Archive for the ‘Broadband Connectivity’ Category

00571 Refocus with Cloud Computing

October 8, 2010

In the early 1990’s I first heard of the “cloud.” Being an aeronautical engineer, I was taught to avoid clouds, since the bad ones can give aircraft safety factors a run for their money. But last month our Arizona eLearning Task Force addressed a different kind of “cloud” – cloud computing, and the Arizona Tech Council hosted a daylong expo on cloud computing at the Phoenix Convention Center.

I decided to see what “cloud computing” might mean to our quest for K-12 eLearning. Don Rodriguez, editor of TechConnect Magazine defines cloud computing (translated to education).  “It’s letting the Web be the gateway to your learning support, assessment and administration tools. No software, no IT technical person, and no down time. Except for your computer interface everything is in the ‘cloud’.”

talked to the 18 vendors serving Arizona at the ATC Expo to find what they could offer to support K-12 education. About half had major contracts from large school districts to charter schools, along with many higher education engagements. Several provided consultant, business requirements, design and system architecture services. Some provide specific aspects such as data centers, voice over IP, data, virtualization, document storage and telecommunications. Others provide IT, online IT education for high schools or expert course modules. A few offered complete virtualized cloud computing service or were VAR’s (value added resellers).

There have been significant changes since our original 2004 eSATS K-12 system design, and our 2007 update. Our task team has embarked on a month long challenge for a systematic update of the design. With cloud computing becoming available to K-12 education, the potential reduction in investment in district servers, data systems, software and technician staff needs to be reexamined. eSATS is all about the teacher-student interrelationship with a large increase in both academic performance and graduation rate. Our focus has not been on educational technology; it has always been on eLearning. Going forward, we must depend on cloud computing to do its job. We need to keep our focus on teacher education and professional development, the redesigned of curricula using all the strengths of emerging digital content and its effect on pedagogy, the 21st century schools and Internet interface devices.

Only then can we complete the long awaited transformation from legacy education to eLearning.

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00315 Innovation: Fraught With Peril and Opportunity

March 15, 2010

Successful innovation has a sequence of phases:

1. Invention, early adoption, rapid acceptance by one market;

2. Expansion into multiple markets;

3. Legacy system transformation driven by outside disruptive innovations based on technology, societal and economic changes;

4. Dying or being absorbed into an emerging innovation.

Innovation is a highly unpredictable process. It is rife with unintended consequences and

1. Our system of education was invented by the Prussians in the early 1700’s to educate sons of the elite. It reached the U.S. market by the late 1880’s with the compulsory education movement.

2. The market served expanded from boys to boys and girls during the first half of the 1900’s and to minority populations and special education students in the last half of the 1900’s. The dominant mode of innovation has been market extensions through government mandates and significant increases in government funding. The result has been huge increases in student learning time, graduation rates and economic and societal benefits.

3. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s the legacy system invented by the Prussians had expanded to all available markets. But societal needs demanded a change to include quality with quantity. The emerging social need was for K-12 to educate college and career ready students for the 21st century. The demand curve had crossed over the supply curve and the scramble was on. Change was in the air.

Hope for rapid success has faded and we seem stuck in phase 3. Inside the system, grade inflation worked for awhile, but was then discredited. Outside advocacy communities came on strong with whole language, charter schools, school choice, essential skills, standards, school improvements, test score data to guide decision making and a host of others. Many are based on market-competitiveness models.

A recent book by an intellectual leader in this movement, Diane Ravitch is: “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How testing and Choice are Undermining Education.” Dr. Ravitch wants to return to the traditional school structure. Why she is doing an about face on her 20 years of change efforts is explored in an Education Week  article, March 10, 2010 www.edweek.org .

Chester E. Finn Jr. of the Thomas Fordham Institute, a long time associate of Diane Ravitch, agrees with her depressing analysis of the data. But he espouses renewed efforts to destroy the old structure and replace it with the new.

With humility to their much greater depth of wisdom and knowledge, I believe both are wrong. Reverting to innovation Phase 2 or jumping over Phase 3 to Phase 4 makes little sense.

We have 20 years of data which show that a dozen piecemeal approaches do not work. Even added together, there has been scant increase in academic performance of K-12 education as a whole. There is a big difference between statistically significant improvement and significant improvement in effect factor.

We must reach the effect factor goal of at least one sigma (or letter grade) improvement across the board for all 60 million students for all courses and grade levels. We must increase the graduation rate to an effective 95% whether through formal or informal means of education. Graduating students must be prepared and eager to prosper in a world that requires life-span learning.

