Archives for category: Technology, Computers

Big data will open the way to the future of education, says
the CEO of Knewton.


The company is piloting its products at Arizona
State University. Whatever we used to call education will cease to
exist. Big data will change everything.


“The so-called Big Data movement, which has been largely co-opted by the for-profit
education industry, will serve as “a portal to fundamental change
in how education research happens, how learning is measured, and
the way various credentials are measured and integrated into hiring
markets,” says Mitchell Stevens, an associate professor of
education at Stanford University. “Who is at the table making
decisions about these things,” he says, “is also up for grabs.”


Want to know the future? Watch Knewton: “Big Data stands to play an
increasingly prominent role in the way college will work in the
future. The Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University
has been demonstrating the effectiveness of autonomous teaching
software for years. Major educational publishers such as Pearson,
McGraw-Hill, Wiley & Sons and Cengage Learning have long
been transposing their textbook content on to dynamic online
platforms that are equipped to collect data from students that are
interacting with it. Huge infrastructural software vendors such as
Blackboard and Ellucian have invested in analytics tools that aim
to predict student success based on data logged by their client
universities’ enterprise software systems. And the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation has marshaled its outsize influence in
higher education to promote the use of data to measure and improve
student learning outcomes, both online and in traditional
classrooms. “But of all the players looking to ride the data wave
into higher education, Knewton stands out.”


Read more:

Inside Higher Ed

The Los Angeles school district is making short-term and long-term decisions that are fiscally and educationally irresponsible. Having committed to spend $1 billion to give an iPad for Common Core testing to every student and staff member, the district is short changing or eliminating essential programs.

The money for the iPads is mostly from a bond issue intended for construction and facilities. Consequently, there is not enough money for necessary repairs.

As the previous post showed, the libraries in half the district’s elementary and middle schools are closed due to budget cuts.

A reader comments about the failure to plan ahead:

“The closure of libraries comes on the heels of the “Repairs not iPads” facebook page detailing the fiscal priorities of LAUSD.

“There are 55,000 outstanding repair orders at present, school libraries are shut down all over the city, and the district’s proposed arts plan suggests increasing “arts integration” as a cost savings measure instead of bringing back the hundreds of arts specialists let go over the last few years.

“All this while, Deasy still maintains that all students will receive their own device.

“While we now know that superintendents like Deasy believe in the “corporate-style” of education, the one gaping hole in this plan is that corporations want to stay solvent and make decisions that will ensure present and future financial viability. This is the one missing element in Deasy’s iPad project……no plan to pay for it beyond the first few years.

“When asked, district officials provide answers like “we just can’t not do this”(Bernadette Lucas), “this is the cost of doing business in the 21st century” (Board member Tamar Galatzan) and “I can’t speak to that”(project leader Ron Chandler).

“Any business considers what it will take to stay in business, but not LAUSD. The bond funds will be gone, so the only other source of income is the general fund.

“Is the State of California going to bail out LAUSD? They have already demonstrated that they can’t or won’t even provide the basic needed services, like nurses, counselors, libraries, working bathrooms and water fountains, siesmic safety, etc., etc.????

“The problem is that Deasy won’t be around to be held accountable.

“But, we, the citizens of Los Angeles will be left with a totally bankrupt school system and no way to put the pieces back together.”

Jonathan Pelto reports that Connecticut districts are spending lavishly on Google Chromebooks, while Google admits it is data mining to promote advertising and sales.

Google to Connecticut: Thank you!

David Lyell–a classroom teacher and UTLA officer– here describes the ongoing iPad fiasco in Los Angeles.

Why did the district commit to spend $1 billion on iPads? To test the Common Core.

Are tests more valuable to students than smaller classes, experienced teachers, and the arts, all of which are being sacrificed for iPads?

Was the Pearson content reviewed?

Who is investigating how decisions were made?

Why, the board. No, not the board. The Inspector General. Does he report to those who made the decision he is investigating?

He writes:

“The district only reluctantly admitted to paying for a three-year software license before it had even actually seen what it was purchasing (L.A. Times:

“It was also recently revealed that some staff members were given free iPads a year before the board voted for Phase I of this project, at a pitch meeting by software peddler Pearson. (KPCC:

“So, who’s investigating? LAUSD’s Office of the Inspector General. In other words, when possible impropriety arises, the district has authority to investigate itself.

