Archive for the ‘eLearning’ Category

00726 Public Education Opinion and Governance Response

October 8, 2010

A recent poll by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa pried into the minds of the American people to determine their opinions on American schools.  The results:

Teaching was the top priority, well above standards, testing and fixing the worst schools.

Support is high for charter schools.

Don’t fire principals and teachers or close failing schools, just provide comprehensive support.

College education is absolutely necessary.

Funding is the biggest problem.

State, not Federal, government is responsible for public schools.

Teacher pay should be aligned with student achievement.

Teacher time to learn new and better methods is essential.

Increasing student motivation by paying students money is opposed.

The “grades” respondents gave their schools have been stable for 35 years.

Our governance leaders at all levels are supposed to reflect the wishes of the American people. So what have they focused on for American’s 55 million K12 students, 3 million teachers and 100,000 schools for the past couple of decades?

Standards, testing and trying to fix the worst schools, a host of new federal mandates and a single innovation – charter schools.

What did they not address in any substantial way?

Teacher (pay, education, professional development, practice, placement, support), funding (regulations, levels, and sources), student motivation (success, individualization)

If you will put up with my engineer-entrepreneur bias I will have a go at the mismatch of citizen opinion and leader action:

Our governance leaders are actually pretty smart. Although ideology varies there is an overriding realism in their decision making that keeps them from putting major investments into unproven areas. Standards and testing cost almost nothing (a few $million). They closed only a few of the failing Arizona school (a few more $millions). Hundreds of charter schools are supported since the teaching results compare to District schools and cost is usually less. Charter schools also provide a venue for innovation.

Aggressively improving the current legacy pedagogy within the teacher and student relationship carries risk. No other state has done it. The increased annual investment would be significant about $2 billion a year for Arizona. At best the results would be only a modest increase in academic performance.

The alternative way to address the opinions of the American and Arizona people is to break from the 19th century legacy system and embrace the 21st century means and methods.   More to follow….

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00712 From Genteel Pleasures to Hard Headed Mentality

October 8, 2010

David Brooks, a New York Times op-ed writer recently reframed our current situation within the context of the genteel mentality. What made England, Japan, Germany and the United States and may other nations great at various times over the past one hundred years is that technicians started putting scientific knowledge to practical use. But for every nation the saying of “shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves in X generations” set in. The great, great … grandchildren of inventors, mechanics and entrepreneurs change their attitude to a more genteel way of life. It is difficult for a culture to maintain a hardheaded and practical drive after decades of affluence.

In the U.S. many of our newly educated mathematicians, engineers and physicists eschewed the practical field of manufacturing and science. They found a genteel way of life in the financial industry. Industrial manufacturers that used to attract the best minds now see these prospects going into professions of law and other societal helping disciplines. The current mismatch between the need for employees in the manufacturing trades and the surplus of mortgage, real estate, consulting and service professionals accounts for about 3% of the our 9.6% unemployment rate. Closer to home this issue is highlighted in surveys of manufacturers by the Arizona Technology Council.

Over the past twenty years the upper class has aspiring to the aristocratic life style, the middle class has been funding their life styles with debt, and the lower class has been struggling within social breakdown and failing schools.

Frankly this class description of Dickens’ merry-olde-England needs to be broken up once and for all.  K12 education is where it should happen. eLearning transformation will individualized, engage, and deliver success for students. eLearning simulation programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will attract a much larger set of students into the practical professions. A healthy balance and stronger integration of helping, creating, and rearranging professions and trades will prepare our 21st century citizens for the highest pleasure the genteel miss out on – practical success by one’s own hands that helps others.

00621 K12 is Risky Business

October 8, 2010

ames Bagian – a NASA astronaut, engineer and currently a hospital patient safety expert engaged by the Veteran’s Administration at their National Center for Patient Safety – was recently interviewed by Kathryn Schultz in her series on “being wrong.” Their discussion focused was on health care safety vs. aviation safety.

Aviation is a highly hazardous industry, but it has so much safety designed into the system, there is very little risk of a bad event. The field has a systems perspective, and there is a huge investment in safety. They are not interested in punishing the individual but rather learning what led up to the event and how to change the system to prevent a repeat in the future.

In his current job with the VA, Bagian found the opposite. Health care is all about,”finding out who made the mistake and punishing them for being stupid.” The profession trains them “the right way” and then blames them for mistakes. But a systems analysis and transformation in one area, medication, can reduce the error rate from the current 7% to 10% (!!!) to less than one tenth of one percent.