The 300 year old innovation of grouping teachers and students within the traditional organizational structure needs to make the transformation with a long strategic system design approach. Outside advocates have a huge role to play to support the transformative changes in school finance, human resources, technology based systems, curriculum, data and decision making. But the real innovation adopters within Phase 3 are our leaders and teachers currently within the education system. Together we can pull it off.

00308 National Educational Technolgy Plan

March 8, 2010

The 2010 National Educational Technology Plan from the U.S. Department of Education has just been released in draft form. A blue ribbon higher education committee had been working since last spring to develop the plan. They took input at the 2009 NECC meetings and solicited input from the education community. The Obama administration has set the goal of raising college completion rates to 60 percent by 2020. One of the means is to have a computing device in the hands of every K-12 student. The committee addressed this goal by focusing on five strategic areas: classroom learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.

NETP Executive Summary 14pp: http://tinyurl.com/yeljk8a

NETP pdf 114pp: http://tinyurl.com/yzcvwr4

Note: I called US Dept. of Ed Publications, and this plan has not yet been published in printed form for public access.

Education Week article 1pp: http://tinyurl.com/ylgljkr

SRI International’s site for NETP including community comments: https://edtechfuture.org

My comments from last fall are in their “Statements” section, about half way down the slider’s bar, starting with:

Innovation funding

and ending 20 comments later with:

14. eLearning research community of practice portal.

Last fall I wrote a seven page blog on the NETP planning process. I expressed concerns about the lack grand challenges and forward looking innovation. But my main concern was on the process itself.

After reading through the 90 text pages of this draft plan, most of my foundational concerns are covered. Much more important this work has reached a depth of detail and intellectual focus not often seen in this type of work. Many plans are at 40,000 feet. They are chuck full of situational assessments, imperatives and wishful but unrealistic thinking. This draft plan lays a solid and comprehensive foundation for the immense effort that faces all of us. Gone are is the word reform. In its place is the word that applies to our turning point – transformation.

I recommend that each of you take two to three hours out of you busy schedule for a bit of life-span learning.  Read and ponder the paragraphs this National Educational Technology Plan. Think about the role you can play in pulling it off.

I like the fact that this is a draft plan. Effective plans for implementation must be flexible and continuously evolving. So let’s keep it in draft form with continuous additions and updates as we get busy in the field, making it happen.

00301 Digital Curriculum Institute

March 1, 2010

The heart of any education system is curriculum. Curriculum must contain and deliver what is to be learned, how it is to be learned, and assessments of the learning. Curriculum selection frames student capabilities at course entry and exit. It will define required skills, training and education of the teacher. Curriculum is specific to one or more settings – classroom, computer lab, shop, field, community, or home. Curriculum has direct costs for acquisition and installation. It also has a total cost of ownership that includes facilities, equipment and labor. The TCO is expected to include cost savings as the digital curriculum accelerates student learning.

There is rich knowledge of the books and supplementary materials supporting our legacy system of education. The pioneering work with digital curriculum over the past twenty-five years has penetrated to about 5% of student learning time-on-task. All 70,000 Arizona school leaders and teachers are familiar with digital curriculum, but few have a knowledge level equal to legacy curriculum. The question of how adequately to educate and train educators to acquire and use digital curriculum was raised in the early 1990’s. With many thousands of digital curriculum courses and supplementary materials scattered over 150 K-12 courses, the answer is challenging. The rapid evolution of the Internet, simulation graphics, voice and other technologies also complicates the question.

In the 2000’s, the results of one of Governor Hull’s planning teams defined the need to address digital curriculum. Then a Governor Napolitano task force came up with the concept of a unique Digital Curriculum Institute (DCI) to solve this dilemma. In 2004 eSATS worked developed the DCI design within the framework of their ten year system redesign to transform K-12 education from legacy to eLearning education. The DCI became part of the intellectual infrastructure required for the design to work. The other part is a system to educate and train eLearning savvy teachers. The DCI design is matured into alignment with the NAU teacher education system, ASU Advanced Learning Technology Institute and college of education, UofA Agricultural Extension Service, and Arizona Department of Education, host for the Arizona eLearning Task Force. The ASU-ADE internet portal based Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona Learning (IDEAL) is expected to play a role.

