Archives for category: Technology, Computers

In a new report from the National Education Policy Center, Professor Noel Enyedy urges school leaders to be cautious in accepting claims that technology can “personalize instruction” or lead to transformational changes. The full report can be found here.

 

The use of computers in the classroom – or even instead of classrooms – has generated renewed enthusiasm in influential circles. Advocates of significantly advancing the practice often refer to greater reliance on computer-based learning as “Personalized Instruction.”

 

Yet while its potential merits thoughtful small-scale adoption, there is little evidence that marrying digital technology to education has changed schooling for the better, according to a new policy brief published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

 

The reasons for such lackluster results are many, according to the report’s author, Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles. Chief among them is the absence of a clear model for what actually constitutes “Personalized Instruction”; advocates of the practice apply the term to a wide range of approaches to teaching that rely heavily on online or other digital resources.

 

“Computers are now commonplace in the classroom, but teaching practices often look similar, as do learning outcomes,” Enyedy writes in his policy brief, Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning. The brief is published today by the NEPC, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

 

“After more than 30 years, Personalized Instruction is still producing incremental change,” Enyedy writes. Large-scale studies, including meta-analyses, of Personalized Instruction programs “show mixed results ranging from modest impacts to no impact.”

 

Additionally, Enyedy points out, the highest potential for benefits appears to reside principally with so-called blended instruction programs, which make use of traditional classroom teaching in close alignment with elements that might be delivered via computer, including online. Blended learning done well, he notes, is more expensive than traditional education – undermining the frequent claim that computerized instruction can help achieve significant fiscal savings.

 

In light of the growing interest – yet lack of evidence to support – sweeping changes in schooling that would rely on digital media, Enyedy offers a series of recommendations for policymakers and researchers:

 

While continuing to invest in technology, policymakers should do so incrementally. They should view skeptically claims and promotion of computerized learning that oversteps what can be concluded from available research evidence.
Policymakers and researchers should clearly distinguish among the key features of technologies being used in education so that research and discussions can revolve around shared ideas and concretely defined practices.
Much more research is needed in the K-12 education context, because the evidence primarily cited is extrapolated from research involving undergraduate students and in the professions, “where developmental and motivational factors differ,” Enyedy observes.
Policymakers should encourage developers of educational technologies to work with researchers and teachers in testing and validating particular software and hardware tools: “We cannot trust market forces alone to sort out which systems are effective.”
When investing in technology to be used in education, school administrators must ensure that there is “substantial professional development for teachers” to go with it.
Everyone involved with schools must understand that Personalized Instruction is just one of several models for using computers in the classroom, and all need to be open to considering alternative approaches to making greater use of technology in the learning process.

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the technology sector circling the schools, giving generously to elected officials, hyping the wonders of computers instead of teachers (so much cheaper, and computers never need a pension), and gently persuading legislatures to add online courses as graduation requirements. Consider the federally-funded tests for Common Core: all online, all requiring a massive investment in equipment, bandwidth and support services. The Golden Fleece: replacing teachers with computers.

 

Laura Chapman writes:

 

 

 

Latest Bamboozlers are the “on-line only” promoters of “learning,” no need for teachers.

 

In a press release dated February, 3, 2014 KnowledgeWorks and The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) announced their shared agenda for federal policies that would change “our entire K-12 education system” to fit a student-centered learning environment with demonstrations of competency, free of traditional notions of schools, teachers, and student learning.

 

The policy report addressed to federal officials calls for the status quo on requiring students to meet college-and career-ready standards, but these standards would be aligned with specific competencies mapped into the idea of optimum trajectories for learning that will lead to graduation. Individual students would be tracked on the “pace” of their mastery through the use of on-line and “real-time” data. The data for each student is supposed to inform the instruction, supports, and interventions needed by each student in order to graduate.

 

This vision requires competency-based interpretations of the college-and career-ready standards and measures of those competencies. It requires a recommendation system (data-driven guide) for prioritizing required learning and ensuring continuous improvement in learning until graduation.

