10 Tools to Get Started with Blended Learning

I'm often asked by teachers how to get started doing Blended Learning. My answer is always "why do you want to try Blended Learning?" Rather than trying to be cheeky or coy about my practice, I'm trying to begin Read more

It's not 1892 anymore

We have all gone to school. We all know that school is organized around academic subjects like math, English, history and science. But why? -It is not easy to question something that everyone takes for granted. It is especially Read more

Advanced Placement: A Race to Nowhere?

"Honestly, the best thing to do would be to get rid of the AP Program, and just design a course that prepares students for the college-level experience." A few nights ago, we hosted a screening of the film Race to Read more

Photos Across the Curriculum

ITSC '11 Mid-Day Three My last day at ITSC 2011 began with a high-energy session by Dean Shareski (@shareski) and Alec Couros (@courosa). "Photos Across the Curriculum" challenged participants to consider how valuable images are in 21st century education. Dean's Read more

History Education in a World of Information Surplus

In light of the realities of the 21st century, I think all history classes should be interdisciplinary courses about current events, taught Read more

Math is dead. Long live Mathematics!

Recently I watched a TED talk which got me thinking about Mathematics in a way I hadn't before. To cut straight to the video, scroll down. Let me be clear at the start of this post: I've had a difficult Read more

History Education

Building a Better High School Government Course

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My students at the White House (2010).

An energetic young teacher spent the summer of 1996 preparing to teach Advanced Placement U.S. Government for the first time. This week, that teacher finished teaching his last AP Government course. After 18 years, I am done with “AP Gov” for the foreseeable future.

I am as passionate today about teaching citizenship as I have ever been, arguably more so, and I will be teaching a different kind of course in government and politics next year.

A Better Civics Course

Though my school isn’t offering AP, I have the unique opportunity in 2014-15 to teach a new and different kind of government course. One that drops some of the things I’ve never quite liked about the Advanced Placement program – the breakneck attempt to cram content, the standardization of everything (knowledge AND students), and the high-pressure exam culture. My new course will be inquiry-/project-based and in line with our school’s and department’s mission:

OES prepares students… so that they may realize their power for good as citizens of local and world communities.

The department… motivates students to raise, investigate, and respond to meaningful questions about human experience, so that they may become active citizens locally and globally.

A “better government course” will give students the chance to actually be citizens, engaged in the community, and not simply academics studying citizenship and preparing for exams. I imagine students will do work that is meaningful to them, while preparing for both university and a life of contribution to local and global societies.

What is a great high school level course in government, politics, and citizenship?

Any ideas? I could use your help in designing my new course.

Complete this form below, or use the comment tool on this blog post. In future posts, I will describe the process of designing this course, from soup to nuts, and key events in its roll-out in 2014-15.

Posted on by Mike Gwaltney in History Education, Innovation, PBL, Schooling Leave a comment

Quotes From My Notes, ISTE 2012 Day One

Here are my top quotes and notes from all the sessions I attended on Monday at ISTE 2012.

1. Mobilizing around Mobile Learning (panel discussion, developed by Lucy Gray), notes: http://bit.ly/KJR1O1

“Students demonstrated more agency when they had mobile devices: they searched for need-to-know information more often on mobiles than on laptops.” – Students don’t need to be taught on-demand learning on mobile devices. They do it naturally.

“We’ve reached the mobile learning tipping point. Every corporate education vendor is at work on mobile learning.” - As in the opening keynote, Qualcomm had a presence here. The rep reiterated they aren’t direct marketing to education. Then why are they at ISTE?

2. Web-Connected Minds: Connections, Constructivism, and Brain Plasticity (Yvonne Marie Andres, Global SchoolNet), notes: http://bit.ly/KJSfZr 

“We’ve arrived at a Tipping Point: this is the perfect time in history for the joining of the web, constructivism, and brain plasticity. This is the direction education is going.” – Using social media to make class more student-centered is popular, and supported by brain science. With some caveats.

“Constructivist theory works effectively today when there is a real public audience that gives effective feedback.” – Students who share their work online and receive critical comments from peers and others on the web are more likely to show engagement and improved learning results.

3. How to Start and Sustain Conversations around Change (Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli), notes: http://bit.ly/LyIYTI

“Big changes are coming for schools. The question we should all be asking is ‘What is the value of schools in the new 21st Century context?’” – Will challenged us to start conversations at our schools about why we’re relevant in a world of free abundant information and connections, in which people learn anytime and anywhere.

“People have an emotional reaction to these conversations. Remember to address the emotional as well as the logical: – Rob’s point is that many we need to show some empathy and come at the conversation with teachers from a place that honors their personal investment in their work.