This institute will have a team of digital curriculum experts who will initially explore the offerings of entities that include K-12 digital curriculum information: Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), Utah’s Recommended Instructional Material Searchable Database, Software and Information Association, Curriki, JES & CO, etc. A search and assessment protocol will be developed and tested. The first sustained operation will be to access provider offerings of promising and accessible digital curriculum. Providers include vendors, free ware developers, university and research institutes and schools. The delivery mode of their offerings will range from online to supplementary CD.

When the knowledge database is operational, the DCI will use an internet portal to provide decision support service for all Arizona schools who request. But time is short; we cannot wait years for this web-portal to catch on. Therefore an extension service – similar to the 100+ year old agricultural extension service administered by the UofA Ag department – will be developed and sent to the field. These transformation experts will be backed by the latest digital curriculum knowledge. Their task will be to develop decision and implementation support service relationships with Arizona’s 238 public school districts and 2000 schools of all types.

Led by the centralized font of wisdom and the change agents in the field, Arizona will have the intellectual infrastructure in place. As the financial woes of the State subside, Arizona K12 education will then be able to make rapid progress on its transformation from 5% to 10% to 20% to 50% eLearning supported education.

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.

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.

91204 Digital Curriculum Definition

December 4, 2009

eSATS eLearning system design focuses on the teacher and student as the nexus. But what makes this dynamic duo a formidable eLearning couple is the use of effective and accessible digital curriculum. At this stage of its evolution, digital curriculum has a range of definitions.

I asked Hank Stabler, eLearning consultant to the Arizona eLearning Task Force and ADE if he could help. Here is his input:

“Looking for some “good” definition of Digital Curriculum I came across this site:

http://www.itec-ia.org/documents/filelibrary/2009_conference/handouts/The_Digital_Curriculum_31F3935ECBABA.pdf

it does not have a short concise definition and that is part of the problem  of helping people to be real clear about what is being proposed.

This site:

http://www.reckon.co.uk/open/BBC_Digital_Curriculum

shows the problem with confusion on what is being proposed and who’s ox is being gored.”

Studying these to sources of information was actually a help to me. Curriculum has several meanings in educational circles. It can mean content like books and course material. An expanded definition integrates content with teaching/learning process usually referred to as pedagogy. Some educational experts have told me it is the entire learning environment which includes the content, teacher-student pedagogy, school or learning station, and anything else that effects student learning.

Here is our working definition. What do you think?

Digital curriculum is an integration of content, pedagogy and environment designed for, delivered by and supported with digital means within a digital frame of thinking. Its conceptual framework:

  1. May be used to supplement or replace traditional content formats and pedagogy such as books and recitation…but primarily relies on online interaction, exploration and connectiveness, 1:1 teacher-student interaction, students constructing their own meanings within projects, computer based instructional and simulation programs, and learning networks;
  2. Intergrades within the practice of uniquely educated and trained teachers who use digital curriculum to deliver real-time formative assessments and support individual learning pace which motivates, accelerates and deepens student learning;
  3. Requires a 1:1 digital interface with Internet access for each for teacher and student.

Give us your feedback; we need your ideas on the most practical definition within an eLearning system framework.

91124 eLearning is Innovation

November 24, 2009

The November 18th edition of Education Week has two major articles:

Starting Gun Sounds for ‘Race to the Top’ RTTT has $4.35 billion up for grabs for reforms including State level data systems with buy in from school districts, and evaluation of teachers and principals based on student performance (outcomes).

States Are Lagging On Innovation Front. The US Chamber of Commerce graded  the states on school management, finance, staffing, staff removal, data, technology, pipeline to postsecondary and reform environment (inputs). Arizona got one few A’s for charter school management.

Let’s put aside the issue that that $4.35 billion is less than 1% of the financial system rescue/stimulus funds. Arizona can win a potential $100 million for RTTT that is critical to Arizona’s education transformation plans.

Arizona’s RTTT team of highly capable and dedicated staff and volunteers are working long hours to address the highly structured proposal requirements. Debra Duvall, Governor’s Special Advisor is leading the RTTT effort. Carol Peck of the Rodel Foundation is chair of the Governor’s 16 person P20 Coordinating Council which has four RTTT task forces, each working on a key RTTT proposal area;

Jack Lundsford of WESTMARC is leading the Standards and Assessments

Dave Howell of Wells Fargo Bank is leading the Great Teachers, Great Leaders

Marc Osborn of R&R Partners is heading the Supporting Struggling Schools

Cathleen Barton of Intel is leading the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems/Use

As the task teams struggle with the myriad of proposal requirements the overarching issue of Innovation becomes a challenge. eSATS has attended most meetings and reviewed the most recent summary of dozens of task team generated ideas, options, strategies, interventions and pathways.

www.azgovernor.gov/P20/agendas.asp click on first presentation under Materials

There are eLearning components woven through each of these task forces. So we got to thinking about the innovation issue and eLearning. The problem of leading with “eLearning” is that most people have an image that is locked the technology with a student glued to a computer screen who is working on Reader Rabbit and immersed in online learning. To jar us away from those images lets consider:

eLearning as system of innovation.