“As if all of this isn’t alarming enough, LAUSD announced this past week that the only committee charged with overseeing the iPad rollout is set to be disbanded. (LATimes:”

Legislation was introduced to prohibit school officials from using construction bond funds for the purchase of technology. The bill is a response to Los Angeles’ officials’ taking money from a bond issue approved by voters for facilities to purchase iPads, which will be obsolete in 2-4 years.

Two Los Angeles teachers critical of the decision by Los Angeles school leaders to use construction funds to buy iPads have created a Facebook page that has gone viral.

The teachers wanted the public to see that their schools are in dire need of repair.

“The photos are unmistakable: a rat dropping on a school desk, an ant-filled water fountain, overflowing trash cans and a cockroach in a classroom. All are images posted on a social-media site of what some claim are “overdue repairs.”

Launched by two Los Angeles teachers, the “Repairs, Not iPads” Facebook page lists unflattering photos intended to embarrass the Los Angeles Unified School District and raise questions about its $1 billion iPad program, the cornerstone of Superintendent John Deasy’s agenda…Included are shots of what is said to be unsafe electrical wiring at South L.A.’s Santee High School and a boarded-up urinal at Beverlywood’s Hamilton High School.

“The public doesn’t expect Third World standards for their schools,” said teacher Matthew Kogan, 52, who created the Facebook page. “They should know where their taxpayer money is going and see that these schools are neglected.”

Superintendent John Deasy has announced that he would spend up to $1 billion for iPads and bandwidth.

A significant proportion of the funding will be drawn from a bond issue approved by voters for construction and repair of school facilities.

Meanwhile, the iPad issue has become a perfect storm of incompetence, lack of planning, and administrative arrogance.

Pearson refuses to share with the members of the school board the curriculum that it has created for the iPads. Not even Monica Ratliff, an experienced teacher is allowed to review the curriculum. Other districts have purchased iPads or tablets that are not pre-loaded with a specific curriculum, but can be used to access a variety of applications.

In a related story, district officials admitted that they never compiled an inventory of existing iPads and computers when they made the bulk purchase from Apple for every student and staff member. Consequently, some schools will receive hundreds of excess iPads. Good for Apple, dumb for the district, especially for a district that is in dire need of funds to improve facilities.

Deasy claims that giving every student an iPad is a matter of civil rights.

Someone might tell him that when children go to a school that is marked by neglect, roaches, and physical deterioration, it sends them a message that society doesn’t care about them.

From a reader:

“FYI. Tennessee computers across entire state crashed on second day of writing test. Attached is letter from admin of White Station High School in Memphis. Thought you’d be interested:

White Station High School
February 4, 2014

Dear Parents,

We started our state writing assessments yesterday. Everything flowed smoothly. Today the online portal crashed statewide. As a result, today’s testing had to be stopped and no juniors scheduled for testing today were able to complete testing. We have been told there can be no testing done tomorrow either. We hope to resume testing on Thursday. Students who were originally supposed to test today will test Monday, February 10, 2014 and students who were supposed to test tomorrow will test Tuesday, February 11, 2014. We will keep you posted related to any other possible changes.

Thanks so much for your patience with us. We planned this one down to the smallest detail and then technology failed us. It is frustrating but we will regroup and make it work. Thanks again.


Carrye Holland
White Station High School”

An early version of the PARCC common Core tests have been released, and bloggers are underwhelmed.

Chris Cerone thinks they look more or less like the same old standardized tests, but way more expensive.

Blogger Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters wrote:

“They just released computer based sample PARCC items.

Go directly to the test items in grades 3-5, grades 6-8 and high school.

Last night I looked at the sample HS ELA questions and got such a headache! I couldn’t answer the second question, glanced at others, and then quit.

It was based upon a very difficult poem.”

At the end of the day, how many billions of dollars will be spent for new computers, new bandwidth, and professional development? How many arts programs will be eliminated, how many social workers, guidance counselors, and librarians laid off?

And will we wonder if this vast new expenditure was worth it?

Los Angeles, which was teaching the nation what not to do with technology, is getting a new deal from Apple for its iPads.

Apple will cut the price.

Apple will sell L.A. new iPads instead of obsolete models.

The iPads will not be loaded with pre-set Pearson curriculum.

Howard Blume of the LA Times writes:

“The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay substantially less for thousands of iPads under the latest deal with Apple. The cost of the tablets that will be used on new state tests will be about $200 less per device, although the computers won’t include curriculum.
The revised price will be $504, compared to $699 for the iPads with curriculum. With taxes and other fees, the full cost of the more fully equipped devices rises to $768.

