Online Learning: Advance or Catch Up & GO!

In NC online students can graduate early, or catch up we learn about the North Carolina Virtual Public School program that allows students to take online courses, recover missing credits, earn college credit or get to college faster.  When the courses started last year enrollment began at 4,968 whereas this summer there are nearly 13,000 students taking part.

The classes use technology such as Skype software that allows for Internet phone calls, live video chats, real-time assessments and live messaging for the coursework, and allow students the flexibility to work from home or school.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson delivers a quote that many schools would do well to consider:

“A student’s address does not determine a student’s access,” Atkinson said. “Just like we have social networks, we need schools to be a part of a student’s social network. This is just one step in the progression of redefining the place called school.”

The iPhone & the Truth of Elegant Design

How Web hits from iPhones far exceeded their market share.  The fact of being able to do something isn’t the same of the facility of doing it easily within an intuitive environment.

Change “Music” to “Schools” and…

Bittorrent for DummiesIt’s no secret that the music industry has played hardball with users of filesharing networks. Leaders in the field worked hard to ignore the fact that those who swapped files via BitTorrent were also the greatest purchasers of music. Now it seems that Big Music may be crumbing just like the Berlin Wall, Big Tobacco and WMDs in Iraq. It seems Edgar Bronfman, head of Warner Music has signaled a change of heart:

“We used to fool ourselves,’ he said. “We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won.”

Although I work with many creative and innovative teachers, capital E Education doesn’t seem to get that the last couple years has witnessed a transformation: schools are now islands of impoverishment whereas homes, Starbucks and McDonald’s with their broadband WiFi access can be a better place for the motivated learner to get on with what they love. Because, although not everyone loves school, the joy of learning is universal.

Education for Dummies

“Big Mother” as Cognitive Tutor

tutorIn my last post, I suggested that education would do well to mine the wealth of information that can be derived from digitally tracking student movements. A lot can be learned through amassed patterns of student use within software virtual environments and actual physical environs. Today Education Week reports about a New Breed of Digital Tutors Yielding Learning Gains. The article focuses on a school district in Everett, Washington where:

all of Everett’s high school students have a choice in signing up for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and geometry: a traditional class or one that mixes teacher-led lessons with a sizable dose of machine-based tutoring.

Later in the article, the point is made:

Studies suggest that, on average, students who use Cognitive Tutor make learning gains that roughly translate into the equivalent of as much as one letter grade—the difference, in other words, between an A and a B.

So here’s one more example of how technology supports the individualization of skill-building in the cognitive domain. With teacher-shortages in many areas and a graying of the force, it’s not difficult to see how this trend will continue and become more sophisticated.

Getting Serious about Play

It seems Scotland public schools are in for an overhaul according to a recent BBC News article, School lessons to focus on play.

Schools will still use traditional methods when necessary to teach pupils to read, write and count. But the Scottish Executive also wants teachers to use play-based techniques.

Isn’t this a refreshing change?  I wonder how many students in the US will have to fall on the sword of external motivation and come up swinging or apathetic before the balance shifts toward valuing children over scores?  I continue to  be impressed and influenced by the work of Edward Deci and  Richard Ryan on intrinsic motivation.  Read their paper Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being  (downloadable from their Web site).  While there, view what should be mandatory reading for every politician making educational legislation: The High-Stakes Testing Controversy: “Higher Standards” Can Prompt Poorer Education.