 

The vision calls for federal funding to states and districts for developing “personalized learning pathways” (PLPs) for students along with the infrastructure needed to produce real-time data for just-in-time recommendations for the interventions and supports needed to move students to college and career readiness.

 

The system in intended to build reports on the progress of individual students relative to mastery, or a high level of competency, for the college and career readiness standards.

 

In addition to keeping individuals “on-pace” in demonstrating standards-aligned competencies, this entire system is envisioned as offering “useful information for accountability, better teaching and learning, and measures of quality in education.”

 

In effect, programmed instruction is the solution for securing student compliance with the Common Core State Standards, assuring their entry into college and a career, with “instructional designers and programmers” the surrogates for teachers. Teachers are not needed because the out-of-sight designers and programmers build the recommendation systems for needed “interventions,” also known as “playlists.”

 

This is a souped-up version of vintage 1950s programmed instruction amplified in scope and detail by technology–on-line playlists and monitors of PLPs–personal learning plans–available anytime.

 

In fact, students get one-size-fits education, at the rate they can manage. The rate learning is optimized by computers programmed to lead students to and from the needed playlists of activities (e.g., subroutines that function as reviews, simple re-teaching, new warm-ups for the main learning event or subsets of methods for presenting the same concept). The student does what the computer says and the computer decides if and when mastery or some other criterion for competence has been achieved.

 

The selling framework is for “personalized, competency-based student-centered learning in a de-institutionalized environment.

 

Out of view are scenarios where all education is offered by “learning agents” who broker educational services offered by a mix of for-profit and non-profit providers. Token public schools remain in the mix, but are radically reduced in number and the loss becomes a self-fulling prophesy justifying radical cuts in state support. Profit seekers, together with volunteers and “20-year commitments from foundations” provide for “students in need. This is one of several scenarios from KnowledgWorks.

 

 

The quest for federal funds is found here at http://knowledgeworks.org/building-capacity-systems-change-federal-policy-framework-competency-education#sthash.Nr0OpfWq.dpuf

 

See more at the CompetencyWorks website http://bit.ly/cwk12fedpolicy

Andrea Gabor, professor of journalism at Baruch College in New York City, recently interviewed Stuart Maguder, an architect in Los Angeles who serves on the Bond Oversight Committee of the school district. He was unusually outspoken in his criticism of John Deasy’s deal to spend construction bond money on IPads for all. For his criticism, he was briefly ousted from his unpaid position, then restored after a public outcry. He is critical of both Deasy and the teachers’ union, finding them both intransigent.

Gabor, an expert on the work of W. Edwards Deming, observed:

“As Magruder spoke of Deasy defeat and the union’s intransigence, I was struck by an irony: My principle purpose in traveling to Los Angeles was to attend the annual conference of the Deming Institute, which was founded in order to continue to work of W. Edwards Deming, the management guru whose ideas about systems thinking and collaborative improvement–informed by statistical theory–helped turn around struggling American industries in the 1980s.

“The unraveling in Los Angeles is just the latest example of education reformers who have yet to absorb the most valuable management lessons of the last half century–achieving lasting institutional change and improvement involves teamwork, collaboration among all the constituencies in an organization, and systems thinking. None of which have been on display in Los Angeles.”

Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters (and a dear friend), is voting YES on Proposition 3 in New York, the “Smart Schools Bond Act.”

 

I am voting no. I expect that the bulk of the money will be used to buy the devices and technology needed for Common Core testing. Leonie and I agree that bond money should not be used to buy devices that have a useful life of 3-4 years.

 

Leonie says that districts will be able to decide how they want to use the money. She believes New York City will use most of the money to build new schools and replace “temporary” trailers.

 

New York City schools, she points out, are badly overcrowded, and this new money would provide an opportunity to increase capacity and reduce class sizes.

 

She writes:

 

Each school district can use the revenue in the following ways:

 

· Purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet.
· Constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.
· Installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

 

While I and many other education advocates including Diane Ravitch are fervently opposed to using any bond revenue for the purchase of devices like laptops or tablets that have a useful lifetime of only a few years, as the interest on the bond act is repaid over twenty or thirty years, it is clear that districts will have the choice of how to use these funds and have a broad array of options.