Admonishments to double-check, be careful, be diligent, and to read the literature do not work. But reporting close calls in a non-blame environment can be highly effective. Developing a culture where breaking the law (rare) remains blameworthy but human errors are expected and capitalized on leads to both a better work environment and a safer work environment. Punishing errors is a terrible policy because it chokes off reporting the very data needed to change the system.

The most similar industry to health care is education. Each is an integration of public and private entities within a large and complex system. They deliver critical human to human service where errors can cause serious problems. Errors in medical systems usually cause immediate harm, where in K-12 education the accumulated harm is only evident after many years.

Many K-12 reform efforts produced a range of admonishments — such as more parent involvement, hire better teachers, more money in the classroom, fewer administrators, and students should work harder — but practical systemic K-12 solutions are rare.

eSATS was founded based on the use of systems analysis applied to education. We discovered a number of serious systemic issues. The isolated classrooms and schools hampered close-call and error reporting, that could support systemic changes to correct for errors. The focus on summative assessments of students, teachers and schools on a weekly to yearly basis were of little value for continuous systemic reduction of risk of student academic performance failure. This results in significant risk to the probability of student academic performance success. The labeling of schools and judging of teachers and principals on summative assessments has been framed as a solution instead of being recognized as part of the problem.

eSATS focuses on real time, data driven formative assessment within the teacher-student relationship as the most important means to assure each student performs, and rises to, their academic potential. The automated data warehouse and decision support systems in our State are being developed for legacy summative data which is a necessary step forward. But only with the application of eLearning systems that include real time student-teacher formative assessment capability, will Arizona have the capacity to remove risk of student failure from of our K-12 education system.

00614 Transformational Triggers

October 8, 2010

My annual one month crunch of model airplane building-flying-competing at the Nationals in Muncie, IN is now behind me. I am settling back into a more “normal” routine. The challenge for 2010-2011 school year is upon us. The question is whether our associations with their advocacy will have any effect on transforming Arizona K-12 education. History has the answer, but to a different question – one of turning points leaping out of the blue. For example:

Forty years ago Yosef Mendelevich, a Soviet Jew, tried to hijack a plane in Leningrad to fly to Sweden, and then on to Israel. He was arrested with a number others by the KGB. The heavy handed trial cause a global protest and back lash against the Soviets. As a direct result, hundreds of thousands of Jews were allowed to emigrate over the next decade. A transformation in Soviet attitude toward human rights was triggered that resulted in the Berlin Wall falling and an empire collapsing.

A decade or two from now, an educational historian (yes, we have these folks at our universities) will do a study on what triggered the massive transformation of Arizona’s K-12 education into a 21st Century powerhouse. She will probably find one person that for her own reasons bucked the system and triggered the transformation. Instead of Yosef’s “unrequited longing for a homeland” her driving force will be “unrequited longing for equity to serve the learning needs of her child.”

The best we can do is keep plugging away. The tipping point may be soon or may have already happened. In a decade or two I hope to be reading the real story of what had triggered the turning point for Arizona.

00524 Refocus on Fundimental Arizona Needs

October 8, 2010

The May 21st issue of Capital Times focused on Arizona’s recently completed legislative session. A section by Jeremy Duda was titled, “10 most significant bills of 2010.” The selection of items for any top ten list is highly subjective. But from a news criterion, which reflects the interest of readers, they have a tale to tell.

The article starts with S1070 the immigration bill followed by bills that;

Ban K-12 courses than focus on racial divisiveness or anti-U.S. sentiment;

Decriminalizes discreet gun carry without a permit;

Remove regulations for gun manufacturers that sell inside Arizona;

Joins Arizona with 18 other states in a lawsuit against the U.S. health care bill;

Requires reporting of corporations and unions on campaign spending;

Legalizes sale of small consumer fireworks;

Criminalizes as a misdemeanor offense the sending of sexually explicit photos by minors electronically;

Allows for private firms and other entities to operate State parks;

Increases to $1000 the amount for private education that can be deducted from state taxes.

We each have intuitive and emotional responses to these widely varying bills. That is why they make the top ten for news. But not one of them has any significant current or long range effect on solving the most important of Arizona problems:

Education that prepares less than half our children for success;

Workforce that is both rife with unemployment and is ill equipped to compete for quality jobs;

Economy that is not only struggling within a recession but has limited capability to transform from its 20th century industries into the emerging industries of the 21st century.

Bills that directly effected Arizona’s major problems were lost or killed in the chaos of sine die. The digital content/curriculum bill and the jobs bill were two that could have had a real effect.

It all comes down to a couple of questions. Will Arizona elect a legislature and a governor that will fade ideology and the news worthy moments into the back ground? Will Arizona’s newly elected 91 person governance focus 80% of their efforts on education, workforce and economy using a mid to long range outlook with deep intellect, rational thinking, prescient intuition and brilliant ideas?

