Digital Learning is About Flipping the Teacher

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Much has been written about Jon Bergmann’s movement around flipping the classroom.  Digital learning is more about flipping the teacher.  As illustrated above, traditional education is centered around the expert delivering information to a large group.  In this setting, the teacher speaks to large groups up to 80-90% of the time and less than 20% of the time working with small groups.  In digital settings, the teacher becomes small group focused, working with individuals  and small groups 80-90% of the time and in large group settings for the balance.  This is more than being a “guide on the side.”  The digital teacher provides detailed focused instruction to help students with basics, for clarity, and for extension of the fundamental learning.  The teacher’s role becomes flipped.   So the forecasts and calls for competency based instruction and personalized learning need to focus on flipping the instructional perspectives and roles of the teachers.  This is more than flipping any classroom; it is flipping the teacher.

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Blended Learning Taxonomy: Not Ready For Prime Time

Blended Learning Model from Clayton Christensen Institute http://www.christenseninstitute.org/

Blended Learning Model from Clayton Christensen Institute http://www.christenseninstitute.org/

Having just returned from iNACOL’s Blended and Online Learning Symposium, I am confused by the term “Blended Learning.” Not confused in my understanding, but I am confused how to explain this concept to executive administrators and boards of education.  The current definition as illustrated above is too confusing and not specific enough.  Right now the definition works for those studying the field, but it is too fuzzy to explain to executives and boards, whose heads are already spinning from the acronyms of state and local budgets, special education, and other reform movements.

For now my best avenue of explain this opportunity is to apply instructional design concepts to this issue:

  • Who is your audience and what are their needs?
  • What do you want them to learn?
  • How will you know when they learned it?
  • What learning strategies can be used to help the target audience learn?
  • What technologies can be used to support the learning?

I work in a graduate program where students learn in fully online settings and in “hybrid” settings, meaning that we meet with some cohorts in traditional settings for about 40% of the semester.  For the balance of the time we work with a learning management system, email, phone calls, text messages, and group video conferencing software.  Yet, the definition labels this hybrid setting “blended.”

Taxonomy is a challenging endeavor.  Michael Horn and his associates have an incredible body of work studying the effects of computer aided instruction and its impact on school settings.  While at the conference, presentations and conversations were about “blended programs;” the explainers described their setting with multiple sentences.

When we have to explain too much to executive administration and boards that’s a problem.  We should be able to explain our settings in 50 words or less.

Here are some suggestions for the taxonomy:

  • Define the online learning component with sharper terms.  Because the field is pushing competency (mastery) education, this definition should distinguish this as data-rich.  Students, teachers, and parents will have data to show progress.  My graduate program has data, but not at the level possible with “big data” from emerging systems.
  • Stop changing the terms.  The term “Self-blend  ” became “a la carte” earlier this year.  I will continue to call this model “supplemental” as it is descriptive and tells me that this supplements a traditional catalog of subjects and courses.  The “enriched virtual model” is a hybrid model, mixing traditional settings with digital learning outside school.
  • Most administrators have witnessed or taught in rotation models.  A traditional elementary classroom employs the rotation model daily without the computerized instruction.  The association is easy.  Make connections to traditional programs whenever possible.  It helps the understanding of risk-averse leaders.
  • Further decide whether we are using instructional models or learning models.  There is a difference.  Instructional models focus in what teachers do.  Learning models focus on what students do.  Notice the instructional design notes above.  For me it’s about learning not teaching.

The researchers will continue to refine the terminology and sharpen the descriptions.  Thanks to Michael Horn, Heather Staker and associates for their continued efforts to refine their descriptions.  Yet for me, the terminology is not ready for prime time.

Online Learning Reading List

Bush, J. & Wise, B. (2010). Digital learning now. Tallahassee, FL: Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Cavanaugh, C. (2009). Getting students more learning time online: Distance education in support of expanded learning time in K-12 schools. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Creative Commons (n.d.). Creative Commons. Mountainview: CA: author. Retrieved from http://www.creativecommons.org.

Dawley, L., Rice, K. & Hinck, G. (2010). Going virtual! 2010: The status of professional development and unique need of K-12 online teachers. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University.

EdTech Leaders Online program at Education Development Center, Inc. (2012). Discussion board expectations. Retrieved from http://courses.edtechleaders.org/documents/disc_expectations.htm

Gabriel, T. (2011). “More pupils are learning online, fueling debate on quality. New York Times. Retrieved http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/education/06online.html?_r=3&hp=&adxnnlx=1302087708-EMsB5jdWPK44Az0g%20r/0Cw&pagewanted=all&.

International Association for K12 Online Learning. (2011). National standards for quality online learning, version 2. Vienna, VA: Author.

Illinois General Assembly. Remote educational programs. Public Act 097-0339, 2011.

Flora, J. (2011). Digital curriculum: Instructional and Administrative Strategies. Seattle, WA: Apex Learning.

Mackey, K. (2011). Implementing Aex Learning: A comparison of inline-learning programs in three school districts. Mountainview, CA: Innosight Institute

Maryland Online. (2010). The grades 6-12 edition of the Quality Matters rubric. Annapolis, MD: Author.