Every other industry transformed by emerging technology has had to redefine itself with a new and innovation driven systems model.

Take aviation for example. It has both a physical infrastructure of airports and data driven decision support system for navigation. Pilots required real-time data from flight instruments. The aircraft was designed around serving the needs to both the passengers and air and ground crews. An intellectual infrastructure was needed for aeronautical research and education of aeronautical engineers and other experts. The creation of the financial system from reservations and ticketing to aircraft purchases based on new revenue, allocation and investment models. And finally an aircraft industry had to exist to develop and build the airplanes. The icon was the airplane. But from initiation through growth to maturity aviation was a highly coupled system of innovation. We all understand this model.

Take the above and substitute schools and longitudinal data system; teachers needing real-time formative assessment; learning support systems serving the teacher-student nexus; learning research and professional teacher/leader education; and school financing initiatives that removes legacy system barriers, creates efficiencies  and funds innovation to enhance student performance. Embrace the digital curriculum and hardware/software industry as they redouble their effects for education.

The now mature aviation, was from the 1930’s to 1970’s a highly successful system of innovation. eLearning can also be viewed as a system of innovation from the 1990’s to the 2020’s.

If we make this intellectual leap, then we have a powerful pathway to integrate innovation into Arizona’s RTTT proposal.

91013 P20 Data Task Force (3b) Research

October 13, 2009

Suggestions for Addressing the Research Requirements

Race to the Top (RTTT) Data System Proposal

(3b) Plan to support researchers with data from longitudinal and instructional improvement systems so they can evaluate what works

A suggestion: There is a requirement from the U.S. Department of Education that “schools adopt strategies that have been proven through rigorous research.”  (Education Week, October 7, 2009 pp18)

This is impossible because there are over 150 courses that populate the typical P-12 curriculum and there is almost no rigorous research available. The reason is fundamental. Complex systems that are in the same size and class as P-20 education include medicine and defense. The federal and industry funded rigorous research and development for medicine and defense is in the $60-$100 billion level… (each). On a good year the funding of rigorous research and development for P-12 education is at the $100+ million range, will behind the VA, Interior, EPA and DOT. Both medicine and defense has had 70 years of rigorous research based technology and procedures adoption. Education has yet to leave the starting gate.

There is a glimmer of hope and the Arizona RTTT proposal should reflect this new opportunity. A Washington based advocacy organization, “Digital Promise,” was successful summer of 2008 in having Congress pass legislation: Sec. 802. National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies. The 2010 funding is expected to be $50 million. It is modeled after the National Science Foundation. They will focus on using information and digital technologies to advance education, both formal and informal.

Arizona has an opportunity to collaborate with NCRAIDT. Through ADE, AZ eLearning Task Force, ASSET, IDEAL and research arms of our colleges of education and field testing system could be developed in Arizona. With Arizona’s wide range of populations we could develop networks of schools where innovative practices and technologies could be rigorously tested. Edwards AF Test Facility has spun off aircraft research base innovation into southern Californian aerospace industries for decades. An Arizona virtual statewide test facility integrated with our leading statewide data system would position Arizona as a first adopter of rigorous researched innovation.

91012 USDOE National Education Technology Plan

October 8, 2009

Preface Note: I am a proponent of the use of cross-industry innovation systems and transformation models. When my aeronautical engineering domain stopped talking about “flying machines” in the early 1900’s and started using the system descriptor of “aviation” the industry took off (horseless carriages => automobile, etc.). It is time to put aside “educational technology” and consider the system descriptor that has been emerging for a decade: “elearning”.

Introduction:

The U.S. Department of Education is developing a new National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) to provide a vision for how information and communication technologies can help transform American education. The plan will provide a set of concrete goals that can inform state and local educational technology plans as well as inspire research, development, and innovation. A draft plan is expected in early 2010.