 

New York City is due to receive about $780 million if Proposition 3 is approved. The Department of Education’s five year capital plan makes it clear that if the bond act passes, $490 million of city funds previously directed toward technology would now be diverted toward building more schools to alleviate overcrowding for smaller classes, creating 4,900 more seats, and the rest toward creating 2,100 seats for pre-kindergarten.

 

As the analysis in our report Space Crunch makes clear, the city’s school capital plan is badly underfunded as is. Though it will includes less than 40,000 additional seats if the Bond Act is approved – and even fewer if it isn’t – the real need is at least 100,000 seats, given existing overcrowding and projections of increased enrollment over the next five to ten years.

 

So, voters in New York. You can vote “yes,” as Leonie Haimson advises, if you believe that the money will be spent to add new classrooms and reduce class size. Or you can vote no, as I will, if you believe the money will end up paying for iPads, tablets, and other technology that will be obsolete long before the bonds are paid off. If the measure passes, I hope that Leonie is right.

In one of his first actions as
Superintendent of the Los Angeles public schools, Ramon Cortines said that money in a construction bond should not be used to pay for iPads.

Superintendent John Deasy often said that providing an iPad to every student was a civil rights issue.

Apparently Cortines believes that using money intended to renovate schools and provide children with a safe and wholesome climate is even more compelling.

“Newly installed Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon Cortines said he opposes using construction bond money to pay for curriculum on student computers, raising new questions about the future of the system’s controversial $1.3-billion technology project.

“Using voter-approved bonds for curriculum rather than building and repairing schools has been a contentious element in the effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with a computer. Critics and some officials harbor lingering concerns about its legality and wisdom, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Times.

“Cortines left no doubt about where he stands.

“I don’t believe the curriculum should be paid for with bond funds, period,” he said in an interview.”

While tech entrepreneurs are rubbing their hands together gleefully about the dawn of the new age of technology in the classroom, Clay Shirkey of New York University has resolved to ban all electronic devices from his classes about the new media. Why? Students could not pay attention or learn what he was teaching because they were so distracted by the messages on their cellphones, laptops, tablets, etc.

Clay Shirkey is not just any technology professor. He is one of the leaders in the study of new techologies and social media.

He writes:

“This is all just the research on multi-tasking as a stable mental phenomenon. Laptops, tablets and phones — the devices on which the struggle between focus and distraction is played out daily — are making the problem progressively worse. Any designer of software as a service has an incentive to be as ingratiating as they can be, in order to compete with other such services. “Look what a good job I’m doing! Look how much value I’m delivering!”

“This problem is especially acute with social media, because on top of the general incentive for any service to be verbose about its value, social information is immediately and emotionally engaging. Both the form and the content of a Facebook update are almost irresistibly distracting, especially compared with the hard slog of coursework. (“Your former lover tagged a photo you are in” vs. “The Crimean War was the first conflict significantly affected by use of the telegraph.” Spot the difference?)

“Worse, the designers of operating systems have every incentive to be arms dealers to the social media firms. Beeps and pings and pop-ups and icons, contemporary interfaces provide an extraordinary array of attention-getting devices, emphasis on “getting.” Humans are incapable of ignoring surprising new information in our visual field, an effect that is strongest when the visual cue is slightly above and beside the area we’re focusing on. (Does that sound like the upper-right corner of a screen near you?)

“The form and content of a Facebook update may be almost irresistible, but when combined with a visual alert in your immediate peripheral vision, it is—really, actually, biologically—impossible to resist. Our visual and emotional systems are faster and more powerful than our intellect; we are given to automatic responses when either system receives stimulus, much less both. Asking a student to stay focused while she has alerts on is like asking a chess player to concentrate while rapping their knuckles with a ruler at unpredictable intervals.”

Shirkey realized he had to choose between teaching and watching his students interact with their devices. He chose to teach.

