia, technology and medicine drove their K12 in the #1 performing state in the country. Arizona’s needs for construction, retail, sales and trades is much less demanding and allows us to coast at 43rd with low paying jobs, and not enough tax base to afford the Massachusetts funding for education. What to do??? The plan is to pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Parents (2 million), schools (2000) and policy makers (200) are admonished to change their ways: motivate their kids, transform their teaching, and create a new education system.

We have some assets for the job. Innovation delivers leadership in charter schools and every school can now be a virtual school. Teacher education: ASU has the largest education college in the nation and is transforming from legacy education to more current and future focused learning and technology. Improved graduation rates and student scores are slowly rising. Advocate organizations are many, highly capable, inclusive and working together. The Arizona Education Association advocates transitioning from compliance to professionalism so teachers can create the future leaders. Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC) is working on transforming school finance to bring financial decisions from the state level to the local level and reward leaders and teachers for performance. Florida grades their school from A to F and failure is not acceptable. “Beat the Odds” research specifies what principals need to know and do to become effective school leaders and use continuous student academic performance assessments to manage their schools.

Next two Sundays: Lets see what transpires in Budget and the Board.

Observations: So far I am very disappointed. This work of 2020 Vision has not produced a vision for 2020. For the Phoenix Futures Forum (PFF) circa 1990, Francine Hardaway created four clear visions full of imagery. They portray what greater Phoenix would look like if we took four different paths to the future. All four had their bright and shining future combined with dark and foreboding aspects from unintended consequences. It was grand graphic illustration of what would happen if the PFF plan resulted from just a sum of the parts proposed by community experts with narrow perspectives. What has been yet to be seen is the overall systems analysis for Vision 2020 that is required for any strategic plan that generates an implementation plan.

What I see is a general and specific flaw in this report. The general flaw is the mishmash of situation assessments, imperatives, and ideas supported by historical best practices instead of a systems approach. The specific flaw is the use of a blind eye that refuses to see the dramatic changes underway in a number of ecosystems including education. Just doing more, fixing the obvious, and rearranging the deck chairs may keep Arizona from falling behind. But to move up, in the state and global competitive arenas, will require a full understanding of the disruptive innovations underway and exploiting them. One is eLearning which is never mentioned except for a couple of passing comments of online learning.  Go figure.

00208 Crisis and Opportunity

February 8, 2010

There is some myth floating out there that the Chinese word for crisis also means opportunity. Maybe its true. With selective recognition of winners in the enterprise arena we have the following start up years and follow-on analysis*:

Proctor and Gamble: Panic of 1837

General Electric and IBM: Long Depression of 1873

Hyatt Hotels: Eisenhower Recession

Fed EX:  Oil Crisis

Microsoft and Apple: Bear Market 1974-75

We all know the saying, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” Entrepreneurs view problems as business opportunities. As civic entrepreneurs we need to address the current economic situation with a burst of optimism and redouble our efforts.

Just after the last crisis peaked the most successful businesses had 3 times the growth during 2000-2003 as their slowest counterparts. During our current crisis from 2006-2009 there was little differentiation. But during 2009 the gap is starting to widen again. I know of no data to show that private sector models can apply to the public sector. But I do know that entrepreneurship works in both, with startup enterprises and the Peace Corps being prime illustrations of entrepreneurial success.

Assuming that governance of K-12 education might just fit this cycle, now is the time to push for innovation. Apple thinks so. With its blizzard of hype and fawning over the iPad, it has tapped a huge opportunity to lead businesses and consumers out of the crisis. Why and how? Because Apple has a system of applications, content and solution devices that can be readily adopted.

Microsoft has dominance in the legacy market. Apple is the disruptive innovation poised for rapid growth. Ed Tech is like the Microsoft partial solution and eLearning is like the Apple system solution.

The timing is right for the elearning approach to make the next great leap forward within K-12 education. Let’s assume the private sector models are right, and we can swing for the fences with our public sector challenge of eLearning transformation.

Note: With the Super Bowl behind us, I can switch to baseball analogies.

*Michael Moe, NeXt Up

00201 Teachers As Technology Workforce

February 1, 2010

“It’s all about the teachers and the students.” This has been the mantra of eSATS and eLearning since the beginning (early 1990’s). We  found a host of sources that stated the obvious, delivered strident imperatives and wound up with wishful thinking, but said nothing about strategy and implementation of systemic and systematic changes needed to make the system effective. We decided to do our own information gathering. We kicked off this learning process by holding our first focus group with Arizona Education Association. Over then next few years, we attended workshops and conferences, and had scores of discussions with learned folks, educators in the trenches and multiple Arizona leaders.

Five years ago we released our comprehensive K-12 education system redesign with a ten year pathway. Its core included all that is needed for the transformation of the legacy teaching profession with significant new skills and ongoing support to become the leading intellectually based profession of the 21st Century. Who would want to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer when they could seek the most richly enhanced and challenging profession of teacher.

One-to-one teaching time will dramatically increase the rewarding human relationships by automating teachers’ repetitive deskwork tasks and transforming from lecture to coaching/mentoring. With real time formative assessments and modern eLearning teaching systems, the highest levels of thinking and problem solving skills will be in continuous practice. Immersed in broadband-internet, the isolated classroom will be a globally connected classroom with ongoing peer interaction, peer-to-peer mentoring and expert support.

The past decade of consistent advocacy by a legion of eLearning aficionados and technological evolution, following Moore’s Law, has produced progress in broadband-Internet, digital curriculum and computer interfaces. But the progress in the teaching profession has been difficult to measure. We have thought long and hard on this issue, but as is usually the case, a creative reason and concept has only emerged in the heat of challenge.

Arizona Technology Council has a very effective Work Force and Education Committee that addresses issues for our technology industries: optics, aerospace, biotech, semiconductor, telecommunications, and many others. As a whole, these industries have thrived and are globally competitive because they are early adopters of the most innovative technology and have science and engineering colleges turning out industry savvy graduates. They also invest from $1000 to $3000 a year per person in maintaining the skills and knowledge of their information workforce.

In their 2010 planning committee meeting in December the leadership requested input on two types of initiatives for the coming year. One was for the most important ongoing programs that would move the ball forward on new but smaller opportunities to address. The other was for Grand Challenges that one was passionate about and would have a high effect factor for the benefit of the technology enterprise community. That’s when it hit me. We have been conceptualizing the guild of K-12 teachers as legacy teachers who would learn how to use technology to improve their craft. We needed to turn that 180 degrees for the 21st century.

The Grand Challenge is to envision teaching as the educated workforce within a technology industry. The State needs to recast its definition of critical workforces to include the teaching workforce. Our high tech industries need to recognize teachers, and their education, training and professional development needs as equivalent to the needs of the workforces of Boeing, Intel, Microsoft IBM, and Raytheon. Studies and forecasts from The Departments of Commerce and Labor need to include one more technology based industry – public K-12 education.

Let’s invest in this workforce because teachers are the foundation workforce of Arizona’s hope to be a competitive player in the 21st century’s high-tech economy.