Patrick, S., Edwards, D. Wicks, M. & Watson, J. (2012). Measuring quality from inputs to outcome: Creating student learning performance metrics and quality assurance for online schools. Vienna, VA: International Association for K12 Online Learning.

Rice, K., Dawley, L., Gasell, C. & Florez, C. (2008). Going virtual!: Unique needs and challenges of K12 online teachers. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University.

Staker, H. & Horn, M. (2012). Classifying K-12 blended learning. Mountainview, CA: Innosight Institute.

Wagner, J. (2012). Pennsylania Cyber Charter School: Performance audit report. Pennsylvania Auditor General.

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B, & Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K12 online & Blended Learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Durango, CO: Evergreen Education Group.

Watson, J., Gemin, B. & Coffey, M. (2010). Promising practices in online learning: A parents guide to choosing the right online program. Vienna, VA: International Association for K12 Online Learning.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (2010). Education program: Strategic plan. Menlo Park, CA: author

Wise, B. (2010). The online learning imperative: A solution to three looming crises in education. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Tech Forum Note — 05/03/13

At last Friday’s Techforum Chicago, I listed intently during presentations about innovations in schools.  One of the themes of the conversations was about creating content.  Without exception many presenters and participants talked about creating digital content.  In some cases it was stated in an arrogant fashion:  “Nobody can do it better than me!”

In digital settings, students need to hear from their instructors.  Learning in a digital setting is not learning alone.  It’s not learning from a computer.  The teacher is essential to the instruction and the learning.  However, students need to hear from a variety of voices.    The instructor is one of them.  The others are experts in the field, who can communicate with students.  The “not invented here” attitude is arrogant and a major error waiting to occur.

I’ve developed content.  Developing quality content takes a long time; it’s a difficult task.  From a design point of view, it’s better to borrow it, such as that from OER or what’s available from other resources.  I’d prefer to borrow quality content that meets my students’ goals rather than to reinvent it because somebody else made it.  From that design view, making your own content is the least desirable after borrowing it or buying it.  Find and use quality content whenever possible before constructing it yourself.

A Different View of Digital Citizenship

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Many digital citizenship programs focus on digital citizenship with students  with a list of “don’ts.”  The ideas below look at positive and proactive steps to consider citizenship issues with students.

In recent years, many blue ribbon committees have called for changes in schools to prepare children for their futures.  Globalization, competition, and new economies are dictating expectations to our schools.  The proliferation of new technologies allows students to communicate and collaborate with their peers.  While schools grapple with the implications of social networking, instant messaging, and cell phones, students need guidance from adults to use these power learning opportunities in appropriate ways.  In some cases schools need to intervene because students use technologies inappropriately.

Many professional societies, including the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), provide standards and goals for the implementation of technology in learning.  These standards include information literacy, collaboration, communication, and digital citizenship, among others.

This guide is to further focus on digital citizenship.

The standards for digital citizenship:

  • Manage a positive screen reputation and your personal safety
  • Protect the privacy of others
  • Value your relationships with others
  • Respect the ownership of intellectual property
  • Protect the technology you use at school and the library

Manage a positive screen reputation and your personal safety

Entries on social networking web sites, in microblogging networks, and in digital video collections are virtually permanent records of students’ lives.  A mistaken entry made as a teenage could negatively affect college acceptance, employment opportunities, or even future friendships.  It is essential that students manage their traditional reputations as well as their screen reputations.

Having multiple identities on the Internet may be unwarranted and confusing.  As students develop digital proficiencies, maturity and independence, their screen activities are likely to increase.  Part of managing a screen reputation is with a single identity (screen name).  This screen name can manage educational achievements and personal connections.

With a single screen identity, students should closely manage what they add to Internet sites as well as routinely checking search engines for their names to determine what is posted by others about them.

Meanwhile, students should manage their digital safety as strongly as they manage their personal safety each day.  Post only information that will not reveal home addresses, telephone numbers, date of birth, parents’ names, siblings’ names, and other information that could make a student a target.  This also means that students should never post provocative pictures of themselves, send such pictures through texting, or other means of sharing.

Protect the Privacy of Others

With digital technologies, students can easily share information and photos on social networking sites, phone texting, and peer-to-peer sharing.  While this possible, students should think whether this should be done.  Like personal information, never share another individual’s personal information without permission.  With photos, it’s best not to share them without permission of those in the group.  Certainly, it is not appropriate to share a photograph of others that may be embarrassing or put them into a position to explain their actions to others.  When unsure, ask for permission to share.

Value Your Relationships With Others

Forwarding embarrassing photographs, text messages, or email communication damages relationships is easy with digital technologies.  Resist the urge to share any information that might damage friendships or family relationships, or hurt others.  Common sense should tell students not to share anything about others without permission.