Kenneth Chang, who writes about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects realized that his child in a Jersey City charter school would be taking the Common Core test called PARCC this year. He noted that while 42 states have signed on for Common Core, the federally-funded testing has “fractured.”

He writes:

“Supposedly, the economies of scale were to lead to better tests at lower costs, and initially, almost all states signed up with one of two federally financed organizations developing Common Core tests: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or Parcc, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. (Some states belonged to both groups.)

“Parcc has dwindled to 12 states plus the District of Columbia. New York, a member of Parcc, will continue to use its own Common Core-inspired test. Smarter Balanced has 21 states participating, but four members will not use the tests, at least not this school year. A survey by Education Week found that less than half of public school students would take either test this year.”

Nonetheless, millions of students will take one of them this spring.

Chang took a practice version of PARCC, the test chosen by New Jersey.

He writes:

“In many ways, it is a better test than the fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice exams of my youth. With a computer-based test, the questions can be more complicated but still easily graded. Both consortiums also offer paper versions for the time being, because not all schools have enough computers and Internet connectivity.

“Some questions require several calculations to come up with the answer, testing a deeper level of understanding. For example: “Hayley has 272 beads. She buys 38 more beads. She will use 89 beads to make bracelets and the rest to make necklaces. She will use 9 beads for each necklace. What is the greatest number of necklaces Hayley can make?”

This is a multi-step problem but not that difficult (but then, I have a Ph.D.). I will wait to hear from fourth grade teachers whether it is a good question.

What struck me about Chang’s comment was that he said the PARCC test was better than “the fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice exams” of his youth. As a student in the 1950s, I never took multiple-choice tests. Why does he assume that is the natural order of things? Did he think about the cost to his charter chain of the technology to administer the tests? Did he wonder who (or what) would grade any written answers? Does he know that his daughter will get a grade but the teacher will not be allowed to see her answers on the test and will get no diagnostic information from the test to help her? What is the value of the test if the teacher learns nothing from it other than a score? Is the grade all the father expects from this expensive investment? Did it occur to him that the real purpose of the test is to derive data to evaluate the teacher, not to provide information to help his daughter?

Hannah Oh, of State Budget Solutions, wonders whether states and districts can afford the required technology.

Question: why should all tests be taken online? Whose idea was that? Why shouldn’t the federal government pay for the new technology? Why the windfall for the tech industry?

Franziska Raeber describes how parents in Florida are organizing resistance to online testing of children in K-2. Please be aware that the purpose of online testing is to enrich the testing industry and tech corporations. The best tests are written and evaluated by teachers, who know what they taught and can use the tests for instant feedback, not to rank students, but to help them. This is true not just in K-2, but throughout education, whether K-12 or higher education.

Raeber writes:

“We are the parents of Kindergartners and 2nd graders. After Susan Bowles from our school district (Alachua County FL) made national headlines by refusing to administer a computerized test, we felt it was time to get our voices as parents heard.
The whole process has been a truly eye opening experience. We never realized how excessive testing is and how much miscommunication is happening. During a town hall meeting teachers brought examples of tests and result print outs to the meeting. Shocking for us all.

“On September 8 we launched a petition (Say NO to computer testing in K-2nd grades) and we have collected over 390 signatures so far, but we don’t want to stop. We have been actively lobbing newspapers, spoke out at town meetings, talked and contacted legislators, PTAs (district as well as state). We have also launched a FB page and trying to get our message out. We are now reaching out to other similar minded groups here in FL, but also within the United States as we believe this problem is not a local issue, but is and should be a national concern.

“When we asked the school-board representatives and administrators what we should do and how to keep this discussion going the message was clear: Speak up! Write letters, emails, call legislators and sign/launch petitions.

“And that is exactly what we are doing, we parents are tired of sending our kids to schools, where great teachers become test facilitators and computer technicians. We want our kids to have fun learning. We strongly believe that in early years good experiences with school will lay the foundation for a life long interest in education, learning and personal growth.