We must make it so.

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.

00511 Learning Path Keeps Widening

October 8, 2010

Arizona’s demand for both quantity and quality of K-12 educated graduates has been increasing for decades. But only once, about 40 years ago, was there a significant response by the K-12 education system. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the federal government enacted Public Law 94-142 a major increase in school service for special education. I served on the Special Ed Advisory Committee to the Arizona Board of Education as the representative for gifted education, one of the ten categories. Due to massive support of Arizona parent advocates and new federal and state funding, learning support was brought to this ignored population (10% to15%). The increased investment in school funding was about 10% and has been maintained to this day.

During this most recent legislative session, Florida was used as a model for legislation that would improve Arizona education. Over the past decade Florida has moved out of the middle of the pack to the top quartile of math academic performing states. Arizona has remained at, or near, the bottom, usually bracketed by Mississippi and Louisiana. And both of these hurricane battered states have a reason.

Many Arizona bills changed rules and regulations. What has not been publicly addressed is the fact that Florida invests 15% more per-pupil adjusted for regional cost differences. Of equal importance is that Florida committed to eLearning in the mid-1990’s with major investments in digital content and curriculum. More currently, their state-wide Florida Virtual School is now serving the nation. There was little movement in these areas in this year’s Arizona legislative session.

Arizona has the right focus in place with STEM, 21st century knowledge and skills, career and/or college ready graduates, etc. We have a host of advocacy organizations massing to influence the election of a education supporting legislature and new Department of Education leadership.

The tulips and daffodils have bloomed this spring and hope is in the air. I spent the day yesterday at ASU – my grandson and another 100 entering freshmen went through an orientation, advising and registration process that was light-years beyond my 1956 experience of just getting onto the train in Akron and walking onto the MIT campus to fend for myself.

Ride along with us this next month as we redesign and then plan for implementation of Arizona’s Grand Challenge => Transformation of K-12 education into the 21st century.

00426Economy_Workforce_Education

May 3, 2010

Arizona for the past couple of decades can be modeled by a unique propeller driven airplane. The thrust that propels this aircraft is a counter rotating duo of three bladed propellers. As the head winds increase this thrust remains fairly constant but the aircraft slows.

The three propeller blades are the economy, education, and workforce which are tightly coupled.

The front propeller has the:

economy which depends on a high quality workforce;

which in turn depends on a high performance education system;

which in turn  depends on funding from a robust economy.

The rear propeller has the:

workforce that needs quality jobs delivered by a globally competitive economy;

which in turn , requires a top ranked education system to support enterprise attraction,   creation, growth and retention

which in turn requires a world class  workforce of educators.

Economic research credits technological  innovation for 85% of economic advances over the past 200 years.

Workforces in almost all industries have been trained and educated to adopt and use these emerging technologies with their unique process changes over the past 200 years.

Education industry has adopt  technologies and processes invented prior to 200 years ago,  only in the recent couple of decades has emerging technology initiated its innovation process to transform education.

Arizona is positioned to seize the global lead in transforming education with eLearning adoption. But since the leading player in Arizona education is our legislature, the members must be strongly support the long range plan.

We have major coalitions that are committed to transformation in general.

ABEC is business-education and is focusing on school finance.

Expect More Arizona (rolling out this week) is business-foundation and is focused on election of candidates the support education and workforce.

AZ eLearning Task Force has a 10 year policy mission.

The two missing pieces are the:

eLearning enterprises that lead in the understanding of educational technology and process that deliver effective eLearning across K-12 and higher education, workforce, and military simulation.

The rest of the technology enterprises that leading in the understanding of how to engage and develop technology savvy workforces and how apply innovative technologies in the workplace.

GAZEL is the organization for Arizona’s eLearning enterprises with one of the largest clusters of companies in the nation with revenues over $4 billion.

ATC has over 500 members statewide and has had great track record on educating legislators on technology issues and getting bills passed. Their reputation is outstanding, from the legislature to national level.

There is a significant opportunity for Arizona and both organizations if GAZEL and ATC are able to work mutually support each other and work together as the driving force in a statewide quest to make eLearning the means to simultaneously create a world class economy, workforce and education system.

00419 Educators and Employers Two Different Worlds

May 3, 2010

So goes Arizona’s economy, so goes education, so goes the economy, so goes ed…

In the early 1990’s, Arizona had a thriving high-tech manufacturing sector with quality jobs paying twice the average wage of other sectors. Four of the top ten employers were high-tech, with 45,000 employees. By 2000 Honeywell had merged with Allied Signal Aerospace and Intel moved into the top ten with Motorola and Raytheon, with total of 52,000 employees. Today Walmart, and other retailers dominate the top 10 employers with only Honeywell and Raytheon with 23,000 high tech employees remaining.