This web site is hosted for the U.S. Department of Education by SRI International.

https://edtechfuture.org/

Planning Working Group

This group of 18 leading educators, researchers, state and district ed-tech leaders and policymakers has been selected from the Central-East part of the nation, except for Roy Pea and John Seely Brown from the Stanford/ USC communities. I know, or know of, a number of these pioneers from our work with eSATS (eLearning System for Arizona Teachers and Students) that started in the late 1980’s. These experts have provided the “shoulders of giants” that have, since the early 1990’s, guided and inspired a generation of advocates who have driven the early progress of eLearning adoption. The problem is that half of this working group should have been the bright new minds of eLearning like Susan Patrick and Clayton Chistensen. Also the US DOE Education Technology Director slot is vacant.

Barbara Means of SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning is engaged as the leader of the working group. We first met at a large ed-tech conference at in Stanford/Palo Alto in early 1990’s.

My concern is that the working group’s challenge is to be a driving force behind innovation driven transformation of a legacy system based on human labor. This is a huge task to achieve. Our K-12 education system has a history of innovation cycles that require a half century from start to finish. In the latter 20th century technology driven transformations of other industries were in the 20 year range. The economic, energy, resource and ecological transformation of our global 21st century demands an even shorter innovation cycle.

The foundation for the solution to these challenges is a successful mastery of the K-12 curriculum of – not just 50 to 65 percent of our student population – but 95 percent. A brief glance at our bell shaped performance curve shows a minimum of a one sigma increase for all students, and a pulling in of the tails. The failing student is performing at the C level and gifted student does not drop out. eLearning is the only means supported by meta-studies that show an effect factor in the 0.40 range.

Without a history of innovation driven transformation within K-12 education, the task of the NETP working group seems to be insurmountable. But innovation is always driven by a small group and fired by genius, so the probability is not zero. In business, science and engineering it is well known that the invention and innovation in a narrow sector of an industry is by the young with passion and creative ideas. If an industry transformation is to take place, it will happen with the collaboration of two forces.

One is the disruptive innovation (like microcomputers invented in the 1970’s destroying the minicomputer industry by the early 1990’s). The other is the few – then many – enlightened and seasoned leaders of the mature industry removing barriers and making the strategic planning, organizational design and financial change decisions that will accelerate a transformation. The 2010 NETP is positioned to support this transformational challenge with a innovation based strategic redesign of the K-12 system.

My Response

Over the past 20+ years hundreds of Federal and State technology plans have been written and rewritten every few years. However, they have had little effect on adoption of elearning.

A major exception is the NETP 2004 published from the U.S. DoE’s Office of Educational Technology under the leadership of Susan Patrick. The 68 page publication was titled “Toward A New Golden Age in American Education”, How the Internet, the Law and Today’s Students are Revolutionizing Expectation.” I distributed over a 1000 copies of this “little blue booklet” to Arizona legislators, governance, councils, businesses and educators. I believe it had a material effect on Arizona’s progress. Our legislature formed the Arizona eLearning Task Force that has 8 years remaining to transform our K-12 education system. Other legislative and governance successes were $3 million for a middle school math pilot, P20 council with data and teacher task forces, and all 1500+ Arizona schools enabled as virtual schools.

I recommend that this 2010 National Education Technology Plan reach beyond the 2004 success with a powerful new prescriptive design for innovation driven transformation. It must be more than just a visionary model on paper to be used as an instrument of advocacy. Create this plan with the expectation that it will be fully implemented. Transformation to K-12 elearning will be reaching its tipping point within the life of the plan. The quality, equity and effectiveness of the drive to that tipping point depends on this design.

The most recent data on eLearning adoption are from the 2008 iNACOL annual conference on online learning and Project RED  http://projectred.org/news/ => click on “click here to see the chart”. iNACOL reported 3% of elearning in K-12 education takes place online. The Project RED study had 4% of students in schools with computing devices for (almost) all students. With the hybrid mode online elearning being a significant contributor to classroom elearning. Let’s assume for the situation assessment that 5% of K-12 student learning is elearning based.

The semi-log plot from disruptive innovation theory predicts that 3%-5% will reach 10% by 2012. At 10% we are at the tipping point where elearning will begin its rapid transformation of legacy education.

Our federal NETP 2010 plan has two major roles. It will guide federal policy to drive this innovation and it will point to where significant funds must be invested. I am limited by the SRI web site for the working group, so I can only assess the current stage of their work in four focus areas.