“We have now launched a petition and invite you to sign it.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/say-no-to-computer-testing?source=c.em.cp&r_by=11297164

“We have launched a Facebook page and are posting articles/resources to it as we come across.
https://www.facebook.com/Notocomputertesting”

Los Angeles’ school politics is beginning to sound like a soap opera. Tune in next week to see if long-suffering Superintendent John Deasy, much admired by billionaire Eli Broad, survives yet another unjust attack at the hands of the brutes who disapprove of the $1.3 billion iPad fiasco, the bungled computer mess, the other snafus unjustly laid at the feet of a man guilty only of caring too much. Forget the emails showing possible collusion between Deasy and Apple, Deasy and Pearson. What matters details like this when a great man is in our midst, loved and appreciated most by those too rich to patronize the schools he oversees. Never forget: every organization funded by Bill Gates adores this man: think Educators 4 Excellence; think United Way of Los Angeles.

It was not enough that the LA Times’ editorial writer Karin Klein paid him tribute and chastised the LAUSD for seeking to hold him accountable: how dare they! Now her boss Jim Newton weighs in with another full-throated defense of the Indispensable Man. Okay, says Newton, so his handling of the $1.3 billion deal for the iPads was “admittedly sloppy.” Well, “sloppy” is one way to characterize the friendly negotiations between Deasy and Apple. Others might have less kindly words. Like, why did LA have to buy an obsolete model at a higher than retail price? Why did Deasy think that buying iPads mattered more than repairing schools, which the voters wanted in the first place? What part of 25-year construction bond approved by the electorate did Deasy misunderstand?

Do read Jim Newton’s apologia for Deasy. All of his errors on blamed on the Board, for daring to expect accountability, and on the union for…. for being the union, always a ready scapegoat for the editorial board of the L.A. Times, even for matters in which the u ion had no role.

Stay tuned. This is the soap opera that ends in tragedy or never ends at all.

But also read this letter to the editor, which I post in full, in case it gets deleted:

Offred Gillead on September 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am said:
We have officially entered into a super bizzaro, gothic world with Jim Newton.

With his Emily Bronte opening: “There’s a storm cloud gathering over Los Angeles politics these days” before moving into gaunt, haunted purple poignancy, “It’s taking a toll on the superintendent. I visited him in his office last week…he looked drawn. Already slight, he’s lost weight.”

Deasy’s rich, cultish supporters, have always given us a variation of THE MARTYRDOM OF JOHN DEASY. I tingle over Newton’s words like “have been dragged across these coals” and “put through the local grinder”.

Okay. I get it.

I’m really reading 50 SHADES OF DEASY, a story that makes Deasy’s backers swoon.

Newton says, “Deasy has made matters worse by some admittedly sloppy handling of a deal intended to put iPads in the hands of students.” Really? “Admittedly?” When did Deasy EVER admit to this?

Newton tells us, “So, what’s not to like? By his own admission, Deasy can be bullheaded and impatient.”

Ana Steele could understand that. She might say, like Newton, “No one is suggesting he did anything for personal gain, but his trademark impatience may have left him…vulnerable.”

Sensitive and obsessively-driven! Like Moses! Dr. Frankenstein! Ahab! Hamlet! Dr. Strangelove!

Deasy confides, “‘I could have done a thousand things better,’ he conceded during our conversation.”

Really? How about naming ONE thing, Doc?

In Deasy’s perverse brain, his biggest fault is that he CARES TOO MUCH. He is TOO MUCH of a perfectionist. His only goal is to lift children out of poverty and has to put up with hundreds who stand in his way.

“He’s quick to correct and sometimes short-tempered….Even Deasy’s critics acknowledge that he is a powerful intellect and a determined education reformer.”

Karl Rove also breathlessly informed us that George Bush was the smartest person he ever met and, famously, “The Decider”.

I don’t know what Christian Grey non-disclosure contract might have gotten signed between the two, but the Op-Ed hints: “But here’s the perversity of punishing Deasy for aggressiveness…”

Sizzle!

Do we really need to read the whole trilogy to find out where this story ends? I hope the BOE has the good taste to call this series quits.

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