Archive for the ‘Digital Curriculum’ Category

00329 History of Education – 5 Act Play

April 1, 2010

Economic History => Future

A recent Op-Ed by David Brooks* NY Times lamented the lack of a comprehensive history of modern economics, based on the stunning consequences of the recent events. His framework for this history is in five Acts.

Act I. Economic man was a crude representation of individual human nature who was totally rational and only interested in maximizing his personal benefit. During my late 1970’s MBA I took several economic courses, ran econometric models, and was always one variable away from solutions that matched the data. We actually used humans with quantified util’s as part of the utility functions and had grand arguments.

Act II. During the past several decades, Herbert Simon addressed not-perfectly rational people, and Gary Becker saw behaviors that were not just self interest, like having children. Others saw that people have biases, and many make non-objective decisions.

Act III. Is a discontinuity with the economic crisis of 2008-2009. The incredibly sophisticated econometric/financial models built over the decades failed to predict the wiping out of $50 trillion in global wealth and the huge human suffering that followed.

Act IV. is starting with soul searching that is far from a consensus on why the economic intellectual agenda-setters failed to see the oncoming train wreck. In the physical sciences, real problems are solved and stay solved. In economics, thinkers cycle in and out of fashion. Economists are now talking about the individual, love, virtue, social relationships and imagination!

Act V. David Brooks predicts that the current field of rational economics will be blown-up. Human beings cannot be addressed with universal laws like physics. It will become a subsection of history and moral philosophy focusing on individuals within contexts. The lessons learned will be one by one, like art, not science.

Education History => Future

Any lesson’s to learn for educational transformation from the economics’ meltdown? Probably not since Brook’s history is over a few years, and education’s a few century. But let’s walk along the path of economics anyway and lay in education at their milestones.

Act I. Early 1700’s: Prussians founded the highly structured lecture, recitation, seat-work system for the select group of aristocratic youth.

Act II. Late 1800’s: This model one-size-fits-all factory like system was applied to all children through universal education.

Act III. Middle of the 2000th century the system expanded to meet expectations that women, minorities and special needs children should also graduate. There was a significant increase in funding for all education with the major gains in special education. The education crisis emerged over 2 decades not the 2 years for the economic crisis.  Academic performance gains stagnated in the mid 1970’s. In 1980’s the system was shocked to learn that the Iron Curtain countries were out-performing American schools by a significant margin. The final blow came from a Bolivian immigrant Jaime Escalante who transformed L.A.’s tough Garfield High School. He blew away the myth that inner-city kids can not perform at the highest levels (movie: Stand and Deliver). He graduated more advanced placement Calculus students than all but four other U.S. high schools.

Act IV. The initial reactions were reforms and restructuring that moved the deck chairs but did not focus on hard issues. Innovations such as charter schools, choice, career ladders, No Child Left Behind, etc. were tried by many states but success was fleeting. Summative testing to standards is becoming a piece of the solution. But as any industrial quality expert knows the only way to have quality products out the door is heavy investment in design, training and equipment investment for all aspects of the cycle. After three decades of action academic performance and graduation rates remain flat. Society’s demands for job and college ready students, 21st century critical thinking and a globally competitive economy have soared. Fortunately ideas with broad and significant success factors such as eLearning, individualized instruction, digital content, teacher-student centered focus, mastery not seat time funding, online learning, and personal learning plans have started to emerge.

Act V. The 21st century will not see a blow-up of K-12 education like David Brooks’ forecast for the economics field. I believe the coming transformation from the factory model of the Prussians to massively-individualized education is definitely in the cards. This transformation will be shaped by the decades-old Benjamin Bloom studies of the tutor-student relationship and the individualization methods for gifted and other special education students from the 1970’s. Serving moral, social and emotional yearnings and ambitions of individual students will be the driving factor bringing renewed growth of both academic achievement and graduation rates.

The most import lesson from the economic tragedy is that the focus of education must not be on the “school” but rather on the multifaceted context of the student. Of course, this is not news to any successful teacher. Like Jaime Escalante they know how to ward off the Prussian structure to serve the needs of their individual students.

*: David Brooks, Op-Ed  The Return of History New York Times, March 25, 2009

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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.

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.

91211 National Effort Effect Factor

December 11, 2009

I recently heard of Project – – -. They seem to be the same type of organizations with similar players that for 20+ years have been working at the national level to reform education. Their results have been non-significant increases in academic achievement. In the eLearning arena they  have gotten a whole 5% penetration of this disruptive innovation: classroom, online and hybrid. What I like is they have finally moved out of the mode of pronouncing the latest situation assessment, recommending pilots, and professing wishful thinking. They are now addressing the hard reality of funding, data, system transformation and system financial analysis. .

Improving student achievement. While almost every other market segment has seen substantial improvements attributed to technology, public education has seen only isolated benefits. This study seeks to define technology models that can lead to improvements in student achievement.

We have been saying this forever, but finally they have started to talk about market segments and effects of technology based transformation – they are finally getting it.

Evaluating the total financial impact of technology on state budgets. To date, little work has been done, beyond assessing costs, to show the connection between educational technology and state budgets. It is time to take into consideration cost savings, cost avoidance and revenue enhancements that are direct results of investments in educational technology.

The 2004 eSATS system design => ten year financial model did pioneering work in this area of eLearning investments on cost savings and cost avoidance, but not on revenue enhancements. The scope was limited to  the state of Arizona with 1 million students. In the middle 1990’s IBM out of Colorado had a simple model of revenue enhancements based on better educated folks, and resulting lower prison population.

I appreciate the use of the cross-industry transformation model.  In my engineering specialty when they stopped talking about flying machines and started using the system descriptor of aviation it took off (steam locomotives => railroads, etc.). We need to stop talking about educational technology and refocus on the system descriptor I have been pitching for a decade: elearning.

Hope continues to grow.

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.