OESIS 2013   Online Education Symposium for Independent SchoolsI was delighted to be able to contribute as a featured presenter at the first annual Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESIS), in Marina del Ray, Los Angeles– and accordingly for full disclosure realize anything I write has a bias: I participated in some early planning conversations about the event with my friend Jeff Bradley, and I am intending to support as best I can future OESIS events.

What was great about the event was its energy and innovative spirit: this was a subset of NAIS and or a typical state association conference meeting, but a subset self-selected to be especially interested in, and for the most part, enthusiastic about the opportunity online and blended learning offers our students– and hence it was a dynamite and dynamic group.

More so than most other events I’ve attended, it was a nice crossover and hybrid of academic leaders–  school-heads, division heads, academic deans– and tech directors, and so important that it was, because conversation and shared understandings between these groups is so important.  Think how often is usually the case that tech directors go to one set of conferences, and return home, meeting up with academic leaders who attended a different conference– and then talk right past each other.

It was also held in a terrific location at the Marriot on the Marina, with a top floor meeting room and roof deck with stunning views, and we were lucky to have excellent weather.

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There was some running conversation I heard here, as I often hear at conferences among the progressive and forward-leaning educators: are we hear to learn whether/why we should adopt these changes and lead this innovation, or how we do so most effectively and efficiently?   But though some complained they heard too much of the former, I was delighted to hear mostly the latter- -and in many cases, they were very grounded, very specific, very applicable.

A wide set of the conference presentations is freely available (behind a sign-in wall, but open to all after very simple registration) at the Educators Collaborative website here.

I’ve already put up here on the blog three posts from sessions I led at the event:

Below I’ve embedded some of the standout sessions from the conference, which offer terrific inspiration, good advice, and food for thought.

Two other sessions I attended were also fascinating and valuable, (though not available on the site): Jenifer Fox’s presentation on the extraordinarily unique, innovative, and student-centered blended learning program she is piloting at Clariden School of Southlake near Dallas, and Dave Ostroff’s valuable and entirely applicable suggestions and steps for doing it yourself, creating your own blended program and not going with an outside service, based on his excellent initiatives leading Parish Virtual at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas.

Mark Milliron kicked off with an, as always with Mark, energetic keynote that offers the promise that increasingly blended learning offers students.

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[graphic from Digital Learning Now]

This post continue a small project here at 21k12 of viewing the coming Common Core Standards through a backwards prism: the testing assessments that will evaluate student and school success at learning and teaching Common Core standards.  These new assessments sit at a junction of topics I’m interested in and working on regularly: integrating technology, next generation and digitally enhanced assessment, computer adaptive assessment, and  performance task assessment.

These new Common Core (CCSS) assessments are the product in part of Secretary Arne Duncan’s call for a new generation of Assessments, Assessment 2.0 he calls it, about which I have written before.   To advance this vision of moving “beyond the bubble,” the US DOE is spending, via Race to the Top funding, more than $300 M in developing new kinds of tests and testing systems, split between two major programs, PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

As the Ed Leadership article by Nancy Doorey reports,

The assessment consortia are drawing on new advances in technology, cognitive science, and measurement as they develop this improved generation of assessments.

They hope these new systems will address concerns about existing state assessments—that many assessments measure skills too narrowly; return results that are “too little, too late” to be useful; and do not adequately assess whether students can apply their skills to solve complex problems, an ability students need to succeed in college, the workplace, and as citizens.

Both tests are administered digitally and online, and will require in most states and districts a massive technological infrastructure improvement to be implemented.   Administering them digitally and online offers many advantages, including the ability to offer adaptive testing (which is currently intended for SB only, not PARCC), and faster results returned to teachers for instructional purposes.

Eight questions worth asking about the the new assessments:

1.  Will they come on-time or be delayed, and will the technology be ready for them?    Although the test design is funded (enormously), the technological infrastructure upgrades are not externally funded, and it remains a very open question whether and from where this funding will come.   If districts are unable to meet the requirements, will the 2014-15 launch date for these digital and online tests be postponed?

Engaging Ed fears they will.

Digital Learning Now, in a recent report embedded below, pleads with the consortia: Don’t Delay.

Don’t phase in. With two years left to prepare, the combination of a long test window and supporting outdated operating systems allows almost all schools to support online testing now. Going further to support paper-and-pencil testing in and past 2015 is unnecessary, expensive, and reduces comparability.

It is also is unwise for districts to seek to compromise by the use of less than 2:1 ratios of computers to students.    Imagine the schools which are trying to use current computer labs to assess their students– it will take 12 disruptive weeks to roll all students through the labs, and the labs themselves won’t be available for any other learning during that time. (more…)

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For those of who spend a lot of our time writing and speaking about our vision of 21st century, technology integrated and accelerated learning, there is great value in finding and sharing videos which better display these practices in action.

This new video from edutopia is far from perfect– the snippets of classroom activity are too brief, and confusingly, often show students not using technology.   (Don’t get me wrong: effective tech integration never should mean or entail constant use of tech.   It is just that this video in entitled, an introduction to technology integration.)