Respect the Ownership of Intellectual Property

Across the world, prosperity is gauged by ownership whether it be homes, office buildings, money, herds of animals, or publication of ideas.  Attitudes and laws have been developed about ownership of ideas expressed through writing, art, and music.  In learning environments, scholars give credit to other scholars through citations and attribution.  When ideas are quoted directly or paraphrased, the original scholar is given credit.  Additionally, scholars, artists, and musicians earn their incomes on selling their work.  Respect that work by purchasing legal copies.  Do not share your copy with others as it deprives the creator from payment.

Protect the Technology You Use at School and the Library

Your community has provided you with many places to learn and for recreation.  You have schools, libraries, and parks.  Leave these places in better shape than you find them.  At schools and libraries use the resources

with great care.  Computers, printers, and networks are expensive to install and maintain.  Share your computer time with others who are waiting.  Print only what you really need.  Maintain your personal storage devices, such as usb drives, so they are virus free.  Refrain from installing viruses or key loggers on computers.  In many states, computer hacking and other digital intrusions are serious crimes.

Regardless of a school’s view of technology applications, viewing citizenship activities as positive measures provides forward-thinking ways to apply important standards for students.

Notes From Techcon 2012

Techcon 2012

Techcon occurred October 26, 2012 at the Naperville Campus of Northern Illinois University. Over 160 local school administrators, technology leaders, and classroom teachers convened for the one-day session.

Google’s Jaime Casap (Twitter: @jcasap) was the keynote speaker. His presentation focused on the crisis of low expectations and that even though the jobs that will exist in 2037 are not known today, several skills exists today that are fundamental to success years away: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, analyzing information, and problem solving.

He noted that we learn and solve problems in different ways so we should have different types of assessment. Further students today have new capabilities to learn differently and that education is beginning to take advantage of new learning models.

With one of the themes of the conference was about cloud resources, sessions addressed the Illinicloud, and Google, Apple, and Microsoft cloud offerings. Other sessions outlined digital learning opportunities, a 1:1 implementation, digital mapping, Open Education Resources, and social networking applications in schools.

Apple’s Patrick Beedles (Twitter: @beedles_apple) closed the day with a summary of the day’s key points.

This day-long program is a strong collaboration of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials , the Illinois Computing Educators, and the Illinois Chief Technology Officers.

Next year’s conference is at the same location on October 18, 2013.

Virtual School’s Symposium 2012 Summary

The student panel at the Virtual Schools Symposium 2012

 Over 2,000 conferees assembled in New Orleans, Louisiana for iNACOL’s edition of its Virtual Schools Symposium held October 21-24, 2012. Across the program, presentations looked at research in the field, instructional models, administrative successes, and policy proposals.

This year’s conference focused on the trends in the field that includes blended (hybrid) learning.  In their session iNACOL’s Rob Darrow and Innosight Institute’s Michael Horn clarified that in blended learning models, teachers have the ability to look at student achievement data daily, a feature not available in traditional classrooms.  Blended learning is a mix between traditional instruction and student control and self-pacing.

In the opening general session, iNACOL CEO Susan Patrick and Gates Foundation Stacey Childress discussed the trends in non-traditional learning:

  • Student-centered personalized learning.  In this view, students have the ability to learn at their own rates and choose their own learning paths.
  • Students will receive credit when they learn a major concept, not at the end of the course or semester.
  • Smart learning systems will be developed that learn as students use them.

During his presentation, John White (twitter: @Louisianasupe), Louisiana Superintendent of Education described the tension between traditionalists and reformers.  He asked that both sides come togther and develop a system that meets today’s needs.  The workplace and the family have changed so schools should follow.  He cautioned technologists that schools are not ready to implement technology.  Infrastructure is not ready in many parts of his state and  across the country.  White thinks that control needs to be local, that other forms of schools can be successful (vouchers and charters), and certification stops innovation.

In research provided by the Marzano Research Laboratory and Plato Learning students in online courses have greater success the more time that teachers are in the courses interacting with students and their work.  For teachers who are logged in for over 530 hours, students’ end of semester score averaged 81% compared to 62% for teachers who logged in less than 39 hours.

In a session about quality, Susan Patrick and Evergreen Education Group’s  John Watson outlined the issues.  Quality has been defined as course inputs; that is, quality courses have certain features.  Patrick and Watson described the move to performance metrics, such as portfolios, individual growth, college readiness, career readiness, and others.  They called for pilot programs to test these ideas, and to influence policy and legislation.

In another general session, Karen Cator  of the U.S. Department of Education described the need for high end assessments, multiple measures for success, and multiple proof points specifically calling for policy makers to focus on educational issues that is about individual student learning.

The student panel always highlights valuable statements from students about how they are learning in online and blended models.    In these settings, it appears that nobody speaks for them.  The discussions are usually around adult perceptions and views.

In my all-day preconference session, Judy Bauernschmidt (Colorado Department of Education), John Canuel (Blackboard), Holly Bryzcki (CAIU), and Phil Lacey joined me in taking participants through the process of starting an online program.  Our slides follow.

The field is beginning to mature in its thinking.  Policies, practices, and results will determine the success of this innovative movement.

Next year’s VSS is in Orlando, Florida.