4.How to use Twitter, Diigo, and YouTube in the Classroom (Roseanne Sessa, Abington Friends School), notes: http://bit.ly/KAXyWr

“Every student should graduate high school with a Twitter, Diigo, and YouTube account.” – Roseanne quoted Alan November when explaining why she started using social media with her science classes. This was a great session for teachers new to these tools, but a little too elementary for me and I left early. My notes are short.

5. Trends and Issues in Online Learning (SIGOL Forum), notes: http://bit.ly/KAYoCs

“How many of you have enough college counselors? No problem, we have an app for that.” – From the introduction of one of the panelists who’s developed an app for students to connect with school counselors and share their personal information. Honestly, this one rubbed me wrong for some reason.

“I hate to admit it but we’ve wasted so much money over the last 15 years with our 1:1 laptop program, because we haven’t used them for collaboration and deep learning.” – refreshing honesty about why going 1:1 doesn’t change learning! Vicki Waters, Principal of Pymble Ladies College in Sydney, Australia spoke about how they are transforming their school by doing focused professional development, and by creating online and physical partnerships with local and global communities. Impressive!

Posted on by Mike Gwaltney in Conferences, Innovation, Online Learning, PBL, Schooling 1 Comment

What I’ll Be Watching For at ISTE 2012

As ISTE 2012 is about to begin, I’m thinking about disruptive innovation.

I quickly dismissed the ideas in Disrupting Class when I first read it in 2010. If you haven’t yet read Clayton Christensen’s 2008 book, I highly suggest you do. Here’s a plug: those people I know that have read it do not have an ambivalent reaction – if you like a provocative read, one that will either elate or madden you, it may be right up your alley. Christensen, et. al., suggest that customized digital online learning is coming, and though it won’t initially be as good as the schooling you can get at your local public school, the efficiencies will sustain it until it eventually changes the role of teachers and schools everywhere. You know that scene in the recent Star Trek movie in which Spock is learning from the computer? It’s not far off, the authors suggest.

As I was getting ready to leave for the conference today, I stumbled upon the news via Ray Schroeder’s blog, that at the “Top 10 Tech Trends Dinner” in Silicon Valley a couple weeks back, the 2nd most important trend noted is venture capital’s move toward funding open online education. The collection of valley big shots on stage at the dinner was especially venture capital-heavy this year, and Forbes noted that their opinions “carry special weight” with interested movers and shakers. The tradition at this event is for each member of the assembled panel and audience to vote red or green on whether the identified trend is a big deal, and every panel member and most every audience member at the dinner voted green that open online education will be an even greater disruptor in education than most of us think. Soon.

“Education faces massive disruption. Bing Gordon says public schools are not very productive. At Stanford University, great professors can get 150,000 students, not 150. People who grew up digital don’t like sitting around and listening to experts talk. “Technology can enable better education” seems to be Gordon’s message. The panel is all greens in response to this. Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) agrees: Khan Academy is an example; EdModo, K-12 too. Steve Jurvetson says his 12-year-old boy taught himself programming on the Internet. Audience votes mostly green, same with the Twitpolls.”

It seems the VC smart money is on investing in customizable digital online ed. Well, in fairness, they put it only at number two, behind “Radical Globalization of Social Commerce”. But that also means they rated it ahead of 8 other trends, including investment in Electric Cars, “Gamification of Everything”, and Biotechnology.

What will it mean over the next 5 to 10 years when all that money enters the education market? Are we who work in schools prepared to respond to hundreds of millions of dollars that will be poured into online ventures marketed directly to our students and their parents? Or dollars that will be spent lobbying school boards and legislatures in every state?

Lest you think this is all just dawning on me, yes, I know that big money is already flowing to ventures like Khan Academy, and that there are plenty of software companies producing curriculum-in-a-box. Don’t think I haven’t been paying attention. I’ve reread Disrupting Class with the clarity of recent events (roll out of Udacity, Coursera, KA, edX, etc.), and also Christensen’s original work Innovator’s Dilemma. Those close to me know that lately I’m something of a broken record constantly playing “the tsunami of disruptive innovation is coming to education!” This article about venture capital money simply presents the urgency of the situation.

So, what will I be looking for at ISTE this year?

The VC money, for one. I usually skip the vendor show in the convention center, but this year I’ll be looking carefully for the disruptors’ booths. Meanwhile, I’m going to a few online education events. I’m a member of the ISTE Online Learning Special Interest Group and will attend the group’s events, specifically, Monday’s Forum on Trends and Issues in eLearning. I’ll also attend the all-day Online Learning Institute on Wednesday. And, of course, I’ll check in to all the relevant concurrent sessions.

ISTE this year is even more of a reconnaissance mission than usual. I’ve been to enough education conferences in 20 years to know that it works best for me to go with a particular need-to-know, and I definitely have one this week. I hope that I discover the hype around disruption is overblown. Either way, I’ll share my thoughts here.