But the contributing talking heads are a brilliant trio, and represent well the breadth of the power of tech integration– a breadth that is sometimes seen as ultimately containing a contradiction or at least a problematic internal tension, but which I still idealistically hope can be reconciled.

That breadth and/or contradiction is that Sal Khan on the one hand and MaryBeth Hertz and Adam Bellow on the other.

Is tech to be used for personalizing learning for mastery by the use of individualized, self-paced, automated lesson modules that can often indeed strengthen skill mastery, but are canned, boxed in, and somewhat dispiriting to human spirit, lacking in opportunities for exploration, experimentation, collaboration and play?

Or, is to be used as a web 2.0 tool: an open door to the world of online sharing, research, and production, deliberately out of any box and unconstrained by any commercial or even open source “product” but intended to be for expressing oneself, pursuing one’s passion, connecting to real people in real places beyond our immediate experience and partaking in the joy of connection and common cause and having an impact on the wider world?

This video seems to seek to unite, rather than divide, these two approaches.  Let us hope this reconciliation can and will be done effectively, wisely, and powerfully for the learning of all our students.

Home   Assess4ed.net-193758

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This month I’ve been in conversation with an outstanding school superintendent preparing his district for PARCC assessments.   As many understand, PARCC (and its counterpart Smarter Balanced), requires districts prepare their schools with technology sufficient for their student to take what will be entirely online, computer based high stakes tests.

“Of course,” he explained to me, “we need to become PARCC-ready.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg.   If we are going to invest in these substantial, even enormous technology upgrades, it would be foolish not to use this new technology in ways beyond the new tests.

“PARCC tech upgrades give us an opportunity to transform our schools to places of 21st century, student-centered– and this is an opportunity not be wasted.”

In addition, he added, preparing students for success on PARCC is not just a matter of ensuring the tech is there for them to take the test– it needs to be there and used in ways in which students develop the comfort and confidence.

This is a tremendous opportunity, and we can only hope that every superintendent recognizes as well as this one has the chance being presented to leverage an externally imposed new test and new test format– even when that new test perhaps is in and of itself unwelcome– to transform the equation of classroom learning toward 21st century, student-centered, technology in the hands of students programs.

This has been also recognized recently in a valuable new white paper from SETDA, State Educational Technology Directors Association, which I’ve embedded below.

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The report has many important messages.  First, districts must carefully focus and determine their current technology’s capacity for supporting the new tests.

While there are compelling advantages to a technology-­‐based assessment system as compared to current paper-­‐ and pencil-­‐based approaches, schools and districts will need to validate their technology readiness for 2014-­‐15.

Validation for technology readiness is important even for states and districts currently administering tests online, as these Common Core assessments are being designed to move beyond multiple-­‐choice questions to technology-­‐enhanced items to elicit the higher order knowledge, skills, and abilities of students.

An article last spring in THE, Technology Challenges and the Move to Online Assessments,  also explored these issues.

The 2014-15 school year is a long way off, isn’t it? That depends on your perspective. If you are an eighth-grader, Friday night is a long way off, but if you are a technology leader in a school district or a state, the 2014-15 school year may be here all too soon.

Critically, the SETDA report insists that this PARCC/Smarter Balanced minimum specs, must not be the only factor to be considered when these enormous investments are made.    (more…)

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T-shirt pinned to bulletin board in Burlington High School’s student help desk room.

I’m flying back to Tucson today after three great days visiting schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, visits all tied to a theme of how we are and how we can better deploy devices, laptops and tablets, in K-12 learning.

Let me share a few moments from today’s visits, both brief but illuminating and inspiring.

Liz Davis kindly welcomed me to Belmont Hill School at 930 this morning.   We toured campus and discussed their current iPad deployment, happening this year widely for 7th and 8th graders and more selectively at the high school.

We began with a brief chat with Rick Melvoin, Head of School, and when I congratulated him on the exciting new initiative, he said it seems that everyone is talking about it right now.  I asked– talking about iPads?– and he said no, about how to bring and advance innovation in our schools, which have so many traditional elements.  I agreed, of course, saying we’ve got to strive to identify, preserve, and perpetuate the core values of our organization even as we aggressively stimulate progress to maintain alignment with changing times.

The Power of Educational Technology  Two Interactive iPad Apps that Work!-125854

After leaving Rick, Liz told me that one fascinating aspect of the iPad initiative is that many more students are now bringing their own devices to school, their laptops and their personal iPads.  It was permitted before, but not widespread; even though there was no particular message or encouragement this year to BYO, the arrival and new norm of iPads present in the classroom seems to have somehow, in a sense, shifted the default, you might say, and now they are far more abundant and adding value to student learning.

She was clear that this it is not universally the case: there are still many students not using their devices all the time, and there are classes without any device use– and that is OK: it is a tool that you use according the task at hand: sometimes it is advantageous and so employed, and sometimes not.