“The iPads are part of a $1-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and administrator in the nation’s second-largest school system. In response to concerns and problems, officials have slowed down the districtwide rollout, which began at 47 schools in the fall.

“L.A. Unified has also been under pressure to contain costs; it recently became clear that the district is paying more for devices than most other school systems. The higher price results mainly from L.A. Unified’s decision to purchase relatively costly devices and to include curriculum.

“District officials recently restarted negotiations with Apple and achieved two concessions. The first is that Apple would provide the latest iPad, rather than a discontinued model for which L.A. Unified was paying top dollar. The second is that Apple agreed to consider a lower price on machines for which curriculum was not necessary.”

The reason that L.A. is spending $1 billion on iPads is for Common Core testing. This raises the question as to how much Common Core testing will cost the nation. If Los Angeles alone–with about 670,000 students–will spend $1 billion, how many billions will the nation spend? $80 billion? How often will the tablets and iPads need to be replaced? What will be cut to pay for them? Does this vast new outlay explain the energetic support of the tech industry for Common Core?

The Los Angeles iPad program has become a national lesson in what NOT to do.

Other districts, watching the slow-motion disaster in L.A., are taking heed and planning their purchases and implementation of technology with greater care than was exercised in the nation’s second largest district.

L.A. committed to spend $1 billion on iPads, pre-loaded with Pearson content.

The controversies about cost, use, lack of training, theft, loss, misuse of construction bond funds, etc. became an object lesson for other districts, as this post by Education Week reporter Benjamin Herold shows.

Houston is the exemplar district in Herold’s article.

It is starting with 18,000 laptops–not iPads–for its high school students. Eventually all high school teachers and principals will receive training, as will students.

The Houston initiative, known as PowerUp, aims to distribute roughly 65,000 laptops—enough for every high school student and high school teacher in the district—by the 2015-16 school year. Eventually, the initiative is expected to cost about $18 million annually; this year, the Houston ISD is dishing out $6 million, all of it existing funds that were reallocated from other sources. The 2013-14 school year is being devoted to a step-by-step pilot program, and Schad—who previously oversaw implementation of a successful “bring your own device” initiative in Texas’ 66,000-student Katy Independent School District—said the district is entering the 1-to-1 computing fray with eyes wide open.

“We’re really focused on changing instruction,” Schad said, “but it’s important to appreciate how much of a cultural shift this really is.”

Last fall, the 641,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District became the symbol for 1-to-1 initiatives gone awry; almost from its inception, the effort was plagued by security issues, confusion about who is responsible for the tens of thousands of iPads being distributed, criticisms around cost and how the initiative is being financed, and concerns about the readiness and quality of the pre-loaded curriculum meant to become the primary instructional materials for the nation’s second-largest district. Following a series of skirmishes with the district’s board and teachers’ union, Superintendent John Deasy has been forced to slow his ambitious rollout plans.

Houston chose laptops because that is the technology students are most likely to use in college.

Both students and staff will have advance training:

Students at most of the 11 high schools involved in this year’s Houston ISD pilot are just receiving their laptops this month, but Schad said the principals and teachers at those schools received their computers in August and have been receiving consistent professional development ever since. As a baby step to test the district’s deployment plans, laptops were distributed to students at three schools in October, and all students have been required to take a digital citizenship class before receiving a computer. And in November, a group of Houston principals and district administrators took an extended field trip to Mooresville, N.C., to observe first hand one of the most acclaimed 1-to-1 initiatives in the country.

This nifty interactive timeline from Houston ISD details the district’s cautious step-by-step approach. It stands in sharp contrast to L.A., where a contract with Apple was signed in July, teachers received three days of training in August, and distribution of an initial batch of 37,000 iPads to students began later that month.

Another difference from L.A. is that Houston is not buying pre-loaded (and unfinished) Pearson content:

Whereas L.A. Unified elected to purchase a soup-to-nuts digital curriculum from education publishing giant Pearson—one that is still being developed even as it’s rolled out, comes at undetermined cost, and to which access will expire at the end of three years—Schad said Houston ISD is focused on providing students and teachers with a suite of “Web 2.0″ tools that can foster content creation, collaboration among students, and project-based learning.

“We want to create that space inside a classroom where kids are answering questions inside the same document, posting their own opinions, and creating videos,” Schad said. “It’s about changing the culture.”

And also unlike L.A., Houston will not take money from bond funds, but is looking for savings in other areas.

It is refreshing to see that districts can learn from the mistakes of other districts. Maybe Houston will get it right and show how technology can “change the culture.”


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