Posted on by Mike Gwaltney in Blended Learning, Education Reform, Innovation, Online Learning, Schooling Leave a comment

Pricing eLearning and the Value of the Online Option

As I was trying to make a dent in the unread count in my Google Reader this weekend, I read a few blog reviews and watched a few highlight videos from the much ballyhooed D10 Conference last month. Of special interest to me was Wall Street Journal’s tech columnist Walt Mossberg’s interview with Stanford President John Hennessy and online learning celebrity Sal Khan.

About 11:30 into the interview (see it below), during a conversation about the skyrocketing cost of education, Khan made a provocative comment about what a particular university he’s familiar with is charging for their online program – roughly the same amount as the school charges for the full brick-and-mortar experience. I tweeted the resulting question:

If #highered schools price #eLearning at/near the brick/mortar price, are they saying their residential program has zero value? #Edchat
@MikeGwaltney
Mike Gwaltney

Hamish Macleod, Joint Programme Director of the highly-regarded Masters in eLearning program at the University of Edinburgh responded:

@ #highered #eLearning #Edchat Perhaps *equal* value? Why should online be cheaper? Every mode has infrastructure costs.
@hamacleod
Hamish Macleod

Khan’s rhetorical question resonated with me, because the argument often offered for the dramatic increase in tuition in the U.S. is for the on-campus experience: luxury boarding, quality meals, world-class fitness centers, cutting-edge lab facilities, etc. So if you don’t get any of that when you take the online program, why do you pay the same price? Seems like a fair question, right?

Enter the word: value. Depending on how you define it, the value of something can be fairly subjective. A one-of-a-kind vintage Beatles t-shirt from the 1960s might be worth a couple hundred bucks to me, despite its cost of production. So I can see that the value of a Stanford degree earned online, for example, might be worth much more than the cost of production. And here, I’m assuming the cost of production for online learning is much less than the cost of the residential experience. Push back on that if I’m wrong.

To Hamish’s point, eLearning certainly has its own costs. And I’m an eLearning advocate who really values the online option – to be honest, often in my experience the quality of online can surpass the brick-and-mortar. But should I have to pay more for it than the residential experience? Aren’t the residential prices completely bloated and unreasonable?

Am I missing something?

Posted on by Mike Gwaltney in Blended Learning, Education Reform, Education Technology, Innovation, Online Learning 6 Comments

Anytime, Anywhere, Cheap Brand-Name Professional Development

Perhaps it’s Stanford University’s proximity to Silicon Valley that gives it an innovative bent, or maybe the West Coast Ivy is hoping to capitalize on the experience some faculty have had in recent years opening their classes to a broad audience. Or maybe the school is just trying to avoid the tsunami-like impact of digital era disruption better than record and book stores have.

Stanford certificates carry brand-name appeal

Last week, Stanford announced a fully online, low-cost/high-quality Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies certification. Courses will be taught by the field’s “preeminent researchers”, will be open to nearly anyone, will have no prerequisites, and the program’s 4 courses will cost a total of $780. Courses are offered more or less within the traditional semester format, but it appears one could complete the certificate in just a few months if the courses were taken simultaneously. This is not a completely new format for Stanford, as the university also offers an online certificate in IT Benchmarking, which can be completed in about 6 months, on average, and costs only $500.

So, here are just a few of the questions I’m pondering as I consider Stanford’s program:

1. How much longer before brand-name university programs replace conferences and local grad courses as regular professional development for educators? This summer, it will cost my school and me about $1,500 combined for me to go to ISTE in San Diego. If, for example, the Harvard School of Ed offered a go-at-my-own-pace-anytime-anywhere certificate program of focused professional development in eLearning for say $700, why would I go to a conference? From such a program I would get a verification of mastery from a widely respected institution. Yes, conferences are great for meeting new people, interacting with experts, and hearing new ideas, but modern online courses are probably just as good as conferences for this. And, yes, good online certificates in eLearning already exist, but the program at George Washington U., for example, costs almost $700 per credit hour.

2. Will we see online certifications cannibalize graduate programs? Masters in education programs are typically either expensive, difficult to attend due to scheduling, or both. And, in my experience, it’s sometimes unclear what the practical value of these programs are to the daily practice of teaching. Would it be better for teachers to instead hold certifications in specific areas like “inquiry-based learning” or “differentiated assessment”? It seems to me that a university could leverage economies of scale to offer such programs, taught by recognized experts, to a wide number of teachers for very low costs.

I’m just scratching the surface here. The nearly weekly news that high-quality programs are going online with dramatically lower barriers for participation than traditional education tells us that the tsunami is closer than most think. Kudos to Stanford for keeping their eyes open. It will be interesting to see if they’ve acted quickly enough.

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Photo courtesy of Steven Erat, http://farm1.staticflickr.com/34/124478550_72fedaa5a5_o.jpg 

 

Posted on by Mike Gwaltney in Education Reform, Education Technology, Innovation, Online Learning, Schooling Leave a comment

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