Much of their PD around this initiative is internally provided, which is so valuable: tomorrow they are having a 40 minute faculty meeting smackdown, with 8 teachers presenting for five minutes each on the ways they are using the iPads to advance learning.

images (2)Two tools she said they are finding most valuable for the iPad are Nearpod and Socrative– be sure to read her blog post here about these tools and how they are using them.  To quote her on Nearpod:

images (3)Nearpod allows the teacher to control what students see on their iPad.Teachers can upload any PDF file and Nearpod separates each page into a slide. Students sign into a “room” and the teacher takes control of the slides that each student sees. If that wasn’t cool enough, Nearpod also allows you to intersperse different types of interactive questions throughout the presentation to check for understanding. I tried this recently with a grammar lesson and it was great. I was able to see who was getting the concepts and who wasn’t immediately.

As I was leaving, Liz was working with a group of 7th graders as they finalized an iBook they were creating of family stories on their iPads.   Today’s task was taking a podcast they had prepared on their Macbooks, emailing it to themselves so they could download it onto their iPads, determining the proper pathway from email attachment through iMovie to their Photobooth from which they could then insert the podcast into their iBooks.  Nice.

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Patrick and Andy at BHS

Then I raced over to Burlington High School to visit with my good friend Patrick Larkin, who was until recently Principal of BHS and is now Assistant Superintendent for C& I for the district.   As many readers probably know, Patrick developed and directed the implementation of iPads 1-1 at that high school last year, and earned national honors as a Digital Principal of the Year from NASSP last year. (more…)

livingstonAlthough I tend to write primarily here about current books and publications, I’m also spending a lot of time this year doing “deeper dives” in two fields: Best practices in 1-1 laptop programs and in Assessment.     Expect to see a few posts and commentaries here in coming weeks and months about books and articles from the past on these topics.

Livingston’s book was published by ISTE in 2006, and, to this reader’s eyes, continues to be a valuable resource and guide for schools undertaking 1-1 laptop initiatives– as, regular readers here know, I think should be occurring at every school.

The importance of this cause was reiterated for me recently in an inspiring post by my friend George Couros:

If you look around at most conferences, every teacher has some device that they use, whether it is a computer, tablet, or smartphone.  Go into the classroom though, and you will be lucky if you see that as the norm.

1:1 schools get so much attention because they are so unique, but should they be?  Shouldn’t that be the norm for our kids as it is outside of our world?  If you really think of it, doesn’t it seem strange that we are nowhere near the point where every kid having a device in school is just the norm?

Why?

Livingston reports that when legendary MIT researcher and programmer Seymour Papert was asked by the Maine Governor about the potential impact of lowering student to computer ratios to 3-1 or 2-1,  he responded, “in effect, nothing much.  ‘It only turns magic when it’s 1-1.‘”

Eleven takeaways and tips from Livingston:

1.  One of the valuable ways we can view and understand laptops and mobile devices in the classroom is as “digital assistants.”   This metaphor conveys that these are more than tools; the metaphor begins with the user as the operator, the mover and shaker, and the tool as strengthening the capacity of that operator.

the importance and usefulness of laptop computers for learning goes far beyond the single purpose implied by those who would call them “just a tool.”

It’s a device which facilitates a student’s thinking, analyzing, presenting, writing, reading, researching, revising, communicating, questioning, proposing, creating, surmising and publishing. (more…)

Principals and School-Leaders: The quality of your leadership makes a big difference in the success of a 1-1 student computer implementation, and these implementations, when well done, make a big difference to your students’ learning success, measured both by narrow academic achievement and a broader array of measures.

For the 4 Key Steps for Effective School Leadership in 1-1 computer programs, scroll down to the bottom section with the large heading: The Importance of School Leadership.

These are among the conclusions of a recently released report from Project Red, which can be found on its website, and in a new ISTE publication by the Project Red principals, Revolutionizing Education through Technology   The Project RED Roadmap for Transformation (which is happily available for free download: click here for the pdf).   (In addition the summaries on the website and the ISTE book, there is also a fuller research report which I have not reviewed, priced at $50.)

Regular readers know that I am an enthusiast for connecting our students to and empowering them with the wider world of information and networked collaboration and creativity that is available today, and essential to tomorrow, and I have to say I would be in favor of this even if there were not compelling evidence of improved learning (when defined narrowly by test scores).   But if there is quality evidence for improved learning, I’ll take it and use it to advance the cause.

Project Red explains the substance of their research this way:

In 2010, Project RED conducted the first large-scale national study to identify and prioritize the factors that make some U.S. K-12 technology implementations perform dramatically better than others.

Our research project had unprecedented scope, breadth, and depth:

  • 997 schools, representative of the U.S. school universe, and 49 states and the District of Columbia
  • 11 diverse education success measures

Let me share first some of the following key elements of their research findings with short commentary, before focusing more closely on the role of school leadership:

  • the financial analysis provided for cost-neutral, or cost-advantageous, 1-1 programs,
  • the education success measures used,
  • the key implementation factors for success, and
  • the academic achievement improvement. (more…)
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