Educators have striven over the past two decades to improve reading, math and science education and focus on learning 21st century skills. There has also been an effort to adopt high-tech learning support systems to improve effectiveness of student achievement. The small academic gains based on test scores may be statistically significant, but their effect factor is far off the mark of what is needed. High school graduation rates, and graduate career and college readiness have not begun to close Arizona’s widening demand gap.

From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, our major high-tech manufacturing firms were established as divisions of California, Chicago and New York based corporations. Since then, no divisions or corporations of this type have been successfully attracted or grown from scratch in Arizona. Current non-manufacturing successes such as Avnet (electronic components distributor) and Apollo (online learning) have combined 75,000 employees — but only a fraction are in Arizona.

Arizona’s population has almost doubled in the past couple of decades, but the high-tech quality jobs have not. Lower paying retail and service jobs continue their explosive growth.

What is the cause – effect relationship?

According to the Arizona Technology Council, there continues to be high demand in the high-tech community for high quality engineering, manufacturing and service employees, yet they are hard to find in Arizona even though our college level education system is working hard to meet the need.

The critical factor is that our K-12 system does not connect to this demand. K-12’s time horizon to address this demand is a decade or two while human resources departments need educated workers this year. K-12 boards and leaders live in a non-profit public service world while employers are mostly in the for-profit private sector. School funding comes from an array of property, income and other taxes. Employers pay their taxes with little influence on how schools are funded.

eSATS’ team has striven provide a solution that can transform education to be highly responsive to every student’s needs. Our intent is to home-grow an educated and skilled adult population that itself attracts and grows a huge number of quality jobs within Arizona.

But frankly I believe we are at a time similar to the Lincoln – Douglas debates and Lincoln’s Coopers Union address. Lincoln had so finely clarified the true situation between the South and the North that the nation had finally realized there was no political solution, and their only alternative was war.

Since war is not now an alternative, and the current reform process is not meeting the demand for greatly increase academic performance we must find a better way. There is a single critical linkage between educators and employers. Over the past 200 years, employers have become very effective in adopting emerging technologies of all kinds. If Arizona employers could transfer both the knowledge and the culture of technology driven innovation to our schools it might be just tip the scales toward transformation.

00405Advocacy Demands Clear Message

May 3, 2010

Education Week, March 31, 2010 had two interesting articles. One was on the NAEP scores progress over the years and the other was titled “What Gifted Educators Can Learn From Sarah Palin.

What has sustained Sarah Palin is her ability to put out a very clear message to her base of voters. Her niche is exact and identifiable. Originally gifted education was defined by Lewis Terman, designer of the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, as an I.Q. 140 or more. This resulted in 1%-3% of the students who were the smartest of the smart who had extraordinary needs from the educational system. Over the past 60 years, Witty, Renzulli, and Gardiner expanded the definition to where giftedness was diluted to the point of absurdity. Advocates have become hard-pressed to define the gifted child. As a result, potential supporters – politicians and administrators – are confused since there is no longer a clear definition. It is easy for the public to ignore the gifted. On the other hand, Sarah Palin has articulated a “unique selling proposition” and she sticks to it.

Gifted education has always been a niche issue and will remain so. eLearning for K-12 education is currently a niche issue serving about 3%-5% of learning. But it has the potential to serve all students. The critical issue for advocates is to define the issue in a very clean and concise way to accelerate adoption. Since we are still in the disruptive part of the innovation cycle, we need to hammer hard on one issue:

The effect of eLearning on academic performance.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows NO PROGRESS. As much as educational statisticians like to play with statistical significance to call out “* Significantly different from 2009” there is no EFFECTIVE difference.

Currently 60% of students who are not classified as performing are classified as either achieving or failing to achieve a basic education. Basic education is below the standard needed to thrive in a 21st century world.

The eLearning advocate’s message is can be illustrated by data from eLearning exemplars. Arizona’s Wilson District is one of the oldest, and there are hundreds more across the U.S. Only six years after adopting a complete 21st Century eLearning system for their K-8 students, Wilson had improved their students’ academic performance from last in the state to above average.

A K-12 eLearning system description is complex. Effective implementation requires focus on dozens of issues and long range planning. Advocates must rise above this maze of details and focus a clear “Sarah Palin” type of message. This message must carry the current true-believers while attracting an audience ten times as great. Our best bet for this phase is to sell the potential attainment. For this we need a host of exemplars like Wilson District. You find them for me, and I will do a one pager that distills their academic performance increases into a clear and visual message.