Four focus areas of learning, teaching, assessment and productivity may be a reasonable first cut as system processes. But, historical processes are weak foundations on which to redesign a plan of this scope and magnitude. From both the NECC input and this outreach for public comment, I have to assume that the working group is still in the situation assessment phase. Members/staff of our AZ eLearning Task Force are concerned that a number of critical issues raised during the NECC focus groups were not included by the consultants/working group.

Possibly these four elements of legacy education theory are the conventional wisdom of the working group, and that is why they gravitated to them. In the science and engineering fields we advance rapidly because we understand how conventional wisdom can retard advancement. Inventive and transformational advancements and innovation are not based on best past practices or group processes. They are based on inventive genius and entrepreneurial skills of emerging leaders of the discipline. I wonder why this same old ground is being plowed many months into the process when the plan draft has to be written within a few months. I question the wisdom of not having representatives of the current cadre of K-12 innovation leaders in the working group. I also question the apparent lack of specialized expertise of strategic planning, inter-organizational design, elearning industry entrepreneurship, and school finance on the working group.

Some of this expertise may be provided by the SRI support staff, but to maximize effectiveness, it should also be built into the NETP working group.

The most difficult aspect of the NETP design is the inter-organizational design that will produce the systematic transformation of our entire national education system. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I had the pleasure of initiating –and being in the leadership of –Arizona’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development. We raised $500,000 and engaged SRI International. Critical economic industry clusters and supporting infrastructure were identified. Changes were made in how Arizona’s economy was supported in our government agencies, and new Arizona industry associations were formed. This system-wide effort addressed both our physical and intellectual infrastructures. Based on SRI’s initial engagement with Arizona, they developed a global practice that applied lessons learned on transformational strategic planning to other states and countries.

Since SRI International is the lead consultant for the National Education Technology Plan working group, I suggest that Barbara Means engage their global strategic planning team. They could provide the support needed for the complexity and scope of the elearning transformation of K-12 education in the United States.

The following are a number of elements that might be addressed with a system design process:

  • A vision of the transformed U.S. K-12 system in 2019;
  • The five to ten goals set by the working group to effect the K-12 system transformation, including P-20 goals where linkage is vital.
  • A set of quantitative objectives with time lines;
  • A short set of strategies for each objective;
  • A meta-strategy that addresses the entire system transformation.
  • A system design model presented on the learning ecology dimension with aspects of micro, meso, exo, macro and chrono ecologies* at each of the five functional levels from teacher-student engagement to federal.
  • A system design model based on the major implementation components: teacher practice development, student personal learning plans; digital curriculum, formative and summative data systems, broadband Internet access, student computing devices, technical support, metamorphosis of funding system from “seat-time” to mastery-based, leadership, elearning centered schools and spaces, federally sponsored research, emerging solutions based elearning industry, and “Innovation Centrals” to champion the transformation at all levels.
  • A detailed ten year financial model of the system transformation based on a roll up along the five functional levels of classroom, school, district, state, and federal. It would include a one-time investment spread over that ten year period, new costs, cost avoidance, cost savings and use of net savings either to meet needs like teacher salaries or to decrease tax burdens on communities.
  • An implementation plan with costs and benefits to guide the national efforts. It would deliver models for the state, district, school and classroom levels to support their efforts. Implementation will address changes in systems, governance, funding, facilities, transportation, people, types of positions and student learning pace/calendar.

Summary:

Let’s look at an example. One of several system components being actively pursued under the current Race To The Top initiative is data driven decision support. Three of the requirements (1, 2, 3b) address Longitudinal Summative Administrative Data. The other (3a) addresses Real Time Formative Instructional Data. The administrative data systems are well defined, and have been under development for many years by many states. They are relatively easy to address since only 1 million administrators will be active users. The instruction learning systems are still in the research and development, and must serve the needs of 3.5 million teachers and 60 million students. These systems must be integrated with teacher professional development, digital curriculum, and computing interfaces and systems for all students and individualize learning plans.

Each component of the system transformation must be phased with an appropriate time line and with full consideration of the leads and lags of the other components. There are many other challenges within the five level system, from the teacher-student relationship to national physical, financial and intellectual infrastructure support.

I recommend that your planning working group might take a step back. You might want to reconsider developing a plan and process the is based on a redesign. Then generate a strategic eLearning plan that has both implementation and financial plans as major sections.

* Microsystem—the student’s family, school, peers; Mesosystem—two or more linked microsystems such as home and school; Exosystem—indirect outside forces: districts, states; boards, state standards, federal support and mandates, parents work conditions; Macrosystem—cultural beliefs, values, customs; Chronosystem—student is influenced by different systems at different times.